Church Supported Hospitals Defended

By Mike Willis

During the years of the controversy over church support of benevolent institutions, a good many brethren have the good sense to perceive that the issue of church support of benevolent institutions was but the tip of the iceberg of church involvement in all aspects of the social gospel. Throughout their debates, they emphasized that church support of hospitals, colleges, old folks homes, boys schools, and any number of other things which might arbitrarily be classified as “good works” were just as authorized as church support of benevolent institutions.

Despite these warnings, our liberal brethren made their choice to go down the road toward the social gospel, all of the time denying that these conclusions to their premises were logical and inevitable. History has confirmed that church support of human institutions was the means of introducing the liberal churches of Christ into the social gospel. Now, many are openly advocating church sponsored hospitals.

Evidences of Church Supported Hospitals

To demonstrate that the call for church supported hospitals is not the figment of my imagination, please consider these following evidences:

1. “Medical Missions Increasing.” This was the name of an article which appeared in the 29 May 1979 issue of Christian Chronicle. It reported,

Christian medical professionals and students from around the world will gather in Atlanta October 19 and 20 for the annual Medical Evangelism Seminar, hosted by the Decatur Church of Christ and Medical Outreach, Inc. . . .

The Decatur congregation has long been active in medical mission work. But, in the last three years, members of the congregation have organized to focus on solutions to the personnel problems that have hampered mission clinics and hospitals in the past.

This article plainly admits that presently there are existing church supported mission clinics and hospitals.

2. Gospel Herald. The August 1980 issue of Gospel Herald carried the speech delivered by Maurice Hood, M.D. to the Medical Evangelism Seminar in Atlanta. Here is what Hood said:

The medical missionary is, in our brotherhood, almost an anomaly. There have been so few and they are so poorly supported that our work has been almost only a gesture . . . . To phrase it another way, in Nigeria alone there have been literally hundreds of missionary hospitals, while we have only one, and there is only one in all of East Africa . . . .

It is important to realize that the gospel is total and must apply to broken bodies as well as broken spirits. Some have wanted to use our ministering as a lure in order to be able to preach to a captive audience or to make medical care dependent on the willingness to listen to Biblical teaching. I fail to see that we can expect the African or Indian to resent this any less than any of us might. Medical benevolence should stand on its own merits.

This is an outright defense of church supported medical missions – church supported hospitals and doctors.

3. Greenwood Park Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky. The bulletin published by Wesley Jones and Bill Brumit reflects the thinking of some of those liberals who are on the vanguard of the social gospel movement. The 10 September 1980 bulletin which is published by this church and called Messenger reported the plans for work in Las Cruces. It stated the following plans:

In conjunction with this we hope to start a program of “preventive medicine.” The curative program of our medical clinic is well under way, but to make any impact in the health of the community, programs of nutrition, inoculation, and sanitation must be introduced. In the next few years we are hoping to expand the clinic to the point where we can provide inpatient care and a training program for medical and evangelistic personnel who wish to learn how to work in underdeveloped communities.

The work of this church includes, not only church supported hospitals and clinics, but church supported nutrition, inoculation and sanitation programs! This is the total acceptance of the social gospel.

This program was defended in the 3 September 1980 issue of the Messenger S. Sherman wrote as follows:

Christianity ministers to the needs of the “whole man.” It is able to take a broken human being who is separated from his creator, separated from his family, separated from himself, and separated physically, and bring him together in a healthy, happy being. If Christianity is not able to do this, then it is not serving in the manner that its founder set for it. If the church is geared to no more than a “spiritual” ministry, it has already utterly failed. The healing of Christ must, through the work of His servants, enter all realms of human life that Satan has enslaved, and declare that this part of man is no- longer Satan’s dominion.

The medical mission work of the church is more than “just a means to reach lost souls.” It is a ministry of a healing Savior to a diseased world. If we believe that all good things come from God, is it not our responsibility to see that these good things are brought to bear on aspects of Satan-dominated life? Or do we believe any more that sin, disease, and poverty are the dominions of Satan? Because they are, we as Christians must use every means available to sever Satan’s hold on human lives. Medical doctors, nurses, social workers and mailmen are just as effective in fighting a Satan dominated world as any “minister” if they lead Christ dominated lives. They can bring the knowledge of a healing Savior into areas where only they can go.

This is the philosophy behind the mission work in Las Cruces. People who have many different talents are working together as a body of Christ, through the support of you and people like you, to bring the knowledge of a healing Savior to a small community in Guatemala. This knowledge includes medicine, programs of disease prevention, and congregations of “healthy” humans who are ready to advance the kingdom of God even more.

The bulletin reproduced this sentence in bold, large type: “If the church is geared to no more than a `spiritual’ ministry, it has already utterly failed.” I cannot avoid commenting that every church in the New Testament was a failure by Sherman’s own criterion. None of them ever built a hospital, taught nutrition classes, worked to improve the city’s sanitation system, or any of the other works which this church in undertaking in Las Cruces.

The Liberals Were Warned

Our liberal brethren cannot say that church support of medical missions came unexpectedly. In practically every debate on church support of benevolent institutions which has occurred, a chart similar to the one presented in the Willis-Inman Debate (p. 145) has been used. (See below)

Usually our institutional brethren have given charts such as this one a royal ignoring. However, the logic of this chart was unable to be refuted; the liberal’s children saw the conclusion of this chart and have built church supported hospitals, church supported old folks homes, church supported reform schools, church supported colleges, and who knows what else will follow!

James 1:27

If this Scripture authorizes Church of Christ to build and maintain benevolent institutions, then such a conclusion

would also authorize the following:

Jas. 1:27 Visit the Fatherless Church Orphanages

Jas. 1:27 Visit the Widows Church Widowage

Heb. 13:2 Entertain Strangers Church Motels

Mt. 25:36 Clothe Naked Church Haberdasheries

Mt. 25:36 Visit The Sick Church Hospitals

Mt. 25:35 Feed The Hungry Church Cafeterias

Mt. 25:36 Visit Prisoners Church Jails

1 Cor. 16:1-2 Put Money In Treasury Church Banks

Mt. 28:19-20 Teach All Nations Church Colleges

Silence From Debaters

Those who stepped forward to defend the church support of benevolent institutions have been conspicuously silent with reference to recent developments to get the church involved in supporting hospitals and doctors. What has Guy N. Woods written about the matter? Have W.L. Totty, Alan Highers, Roy Deaver, Clifton Inman, E.R. Harper, Ira Y. Rice, Jr., Thomas Warren, Reuel Lemmons, Ray Hawk, and others who have defended the church support of orphan homes said anything about church support of hospitals? If so, I have not seen it! I take about 100 bulletins per week and over 45 periodicals monthly but I have not seen anything from any of our “conservative” liberal brethren regarding church support of hospitals.

I am predicting that we will not be able to read anything logical from the pens of such men. These men have argued in debate that “whatever the individual can do, the church can do.” The individual can obviously provide medical assistance and make donations to hospitals; hence, these brethren are logically compelled to admit that church support of hospitals is approved of God! They have no ammunition left with which to fight. Hence, the liberals are destined logically to accept every tenet of the social gospel.

There Is A Pattern

The fact remains, however, that God has revealed the program of work which the church is supposed to perform. Let it be remembered: Either God has revealed the pattern for the mission or work of the church, in which case the church is obligated to restrict its work to the mission revealed in the Scriptures, or God has not revealed a pattern for the mission or work of the church, in which case the church can be involved in any work it so desires. Where there is no law, there can be no transgression; hence, if there is no pattern revealed, any work stands just as approved by God as any other work.

We believe that God has revealed the mission of the church. The only programs of work in which any church was involved, as revealed in the Scriptures, were as follows: (1) Evangelism (2 Cor. 11:8; Phil. 4:15); (2) Relieving the benevolent needs of its own members (Acts 4:32-37; 11:27-30; Rom. 15:25-26; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; 2 Cor. 8-9); and (3) Edification (Acts 2:42). For the church to be involved in works which are not authorized under these headings is unscriptural. Church support of hospitals and colleges, do not fall under the heading of the church relieving the physical needs of its own members. To date, no one has been able to demonstrate that the church has a responsibility to relieve the physical needs of the entire world. Until this is shown beyond the shadow of doubt, church support of hospitals and orphan homes stands unauthorized by the word of God and in the same category as is the perversion of the worship by the introduction of instruments of music.

Seek The Old Paths

The continued advancement in the paths of digression by our liberal brethren reminds us of what happened in the days of Jeremiah. As the people apostatized, Jeremiah called them back to the “old paths.” He said, “Thus said the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein” (Jer. 6:16). This is exactly the same attitude as is being portrayed by our liberal brethren as they move further and further away from the old paths in order to walk with denominationalism.

I am confident, however, that there are a few brethren among them who are discontent with what they see in the liberal churches. Brethren, there is an alternative. Every man has the opportunity to pull out and establish a group of saints who will cling to the revelation of God’s word and stand opposed to these modern innovations. (Perhaps there are others in your area already taking such a stand. If you will contact me, I will try to put you in contact with each other.) We would like to encourage those who will listen to stand opposed to churches being involved in activities for which no Scripture can be given. Do not hestitate to ask your elders for Bible authority for churches to be contributing to the support of hospitals, colleges, orphan homes, etc. Do not allow these men to put off answering your questions; so long as you are contributing, you have every right to find out how the money is being spent.

The plea for book, chapter, and verse preaching is still needed. Saints who are committed to doing Bible things in a Bible way and calling Bible things by Bible names are forced to stand opposed to church support of colleges, orphan homes, and hospitals inasmuch as no command, example, or necessary inference can be given authorizing these works. Where are you standing?

Truth Magazine XXIV: 47, pp. 755-757
November 27, 1980