Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 14, 1952
NUMBER 40, PAGE 1,5b-6b

"The Fox And The Tar Baby" Or Thanksgiving At Harding College -- No. 2

James W. Adams, Longview. Texas

The readers of the Gospel Guardian have already been introduced to a debate between brother G. C. Brewer and a straw man at Harding College this past Thanksgiving Lectureship. The straw man was first "blessed out," then annihilated with gusto just to demonstrate to the brotherhood how a Christian College Lectureship ought to be carried on in a "fair manner, a Christian spirit, and without persecution." I greatly fear, however, that brother Brewer, like "Renard the Fox," is going to discover that his straw man is in reality a "tar baby." He may experience great difficulty in getting himself unstuck from some of the positions to which he commits himself in that sluice of sophistry which he undoubtedly regards as irrefutable logic. The reader is urged to obtain a copy of the lecture in question and read it in connection with this review. It is my desire to be completely fair with brother Brewer's reasoning. There is nothing to be gained by misrepresenting him or his positions with reference to the question under consideration, though he was not too careful in representing those whom he opposed in his lecture.


With the "Exordium," I find little fault. Were it not for the last paragraph, I could accept it fully and endorse it unreservedly. The spirit that should animate true Christians is most beautifully expressed. The service of all too many professed followers of Christ is the begrudged service of a hireling rather than the spontaneous love and ministration of a heaven-born child of God. I could even accept without qualification the condemnation of Phariseism were it not for the fact it is quite clear from the lecture that its author considers every man who does not endorse his views on our institutional orphan homes a Pharisee of the deepest dye. In typical Breweresque style, he mounts his "high-horse" and thunders, "The Pharisees of our day will boil out a microbe and swallow a menagerie!! If stigmata were argument, melodrama were reasoning, and magniloquence were logic, what a fearful opponent he would be.

And to think, this is the man among others who would instruct the brotherhood in ethical journalism and brotherly love!

"Whatsoever He Saith Unto You, Do It" (John 2:5)

Under this topic heading, a number of things are said that are universally recognized to be true among members of the churches of Christ. Were it not for his manifest contempt for some brethren whom he calls, "Pharisees," we could accept all of brother Brewer's statements. It will suffice to call your attention to some principles of action in the realm of religion which he indites.

"We recognize Christ's authority as supreme and any word from him is a sufficient warrant for anything we wish to do. Any principle that is involved in either his precepts or his example is claimed by us as a basis of faith and life. If our attitude is in accord with his attitude or if our behavior is consonant with the pattern of his life we are true Christians, our service will be acceptable to him and we should not be disturbed by the casuistry of our Pharisees." (Tract p. 5)

"Therefore whatever he commanded the apostles to do applies to us and whatever they wrote as commands or admonitions for us is included in his will concerning us. We are free, therefore, to search the entire New Testament in our effort to find Christ's solution of the problem of the poor." (Tract p. 6)

With these principles, I am in complete agreement. Since they are laid as a foundation for Christian conduct in brother Brewer's lecture, we shall expect to find clearly set forth therein the teaching or act of Christ, and the teaching or act of the apostles that authorize an orphan controlled and directed by an institutional board. The statement is made, "We recognize Christ's authority as "supreme." We shall see! We shall see!

Brother Brewer quotes: Job 31:16-22; 24:3-10; Deut. 15:11; Pa. 10:14; 68:5; 146:9; Is. 1:16, 17. These passages show that the poor, the widow, and the orphan are not to be exploited and are to be the objects of the benevolence of God's people. All of which no preacher, writer, or member in the church of the Lord would think of denying. The introduction of these matters is based on the untrue and unjust assumption that all who oppose brother Brewer's views concerning institutional orphan homes care nothing and do nothing for orphans, widows, or the poor but rather exploit them. The history of "our institutions" methinks would "put the shoe on the other foot" with regard to "exploitation," so our brother should be careful with his implications. His assumption is palpably false; his accusation is manifestly untrue; and his harsh and arbitrary judgment is utterly un-Christian. They are certainly not "consonant with the pattern and attitude of his life" whom we profess to serve.

"Christ Came Down From Heaven Not To Do His Own Will But the Will of the. Father Who Sent Him" (John 6:38; 4:34)

Little is said under this topic heading to give ground for complaint other than the fact that throughout the lecture one is conscious of the implied accusation that those who do not agree with brother Brewer on the orphan home question are guilty of failing to emulate Bible examples of "preaching the gospel to the poor" and acts of mercy in behalf of the needy. It was noted in our first article that many gospel preachers among those who do not endorse brother Brewer's views and who are therefore the objects of his wrath have records in these matters that will compare favorably if not overshadow his own.

"We Fulfill the Law of Christ When We Bear One Another's Burdens" (Gal. 6:2)

No Bible student would think of denying that in bearing one another's burdens, we fulfill the law of Christ. However, our erudite brother "nods" when he interprets this passage. I could hardly believe my eyes when I read it. From the West Coast this would come as no surprise, but from Memphis, it is shocking. Brother Brewer takes this position that when Paul says, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ," he is "summing up the law of Christ in one sentence." (Tract p. 10)

According to this reasoning, all Christians who bear one another's burdens have fulfilled their whole responsibility to the law of Christ. All that one has to do to be pleasing to God as a Christian is to bear his brother's burdens. Ridiculous, is about the only suitable comment for such. Paul is saying nothing of the kind. The context clearly shows that Paul is discussing the Christians attitude toward his weak and erring brother. He is "to restore him in the spirit of meekness." He is not to be self-righteous and condemnatory in his attitude toward the erring, but is to "bear his burdens." In doing this, the Christian fulfills the law of Christ with reference to his relationship to his weak and erring brother—not his whole responsibility to the law of Christ.

Brother Brewer quotes James 1:26 and 27 as though all who disagree with him upon the question of institutional orphan homes are guilty of a violation of their teaching. Does he mean to argue that one cannot fulfill his Christian responsibility to the poor, the widow, and the orphan without doing so through an organized benevolent institution under an institutional board? This seems to be the thought he has in mind. If this is not his point, he has no point.

It should be noted also that Gal. 6:2 refers to a "brother's burdens." By what rule of logic or exegesis is this passage applied to the work being done by our orphan homes? The word "fatherless" in James 1:27 will also bear consideration. If brother Brewer will make investigation, he will find that a great many of the residents in our so called "orphan homes" are not only not "fatherless" but to the contrary have two fathers and two mothers. I am not implying any objection to the care of "dependent and neglected" children by this statement but simply pointing out the deficiency of the proof text which is submitted. I propose to follow this review with a series of articles which makes a general survey of our institutional situation. In this series, more will be said concerning our orphans who are not "fatherless."

Brother Brewer also assumes under this topic heading that those who oppose his views on the orphan home question have "convinced themselves" that "the law of Christ and the religion recognized of God consist in or can be proclaimed by mere doctrinal declaration, a creedal contention." (Tract p. 10) It is my firm conviction that our learned lecturer knows better than this. Such a charge is unworthy of him and is calculated to excite animal passions rather than to promote brotherly love and fellowship.

Brother Brewer advances another step and slaps the "tar baby" resoundingly. This time it seems to me that he really gets himself stuck. He says:

"Especially we cannot see how honest men can nullify the whole teaching of God's word by caviling about methods of execution; quibbling about incidentals of operation." (Tract p. 10)

In this statement, the gentleman reverts to the old, digressive clich, "The end justifies the means." He begs the question by assuming the very point at issue. The whole question has to do with the scripturalness of the means and the methods. Brother Brewer assumes that these are incidentals. He needs to prove his assumption. Many do not believe that they are. It is also erroneously assumed that to oppose orphan homes under institutional boards is to nullify the whole teaching of God's word. This, too, must be proved—not assumed. Will brother Brewer take the position that orphans must be cared for after this fashion?

Skillfully building toward a grand, climatic, oratorical flourish (I would like to have been present to hear this. It must have been a great performance.) Brother Brewer declares:

"It is inexplicable that they can make brethren content to do nothing and let the commandments of the Lord go by default because of the criticisms of casuists about how we are to carry out the will of God." (p. 10)

Again, I should like to remind our brother that there are scores of brethren whose records are as good or better than his own in benevolent matters who do not agree with him on the institutional orphan home question. It is not true that brethren let the Lord's commandments go by default arguing about the "how." He only imagines this. This is what he wants to believe.

At this point in his lecture, brother Brewer reaches a melodramatic climax as he magniloquently declares, "Such Pharisaic caviling and caterwauling make void the word of God, make a mockery of Christianity, divide churches, destroy fellowship, and stab love dead at our feet." One wonders if the audience rose to its feet and cried, "Bravo! Bravo!" at this dramatic moment. With love lying dead upon the stage thrust through with the cruel rapier of those Pharisaic cavilers of brother Brewer's vivid and eloquent imagination, how the hearts of the audience must have bled and what unkind feelings they must have nurtured toward those who perpetrated that dastardly deed! But, who are these wretched persons? Why, those who disagree with G. C. Brewer on the question of institutional orphan homes, of course! Up to this point in his lecture, no proof had been given to sustain his unsupported accusations. To what purpose then was this blistering indictment? To this question there can be but one answer: It was made to prejudice the minds of the hearers to such an extent that passion would usurp the throne of reason. Surely the audience on that occasion was not deceived by such sophistry and guile.

This is a good place to rest our review until another issue. In our next article, "Caterwauling Cavilers," we shall continue an examination of the argumentation of the lecture in question. Until then, relax; love is not dead yet, brother Brewer's pantomime to the contrary notwithstanding.