Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 22, 1958

Adult Quarterly Features Institutionalism

Robert C. Welch, Birmingham, Alabama

The Gospel Advocate has not dared previously to teach institutionalism in its quarterly lesson series. Perhaps this is because the series opposed it only a few years ago. But since the ace writer on the Advocate staff, and former author of the Adult Quarterly, has changed and has had the unmitigated gall to declare publicly that he has not, the Company has now decided to permit the change in the quarterlies. The Adult Quarterly, in the lesson for May 4, 1958, certainly proposes institutionalism. Perhaps Guy N. Woods continues to write this quarterly; it still sounds like him.

After making the usual pro-institutional assumption that the Bible requires the church to care for orphans and widows but does not tell how, the writer proceeds to name some things which he considers to be scriptural:

"Churches may, in the discharge of these obligations, provide for the needy in their own homes, if such they have; in a home provided for them by other individuals; rent the facilities of a home operated for such purposes; or, if their judgment dictates, suggest to some faithful couple in the congregation that they establish a home and operate it, such being supported by them, and, if necessary, by sister congregations."

Notice that in this section of the lesson he gives the congregation a choice of several things to do, as he says; "Churches may." But in a later section of the lesson he names one of these items and says it is the DUTY of the church to do it. He has come to his idol, human institutions, and cannot even give the church a choice of doing her work outside the temple of his idol. Nothing is wrong with his first suggestion. The second is misleading in its phraseology. There is no opposition to caring for and supplying the needs of the destitute wherever they may be. But the implication of this suggestion, and the specific doctrine of the Gospel Advocate, is that churches are to support, or contribute to, "homes provided for them (destitute) by other individuals."

His last suggestion is good in part, and bad in part. The elders could certainly suggest that some faithful couple care for a widow, orphan or other aged or destitute person, and the church pay for that care. But they have no scriptural right to suggest to any couple, any person, or group of persons, that they can build an institution and obligate that church and/or other churches to support it.

There is also a ludicrous sidelight in this last suggestion. He talks about this couple etablishing a home. I take it that this couple of whom he speaks is a man and his wife. If so, they already are a home, according to the definition which Brother Woods quotes in arguing for institutionalism. He, and this lesson, further argues that these institutions are homes restored. But in this suggestion he has this couple etablishing a home; so he has a home establishing a home, a home restoring itself by taking in some destitute persons. What a mess people make when they leave the will of God!

The End Justifies The Means?

The introduction is concluded with a sentence which if followed will embrace anything a man wants to do; "For all of this there is scriptural sanction in the fact that an obligation to discharge implies the scripuralness of themeans necessary to its discharge." That is the theory that the end justifies the means.

In the items which he has named he has stated that the church has a choice in which one to be used. If that be so, then no one of them is "necessary" in carrying out the obligation; thus, he has contradicted himself in the introduction itself. No means is necessary unless it has been

specified by the Lord; it is incidental. No means has scriptural sanction if it violates some other principle of truth. His last suggestion and what is implied in his second one violate the congregation's autonomy which is taught in the Scriptures. Hence, he argues for evil to be done in order that good may come.

Substitutes For A Divine Institution The lesson follows the usual line of argument which has been lately championed by Brother Woods; that is, that the home is a divine institution and the church can do nothing but supply the means.

"We should remember that the home is God's own divine institution which he established for the purpose of providing such care; and it is the duty of the church to supply the means. (1 Tim. 5:16.) It follows, therefore, that when the needy are taken into homes already existing, or are established for the purpose of providing such care, as in the case of the homes for the aged, the fatherless, and the destitute, it is the duy of the church to assist in their care by providing the means thereof."

In the Gospel Advocate, March 27, 1958, Brother Woods contends that the home is "all-sufficient" and that it is wrong to turn its function over to the church. In other instances he has compared the relationship of the church and the home with that of the church and the government. Yet, he wants the church to supply the means of the institutions which he calls the home; but will not advocate that the church supply the means of the government. Let him work on that phase of his comparison. Again, the very fact that he wants the church to support these in- stitutions is proof that those institutions, or "homes," are not "all-sufficient."

As is done by them everywhere else, this lesson uses the word "home" in three senses and never indicates other than that it is speaking of the same thing in all instances. In this last quotation it is used in the sense of a family

in the first part, and in the later part it is used in the sense of a welfare agency; and in the introduction it is used in the sense of a domicile. The family is of divine institution; welfare agencies, by whatever name called, are not divine institutions, nor are they families such as God ordained.

When the church provides for the needy in care and means, it makes no attempt to be a family, nor a substitute for a family; it is meeting its obligation to "relieve" them (1 Tim. 5:16). will have to read a long time to find "means" only in that word "relieve." The welfare agencies are doing the same thing which the church is obligated to do; that is what the welfare agencies of individuals do, though they be called "homes," "asylums," or whatever the title. The government does not claim that its welfare agencies and institutions are "homes" in the sense of "families." The church must do its duty in "relieving" the distressed; and has no business supporting the agencies built by men or by governments.

This is another outcropping of the modernism which has characterized the literature of this company for the past several years. Sometimes it is in specific rejection of the inspiration of the text, in part or in whole, to some degree or another; sometimes it is in opposition to the completeness of the Scriptures to furnish completely unto every good work, as in the matters of this article.