Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 20, 1956
NUMBER 33, PAGE 5-7b

A Rebuttal Of Warren's Affirmative

Bob Crawley, Birmingham, Alabama

Thomas B. Warren's "constituent elements" syllogism is still with us. It seems to form a common bond among defenders of the modern centralization arrangements among the churches. E. It. Harper used it to defend "Herald of Truth" in his debate with Yater Tant in Abilene. Guy Woods used a form of it to defend the institutional orphan homes in debating Curtis Porter in Indianapolis. We were, therefore, interested in seeing Brother Warren use it himself in defending "sponsoring churches" in his recent debate with Cecil B. Douthitt in Houston. So long as the syllogism is used in defense of these unscriptural arrangements, just that long we will continue to expose its fallacies.

In his debate with Douthitt, Warren rested the entire case for his proposition upon the arguments which comprise this syllogism. While we await publication of this debate, we want to re-examine the ground upon which the proposition rests. A printed outline of his arguments was distributed on the final night of the debate and forms the subject of this review (see "Warren's Affirmative" elsewhere in this paper). We shall not discuss his definition of terms for, after all, they simply tell us what Brother Warren means by them. Such terms as are untenable will be treated as we come 'to them in the course of the arguments. Further, we do not question the "validity" of his syllogism. Its form is quite acceptable. His case can rest squarely upon the arguments which form his major and minor premises.

The major premise, "All total situations the constituent elements (component parts) of which are scriptural are total situations which are scriptural," is an adaptation of the mathematical axiom, "The whole is equal to the sum of its parts," which cannot be assumed to apply outside the realm of pure mathematics where the measure of invariable quantity is the only thing under consideration. It certainly cannot apply where the very value of any component part is entirely dependent upon its relationship to the whole and to the other component parts, as is the case in Warren's proposition ("The Scriptures teach that one church may contribute to another church which has assumed the oversight of a work to which both churches sustained the same relationship before the assumption of the oversight").

In some scripture studies, Warren's major premise seems to apply, but Warren apparently has failed to realize that they are entirely different in kind from the "total situation" of his proposition. In the case of proving the scripturalness of worship by a separate proof of singing, praying, breaking bread, and giving, it should be noted that each of these elements is a separate act and not dependent upon any of the other components of worship for its own significance in the total situation. Also in the case of proving the identity, of the church, each identifying element (name, worship, organization, creed, etc.) stands or falls alone and does not depend upon upon any other element for its own contribution to the situation. In the case of Warren's proposition, however, the component parts are not independent acts, or separate entities, but are qualifying conditions of each other and dependent upon one another for their very meaning in the total situation. The real issue in theproposition is the scripturalness, not of the component parts, but of their relationship to one another in this particular situation. We grant the scripturalness of most of his various elements (if correctly understood); but not as they are combined into a single situation. To use Brother Douthitt's apt illustration, just as "Tabernacle," "Baptist," "Church" are each separately scriptural names for separate things, but all taken together, they are not a scriptural name for anything.

As an example of the above, none of us would question the scripturalness of a man's receiving donations from the church under certain conditions of need. Neither would any doubt the scriptural right of a man to distribute his goods among friends and neighbors at his own discretion. However, we should all deny that both of these separately scriptural practices would be scriptural if combined into one situation, in which a man deliberately gives away all that he has, purposely impoverishing himself in order to become an object of the charity of the church.

For example, further, no one of us questions the scriptural right of a church to undertake and perform various legitimate projects (gospel meetings, tract distribution, or even an international radio broadcast) in the fulfillment of its general obligation to preach the gospel. Neither do any of us question the right of a church to send funds to another church to alleviate its poverty. However, it does not follow that both of these conditions can scripturally exist in the same situation. The very moral significance of both these component parts is changed by putting them into the same total situation. it is certainly fallacious thinking to assume from the above components that a church is scripturally authorized to voluntarily over-reach its ability, impoverish itself arbitrarily, and then deliberately recommend itself as an object of charity of other churches. Such, however, is the conclusion of Warren's major premise, and such is his own use of it. We can see the fallacies still further by a study of the minor premise of his syllogism.

In the minor premise, Brother Warren assumes the colossal task of proving the scripturalness of every element of his proposition, and each one as it relates to his total situation. This last, he reluctantly admits he must do. He must prove each element, not only to be scriptural, but to be a component part of his particular total situation. His total situation, too, is not just the loose term "church cooperation" which he avers, but the particular situation and arrangement for cooperation which he affirms in his proposition, just as "Tabernacle,". "Baptist," and "Church" must each be studied in the light of their being, not just names, but names for the same thing at the same time. Warren must not evade this responsibility.

Brother Warren asserts nine separate "constituent elements" and proceeds to study them separately, going into considerable detail in some cases. We shall take up his separate arguments in their order according to his outline. When each part is studied in the light of the total situation which he affirms, as he has lately admitted must be done, the failure of his proposition is monumental. For points being reviewed, see outline "Warren's Affirmative," "The Constituent Elements (Component Parts)."

1. Reference to this universal obligation to preach the gospel is irrelevant to Warren's proposition unless he infers that the obligation may be met by the particular arrangement he affirms. Such inference is completely without proof, and to assume it is to beg the question.

2. The right of a congregation to choose from various specific ways is not the unlimited right which this assertion would make it appear. Brother Warren, we are sure, would affirm as quickly as we that only those specific ways that are scripturally authorized may be chosen. Until it is proven that a church has a right to depend upon others to finance its own arbitrarily assumed projects, it cannot be granted that they can "will" to do any work beyond their resources. All along Warren wants us to give unqualified affirmative answers to points on which only qualified ones are scriptural.

3. This "doing" is limited, as is the "willing" of element number 2, by the power of the church's own resources, unless and until Warren can prove elsewhere that his total situation is scriptural. Notice! It is significant that while the total situation of Warren's proposition cannot be proved until the constituent elements are first proved, neither can the elements be proved without assuming the prior proof of the total situation. Such fallacy is a subtle error, and we humbly feel that it must be just such mistakes as this which earnest men like Brother Warren have made in concluding their proposition proven. It is a very normal error, and yet a very costly one.

4. Since the oversight of any congregation is scripturally limited to the oversight, not of a work as such, but of specific persons (its members) and their resources (I Peter 5:2), it naturally follows that unless a work involves the personnel or resources of a given congregation, that congregation would bear no relationship at all toward such work in the matter of oversight. It is a truism that two churches, each bearing no relationship at all to a projected work would, in that sense, be equal. Zero always equals zero.

5. Since a congregation's oversight is limited to its own members and their resources, and since, as Warren here well states, "One church cannot have the oversight of the work of another church," it follows that what has changed in this case is not a relationship to some work (in the abstract), but the state of the church itself has changed from inactivity to activity in this respect. If it now oversees a work, in any sense, which it did not oversee before, it is not the result of "assuming oversight" (an unscriptural concept), but the result of such work's being done by the members and their resources, and of these it had oversight all along. This is not at all comparable to a church's deciding to oversee some project which it lacks either personnel or resources to accomplish, being dependent upon overseeing that much of the province of some contributing church. This point, therefore, cannot be granted to Brother Warren as a component of his particular situation, so again his argument fails.

6. In this "constituent element," the principal weight of the entire proposition is felt to rest. Notice the wording of the argument, "Another church may give assistance to this church (to aid in the accomplishing of this specific work)." When we see what he means by "this church" and "this work" it is evident that if he could prove this one element, he would ha' e proven his proposition. You would think that upon fit ally getting down to the issue he would attempt to drive his point across by the kind of direct efforts he has made on previous points. Oh, no! Instead of going to the scriptures to prove such arrangements, which is the obligation of his proposition, he evades the issue all over again by launching out into what is really another series of would-be constituent elements of this original constituent element. Every time he happens upon the real issue, instead of facing it squarely, he dilutes his absence of proof in a series of "constituent elements," "component parts," or anything to distract the mind from noticing the failure of the argument. Nevertheless, notice that no matter how many elements he may adduce with which you can scripturally agree, he must always omit the element of the very arrangement which his proposition assumes to prove.

Under this point (number 6) Warren lists nine subtopics and then expands one of them in considerable detail. In all of this expansion of points, he adduces five passages of scripture (Acts 11:27-30; 15:22-32; Rom. 15:26; II Cor. 8:1-15; 11:8), no one of which, neither the sum of which, offers the slightest support to the point under which they were offered. The two conditions he has asserted, namely that a church may be an object of contribution from another church while at the same time it is able to arbitrarily assume the doing of work to which it previously bore no relationship as to oversight, are not present in these scriptures, or in any other scriptures. Warren finds ready proof for points that are actually irrelevant to the issue, and arrays this proof in such massive abundance that the undiscerning often fail to notice that the one real point of issue is un-met and unproven. If this were done deliberately it would be expert sophistry. Even when done unwittingly, it has been able to deceive many.

To say that elders may have oversight of accomplishing a work which is beyond their unaided ability to support, is one thing. It is quite a different thing to say, and Warren by his proposition does say, that they may deliberately assume such oversight, being unrelated to it otherwise. The scripture cited (Acts 11:27-30) actually denies the very conditions set forth in Warren's "total situation," so again he fails to find his own component parts in the scriptures. Instead, he finds them denied.

8. This ambiguous negative statement can be very misleading in the inference which Warren makes with it. To say that the "situation involving this specific work is not necessarily brought about by catastrophe" subtly infers that it might have been brought about by the conditions assumed in Warren's proposition. Warren knows that this is not the case. If he had thought so, he would have affirmed it, instead of making such an indefinite negative statement. Further, by saying "this work" he implies that it is the same work referred to in his preceding argument. But notice in the scriptures he uses (Acts 11:22-24; II Cor. 11:8) he has changed from "this" work to the doing of an entirely different kind of work. His terms shift gears from one kind of work to another kind with greater ease than Hydramatic. Notice them closely.

9. The use of this point as a component part of his total situation is a bit obscure as to its relevance. We can grant the truth of his statements in regard to each of these six points, because we have generic authority in the scripture for each of them, being required to do each of the six things mentioned in some unspecified way. To infer from this, however, that although churches have no specific obligation to give assistance to another church under the proposed conditions, that they have the right to do so (Is that Warren's inference?), is to ignore the entire question of scriptural authority. It is not yet correct to discuss the expediency of the matter. The very relationship it involves must first be proven scripturally lawful. This latter, Warren has signally failed to do.

Brother Warren's syllogism is manifestly the most ingenious defense yet made of the "sponsoring church" arrangement. It completely fails, however, to offer any ground upon which to stand logically and scripturally. Warren's major premise fails in the absence of proof that his "axiom" can logically apply to his situation. We have shown that actually it does not apply. His minor premise also fails because it does not establish scripturalness for the component parts of his particular total situation. When he runs into the real issue in component number six, he dodges further into a series of inadequate "proofs" (actually an incomplete, inadequate, and assumed group of components) of this original constituent element of his total situation. Thus this "component parts" argument is seen in its true light, as a means of circumventing the real issue by means of irrelevant and extraneous proofs and assertions.

The earnest purpose of this review is to assist Brother Warren and all others who have honestly relied upon these ingenious fallacies, to return to a position that may be maintained by a logical and unequivocal acceptance of the scripture.