Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 16, 1957
NUMBER 3, PAGE 5,12b-13a

Substituting Human Societies For Divine Families. No. III.

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

The hardest blow to those who advocate benevolent societies in the work of churches is the comparison to the missionary society in the work of churches. In rebuttal, they have sought to justify the missionary society in principle but not in abusive practices. They have attempted to show that the two kinds of societies are not parallel. They have demanded of us that we disfellowship the advocates of the benevolent society even as we do not fellowship Christian churches who advocate the missionary society; charging that unless we disfellowship them we are thereby admitting that we do not think they are parallel. Because some have spoken of the right of churches to buy the services of a benevolent society, they have grasped at the straw of objecting that the same reasoning would permit us to buy services of a missionary society.

The last objection has become a major feature of their most recent favorite argument. They argue that the benevolent society is a restoration of the broken home; hence, it has the divine right to be supported by churches of the Lord. This argument forces them to the conclusion that the benevolent society such as an orphan home is a divine institution because of its replacing the family which is a divine institution. The question of buying service is an attempt to prove that we also inadvertently accept their position. This article is intended to deal particularly with some of their objections to the parallel between the missionary society and benevolent societies.

The Deadly Parallel

The parallel which they have not been able to refute or conscientiously deny continues to face them; in oral debates, in several magazines, in tracts, in their own statements of days past. That both the missionary society and the orphan home are organizations foreign to the New Testament they have never been able to deny. That both are intended to do the work which the Lord has required is not denied. That both are doing work in which churches have a scriptural responsibility cannot be denied. That both are designed for the purpose of pooling the resources of a plurality of churches is undeniable. That the churches could fulfill their obligations in these two realms of function without either of the two organizations is also admitted.

In what, then, are they not parallel? Advocates have searched diligently for several years now and have found no real divergency. They have objected that one is in benevolence and the other is in evangelism; but that is granted in the drawing of the parallels. No one has argued that they are identical; but that the two functions are parallel.

They have objected that the missionary society usurps the churches. They insist that those societies have taken away the autonomy of the churches; telling them what to do in evangelism, charity, property, and edification. They say the orphan homes and other benevolent societies do not usurp the churches. This objection is a facet of the "abuse" argument; that is, that the only thing wrong with the missionary society is its abuses. There is the same right and reason for the benevolent society to usurp authority as for the missionary society. The only point of difference is in the amount or degree of usurpation.

They also try to show divergency by arguing that the missionary society has many subsidiary organizations, among which are orphan homes; and that there is only one organization involved in each orphan home. But if one human organization can build an orphanage, what is wrong with another human organization forming a cartel of those first human organizations? The whole system is borrowed from the business world, then why not go all the way? Furthermore, is it not true that one of the homes, Boles Home, has a body of elders over a body of directors, who in truth are over those who actually operate the home? There you have an organization with its subsidiary organization. Again, notice this likeness. The missionary society has its fundamental function of evangelism; but it also has its subordinate function of benevolence in the form of orphan homes. There are frequent reports in religious papers of the orphan homes "conducting services" at such and such a church; and that on the Lord's day at eleven o'clock. Thus you have the missionary society in reverse; the orphan home has its subordinate function of evangelism. The parallel is irrefutable.

Their latest quibble is that the church is her own missionary society but that she is not her own benevolent society. They argue that the church does the preaching and teaching but that she cannot care for the orphan children herself. They say that all she can do in this instance is to provide the funds. They then put up the ridiculous question, "Who is going to spank the child?" They need to learn that the church as an entity does not literally do the preaching; but that she selects and supports the preacher. They need to read Acts 6, I Tim. 3, Rom. 16, and I Tim. 5; and learn that the Lord has told the church whom to use in accomplishing her benevolent work. The idea that she is to support a human society for benevolence because she cannot as an entity literally care for the needy will justify the human society for evangelism because she cannot literally do the preaching.

Buying Services

Much capital has been made of the question about buying the services of a missionary society. Brother Woods raised the question in the Paragould debate in an attempt to avert the parallel which brother Porter so clearly depicted. He placed the question on the board, asking for a yes-or-no answer to buying the services of an orphan home and a missionary society. Brother Porter answered the argument; but because he did not choose to answer it like they wanted it, with a yes-or-no, brother Woods and others who were with him in sentiment have said that he refused or failed to answer. His reply that that was not the subject under discussion was adequate and accurate. Their propositions did not contain the question of buying the services of any institution. The propositions contained the question of support of such institutions. That is a different question and should not be confused with the other. In like manner, the question of a church operated home receiving support from many churches was not the question and should not be confused with the other. That they are parallel in that which is wrong with the missionary society was pertinent to the proposition.

Those brethren should come to recognize the difference between buying the services of an institution or organization and in supporting that organization. They recognize the difference in some fields. They will buy a meeting house from the Baptist denomination; but they will not support the Baptist building program nor its orphanages. They would have the church to buy or pay for the services of a Catholic hospital on behalf of an unfortunate Christian; but they would with all possible strength resist the church's contributing to the Catholic Church or the Catholic hospital. They will buy literature published by a subsidiary of the missionary society; but will tell us all along that the missionary society is wrong, and will refuse to support it. In these things they are right, if the literature and other services and products are acceptable. But they need to see that the same practice is applicable in the matter of the benevolent society. They should see that buying the service of an organization is not the same as supporting it.

If the connection is of such nature that the buying of the service or product of an institution lends endorsement of that institution in its errors, then it would be wrong. That will apply whether the organization is wrong in itself, or whether it is wrong in its practices. But there is always endorsement of such an institution when it is supported by contributions. On some occasions, because it is hard to determine whether or not such will be considered as endorsement, it might become inexpedient to purchase products or services of an organization. But the mere buying of service is not to be confused with support of an institution.

The services to be purchased of a missionary society would be limited in nature. If they would lend without any control of the church doing the borrowing, money borrowed from the society's board of extension would just as well pay for a building as that borrowed by the church from any loan company. Their hospital service would perhaps be just as acceptable as any other. Hiring a preacher of the gospel from the society would be an impossibility; because no preacher of the gospel would allow himself to be controlled and regulated by a society which is human in origin and designed to perform a function of churches. Involved in the buying of services in the case of orphans would be the teaching and training they receive. If the children are being taught and trained in false doctrine, the church or person paying for that care should make every righteous effort to see that the child is not so taught. The church would not voluntarily and deliberately encourage placing an orphan in a private family or in the home of an institution where it would be trained contrary to the New Testament. In that respect there is a limit on the services to be bought by the church from the missionary society or from benevolent societies known among us as orphan homes. The answer to the question is, "a qualified yes." It is dependent upon the services offered.

All of the arguments made in behalf of church supported benevolent societies are the same as those made for the missionary society. The substance of all of them is: (1) the work must be done; (2) the churches independently have failed; (3) therefore, a replacement or substitute known as an orphan home or missionary society is in order. The missionary society is in purpose a substitute for the church. The orphan home is in purpose a substitute for the church and/or the family.

The next in the series will deal with the INCORPORATION QUIBBLE.