Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 23, 1951
NUMBER 16, PAGE 2-3a

Some Neglected Scriptures Neglected

Chas. M. Campbell, Akron, Ohio

In The Christian Leader of January 23, 1951, brother J. P. Sanders published an article under the title "Some Neglected Scriptures." He labored to prove that certain passages of scripture pertaining to the care of widows and orphans have always been neglected by the church in modern times. However, an examination of the scriptures alluded to will show that brother Sanders' interpretation of those passages leaves them neglected still. In fact, when he had finished his explanation and application, those scriptures were not only neglected, they were completely abandoned and ignored.

Brother Sanders has been appointed to travel among the churches and acquaint them with the plan of the Shultz-Lewis Children's Home; and he appears determined to impose the plan upon the churches. With him the task is paramount; and, to fail to comply with the demands of the institution is tantamount to proving disloyal to the cause of Christ.

Several egregious errors of major proportions characterized the brother's conception of certain passages of scripture; and upon those erroneous ideas and misconceptions he premised his remarks and reached his conclusions. Inevitably, therefore, his whole argument was false.

In the first place, there is a manifest assumption upon his part on the point of authority being granted by certain scriptures for certain benevolent works to certain persons under certain circumstances becoming authority unlimited in its nature and application. For example, 1 Tim. 5:9 is represented as authority for the church enrolling widows for a puropse not at all assigned by the scriptures. Then, upon such a highly opinionated basis, the whole structure of institutionalism is erected; and men are defied to denounce it by reason and revelation. All that has been practiced and preached with reference to the autonomy of the local church is minimized and deprecated until, if one were to accept the agent of Shultz-Lewis Children's Home seriously, the combined efforts of all the churches of Christ dwindle into such incomparable insignificance as to indict them as unworthy of God's recognition of man's appreciation.

Brother Sanders is sure of the interpretation of denominational Commentators: that the widows who were accepted among the churches as meeting the necessary qualifications for justifying their support became teachers (the same Commentators have them deaconesses; and the Catholics have them Nuns); and, then, he is sure they were kept in some manner which will justify present day organizations of the nature of old peoples' homes, children's homes, etc. Of course the whole idea is that Shultz-Lewis Children's Home is launched upon a scriptural basis, and the firm foundation of apostolical procedure supports it.

Brother Sanders says of 1 Tim. 5:9: "What does this mean? In what were they being 'enrolled?' I haven't heard of enrolling widows for anything about the church in our time, except in the membership roll. Were not the needy widows being enrolled as the responsibility of the church, to give themselves to charitable work while being cared for by the church? When they were enrolled to be cared for, were they to live separately or were they to live under one roof? We are not told, which seems to indicate that the whole question is really of no significance. If the 'how' were vital, the details would be given; we are only given the 'what'—they enrolled the widows and took care of them when they were qualified. It would certainly be more practicable to keep them all under one roof, cared for by one staff. Whether the institution of the widows was under one roof or each widow under her own is really a quibble. The fact is we don't enroll them either way today. In fact, if we started enrolling widows as Paul said, we wouldn't get very far before somebody shouts Unscriptural.' Later in the article brother Sanders said: Now this passage has to do with enrolling widows, not orphans, but I don't suppose anybody would care to argue about that. If we should enroll the widows because of their need, we should for the same reason enroll the orphans. All we propose to do in the Shultz-Lewis Home at Valparaiso is to enroll homeless children and take care of them physically and spiritually.'"

Now, if there is a "quibble" about whether or not the widows were under one roof or each one under her own, the champions of present day institutionalism have engaged in it. Those who oppose their human organizations for doing the work committed to the church have not been guilty of such a "quibble." It is not at all a question as to whether or not the widows supported by a congregation should be under one roof or several roofs. The question is, does the fact that the church is obligated to support certain widows within the category specified by Paul, authorize an institution separate and apart from the church—under the direction of a board of trustees, who, are not necessarily members of the congregations from which the widows are, irrespective of qualifications? You see, from the command to the churches to care for their widows—each its own—brother Sanders has discovered authority for an institution which was in no sense remotely referred to by Paul in his instructions to Timothy. (Does brother Sanders think Paul was the superintendent of some home, or the chairman of the board, perhaps, and Timothy an agent receiving directions from him? It would seem so.) From the "institution of the widows" it was a simple step to the Shultz-Lewis Children's Home. The brother fails to observe that a congregation might have several widows, and that it might decide to support them in maintaining their respective homes, or it might elect to keep them all in one home. Such would be a matter of expediency only; and it in no way affects the validity of the objection to institutions such as are advocated by brother Sanders and others among us. In such a case, the church would be doing simply and only what it was required to do. In erecting a home and organizing an institution, such as those proposed by brother Sanders, brethren are doing more than deciding whether the widows in a church are to be kept under one roof or several roofs. To deny and disregard this obvious fact, while condemning the church without knowledge of all the facts regarding such matters, "is really a quibble."

Another idea presented by brother Sanders, and purely upon the testimony of denominational exegesis, proves very interesting. The widows who were cared for in "the institution of widows" were able to not only care for themselves but also to care for others. They were "to give themselves to charitable work while being cared for by the church." In that case they would have been able to have cared for themselves. They would not have required the care of the church. Such an argument does not justify an answer; and it hardly deserves a notice. A bit of reflection, and it becomes its own refutation. As to the assertion that "We don't enroll them either way," it is but another of that class characteristic of those who wish to impose their unscriptural ideas upon the church without opposition. They attempt to prejudice the minds of the credulous and uninformed by such unjustifiable accusations. However, suppose we did not "enroll" them. That would not prove the scripturalness of present day institutionalism. Circumstances compel me to mention this fact, notwithstanding brother Sander's opposition to "somebody shouting unscriptural." If a practice is unscriptural, what does he expect us to shout? Incidentally, have you noticed that all those who are laboring to justify every kind of innovation possible are singing the same tune of opposition to the rule of abiding by the scriptures? The digressives did it before they commenced it. So, one can know its origin.

Later in the article brother Sanders engaged in what he admitted to be "a little speculation." He was willing to follow the ways of the denominations and digressives, and even the premillennialists, in order to try and establish his position with reference to the "institution of widows" in apostolic times; and that in order to justify his Shultz-Lewis organization in modern times.

Brother Sanders says: "Acts 9:36 may give us an example of such an enrolled group of widows. At least, the widows are spoken of here as a group apart from the rest and Dorcas as having some sort of special relationship toward them. It says that the widows were weeping and showing the garments Dorcas had made 'while she was with them.' It say's that Peter called the 'saints and the widows' in to witness the miracle. Why were the widows named separately from the general body of the saints? There is more here, brethren, than we have been accustomed to teaching. If widows can be supported in an institution, so can orphans."

Here is one point on which we are in perfect agreement, that is, he has most assuredly dealt in speculation. Whether or not it is actually "a little speculation" depends entirely upon his reference being to the brevity of his comments, or their nature and the proportion of their influence. Certain persons who have been the beneficiaries of a good woman were mentioned; and the result is an institution is established and fully justified. Why does not brother Sanders know that there are multiple instances in the New Testament where, for various reasons, more than one class of persons is mentioned? Does he think that each time such happens it suggests the existence of an institution? The rich man was mentioned in contrast with Lazarus—a poor man—therefore, according to such reasoning, we would have a poorhouse for the church to support. The Lord mentioned men, women, and children; and on occasions when they were hungry, he fed them miraculously. Does that prove the necessity of three institutions for such purposes? According to brother Sanders, it should. However, brother David Lipscomb was capable of writing a very acceptable commentary on Acts without seeing such institutions as come to the attention of one dealing in "a little speculation;" and some denominationalists likewise failed to find such ideas in Acts the ninth chapter as an institution for widows. The truth is, any person not having a pet theory to advance would notice the obvious fact, that Luke emphasizes that Dorcas had done certain good deeds in their behalf—not an institution, nor even the church. Apparently, brother Sanders implied that Dorcas was some kind of an officer in an institution for widows—the matron, perhaps. What the Bible says an individual did, brother Sanders says an institution did. "A little speculation?" Well, speculation, anyway.

In his closing remarks, the agent of Shultz-Lewis Home made the same use of other scriptures as was made of them by brother Briney in the Otey-Briney debate nearly half a century ago. The same use that many are making of them today. The digressives saw a Missionary Society in them; and the brethren among us who want to establish every kind of an organization from a cradle roll to a camp see any idea that happens to suit their fancy at the time they are reading the book.