By Roger Jackson
The Proposition: “The Bible teaches that a church of the Lord’s people may make a contribution, from its treasury, to an institutional home for orphans.”
I am pleased to have this opportunity to affirm this proposition and to have as my opponent brother Weldon Warnock. I also appreciate brother Willis’ willingness to publish the discussion in the pages of the Guardian of Truth.
It is the responsibility of the affirmative to define the terms of the proposition. By “the Bible,” I mean the inspired Word of God, the 66 books of the Old and New Testaments. By “teaches,” I mean imparts knowledge and authorizes a practice by either direct statement, approved example or implication. By “a church of the Lord’s people,” I mean a local congregation of the church of Christ (1 Cor. 1:2). By “may,” I mean it has a right to, is at liberty to, but is not required to. I am not affirming that this is the only way to do the work. By “make a contribution,” I mean render benevolent assistance to. By “from its treasury,” I mean out of the funds collected on the first day of the week (1 Cor. 16:1,2) or goods purchased by those funds. By “institutional home,” I mean one legally structured under articles of incorporation maintaining a board of directors. By “for orphans,” I mean the fatherless (Jas. 1:27).
Much that will be said in the course of this debate will hinge on the hermeneutic employed by each of the disputants. These few lines will lay down a principle along that line. One way that the church acts is by its members. This is not to say that everything all the members do the church does, but when the church has an obligation that obligation may be commanded of the individual and carried out collectively. For instance, in Galatians 2:10 Paul was told to remember the poor, which he said he did. The command was totally individual, “Only they would that we should remember the poor, the same which I was forward to do.” How did he carry out that obligation? He took up a collection out of the first day of the week contribution (1 Cor. 16:1,2; Rom. 15:26). Now brother Warnock believes an orphan can be a scriptural object of the church’s benevolence as we shall notice from his own writings a bit later. Could an individual Christian fulfill his obligation (Jas. 1:27) to such a poor person the same way Paul did?
Could he and a number of others pool their resources into the church treasury and support a poor person (orphan)? Paul’s actions are an optional example. We may do it that way. We may do it another way, but this is one way it can be done.
I shall use implicit authority to prove the proposition following the principle that to prove every part of a proposition is to prove the whole proposition. The argument is this:
If it is the case that:
A. A church of the Lord’s people has an obligation in the care of orphans, and,
B. The needs of an orphan child cannot be adequately met without his having or being a part of a home, and,
C. The church, without any further organization, cannot function as a home,
D. The church may discharge some of its obligations by providing funds, and
E. The church may send funds to a home,
Then it is the case that; (by conjunction, A,B,C,D,E, F)
F. The Bible teaches that a church of the Lord’s people may make a contribution, from its treasury, to an institutional home for orphans.
The syllogism is a modus ponens syllogism with a compound antecedent. I am affirming the antecedent. If the syllogism is valid (and it is), and the premises are true (which I shall prove), then the conclusion is demanded and we have a sound argument. A sound argument has no answer. I shall now proceed to prove the premises are true.
A church of the Lord’s people has a responsibility in the care of orphan children as the need arises and the opportunity presents itself. I have never debated a man of brother Warncock’s position who believed this. They believe that a church may support a Christian who is an orphan, but not because he is an orphan, but because he is a Christian. However, brother Warnock wrote in this paper (Vol. XXIV, No. 14, p. 14): “To my knowledge there is nobody who opposes helping widows and orphans from the church treasury, provided they come within the scope of the church’s responsibility. The church is not obligated to help, financially, all widows and orphans, but just certain ones.” Now, brother Warnock give us the passage that teaches the church may assist an orphan out of the church treasury. You said it could, now tell us where that passage is. I maintain that you teach a church of the Lord has no responsibility at all to an orphan child simply on the basis of his being an orphan whether he is in an institutional home or any other kind. What say ye?
Here is the argument to prove a church of the Lord’s people has a responsibility in the care of orphan children: James 1:27 states, “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” (emphasis mine, R.J.) A. The word episkeptomai (to visit) relates equally to the fatherless and to the widows. B. If it is exclusively individual for the fatherless, then it is exclusively individual for the widows. C. But it is not exclusively for the widows (Acts 6:1; 1 Tim. 5:16). C. Therefore, it is not exclusively individual for the fatherless. Since it is not exclusively individual for the fatherless the church may care for the fatherless on the strength of James 1:27. Acts 6:1 states the church helped widows and 1 Timothy 5:16 states the same thing, The church may visit the fatherless because of the equal relationship.
In spite of Wayne Greeson’s false report about my debate with Thomas Thrasher last year, which appeared in the Guardian, Thrasher would not even mention this argument. All he could say was James 1:27 is individual. This does not answer the argument. To show the inconsistency, brother Warnock, would you please give us a passage that authorizes the church to obey the laws of the land and to sing?
Must Have A Home
The needs of an orphan child cannot be adequately met without his having, or being a part of a home. By “home” I mean a family situation, custody or guardianship in the cause of the fatherless and inclusive of a dwelling. When we are told to assemble (Heb. 10:25) we understand that a place is essential. When we are told to care for the fatherless and widows a place is just as essential as well as custody and guardianship in the case of the fatherless. In providing facilities, custody and guardianship it is often necessary to incorporate. This produces a board of trustees and a charter. All of this is in compliance with the law (1 Pet. 2:13,14).
Church Cannot Function As A Home
In the case of orphan children the church must utilize the services of another institution. It is God’s arrangement for an eldership to serve over a local church (Acts 20:28; Heb. 13:17). The home is overseen by guardians who may be the natural parents (Eph. 6:1-4; Col. 3:20).
According to brother Warnock’s statement, already quoted, the church may support some widows. Are these widows in homes? Is a home another organization separate from the church? When the church supports these widows in these homes is their home an organization separate and apart from the church doing the work of the church? Is this home a human institution? In contributing to the upkeep of her home would the church be subsidizing a human institution? All of your answers apply to orphans by virtue of the fact that they are equated in the work of visiting in James 1:27.
Obligations Discharged By Providing Funds
Some of the obligations of the church may be discharged by providing funds. In the New Testament we read about obligations of the church being carried out by providing funds. (1) 1 Timothy 3:15 states that the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. We believe and teach that this makes the Great Commission binding on the church (Matt. 28:18-20). One way that the church of the first century carried out this obligation was by sending funds to the preacher (Phil. 4:15,16). (2) In carrying out the command to care for some widows (1 Tim. 5:16 – given after the fact), the church gathered many necessities (treasury) and gave it to widows daily (Acts 4:34,35; 6:1-6). In like manner James 1:27 states the equal responsibility of supporting the fatherless.
Funds For A Home
May the church provide funds for a home? When money is given for the general upkeep of property and maintaining sustenance for those residing in and on that property, funds have been appropriated and given to a home. This is parallel to giving to a church. The term “church” in our language includes the building and the people who meet in it. To contribute to a church is to contribute to the work of the people in a building and may include the maintenance of a building. Brother Willis has assured me that he and his staff believe that a church may contribute to a home. Thus, he insisted on a word “institutional” be included in the proposition. Brother Warnock has left the definite impression in his writings that he believes the church has a responsibility to “some” orphans. Orphans need homes. It is impossible to help the needy without giving or sustaining them in that which they need – a home. However, I never debated a one of them who believed the church could make a contribution to a home of any kind. They wanted to include the institutional home so that they could talk about abuses and hide when the going got tough. So perhaps brother Warnock can clear the matter up for us. Brother Warnock, do you believe the church can make a contribution to a home of any kind? If so, what kind, and where does the Bible teach it? It you will honor us with that information we will know whether or not to pursue the proof of this point or leave it as a point of argument.
Since the syllogism is unquestionably valid and the premises are true, the conclusion follows and is the proposition. We have a sound argument. The proposition is proven to be true.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 11, p. 331-332
June 4, 1992