Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 2, 1960
NUMBER 42, PAGE 2-3a

Comments On The Holt-Wallace Debate


One of the most interesting and significant debates yet to take place on current issues was the one held in December in Florence, Alabama, between Brother Charles A. Holt and Brother G. K. Wallace. While it would be impossible to give the full story in the limits of one or two articles, we do want to give you some of the arguments made, and let our readers share with us the deep satisfaction that comes when one sees the truth earnestly and faithfully set forth, and notes the response of honest and sincere souls to that truth.

Florence, Alabama, was a strategic and logical setting for such a study. At one time Lauderdale County (of which Florence is the county seat) is reputed to have had more congregations after the New Testament order than any other county in the world. It was here (at Mars Hill) that the lamented T. B. Larimore conducted his school, and from whence his noble influence spread to every corner of the nation. The humble and God-fearing spirit of that great soldier seems still to live on in the hearts of many of the aged ones who knew him, and in the children and grandchildren of those who came under his kindly and benign example. If there is any locale in the nation where God's Word ought to be respected, and where one would expect to find a willingness (indeed, an eagerness) to study and discuss it, it would seem that Florence should be that place.

The immense crowds that attended the discussion gave evidence that such indeed is the case. The school auditorium where we met had opera seats for about 800. Every seat was filled; an additional 200 hearers were seated in chairs in the aisles, or stood leaning against the walls and filling the vestibule and corridor. And one night a considerable number were forced to return home when they found the place so crowded that they could not even find standing room where they could either see or hear the speakers.


The events leading up to the debate had brought interest to a high point. For many months Brother Holt, who labors with the East Florence congregation, had been pleading for a brotherly study of the questions that are causing division. Both over the radio and through "The Contender" he had urged that the brethren who were promoting and supporting the various benevolence organizations and congregational evangelistic cooperatives should be willing for a public investigation of these matters in the light of Bible teaching. When arrangements for the debate finally got under way the elders of both congregations (East Florence and Woodlawn) drew up and signed a statement setting forth the kind of debate they desired — simply an earnest, sincere, and brotherly Bible study, with no reference by either speaker to any thing either of them had written or done or said in the past, no reflections on anybody, and no introduction of any matter except such as would be directly involved in the propositions. Brother Holt fully agreed with these provisions, and was willing to abide with them. Brother Wallace, however, declined to abide by these rules, and felt that they would limit him too much, and would make it impossible for him to deal with the Gospel Guardian and to conduct the kind of debate he wanted to have. It was finally agreed by all concerned that the debate would be governed by Hedge's Rules of Debate.

Benevolent Organizations

The first proposition was "It is in harmony with the Scriptures for churches of Christ to build and maintain benevolent organizations for the care of the needy, such as Boles Home, Tipton Home, Tennessee Orphan Home, Childhaven, and other Orphan Homes and Homes for the Aged that are among us." Brother Wallace affirmed; brother Holt denied.

Discussion of this proposition centered around two words — "how" and "who". Brother Wallace contended that God had commanded the churches to care for the needy, but had NOT told them "how" to do it; therefore, the churches had perfect liberty to devise any "method" they might desire. He introduced James 1:27 and Galatians 6:10 to support this argument, contending that since the Galatian letter was addressed to "the churches of Galatia", it obligated these "churches" to "do good unto all men." He furthered this line of thought by reference to I Corinthians 16:1, showing that the Galatian churches had been commanded to take up a "first day of the week" collection. Therefore, argued Brother Wallace, the first day of the week collection among the Galatian churches provided the funds for them to "do good unto all men".

Brother Wallace introduced a chart on "Authority", showing it to be "generic" and "specific". From it he argued that God commanded the church to "go" (Matthew 28:19), but did not specify the method; therefore, any method available would be right; God commanded the church to "teach" (Matthew 28:19), but did not specify the method, therefore, the Sunday School, or other methods may be used; God commanded the church to "visit" the fatherless and widows, but did not specify the "method" of such visiting, therefore the various benevolence organizations are in harmony with the Scriptures.

Much of Brother Wallace's time was spent in trying to show the inconsistency, the dishonesty, the hypocrisy, and the wickedness of the men who oppose the benevolent organizations. He had a big chart on display with a brief quotation from Roy Cogdill's book "Walking By Faith", in which Brother Cogdill declared that the New Testament churches took money from their treasuries for the poor saints only.

— F. Y. T.

This was in Cogdill's chapter on "Church Benevolence", and was a simple statement of fact. But Brother Wallace sought to make it appear that Cogdill, Holt, and all those who stand with them in opposition to the churches building "organizations" to do church work are actually contending that not one dollar of church funds can be expended for anything save the relief of a poor saint! This, of course, was a tortured, twisted, and completely cynical perversion of Cogdill's statement — but Brother Wallace spent much of his time holding up the East Florence Church to ridicule and contempt because their budget showed they spent money for such things as preaching the gospel, payments on their property, insurance, janitor supplies, Bible school literature, etc. etc!

In response to this, Brother Holt pointed out that the question under discussion was NOT one of "methods", but of "organization" — and repeatedly pointed out that the very proposition itself declared that the "organizations" (not the methods used) were the cause of the controversy. He showed that Brother Wallace had fought a straw man all the way through in his desperate effort to emphasize the inconsistency of those opposing the organizational "homes" for doing the work of the church — nobody (but NOBODY!) teaches it is wrong for the church to take money from its treasury to support the preaching of the gospel; and any effort Brother Wallace might make to show that East Florence held such a conviction was puerile and ridiculous on the face of it. The point of Cogdill's statement, the clear teaching of the New Testament, and the conviction of Holt was that IN BENEVOLENCE the church limited her benefactions to the "saints" or the "brethren" or the "disciples", and did NOT undertake a general program of caring for the needy of the world. Any attempt to make it appear that Cogdill, or East Florence, or Holt, or any faithful Christian taught that no church money could be spent for anything save benevolence to poor saints was silly. (We will have another article or two on the debate.)

- F. Y. T. Twenty Years Too Soon

Beginning on this page, we publish an account of the death of Eugene S. Smith, of which we made mention three weeks ago. Since Smith was such a controversial figure in the church in his day, we thought one who was friendly to him should write of his passing .... a task not easy since Smith's friends became few and far apart in recent years. But the very "promotionism", "liberalism", and "expediency" which caused a Bible-loving people to view Brother Smith with mistrust and reservation, if not open opposition, in the 1930's and 1940's has brought a more worldly-minded and far less Biblically informed brotherhood twenty years later to elevate infinitely less talented and capable men to positions of national prominence and leadership. This has led one percipient brother to observe that "Eugene Smith was born twenty years too soon!"