Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 5, 1956
NUMBER 47, PAGE 1,11b

Human Tradition, The "Mould" Into Which His Mind Was Cast

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

Chapter VII.

"Then there came to Jesus from Jerusalem Pharisees and scribes, saying, why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?" (Matt. 15: 1-2).

Then Jesus declared in no uncertain terms that human tradition in religious practice (1) causes men to transgress the commandment of God, verse 3; (2) makes void the word of God, verse 6; (3) makes service vain, verse 9; (4) was not planted by the Father, verse 13; (5) shall be rooted up, verse 13; (6) is advocated by blind guides, verse 14; (7) leads to the pit, verse 14.

Yet, in the face of all that Jesus said in condemnation of human tradition in religion, "blind guides" of every stripe exalt it above the word of God and try to justify their ungodly conduct by it.

In a long article in the Gospel Advocate of July 8, 1954, Brother E. R. Harper wrote a defense of centralized control of church resources which he called "congregational cooperation," and in it he admitted some things that ought to shock his followers into some straight thinking.

He did not claim to have obtained any thought, idea, suggestion, or information whatever from the Bible on his "congregational cooperation"; he made no reference to the Bible. He frankly admitted that his theories of "congregational cooperation" came from human tradition, and that his mind, his thinking and his actions were molded and shaped by uninspired men. But let him state it in his own way; here are his words:

"Now during the passing of these years here are the events that have transpired and these events are the 'moulds' into which our minds were cast and from these 'moulds' have come our thinking and our actions. EXAMPLES Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, Tenn. My first example is that of the great Tabernacle meetings in Nashville. Tenn. with Brother Hardeman doing the speaking. This is the first example of 'congregational cooperation' I ever knew about. Over forty congregations 'cooperated' in this great event."

Then he mentioned the Music Hall meeting, the Tampa, Fla. meeting, the Little Rock Radio Program and the Indians in Oneida, Wisconsin, as events that "moulded" and shaped his mind, thinking and actions concerning centralized control, but not once did he claim that the Bible had anything at all to do with "moulding" and shaping his mind, thinking and actions regarding his conception of "congregational cooperation."

At the time of the first Ryman Auditorium meeting, Brother Harper was nearly twenty five years old, had been a member of the church for about eight years, his father was a preacher, and Ernest had been taught in the sacred writings from a babe; but he frankly confesses that he had never heard of the type of "congregational cooperation" that he is defending, until he saw it in the Ryman Auditorium meeting in 1922 A.D. He said, "This is the first example of 'congregational cooperation' I ever knew about." Of course he means that this is the first centralized control type of congregational cooperation that "he ever knew about"; because he "knew about" the type of "congregational cooperation" that was practiced in that Judean charity work, for he had been reading about that all of his life; but that was not the sponsoring church centralized control type.

Brother Harper admits also that he is not the only one that learned the sponsoring church type of "congregational cooperation" from the traditions of men; he says that is where the churches that are practicing it learned it too, and that the "Guardian men have been in the middle of it all", and he admits that that is his "point in writing all this" in his article in the Advocate of July 8, 1954. Here is what he says about it:

"My point in writing all this is: If churches are doing wrong in their helping each other in this great work of evangelization they have learned it from examples we have set before them and you Guardian men have been in the very middle of it all. Now when you have helped to teach and train churches and preachers to do this. you need not think you can 'change every one of them just because you now have decided it all wrong."

As to which and how many of the "Guardian men" Ernest refers, may not be known. But one thing is certain: No "Guardian" man was ever a greater or more zealous teacher and defender of human traditions in religion that was Saul of Tarsus. He said of himself: "And I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of mine own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers" (Gal. 1: 14).

Another thing is certain: No "Guardian" man, after learning that human traditions in religious practices are dangerously sinful, ever was more ashamed of it, or broke away from it more thoroughly, or fought it harder than did Paul. When he learned that his zeal for the "traditions of my fathers" was making havoc of the church and destroying souls in hell, he "conferred not with flesh and blood"; he changed immediately, and was so ashamed of what he had done in defense of traditions that he did not feel worthy to be called an apostle.

Ernest Harper ought to bow his head in shame, and repent; for this is what he says about the apostle Paul, "Guardian men", and all others who may have "changed" and are now fighting that which he admits is of an authority no higher than human tradition:

"Now when you have helped to teach and train churches and preachers to do this, you need not think you can 'Change every one of them just because you now have decided it all wrong."

Did any unbelieving Jew ever stoop low enough to hurl such an insult at Saul of Tarsus? Did any infidel ever say to Saul after his change: "Now Saul, you once fought for the traditions of our religion, and you need not think you can change every one whom you have taught just because you now have decided it all wrong"? Ernest should memorize this verse: "He that justifieth the wicked and he that condemneth the righteous, both of them alike are an abomination to Jehovah" (Prov. 17: 15).

Yes, the Pharisees and scribes of Matthew 15 could trace their "tradition of the elders" through many generations, but they could not trace it quite far enough; they could not trace it back to the Old Testament, the law of God under which they then lived.

The advocates of sprinkling for baptism, and the instrumental music worshippers can trace their practices back through many years and many events; but they cannot trace them back to the New Testament; they must stop in Rome.

Brother Harper and other centralized control defenders can trace their traditions back through many recent events, and on through the missionary society and benevolent society, and all the way back to Rome; but there they must stop. They cannot find even a vestige of centralized control of church resources in any form in the New Testament. Does Matthew 15:1-4 mean anything at all to them?