February 22, 1974
Well, here I am back at my late-night stand, trying to get off letters and write some bulletin articles. I appreciate receiving your last letter.
Let me say that this letter has so far been the clearest and easiest one for me to understand and study with. I guess when principles are put more on a practical level I can more clearly understand them. As you have said to me, these things are not particularly profound or earthshaking; perhaps they are the most natural in the world. And indeed it seems to me that fair treatment and respect of brethren is seemingly the most natural thing in the world, although many do not practice such.
Do you think that “institutionalism” in its “no-patternism” has been directly responsible for further “liberal” positions in other areas. For instance, many times a brother will remark that “the liberal brethren are reaping the fruits of their ‘no pattern’ sowing,” in regard to such things as glossolalia, denial of divinity of Christ (extreme position, I realize), etc. In other words, do you think that such attitudes toward Scripture (and authority) as evidenced in institutional or instrumental brethren contribute significantly to the breakdown in other areas of Scriptural subjects and issues?
It seems to me that they have, and thus should be opposed, if only on that basis. A case in point, In the early 50’s “institutional brethren” championed their homes, societies, etc., all the while claiming that the colleges would never be in the budget, nor would “fellowship” become a “social affair,” where halls, gyms and so forth were built. Today we see such things. Are these not the direct result of “institutional” and unscriptural thinking? And are they not to be exposed, identified, and eradicated in order to preserve the purity and/or simplicity of the New Testament order?
I cannot help but imagine what Paul would say if he walked into one of our “institutional” brethren’s buildings (cathedrals) and saw the social-recreational activities going on. Would he not “clear the temple” as it were? And again on this line of thought. Do not “institutional” or “instrumental” brethren represent a factious spirit in today’s present condition? For what it is worth, when the “institutional” as well as “instrumental” splits occurred, were not the “factious” ones, the ones who introduced, rather than opposed, the innovations? It seems to me that those churches and individuals who “stand” as it were, with these brethren and their “cause” represent a factiousness. Would not the first move for “unity” by these brethren be the relinquishing of their instruments, institutions, and social gospelism?
If I were to grant that Romans 14 were applicable to the situation (and at the present I do not grant that proposition), and the institutional brethren were the “knowledgeable ones” and “we” (i.e. the anti-institutional ones) were the “weak,” would not their responsibility be to relinquish the “meats sacrificed to idols” (the offending instrument or institution)? I would like to know your thoughts along this line.
There are still many things and applications which you make that for the present I cannot embrace or accept. I realize of course that you are not trying to “win me over to ‘your’ side,” but rather simply to present the biblical view of the topics discussed. Let me say, though, that I agree wholeheartedly and most pleasurably with your observations on the last page of your letter in which you discuss “brotherhood,” and the only right thing being to be a simple Christian and a simple part of a local congregation. I have been trying to say that in several articles of late.
Again, I appreciate so much your willingness to correspond. Although I do not always understand or agree, I always find your letters a challenging and refreshing experience. Please write as you are able (’cause you know that I will). May the Lord bless you in every right endeavor. I solicit your prayers.
Love in Christ,