Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 27, 1955
NUMBER 37, PAGE 1,5b

An Introduction To A Study Of The Benevolent Work Of The Lord's Church

James W. Adams, Beaumont, Texas

(No. 1 of a review of Brother Guy N. Woods articles recently appearing in the Gospel Advocate.)

One of the vexing problems of the church at the present time is the age old question of institutionalism as it manifests itself in the care of dependent children and the aged. Three aspects of the work of the church which seem to create the problem are: (1) The precise obligation of the church as such with reference to the care of dependent children and the aged; (2) the manner in which the work is to be done; (3) the organization through which it is to be accomplished. The convictions of the brethren on these points differ widely. As a result there has been and continues to be considerable discussion of "institutional orphan homes and homes for the aged." To date, the discussion of these matters has not been as enlightening to the brethren generally as it might have been. This has been largely due to the extreme bitterness which has been engendered by criticism of our (?) institutional situation. Because of the nature of the work under consideration, it is so very easy for one to be governed by sentiment rather than sense, fancy rather than fact, and tradition rather than truth. This fact almost invariably leads a discussion of the problems connected with the care of dependent children and the aged into a muddle of extreme statements and bitter denunciations involving personalities rather than principles. Such contributes not one whit to the progress of truth in this or any other realm of thought and investigation.

Our brethren are traditionally a Bible-reading and Bible-loving people. This fact is summed up in the familiar motto: "We speak where the Bible speaks and remain silent where the Bible is silent." Recourse in controversial matters has been always "to the law and to the testimony." The problem, therefore, of the care of dependent children and the aged by the church as such should be solved easily by a sane, sincere, sensible appeal to the word of the Lord.

If I know my own heart (and I believe I do), I love children and aged people. My own mother and father now approach their three score years and ten. Aged saints have throughout my twenty years of gospel preaching been to me a source of joy and inspiration. That their sufferings should be to me a matter of no concern is unthinkable. God has graciously blessed our home with three, sweet, lovable children, two girls and a boy. To us, they are treasures for which we would not exchange all of the money, fame or power which this world holds. When I look in upon my sleeping children at night — happy, healthy, loved — and think of the thousands to whom the blessings of a good, Christian home is denied, I would be worse than a wretch if my heart were not touched and moved by the plight of such unfortunates. In this respect, I am no different from the average member of the church. It is my sincere conviction that such sentiments characterize us all.

The problems, therefore, involved in the care of dependent children and the aged by the church as such lie not in the fact that brethren are cold, heartless, and insensitive with reference to the plight of the world's unfortunates. It is completely unworthy of some of our brethren to charge other brethren who differ from them on the question of "institutional homes" with "selfishness," "self-righteousness," "hobbyism," and "hatred" for the aged and the orphan. When one opposes denominationalism in religion, he does not thereby indict himself with being a foe of all religion. When one opposes the Missionary Society of the Christian Church, he does not indict himself with being a foe of evangelism. By what process of logic, then, do brethren reach the conclusion that one who opposes institutional homes for the aged and orphan opposes the care of the aged and orphan? At the risk of being charged with a maudlin appeal for sympathy and with feigned martyrdom, I should like to plead for a careful, fair, prayerful, thoughtful study of the scriptural problems involved in the establishment and/or maintenance of institutional homes for the aged and the orphan by the church.

I have, along with a respectable number of reputable men in the church, definite convictions on these matters that are sincerely entertained as a result of years of study and observation. We are not infallible. We could be wrong. Those who differ from us are likewise not infallible. They too could be wrong though some write and speak as if such were a thing impossible. The discussion of these matters uncandidly or in a spirit of bitterness with victory and retaliation as our motives can result only in evil both to the participants and the Cause of he Lord we mutually profess to love. Since all of us are cognizant of our obligation to endeavor to keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace," since none of us desires to do or say that which would harm unfortunate children or aged persons, and since all of us are dedicated to the principle of "speaking where the Bible speaks and remaining silent where the Bible is silent," a careful, earnest probing of the issues that confront us in the light of the teaching of God's Word is unquestionably in order.

It has been a source of considerable satisfaction to many, therefore, that Brother Guy N. Woods has recently published in the Gospel Advocate a series of articles in defense of the institutional homes for children and the aged among the brethren. Brother Woods is at once an elegant writer and an experienced and skillful controversialist. He is representative of the Gospel Advocate since he is a staff writer and an editor of some of their Bible school literature. While once "vocal" on "institutionalism," Brother Woods has been strangely silent the past few years on brotherhood trends. We rejoice that we now have the benefit of his genius on these vexing and disturbing questions. If there is a man in the brotherhood who can prove "our" institutions to be scriptural, no doubt Brother Woods can. If he fails, it is doubtful that there can be found one who can do better. Perhaps, Brother Woods is holding back something with which he has not favored his readers. If not, his effort to date has been disappointing, but we shall examine what he has presented as carefully and candidly as it is possible for us so to do. While the spirit and tone of Brother Woods' articles have not been impeccable, yet his writings have certainly been free of the rancor and bitterness of some. It shall be our purpose to be courteous and above all Christian in the review to follow. Look for article number two wider the title, "Brother Woods Past and Present."