Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 29, 1956
NUMBER 30, PAGE 1,10-11b

Here And There With Guy N. Woods (VI.)

James W. Adams, San Antonio, Texas

The almost endless procession of absurdities from pen and rostrum emanating from "our promotin" brethren makes it difficult to find a quitting place for a review such as this one, but we plan to make this the last of our present series by taking a kaleidoscopic view of that which remains of Woods' Birmingham speeches. Viewing the so called "cooperation controversy" as a whole, it appears that there has been a studied effort made on the part of the defenders of "centralized control and oversight" to confuse the issue to such an extent as to make it unintelligible to the average member of the Lord's church. Greek, technicalities of Logic, misrepresentation, exegetical gymnastics, and appeals to prejudice have done yeoman service in creating a smoke screen of confusion which, it is undoubtedly hoped, will blind many honest hearts to the unscriptural character of "brotherhood" cooperatives. A better example of such could not be found than the three speeches made by Brother Guy N. Woods in the building of the Central Church, Birmingham, Alabama, last June 10th.

"A Detailed Pattern Like The Antis."

Brother Woods' twenty debates with our non-Sunday school brethren seem to have produced a species of phobia in our brother that amounts to an obsession with him. May we remind him that he is not the only man in the church who has been obliged to deal with our brethren who oppose the teaching of the Word of God in classes. However, our experience with them has by no means led us to hold them in the contempt that Brother Woods seems to feel for them. Has Brother Woods suffered so badly in his twenty debates with these brethren that he can find recourse only in bitterness and contempt? In the present controversy, our brother seems to feel his greatest strength lies in aligning his adversaries with what he calls "the Antis." As far as he is concerned, this term seems to exhaust the limits of opprobrium. He said at Birmingham that those who oppose Herald of Truth and brotherhood benevolent organizations demand "a detailed pattern like the Antis." This theme song of Woods is, we hesitate not to say, a wilful misrepresentation on his part. No, we do not ask for a detailed pattern of preaching the gospel or benevolence, but based on the equality, independence, and autonomy of local churches as taught in the New Testament, we do ask for the authority for many churches to delegate the responsibilities that are theirs in caring for the needs of their poor and preaching the gospel to the lost (fulfilling the great commission) to a sister church or to the board of directors of a human organization. The Scripture that authorizes such neither Woods nor his colleagues have yet been able to find.

In his Sunday afternoon speech in Birmingham, Woods challenged the opposition to produce the Scripture that authorized the plan for the work of the local church. In replying to Woods the following Sunday afternoon, we accepted the challenge and produced the passages (Acts 20:25; 1 Peter 5:1, 2). In these passages, the elders of the local church are charged with the oversight of the local flock. The right to plan the work of the local congregation inheres in the obligation of oversight. The authority for the plan of the work of the local church is therefore found in the command to oversee the flock inherent in 1 Peter 5:1,2 and Acts 20:28. In our reply to Woods in Birmingham, we challenged him and his colleagues in the city to give us the passage or passages that authorize a local eldership to function as a brotherhood eldership in planning and overseeing a work for the entire brotherhood. We patiently await an answer to this challenge. This thought suggests our next topic.

Is The Herald Of Truth The Work Of Highland Church?

In our last article, we showed how Woods made Paul a falsifier, and we promised to show how he also made E. R. Harper and Highland Church falsifiers. In answer to the argument that The Herald of Truth is an example of the universal church functioning through Highland, Woods declared that the work was not Highland's work. Said he, "It is not Highland's work, but the Lord's work and the work of every contributing church." If one wants Harper to have an "atomic hissy" (Harper's description), all he has to do is to intimate that The Herald of Truth is not Highland's own work. Well, Brother Harper, Woods "went and done" it. The amusing thing is that on June 10 Woods said as much to 700 people in the city of Birmingham, and last month, Brother Harper spoke to an audience of several hundred people in the same city and in the speech almost had a convulsion at the thought that The Herald of Truth is not Highland's own work. We have insisted from the beginning that The Herald of Truth is the work of many churches functioning through the elders of the Highland church as the official board of a missionary cooperation, hence is parallel in principle to the missionary society, is not authorized by the Scriptures anymore than is the missionary society, and is therefore unscriptural. Woods admits that it is the work of many churches. Harper and Highland deny. Woods, therefore, makes falsifiers of these brethren.

That Warren argument again. Woods eulogized Brother Thomas B. Warren's argument in the Porter-Woods Debate at Indianapolis as one of the "greatest he had heard in twenty-five years of gospel preaching and one hundred debates and absolutely irresistible." But Warren's argument is based on the premise that every work over which a church assumes oversight becomes its own exclusive work, hence that The Herald of Truth is Highland's own work. Harper so argued with the assistance of Warren in the Tant-Harper discussion in Abilene. Woods admits that The Herald of Truth is the work of the 1080 contributing churches. Just how is he going to adapt Warren's "irresistible" argument to the proof of scripturalness of The Herald of Truth in the light of his (Woods') conception of that work? Will he tell us? It looks as though we should arrange a discussion between Woods on the one hand and Warren and Harper on the other. In the recent Douthitt-Warren discussion in Houston, Texas, Brother Warren kept urging Douthitt to debate with Yater Tant over some alleged differences. It would appear that Warren might practice what he preaches by arranging a discussion with Guy N. Woods.

Herald Of Truth And The Missionary Society

In answer to the charge that The Herald of Truth is an embryonic missionary society, Brother Woods argued that the difference between such arrangements and the missionary society-is the difference between a missionary society and a New Testament church. In such a statement, our brother ignores the facts. In activating such an arrangement as The Herald of Truth, the elders of Highland church overstep their God-given functions as elders of the Highland flock. In so doing, they not only disobey God but also in extending their functions beyond prescribed limits change the very nature of the "office" which they fill. They cease to be simply "overseers of the flock which is among them" and become the official board of directors of an association of flocks in a cooperative enterprise. What Woods and others need to find is something in the qualifications or duties of elders as set forth in the New Testament that justifies the assumption and exercise of authority characteristic of the elders of a modern sponsoring congregation.

If Woods and others who defend it cannot see in The Herald of Truth an embryonic missionary society, there are those much better acquainted with the missionary society than they who can. Dr. A. T. DeGroot of Texas Christian University in his little booklet, "Church of Christ Number Two," calls attention to the fact that should the conservative element of the Christian Church and churches of Christ seek to unite the missionary society should present no obstacle to such union since the churches of Christ have an incipient society in their national radio program (The Herald of Truth). It is our judgment that Dr. DeGroot's long acquaintance with the society plus the fact that he is not personally involved in the controversy over The Herald of Truth make him a reasonably competent judge and that his observation is worthy of the careful consideration of every faithful disciple of the Lord. No, The Herald of Truth is not a New Testament church functioning in the field of evangelism. It is a combination of churches functioning under the direction of the elders of a single church, hence parallel in principle to the society.

In his Birmingham speeches, Woods asserted that

(1) we all agree that the missionary society is wrong,

(2) if the missionary society and The Herald of Truth are parallel in one unscriptural feature, then The Herald of Truth is wrong. He then said that the missionary society is wrong because it has presidents and secretaries, dominates churches, and hires and fires preachers. Herald of Truth has its official board (the elders of Highland church), its separate treasury and treasurer (for some time this treasurer was not even a member of Highland church), its secretaries, and its board hires and fires its preachers. As far as dominating churches is concerned, there is nothing in the organic connection between a Christian Church and the missionary society that allows the society to dominate the church. In our reply to Woods in Birmingham, we challenged those who stood with Woods to go with us to any preacher of the Christian Church of their choice and put the matter up to him, and determine if the society dominates the Christian 'Church by virtue of its organic connection therewith. We affirmed then and do now that the only sense in which the society dominates Christian Churches is through pressure and influence, and charged then and do now that The Herald of Truth is liable to the same abuses, in fact, guilty of them. Too long have preachers made without challenge the charge that the society is wrong per se because it dominates churches. We further challenged for an investigation of the associations of Landmark Baptist Churches and the convention of the Southern Baptist Churches with reference to determining whether Baptist churches sustain an organic connection to these organizations that permits a domination of the local church. We found none to accept our challenge. Associations and the convention of Baptist churches dominate psychologically only. We shall develop this fact at greater length when we review some "Principles of Bible Interpretation" by J. D. Thomas (professor Abilene Christian College) published recently by the Firm Foundation and currently running in the Gospel Advocate. Since The Herald of Truth parallels the society in all these features it is according to Woods' own statement "wrong."

Orphan Homes And The Missionary Society

Woods argued in Birmingham that an orphan home is a "means" of caring for the needy, hence a "means which the church uses to do its own work." He further argued that a "missionary society is a machine using means to do work which God gave the church to do." He said as he did repeatedly in the Indianapolis debate, "The church is its own missionary society, but not its own orphan home."

Let us note the last first. Note please how our brother changes terms. Will he affirm that the church is its own missionary society but not its own benevolent society? We do not believe he will. Woods fails to make a distinction between the "means" used in the care of orphan children and the organization in which the authority and oversight are vested. In the Indianapolis debate, he constantly, deliberately confused the house, matrons, cooks, etc., of the brotherhood orphanages with the organization in which is vested the authority and oversight. The local congregation must use "means" to preach the gospel. A missionary society must use "means" to preach the gospel. When a church preaches the gospel using "means," the authority and oversight are vested in the elders of that church. When the missionary society preaches the gospel using "means," the authority and oversight are vested in its organization (board of directors). When a church cares for its needy, it uses "means." Such "means" might involve matrons, cooks, etc. When a brotherhood orphanage cares for the churches' needy, it uses "means." Such "means" might include houses, matrons, cooks, etc. But, when a church cares for its needy, the authority and oversight are vested in the elders of that church. On the other hand, when a brotherhood orphanage cares for the churches' needy, the authority and oversight are vested in its board of directors.

It can easily be seen by any person who will take the trouble to think that a brotherhood orphanage under an institutional board is a benevolent society usurping the functions of the local church and not a "means" through which a church does its own work. If the missionary society is a "machine using means," then the brotherhood orphanage or home for the aged is likewise a "machine using means."

Woods said also as we have previously shown that a missionary society is wrong because it hires and fires preachers. If this be true, then a brotherhood orphanage or old folks' home is wrong because its board of directors also hires and fires the workers who administer the benevolence.

A Medley Of Matters

Space would fail us to mention all of the absurdities of Brother Woods but there are two or three more which should be mentioned briefly.

(1) He charged that those who oppose modern promotions and orphan homes teach that James 1:27 excludes the care of orphans by the church. A greater perversion of the truth has never been stated in so few words. He and others have introduced James 1:27 as their authority for church support of orphans. Those who oppose encroaching institutionalism have simply noted that James 1:27 is addressed to individuals and not to the church as such. Woods nor any other can find the church in James 1:27. It is not there. Some other passage may teach church support of orphans, but not James 1:27. Woods seeks to join 1 Timothy 5 with James 1:27. He gets church support from 1 Timothy 5 and care of orphans from James 1:27. I Timothy 5 says nothing of orphans and James 1:27 says nothing concerning church support. Woods cannot get orphans into 1 Timothy 5 nor can he get church support into James 1:27. To attempt to do either is to pervert the Word of God.

(2) Woods contends that a brotherhood orphanage is an attempt to restore what the orphan has lost. He contends that this is the duty of the church. He is wrong. Our duty to orphans is to alleviate their need. If "visit the fatherless" means to restore what they have lost, "visit the widows" would mean to restore what they have lost. A widow has lost her husband. Does "visit the widow" mean to get her a husband? How foolish and absurd can we become?

(3) In seeking to set aside the argument that "responsibility equals ability," Woods argued that the Judean churches (Acts 11:27-30) had no ability, hence that per this argument their elders had no responsibility. But, said he, contributions were sent to these elders, therefore responsibility does not equal ability. Woods misses the point. The inability of a father to feed his family does not release him from the responsibilities which inhere in that relationship. He is still the father of his children. The inability of a church to care for her suffering members does not release the elders from their responsibilities as overseers of the flock which is their charge. However, the responsibility of a church to act in a field to which all churches are equally related (such as evangelizing the world) is equal to her ability, and neither Woods nor any other man can prove otherwise. Let them give us the chapter and verse that says so.

(4) Woods had much to say in ridicule of the idea that contributions passed from one church to another only in "time of emergency." He raised the question, "Can an emergency change the law of God " He then asked if Novation's sickness justified his "clinic" baptism. Woods misses the point again. The statement has been made that a practice in time of emergency does not necessarily set a precedent for our practice in normal situations. God may have one law for emergencies and another for normal situations. Paul told Timothy to "take a little wine for his stomach's sake and for his often infirmities." (1 Tim. 5:23.) This passage does not justify social drinking in normal situations. The use of narcotics to ease the pain of a suffering person is legal and proper. The use of narcotics under normal conditions is a violation of the law of God and man. For churches to send to a church in time of emergency is one thing. To send under normal conditions as a permanent arrangement in fulfilling the great commission is another. This is the point.


Since Brother Woods is delivering himself all over the country of such nonsense, we feel our review is justified. Thanks for your patience!