Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 4, 1951

Some More Incidentals?

Murray Marshall, Frederick, Oklahoma

"Unity in essentials; liberty in incidentals:" we consider this a scriptural motto. But care must be exercised to distinguish between the essentials and the incidentals. The modernist or sectarian would discard many of the essentials and classify them as incidentals. It appears that brother Ernest Beam stumbled in this way. On the other hand our legalistic and radical brethren, the "antis" and "one-cuppers," want to transform one or more incidentals into essentials. The sectarian seeks for fewer essentials than the Bible teaches as he strives after his idea of "tolerance," "agreeing to disagree," and human unity on one or two essentials. The modernist usually goes a step beyond him. But the "hobby-rider," the "anti" seeks for more essentials than the scripture gives that he may measure up to his mistaken idea of "loyalty."

All God's commands which he has addressed to us in the New Testament are essential. We cannot omit a one. And we are limited to the specifications connected with a command he has given. We may not go beyond the bounds they set. God's Word is the boundary line of man's faith. But where God has not specified, then the ways, means and arrangements are incidental and left to our best judgment.

(4) Another incidental is the place of baptizing. The command is to be baptized; the important or essential element is water. Water is specified. (Acts 8:35; 10:47; 1 Peter 3:20, 21) The action is specified: a burial and resurrection. (Col. 2:12) But where the water is, the place of baptizing, is incidental. The Bible does not say a river, or running water, but simply "water." Now, whether that water is in a river, a creek, a pond (natural or artificial), a tank, a baptistry, a bathtub or where, does not matter. It is incidental. Just so there is enough water to immerse. It is incidental whether the church gathers around a pool outdoors or a pool indoors. The roof does not make it sinful.

(5) Another incidental is how we learn to sing. One way we learn to sing is to have a singing school. I don't know of anyone who disapproves of this, even among our "anti' brethren. We all figure it out like this (if we figure it out, and don't accept one thing on prejudice and reject another on prejudice): we are commanded to sing; hence, we reason, it is right to learn to sing and right to teach singing although the Bible does not specify that we do so. It does not command us to teach singing as it does to teach the Bible. We do not have an apostolic example of singing school, yet we all approve of it as an incidental in learning to obey the command "sing." It is covered by that command. We conclude that it is scriptural to conduct one, so we "organize" (in the sense of plan, arrange or set in order) the singing school and invite all to come and learn to sing. We hire, or otherwise engage, a brother to come and be the singing school director or leader or superintendent. All learn to sing, and no one objects! We even have uninspired literature or helps in the form of songbooks and perhaps singing manuals, and we "divide" the singers into the different parts or classified groups, and sometimes we have separate classes! It is a school because there are regular meetings; that makes it a school (see New Century Dictionary); and we are learning to sing, so that makes it a singing school! But some will turn around and oppose a "Bible (Sunday) school!" To say the least, they are not consistent!

(6) The way we teach and study the Bible is incidental. We are commanded to teach and to study; but no exclusive way of doing these is given. No one way is specified. Hence we may meet regularly to teach and study the Bible in one or more groups, in a Bible school, or in one sense, if on Sunday, a "Sunday school," though different from a sectarian Sunday school organization. (We have lately heard of some larger churches with organized Sunday Schools like the denominations. We do not defend their practice.)

We offer the following syllogisms on behalf of teaching Bible classes:

(1) a. We are commanded to teach.

b. But teaching the Bible in classes is not forbidden.

c. Therefore, we may teach the Bible in classes.

(2) a. We are commanded to teach.

b. But there is no exclusive way of teaching given.

c. Hence, we may teach the Bible in classes.

(3) a. The Lord commands me to teach.

b. When I teach a Bible class, I am teaching.

c. Therefore, when I teach a Bible class, I am obeying the Lord.

(4) a. We are commanded to study.

b. But the exclusive arrangements are not given.

c. Hence, we may study the Bible in classes.

(5) a. We are commanded to teach.

b. Teaching in classes is a way of obeying the command to teach.

c. Therefore, the scriptures authorize us to teach in classes.

(6) a. We are commanded to study.

b. Studying the Bible in classes is a way of obeying this command.

c. Therefore, we are obeying God in our Bible study.

This same line of thought may be used to show that radio broadcasts, writing in gospel papers, conducting a revival ten days, using a blackboard and a number of other incidentals are scriptural.

If one objects because the detailed procedure for class teaching is not given in the scriptures, let him remember that the same is true concerning the radio broadcast and the ten-day revival. Will he oppose them, too? The truth is, all three are incidentals covered by the essential, the command to teach. None should divide the body of Christ by opposing these incidentals. He should not draw the line of fellowship around the incidental that he wants; he should leave it where the Lord has placed it. If he prefers not to attend the Bible class study, let him attend the assembly (the worship) but not go off a few blocks, or to the edge of town, and set up a faction, organizing something really unscriptural!