When I first heard of Orphan Sunday, I was excited about the idea of bringing the program to my parish. We of my fellow parishioners have grown their families through adoption and our pastor is supportive of adoption, often speaking of it during Mass.
In preparing material to present to him about Orphan Sunday, I found the statement “Orphan Sunday is licensed to the Christian Alliance for Orphans as a registered trademark of Every Orphan’s Hope”. That means I cannot use the name without permission of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. Kind of weird for a Christian organization whose purpose serve the orphans of the world — anyway.
In checking more about the Christian Alliance for Orphans I found their statement of faith.
Statement Of Faith?
Many non-affiliated Protestant organizations need a statement of faith because they do not answer to a central authority as we do following the method Christ used to organize the Church. They believe they are answerable only to God, which gives them the freedom to develop their own theology. They need a statement of faith to let others know what they believe.
Though Catholics and mainline Protestants are divided, we are united under the cross by our common statement of faith, the Nicene Creed.
Since Christian Alliance for Orphans statement of faith begins with “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God”, my excitement about Orphan Sunday quick ended.
Which Translation is the Inspired, the Only Infallible, Authoritative Word of God?
The Bible is the inspired word of God—that is not a matter for debate (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The problem is the ahearance to Sola Scriptura in their first plank. Sola Scriptura is a faulty philosophy developed by Martin Luther to empower Protestants to interpret the Bible as they please rather than consider the teaching of the Church fathers which had guided the Church for 1,500 years.
What Christian Alliance for Orphans does not specify is which translation they consider “the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God”. Here is James 1:27 from the four most commonly used translations in the U.S.:
- “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.” King James
- “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” New American Bible
- “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” New International Version
- “Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.” New American Standard
Which one of these is “the only infallible, authoritative Word of God”? Without clear direction, erroneous actions will be taken.
- Are we to care for the orphan or the fatherless? Orphans have no parents while the fatherless still have a mother.
- Are we to just to visit them or look after them?
- Are we worried about ourselves staying unspotted, unstained, or unpolluted?
- Are the widows afflicted or in distress?
- Is the passage talking about “God and the Father” or “God, our Father”?
I am not implying that we should not believe anything in the Bible because of the variations of the translations. Saint Paul passed on his understanding of Scripture and what Christ wanted from us to Timothy so he could in turn pass it onto us (2 Timothy 1:13-14). He didn’t just hand him scrolls. Paul taught Timothy how to use those words to bring people to Christ.
A book alone cannot speak with infallibility and authority. If that were true, we could all stay home and read our Scriptures. Preachers would not be needed to help us understand what is “the only infallible, authoritative Word of God”.
Since the first century, the Church has understood that it is the Spirit speaking through the Scriptures and through preachers and teachers that help us apply the never-changing truth of God to the ever-changing world we live in. The Gospel was meant to be preached, which is why we need to attend Mass each week.
The Pillar and Bulwark
In my Christian journey, I have come to trust the Wisdom that dwells in the Church. Christ equipped the apostles to preach the Word knowing each would put their spin on His truth. Paul told Timothy that the Church (not a book which would not be put together for another 350 years) is the pillar and bulwark. The unity-prayer Christ prayer recorded in John 17 seems to anticipate there would be divisions of Church—as seen in the lifetime of the apostles—but that the Church would remain unified in Him.
The statement “We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God” is a cause of disunity with the older faith traditions that trust in the Bible, as well as the Wisdom of the 2,000 year-old Church.
The seventh plank in the Christian Alliance for Orphans statement of faith is “We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ, with equality across racial, gender, and class differences.” How can there be unity while intentionally excluding members of your team.
For this reason, I cannot support Orphan Sunday or the work of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. I pray for the unity of His Church and for the fruitful efforts of those involved with Orphan Sunday