Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 18, 1970

Facing Truth


Johnny Cash (if you don't know who he is, you are hopelessly square and might as well forget the rest of this article) has recently come out with a new record in which a modern hippy youth, confused and bewildered by all the conflicting and contrary cries of modern society, keeps repeating the plaintive question, "What is truth?" Sooner or later everybody needs to face up to truth. And facing truth is at once the most difficult, and the most rewarding act, perhaps, of a man's life.

To an alcoholic the "truth" that he must face, and without which he can never hope to overcome his weakness, is that he is a "drunk" — hopeless and helpless in the grip of his compulsion. Until he admits and acknowledges the fact that he can not save himself, he cannot be helped by another.

Our friends in the Disciples of Christ church for a full century have stoutly denied that they are a denomination. Thoroughly saturated with the plea of the Campbells and others for a "non-denominational" Christianity, they were so completely committed to this ideal that for almost a hundred years they have been accepting more and more of denominational practices, attitudes toward the scripture, organizational arrangements, etc., while heatedly denying that they are a denomination. Finally, came the moment of truth. Enough of their leaders became honest enough and objective enough to confess frankly that they are a denomination, and openly set about to "re-structure" their church into more effective and more viable denominational patterns. The Bible and "Bible authority," were respectfully and reverently laid aside as having little real relevance to modern society, and the "restructured" organization frankly took its place as a "sister denomination." (Some four or five thousand congregations refused to accept the restructure, and still seek to present themselves to the world as "non-denominational.") Having shed their myth of non-denominationalism, they can now move ahead without the pious hypocrisy of trying to contend they are something which they are not.

Many of our own brethren might profitably take a leaf from the "Disciples' " book. For there is a spiritual and an historical blindness of monumental proportions in our own ranks. We refer specifically to the many thousands of Christians (and congregations) who are stoutly defending the "sponsoring church cooperatives" as simply "scriptural cooperation" refusing to acknowledge them as elementary forms of missionary societies. Conservative brethren easily identify these combines as incipient "missionary societies;" disinterested and objective denominational people, familiar with what is being done, do not hesitate to describe them as missionary societies; competent church historians (such as A. T. DeGroot, to name one) unequivocally define these church associations as missionary societies.

Yet the brethren participating in them close their eyes, make dull their hearing, and cloud the understanding of their hearts (to borrow some of Isaiah' s phrases), adamantly refusing to face the truth .... that "truth" being that while condemning the Disciples form of the missionary society as being unscriptural, they gladly accept and utilize their own brand, which, in many particulars, is far more objectionable than the Disciples' brand!

Be it said to their credit, however, that an increasing number of our brethren are more and more coming around to understand and accept reality. In the writings of such men as Dr. J. D. Thomas of the Abilene Christian College Bible faculty we are finding cautious support of the idea of a missionary society, but, obviously, one freed of its "abuses." If we understand these brethren, their contention is that a missionary society which did not seek to dominate the congregations or interfere in any way with their autonomy would be quite within the realm of scriptural permissibility. Once this point of view is understood and accepted, they will have a far firmer base from which to defend the "sponsoring church cooperatives!" For once the idea of a missionary society is accepted, then it simply becomes a question of whether these "sponsoring church cooperatives" are, or are not, operating within the scriptural limits of such a society.

Such writings are all to the good. They are a step toward facing reality — objective truth. We commend them most heartily. For now it will be possible to discuss the real issue, (i. e. whether any form of society or organization is permissible) and not a false issue as to whether or not the "Sponsoring church" plan is an organization. Discussing a false issue only clouds the study, and complicates the problem. A thousand congregations combining their resources under a single centralized controlling body of men (even if they all chance to be elders in a single congregation) to accomplish a task to which each congregation is equally related is an organization, regardless of what name it is given. Once that truth is faced, the air is cleared for a more meaningful study: Is such a religious organization (or any organization other than the local church) in harmony with the scriptures?

— F. Y. T.