Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1956

The Porter-Woods Debate - II.

J. P. Lusby, Amarillo, Texas

In the Indianapolis debate between Brother Woods and brother Porter on whether or not the churches have a scriptural right to build and maintain benevolent organizations through which to do their benevolent works, brother Woods argued the benevolent organization is simply a method. Brother Porter insisted the discussion was not purely and simply a question of methods, but organizations. He repeatedly called brother Woods' attention to the fact that the proposition so read, and insisted he defend the human organizations embraced in his proposition for which there is no scriptural authority. Porter pointed out that no one was denying our obligation, but through what are we to discharge this obligation? Do the scriptures authorize the churches to set up human institutions, "boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament," as Woods one timed phrased it, through which this work is to be done?

Porter's Chart

The following chart, used by Porter, was very disconcerting to Woods:

Fig. 1: Porter - The Church and Human Organisations

Woods was unable to adequately point out the difference once. His feeble reply was the missionary society is a "machine using means" and the benevolent organization is simply a "means" itself; and he accused Porter of using the term organization in one sense on one side of his chart, but in an altogether different sense on the other side. Everyone using discernment could see clearly that it was Woods, not Porter, who was shifting on the meaning of the word organization.

Woods' Chart

Woods with great confidence presented the following chart:

Fig. 2: Woods - Organizations In Different Categories

His argument based on this chart was that the Post Office Department does not rival the Federal Government, the Highway Department does not rival the State Government, the Homes for the Aged do not rival the Masonic Lodge, the Orphanages of the Catholic Church do not rival the Catholic Church, and likewise the Orphanages and Homes for the Aged created by the churches of Christ do not rival the churches which created them. He concluded with saying: "That, friends, is the sense in which I am talking about the word organization."

I was stunned and chagrined. It was incredible that such a line of reasoning would be employed by a gospel preacher! He is hard pressed indeed who must shy from the word of God and seek asylum in the Federal Government, the Masonic Lodge, and, of all things, the Catholic Church, in his wild and frantic search for scriptural authority for practices of the churches of Christ!

Porter's Reply

Porter, in a calm and dignified manner, patiently and forcefully pointed out the following:

The organizations on the right side of the chart are organizations within the organizations on the left side of the chart. The principle is an organization within an organization. The Federal Government exercises legislative authority in creating the Post Office Department. The State Government exercises legislative authority in setting up the Highway Department. Likewise, the Masonic Lodge and the Catholic Church use Legislative power in bringing into being Orphanages and Homes for the Aged. All this necessitates legislative power. Who has legislative authority in the churches of Christ today?

The Catholic Church not only has Orphanages and Homes for retired Priests and Nuns, but also Missionary Societies, and even Foreign Missionary Societies. To be sure, a door has been opened for Missionary Societies in the churches of Christ.

Woods' Confusion

Guy took the following positions in the debate:

Number 1

The orphan home is not the church, that is the reason it is right. If it were the church, it would be wrong.

Number 2

By organization we mean simply a way or means, not something separate and apart from the church — that would be wrong.

In position number one Guy takes the benevolent organization out of the church. In position number two he puts it back in. In position one it had to be out to make it right; but in position two it had to be in to keep it from being wrong! But whether it is out or in "the orphan home is not doing the work of the church, but of the home," so averred our esteemed, but confused brother.

A Riddle

It is not the church. Neither is it something separate and apart from the church. Nor is it doing the work of the church. What is it?

It would appear that some brethren think the church is God's missionary society, but not God's benevolent organization.

Porter's Chart

Fig. 1: Porter - Law And Expediency

This chart, introduced and used by Porter, is self explanatory. In column one are the things commanded. In column two are items included in the commands. Column three contains illustrations of perversions. Listed under column four are incidental entries. And things which are manifestly additions to the commands are catalogued under column five.

Porter's affirmative read: IT IS CONTRARY TO THE SCRIPTURES FOR CHURCHES TO BUILD AND MAINTAIN BENEVOLENT ORGANIZATIONS FOR THE CARE OF THE NEEDY, SUCH AS THE BOLES HOME, THE TIPTON HOME AND OTHER ORPHAN HOMES AND HOMES FOR THE AGED THAT ARE AMONG US. The above chart was introduced the first night of. this affirmative. I was unable to stay for the following night, which was the closing night, of the discussion. If Guy made any serious attempt to examine and reply to this chart he did so on the final night. About all he said the night it was introduced was: Where is brother Porter on the chart? Porter replied: Suppose Porter is in the Christian Baptizing Association, would you endorse it? Guy saw fit to observe the passover on this question!

Woods' Chart

Fig. 2: Woods - The whole of anything is the sum of its parts.

The argument in the chart above was developed by Tom Warren and Roy Deaver. Guy gave them credit for it, and praised it as one of the best arguments he had seen in twenty five years preaching and one hundred debates. This seems destined to become the argument by which all organizations and practices unknown to the Bible shall be given scriptural sanction! Brother Harper used it in the Abilene debate in an attempt to justify the Herald of Truth, and now brother Woods exalts it to highest honors as justification for the churches' building and maintaining benevolent organizations. Brother Porter showed that it also may be used, in the following parallelism, to justify the missionary society!

Porter's Chart

Fig. 3: Porter - A Deadly Parallel To Woods' Chart.

Porter called attention to the astonishing fact that Woods had left out completely from his chart the matter under dispute, and that he should add point number four, viz., Churches have a scriptural right to build and maintain human organizations through which to do it. This simple item, point four, left out by Woods, but essential to the point at difference, would change the whole complexion of Woods' chart and Warren's argument! In fact, it was the only point at issue!

All-Sufficiency Of The Church

This debate involved a fundamental question: Is the church all-sufficient to do the work God wants done, or must it erect human organizations through which to accomplish God's purpose?

"Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end." Eph. 3:21. "And ye are complete in him ..." Col. 2:10. Let us praise him, adore him, worship him, and serve him. Let us ascribe greatness, glory, honor, power, and thanksgiving unto his holy name. Let us be loyal unto CHRIST and to HIS CHURCH. Let us do the work he wants done through the organization he set up to do it — the local church.