Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 23, 1956
NUMBER 41, PAGE 14-15a

Overton's "Cool Air" Warmed

C. Welch. Louisville. Kentucky

Get out your overcoats, brethren! Brother Basil Overton has blown in a cold norther by way of the Gospel Advocate, December 22, 1955. His article has the frigid, stinging title: "Cool Air and Carpets," and "Artificial Needs." He justifies churches contributing to human institutions on the grounds of air conditioning in church buildings, carpets on the floors of church auditoriums and flowers on the pulpit. He and some other preachers of Richmond, Kentucky can now get together on this matter. He should be able to help the digressives there to justify their organs on the grounds of churches having seats, lights and hymn books. They have had the socks whipped off them, but perhaps Brother Overton can help them; for it is precisely the same argument, only applied to a different addition to God's word.

So far as his writing goes, Brother Overton does not know the difference between an incidental and an institution. He has discarded the "carpet" for a tile floor and waxed it so slick with human judgment that he has slid right straight into human institutions for doing the work of the divine institution, the church. He shivers with the cold idea that some preachers are inconsistent who during meetings stay in hotel rooms which are paid for by the church while believing and teaching that it is a violation of the Scriptures for churches to make contributions to human institutions like modern orphanages. He shows in his article that he does not recognize the difference between a church's paying for a room for the preacher and making a contribution to the hotel.

Difference Between An Orphan Home And An Organization

The implication of his article is that those who oppose the church's contributing to the human institutions for orphans actually oppose the church's supporting the orphans. Such an implication is baseless and false, and a misapprehension of the issue. It is an appeal to sentiment and prejudice. It surprises me that Brother Overton would succumb to such an appeal, much less resort to its use against others. Notice the following sample of his prejudicial appeal:

"According to some it is a terrible sin for a church to take money out of 'the church treasury' and send it to a place where little boys and girls who do not have `mommies and daddies' are being fed and clothed and trained mentally, socially, physically, and spiritually!"

Who is it, Brother Overton, who objects to the support of "little boys and girls who do not have mommies and daddies"? Where is the preacher or church opposed to the church's helping such pathetic little children? Such has not been the argument made in sermon and writing which supposedly you are criticizing.

There is need greater than food and clothing, the gospel that men might be saved. The former only involves the temporal, the latter has to do with eternity. Will Brother Overton apply his prejudicial sophistry in this realm? On the same basis of the right of the church to support the human institution for the care of orphans, he will have justified the church's support of the human institution for preaching the gospel. He speaks of sending to "a place." The missionary society can be called "a place" just as rightly as the human society for orphans can be called "a place." To call the orphan home society "a place" is only a dodge to confuse the issue. The society may own property at a definite place; the place where the orphans are sheltered is not the question; but, the church support of the society is the thing questioned.

Orphan Societies Become Artificial Needs

His coldest blast is against the argument frequently made that the orphan homes as they now exist are artificial needs. He says:

"It has been recently written that brethren are creating 'artificial needs' by establishing orphan homes. Preachers are piously crying out in no uncertain terms against congregations that contribute money to such orphan homes . . . . Nobody has created an 'artificial need' by bringing a group of orphans under one roof. Doing this does not even create a need! . . . Some preachers are saying that if a church sends money to such a place it is contributing its money to an 'artificial need'."

From the above quotations it is readily observed that Brother Overton does not make a distinction between the orphans and the society which has been formed to care for them. It is the society, the orphan home, which is the artificial need, not the children. Churches have done so and can continue to care for the needy orphan without ever contributing to a needy society. The orphanage societies among us are not divine organizations, they are not even "natural" organizations. They speak of themselves as "substitutions" for the normal home or family. Now, if they are neither divinely appointed by revelation nor by nature, they must be artificial organizations. Hence, if the artificial organization is in need it will be an artificial need.

Brother Overton is not willing to follow his own teaching to its conclusion. In one place he tries to match the eloquence of Pendleton in his defense of the missionary society:

"This writer has no particular objection to a preacher's staying in a hotel during a series of meetings (he is staying in one while he writes this article) or a preacher's being paid well for his services in such a series of efforts. But, if I thought it were wrong for a church to contribute to an orphan home where hungry children are fed, I would move out of the hotel and sleep on the floor in the home of one of the brethren if necessary before I would let the church pay the room bill."

He compares the church's paying of his room bill at the hotel and his being well paid for a meeting with the church's contribution to the orphan homes. If his feeling for the societies is that great, how can he conscientiously allow himself to be "well paid" by the church and have the church paid hotel room while the church sends only "twenty-five or thirty dollars" to one of these societies? This last amount is the one set by him in the article. Is that all he is being paid for his efforts? I wonder who is the "inconsistent" preacher?

No Scriptural Authority For Church Supported Human Societies

He objects to our asking for the scriptural authority for taking 'money from the church treasury for these societies in the following quotation:

"I wonder if while they were looking they found an example, where funds were taken out of the money collected on the first day of week and given to a preacher, or contributed to any cause except that of caring for the needy."

Brother Overton seems not to have read any passage on the purpose of giving except 1 Corinthians 16. He has forgotten that Paul received wages of other churches (2 Cor. 11:18) while preaching at Corinth. He does not remember that the church at Philippi sent once and again to Paul's need. (Phil. 4:15, 16.) He overlooks the fact that Paul is speaking of this first day of the week collection and says that if it is bountiful "God is able to make all grace abound unto you; that ye, having always all sufficiency in everything, may abound unto every good work" (2' Cor.9:8.) The church supported preaching and other good work out of its treasury, Brother Overton, and, by revelation, the day for collection into that treasury is the first day of the week. For that which you ask, we have scriptural authority. But where is the authority for the church contributing out of its treasury to human societies like orphan homes, schools, papers, and the like?

Well, this bit of "cold air" has moved on "out at sea." He promises us, however, that another mass of cold air is forming, that he will deal "candidly" with "the subject of the orphan home being an institution separate and apart from the church." He warns us to watch for that article, and please read it." We will be watching for it, with our old overcoats buttoned tight, the wood pile replenished and the fire lots piled high. In the meantime, we will be busy reading the Bible and trying to follow its precepts.