"Clouding The Issue"
We remember hearing one brother tell of instruction received under the tutelage of another brother regarding the "finer" points of debating in which the tutor instructed him in "how to cloud the issue" when an opponent was apparently getting the best of the argument. This is dishonorable and we have nothing but scorn for such pranks that would be unethical even in cheap politics. In addition to it being downright dishonest, such a practice is a careless and irresponsible handling of matters that would affect the destiny of men's souls. It is unbelievable that such would be resorted to by Christians and unthinkable on the part of gospel preachers whom we fear are the greatest offenders.
When an attempt to dispassionately view much of what has been said in alleged support of the church's right to build and subsidize human institutions through which to do its work-any of its work, we cannot but be impressed with the lack of scriptural authority adduced and are compelled to conclude that much effort has been expended in an effort to "cloud the issue." We are not charging deceit and dishonesty to all those who have added smoke to the cloud. Some have done so because of their own confusion. We are persuaded, however, that others have been frantically laying down a smoke screen to keep the masses in the church bewildered and uninformed in regard to these matters, for to inform and enlighten them would be to lose their support. Could it be that the institutionally-minded brethren love self-glory and prominence plus financial considerations to such degree that they would hold on to their promotional projects regardless of what the word of God says? This seems to be the only conclusion left when men knowingly resort to beclouding an issue when they know it cannot be substantiated by the scriptures.
Let us notice some of the things that becloud the issue. (1) It is said with reference to those of us that oppose the church's building and maintaining a human institution through which to do its benevolent work, "Those people don't believe in taking care of poor little orphans!" We doubt that many people believe this-even those who have made the charge. It is made either through ignorance or in an effort to create prejudice. The implication of the charge is that the streets are teeming with little emaciated urchins roaming around garbage cans seeking, to keep body and soul together in whose faces we delight in slamming a door and with a devilish, guttural laugh, jump for joy when they fall in the streets from malnutrition or lose a limb from frost-bite. Just where are all these under-privileged children looking for someone to care for them? Just show them to us and we will give them a home-the kind of home that God intended for them to have, with a real mother and father to provide for them and give them personal love and care, instead of an assembly line basis. There are literally dozens of families that have asked us to help them find a child for whom they might provide a home. If Boles Home will open its doors and say, "Come get these children if you want them," in less than a week's time, we would leave them with nothing but empty buildings and idle personnel. If they think this is being said for effect, just let them try us, and we will demonstrate who it is that really believe in taking care of poor little orphans.
(2) "Why is it right for the church to build a home for the preacher but wrong for it to build a home for an orphan?" is another beclouding question. Obviously many honest people have raised this question being unable to see the fallacy that it contains. This is a case of "switching" terms without knowing or revealing that such is being done, at least by those who ask the question. When the word "home" is used in regard to the preacher, a house is under consideration, but when "home" is used relative to the orphan, an institution or relationship is meant. It is not uncommon to see "home" used in the same sentence to mean all three, This common place use of switching terms does not prove such practice to be correct, but it does becloud the issue. It seems that those who argue that since it is right for the church to build a home (house) for the preacher, that it is also right for it to build a home (an organization or institution) for an orphan, should be able to see that once this human institution or organization has been built by the churches, the institution must still turn and
build a house for the orphan, the very thing the church could have done to start with without the institution. No one that we know of denies the right of the church to build a house for an orphan for whom the church is responsible if it needs it in its support of him. We do not oppose the church's building a home (house) for a preacher in its support of him, but we would oppose the church's creating a matrimonial bureau to build the preacher a home (a relationship). We do not oppose the church's building a house for a preacher, but we would oppose the church's subsidizing a Brotherhood Construction Society which might be organized to build houses for preachers. We do not oppose the church's building a house for an orphan for whom it is responsible, but we oppose its building and, or maintaining I Benevolent Bureau or Society such as Boles Home to establish either a relationship or build a house for an orphan. And for a good reason-there is no scriptural authority for it!
The Church has a right to build a house to fill whatever need exists in performing the work which God has given the church to do. (Right, in this connection, many brethren need to learn what it is that God has given the church to do.) But it has no right to build a house for any other purpose. Even though it has a right to build a building to expedite its obedience to God's orders, it has no right to make contributions to a building society which in turn would do the Churches' construction work. The Paden Construction Company is a well known builder of church buildings. It is right for the church to employ this company to build a building but would be wrong for the church to make contributions to subsidize the company. The difference is between buying services and making gifts. The church may buy services from another institution which is needed by the church to perform its duty to God, but it may not make contributions to another institution. Someone is ready to ask, "Is not the home (the family) another institution?" Yes. "Well, may not the church contribute to a private home?" No. The church may make gifts to needy individuals who in turn may compose a private family a home, but the church does not contribute to a home as such. The only reason that needy individuals are helped by the church is because they are poor saints, and not because they are "units of society"-compose a home. There is not a single exception to this in all the New Testament that we have been able to find. If someone knows of one, we would appreciate getting the information.
This, brings us to the next question that beclouds the issue. (3) "If a church chooses to care for an orphan in its own community instead of sending him to an 'Orphan Home,' and in this case may use the public schools-another institution-to educate him, and a hospital-another institution-if he gets sick, why may not it use Boles Home-another institution?" The fallacy here is in failing to distinguish between buying services and making contributions. If an orphan who is a charge of the church needs hospitalization, the church may pay the hospital for services rendered, but when the orphan for whom the church is responsible no longer needs hospital care, the church does not continue to send money to the hospital. The former payments would be for services, the latter would constitute gifts which gifts the Church has no scriptural authority to make. It is right for the church to buy services from a hospital when such is needed in order for the church to discharge its God ordained duties, but wrong for the church to build, maintain, or subsidize a hospital. It is right for the church to buy services from a light company in using the company's commodity and paying the electric bill, but wrong for it to contribute to the building and/or maintenance of a light company. The churches are not buying services from Boles Home; they are making contributions to the building and maintenance of a human institution set up to do the churches' work as well as work which does not belong to the churches, and the churches have no more right to contribute to it than they do to the Paden Construction Company. If Boles Home would cease taking contributions from the churches and become a Service-Selling Institution insofar as its relationship to the churches is concerned, and a church had the need to buy its services in order to discharge the duties which God laid upon it, we presently see nothing wrong with contracting for and paying for such services. But when the church no longer needed this service in caring for its needy, then stop sending money to Boles just as it would to a hospital when it no longer needed hospital care for its poor, sick saints. But suppose one church had more poor in it than it could care for? Then let other churches send to the elders where the need exists instead of sending the needy to Boles and money to Boles. Then if the elders where the need exists feel that they must have the services of Boles Home in order to discharge their duty to their destitute, then let them buy such for themselves and quit spending money when the services are no longer needed or are being rendered. The difference in using a hospital -one institution-and paying for services rendered, and in sending contributions to Boles Home-another institution, is the same difference between paying a poor man's grocery bill and making a contribution to a grocery store. If one cannot see this, we respectfully suggest that the "Issue" is not the only thing that is "clouded."
Anyone can raise questions with certain implications from which inferences might be drawn, but what we want is not questions about why a thing is wrong if something else is right, but an answer as to why a thing itself is right regardless of what something else might be. We should accept no answer unless it has behind it book, chapter, and verse. The only safe ground is to give scriptural authority for everything that we believe and practice. When this cannot be done, we ought to quit believing it and we must quit practicing it if we intend to go to heaven. Let us be sincere in our study, sober in our thinking, and honest in our dealing with God, men, and issues.
Truth Magazine IV:10, pp. 3-5