Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1960
NUMBER 26, PAGE 3,14b

That Drinking Fountain Argument

Cecil B. Douthitt, Fort Smith, Arkansas

After failing miserably to find anything anywhere in the Bible to justify church donations to orphan asylums and the churches' feeding the poor all over the world who are not saints, some of the brethren, both liberal and loose in their thinking, now argue that they have found justification for both in the drinking fountain.

Paul taught that people who try to justify themselves or their religious practices by the law of Moses are fallen from grace and severed from Christ (Gal. 5:4), because such an endeavor is a rejection of Christ as sole authority. Is looking to the law for justification any worse than looking to a drinking fountain for justification? Both are a rejection of the authority of Christ and the sacred scriptures.

But let us take a look at that drinking fountain argument; it runs like this: A congregation that opposes church donations to orphan asylums and is against taking money from its treasury for the support of all the poor Methodists, Baptists, Jews, infidels and Catholics all over the world has purchased and installed in the meeting house a drinking fountain from which Jews, Catholics, Protestants, infidels and even little orphans may drink if perchance they should become thirsty while attending services of the church that owns the drinking fountain.

Now the proponents of the drinking-fountain-argument declare that the church donations to benevolent asylums for children and old people, and to feeding all the poor of the world from its treasury, while letting everything that attends its meetings drink from its fountain: therefore, that church's inconsistency proves that institutionalism is right, so they conclude. Some conclusion! Some argument! Some drinking fountain!

I wish I knew how to persuade all these Johnny-come-lately digressive hobby riders of institutionalism to dismount, tie their little horses to a post, and take one sober look at the following facts:

I. If a person could do the impossible and prove that a church's installation and maintenance of a drinking fountain is parallel to, and as bad as, church donations to benevolent and missionary societies, even that would not prove that either is right; it would only prove that the church is inconsistent that holds to one and opposes the other.

2. All must admit that the two are not parallel in consequences; they do not produce the same kind of fruits; they must be two different kinds of trees. From the days of the old oaken bucket and the gourd dipper down to the supplying drinking water to all the thirsty guests who attended its meetings has never sown discord among brethren, nor divided a church, nor caused any friction or trouble of any kind. But discord, division, bitterness, alienation, and quarantine have followed in the wake of a church's contributions from its treasury to feed all the sinners in the world and to build and maintain human benevolent institutions.

3. All visitors, whether saints from other congregations or "strangers from the covenants of the promise," while attending the meetings of a church are guests of that church and should be treated as such. In compliance with their duty to be hospitable, the elders of a church may install windows, fans, drinking fountains, seats, a stove or furnace, electric lights or oil lamps, door steps and parking space to be used by that church's guests while attending services, as well as by the members of that particular congregation. Now according to this drinking fountain argument if five boy scouts, four orphans, three masons and two Red Cross workers attend a meeting of this hospitable church, and all these guests drink from that church's fountain, breathe the air that comes through that church's open window, sit on the seats bought with that church's money, walking on the steps paid for out of that church's treasury and park their cars on that church's parking lot, then consistency demands that this church that has shown hospitality to these "strangers" who attended its meetings must not oppose donations from its treasury to the boy scout organization, orphan asylums, Masonic benevolent institutions and the Red Cross, because representatives of all these organizations drank out of the water fountain.

Will the blind guides of the liberal churches ever learn to distinguish between things that are different? Will they ever learn the difference between acts of hospitality and acts of benevolence? Many of them talk long and loud about what the church pays its preacher and other workers in money and house rent and at the same time refuse to donate to eleemosynary institutions. Will they ever open their eyes wide enough to see the difference between wages and alms? While Paul preached at Corinth (2 Cor. 11:8) he received wages from other churches, but not charity. There is a difference whether the blind ever see it or not.

4. When the liberals find scriptural authority for an elder-ship's "assuming the oversight" of the work of supplying drinking fountains for all the churches all over the world, and sending forth their representative throughout the brotherhood, saying "Send us your drinking fountain money for we have "assumed the oversight; we will say which church should have a drinking fountain, where it should be placed; this is our work. We will have sole authority of this drinking fountain program. Send us your money quick. We have the ability and the leadership for this work" — then the scripturalness of the "sponsoring church" type of centralized control of church resources will have been established; then a deadly parallel to Highland's "Herald of Truth" program will have been found.