‘Nothing to Offer Except the Book’
‘Nothing to Offer Except the Book’

CS Archive from September 8, 1923

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The lead article in the Sept. 8, 1923, Christian Standard—an issue from 95 years ago—was “The Mission of the Church,” and it carried the subhead, “The Annual ‘President’s Address’ Delivered before the International Convention of Disciples of Christ at Colorado Springs, Col., Sept. 4, 1923.”

The article/speech was written and presented by Thomas W. Grafton, minister of Third Church, Indianapolis, Ind., who served as president of that convention.

I can’t begin to recap Grafton’s presentation—which ran almost three pages—or to pinpoint nuanced wording that may (or may not) have troubled some (or many) of Christian Standard’s readers. But I will type a few sentences from the end of Grafton’s speech, and then publish a response by P.H. Welshimer.

Grafton wrote: “As disciples of Christ, our business should be to fit the essential vital truths we have held into the present world order. Let us be loyal to the Word without legalism. True to the principles of the reformation without narrowness. Sound in the faith without bigotry. Set for the defense of the gospel without bitterness.”

Here is P.H. Welshimer’s response, published at the bottom of the third page, at the end of Grafton’s printed speech, under the following headline:

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ANSWERS TO IMPORTANT QUESTIONS

What Is the Position of Churches of Christ?

Churches of Christ, commonly known as the Restoration movement, are composed of a body of believers whose purpose is to place upon the earth the church which, in doctrine and life, will be identical with the church described in the New Testament. The New Testament sets forth the organization and doctrines of the church existing during the days of the apostles. Having that pattern before us, it is not difficult to reproduce that church to-day. In the early part of the nineteenth century, wise and devout men from various denominations saw the futility of attempting to evangelize the world with divided forces. They set about to find a common basis of unity. After examination of the creeds, they were content to lay aside all the speculation and doctrinal statements of men and go back beyond all creed-making bodies, and take their stand simply with Christ and the apostles. They took as their slogan, “Where the Scriptures speak we speak, and where the Scriptures are silent we are silent.” They recognized Christ as supreme authority, and gave heed to His word and the word of the inspired New Testament writers, who had been endued with power from on high to proclaim to men the will of God. Hence, in brief, the pleas of the churches of Christ is the unity of all of God’s people, and the plan for this unity is found in a return to the church described in the New Testament, and the purpose of it all is the evangelization of the world. This is a broad platform; it is broad as the New Testament; it dare not be any narrower. This is not a platform of our own making. We have nothing to offer to the religious world except the Book, which is the text of the religious world, and our duty is to point out in that Book the plain, the simple teaching upon which there can be, and ought to be, unanimity of thought. These fundamental things are not matters of interpretation. They are a revelation.

The creed of the church is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. He is the foundation, and the chief corner-stone. Peter said: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is the creed that needs no revision. It meets the need of all peoples in all ages. We have faith in a person, not a statement nor group of statements about a person. Acceptance of Christ carries with it loyalty to Christ, and loyalty can mean nothing else than willingness to cheerfully do His bidding. And to know his bidding one must turn to the New Testament, where He expressed Himself; hence it all comes back to the point: one must accept Jesus Christ as the divine Son of God and seek to know His will through his revealed word. And the loyal disciple will gladly give heed to the injunction: “Whatsoever he saith unto thee, do it.”

 

DO CHURCHES OF CHRIST UNCHRISTIANIZE PEOPLE OF OTHER RELIGIOUS BODIES?

What a foolish question, and yet one frequently asked. Certainly not. We recognize Christians in all religious bodies. Some of the most God-fearing, Christ-loving, most spiritual-minded, sincere, sacrificing, consecrated followers of Christ in the world are to be found among other religious bodies. We do not say we are the only Christians, but we are happy to make the statement that we are Christians only. We are content to wear the name which the disciples first accepted at Antioch and bore ever after, and in which they glorified Christ. The Christian world will never unite on the divisive sectarian names. The only name that will be sufficient is the blessed name that covers all—the one set forth in the New Testament; therefore, for the sake of honoring Christ, whom we serve, we wear His name; and, for the sake of furnishing a broad basis for unity, which all can accept and lose nothing vital, we have gone back to the New Testament and adopted the name which the New Testament disciples bore in the first century. We are not asking people to give up denominationalism because in the ranks of the denominations none are to be found who are followers of Christ, but we do ask all followers of Christ to lay aside the things that divide and which are unscriptural, and meet us simply on the word of God, constituting the unity that will make for peace among men and evangelization of all men.

—P. H. Welshimer.

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—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard

 

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