The Porter-Woods Debate - (II.)
In our first article we pointed out how Brother Woods proved himself to be inconsistent. He walked into his own trap by his constant play on the word "organization." His continual plea was that the organizations such as Boles Home and Tipton are only means or methods by which the church is to care for the needy. So strongly did Brother Woods contend for these human institutions that he plainly affirmed that those who oppose the church support of them are favoring disorganized care of the needy. He argues for a corporate body through which the church is to do her benevolent work, but it is different with Brother Woods on the matter of teaching. He has maintained that Bible classes constitute a systematic arrangement by which the church is to do her teaching, but he has opposed putting the Bible classes under a board and making a corporate body out of the arrangement as is done by the denominations. Brother Porter read from Brother Woods in the 1944 Gospel Advocate, page 830, in which Brother Woods vigorously objected to sectarian Sunday Schools with boards. So, Brother Woods favors a corporate body through which the church is to do her benevolent work, but he opposes a corporate body through which the church is to do her teaching. Brother Woods is the last man on earth who should ever say anything about anyone's inconsistency. What position he will take apparently depends upon what he wants to justify. When he wants to defend the Bible class arrangement, a chartered institution would be wrong, but when he wants to justify his benevolent institutions, it is wrong not to have such institutions. His inconsistency on benevolence and teaching now makes him unsafe and unreliable to ever debate the class questions again, for, according to Brother Woods, we have disorganized Bible teaching. He is unsafe and unreliable to debate the digressives on the Missionary Society because while he looks upon corporate bodies through which to teach with disfavor, he favors corporate bodies through which to do benevolent work. The hands of Brother Woods are tied. One hand is tied to ever debate the anti-class brethren; the other hand is tied to ever debate the digressive brethren. Brother Woods is in a fix!
Brother Woods failed to distinguish the two different usages of the word "organization." His play was on the means or method and this is what got him into difficulty as is seen above. He failed to discuss the word "organization" from the standpoint of a body politic. Brother Woods, in an apparent effort to confuse the audience, playing hard upon the word "organization" in the sense of a method or arrangement. He averred that when a basket of food is taken to the needy, you have an organization. He even referred to Brother Porter's trip to the debate as an organization because it was a systematic arrangement. A man who does not know the difference between a method and a corporate body such as Boles Home or Tipton is in mighty bad shape. But Brother Woods knows the difference because he has made the proper distinction in the two usages of the word "organization" when he debated the anti-class brethren; that is why he opposed a corporate body through which to teach. Furthermore, Brother Woods understood before the debate what use of the word "organization" is involved because the kind of organization under consideration is stipulated in the terms of the proposition, "such benevolent organizations as Boles Home and Tipton." These are the types of organizations that Brother Woods was obligated to prove scriptural, but instead of trying to prove what is stipulated in his proposition, organizations as corporate bodies, he played on the word "organization" as a mere method or systematic arrangement.
But Brother Woods not only failed to recognize the difference in the two different usages of the word "organization," but he also tried to confuse the issue by referring to an organization as a place for the care of the needy. Brother Porter showed that since a place is required to preach the gospel, then according to Brother Woods we shall have to have a separate institution from the church through which to preach the gospel. If a human organization is necessary in order to fulfill the place in caring for the needy, then a human organization is likewise necessary in order to fulfill the place in preaching the gospel. Brother Woods did not deal with the issue. He tried to make it appear that the idea of organizations only involves means and methods and places where benevolent work is to be done. Brother Porter stressed that the discussion does not involve means and methods of caring for the needy, but the issue is whether or not churches can scripturally do their benevolent work through human organizations known as orphan homes and homes for the aged.
Brother Woods introduced a chart which had two parallel columns. In the left column he had the following placed in order: Federal Government, State Government, Masonic Lodge, Catholic Church, and the church. In the right column of the chart, he had the following placed in order, each one adjacent to the item on the left side: Post Office Department, Highway Department, and orphanages and homes for the aged. Brother Woods made the argument that the Federal Government has authorized the Post Office Department and although the Federal Government has established and maintains it, the Post Office Department is not a rival organization of the Federal Government. The State Government has authorized the Highway Department but the Highway Department is not a rival organization of the State. The Masonic Lodge has its orphanages and homes for the aged and while these benevolent organizations are authorized and maintained by the Masonic Lodge, they are not rival organizations of the Masonic Lodge. The Catholic Church has authorized the establishment and maintenance of orphanages and homes for the aged but these are not rival organizations of the Catholic Church. Brother Woods contended that while the churches establish and maintain such organizations through which these congregations do their work, these orphanages and homes for the aged are not rival organizations of the church. But Brother Porter showed that the chart is based upon, false premise He pointed out that although the Federal Government authorizes the Post Office Department, the scriptures do not authorize the church to build organizations through which to do her work. Brother Porter made it clear that there is a vast difference in the Catholic Church and the church of Christ. Authority is invested in the Catholic church, that is the very nature of her structure, but the Lord's Church recognizes the scriptures as her authority and the scriptures do not authorize the church to build any other institution through which to do her work. Here is where Brother Porter hit the fundamental fallacy of the proposition being affirmed by Brother Woods. (We shall have more to say on this in our next article.) But Brother Porter pointed out that the Catholic Church also maintains her Missionary Society. If, according to Brother Woods, her orphanages and homes for the aged are not rival organizations of the Catholic Church, then neither would the Missionary Society be a rival organization of the Catholic Church. Brother Porter asked Brother Woods why he did not also mention that the Catholic Church authorizes and maintains a Missionary Society. It is claimed by the digressive brethren that their Missionary Society is not a rival of the church. Brother Porter exposed the fallacy of the chart introduced by Brother Woods in that the argument proved too much. If the argument made by Brother Woods justifies the benevolent organizations, then the Missionary Society is justified upon the same ground.
Brother Woods injected the point that only since 1947 have preachers been waging objections to the benevolent organizations under consideration. Brother Porter responded that before 1947 many brethren were opposed to the church support of such institutions and one of the number was Brother Guy N. Woods himself. Brother Porter read from a speech made by Brother Woods 'in the 1939 A.C.C. Lectures in which Brother Woods registered his protest against the church doing her work through human institutions. Here is what Brother Woods had to say: "The ship of Zion has floundered more than once on the sandbar of institutionalism. The tendency to organize is a characteristic of the age. On the theory that the end justifies the means, brethren have not scrupled to form organizations in the church to do work the church itself was as designed to do.
All such organizations usurp the work of the church, and are unnecessary and sinful. This writer has ever been unable to appreciate the logic of those who affect to see grave danger in Missionary Societies, but scruple not to form a similar organization for the purpose of caring for orphans and teaching young men to be gospel preachers. Of course it is right for the church to care for the 'fatherless and widows in their affliction,' but this work should be done by and through the church, with the elders having the oversight thereof, and not through boards and conclaves unknown to the New Testament. In this connection it is a pleasure to commend to the brotherhood Tipton Orphans Home, Tipton, Oklahoma. The work there is entirely scriptural, being managed and conducted by the elders of the church in Tipton, Oklahoma, aided by funds sent to them by the elders of other congregations round about here and now declare our protest against any other method or arrangement for accomplishing this work." There is where Brother Woods stood in 1939, eight years before 1947. Although he favored the Tipton Home, he was "against any other method or arrangement for accomplishing this work." In 1956 Brother Woods is contending for what he opposed in 1939. Brother Porter pointed out that the matter of who changed on these issues is not germane to the scripturalness of benevolent institutions, but since Brother Woods introduced the point, Brother Porter showed the audience from the pen of Brother Woods that Brother Woods has made some changes. Before the debate was over Brother Woods cried "calf rope" on this point by stating that neither Brother Porter should delve into the past on the changes that brethren have made. Brother Woods is the one who introduced it and he asked for all that Brother Porter poured on him.
The Gospel Advocate group has tried to further its cause by declaring that brethren who have changed their positions upon these issues are unstable, unsafe, and unsound. According to that reasoning, because Brother Woods has changed his position, he is unstable, unsafe, and unsound. Brother Woods has indicted himself again! (More to follow.)