Carrell-Willis Discussion on Children's Homes, Third Affirmative

Wm. L. Carrell
Dayton, Ohio

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.

64. It has now been some months since I have written on this subject, due partly to the fact that my family and I have moved to another city, Dayton, where I am now engaged in new employment to earn a living. In the hubbub of what has been for us a major change, this correspondence has been temporarily laid aside.

65. I say this has been partly the reason. For in all seriousness I find it very hard to understand why Brother Willis considers it an evil spirit that moves godly men and women to provide for the needs of these unfortunate children. With the world around us plunging deeper and deeper into sin and darkness, with the unprecedented laxness and immorality of our age creeping into the church itself, and with so much fearfulness, timidity, and downright ignorance being manifested among those who should be our spiritual leaders, that we should be at odds over the care of orphaned children seems highly inappropriate.

66. If it were ever fitting to use the expression, "polishing the brass while the ship sinks," this would seem the time! Even if I were to grant that he has been right in opposing such homes -- which I do not that he would see fit to expend so much time and effort on it speaks volumes. The time, energy, and ability of each of us are limited. What we choose to do therefore indicate what is dear to our hearts.

67. The apostle Paul, when rejected by his Jewish brethren, separated the disciples from them (Acts 19:9). In this way, within the brief span of two years, the gospel spread throughout Asia. He did not succeed by preaching negatively of what was wrong with his Jewish brethren, but positively of what was RIGHT WITH CHRIST! And this is the message that the world and the church need to hear today.

68. I know of nothing in the Bible comparable to the continued mailing of literature to the membership lists of congregations which have rejected a teaching. No. After a first and second admonition, Paul turned away from them, holding the members responsible for what they tolerated in their fellowship and leadership.

69. And so, Brother Willis, if you are indeed standing where Paul stood, let us see something of the spirit of Paul. You have every right to follow your conscience, but so do others. You have every right to express your convictions, but you are not the judge of those who after serious consideration decide that following your opinions is not exactly equivalent to following the word of God. "Who art thou that judgest the servant of another? To his own lord he standeth or falleth" (Romans 14:4). If we are wrong, we are willing to be shown. But having expressed your convictions be careful lest you cease to be a messenger of what yell believe to be God's will and seat yourself in His place as Judge.

Inclusion and Exclusion

70. I have asked Brother Willis to clarify his concept of the difference between general and specific authority. As I stated before "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 ..." It is also the source of general authority.

71. Brother Willis gives us two or three paragraphs on this subject including a chart. "God has specified the organization (the congregation -- 1 Tim. 5:16) that is to do all the relieving that He has assigned the church," he writes. "Means and methods are included, but other institutions are excluded. And an institution is not a mere means or method." In the previous paragraph he says I don't know the difference between a human organization and a "method" or "means."

72. Well, it would be nice if you would explain that then, Brother Willis. For all that you show US is what YOU judge to be a means or method, and what YOU judge to be a perversion and an incidental, and an addition. You give no hint as to how you arrived at these conclusions. And that is what we are talking about.

73. It would seem from your chart that "incidentals" (things not clearly spelled out but permitted) include such things as tools, tuning forks, a blackboard, buildings, charts, etc., in other words, material objects for the most Dart. BUT IT CLEARLY DOES NOT INCLUDE PLANNING OR ORGANIZING ANYTHING. Help the poor, yes. But don't plan anything! Don't go looking for anyone to help, for then you will be "creating" an emergency. And for the same reason, don't let it be generally known that we are prepared to care for orphans. No, just bumble along and take care of whatever comes up the best way you can.

74. Incidentally, before I get too far from this idea of "creating" an emergency, as Brother Willis says we do, would you please clarify how we do this. Do we "create" the orphans, perhaps by eliminating their parents' Or isn't it a fact that we often never see the need nor recognize the opportunity BECAUSE WE ARE NOT READY TO DO ANYTHING ABOUT IT!

75. And the whole thing springs from this fear that if we do ANYTHING "decently and in order" we MAY be guilty of creating a "Society," perhaps one of the cute ones Brother Willis has in his chart, Christian Baptizing Association, or Singing Saint Society, etc., etc.

How? How? How?

76. I have repeatedly asked Brother Willis to show us how he would have a church care for children today. But he steadfastly refuses to do so. Even in answer to a direct question he merely says, "I know of many congregations doing scriptural benevolent work in a scriptural way, and I work with one such church." Wonderful! It's all there if we could persuade Brother Willis to tell us exactly what it is that they do!

77. But he continues to evade. "If Bro. Carrell first will tell me what this citing of examples is supposed to prove about what the Bible says, I will be glad to accommodate him," he writes. Well, it would prove about what the Bible says, Brother Willis, which the Bible says to do it but does not spell out HOW! And it would show that not even you can carry out this command in a decent and orderly way without some sort of physical arrangement. YOU DON'T CARE FOR THOSE ORPHANS IN THE PEWS. DO YOU? Nor do you care for their needs only on Sunday.

78. But then if you told us how they do it, perhaps they would be subject to criticism, wouldn't they. Could this be the reason you have refused to cite a scriptural 20th century example of the scriptural care of orphans? It is easy to criticize as long as you aren't called on to demonstrate. It is easy to say. "Follow the Bible," and then stand back and condemn honest brethren who are trying to do just that.

The Missionary Society

79. In his first reply to me, Brother Willis said, "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?" Well, I did try him. I quoted from the by-laws of the North Carolina Christian Missionary Convention, as quoted in the Otey-Briney Debate, page 189, and showing that the society claimed authority over all churches, ministers and individual members of churches belonging to the convention. They claimed the right to issue credentials to preachers, and refused the right to preach to those not having credentials. They also claimed the right to try any member for insubordination.

80. I asked Brother Willis to show us a home such as those in our proposition which claims such authority. I think it is obvious that he cannot do so, and therefore his argument from similarity is invalid. But notice how he answers me. "But I can find plenty of things in the charters of benevolent societies that also are 'contrary to clear scriptural teaching.'" In other words he's going to find something in the BY-LAWS of a Children's Home that is wrong. And since the above quoted matter was from the BYLAWS of a missionary society he thinks that he will have established yet another parallel.

81. Now really, Brother Willis! The fact that the error appeared in the BY-LAWS is not the point. THE POINT IS THAT THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY CLAIMED AUTHORITY OVER THE CHURCHES. THIS IS THE ERROR! AND VOU CANNOT ESTABLISH A PARALLEL IN THIS ESSENTTAL I'OTNT BETWEEN THE HOMES AND THE SOCIETY. Therefore your argument that they are the same is not valid.

82. To make this clearer, let us apply Brother Willis' pattern of reasoning to something else. In brief it is: The society has errors in its by-laws. The homes have errors in their by-laws. Therefore they are the same. Now for a parallel argument: A cat has four legs. A dog has four legs. Therefore a dog is a cat. This argument is identical with that of Brother Willis, and makes equally as much sense.

83. But concerning the errors Brother Willis brings up, that some homes have refused to accept Negro children, it would be appreciated if he would deal fairly with such criticisms. Let me say first of all that I am not pledged to defend everything that may be done by those associated with such homes. They are human beings, and may err. I am only defending their right to exist.

84. One problem in bringing Negro children into these homes is that for the present they would have white house parents. For a Negro child to have its parents taken from it, perhaps by death or otherwise, and then to be placed in a white home, with different cultural background, would be hard on the Negro child. A white child placed in a Negro home would face the same problem.

85. Some of the homes are seeking for Negro house parents in order to deal with this problem. Yes, black children do become destitute, Brother Willis. But those responsible for them often do not consider applying for admission to a home with only white parents. Midwestern has a backlog of 45 applications they cannot take care of because the government allows them to accept only 24. And none of these 45 is a Negro. The superintendent there has told us that he would not refuse to accept a Negro child if one needed a home, but that such a child would have to wait its turn with the rest.

86. Let us at least recognize, Brother Willis, that these brethren are not black hearted villains, coldly turning away Negro children, but that they do have a problem. Incidentally, how could you deal with it?

General and Specific Authority

87. Brother Willis has offered to accept either generic or specific scriptural authority for childrens homes. But when generic authority is given he rejects it and insists on specific authority. And I have not found him willing to clarify what he means by "generic" or general authority.

88. We have built our meeting houses on the basis of generic authority. The Bible does not speak of a general treasury in the church out of which we can draw to pay for the utilities, pay the mortgage, support the preacher, hold meetings, etc. The contribution mentioned in 1 Cor. 1:2 and 2 Cor. 8, 9, referred to donations for the specific purpose of helping the poor. But we have assumed that the same contribution can be used for other purposes. And this is right.

89. In Galatians 6:10 we read, "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith." Our first responsibility is toward our brethren. But we do have a responsibility toward the needs of the world. This may not fit in with Brother Willis' theories, but it is a part of God's word. As God made the whole world the FIELD in which we are to preach the gospel, so it is the FIELD in which we are to practice benevolence.

90. The command in James 1:27 to visit (in a substantial way) the fatherless and widows, is also a GENERIC command. It tells us to do something, but does not tell us how. Brother Willis dismisses all this by supposing that these scriptures apply to individuals only, not to congregations. This is a most convenient dodge (and that is all it is), for he does not apply the same reasoning when he seeks proof for what he wants to believe.

91. Acts 11:27-30 is a favorite passage of Brother Willis. According to him this proves that the New Testament church did its benevolence by, through, and within the local church. Yet this scripture says, "And the disciples, EVERY MAN according to his ability, determined to send relief" Doesnt this refer to individuals? The COLLECTIVE or CONGRETIONAL action resulted from the many INDIVIDUAL decisions to help. You force a distinction where there is none. The Bible just does not make the distinction between INDIVIDUAL obligation and CONGREGATIONAL obligation which Brother Willis makes. Where a NATURAL distinction exists, as in the care of one's own relatives, it does of course recognize the greater responsibility of the relative. This is the force of 1Timothy 5:16 which Brother Willis insists shows a distinction between individual responsibility and congregational responsibility. Actually it is concerned with NATURAL versus COMMON responsibility. Congregational responsibility is nothing more than the accumulation of individual responsibilities, where the individuals hold EQUAL responsibility toward some need. To stretch this verse to cover the distinction Brother Willis makes is to distort the plain meaning of scripture.

92. Bible writers drifted naturally from speaking of the responsibility of the individual to the collective responsibility of the group, making no hard and fast distinction. Thus 1st Corinthians 6:2 is a command to individuals. And the admonition in 2nd Corinthians 8 and 9 is directed toward increasing the generosity of the individual. The congregational action followed naturally from a body of individuals acting from common motives and with common purpose. The insistence of Brother Willis that James 1:27 and Galatians 6:10 apply to individual action only is an evasion of the fact that individual action becomes congregational action when everyone is doing the same thing!

Did I Change the Subject?

93. Brother Willis has accused me of shifting this debate from human institutions to the question of "for whom does the church have benevolent responsibility?" On this basis he challenges me to yet another exchange.

94. This is what I was referring to when I said that Brother Willis is so very busy. He chose to understand that I was chiding him for being slow in his reply. Not at all, Brother Willis. I freely admit that I am much slower! I was referring to the fact that you apparently are TOO BUSY TO READ WHAT EITHER YOU OR I HAVE PREVIOUSLY SAID. In your first reply, your last sentence was. "Also be sure to tell us: DO YOU BELIEVE IN LIMITED OR UNLIMITED CONGREGATIONAL BENEVOLENCE?'" In my next article I answered that question in my closing paragraph. But by that time you apparently had forgotten that you asked the question, and accused me of changing the subject.

9. Since I didn't change the subject I see no reason for further debate. And I see a number of reasons why I believe it should close with this article and your answer:

1. My time is much more limited than formerly, now that I am working for a living as a computer programmer.

2. Judging by the response to our previous exchange (one or two letters that I received) I do not believe the interest warrants further effort.

3. Frankly I do not believe that further discussion would clarify either of our positions very much more than they now stand.

96. Nevertheless, I am willing to leave it up to the reader. Have I presented a reasonable defense of the proposition we signed? Has Brother Willis answered my arguments? Or have I failed to deal properly with his objections? Is there anything which you think would be gained by further discussion, any point made clearer? Or would it merely do harm!

97. Brother Willis has offered the pages of his periodical for three more rounds of discussion. Perhaps he would allow us a paragraph or two in the not too distant future to summarize the opinions of you, the readers.

February 1969