Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 16, 1955

All The Way -- Or Not At All

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Arkansas

In our experiences of life we are often confronted with certain things that demand acceptance or rejection. Not only is this true in the normal affairs of life where religion is not concerned, but it is also true in the realm of religion. And many times to accept a certain thing would require me, because of the principle involved, to accept a number of other things that exist upon the same basic principle. The things are so parallel that I could not accept one without accepting the other, and, at the same time, remain consistent. I do not subscribe to the idea that I want to be right whether I am consistent or not. If I am right, I am consistent; if I am not consistent, I am wrong somewhere. I may be charged with inconsistency when it is not so, but if I am actually inconsistent, then somewhere I am out of harmony with divine truth, for truth is always consistent with truth. At one time I may have held to one position, and at another time I may hold to a position entirely different, but I am not to be charged with inconsistency in the matter unless I try to hold both positions at the same time. Saul of Tarsus, at one period of his life, opposed Christianity with all the power that he possessed. Yet at another time he was one of the strongest proponents of Christianity the world has ever known. But Saul was not inconsistent for he did not hold the two positions at the same time. To hold two conflicting positions at the same time would justify the charge that one is inconsistent. Or to accept one thing as a practice of my life and religion, but at the same time to reject a number of other things that are exactly the same in principle, would also warrant the charge of inconsistency. Consequently, when certain things are presented to us, we often say, "I'll go all the way, or I'll not go at all." In other words, I will accept all the things that are the same in principle, or I'll not accept any of them. A course of this kind is certainly consistent, for if some of the things are in harmony with divine truth, the others, based on the same principle, are likewise in harmony with the same.

This idea of "going all the way, or not at all", is well presented in the following article selected from CHRISTIAN WAYMARKS, the bulletin of the Church of Christ at Campbell, Missouri, for which Bro. Christian A. Lyles is the preacher. The article was written by Bro. Lyles. The article is as follows:

Misdirected Zeal

"Regarding the children of Israel Paul said, `I bear them record that they have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God.'

"There was no question here regarding the sincerity of these Jews but simply a statement regarding misdirected zeal. We need to be impressed with the fact that good intentions and zeal are not evidence that a course of action is right.

"There is no organization authorized in the New Testament except a local congregation of the church of Christ. In the early days of the church there quickly arose the opinion that a larger association was needed, and, as a result, we see the establishment of a district or diocese and, naturally, an office of corresponding dignity to rule over it. This, of course, led to other changes and addition until, by the close of the fifth century, the church had completely fallen away from the faith.

"A little more than three centuries ago leading men began to discover that the Bible and the teaching of the church were not always in harmony and started what we know as the reformation. This movement met with success, and finally a plea was made that men go all the way back to the apostles, teaching and practicing exactly what they did. From that time on there has been a body of believers who insist on being just Christians and being guided by what the New Testament authorizes.

"The road of this people has not been altogether smooth. Within the same generation leading men again entertained the notion that just the church is too small to meet the Lord's needs, and it seemed to them wise to establish another organization to fill this need. Thus the missionary society arose to take over from the church the work of preaching the gospel. Of course, the opening that will admit one digression will admit another. Therefore, we see the admission of instrumental music in the worship and other things not mentioned in the New Testament. As you know, the result was a divided church and finally two separate churches.

"Regarding both of these cases it could be said, "They have a zeal for God but not according to knowledge.' It seemed to these people that God's revelation did not provide for the conditions that they faced. So the thing to do was to attend to the necessity according to their own best judgment. We should already know that what seems good to us is not always that which is good.

"We have built much sermon material around the digression of a century ago. If we should do now the same things they did then, what is the difference? Even if we call it by another name, it remains the same. If the time ever came that I felt I could support an organization other than the church to do the work of the church, then I will have to be consistent and go all the way, supporting the missionary society and denominational schools. However, any argument that I can think of that bars one or more of these bars them all."

The above article I commend to your thoughtful consideration. I have never had any doubts about where Bro. Christian A. Lyles would stand on the issues of institutionalism that confront the church today. I have been so closely associated with him through the years, and I have known his stand for the truth on many other issues, that I felt sure he would not be swept away with the trend toward great "brotherhood projects" and toward human organizations to do the work God assigned the church to do. I have for many years believed and taught that the church was adequate to do the work God assigned it to do without turning it over to human institutions to do for them. The question posed by Bro. Lyles' article is one that I have never yet seen answered, but one for which I have looked for an answer for many years. That question, stated in different terms, is simply this: What is the difference between the benevolent work of the church being done through a human organization and the evangelistic work of the church being done through a human organization? Or if the church has a Scriptural right to do its work of benevolence through an institutional orphan home, why does it not have the same Scriptural right to do its work of evangelism through a human organization known as a missionary society? A simple, sensible, reasonable, Scriptural answer to this question will go a long way toward resolving the difficulties before the church today. Who can give the answer? Who will do so?