Efficiency In Error
Occasionally through the past two decades of controversy over church support of orphan home institutions, those who champion the cause of church grants for institutions have used convenient expressions to "win" an argument, or an audience. We have earnestly sought to show that the argument should not be over "methods" of caring for orphans but rather over the practice of churches granting funds to organizational entities separate and apart from the church. But in the thinking of multitudes the whole contention has been a "fuss" over how to take care of orphans. It appears to them that the action of a church in sending funds to an orphanage, no matter how small the amount may be, is a "method" of caring for orphans. Thus, representatives of a congregation which grants funds to an orphanage may confront members of a non-supporting church with something like this: "We like the way we take care of orphans better than the way you take care of them!"
The statement is a polemic device implying that the members of an institution — supporting church are each involved in caring for orphans through the church grant, whereas the members of a non-supporting church are doing little if anything to care for orphans. It does not require a great deal of analytical thinking to see the fallacy in such an "argument." We doubt that individual members of any church feel they are doing a great deal for orphans through a $10.00 or $50.00 or $100.00 church contribution to an institution.
But the "argument" suggests the fulfillment of responsibility in an efficient "method" of church care for orphans . . . although it is really the institution, and not the church, that is doing the caring. But suppose this church-grant arrangement is merely a "method" of the church, and an efficient method. Would this justify it?
Recently on the television program "Comment!", Dr. George Wald, a recipient of the Nobel Price for Medicine in 1967 observed,
"Often where one might most hope for decency, one is offered instead, efficiency. People are proud of doing efficiently what, perhaps, shouldn't be done at all. The matter of saying, 'I may be doing the wrong thing, but see how well I'm doing it.' Efficiency, however is a good only when coupled with other goods. If what's being done is wrong, doing it efficiently only makes it worse."
So it is with the granting of church funds to any kind of organizational arrangements which does the work supported by the church. Grants to institutions are not within the responsibility or authorized function of churches, as revealed in the New Testament. The hospital can do a more efficient work of caring for the sick than a church can, and an orphanage may operate more efficiently than a church in the modern methods to be employed in the care of children. But where is the scriptural authority for a church to fund the organizational entities of man?
It is not a question of what individuals may do with their personal resources. It is a question of what the New Testament pattern for church-function allows. Perhaps all contestants believe in some sort of revealed New Testament pattern for churches to follow in worship and work. A good many of us believe that the evidence of positive examples, and the plain teaching of what the church in New Testament times did, and what it may do by apostolic authority, rule out the granting of church funds to institutional boards.
Individuals and churches of the "conservative" persuasion in this matter may not be doing what they could or should, but this no argument for the "efficiency" of unscriptural church-supported institutions.
We have had some satisfaction in responding to the question, "How many orphans are you taking care of?" with the rejoinder, "About as many as the number of brethren in prison whom you are visiting." (Matthew 25: 43-46).
It is strange that some brethren think every Christian must be involved at any given moment in the care of the "fatherless and widows." It is more than strange that they argue in such a way that would demand that every Christian be involved every moment in every good thing Christians or churches are taught to do. It is even stranger that some brethren seem to think that the limited contribution of the congregation to an orphanage once a month represents their personal conformity to James 1: 27.