Vol. 1 - No. 7
A Sequel To “Unscriptural and Unconstitutional”
by R. L. (Bob) Craig
It is now five a.m. The weather is deplorable ‑‑ constant lightning ‑‑ incessant thunder ‑‑ torrents of rain almost inundating my house ‑‑ a wet newspaper. All the components for a rather miserable day and the setting for a miserable article.
I don't like to write this type article. I had rather spend my time, and yours, in delving into difficult and obscure passages of scripture. In that kind of work, I help myself immeasurably and my desire and motive is that the readers may also reap some of my benefits. In fact, that's the primary reason for THE EXPOSITORY REVIEW.
Reason one for my dislike is that prevailing circumstances of utter departure from the principles that should govern the New Testament church have been so flagrantly disregarded. Reason two is that TER was not designed for such. Reason three is (and some would dispute this, but I know better than they) that the whole thing opposes my nature and disposition. As a matter of fact, the whole business is somewhat nauseous.
Why spend my time this way then? Because this is a sequel to an article written by me about five years ago in The Preceptor Magazine titled, "Unscriptural and Unconstitutional." Also, because people need to be made aware of the prophetic statements of the Holy Spirit in 2 Thessalonians the second chapter: "...this mystery of iniquity (lawlessness‑‑ASV) doth already work," and 1 Timothy 4:1: "In the latter times some shall depart from the faith..."
We have tried to point out, in times past, the dangers involved in opening the door just a little ‑‑ what we call "small things." How departures always start with small things and gradually, sometimes extremely gradually, evolve into something larger and larger. In fact, most of the departures are so gradual that those involved sometime do not recognize the drift until they are completely engulfed and then it is too late for most.
J. D. Tant used the oft‑quoted but seldom applied maxim back in the thirties: "Brethren, we are drifting." People who have still‑fished from a boat will readily understand that phrase. We put out a small drag anchor, bait our hooks, and settle back to wait for the nibble, possibly the bite. We day‑dream ‑‑ it is so peaceful ‑‑ we even nod and perhaps nap. But, suddenly ‑‑ BOOM ‑‑ we awaken. Clouds have moved in behind us and a storm is brewing. Time to grab the paddle and make for shore ‑‑ but ‑‑ during our lethargic period ‑‑ we have drifted and now we are too far from shore and we are caught in the downpour.
Well, brethren, we are caught in the spiritual downpour and that's what this article is all about. I would also call your attention to a series of articles from the Caprock (Lubbock, Texas) bulletin of Grover Stevens about a year ago concerning the avalanche of digression that has engulfed the Madison, Tennessee, church.
My concern in this article is the former Brentwood church in Austin, Texas. (Now called Brentwood Oaks.) About five years ago it was announced in the Austin American‑Statesman daily newspaper that a Two Million Dollar grant had been given the Brentwood church to enable them to build a low‑income housing project, especially for older people.
Seemingly, a technicality allowed them to receive this government grant. They formed a small corporate body within the congregation to receive the money. But this was strictly a technicality even recognized by the U.S. Congressman who came bearing the gift, Representative Jake Pickle. In his presentation speech, Congressman Pickle commended the "Brentwood church," not this small corporate body, for the great work it, (the church) was engaging itself in. There is no doubt whose work this is. A recent statement (May 14, 1982) says:
"Opened in 1979 as a ministry of the Brentwood Oaks Church of Christ, the apartments have operated at 100 per cent occupancy since that time, and have a waiting list of 200 prospective residents.
"The apartments which provide equal opportunity housing were built in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and offer subsidized housing. No resident pays more than 25% of his or her gross monthly income in rent.
"A recent government review of the apartments gave them a high rating in all areas of operation."
Good is being done here ‑‑ what's wrong with that?
1. Funds come from wrong sources. The New Testament church paid it own way with funds donated by its members. (1 Corinthians 16:1‑2)
. 2. Church benevolence begins and ends with the needs of "poor saints." "Now concerning the collection for the saints." (ibid.) "But now I go unto Jerusalem to minister to the saints." "...it hath pleased them ...to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." (Romans 15:25‑26)
3. It is NOT under the supervision of the Brentwood Oaks elders. It is operated under the rules and regulations of HUD. "A recent government review..." The churches of the New Testament were to be under the control and oversight of their own elders. "The flock which among you..." (1 Peter 5:1 and other places.)
4. The Brentwood church has literally gone into business and is selling its services. "No resident pays more than..."
5. It is in violation of constitutional law. A church subsidized by the U.S. Government. I don't think it would take a liberal Supreme Court to interpret it in any other way.
A great benevolent work someone says. Nonsense! No more benevolent than the Baptist or Catholic hospitals which charge for their services just like private hospitals. Same high rates. If they take in any indigents at all (which most don't, they are sent to city and/or county hospitals) that is subsidized by city, county, state or federal funds of some sort. This apartment complex has its PAID manager, paid administrator, paid social director, etc. This is pretty big business.
The benevolence in this housing unit just as in many other similar units, is the direct result of taxes paid by you and me. The same can be said concerning any indigent folk cared for in a any medical facility. The tab is paid by U.S. citizens ‑‑ you and me, and I do not question the need for such benevolence. There are many indigent people who need low income housing and medical care. But let it be done through proper governmental channels, not by churches subsidized by the state.
Also ‑‑ Brentwood Oaks has "Meal on Wheels." And, once again, there is little doubt but what some help is needed in this area. Much of the work is done by volunteers. This is commendable. Theirs, I am sure, is a work of dedication and love. Once again, though, we have something like the Salvation Army and there is a great deal of difference in the New Testament church and the Salvation Army. No one can be denied this help so long as funds are available. Most liberal churches will use Galatians 6:10 as authority for benevolence for all people. But, even granting that the Galatian author was discussing "church benevolence, which he wasn't, this "meals on wheels" concept would be in violation for that verse says that "the household of faith" gets first priority, but "meals on wheels" does not have the RIGHT to give first consideration to anyone because, and I quote, "Funding for Meals on Wheels comes from United Urban Council, county, city, and federal funds, recipients fees (those who pay), private donations, and an annual fund‑raiser which this year will be May 23 at the Auditorium Shores." (Palmer Auditorium in Austin, Texas)
Brentwood Oaks also operates "Brentwood Christian School" which is not a Bible school but a secular school. "It has grown to a fully‑accredited school for age four through grade eight." "In addition to a solid basic program in all traditional academic disciplines, the school has a full complement of enrichment and extra‑curricular activities. Participation in the International League allows students involvement in competitive sports and events such as art and spelling contests. A band for students in grade five through junior high, and two choirs for students in grade three and above, provide opportunities for development of musical abilities and performance experience."
Even the liberal churches, in Texas, have, for years, stood opposed to church support of miscalled "Christian schools." But here is a church which doesn't send its money off to a secular school, it has one of its own.
"The Family Life Center offers recreational facilities which include a full basketball court in the gymnasium area. The Family Life Center includes gymnasium and dining facilities, a commercial‑size kitchen, a stage and dressing rooms, to support activities ranging from church suppers to Inter‑parochial League basketball games." "Meals were often occasions for fellowship in Bible incidents. Kitchen and dining facilities provide for school lunches, church suppers and civic events."
Dr. Ray F. Chester is the long‑time "pulpit minister" of Brentwood Oaks. He concurs heartily in all that is being done along with Roger McCown, minister who works with the church's "Brother's Keeper" Program, Don Phillips, who serves as minister of education and outreach, and David King, youth minister.
Reuel Lemmons, long‑time Austin preacher, and editor of the Firm Foundation, has had somewhat to say in recent months concerning the work of preachers and the mission of churches. It would be interesting to hear from him in regard to the "Brentwood Oaks" situation.
Brethren, we are not drifting ‑‑ we are far from shore and the pitiable thing is, we have thrown away the oars for we have no desire to return to shore.