By Larry Ray Hafley
In The World Evangelist, December, 1973, William Goodpasture wrote an article entitled, “Benevolence-A Modern Day Stepchild.” In this treatise Brother Goodpasture sought to show (1) that “benevolence is one of the neglected areas” and (2) that “until we can restore a proper benevolent attitude we cannot be truly the New Testament church.” In the course of his remarks, Goodpasture told of the establishing of “institutional homes,” and then he said, “A few brethren raised up and preached with great vigor that they had found fault in the method of financing such institutions.”
It would be hard to find a statement that reveals less understanding of the issues involved in the “institutional homes” controversy. Brother Goodpasture’s utterance is a typical one. It well illustrates the ignorance that permeates many regarding the “institutional homes” contention. But let us see what the issue was, is, and always will be in this particular matter.
“This discussion does not concern means and methods or `how’ the work is to be done. The real issue concerns organizations. Which organization, the church or a human society, is to provide and oversee the care of the needy?” (Simpson-Britnell Debate, p. 79). “The question is, Brother Woods, do these verses authorize you or me or the churches of the Lord Jesus Christ to set up human organizations through which it is to be done? Do the churches have a right to build and maintain human organizations through which this work is to be done, through which this obligation is to be met? It is not whether there is an obligation, Brother Woods. That is not it. Do churches have a right to build and maintain human organizations through which to meet those obligations? That is the issue, Brother Woods. You knew that, didn’t you? Now, that is the issue; and so we are going to hold you to the issue.” (Woods-Porter Debate, p. 21). “The third statement in our proposition is, `. . . to build and maintain . . . .’ We mean by this, of course, to organize, establish, bring into existence and perpetuate, sustain their order and activity. This would include financing but would not be limited to that. Supplying the means of its existence is only a part of building and maintaining a thing.
“The fourth statement of our proposition is >benevolent organizations for the care of the needy.’ It becomes obvious from this wording of our proposition that there is involved in this discussion benevolent organizations other than, separate and apart from, the churches of Christ, but built by them for the work of caring for the needy.
“We are not discussing the matter of churches of Christ caring, for the needy, but their right to build other benevolent organizations to care for the needy. It is also obvious that we are not primarily discussing to what extent churches of Christ might use existing agencies aside form these benevolent organizations involved, or whether or not they can; but do churches of Christ have the scriptural right to build organizations through which to do their work of benevolence@ (Cogdill-Woods Debate, 16).
Just suppose I were to write and refer to the building of the Missionary Society. Then, suppose I spoke of opposition to it in this way: AA fwe brethren raised up and preached with great vigor that they had found fault in the method of financing such institutions.@ What if I were to characterize David Lipscomb=s fight against the Missionary Society as finding fault in the method of financing? What a pitiable, if not inexcusable, ignorance it would manifest. Yet, that is exactly and precisely what Brother Goodpasture has done in the realm of benevolence.
Truth cannot be promulgated nor reiterated too often. Brother Goodpasture=s remark is proof of that. So, the need is every urgent and constant to preach the word in season and out of season with all longsuffering and teaching. Do not forget that fact the next time you are tempted to repeat some seemingly simple principle of divine truth. If truth is not repeated, error will be.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:31, p. 13-14
June 6, 1974