Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 5, 1956
NUMBER 47, PAGE 4-5a

"Brethren, We Are Drifting"

F. Y. T.

For a number of years before his death in 1941, the editor's father, J. D. Tant, closed nearly all of his articles to the religious journals with the above warning. He was an old man at the time of his death, and had been saddened by what he thought he saw happening among the churches. General relaxation of teaching on "doctrinal" subjects, compromises with sectarian bodies, the development of denominational ideas and practices within the churches, an ever increasing tendency to seek for popularity rather than acceptance with God were evident to this veteran of the cross for at least twenty years before his death.

And now the "drift" which he warned about has become almost a torrent, headed toward destruction. It is carrying with it some of the best men in the church. Like the swelling flood-tide of a river out of its banks, bringing destruction and devastation to all within its path, carrying on its bosom the debris of a whole countryside, this "drift" is sweeping through the church. Faithful gospel preachers, men whose names have been honored among the saints and who have valiantly stood in years gone by for the truth, are being sucked into the popular current. Scarcely a day goes by without bringing its sad news of some other casualty to the destruction.

Here, for example, are some extracts from a letter we received a few days ago from Brother Paul Foutz, preacher of the Castleberry Church in Fort Worth, Texas (used with his permission):

Dear Yater:

Well, as your dad used to say, we are certainly "drifting," but at the rate we are going, and the way some brethren are thinking, and kind of teaching to which some congregations are being subjected, we will soon land in the camp of the "digressives" and be full-fledged 'First Christian' churches. Let me spell out what I mean and give a specific instance of it.

You, of course, are acquainted with Brother John Dickey who has preached many years, does supply preaching around here, and now owns and operates the Dickey Book Store. For some little time now he has been teaching the auditorium class at the Meadowbrook congregation. He made a number of significant statements last Sunday (February 19) which were heard by the whole class: but to be certain he was not misunderstood, Brother Tom Echols, one of the Meadowbrook elders, called him and talked to him about an hour and a half relative to the positions he had advanced. The following may not in every instance represent the exact words of Brother Dickey, but they are an exact and accurate representation of his position, and what he taught in the class and in his conversation with Echols.

He said that some today were dividing the churches over various questions — he thought they were looking for something over which they could create strife and division and split the church. He first cited opposition to the Herald of Truth as an illustration of what he meant. He said he would not divide the church over the Herald of Truth, would not make it a test of fellowship. He thought it was right and scriptural, and said that he certainly would endorse the set-up under which it operated. He considered it Highland's right to make such a brotherhood endeavor possible, and he would encourage churches to put it in their budgets.

Secondly, he mentioned all the orphan homes. He said he thought they were ALL on a scriptural basis, and should be supported out of the church treasuries.

Thirdly, he declared he believed it was all right for a congregation to contribute money to a Christian College, and that all the colleges should be put in the budgets of the churches and receive regular contributions. He said he would not divide the church over this matter, would not make it a test of fellowship; and that if any of the brethren wanted to put the college in the budget, he had no objection to it.

Fourthly, he said that when brethren brought in mechanical instruments of music into the worship, that that was not anything over which to divide the church. He said he could worship where the instrument was used, that had he lived in the days when the "split" came over this question, he would not have made it a test of fellowship to the dividing of the church. When Brother Echols questioned him he of course said he thought the instrument, was without scriptural authority, but, even so, it was better to accept it and worship with it than to create strife and division within the church.

He placed all four of these things in pretty much the same category — Herald of Truth, the orphan homes, church contribution to colleges, and instrumental music — and said that not one of them was sufficient grounds for a division of the church. He made about the same statements relative to each of them, accepting them, NOT making them tests of fellowship, even worshipping with them rather than causing trouble in the church. He thought those who oppose Herald of Truth and orphan homes as unscriptural should have the same attitude he has toward instrumental music — accept it and keep quiet rather than cause trouble within the congregation!

If Brother Foutz has properly understood Brother Dickey's position on these matters, we think it will be obvious to all what we mean when we say, "Brethren, we are drifting!" When old-timers like John Dickey surrender the very fundamentals of our faith, it ought to shock some of the complacency out of others. This is modernism. There is no other word to describe it. One does not need to deny the virgin birth of Christ (his deity) to be a modernist; a denial of the authority of Christ's word is modernism the same as a denial of his deity. Modernism is an attitude toward divinity. It may express itself as a denial of the deity of Christ, or a denial of the authority of his word, or a denial of the sufficiency of his church.

Sad as it is to contemplate, Brother Dickey is not a unique example of the present day modernism. The deadly, insidious influence of paganism has been gnawing away at the very foundations of faith in our generation. Many (perhaps most) of those who have fallen victim would vehemently deny that they are modernists. They are perfectly honest in making such denials. But the evidence is too clear. There has been a general abandonment of those great and eternal verities which our fathers accepted as indestructible. When a man like John Dickey says he can worship with instrumental music; when a man like G. K. Wallace denies that the Bible teaches by "necessary inference", when men like Cleon Lyles and E. R. Harper deny the necessity of having a "command, example, or necessary inference" for all we do in religion; when a man like Gayle Oler denies that Acts 20:7 limits the observance of the Lord's Supper to the first day of the week, can anybody fail to recognize that the "drift" has become more than a drift — it has become a headlong surge. Only when sufficient numbers are awakened to the danger can we hope for any change.