Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 6, 1955
NUMBER 22, PAGE 8-9a

Letter To Brother Oler

Luther Blackmon, Houston, Texas

Dear Gayle, A lot of water has passed under the bridge since we last talked or exchanged letters. A lot of changes have been wrought. As far as I am concerned, our association was always pleasant and profitable. I have not forgotten the help you gave me when I was preaching in Cottonwood, Arizona, by boosting my work. A study of the orphan home question and other phases of the institutional question have worked a change in both my convictions and practise that have placed me "on the other side" from you in the current controversy. But in spite of this I still count you a friend, and certainly a brother in Christ. What I am about to say, therefore, is not designed either to hurt you or to retard any laudable or scriptural effort in which you may be engaged.

Several years ago I became convinced that a home like Boise Home could not scripturally exist. This conviction did not come without a struggle, because it meant a complete reversal of my teaching and practise of many years. I had been one of the more ardent advocates of orphan homes. Not only had the churches where I had labored in most instances supported these homes (especially Boles Home) but I had repeatedly said from the pulpit that if I were left with motherless children I would prefer that they be placed in Boles home rather than any private christian home. I know now that I was wrong, and I think most sober minded men will say that I was an extremist, but that was how I felt about it. I had not really given much thought to the scriptural aspects of it. I knew that some good men were opposed to such institutions, but I think I must have been a victim of the same sort of mass psychology that seems to afflict so many nowadays, that if enough people do a thing long enough, it must be right. And woe unto him who calls it in question.

With the recurrence of the old denominational idea that the "Church Universal" can function, manifested in the "Sponsoring Church" arrangements, came a consciousness of the need to restudy the whole area of the mission and organization of the church. Such a study brought many of us face to face with the reality that our preaching and our practise did not harmonize. I had preached most all of my preaching life that the only institution authorized in the scriptures for doing the work of the church was the local congregation. With this argument I smote the "Missionary Societies" hip and thigh, and the brethren nodded in fervent approval. "We" did not have any "Missionary Societies" among "us". Those things were over in the camp of the digressives. Then came the question of whether the churches could support from their treasuries the "Christian Colleges". Again I could see that this could not be sustained by the scriptures, and that colleges must serve as adjuncts of the home. In discharging their duties as parents to educate their children, I believe that as many parents as have the desire, can build as many schools as they can support and hire as many christians as they have funds to pay to teach their children anything that is right for them to know. But this is not the work of the church and I do not believe that there is anybody this side of heaven, and nobody there would try, who can prove by the scripturesthat it is right for the churches to support schools (whatever their purpose) from their treasuries. When reluctantly I turned my attention to the question of the scripturalness of Boles Home and others of similar organization and purpose, I could find no more place for them in the divine arrangement than for those things mentioned above.

I have not been able to see the differences between setting up a "Board of Directors" through which, and under the oversight and control of which, many churches do their benevolent work; and a "Board of Directors" (Missionary Society) through which and under the oversight of which many churches do their evangelistic work. Now Gayle if you can show me the difference I will welcome it. But don't give me the old brush-off by saying "show us a better way". Boles home is not a "way" to do benevolent work. It is an "institution". The institution has "ways" of doing things, but the institution is not a "way". I think there is a way, and I will make short work of this matter by saying that the way advocated by Brother John T. Lewis in his articles currently running in the Gospel Guardian pretty well set forth my convictions as to the way I believe that the Lord wanted us to care for, the orphans and the aged. But if I could not even suggest a way, would that relieve you of the responsibility of showing that the institution you operate calling upon churches support falls within the bounds of scriptural authority ?

Your attempts to meet the objections offered against the home have not been characterized by the forthrightness that brethren have a right to expect of a man in your position. They have been for the most part evasive, and often downright abusive. This ought not to be necessary. If a thing cannot be defended with better argument than I have thus far seen from your pen in defense of the home, then I am sure the Lord doesn't need that thing in His business. In your sheet called "Facts" dated Feb. 1, 1952 you say:

"As we have published repeatedly before, the elders of the church of Christ at Terrell, Texas have the responsibility of the oversight of Boles Home. They appoint a group of men to serve them regularly and properly in the management of the affairs of the Home. These men are answerable to the elders. So the criticism is untrue." This was written in answer to a criticism that the home was under a board of elders from several congregations and not under the elders of one church. The brother had said it was "unscriptural" because of this. Then in Boles Home News, dated October 10th, 1954 you say: "An institution or facility serving the church, or doing a good work as the church's servant is under no obligation to prove itself scriptural (authorized in the scripture) as to organization, origin or practice, i.e. hospitals, utility companies, banks. Even so of orphan homes.

"Elders of the church never ruled over anything but the church of Christ in their capacity as elders, as "head" of their houses they ruled their homes, but they were not elders over their own homes or any other homes." (Emphasis mine L. B.)

Now Gayle, if you have changed your mind I have no criticism to offer for that. And if Boles home were operated on the basis which you now claim for it I believe that it could be defended on the same basis as the college or hospital can be defended, as a privately owned and operated institution rendering service to individuals and churches. But you are not running it on that basis. Are you not still receiving money from churches whether they have children there or not? Would you advocate churches putting the hospitals in their budgets and making contributions to them just in case someone should come in who was a member of the church and not able to pay the bill? What is different about the way you finance and operate Boles home now from the way in which it was operated and financed before you declared that it was a service institution? Just your statement that the Home is parallel to a hospital or bank rendering service to the church does not make it that way.

In the last place and I bring this lengthy epistle to a close. Your letter appealing for a contribution on your present building program, which included a dollar bill with the request that it be returned accompanied by one or more has been received. I am sending you a dollar in another envelope and keeping the one you sent me.

I cannot forego expressing some surprise at this last effort by you to raise money. You have resorted to a species of appeal which has but recently been given attention in the Reader's Digest, and in their treatment of it they ascribe to such a method of extracting money a very low and base character. This article warns people against this form of money getting, and tells them that they are not liable for that which has been sent them without any solicitation, or under any obligation to return the article thus received.

However I have returned to you the dollar as I have no desire to keep it. Of course it doesn't require unusual intelligence to perceive that this plan is founded on the psychological consideration that no one will destroy, discard or lay aside a letter with a dollar in it or be disposed to keep it; hence the overwhelming likelihood that it will be returned and bring another with it.

Your reference to the passage from Matthew 26 — "For as much as ye did it unto one of the least of these .. .", thus ignoring who the "least of these" are as stated in the passage reflects an attitude on your part analogous to that of sectarian preachers who suppress "and is baptized" in Mark 16:16. It is a fearful thing to mishandle the word of God. If you do not know better then you ought to learn better, and if you do know better you had better repent for so wresting the scriptures.

Do you mean that a friend gave you the money with the request that you send it out as you have? I doubt that he wanted you to use it in this manner. While confident that your present scheme was born from an acquaintance with similar methods, as alluded to in the Reader's Digest, I am still wondering what passage of scripture you would rely on to sustain this action. Would it be Ecc. 11:1? "Cast they bread upon the waters: For thou shalt find it after many days". A modern application and practical demonstration is before us and may be paraphrased as follows: "Send your dollars forth into the mail, for thou shalt have them return to you with much increase in a few days."

Yours for a return to the simplicity which is in Christ.