This is part of an article originally published January 1922 in the Southwestern Journal of Theology by Dr. L. R. Scarborough entitled, “Poisoning the Fountains of Truth.” It was republished in the most recent Southwestern Journal of Theology, “Baptists and Unity.” May a voice of our past speak to us today. Below is part one of a four part series reprinting Dr. Scarborough’s essay:
Poisoning the Fountains of Truth
Christ’s churches are the most important institutions in the world. He gave them a definite form of government, a specific character of membership, set up in them the two ordinances, gave to them the great body of the truth found in the New testament, set for them their officers, and committed to them the great task of winning the world to Him and building His great Kingdom. He says through His inspired apostles in 1 Timothy 3:15 that this organization which He set up and called His church is “the pillar and ground of the truth.” He says this church was purchased by His blood; and in His spiritual economy He calls this institution His Bride. All this and many other things in the New testament indicate that these spiritual organizations set up by Christ and established in many places by the apostles and which have for their successors these New testament churches of today are the most important institutions in all the world. These churches are to keep, guard, and promote the ordinances. They are to propagate the gospel. They are to win souls. They are both the preservers and the heralds of the gospel truth. They are to establish Christ’s Kingdom and to make Christ King in all the world. From any angle you look at these churches their importance is magnified.
All the institutions established by the co-operation of these New Testament churches—such as mission boards, benevolent institutions, orphanages, hospitals, schools, and so on—are of great importance; but of far greater importance are the churches back of these institutions. It is exceedingly bad when in any of these institutions promoted by Christ’s churches there is false teaching; but far worse is it for false teachings to be carried on in the churches which are “the pillar and ground of the truth.”
These churches are the very fountains of the life of the Kingdom of Christ. In Elisha’s day, as recorded in 2 Kings 2:19–22, there is an incident described where the spring of waters which furnished the water to the city for its inhabitants to drink and for the irrigation of its gardens, orchards and farms was poisoned; and these waters had to be healed by the miraculous power of God through Elisha’s word. The life of the people was endangered and the trees of the orchard cast their fruit because of the poison in the waters. Just as poisoned waters will destroy the life of a city, so will the poison in the fountains of truth in our churches cause spiritual death and dearth and drouth to the life of the people. If we poison the spiritual waters that flow from our churches into the lives of the people, we cause death to the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.
Since the churches through their teaching service are commissioned to teach the “all things” commanded by Jesus Christ, and since this instruction goes Sunday by Sunday and week by week into the lives of the young, how very important it is that these fountains of life be kept pure from the poison of erroneous and false doctrine. It is far easier for us to correct false teaching in our schools, because the schools are under the control of our conventions, than it is to correct false teachings in our churches, because the churches are independent and sovereign and you cannot reach the false teachers, even though they be the pastors of the churches, except through the members of the churches themselves. This gives great emphasis to the importance of the right training for our young preachers who are to be pastors of our churches.
Reprinted with permission, Southwestern Journal of Theology