Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 23, 1954

Are We Isolationists?

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

In a talk about the German work Brother Otis Gatewood affirmed that the church is afflicted with an isolationist attitude. From other sources come the same charge, or similar ones. Brother Jimmie Lovell, the sweet pensman (just recently went that way) of the West Coast, bemoans our neglect to go into Nyasaland — wherever that's at. Brother Lovell says we ("you and I") have "condemned to hell millions of souls who live today in Nyasaland and Uruguay and millions of other souls who live after them." How? By not concentrating some efforts there. Alas! Poor Paul, he condemned millions to hell in Bithynia for he went to Macedonia instead — but it wasn't his fault for the Holy Spirit "suffered them not." However, some folk got to Bithynia with the truth for Peter wrote to some sojourners there (1 Peter 1:1), encouraging them in their efforts to save some of those millions of souls the Holy Spirit condemned to Hell. Cheer up, Brother Lovell, maybe some of the wandering saints will show up in Nyasaland yet and redeem a few of the millions condemned to hell by our failure to "skip a meal or two" or send a dollar or two to some sponsoring congregation.

A good portion of the parabolic teaching of Christ has to do with the development and growth of the kingdom, and our working according to talent and ability. Simple I may be, yet not so naive (I think Logan Buchanan introduced this word last spring) to affirm that we are doing all that we possibly can. But as for being isolationists, it just ain't so! The kingdom is growing, it is expanding. Many congregations are still centering their efforts in Jerusalem, some in Judea, some in Samaria, none have yet gone into "the uttermost parts of the earth." The "uttermost parts of the earth" constitutes the field, but the scope (paging Sterl Watson) is limited. Shall a small congregation of an hundred members be accused of condemning millions of souls to hell because they concentrate their efforts in Judea or Samaria yet awhile? I suppose if that does not condemn them, their failure to surrender some funds to Highland Church in Abilene or Broadway Church in Lubbock will.

Webster's definition of isolate: "1. To place apart by itself. 2. Chem. To separate from all other substances. 3. Med. To separate (a patient with an infectious disease) from persons not similarly infected." Do we want to be placed apart by ourselves, keeping Christianity to ourselves? I think not. "When we criticize these deviations from New Testament principles in the organization and work of the church it does not mean that we oppose the work. All of the efforts to foment feeling and plant prejudice against men who plead for adherence to the `stipulated conditions of the New Testament' by charges that we are anti-foreign missionary, anti-Christian education, and anti-cooperation will not prevail in the end." We do not want to isolate Judea from Samaria as pertains to the borders of the kingdom of God, we just think it best that local congregations be taught to do the best they can wherever they can. I would like to see them freed from the abuse of high pressure salesmen of the "all for us, and us for all — immediately!" type. Do congregations wish to separate themselves from participation in evangelistic labors across the seas? No, they are interested in doing what they can, where they can, in harmony with the scripture. They are not willing to submit (yet) to the philosophy "any means to an end" advocated in various degrees by some zealots among us.

Surely the burden of the weight of dying souls should be upon every Christian — the world is ailing, but why hold 1,500,000 Christians (Jim Lovell's figures) responsible for not beating the devil out of all of the billions of inhabitants of the old globe — especially when these Christians are making efforts to "hold fast to the faith" on one side, and penetrating into Samaria on the other? Give them time.

Shall we compensate for our inability by junking all the principles that have led us back to New Testament Christianity? The Methodists and Baptists have surely outgrown us. Their growth came at the sacrifice of principle. Shall we so sacrifice?

Yes, answers the argument of Elder Oscar Paden in an article entitled "An Elder Writes On Cooperation." (Firm Foundation, November 2, 1954.) I am sure that Brother Paden does not realize the fallacy and import of his arguments. He argues like this:

  1. There is a great need.
  2. There are not enough big congregations to work separately in meeting that need.
  3. Therefore, congregations should work through one eldership — in meeting that need.

The trouble with this argument is that it is based on problem instead of scriptural foundation. A man in the Sahara Desert might argue the same way:

  1. There is a need.
  2. There is not enough water for immersion.
  3. Therefore you should sprinkle.

Congregations should cooperate, indeed. But must they be branded as being isolationist because they insist upon cooperation in harmony with revelation? Brother Paden did not accuse congregations of being isolationist in his article, but his problem-problem-to conclusion method of arguing in neglect of revelation, is an example of how argue those who do hollo "isolationists"! No, we do not want to separate ourselves from the going into the "uttermost parts of the earth," but we want to separate ourselves from "all other substances" (works foreign to New Testament principle), and we would like mighty well to isolate some infected brethren from places of influence in the brotherhood — what they are afflicted with surely seems to be chronic and contagious, the digressives went "haywire" with it.