11 May, 2021

W. R. Walker: “The Counselor’s Question Box”

by | 8 August, 2019 | 0 comments

In last week’s column we acquainted readers with W. R. Walker by sharing a 1963 article about him published a few weeks after his death.

Walker preached for almost two decades in churches in northeast Ohio and, later, for 28 years (1920-48) at Indianola Church of Christ in Columbus, Ohio. In between, from approximately 1914 to 1920, he taught at Christian colleges.

Walker also was part of Standard Publishing for about 40 years. In addition to serving as president from the 1920s until 1955, Walker was listed as “editorial counselor” within the pages of Christian Standard from 1945 until his death in 1963 at age 94. In that capacity, Walker wrote a question and answer column periodically from 1951 to 1961.

Here is how former Christian Standard editor Burris Butler described Walker when he stood and spoke at Walker’s funeral,

W. R. was a leader and peacemaker among his brethren. He was a peacemaker because he was a strong leader. In his concept peace did not lie in the path of compromise, but in adherence to principles that were right. He knew how to “be angry and sin not.” He loved the fellowship of the saints so much that he hated anything that threatened that fellowship. He was impatient alike with the liberalism that took liberties with the Word of God—that “loosed on earth” what was not “loosed in heaven”—and with the legalism that sought to “bind on earth” what was not “bound in heaven.”

With this in mind, here are some of the Q&A exchanges from “The Counselor’s Question Box” from 1954.

_ _ _

June 5, 1954

Could one of the other apostles have betrayed Christ, as well as Judas, or was Judas chosen for that purpose? Was Satan in Judas all of his life? We have been having a discussion of these questions in our Bible-school class.

The fame of Judas Iscariot rests upon his base perfidy. History has left a record on none other so universally despised. Now and then some preacher adventures into a character analysis of Judas in which he tries to display his skill in psychoanalysis by suggesting that Judas was deceived into thinking that his betrayal would be the means of Jesus’ miraculous extrication from his enemies, thus showing his divine power and authority! His school of thought is limited.

Speculation as to why Jesus included him in His chosen list of apostles is useless. We do not know. One man’s guess is as good as another’s, and both are worthless. . . .

Jesus called Judas a “son of perdition” (John 17:12). What a title to carry into the life beyond! His suicide did not atone for his treachery. We have Jesus’ own example for saying of such: “Good were it for that man if he had never been born.” Why did Jesus call him? It is natural to raise the question, but there are other far more profitable matters for discussion, even in a Bible-school class session.

_ _ _

June 26, 1954

If a person moves to a town where there is no church after the New Testament pattern should he become affiliated with a denominational church?

What one should do when deprived of an opportunity to worship in a church of New Testament pattern is a question for individual decision and action. Every community has a right to have a church that is simply a Christian congregation, without denominational control. Such a group may consist of one family or a small number of fellow Christians. Meeting houses and local organizations are not essentials in extreme situations.

Membership in a denominational church involves acceptance of its peculiar doctrines and ecclesiastical supervision. Attendance in such services may be helpful in some measure, but that is quite different from becoming a member of the church, thus perpetuating a cause of division in the body of Christ so scathingly rebuked by Paul in his writings. Refusal of membership is in itself a rebuke to denominationalism. A courteous expression of one’s reluctance to become a member of a denomination is often influential in preparing a community for the organization of a church of the New Testament pattern.

_ _ _

July 3, 1954

I do not believe the doctrine of “once in grace, always in grace,” but is there a way in which we know, although we are weak and we sin many times, that we are saved?

Obedience to Christ as Lord inducts one into the family of God as a son. Thenceforth he has access to God as a son, and when in need of forgiveness, through penitent prayer and personal confession to God, he is assured that God will hear (1 John 1:8-10). The parable of the prodigal son portrays God as being anxious to receive a penitent child back into His favor.

Categories of sin—such as “mortal,” “venial,” “willful,” “omission,” “in ignorance,” etc.—are human distinctions, not divine. Sin is sin, regardless of the degree of intensity or circumstances of commission. That does not mean that God does not recognize such differences, but that so far as we know, He has but one law for forgiveness. Penitence, confession, restitution, and resolution to live free from repetition is that law. We know that God knows the heart, and will deal more lovingly with His erring children than we can understand.

The privilege of forgiveness, however, is quite different from “once in grace, always in grace.” If by “grace” we mean the possibility of obtaining forgiveness, the Christian is always in grace. But having a privilege is very different from an assurance that God will exercise His mercy regardless of our faithfulness to Him. 

_ _ _

July 31, 1954

Is stewardship more important than baptism, according to New Testament teaching?

Neither baptism nor stewardship outrank the other in the Christian life. Both are obligations laid on us by Christ. It is never safe to make invidious comparisons relating to the importance of Christian duties.

In baptism we are obeying a command which visibly separates us from the disobedient world. We are “baptized into Christ,” thus becoming a member of His body.

In stewardship, we reveal the extent to which we acknowledge His ownership of us. A steward does not own the property he administers. Christian stewardship includes far more than faithful use of one’s money. That is but one phase. The Christian steward “first gives himself to the Lord” (2 Corinthians 8:5). Then nothing Christ may need is withheld, whether use of time, talent, opportunity, teaching, or other avenue of service [that] presents itself. The New Testament teaches stewardship of life, of personality, but does not categorize one particular duty as paramount to others.

_ _ _

September 4, 1954

Please discuss the Scriptural method of selecting elders. One school of thought claims that they should be appointed using Titus 1:5 and Acts 14:23 as proof texts; another group holds that they should be elected by the congregation.

. . . The New Testament, carefully read and interpreted, certainly condemns the arbitrary and presumptuous “appointing of elders” by any one.

Self-styled “evangelists” have introduced dissension and division in a number of churches by meddling in the internal affairs of the administrative procedure. They loudly proclaim their loyalty to the New Testament doctrines. However, they ignore Paul’s rebukes to “them which cause divisions” (Romans 16:17). The church splitter is a heretic, as defined in the New Testament. He is to be avoided. Somewhere there is a so-called “Bible” college which teaches its young preachers that they are “evangelists,” and as such have the same kind of authority Paul gave to Titus in Crete. Such arrogant presumption is equaled only by the claims of the papacy. Let us look at Scriptural teaching on this. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) Jesus gave authority to the apostles to “teach”—a very different assignment from that of administration. There is not a hint anywhere that the apostles interfered in local procedural practices. When asked to administer relief, they definitely refused, insisting that the local church select its committee for that purpose (Acts 6:1-6). The “laying on of hands” by the apostles merely signified their approval of the church’s choice.

They expressly stated their duty was to “minister the Word”—teach the facts of the gospel. Today’s ministers would do well to study their Scriptural assignment. If loyal, they would do less meddling in local church administration.

In both passages mentioned in the question above, the word “appoint” suggests an orderly procedure in ratification of a choice already made by the local church. That group only had “authority” to select its leaders.

Paul’s assignment to Titus was a special one. A newly organized church, ignorant of proper methods of performing its work, needed instruction. Titus was left to give it. He is not even called an “evangelist.” A scriptural “evangelist” is a proclaimer of the good news of the gospel. When he has faithfully performed that duty, he can leave the duty of selecting its officers to the church. Absolutely no authority inheres in “evangelists.”

Now, as to the best method of selection of elders, etc., the only essential factor in the case is that it be done by the congregation. One church permits its elders to be a close corporation, allowing them to “appoint” their own successors! Fundamentally, that is the same as Roman Catholic doctrine. The only difference between a local and “universal” hierarchy is geographical.

Each congregation has both the right and responsibility of choosing its own officials. Let it do this with caution, prayer, and attention to the doctrinal belief of the men it selects. A local church is completely autonymous in its government. When it surrenders that right to any one outside its own membership, whether “evangelist,” “Committee on the Ministry,” a state or national society, it accepts the principle of hierarchical control. Churches should stand fast in the liberty wherein Christ has set them free.

_ _ _

December 11, 1954

Does the International Convention of the Disciples of Christ call itself a religious denomination?

Yes, the officials of the International Convention have accepted a denominational status. Not all who, as “disciples of Christ,” attend the convention, however, accept that segmented designation. A considerable per cent, how large is only conjectural, considers themselves undenominational Christians. To be accepted in such organizations as “World Council of Churches of Christ,” et al, “Disciples of Christ” must concede that they are sectarians. Only sectarian bodies are eligible. Individual members of the body of Christ are treated as “outside the pale.”

_ _ _

While but a small sample from a life’s work, W.R. Walker’s writings from 1954 seem to support Burris Butler’s description of him from this article’s introduction.

—Jim Nieman, managing editor, Christian Standard

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