Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 23, 1954
NUMBER 20, PAGE 2-3b

Brother Otey Criticizes My Preaching

James D. Willeford, Abilene, Texas

In the Gospel Guardian of August 12, 1954 Brother W. W. Otey has an article entitled "Herald of Truth — No. 2." In addition to attacking the scripturalness of the plan for conducting the Herald of Truth program he criticizes the sermon I delivered October 4, 1953. The subject of this sermon was, "Touching All the Bases." The lesson drew certain parallels between the game of baseball, and the necessity of doing all that the Lord requires of us. The emphasis in the sermon was on the necessity of abiding strictly by the rules and omitting nothing that the Lord has demanded. The game of baseball was used solely as an illustration or a comparison. I said, "It is interesting to notice several comparisons between the game of baseball and the game of life." The major part of the sermon (in fact, 131/2 minutes of the 15) was devoted to making these applications to our relationship with the Lord. Christ was exalted as the one with absolute authority to lay down the rules of life, and the folly of presuming to change the rules or to ignore them was the burden of the whole message.

This is one of the important lessons taught in the Bible, and it has been one of the main points of emphasis in the restoration movement since its beginning; and yet Brother Otey implies that such teaching does not exalt Christ and edify the church. He says of the preaching being done on the Herald of Truth, "Is it teaching that exalts Jesus as Savior and imparts a knowledge of the gospel and the church? In short, does it lead sinners to Christ, and edify the church?" And then he states, "The answer is left to the reader." If Brother Otey had given my sermon as it was delivered and printed I would be very happy for "the answer to be left to the reader." But I am not willing for the answer to be left to the one who reads only what Brother Otey wrote, for Brother Otey did not represent the sermon correctly and fairly. He represented the lesson purely as a lecture on how to play baseball, saying, "Are the churches of the Lord, and sinners throughout the land, in such dire need of lessons on baseball?" To make the lesson appear in this light Brother Otey quoted only the references to the rules of baseball, and did hot quote a single application that I made to the principles of gospel obedience; he implies that the whole lesson was calculated "to exploit and advertise worldly sports." As stated above only one and one-half minutes were given to the allusions to this sport, and thirteen and one-half minutes were spent applying these principles to life. Is Brother Otey going to rule out the use of illustrations and comparisons in gospel preaching?

In order to make my sermon appear in the light mentioned above Brother Otey does an inexcusable thing. In quoting from the sermon he uses a method that is objectionable on four counts: (1) It is unscholarly. (2) It is unethical. (3) It is unfair. (4) Some of his statements are untrue.

Brother Otey's method is unscholarly because he takes excerpts from here and there in the sermon and puts them together as though they were spoken in the exact sequence in which he gives them. No signs of ellipses (alternating dots and spaces, which are sometimes called leaders are used to indicate omissions. Scholarly journalism requires the use of these signs to indicate omissions within a sentence or a paragraph; and when a paragraph or more is omitted a whole line of dots across the page is required to indicate this. By checking page nine of the August 12 issue of the Gospel Guardian it will be seen that Brother Otey has taken several short paragraphs and put them together without anything to indicate that the statements were not made just as he arranged them. Each paragraph begins with a quotation mark and not one of the paragraphs except the last one is closed with a quotation mark. This form of quoting indicated that the statements are reproduced verbatim and in exactly the same sequence as in the sermon; that is, from the way Brother Otey has his quotation one is supposed to understand that the whole thing is lifted just as it appeared in the original but this is not the case, and Brother Otey's arrangement of the quotations is misleading. In this way Brother Otey is able to make it appear that the main theme was a lesson on baseball. I have no desire to impugn his motives but it is difficult to believe that such rearrangement of my statements was not designed to produce this very effect.

Our brother's method is unethical from the standpoint of journalism to say nothing of the demands of Christian ethics to represent a brother correctly. The ethics of journalism require one to give the statements of another just as they appear.

Brother Otey is unfair because of his arrangement of my statements amounts to a misrepresentation of my speech. Whether he intended for it to be so or not it is a misrepresentation. He represents the sermon as a lesson on baseball, and it was no such thing! One can use Brother Otey's method of leaving off the application of an illustration and have the Lord teaching a lesson on farming. For example let's quote the parable of the sower, and leave off the application. "Behold, the sower went forth to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the birds came and devoured them: and others fell upon the rocky places, where they had not much earth: and straightway they sprang up, because they had no deepness of earth: and when the sun was risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. And others fell upon the thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked them: and others fell upon the good ground, and yielded fruit, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty." (Mt. 13:3-8.)

Was the Lord wasting His time giving a lesson on farming? Does this little lesson on farming "lead sinners to Christ and edify the church?" Has the vast amount of money that has been spent through the centuries in printing this part of the Bible been wasted?

Some of Brother Otey's statements are untrue. First of all, he takes the total expense from February 1952 through October, 1953 and counts this as the expense for one year. Thus he figures on the basis of twelve months (or 52 programs) instead of twenty months (or 90 programs), and he comes out with the expense for one program totaling $13,620.00, when in fact it was only $7,907.00 (just a little more than one-half of what Brother Otey represented it to be). But this is not all. Brother Otey implies that the amount he stipulated ($13,620.00) was the cost for what he actually quoted' of the sermon. The time consumed, however, in delivering the statements that Brother quoted was only one twentieth of the entire time of the program. So the Cost of the whole program was only a little more than half of what Brother Otey represented it to be, and the cost of what he termed "a brief lesson on baseball" was only one twentieth of the total amount, (or $390.00).

It is a serious matter to misrepresent a brother as Brother Otey has done. It is also a serious matter for an editor to allow such a misrepresentation to appear in his paper. If Brother Tant does not know how such quotations should be given then he is unqualified to serve as an editor; if he does not know how such quotations should be given then he deliberately let one of his writers misrepresent a brother's sermon in this manner.