Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 9, 1955
NUMBER 6, PAGE 8-10a

Positive Thinking

Hoyt H. Houchen, San Antonio, Texas

It is axiomatic that a person is no different than is his attitude. The sagacious Solomon expressed this truth when he said, "For as he thinketh within himself, so is he." (Prov. 23:7.) However, thinking not only determines what a person is, but it also motivates his conduct. Jesus said, "For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickedness's, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man." (Mark 7:21, 22.) What one is and what one does, therefore, are both determined by his thinking.

Loyal and discerning brethren have known for a long time that something is fundamentally wrong with the Grove Avenue congregation in San Antonio, Texas. Her departures from the truth in the past have been exposed through the medium of this journal as well as several others. Her practice of centralized control and oversight of the work in Karlsruhe, Germany, was aptly dealt with in March, 1953. Her ecclesiasticism exercised in her ruthless recall of Brother Dick Smith from that work is a disgust to brethren who recognize and respect the autonomy and equality of congregations as taught in the New Testament. But the conduct of Grove Avenue is explanatory when the thinking of her leadership is observed. On the front page of the Grove Avenue bulletin, September 5, 1954, appears the following that was written by one of the elders:

"One of the newest contributions to our literature is a book entitled, 'The Power of Positive Thinking.' Modern educators, philosophers and psychologists have placed great emphasis on what they choose to call 'positive thinking' as though the idea were some new discovery. The thought is worthy of much of the emphasis, but it is not new. In principle the idea is embraced in Christianity, and. Christians need to become positive thinkers. 'Positive thinking' Christians are not fault-finders or complainers because they see the good rather than the bad. They appreciate the dough-nut and overlook the hole in it, even though they are well aware of its presence. In the church they see the good that is being accomplished rather than the faults and failures of their fellow Christians and the church. We believe that the Christians at Grove Avenue are 'positive thinking' Christians because of the good that is being done with little or no obstruction or criticism. The apostle Paul taught 'positive thinking' as revealed in Phil. 4:8:

"'Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue. and if there be any praise, think on these things'."

How far can brethren get from the truth? The above expresses the attitude of an elder, a spiritual overseer of the flock. So overwhelmed is he by a new book that he has apparently forgotten, if he ever knew, that seeing the good is not all that there is to being a Christian. A man's thinking is mighty far off track who so contends. "Christians," our brother says, "appreciate the dough-nut and overlook the hole in it, even though they are well aware of its presence." Now personally, this scribe never did know that there was anything wrong with a hole in a dough-nut. In fact, to all people it is the hole that distinguishes that delicious morsel from dainties of the ordinary kind. So, our brother begins with the wrong premise. His illustration does not prove his point. There is nothing wrong with a hole in a dough-nut; therefore, eating around the hole is not even remotely parallel to overlooking sin.

Our brother believes that faults and failures should be overlooked. If that is not his point, then what is it? Furthermore, he concludes that if one does not overlook these, then he is not a positive thinker. We suggest to our brother that he read his New Testament more carefully and then we believe that he will change his thinking.

Jesus was a positive thinker, yet he did not overlook the evils about him, nor did he fail to criticize. Of the Pharisees, whose religion was pretentious, Jesus said in Matthew 15:8, 9: "This people honoreth me with their lips; But their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." Was Jesus a positive thinker? We rather think that he was. The entire 23rd chapter of Matthew is a series of woes that Jesus pronounced upon the scribes and Pharisees. He did everything else but overlook their faults "with little or no obstruction or criticism."

Peter did not overlook sin. In Acts 5, Peter reproved Ananias and Sapphira for lying and stealing, and these two hypocrites were punished. If there should happen to be some members at Grove Avenue who are lying and stealing and it should be brought to the attention of the elders, what would they do about it? If all concur with the elder who penned the foregoing article, there is nothing that they would do but merely "see the good rather than the bad."

That sin will enter any congregation, no one will deny. But when it does, it must be dealt with in the way that the Lord directs us in his word. Where would all the congregations of the Lord be today if the elders in each one of them would think as does this Grove Avenue elder? It is one thing to recognize and deal with sin, and it is still another thing to do nothing about it. Elders are to watch in behalf of souls "as they that shall give account." (Heb. 13:17.) It is hardly conceivable that an elder in the church of the Lord could write the above article.

Paul did not overlook sin. While he could see the good in others as is seen in his commendations of individuals and congregations, he did not fail to see the faults and failures of his fellow Christians. He not only recognized the evils, but he rebuked those who were guilty. Paul's letter to the church at Corinth enumerates specific sins which were prevalent in that church. Can one read the Corinthian letters and then believe that sin should be overlooked? The "positive thinking" elder should particularly notice the 5th chapter of the first epistle in which Paul rebuked the Corinthian church for tolerating the sin of incest. The church was doing nothing about it, but instead it was "puffed up." (1 Cor. 5:2.) Such thinking as proposed by the Grove Avenue elder is dangerous, not only for the man himself who entertains it, but for the far reaching and damaging effects that it has upon the church. To glory as does this elder when he says "we believe that the Christians at Grove Avenue are 'positive thinking' Christians because of the good that is being done with little or no obstruction or criticism" is exactly what the church at Corinth was doing. When any fault exists within a congregation, it is not the time for glorying; it is time for action; it is time to remove it before it is too late. Paul said to the Corinthians, "Your glorying is not good. Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump? Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, even as ye are unleavened." (1 Cor. 5:6, 7.) We believe too that Paul was doing some positive thinking when he wrote these words.

Paul warned against false teachers. He did not overlook them or their false teaching. (1 Tim. 1:19, 20; 2 Tim. 2:16-18.) Yes, Paul was a positive thinker, but positive thinking as is taught in God's word does not cause one to overlook error. We are certain that the Grove Avenue elder can learn more from the New Testament on "positive thinking" than he can from the new book by Vincent Peale.

By perusing the first three chapters of Revelation, it will be seen that only two churches of the seven in Asia Minor escaped any criticism by the Lord — Smyrna and Philadelphia. Had any condition existed in either of those two churches, the Lord would have dealt with it just as he did in the other five. To the smug and complacent at Laodicea the Lord wrote: "Because thou sayest, I am rich, and have gotten riches, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art the wretched one and miserable and poor and blind and naked." (Rev. 3:17.) We believe that the Lord knew much more about positive thinking than do modern educators, philosophers, and psychologists.

The quotation by our brother from Paul in Philippians 4:8 by no means proves his point that things that are bad should be overlooked. Every positive has a negative. Any Christian who thinks upon things that are true, honest, just, pure, lovely, and of good report will at the same time look upon with abhorrence those things that are false, dishonest, unjust, impure, ugly and evil. A true Christian cannot stand for what is right without at the same time being opposed to what is wrong. Paul charged Timothy to "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Tim. 4:2.) The positive thinking Christian will be positively against everything that is opposed to good.

The wrong kind of thinking that exists in the eldership at Grove Avenue is obviously responsible for her wrong practices. On Wednesday night, January 26, 1955, an officer from the Juvenile department of San Antonio spoke to the adults in the regular mid-week service at Grove Avenue on the problems of youth. The man is not a member of the church; he is a Catholic. A Catholic was invited to speak at a service conducted by members of the church. Just what he could teach on the problems of youth that could not be taught by a Christian from the Bible, we are at a loss to know. Truth-loving and uncompromising members of the church should consider, however, that such an affair is to be expected in a church where an elder advocates "seeing the good rather than the bad." If a Catholic could speak at the mid-week service at Grove Avenue, why could he not be invited tospeak at their services on the Lord's day? A sermon from a Catholic might be quite appropriate in a church where there is "little or no obstruction or criticism." Some soft, weak and spineless brethren who have no fault to find with the denominations could find satisfaction. They could hear a Catholic or any other sectarian whom the elders would care to invite.

By now it should be understood why brethren take off on things not scriptural. It is the result of wrong thinking. A disease in the blood stream will very often break out on the skin.

As further evidence of wrong thinking, the following appeared in the Grove Avenue bulletin, June 6, 1954, relative to its Vacation Bible School:

"Another reason for the school is the social aspects of life. Children are naturally sociable. These classes fill a place in this field. The playground will serve to supplement the classes in this."

Where in the New Testament do we read that the church is to make social provisions for anyone? Note that this is listed as a reason for the school. The church is a spiritual institution and its work is to preach the gospel. It was not established by Christ in consideration of "the social aspects of life." When a congregation goes into the business of providing for social needs as is outlined in the above quotation, it has made a long departure from scriptural teaching. Grove Avenue is not at all opposed to the church building social and recreational halls, nursery schools, etc. The readers are asked to refer hack to the August 17, 1950 issue of this journal in which its editor reviewed some things along these lines that appeared in the Grove Avenue bulletin.

An area-wide young people's meeting is held in this city each month and the young people of different congregations are invited. This affair is church sponsored and different congregations are asked to announce it. The Highland church where this writer serves as preacher does not endorse this activity. Grove Avenue is a very active participant in the endeavor. It is partly a social affair as shown by the following comments on one of the meetings as they appeared in the Grove Avenue bulletin, August 22, 1954:

"Another unique thing about this meeting was the fact that the young people's class at Grove Avenue planned the program, financed the refreshments, and served the refreshments. Not an oldster was allowed in the kitchen. Heretofore the oldsters' were indispensable. We are glad to see the next generation accept responsibility in this manner. This attitude will mean much to other phases of the work of the church at Grove Avenue."

No objection is made to young people coming together, but we deny that the New Testament authorizes the church to bring the young people together for social functions and entertainment. When the church goes into that kind of business, it ceases to be what God intended for it to be. Entertainment is an adjunct of the home but it is not remotely akin to the work of he church.

But on the same page of the Grove Avenue bulletin that is quoted above, these comments are found on that particular meeting:

"The group was led in singing by young men from the different congregations and there were choruses composed of young people. Following the singing Dr.------- gave an illustrated speech on the human body in high altitudes."

Can any sound thinking Christian imagine the apostle Paul massing young people, have some particular congregation to sponsor the meeting, giving them a taste of worship, and then a bite of scientific treatise by some authority? Revolting indeed is it to faithful Christians that some brethren who do not understand the nature and the purpose of the church will lead young people into such endeavors. If this was a service of worship, why the scientific treatise? If it was not a service of worship, why should it be church sponsored? Several of us have known for a long time that the trend of area-wide young people's meetings is wrong. The practice is borrowed from the sectarians, copied in particular from the Baptist youth rallies and special youth movements that are prevalent in other denominational bodies, and it is headed for what some brethren have already advocated, a youth church. When the church enters the field of entertainment and recreation, it takes a seat far behind the experts in the business, and more important it has departed from its task to preach the gospel. When a congregation engages in any activity that is not authorized by the Lord, it has advanced beyond the teaching of Christ. (2 John 9.) There are some things that individuals can do that the church cannot do and entertainment is one of them.

The above are matters of principle and it is the conviction of this writer that the Lord will hold those responsible who do not expose those things that are contrary to his will. This is positive thinking.