Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 17, 1955

Otey-Briney Debate


The Otey-Briney Debate is being republished. This good news will answer the requests we have had from a great host of preachers and other interested Christians who have inquired as to where they might secure a copy. Prepublication price on the book (good only until April 1) is $2.50. After that the price will be $3.00. If the Otey-Briney Debate and the Tatty-Watson-Holt Debate are purchased together, the two books can be had for $5.00. (See ad, back page.)

The issue discussed in these two great debates is largely the same — whether or not we have a divine pattern for work and worship in God's church, and whether or not we are bound by the pattern. In the Otey-Briney discussion this issue was stated under two general propositions covering instrumental music and the missionary societies. In the Totty-Watson-Holt discussion the issue was divided into three propositions, covering church support of colleges, institutional orphan homes, and the "Sponsoring church" type of evangelism.

But the real discussion was on the same, fundamental, basic question. This is particularly apparent when one compares the arguments used by Briney to defend the Missionary Society with the arguments used by brethren today to defend the modern arrangements. Holt used a chart in one of his speeches (reproduced in the book) showing the almost uncanny parallel between Briney's arguments and those used by Brother Totty and Brother Watson in defending their propositions.

The Otey-Briney debate in the opinion of many thoughtful students of the Restoration Movement marked the real turning point in the fight over Missionary Societies. Very few congregations went into digression after that; whereas before that event congregations all over the nation were swept into the stream of the digressive flood-tide. It was apparently an overwhelming tidal wave, against which very, very few could stand. But from that day on the tide was turned, and little by little the scattered and broken remnants of a once mighty army began to take new courage and new heart. The churches of Christ of 1955, nearly fifty years later, owe a debt of gratitude to W. W. Otey which they can never be able to discharge. But for the valiant fight he made, it is conceivable that the cause of Christ would be many years retarded from its present position.

Once again the church is faced with a crisis — the same essential crisis of that past generation. The battle must be fought all over it seems. New leaders have arisen within the church, men who are not familiar with the problems of the past, not acquainted with the issues that have been the battle-ground of years gone by. They are once more pressing the old errors, pushing forward with the worn-out arguments and ideas of McGarvey, Lard, Briney, Errett, and Pendleton. Most of these men of today who are pushing their modern arrangements have not even read, much less understood, the writings of these men of the past. They do not realize they are making the same mistakes, following the same error.

It is hopeful that the reprinting of the Otey-Briney Debate may once again strike the mighty blow for truth that was dealt by its original presentation. When thoughtful men study these matters, determined in the light of God's Word to be true to Him always, we believe there will come a revulsion against the tidal wave of modernism, institutionalism, and present-day promotional schemes. If any man doubts that we are facing the same issues today that Otey and the brethren of an earlier day faced, we believe a reading of the two debates together will be enough to compel conviction.

And while we are on the subject, it is of more than passing interest to note that the not inconsiderable number of faithful gospel preachers among us who have come out of the modern Christian Church are almost unanimous in their present opposition to these modern institutional schemes and arrangements. Why? Is it not because they see, as perhaps others do not, the danger and inevitable consequences of seemingly "innocent" departures from the New Testament pattern? Men like E. C. Koltenbah, Ira B. Sandusky, and a host of others do not need to be told what will happen if these institutional arrangements are allowed to develop unopposed and unchecked. They know! They came out of the Christian Church where these schemes had reached fruition. And it is no coincidence that the men who have been so active in promoting the modern trends, and so bitter in opposing any conservative voice, have one by one gone over into the Christian Church — Ralph Wilburn, Woodrow Wasson, J. P. Sanders, James Arthur Warren. It is only a question of time until the Key brethren (Roy and Harold) will follow them unless they can be converted to the truth. But for every one who as of now makes the final and ultimate break, they are a hundred whose feet are pointed in the same direction. They are just not far enough along yet.

We commend the Otey-Briney Debate to your careful reading. Study it in connection with the Totty-Watson-Holt Debate; and let all who love the Lord gird on their armor for the battle! It is upon us, and make no mistake of that.

— F. Y. T.