Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 3, 1955

Brother Teddlie Is Confusing

Ralph Edmunson. Plano. Texas

In the Gospel Advocate of December 23, 1954 there is an article by Brother Tillit S. Teddlie entitled "Am I Confused — And How!!" I am sure that there are many other brethren over the land who are also confused. This writer has been following the controversy of centralization and institutionalism for some time, and I must confess that I, too, at times have been confused. It is not a crime to be confused, and Brother Teddlie is not being censured for that. However, as one brother to another, I would like to offer a few observations on the article.

He seems to appeal to tradition in his first paragraph, when he mentions many of the great preachers of the past and present. Surely no one would want to cast reflection on any man who has labored and preached as these men have, yet, to use them as authority for practices today is bestowing undue honor upon men.

He speaks next of a new doctrine. Doctrines and practices have at times been endorsed by faithful brethren for some time before something comes up that causes a complete reinvestigation of our stand. Many times departures and trends are of such small and insignificant nature that no thought is given to them. But there comes along an enlargement of these principles and then brethren begin to see the error. Many brethren who endorsed the missionary society later changed their minds when they were able to see the principle was wrong.

If this be a "new" doctrine, it is new only to the extent that a more thorough study has been given to those principles upon which the "restoration" is based. And in that study brethren have seen that long standing practices are in reality departures from the word of God.

The "New" Doctrine

"Now comes a new doctrine, namely, that benevolence, such as caring for the widow and the orphan, must be done by the individual, and not by the church. I must confess that I am confused." His confusion lies mainly in his failure to properly state the "new" doctrine. Brother Teddlie, and many other brethren, labor under the impression that everything a Christian does must be done through the church. In his article Brother Teddlie makes the "new" doctrine out to be foolishness with the following kind of logic (?).

  1. Benevolence is an individual obligation.
  2. Benevolence is a Christian work.
  3. Therefore, all Christian works are individual in their nature.

Anyone should be able to see the fallacy of that logic. Just because one Christian duty is individual does not at all mean that all Christian duties are individual. The truth of the matter is that there are some individual duties and some duties that are to be done through the organization of the church.

No one yet has contended that ALL benevolent work MUST be done individually. Yet that is the "new" doctrine that has Brother Teddlie confused. That is the straw man that has been set up and then knocked down. That the Bible teaches both individual and church support of benevolence is evident from 1 Timothy 6:3-16. "3. Honor widows that are widows indeed. 4. But if any widow hath children or grandchildren, let them learn first to show piety towards their own family, and to requite their parents: for this is acceptable in the sight of God . . . . 16. If any woman that believeth hath widows, let her relieve them, and let not the church be burdened; that it may relieve them that are widows indeed."

It is our contention that the church, as an organization, is not responsible for all the orphans in the world; nor for all the widows in the world. There is a place for church supported orphan homes and old folk's homes. If a church happens to have some orphans and/or widows in need of help, it is within the realm of that church's responsibility to take care of them IF some individual Christian does not have a prior DUTY to them. That church can even build a house to take care of them in, and they can ask sister congregations to send help if necessary. These orphans and old folk are peculiarly the responsibility of this one church.

What has been said against brotherhood orphan homes and old folk's homes is that it is wrong for a church to build an orphan home or old folk's home and then invite the brotherhood to send them orphans and old folk for them to take care of. There is a world of difference in a church's taking care of its own indigent and its being a brotherhood benevolent society.

Brother Teddlie asks, "If the individual can function separate and apart from the elders, what purpose is there in having elders? Am I confused? — and how!" I am sure Brother Teddlie has been doing that very thing for years. Let me ask some questions: Must I call the elders together and consult with them every time I want to teach my child something about the Bible? or may I do it "separate and apart from the elders"? Must I ask permission of the elders every time I help a sick or bereaved family? Must the church be called together before I can visit my neighbor to teach him the gospel? Was Brother Teddlie's song book publishing an individual affair, "separate and apart from the elders," or did the eldership where he worshipped direct that work? Certainly an individual can do things without involving the organization of the church.

The six questions that Brother Teddlie lists as confusing stem from his not seeing that there is properly a place for individual action; and that there is a place for church action.