Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 22, 1957
NUMBER 16, PAGE 8-10a

Brother Warren's, Parallels And Alternatives

Bryan Vinson, Sr., Tulsa, Oklahoma

(Foreword: This reply to Brother Warren's article of inquiry, "Do They Really Believe They Are Parallel?", which appeared in the Gospel Advocate was sent to that journal several weeks ago, with the request that should it not be printed to return it in the enclosed, self-addressed, stamped envelope. It was neither published nor returned. It occurred to me that since Brother Warren was seeking information through the Advocate, he would be expecting to receive it through the same medium. But it is evident he sent it to the wrong paper if such were his expectations! If he sent the article either expecting no reply at all, or through some other medium than the Advocate, then he must have wanted the readers of the Advocate to see his inquiry without having the opportunity to see such answers as might be made thereto. If so, he must have wanted some to think his article unanswerable! Why? Well, I'll leave the impugning of motives to him, since he is so adept in this field.)

In the May 16th issue of the Gospel Advocate brother Thomas B. Warren has an article headed in the form of an inquiry: "Do They Really Believe They Are Parallel?" Since he thus is seeking information as suggested by the interrogatory form of the title of this article, and, too, that he is seeking it through the avenue of the Gospel Advocate, it is reasonable that the information be given on the pages of the Advocate. Hence, the propriety of sending this reply to the Gospel Advocate.

The charge of brother Warren is that those who oppose the institutional orphan homes, currently sustained by the churches, are pressing the claim that such homes are parallel to the Missionary Society of the Christian church. He then sets forth six points wherein he endeavors to establish an inconsistency in the attitude, respectively, toward the homes and the society by those whose position he is appraising. I feel that he is entitled to an answer, and while disavowing all claims of stating the views and convictions of others, I think it altogether appropriate to give him my own personal reaction to his inquiry.

First may it be observed that the comparison between the homes and the society is, or should be, made with regard to the infant or childhood state of the society rather than its present Frankenstein stature. This is true because the homes are comparatively of recent birth, however much they are increasing in numbers and in the demands for suffrage from the churches. It is rather confusing to think that in this day of prosperity, in our land of plenty, the churches are confronted with so many orphans who are the legitimate responsibility of the congregations, and this in the face of the fact so many people want to adopt children into their own homes.

His first point, in his array of inconsistencies, is the statement we admit we can support individually the homes, but deny that we can individually contribute to the Missionary Society. In a tone of triumph he says we deny our own argument, and then knowingly asserts that we "know the homes and the Missionary Society are not parallel". Then why did he ask if we believe they are parallel? Brother Warren, if you know that we know they are not parallel, but do not know but that we believe they are parallel, then you think it possible for one to believe a thing to be true which he knows is not true! On what kind of logic have you been feeding? Your repeated assertion that we know and admit them to not be parallel shows you aren't seeking an answer to the question that serves as the title of your article. Yes, your question, "Do They Really Believe They Are Parallel?" implies that one may believe and not really believe, or rather that one may affect to believe that which they do not; that is, it is a feigned faith, consequently pretending to believe a proposition when in reality such isn't true. But what prompts one to insincerely avow a conviction, except for some ulterior and selfish motive? Doubtless, you have reviewed the lives and fortunes of the apostles, not to prove the truth of the gospel primarily, but to establish the sincerity of its proclaimers; then associate that fact with the competency of the apostles to testify regarding the facts alleged concerning Christ. Why did their lives and fortunes prove their sincerity? Simply because they revealed no mercenary or temporal advantage accruing to them in consequence of their contention. Now, please tell us the inducement the present situation offers for us to affect a belief which we know is false? Any effort to impugn motive or impeach character will neither help resolve the issue nor cause rejoicing in heaven.

As for myself, I do not believe I can consistently contribute as an individual to an orphan home which is sustaining a relation of dependency to the church and receiving contributions from congregations to do a general work of benevolence. As an individual I can in good conscience make a contribution to a human organization which is divorced from the church, be it the Red Cross, a College, and an Orphan Home which in practice adheres to the theory currently advocated by the Superintendent of Boles Home; namely, a human institution which sustains no relation to the church, but from which the church can buy services as in the case of a hospital. But one which is the creature and ward of the churches to do their work is parallel in that essential element to the missionary societies. With this distinction made and understood, I am sure brother Warren can see his charge of inconsistency is ill-founded, and thus his first point becomes pointless.

His second point has to do with that of buying a service. He says: "Those who oppose the homes among us admit that churches can scripturally buy a service from the homes among us." Who is he talking about in this statement? Above all others he must have brother Gayle Oler in mind inasmuch as he contends, currently, that such is the proper status of Boles Home in relation to the church. Brother Oler teaches, so I understand, that contributions to the home are but the buying in advance the services of the home in the realm of child care, and that such is parallel to buying the services of a hospital, a radio station or a hotel. Now whether brother Warren, with all his exceptional powers of logical acumen, thinks so I gravely doubt. If he wishes to assert that brother Oler knows that such isn't parallel, then he may do so.

Whether brethren can buy a service or product from the Missionary Society or not would depend on what they have to offer and what brethren need. Should it be conceded that they may in any given instance, I do not see how it would either scripturally or logically follow that the churches could make contributions to it. Publishing houses and even congregation have been known to buy books and lesson materials from the Publishing companies of the Digressives, which I understand are under the control of the Board of Publication of the Christian church. Personally, I do not think they should even if it be granted they can, because I'm suspicious of all which comes from a corrupted stream. Too, for a congregation to buy groceries from a grocery to feed some needy saints isn't equal to contributing from the treasury of the church to the grocery, do you think brother Warren?

His third point to the effect that some who oppose the homes say that "if the homes among us, or homes like them, were placed under the oversight of a set of elders, they then would be scriptural". However, since I am not one of the some who so think, I feel no incumbency to answer the charge of endeavor to extricate myself from the difficulty posed. I have never been able to see how a thing can be unscriptural and be made scriptural by putting it under the oversight of elders.

On the other hand, it is clearly conceivable that many institutions may exist as scripturally sanctioned, but would forfeit such sanction by being placed under the oversight of elders, inasmuch as they can scripturally oversee only a congregation of the Lord. I know of no organization, either smaller or larger, or other than, a local congregation over which they can function as bishops. Do you, brother Warren?

The crux of the whole matter pertaining to the homes and the missionary societies, in relation to the essential difference, is brought to the force by him in his fourth point. Here is the area where the two are not parallel. The right of existence, basically, of the two is where the parallel does not obtain. The character of the society is determined by the purpose of its existence; namely, to expedite the execution of the mission of the church. It is the mission of the church to preach the gospel; this obligation rests on no other organized body of people in the world other than the churches of Christ. Therefore, the society exists only to do that which peculiarly is the responsibility of the churches, and was designed to assume their responsibility. Assuming their responsibility, quite naturally it expected their support. If any collective effort can supplant the church in doing its work, then quite properly can the church maintain by its contributions such a legitimate organized effort. But to deny the right of existence to such an organization renders impossible every right of the churches to support it, or for individuals to contribute to that which has no right to exist and function. But orphan homes may exist; that is, organized bodies to function in the realm of benevolence without intruding necessarily into the peculiar province of the churches. Why? Because material benevolence is not the mission of the church; that is, the church is not designed peculiarly and exclusively to function in the field of benevolence. The care of the needy, the aged and the fatherless is a duty of a general scope and nature in society. In such efforts individuals, who are Christians, can "do good to all men," along with other citizens of the community when such is divorced from organized religion.

But when brethren create and organize an institution to assume the functions of the churches in the field of material benevolence, then such becomes parallel to the society in the relation thus established with the churches. It becomes an instrumentality designed to function for the churches generally, and constitutes an organization which assumes the position of the centralized agent of the churches generally. This makes it parallel to the society in this essential and fundamental feature, which is the primary point of indictment against the society!

The fifth point is set forth in the form of an assertion to the effect that we believe in the box-in-the-vestibule. I am not one of those who favor a box in the vestibule for any purpose whatsoever. Brother Warren, do you favor congregational support of colleges, or just individual support? If just the latter would you favor a box in the vestibule as a repository for such contributions? If so, do you favor special collections form brethren when they are gathered together in their congregational capacity to worship God? Now, if you favor these arrangements for extracting contributions from individuals while objecting to congregations as such contributing to a college, then endeavor to reconcile your position with the one you occupy as a critic of the box in the vestibule suggestion to which you allude. Your success with the former will dissolve the force of your contention in regard to the latter.

The sixth and final indictment of inconsistency preferred involves the question of fellowship. It is true that I can-and do, and will- fellowship brother Warren and others who believe the homes are scriptural. Brother Warren, when you thought they were unscriptural (as I understand you did until recently) did you fellowship those who favored the homes, while not fellowshipping the Missionary Society proponents? How could you, if you did, do so consistently? As a matter of fact the question of fellowship has prematurely and prejudicially been injected into this discussion. It has been injected by those who favor the centralized and sponsoring church operations in vogue. It has assumed the form of chiding us for fellowshipping them, as though they wished we would not! Such has the appearance of wanting a broken fellowship, and endeavoring to place on us the onus of producing the break desired. This is altogether lamentable: The Missionary Society issue existed and was discussed freely pro and con for twenty years prior to the introduction of the instrument of music which became necessarily, because of its corruption of the worship, the immediate cause of division. Certainly forbearance, restraint and fraternal affection should prevail while we study together the question in dispute, and whoever advocates, agitates and causes a break in the ranks of God's people will have a serious charge to face in the last day. Yes, I think most likely the proper relations of cordiality and good will were sustained between congregations where one contributed to the society and another did not during those early years of its existence. The officious and proscriptive spirit which arose and asserted itself in the ranks of the liberal element brought forth from Moses E. Lard as severe a castigation as I ever read, and he was an apologist for the society! No defense of the present arrangements and organized efforts among us can be made beyond that which he made for the societies, yet he deplored and condemned their divisive tendencies. There is no one who surpasses today, among their defenders, as a scholar and logician, the great and matchless Lard, who was esteemed by Campbell as the most precocious student he ever taught.

In conclusion brother Warren lays down the alternatives of either admitting the homes and society to be parallel in all his points alleged, and by implication either fellowship the digressives or disfellowship him, or, second, admit the two are not parallel in any essential element, and, thereby surrender our objections to the homes, or find other grounds on which to rest our objections. I have failed to discover the inexorable necessity for accepting either alternative, despite his logical efforts to establish such a predicament for me. In the meanwhile I just think I shall continue to study and reverence God's Word, and endeavor to learn and accept every truth I can elicit therefrom, either by my own efforts or the help of brother Warren or any other brother who is willing to help me in such an endeavor. If such involves me in inconsistency in any particular, it only proves me wrong to that extent, but can never prove brother Warren's position to be right. The inconsistency of an opponent never proves the truth of the other side.