Willis-Carrell Discussion, First Negative

Cecil Willis
Marion, Indiana

1. Please remember that it is my duty to follow where Brother Carrell leads. Someone from Muncie, Indiana wrote complaining we did not keep on the subject. But I have little control over that since where he leads, I, as the Negative, am obligated to follow. For some reason Bro. Carrell presented virtually no affirmative material in his first article, and elected instead to attempt to reply to what he thought I would say. That is a rather odd way to debate affirmatively. He insisted T gave him the privilege of defining his affirmative terms. But then he neither affirmed nor defined. It seems Brother Carrell knows no more about proper debating procedure than he does about the work of the church.

2. Brother Carrell is smarting because the Christian Church preacher, J. B. Briney, used his argument first. Both Briney and Carrell used the argument referred to in Carrell's p. 3 to justify the church working through a human institution. Briney defended a missionary society, and Carrell now uses the same argument to defend a benevolent society.

"Illogical Logic" and the Missionary Society

3. Brother Carrell charges that I condemn by association (p. 6). However, he tries to authorize by association. He associates the benevolent society with a private home (p. 7), with pegs and nails in the ark (p. 11), and with a flower fund (p. 31). I did not say "B" (Brother Carrell) is like "A" (Brother Briney) in every particular. But both Carrell and Briney defend unscriptural human organizations. Carrell is like Briney on the point that made Briney wrong. Therefore Carrell, on this Point also is wrong.

4. Following is a chart showing some of the parallels between benevolent societies (like those in Carrell's Proposition) and a missionary society:

  1. BOTH originated in the mind of man, and therefore are human institutions.
  2. BOTH claim to perform a work of the church.
  3. BOTH are organizations separate and apart from the church.
  4. BOTH solicit and accept church contributions.
  5. BOTH are composed of President, Superintendent, Board of Directors, etc.
  6. BOTH are organizations larger than the local church but smaller than the universal church.
  7. BOTH have their own constitutions and by-laws.
  8. BOTH are designed to give the mission of the church greater efficiency.
  9. BOTH control portions of the church's treasury.
  10. BOTH are considered by the world as official organs of the church.
  11. BOTH are proposed to do what a single congregation cannot accomplish.
  12. BOTH claim to be expedient.
  13. BOTH have to provide means and methods.
  14. BOTH activate the church universal through a single agency.
  15. BOTH are defended by the same arguments.
  16. BOTH cause division in the church.

5. With so many similarities, no wonder Brother Carrell felt obligated to assert the missionary society and the benevolent society are not parallel. But again, it is one thing to make the assertion and quite another to prove it. The word "parallel" means "agreeing in essential qualities or characteristic." The benevolent society more than "remotely resembles the missionary society" (page 7), Brother Carrell. It is exactly like it in "essential qualities." And plenty of other brethren have seen the parallel.

6. Reuel Lemmons, FIRM FOUNDATION Editor, said Sept. 27, 1967: "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." Roy Lanier, in an editorially approved FIRM FOUNDATION article, said: "if it was sinful for brethren of a century ago to activate the universal church in forming the missionary society, why is it now right to activate the universal church in forming a benevolent society?" (Feb. 26, 1957). That is a good question for you to answer, Brother Carrell. Would you favor us with an attempt at answering it?

7. Brother C. R. Nichol in 1933 said of a certain orphan home, "Such organizations exist on the same Oasis as the Missionary Societies..." The Founder of George Pepperdine College said, "If a separate organization to own and operate childrens home is not unscriptural, then I do not understand why it would be unscriptural for the same board of directors to operate a missionary society...."(GOSPEL ADVOCATE, 1933, page 571.) G. K. Wallace said, "There is a parallel between an orphanss home that has a board of trustees other than the elders of the church to do the work of the church, and the United Christian Missionary Society" (GOSPEL GUARDIAN, May 24, 1951). These quotations show others recognized the parallel between separate institutions to do evangelist work and similar institutions to do benevolent work. Incidentally, these quotations also upset the frequently told story that opposition to benevolent societies did not begin until 1947.

8. Brother Carrell says that the minds of some brethren have been conditioned to oppose anything that "remotely" resembles the missionary society. But a benevolent society more than "remotely" resembles a missionary society. The problem today is that some brethren's minds have been conditioned not to oppose a society that parallels the missionary society. In fact, I doubt Brother Carrell will even tell us why he is opposed to the missionary society. Anything he says is wrong with the missionary society, I can show also to be wrong with his benevolent society. Want to try me on that, Brother Carrell! Unless Brother Carrell can show some "essential qualities" in which the benevolent society differs from a missionary society, "he has little (actually nothing) to stand on" (p. 7).

9. It distresses Brother Carrell for me to liken his benevolent society to a missionary society. He says this is "witch-hunting" (p. 7). Do you suppose it is possible that he is trying to "pooh-pooh" what I say (p. 3)? He says if you oppose something that "remotely resembles the missionary society," you are appealing to the "unsound," "ignorant," or "prejudiced" (p. 7). I wonder if when he tried to show church support of a college is unlike church support of other human institutions (p. 28 ff.), was he appealing to the "unsound" "ignorant," or the "prejudiced"? He implies you are sound in the faith, educated, and open-minded when you refuse to oppose a benevolent society which is parallel to the missionary society which you do oppose. Talk about "Illogical Logic!!"

10. After bemoaning the fact that I try to get people to oppose a benevolent society because it is parallel to a missionary society, ht turns around and tries to get people to approve a benevolent society on the basis that it is parallel to church trustees (p. 12). I wonder if in that argument he was appealing to the "unsound," the "ignorant," or the "prejudiced." He infers that trustees "remotely resemble" a benevolent society. But do they? Notice some of the differences between the Board over a human society and trustees of church property.


1. Members of various churches.

2. Self-perpetuating body.

3. Controlled by civil charter.

4. Removal of member is by direction of board.

5. Controls property by its own will.

6. Receives and oversees money received from all sources.

7. Employs and supervises personnel.

8. Operates business enterprises for profit to further the institution.


1. Members of the same church.

2. Appointed by local church.

3. Controlled by local church.

4. Removal of one or all members is by direction of local church.

5. Controls no property, but holds it trust.

6. Receives no money from any source.

7. Does not employ or supervise personnel.

8. Operates no business for any purpose as trustees.

11. Brother Carrell seems to resent the fact that I refer to these benevolent organizations as societies or human institutions. What would he prefer I call them? Divine institutions? He says I call them "benevolent societies" because that is a "loaded" term (p. 7). He is partly right -- human societies of any kind that try to do the work of the church are "loaded" with sin. Brother Carrell and some others have not yet learned sufficiently to "abhor" (p. 7) human societies that try to do the work of the church. Brother Carrell would rather call these human organizations a "home." Isn't "home" rather an emotionally "loaded" term too? He would like for you to think that these human institution are nothing but "homes," but their charters state that the institutions were formed to provide a "home." The institution is one thing and the "home" which it provides is yet another. I am perfectly willing to pitch the whole discussion on whether the societies in his proposition are separate human institutions or not.

Christian Liberty

12. He wants to know if I would accept a law of inclusion (p. 8). Certainly I will, if he will give one! I have said all along that I will accept either general or specific authority for a benevolent society. But he cannot find either, for it is not in the Bible. God specified the organization (the congregation) that is to do the church's benevolent work (Acts 2:44, 45; Acts 4:32-35; Acts 6:1-6; Acts 11:27-30). God's specification excludes every other organization. Specific authority excludes; it does not include. Perhaps Brother Carrells trouble is that he does not understand the nature of general and specific authority. If he would preach again his sermons on instrumental music, he then would understand how God's specification of the congregation excludes a human society; it certainly does not include one.

13. Brother Carrell says I would have argued about pegs and nails until the flood came (p. 11). No, I would not have, Brother Carrell. But I would have opposed the building of another ark! Brother Carrell would have been working busily on another ark, all the while maintaining that "one ark is just as good as another," and "it does not make any difference how you escape the flood," or "you are making a law where God did not make one." The flood would have tested whether Carrell's other ark would have served as well as the one God commanded, just as the Judgment day will show whether these other institutions will please God as well as the one he specified. "Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up" (Matt. 15:13).

14. Brother Carrell implies in p.12 that the erection of separate institutions is made necessary by civil law. What law (cite the specific statute) demands the erection of a human institution through which the church must function? Even if there were such a law, it would be unconstitutional. What if the law demanded a separate institution through which to evangelize?

15. The first human institution erected by Churches of Christ to do benevolent work was Tennessee Orphan Home, founded in 1909. How did churches before 1909 attended to their benevolent work? It is certain they did not do it through a human institution. Each church attended to its benevolent responsibility (Acts 6:1-6), just as I maintain it yet should be done "in the 20th century" (p. 13). And when one church had more needy than it could relieve other churches helped that church to relieve its own needy (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; Rom. 15: 25-31; 2 Cor. 8, 9).

16. Brother Carrell said in p. 1 that he was going to be nice and was not going to "malign my opponent merely to win a point." That is commendable, if he would do it. But he only got to p. 7 before calling me a "witch hunter," and that is maligning. Then in p. 13, he says that I employ a "favorite dodge." This indicts my honesty, which is real nice of him too. The word "dodge" means "to evade responsibility or duty especially by trickery or deceit." If he wants to indict my honesty, that is his business. But please do not do it, Brother Carrell, while telling me how nice you are going to be to me.

17. Brother Carrell would have you think this discussion is over which method shall be employed in doing benevolent work. Instead, it is over which institution shall discharge and oversee the work of the church. I maintain that any benevolent work God assigned his church should be done by the church. As Brother C. R. Nichol used to say, "Let the church be the church'!' The church can employ many different methods to discharge its responsibility, just as different methods are employed in preaching the gospel. But the church can no more do its benevolent work through a human institution than it can do its evangelistic work through a human institution. The specific point at issue is WHICH ORAGNIZATION SHALL DO THE WORK? THE ONE GOD GAVE, OR THE ONE MAN DEVISED?

James 1:26, 27

18. Brother Carrell would like to make the "man" of Jas. 1:26, 27 into a church, just as the sectarian would like to make the "man" of John 15:6 into a denomination. James 1:26, 27 read: "If any man thinketh himself to be religious, while he bridleth not his tongue but deceiveth his heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." A man is hard pressed when he tries to make this passage refer to congregational action. But if it did, it simply would say the church ought to attend to the work. It still would not authorize a human institution. Carrell says he "would assume" it applies either to individual or congregational work. It looks as though his "assumptive gland" is still at work. Quite frankly, Brother Carrell, your assumption is not quite enough for me. Prove this passage refers to congregational responsibility.

Delegated Authority

19. He wants to know if I think elders personally must attend to all the work of the church. Of course not! But if elders can appoint a board of directors to oversee the church's benevolent work, could the same elders appoint the same board of directors to oversee evangelistic work? If not, why not? Incidentally, I would be interested in knowing which elders appointed the board of directors at Potter or Schults-Lewis.

20. In p. 18 he asks, "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?" Let us try that argument on another issue. "If the missionary society 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?" This is just another old missionary society argument, Brother Carrell. It seems he borrows all his arguments from the same source. In fact, I can document nearly every argument he makes in defense of a benevolent society out of Christian Church writings. Would you like to see me try it, Brother Carrell?

Individual Responsibility and Colleges

21. Brother Carrell finally got around to talking about colleges, and remember that he brought up the subject. He assumes that neglected individual responsibility can be assumed by the church (p. 25). The only time the difference between individual action and congregational action seems clear to him is when he discusses the church support of schools. Some of our liberal brethren have assumed that whatever the individual can do, the church can do. Some others have assumed that whatever the church cannot do, the individual cannot do. Both are in error. There are some things the individual must do that the church must not do (See I Tim. 5:16). But Brother Carrell charges that this differentiation is an "arbitrary" distinction which I have made (p. 22).

22. His assumption is that "ANY RESPONSIBILITY WHICH THE LORD GIVES TO THE INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN MAY ALSO BE CARRIED OUT . . . BY THE LOCAL CONGREGATION" (p. 27). Brother Carrell borrowed this argument from those brethren who believe in the church support of colleges. These brethren argue that "Christian education" is a Christian duty. Therefore, the church may contribute to a college.

23. Brother Carrell wants to use their argument, but to reject their conclusion. He admits, "Since the obligation (i. e. to educate children - CW) is essentially parental rather than Christian, it is not the place of the church to contribute to a Christian College" (p. 29). This is most interesting. This places Brother Carrell and the church where he preaches in the unenviable position of helping to support a false teacher. None other than the Speaker on the Herald of Truth television program, Batsell Barrett Baxter, said: "Some who are agreed that the church can contribute to an orphans' home are not convinced that the church can contribute to a Christian school. It is difficult to see a significant difference so far as principle is concerned. The orphans' home and the Christian school must stand or fall together" (QUESTIONS AND ISSUES OF THE DAY, p. 29).

24. Brother Carrell thinks Brother Baxter on this issue is a false teacher, but he helps to support him anyway. He might in this connection study 2 Jno. 9-11. Brother Carrell agrees with me that a church should not support a Bible college. But he fellowships Brother Baxter (with whom he disagrees) and does not fellowship me (with whom he purports to agree). That is very interesting, isn't it?

25. The reason why a church cannot support a school, according to Brother Carrell, is because education is "essentially parental" duty (p. 29). This is correct. But care of one's own children is also "essentially parental" duty (See 1 Tim. 5:8). Brother Carrell admits that the duty to provide for children "rests on me primarily because I am a father . . ." (p. 28). However, about 97% of the children in institutional orphan homes have living parents. Since "essentially parental" duties cannot be discharged by the church, according to Brother Carrell's college argument (p. 29), the church could only support 31% of the children in institutions. Brother Carrell is in the uncomfortable position of maintaining that neglected parental duty to care for children can be assumed by the church but that the responsibility to educate children (another "essentially parental" duty) cannot be done by the church. Regardless of what else you charge against Brother Carrell, you surely could never charge him successfully with consistency!

The Flower Fund and the Church Treasury

26. Brother Carrell says that when brethren privately contribute to a flower fund, "Thus flowers are sent by the church . . ." (p. 31). If that were true (which it is not), then when brethren privately contribute to a college, "Thus money is sent to the college by the church," and this he says is sinful. His practice in supporting the college indicates he knows the difference between congregational and individual action. Otherwise, every time an individual Christian sends to a college, the church is sending to that college.

27. New Testament churches spent money for several scriptural purposes from collected funds (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15, 16; Acts 11:27-30; I Cor. 16:1-4). Therefore they had something that corresponded to what we call a treasury. Carrell says that "much of what we have come to regard as scriptural about the Lord's treasury y is more a matter of tradition than scripture" (p. 33). Is what you said about the sinful Use of church funds to support a college "more a matter of tradition than scripture?" On the college question, you rather "jealously" guard the treasury too, don't you Brother Carrell?

28. Brother Carrell says that the idea that churches can only help saints is "most repugnant to me" (p. 35). "Repugnant" means "characterized by opposition hostile, disposed to fight against something, distasteful to a high degree, loathsome, objectionable, repulsive, hateful, offensive." I am sorry Brother Carrell feels this way about what the Bible teaches, but it is commendable in him to admit having the feeling. Many men would deny such a feeling. The Baptist preacher says the idea that the unbaptized sinner will not be saved "is most repugnant to me." But his feeling does not change what the Book says.

29. I do not know of any scriptural authority for the church to relieve any but saints. But I am open-minded on the point, Brother Carrell. So send along the scriptures showing where New Testament churches from congregational funds relieved persons other than saints, and I will forever be indebted to you. Also be sure to tell us: DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIMITED OR UNLIMITED CONGREGATIONAL BENEVOLENCE?

December 1968