Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 28, 1964
NUMBER 4, PAGE 3,12a

Review Of Article "Compartmentalism"

Robert L. Willis

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The Gospel Defender, published from Florence, Alabama, edited and published by Barry L. Anderson, assisted by Howard A. Blazer, Sr., Jerry Brown, John D. Cox, Robert L. Willis, Lamar Pluckett, and others has been as vigorous as any publication anywhere in trying to stigmatize and brand those whom it calls "antis" on the current issues. But now that Batsell Baxter and the Gospel Advocate and some of the Herald of Truth supporters have undertaken an ''all out" campaign to get the churches lined up in support of the colleges, this Alabama journal is giving strong evidence that many who are willing to go all the way on benevolent institutions are balking at church support of educational institutions. We are glad to pass on this article by Brother Willis, who recently joined the staff of The Gospel Defender. Unless these brethren wilt under the pressure (which they are certain to receive) and decide to "lemmon-ade" the modernists we are likely to see an interesting battle develop!)

In the Gospel Advocate, February 20, 1964, Burton Coffman had an article entitled, COMPARTMENTALISM. To my way of thinking this article by brother Coffman is one of the most erroneous and dangerous to appear in any publication in recent years. The ideas advanced in the article are alarming. I feel compelled to say a few things about it as many members of the Lord's church in this area read the Gospel Advocate. I have no animosity toward any person, but desire only to expose error and vindicate the truth. The article under review contains some gross errors. It will not be possible in this brief article to give attention to every point of error set forth by brother Coffman. Our review will focus attention on the major points of error.

Why did brother Coffman write the article? The conclusion he seeks to draw explains the purpose behind the article. He labors to convince the readers that "our" liberal arts colleges should be supported from the treasury of church. All he says is aimed at "proving" this one point. But he did not prove his point! He merely said some unkind and unnecessary things, and kicked up a lot of dust in order to try to confuse the real issue. The question to be decided is this: Is it scriptural to support colleges from the treasury of the church? Brother Coffman affirms that it is, the Bible clearly indicates otherwise.

Brother Coffman makes a valiant effort to show that there is no distinction to be made between money belonging to the individual member of the church and the money in the church treasury. He scoffs at the idea of "my money" and the "Lord's money." He concludes with these words, "The notion that a Christian can do things with himself or his money that are illegal or sinful to do with money he has 'offered' at church is a fallacy." If we turn this statement right around, what brother Coffman is really saying is this: If it is right for the individual member of the church to give money to a school, then it is right for the church to give money to a school out of the general treasury of the church. Our good brother has been making this contention for a long time. I understand he once affirmed, "The church can spen money out of the treasury for anything the individual can spen his money for. To which brother C.R. Nichol replied by asking this pungent question: "Brother Coffman, can the church buy a piano with money from the church treasury? The answer was and is, so obvious it kills the foolish contention as dead as the proverbial door nail. We plan to deal with this matter of "my money and "the Lord's money in another article soon. For now, it seems sufficient to say that the money in the church treasury is not to be spent for anything and every thing the individual may choose to spend his money for. To take the position that the money in the general treasury of the church may be spent as the individual may choose to spend his would involve us in unending difficulties.

Brother Coffman gets off a broadside against the "Compartmentalist" for suggesting that some subjects taught in our schools are "secular." "Pray tell what is a 'secular subject'?" our brother wants to know. If he did not seem to be dead serious about this, it would be humorous. This writer had the good fortune to attend Freed-Hardeman College for two years. While there I took several courses in general education such as "Plays and Games" and "Art Appreciation." I was under the impression then (and now) that these courses were secular in nature. They were not Bible courses, or even Bible-related. All of us would be forced to concede that the majority of courses taught in "our" liberal arts colleges and high schools are are secular in nature. Our brother's effort to make all courses "sacred is a feeble to make all courses "sacred" is a feeble effort to establish some semblance of a foundation for church support for the schools. Those familiar with the schools know better than to accept brother Coffman's contention.

And now we come to this assertion by brother Coffman: "As for whether a church should support a Christian school or not, is a matter for elders of the church to decide." We emphatically deny the scripturality of this assertion and are ready to affirm that it has not one iota of truth in it! If, and notice we say IF, this matter was in the realm of opinion then the elders would be at liberty to decide about the matter of giving to the schools. However, this is not a matter of opinion as some would have you believe. It is a matter of law or faith! Elders in a local congregation of the Lord's church have no more right to decide to give money out of the church treasury to support a school than they do to put the Heart Fund and the Red Cross in the church budget. They can do with the Lord's money only what the Bible authorizes! What brother Coffman, and some others, need to do is to produce the scripture that makes secular education and the support and operation of liberal arts schools a part of the work to be done by the church. Until they are able to do this we should be content to do what we know the Bible does authorize the church to do. There is no command, example or inference in the Bible that would lead us to conclude that schools are to be supported out of the treasury of the church, or that the church is to be engaged in the operation of liberal arts colleges. Education is to be provided by parents who have this responsibility resting upon them.

In one section of his article, brother Coffman seems to be unhappy about the "church building" and what the "Compartmentalist" thinks about it. As far as I know, no informed member of the Lord's church is laboring under the impression that the church building is "sacred. We may emphasize just here that is not a question of whether or not a building is "sacred or "non-sacred It is not a question of wheter or not one may eat a sandwich or drink a cup of coffee in the church building! Concerning kitchens, play rooms, fellowship halls, gymnasiums, etc., the real question comes down to this: Is it necessary, is it needful, is it helpful, is it scriptural to take the Lord's money that could be used to preach the gospel and save souls and use it to build facilities in which church members may eat and play? I don't recall a single instance of where any congregation ever put the kitchen, etc., in the church building but what a wave of protest arose and contention was caused in the church. The sophism that the early church met in private homes, in which there were kitchens, and thus it is right to have kitchens in our church buildings today is plain foolishness. We may point out that the early church in all likelihood, in some areas, met in private homes where the barn for the animals was an integral part of the buildings. This, however, would not justify the building of barns onto our church buildings today. The church today must meet in certain areas in dance halls and other such buildings. This does not mean that what we may find in these buildings should be a part of the church building when such is later erected. If all of us would become as concerned about working for the Lord as we are about eating and drinking and playing, we would probably become a little more successful in our religious action. There are some in the church today who seem to think that the whole sum total of Christianity is to "eat, drink and be merry." About all they know how to do is to drink coffee and play.

Brother Coffman further contends that all action by individuals is church action. Listen to this assertion: "Therefore, when brethren eat in their homes or restaurants, they are eating 'in the church'. When they support orphans and schools with God's money which they have not previously put in the collection plate, they are still doing it 'in the church.' And it is the church which is doing it."

Let us look at this contention for a moment! We have a piano in our home. When my wife or daughter plays the piano are they "doing it in the church"? Per brother Coffman's contention we would be forced to say yes! We have various games at our house such as bingo, Chinese checkers, scrabble, etc. Now, are we "doing it in the church" when we choose to play these games at home? While Paul was in Corinth, he joined with Aquila and Priscilla and made tents. Were they making tents "in the church," or was the church in the tent making business? Of course not! If individuals choose to give money to a school "which they have not previously put in the collection plate" does it mean, as brother Coffman argues, that the church is giving it to the school? If so, then when one gives a donation to the Heart Fund, it means that it is the "church giving it." Brethren, such childish arguments will not hold water!

I am not a prophet, but I make this prediction. If the liberal arts colleges are put into the church budget, the church will be divided, the schools will be hurt, and bitterness will develop that fifty years cannot erase. Let's all stop now and do a little mature thinking.