“Generous "Innocent" Error”
"Generous "Innocent" Error"
Robert F. Turner
I once preached for a young congregation in Indianapolis, that met in a building purchased from the Christian Church. As the 1940 Easter season approached, a wealthy Christian church lady who visited with us occasionally made a very generous offer.
"I would like to move the electric organ from my house, at my expense, to your church," she said; and I will leave it there, and donate my service as organist, until this young church is able to obtain a suitable instrument of its own."
The kind lady was perfectly sincere, and innocent of ulterior motive. This made it difficult for me to explain to her --- without hurting her feelings --- that we did not want her organ, or one we might purchase; that there was no N. T. authority for the use of such in the worship.
And 25 years later this spirit of "innocent error is found among nominal members of the Lord's church. One wishes to install a kitchen in the church building, at her own expense, to facilitate church parties and social fellowship. Another will give a farm, or great sums of money, to establish some church-related society, or build a "church camp. Often -- perhaps most of the time -- these generous people mean well. They simply lack a proper understanding of the Lord's church and its work. We could call them "ignorant and "liberal --and perhaps accurately describe their state (as was true of the Indiana organist). We may thus warn others of the error, and whip the party into line, but it is doubtful that this will help those "zeal-without-knowledge would-be donors.” Nor is this an indictment of plain speech. In fact, it would tax the wisdom of Solomon to reject some offers, explain the scriptural reason for the rejection, and make everyone like it. Sometimes greed enters the picture.
Sometimes those who know better lack the principle and character to say "No!" And there are some so sensitive to the feelings of others they had rather ignore the word of God than to cause trouble in the church. (???)
Liberal and "Middle-of-the-road churches today are filled with a host of good people, innocent in error." They accept without question your sermons of generalities --- about the Authority of Christ, Congregational Independence, "Bible Things in Bible Ways” etc. (they love slogans, and "Church of Christ” terminology falls like gentle rain upon their upturned, smiling faces.) But make specific application of Bible principles to current practices in the church, and the smile is erased, and they are "hurt."'
The cold facts are that many nominal members of the church are untaught concerning some of the most basic characteristics of the N. T. church. Further, their "innocence" is fallacious--it does not justify their error. They refuse opportunity to study issues in the light of God's word, or to believe in the completeness of the divine pattern. They lack nobleness (Acts 17,11) and in a real sense are willingly ignorant." (2Pet. 3:5) Neither their zeal nor their generosity alone will save them. What is to be our attitude toward these people? Certainly not hate, nor vindictiveness. We do not wish to hurt -- in fact we are hurt to learn that our brethren react so violently to suggestions that we study God's word together. Our "heart's desire and prayer, to God is that they may be saved.” (Rom. 10:1-3) We do not believe we are perfect, nor set ourselves as the rule for judging others; but the TRUTH must be taught, and we must remain free to teach and practice what we believe to be the truth. And God shall judge us all. (Rom.l4: l2).