Monday, January 22, 2018
Recently I downloaded a free book off the Internet. It contained several speeches given in a lectureship in Texas on November 1-4, 1948. The title of the book was, “Why I Left.” The last entrée intrigued me. A preacher by the name of L. W. Hayhurst offered his, Why I Left the anti-class fellowship. I was converted when that issue was still hot!
L.W. Hayhurst was a champion debater for the anti-class Churches of Christ. He defended their position twelve times in public discussions. He recognized his error, and being an honest man, explained why he changed. The “anti-class” position is not a major issue today. A dwindling number of anti-class congregations still exist, mainly in Oklahoma and Texas. Some no longer make it a test of fellowship. They do not have Bible classes as a part of their Sunday program. They were not required to have such since the program is in the realm of human judgment. There is nothing in the Bible demanding such, although some think there is. Churches of Christ borrowed the idea, as did other churches, from the Anglicans, who introduced it in the eighteenth century. Due to objections from the anti-class fellowship, Bible class brethren felt it was essential to give a scriptural reason for women speaking up in mixed classes taught by a man. For some reason brethren in the early twentieth century thought 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 and 1 Timothy 2:11-12 regulated a woman’s conduct at all church gatherings. This included Bible classes and the “public worship assembly.” The ruling which regulated mixed classes, but not the public assembly, was that a woman could 1) ask a question, 2) answer a question, 3) make a comment, or 4) read a passage of scripture. She must be seated during all four activities to comply with 1 Timothy 2:11-12. The anti-class brethren challenged the Bible class practitioners to produce a passage giving those four rules. Bible School brethren thought classes were in the realm of human judgment, so no such proof was given. Bible class brethren had a rule to prove it was “scriptural,” knowing their rules came from human judgment! A contradiction. The issue raged during the thirties through the fifties, then interest was lost, and it was shelved as a non-issue. Some under forty probably have no idea that such an issue ever existed, nor the arguments each side made. Sadly, it should never have been an issue!
Different issues cropped up in the latter part of the nineteenth century and with time, were forgotten. The judgment to have multiple cups, rather than drink from one container, aired in the early twentieth century. Assemblies still meet that drink from one container, but most prefer the multiple style. During that early period, some believed the only scriptural greeting of saints must be the holy kiss (Romans 16:16). Culture and human judgment substituted a handshake. Some thought a woman must wear a covering on her head when she entered the assembly. Culture and style caused that demand to disappear. Modesty had its substitute. Today, women wear expensive clothes to the assembly and decorate with gold and pearls, but culture and style made its substitution. Christians serving in the military was taboo after the Civil War. That criticism disappeared in 1941 with Pearl Harbor.
A congregation hiring a preacher to fill its pulpit each Sunday began with city churches in the late nineteenth century. A no-located preacher fellowship fought it, but acclimation pushed their issue aside.
As one looks back to the past, some things practiced today are in place because of our American culture, customs, and traditions. If we returned to the first century, we might be shocked by what first century Christians did not have, which we consider essentials. We might be surprised at some things they practiced which would put us in hot water if adopted today.
Hayhurst offered his “scriptural” reasons for leaving the anti-class position and embracing the Bible class one. What is interesting is that some of his arguments, if they were taken to their logical conclusion, would have embarrassed Bible school brethren. But, all that is history. Most have no interest in resurrections.
As one reads from those referred to as “pioneer preachers,” it might shock us to see what they thought was the doctrine of Christ, but we don’t. Probably, in one hundred and sixty-five years, future generations will look at our “binding” judgments, roll their eyes and shake their heads in disbelief!
“Do you understand what you are reading?” (Acts 8:30 NKJV).