By Weldon Warnock
We appreciate brother Jackson’s willingness to enter into this written exchange on the proposition he has set forth.
The issue between us is not whether orphans must have care, or whether institutional orphan homes have a right to exist, but rather may churches of Christ contribute from their treasuries, scripturally, to institutional orphan homes? This is the crux of the issue. This is what brother Jackson is affirming.
Brother Jackson contends that “when the church has an obligation that obligation may be commanded of the individual and carried out collectively.” He uses Galatians 2:10, 1 Corinthians 16:1,2 and Romans 15:26 as an example. But in Galatians 2:10, Paul simply stated that he was eager to comply with the request of the apostles at Jerusalem, viz., to remember the poor, which he did by ordering churches, such as in Macedonia, Achaia and Galatia, to contribute to poor saints. For Paul to have relieved his financial obligation to the poor through the action of several churches, of which he was not a member and to which he made no monetary gifts, would have been a blockbuster of practicing individual religion by proxy. Brother Jackson, is this the way you fulfill your individual obligations to the poor by just urging churches to give to them?
Brother Jackson asks, “Could an individual Christian fulfill his obligation (Jas. 1:27) to such a poor person the same way Paul did?” Do you mean by ordering churches to give to institutional orphanages? Where did Paul do this? He directed congregations for example, to raise and to send money to the poor saints in Jerusalem, and using Acts 11:27-30 as a precedent, the money would have been taken to the elders, not to a board of directors.
In brother Jackson’s modus ponens syllogism he failed to prove his premises, as I shall show, so his conclusion is false. His very first premise (A), not to mention some others, is erroneous and, therefore, his syllogism is invalid. He failed to prove that the local church has an obligation to orphans in general. Neither James 1:27, nor my isolated statement he lifted out of context from the Guardian of Truth, proves his contention. James 1:27 is individual action and not church (collective) action. The “himself” of the text is no more a church than the “branches” are churches in John 15:5. Both are individual in nature. Sectarians make “branches” churches and brother Jackson makes “himself” a church. Both are wrong.
Brother Jackson endeavors to make James 1:27 both local church action and individual action at the same time because, as he reasons, the church also has an obligation toward widows (1 Tim. 5:16; Acts 6:1). Since “to visit” relates equally to the fatherless and widows, then the local church, he concludes, has a responsibility toward orphans. Therefore, James 1:27 is not exclusively individual.
Well, if James 1:27 shows the duty of a local church to widows and orphans, are the restrictions in 1 Timothy 5:16 to be applied to James 1:27? The church in 1 Timothy 5:16 is to relieve widows indeed and the individual in the chapter is to take care of his own (5:8,16). Making James 1:27 individual, which it is, permits and obligates the care of widows and orphans on a general basis. However, the church is restricted to widows indeed. Brother Jackson is confused between the “church’s widow” of 1 Timothy 5:16 and the “individual’s widow” of James 1:27. Please tell us if James 1:27 is limited to widows indeed?
We are told that brother Thomas Thrasher would not even mention this argument on James 1:27 in the debate brother Jackson had with him. If he wouldn’t, I have not only mentioned it, but answered it, so let’s see what brother Jackson can now do with it. The local church has a duty to certain widows (widows indeed), and in like manner it has a responsibility toward orphans if they are among the needy saints, or the responsibility of needy saints.
The thrust of brother Jackson’s argument is James 1:27. He insists the verse allows local churches to contribute to institutional homes because an orphan needs a home. (Notice in his article how he shifts back and forth on the use of “home.” He makes it a legal institution with a board of directors, a relationship and also a place. It becomes confusing.) The Bible says nothing about the church contributing out of its treasury to any home. The local church in the New Testament gave to needy saints. If we used biblical terminology, the matter of benevolence would become so much easier to understand. Churches of Christ gave to people – needy saints. Seems some like the word “home” in discussing this issue as they can shift gears from one meaning of home to another whenever it suits their purpose. (However, if we define giving to a destitute Christian to provide for his family as the same as giving to a home, then, by definition, we are giving to a home.)
Brother Jackson finds a human institutional orphanage in James 1:27 because it says “to visit the fatherless.” W.E. Vine states that the word episkeptomai (visit) signifies “to visit the sick and afflicted, Matthew 25:36,43; Jas. 1:27” (Vol. 4, p. 190). Whatever is authorized in James 1:27 is also authorized in Matthew 25:36,43. Hence, if James 1:27 authorizes churches of Christ to maintain orphanages, then it also authorizes institutional homes for widows. But Matthew 25 includes much more. Given brother Jackson’s interpretation of James 1:27, churches may also build and maintain hospitals for the sick as Jesus said, “visit the sick” (Matt. 25:36) and build jails because Jesus said “visit those in prison” (Matt. 25:43). Some brethren already have Church of Christ Hospitals and Church of Christ Medical Missions. Brother Jackson, may churches of Christ build and maintain hospitals (like the Catholics, Baptists and Methodists do) and jails? If they can build orphanages to visit orphans, why can’t they build hospitals to visit the sick? We await your answer.
Let’s try brother Jackson’s modus ponens syllogism on for size and see if it will allow churches of Christ to build and maintain hospitals from their treasuries. Following brother Jackson’s line of thinking:
If it is the case that:
A. A church of the Lord’s people has an obligation in the care of the sick.
B. The needs of the sick cannot be adequately met at times without hospital care.
C. The church, without any further organization, cannot function as a hospital.
D. The church may discharge some of its obligations by providing funds, and
E. The church may send funds to a hospital.
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 a hospital.
How about it brother Jackson? Why doesn’t your syllogism authorize churches of Christ to build and maintain hospitals, and even contribute money to Baptist, Methodist, city, county and state hospitals?
Our brother equates a meeting place of the church with an institutional orphanage. But these are not parallel. Though a church cannot meet without a place, it has choice as to facilities – a church building, private dwelling, school auditorium, etc. An institutional home is not inferred. What brother Jackson needs in his argument on a place to assemble to parallel his position on a local church contributing to an institutional orphanage, which in turn provides a home for children, is a “Christian Builders Corporation.” Churches could contribute to the corporation and it would buy property and build meetinghouses all over the country.
Homes, with their board of directors, take care of “our” orphans and widows and the “Christian Builders Corporation” would take care of our building needs. Sounds like we have a “good” thing going here. Since a church is not a construction company, as it is not a home, it may subsidize a construction company to expedite erection of meetinghouses just as it contributes to benevolent organizations to care for orphans, widows, the infirm and the sick. This is following the reasoning of those who advocate contributions from churches to benevolent institutions.
Brother Jackson declares, “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). ” Observe that he says the church “gave it to widows.” Amen! What he needs to find is where they gave it to a board of directors of some institutional home that could have been called “Haven of Rest Care Center” which institution in turn gave just a part of the money contributed by the church to the widows.
The church at Jerusalem chose seven men to handle the distribution of funds for the needy widows among them. The church had all the machinery necessary to carry out its duty of relieving their needs. If required, a local church may provide a house, food, clothing and whatever else is necessary for a widow’s upkeep (and orphans who are its responsibility).
Brother Jackson says giving to a home is “parallel to giving to a church.” He then makes a strange statement that the term “church” in our language “includes the building and the people who meet in it.” I thought the church were the redeemed people and not brick and mortar? When Jesus shed his blood to purchase the church, did this include a building? When God purposed the church, did he include a building? No one is contesting a meetinghouse, nor its upkeep, but let’s not define the church of God (1 Cor. 1:2) to include an earthly and mundane building.
We are accused by brother Jackson of wanting to include the institutional home in any debate we have on the care of orphans so that we can talk about abuses and hide behind them. He says, “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.” Although there are plenty of abuses in institutional orphanages to talk about, you may have observed that in this first round that I haven’t written about them. Therefore, if brother Jackson’s characterization of us is true, then my part of this written debate has so far been rather easy, because we “talk about abuses when the going gets tough.”
We are told in brother Jackson’s final paragraph that since his syllogism is unquestionably valid and the premises are true, the proposition is proven to be true. In response, I feel just as confident that I have shown that his syllogism is unquestionably invalid and that some of his premises are not true, therefore, his proposition is proven to be false.
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 11, pp. 333-334
June 4, 1992