Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 15, 1954
NUMBER 10, PAGE 2-3,5b

A Problem, Plea, And A Paralogism Concerning Benevolence

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

Look Magazine, June 1, 1954 carries the story of the adoption of six children at one time by one family. The report states that "The adoption by non-relatives of six children at one time is believed to be unique in U. S. legal history." Herein lies a pretty good answer to the problem that the advocates of church "orphan homes" persist in placing before us. The problem is, what shall be done in the case of a family of unfortunate children? Well, these six children found "warm security, affection and satisfaction in their new parents and new home." Now when an emergency situation exists such as was the case with these six children, emergency procedures are to be employed. In this actual case the community cooperated, the law cooperated, and rather than ship the children off to a public institution they were placed into a home made capable by the cooperation of the community. The little community of Minster, Ohio got busy and made a childless man and wife happy, gave unto six children love, companionship and security and brought to the community itself a sense of satisfaction in well-doing. Even though the case is unique in that non-relatives were able to adopt six children in one day, it sets a precedent as to what can be done in such emergency situations. And most certainly it is not unique to see relatives assume the care of homeless children rather than see them shipped off to any institution, regardless of how efficient said institution may be in the care of unfortunate children. What Minster, Ohio did in this emergency situation, the Church could do, and ought to do. When there is an emergency situation existing in reference to homeless children within the scope of the work of the local congregation, the congregation with the cooperation of law can do what was done in Minster, Ohio.

Even though there may be some need for an "orphan home" separate and apart from the church, as a temporary abode for unfortunate children, the proper place for the church to care for its "orphans" is in its own community, and that only when some individual family is not capable and willing to do the work itself. There are many methods that can be employed to care for unfortunate children without the church resorting to the supporting of a brotherhood institution designed to do the work of local congregations. Even the patronizing of a state institution might be necessary in an emergency situation, as in the case of the payment of a hospital bill, but contributing to the support and maintenance of the institution is something else.

That brings us to review another article in a different publication. The Gospel Advocate of May 13th carries an article worthy of consideration written by one meriting a hearing. The purpose or point of the article is contained in a sentence or two midway in the study: "Let us restore New Testament Christianity by giving more to help those in need, the widows and fatherless in their affliction, the poor saints in another state or in Korea, or Japan or Africa .... Let us get back to the Bible in this practice." Amen! But I fear the brother's idea of going back to the Bible in this business of doing good as pertains to benevolence is somewhat different from what will be found when we get back to the Bible. Poverty in the New Testament times was general and massive. Wherever the apostles went they were faced with it. Benevolence was a fruit of household of faith. First, the church was established and their labors — that is, once converted, individuals were taught to do good unto all men especially those of the set in order to carry out its divine mission of evangelism and edification. The duty of the church as a collective congregation of people as far as benevolence was concerned was limited to emergency relief situations. Where is the example of the church working in benevolence in any other way? Most certainly the institutional concept of doing benevolence was absolutely absent in New Testament times. Where is the example to which we can go back that portrays the institutional idea of doing benevolent work? Where is the law, or parallel that allows expediency to take in this institutional concept of doing church work? If we go back to the Bible we will see that congregations helped congregations in emergency situations. We will see that individuals were to participate in good work as individuals rather than charge the church with the responsibility, and that individuals would thus be judged according to their deeds, not the deeds of the church. We can certainly agree with our brother's admonition to do more good work. The difference between him and the Book, is that he wants to charge the church with the responsibility of doing the good work that individuals ought to be doing. Listen to John: "But whoso hath the world's goods, and beholdeth his brother in need, and shutteth up his compassion from him, how doth the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17) There you have individual responsibility in doing benevolent work. The words of Jesus in his parabolic presentation of truth in the 25th chapter of Matthew emphasize benevolent responsibility on the part of the individual. The parable of the talents teaches individual responsibility. The words of Jesus concerning the judgment express very definitely the individual responsibility in benevolence: "Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me." Ye who? Ye individuals. James 1:27, the favorite passage of institutional-minded brethren, gives no authority for the church institutional concept of doing benevolent work. The passage primarily refers to the individual's personal responsibility. Certainly pure religion is an obligation for each individual to possess — and thus they as individuals are "to visit" the needy. The principle in the passage does not of course rule out congregational participation in caring for orphans but it absolutely does not give any authority for this institutional concept of doing church work. In going back to the Bible in benevolent work I fail to find the authority for the institutional concept of church activity. Whence cometh it?

Our superintendent brother from Quinlan, Texas comes out in Boles Home News, April 10 with this philosophy: "Sometimes we find a New Testament example of doing a thing God tells his people to do, and the method in which it is done is thereby shown to be a right and permissible way. But it does not indicate that the method permitted or utilized is exclusive of other ways and methods conforming to the above considerations." The "above considerations" to which he refers are as follows:

1. The organization of the congregation must remain inviolate, just as it is revealed in the New Testament. The independence and ability of the congregation to act under the leadership of its elders and word of God must be fully maintained.

2. Such methods, procedures, equipment, services and efforts should be employed so that things may be done decently and in order.

3. Such methods, equipment, services and efforts should be employed as will reach the objective, accomplish the very work God tells his church to do.

4. If God specifies a certain way or method for the church to do a good work, all other ways and methods are thereby excluded.

Now the two main points friend "Writin' Brother" seems to present are: (1) An approved example proves only that it is scriptural to do a thing that way. It does not prove that some other way would not be just as scriptural and proper. (2) We know that the New Testament church cared for orphans and widows but we do not know how or where they took care of them. Brethren, there is some dangerous thinking here. Note the consequences of this man's reasoning: In partaking of the Lord's Supper we have only an approved example as to when to partake of it. I wonder if some other time would be just as good? How about Thursday evening — that's when the Lord himself partook of it? We have an approved example of supporting the Lord's work — laying by in store upon the first day of the week. I wonder why we just don't take up collection at each service of the church. Either practice would not be out of conformity with number one of the brother's "above considerations." They would be in conformity with number two, three and four also. Number five "above considerations" is certainly true but it is inconsistent with the brother's proposition. It defeats his argument. The "way" God specifies for benevolent work to be done is the same "way" he specified for evangelistic work to be done. The "way" is the church. The institution is another "way." Our journalist is in more than one dilemma. He classifies church supported institutions as being a method of doing benevolent work. Well, the missionary society is a method of doing evangelistic work. The brother's "method" thinking has him supporting everything from missionary societies to benevolent societies for missionaries! This idea that it does not make any difference how or in what manner the church cares for orphans so long as they do it is as erroneous as the Christian Church idea concerning the doing of evangelistic work. Our institutional-minded brethren are using the same arguments as were used by the organizational-minded brethren in the days before the great split.

The ways, means, methods and manner in doing benevolent work must not include set-ups that constitute human institutions or organizations. The church is the only institution or organization authorized by God through which the church can preach the gospel. If not, why not a missionary society? The church is the only institution or organization authorized by God through which the church can do its benevolent work. If not, why not a general alms-giving institution or organization through which all congregations can do their alms-giving work? Suppose we just start an international Red Cross organization operated by our brethren?

The individual certainly has the right to do good work separate from the mission of the church, but wherein is the authority for the individual or the congregation to establish, operate or support an institution designed to do the churches benevolent work? The church has the right to patronize or "buy the services" of an institution of any legitimate kind. The "working through an institution" consists of surrendering funds to it for its general support, backing, instigating, operating, or cooperating in some way with an institution designed to take over the brotherhood's benevolent work.

The best place to care for unfortunate children is in the family home. In going back to the Bible we do not find the institutional concept of doing church work. The methods the church employs to do its work cannot consist of turning over to another institution its funds and authority.

In the article by the Quinlan editor a supposed parallel between "The preacher's home" provided by the church and the institutional "orphan home" is drawn. Our brother needs a lesson in parallelism. There is no parallel between the preacher's home and the orphan home that is applicable to this issue. Too many of our brethren are affected with paralogistic paralysis and thus are unable to rightly discern the word of God. The "preacher's home" is an edifice or property owned by the church in which one of its member families lives. It is not a benevolent institution; it is an edifice, a piece of property. The congregation does not solicit funds for the support of the "preacher's home" the preacher makes in the preacher's house. He is paid a salary and supports his own home. Now these institutional "orphan homes" among us today are designed to do the benevolent work of the local congregations. Whether it be under an eldership or under a board of trustees made up of men from several congregations it is an institution through which the churches operate in benevolent work. The preacher's house is merely a piece of property. It is an expedient in that it is church-owned property which the church workers "living of the gospel" may inhabit, as the church building is an expedient in which church members may worship and study.

The church supported institutional orphan home is not an expedient for it is not lawful. An expedient must he lawful — there must be a law allowing for the expedient. The organ in worship is not an expedient because there is no law allowing instrumental music. If there were a law allowing instrumental music, then it would be expedient to use an organ, piano, guitar, et cetera. The only institution ordained by God's law through which the church can work is the church. It is God's only missionary society. It is God's only benevolent society. Therefore the law of Christ does not allow for any other institution to be employed in the work of the church — that is, employed in the sense that it is church supported. The law names the institution through which to do the work of the church — the church itself. That outlaws all other. The church can patronize benevolent institutions or business enterprises in the performance of its work. But in this article we are dealing with the idea of church supported brotherhood institutions for the care of unfortunate children.

Now the "preacher's home," that is, the house provided for preachers is an expedient thing allowed by the law providing for gospel workers to live "of the gospel." First Corinthians 9:7-14 gives authority for the support of preachers and whether the preacher is given monetary dividends for room or whether provided with a lodging house is purely expedient because it comes under the heading of the preacher "reaping carnal things." The difference between the maintenance of a house for the local preacher and the maintenance of a brotherhood "orphan home is as great as the difference between the maintenance of a church parking lot and the maintenance of a brotherhood hotel for a lot of parking!

If the local congregation bought a house and paid a couple to care for some orphans to which the local church became responsible, then you would have a parallel, and a correct method of caring for orphans, for it would violate no principle. But if the church turned the thing into a brotherhood institution, with all the characteristics of these homes among us today — then you have something else. Let's keep the church pure — let the church be the church. Let's get back to the Bible in benevolent practice — and let's employ a little better logic in our discussions.