"A Review of 'May Only the Church Teach the Gospel?'"
                                    
 

     In Volume number 51 of Truth Magazine, Editor Mike Willis wrote the following as to the new policy of the magazine:

    
"There are many papers which do not last fifty years and many of those which endure have changed their doctrinal stance to the point that they are nothing like the magazine which they initially were...We have reached the conclusion that most of the doctrinal issues facing brethren will be fought through the Internet rather than through the papers. We are adjusting our approach to reflect this conclusion. Generally only a small percentage of our readers are interested in the doctrinal conflicts occurring among us. Most brethren think these doctrinal exchanges are distractive. Some turn off the magazine because they view them as preachers' fights.."

     Such a policy reminds one of the late Christianity Magazine.  Another similarity between Truth Magazine and Christianity Magazine is the fact that while they assumed the posture of "no controversy," they both were influential instruments in the advancement of error among non-institutional churches of Christ.  Christianity Magazine advanced the mistaken notion that Romans 14 receives such  teaching as was done by Homer Hailey relative to divorce and marriage to another and, now, Truth Magazine is also becoming a famous or, rather, infamous purveyor of unity-in-diversity, especially regarding human foundations preaching the gospel and also multiple causes for divorce (a doctrine championed by Mike Willis and pervading through other staff writers).

     The latest material in Truth Magazine promulgating a foundation preaching the gospel and having gospel meetings is, "May Only the Church Teach the Gospel?" by Johnie Edwards (Vol. 51, No. 7, p. 7).  Of course, Truth Magazine does not now allow any response to their material; thus, they have a free reign in teaching whatever they desire without challenge. Notwithstanding, I shall herein briefly review brother Edwards material. While I want to focus on the teaching and not the man, it is hard for me to imagine that Johnie Edwards believes the issue now dividing brethren to be as simplistic as he assigns and argues.

     Just as in the case of most teaching that is slanted and designed to defend what is biblically indefensible, the article expends most of the time and energy used to produce it in chasing after the wind and dealing with non-issues. Why must this be the case?  Does brother Edwards really believe that preachers who oppose what the Guardian of Truth Foundation is now overtly doing (playing church) really opposes "A family Bible study," Home Bible studies," and/or a "Husband/wife teaching?"  Perhaps he does, at least, this is what he contends the issue is.  I should hope that brother Edwards would extend to others and me the intelligence that we do not believe such non-sense. Why then would he write and make such charges? Again, perhaps he really believes this to be the case.  Since I shall strive to be as kind and forbearing, assigning only the best motive, I must conclude that brother Edwards does not understand the issue and wrote what he did without knowledge of the facts.

     First, let me start by agreeing with Johnie's statement:  "It is true that the church is to preach or teach the gospel as the church is 'the pillar and ground of the truth' (see I Tim. 3: 15)."  He and I can agree because this is what the Bible teaches.  I read about Christians working in and through local churches to collectively preach the gospel (Acts 13: 1ff.).  The scriptures clearly and irrefutably set forth the teaching and example that Christians are to combine their efforts to preach through God's entity set up for such a work, the local church.  The local church has structure, oversight, and a treasury (Phili. 1: 1ff., Acts 14: 23, I Cor. 16: 1, 2). Where Johnie Edwards and I disagree is relative to what is not taught or exemplified in the scriptures.  I am referring to Christians working in and through a human foundation such as the Guardian of Truth Foundation with its structure, human oversight, and treasury to collectively preach the gospel.

     Brother Edwards mentions five specifics in employing the logic that if Christians are limited to the local church to collectively preach the gospel, then the five specifics cannot be done.  While this sort of logic and dialectics may have a place and functionality in examining the truth, such is not definitive.  At best, it would only illustrate inconsistency and not directly establish the truth.

     Religious journals.  "If only the church can teach the gospel, then one could not have a journal where the gospel is taught," reasoned Edwards. Such is the case if we are referring to a journal such as Truth Magazine that is highly structured and has all the requirements to render it an entity providing the collective preaching of the gospel (oversight, treasury, etc.).  Editor Mike Willis has written that my Web site, Bible Truths, and Truth Magazine are tantamount.  At best, such would simply prove that I am inconsistent.  However, Truth Magazine and Bible Truths are not equal.  I am the sole owner, controller, financial provider, and functioning person in the workings of Bible Truths.  Just because I have some articles by others does not necessarily make Bible Truths equal to Truth Magazine (they are not staff writers or constitute part of any organizational structure).  The scriptures do not condemn individual but concurrent action.  Bible Truths is not an entity equal and comparable to Truth Magazine, an extension of the Guardian of Truth Foundation.  Such a comparison constitutes apples and oranges.

     A family Bible study.  Johnie reasons that if the local church is the only organization through and in which Christians pool their resources to collectively preach the gospel, then "A family cannot do any Bible teaching, since a family is not the church!"  Here would be apples and apples:  A family such as Aquila and Priscilla (Acts 18: 24-28) forming the Protect the Truth Foundation, having its own structure, oversight, and treasury in and through which Christians pool their resources to collectively preach the gospel.  A family Bible study is not the issue.

     Home Bible studies.  Johnie wrote:  "If only the church is to preach the gospel, we will have to stop teaching the Bible in home Bible studies, since these individuals teachers are not the church!"  I have taught many home Bible studies and hope to do more in the future.  Am I inconsistent? Consider this:  "Don, we are forming the Save The Lost Foundation to take the gospel to the lost.  It will have its own oversight, treasury, and structure in order to provide Christians the opportunity to pool their resources to collectively preach the gospel and we want you to join." Would I be a part of such?  You correctly guessed if you said:  NO!  Just as I said "no" when I was invited to be a staff writer for Truth Magazine many years ago! Is it the case that the supporters of foundations doing the work God has only assigned to his collectivity cannot see what they are arguing and promoting? (Cp. 2 Thes. 2: 10-12.)

     Schools teaching Bible.  The number four specific mentioned by author Edwards is a school that teaches the Bible.  I do not necessarily oppose a school having the Bible in its curriculum.  However, brethren forming a "Church of Christ Seminary," this I do oppose.  Edwards reasons, "If only the church is to preach or teach the gospel, a school could not do so, and it would be sinful to attend such an institution."

     Husband/wife teachingTruth Magazine staff writer Edwards wrote, after mentioning the example of Aquila and Priscilla teaching Apollos:  "Who is ready to condemn this couple, who are not necessarily the church, for teaching the Bible?"  It is important to differentiate that Aquila and Priscilla did not operate a privately funded missionary society in and through which Christians pooled their resources to teach the lost.  Again, we have apples and oranges.

     Here is the issue succinctly stated:  The local church with its elders, structure, and treasury is the organization that God has specified in and through which Christians collectively preach the gospel (I Tim. 3: 15). When God has specified, man is without option (cp. Heb. 7: 14).  Human foundations acting as local churches (providing gospel meetings, etc.) and offering the opportunity for Christians to therein collectively function in doing the work God has assigned to his collectivity, the local church, are a violation of God's order.  What will be the end of this aberrant practice and what else will such run-away thinking produce.  Ron Halbrook, Guardian of Truth Foundation board member and Truth Magazine staff writer, has already taught that the Guardian of Truth Foundation is just a case of Christians individually functioning.  He affirms this to be so, notwithstanding the presence and activation of the foundation.  In view of this growing thinking and rationale, how could such men possibly again refute the common institutionalism of the latter forties, the fifties, and the sixties (such continues today and is actually beginning to seriously rear its head again among non-institutional churches of Christ)?

     Here is my offer:  I invite brother Johnie Edwards to effect an exchange with me on the real issue now facing brethren, not the apples and oranges, relative to privately supported foundations to preach the gospel.  When all the details are settled, the exchange can be published where Johnie would like and I will publish it to Bible Truths so others can study this issue. Is Johnie "...set for the defense of the gospel" or will he only write for a "brotherhood paper" that offers asylum? (Phili. 1: 7, 17).