Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 18, 1962
NUMBER 36, PAGE 4-5,9b

Brother Lemmons And The Issues


Luther Blackmon, Pasadena, Texas

The following editorial was reproduced by someone and a copy of it was mailed to me by brother Watson, the administrator of the Christian Home for the Aged, a project of Central Church, Houston. There was a letter from brother Watson asking that we read the editorial with Christian Home for the Aged in mind. In this review, I am submitting the entire editorial. Otherwise, I would surely be accused of misrepresenting brother Lemmons, because it is hard for thinking people to believe that a man in brother Lemmons position would make as many irresponsible statements in one short article as he makes in this one.

"This Doctrine Of Helping Only Needy Saints"

Another of the new doctrines that have sprung up to plague the church in the past ten years is this new doctrine that the church cannot help, out of its treasury, any but needy saints. We do not believe the New Testament teaches any such doctrine.

We asked a man in Rome one time, "Why is it that Italy is on the brink of going Communist when the Roman Catholic church is so strong in Italy?" His reply was: "The people know that the church has never helped them any!"

You could ask the same question and get the same answer all over Europe, and you can ask it to the tip of South America and get the same answer.

Roman Catholicism and Communism are mortal enemies, yet Communism has enjoyed its greatest successes in countries where Roman Catholicism was the strongest. Why? This man in Rome had the answer: "The people know that the church never helped them any!"

One can enter any of these countries and on every hand stand mighty cathedrals, lavishly embellished and with their altars overlaid with solid gold. These all were built and paid for by the slave labor of countless serfs who contributed blood money to build them and got nothing in return. They pay the church for everything. They contribute everything to the church; and the church has given them nothing in return.

Communism took Cuba for this same reason. It said to the people: "What has the church done for you?" and the people could only answer, "Nothing!" The country could show plenty of signs of what the people had done for the church, but nothing of what the church had done for the people. The Communists took Cuba because the church failed. The church was concerned only for itself---It filled its coffers and ministered only to itself. This is true all over the world.

If this is true of Roman Catholicism, it is even more true of the church of our Lord. The church must be the church that helps people, or else it has very little reason for existence. God gave the church a two-fold mission, the preaching of the gospel and the alleviation of human misery. It must not fail in either.

We would not give a dime for charity work that does not have as its ultimate goal the salvation of souls. The brethren who have beaten Roman Catholicism over the head for bleeding the people and giving nothing in return, should take a second look at this new doctrine before they embrace it.

It would have been unthinkable that the Good Samaritan would have felt no compassion for, nor obligation to, the man in the ditch by the side of the road until he had satisfied himself as to whether the poor fellow was a poor saint. This parable of Jesus surely doesn't teach that the church has no obligation to relieve any but the needy saints. There is something nauseatingly familiar in the actions of the priest and Levites who evidently felt that he was no responsibility of theirs. Personally, we are glad that the good Samaritan had whatever it takes to administer his charity without asking whether he was a poor saint before he poured any oil on him.

Only unstable brethren are carried about by every wind of doctrine. Here is a foul wind that can blow nobody any good. Surely brethren will not be deceived by it." (Firm Foundation — Sept. 12, 1961)

As a writer, brother Lemmons is a paradox. He can write some of the most timely and pungent editorials I have ever read. Then the very next week he will write one that ought to be prefaced with a statement like this, "all similarity to facts or consistency is purely coincidental." I think that he would like to take a bold and forthright stand against a lot of things the brethren are doing, but his insuperable aversion to what he calls "anti-ism" will not permit him to make such a fight with anything resembling consistency.

About half of the above editorial is an effort to parallel the failure of the Catholic Church in Italy, Cuba and South American countries with what he thinks will be the failure of the brethren who hold "this doctrine of helping only needy saints" from the treasury of the church. But he misses the point. The people who turned communists in Italy, Cuba and South America were Catholics. They were not "outsiders." This is a case of the church not caring for "its own." I believe in doing that. We practice it where I preach.

Next he says he would not give a dime for charity work that does not have as its ultimate goal the salvation of souls. I guess if he knew that the dime he gives the starving man would not contribute to the ultimate salvation of his soul he would not give the starving man the dime. He would not feed him just because he was starving. If that is not what he means, let him say what he means. I respectfully challenge my brother to show from the Bible: 1. That the church collectively (taking money from the treasury, if you please) is obligated to the alien in any sense except to preach the gospel to him. 2. That benevolent work, even by the individual, is for the ultimate purpose of saving the soul of the one helped. I wonder if my brother thinks that the good Samaritan had in mind the ultimate conversion of the man who fell among thieves.

Aside from the fact it lacks scriptural authority, this idea of feeding and clothing people to get them to hear the gospel was given a fair trial in Germany and failed. When brother Gatewood went to Germany, he was touched by the suffering and poverty of the people. He believed that the people would not be impressed by the gospel while they were in such dire need, unless the church did something to relieve their physical distress. Thus an appeal was made to the people over here to send supplies jet Germany. Accordingly, a great deal of food and clothing was sent and dispensed. Much money was sent and a hose of meeting was erected in Frankfurt, at an approximate $190,000. I don't know now how many native Germans were baptized, but according to the reports, great numbers. When Ray Votaw came through Frankfurt, on his way from Africa two years ago he talked with one of the members of the Frankfurt church. He asked how many native Germans were in the church there. Answer: ..."about thirty." Since then the church building has been sold to the University of Frankfurt.

Every child of God ought to be moved by the suffering of others, whether in the church or out. But this is a question of the work of the church. Is it the work of the church to engage in general benevolence? What does the Bible say? Where is the scripture that authorizes it? Brother Lemmons cited two passages (Jno. 20:30-31 and Luke 10) and he missed the point entirely on both. It was the miraculous element of Jesus actions that certified his deity; not the fact that he fed some hungry people. But who on earth is it that thinks that Christian individuals ought not to feed hungry people to the extent of our ability, just as Jesus did?

Next brother Lemmons says, "this new doctrine.... would make a leech on any community out of the church of our Lord." If there is anything in that statement that makes sense, you are welcome to it. I fail to see how the church which raises its money from the free-will contributions of its own members, and relieves the needs of those members so that they don't have to go to various tax supported agencies for help, will make the church a leech on the community. Perhaps he reveals the meaning of this statement in the next paragraph where he says, "Brethren who have beaten Roman Catholicism over the head for bleeding the people and giving nothing in return, should take a second look at this new doctrine before they embrace it." Does Brother Lemmons mean that the churches of Christ where he preaches are bleeding people of the world for money? If that isn't his point, he doesn't have a point... If Catholicism is bleeding its own people, he has no point because we remind him again that in "helping" our own needy. If he means that Catholicism bleeds others than its own and gives nothing in return, then his point would have to be that the brethren who embrace this "new" doctrine are not giving anything in return to the aliens for "bleeding" them. Where I preach, we don't "bleed" aliens!

Brother Lemmons closes this remarkable piece of puerility by a prejudicial appeal to the Good Samaritan. This is found in Luke 10. I am telling brother Lemmons' leaders where to find it with the hope that some of them will read it. He didn't tell them. The Good Samaritan was an individual, not a church. And brother Lemmons knows that there isn't anybody in the church, anywhere, that contends that it is unscriptural for an individual to help anyone he can help. But he either paid no attention to what he wrote, or he thinks that people will accept what he says without investigation.

Let me tell you something, Brother Lemmons. There are likely many ways in which I am not your equal. But I am as honest at heart as you are. I could be wrong about anything, because I am not infallible, and my powers of discernment are not perfect. But I am forced to believe by the testimony of the scriptures as I understand them, that the church has no obligation to the world except to save the lost by preaching the gospel. If you, or anyone else, will submit arguments dealing with the question, I will examine them as honestly as I can. But you have presented no argument that is apropos. And your high-handed disregard for facts, your obvious contempt for those who question your position, and the mere fact that you are editor of the Firm Foundation will not convince those who are interested only in the truth. And your repeated assertion that this is a "new doctrine" doesn't make it so.