Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 14, 1971


James Sanders

Many of the brotherhood believe that churches of Christ have always supported benevolent organizations. Some even honestly say, "All my life churches have done it; I can't remember when it wasn't practiced." Others cry, "we've always done it!"

But we believe a deserving word is in order. First, this appeal to supposed past practices will not suffice for Bible authority. Tradition is not Divine Approval! (Cf. Matt. 15:9). "Because we've always have" is not a book, chapter, and verse substantiation. This is what is needed! Where is the Scripture that authorizes churches to build and maintain benevolent societies? This is the issue and this alone is the question. Scriptural practice need no re-enforcing from secular history or past practice.

Second, it is not the opposition to these church supported societies that is a Johnny Come Lately. The benevolent organizations themselves are of very recent origin! The Tennessee Orphan Home, now of Spring Hill Tennessee, is the oldest benevolent society supported by churches who were against the Missionary Society. Yet this "body politic" (as it is called by its own constitution) came into existence as late as 1909! Churches of Christ have not always supported benevolent societies. The Tennessee Orphan Home was the first of its kind in 1909!

"The following information was given by J. C. Mc Quiddy in the Gospel Advocate, Sept. 15, 1910, pp. 1036, 1037, under the title, 'Tennessee Orphan Home:'

'This home, located at Columbia, Tenn., was formally opened on Monday, Sept. 5, 1910...

`This beautiful four-story brick building did not have an existence even in thought eighteen months ago. The idea of such an institution had not entered into the heart of man until very recently...

'There were two addresses made, one by Dr. Dinwiddie, preacher for the Methodist Church in Columbia, and the other by R. H. Boll, our associate and front page editor...

`While members of the church of Christ conceived and originated the plans of the home and have given more largely to its support than any other people, still other religious bodies of the county and the county itself have taken a deep interest in the work. It is a poor religion that cannot unite with any one in feeling and clothing the poor. . . Doing the will of the Lord is neither commending nor condemning the errors of others. May God help us to rise superior to religious prejudice and bigotry and 'not to know anything save Jesus Christ, and him crucified!"

"The Home is to be controlled by directors who are loyal and true to the Word of God. Only men who have proved their love for the truth will be selected to the sacred trust of looking after the interest of the institution.' " (Quoted from Voices in the Wilderness, James R. Cope, p. 11).

But could it be that in the name of orphans many things can be accomplished that could never have been done in the name of the Lord? Are the benevolent societies concealing, perhaps, the true issue, i.e. church support of colleges and other organizations?

Brother Batsell Barrett Baxter of Herald of Truth fame made a very significant statement in his tract, "Questions and Issues of the Day in the Light of the Scriptures." It's been heard before but we appreciate his frankness and only wish others were as consistent. Hear him:

"Some who agreed that the church can contribute to an orphan's home are not convinced that the church can contribute to a Christian school. It is difficult to see a significant difference so far as principle is concerned. The orphan's home and the Christian school must stand or fall together."

Yes, could it be that in the name of orphans things may be accomplished that could never have been done in the name of the Lord? The Tennessee Orphan Home — its kind in 1909!

— Route No. 3, Greencastle, Indiana 46135