Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 30, 1951
NUMBER 17, PAGE 2-3b

Partisanship Or Principle

Vaughn D. Shofner, Fort Worth, Texas

We had an article in the January 4, 1951 issue of the "Gospel Guardian" in which these words were written: "I'd be ashamed to believe and practice something that I could not stand by anywhere. I'd hate to think of God as being so weak that his teaching would not bear examination."

This proved to be a personal insult to one Nat G. Murphey of Tennessee. He countered with a letter that spoke with all the vim his "fighting Irish" could muster.

We don't know brother Murphey, but as man is prone to do, we imagine what kind of a man he is. By his writing we guess him to be "getting old," or still very young. We appreciate him, his convictions, disagree with him often, and sincerely hope we have both kept our Christianity during the exchange of letters over several months.

The above mentioned letter includes: "Brother Shofner, this is a challenge for YOU to defend the `Guardian's' positions on the college question and missionary question. Will you meet a representative man on these two issues?" We answered brother Murphey's letter, and stated, "As to defending the Guardian's positions" on these questions, "it seems to us that you have gone to the wrong man," and explained that we thought the editor of the Guardian should certainly be given the right to choose the man to represent the paper. We made known that we spoke for ourselves in the article, and made the plea that all be just as honest when questioned about a practice. Is this a sinful attitude? But brother Murphey insists that we meet him on all the Guardian statements and positions, which portrays a growing tendency in the church today—that is, partisanship. Is a Christian not at liberty to criticize a person on one point and commend him on another, in the event one violates his conscience and the other agrees with it? Can we not take a position with a brother on one issue without being a blind partisan to all he might indorse? Do we stand for partisanship or principle? Then away with the idea of "building up ideas." Let's choose the right principle, not the side of certain personalities!

The letter also had this paragraph: "Wait until you read this: Fanning Yater Tant wrote G. C. Brewer for a debate in 1949 on the college question. In a letter to your editor, October 27, 1949, brother Brewer submitted this proposition, 'Resolved that scriptural elders of a church are God's stewards and have a right to give the money contributed by the church to any righteous cause according to their judgment.' Tant did not sign this statement that brother Brewer signed and sent to him. It seems that Tant, also, needs some of your undauntedness."

We were about to get the proverbial foot in our mouth—we suppose our correspondent thought. We informed brother Murphey that we did not intend to answer for brother Tant's refusing to sign the proposition, but that the wording looked unfair to us—a play on the term "righteous." We submitted the following proposition, which to us is unequivocal, signed it and sent it to brother Murphey.

"Scriptural elders of a church are God's stewards and have a right to give the money contributed by the church to any legitimate business."

I affirm: ___________

I deny: Vaughn D. Shofner____

Brother Murphey still has this proposition. He also has another which we signed the negative of, and it reads: "Centralized control of one congregation over other congregations is scriptural." We leave it to the readers to decide whether the following assertion by brother Murphey is true: "When you brethren boast that you are willing to meet people in debate . . . your boasting is only camouflage used to deceive the public." We had no intention of doing more than what we had stated as being right in the previously mentioned article, but brother Murphey has mentioned the first proposition but once during several months of correspondence, and that disparagingly. He did say he could not affirm the "Centralized Control" proposition, and denied "that we have any such a general practice." Then he went to a lot of trouble telling us about Roy Cogdill, W. L. Totty, G. C. Brewer, and repeatedly suggested that we debate the position of the brethren who disagreed with him. He kept writing that some outsider would be forced to take the "Guardian's" position if it is debated. (Is this partisanship or principle?) Brother Murphey also wanted to take the "side" of the church on Broadway in Lubbock. We thought it would be fair for "Broadway" to choose their representative, and asked if he had been chosen. To this, brother Murphey replied: "I have not intended to defend the Broadway brethren, neither have they asked me to. But you Guardian brethren have assumed that all of us are wrong except you, and you have set yourself up as the savior of the church from digression." We may be wrong, but that looks like "taking sides" to us.

Then comes the "look-at-the-division-in-their-own camp" part of the struggle. We fail to see the strength of such reasoning. We wonder why the New Testament doesn't record statements of like kind. You know, the early Christians could have said, "Ol' Paul is telling the churches throughout the land about their wrongs, but Ol' Paul and Barnabas had better learn how to get along before they start "dictating" to the brotherhood." Let those of us who act as though a person must be perfect before teaching against error, get better acquainted with John's idea of who sins.

Is it partisanship or principle? An act pointed out as an error, if indeed it is, is error regardless of what the person who pointed out was guilty of now, or ten years ago. We should stand for right principles, not personalities! If all church members will lift above partyism, and take the principles of right from any source, reject blind partisan stands, the church will stay clear of apostasy. If we continue in the way of partisanship, we're well on the way to ruin.

We leave it to the brotherhood to determine whether we "ring true to the old dictatorial spirit," and if we are unfair in our propositions offered—whether we "write out any kind of proposition and then gloat over the fact that everybody is not silly enough to sign them." Remember, the first proposition came from Tennessee, and as to the "big failure" we've made, we appeal to fairness in your decisions.

As we have quoted to brother Murphey, so we quote to all: "If any brother who reads this sees fit to style me intolerant, dictatorial or self-consequent, I say to him that I claim to be nothing more than one plain disciple of Christ, and to exercise a prerogative which belongs to us all. It is my duty to find fault with everybody and everything that is wrong; and it is equally the duty of every other brother. In full and free performance of this task lies the only safety for the truth. Error alone can suffer in such a warfare, and she alone is afraid of it. If I have struck one blow amiss, let it be returned on me as double; and it will be well." — W. McGarvey.


Malcom Bowen, Miami, Okla., Aug. 9: "I began work with the Miami church Sunday, July 15. It was on this day that the city of Miami experienced its worst flood. Thirty families of the congregation suffered loss in both personal and real property. Of course the losses are graduated from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. Some congregations have written saying that they desire to help the brethren here. This is commendable. It will certainly be appreciated. The church buildings were not in the flooded area. The brethren are not letting down in their church activities. The attendance and contributions are almost normal. Even though they have suffered much material loss they continue to plan work for the advancement of the kingdom of Christ in this community."