The Guardian of Truth Foundation and Florida College


     As an amateur historian of long practice as well as a preacher of the gospel, I by discipline observe the inception, evolution, and result of many things, often without any intended effort.  I have been fascinated at beginnings and various impetus in the initial inception and then evolution of various things.  In the secular sense, we are living in a rich, full age, there are so many things happening for the trained observer to consider.  I do not mean to be an alarmist , but our world is changing faster today than I have heretofore witnessed.  The New World Order now has more vestige and presence than I have ever before witnessed, for instance. 

     Many changes are occurring among my brethren, as well.  One matter that has of late occupied more of my focus has been the privately funded societies to offer the climate and milieu for brethren to pool their resources in and through which to collectively preach the gospel, institutions while not local churches, are doing the work God has assigned to the local church (I Tim. 3: 15).  I saw a resurgence of such institutionalism among us during the seventies, but we addressed and challenged it, and it went away, some thought.  In actuality, those who had the mentality of preaching the gospel through human institutions with their own oversight, treasury, president, etc. simply pulled back and waited.  So called neo-institutionalism is now here in full force and there will be no pulling back this time, I predict.  Already, it is evident that the promoters of such societies have their heels deeply positioned and they intend to keep their entities, notwithstanding the resulting division and disruption of unity.  "We Have A Right" (Guardian of Truth Foundation publication) say they.  It is we, those of us who believe in simply doing what God has said, doing the collective work of preaching the gospel in and through the local church, with its oversight and treasury, who are being labeled as the divisive ones (I Tim. 3: 15, Heb. 7: 14).

     How did this recent development happen, what is behind it?  This is a valid question and one that I shall attempt to briefly answer.

     For a number of years, there has been friction between two influential groups among so called non-institutional Christians.  The two groups, if you will, were Florida College and the then Guardian of Truth Foundation. While there were extant and definable doctrinal issues, I believe, based on my observation, there were also some power struggles already in place, at least, regarding the Guardian of Truth Foundation, perhaps more precisely worded, on the part of some of the foundation members (later designated simply as G.O.T.F.).  I might also inject that a number of men who had manifest loyalty and attachment to the G.O.T.F. correctly challenged some of the modernistic teaching emanating from Florida College, such as teaching that the days of Genesis one constituted ages and not literal days, etc.

     Without burdening the reader with detail, the thinking that resulted in the formation of Florida College became serious about the time of the end of World War Two.  Brethren wanted a school to which to send their children, a school that maintained and practiced the spiritual values that they had. Hence, in 1946 Florida College became a reality.  One determination the school had was to distance itself from churches of Christ relative to financial support and proximity and be unlike most other colleges that brethren had started.  Hence, the original resolve was to keep the college separate from churches.  Not trying to provide dates, the college progressed and has, to date, become a school academically competitive, at least, on the lower levels of academia.  Notwithstanding the apparent sincere efforts on the part various ones, past and present, Florida College (later referred to as F.C.) has exerted a lot of influence on churches, indirectly so.  Rather than just academically include the Bible as part of their curriculum, F.C. developed a special Bible Department and offers a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies.  Along with the Bible Department came the image of "Church of Christ Seminary," such was inevitable.  More brethren began to look to F. C. for their preachers and even elders.  F.C. often has represented a melting pot and circumstance of convergence, young men and women coming together from all sorts of backgrounds and often brining to the school their divergent doctrinal views.  In the climate of academia, views are often aired and discussed, sometimes more philosophically than with an aim to biblical solution and closure.  The school decided to include an annual lectureship program and this effort evolved to include many members of churches of Christ representing a large number of states (I have never attended the F.C. lectures).  The lectureship involves the assignment of different Bible themes to various men, usually preachers.  It is elementary and without debate to the common observer that F. C. is a major player when it comes to impetus and influence among especially non-institutional churches of Christ of any given time period.

     When one considers the history of the Guardian of Truth Foundation and all the surrounding stimuli, one sees a number of foundations, again, I say this without wanting to immerse the reader in detail.  Some of the original positioning of these foundations involved legal matters and the effort to prevent those believed not originally intended from having access to the monies contained in the foundation treasuries.  Foundations compose a separate study and reveal the developing and often merging thinking of the supporters of these special orders.  One sees in such research, gradation as to the viewed design of some of these foundations. Some of the simple, initial impetus, in one historic case worthy of mention, was for a man of wealth to have his estate after his death used to preach the gospel.  In another case, the forming of a publication entity that would especially favor the publishing of books by brethren, but would engage in such as a business for financial profit.  In the embryonic state, some orders had no desire to become vehicles providing brethren the opportunity to pool their resources to expressly and collectively preach the gospel to the lost, having their own treasury for said purpose and overseeing president and board of directors, I believe.  Foundations "among" churches of Christ as well as schools have for the most part, been very problematic, to say the least.  At best, there has been struggle and a fine line to keep these entities separate from churches.  At different points, brethren involved in foundations are seen to allow their love for these orders to misguide them.

     Roy Cogdill, a man who stood opposed to church supported foundations allowed his affection with one foundation to cause him to inconsistently act.  In the Gospel Guardian Magazine (Vol. 29, Number 7, April, 1977), brother Cogdill made the following appeal for the Akin Foundation directed at individuals and churches:

"Most of the readers of this paper know already that the Akin Foundation is in trouble. It is not to advertise this fact but to call attention to the opportunity of all of you have to render a service to the Foundation which has done so much for the spreading of the Gospel and indirectly to the cause of truth and righteousness....The 68th district court in which the law suit against the trustees has been filed has granted an injunction against the trustees further distributing any of the funds of the Foundation and has appointed a receiver impounding all the funds coming in....This effort will cost money as any case in court does....What do you think and what will you do about it? Those of you who through the years have been supported by and have participated in its help, what will you do to help preserve it - both churches and individuals are urged to respond."

     To my knowledge one other and I publicly spoke out against brother Cogdill's appeal for churches to help.  In my case, I was told to keep silent.  When I asked why, I was told by a number of influential preachers the following: "We need the Akin Foundation and it has done a lot of good.  You need to not say any more about the matter!"

     As I write this "brief" article, it is hard for me to not let go and immerse the reader in page after page of history regarding foundations among "us." I can say this, after all is weighed and considered, I firmly believe that foundations, schools, and various entities have done more harm than good and that we would have been better off without any of them, even the ones that basically, at least for a time, stayed in their place.  However, I am digressing some and I must now re-focus.  I have mentioned the foregoing to show the danger, at best, of foundations, special orders, and societies.

     As I studied and observed the Guardian of Truth Foundation and Florida College, I saw what I viewed as a degree of frustration on the part of the G.O.T.F.  They seemed to believe that F.C. had an advantage over them in that F.C. offered annual lectures that increased their standing and influence among brethren.  Hence, the implementation of the "Guardian of Truth Foundation Annual Lectureships."  I have no doubt, then, that F.C. is the primary impetus for the G.O.T.F. lectureships.

At the time of the implementing of the G.O.T.F. lectureships, another important event took place, a happening that further took the G.O.T.F. out of simply the business of publishing books, I believe such a position was only ostensible, anyway, and put it clearly in the providing of an entity in and through which Christians could pool their resources to collectively preach the gospel.  In order to present this idea and attempt to sell their "new" role, they came up with a convoluted view that tries to combine individual and collective action, contending that while they function within the climate of the G.O.T.F., they are really just acting as individuals.  A view, I might add, that allows the variant of institutionalism of the forties forward to advance their own rationale, claiming that "we" are now being inconsistent.

     Consider the statement made by a Guardian of Truth Foundation board member, the rationale that combines individual and collective action and the mission statement to preach the gospel:

     In Ron's material, "Let The Church Be The Church," he stated:

"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. By inviting people to read Truth Magazine and to visit our web site, we hope to better acquaint them with the goods and services of our bookstores and to encourage them to obey, worship, and serve God faithfully" (Ron Halbrook, "Let The Church Be The Church").

     A study of foundations and institutions reveals a number of things, one thing being the influence these entities have exerted on one another and the often competitive nature of these church/foundation anomalies as they attempt to do the work of the local church (be sure to read the internal article links in the addendum).  Any true historian worth his salt knows that the G.O.T.F. and F.C. have especially played off each other and shall continue to do so in the future, often driving, especially in the case of G.O.T.F., each other to become more emboldened.  The existence, relationship, and proximity of these institutions, even when not accepting monies from local churches, to each other and to local churches is seriously affecting God's people, for the worse.  They become the source of rivalry and warring.  Even when there are legitimate doctrinal matters involved, history has shown that stands taken by these foundations are competitive.  Members of these orders often find out what is the "position" of the institution and line up accordingly.  Hence, the foundations promote partyism and rallying points (cp. Phili. 1:14f., I Cor. 1: 11f., addendum).

Addendum:  Related articles to read are as follows:

"The Society System"

"Individual or Collective Action, Which?"

"Working Together in Business, Really?"

"The Foundations are the Same as...."

"Authority, Misunderstood Today"

"The Foundations are not Churches, So...."

"Are the Guardian of Truth and Florida College Lectureships the Same?"

"If the College is an Adjunct of the Home, Then..."

"Rationale in Favor of Privately Supported Foundations"

"What An Imagination!"

"Non-Church Organizations and 'Liberals'"

"Human Institutions, an Unimportant Issue?"

"Let's All Agree To Disagree"

"A Review of 'May Only the Church Teach the Gospel?'"

"The Pillar and Ground of the Truth"

"Neo-Institutionalism, are we Splitting Hairs?"

"Why Have Privately Supported Preaching Institutions?"

"A Look at Religious Journals Among Brethren" (This and the next article are not linked back to the above article.)

"The Party Spirit"