Willis-Carrell Discussion, Second Affirmative
William L. Carrell
RESOLVED: That it is in harmony with New Testament teaching for a congregation or congregations to take money from their treasuries and send it to a corporate home (such as Mid-Western, Potter, Shults-Lewis, Maude Carpenter, Lubbock, etc.) which is organized for the purpose of providing a home for orphaned or forsaken children.
36. Benevolence characterizes nearly every page of the New Testament. "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink" (Rom. 12:20). Jesus Himself is characterized as one "who went about doing good." And He said. "Whatever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matt. 7:12). Would it not seem Wm. L. Carrell strange that He would have established a church which he then forbade to help anyone who does not first subscribe to its teachings?
37. Yet this is what Bro. Willis teaches. "I do not know of any scriptural authority or the church to relieve any but saints," he writes. In the story of the Good Samaritan there is no indication that the Samaritan first inquired into the religious convictions of the man he helped. In fact Jesus gave the story to answer one who asked, "Who is my neighbor?" And it condemns the spirit of exclusiveness which Bro. Willis seems to advocate.
38. Paul stated that one of the reasons for working is to "have to give to him that needeth" (Eph. 4:28). And where in that verse or its context do you find that the one "that needeth" must be a Christian?
39. In my first affirmative I asked Bro. Willis to tell us how a church can carry out a benevolent program. I wanted him to tell us of a congregation he knows of, which is caring for orphans AS A CONGREGATION and in a SCRIPTURAL way. He did not give us an example. And why not? It is very easy to condemn, as long as you are not required to give a practical alternative. If the New Testament pattern, as you see it, Bro. Willis, can be carried out in the 20th Century, surely you know of someone who is doing it.
40. Bro. Willis has tried awfully hard to show that I am maligning him when in fact I am only showing the efforts he is making to dodge the issue. He says that I am "smarting" because "the Christian Church preacher, J. B. Briney used (my) argument first." The fact is, however, that all I did was to ask him to explain how he could possible carry out a command of God in which the method of doing it isn't prescribed, unless he uses his own judgment? Say what he will, he cannot get around the fact that he never answered that question!
41. In this same connection I asked if he recognizes the "LAW OF INCLUSION,'' which is just as valid as the "LAW OF EXCLUSION." I stated this in my P. 9, " when God commands something and does not specify how to do it, we are left free to use our own best judgment. This is the law of inclusion ...." I illustrated this by showing that God commanded Noah to build the ark, but left at least some of the minor details of its construction to Noah's discretion.
42. In his answer to this he wrote, "He wants to know if I would accept a law of inclusion (p. 8). Certainly I will, if he will give one!" (The italics are yours!) Well, did give one, Bro. Willis, and in the very place you were reading. You may have missed it in reading it rather hurriedly. (Bro. Willis always tells me how busy he is!) But you can't say that you answered me.
43. Bro. Willis frequently says he will accept "general or specific authority." But I don't think he knows what these expressions mean. "GENERAL AUTHORITY" includes any and every method of carrying out a command which is not specifically excluded by some other command or scriptural principle. "SPECIFIC AUTHORITY" excludes everything contrary to what it specifies. These two principles are complementary, merely, opposite sides of the same coin. Bro. Willis recognizes SPECIFIC AUTHORITY, and the law of exclusion. He does not recognize generaL AUTHORTTY and the law of inclusion.
44. In the illustration about Noah building the ark I posed the problem of how he would determine whether to use wooden pegs or nails since God did not specify either. He dodged this question, however, by supposing that I would have built a second ark. He effectively demolished this imaginary second ark. BUT YOU DIDNT ANSWER MY SECOND QUESTION. Unless he is willing to deal with legitimate criticisms, and will offer something more than evasions, I fail to see any good coming from this discussion.
The Missionary Society
45. Bro. Willis begs me to argue with him about the missionary society. He lists 16 points of supposed similarity between the missionary society and the children's homes. He quotes a number of brethren to the effect that they are similar and holds out again the challenge to argue missionary societies with him. Why can't he show what is wrong with a children's home on the basis of scripture? Why must it be proven wrong because it is supposedly like something else, which is wrong!
46. I could enumerate at least sixteen points of similarity between a man and an ape". (And evolutionists use such "evidence'' to "prove" that man is related to the ape.) But if resemblance does not prove relationship in the evolutionist's case, it does not prove it in Bro. Willis' case either. Sixteen points or sixty points of resemblance do not, in and of themselves, prove that the missionary society and the children's home are the same.
47. But Bro. Willis wants to argue missionary societies. "Anything he says is wrong with the missionary society, I can show also to be wrong with his benevolent society," he writes. "Want to try me on that, Brother Carrell?" Well, let's see. In the Otey-Briney debate, page 189, the "BY-LAWS OF THE CAROLINA CHRISTIAN MISSIONARY CONVENTION" are quoted. They read in part as follows:
"No.1. For insubordination to the authority of the Convention as regards devising ways and means for the spread of the gospel, ministers, individual members and congregations shall be required to answer to the convention.
"No. 2. Any action of a church, minister or individual member contrary to the deliberations of the Convention shall be considered disorderly.
"No. 3. In order to pass upon questions of disorder, a committee of three shall be chosen by the offending congregation, minister or individual member, and three others chosen by the Board of the Convention.
"No. 4. Ministers of the Church of Christ shall be provided with credentials of the Convention, and shall not ask congregations to accept them without said credentials."
"No. 6. The penalty for insubordination shall be suspension from the Convention; but all possible moderation shall be used in deciding questions of insubordination.'`
48. All right, Bro. Willis. I CONSIDER THE ABOVE QUOTED BY-LAWS CONTRARY TO CLEAR SCRIPTURAL TEACHING. You promised that anything I show wrong with the missionary society you will show to be wrong with the children's homes. This was your idea, not mine. Please point out to us a corporate home, such as those in our proposition, which claims authority to TRY churches, preachers, and members. Find a home which claims authority to commission preachers, and refuses recognition to those not so commissioned. Maybe then your points of similarity will have some bearing on the question we are discussing
49. You quoted Bro. Reuel Lemmons in the Sept. 20, 1967 Firm Foundation as saying, "While there may be some slight differences between separate corporations operated under Boards of Trustees and the Missionary Society, the similarities between the two are entirely too great to ignore." But this same Bro. Lemmons in the March 2, 1965 issue of Firm Foundation, an issue devoted entirely to the Tipton Home, wrote eloquently concerning the needs of this fine home, and ended with the words, "We could wish that every congregation would send a liberal contribution now, and that you would put the Tipton Home in your budget for at least the next three years while this work is going on'' (the work of replacing worn-out buildings).
50. It is one thing to recognize the danger of abuse. And that's exactly what Bro. Lemmons was discussing in the place you quoted. It is quite another thing to use such warning to condemn the whole system. The Bible itself warns against elders lording it over the flock. But it does not mean it is wrong to have elders. In the editorial you quoted Bro. Lemmons criticizes extremists who would put even the church itself under a "board of directors." He has not reversed himself concerning the scripturalness of children's homes.
Individual vs. Congregational Responsibility
51. Bro. Willis frequently resorts to a supposed distinction between congregational responsibility and individual responsibility when his theories are pressed by an inconvenient scripture. He uses 1 Timothy 5:16 to "prove" a distinction between the two: "If any man or woman that believeth have widows, let them relieve them, and let not the church be charged, that it may relieve them that are widows indeed."
52. Let us examine this scripture and its implications. In Gal. 6:2 Paul wrote, "Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ," and a few verses further, "For every man shall bear his own burden." Each is to bear his own burden. And yet, we are to be ready to help another bear his burden when necessary. No rigid set of rules is given or can be given to cover each and every case we might have to decide on.
53. 1 Tim. 5:16 is a case in which this principle (Gal. 6) is applied. The instruction is to the individual believer. He is to assume his own responsibility and not to put it off on his brethren. This verse does not refer to a supposed difference in kind of obligation between the church and the individual. It does not forbid the church to support widows. It merely teaches the individual not to put his responsibility, which he is able to bear, off on to his brethren. And it would apply equally well to the lazy person who put his own personal responsibility off on to another INDIVIDUAL (not congregation).
54. Thus in 1 Timothy 5:16 Paul does not teach any ESSENTIAL differences in obligation between the individual and the congregation, except in those matters which obviously apply to a certain CLASS of people in the church. "Children, obey your parents in the Lord..." applies to children. "Husbands, love your wives'' applies to husbands. "Wives submit yourselves unto your own husbands" applies to wives. 1 Timothy 5:16 applies to the believer who has a widow (obviously one which is his primary obligation because of closer relationship). But where all Christians bear an EQUAL responsibility toward a command of God, then it is the obligation of the whole congregation, and can be supported from their common fund. I confess this seems so obvious to me that I don't see how it could be made any plainer. When all members come equally under the command to care for orphans, then that care can be paid for from the common treasury.
Can the Church Buy Song Books?
55. Bro. Willis applies arbitrary rules of interpretation, and ignores the above arguments when he fixes his distinctions between what an individual Christian is allowed to do and what the congregation is allowed to do. Notice the fix he gets into when his same reasoning is applied in other areas. Can a congregation scripturally use money from its treasury to buy song books? Let us examine the scriptures.
56. All scriptures on singing in worship are addressed to individuals. "Speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord" (Eph. 5:10). "teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord" (Col. 3:16; see also Heb. 2:12); "in the midst of the congregation will I sing praise unto thee" (individual) and 1 Cor. 14:15, "I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also" (individual).
57. All these scriptures speak of INDIVIDUAL singing. Now we recognize that song books are a legitimate inference from this command. But since the command is to individuals, by what logic does Bro. Willis infer that the CONGREGATION, through its treasury, should buy the song books? Perhaps he will tell me he does not think a congregation can legitimately purchase song books. But if he thinks it can, will he not then agree that what is commanded of each and every individual in the congregation is commanded of the whole congregation, and can therefore be carried out by them collectively, through their common treasury? If not, why not?
58. James 1:27 which commands us to "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction," applies to the individual, he says, not to the congregation. For the sake of argument let us grant that. But does it not apply to EACH AND EVERY individual in the church? And if so, does it not apply to the WHOLE church! If we can fulfill the INDIVIDUAL obligation to sing by buying the necessary song books through the common treasury, why Can we not also fulfill the common INDIVIDUAL obligation to support the needy, the widow indeed, and the orphan, in the same way, that is, through the common treasury?
59. And this is exactly how the early Christians obviously interpreted such commands. The commands concerning giving are addressed to individuals. " let every one of you lay by him in store ..." (1 Cor. 16:2). Gal. 6 teaches that we are to share in all good things with him that teacheth, and to do good to ALL MEN. (Not just to brethren.) The early church received these commands the same as we do, BUT THEY UNDERSTOOD THAT THEY COULD CARRY THEM OUT EITHER INDIVIDUALLY OR COLLECTIVELY. We do not read of a host of little separate "funds," "flower funds," and the like. (Incidentally where is your scripture for a flower fund?) They understood that what the individual is to do BECAUSE HE IS A CHRISTIAN he can do with other Christians who bear the same obligation toward a good work that he does.
60. Bro. Willis tries awfully hard to find a contradiction between the ideas that we can scripturally support children's homes and cannot scripturally support the Christian colleges from congregational funds. But is it not clear that a church can support, from its common treasury, that which is the common obligation of each and every member, but that it cannot support from its common treasury that which is primarily the obligation of parents? True, every Christian is to some extend concerned with Christian education. But then too, every Christian in the congregation I attend is or should be concerned that I feed and clothe my children properly. But this is primarily my obligation, not theirs.
61. When Bro. Willis dismisses James 1:27 as applying only to the individual, he winds up saying that A CHURCH CANNOT SCRIPTURALLY PRACTICE PURE RELIGION. While an individual Christian can help either orphans of saints or of sinners, he says the church is limited to helping only the orphans of saints, even though neither knows his right hand from his left!
62. You ask if I believe in limited or unlimited congregational benevolence. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). That sounds rather unlimited to me, doesn't it to you? And it even fits Bro. Willis' definition of a congregational command since it is written in the plural! Also the Bible says, "If thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink" (Matt. 7:12). The command to evangelize is unlimited, isn't it, Bro. Willis? Why not let our benevolence too be as unlimited as the Lord has shown us it should be?
63. In this article I have dealt with the following matters which I would like to have Bro. Willis deal with.
1. Do you know of a present-day congregation of the church of Christ which is carrying on a congregational program of supporting orphans in a way you consider scriptural!
2. Do you recognize and accept the "law of inclusion" as I have explained it in this article, (p. 41-44) and in my previous article?
3. What do you mean by "general authority?"
4. Do you know of any children's home operated by our brethren, which claim authority over churches and individuals such as that claimed in the By-laws of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, quoted in my p. 47?
5. Is it true that what God has commanded of each and every member of the church He has commanded of the whole church?
6. Can a congregation scripturally purchase song books to carry out God's command to individuals to sing?
7. Do you believe in limited or unlimited congregational benevolence?
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIII: 4, pp. 2-5