Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 8, 1983
NUMBER 6, PAGE 4,12b-13a

Controversy And The Gospel Guardian


This paper was originally founded in 1935, some twenty-eight years ago. From the very beginning it has been a militant, aggressive instrument, controversial to the very core, "dedicated to the propagation and defense of New Testament Christianity." For about a dozen years it went under the name "Bible Banner," but when the present editor began his work In 1949 we reverted to the original name, and at the same time began publication on a weekly rather than a monthly basis. The contributions made by this journal to the cause of truth and righteousness can perhaps be better appraised and evaluated by others than by this writer. And, of course, in the final analysis only the Lord can render the true judgment.

When the present great wholesale apostasy began to take on alarming proportions, following the Second World War, the Gospel Guardian furnished a medium through which brethren could discuss the many issues that were arising, and could seek to find scriptural answers to a great variety of puzzling and distressing problems which a rapidly changing social economy were bringing into focus. That such discussions were distasteful to some was obvious to us all. There are those who flee in revulsion from anything that smacks of controversy. They do not realize that it has been by controversy that truth has always advanced, error has always been routed. Both Christ and Paul were among the world's greatest controversialists. Disciples of Christ in every age have been known for their willingness to test their beliefs and convictions in the crucible of public controversy and debate.

But often it happens that controversy degenerates into bickering, name-calling, and personal bitterness and contentious disputations. All of which are inimical to truth, and detrimental to the cause of righteousness. Sincere and humble Christians are constantly on guard against any such spirit of strife and contention. Legitimate and useful controversy has often been shunned and avoided because of the fears brethren entertained that the study might degenerate into a disgraceful wrangle or a petty war of words.

In recent months the Gospel Guardian has come under some mild criticism from some of her staunchest friends because of this editor's efforts to defer discussion of a number of questions which we felt might be hurtful to the general advance of the gospel at this time. There is a time and a place for discussion of EVERY problem that concerns Christians. And we feel that a gospel journal such as this is a legitimate and proper place for discussion of most of these problems. But, by the same token, there are seasons and times when some discussions might better be deferred. For example, when the Digression was taking place in the last century, and faithful little bands of disciples all over the nation were being robbed of their buildings and forced out into the streets, there were a number of other questions, on which the conservatives were deeply divided, which could very easily have pre-empted all available space in all the journals being then printed — and could easily have diverted the minds of brethren from the great battle over instrumental music and the societies. Civil government and "secret fraternities" were subjects of two such controversies. Both of these subjects were debated, and the journals have many articles on them; but neither question was given the prominence that some probably thought it deserved. The faithful Christians could have been split into warring parties and involved in unending controversies had all the articles on these subjects seen the light of day.

All of which leads us to say that the Gospel Guardian is, and will remain, open to controversial material — but SOMEBODY has to make the decisions as to which subjects are worthy of how much space. In recent months this editor has received letters urging that "all out" battles be fought on such things as Sunday night communion, whether or not a bachelor can be an elder, whether or not an elder ought to resign if his wife dies, whether any secular college has the right to teach the Bible, majority or minority rule in the church (by elders or others), whether it is right to sing an invitation song, whether divorce and re-marriage are scriptural under any conditions or not, the "one man preacher" system, whether women can teach Bible classes or not, and an almost interminably variety of other such matters. Now, we have no disposition at all to try to prevent any study of these, or any other troublesome questions. But we do feel that there is something right now far more important. And while we have carried (and expect to continue to carry) articles on several of these matters, we realize that we have not given the space to any particular one of them that some might have desired us to give. We can only urge that this a matter of judgment and a weighing of all factors insofar as we are able to understand and weigh them. We have hoped to work for a spirit of tolerance, sympathy, and mutual acceptance of one another by brethren who differ on some of these matters — while we unite our forces in the common battle against the terrible evil of liberalism and the modern "social gospel" which threatens the very life of thousands of congregations. That does not mean for one moment that we will compromise either the truth or our convictions on such things as moral purity and gospel teaching; but it does mean that we might well cultivate a gentler and more charitable attitude toward brethren who differ from us on some of these controversial matters.

Does that seem reasonable to you? If so, then YOU can help us by urging such moderation and such restraint on others. And we truly believe you will help the cause of truth and righteousness in so doing. And, while you are at it, why not speak a good word to get the Gospel Guardian into the hands and homes of others who might be helped by such an editorial course and policy? We need many thousands of readers who do not now receive the paper. We can do them good. And you can do them, (and us) good by seeing that they get the Guardian. Will you do it?

— F. Y. T.