Brother Inman and Orphan Homes

Earl Robertson
Xenia, Ohio

The readers of the Bible Herald, a paper owned by Brother Clifton Inman of Parkersburg, W. Va., are seeing more often now efforts to defend churches of Christ supporting human benevolent societies. Usually Brother Inman is the writer. However, his articles are ambiguous in' so many parts that one of t e n wonders just which side of an issue he is on, and frequently one becomes bogey in an effort to know just who is being taken to task in his articles. He says, "When some distort this as they have, it is evident that they know they have to pawn off distortions to protect their false doctrines" (Bible Herald, May 15, 1967, p. 1). This he wrote in an effort to prove that Clifton Inman does not believe that churches of Christ should support Catholic Children's Homes and yet they must under some circumstances or sin!

Legal Custody

Brother Inman argues from James 1:27, which says, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world." He says "There are no specifications given as to who is to have the legal custody of the fatherless when they are visited." "Since God has not specified, man takes the place of God when man specifies. Where there is no law, there is no transgression." And, again, "The Bible neither specifies who is to have legal custody of a child nor separate ways of visiting the child when different ones have legal custody. He who makes laws here is invading the province of God."

So, Brother Inman's "facts" are (1) It makes no difference who has legal custody of the fatherless when the church visits them; (2) God has said nothing about legal custody of the fatherless, and if man speaks he does so in the absence of divine authority, and therefore takes the place of God; and (3) it makes no difference what particular way is used by the church in visiting the fatherless regardless of who may have custody.

Before Brother Inman finishes his article, however, he does not want to accept the responsibility of this position. In fact, he rather desperately rejects it. If the church has an unlimited obligation in caring for the fatherless (and those with fathers), why argue about custody? An unlimited responsibility in this matter is his contention as we shall see. He contends, "Has Clifton Inman said that it is alright to take money from the treasury of the church and give it to a Catholic Children's home? Clifton Inman said that he does not believe that this should be done for the same reason that he does not believe an individual Christian should give money to a Catholic home. He further said; 'However, I can envision cases of dire distress and famine where to prevent children in a Catholic Home from starving we may (and indeed would be sinning were we not to) give help to children in such a home.' "

Why does Clifton Inman NOT believe a Christian should give money to a NEEDY Catholic family? Brother Inman said in the Dayton debate, on the third night, "Now I will say this, and make of it what you please. I do believe that there would be certain circumstances, under which, that if these children became destitute in these places that we would be sinning if we didn't help them." So, you see one time he says we "should not" and the next time he says we would "be sinning" if we did not help them.

The authoritativeness of the scriptures in this matter is determined by "certain circumstances" then! The change of mind comes according to the degree of their need! From the literature put out by our brethren, all these children are NEEDY. In fact, they show us pictures of them. The pictures reveal them to be dirty, ragged, wandering in alleys and eating out of garbage cans. So, their very being in an institution is an indication of their being in need, according to the literature we receive. This being true, why talk about being able to "envision cases of dire distress?"

There is no comfort in thinking you can "give help to children in such a home" without giving to the home. When brother Inman speaks of giving help to a child in a Catholic Home he knows the church will not make out a check to the child any more than it would to one in Mid-Western. The money goes to the particular home and is spent according to their discretion.

Brother Inman's Proof

To prove an unlimited obligation of the church in benevolence Brother Inman cites Luke 4:26, 27; Luke 10:29-37; Gal. 6:10. Please read these passages now and see how plain (?) they are in proving his contention! Luke 4 is a record of Jesus' coming to Nazareth, reading Isaiah 61:1-2 in the synagogue and telling the Jews that that prophecy stood fulfilled that day. He knew their hesitancy to accept this - that he was the Christ, and said: "Ye will surely say unto me this proverb, Physician, heal thyself: whatsoever we have heard done in Capernaum, do also here in thy country." Jesus had healed the nobleman's son at Capernaum (John 4:46-54). Now they want a demonstration in Nazareth - at home!

Jesus said, "No prophet is accepted in his own country." Yet to show that he had acted as the prophets before him said, "But I tell you of a truth, many widows were in Israel in the days of Elias, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land; But unto none of them was Elias sent, save unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Eliseus, the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian."

This woman was a heathen from Phoenicia; and Naaman was a heathen from Syria. Many widows, who were God's children, lived in that famine but no prophet was sent to them; and many lepers lived in Israel (God's children) when Naaman was cleansed, but none of them was healed. Therefore, according to Brother Inman, this is proof that the church must help all with benevolence! How does this application of "especially unto them who are of the household of faith" work here? None of the "household of faith" received what these two heathens did! These passages do not teach what Brother Inman makes them say. He lifts them from their context and this is why they do not say what he twists them to say. Yet, he says, "And don't tell us that we are using the Old Testament. Jesus used this passage to illustrate his work." You might want to illustrate it more also by using Matthew 15:24!

The case of the Samaritan in Luke 10 simply shows what ONE man did for another. It has nothing to do with the functioning of a congregation.

Galatians 6 deals with the law of harvest. It is a matter of sowing and reaping. Paul shows there can be no harvest until a planting or sowing. Galatians 6 is not a promotion of benevolence; Paul was opposing Judaism by gospel preaching, making and strengthening Christians by teaching the truth. The Lord was not warring against Judaism with benevolence, but by teaching the truth (Gal. 1:6-13; 2:5). The context of Galatians 6 has nothing to do with benevolence; it has to do with gospel preaching and pay for that work. The teacher is worthy of his hire. The reason why the teacher should partake is because of the law of harvest. This is illustrated in verses 7 and 8. The exhortation of verse 9' is natural because of the illustration just given: give and we shall reap. The text of verse 10 begins with "So then" which translates "ara oun." "Ara" is illative; it is like the word therefore, or phrase as a consequence; it introduces an inference. "Oun" is continuative, and Thayer says "relating to, causing, or in the process of continuation" (p. 71). So the passage is saying by this means, i.e., by gospel preaching, do good unto all men. We must give due consideration to seed-time (as well as harvest) if we would be blessed with a harvest. Benevolence is not God's power unto salvation, but rather the gospel (Rom. 1: 16).

All men are not objects of benevolence; therefore, benevolence is not the matter imposed in Gal. 6:10. The Bible teaches all have sinned (Rom. 3:23). The wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). Christ died for all (Heb. 2:9), and the gospel is for all (Rom. 1:16). Both churches and individuals may, without exception, work that which is good toward all - their salvation. Cf. Mark 16:15, 16. The rich as well as the poor need the gospel and this verse says "all men." Yet all men are not in need of things like an Orphan's Home or an Old Folks Home offer. So, dear reader, what is Gal. 6: 10 teaching?

In his determined effort to saddle onto the church the care for all men in the field of benevolence, Brother Inman does not know just what to do with Corporate Homes of the Catholics and Baptists. But by taking such a stand, he must accept its consequences. The sum of his position is composed by all of its parts. He cannot accept only a part of them, but must accept them all. This particular one does not taste too good NOW, but wait for a few more years and then it will be very palatable! The chart below illustrates the issue.

If it makes no difference who has "legal custody," why argue around the bush? Since "God has not specified" about any of this matter, is Brother Inman taking the place of God in saying the church should not support a sectarian Board?

June 1969