The H.L. Collett Versus Ben F. Vick, Jr. Debate

By David Bonner

On the nights of April 9,10,12,13, H.L. Collett engaged Ben F. Vick, Jr. in a debate on church benevolence to saints and non-saints, or just to saints, and whether churches can donate to Boles Home and Potter Children’s Home. The first two nights were in the building where brother Vick preaches (Shelbyville Rd. in Indianapolis, Ind.). The last two nights were in the building where brother Collett preaches (Lafayette Rd., in Noblesville, Ind.). Approximately 125 to 150 attended each night. One reason the audiences were as small as they were, besides just lack of interest, is that Vick is a very “conservative liberal.” He opposes “homes” under elderships, most of the social gospel, all “human organizations” in the church budget except for the benevolent ones he calls “homes.” There were several preachers of his “stripe” who attended from afar and I was impressed with both their sincerity and conservatism. Wherever they are, they are an island. It will be interesting to see where they are in ten years or so. They are much closer to us than they are to the runof-the-mill liberals.

Vick has debated some before. This was Collett’s first debate. Both men did a good job of presenting their convictions. Good conduct prevailed in the audience and interest was high. As I was moderator for Collett (Mark Bass of Illinois was moderator for Vick) many have asked me who won! My reply is “The Lord.” When truth and error come together, if truth in fact is presented, error is no match. Space would not allow a full discussion of the debate but I’ll make just a few points.

Vick, on the subject of benevolence, argued James 1:27 as being for both the individual and church. He argued Galatians 6:10 as church benevolence and that it was the same case as 1 Corinthians 16:1-3; 2 Corinthians 8,9. He also used 2 Corinthians 9:13 (“all men”) to try to prove church benevolence to non-saints. H.L. adequately showed that even the grammar of James 1:27 would not allow church action. He showed, by studying all of Galatians 6, that it was both individual and the good was spiritual. On 2 Corinthians 9:13 H.L. showed the “unto them” was the “poor among the saints” (Rom. 15:26) and the “all” was the other saints primarily in Jerusalem (Jews) who would have their prejudice broken down toward the Gentile sending people in said churches. H.L. also met the tears on the occasion by showing the March of Dimes will not care for heart patients or even orphans because it is not their work. He showed the same is true for each local church of Christ. Benevolence is not the local church’s work. Vick argued O.T. Israel robbed God (Mal. 3:8) and inferred no benevolence to the non-saints was just that. This really backfired on him when Collett showed we rob God when we use the church treasury in an unauthorized way (for the non-saint). Vick used the argument about a non-saint attending who got sick in the assembly and said then we could not call the 911 number for an ambulance or use “church water” or a towel to wipe his brow. Collett said the first saint who got to the sick man would both call 911 and wipe his brow as an individual but Vick’s brethren in order to have church action to decide to do the same would have to call an eldership meeting to make the decision and before the decision could be made, the man might die.

On the Boles Homes part, Collett asked Vick where in the Bible any local church ever donated to a family, showing the church made distribution to each man as any man had need (Acts 4:35). Vick reasoned to help a child the church would have to give to his father. This was a subtle way of trying to get the non-saint in the church budget. Collett asked Vick if the church donated to one widow, would that be donating to a widow’s home. Vick said, “Yes.” This backfired when Collett showed family is a collective word and one person can’t make up a family. Vick does not believe in missionary societies, he says, in the church budget or works of a church under a board. This also backfired when Collett read from a Boles Home publication which states, “Boles Home is a ministry of Churches of Christ,” and the same publication shows Boles Home is under a board. Collett showed the Southern Baptist Convention receives funds from local Baptist Churches and owns and operates orphan homes, Bible colleges, and evangelizes. He then showed the Oregon Christian Missionary Society also receives funds from Christian Churches and owns and operates both orphans homes and Bible colleges as well as evangelizes. He showed the American Christian Missionary Society (started in 1849) was under a board and evangelized. Then he showed Boles Home is the name of a corporation to provide a home for destitute and dependent children. And they “see” their “task as missionary in nature” (from one of their publications). Collett showed Boles Home is not like a missionary society but is a missionary society. By definition a missionary society is an organization or society designed to do the work or mission of the church. To those who view general benevolence as the mission of the church, an organization or society to perform this work “For Churches of Christ” is surely a missionary society.

Vick argued, if Galatians 6:6 is not authority for church support of preachers then Collett could not get his salary from the church. Collett showed 1 Corinthians 9 and other passages would include church support of preachers. Collett showed Galatians 6:6 is on the subject of the taught one having fellowship with the teacher in all good things which he teaches by living the teachings. It is not on paying a preacher.

We really believe Vick and his people generally are sincere. If they could just learn how to establish Bible authority, how the word church is used and how a local church may function, there might be great hope they will come to the truth. Truth was taught. H.L. Collett was well prepared having made well over 200 charts. Robert Bond flipped his charts and Larry Ritchie kept his time.

In conclusion, possibly the strongest argument Collett made, after Vick had made many of his points, was to state that about ten years ago he changed from Vick’s basic position having preached it for 12 years at the time. And why did he change? He stated he changed because of the same kind of arguments the audience had just heard Vick make, which will not hold water. Collett then affirmed he sends to the social security department of the U.S. Government which helps over 38,000,000 orphans, widows, and aged men so that ought to take care of James 1:27 for him. Then Collett showed that does not take care of James 1:27 for “visit” has to do with personally inspecting with the eyes for the purpose of doing good. Collett also asked Vick if an orphan child were still an orphan after a husband/wife adopted him. Vick said, “No.” Collett then asked if a child were still an orphan when taken in by Boles Home. Vick said, “No.” Collett showed if that is so, then no person or church obeys James 1:27 by donating to Boles Home since they are not orphans. Collett had charts contrasting a natural family with Boles Home, which Vick claimed was a substitute family, with about sixteen points of contrast. This made Vick’s position absurd. How can a rich board have poor kids in a family?

I believe debates do good and appreciate all the work H.L. put into this one. May honest people seek (Jn.7:17).

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 14, pp. 423-424
July 19, 1990