Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 27, 1958

"How The New Testament Church Took Care Of Orphans"

(A review, by Robert L. (Bob) Craig, Ranger, Texas, of a booklet bearing the above title, written by W. B. West, Jr., Head of the Bible Department of Harding College.)

W. B. West should be a competent Bible scholar, as we take into consideration his formal education, his experience in teaching Bible, and as a preacher of the gospel. In fact, the booklet under consideration came to me "the very best I have seen on this matter." So, we are not reviewing a "top-water," a "peanut," nor a "crank."

This booklet is a reproduction of a speech made by brother West before a meeting of orphan home executives and is published by Potter Orphan Home and School, Bowling Green, Kentucky. Even though no distinction is made between board controlled homes and homes operated as part of a local congregation, under its elders, this speech seems to include only those homes under a local eldership. However, Potter Home is a board controlled home, i.e. the board is chosen from several different congregations, and since this booklet is authorized by them, evidently they think it defends their position. Then, too, the speech was before the superintendents of both types and was acceptable to all, so I suppose this booklet can be construed to be the defense of a competent and representative man in behalf of ALL orphan homes.

This is a 16 page booklet. I am in absolute agreement with about 14 of those pages, but I certainly take exception to his "necessary inferences" and a few other things. Although these so-called "necessary inferences" have nothing to do with what he is trying to prove, we must not misuse the idea of teaching in this way. Sectarians have long misused the "necessary inference" to try to prove anything under the sun they took a notion to do. We must not be guilty of misusing the "necessary inference" or the "syllogism." As a Bible scholar brother West knows, or should know, that a "necessary inference" is an inescapable conclusion. There is no other logical conclusion that can be drawn. If conceivably another conclusion could be reached, then it would not be a "necessary" inference at all; it would simply be an inference.

He says that "necessary inference from the command (to assemble) warrants our constructing houses in which to worship." He also puts the house for the preacher, classrooms, etc., under justification by necessary inference. This is just not so. Certainly we must assemble. (Heb. 10:25.) No doubt about that, but do we have to have; (notice that) do we HAVE to have a house before we can assemble? Brother West appeals to history for many things. While reading history, he should find that in the early days of the church, people assembled wherever they could; in caves, catacombs, in ruins of old buildings and perhaps, out in the open. Certainly the command to assemble is a generic command and the where is left to our own wisdom; but to say that the command to assemble "necessarily" infers a house is just not so. Remember necessary inference is something that has to be that way and cannot be any other way. In like manner, the church building a house for the preacher cannot be authorized by necessary inference. It is necessary that preachers live somewhere, but it is not a necessary inference that the church build them a place. They could live under the stars, in a tent, under a gourd vine or, it's just possible that they might exist as did the Lord and he said, "The Son of man hath not where to lay his head."

Brother West says that it is a necessary inference that there were "special homes in which the widows lived." Now it may be an inference but it is by no means a "necessary" inference that there were special homes. Brother West implies that the widows could not have been cared for in any other way. He says, "How could the church as large as it was, have cared for them (widows) otherwise, especially since there was daily service?" (Acts 6:2.) Now remember, brother West says that it was necessary that it be done this way. There could be no other way, evidently. I agree that it MIGHT have been done that way, but I will not agree that it HAD to be done that way and try as he may, brother West cannot so prove, and I don't believe will so contend when he thinks through his idea.

First, he doesn't know how many widows had to be cared for. Remember, they were to choose out from among themselves seven men? Evidently seven men were enough to provide for the "daily ministration" or the apostles would have suggested more. As brother West says, "as large as the church was" surely there were enough to serve in this daily ministration regardless of what method might have been chosen.

But, could it have been done some other way? Now that's the question. If it COULD have been done some other way, then it was not a necessary inference at all, that it was done in special homes for these widows. Look! The widows could have come to a central place and been served there, couldn't they? Was that possible? Now notice, I don't say that it was necessarily done that way, but I do say that it COULD just possibly have been done that way.

Even brother West expresses some doubt as to this being a NECESSARY inference when he says, "According to Acts 9:39, widows seemed to live together." Notice the word, "seemed." Brother West, did they necessarily live together and it couldn't have been any other way, or did it just "seem" that way? If it just "seemed" that way then you are not speaking of something that was necessary. Brother West uses the word "seemed" on several occasions and "probable" on other occasions. You who know anything at all about how to study the Bible know that these words just cannot be used with a "necessary" inference. A necessary inference is an inescapable conclusion which is drawn by evidences presented, and no other conclusion can be drawn. I deny every one of brother West's inferences as being "necessary."

But let's get to the controversy. As far as I know, no one is denying the Bible teaching of our caring for widows and fatherless. And that care would include the things necessary to their well-being. Brother West takes several pages to teach that which no one denies. The only controversy that exists is whether the local congregation is able to attend to its own work or must there be some central organization to work through. Is the local church, as God authorized it, sufficient within itself to carry on the work God gave it to do? Certainly widows and orphans must have a house, or a place, in which to live. Question: Ts God's organization, the church, sufficient to make arrangements for such? Or must we have another organization? Why, brother West actually answers the question if he could but see it. In Acts 6 and Acts 9, the records he introduced, there was just one congregation of God's people in existence. That one congregation took care of its own needs. Widows needed to be ministered to. Now whether they were ministered to in one house, or whether they gathered up and received whatever they needed, or whether it was served to them in their own homes, or whether it was done some other way, has absolutely no bearing on the present controversy. The method of care is not under discussion. The New Testament way was that that one local congregation made their own arrangements (they appointed seven men of their own number to look after it) and took care of their own needs without bringing into existence anything such as Potter Home is today.

Potter Home, Boles Home, Tipton Home, etc., are set up and chartered as child-care organizations. Boles Home is not a house. Tipton Home is not a house. All the rest of them are not houses; they are organizations. The organization existed before the facilities for care did. The organization itself is not a method of care. The organization provides the method of care. But the Lord brought into existence his own organization. Now, shall the churches of our Lord turn their work of benevolence over to other organizations; or, is God's organization, the local church, sufficient to make its own arrangements? Or has God given the church a work to do that it cannot do? Some think the church is not sufficient to do the work of evangelism that God gave it to do and have brought into existence other organizations through which the churches work to accomplish God's will. Others think the church is not sufficient to do the work of benevolence that God gave it to do and have brought into existence other organization through which the churches work to accomplish God's will. What's the difference? Even though the organizations are not parallel in every minute detail their design is the same.

When one church has orphans or widows to care for, it is that church's obligation to care for such. How they do it is a matter of judgment. However they do it, it is their obligation and not one that can be shifted to the many churches as they cooperate through a central organization. Even if they should see the wisdom of placing a child in a child-care home or a widow in a nursing home, it is still their obligation and not the obligation of some other church or some central organization. If they have more widows or orphans than they can care for, then it is the obligation of other congregations to come to the aid of that congregation, just as they did in Acts 11 and 2 Cor. 8 and 9. If a congregation needs help, send that congregation help. That's the Bible way. Jerusalem was not and did not become a central place where other congregations could deposit their widows and then send along a pittance each month to relieve their conscience or just let other congregations send to Jerusalem to take up their slack. There is not an inference, necessary or unnecessary, that will teach such. There is nothing in all of God's word that even begins to look like Boles, Tipton. Potter, etc: organizations that receive orphans from other congregations for care and a central medium that receives funds from all congregations to care for the needs (or it would be better to say the shirking of responsibility) of

other congregations. Very few, if any, orphans in Tipton Home came from Tipton, Oklahoma. Very few, if any, orphans in Turley Home came from Turley, Oklahoma, etc., etc. A friend of mine once went to labor with the Tipton church, believing that its orphan home was a scriptural set-up. He said that it took him less than 30 days to see that there was nothing in the Bible that looks like that organization.

One more "necessary" (?) inference before we close. Brother West talks about the "widows indeed" of 1 Tim. 5. He notes that one of her qualities is that she "must have brought up children." It doesn't say "her children" therefore it could be any children. Brother West says that this implies that the widows indeed, those who were supported by the church, had responsibilities in turn for their maintenance, and these responsibilities included the care of orphans — hence, an orphans home like Potter, etc. If this wasn't introduced to prove that, then there would be no reason for its having been introduced. If that arrangement was in existence in Jerusalem or Ephesus, I deny that it was anything that even began to look like Potter and company. I agree that perhaps this did take place and I agree that it would be a very good way to manage the thing today, but I deny that 1 Tim. 5 teaches such. Notice: "if she hath brought up children," is a quality she must possess BEFORE she can be regarded as a charge of the church. It doesn't say, neither does it imply, that as a charge of the church, "she MUST CONTINUE to bring up children." It might be wise for a widow who is the charge of the church to perform this service, if she were able, but I'm suggesting that this would be in the realm of judgment and something that the local congregation that was caring for the widow and orphan would make arrangements for. But does this suggest another organization such as Potter Home to make these arrangements? Just what is brother West trying to prove?

And, too, these institutional enthusiasts need to get together. They cry loud and long about us not agreeing among ourselves. "Let them sweep in front of their own doors before they start sweeping mine." There is a wide breach between them in connection with whether an orphans home may be operated under a board gathered from many different churches (the Gospel Advocate position), or whether that board must come from the same congregation (the Firm Foundation position). Then too, in the recent debate in Birmingham, brother Guy N. Woods, a representative man accepted by all these brethren, said that the local congregation COULD NOT make these physical arrangements for orphan care. It HAD to be through some institutional home. In fact, he said, "all the local congregation can do is to send the money." And that about sums up their whole argument. Let the congregations be subsidiary to the central organizations and the larger congregations. Let the majority of all the churches just be fund-raising groups! But, is that the New Testament way? Do YOU believe that concept to be true to the Book? If it is the New Testament way then we need to disband and join some denominational group because that is exactly what they believe.