The Indianapolis Debate

By Harry L. Lewis

On May 22, 23, 25, 26 Brother John McCort met Brother James Thompson in a public discussion. It is getting more and more difficult to find any preacher who will defend what he teaches in such a discussion. This is especially true of our liberal brethren. These brethren have a rather difficult time putting into words what they really believe about some of the questions that divide us. 1, for one, believe both of these men are to be commended for their willingness to defend what they teach on these important subjects. A discussion such as this is a very good way to seek the Bible answer to these questions. The proposition which was discussed reads as follows: “It is scriptural for churches of Christ to support benevolent institutions out of the treasury which care for orphans and aged saints.” Brother Thompson affirmed and Brother McCort denied. The last two nights the word “not” was added before scriptural, and Brother McCort affirmed and Brother Thompson denied.

Brother Thompson started out on Monday evening with the restored home argument and never stopped using it throughout the debate. He said, the church was commanded to relieve certain persons, and a home was just a systematic arrangement to carry out this command. He also said, these benevolent societies (i.e. care institutions) are just restored homes. He made the statement several times during the debate that the church could support a home but it could not be a home. Brother Thompson said these restored homes were divine institutions! The Scriptures used to show that they were divine was 2 Cor. 8-9, where Paul and the messengers were mentioned. He said this was a separate organization from the church since they administered the funds. He says this is “a Bible plan,” a “pattern.” Bother Thompson made the usual arguments on Gal. 6:10 and James 1:27, trying to show that they were church action and not individual action only.

Brother McCort began early to put pressure on Brother Thompson to show the authority for his practice of supporting the organizations he called the “home,” and at the same time show why he would oppose other organizations formed by brethren to preach the gospel. Brother McCort used a chart he called “Bait and Switch” with telling effect throughout the debate. This chart shows how many of these brethren go to great lengths to prove it is the church’s responsibility to care for the needy and just as soon as they get folks convinced that the church must do it they change it from the church to these organizations called a “home.” The bait and switch is also used in relation to the church local and the church universal. When these folks argue for these organizations they argue that each local church has responsibilities in this area and then switch to the church universal. There are no local congregations over most of these institutions in question. Brother McCort showed that God had specified which organization was to provide care for those for whom the church is to care. That organization is the local church. Brother McCort pressed for some Bible principle which would authorize some brethren to build several kinds of organizations and then label them all divine without opening the door to denominationalism.

Brother McCort drew a parallel between the use of “administered” in 2 Cor. 8:19, and the same word used in Acts 6:2-3. He showed that if the word authorized a separate organization to do benevolent work, then the same word in connection with preaching would allow the Missionary Society to do the work of preaching.

This debate is on cassette tapes and may be obtained from Brother John McCort, 5355 Mooresville Rd., Indianapolis, Indiana 46241. John also used 78 original charts that are, in my opinion, the best there are. These charts will be available from Truth Magazine Bookstore. John McCort did a fine job in this debate, both in making preparation, and in delivery of his speeches. He is to be commended for his efforts.

Truth Magazine XXII: 43, p. 699
November 2, 1978