Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 13, 1958

A "Parallel Absurdity" Examined

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Arkansas

In the Gospel Advocate, August 8, 1957, Bro. Bill L. Rogers had an article concerning "THE ACTION, SUBJECT AND DESIGN OF CONGREGATIONAL COOPERATION." In this article Bill undertakes to answer an argument that has been made against the "sponsoring church" type of cooperation. He discusses the argument point by point, and, at least, seemingly convinced himself that he had completely demolished the argument and shown it to be "a perversion of the scripture, a fallacy in reasoning, and a complete absurdity when applied to their present practices and contentions."

This article is not intended to deal with the general effort he made to answer the argument "point by point." That may very easily be done in other articles. But, in this article, I am concerned about the absurdity to which he reduced it and the process by which he accomplished the reduction. He stated that he believed "the argument is already an absurdity without the reducing process" but "in order to take away every semblance of argument from the contention based on the perversion of 2 Cor. 8:13,14 we reduce the argument to a complete absurdity." This "reducing process" that Bill talked about is the thing we are interested in right now, and I must say that the "process" is an amazing one. He introduced what he thought to be a parallel to the argument he was trying to answer, and by the use of this "parallel" the "reduction" was "complete."

I have known Bill for a long time and have been closely and intimately associated with him. I know that he has too much mental ability to resort to any such "reducing process" as he used if he were dealing with some false doctrine of denominationalism. He would never blunder into such a "parallel" as he uses in this article. He would see the fallacy of it before he got started. But since he has started riding the bandwagon of institutionalism his power of reasoning seems to be no better than many of his fellow-travelers that are riding the same vehicle. To defend human institutions and human systems for doing the work of the church is a new undertaking for Bill, and he blunders worse than a denominational preacher. But I wish to state briefly the argument he undertakes to answer and to reduce, and then we shall take a look at the "parallel" that served as his "reducing process."

The argument concerns the action, subjects and design of different matters. In the matter of baptism, the argument has been made that you must have proper action, proper subjects, and proper design. A violation of any one point would invalidate the baptism. The matter has been presented this way:

Proper Action Proper Subjects Proper Design Penitent Believers Immersion "For the remission of sins"

But baptism could be invalidated by violating either or all three of the points involved. For example, we might have this:

Improper Action Improper Design Improper Subjects Because of the remission of sins Sprinkling Infants or Unbelievers

In this latter arrangement you have a violation of every point of the matter — you have improper action (sprinkling), improper subjects (Infants or unbelievers) and improper design (because of the remission of sins). Such, therefore, could not be Scriptural baptism.

The same sort of arrangement might be made concerning cooperation:

Proper Action Proper Subjects Proper Design Gift from one church to another Churches having inequality (A "That there may be equality" church with power to give and a 2 Cor. 8:13,14.

church in want)

This, like baptism, could be violated in all points as follows:

Improper Action Improper Subjects Improper Design Pooling funds under one eldership Churches having equality To do some good work

(neither in want)

In this you will notice that there is improper action (pooling of funds under one eldership), improper subjects (churches having equality) and improper design (to do some good work). Therefore, such cooperation is not Scriptural cooperation.

In order to have Scriptural baptism, we must have the proper action (immersion), proper subjects (penitent believers) and the proper design (for the remission of sins). Likewise, to have Scriptural cooperation, we must have the proper action (a gift from one church to another), proper subjects (churches having inequality — one with power to give, the other in a condition of need) and the proper design ("that there may be equality" — 2 Cor. 8:13,14). Now, the "reducing process" that Bill used on this is what he thinks to be a "parallel" with "direct support" to a preacher. He selected Phil. 4:15 for his base, which reveals that Paul received such support, and then the "process" started. Here is the way it went: a church sent support (proper action) to an inspired preacher (proper subject) to relieve his needs (proper design). Then he said: "Today we have a church sending (right action) to an uninspired preacher (wrong subject) to relieve his needs (right design)." Then he concluded that he had demolished the argument on Scriptural cooperation, without seeming to realize that, if he did, he also demolished the argument on Scriptural baptism. If he has his proposition properly stated, it would prove that such support would have to be sent to an inspired preacher and would in no way disprove any point relative to baptism or cooperation. The only thing in the world it could prove would be that no uninspired man could qualify for support from churches.

But let us see if his statement of supporting preachers is parallel to the others. Let us take baptism first A proper subject of baptism is a penitent believer. An infant or an unbeliever would be wrong subject and could not be Scripturally baptized. There is a direct relationship between the characteristics of the subject and the baptism. Baptism is administered for the remission of sins because the person is a penitent believer who desires it. Just so with the cooperation suggested. Proper subjects are a church with power to give and a church in want. There is a direct relationship between the characteristics of the churches involved and the action performed. The gift is sent because a church has power to give and another church is in need of such relief. The Abundance and the need are the things that determined the action of relief. But will Bill say that support was sent to Paul upon the basis of his inspiration? Was it sent to him because he was inspired or because he was preaching the gospel and needed support? In order to have a parallel, his inspiration has to be the determining factor. Belief and repentance make the determining factor in baptism — they serve as the very basis for baptism. Abundance and want constitute a determining factor in the matter of relief — they serve as a basis for the gift. Now, to have a parallel, Bill must make inspiration the determining factor in a preacher's support. But I do not believe any one, not even Bill in his present position, will say that support was sent to Paul because he was inspired. He received support upon the basis of preaching the gospel and not upon the basis of inspiration. Therefore, an uninspired preacher is not the wrong subject. He preaches the same gospel from the recorded revelation that Paul preached by inspiration. And support can be sent to him upon exactly the same basis that it was sent to Paul. This shows that Bill did not reduce anything to an absurdity. His "parallel" was an absurdity to begin with, and if he were meeting the false teaching of denominational preachers, he would never make a "parallel" that is so ridiculous.

Furthermore, to show you how absurd his parallel is, let us take it from another angle. He could have said that support was sent (right action) to an unmarried preacher (right subject) to give relief (right design). Then he could have declared that today churches send support (right action) to a married preacher (wrong subject) to give relief (right design). And, at once he could conclude that he has reduced something to an absurdity! This is a similar parallel to the one he used. Paul was an unmarried man. But to make it parallel with the argument on baptism and cooperation, it will have to be proven that support was sent to Paul by the church at Philippi because he was unmarried. But was that true? Did his being unmarried serve as the basis of the support? Absolutely not. And yet just as much so as his inspiration. He received his support upon the basis of preaching the gospel and not upon the basis of being inspired and unmarried. Hence, an uninspired, married man who preaches the gospel and needs support is just as much the proper subject as is an inspired, unmarried man. These can never be parallel with the others until it can be proven that inspiration and celibacy served as the basis upon which the support was sent. This cannot be done, and Bill's "reducing process" is a flop.

Or he might also argue that the contribution from Antioch, as recorded in Acts 11:27-30, was sent to the churches in Judea. Also the Jerusalem church, to which the contributions of Rom. 15:25-27; 1 Cor. 16:1,2, and 2 Cor. 8th & 9th chapters were sent, was a church in Judea. Then he could say that the churches sent funds (the right action) to the churches in Judea (right subjects) to give relief (right design). Following this, he could continue that today churches send funds (the right action) to churches in Arkansas (wrong subjects) to give relief (right design). Therefore, by his "reducing process" we would conclude it is unscriptural to send aid to churches in Arkansas. But in order to substantiate such a conclusion he would have to prove that the aforementioned contributions were sent to the churches because they were in Judea. But this was not the basis of the relief; it had no relationship to the action performed. The relief was given because the receiving churches were in want, and churches in Arkansas that are in need are just as much proper subjects to receive aid as were churches in Judea that were in want.

Therefore, if Bill intends to "reduce to an absurdity" the arguments brethren have made against his promotional schemes, he will have to find a better "reducing process" than he has yet discovered.