Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 28, 1964
NUMBER 4, PAGE 10,13b

A Review Of The Cheatham - Thomas Debate

Elden Givens

On April 20th and 21st Warren R. Cheatham, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Chas. B. Thomas, Liberty, Ky., discussed the following proposition; Brother Cheatham affirming and Brother Thomas denying: "The scriptures teach that when the church of Christ comes together, for the purpose of teaching, and is or is not divided into classes, the women may teach and speak at that time."

The discussion was held in the Valley church of Christ's small rented building, with a full house each night. We believe good comes from debates and had the privilege of moderating for Brother Cheatham. We were challenged with the above proposition by one of the members of the Valley church, who was acting in behalf of brother Thomas. Even though the proposition is a bit ambiguous, we felt it would help bring before the people of this area a discussion that is badly needed. We would like to give you a short review of this two night debate.

Brother Cheatham in his first affirmative defined the terms of the proposition, then explained that most of the discussion would probably hinge upon two passages — I Cor. 14:34 and I Tim. 2:11, 12. He explained that I Cor. 14 can only be understood in the context of the twelfth and thirteenth chapters. The twelfth chapter enumerates the miraculous (spiritual) gifts; chapter thirteen gives their duration; and then Paul gives regulations for their use while they still remain, in chapter fourteen. Showing then, that if chapter fourteen regulations apply today we still would have miraculous gifts today. There are principles in chapter fourteen that remain throughout the ages — they would remain whether in I Corinthians 14 or anywhere else in the Bible, such as, "God is not the author of confusion," etc.

Brother Cheatham, using a chart showed that Peter quoted Joel that "sons AND daughters" would prophesy; and when one prophesied he edified the church, (1 Cor. 14:4). Giving many other examples also, he showed that during New Testament days women taught God's word; I Tim. 1:5; 3:15; Tit. 2:1-5; Acts 18:26. On the above mentioned chart he asked where, when, and how could women teach (edify) — the answer would be the answer for the proposition. Brother Thomas would read the charts in his next speech and then say, "that takes care of that," or "there is nothing to that, see," but he did not answer any of them.

Next Brother Cheatham used a chart with three squares on it representing three different houses. In one of them a woman was teaching children, and in the next an aged woman was teaching younger women and in the third a man was teaching men and women. Brother Cheatham showed Brother Thomas would agree with this, but then on the next chart when he brought all the rooms together under one roof — no, Brother Thomas said the women could not teach under that arrangement!

Another chart showing women only come together, asked: could they sing, pray, teach, partake of Lord's Supper, and give. Thomas said NO — A man would have to be there.

The last chart showed the proposition and then what Eph. 5:19, and Col. 3:16 say. The conclusion: Women may sing, hence women may teach and speak when the church comes together, because singing is teaching and speaking. Brother Thomas again would not deal with what the charts presented, but would pass over them with a cursory reading and say "that was easy wasn't it"; and go back to misusing words, making a play on the words, "teach," "prophesy," and "sing." The second night brother Cheatham had more charts defining words, and presenting the Bible teaching even more clearly, but again these charts were not dealt with. Brother Thomas overlooking the definition of "teach" on one; overlooking the word "only" on another, etc.

Written questions were asked each night by both opponents. Some strange positions for a "gospel preacher" were taken by brother Thomas throughout the debate. To list two: (1) He said he was a New Testament prophet, inspired — not directly but indirectly and he prophesies today; foretells events, when he tells about the second coming of Jesus (2) He quotes David Sommer and other men as authority to settle congregational differences, rather than the Bible. Other positions of his that came out in the debate are: (1) "A woman will go to hell if she speaks in an assembly where the Bible is taught." (2) "Elders will go to hell if they allow it." (3) Yet he said: "Where ever a woman can teach a woman she can teach a man." Brother Cheatham showed Titus 2:4, a woman may teach another woman anywhere so long as no men are present. (4) He admitted that a woman could take care of a class of small children in the "cry room" in the church building and tell them Bible stories. (Would this be different from teaching?) (5) Yet he said, "They could not tell the same children Bible stories after they became Christians." Brother Cheatham showed the conclusion of No. 5 would be it is sinful for a woman to teach Christian children (both for the woman and the children) hence, the woman with the class in the cry room" is teaching children to sin, (6) "Women only could not worship God in a public assembly." (7) Yet he said, "A woman could teach a class of men anywhere except the church building," completely ignoring 1 Tim. 2:11, 12. (8) He said that "1 Cor. 14 applies today in the assembly and means for women to not utter a sound" — yet he allows them to sing, which is teaching (Col. 3:16), and speaking (Eph. 5:19), both of which is uttering a sound, brother Cheatham clearly set forth.

In the last speech of the debate brother Thomas left the proposition completely, and made a tirade against this writer (I preach for the Valley congregation) saying I would go to hell for letting women speak in Bible classes; for splitting the church; for saying I had all authority over the congregation (which I have never said; yet he said if he were a member of Valley HE would get me out — where would he get all HIS authority?) — and many other misrepresentations which had nothing to do with the proposition.

The debate is to be repeated in Liberty or Somerset, Kentucky, some time in June or July, with a reversed proposition — Cheatham denying and Thomas affirming. We hope brother Thomas finds a place to have it and will set the dates very soon. Thaddeus Eubanks, of Somerset, Kentucky, moderated for brother Thomas.

— 114 Pearl St., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45215