Sept. 11, 1949, pp. 295-96 In the first of two doctrinal essays zzzz Excerpts presented to the assembly, Pastor zzzz Geo. Lillegard of Boston found his topic in an expression much favored by certain unionists within the visible church, who have found cover for their activities by defining their joint working with errorists as “Cooperation in Externals.” Pastor Lillegard reviewed this practice exhaustively and frankly by enlarging upon the following four declarations:
“1. Unionism is joint worship, or joint church work, with those who do not confess the true faith in all respects.
“2. If orthodox Lutherans cooperate, or associate, with heterodox Lutherans in any phase of the Church’s work, such as Education, Missions, Charities, etc., they disregard the fact that joint church work with false teachers is unionism just as much as is joint worship.
“3. The test of so-called externals in church work is whether they may properly be carried on with all manner of churches and religious or civic organizations.
“4. Since the National Lutheran Council, as well as the Lutheran World Federation, was organized to promote cooperation in church work between all Lutherans, without regard to doctrinal differences, we object to them as unionistic organizations and refuse to take any part in their activities.”
As quoted in the Convention Sentinel, he [Pastor S.E. Lee, convention chaplain] said: “Even as we possess the precious Gospel., we should fight to defend and preserve it. … The devil seeks hard to lead away from the Truth by mutilating the Gospel. … The most dangerous opposition of the Christian is not the out-and-out unbeliever, but the compromisers and weaklings within the church itself. … When we become tolerant of any error of doctrine, we shake the very foundations of our faith. … Those who criticize rigid fundamentalism do not see the church as soul-saving, but as something else. … The early Christian Church was interested in preaching and preserving the Gospel, so we look hard to find public-relations men and ‘social-gospelers’ there. … Churches that seek outward glory deny the Gospel.”
How precious the pure Gospel truly is, how infinitely blest are they that possess and retain it in believing hearts, could hardly have been more beautifully set forth than was done in the portrayal of “The Royal Priesthood of Believers.” This essay, read by Pastor S. Dorr of Tracy, Minn., deserves a lengthy review for which our space is not adequate. In the light of the unconditioned Gospel, the believers stood exalted as priestly Kings and kingly Priests before God, utterly independent under God in spiritual things, needing no human regency, no human advocate or mediator, subject to no human domination in matters of faith, fearing no wrath of men and no power that would interpose itself between them and the love of God in Christ.
Sept. 25, 1949, p. 307 The Associated Press on Aug. 15th zzz An Editorial carried an unusual story from zzzzzzzz California on its wires. It reported that a former Catholic priest and his bride were honeymooning in that state, after having been married at Buckeye, Ariz., before Superior Judge Charles Bernstein, a member of the Jewish faith.
The report is unusual chiefly on two counts, though the action of the ex-priest is itself not one of them. For while we do not know whether or not he broke the vow of celibacy as a testimony against the Roman Catholic commandment forbidding marriage to the clergy – a commandment which the apostle in I Tim. 4:3 lists as a “doctrine of devils” – his withdrawal from the priesthood is not as rare an occurrence as it may appear to those for whom the press and radio provide the only source of information on such matters.
The present news item is exceptional chiefly because it has received such unusual publicity. The powers of the Roman Church are notoriously impatient with any members of the public press who venture to disseminate and print an account of any occurrence which tends to indicate disharmony within their ranks or dulls the polish and glitter of Rome’s outward glory. More than once, in the past, news services have incurred in painful manner the wrath of the Roman hierarchy because of news releases uncomplimentary to Catholicism. The persuasive powers of censorship which Romanism usually succeeds in wielding over the public press, powers out of all proportion to its numerical strength in our country, evidently were not effective in preventing the publication of this bit of news concerning the former priest Emmett McLaughlin and his marriage. SPELLING
Another unusual feature of the press release is its frank statement that the wedding took place “before 700 guests and a guard of pistol-toting sheriff’s deputies.” The presence of this latter somewhat startling aggregation of armed wedding attendants can hardly be accounted for as an observance of a good old American custom. The Associated Press blandly quotes Deputy Sheriff Woody Killman’s explanation that the guard was present by request of the bridegroom, “to prevent any trouble.”
We are left to draw our own conclusions. It may be that charivari parties in Arizona tend to be somewhat deadly, especially when they wish to salute a disaffected priest upon his nuptials.
Oct. 9, 1949, p. 323 It was, we suppose, bound to happen ziz An Editorial sooner or later. Since the Roman Papacy z demands recognition as the head of the Christian Church, and since this claim rests in large part upon the unproven story that the Apostle Peter was the first bishop of Rome, it must for many years have been a source of vexation to the Papal See that even the very presence of Peter in Rome is an historical assumption unsupported by evidence.
Anyone who does not know by now that this lack is about to be filled has neglected his newspaper and his radio. To be sure, the whole thing is still a big secret, because it won’t be made official until Pius XII opens the Holy Year on Christmas Eve next. But secrets have a way of escaping into full pages of Sunday newsprint, complete with pictures and diagrams from Rome. It appears that St. Peter has been there all the time. They found his grave, it is said, less than 20 feet under the pavement of the pope’s basilica. At this very moment, in fact, the bones of the great apostle are said to be reposing in a receptacle in the private chapel of the Vatican.
Rome is an ancient city, and its underground vaults, chambers, and burial catacombs have long been famous. It is not surprising that human remains have been found under the huge Church of St. Peter. If the body of the apostle was among them and if, as we are told, tradition has always said that he was buried there, it is rather hard to understand why it has taken a thousand years to find them. And why bother now?
Roman Cardinal Perroul said in 1864: “The coming of St. Peter to Rome and the seat there established by him is connected with an article of our Faith. … Hence it follows that he cannot be a Catholic who does not believe in the coming to, and the episcopate and death of St. Peter in Rome.”
On the other hand, many prominent Catholics, including Chas. Du Moulin the Attorney (1566), the Jesuit Father Hardouin (1729), De Cormeniu, who wrote a history of the popes, Frances Turretin, and others publicly stated what the Catholic Professor Ellendorf of Berlin sums up briefly in a statement in Bibliotheca Sacra of January 1859: “Peter’s abode in Rome can never be proved.”
So now, we understand, an attempt will be made to prove it. We await developments with serene minds. We doubt that the evidence can or will be conclusive; in any case, it can only suggest that perhaps Peter died in Rome, or was brought there after his death. That he died, we know. And we know also that, wherever Peter may have lived or died, he had nothing whatever to do with the Papacy, which is the Antichrist. Bones of men may come and go; but the WORD they still shall let remain, the Word of God, of which St. Peter wrote that it liveth and abideth forever.
Oct. 23, 1949, pp. 342-43 The death of Justice Wiley Rutledge zzFrom a Wider Field of the United States Supreme Court, z following as it did so closely upon the passing of his colleague, Justice Frank Murphy, serves as a sharp reminder of the fact that the complexion of our highest court can change very suddenly. Past decisions of the court, therefore, especially those in which the prevailing opinion was concurred in by a bare majority of the justices, may not remain in force if new cases are appealed and judged by a court whose membership has meanwhile change d through vacancy and new appointment.
This variable quality of Supreme Court decisions must be of particular concern to us in its effect upon the constitutional safeguards which protect religious liberties in our country. Not infrequently the Supreme Court has been called upon to interpret laws in the light of the First and Fourteenth Amendment to our Federal Constitution. In the past, threatened infringements of the rights of individuals and minorities as guaranteed by these amendments have been warded off by the Supreme Court well balanced in favor of an enlightened regard for the inviolability of conscience and for the proper separation of Church and State. The Champaign School Case of 1947 is a recent example. This correct and favorable trend of opinion has been a blessing of God to the Church of the pure Gospel. Let us pray that He may preserve it through the appointment to our highest tribunal of men filled with the wisdom and moved by the ideals of their predecessors.
They understand not what they say.
The Apostle Paul describes certain of his day as “desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say nor whereof they affirm.” I Tim. 1:7. The world has an unfortunate habit of offering us teachers of that kind in matters of religion and morals. Two recent examples may be cited.
There is, first, a newspaper headline of Sept. 1st which proclaims in bold type: “Mayo Doctor Claims Comic Books Are O.K.” We have a great deal of respect for the Mayo Clinic and its accomplishments in the field of medicine. But when one of its psychiatrists is quoted as saying that comic books “fill a definite need in our society because they allow children to siphon off many of the hostile, aggressive feelings they are not permitted to express,” we feel very much like a Mayo surgeon would feel if he saw one of our editors about to operate on a patient’s gall bladder with a paring knife.
Although there are a few comic books available which may be regarded as spiritually harmless, the greater share of such publications are poisonous literature for a child. Evidently some psychiatrists know less about the soul of a child than we do about building an Indian wigwam. Unfortunately, the public is inclined to accept opinions, qualified or not, when they come from men of prominence.
As a second example we have a pronouncement on the subject of religion from Gen. James H. (Jimmy) Doolittle, as published in the Sunday Magazine This Week of Sept. 11, 1949. The general earned his military rank; as one of our outstanding war heroes, he deserves the respect and affection accorded him by millions of Americans. But here he speaks to America on religion and says: “Religion was once taught in our schools but was removed from the curriculum because of differences of opinion among religious sects. The time has now come for all religious beliefs to band together against atheism. The advancement of religion and religious tolerance is far more important than the promotion of any specific religious faith or group.”
Presumably this is intended as an admonition also to Christians; but what the general advocates is not Christianity, not biblical religion. Indeed, he does not claim to represent Christianity. For he declares his creed in these words: “Religion, to me, means recognizing the existence of God, and the conduct of life in accordance with His precepts.” This creed has completely eliminated from “religion” the Redeemer Jesus Christ; in such a creed there is no need of a Savior from sin. It voices, at least in part, a conviction shared also by the devil, who certainly “recognizes the existence of God.” See James 2:19.
Our differences with such religion are not differences of opinion, but of faith and of doctrine, than which there is nothing more important or unyielding.
Against atheism, the weapon of adulterous union of truth and error, of God’s children with heathen, which the general proposes, would be about as effective as a sword forged of cracked ice and crushed tulip bulbs.
Jesus said: “If ye continue in MY WORD …, ye shall know the Truth.” This is more authoritative than a contrary pronouncement by an expert on military aviation, no matter how fondly he may otherwise be regarded.
A busy year for Rome
According to a Reuters dispatch, the Vatican is issuing an appeal to Italians to tend the graves of all soldiers of all nationalities who fell in Italy, so that relatives who come to that country for the “Holy Year” will feel that “their loved ones rest with friends.” Rome is putting forth its best manners and decking itself in welcoming robes for the expected thousands from all over the world who will make the pilgrimage to the Holy City during the Year of Jubilee which opens on next Christmas Eve. Ships and railroads are reducing rates, and a new airdrome is being built to handle the heavy plane traffic.
Why the throng? The Associated Press explains: “Roman Catholics in a state of grace – that is, those who have confessed and obtained pardon for their sins and received communion – will earn plenary indulgences if they visit these four churches (in Rome) during the year. Catholics believe such indulgences erase punishment for past sins which otherwise would be served in purgatory after death.”
Nov. 6, 1949, pp. 355-56 Those who have suffered from the zzz An Editorial crippling pain of arthritis will be zzzzz quick to appreciate the force of the apostle’s reference and its application. According to a recent medical journal article, the complexity of arrangements in the joints of the body and the delicacy of their “contained tissues” make them especially susceptible to certain disease processes. It appears that arthritis involves the lining of the joint cavities, called the synovial membrane, which secretes a fluid for lubricating the action of the joint.
A most vivid picture is drawn by the Apostle Paul of a body in which each joint is well lubricated. He calls it “fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, making increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.”
A glance at the context of this passage will show that the apostle is not offering instruction in human physiology. The head of the body thus described is Christ; and the body is His Church. The individual members are its joints; and the church in its glorious growth, its forward movement, its smooth functioning, displays “the effectual working in the measure of every part.”
Thus in a sense the individual joint is more important than the body as a whole. The actual size of the body, moreover, is not so vital to its health as the condition of its joints.
Among those who are concerned with the well-being of the Church we find two policies in operation. Some profess to believe that we must strengthen the Church against the stresses and strains of these critical days by giving it an imposing outward appearance of size and solidarity. They propose to do some uniting. Assuming members of heterodox church bodies to be Christians even though they confess and may actually hold to error or are not properly instructed in the Truth, the proposal is to recognize them publicly as brethren, especially if they bear the name Lutheran, and ask them to work together with us or offer to work with them in advancing the Kingdom of Christ against the forces of darkness.
Aside from the fact that this method is in conflict with God’s command, Rom. 16:17-18, there is a fatal weakness in it. We call to witness every arthritis victim. It takes a healthy set of joints to make the body perform feats of strength. Arthritics don’t do mountain climbing or engage in obstacle races.
A Christian infected by error is a diseased and painful joint in the body of Christ. Thousands of them do not make the Church stronger or more efficient, but weaker. Because of them, severe strain is put upon the healthy joints. Indeed, the “effectual working” of the Church today as at all times is hindered only by the fact that many of its members are not supplying their measure of the body’s strength, because they are oppressed and afflicted by error or by the Old Adam of sinful weakness. They suffer from spiritual arthritis; and this malady is not corrected by issuing an official directive saying: We shall work together; we shall have conferences and plan “cooperative action.”
The other, the God-given plan for activating the Church, is to promote the health of its joints. There is nothing spectacular in this process, and it requires no public relations department or formula of federation to make it work. We begin at home (there is a striking similarity, incidentally, between “synovial membrane” and “synodical membrane”) by intensifying our program of indoctrination. The joints are oiled by faith, and faith cometh by hearing of the Word of God. We shall strive to use every agency and opportunity for deepening the doctrinal understanding and conviction of the Christians within our fellowship, and seek to testify to the Truth against every error and every evil work both within and without our confessional circle with firmness, kindness, and clarity, calling for constant repentance and correction in ourselves and others.
With firm conviction we regard the edification of the body of Christ in love as the task of ridding Christ’s Church of every vestige of spiritual arthritis and establishing the faith-health of its joints. For we know that only so shall the Church give expression to its glory and achieve that prospect held out to us by the apostolic words:
“Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into UNTO/ him in all things which is the head, even Christ.” Eph. 4:13-15.
Nov. 6, 1949, pp. 358-59 In a statement issued on Sept. 20th zizFrom a Wider Field last, the Federal Council of Churches z of Christ in America placed itself on record in the vexing problem of federal aid to schools.
At present, efforts to provide such aid to public schools lie bottled up in the files of the Committee on Education and Labor of the House of Representatives. The committee has failed to report either the so-called Taft Bill or the Barden Bill to the House for action because of the bitter disagreement on whether or not parochial or church schools should benefit from grants of federal money.
Certain interests are demanding that parochial schools share in all monies voted by the government for education. Others insist that private schools be excluded from direct support, but that the children attending these schools receive their share of such “welfare services” as Congress may see fit to provide.
Suggestion of Federal Council of Churches
In this connection the Federal Council of Churches offers a suggestion in the following portion of its report, as quoted in the Christian Century:
“We believe that the sound and practicable way out of the legislative stalemate would be to treat aid to schools and the supplying of welfare services to children as separate projects. Each should be decided on its own merits. In accordance with previous statements of the council, we urge that prompt provision be made for federal aid for the maintenance of public schools, with assurance that in its administration there be no discrimination on account of race. We further urge that, as a separate matter unconnected with grants for schools, open-minded consideration be given by Congress to the need of all children of school age for certain welfare services. We believe that if federal aid is made available for such services, they should be administered or supervised by a public agency. By thus drawing a clear distinction between aid to schools and welfare services to children, we believe that necessary assistance can be given to education without making it the object of sectarian controversy or compromising the principle of separation of church and state, for which the council has always stood.”
It is not likely that the suggestion of the Council will be received with much favor. Those who are determined to support their church schools by dipping into public funds will not be content with a plan that stops them so far short of their goal, while many who are as firm as the Federal Council in refusing to compromise the principle of separation of church and state will look doubtfully upon the Council’s plan, which bears in itself the mark of compromise.
The Council recommends “drawing a clear distinction between aid to schools and welfare services to children.” But any such distinction will remain a subject of debate. Actually, this proposal is a begging of the question. The proponents of all-out federal aid to private schools will contend that all school services are welfare service, and it would be difficult to refute their argument. While the sword-cleaving solution of the Council faintly resembles the wisdom of Solomon, it lacks the persuasive logic which could satisfy both sides in this controversy.
We must be wary of a scheme by which, in the end, sectarian religious interests can be supported with federal grants issued under the label: For welfare services only. Apparently the Federal Council itself includes as a “welfare service” that of free transportation. What assurance may we have that free heat and light, so needful for the physical well-being of the pupils, will not eventually be classified as aid to children? As a matter of fact, in New Mexico, where a court decision has prohibited the granting of textbooks to parochial schools at public expense, the attorney general has ruled that such books may be granted to the individual pupils, and some thousand parochial school children are reported to be receiving books under this ruling.
Removing the discussion of welfare services from the controversial field of the church-state debate, where it properly belongs, may very well brighten the prospects of those who would be willing to accept support for private schools under any name and would welcome the opportunity of doing so with a show of right.
Czechoslovakia and religious liberty
Out of the surging internal struggles of Czechoslovakia comes the report that the Communist authorities are removing from their parishes those Roman Catholic priests who, upon examination, prove to be disloyal to the government.
If rigorously carried out, this policy will undoubtedly result in great upheavals and civil strife in that unhappy country.
While we are fully aware of the anti-religious spirit of Communism, it should be pointed out that the removal of priests disloyal to the government is an action not entirely without the appearance, at least, of justice. For the fact is that in Czechoslovakia, as in other European countries, the church is financially supported by the state. In other words, the priests are paid out of the public treasury. They are, therefore, by their own consent servants of the government. It can hardly be objectionable, in itself, if the government refuses to pay the salaries of men whom it finds disloyal.
Because there is no separation of church and state in Czechoslovakia, the priests are in great difficulty. By order of the pope, they must be enemies of Communism; yet they cannot resist Communism without being removed from office by the government which hires and supports them.
We submit this as another forceful argument urging the continued, absolute separation of church and state in our land. Eventually, persecution and banishment may be visited also upon us by some vicious, ungodly government of the future, and we shall suffer for the name of Christ; but at least, in seeking to give to Caesar and to God their full due, we shall be able to distinguish between what is Caesar’s and what is God’s. Koelpin
Nov. 20, 1949, pp. 374-75 Of late there has been quite a bit of zii From a Wider Field comment in the religious press zzzzzzz published throughout the country dealing with the doings of some churches as they industriously try to raise money by doubtful methods.
It is a pleasant and, we believe, a profitable task to offer our readers the sane opinions and judgments of others on this subject. With that purpose in mind, we devote this column to quotations from sources outside our own church circles.
There is, for example, the editorial in the Baptist weekly, the Watchman-Examiner, concerning such church financing in a foreign country. As quoted by the Concordia Theological Monthly, the editorial reads:
“They have a way of dealing with the lottery evil in New Zealand which is commendable. That a reputed ‘church’ should sponsor and promote such a scheme as wholesale gambling is a libel on Christianity anywhere.
“In Hamilton, New Zealand, a man and his daughter were fined a total of 55 pounds ($230.00) by a court which described the selling of tickets on an automobile raffle organized for a Roman Catholic charity as ‘a by no means trivial offense.’ The magistrate declared, ‘Lotteries of this kind are an encouragement to people to spend beyond their means.’ He stated that the fact that the proceeds of the raffle were for church purposes was ‘no mitigation of the offence,’ and that to refrain from entering a conviction would ‘amount to favoring sections of the community.’ Lotteries, raffles, bingo, and all such schemes for the raising of money by churches means that they are encouraging people to break the Tenth Commandment.”
An echo of this frank opinion comes from Lincoln, Nebr., where the attorney general is enforcing anti-gambling laws strictly, even upon certain churches which seem to feel that they should not be subject to such moral restrictions. The Nebraska Council of Churches rallied behind the attorney general with this sober pronouncement: “It is a uniform conviction of our churches that gambling is immoral, and that law observance is a moral obligation, and we commend and support Attorney General Anderson in his program of enforcement of anti-gambling laws.”
And last, but not least, we take a leaf from the Lutheran Standard of October 22nd. Concerning a related matter, the question-box editor of the Standard has penned a reply to the query of a reader who asks whether bazaars and similar devices for the purpose of raising money for churches are in keeping with the spirit of Christian stewardship. The answer, which we regard as in excellent taste and form, is as follows:
“True Christian stewardship requires that a person acknowledge God as the owner of all things. ‘The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.’ We are the Lord’s tenants and stewards, and we must give an account to Him as to how we acquire a portion of His property, and what we do with it. He expects us regularly to pay our ‘rent’ to Him in gratitude and love. He does not need this rent money, but it is needful that we pay it regularly lest we forget Him, the owner, and lest we become avaricious and self-centered. Whatever we do in His name for some unfortunate person or some other good cause He accepts as having been done to Him. He also grants us the honor and the privilege of being His co-laborers in the upbuilding of His kingdom. By the generous giving of time, talent, and treasure for church and benevolence we are to prove ourselves His faithful stewards.
“Now, does the giving of jitney suppers, bazaars, etc., for the purpose of making money promote the spirit of Christian stewardship? I am convinced that it does not. We can and we should give time and toil in the work of the church. We may acceptably give products of the farm, garden, orchard, etc., as well as cash. Proper social gatherings are helpful. It is well occasionally to break bread together. These gatherings usually incur some expense, but it is better to have a freewill offering than to set a price per plate.
“The main objection to suppers, bazaars, etc., for the purpose of making money for the church is this: We are thus trying to bait the outsider to pay at least a part of our financial obligations to the Lord’s work. This is detrimental to good Christian stewardship.”
The editor might have added that it is a corrupted form of Christian giving in which the giver needs to be coaxed by holding out to him a reward for his contribution in the shape of a plate of food or, if he wins at Bingo, a larger prize.
We round out this page with a quotation on a different subject. Under the heading of the challenging question: “Has the Navy joined the Catholic Church?” the Christian Century brings the following highly interesting facts to our attention:
“Twice within recent weeks units of the U.S. Navy have been ordered to display themselves at Roman Catholic events. The first such instance came when a squadron of destroyers was sent – of course at taxpayers’ expense – to the convention of the Knights of Columbus at Portland, Ore. In that fashion an effort was plainly made to add to the prestige of a Catholic fraternal order of which the secretary of the navy had until recently been the head. The second instance came early this month when a squadron of naval airplanes was sent to scatter roses over a Roman Catholic religious procession honoring St. Theresa at New Columbus, Penn. The planes made a flight of more than 100 miles from the naval air station at Willow Grove, near Philadelphia, to execute this mission – again, of course, at taxpayers’ expense.”
Dec. 4, 1949, pp. 390-91 The words keep coming back to one’s z From a Wider Field mind. Sometimes they sound like a zzzzzzz confession, sometimes they ring with warning; always they invite reflection: “It is very hard to think against the crowd, especially when the crowd is practically universal and unanimous in thought and action.” Mr. Fred Schwed, Jr., a stockbroker, offers this observation in a current magazine article in which he reviews his experiences in the great stock market crash and panic of 1929. He is not the first to discover or remark upon this human weakness, but his frank restatement of the power of a majority serves to remind us that we need to take it into account also when considering affairs in the Church.
“It is very hard to think against the crowd.” In the Christian Church, it should not be necessary to oppose the majority. For all Christians should be guided by the Word of God alone in matters of faith, doctrine, and life, and since the Word of God is clear, the majority ought always to be in the right; while matters not decided by the Word of God are properly referred to majority vote, whereto every Christian then can well afford to submit.
Unfortunately it is not always so, even in congregations or in synods, that the majority acts in accordance with God’s Word. Sometimes in ignorance, sometimes through indifference to the Lord’s command, the group begins moving in an unscriptural direction. Powerful speakers, good organizers, domineering men drown out the Holy Spirit, sweep the multitude off its feet, and the rush is on. How hard it is, then, not only to stand against the large majority, but even to think clearly on the question at issue.
Unfaithfulness to the Scriptures is a grievous sin and cannot be condoned. Yet, knowing human frailty and the grinding pressure of mass opinion, we may well resolve to deal in utmost charity with some who have erred largely because they became confused and went with the crowd. Many a simple Christian may well have been rushed into participating in some of the unionistic gatherings, for example, recently in such vogue – the rallies and organizations which are frankly designed to force a show of unity where there is no true unity, and which are fronted by loud-speaking, emotional, prominent men, or women having zeal without knowledge. When humble Christians have been made dizzy by distortions, appeals, and false hopes, let us remember to do our utmost to “restore such a one in the spirit of meekness, considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” Gal. 6:1.
“It is very hard to think against the crowd.” This should also warn us of the great difficulty confronting any Christian who mistakenly ventures to join a church body which teaches or tolerates false doctrine. Even if he himself is doctrinally of sound conviction, it will be increasingly hard to preserve clearness of thought and understanding in company where sentiments subversive of the Truth prevail. It is thus that “a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.”
Since we are speaking of majorities, it reminds us that many of our congregations have in their constitution an article which reads about as follows: “If at any time a separation shall occur in this congregation on account of doctrine or for any other cause (which God mayCK graciously prevent), the property of this congregation and all of its benefits shall remain with those members who adhere to this constitution.” Such constitutional provision is clearly intended as a protection of the individual against a tyrannical, unfaithful majority. Since the constitution itself states the doctrinal foundation upon which the congregation is pledged, no erring majority is to be able to rob the faithful minority of its rights.
A case of this kind was recently in the news, but it had a disturbing ending. As reported in the Lutheran Standard, a pastor sought to claim for himself and his congregation the disputed right to use their church and charged that the assistant pastor and certain members had departed from the true teachings of their church body. We have no idea which party in the controversy stood true to the tenets of their church. Moreover, the fact that members of the “Church of God” sect were involved does not inspire confidence in the merits of the case. But it arouses some uneasiness when we hear that the Alabama Supreme Court threw the case out with this judgment: “Neither this court nor any other court in Alabama can say who is right in doctrinal belief.”
Granted that no earthly court has jurisdiction in matters of divine Truth, it remains true that there can be no legal protection against covenant-breaking majorities in the visible church unless civil courts are willing to rule in cases of schismatic disruption and determine which party is abiding by the doctrinal tenets required by the congregation’s constitution. This would involve a finding of fact well within the province of an impartial judge, and not a decision as to “who is right in doctrinal belief.”
A protest is in order, demanding that news publications cease and desist from printing offensive, sacrilegious headlines. An example is found, of all places, in the Washington Lutheran, a sheet published in our nation’s capital. Shockingly it headlines a column: Christ to burn mortgage, help Bethlehem build. You may, of course, understand at once that Christ Church is burning a mortgage and helping Bethlehem Congregation build. But the headline isn’t funny; it approaches blasphemy. We may expect to find such irresponsible, impious people in the composing rooms of our dailies, and we should vigorously object to their similar manipulation of divine names in the sports columns reporting games between church bowling clubs or softball teams; but when a church periodical stoops to such sensationalism, we experience a feeling of personal disgrace.
12-18 this is p. 17