Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 26, 1956
NUMBER 12, PAGE 14-15b

Overton's Orphanage Offering

Robert C. Welch, Louisville, Kentucky

Due to oversight this article is rather late. Some months ago a reply was presented in this magazine of an article by Basil Overton in the Gospel Advocate comparing contributions to orphanages with air conditioning of church buildings. In that first article he promised to write another which he boasted would be a "candid" statement of affairs. The second article came in the issue of February 9, 1956. Perhaps the lateness of this reply will give him time to think that he has something unanswerable. Presumably he thought thusly of his utterances from the beginning. There is nothing in the article which has not been presented many times before by those who advocate the church support of human institutions.

The first sentence of his article is a misunderstanding and misrepresentation. He says, "Some object to a church of Christ sending to an orphan home because they say the orphan home is an institution." If Brother Overton has only partially kept abreast of the controversy he knows that the opposition to church support of orphanages is on the grounds that such organizations are HUMAN institutions and not DIVINE institutions. When he recognizes this difference he will have no argument, because the entire article hinges upon this misrepresentation.

In the same paragraph he argues that the church cannot care for orphans without the establishment of some institutions unknown to the scriptures. He says, "Even if orphans were taken to the meetinghouse of the church and individual Christians went there to care for them that would constitute an institution; such would be an orphan home." Is the caring for widows, of 1 Timothy 5, an institution other than the church? If the care of orphans by Christians in the meetinghouse constitutes an institution other than the church, then the teaching of the scriptures in the meetinghouse by Christians constitutes an institution other than the church, and he loses the argument brethren make that the Bible study on Lord's day morning is only the church in operation.

Advocates Church Supported Hospitals

He has difficulty with the argument that the services of an orphanage could be purchased in the same way as the church purchases the services of a hospital for a needy person. His only conclusion is that the church can contribute to the hospital if it is solely a mercy project. He says, "And I do not believe that a church should just give money to a hospital either, unless the hospital did not do anything but care for those who cannot pay their bills! Such a hospital would be parallel to an- orphan home!" According to that argument, if the Masonic Lodge operates a hospital purely for the purpose of charity to needy patients, he would be obligated to insist that the church contribute to the hospital. On the other hand, according to his statement of affairs, if the orphan home houses children whose parents or relatives pay for their care, he is obligated to oppose the church's contribution thereto. He says the home and hospital are parallel. He opposes church contribution to a hospital which receives pay for its services, he will have to do the same for the orphan home. No one will deny that there are children in the orphanages whose care is being paid for. Perhaps he will want to change his position slightly on the hospital.

Prejudicial Remarks About Personal Desires

He uses a long paragraph discussing conversations with people about their personal desires about taking orphans into their private homes. None of the matter presented has anything to do with whether or not a church can scripturally support a human institution such as the orphanages.

Then he attempts to prejudice the minds of readers by suggesting that people will only take into their homes those children "of a certain age, sex, color of hair, etc." He needs to find a case where personal preference about such things has left a child without provision and care, before his argument has any significance. Then he says of the orphanages: "To my knowledge they take just any that need a home, if they have room for them. It does not matter about the age, sex, color of hair, or anything else." Does he have knowledge of such matters? How many crippled and deficient children has he seen in the orphanages run by brethren? How many children of the Negro race has he seen in any one or all of the orphanages among us? Perhaps he could say that to his knowledge none of that race are orphans. Such orphanages have the right to choose their charges. Individuals may choose those received into their homes. But let us not have any prejudicial appeal about personal characteristics introduced. People know better.

Fallacious Reasoning Illustrated

He says, "The very fact that there has been considerable controversy as to how orphans should be taken care of is pretty good proof that God did not tell us how to care for them." Now isn't that some argument for a preacher of the gospel to make! Let him try his hand on baptism. There has been controversy about how to baptize for centuries. Does that mean that God has not said "how" to baptize? Is immersion, only, questionable? Try again, Brother Overton.

He argues that if James 1:27 includes individual care of orphans it likewise includes only individual care of widows. But since 1 Timothy 5:16 shows a church obligation to widows, he argues that the church must be under consideration in James 1:27 with reference to orphans. To make sure that his argument is stated correctly, here it is:

"Therefore, if only individuals can care for orphans it would follow that only individuals can care for widows. But we know better than this because Paul taught that a church is obligated to care for widows. (1 Tim. 5:16.) It follows then, since both widows and orphans are mentioned in James 1:27 that the care of orphans is not limited to individuals, but that a church can care for orphans."

One major point is lacking in his reasoning, and it is the one which many have been challenged to find. He needs a statement from Paul or some writer of the scriptures which says that the church is to care for the orphans as he has found about the widows. When he does that, then he can say that he has found a parallel case. It is still true, however, that James 1:27, is talking about individual visitation only, to both the orphan and the widow.

Let him try his hand on this illustration of his type of argument. Peter said, "Repent, and be baptized . ." (Acts 2:38.) If only aliens can be baptized, then only aliens can repent. But we know better than this because Peter told a child of God who had sinned to repent. (Acts 8:22.) It follows then that since both repentance and baptism are mention in Acts 2:38 that baptism is not limited to aliens but that a child of God who has sinned is to be baptized. The reasoning in this argument is absurdly fallacious, but it is precisely the same reasoning of Brother Overton. When he finds the fallacy in this argument, let him apply it to his argument and he will never make it again.

Missionary Society Parallel

He wants to run from the missionary society parallel as all the advocates of church supported human institutions have done. He says the missionary society and the orphan home are not parallel, "because the missionary society is an addition to God's arrangement ...." If that be so, then the conclusion he draws is that the orphan home is not an addition to God's arrangement. He needs to find church contribution to an orphan home in God's arrangement. Surely he can find it if it is not an addition to God's arrangement.

He says further: "A missionary society and an instrument are not required in the carrying out of God's commands. But, an institution is required in the taking care of orphans." Brother Overton, are the orphan homes necessary in the church's carrying out God's requirements? If so, they are not matters of expediency, but of faith. According to your own argument, if they are unnecessary in the church's carrying out God's requirements, they fall in the same category with the missionary society; that is, an additional arrangement for church work. Your own argument defeats you. Perhaps Brother Overton will want to take another "candid" look at the question. We hope and pray that he will see the difference between human and divine institutions and the difference between the individual and the church in this matter and in many others.