Sutton – Hawk Debate

By Dorris V. Rader

A debate between Carrol R. Sutton and Ray Hawk, involving churches contributing to “Benevolent Organizations,” was held in Hobart, Indiana in the buildings of the Hobart and Lake Station churches. This discussion was originally scheduled between Gilbert W. Holt and Ray Hawk. Upon the death of brother Holt, it was arranged for brother Sutton to do the debating.

In my judgment, the spirit which prevailed throughout the debate was above reproach. Brother Hiram Hutto served as Sutton’s moderator and Jim Bullington served as Hawk’s moderator. They had little to do as far as keeping order was concerned and all connected with the debate are to be commended. It was one of the best along that line I have attended.

The first two nights Sutton affirmed the following:

“The Scriptures teach that the church may arrange, oversee and provide the needs for those who are its obligation in the field of benevolence, and this arrangement is not a benevolent organization (institution) such as Paragould Children’s Home, Shultz-Lewis Children’s Home, and Homes for the Aged.”

Brother Sutton was well prepared. He showed from 1 Tim. 5:16 that the church is told to “relieve” and that it is not an issue of “how” in the sense of means and methods. He showed that the “benevolent organizations” such as those in the proposition do not constitute a “how” (means or method) but another organization. Hawk complained and wanted more passages. He tried to blunt the force of Sutton’s argumentation by presenting a chart that had Sutton versus this man or that on a variety of subjects not involved in the proposition. He stated that if Sutton could fellowship these men and disagree he should be able to fellowship those who supported benevolent institutions. In the first place, most of what he offered on the chart was false assumptions and did not correctly represent all the ones involved. None of it had anything to do with the discussion at hand, and this was turned right back on Hawk as Sutton showed “Hawk Versus” various ones on whether these institutions are human or divine. At one point, Hawk argued that we really believe the same thing on this question, and it is just a matter of semantics.

At one point Hawk mentioned a ten year old orphan boy who is a Christian and asked Sutton a number of questions about the arrangement he would have for providing for him. In the course of his illustration, he asked Sutton who would diaper the boy. This was amusing to Sutton and the audience especially since Hawk had just accused Sutton of “running scared.”

Hawk contended that Sutton was obligated to give a name and details to the “arrangement,” for providing the care by the church. Yet, Hawk admitted that if he were to be called on in similar fashion to give details for the church carrying out her obligation in preaching, he would simply cite Matthew 28:19-20. It was not sufficient, though, for Sutton to give 1 Tim. 5:16 which tells the church to relieve. He wanted Sutton to go beyond and bind details.

On Wednesday night brother Hawk affirmed, “The Scriptures teach that churches of Christ may contribute (transmit money) to orphan’s homes such as the Pargould Children’s home, Shults-Lewis Children’s Home, and Homes for the Aged.”

Brother Hawk spoke approximately 15 minutes of his first 20 minute speech without offering anything of of an affirmative nature. He talked about “Sutton’s Admissions.” The chart should have been labeled “Hawk’s assumptions” for they were more his assumptions than Sutton’s admissions. But, if all of that had been admitted by Sutton, it would still fall short of proving Hawk’s proposition. Finally, Hawk offered 1 Tim. 5:16 as proof of his proposition. He claimed it is all right there in that passage. He offered a number of charts all claiming 1 Tim. 5:16 as his proof text. In all of them he confused who, and how, and he confused buying services with making contributions. Sutton presented a letter from Hawk to a brother in which Hawk showed he knows there is a difference, and yet he certainly confused it in this debate.

On Monday night, Sutton asked the following question! “Do you believe the following proposition: `The Scriptures teach the church may arrange, oversee and provide for the preaching of the gospel and this arrangement is not an evangelistic organization (institution) such as the United Christian Missionary Society’?” Brother Hawk replied, “no” and promised to explain later. On Wednesday night Sutton asked the same question, and this time Hawk replied, “Yes.” Sutton pressed Hawk to tell us about this predicament. Hawk finally said in effect, “I don’t know why I answered both ways. I don’t have to explain. Which ever one is correct is what I meant.” The debate closed and we never learned from him which was correct or which he meant.

Hopefully, this debate will be put into print. I understand that arrangements have been signed to permit printing it. I would suggest you get a copy of it if and when it becomes available.

Truth Magazine XXII: 36, pp. 586-587
September 14, 1978