Guardian of Truth and Florida College Lectureships, the Same?
Regarding privately supported missionary societies, having organizational
structure, a president, board of directors, and their own treasury, in
which brethren pool their resources to collectively
preach the gospel, some believe that the Guardian of Truth Foundation and
Florida College are the same, neither having Bible authority to exist. I
must agree that any entity that is set up to provide the opportunity and means
for brethren collectively doing the work that God has assigned to his
collectivity, the local church, with its structure, overseers, and treasury,
does not have the right to exist. God has specified the
organization, local church, and has put in place the balances, checks,
and safeguards (I Tim. 3: 15, Acts 14: 23). To act on our own in
establishing man-made church/foundation anomalies in which to preach the gospel
is to reject what God has said and act upon the silence of the scriptures (cp.
Heb. 7: 14). However, are foundations such as the Guardian of Truth
Foundation and Florida College tantamount, particularly the annual
lectureships now conducted by these institutions?
Anterior to discussing the extension of these two entities, the lectureships, let us first examine the essential institutions. The Guardian of Truth Foundation was originally and primarily established to be a book publishing foundation, at least ostensibly. Even so, there were some extra activities in the form of Truth Magazine, which was originally introduced in 1956, as I recall, and later became the financial and oversight responsibility of the Foundation. If one were asked as to the purpose of G.O.T.F., one might say, "To publish books and make a profit." If this were only the case, we would not have the issue that we do. However, as one board member wrote, the G.O.T.F. now has a mission statement involving preaching the gospel to the lost and edifying the saved. They make this statement in the milieu of so called "individual action" in the climate of a functioning foundation or "collective action," which within itself creates great alarm and concern, being a distortion of action and opening the door to all manner of unscriptural practices. Board member Ron Halbrook thus wrote:
"In the course of conducting our business, members of the G.O.T. Foundation often pray together and even pray with other people with whom we have dealings, especially in praying for God's wisdom and blessings upon our endeavors. We discuss God's Word together and with others, especially regarding its proper application to our work. As circumstances permit, we create and utilize opportunities to teach people the truth and God's Word and we do everything possible to encourage them to obey, worship, and serve God faithfully. Such studies have been conducted for the staff writers of Truth Magazine from time to time. The Truth Lectureship makes it possible for other interested individuals to share with us in such studies..." ("Let The Church Be The Church").
The present Guardian of Truth Foundation is irrefutably an entity that allows and encourages Christians pooling their resources to collectively preach the gospel. The annual G.O.T.F. Lectureships are nothing short of the institution preaching the gospel to the lost and offering edification to the saved.
Florida College was established shortly after World War Two, 1946, to provide guarded secular education to the children, at least ostensibly so, especially children of concerned Christians. To their credit, F. C. has stayed off church budgets and does not receive contributions from churches, the same can be said regarding the G.O.T.F. I maintain the right of a school to offer the Bible as part of their curriculum; however, I think when a school, especially a school so close in proximity to "churches of Christ" has a Bible Department with an attendant degree, they are asking for the "Church of Christ Seminary image." When we look closer at F.C., however, I think we encounter additional concerns, features just as in the G.O.T.F., present the school as a quasi-school, having another purpose "above and beyond."
The official Web site for Florida College advertises the school as being exceptional as far as colleges go. F.C. has a slogan of, "Education above and beyond." Is the college, then, more than simply a school mainly operated by brethren who have sound academics in mind, teach the Bible as literature, and are providing a service for profit?
On the "Education Above and Beyond" page of the Web site, we read:
"What are you looking for? We know that you want high-quality academics and qualified professors. We know that you need a safe, spiritual environment that inspires you to be who God wants you to be. And we know that you deserve to attend a school that will equip you with the skills you need to make it in the world. We have what you need.
Florida College is a private, residential college that promises education above and beyond."
The "Education Above and Beyond" is evidently "high-quality academics and qualified professors." So far, no problem. Then they state, "...a safe, spiritual environment that inspires you to be who God wants you to be...." Hence, "...above and beyond" involves spiritual matters.
On the "Spiritual Life, Aiming Higher" page of their official Web site, we read:
"Florida College is more than classes and campus life. We believe that college should instruct your soul as much as your mind and we hope to encourage you to live above the world and look beyond this life. We put the 'higher' in higher education and that's why, at Florida College:
You can expect quality instruction. As part of the Florida College curriculum, students coming for the A.A. degree take a minimum of 13 Bible class credits, ranging from Old and New Testament History to Old Testament Poetry and Evidences. You'll attend at least one of these classes every day so you will develop a solid understanding of the Bible by the time you leave. We want you to 'search the Scriptures daily...' (Acts 17:11)
You can expect commitment. In addition to your daily Bible classes, you'll meet your fellow students every morning to begin each day with a period of praise and worship. It is not uncommon for students to bow for prayer before class, before an athletic game, or before the curtain rises on a campus performance. We want God to be a part of your life every day."
On the "From President C. G. Caldwell" page, we read further regarding what is "Above and Beyond" regarding F.C.:
"...Its emphasis on scripture and on spiritual foundations for all studies helps students attain rich rewards for the soul as well as for the mind....In these ways and more, Florida College goes "Above and Beyond," offering unique learning opportunities in a unique environment.
We strive to be above the world: through our emphasis on biblical teaching and through our high expectations of student conduct....
We reach beyond the classroom to encourage our students to develop physically, socially, and spiritually, as well as academically....And we reach beyond this life, by emphasizing the ultimate importance of the soul...."
Just what is the idea of academic excellence at F.C., anyway? From the "Academic Expectations" page, we observe:
"...However, the academic program at Florida College offers strengths far beyond the normal measures of academic excellence. All members of our faculty are Christians and see themselves fundamentally as servants. They are committed to developing close relationships with their students and training them for life after college and for life in the Kingdom.
Each class at Florida College is taught from the perspective of faith in God and in His revealed truth....Chorus allows you to praise with your voice. And the Bible classes bring a deeper understanding of what God is trying to teach you every day."
Based on the essential nature of both the G.O.T.F. and F.C., they are more than just a publishing company and college, respectively, formed by individual brethren as business enterprises for profit. To thus view them is reflective of a state of denial. Again, brethren have a right to form a business to publish books and establish an institution of higher education, even to teach Bible as part of their curriculum. However, such is obviously and manifestly not the case with G.O.T.F. and F.C. Both institutions are clear examples of brethren who have pooled their resources in order to collectively exercise spiritual efforts and objectives. What, then, do we say about the annual lectureships conducted by these institutions? In the case of the G.O.T.F., the purpose of their lectureship is stated (board member Ron Halbrook). In view of the functional nature of F.C., it is evident that their lectureship practice is an extension of their inherent goal to, "...set forth the importance of the soul," prepare for, "life in the Kingdom," and to, "...live above the world and look beyond this life." In view of the nature of both G.O.T.F. and F.C., they are the same, both are institutions in which brethren are attempting to collectively preach the gospel and do the work that God has assigned to His collectivity, the local church. Hence, the Guardian of Truth Foundation and Florida College have no Bible authority to exist in their present quasi form. As a consequence, their annual lectureships are principally the same and also have no right to be offered (see addendum).
We need to let the church do the work of the church, under its God appointed oversight and not a president and board of directors (I Tim. 3: 15, Acts 14: 23). There is a place for publication businesses and for institutions of higher learning, but let us keep the church and its work and these secular institutions separate. Brethren need to be satisfied with collectively doing the work of disseminating the gospel in God's organization and pursue honorable vocations in secular orders. The church is, "...the pillar and ground of truth," not the Guardian of Truth Foundation, Florida College, or a myriad of other products of men with their humanly devised structure, oversight, treasury, etc. (I Tim. 3: 15).
Addendum: I have for years defended the right of Florida College to exist as a school attempting to provide a good, moral structure and even to academically teach the Bible as literature. I have opposed the forced "devotionals" and also the formation of the Bible Department with its attendant degree, due to the inevitable seminary image. I have even in the past thought I could see some difference, albeit minuscule, between the lectureships of the G.O.T.F. and F.C. However, based on recent research as to the present overt nature and declared purpose of Florida College, I am forced to concede that the two institutions, the G.O.T.F. and F.C., are the same in view of both providing the structure for brethren to collectively do the work of the local church. I must, therefore, also agree that the lectureships of these two institutions in like fashion are devoid of Bible authority and have no right to be conducted.