Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 10, 1951

The Issue Of Institutionalism -- No. 2

Bryan Vinson, Dallas, Texas

We called attention in our first article to the papistical philosophy on which much of our modern institutionalism is based, pointing out specifically the weight given to tradition. We want to continue our study of the question by consideration of a second argument:

2. The Appeal to Expediency. Expediency as recognized in the New Testament is compressed within the framework of the divine law, "All things are lawful, but not all things are expedient." An expediency is a means devised to expedite, or facilitate, the attainment of a given end. In religion, of course, the ultimate objective to be sought and secured is eternal life. God in his word has given us all things that pertain unto life and godliness. The very tenor of the whole Bible, from first to last, is that man must learn obedience to the divine will. The Book is calculated to impress indelibly on the hearts of all men the conviction, overwhelming in its compulsion, that "to obey is better than to sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." Nothing then can be "expedient" which does not come first within the framework of the divine pattern. Nothing can possibly be "expedient" which is not first lawful.

End Justifies The Means?

This plea of "expediency" reflects a state of mind closely akin to, if not identical with, the Jesuitical concept that the end justifies the means. A more viciously deceptive thought has never been planted in the human heart. This idea has been formulated into that most popular apology for denominationalism in the expression, "We are all headed for the same place (heaven) but are taking different roads to get there." To the enlightened child of God there has never been a more asinine statement than this. Yet we need constantly to be on guard lest we become the victims of this poisonous and warped reasoning, or lack of reasoning. Every departure from the Lord's way is a living testimony of the truth that it is "not within man that walketh to direct his steps." Standing as an ever-present warning against all such recourses to human wisdom is the inspired utterance that "there is a way which Nemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death."

Does the obligation of supplying the needs of the unfortunate of the world, and affording an asylum for all the homeless rest upon the church? If so, we are hopelessly and helplessly involved in the demands of a duty which we are utterly unable to discharge. One prominent preacher is reported to have asked what we are going to do about all the illegitimate children born each year in the United States. There are several hundred thousand of them coming into the world each year—quite an undertaking if the church is obligated to provide for all of them! Then there are the hundreds of thousands of innocent children who' are the victims of broken homes each year. If the church is obligated to care for all such, she is involved in an undertaking that is not only impractical but utterly impossible of execution. Too, it is visionary and morbid.

Present Situation

Narrowing our investigation down to those actually being cared for at the present time, how many are really orphans? And how many come from homes of members of the church? Are there children in these homes whose parents, are living, and who have been relieved of the responsibility of caring for their own offspring? If such there are, why are they not required by the law of the state to discharge their duty? Is the church aiding and abetting such people in helping them to shift their responsibility and evade their legal obligation toward their children? These questions are raised to provoke thought, and without any intent to reflect on anyone in these homes or connected with them.

Further, if every contribution made to the institution in money and goods, with individual gifts to the children, were added to a fair return on the capital assets, and the total were divided by the number of children in the institutions, what would be the annual cost per child? Such a study might reveal that the actual cost per capita of rearing children in the institutions far exceeds the average cost of rearing children in our own homes.

Someone may interpose the objection that there are no homes open for these children—that they are not wanted. In fact, only recently a small boy's photograph appeared over the caption "I would not have a home if it were not for you;" and the material was sent out in an appeal for funds to operate an orphanage. But is this the truth? I am fully persuaded that the very opposite is true. A survey by a federal agency has revealed that in America for every homeless child there are ten homes wanting to adopt a child. With a situation like this existing, where is the justification for the existence and support of an institution which takes children and refuses to adopt them into respectable and decent Christian homes? What right has an institution to force a child to be reared in an institutional arrangement when he might otherwise have the parental care and affection of a normal home? Is there any possible justification for this established policy, viewed from a spiritual, humanitarian, or even a practical business standpoint?

In our next article we want to deal with some of the sociological and economic features of this question, and give a particular attention to the scriptural basis on which the needy are to be cared for.