Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 4, 1960

Brother W. L. Totty Says: "I Am Not The Least Interested."

Cecil Willis, Akron, Ohio

In March and June of this year I received letters from Brother W. L. Totty of Indianapolis suggesting that he and I have a debate on the institutional issues. These letters were printed in the August 20, 1959 issue of the GOSPEL GUARDIAN. Brother Totty wanted the debates to be held at Garfield Heights in Indianapolis where he preaches, and at Brown Street in Akron where I preach. Instead of accepting his proposal for oral debate, I suggested that he and I discuss the issues through the pages of the GOSPEL GUARDIAN and the GOSPEL ADVOCATE. These two religious journals would give us opportunity to present the debate before thousands that otherwise would not have access to it if it were orally con-ducted at Indianapolis and Akron.

So that there might not be any delay in arranging the debate caused by a lack of suitable propositions, I agreed to deny the same three propositions that Brother Charles Holt denied in his debate with Brother Totty held at Garfield Heights in Indianapolis in 1954. Brother Totty had already accepted these propositions. So I presumed that he would be ready to accept them again for a written discussion. Those propositions were quoted in the August 20, 1959 issue of the Gospel Guardian. Proposition number 1 called upon Brother Totty to affirm scriptural sanction for congregational support of colleges. Proposition number 2 required scriptural authority for congregational support of institutional orphan homes and homes for the aged. Proposition number 3 obligated Brother Totty to present Bible authority for such centralized programs as the Herald of Truth, and sponsoring churches. I was obligated, by my negative relation to each of these three propositions, to deny that Brother Totty's affirmations were scriptural.

In Brother Totty's letter to me of June 24, he says "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?" When Brother Totty appeared to be just raring to go, you can imagine my amazement when I received a letter from him dated August 19, 1959, written shortly after he had seen my proposal that we debate through the pages of the Guardian and the Advocate, stating that "As far as a debate through the pages of the Gospel Guardian and Gospel Advocate is concerned, I am not the least interested."

He suggest two reasons why he is not interested in the written debate "(I) I do not impose myself upon any church or paper as a representative of its cause." This implies that the Gospel Advocate does not want Brother Totty as a representative of its cause. He would have to "impose" himself upon them. This some of us had suspected for some time. Yet Brother Totty, in his letter of June 24th, appears incensed at the insinuation that some of them do not want to debate again. I wonder who all he includes in the group of those yet wanting to debate? Does it include the editor of the Gospel Advocate? Does Brother Goodpasture want more debates on the issues? If so, we just offered him and Brother Totty one. If Brother Goodpasture does not want any more debates on these issues, then Brother Totty should not get quite so excited if someone says that some of them want no more debates on these issues. If Brother Goodpasture and the Advocate will not endorse Brother Totty's propositions, let them say so. Then we will try to write some propositions that they can endorse. If they do endorse Brother Totty's propositions, but will not have him as their representative, then there must be something wrong with Brother Totty. If that is their feeling toward Brother Totty, then I am not so sure that any good with the mass of brethren could come from a discussion conducted with him, either written or oral. But if the Advocate does endorse both the propositions and Brother Totty as their representative, and yet wants no part of the debate, then someone among the institutional brethren must not be quite as interested in more debates on these subjects as Brother Totty would like to have us think.

Reason number 2 given by Brother Totty for being "not the least interested" in the debate is "The editor of the Gospel Guardian has proved himself absolutely unreliable in handling the manuscript of one who opposes its teaching." Now Brother Totty should remember that I would have to commit my manuscripts to the advocate editor as one who "opposes its teaching:" I cannot see that I am asking more of Brother Totty than I am willing to do myself. But if it would make, Brother Totty anymore interested in the debate, I feel , that it might could be arranged to strike out from the agreement that part that gave the editors of the respective papers the right to delete any statement they felt to be assassination of character. I am willing for the manuscripts (both his and mine) to be printed just as they are written. Now Brother Totty, are you any more interested??

It comes with mighty poor taste from one that, has said so much about people being unwilling to debate him to suddenly decide "I am not the least interested in a debate through the pages of the Gospel Guardian and Gospel Advocate." Why all of a sudden this complete lack of interest? I repeat Brother Totty's questions to me,, requesting that he ask them of himself. "Are you afraid? Or do you know that your position will not stand the light of God's word?" It is very strange to me that a man will not be "the least interested" in a debate on August 19th (the date he wrote me), yet ten days before print an article in the Garfield Heights bulletin entitled "WHEN THE CAT'S AWAY, THE MICE PLAY." He insinuates in this article that many brethren are ready to debate, until W. L. Totty comes on the scene. He envisions himself as "the cat" and all the "Anti preachers" as the "mice." Of Brother Glen Shaver, Totty says "It is a strange thing how men like Brother Shaver know when, where, and whom to challenge for a discussion of these issues." Of Brother Luther Blackmon, Totty says "We are reminded of the time Luther Blackmon disturbed some of the members of a church near Indianapolis with a sermon against orphan homes. The next night I attended, and Blackmon was as meek as a lamb. He did not mention the issue." He also "scared" Brother Joseph Cox. Totty says "When the brethren presented Cox with the statement he refused to debate with me." Of course,

Brother Cox will take on a top-water like Guy N. Woods in a debate in Miami, but he tucks his tail and runs when W. L. Totty's name is mentioned! Brother Totty closes the above named article with these grand words: "These brethren are brave hearted when they think they are out of the danger zone (i. e. where Totty is — CW), but whimper like a whipped child when faced with the obligation of defending their factious teaching. We are wholly set for the defense of the gospel of Christ against all hobbies and innovations. We stand ready at all times to defend what we teach privately or in public discussion." (My emphasis — CW). Would it be public, Brother Totty, if the discussion was held in the Guardian and in the Advocate? It appears to me it would. Now can you imagine the same fellow that made the bold statement just quoted saying ten days later "As far as a debate through the pages of the Gospel Guardian and Gospel Advocate is concerned, I am not the least interested"?

On August 16th, in the INFORMER, the Garfield Heights bulletin, Brother Totty says, "I take this means of issuing another urgent invitation to Cecil Willis and the 40th and Emerson church .... to meet me in a public debate on the orphan home issue. We will see if Willis is honorable enough to meet face to face the man whom he has so eagerly written about." Brother Totty wants a "public debate." Would a debate in the Advocate and the Guardian constitute a "public debate?" I hardly see how it could be made more public. Is Willis willing to take part in such a debate? Try him and see, Brother Totty! We will now see if Totty "is honorable enough to meet face to face (in written debate) the man whom he has so eagerly written about" in his bulletin.

This same Brother Totty says of Brother Glen Shaver "But, he (i.e. Shaver — CW) says that I say that 'brethren are afraid to meet' me in public debate on the orphan home, question. But, I did not say that in my article. I took it for granted that everybody knew that; so I saw no need of saying it" (my emphasis — CW). You brethren that know Jos. Cox, Luther Blackmon, and Glen Shaver will have to judge as to whether any of them is afraid of W. L. Totty. Frankly I have not met any of the brethren that was just quaking in his boots at the thought of meeting Brother Totty. I know of a good many who do not consider him to be a representative man. I know of a good many who will not meet him unless certain agreements and arrangements are made guaranteeing that the debate will be conducted in an upright manner. But this man that everybody is so scared of now says "I am not the least interested."

Then in an August 30th issue of the INFORMER, in an article entitled WILL (i.e. Will Totty — CW) WILTED WILLIS", he says "So, now I implore Brother Willis to drop his 'goody-goody' attitude and at least attempt to convince the Indianapolis people who have followed his hobby that he actually believes it is the truth." Yet after all of this, he has the audacity to write, "I am not the least interested" in such a public discussion as that proposed.

Now actually what is wrong with the man? It certainly is not that he is afraid of me. That is not why he is "not the least interested" in the debate. He has had "half a hundred debates" and I have not had any, written or oral, So he is not afraid of me. Actually, I think it is a mistake to say that Brother Totty "is not the least interested" in the debate. If he is not, it is the first debate I ever knew of that he "was not the least interested" in. I believe that when he made the statement he misrepresented himself. The reason why I think Brother Totty is "not the least interested" (if he is not) is because he fears that Brother Goodpasture will not let him debate through the pages of the Advocate. Since he is afraid he will not be permitted to debate through the Advocate, he simply thinks he would be better off to appear not the least interested" than to say that he would like to debate, and then have some of the superiors who are so very interested in debating the issues again (namely Brother Goodpasture) refuse to permit him to do so. Brother Totty, Would you be "the least interested" if I get the permission for you to carry the debate in the Advocate??? Now I will not say I can secure the permission for you, but I am neither afraid nor ashamed to try to help you out.

It hurts Brother Totty not to be able to debate these issues after all he has said about everybody being scared to death of him, and I sympathize with him. He doesn't want anybody to talk about his lack of interest in this debate, for he closes his letter refusing the debate with these choice morsels of brotherly love: "Now before you start your filthy insinuations and slanderous innuendoes against the 'institutional-minded' brethren, obtain a list of the renegades of the Gospel Guardian camp, over which the editor has thrown a cloak of silence, and hiss your poisonous venom at them."

The reason why we cannot now have this debate is because the ones who control the Gospel Advocate are not quite ready for an open and public defense of the church support of colleges to be made through Advocate pages. They will come to it shortly, but Brother Totty is just a little ahead of them at present. He has already advocated it, and defended the congregational support of colleges in his debate with Brother Charles Holt in 1954. But Brother Totty, do not become too impatient with these institutional brethren who are so "over anxious" (?) to have more debates on the orphan home and college questions. Just be patient with them, and before too many more years, when they think things are just a little better prepared, they will be ready to begin their public defense of these things. Perhaps then you will not have to "impose" yourself upon them. Perhaps then they will be ready to use you. Until then, don't hold any hard feelings against them for now not permitting you to debate. After all, they are the strategists. They will map out the war, and you and others can do the fighting for them. They just are not quite ready yet.

However, we are willing to wait for you. So if in a month, a year, a decade, or a century you brethren are ready to make an all-out effort through the Advocate to have the church subsidize all kinds of human institutions, the propositions for the written debate will still stand. You asked for a debate. Now do you want it? You can just feel sure that you have one offer to debate that for one reason or another you have not accepted. Whenever the "superintendents" are ready for you to accept the propositions for written discussion that you previously affirmed in oral debate, I, or one of the hundreds also now ready (if I should not yet live) will be ready to deny the propositions. TILL THEN — we shall patiently wait!