When The Floodgate Was Opened

The article below entitled, When The Floodgate Was Opened, is an excellent article published in July 2018. The author, Jerry C. Brewer discusses the false view which exalts the area of expediency (the area of human judgment) to the unscriptural position of “source” of New Testament authority. Reminding and enlightening us, Jerry discusses well-known restoration leaders who misunderstood how to interpret the silence of the Scriptures, which misunderstanding led to such exalting of human judgment over God’s Word. Be sure and see the links at the end of this article for like-minded articles on this website, including a debate. — Gary L. Grizzell

When The Floodgate Was Opened

The raging flood of unscriptural and sinful practices, in which “mainstream churches of Christ” are awash today, began in a heresy adopted more than a century and a half ago. That’s when the floodgate was lifted. Although that heresy’s genesis was in the formation of the American Christian Missionary Society in 1849 in Cincinnati, with Alexander Campbell as its first president, it was not until 1866 that the floodgate was finally, thrown open.

From 1849 to 1866, the society had its opponents, but it was in a large measure, successful in supplanting the work of the church across the world. That began to change in December, 1866, when one of its chief advocates, the American Christian Review’s Editor, Ben Franklin, finally recognized that it could not be defended by God’s word and began to oppose it on that basis. Reaction to Franklin’s change was vitriolic from the society’s defenders and he wrote the following in his own defense:

“At all events, we have come to the time to rest the question whether love and devotion to the creation of a few individuals, in the form of an outside society, with laws and names unknown to the law of God, is sufficient to sink a man with more that thirty years’ labor and devotion to the spread of the gospel, solely because he will not go for the Society” (All emph. his, JCB) (“Our Position Defined,” American Christian Review, Vol. X, No. 11, Mar. 12, 1867, p. 84 [Cited by Earl Irvin West in The Search For The Ancient Order, Vol. 2, p. 49]).

Of Franklin’s new opposition to the Missionary Society, West wrote,

“His influence …found the American Christian Missionary Society in 1866 badly in need of repairs and rapidly losing in popularity” (p. 49).

To “repair” the Society and counter its loss of popularity, that body turned to what West called, “its great apologist, W. K. Pendleton, to defend it.” Pendleton’s apologia at the Society’s convention in 1866 opened the floodgate of errors that have inundated the church from that time to the present. His argument was based on Thomas Campbell’s motto—particularly the last part—first enunciated by him in 1809: “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.” Pendleton’s speech was carried in full by Moses Lard in the Millenial Harbinger’s Nov., 1866 issue. Replying to the Society’s opponents, Pendleton said, in part,

“You say, ‘your Missionary Society is not scriptural’—and you mean by this, that there is no special express precept in the Scriptures demanding it. We concede this without a moment’s hesitation. There is none; but what do you make of it? Is everything which is not scriptural therefore wrong? …Does he say that it is not positively and expressly commanded; then we demand by what canon of interpretation does he make mere silence prohibitory?” (p. 501 [All Emphasis his, JCB]).

Pendleton focused on the silence of Scripture (“The Bible does not say, not to”) to justify the Society’s existence. Pendleton’s interpretation of, “Where the Bible is silent, we are silent,” opened the floodgate of every soul-damning error men can devise, and became the mantra of every innovator in the work and worship of the church from that time until the present. That was West’s conclusion:

“Upon this interpretation of the motto was based every innovation which was brought into the church. The door was now down, and human opinions, as they applied to the work and worship of the church, multiplied. To try to sweep back the avalanche by calling for divine authority was like trying to dry up the the ocean with a sponge… Pendleton’s interpretation was picked up by Isaac Errett and the Christian Standard and then by J. H. Garrison and B. W. Johnson in the Christian Evangelist to resound down through the ages to the present. Nevertheless, an element remained to whom the call for divine authority still meant something” (The Search For The Ancient Order, Vol. 2, p. 54).

Pendleton’s words still “resound down through the ages” in the “Social Gospel” under the guise of so-called “ministries,” benevolent, and recreational works of “mainstream churches of Christ.” Asked for “divine authority” for their “Social Gospel” programs today, they blithely reply, “Those are expedients. The Bible does not say we can’t do them.”
Typical of Pendleton’s current devotees is Lynn McMillon, president and CEO of The Christian Chronicle, and an elder in the Memorial Road church of Christ in Edmond, Okla. In a meeting with a large group of gospel preachers at the 8th and Lee church building in Lawton, Okla., Nov. 17, 2003, McMillon represented Oklahoma Christian University (OCU). The meeting was requested by the preachers to present objections to rank liberals on OCU’s lectureship like Mark Henderson of the apostate Quail Springs church in Oklahoma City and Randy Harris, who co-authored, The Second Incarnation with Rubel Shelly. Both men have a denominational concept of the church and fellowship denominations. It was pointed out to McMillon that Quail Springs uses mechanical instruments of music in its worship, and was asked, point-blank—not once, but three times—if, “the silence of the Scriptures is permissive or prohibitive.” He never answered the question. It would have ruined his defense of Quail Springs and Henderson.
Those of us to whom the call of divine authority still means something, understand that the silence of the Scriptures is not permissive. And, we can answer that question from the word of God. Nadab and Abihu are prime examples of that in the Old Testament:
“And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace” (Lev. 10:1-3).
Nadab and Abihu offered incense, which was their responsibility as priests under the Law of Moses. They took fire and put it into their censers and offered “before the Lord.” But the Scripture says they, “offered strange fire.” What was “strange” about it? It was fire that God “commanded them not.” God had not commanded them to take fire from the “source of their choice.” The significance of this passage is that God had commanded them to take fire from the source which He commanded, but they chose a source about which He was silent (“He commanded them not”). In essence, they argued that, “God did not say we couldn’t.”
If that is not sufficient to explain the non-permissive nature of God’s silence, the writer of Hebrews, in affirming the superiority of Christ’s priesthood over Aaron’s, wrote,

“If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood” (Heb. 7:11-14).

Jesus Christ could not have been a priest while He was on earth—not because God said He couldn’t, but because God commanded priests under the Law of Moses to be from the tribe of Levi. Therefore, Christ was prohibited from being a priest on earth because, “…our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.” God’s silence about Judah and the priesthood did not permit a member of that tribe to be a priest.
Closely related to Pendleton’s “permissive silence” doctrine, is that anything churches devise falls under the classification of expediency and is, therefore, permitted. The Bible authorizes us to act in one of three ways—direct statement (command), approved divine example, and implication. Direct statement (“Repent and be baptized… for the remission of sins”) is evident. Approved divine example is illustrated in Acts 20:7 when Paul tarried at Troas to assemble with the church and observe the Lord’s Supper. That is an approved divine example of assembling on the first day of each week to observe the Lord’s Supper. Implication means that when Scripture “implies” an action it is approved of God. That is shown in Philip’s preaching to the Samaritans and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. In both instances it is never explicitly stated that he preached baptism to anyone. But it is implied when the Samaritans “believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women” (Acts 8:12), and the eunuch said, “See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?” (Acts 8:36).
When we oppose those who add unauthorized things to the work and worship of the church, their stock reply is, “The Bible does not authorize things like church buildings, pews, and song books, either.” Where do they find that kind of sophistry? From W. K. Pendleton who asked, “Is everything which is not scriptural therefore wrong? …by what canon of interpretation does he make mere silence prohibitory?” Like Pendleton, they fail to understand that buildings, pews and song books are not added elements to the work or worship of the church, but are implied in the commands to assemble in one place (1 Cor. 11:18, 33; Heb. 10:25), and to sing (Eph. 5:19). They are authorized expedients.
But for a thing to be expedient, it must first be lawful (1 Cor. 6:12; 10:23) under one of those three sources of Bible authority. Gary Grizzell wrote,

“Expediency plays an important role in the place where God designed for it to be. However, to say that the realm of human judgment (Expediency) is not source of New Testament authority is not within itself a denial of the importance and proper role of Expediency. Having said that, it may be said emphatically that Expediency is not a fourth source of authority.”
(“The Problem With Viewing EXPEDIENCY As a Fourth Source Of Biblical Authority” – Article by Gary L. Grizzell found here).

In his comments on the above article, Kent Bailey wrote, The logical consequence of the authority by expedience doctrine is enough to falsify it. Basically all one has to do is engage in any activity that they desire and then justify it by claiming that such is an expedient to evangelism, edification, or benevolence,” and Charles Pogue wrote, “The sad reality in the denominational world at large is their whole religious existence is based on expediency, which is another way of saying I am my own authority. This is a post-modern world. This is where the idea of expediency as a source of authority will lead the church if those who hold it never admit to its implication and do not give the idea up.” (Ibid, “The Problem With Viewing EXPEDIENCY As a Fourth Source Of Biblical Authority”).

Neither the silence of Scripture, nor expediency is biblically authoritative. As a source of authority, expediency is a false doctrine and, as brother Grizzell wrote in his article quoted above, “Any doctrine which implies a false doctrine is false within itself.” To say that anything man adds to the work and/or worship of the church is “just an expedient” is absolutely false, and carries the anathema of God against it (Gal. 1:6-9; Rev. 22:18-19).  — July 2018

Minor editing for article, glg.


Related To This Article on Expediency


The Problem With Viewing EXPEDIENCY As a Fourth Source Of Biblical Authority

Article by Gary L. Grizzell

Expediency plays an important role in the place where God designed for it to be. However, to say that the realm of human judgment (Expediency) is not source of New Testament authority is not within itself a denial of the importance and proper role of Expediency. Having said that, it may be said emphatically that Expediency is not a fourth source of authority.

The disagreement among sincere Bible students concerning the number of sources for proving New Testament authority for a belief, doctrine and/or religious practice is surrounding the use (or abuse) of language, contradiction and the danger of the influence of a false view.

Is Expediency to be described and viewed as a fourth “source” of New Testament authority or simply a subcategory under Obligation? Answer: A subcategory.

To be clear there are only three sources of New Testament Authority in determining matters of obligation in religion. These are Direct Statement, Example and Implication. To see doctrinal proof of this proposition, see CHART below entitled, “Three Sources Of Authority As It Relates To Expediency In The Case Of The Necessity Of Water Baptism Today.”


In matters of salvation (matters of obligation) we are commanded to “prove all things” and this involves “rightly dividing” the truth (1 Thes. 5:21; 2 Tim. 2:15). We correctly say No Obligation–No Expediencymeaning that New Testament obligation must precede expediency. For the purposes of this article suffice it to say that Expediency is simply the realm of human judgment. Again, it is correct to say that in Bible interpretation when seeking authority: If there is No Obligation, there can be No Expediency enacted with God’s approval.
However, this is not the thought process with Direct Statement, Example and Implication. We do not say, (If) No Obligation–No Direct Statement. Why? Because the Direct Statement IS the obligation! Likewise, with Example and Implication.

It Is Crucial To Understand
The Concept Of “Source”

There are those who misguidedly advocate that the realm of Expediency is a fourth source of authority (the other three sources being Direct Statement, Example and Implication). However, there is a major flaw in the so-called fourth source of authority theory. The problem lies within the fact of the independent character of a source of authority.

What do you mean by the independent character of a source of authority? Answer: We correctly say in proving authority, that the Bible only has to say it one time. Why? Because any of the real sources (Direct Statement, Example, or Implication) prove authority.

What if there was only one verse in the New Testament which implied authority (Implication) for a matter? We would rightfully say that, unless qualified by another passage, there is thereby authority for that belief, doctrine, and/or practice. We would have proved all things (1 Thes. 5:21). Thus, today when debating denominational preachers, we correctly call upon these false teachers to just give us one passage which authorizes instrumental music in worship. (They cannot find it of course).  This tells us something concerning the nature and character of a source.

So it just takes one of the three sources of authority to authorize a belief, doctrine, and/or practice.  Can we say this about Expediency? No. Can we say, — It just takes expediency, then we know we have New Testament authority for the practice of instrumental music in worship? No. The reason we cannot and do not say that is because it is equivalent to saying, it just takes human judgment to establish authority for instrumental music in worship.

Some proponents say, — But we concede you must first obtain the obligation for N.T. authority from at least one of the three sources (DS, E, or I) before you are authorized to work in the realm of human judgment (Expediency). To which we reply,  — Why? did you not just state that Expediency is a fourth Source of Authority, thus implying equality with the other three?

An Approach In Our Study Of “Source”

We must be fair and not charge some with believing the negative implications of their false position. We do not charge those who advocate the existence of a fourth source with believing the implication of their doctrine, which implication is that by calling expediency a “source” they are implying that human judgment alone is sufficient to establish authority. This is said with reference to those who explicitly claim [as we ourselves claim] the obligation must come first before choosing a method is authorized in the area of expediency.

Due to the nature of the definition and concept of the word,  “SOURCE,” those proponents are IMPLYING that the realm of human judgment (expediency) is sufficient in and of itself to obtain New Testament authority.

Therefore, they are implying that human judgment alone equals New Testament authority, though they do not realize it and though they even deny it. If it is wrong to use the terminology (if it is a faulty concept), then it is wrong for a reason. Its unscriptural implication reveals that reason.

It is a false doctrine to imply by one’s faulty terminology (namely “a fourth source”) that human judgment alone initiates and completes (is sufficient) authority for men in religious matters.

  • It is not in man to direct his steps (Jer. 10:23).
  •   The Word of Christ is the authority, not the word of men (John 12:48).  
  • We must have divine authority, not human authority (Col. 3:17).

Any doctrine which implies a false doctrine is false within itself. “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (Mat. 7:15).

Note that the inspired James showed the implication of the false teaching of salvation by faith alone. He noted that if the doctrine of faith only is true, then the demons are saved (James 2:19). And anyone who has at least two brain cells to rub together knows that demons cannot enter the sinless heavenly realm in eternity where the holy God of heaven lives.

Consider also that Jesus expected the Sadducees to understand the principle of implication (read Mat. 22:31-32). He expects men to understand implication today.

Sincere But Wrong

Many false doctrines are taught by those who sincerely contradict themselves without seeing they are contradicting themselves, right? Why would we deny this in this matter? We learn that sincerity alone will not please God, as in the case of Saul of Tarsus (Acts 9:1ff; Acts 23:1; 1 Tim. 1:12-14).

Unfortunately, such terminology as: “expediency is a fourth source of New Testament authority” aides those religious folks who disrespect Bible authority. To whom is reference made here? Theological liberals (those who loose where God’s Word does not allow loosing) and Antis (for lack of a better term; those who bind where God’s Word does not bind).

Religious liberals possess a disobedient mindset which really could care less for any preceding New Testament obligation from the real (three) sources of New Testament authority (i.e., obligation necessary preceding authorized activity in the realm of human judgment, expediency). Therefore, and this is crucial to understand, when sincere, misguided brethren make the statement that, “Expediency is a fourth SOURCE for determining (ascertaining) New Testament authority,” that is ALL these extremist groups hear.

The Eldership Has The Authority To Bind In Expedient Matters

The fact that Elders have authority in Expedient Matters is obvious in the New Testament. Yes, elders have authority in expedient matters. When the elders make the decision concerning an authorized expedient to be practiced by the church (for example, the use of a multiplicity of containers for the Lord’s Supper), then the congregation is obligated to obey the eldership by using that method (as opposed to using one container from which everyone is to drink the fruit of the vine).

“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).

So, after the divine obligation was learned from the New Testament by the eldership (for example, the obligation to observe the Lord’s Supper weekly, Acts 20:7), then that leadership wisely chose a scriptural method from the category of lawful things, understanding that “All things are lawful … but all things are not expedient …” (1 Cor. 10:23).

The Authoritative Expedient

Is there such a thing as an authoritative expedient? Yes, as in the example above when the eldership specifies the expedient of a multiplicity of containers for the Lord’s Supper, then in view of the fact that the congregation is obligated to obey the eldership in observing this expedient, the expedient may be said to be authoritative.

What would be a non-authoritative expedient? If a rebellious brother in that congregation advocated and pressed for brethren to use one container for the Lord’s Supper (in rebellion to the eldership’s decision), then his method would be a non-authoritative expedient and thus that congregation must reject his unscriptural assertiveness. He would be walking disorderly and need to repent. (Gal. 6:1; 2 Thes. 3:6).

However, in the case above it was established by the authority obtained from Acts 20:7 (the approved example of early Christians partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week).

Expediency Only Folks

Another way an expedient could be an unscriptural expedient would be if the eldership derived their authority from the realm of expediency only (the realm of human judgment alone), without having the backing of at least one of the genuine sources of New Testament authority, namely, Direct Statement, Example, and/or Implication.

Men just do not have the authority to “make up” the will of God. Many lost religious folks on the day of judgment will tell the Lord how they performed religious deeds in His name, but He will reject them because they chose to ignore the Father’s Will (Mat. 7:21-23).

These people thought the Lord would not mind if they just conjured up whatever so-called method they chose to carry out what they thought was the Lord’s Will.

Thus, these Expediency Only Folks thought up and practiced:

Their false plan of salvation of faith only. Verses on water baptism were scoffed at as unnecessary. (James 2:24; Rom. 6:3-4; Acts 2:38).

Their own church leadership Organizational Structures.  One man rule (the so-called pastor system of denominationalism), one woman rule (she-elder), board of trustees rule, one family rule, and other unscriptural configurations constituted the leadership structures in congregations. (1 Tim. 3:1-6).

Their own Worship ingredients, as opposed to what God’s Word required.  Instrumental music in worship is unauthorized, but those Expedient Only Folks rebelliously ignored God’s Instructions about Worship.
(Eph. 5:19 – making melody in your heart, not your harp).

Fabricated their own definition of the Work of the church.  They chose to do anything and everything their hearts felt was a good work, allowing the church to financially support it. They did this under the pretense of “These are our ‘Ministries.'” The mission of the church is to preach the gospel to every creature and to do it only as the Lord authorized (Mark 16:15-16; Col. 3:17).

Confusion By Many About What This Means

What then shall we say concerning these things? Two conclusions have emerged among Bible students (and Bible students are not the authority, God’s Word is the authority). One conclusion is blatantly false and the other is true (scriptural). Here these are:

FALSE CONCLUSION: “But if expediency is authoritative as bound by the eldership, (and the congregation is obligated to obey the eldership in expedient matters), then expediency must be a source of authority.”

SCRIPTURAL CONCLUSION: The expediency is authoritative, as bound by the eldership (and the congregation is obligated to obey the eldership in expedient matters), but the source of authority was/is derived by the elders from at least one of the three sources of N.T. authority (DS, E, and/or I).”

Thus, here is the key:

There can be authority in the expedient without the expedient being the source of that authority.

The source is coming from the explicit and implicit teaching in the New Testament.

Analogy — Police Officer

As an analogy, when a Police Officer shows up at a criminal’s house and knocks on the door, saying, “Open up in the name of the law,” the Policeman is an authoritative expedient of the civil law. The Policeman is authoritative but he is not the source of authority. The law is the source of his authority. He reflects that source. He did not say, “Open up in my name,” but “Open up in the name of the law,” because the law is his source of authority. (Rom. 13:1-7). Otherwise, he would be considered a renegade policeman, acting on his own.

The analogy is obvious. In religious matters expediency acting on its own, as an actual source of so-called authority is but a renegade, a sort of vigilante (a self-appointed doer of justice –  Merriam-Webster’s Dic.). However, we are to operate in the name of Christ (Col. 3:17). The Law of Christ is the authority (Gal. 6:2; 2 John 9; 1 Pet. 4:11; John 12:48; Acts 2:42).

There can be authority in the expedient without the  expedient being the source of authority.

So the New Testament Obligation, which authorizes the eldership to engage in activity in the realm of human judgment (the area of Expediency), is coming from (derived from) the three sources of authority–Direct Statement, Example, and/or Implication (and not from expediency). See this principle illustrated in the CHART below entitled, “Open Up In The Name Of The Law.”

June 1, 2018


Monday, June 4, 2018

Brother Gary,

Let me commend your most excellent articles dealing with the so-called 4th Source of authority in religious matters. As the late brother J.T. Marlin used to say to me on certain ideas I proposed to him, “Now, Jess, that dog will hunt!” It is apparent that so many man-made doctrines must depend on this 4th Source in the absence of real authority: i.e., the A.D. 70 heresy of Max King, the Holy Spirit baptism stance of the Deavers, the eldership reevaluation of Dave Miller and others, the error of Lynn Parker in the matter of proper withdrawal of fellowship, and the point you made about the instruments of music in worship, et al. For years in teaching/ preaching on the subject of authority I have used your illustration of the police officer and the phrase: “Open up in the name of the law…” i.e., by the authority invested in him. Thank you for the good writing you have done on this very important subject. Now, let me say, “That dog will hunt!”

Jess Whitlock

Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Gary …

I believe your article covers the topic thoroughly and correctly. Not long after beginning with the reading of it a truthful saying came to my mind. A doctrine which implies a false doctrine is itself false. That is very key. Later you made that very point. Those who say expediency is a fourth source of authority then assert there must be a direct or implied statement or example upon which to base the expediency are guilty of a contradiction.  What things do they do or teach for which they say expediency is their authority without one of the three true sources of authority behind it? The idea reminds me of a man who made a misstatement then when backed into a corner defended it and subsequently went into all kinds of error on whatever the subject happened to be.

The sad reality in the denominational world at large is their whole religious existence is based on expediency which is another way of saying I am my own authority. This is a post-modern world. This is where the idea of expediency as a source of authority will lead the church if those who hold it never admit to its implication and do not give the idea up. As I expressed at the beginning, I believe you covered the topic very well.


June 5, 2018

… It seems to me that Roy Deaver used the fallacy of circular reasoning, or begging the question to justify his authority by expediency doctrine. According to his line of reasoning something was authorized because it was expedient. If you asked him upon what basis such was expedient he would reply because it is authorized. The strange thing about that was that he had taught the discipline of Logic for a number of years.
The authority by expedience doctrine obviously rubbed off on Mac Deaver as well. Back in the early 1990’s (1993 I think) Mac Debated David Padfield regarding Church Benevolence. David asked Mac if he defended the use of referring to the church as being the Christian Church. Mac affirmed that such was his position. When pressed on this point he stated that in most cases today such would not be expedient to do so, but that in other cases such would not be wrong. Also, David asked Mac if he believed that it was scriptural for a local church to build family life centers, hospitals, and have church sponsored ball teams and recreation. Mac replied that it would be if such would be used as an expediency to evangelism.
The logical consequence of the authority by expedience doctrine is enough to falsify it. Basically all one has to do is engage in any activity that they desire and then justify it by claiming that such is an expedient to evangelism, edification, or benevolence.
Kent Bailey


July 3, 2018

“Gary … Your article on Expediency as a “fourth source of authority” was excellent and I echo the sentiments of Jess, Charles and Kent. In fact, I am quoting from it in an article I am working on for this week’s bulletin. — Jerry”

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