Bro. Hardeman's Defense of Orphan Homes

Bryan Vinson, Sr.
Longview, Texas

This is the fourth and final notice of the material recently published in the Gospel Advocate expressing the views of Brother N. B. Hardeman. It has been observed in the last article I wrote that it is my persuasion that those who have besought him for his views were seeking to capitalize on the reputation and influence of the aged brother, in that period of life when he certainly has passed the point wherein he is able to reason as clearly as once he was wont to. In this final piece noticing his article on "Disturbance In The Church", I want to pay some attention to his reasoning.

First, he says that all seem to agree that the care of orphans is an obligation that is on the church, and then cites Jas. 1:27 and Gal. 6:10. Too, he makes reference to Ephesians 4:2. It is rather astonishing that one who has displayed in times past such knowledge of and regard for the rules of English Grammar should pass over so lightly these verses with the assumption they refer to collective or church obligation rather than being applicable to and of force as touching individual responsibility. No wonder that he assumes that all agree that the care of orphans is an obligation of the church, for it is easier to assume it than to prove it. With this assumed, he passes to the observation that for about a hundred years brethren have built and operated these homes with the churches being called on to support them. If this were true, what would it prove? Remember he says that the home and the college stand or fall together in relation to church support. Have colleges been appealing and receiving support from churches for about a hundred years? If so, does this prove anything other than that they are "standing or falling together?" In the October 13, 1960 issue of the Gospel Advocate the editor goes back to 1846 to discover the aims and avowed intention of one L. L. Pinkerton to establish a female orphan home and school. Doubtless, then, here is a case of a home and school standing or falling together inasmuch as they were combined into one institution by Pinkerton. But a matter unmentioned by the editor is that this same man has been credited with introducing the first instrument of music into the worship at Midway, Ky., the location of this home and school. This really isn't surprising, is it? Too, the tine of all these is the same, the same general period; and, hence, if Brother Hardeman can gain any consolation and confidence as touching the orphan homes because of the fact we have had them for this long period, then he should tender his felicitations to the Digressives for the corresponding age of their missionary Societies and instruments of music in the worship.

He speaks to the effect that the "church of Christ has about twenty-four homes, and fifteen hundred orphans in them. The opponents have none." Does this suggest the thought that the opponents are no part of the church of Christ? Remember he says the Church of Christ has these homes, but the opponents have none!!! Did we, Brother Hardeman, cease to be members of the church of Christ when and as we fail to have orphan homes in the budget of the churches? Don't forget that you opposed putting the college in the budget of the churches, notwithstanding the fact you regard the college and orphan home as parallel. Did this position put you out of the church of Christ? This question of who is in or who makes up the church is very vital in this time of conflict. What did it take in New Testament times to make Christians and result in their being added to the church of the Lord by Christ? What did they have to believe and do? I dare Brother Hardeman to affirm they had to believe in and lend support to any human institution on earth from the treasuries of the congregations to be accepted as members of the church either by Christ or His followers.

Would it be wrong for members of the Digressive church to express opposition to the innovations being practiced by that communion; and thereby provoke discussion and disharmony within their ranks? Brother Hardeman besought Boswell to lay aside the instrument; he rejoiced in the renunciation of digression by Hall L. Calhoun. Was not all such provocative of disorder and disturbance within the fellowship of these practicing the things thus renounced by this brother? Hasn't Brother Hardeman eloquently discoursed on the rejection by Alexander Campbell of the practice of infant sprinkling, and thus a repudiation of that which the Presbyterians had been practicing. Did not this provoke disturbances within that communion?

Next we are treated to a listing of those things unmentioned, we are told, in the scriptures, and from which circumstance the conclusion is drawn that what we are doing now is allowable. Among the things mentioned, and which we now wish to give some attention to, is that of the "located preacher." He tries to identify that as parallel to the orphan homes-it, too, came into vogue "about a hundred years" ago. But in the same connection he concedes that Paul was a located preacher in Ephesus for about three years, and also for a certain period in Corinth. You find as good authority as that for the orphan home, as built and maintained by churches of Christ, and all opposition thereto will cease. It avails nothing to say that Paul was not a modern pastor, for none of us regard ourselves as being one either. I am confident that Brother Hardeman and I would be found to be in perfect accord on this point. That such a concept has intruded from the denominations into the thinking of many brethren is conceded; that such should be refuted and expelled is unquestionably necessary. Being "located" is one thing, and what one does as thus located is another thing. If the latter is wrong, then, it reflects not at all against the former. This he knows.

The most amusing thing remarked by Brother Hardeman is the criticism or objection he registers to the plea that brethren adopt orphans. It is to the effect that this procedure results in them no longer being orphans. Brother Hardeman, is it necessary that an orphan remain an orphan? If so, why? Christ told his disciples he would not leave them orphans (Orphanos-comfortless) (Jno. 14:18) . This certainly is indicative that it isn't wrong for orphans to cease being orphans-they were between the ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost orphans, but such they didn't remain. Also, if it be improper to remove an orphan from the state of being one by the process of legal adoption, then would it not be correspondingly improper to remove the widow from the state of widowage by marrying her, and thus legally changing her status? In fact, Brother Hardeman did that very thing himself. Sister Hardeman was a widow, and if it be wrong to cause an orphan to cease being an orphan, it would be wrong to cause a widow to cease being a widow, and thus he did wrong. But we know such is not wrong. In fact, the younger widows are advised by Paul to marry (1 Tim. 5 :14) . The requirement of James 1:27 is one of "visiting" as required by and prompted by the state of "their affliction", and therefore limited thereto. When the state or condition of affliction passes for any reason, then the injunction to visit no longer is of force. The whole construction of the passage is such as to emphasize the temporary and emergency character of the situation posed. Certainly such is apparent to one of Brother Hardeman's astuteness.

If it be alleged that, should an orphan cease being one, the obligation would thereby be removed, and thus the practice of "pure and undefiled religion" would cease, then we would reply in the same shallow vein that relieving the needs of the needy would obviate a continuance of the obligation to such needy ones. Effecting the recovery of the sick would obviate the necessity of visiting those particular ones thus recovered.

Furthermore, if legally adopting an orphan causes or results in it ceasing to be an orphan, then these Board of Directors, or Elders (as the case may be), or Superintendent of the Home becoming "Parentis in loco" to all those admitted, would also cause them to no longer be orphans. Maybe that is the reason the word "orphan" was removed from the name of Boles Home. But according to statistics only about three per cent of those in these homes are orphans anyway, so the change is not too widespread and far-reaching after all!

But Brother Hardeman becomes filled with great candor and thus says: "Candidly - Do you believe that those brethren who had a great part in the Restoration Movement were Liberals, Modernists, and Digressives? Were they trying to lead the churches into apostasy when they supported the orphan home?" Then he lists a number of men, some of whom are still living. If ever a man made an "ad hominem" appeal, addressing himself to the prejudices of his readers, he did in this instance. Well, some of those who he mentions have certainly written things which clearly is in opposition to the thing which he says they supported. Among them are F. B. Syrgley, James A. Allen, C. E. W. Dorris, C. R. Nichol and C. M. Pullias. But what does such prove? If everyone of these and scores of others this side of the days of the apostles advocated anything, it would be of no authoritative force whatsoever. Did any of these in their efforts of restoration ever urge the support of an institutional orphan home by the churches as part of such a restoration of primitive Christianity? I do not believe that he can find an instance of such in anything they ever said or wrote - I've never seen any such. What he needed to do was to go back-back, back, of these to Peter, Paul, James and John and find where one of them ever supported the thing he is defending today. If he had an inkling of evidence to such an effect he would never have been content to predicate his defence of the orphan home within the confines of the last century.

Not content, however, with this appeal to those whom he mentions as advocates of the orphan homes and whom he would defend against any charge of liberalism or digression, he has to describe the affluent surroundings and provisions enjoyed by the "located preacher". He depicts his position as one in which he is provided with a fine dwelling, a car, a month's vacation with pay, all that he and his family eats and wears. As a matter of fact he describes it most invitingly. It may well be that some are so situated, but very few, indeed, I am sure can be so found. Of course this sort of support for a preacher as he describes is perfectly alright, provided the churches so doing are sending a few dollars to one of the "church of Christ homes". Doing the latter renders altogether proper the former, but doing that without doing this is "absolutely ridiculous and wholly absurd". He thus endeavors to draw a ridiculous caricature of what he wants folks to believe to be our selfish and hard-hearted position and course in respect to poor little orphans.

One would conclude from this description of iris that we just do not believe in orphans beings cared for at all. If opposing the churches putting the orphan home in their budgets' hakes us repugnant to a sober, sane and sensible man, I wonder why his not favoring putting the colleges in the church budgets, and thus binding the colleges on the churches, doesn't make him repugnant to sane, sober and sensible folks today and disgust him with himself, assuming he is a sane, sober and sensible person. This would have to be the result since like causes produce like effects, and the college and homes being supported by the churches are standing or falling together - that which justifies the one will justify the other, according to Brother Hardeman. His pious pleading in this instance is reminiscent of Briney with Otey on the Missionary Society. It comes as a poor substitute for a "thus saith the Lord" from one who in other days has plead so eloquently for a "direct command, apostolic example or a necessary inference" for all that we do in the name of the Lord.

If providing a house for the preacher and his family to live in is not embodied in the authorized support of those who preach the gospel, then such should not be provided. But Brother Hardeman and all like him, if called on to defend a congregation furnishing a dwelling for the "located preacher", would defend it on the ground - "they that preach the gospel shall live of the gospel". He knows that is true. Now if an organization was formed having as its design the building or buying of residences in which preachers and their families should reside, and this organization, a human organization just like the benevolent societies, should direct and control such an endeavor and solicit and secure contributions from congregations to carry on its operations - then, but not until then, would there be any relevancy in the point he sought to make. But he knows that in carrying out that which is "ordained of the Lord" (I Cor. 9:14) no other organization is authorized; that the church is sufficient to do that which the Lord has required of it.

He must know this from having heard himself teach and preach for these many years that the "Bible as God gave it is adapted to man as God made him"; therefore, the scriptures are complete and competent as our guide. If so, since human organizations are not authorized either generically or specifically in them, they are incompetent to accomplish God's will in the lives and service of his people. We are, truly complete in Christ, and these Orphan Homes are not in him. Brother Hardeman often made a distinction between the church of the New Testament and Denominations in his preaching. It went like this: "The church is spoken of in two senses in the scriptures - the church universal, including all the saved, the redeemed in the aggregate, and locally or geographically. Now, what is a denomination? It is larger than a local congregation, and smaller than the redeemed in the aggregate; hence, it comes in between, separate and distinct from the church in the New Testament, and thus no part of it". I believe that is almost an exact quotation of his language quoted from memory. I believe Brother Hardeman make a prudent and proper distinction in that statement. But substitute one of these human institutions created by brethren for the term "denomination," in his statement and see how it sounds. It will be true - just as in the case cited from him. Certainly the scope of the existence and functioning and personnel identified with one of these homes, extends beyond a local congregation, and yet falls short of encompassing the church universal. Hence, what is one - it is not the church in any sense, Brother Hardeman being my expert witness as touching the matter of a proper definition of the church. Now if it is wrong for folks to join themselves to a human denomination in religion, then isn't it wrong for them to make, and seek to work through that which is parallel thereto?

Through the years I have held in high esteem the ability of Brother Hardeman, and have regarded gratefully his life as one which has been spent in rich usefulness. I deeply regret to see him spending his influence in support of that which leads away from those old paths for which in the days of his strength he plead so mightily. May he yet ponder the consequences of his present course and be constrained to so alter it as to secure the blessings of Divine approval on it and himself, is my fervent wish and humble prayer for him.

Truth Magazine, V:8, pp. 11-15
May 1961