Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 4, 1952
NUMBER 18, PAGE 8-11a

"Husband Of One Wife": A Review

Cecil B. Douthitt, Brownwood, Texas

My article, "Husband Of One Wife," with an invitation to others to write on the same subject, was published in the Gospel Guardian of June 19.

Up to the time of this writing thirteen articles have been received. The first two that came in have already been published with my reply in the Gospel Guardian of August 7 and August 21.

The impracticability of printing in full all thirteen of these papers with my reply to every one should be obvious to all: it would crowd out other valuable material; it would be a useless repetition, for many of the writers make the same argument; the writers on the other side of this issue do not agree among themselves on many points and probably will want to debate with one another when they see what their colleagues have written.

Brother Tant has maintained his reputation for generosity in letting both sides be heard, and I believe all of us who have entered into this discussion will understand that it is asking too much of him when we request that all articles be printed in full with my reply to every one.

Therefore it is thought wise and fair to reply to the unpublished papers in the following way:

1. Publish in full what is considered to be the best and most logical presentation of the other side.

2. Quote any additional arguments made in other letters and articles and not published in the one replied to, giving credit to the man who advanced it.

3. Give a quotation, in one way or another, from every one who sent in an article.

Believing this method to be equitable and right I shall follow it to the letter in the hope that all concerned will be pleased with it.

Though these men do not agree among themselves on many points, yet they all have two things in common: (1) they all are sincere; (2) they all are wrong; and here I give their names with a review of what they say:

1. W. CLYDE POPLIN, Santa Rosa, California Brother Poplin believes that an elder ceases to be an elder, if his wife dies. He does not think that either Christ or Paul could be an elder in any congregation, because they were not married; and yet he cannot understand how such conclusion is arbitrary and inconsistent. Here is the way he says it:

"Brother Douthitt says, 'It is arbitrary and inconsistent to contend that the scriptures require all bishops to be married.' Perhaps. Then I shall have to plead guilty. The scriptures do say that 'a bishop must be the husband of one wife.' If some one will tell me how a man can legitimately and scripturally be the husband of one wife, and yet be unmarried, I will cease my arbitrariness and become consistent. I don't know how it can be done. His example of the scripturally qualified elder whose wife died is a good case in point. This man was qualified while he was the husband of one wife. When she died, he no longer possessed all the qualifications Paul laid down to Timothy. Perhaps this classes me among those who do not have 'a very thorough knowledge of the scriptures or an adequate degree of reason,' but I am still open to conviction. If brother Douthitt can explain to me how this man who had no wife was the husband of one wife, my reason and scriptural knowledge will be much improved.

"Yes, 'the greatest bishop that ever lived, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls,' was not married. Christ could be bishop without being married physically, though the church is his bride. He could also be head of the church. But this no more gave Timothy the right to violate Paul's instructions, and appoint a man who had no wife, than it did to appoint someone head of the congregation. Timothy could not, under the instructions he had from Paul, have appointed Christ bishop of any congregation. Neither could he have appointed Paul."

Brother Poplin does not understand why he is inconsistent and arbitrary in his conclusion, because he completely ignores the fact that the end of the wife and children is disciplinary, and that if the training is received without being married and without his being the father of the children trained, God's purpose has been accomplished and the requirements of 1 Tim. 3:2 have been met. David Lipscomb tried fifty years ago to explain this to the brethren.

Brother Poplin is right in thinking that the elder whose wife died ceased to be an elder, if 1 Tim. 3:2 teaches that a bishop must be married; for the passage says "must be"; it does not say "must have been" any more than it says the bishop "must have been" without reproach at the time of his appointment.

He is not clear on how Christ could be Bishop without being "married physically," and yet not be appointed. But this will be discussed later in this review.

2. G. A. MADDOX, Sulphur Springs, Texas Brother Maddox thinks the office of elder and bishop are not the same. He says:

"Brother Douthitt tries to make Paul a bishop, because he said Peter was an elder, I admit Peter was an elder but I won't admit he was a bishop, for not one word in the Book to prove it can be found. If elder means the same as bishop, then sisters can be bishops. 1 Tim. 5:2 'The elder women as mothers.'

"In 1 Tim. 3:2 brother Douthitt seems to get the idea if it had read 'Be married' it would have been different. Well, how can a man be the husband of one wife without marrying? He has a lot to say about 1 Cor. 7:2 and 1 Tim. 3:2. I will just notice the former now. Paul don't mean that every man MUST marry, but to avoid fornication, marry. Some men can't control themselves as well as do others, so that fellow better marry."

Brother Maddox's explanation of Paul's statement in 1 Cor. 7:2, "Let each man have his own wife," answers his question, "How can a man be the husband of one wife without being married?" He explains that Paul in 1 Cor. 7:2 does not "mean that every man MUST marry," but that it applies only to those who cannot control themselves and avoid fornication without marrying. If he had not decided to "just notice the former," but had gone on and made the same sort of explanation of 1 Tim. 3:2, he would have had the truth on this.

The purpose of the injunction of 1 Cor. 7:2 is to avoid fornication; the purpose of the qualification in 1 Tim. 3:2 is for training in how to take care of the church of God. The former does not mean that every Christian "MUST marry" in order to avoid fornication, because some can avoid it without marrying; the latter does not mean that every elder must be married, for some very clearly do get the required training for the eldership without marrying. Can't you see that?

The word elder does not refer to the office of bishop in some of its usages; but sometimes it does. The two words are not synonymous, but sometimes they are used interchangeably and have reference to the same workers. (Acts 20:17,28; Titus 1:5,7) Church and kingdom are not synonymous words, but sometimes they are used interchangeably and refer to the same thing. (Matt. 16:18,19)

3. R. ERVIN DRISKILL, Columbus, Georgia 1 Cor. 7:32-34 does not make the exception which brother Driskill makes:

"It is true that some men can be better servants of the Lord, if they remain unmarried, but this does not prove he can be a better elder, in an unmarried state. Paul was not discussing the eldership in 1 Cor. 7:32-34. His reasoning is therefore faulty. The unmarried (if like Paul) could serve better in that they would not be tied down or confined to one location by the care of a family and could therefore go anywhere and serve hut, that would not apply to an elder for, his work is confined to one congregation."

How does brother Driskill know that Paul was "not discussing the eldership" as well as the janitorship and the evangelistship and the teachership and all other ships in the church? He does not know it; he just thinks he knows it. "His reasoning is therefore faulty." His statement would have been no more erroneous and speculative, if he had said, "Paul was not discussing the janitorship in 1 Cor. 7:32-34, because janitors must settle down in one place and keep the house clean." Paul said that some of those Corinthians, both men and women, could be more "careful for the things of the Lord," if they had his "continency" and remained unmarried; but brother Driskill thinks he said that those Corinthians, both men and women, could "go anywhere and serve," if not "tied-down" by family cares. The difference between what Paul said and what brother Driskill thinks he said is obvious.

Regarding the elder whose wife died, brother Driskill says:

"Titus 1:5 shows the man was to have these qualifications at the time of the appointment and unless he was guilty himself of doing something that disqualified him, as an elder, he would (it seems) remain an elder. If by his actions he qualified himself, for the eldership, would it not require his own actions to disqualify him? In this case cited, by brother Douthitt, it was not an act of this man that caused him to no longer have a wife."

Some of these other brethren have argued that the wife does have something to do with qualifying a man for the eldership and that no man could qualify himself without her. But brother Driskill thinks the man qualifies and disqualifies himself and that the wife has nothing to do with it; if she dies or leaves him, he remains an elder, "unless he was guilty HIMSELF of doing something" to get rid of her.

No, brother Driskill, Titus 1:5 neither says nor "shows" what you claim. Titus 1:6 and 1 Tim. 3:2 say "be." Do you think that means "has been"? An elder must be "sober minded"; but a certain elder became afflicted with a nervous disease which left him hopelessly insane. Was he "sober-minded"? Was he qualified? Would you say, "This man was sober-minded at the time of his appointment and he was not guilty himself of doing something that disqualified him, therefore he is still qualified"? If these passages mean that all elders must be married, you cannot escape brother Poplin's unsavory conclusion that the man ceased to be an elder when his wife died, and you need not try to escape it as long as you hold to the erroneous theory that no man can qualify for the elder- ship without a wife.

4. H. E. PHILLIPS, Clearwater, Florida The reader will observe in the excerpts given that brother Phillips article of ten typewritten pages could have been condensed to three pages without leaving out a single idea.

"Then I should like to know what is meant by 'otherwise qualified.' Does it mean if he has every other quality except being married he is 'otherwise qualified'? If he lacked any other qualification would he be 'otherwise qualified'? The point I make is this: Does 'otherwise qualified' mean all qualifications besides marriage, or can we eliminate as many qualifications as we consider 'neither scriptural nor reasonable'? 'Otherwise qualified' means qualified other than the point under consideration. By the same authority that 'husband of one wife' is eliminated from the qualifications of elders, any one of the other qualifications can be eliminated just as reasonable."

When we remove all the redundancy, tautology and bad grammar from the above paragraph, nothing remains except one little question which brother Phillips could have stated in five words: What does "otherwise qualified" mean?

The expression, "otherwise qualified" appears in the David Lipscomb quotation (Gospel Guardian, June 19) and means possessing the other qualifications. A man with a wife and ten children and all the training that could be obtained through them could not be an elder unless he was "otherwise qualified"; that is, possessed other qualifications. Is there anything strange or difficult about that?

1 Cor. 7:2 forbids celibacy without exception among all Christians TO AVOID FORNICATION. Therefore 1 Tim. 3:2 forbids celibacy without exception among all bishops to qualify for the eldership. That is the context."

I do not think brother Phillips knows what he is saying in the above excerpt. He surely did not mean that the passage "forbids celibacy without exception among all Christians TO AVOID FORNICATION"; I think he meant to say the passage forbids celibacy among all Christians who cannot avoid fornication without marrying. If he meant the former, he is very wrong; if he meant the latter, he is right, and he should have no trouble in seeing that 1 Tim. 3:2 forbids celibacy among all elders who cannot obtain the training of ruling a household and taking care of the church of God without marrying.

"Another argument that bishops do not need to be married is that the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls' was not married. (1 Peter 2:24,25) But he IS married. This refers to Christ and Christ is married. The church is his bride. And he is married only once. This one falls through easily."

Does brother Phillips think Paul is talking about a spiritual marriage in 1 Tim. 8:2? If so, all Christians have this qualification for all are married to Christ. Since, according to brother Phillips, all Christians have this qualification, why would he object to appointing all to the eldership, if they are "otherwise qualified," (if he has learned yet what "otherwise qualified" means) ?

"Brother Douthitt also argues that Peter was an elder (1 Peter 5:1), and that as Paul was not a whit behind the chiefest apostles (2 Cor. 11:5) and that in nothing was he behind the very chiefest apostles (2 Cor. 12:11), he must have been an elder like Peter for he was not behind him in NOTHING. Well, I can name one thing he was behind Peter in: He did not lead about a wife. He was either behind or ahead of Peter in that. The context of the passage in 2 Cor. will show that Paul was defending his apostleship against false teachers and not trying to prove that he was an elder though not married. That is about like trying to make Eph. 5:24 mean the absolute. If because Paul said he was not behind the chiefest apostles in NOTHING, he meant the eldership and absolutely everything, then when Paul said: Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands IN EVERYTHING.' If the husband told the wife to lie, steal, cheat, etc., she is to do it because Paul said 'IN EVERYTHING.' But we know what that means. We also know what Paul meant when he said he was not behind the chiefest apostles in NOTHING. He meant as to authority and power of APOSTLES. Nothing to indicate that he meant to include elders. And this conclusion does not admit the 'Roman Catholic doctrine of the primacy of Peter."

But it does "admit the Roman Catholic doctrine of the primacy of Peter." Catholics make the same explanation, follow the same line, admit the same thing and try to prove exactly the same thing that brother Phillips does. They admit that Paul was not a whit behind Peter in the apostleship, just as brother Phillips admits. But like brother Phillips they say Peter was Bishop and Paul was not and therefore Peter had authority as such which Paul did not have. I wish I could get brother Phillips to see this before some Catholic priest makes him wish he had seen it a long time ago.

Brother Phillips' grammar in one respect is like his logic: the most glaring blunders in both are repeated over and over. Three times in the above excerpt he presents the double negative, "not behind ... in nothing." If Paul was not behind Peter in nothing, then he must have been behind him in something, for a double negative makes a positive.

In view of his dangling participles, incomplete sentences, double negatives, poor arrangement of material, overflowing verbosity, needless repetition, confusion of tenses and violations of the cases, I wonder if brother Phillips read his article after he finished it. If he did read it, I wonder where he studied rhetoric, logic and grammar.

5. A. M. PLYLER, Jasper, Alabama Brother Plyler presents a unique point on the family life of elders:

"I can understand how a man might acquire this training so far as the children are concerned, by rearing and training his brothers children or children that he might adopt; and not have children of his own. But where is the training concerning a wife coming from if he has no wife? He certainly cannot be a husband to some other man's wife, and rule over her."

If brother Plyler will write an article endeavoring to show some of these other men wherein they are wrong in their contention that an elder must be the father of the children trained, I think he would discover how a man's mother, grandmother, or sisters might on some occasions develop within him the ability to take care of the church of God as well as a wife could train him.

6. LOUIE M. WHITE, Lytle, Texas In a courteous and well written article brother White makes a "gopher wood" argument:

"Look at these examples: 1. 'The bishop must be the husband of one wife.' (1 Tim. 8:2) 2. 'Make the ark of gopher wood.' (Gen. 6:14) If the first sentence does not command marriage, but merely restricts it, in event it is done then, the second sentence does not command the ark, but merely gives restrictions in event it should be built."

I shall put brother White's gopher wood argument to test on this wise: (1) "Let each man have his own wife."

(1 Cor. 7:2) (2) "Make the ark of gopher wood." (Gen. 6:14) Now we have his conclusion: "If the first sentence does not command marriage, but merely restricts it, in event it is done then, the second sentence does not command the ark, but merely restrictions in event it should be built." The same thing that is wrong with this latter gopher wood argument is also wrong with brother White's gopher wood argument. The truth is that neither 1 Cor. 7:2 nor 1 Tim. 3:2 "commands marriage" without exception.

7. H. C. EDWARDS, Alvin, Texas Brother Edwards takes issue on what constitutes "arbitrary" law:

"I am just as sure as brother Douthitt that God never gave any arbitrary law. But I deny that a law that excludes Paul, David Lipscomb, or M. C. Kurfees from the eldership is arbitrary. There was a time in the lives of all these men when they were not in fellowship with God. Was it an arbitrary law that kept them from having this fellowship? I deny that it was."

I, too, deny that it was an arbitrary law that kept them out of fellowship with God before they obeyed the gospel. The lack of obedience to God's commands was what kept them out. If, after they had met all of God's requirements in becoming Christians, some one had demanded of them something that God did not require, then, that would be arbitrary and that would be legislating where God had not. In like manner, when a man has every qualification and training which God requires of elders, then some one enacts a law requiring something of that man that God does not require, that I say, would be arbitrary and that would be legislating where God had not. And before jumping to the conclusion that being married is one of the divine requirements, please remember that that is the thing that has not been proved yet.

8. ARNOLD HARDIN, Lancaster, Texas Brother Hardin bases a point upon the "appointment of elders":

"What I would appreciate knowing, more specifically, is this — Does a preacher automatically become an elder when he does the work outlined for elders to do? If so I am acquainted with a lot of elders that don't know they are elders. Does the doing of the work place him in the "office"? Is it not true that a lot of preachers are doing the work assigned for elders to do?

When they do such work is the church to honor them as elders and thus recognize them as such? I'm using the question mark quite often but these implications call for these questions to be answered."

In order for a man to become an elder he must be appointed. Titus 1:6 and Acts 14:23 make this so clear that no one can deny it. If a preacher is qualified and doing the work of an elder, I see no reason why he should not be "appointed" and recognized as such.

The scriptures do not say in so many words that Peter was "appointed" to the office of bishop, nor do they tell us in what local congregation he served; but we do know in the light of related passages that he was "appointed." There are more "implications" that Paul was "appointed" than that Peter was, though Paul nowhere calls himself an elder, as Peter did. He does tell us of certain congregations in which he served long periods of time, the nature of work he did, their recognition of him, and of his being behind Peter and others in nothing. They were both bishops, and the Catholic claim that Peter was bishop and Paul was not is false.

9. C. L. HOWARD, Ottawa, Kansas Brother Howard sends some material in which he tries to prove that the office of elder was under a "time limit." He asks: "Why waste all this time, ink, paper, and energy over offices, officers and qualifications on a subject that God, Himself said was temporary?" That is not the issue in this study and I cannot go into his point at this time.

10. L. W. MAYO, San Jose, California, sends a well-written, courteous article in which he presents several translations of Titus 1 and 1 Tim. 3; but I believe I have dealt with all the points of his letter in the replies above.

11. EDGAR FURR, Natalia, Texas, in the piece he offers, says: "It matters not with me if Cecil B. Douthitt, David Lipscomb, M. C. Kurfees say otherwise, they do not speak from inspiration as does Paul and I am not to follow them, but the Bible. If they, by their own idea, can set aside divine command, I by the same rule can set aside every other qualification."

I agree with his statement, but I am sure that Lipscomb, Kurfees and I have not set "aside a divine command." The difference between brother Furr and me is: brother Furr thinks I am trying to set aside a divine command, while I know he is trying to require something of elders, which God does not require. And I might add: If brother Furr has a right to add one requirement to the legislative enactments of the divine law-giver (James 4:12), then the Methodist Conference has a right to add an entire Book of Discipline.

In this review I have tried to follow the three-fold purpose stated in the beginning of this article. I have not missed intentionally a single point made by the opposition. If any one of these men thinks he has made a point that I have failed to deal with, and he will call my attention to it, I will answer his point, or show him where it has already been answered.