Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 2, 1951

An Open Letter To Brother Goodpasture

Dear Brother Goodpasture:

On another page of the Guardian this week I am publishing an article by brother Cogdill entitled, "What Is That To Thee?'. This article was sent me by brother Cogdill with a question as to whether I thought it should be published or not. I thought it should be. And after a few blue-pencilings here and there (I am known as the "blue-pencil happy' editor) I am publishing the article substantially as I received it.

I realize the strictures in it are severe and the criticism of your editorial policy these past twelve years is sharp and stinging. I do not know that I share fully with Roy in his diagnosis of the reason for that policy (a lack of courage and an absence of fundamental convictions on your part); and, being somewhat milder in disposition than he, I probably wouldn't have put it quite so bluntly even if I'd felt that way. But that his description of your editorial tactics is correct and accurate, I am sure no careful reader of the Advocate these past twelve years would be inclined to deny.

And why am I writing this letter? The answer is simple. I want to appeal to you for a discussion of the problems facing the church in such a manner as is befitting to Christians. There is a certain dignity and restraint that should always characterize discussions between brethren. Veiled insinuations, sly innuendoes, and efforts to discredit persons rather than to meet arguments are certainly out of place in any such discussion. And that your editorial page and editorial policy have too often sought to discredit persons rather than discuss issues is hardly open to question. And yet, in spite of that, I know you to be capable of as gracious and cultured a discussion of issues as any man could ask for.

When I was in your office a few weeks ago, I was accorded the most courteous and brotherly treatment that one could desire. We visited together as brethren; we talked of the problems the church is facing; we agreed that the times are critical for the church, and that dark and dangerous days are ahead. And then, as brethren, we discussed briefly some of these matters on which we differ. You argued clearly, pointedly, and forcefully for what you believe. You will no doubt recall the points you advanced in favor of your belief that under certain circumstances churches have the right to contribute to a Christian college, an orphan home under a board of directors, and even to a publishing company. You will recall how I tried to set forth the idea that the church as the church is adequate and sufficient for every thing God wants the church to do; and how you agreed with me fully in principle on that statement, but nevertheless countered with considerations and scriptures which you felt showed I was wrong in my application of the principle.

It was a profitable discussion, enlightening, and thoroughly enjoyable. I am sure neither of us was hurt by it; neither of us had the least disposition to try to "down' the other; and we ended that brief visit with a better understanding of each other than when we began it. There was a friendly give and take of argument and rebuttal.

Now, what I'm asking is: why cannot discussions in the Advocate be on the same high and friendly level? Why cannot your writing be on the same cultured, genial, genteel plane as your conversation?

We all know that even when we do our best such a level is difficult to maintain. I certainly make no claim that we have always maintained such a level in the Guardian. More than once I have passed an article on to the type-setters only to realize later, when I saw it in print, that most, or all, of it should have felt the mark of that well-known "blue-pencil." But, however far short I may have fallen of it, my goal and my desire has been to present articles in these pages that are discussions of the issues, and not of personalities, discussions on a high plane, and not on the level of seeking to overthrow an argument by discrediting the man who makes it.

This is one reason I have refrained as much as possible from entering into the local church troubles. I have sought to keep the Guardian's pages as free as possible from any reference to such. We both know that those affairs are far best settled by the people themselves, and that outside interference is usually of little help, and is generally considered as nothing more than "meddling' by the people who are involved. I have not opened the pages of the Guardian to any discussion of the church trouble at Lufkin; nor is it my present intention that I shall do so. But if you are going to open up the columns of the Advocate to a discussion of this matter (as seems indicated by your recent actions), I feel keenly the justice of brother Cogdill's request to you—that you let both sides air the thing completely. (Incidentally, the few sentences which I deleted from brother Cogdill's article were marked out by me because I felt they might be construed by some as a discussion of the Lufkin trouble). There are able, sincere, and godly men in Lufkin who are plenty able, given time, to work out their difference and come to a scriptural solution of their problems. My feeling is that they deserve the privilege of working out their own salvation without too much outside interference and help.

There are many reasons why I am attracted to you personally. Not the least of them being because I know of the very close affection in which H. Leo Boles held you. Brother Boles influenced my life for good as much as any man I've ever known. The love I have for his memory is precious and abiding. And of all the students he ever had, I believe he held you in highest esteem and affection. That alone would make me feel close to you. But in spite of that feeling, I am deeply distressed as I see you lending the influence of the great paper you edit to those forces and trends which I cannot but feel are subversive of and destructive to the very thing all of us prize most highly—the church of our Lord. By refusing a fair discussion of both sides of an issue, by shutting out all, or nearly all, of the articles that warn against the dangerous trends and tendencies in the church toward a burgeoning "institutionalism," by carrying a constant flood of articles, advertisements, and news reports that promote and encourage these developing institutions as a work of the church, you are certainly doing no great service to the cause of Christ.

I plead with you that whenever problems arise that affect the whole church, whenever good brethren honestly differ as to scriptural principles and their application, whenever issues are present, there shall be a free, open, and brotherly discussion of such matters on the high level of Christian brotherhood and an earnest desire for the truth. That kind of argumentation and discussion is profitable always; any other kind is likely to be hurtful and destructive.

Sincerely and fraternally, Fanning Yater Tant