Chapter 12: Answer to Ben Townsend’s Article, “God is our Benefactor; He is NOT a Beneficiary”


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Chapter 12: Answer to Ben Townsend’s Article, “God is our Benefactor; He is NOT a Beneficiary”

Jerald Finney
Copyright © December 23, 2014

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This is a response to Ben Townsend’s article God is our Benefactor; He is NOT a Beneficiary, another attempt to discredit the Declaration of Trust and the ordinary trust thereby created which are recommended by the Biblical Law Center (“BLC”) and the ordinary Bible trust of Old Paths Baptist Church Separation of Church and State Law ministry (SCSLM).

Townsend begins:

“The last few days my soul has been troubled. A heavy burden has clouded my mind as I have dwelt upon something in this Declaration of Trust (actually every Trust has a declaration) or Ordinary Trust. I had a problem trying to think through the making of a Church of Jesus Christ as a Trustor, Settlor or Grantor. I have always had a problem with a pastor of a New Testament church being a Trustee of all the church assets. But the deep troubling in my soul has been in the unsettling fact that the Ordinary Trust of Attorney Finney makes our God, the Lord Jesus Christ, a Beneficiary of his Trust document.”

Hopefully, against hope, this lesson will help Mr. Townsend with his problem thinking and settle his troubled soul as to all his concerns expressed above. This will be done by straightening out his misunderstandings. When one understands the meanings of the words over which Mr. Townsend expresses concerns, light from heaven comes in and glory fills one’s soul.

The concept of trust is biblical. The Bible is, among other things, a Declaration of Trust (“DOT”). This is covered in some detail in Section VI, Chapter 7 of God Betrayed. (Click here for the online version of that chapter.). The Bible makes clear that God has entrusted all men, as trustees, with temporal, material things. He has trusted His children, born again believers, as trustees of the spiritual things of God as well as with the material things which God has given them. Here are a few examples: Adam and Eve were trustees of the Garden of Eden, Moses of the children of Israel, the Kings of Israel and Judah of their respective nations, the Levites of the Jewish religion, the prophets of the word of God entrusted to them, etc.

“If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches?  And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own” (Luke 16:11-12)?   “But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts” (1 Thessalonians 2:4).  “According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust” (1 Timothy 1:11).

The concept of the trust, trustor (God), trustee (individuals), and beneficiary (God, the true and equitable owner of all things) is clearly stated in Luke 19.12-23 and also Luke 20.9-16:

Luke 19.12-23: “He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, Occupy till I come.  But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading.  Then came the first, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds. And he said unto him, Well, thou good servant: because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities. And the second came, saying, Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds. And he said likewise to him, Be thou also over five cities. And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow. And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?”

Luke 20.9-16: “Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time. And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty. And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty. And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out. Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him. But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours. So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them? He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.”

Thus, the Bible makes clear that God, the true and equitable owner, has entrusted (1) all men with the temporal, legal ownership of all temporal material things and (2) believers with spiritual matters, all for His glory. From reading the Bible, including the above verses, one can also understand how the Lord feels about believers/churches who violate their spiritual trust by organizing churches under man as legal entities such as non-profit corporations, unincorporated associations, charitable trusts, 501(c)(3) tax exempt religious organizations, etc. A trustor, settlor or grantor in context of this discussion, is one who creates a trust. God was the trustor, settlor, grantor of, for example, the Garden of Eden trust. Adam and Eve were the co-trustees. The trust estate was the Garden of Eden, the earth, and all that is in it. They were given the legal ownership of the earth and all that was in it and were to glorify Him, the true, equitable, beneficial owner, the beneficiary. Adam and Eve’s purpose, as trustees, was to glorify God.

Anytime someone gives something to a person who is to use the gift for the benefit of another, and not for the benefit of the person who is entrusted with the gift (the trustee), the giver is a trustor, settlor, or grantor. The trustee becomes the legal owner of the property, and has a fiduciary duty to use the property for the benefit of the true owner (the beneficiary). The person for whose benefit the gift was given is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the property. In other words, a trust relationship has been created. If the relationship is reduced to writing, the document creating the relationship is called a DOT. The relationship does not have to be made known to the legal system at the time of its creation or thereafter nor must it be in writing. However, if the relationship is brought to light in the legal system, the system will determine the type trust involved and the status of the trustor, trustee, and beneificiary. A DOT which creates an ordinary Bible trust is not to be hidden by a church since it is according to Bible precept. Believers are to proclaim truth to the world, not hide it.

Just as God stated his principles of trust, trustor, trustee, and beneficiary in the Bible, a book or document written for the light of the world, a church who wishes to establish an ordinary trust in line with Bible (and legal, in America) precept is wise to do likewise through a Declaration of Trust. God proclaimed the principles to all the world; his children should do likewise. Believers are not to follow the principles of Satan and his followers, who love darkness rather than light. Believers are to shine the light of God in a dark world. Likewise, believers are not to operate as does the Ecclesiastical Law Center which perverts the Bible and corresponding American principle of trust; God desires his children to act according to knowledge, understanding and wisdom.

The legal system recognizes several types of trusts. A trustor, settlor, or grantor can create several types of trusts either by written declaration, by actions, or words which encompass all the elements of a trust. The BLC and this SCSLM recommend non-legal entity type of trusts which in trust law is sometimes called an ordinary trust. This type of trust complies with biblical precept. Wisely, the BLC recommends creating the ordinary trust and the SCSLM advises creation of the ordinary Bible trust by means of a Declaration of Trust.

The ELC method of church organization also recommends the creation of a trust, but a legal entity type of trust which does not comply with biblical precept in several ways. The ELC explicitly state that their method creates a trust, that the true and beneficial owner of the property held in trust is the Lord Jesus Christ, and that the property “should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ.” The wording they use makes clear that the trust is a type of legal entity and that the church is a legal entity since the church holds the property. Only a legal entity can hold property. In the Townsend article being examined, notice that he says, “I have always had a problem with a pastor of a New Testament church being a Trustee of all the church assets.” If a church holds assets, that church is a legal entity. (Also see below in red and in the copies, infra, of pages from the ELC book, Approved by God.). The ELC trust makes clear that the church is the both the settlor-grantor-trustor as well as the legal owner of the property held in trust.

According to the Bible, and according to American trust law, one may infer both an ordinary trust (BLC trust or SCSLM Bible trust) and a legal entity trust (ELC trust). American law says:

  • “No particular words are necessary to create a trust if there exists reasonable certainty as to the intended property, object, and beneficiary. Further, the purpose and intention, rather than the use of any particular term, determines whether a valid trust has been established. An express trust may be created without the use of technical words. All that is necessary are words or circumstances which unequivocally show an intention that the legal estate is vested in one person, to be held in some manner or for some purpose on behalf of another….” (76 AM. JUR. 2D, Trusts, § 65 (2007)).
  •  “A trust may be inferred, under some circumstances, from precatory words. There must be compliance in the creation of a trust by precatory words with requisites pertaining to the creation of a trust generally, such as manifestation of intention to create a trust, and clarity and certainty in the terms, subject matter or object, and beneficiaries…. ‘Words of request, recommendation, suggestion, or expectation are known as “precatory words.’” (76 AM. JUR. 2D, Trusts, § 66 (2007)).

The ordinary Bible trust of the SCSLM does not make the Lord Jesus Christ a beneficiary of “Jerald Finney’s” trust document. as Mr. Townsend puts it. The trust document (the Declaration of Trust (“DOT”)) creates the ordinary Bible trust. The true, equitable, and beneficial owner of the trust estate of that trust is the Lord Jesus Christ. This type trust is not a legal entity, nor is the church that utilizes that trust a legal entity (See Is the Ordinary Trust a Legal Entity? for explanation.). Neither the DOT nor the trust itself makes the Lord the beneficiary, but rather the DOT which creates the trust recognizes by declaration that the He is the true and beneficial owner of all things including the trust estate, and makes clear that there is no “church property,” only “God’s property.”

On the other hand, the trust utilized by the Ecclesiastical Law Center (“ELC”), as has been shown in prior chapters:

  1. is a legal entity,
  2. sets up the ELC church as a legal entity,
  3. makes the pastor the trustee of the church who “can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ,”
  4. and states that “The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.”

3As has been shown in prior chapters of this booklet, the ELC trust arrangement makes the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficial owner, and the ELC trust makes the ELC church the legal owner. This is distinguished from the BLC and SCSLM trust arrangement in which the DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created do not make the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary of the trust estate; rather they recognize that the Lord Jesus Christ is the owner of all things, that He has entrusted every person with the possessions He has provided to that person, and that every person, as trustee of those possessions, is given the freedom to use those possessions either for the Glory of God or for some unacceptable purpose. As shown above, according to the Bible, God is the true, equitable, and beneficial owner of all things; but He has left the temporal legal ownership of all things on this earth in the hands of men.

The New Testament makes clear that although every church member is a trustee under God, God has entrusted every pastor with a very distinct relationship as trustee of the church he under-shepherds and oversees. Pastors are entrusted with spiritual leadership of a church. “O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called” (1 Timothy 6:20). Pastors are entrusted to watch for the souls of the other members of a church: “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (“Hebrews 13:17). If pastors have this special trustee position concerning the very souls of church  members, cannot they be trustees of that which is temporal? After all, pastors are held to the highest standard, even though there may be another or others within a church who might also meet those standards who are not called to be pastor. These matters are dealt with in much detail in the writings and teachings of Jerald Finney, especially in Chapter 7 of God Betrayed (click to go directly to that chapter). That chapter explains both the biblical and legal attributes of the ordinary trust and compares the ordinary trust to incorporation. The DOT and the ordinary trust thereby created do  not make the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary; they recognize that Jesus Christ is the beneficiary (defined as the true, equitable, beneficial owner).

From ELC book
From ELC book “Approved by God,” p. 149

Townsend is in quicksand when he makes this argument because the trust set up by ELC makes the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary of the ELC trust relationship; the trust thereby set up is a legal entity as is the church who utilizes the method. He condemns his own methodology but hopes no one will have studied ELC publications and,  perhaps, this booklet and recognize his chaotic offering for what it is. The following statements in red are the ELC’s own published words concerning the trust relationship created by the ELC trust arrangement:

The ELC states that for property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church “the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” (Robin Wright and Ben Townsend, Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disestablishment (Mesick, Michigan: Adorn Books 2004), p. 149).

The ELC states that property may be held in three ways “(1) as a corporation, (2) as an unincorporated association and:

From ELC book,
From ELC book, “Approved by God,” p. 150

“(3) as an individual. How can property be held to reflect the ownership of Christ over His church? It must be held as an individual, and that individual must be the Lord Jesus Christ! The property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner. In spite of the skepticism of many, churches in 22 states have placed their property in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ without incident.” Approved by God: A Case for Modern Disestablishment, p. 149. The book goes on to say that “the church, by the Pastor, can execute a deed on behalf of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Ibid., 150.

Townsend, in the last section of God is our Benefactor; He is NOT a Beneficiary continues his misdirections and lies by stating:

“The Ordinary Trust document that Attorney Finney uses does indeed make God the Beneficiary of the offerings and the property. In other words, the Church and the People are the Benefactors of God. They give because they can Benefit God? That is blasphemy! Neither the Church nor the People would be able to give anything unless a Gracious God provided for them first….”

10Townsend’s analysis is total deconstruction of the truth. The ordinary Bible trust document, as explained above, does not make God the beneficiary since God is the beneficiary. Of course, this author knows that only God is his benefactor and that he can do nothing to be a “benefactor of God.” The ordinary trust recognizes and implements biblical precepts.

Again, Townsend condemns his own ELC methodology since the trust relationship created thereby makes the Lord Jesus Christ the beneficiary of the ELC legal trust. As has been pointied out in this and other chapters of this booklet, the ELC states “the property should be held by the church in trust for the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the true and beneficial owner.” The Lord Jesus Christ is the beneficiary of the ELC trust, a legal entity which also makes the church a legal entity.

Hopefully, Mr. Townsend will read and study this chapter and the rest of this booklet so that he can straighten out his problem and confused thinking, repent of his false teachings, modify the ELC methodology so as to comply with Bible precept, restructure all the churches which the ELC has helped to organize, and settle his troubled soul as to all his concerns expressed in his article.