Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 19, 1956

"Round And Round The Mulberry Bush" Or Thomas B. Warren's "Monkey Business"

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

As Brother Thomas B. Warren's "Cooperation Between New Testament Churches" slithered (yes, that is the correct word for his serpentine type of reasoning) across three and one-half pages of the Gospel Advocate, December 15, 1955, before our eyes, a childhood ditty came to mind: "Round and round the mulberry bush the monkey chased the weasel. The monkey thought 'twas all in fun. Pop goes the weasel." The more we read the more we sympathized with Brother G. C. Brewer's state of mind several years ago when he did not know whether to laugh or weep, so did both over about three pages of the Firm Foundation. Seriously, brethren, how ridiculous can we become, and where will the inconsistency of "centralized control" advocates finally end?

Inconsistency Gone To Seed

"Old Reliable," the Gospel Advocate, has had much to say in a derogatory way concerning alleged changes of views on the part of those who oppose the present "centralized control" arrangements for benevolence and evangelism among the churches. Now she spreads over three and one-half pages, with promise of more to come, a defense of her idols written by a brother who boldly admits a complete reversal in his views on the matters in question. The ludicrous part is that both Brother Thomas B. Warren and Brother Roy E. Deaver, (co-framers of Warren's argument) according to Advocate logic, have changed not once, but twice. First, they approved (Hardeman Tabernacle Meetings, Music Hall Meeting, Orphan Homes etc. as Advocate writers have affirmed); second, they opposed (Warren's admission); third, they now approve. Despite all of this hopscotch, the Gospel Advocate gives immediate publication to Brother Warren's unanswerable logic (?). It would appear that flittering about from one position to another, as the Advocate views the matter, is praiseworthy indeed if the bird finally lights in the Advocate's bush, and reprehensible no end if it comes to roost elsewhere. Careful, brethren, this may get your leading staff writer to weeping and laughing again. Another comic aspect of the Advocate's antics is the fact that she publishes anything favorable to her views without regard to its relation to arguments previously published. With editorial bolstering, she published J. W. Robert's effort to prove that we have an example of a "sponsoring church cooperation" in the Greek New Testament. Now, she comes forth with Thomas B. Warren's attempt to prove that such arrangements are justifiable on the ground of expediency and to be defended on the principle of "liberty." If Brother Roberts was right (and the Advocate seemed to think he was), these cooperative arrangements in question are proved to be scriptural by "approved example." If there is an approved example, they are specifically authorized and are not to be justified as an expedient under a generic command. The Gospel Advocate argues both ways. What does she believe about the matter? Roberts believes that it is in the Greek. Warren believes that it is not in the Greek but in liberty. The Advocate publishes both with manifest approval. What does the editorial department of "Old Reliable" believe, if anything, about it?

Our good friend and brother "Ernie" Harper, as usual, gets in on the inconsistency also. At the Lufkin Debate, he took all the young preachers present dramatically to the judgment and pleads with them in tears not to follow such men as Tant, Cogdill and others (who, incidentally, have never asked any man to follow them). Said he, "They are unsafe leaders." His proof (?) was the fact that they had changed on the issues under dispute. At the Abilene Debate, Brother Harper forsook all of the carefully prepared material amassed over a period of two years and gleaned from many sources and made Warren's argument his sword and shield. According to Harper's logic, Warren is an unsafe leader, yet, at the zero hour he forsook his work of two years and the counsel of the best he could advise with on the matter and accepted and used the material of "unsafe leaders." Forgive me, brethren, if I indulge in a hearty laugh. The matter is serious, but the antics of the "able defenders" of "centralized control" are comic.

Protestations Of Sincerity

Under "Background of This Article," Brother Warren gives a lengthy history concerning his "change." He feels for some reason or another a dire necessity for a defense of his sincerity. As far as this writer is concerned, every man is presumed to be sincere until he is proved otherwise. It is presumed also, that being sincere, each person (especially preachers) will have thoroughly studied a question before he commits himself to a position relative to it. We doubt that either Deaver or Warren has given any more consideration to the teaching of the scriptures on this question than thousands who disagree with their conclusions. Brother Warren evidently feels that his argument needs some help to stand, so he attempts to prop it up by impressing the reader with the fact that two "experienced" young debaters have tried it in the forge of controversy and found it not wanting. Need we remind our brother that W. Curtis Porter, Cecil B. Douthitt, and Roy E. Cogdill among our more experienced and mature debaters along with many others find his argument utterly inept. Too, among our younger debaters, such men as Ward Hogland, Charles Holt, Earl Dale, and Harold Sharp (equally as experienced as Warren or Deaver) likewise regard Warren's argument as impotent. We are quite ready to grant that it took a great deal of mental labor to produce an argument so devious, but equally prepared to deny that the effort thus expended adds ought to its weight or truth. Regarding our brother's defense of his sincerity, in the words of the Bard of Avon, "Methinks the lady (Brother Warren) doth protest too much."

Warren's Proposition

Out of a self-confessed state of opposition to "centralized control," our brother comes to champion the cause of brotherhood cooperations. Articles sprout like mushrooms in all the papers. He appears as chief counsel and funneling agent of Brother Harper in the Abilene Debate. From such a leonine appearance on the scene of conflict, one would expect the attack to be equally ferocious, but to our surprise and amusement it is not so. Does Brother Warren's proposition affirm in clear and uncompromising fashion his faith in and support of the "cooperative schemes" that have created our present issues among the churches? Not so! Our brother's approach is both timorous and evasive. He believes and has admitted it before numerous, unimpeachable witnesses that one congregation can scripturally assume the oversight of all the mission work in the world and that all the churches on earth can send their money to her to accomplish this work. He has also admitted that a missionary society if placed under the eldership of a single church would become scriptural. Why then, in his argument, does he not frame his proposition to include what he believes and what is actually being done? Why does our brother try to evade the real issue by seeking to reduce it to a single church helping a sister church pay for a lot she has bought in a "mission" field when adversity makes it impossible for her to fulfill her commitment? Is this the Herald of Truth? Is this the Lubbock plan? Is this the brotherhood orphan home or home for the aged? What at first appears to be a lion's ruff must undoubtedly be rabbit fur. Observe carefully, Brother Warren's proposition:

"The scriptures teach that one church may (has the right to) contribute (send funds to) another church which has assumed ((undertaken) the oversight of a work to which both churches sustained the same relationship before the assumption (undertaking) of oversight."

We propose that Brother Warren affirm that which he has admitted to be perfectly scriptural; namely:

"The scriptures teach that a single congregation may assume the oversight of the evangelizing of the whole world and that all the churches may contribute to her for the accomplishment of this work."

This is what he believes. Will he affirm it? Will "Old Reliable" publish in its pages such a discussion between Brother Warren and this writer? If she will not, will the Firm Foundation do so? If either will do so, the Gospel Guardian will be more than glad to publish it in her columns, and I shall be more than glad to affix my name to the negative of such a proposition. Do not evade Brother Warren? You asked for it; now come up to the lick log like a man and square off!

More Next Week

It is our desire to keep the articles of this review reasonably brief for the sake of readability, hence an analysis of Brother Warren's proposition and a consideration of his proof must wait until next week. Until then, just keep in mind that Brother Warren does not want to argue about what is being done or what he believes to be scripturally possible in the realm of cooperation. He had rather camouflage the issue by discussing a borderline possibility. His argument leaves us but one alternative which is to believe that his whole approach to this matter has been to seek by some means, however, devious, to find justification for our huge brotherhood promotions.

No doubt, he has convinced himself that his approach has been completely objective. To even a casual observer, however, his type of argument proves otherwise. Does our brother reason from some grand, well-established scriptural principle to a specific conclusion? No, he seeks to establish principles from which to reason by the inductive process adducing a chain of hypothetical possibilities. This has ever been the course of the innovators.