Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1955

Discussing The Issues


It will bring satisfaction to all of us to realize that at long last the Gospel Advocate is beginning to take cognizance of the problem of "cooperation" which threatens the peace of the church, and a few of her writers are attempting a discussion of it. As we have come to expect from these brethren the articles are made up of about equal parts of vilification and discussion, but, even so, we are glad for the discussion. In recent weeks Brother J. W. Roberts, a teacher in Abilene Christian College (he is a Ph.D. with a major in Greek from the University of Texas) has written several articles attempting to prove the "sponsoring church" pattern from the standpoint of the Greek. Brother Roy Lanier (lately of Central Christian College, but no longer connected with that institution) has also written a number of articles attempting to prove that there can be NO cooperation except the sponsoring church kind.

We have carried some reviews of Brother Roberts' articles, pointing out how he built his whole case on un-necessary inferences, from which he drew certain, positive, and specific conclusions. His knowledge of Greek may be profound; but his understanding of logic is hardly what we would expect of a doctor. In this issue we carry the second of a series of articles by Cecil B. Douthitt in review of Brother Lanier's arguments. We invite your careful reading of the Douthitt articles.

One thing seems to have escaped the notice of our "sponsoring church" brethren: they are in the affirmative. It is their duty and obligation to establish their practice from the scriptures. It is not enough to vilify and caricature those who question their plan; it requires more than accusation and charges of being "anti" against somebody to prove their hobby scriptural. Hitherto they have apparently worked on the theory that if they can get enough people to believe that their opposition is made up of crack-pots, fanatics, liars and hypocrites, they have established their point. The major portion of writings that have been made in defense of the "sponsoring church" projects have been on that basis. Brother Lanier, for example, as of now has written five lengthy articles in the Gospel Advocate trying to prove the "sponsoring church" cooperatives to be scriptural — and has not quoted even one verse of scripture in defense of his hobby! He has referred to a few passages, but has not quoted a single one which he thinks proves his contention.

That ought to be revealing. And it is.

We are not too greatly surprised, however, at Brother Lanier's failure to use the Bible to prove his point. You perhaps will recall that it was Brother Lanier who has taught (in the Gospel Advocate literature, which he now edits) that the Gentiles could have saving knowledge of God without any revelation. Brother Lanier does NOT believe that the name "Christian" was given to the disciples by divine authority (see his commentary on Acts 11:26), but concedes that "IF" it was divinely given, some inspired teacher must have pronounced it. This is certainly more than a mere "hint" of modernism; it is precisely the line that modernistic teachers have taken for seventy-five years. Only the blindly prejudiced or ignorant can fail to see how modernism has tinged his thinking — even his very vocabulary!

It will be highly interesting to see how the discussion develops from here on out. Will Brother Harper in the forthcoming Abilene debate (November 28-December 1) continue to stick by the position he advocated in Lufkin and argue that we have "no example" for the kind of cooperation he seeks to justify; or will he abandon that type of argument, and adopt the Roberts-Lanier line that we DO have a pattern of congregational cooperation — the "sponsoring church" pattern?

And will Brethren Roberts and Lanier (and Harper if he follows their line) be willing to abide by the inevitable conclusion of their position, and accept the idea of a "universal eldership" for all the churches? For once they establish the idea of a "diocesan" eldership, there can be no logical stopping place short of a "universal" eldership. If one eldership can scripturally oversee the radio preaching for 1080 churches, it can have charge of the radio preaching of every congregation on the earth — and we have a "universal" eldership. If Brother Harper at Abilene follows the Roberts-Lanier line, he will naturally spend a considerable portion of his time in repudiating the statements he made at Lufkin; for the Roberts-Lanier arguments are built on the contention that the "sponsoring church" work is NOT "peculiarly specifically, and particularly" the work of the sponsor, but is a "joint, collective action" of a great many congregations doing THEIR work through a sponsoring church — a thing Brother Harper constantly and vehemently denied to be the case as regards Highland Church.

Anyhow, we rejoice in the continuing discussions. Even if the articles in the Gospel Advocate do breathe out vilification and false accusations and maledictions. Some brethren just naturally write on that level. Perhaps they can't help it. And we have personally been their "whipping boy" so long we've grown accustomed to the slander. We expect it and would be surprised not to find it. It doesn't excite us or worry us particularly (never has in fact). When brethren are trying to promote something for which they have no scripture, it seems pretty normal for them to lose their perspective and think they can promote it by maligning those who oppose it. And any question of their "scholarship" is regarded by them as little short of blasphemy. Oh. well, we still rejoice to see even an attempt made at finding scriptures to justify their hobby; and we're perfectly willing to endure their sluice of slander if that's what it takes to get them to bring forth what they consider scriptural justification for their pet project. For we are confident that the continuing discussions will show multiplied thousands of sincere Christians that there is no scripture for the centralized co-operational arrangements which some are promoting. And once they realize such things are without scriptural authority, they will abandon them. After all, a heavenly home is still an object of desire for some of the brethren.

— F. Y. T.