Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 20, 1959

"We Get Letters"

Cecil Willis, Akron, Ohio

In the March 28, 1959 issue of the Gospel Guardian there was printed an article which I had written entitled "Pure and Undefiled Religion." In that article I quoted some statements made by Brother W. L. Totty of Indianapolis, Indiana in his debate with Brother Charles Holt in 1954. These statements indicated that Brother Totty felt that the Belmont church of Indianapolis was not practicing pure and undefiled religion because it was not contributing to any of the brotherhood institutional orphan homes. Of course I was expecting (and received) a letter from Brother Totty. Following are the two letters that I have received from him to date.

May 27, 1959

Dear Brother Willis,

I have just read your statements about me in the GOSPEL GUARDIAN of May 28.

It is strange, indeed, that you never made such an attack upon me while you were in Indianapolis, although the Totty-Holt debate was held long before you left.

If you are so interested in letting people know what W. L. Totty teaches on the orphan home question, I shall be glad to accommodate you in a debate here at the Garfield Heights congregation provided you will have it repeated at the Brown Street church in Akron, Ohio.

I know you are not adverse to debates because you tried feverishly to get Holiness preachers into a debate with you while you were here.

Faithfuly, W. L. Totty

June 24, 1959

Dear Brother Willis,

On May 27 I sent you a letter about references you made to me in the May 28 issue of the Guardian. You "forgot" to answer.

I told you at that time that it was strange that you waited until you left Indianapolis to make an attack on me. Of course, I knew the reason why you didn't do it while you were here; and anyone else will know it who has his attention called to your actions.

The Guardian has been accusing us of not wanting to debate the orphan home question again. I offered you a proposition which you ignored. Are you afraid? Or, do you know that your position will not stand the light of God's word?

Do you want to be listed among those who would rather write about a person than to write to him, or talk about a person than to talk to him?

Faithfully, W. L. Totty

An Answer To Our Letters

July 13, 1959 Dear Brother Totty,

Your first letter came shortly before I left on a preaching trip, and your second letter arrived while I was away. Thus I apologize for being a little slow in replying to your two letters.

You seem to be quite excited because I "made an attack" on you. I must deny the charge. I made no attack on you — I only quoted what you said. If any attack was made, you made it on yourself. I certainly cannot see how respectfully quoting a man constitutes an attack on him. I simply was using what you said in your printed debate to show what some brethren believe regarding what constitutes pure and undefiled religion. If I misquoted you, I shall be glad to have you point it out that I might make proper correction. If I quoted you correctly, then I deny "making an attack" on you.

You imply in your letter that I was afraid to say what I said in the article while I lived in Indianapolis. There must be somebody big and bad that lives in Indianapolis that would terrify one so badly that he would not say in Indianapolis what he would write for general circulation! Again I must inform you that I taught in Indianapolis just what I now teach regarding the benevolent institutions, and you know it. I did not "make an attack" upon W. L. Totty while I lived in Indianapolis, have not done so since, and have no intention of doing so. Nor do I intend to "make an attack" upon any other man. I might speak and write a few things about what he teaches, if I believe him to be in error. I sincerely do believe W. L. Totty and others to be in error in their effort to subsidize human institutions with congregational funds. I taught so in Indianapolis, and have done so in many other places.

You indicate that you are willing for me to let people know what W. L. Totty teaches on the orphan home question by inviting me to debate with you at Garfield Heights in Indianapolis, providing the debate be repeated here at Brown Street in Akron. You mention that propositions were sent. You only proposed such a discussion. No formal propositions were enclosed. You have boasted several times about your "half a hundred" debates. Of all these debates in which you have engaged, I only heard one. Brethren who heard others of your debates with sectarians and other brethren tell me that the Indianapolis debate was about "par" for you. And I must respectfully state that if the behavior that you exemplified in your part of the Indianapolis debate is indicative of the kind of behavior you intend to display in a debate with me, then I want no part of it. You would like to think that brethren refuse to debate you because they are afraid of you. I think that even you know that is not so. If brethren are afraid, WHY WOULD THEY PASS UP YOU AND THEN TAKE ON MEN A LOT BIGGER THAN YOU? ? ? It certainly is not that brethren are afraid of you, Brother Totty. One brother certainly never should conduct himself in such a way that brethren would have reason to fear him. And they certainly are not afraid of the arguments you put up. So please do not delude yourself with the misimpression that brethren shun you in debate because they are afraid of you.

Although I am not interested in an oral discussion with you in which you shall have free course to malign characters as you see fit, yet I do not want completely to refuse to accommodate you. You suggested that we conduct the debates at Brown St. and at Garfield Heights. The Brown St. building will only seat about 500. The Garfield Heights building will seat about 800, I would guess. If we had a full house at every session, only 1300 people would have opportunity to hear these discussions. I know that you want to reach as many people as possible. So do I. So I offer a much better proposal.

Several years ago the Gospel Advocate announced it had 100,000 subscribers. I have no way of knowing how many it may now have. The Gospel Guardian also has many thousands of subscribers. I have no way of knowing how many it may have. Why not conduct our debate through these two papers? Brethren Goodpasture and Tant could then see that we refrain from any slanderous remarks about the character of one another. One could easily expect to present the debate to thousands, perhaps even to hundreds of thousands (if the subscription reports are accurate) through these media. Too, I will pledge myself to see that the Brown St. members have the opportunity to read the discussion, if you will see that the Garfield Heights members have the same opportunity.

I have heard you say that you would not quibble about propositions. And I would not want to either. Though I think the propositions could be more concisely worded, to prevent any "quibbling" about propositions I will accept the propositions that you and Brother Holt signed for the Indianapolis debate.

PROPOSITION I — "It is Scripturally right for churches of Christ as such to build and/or maintain such benevolent institutions as Boles Orphan Home, Potter Orphan Home and such Homes for the Aged as at Gunter, Texas."

Affirms: W. L. Totty Denies: Cecil Willis

PROPOSITION III — "The system and methods of evangelism, and the methods of raising the funds for said evangelism, as have been and now are being employed by some churches, such as the Highland Avenue church in Abilene, Texas (in the Herald of Truth radio program), the Broadway church in Lubbock, Texas, and the Union Avenue church in Memphis, Tennessee, are scriptural."

Affirms: W. L. Totty Denies: Cecil Willis

Agreements For The Proposed Discussion:

1. Each brother shall write three papers of 2500 words or less on each proposition.

2. An affirmative and a negative paper shall be carried in each issue of the Gospel Advocate and the Gospel Guardian until nine exchanges have been printed.

3. Brethren Goodpasture and Tant, as editors, shall have the right to delete from any paper, any statement they consider to be an assassination of character, but they shall not be empowered to alter the arguments presented.

4. Each writer agrees to treat the other as a brother should treat his brother.

5. Brother Willis shall arrange for the exchanges to be printed in the Gospel Guardian, and Brother Totty shall arrange for the exchanges to be printed in the Gospel Advocate.

On the basis of the above propositions and the 5 point agreement, I shall be glad for the opportunity of conducting as profitable a study as we possibly can on these issues. I have absolutely no interest in any discussion that shall be anything other than a sincere effort on the part of each brother to present what he considers to be scriptural proof of his proposition. Now it is "well known" that I have participated in just "half a hundred" fewer debates than you have. In other words, I am completely inexperienced in such work. Yet if you are willing to conduct such a discussion with me on the basis of the above propositions and agreement, I shall do my best to make it a profitable discussion to all who will read it. If because of my inexperience you would prefer some other brother, I am sure there are several hundred brethren who will be glad to accommodate you on the same basis. If the editors prefer abler men, then there are certainly much abler men for both sides of the propositions. If the editors are pleased with us, let us do our best.

For several years you have written for the Gospel Advocate, writing articles both for the religious journal, and for their "Bible Lesson for Sunday" series. Therefore you should experience no difficulty in getting the articles printed in the Gospel Advocate. Several times you have "made an attack" upon some brother through the pages of the Advocate. "Do you want to be listed among those who would rather write about a person than to write to him, or talk about a person than to talk to him'?" Many one-sided debates have been carried through the Advocate. Now let us see if you brethren are willing to carry a two-sided one through the same pages. We will see how badly you brethren are "wanting to debate the orphan home (college and Herald of Truth) question(s) again." And if the brethren who operate and write for the Gospel Advocate do not agree with the proposition you will affirm on the college question, merely let them say so, and we will affirm on the college question, merely let them say so, and we will delete it. If they do agree with your proposition, they should be willing to see it defended through the pages of the Gospel Advocate.

Now Brother Totty, I have no intention of getting into a long series of skirmishes with you. Furthermore, I have no interest in a long series of letters with you. Just notify me through the pages of the Advocate and/or the Guardian when you are ready for the discussion to begin, and the Lord willing, I shall be ready. The next move is yours.

Brotherly, Cecil Willis