Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 21, 1957
NUMBER 41, PAGE 2-3b

Critics And Criticisms

Robert H. Farish

The "Gospel Guardian" has the reputation of being critical. This reputation has been earned by its vigorous opposition to error. No one can honestly think of the paper as a "please the crowd" sort of journal. Mistakes have been made — no one is so partisan as to deny this or to attempt to justify the blunders of which we are guilty. Mistakes are a common commodity; everyone has made some. In an effort to hold these to a minimum the editor has constantly solicited constructive criticism. There are however some who object to the "Guardian" solely on the ground that it is a critical journal. This reputation for being a critical journal is not properly considered, a bad thing but is rather a convincing commentary as to the honorable character of the paper — it stands for something! But not only is the "Guardian" critical; it also comes in for a goodly amount of criticism. In view of its reputation, it would be inconsistent for the friends of the "Guardian" to resent constructive criticism. But here it should be stated emphatically that "hear say" does not qualify anyone as a constructive critic. Those who do not read the paper are disqualified, yet a number of people are performing as propaganda agents for the foes of the "Guardian" who do not have first hand knowledge of what is taught in the paper. Right thinking people have only contempt for anyone who would willingly be that kind of tool. It is not my purpose in this paper to give attention to the unreasonable, unfair and destructive criticisms that come from such a source — most people "have knowledge" of how God regards the one who "taketh up a reproach against his neighbor." My purpose in this paper is to consider some criticisms which I have heard from people who read the paper and are sincerely interested in the good of the paper.

The first of such criticisms is one toward which I am sympathetically inclined. This is that the "Guardian" writers deal too much in personalities. It is suggested that they limit their 'writings to issues and leave personalities out. As I have already stated, I personally prefer articles which deal exclusively with issues, but many times considerations are involved which require dealing with persons. It is not always possible to divorce issues from persons and deal with the issues separately and impersonally! Error does not spring up and promote itself apart from persons; it is conceived and promoted by people, hence personalities are frequently inseparably tied to error. You can't get at the one without the other. It is necessary to identify error with its advocates, for sometimes it becomes necessary to perform the unpleasant duty of exposing wolves who are camouflaged in sheep skins. This can only be accomplished by skinning them, at least that is the only way I know of for getting the skin off. So, regardless of our feelings in the matter, the fact remains that there will be times when dealing in personalities will be imperative. In such cases the critic must exercise the utmost care to avoid damning his own soul by the way he feels and acts toward the person under fire. Paul denounced certain brethren in Corinth in the most scathing terms but found no joy in it. He regretted the necessity of making them sorry and only rejoiced when that sorrow resulted in repentance. He reports his feelings in this way: "For though I made you sorry with my epistle, I do not regret it: though I did regret it (for I see that that epistle made you sorry, though but for a season) I now rejoice, not that you were made sorry, but that ye were made sorry unto repentance; for ye were made sorry after a godly sort, that ye might suffer loss by us in nothing." (II Cor. 7:8, 9.) A Christian should never aim at sorrow for sorrow's sake, but should always aim at repentance. Never should we just "make him sorry." It is perfectly proper to rejoice when a brother repents; angels in heaven rejoice over such. But something is badly wrong with the soul of the man who feels joy in hurting someone.

Another thing that needs to be considered is this, if a policy of refusal to give attention to personal attacks is steadfastly followed, many people will come to think that the charges are true. They will reason that the charges are not answered for the reason that they are true. This will cause loss of confidence in the management; the influence of the paper for good will be destroyed, and the cause for which the paper stands will be hurt.

Another criticism which I have heard is that the Guardian gives too much space to the discussion of congregational cooperation. The complaint is heard that the "Guardian" "harps" on one thing too much. It is freely admitted that the principle thing discussed for the past several years has been the cooperation issue with its many ramifications. Is this good or bad? One's answer to this will largely depend upon his attitude toward the church of the Lord. Surely every right thinking person will agree that the issue is fundamental and that it vitally affects the church. In order to assist the critics of the "Guardian" to be fair in their efforts to help the "Guardian" I submit some facts and observations for their consideration.

First, let me remind the friendly critic that repetition is absolutely essential to effective teaching. Warnings must be repeated. The mistake of "our" religious journals and preachers during the last twenty five years which has allowed institutionalism to rear its arrogant head among God's people again is the failure to wage a constant and relentless fight against those "church universal" concepts which have in the past led to departures from the faith. The fundamentals of church organization, the mission of the church along with the sufficiency of the scriptures should have been "harped" on until every person knew by heart and fully understood the things involved.

The apostle Peter, even while acknowledging the fact that those to whom he wrote had knowledge of the things about which he was writing, expresses his determination to continue to remind them. (II Peter 1:12, 13.)

When I read the book "The New Testament Church" by Brother F. D. Srygley, I find myself speculating on some of the criticisms which were probably directed at the "Gospel Advocate" because of these articles which appeared in that journal. Over and over, again and again, Brother Srygley covered the ground, repeatedly answering the same arguments. But "to write the same things" never seemed to become irksome unto him. He just kept punching away. He got the job done for his generation.

Over how long a period and with what frequency should workmen throw sand bags into a break in the levee???