Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 5, 1954
NUMBER 13, PAGE 10-11b

The Church Versus The Individual

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

This is the title of an article by me in the Guardian of June 17, in which the difference between religious acts of the individual and those of the church was shown. A statement made by W. L. Totty was quoted as representative of some of the statements made by 'those who insist that the church should support human institutions. He has written a reply, a copy of which he sent to me. Some things he says possibly deserve attention.

Perverted Quotations In paragraph two, he makes an elliptical quotation from my article; and in paragraph three, has this comment:

"The reader will notice that the phrase 'as a religious act' modifies my statement which Brother Welch quoted. He and others, commenting upon that statement, invariably leave the impression that we say that just any act done by a Christian in any business may be done by the whole church. Such looseness in representing a person leads to a misunderstanding."

My former article paid Brother Totty the compliment of not stating his proposition so loosely as to cover anything which the Christian might do. He deliberately omitted the sentence of mine which so stated, tying a former sentence to the one which introduced his quotation, by the use of an ellipsis. This is the sentence he has omitted in his quotation, "Those who exercise care in the statement of their premise are not so loose in their expression." For him to cut deliberately my compliment to him for limiting the action to religious acts, then to say that I "invariably leave the impression that we say that just any act done by a Christian in any business may be done by the whole church," can be done for only three reasons. He either did it in ignorance of what I had said; or he did it playfully, not really meaning it; or he did it maliciously and deceptively. Why did you so deliberately pervert what I said, Brother Totty? Actually, such misrepresentation is totally unworthy of reply; but, because some, without giving it serious study, might be deceived by his misrepresentations, a review of this and other statements made by him are being considered.

Unfounded Charge He says that in 1952 I "argued that there is no difference between the orphan home and the missionary society." What kind of an orphan home was I speaking of, Brother Potty? You quoted it, and I repeat the quotation for emphasis; "Should we not just as well have kept the missionary society to handle the evangelistic work of the church universal, as to have the... orphan homes for doing the charitable work for the church universal? Where is the difference?" Then Brother Totty remarks of me, "But he argues that an individual may support the orphan home." This writer asks for the quotation where he has said that an individual can support one of these church-supported institutions, charitable, educational or otherwise. When the quotation is given, he will retract it and apologize for having made it. There is a difference between supporting an orphan and supporting an institution which is fastened onto the church. There is a difference between supporting a private school and supporting one which is fastening itself upon the churches.

Arguments Misrepresented But Not Refuted He argues that the church itself can wash the saints feet as a humanitarian act just as the widow is required to do in I Timothy 5:10. If those requirements of the widow, an individual, also belong to the church as a whole, I suppose Brother Totty will soon be asking for the whole church to have been the wife of the widow's one husband, for that is also one of her requirements. It looks silly, but that is where his argument takes him. Brother Totty, which widow's husband do you want Garfield Heights to be the wife of? Or maybe you would prefer to have the General Baptist's practice of foot washing in the church. Did you ever read a statement from them that their practice was an act of worship? The best I can gather, they call it a church ordinance, and that is what you make of it. The only difference is the "how." Does the Lord describe the manner in which the church is to carry out this act, Brother Totty? You had better leave it with the individual.

In reply to my argument that the elders are to oversee the church, making their action of overseeing individual and not church action, he says, "A kindergarten Christian should know that the actions of the elders in the capacity of elders represents the church." In such a reply he does not recognize the difference between the overseer and the overseen; nor the difference between the decision of the elders and work done by the congregation in response to their decision.

My argument on 2 Timothy 2:12 had nothing whatsoever to do with the church's support of the preaching. It dealt with the requirement that the woman be in quietness. If the church is to do everything which the individual is to do, then the requirement that the woman be in quietness will mean 'that the church must be in quietness; and Garfield Heights will have to demand that Brother Totty keep quiet. Stay with the arguments, Brother Totty, you ignored the question here by shifting ground.

On Ephesians 6:4, in my article, there was no hint that the church could not teach the children. My point was that the parents were authorized to punish the children, an individual act, which the church is not authorized to do. No doubt the church can teach the children, but can the church spank them? Here is another case of shifting ground.

His Style and Denial of Conclusions The former article of mine may not have convinced some people that an individual can do things which the church is not to do, but it does make at least one of them betray his style of combat when he sees one of his pet phrases being shelled to the ground. He says that he knows of no preacher who wants to convince the people that the church is not sufficient for its work. When a man insists that the church ought to do its charity work through organizations other than the congregation, is that not an admission that he thinks that the church is not sufficient for its work? When he insists that the church support educational organizations because they teach the Bible, is he not admitting that he thinks the church is not sufficient for its teaching of the scriptures?

Many brethren are seeing the conclusion of your premises, Brother Totty, whether you will admit the conclusion or not.

Perhaps Brother Totty would now desire to affirm in published discussion with this writer the proposition he began with me in private correspondence but refused to continue after one exchange. It was related to the subject of this article. Or, perhaps he would desire to use the propositions this writer suggested to him at that time. Or, perhaps he desires to make some of his own, which must be acceptable to both disputants.

The individual has many duties and rights which do not belong to the church as a whole. The argument that the church can do anything which the individual can do as a religious act, is one of the most puerile arguments to be made on the behalf of church support of human institutions. For emphasis let it be repeated, "The champions of church-supported institutions will need to find some better arguments than this to convince people that the church is not sufficient for its work."