Willis-Carrell Discussion, First Affirmative
Wm. 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.
1. It is my duty as the affirmative in this discussion to state what the terms of the proposition mean to me. But before doing that I would like to consider what our purpose should be in this discussion. I intend to deal objectively with facts and principles. I have no party to defend, no cause, other than the truth. I do not intend to distort a fat, twist an argument, or malign merely to win a point. If Bro. Willis poses a question or a problem which I do not think I can answer -- although he has not done so thus far -- I will feel duty-bound as a Christian to recognize the validity of his point, and give full weight to his objection, whatever it might be.
2. I do not mean by this that I feel duty-bound to answer every question that he might raise. He has tried in the previous exchange to get me to deal with the missionary society, dinner in the church basement, lemonade in Vacation Bible School, church support of colleges, and perhaps other matters. Some of the things that he said I did not answer. I dill answer! His failure to understand what I meant, or his refusal to face facts does not mean I did not answer him. But regardless of this, I do not consider myself obligated to answer all the things he might bring up unless it pertains to the subject at hand. Otherwise our discussion could get completely out of hand.
3. Bro. Willis seems to feel that he has not dealt adequately with an opponent unless he can pooh-pooh every point and destroy every argument. Apparently his opponent-can do no right. Bro. Willis can do no wrong. Following this philosophy he often gets himself into difficulty, as in his par. 59 of his last article in our exchange. He wrote "J. B. Briney in the OTEY-BRINEY DEBATE, said, When a thing is commanded to be done, and the method of doing it is not prescribed, those commanded are at liberty to use their best judgment in devising ways and means to carry out the command (p. 162). Brother Carrell has used this same argument to try to justify the sponsoring church. But if the argument is a valid argument when used by Brother Carrell, it was a valid argument when used by Brother Briney. If it will justify the sponsoring church, it will also justify the missionary society."
4. Now regardless of what you imagine the consequence of that argument to be, Bro. Willis, will you please look at the argument itself again. "When a thing is commanded to be done, and the method of doing it is not prescribed" Now stop right there, anti tell us how in the name of common sense you could carry out such a command unless you DID use your best judgment! We are told to do something but not told how. If we do ANYTHING we must use our own judgment.
5. But in Bro. Willis' eyes an opponent can do no right. Bro. Briney is wrong about the missionary society, and he must therefore be wrong in everything he ever said.
6. Bro. Willis uses here, as he frequently does, a line of argument which condemns by association. It goes like this: "A is wrong. But 'B' is like 'A'. Therefore 'B' is also wrong." The weakness of this argument lies in the statement, "B is like A". For even though you find a dozen points of similarity between "A" and "B", this does not make them the same. For the very thing in which "A" differs from "B", may be the very reason that "B" is scriptural while "A" is not.
7. This might also be called "witch hunting." Bro. Willis knows that the minds of the brethren are conditioned to abhor the missionary society. Therefore anything which remotely resembles the missionary society is automatically suspect in the minds of some, especially the unsound and ignorant. So all he needs to do is show some supposed similarity and then jump to the conclusion that similarity proves identity. This is why he calls children's homes "benevolent societies." This firmly ties them to the missionary societies in the minds of the prejudiced, and makes it unnecessary for him to produce scripture to prove them wrong. Bro. Willis is sorely pressed for reasons to justify his position unless he can use these "loaded words," words which condemn what he disapproves by association -- an association which he makes in the minds of those who follow him. Unless he can tie the children's homes to the missionary societies he has little to stand on.
8. Brother Willis frequently speaks of the LAW OF EXCLUSION. But I wonder if he will recognize as equally valid the LAW OF INTRUSION. When God commands some thing and specifies exactly how he wants a thing done, then that specification within the command excludes every other way of doing it. This is the law of exclusion.
9. Hut 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, a parallel to the above law.
10. God commanded Noah to build the ark of gopher wood. This excluded all other kinds of wood, by the law of exclusion. (Incidentally, these "laws" are nothing more than logical principles of interpretation which men have worked out. They are not divine laws, but laws of reason and logic.)
11. However God did not tell Noah whether to use nails of wooden pegs in fastening the ark together. Had Bro. Willis been his adviser, I suppose they would have sat down and argued about it until the waters of the flood rose and silenced them forever. But fortunately, Noah realized that when God told him to do something but didn't tell him exactly how, he had better get busy and figure out how, or it wouldn't get done! The command to build the ark INCLUDED nails pegs, or anything else necessary to build it.
12. As a matter of fact when we get down to the business of serving the Lord, of providing for a meeting place, arranging a benevolent program, or a host of other good works, we become involved in numerous decisions or matter of judgment which are simply not covered in the broad commandments concerning these things given in the Bible. We have to make up our own minds. Bro. Willis knows this, and does it in such matters as appointing trustees for a church building, as required by law. But he balks when other brethren equally as desirous as he of following the will of God, find it necessary to make certain legal arrangements in order to establish a Christian home that will be authorized by government to care for orphaned children.
13. And here we run into another favorite dodge of his. When asked to describe how a local church might carry out its obligation to orphaned children under the oversight of its elders he avoids giving a practical answer. "Do it like they did it in the New Testament church," is about all he will answer. But ask him to show us how we can do it that way in the 20th century, and he will refuse. He will only wait until someone else tries to carry out the command as he understands it and then he will condemn.
14. If you are serious, Bro. Willis, tell us how a CHURCH can carry out this command. We know how an individual can do it without arousing your opposition. At least I think we do. But please tell us how a church can do it.
15. James 1:27 teaches us to "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction." I'm not sure whether Bro. Willis classifies this scripture as applying to individuals or to churches. But I would assume it applies to either. If an individual can practice pure religion I suppose that a church can do the same.
16. "To visit" means to oversee, inspect, go to see, or relieve. It implies more than a social call. Thus the church can care for orphans or forsaken children. And I presume you would agree that this should be done under the oversight of the elders. But just what is meant by "under the oversight of elders?" This is another term which Bro. Willis bandies around without defining what he means. Must the elders personally decide what the children are to eat or wear? Must they hold a business meeting to decide when to spank one of them? Must they take the child on their collective knee when it needs comforting? Or can they appoint someone else to do these things?
17. I am curious to know if you recognize than an elder can and should delegate authority to others. When elders oversee a work does it mean that they must personally make every decision? Or can they delegate authority to others who then make the decision? A scriptural example of this is found in Acts 6, in the appointment of the seven deacons to care for the widows. When the apostles appointed these men they gave them blanket authority to care for the whole program. They did not require them to run to the apostles for approval of each case. Otherwise they need not have appointed them at all.
18. Now if in a children's home we need a supervisor or superintendent, nurses, cooks, housekeepers, etc., what is to prevent elders appointing such, or approving of the appointing of such without giving up their authority by so doing? If the home is administered by Christians who are under the oversight of elders, is not this work of the church under the oversight of elders, whether they directly make every decision or not?
19. A preacher is under the oversight of elders. Does this mean that they must pass on every sermon subject, monitor his daily schedule, assign his every visit and call, etc.? Of course not! Elders do not have to pass on every decision that is made in order to exercise oversight. They do not have to be in a position to stop a program in order to prove that they have oversight. Elders can't stop the congregation from worshipping. Still they can exercise the oversight of it. But with Bro. Willis it seems that a program is not under the oversight of elders unless they have the power to step in at any time they choose and stop it. This seems to me like "lording it over" the flock, a practice condemned by the Bible. The true elder exercises authority more by his example than by his power to veto what he does not like.
Individual vs. Congregational Responsibility
20. The primary duty of relieving orphans falls on the immediate family, as it does in the case of widows, "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" (1 Tim. 5:16).
21. Bro. Willis has used this scripture to find a difference between congregational responsibility and individual responsibility. But it seems to me that Paul is teaching something quite different here. If one of us bears a heavier obligation toward a certain work than others of us, then it is his duty first to fulfill that obligation. In the case of a widow who has children, they have the first obligation ill the nature of things.
22. But if they will not or cannot do it, then all of the brethren in the church bear equal responsibility. In such a case the work can be carried out from the common treasury. This does not imply some sort of arbitrary difference in obligations as Bro. Willis suggests. Paul did not teach that the church CANNOT support widows. What the individual Christian can do as a Christian duty he can also do in cooperation with others who bear the same relationship to a good work that he does.
23. Thus in Acts 11:27 it was the INDIVIDUAL Christians who decided to send money to Jerusalem when they heard of the famine, "every man according to his ability." But when it came to sending it, it was done collectively, by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
24. In I Cor. 16 and 2 Cor. 8, 9, the instructions concerning giving is to individuals. But the contribution, once gathered was handled as a unit, not as so many separate units. My contribution to the church where I worship is my individual offering to God. And it stands as such, whether it be united with the other gifts of my fellow Christians in this congregation or in a dozen other congregations.
25. When God gives a man a responsibility, such as the care of his widowed mother, it is obvious that this is primarily his responsibility, not the churchs. But when the immediate family cannot or will not support the widow, then the church can do so because now each member stands in EQUAL relationship to her.
26. And what applies to the individual Christian applies to the congregation as well. Where each congregation bears an equal obligation to a work, or where a congregation is unable to meet a need or an opportunity for service, other congregations can step in and help.
27. To summarize, what I am saying is that ANY RESPONSIBILITY WHICIH THE LORD GIVES TO AN INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN BECAUSE HE IS A CHRISTIAN MAY ALSO BE CARRIED OUT COLLECTIVELY, THAT IS BY THE LOCAL CONGREGATION. This does not include the idea that the church can do anything that the individual can. Rather it states that the church can do anything the individual is to do because he is a Christian.
What About the Christian College?
28. Our lives are a mixture of the spiritual and the secular. Some obligations I have, not because I am a Christian but because I am a father, a citizen of this country, or similar relationships. As a father I have a duty to feed and clothe my children. I have this duty because I am a father, not because I am a Christian. My being a Christian may help me do a better job, but it does not change the fact that the obligation rests on me primarily because I am a father, not because I am a Christian.
I also have a duty to educate my children. I want them to get a Christian education, and therefore I am concerned with the support of Christian schools, and contribute to them. But to do so as a parent, not just as a Christian, although my being a Christian determines the kind of education to which I contribute. Since the obligation is essentially parental rather than Christian, it is not the place of the church to contribute to a Christian college.
30. But the duty to care for orphans is a Christian duty. I can do this individually, or in cooperation with other individuals or in cooperation with the whole congregation where I attend. Should the congregation see fit to carry out at least a part of its obligation in this area through the use of the church treasury, they may do so.
It is interesting and a little amusing how some of Bro. Willis' brethren solve the problem of how to do collectively those things which they do not consider legitimate expenditures from the common treasury. It is a good work to send flowers to comfort and cheer the sick and bereaved. But supposing that this can be done only as individuals, not thru the common treasury, in at least one congregation they have set up a SECOND treasury, called the "flower fund" with each member who so desires contributing until they have a few dollars laid by in store. Thus flowers are sent by the church from the flower fund, not from THE treasury.
32. It would be interesting to know if this "flower fund" is collected on Sunday while the church is assembled or on some other day. Can it be taken up in the church building, or must it be handed to someone outside the building? Can the treasurer handle both funds?
33. Actually much of what we have come to regard as scriptural about the Lord's treasury is more a matter of tradition than scripture. Collections in New Testament times were for specific stated purposes, projects in which each member shared an equal responsibility as members of the body of Christ. The idea of a common "treasury" in which we lay by first, and THEN decide how to use, is not taught in the Bible.
34. The contribution commanded in I Cor. 16 was for benevolent work. But we take this scripture as authority for a collection to pay the preacher, build a meeting house, do benevolent work, and pay general running expenses. As an expedient this is certainly all right. But let us keep in mind that our "treasury," which we guard so jealously and around which we have built so many restrictions, was originally nothing more than the result of the collective efforts of individual Christians to carry out their Christian obligations toward specific projects. Paul challenged the Corinthian Christians to give what must have been a very large amount since it took them at least a year, laying by in store each week, to meet their promise (2 Cor. 8:10, 9:2). This contribution, mentioned in 1 Cor. 16:1-3, was for the poor saints in Jerusalem. How they met their local expenses is not stated, although we may reasonably assume that they took up a contribution for this too. But we cannot prove it because the Bible says nothing about it.
35. I understand that some of you brethren believe that the church can help only needy saints, or their children, and cannot help outsiders, or their children. I will leave it to Bro. Willis to inform us on this. However, the idea that of two helpless babes, one of Christian parents, the other of non-Christian parents, the church can help only the one from Christian parents, is most repugnant to me, and contrary to every principle of love that I know.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XIII: 3, pp. 2-5