Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 31, 1957
NUMBER 38, PAGE 6-7,9b

The Moyer - Osborne Debate

Peter Wilson, Sunnyvale, California

On November 12-16, Brother Lloyd Moyer of El Cerrito, California, engaged Brother Roy Osborne of San Leandro, California, in a religious discussion. The propositions had to do with the support of the Herald of Truth radio program and the right of churches of Christ to build and maintain benevolent organizations such as Boles Orphan Home and Tipton Orphan Home for the care of orphan children. Brother Moyer stands opposed to both the Herald of Truth and the Orphan Home organization (not to preaching over the radio or to caring for orphans). Brother Osborne stood in defense of both as scriptural arrangements through which churches of Christ may do their work.

This was probably the most significant discussion that has taken place on the West Coast thus far over the current issues facing the brotherhood inasmuch as the men involved were as representative as could be found on either side of these issues. Brother Lloyd Moyer has debated these issues several times and is considered to be one of the leading opponents of such cooperative efforts. He is a proficient speaker with an ability in preaching and polemics that has been respected and admired by many in this area. On the other hand, it would be difficult to find a man on the West Coast with greater capabilities and with a wider endorsement from those who are in favor of the sponsoring church arrangement than Brother Roy Osborne. It was generally conceded by those who heard the debate that he is one of the strongest men who holds that position.

The attitude of the speakers and those who came to hear was excellent throughout the debate. There were very few side issues or personality clashes injected into the discussion and these were resolved with a friendly spirit and Christian forbearance. It was another proof to many who attended that truth has nothing to fear from such discussions and that when the door is closed to such investigations of God's Word the possibilities of coming through this storm of controversy united will be slim indeed.

Herald Of Truth

On the Herald of Truth question Brother Moyer's major arguments were based upon (1) the lack of scriptural authority for one church sending to another church for evangelism, (2) the loss of autonomy when the funds of many congregations are funneled through one eldership who make all the decisions and do all the planning for such work, and (3) the danger of centralizing the control of such vast resources and potential power into the hands of a few "planning" elderships. Brother Osborne's major argument on both propositions was the "Total Situation and Constituent Element" argument made famous (or "infamous" as only future history will tell) by Brother Thomas Warren. He emphasized that if one constituent element was found wanting of scriptural authority the entire argument would fall. This is truly "putting all your eggs in one basket" and Brother Moyer succeeded in making this basket of eggs look like Humpty Dumpty because once he had upset the basket "all the kings horses and all the kings men (including Aristotle)" couldn't put the pieces back together again. The two weak links in the chain of constituent elements proved to be (1) the element that states that when one congregation assumes a work to which all are equally related, that work becomes "exclusively and peculiarly" their work and (2) the element that a congregation can "assume a work beyond its financial ability." The proof (?) Brother Osborne offered for the latter was II Corinthians 8:3. Brother Moyer showed that this did not prove that the churches of Macedonia "assumed a work" in the sense of planning and promoting something beyond their financial ability and then collecting from a number of other congregations in order to accomplish the work. Besides this, in answering one of Brother Moyer's questions, Brother Osborne made this statement, "THE EXAMPLE OF MANY CHURCHES SENDING TO ONE CHURCH FOR THE PURPOSE OF EVANGELISM IS NOT THERE." (Caps mine, PJW.) Thus he showed his own example of the Macedonian churches to not be valid for the purpose he was using it. He also stated, "the elders of the San Leandro congregation have the right to go to the n'th {degree} of their ABILITY (Caps mine, PJW) to preach the gospel in the Bay Area and the world" showing that he concedes the fact that ability is the factor that limits a congregations work in the field of evangelism.

The Orphan Home Question

Brother Moyer opposed Boles and Tipton Homes as separate institutions, human in origin, set up for the purpose of doing a part of the work that God has given to the church. His main points were (1) the sufficiency of the New Testament congregation as the product of God's wisdom to do all the work God has assigned to it, and (2) the difference between an organization and the means which an organization uses. He stressed that whether the church or the orphan home organization took care of orphans that "means" would have to be employed by the institution doing the work. The real issue is not what means and methods must be used in order to care for orphans but which institution has God given this responsibility to.

Brother Osborne's main defense of the orphan home was that it is simply a means or arrangement that churches of Christ may use in doing their work. The major part of the discussion on this question then was centered around whether or not Boles Home is "a human organization separate from the church set up to do the work of the church." Moyer affirmed that this would be wrong. Osborne agreed to this by repeating the statement several times, "I firmly believe that the church of the Lord is the only institution upon this earth that God has ordained for the purpose of doing religious work." He further read from the Boles Home Charter, Part B, paragraph 7, page 3, which sets forth the restriction that in order to be a director in Boles Home a man must believe: "that the local congregation of the church of Christ is the only organization authorized to carry on Christian work and worship and that SUCH ORGANIZATION EXCLUDES EVERY OTHER ORGANIZATION SET UP FOR THE PURPOSE OF CARRYING ON SUCH WORK, WHETHER MISSIONARY OR OTHERWISE." (Caps mine, PJW.) In spite of these declarations, however, in answering Moyer's questions, Osborne made the following admissions:

1. The care of orphan children is a work of the church.

2. Boles Home is a separate institution, a human institution distinct from the church.

Besides Osborne's admission of this, Moyer read Brother Gayle Oler's admission of it in an article in Boles Home News, October 10, 1956: "Boles Home is not the church nor is it an organization within the church. The church is not Boles Home, nor an organization within Boles Home, THEY ARE TWO SEPARATE, INDEPENDENT, DISTINCT, ORGANIZATIONS." (Caps mine, PJW.)

3. Boles Home is chartered to care for orphans.

4. Boles Home is doing the work it was chartered to do.

Now why these experts in the total situation syllogism cannot see that these constituent elements, admitted by Osborne and Oler, add up to a human institution, separate and distinct from the church, set up and chartered to do a work of the church (something they both claim would be wrong) is truly amazing to me.

Whose Work Is Being Done?

This question has been a thorn in the side of the proponents of sponsoring church cooperation, as is evidenced from the division that exists among them on it.

I have never heard a man defend both the Herald of Truth and the orphan home who did not cross himself up on this question and Roy Osborne was no exception. On the orphan home question he introduced the case of the Good Samaritan. His argument was that the Good Samaritan took the man in need to the innkeeper and paid for his care. The innkeeper did the work but Jesus gave the credit for the benevolence to the Samaritan. Likewise, he argued, the contributing churches send money to Boles Home to do the work of caring for orphans but the credit for the benevolence goes to the contributing church ... it is their work, the orphan home is just a means they use. Moyer reminded him of this position the next night on the Herald of Truth question when Osborne was arguing that when the contributing churches give to Highland that their work ceases but that the work of Herald of Truth radio preaching is exclusively Highland's work. The following diagram points up the issue, the first two elements in it were used by Osborne, the third was added by Moyer as a necessary parallel:

Chart Goes Here

1. Samaritan Inn ... Work (Samaritan's work, he gets the credit) (Innkeeper just an agency or means)

2. Contributing .. Orphan .. Care (Contributing churches Churches Home work, they get the credit, O. H. just an agency or means)

3. Contributing . Highland . Evan- (WHOSE work?

Churches Church gelism Parallel demands that it be the contributing churches' work, they get the credit, Highland just an agency)

Osborne's only answer to this was that they are not parallel but why this assertion is true he did not success-fully show. To admit that this work is the work of the contributing churches places them in the predicament of having the Highland elders overseeing someone else's work. (Incidentally, where would that place the Tipton elders?)

Some Glaring Inconsistencies

In the course of the discussion Brother Osborne became entangled in a number of contradictory positions. On the final night of the discussion Brother Moyer very effectively brought the following inconsistencies into sharp focus:

1. Osborne had declared repeatedly on the first two nights that "I am as opposed to a human institution doing the work of the church as Moyer is" and yet he spent the major portion of his time trying to prove (?) that the church corporation and the orphan home and religious papers are human institutions set up to do the work of the church.

2. Osborne contended that the church corporation is a human institution separate from the church set up to do the work of the church. Moyer proved that legally they are synonymous but pressed Osborne to explain what business elders have overseeing this human institution if it is separate and distinct from the church.

3. On the Herald of Truth proposition, Osborne argued that since we substitute evangelism for benevolence in our use of the church treasury of I Corinthians 16:2, that we could also substitute evangelism for benevolence in the case of many churches sending to one church in II Corinthians 8 and 9. However, when Moyer pressed him to exchange evangelism for benevolence in the work of Boles Home and with the identical organization send out preachers to needy fields, he wouldn't accept his own method of substitution.

4. Osborne. in keeping with the usual pattern set by the defenders of the orphan home, repeatedly paralleled the paying of Boles Home to care for orphan children with the church buying services from the light company, the hospital, the publishing company, the building contractor, etc., and yet would not agree that the church could "build and maintain" these other institutions as he was affirming in the case of Boles Home.

Boles Home In Preference To Going To Heaven?

The extent to which capable and influential brethren will go in defending the idol of "institutionalism" was clearly seen in the closing speech Osborne made. In a very stirring appeal, he extolled the accomplishments of Boles Home (the high percentage of Christians turned out, the high percentage of boys who become preachers, the low divorce rate, etc.) then he made this statement copied word for word from the tape:

"When they come out (of Boles Home) they come out as Christians. TO ME THIS IS THE STRONGEST POSSIBLE ARGUMENT THAT COULD BE MADE. Even if it was wrong to send a boy or girl down there AND I WOULD GO TO HELL FOR SENDING THEM, I WOULD SEND HIM JUST THE SAME IF I KNEW THAT HE WOULD COME OUT OF THERE A CHRISTIAN. The apostle Paul's attitude was this `if I might be a castaway but my entire nation might be saved, so be it. I would rather go to hell if I can save the entire nation'." (Caps mine, PJW.)

Brethren, to me this is one of the most disheartening and startling statements I have heard a gospel preacher make. I pray God that Brother Osborne did not seriously mean what he said and that this is not a reflection of the thinking of other brethren over these issues. Not only is his "strongest argument" an appeal to sentiment and emotion which could as well be made for the Missionary Society in its infancy, but worse than that, he misrepresents the apostle Paul by putting words in his mouth which he never uttered. I deny that Paul ever had the attitude that he would wilfully do that which he knew to be a sin against God in order to save the Jewish nation. Paul's statement in Romans 9:3, "For I could wish that I myself were anathema from Christ for my brethren's sake, my kinsmen according to the flesh" (I assume that this is the passage Brother Osborne had reference to) does not in the least imply the attitude Brother Osborne ascribes to him. The context of the next two chapters plainly shows that Paul's attitude toward fleshly Israel was a far cry from one of being willing to do wrong if it would save them.

It is doubtful that Brother Osborne will debate these issues again. In spite of a statement made publicly last summer in which he said, "There is not a single person in this audience who knows me or has known me for any time who believes that I would be afraid to stand on any platform with any man that lives on the face of God's green earth and defend anything I preach," Brother Osborne has refused to debate this writer. Not only so, but throughout the discussion he emphasized that he felt that no possible good could come from such discussions. Brother Osborne said also in the aforementioned quotation "'When I get to the place that I'll not defend it, I'll stop preaching it." Since he has obviously reached that place, we sincerely trust that he will be true to his word.