Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1951

Gobbel's Garble

Robert C. Welch, Florence, Alabama

The title of this reply to brother Clarence C. Gobbel does not attempt to be ridicule. It merely states a fact. His quotation is correct of course, but his applications and paraphrases have garbled the statements made by me in the original article. I am glad that the editor of the Gospel Guardian gives the opposition a chance to reply. It is by this means that we can be certain to get all the arguments for or against, and can be better qualified to accept the right. It is by this means that the proponent of the truth will be able to present points which otherwise may be overlooked by him and the readers. His first paragraph appears to be commendatory (at least, of some of the things said) for which sincere appreciation is extended. The remainder of his article is made up of conclusions he has drawn from my article, together with some questions. Thus, he has taken no specific position, nor offered proof. He has not said exactly that my article in general was wrong. He has merely sought to throw doubt about it with questions, and has sought to make it appear that I contradicted myself in the article.

His first example of garbling is that I made the point that the orphan home is not an adjunct of the family. A careful reading of my article will show that I made no such point. The premise I questioned was, "The orphan home is an adjunct of the family." But how was it questioned by me? Here are my words, "The minor premise is also lacking in completeness and scriptural authority." I was asking for scriptural authority for having such an institution as an adjunct to the family. But, brother Gobbel wants to know of what the orphan home is an adjunct. I had not thought of attempting to prove that it is an adjunct of anything. While he is raising questions about adjuncts he just as well try to show what the family is an adjunct of, "since we have it existing." Does an orphanage have to be an adjunct of something to exist? Brother Gobbel seems to think so. Actually, though—since he has brought up this particular point—they are adjuncts of something in practice, and it is not of the family. In practice they are adjuncts of the church universal. They are owned by no group of individuals nor by individual congregations. They are just "Church of Christ Orphanages." They claim to be doing the work of the church or churches, but are no part of local congregations, yet receive support from them. If that does not describe an adjunct to the church universal there could not be such a thing. The Lord has not authorized any of the work to be that of the church in its universal sense. All of it has been designated to be done by the local congregations. The same fallacy caused some to justify the missionary society when it began. They thought that the church universal should have a plan of work. I know that some orphanages have the elders of one congregation as the directors. But those congregations do not claim that they own the institutions. It is a matter of those elders attempting to oversee the work of the church universal, or the work of many congregations. I do not care to see orphanages or any kind of institution adjuncts of churches. If he wants to make them adjuncts of families let him do so. But when he does, he must still show that God has authorized such an adjunct, and that the church is to support such an adjunct.

Brother Gobbel implies by question that because the church may appoint some men among them to oversee a distribution of funds collected by the church, then whatever any individual in the church does, the church is doing it. He does so in attempt to prove that James 1:27 "applies to congregational work in caring for the poor." Individuals are required to do many things which are not the obligation of the church. (See I Tim. 6:16) There is a vast difference between my giving food to a hungry child, and in my taking food to him that the church has paid for. Those verses in the first chapter of James are speaking of the obligation of individuals, and not the overseeing by an individual of an obligation of the church. Besides, if that verse teaches the building of an orphanage, it requires just as many widows' homes. We say that baptism as well as faith is a requirement for salvation because the two are joined by the co-ordinate conjunction "and" in Mark 16:16. In like manner the fatherless and widows are connected in James 1:27. Thus if one of them demands the building of an institution, it is absolutely essential that a widows' home be established with it. Otherwise, it will be an attempt to make one part of the statement substitute for the whole as denominations substitute "faith only" for Mark 16:16. The point is, that verse does not authorize the building of institutions. It requires individuals to care for these needy ones.

He wants to know if that case of the "Gentiles, sending to Judea" was a permanent setup. That question has nothing to do with the work contended for in my first article. The contribution from one congregation for the needy of another congregation is to be sent as long as there is the ability on the part of one and/or the need on the part of the other. In my former article I spoke of the needy within the local congregation. I said nothing in favor of a church's hunting for the needy everywhere, creating a need, then begging other churches for help. I said nothing in favor of a permanent institution. That is the kind of thing I was criticizing. On the other hand, I pointed out that when one church had more needy than it could care for which was its obligation, then other churches could send relief. The passages which were used show that such a plan is approved by the Lord. The passages used do not say that the relief was sent for all the poor of Judea. They say that it was for the "brethren" and "saints." There is no authority for one church or an institution's gathering in all the orphans and needy it can find in the world and pleading with the churches everywhere to help it out. The New Testament example is of one church's helping another care for its own.

Again, he wants to know how one church could help another if it was busy caring for its own needy. Not all congregations have such a need all the time that they cannot have some left with which to help another church. Is not that the idea in this passage, "For I say this that others may be eased and ye distressed; but by equality: your abundance being a supply at this present time for their want, that their abundance also may become a supply for your want; that there may be equality." (II Cor. 8:13, 14)?

He further wants to know if individuals are to take the orphans and needy into their own homes to be provided for out of the church treasury. It is neither practical nor possible for some individuals to take an orphan or a needy person into their homes. If a Christian has relatives who are in need it is his obligation to care for them as far as he is able. (I Tim. 5:8) Other individuals may help those in need. (James 1:27) When there are still others in the church to be helped, it is the responsibility of the church. But why should an individual make the church responsible for that which he can do himself? He further wants to know what I am condemning. I contended in the article under question that a congregation is to provide for its own needy in those things which they lacked whether it be shelter, food, clothing, or education. But there is no authority for a church's sending donations to an institution for its establishment and growth. The church here has paid for a house in which I live, but no one has thought of its being an institution. I think brother Gobbel knows the difference between supplying a house for the needy and building an institution.

He questions my citation of Gal. 6:10. I applied it to the assistance of those in the community who were not Christians. It says: "So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith." Really, brother Gobbel, what is wrong with that? Further he has drawn a false conclusion about a congregation's taking in more than its own number because it is getting help from another congregation. That is one of the errors in this business of making institutions. The Scriptures approve of one congregation helping another congregation with its own charity cases. But there is no authority of any kind for one congregation's reaching out to all the world for charity cases and expecting help from other congregations. This illustration may help. If I am able to do so financially, there is nothing wrong in my operating a fine car. But I cannot expect to operate such a car and beg others to help me as a charity case. Now, the application. If a church can, it is right for it to help those not of its number who are in need; but it has no authority for asking others to help it do such a thing. It can expect other churches to help it with its own needy. The operation of these institutions violates this principle.

He thinks he has something in the definition of an institution which refutes my statement about a church's providing all that is necessary to the care of the needy. He thinks it makes me contradict myself. Since he is so good at asking questions maybe he can answer one. Churches have set aside an hour on Sunday mornings for Bible study; the elders have selected the teachers; some one is designated to order the literature—Bibles, etc.; rooms are built and furnished for the study. Since an institution is, "a disposition, arrangement, establishment," does that make it right to call the practice of studying the Bible an "institution?" To be perfectly frank, I am not concerned only about what it is called, whether it is called an institution, home, organization, or otherwise. I am concerned about the thing itself, and the things done. Is the thing itself right? Is the practice right? I believe brother Gobbel can see that the orphan homes as they now exist are not the same in organization and practice as the work of caring for orphans by the church, using men appointed by the church and in the church, and carried out as the local church at work.

This reply has grown longer than intended. But it was demanded if answer be made to each of his questions. He could have wrapped it all up in one and included everything he asked, "What is wrong with orphan homes with elders as directors soliciting orphans and contributions from churches and everywhere else they can?" In further answer to that question I commend to him my article on organization of orphanages. Maybe, next time, brother Gobbel will make some statements either negative or positive, letting us know what he is contending for. It is hard to tell from this questionnaire whether he is criticizing or commending. I had a sneaking notion he intended it to be obscure criticism. If he wants to commend the essay let him say so in clear terms so I can thank him.