Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 12, 1951

Ira A. Douthitt Calls For A Debate

Ira A. Douthitt, Chattanooga, Tennessee

At this writing I am in the midst of a good meeting with brother A. Hugh Clark at the Highland Avenue Church, San Antonio, Texas. We are off to a good start. These brethren have a fine new building. Brother Clark has been here for about a dozen years. He has done what seems to me to be an outstanding work in San Antonio. I am enjoying this association to the fullest.

But almost every place I go, and this has been true for several years, I find the brethren disturbed and talking about the conditions that are constantly being discussed among the brethren and through the papers, relative to the support of Christian schools and orphan homes among us.

More than thirty years ago I took the field as manager of Freed-Hardeman College, and for a period of several years solicited funds from individuals and congregations. In this capacity I continued until the job was done. At that time I never thought about anyone wanting to call it in question, as is being done today. While I contributed personally more than $1400.00 of my own money to this one school, I did it as an individual Christian, and I have made contributions to other schools and several orphan homes, but, as far as I can recall, my practice has been to make my contributions as an individual Christian, and not through a church. Not that I held the view that it was a sin for the elders to make a contribution to these institutions.

Over the period of four or five years many people in many places have asked me about this matter. I have never failed to freely answer every person that has asked me about my practice or my convictions, as far as I can remember. And often when my answer was given and I would tell the people that I never disturbed nor tried to disturb anyone about this affair. Nor have I ever tried to get others to take my opinions about the matter. Scores of good people have told me they thought that somebody in the brotherhood should be willing to affirm this practice in open debate. I have freely agreed to the suggestion, then often brethren have asked me why I did not defend the practice or get someone to defend it for me. I have just as often replied to my brethren that I did not feel obligated to try to work up a debate and get somebody to do something that I wasn't so anxious to do myself. But about four years ago when brother Roy Cogdill was pressing me at Lawrenceburg, Tenn., I asked him what proposition would he want to debate. He replied, in the presence of several of our friends, both his and mine, that he would deny anything that I would affirm in a public debate. Then I told him I would accept the proposition that was in a recent issue of his paper. I presented the paper and told him to sign and I would sign, and as soon as arrangements could be made, the debate would start. And when he saw that I meant to do it, he told me kindly that he didn't think that I was the one to do the debating inasmuch as I was not connected in any way with any of the schools nor the homes, but he thought brother Hardeman or brother Brewer were the ones to do it, inasmuch as they were already in the fight. Then he laughingly added that it wouldn't be any honor or credit to whip me in a debate; to which I readily agreed, but reminded him that he shouldn't take it for granted that it would be so easily done until after he had had the experience.

Now for several years I have waited and hoped that some well-prepared, experienced debater would offer to do it. I have heard brother G. C. Brewer say several years ago that he would meet any man in open debate on these matters. I have also heard brother W. L. Totty so express himself. These men are, in my judgment, experienced and able debaters. My judgment is that brother G. C. Brewer is the best prepared man (because he has more information on this question) to do this job than anyone I know.

I believe it is time for a debate and off to myself, in my room alone, I have today, without a word or suggestion from any person, written out a proposition, which I believe states the issue so clearly that there would be no room for quibbling on either side and perfectly fair to both sides. Here it is:


The elders of a Church of Christ, as God's steward's, have the same right to use the money of the church to support a Christian school (such as David Lipscomb College) and an orphan home (such as Spring Hill, Tennessee Home) as the individual Christian has to use his money to support these same institutions.

Affirmative ______________

Guaranteed Negative __________________

Now we have a debate. I do not want to appear daring, arrogant nor egotistical, and I hope no one will take it that way, but what I am trying to say is this—that we can have a debate. I much prefer that some other brother would do the debating. I believed what brother Brewer told me he was willing to do several years ago. I still believe he is willing and ready to do it. But if brother Brewer is not willing to sign it, or if some other experienced debater is not willing to sign it, then I will here and now. That's what I mean by the word "guaranteed.'

I mention the names of these brethren on both sides because of what I have heard them say, and the impression that I have of their willingness to debate it. It is my judgment brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr., will sign this proposition in a minute and that brother Roy E. Cogdill will be inexpressibly happy to sign it without hesitancy. I mentioned David Lipscomb College and Spring Hill Home in the proposition because neither of these institutions operate under a board of elders of one congregation, but their board members are scattered over a wide territory, extending from Tennessee to California, and it is my judgment they have received, and are receiving, contributions from more churches than any other two like institutions known to me, and I want to be fair about the proposition.

What I Propose To Do

If someone else does the debating, then they will work out the arrangements and details. If I do the debating, here is what I suggest: It seems to me that one should affirm his practice so he would not expect nor demand that one affirm a negative. It seems to me that it would be more the affirmative's responsibility to name the place and time for each speaker. My suggestion would be four nights (longer if the negative demands it), with two 30-minute speeches each. Then the affirmative closing with a 15-minute reply each night. Nashville, Tennessee, seems to me would be a convenient place, as it is near both of these institutions. I will try to rent an auditorium that will accommodate the crowd, like the Ryman Auditorium, War Memorial Building, or some other auditorium. I imagine this would cost from $500.00 to $700.00. I will be responsible for one-half of the rent of the auditorium. Let the negative assume the other.

I do not believe there is a man living that can show that it is a sin for the elders to make such contributions, nor for the institutions to receive it. And I promise you beforehand that if I see that I am unable to run forward waving the flag of truth, but have to walk backward with it dragging, that I will freely stop my part of the debate and announce publicly to whatever crowd may be assembled, that I see that I cannot defend this proposition, and unless someone else who feels like he can, wants to take my place and continue the debate, I give up and from there on tell the brethren that I am definitely on the other side. If I give up and quit the debate, then I will be responsible for all the rent of the auditorium.

Now a few people have suggested that they thought brother Cled Wallace or brother C. R. Nichols might be better for the negative side. If they feel that way about it, I will say if either of the four—brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr., Brother Roy E. Cogdill, brother Cled E. Wallace, or brother C. R. Nichols signs the proposition, and if brother Brewer or brother Totty does not agree to sign it, then I will. I have no more fear about the outcome in a debate with either of these four brethren than I would the results if I were to meet a good Methodist debater on the subject of baptism. If I am in error, then lead me out. I had much rather see you sign than to hear you sympathize.

Now I know many clean, cultured, consecrated, educated, good gospel preachers who are younger men, that, I think might be willing to sign the negative. But surely they would not feel like they could do a better job of it than either of the four brethren mentioned above. So this proposition is not to them from me.


Elmer Shackelford, Leedey, Okla., Jut e 26: "Brother Geo. B. Curtis preached in our meeting which recently closed. The lessons each evening were of the finest character. We also conducted a Bible school during this meeting with 102 enrolled and 87 average attendance. There were no additions during this meeting and school but we believe much good will be the result of this effort. Brother I. D. Ames will preach in our fall meeting."


L. Wesley Jones, 312 N. Waldrip, Grand Saline, Texas:, June 27: "Luther Blackmon closed one of the best meetings in the history of this church Sunday night. Five were baptized and the church was considerably strengthened. I finish my work with this church July 25th in a friendly atmosphere. Will preach in a meeting with Mt. Pleasant congregation, Grove County, Ky., July 19 through 24, will be in Nacogdoches, Texas the third and fourth Sundays in August; and with Water. Valley, Ky.: congregation- August 23 through September 2. The second Sunday of September will be the beginning of our new work with the Seminole Heights church in Tampa, Florida. Dean Bullock of Bellaire, Texas, will more to Grand Saline. Plans are drawn for a new meeting house here."