Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 29, 1956
NUMBER 46, PAGE 1,5b

Is It Really "Much Ado About Nothing"?

Roy E. Cogdill

In the present controversy over matters that hundreds of good brethren believe to be vital to New Testament truth and the very existence of the Church of the Lord someone comes forward every once in awhile with a suggestion so naive that it is actually shocking. That is exactly the effect Bro. Waymon Miller's article had on this writer when it appeared in the Gospel Guardian of Jan. 19, 1956 under the heading "Urgent Appeal For Unity", Brother Miller spent some of his time making an eloquent and passionate plea for unity among brethren and then proceeded to pronounce rather severe judgment upon the whole discussion as "much ado about nothing". We are all, on both sides of the issue, I suppose he meant, "beating the air" to put it in the language of Paul, for, after all, the question of how the church does its evangelistic work and its benevolent work is a matter of indifference, merely a question of judgment.

Brother Miller was pretty severe in his implications and charges against those who are entering into the discussions about these present day problems and especially for one who sounds such a pious appeal for the unity of brethren. He thinks that someone, and he indicts everyone who has had any part in the discussion by implication, has failed to manifest "unaffected humility, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance" as should have been done. He charges that someone is "determined to run rampant over the Lord's Will, and stubbornly press our positions upon the Lord's church, even to the point of division". He further has concluded that some are pleading the "necessity of certain select texts, while brushing aside others with indifference to sustain our stubborn contentions". He warns those who "would unflinchingly drive a dividing wedge into the body of Christ, promote factionalism, and alienate brethren" of God's sentence upon their souls.

Hear him again as he avers, "No laws were to be enforced where God hasn't decreed and no test of fellowship made over matters of personal judgment. Under the true Christian rule, no man is to measure others by himself, and establish his judgments as a criterion of orthodoxy, and one who arrogantly attaches more importance to his views than upon the unity of the Lord's people is a spiritual pervert".

That is pretty strong language for one who is interested in keeping peace and promoting unity and especially for one who is pleading for brethren to extend proper consideration to each other. It is rather rare that you read anything from any one condemning and criticizing brethren for being severe with each other but that such a one becomes more severe in condemning severity than the severity was in the first place. That is exactly what Brother Miller has done. If Brother Miller had in mind some particular brother or brethren when he wrote these words, our "judgment" is that he was not extending himself overly in "manifesting unaffected humility, meekness, longsuffering and forbearance toward our brethren, though there be disagreement in views." He rather seems to be "arrogantly attaching more importance to his views" than to charity toward his brethren or unity among the Lord's people either. Such charges are certainly not calculated to weld his brethren about whom he thus writes to him. There isn't anything very charitable about anybody in the whole article. It is pretty severe in its judgments and it castigates rather unmercifully all who sincerely cannot agree with Brother Miller and "others of whom he knows" in their "judgment" that the "present strife" is over nothing more than "personal judgments and personalities".

Many of us have "already judged" these matters under discussion as "matters of faith", vital and fundamental in the loyalty of the Lord's Church to New Testament teaching. We may not be able to convince Brother Miller that such is true for he seems pretty well "set" in his "opinion" that they are mere matters of "opinion". We would plead with Brother Miller, however, not to "heap upon us imprecations, abuse, rancor, and bitterness" such as he did in his article because we are unable to agree with him. Nor should he, if he wants to practice what he preaches, cast upon us "serious reflections" as to our "integrity and soundness" and charge us with "bigotry and intolerance" because we differ with him about these issues that are disturbing thousands of brethren being matters of personal judgment and indifference.

Brother Miller thinks we should pray together over these matters and if we will do that and love one another as we should, we can solve all of these problems. I could earnestly wish the matter as simple as that, but it isn't. Certainly prayer and brotherly love are very much needed and sadly neglected, but they alone will not resolve differences concerning truth. Brother Miller surely does not try to convert aliens and sectarians from false doctrine by that procedure. The spirit of such might make us as well as they more teachable but neither will convince anyone of error or wrong without teaching. I love Brother Miller and would certainly welcome an opportunity to pray with him but would not expect to convince him without "scriptural evidence" that these issues are matters of faith. That is not the solution to the problem nor even an approach to it.

When is a question a matter of faith anyway? Why, when the Lord has spoken concerning it. Does Brother Miller think the Lord has not spoken concerning the organization through which Christians are to operate in doing the work of His Church? Does he think that God has told the Church what to do without telling the church how to do it? Has the Lord given to His church an organization through which to function? If so, do we have the right to set it aside in favor of one that men build? Does the Lord give to the church the right to build human institutions through which to function? Can the church engage in just any kind of effort it sees fit? Can it function through any kind of institution it may desire? Has God put no limitations upon the Church or excluded nothing in the way of organization or method which the Church seeks to use today? How much latitude does Brother Miller think the Church has anyway?

We would ask further, Does the New Testament teach anything about the equality, independence, and autonomy of congregations? Has God's Book said anything about the relationship of congregations to each other? Is there any kind of pattern for cooperation between churches? Does the New Testament prescribe the jurisdiction of the elders of a congregation?

Can Brother Miller find in the New Testament anything that looks like one congregation sending to another congregation except when said congregation was in need? If not, why wouldn't such an example be just as binding as the fact that the Lord's supper was taken on no other day in the New Testament Church than on the first day of the week? Is the matter of how the church worshipped any more important than what the church taught or the organization the Church had? If so, why?

Does Brother Miller consider the Missionary Society question a matter of opinion or judgment? If not, why isn't it? Was the fight over instrumental music being introduced into the worship much ado about nothing? Was the division which came in many places over premillennialism over a matter of opinion or judgment?

Would Brother Miller suggest a compromise as the basis of unity over any of these questions? Surely not. Then what is the point in his article? He should not plead "the necessity of certain select texts, while brushing others aside with indifference to sustain our stubborn contentions." The independence and equality of congregations is just as important as their worship or teaching. God gave his church organic form through which to function just as he prescribed its doctrine and worship. One is just as essential as another. Divine authority is as necessary in the organization of the church as in any other aspect! No part of the divine will can be compromised for the sake of peace or harmony as desirable as it is. When the government of the Lord's Church is violated apostasy is the inevitable result and always has been.

So far as I personally am concerned, and I believe it to be the attitude of many, many more brethren, we have been interested in preserving the unity of the Lord's church — but on the basis of divine truth. We have drawn no lines from a party standpoint and have instituted no "yellow tag quarantine" movement. We have insisted on divine authority for what is being practiced and still intend to stand on the principle of "speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where it is silent". If we can't do that and have the fellowship of the brethren, we will just have to get along without it.