Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 4, 1951

Brother Douthitt Withdraws


On another page in this issue we publish an article from brothers Ira A. Douthitt concerning the discussion he proposed some weeks ago. In this present article brother Douthitt announces his withdrawal from the debate or proposal to debate, and turns the matter over to those whom he describes as "more able men."

We sincerely regret brother Douthitt's withdrawal. We hold him in high esteem as a sincere and honest Christian; we believe he could have contributed much toward a careful and thorough study of the questions about which he first wrote. We agree fully with his expressed conviction that "it's time for a debate," and we are deeply disappointed that he is now no longer willing to work toward the consummation of such. He says, however, that he prefers to eliminate himself entirely from the matter, and asks brethren G. C. Brewer and W. L. Totty to reply to whatever may be said in reference to his current article.

In his final word on the proposed discussion, and in the process of removing himself from the scene, brother Douthitt issues what is, in effect, an ultimatum to those who hold an opposite conviction on these matters from his own. He wants them to either "put up or shut up"—either debate his proposition, with men of his choosing, and according to arrangements he, or they, make, or else "stop talking like they want" a debate! He says, "I know the proposition states the issue," and ends his article with, "If we do not have the debate, it will be because the other side does not want it. The responsibility is on them."

But is it?

Let us take a look at the proposition, the men, and the plans brother Douthitt demands be accepted:

The Proposition

Here is brother Douthitt's proposition:

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

It may be true, as brother Douthitt says, that he has never had a debate, and has never studied any subject in view of debating it, but even that is hardly a justifiable excuse for such an incredible and preposterous proposition as the one which he says he "knows states the issue." That proposition certainly does NOT state the issue!

If the editor of the Guardian were going to debate that proposition, he would (1) deny the first part of it,

(2) affirm the second part of it, and (3) then demand that the respondent prove his assumption that "individual Christians" could support the orphan home he designated!

Brother Douthitt's proposition obviously makes no distinction between what IS a work of the church (caring for orphan children), and what IS NOT a work of the church (providing a secular education for young people).

He lumps both of them into one confused and conglomerate sentence, demanding that both be treated on the same level. Brother Douthitt, do you not know that one of the men you call upon to debate for you (brother Brewer) is on record as denying that the support and operation of a school such as David Lipscomb College is a part of the work of the church? Why link what IS the church's work with what IS NOT the church's work, and ask us to debate both of them as being on precisely the same basis?

Furthermore, the above proposition contains an assumption that those who oppose church contributions to a benevolent board designed to do "the work of the church" are fully agreeable to individual Christians' contributing to such an institution. Where did brother Douthitt get such an idea? Certainly it has never appeared in any article he has seen on the pages of the Guardian. Any organization which is designed "to do the work of the church" other than the church itself is wrong per se; and such an organization can be supported neither by the church nor by any member of the church! The Tennessee Christian Missionary Society, for example, is wrong per se; it is a "board of evangelism" designed to take over and do the work God has laid upon the churches. If an orphan home is organized as a "board of benevolence," designed and set up so as to function in taking over "the work of the church," it is exactly parallel to, and just as wrong as, a Missionary Society. Brother Douthitt, can you honestly not see that?

The Men

Brother Douthitt selects W. L. Totty and G. C. Brewer to do the debating in defense of his proposition. We thought we made it clear in our first article that we do not believe any of the brethren named by brother Douthitt would be interested in debating brother Totty. We've not consulted with any of them on the matter, and if any one desires to debate Totty, it is a free country.

But so far as the Guardian is concerned, we have no interest in such a discussion.

As for brother Brewer, we tried two years ago to arrange for a discussion with him, but were wholly unable to agree as to propositions or procedure. He felt and stated that he himself (G. C. Brewer) was the issue, and that the whole controversy had simply been stirred up by certain brethren in an effort to discredit him and prove him to be unsound! He wrote the Guardian's editor that, "in denying that this issue was raised as a part of the purpose and of the long-continued effort to discredit and condemn G. C. Brewer, you confirm the charge that it is that exactly." Unless brother Brewer has changed his mind of that, we see very, very little chance of arranging any kind of a profitable discussion with him.

The Method

Brother Douthitt again proposes an oral discussion, and quotes from W. L. Totty a letter indicating that Totty wants to debate the issue in his own home congregation. Well, we believe this question is serious enough to demand and deserve the very widest possible hearing. A few hundred, or at best a few thousand, could hear an oral discussion. But scores of thousands could and would read a written discussion. Further, the Guardian can speak only for itself; our pages are open to a written discussion of these questions. We have not gone, nor shall we go, into any community to engage in a debate which we have worked up and "moved in" on a congregation. We are not in the business of selecting and arranging for any kind of debate anywhere save in the columns of our own paper. If the brethren in any given community want a debate they (and not we) will select the man to do the debating, and will issue the invitation. By the way, who selected brother Totty and brother Brewer, anyhow?

And so the matter rests. We regret brother Douthitt's decision to retire. His original article gave us high hopes that he was ready and willing to discuss these troublesome matters, and to try to work toward a rightful solution of them. But now he withdraws himself. He submits his proposition, names his men, outlines his plan for the debate, and says, "If we do not have the debate, it will be because the other side does not want it. The responsibility is on them." Who does brother Douthitt think he is? The North Korean negotiator at Kaesong?

Our Propositions

We have shown why we cannot debate brother Douthitt's proposition. It is confused, confusing, and hybrid. But brother Douthitt has not shown his objection to the two propositions we submitted on the school question and the orphan home question. We truly believe those propositions state the issue. If they do not, then in fairness, someone should point out to us wherein they fall short. Perhaps they can be redrafted and reworded so they will be satisfactory. We are willing to try, anyhow. We're not going to issue an ultimatum to brother Douthitt telling him to accept our proposition, or else all negotiations cease! We ask from him that patience, fairness, and brotherly good humor which we have always felt to be in him. And we want him to reconsider his decision to remove himself from the discussion. His fine spirit and his frank and brotherly attitude are sorely needed. Here are the propositions which we formerly submitted, which we believe state the issue, and to which brother Douthitt has pointed out no objection:

Concerning Schools

RESOLVED: That the work of a school such as Abilene Christian College and David Lipscomb College, in which the Bible is taught along with secular subjects, is a part of the mission of the Lord's church, and is, therefore, to be supported out of the treasuries of the congregations.

Concerning Orphan Homes

RESOLVED: That it is scripturally right for churches to do their benevolent work through an organization (such as Tennessee Orphan Home, or Childhaven) controlled and operated by a board of directors made up of members from various contributing churches.

Now, brother Douthitt, if those propositions do NOT State the issue, and if they are NOT acceptable, then will you show us why and wherein? We have shown why your proposition does not; fairness demands that some response be made on these we submit. How about it? We are all brethren in Christ; we are working for the peace and unity of the church, and the maintenance of the purity of the doctrine; let us be done with ultimatums and such like.

And let us all in patience and good will continue to work toward that mutual understanding and unity of belief and practice which we are confident can be achieved.

— F.Y.T.