L. A. Stauffer
Aubrey Belue, Jr. and Sidney French met December 13, 14, 16, 17 for a discussion of church supported homes such as Tennessee Orphan Home, Spring Hill, Tennessee. The discussion was conducted at the West Gary Church of Christ, 3634 W. 11th Ave., Gary, Indiana, the first two nights and at the Midwest Church of Christ, 562 No. LeClaire, Chicago, Illinois, the last two nights. Brother French affirmed and brother Belue denied the scripturalness of such homes.
The conduct of both disputants is commendable. Brother French promised from the beginning that he would conduct himself as a "gentleman and a Christian; " this he did. Brother Belue conducted himself in like manner. Consequently, an atmosphere of friendliness prevailed between the two throughout. However, Eulan Knox, Frenchs moderator, provoked some disorder each night. Whether he was attempting to patch up the debate for French, get into the debate, prejudice the audience, or do all three is not certain, but one thing is certain he was a continual source of provocation.
The first night, in his remarks before the audience after the discussion, brother Knox charged Belue with having a temper and being angry, while those! Who know Belue best knew he was simply pressing the issue firmly as he forewarned he would do. At the conclusion of the second night's discussion he told a joke, applying it to Belue, about a preacher who when he had nothing to say just hollered. The third night, following his opening remarks asking the audience for no demonstrations, he kept pointing, during Belue's speech, to a line on the blackboard on which French had asked Belue to write the scripture telling the church how to do its work. This provoked some discussion between him and Belue, although Belue had already written the scriptures on the board excluding a benevolent society and had explained that it was not a question of "how," but "who." The final night, apparently to patch up French's complete failure, he stated that he was happy to be among those who say and do rather than those such as Belue who only say. Then he made reference to and commented on Matt. 25:31-46.
Such remarks by a moderator were obviously out of order and some hindrance to an otherwise well conducted debate. To the audience, Elvert Hines (Belue's moderator) and both disputants, who conducted thernselves excellently, we express unreserved commendation.
The Issue Stated
That the audience might clearly understand the issue, brother Belue stated it in his first affirmative and continually emphasized it until the end of the debate. He affirmed the sinfulness of going beyond what is generally and specifically authorized in God's Word. Moreover, he affirmed that the New Testament specifies the church as the institution to oversee and control the church's work of relieving the needy. Finally, he showed that Tennessee Orphan Home (T. O. H.) is a human organization separate and distinct from the church overseeing a work performed by the church, hence is sinful.
Upon these premises, Belue emphasized very forcefully and clearly that the issue is not the care of orphans, the provision of a place to stay or the use of means and methods by the church, but the building and maintaining human organizations such as T. O. H. to oversee and control the work of the church. Belue never allowed the audience to lose sight of the real issue and even French obviously felt the force with which it was pressed. At one point, showing signs of vexation, he complained that all Belue talked about was a "Board of Directors, Board of Directors, Board of Directors." This is the issue and it stood even as the closing remarks drifted into silence.
Attempting to evade this clear statement of the issue, French first argued, without proof, that Tennessee Orphan Home is a restored private home and that the church cannot oversee the home. This, French argued, is the reason the church cannot oversee the work of T. O. H. In the course of this argument French gave his only definition of a home"a unit of society dwelling together." Like Woods, Totty and most brethren of this persuasion, he then proceeded to use the word home in at least three different ways. In addition to the above definition he sometimes spoke of the home as a "family relationship" and as a "dwelling place." Belue very effectively showed that none of his uses of the word home described T. O. H. It is not a "unit of society dwelling together" because the board of directors live all over the state; it is not a "family relationship" of mother, father and children; it is far more than a "dwelling place." The truth is, as Belue pressed again, that it is a human organization doing and overseeing the work of the church. For this reason he emphasized, it is sinful.
How, Means and Methods
To the alert mind, French showed before he finished the debate that it wasn't a home and the work of a home that was under discussion. He did this by arguing from James 1:27 that it is the work of the church to care for the fatherless and widows. He progressively argued that the church has not been instructed as to how this is to be done, hence they may use any means, methods, or tools one of which is T. O. H. Logically, by this argument, he surrendered his contention that he was discussing the work of a home. Belue very capably demonstrated that French puts the church in James 1:21 when he wants support for the homes, then puts the home in James 1:27 when he wants to justify a human board overseeing the work. The cunning inconsistency of using the "means and methods" argument and the "restored home', argument was laid bare.
Individual and the Church
In further effort to prove his proposition, French argued from Acts 8:3 that if an individual had paid Paul not to persecute him it would have constituted church action. He attempted to buttress this argument with a personal illustration of buying flowers for a funeral and putting the church's name on them. From this scripture and illustration he argued that what a Christian does in the name of the Lord the church does. His conclusion was that if an individual may support such institutions as T. O. H., the church may. Belue very simply yet deftly showed that according to such reasoning if one Christian in a local church were faithful then the whole church would be saved. Then he proved from Rev. 3:1-4 that some in the church at Sardis were worthy, yet the church was reckoned as dead. Belue also pointed out that such reasoning would prove that the church may support such organizations as Red Cross, etc.
Brother French discussed other matters, which had absolutely no bearing on the discussion of benevolent organizations. In a sense this could be said of all his material, but especially so with reference to his argument that an example is not binding unless it is supported by a background command, which Belue replied would destroy his authority for observing the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week. Belue refused to be drawn into a detailed discussion of this because there is a background command and example authorizing the church, which excludes benevolent societies, to relieve the needy. French further argued from examples (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1, 2; 2 Cor. 8 and 9, etc.) that there is no binding or definite pattern in congregational cooperation. Belue refused to discuss this because it concerns one church sending to another church and to a preacher, therefore has no reference to churches supporting human organizations. These are matters to be discussed in arrangements under churches, not those under human organizations.
Several months ago a meeting was held at Wilmette church at which a proposed orphan home in the Libertyville-Mundelein area was discussed. After this meeting, at which Leslie Diestelkamp and Vestal Chaffin expressed their opposition, I contacted James Clayton (Northwest Church) about a discussion concerning the scripturalness of this home. He told me emphatically, "We have absolutely no interest in a discussion of the orphan homes." He and those at the meeting made it clear that this home would be established whether we liked it or not. It is obvious from their absence during the Belue-French discussion that the other institutional-minded preachers feel, as does Clayton about discussing this problem. The audiences each night consisted mostly of conservative brethren who traveled many miles to hear God's word discussed. For this reason I must commend bro. French for his willingness and courage to sign these propositions and discuss the word of God. Among his preaching brethren, he stood alone with the exception of brother Knox.
Finally I also commend brother Belue for his willingness and courage, but more especially for his ability to meet arguments head-on and expose their fallacies and disclose their irrelevancies. This he did remarkably, forcefully, yet humbly. Feel free to use him in any discussion of truth. He will prove worthy.
TRUTH MAGAZINE X: 7, pp. 15-17 April 1966