Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 22, 1955
NUMBER 33, PAGE 10-11a

"The Matter Of Caring For Orphans"

John T. Overbey, Albuquerque, New Mexico

In this article we should like to consider some things that Brother Lyles has to say on the care of orphans, but before we get into that there are a few statements made by Brother Lyles that need some attention:

(1) Brother Lyles says: "The argument is often made that cooperation destroys church autonomy. Well, now I don't believe that. I want you to know that I will be as much against destroying church autonomy as anybody and I want this understood: the idea of churches sending their money into one church and letting those elders determine how that money is spent with the home church having no say in the matter, I don't believe that is right. I think a church would lose its autonomy in a case like that. But I am going to be honest with you, I don't know anybody doing that. If there are those in the brotherhood doing that I don't know of it. I have heard some that were accused of it but I'll believe it when I see it." Now, Brother Lyles, you may have heard the argument made that the Herald of Truth type of cooperation destroys church autonomy, but you certainly have not heard an intelligent man, a man who has a knowledge of the scriptures, make the argument that cooperation on a scriptural basis destroys church autonomy, for it doesn't. You, like a lot of other preachers I know, would like to lead people to believe that such an argument as you have suggested is being made; and you have been successful in many cases, but it simply is not so. I believe in cooperation as taught in the scriptures and preach it and encourage people to practice it — and that is that!, your opinion to the contrary, not-withstanding.

Brother Lyles says that he doesn't believe it is right for churches to send their money "into one church and letting those elders determine how that money is spent with the home church having no say in the matter — a church would lose its autonomy in a case like that." But he says, "I don't know anybody doing that." Again, I say, Brother Lyles, you should inform yourself, especially when you are "lecturing" to a group of people on this matter. For your information, there is at least one church in the brotherhood doing exactly what you say is wrong. Now, if you don't believe it, just write the elders of the church at Fifth and Highland in Abilene and ask them for a copy of the little booklet, "That The Brethren May Know." If they are not now ashamed of it. and still have a copy, they will send you one. You read that booklet and you will find out that there is one church in the brotherhood that exercises "absolute control" of the monies contributed to them by a 1080 other churches, and furthermore those elders "determine" how and where that money will be spent. You don't have to take my word for it, you can "see that for yourself ,Now, if it turns out that they won't send you a copy of their booklet, I'll let you borrow my copy until you have had time to study it. Is that fair enough?

(2) Again, Brother Lyles says, "I don't know of any church that believes in sending money to a college. And I don't know of any church that is doing it." On this point I suggest that Brother Lyles get a copy of the Indianapolis Debate and inform himself. Totty and Watson affirmed in that debate "It is Scripturally right for churches to contribute money from the church treasuries to support what is commonly called a Bible College in its work." Then, he might consult G. C. Brewer and find out what churches are making such contributions. Brother Brewer says that every church for which he has preached has practiced such.

"The Matter Of Orphan Work"

Brother Lyles cites the following Old Testament scriptures: Psalm 68:5; Jer. 5:25-29; Isa. 10:1, 2; Mal. 3:5 with the following comment "Now all that gets before us the Lord's attitude in the Old Testament, and that is that the orphans are to be cared for — as he said, "the fatherless and the widows." Now as to anything that God said in the Old Testament as to how they did it, I don't remember reading it."

In the first place, I don't know of anyone who thinks that orphans and widows are not to be cared for. I see no reason why that statement should have been made unless it was made for prejudicial purposes. Those who favor human institutional orphan homes would like to lead people to believe that those of us who are opposed to such are not in favor of caring for the unfortunate among us. But that simply is not so!

Now, "I don't remember reading" in the Old Testament about an orphan or widow home, but I do recall having read the book of Ruth many times, and in that short book I read about three women who were bereft of their husbands, but nothing about their being consigned to an institution for widows! But what has that to do with the matter of the care of orphans as taught in the New Testament?

The real issue involved in the orphan and widow question can best be stated by a quotation from "A Preacher of Righteousness" by Underwood, Page 247:

"Now, Brother Nichol, the question is this: Is there any difference in principle between the church giving to an orphan home with a board other than the elders of the local church and this same or any other church giving to a mission program that employs a board of directors other than the elders of a single congregation to take the oversight and direction?

"To this question Brother Nichol replied: 'There is no difference.' He added: 'Even a body in a local congregation separate from the eldership, which might be selected to be directors in that congregation, over a given work, would be an unscriptural body. The elders must have direct oversight'."

James 1:27

The manner in which the brethren are using Jas. 1:27 reminds me of a Baptist preacher using Rom. 8:1 or some similar passage to prove the impossibility of apostasy. To take Jas. 1:27 out of its setting and say that it teaches that the church must "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction," is a flagrant, floundering misuse of the scripture. That the church must look after her orphans and widows no one denies, but this passage is not the one that teaches it.

Beginning with verse seventeen of chapter one and continuing through chapter two, James is discussing the subject of true or pure religion. In verses seventeen and eighteen he discusses the source of it. Verses nineteen and twenty convey the mental attitude of the one who possesses it. Verses twenty-one through twenty-five tell how the religious man hears. Verse twenty-six tells him that he ought to bridle his tongue. Verse twenty-seven tells him that he must look after the orphans and widows and keep himself pure. Chapter two, verses one through thirteen, teaches that a man who is 'truly religious will have the proper attitude toward his poor brother. Verses fourteen through twenty-six teach that in true or pure religion faith and works are inseparable. Everything from chapter 1:17 through chapter 2:26 applies to the individual and anyone who can see through a ladder with all the rungs knocked out ought to be able to see it!


By now it must certainly be obvious to the reader by now that Brother Lyles' "lecture" did not in any way meet the issues he was purportedly to discuss. He did not show that it is scripturally right for a plurality of congregations to combine their funds into the treasury on one congregation, and under its supervision conduct a program of work to which they all stand equally related. He did not show that it is scripturally right for the church to do her benevolent work through a human institution, such as Boles Home, Tennessee Orphan Home, Child Haven, etc.

About the only thing that can be said for sure about his "lecture" is that he put all of us who are opposed to these things in the camp with the "Antis." I say, he put us there; he alleged that we are in the camp with the "Antis."

The truth of the matter is, there can not be any scripture adduced in support of these activities, and the very best that can be done by those who are in favor of them is to make false charges against those who oppose them. Such sophistry surely must be observable to sincere students of the Bible. We sincerely hope and pray that it is.