By William B. Weight
The, church of Christ, of which I am a part was founded a little more than a year ago. A few months after the starting date, I talked with a dedicated member of a neighboring church of Christ which is striving to abide in the teaching of Christ with respect to “the issues” that have destroyed the unity that once existed among us. In the course of our conversation he recounted some details of an experience he had one day at work while he was eating his lunch. He was reading a paper published by Brother Leslie Diestelkamp. A member of a nearby liberal church of Christ approached him and asked what he was reading. He told him what he was reading and also informed him that Brother Diestelkamp was soon to be engaged in a meeting at the church of Christ where I have membership. He further suggested that his liberal friend take the time to go and hear Brother Diestelkamp preach. This brother responded by saying something to this effect: “Oh, they are just a bunch of antis! They are against orphan homes and colleges. I wouldnt go there.”
Well-Meaning, But ill-informed
This response suggests an unfortunate circumstance where well-meaning, but ill-informed, brethren of liberal congregations repeat statements made in their presence by people in whom they have confidence and they simply “assume” the statements to be true. This is especially true where some emotional aspect is involved.
There is probably no more emotional issue than the plight of the orphan. Those who promote the orphan home resort to emotional ploys which create the notion that to oppose the use of church funds to support this kind of human institution automatically makes one some kind of heartless beast who has no compassion for orphans. They then proceed to drag out of their stock of emotion arousing clichés such terms as “anti” with which to brand brethren who oppose church support of human institutions. These epithets are used out of context and are, therefore, meaningless as used.
Another emotional issue closely akin to the orphan home issue is the matter of the so-called “Christian” college. The college issue has become emotion packed because of the propaganda used in its behalf. Propagandists have created the notion in mens minds (by inference) that if ones children are not graduated from one of “our schools,” they are automatically second class citizens of the kingdom of God.
The charge that we are against orphan homes and colleges as such is false. I have no doubt that many of the people who repeat this charge do not know that they are repeating a falsehood, but they are nonetheless. Thus, it is necessary, and it is the purpose of this little essay, to set the record straight on these matters.
Setting the Record Straight
For purposes of setting the record straight, it must be understood that, the typical orphan home operated by our brethren and the so-called “Christian” college are self-constituted human organizations which do some things (at times) that churches of Christ and individual Christians are charged with doing in the New Testament. It is just as possible for a plumbing and heating firm or a steel company to engage in benevolence and to teach the gospel, but it does not follow that because they choose to do so the church should reach into its treasury and support these organizations with its funds. Nor, if it were the case that this was done by them, would Christians by the very nature of the problem become “beasts” for opposing such contributions or be , against plumbing and heating establishments and steel companies. It would only indicate that Christians are opposed to the unscriptural practice of supporting business organizations out of church treasuries — nothing more.
What We Really Believe
We believe the Scriptures are complete and that they furnish in completely unto every good work (2 Tim, 3:1.6-17, 2 Pet. 1:34). We believe that we are able to learn the will of Christ for His church by precept or command (example: Mark 16:15-16), approved apostolic example (Acts 20:7), and necessary inference (Heb. 10:25). The command to meet (Heb. 10:25) necessarily implies the right to have a place to meet. That being the case (that we can learn all of Christs will for His church in the New Testament), we believe it is scripturally false to suggest that God told us what to do but did not tell us how to do it. And, then, to follow this travesty on scriptural exegesis with the argument that since He did not tell us how to do it, we are justified in making a contribution to some human institution which incidentally happens to do some things Christ commanded His church to do! Then, in the next place, to compound this fast and loose playing with Gods word by lying about the attitude of conservative, brethren toward human institutions and other matters is worse yet.
Now, Lets Look At the Facts
The facts about these matters (the attitude of my brethren and me toward the work of the church, human institutions, and some other matters) are:
(1) We believe human institutions have the right to exist as self-sustaining human institutions. We believe those institutions have no right to church support. It makes no difference whether those human institutions are so-called “Christian” colleges, orphan homes, or profit making business organizations! To those who would argue otherwise we ask, by what precept, approved apostolic example, or necessary inference do you justify the use of church funds to support human institutions?
(2) We believe that individual Christians have the right to gather together and engage in wholesome recreation but we deny that the church as a church has any scriptural authorization to engage in the promotion of recreation. To those who wish to say we are wrong on this matter, we ask, by what precept, approved apostolic example, or necessary inference do you justify church support of recreation?
(3) We affirm the right of Christians to make gifts to colleges, benevolent, efforts, and recreational programs, as long as this does not interfere with the Christians giving as he is prospered and the institutions, etc., do, not promote unscriptural practices. The writer of this essay makes a small monthly contribution to a college operated by members of churches of Christ.
(4) We affirm the right of individual churches to cooperate with other churches of Christ by sending evangelists and sending support directly to evangelists who need support (Phil. 4:15-16), and by aiding congregations that are in need (Acts 11:27-30). We deny the right of one congregation to act as a broker or sponsoring church in handling funds of other churches of Christ. Those who favor such arrangements are bound to produce precept, approved apostolic example, or necessary inference for it!
(5) We affirm the right of a church of Christ to support its own destitute members, but we deny its obligation to use church funds to support non-members. There is no New Testament command, approved precedent or necessary inference for support of non-members from the church treasury; If we are bound to support non-members, with whom we incidentally come in contact, from the treasury, then why not every needy non-member in the world? Why discriminate? And, if every needy non-member in the world, where would the preaching of the gospel come into the picture?
(6) We affirm the right and duty of individual Christians to help non-members in addition to Christians (Gal. 6:12; Jas. 1:27). To those who would say these verses apply to the church as a church, we ask, tell us how from the stand point of grammar, exegesis, and logic you so conclude?
To our Separated Brethren
It is your right to decide these matters as you please. You will stand in judgment, as we will, to give account for your conduct in this life. You have our permission to repeat anything we say in these matters wherever you wish. But, please, oh, please, do not lie about us. “Tell it like it is.”
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 47, pp. 6-8
October 5, 1972