Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 3, 1958
NUMBER 47, PAGE 1,11b-13b

Thomas B. Warren's Misrepresentations Of The Birmingham Debate

James W. Adams, Nacogdoches, Texas

The Birmingham debate between Brethren Roy E. Cogdill and Guy N. Woods is history. Our review of the discussion has been written and published in the Gospel Guardian. We are abundantly satisfied with the debate, and as nearly satisfied as we are with any of our writings with the review. We wrote from the standpoint of how it appeared to us. Some of Brother Woods' partisan supporters are not as happy as they might be either with the debate or the review. We hardly expected them to be, hence we are disturbed not at all. We tried to be honest in our representation of the affair. We leave it to those who heard the debate and those who will read the published book as to how well we succeeded.

Warren's Review

Brother Thomas B. Warren, Woods' moderator, has now begun a review of the discussion in the Gospel Advocate, and has made certain comments concerning it in our latest bible, "The Spiritual Sword." It is Brother Warren's right, and we certainly expect him to exercise it, to present the debate as it appeared to him. We have no quarrel with him concerning anything he may say along this line though we shall probably disagree with the greater part of it. In writing this article, it is not our purpose to begin a debate over a debate. It is but an effort to correct some of Brother Warren's misrepresentation of facts. The Brother has a veritable mania for fastening on to an opponent his own deductions from the opponent's arguments. To charge a thing as a consequence logically deducible from an opponent's argument is one thing. To represent such as a position actually assumed by an opponent is another. Brother Warren needs to read his "rules of honorable controversy" again. On second thought, however, since he writes his own, it probably would do him no good to read them. The rule that would help him would not be in his set. A careful reading of his New Testament regarding ethical behavior would probably do him more good. Not only does our brother ascribe his own deductions to another, but he has great difficulty in remembering what he hears his opponent say and observes him do. His memory is notorious for its production of distortions. We desire to mention a few of these.

Warren's Deductions Are Not Cogdill's Statements

Brother Warren says that Cogdill's position in the Birmingham debate was that it is unscriptural for one church to send a New Testament to another church; for one church to let another church use chairs for a Vacation Bible School; for one church to let another church use a tent for a tent meeting; for one church to send tracts to another church; and for one church to send funds to another church to help build a meeting house. (See: The Spiritual Sword, January 1958, page 8.)

Brother Cogdill said none of these things in the debate. All of these statements are Warren's own deductions. Yet, he charges them to Roy E. Cogdill, and speaks of Brother Cogdill's "extreme views." A number of Woods' charts, probably drawn by Warren, made such charges and representations. The Woods-Warren-Deaver triumvirate tried but failed to lead Cogdill away from a discussion of Bible principles into an endless harangue over hypothetical situations and problems of their own contrivance. To this end, most of the charts were designed, hence correctly ignored. In Cogdill's introductory speech, he had made it crystal clear that he would not be drawn into such. These facts will be manifest to all who read the book. (Send your order to the Gospel Guardian.)

"Cogdill's Confession Of Sin"

Brother Warren contemptuously refers a number of times to "Cogdill's confession of sin" in the Birmingham debate. This, like so much else that our agitated brother writes, is but a distortion emanating from his perverted imagination. Brother Cogdill made no such "confession." The fact of the matter is, no acknowledgement of any kind was made by Cogdill at Birmingham that had not been made for several years previous to the debate and Warren's implication to the contrary is a gross misrepresentation. The Warren reference concerns Cogdill's statements with regard to his past practice with reference to so called "orphan homes" and the Music Hall Meeting. Brother Cogdill made it clear that he had always opposed such homes under institutional boards, but had tried to defend such under elderships. His statement concerning his "change" was that he had made no change in the Bible principles which he had always espoused, but that he had changed in his application of them to such things as "brotherhood" homes under elderships and the Music Hall Meeting or any other sort of arrangement in which the funds of many churches are concentrated in one eldership for the accomplishment of any work that is the equal responsibility of all the participating churches. Brother Warren's references to the Birmingham debate are somewhat milder in the Gospel Advocate than in The Spiritual Sword. In both mediums, however, they are brimming full of distortions and misrepresentations. Rather than usurping an inspired description of God's own word for the name of his paper, we think that Brother Warren might have more appropriately called it "The Scurrilous Scavenger."

Cogdill's Use Of Woods' Charts

Warren does not seemingly know the difference between answering an argument and flashing a chart on a screen. He says: "Cogdill claimed that he answered the charts without having the charts flashed on the screen (Woods used an opaque projector to flash his charts on a large screen) — a new method of debating: answer charts without the charts." (Gospel Advocate, February 13, 1958, page 104.)

In making this statement, Warren plumbed the depths of the ludicrous and exposed his own ignorance. A chart is but an illustration — sometimes of an argument and sometimes of something else. A chart requires no answer. Most of Woods' charts did not illustrate arguments at all. They were for the most part designed to serve as propaganda media to create prejudice by highlighting "changes" of views and purported affiliation with so-called "hobby-riders." Such required no notice save an identification of their true character, and we would have been disappointed beyond measure in Brother Cogdill if he had stooped to waste his time and become a dupe for Woods' sophistry by dignifying them with a reply.

Those charts which were illustrative of arguments presented by Woods were not ignored nor neglected by Cogdill. No, he did not have them flashed on the screen. Whether an opponent's chart is displayed in answering his argument is a matter that lies wholly within the province of the debater's own discretion. No rule of controversy, honorable or otherwise, requires a disputant to display the charts of his opponent unless he so desires. It is his right, but not his duty. He is duty bound, and the rules of controversy demand it, to answer his opponent's arguments — providing they are germane to the issue. If he feels that the charts will materially help to expose the fallacy of the arguments which they illustrate, he may display them. However, he is under no obligation to do so. Cogdill repeatedly challenged Woods to point to one argument to which no reply had been made. This Woods was unable to do until his last speech on the first proposition. It came about in the following manner — the recitation of the circumstances reflect no credit on Woods:

Woods had the last speech. In his address preceding Cogdill's last speech, he asked his moderator to notify him when he had five minutes of his time remaining. When notice was given, Woods reached into his notebook and pulled out an argument based on Gal. 4:12, which he had written out in detail, and read it with lightning speed. It was long, involved, and proved nothing. It was read so fast and with such poor enunciation that it was practically unintelligible to those of us who sat at Cogdill's table. In connection with the reading of this argument a chart illustrative of it was introduced. To this involved and pointless argument, Cogdill made no reply in his last speech. In our judgement, his course was proper.

The introduction of the argument in the manner signified above is a demonstration of an old debater's trick. One would expect it were the meeting D. N. Jackson, Baptist. To informed people, it carries an adder in its bosom. It is its own reply. Its manner of introduction gives potent testimony to the spirit of deceit and trickery which gave it being. If not with the intention of confusing his opponent and causing him to waste invaluable time in his last speech, why did Woods wait to present it until the last five minutes of his speech preceding the last speech of his opponent? The debate was of three nights' duration. Why wait until the last five minutes of a speech preceding the last speech that his opponent would have on the proposition to read a long, involved, written argument that proved nothing? If Woods were completely honest and thought that the argument had merit, why did he not introduce it in a manner calculated to give his opponent opportunity to accord it serious consideration and to make studied reply? We leave the reader to judge. Other than this argument and its accompanying chart, Cogdill replied to all of Woods' arguments. Warren's charge that Cogdill answered charts without the charts is pusillanimous and plain silly! Cogdill answered arguments not charts.

Warren's Point Of Order

Warren likewise leaves the impression that as Woods' moderator he rose to a point of order and formally objected to Cogdill's displaying some fourteen of Woods' charts in the last speech of the debate. He says that he did so because Cogdill had not previously had them flashed on the screen and Woods would have no reply. Warren did nothing of the kind. (I have before me a manuscript of the debate transcribed from the tapes, and beside me, a recorder with the tape of this speech upon it, and I have just read the manuscript and heard the tape. JWA) Warren rose to a point of order all right, but his objection was to a reference of Cogdill to a telegram from the Nebraska Avenue Church in Tampa, Florida concerning the Cuban work. Woods had this church and work on one of his charts as illustrative of sponsored cooperation which he defended. Brother C. W. Scott had in his possession a telegram from the church stating that the church had never served as a sponsoring congregation in reality. Some of the literature had described the church as such, but it had in reality served only as a recommending congregation. An individual had received and forwarded contributions to Cuba. This individual was a member of the Nebraska Avenue Church. The contributions had never come under the jurisdiction of the church and its elders, nor passed through its treasury. This telegram was shown to Woods the previous night and he had done nothing to correct his representation of the matter. Cogdill had it in his notes and had intended to refer to it earlier, but his time had run out. When the chart containing the references was flashed on the screen, it reminded Cogdill of the telegram. Upon mentioning it, Warren rose to a point of order and objected on the ground that it was new material. In connection with his remarks, he made some criticism of Cogdill's waiting until the last speech to display the charts, but he made no formal objection. It would have done him no good, however, had he done so, Cogdill's use of the charts was perfectly ethical and we had no intention of allowing Warren to stop their being shown. Warren's picayune complaints along this line simply let us know (as was evident to almost all present the last night) that he was smarting under the effects of the discussion and had no balm for his wounds.

All of Warren's talk about honorable controversy amuse us for a number of very good reasons. One of those most applicable to his complaint is the fact that Woods in his last speech on the first proposition read in the closing moments of that speech a prepared document listing twenty purported inconsistencies characteristic of Cogdill's position in the debate. The so-called inconsistencies involved matters that had been discussed in the debate, but to the alleged inconsistencies Cogdill had no opportunity of reply. It was new material in every sense of that expression. While we had every right to object, we said nothing. May I say with Warren, "This is significant." Note it when you read the book. We were not hurting as was he. To the contrary, we were calm and satisfied.

Why did Cogdill flash the charts on the screen in his last speech? We will let him tell the reader as he did the audience that night. Here are his words taken directly from the manuscript: "I want to show you, and I'm not introducing these charts for the purpose of replying to the charts. I've already replied to the argument that's on the charts — mentioned it over and over again. He isn't satisfied with answering the arguments, he wants you to answer his chart. I want these charts before you tonight, in the order in which I call for them, in order that we may see the kind of evidence that Brother Woods has used in an effort to sustain his proposition. That's what the charts are being introduced for ..." Following this statement, the charts were shown one after another simply to demonstrate that Woods had introduced no scripture to sustain his proposition, but had for the most part relied upon human reason, excitement of prejudice, and emotional appeals in an effort to sustain it. Warren's howling is much ado about nothing.

As Brother Cogdill's moderator, it was the view of this writer that he should not discuss the telegram from the Nebraska Avenue Church since it had not been discussed in previous speeches. Brother Cogdill was completely amenable to our suggestion. He withdrew the telegram and apologized for its introduction. Here are his exact words: "All right; fine. I'll withdraw it if they've got any objection to what I've said about, and I'll apologize for it. I've no intention to introduce any new material." After an exchange with Woods, he made this further comment: "Now we'll just let the matter drop and I'll use the chart only for this purpose (the purpose he had previously set forth. JWA) if they haven't any objection to a reply being made to any of the rest of it." No further objection was offered, so the debate proceeded. Warren misrepresents the matter.

A Candid Observation

For whatever it may be worth, it is our candid judgement that Woods would have done a better job in the Birmingham debate without Warren and Deaver. Woods is ordinarily direct and pointed in his argumentation, hence pungent and effective. The devious, involved, picayune type of reasoning that characterizes Warren and Deaver sits with uneasy grace on Guy N. Woods. We feel that he would have been more representative of his position had he depended more on his own, strong, left arm and leaned less on the doubtful strength of his counselors.