Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 30, 1958
NUMBER 38, PAGE 1,12b-13a

Cogdill - Woods Debate - No. 3

James W. Adorns, Nacogdoches, Texas

"The Home Restored" Argument

Inasmuch as Brother Woods waged his fight on the first proposition of the Birmingham debate on the basis that (1) "the church is not a home" and (2) the benevolent organizations among churches of Christ are "the natural home restored," it is obvious that the meaning which he attached to the term, "home," was exceedingly important. Brother Woods read a dictionary definition of the term in his first speech in which it was defined: (1) A fixed residence; (2) a unit of society; (3) family relationship. However, in the development of his argument, Brother Woods did not specify each time he used the term which of these definitions he had in mind. In fact, he would use the term one moment in the sense of a place of residence and the next in the sense of family relationship. Brother Cogdill pressed him for three nights to cease his ambiguous use of the term and to tell him and the audience in which sense he used the term when speaking of "the home restored." Woods replied each time that he had defined the term in his first speech ignoring the fact that he had given three definitions. Finally, however, toward the close of the discussion of the first proposition, he said that he used the term in the sense of family relationship. Brother Cogdill showed repeatedly that the "national home" in the sense of "family relationship" when broken by death could not in the very nature of the case be "restored." He further showed that the church has no such obligation with reference to broken homes — its sole obligation being the relief of the destitute.

In this connection, Brother Cogdill argued that just as the organization which God has given the church (the local congregation under its own elders) is all-sufficient in fulfilling its obligation to preach the gospel to the lost and to edify the saved, so is it all-sufficient in fulfilling its obligation to relieve the destitute. It was in the discussion of this point that Brother Cogdill did some of his most effective work in establishing the fact that the issue was not over "methods" that congregations may employ in relieving their destitute. He proved beyond question that the governing board (organization) of the benevolent institution which Woods defended, as well as a congregation, must employ "methods" in the care of the needy over which it assumes oversight; must provide for the supervision of the actual care administered; must have a place in which the objects of such care reside; and must employ personnel to perform the work incidental to such care.

From this self-evident truth, Brother Cogdill demonstrated that supervision, place, methods, and personnel did not constitute the issue involved in the discussion, but rather that the issue was over which organization should provide and oversee such care — the church under its own elders or the institutional board of a human, benevolent society such as Woods defended in his proposition. Brother Cogdill likewise established the fact that any activity of the church requires supervision, methods of accomplishment, place, and personnel whether it be in field of evangelism, edification, or relief of the destitute; and furthermore, that it is no more scriptural or necessary to create a separate organization from the local church to relieve the destitute than it is to evangelize or edify. Since Woods repudiated again and again all separate organizations in the fields of evangelism and edification, Cogdill's argument left him in a most unreasonable, inconsistent, and untenable position. Woods' dilemma was manifest to all who heard the debate with the possible exception of some of his partisan colleagues. The force of Cogdill's reasoning along this line made mandatory Woods' dealing with the obvious parallel in this regard between a missionary society and the benevolent organizations which he defended.

The Parallel Discussed

From the beginning of his discussion of present issues, Brother Woods has practiced the worst kind of chicanery in his juggling of the terms, "society" and "home." He has repeatedly stated orally and in print that "the church is its own missionary society, but not its own orphan home." Note his change of terms. He converts "society" into "home." Brother Cogdill forced him to deal with this fact at Birmingham. In the meantime, however, Woods had coined another phrase. He said a number of times: "When the missionary society gets through, the church has nothing to do, but when the orphan home gets through, the church still has all its work to do." Brother Woods attempted thus to set aside the obvious parallel between a missionary society and a benevolent organization. His statement was cleverly phrased and sounded good, but it is as false as any error could possibly be and was thoroughly exposed. The missionary society no more displaces the church in the field in which it operates than does the benevolent organization in the field in which it functions. The boards of directors of both institutions usurp the functions of elders of New Testament churches in their respective fields of operation. This fact, Brother Cogdill established again and again. In this respect, they were proved to be absolutely parallel, and therefore, alike, unscriptural.

The Benevolent Organization Woods Would Oppose

Cogdill pressed Woods to tell the audience what kind of a benevolent organization he would oppose — the kind he, Woods, thought to be unscriptural. For a great while, this was ignored. Finally, however, Woods answered, and in connection with his answer obligingly drew a picture on the board of the type benevolent organization he would oppose as unscriptural. On the left side of the board he drew several squares representing churches. In the center of the board, he drew a square representing the benevolent organization under a human board that he opposed. On the right side of the board, he drew a number of squares over which he placed the names of Boles, Tipton, Childhaven, and Sunny Glen orphan homes. From the squares on the left representing the churches he drew lines to the center square. This showed the churches sending money to the central benevolent organization. From the center square he drew lines to the squares on the right signifying the sending of funds by the central benevolent organization to the other benevolent organizations. This arrangement, he indicted as unscriptural. In thus committing himself, Woods sacrificed his entire position. Woods could not, if he had until the resurrection of the dead, show the essential difference between a human, institutional board being over one benevolent institution and its being over two from the standpoint of the scriptural principles involved. The fact of the matter is that the Schultz-Lewis home conducted by our brethren has provision in its charter whereby it may do that very thing. If a human board can scripturally oversee one benevolent organization through which the churches function to relieve their destitute, it may oversee a dozen. If not, why in the name of reason can it not do so? This point was pressed effectively by Brother Cogdill, and this question Brother Woods did not answer at Birmingham. Perhaps he will do so when Brother Thomas B. Warren, his moderator, (who thinks Woods did such a marvelous job at Birmingham — via Eastridge Bulletin) arranges for a repetition of the Birmingham debate in Fort Worth, Texas where he preaches.

The Question Of Incorporation

Brother Woods and his Birmingham helpers have made a major point of the question of incorporation. This they have done in debating, preaching, and writing. The Porter-Woods debates both at Indianapolis and Paragould are full of it. They have constantly represented the incorporation of benevolent organizations as a legal necessity. They have likewise tried to parallel these incorporation of benevolent organizations as a legal necessity. They have likewise tried to parallel these incorporated bodies with the average church which incorporates for the purpose of transacting legal matters with less red tape. Brother Woods has used his legal background in previous efforts to seek to intimidate his opposition and to give credence to completely false representations of the matter. Since Brother Woods has been admitted to the bar both in Texas and Tennessee, he should have known the truth about corporations. If he knew the truth, he is guilty of willfully misrepresenting it. If he did not know the truth about the matter and was simply ignorant, he should: (1) publicly apologize; (2) correct his misrepresentations; (3) and go back and take his bar examinations over.

When he met Roy Cogdill in the Birmingham debate, he met a man who knew the law relative to corporations. No longer could Brother woods make pontifical assertions without proof. No longer could he palm off on his audience the false assertion that the incorporated benevolent organization is parallel with the incorporated congregation. No longer could he escape exposure relative to his contention that incorporation is a legal necessity in the realm of benevolence. He tried, and he died hard in the effort, but he was completely routed. Brother Cogdill forced him to admit that a legal incorporation of a church that gave to the officers of the cooperation authority over the operation of the work of the church would be unscriptural. It was further shown that incorporation is not a legal necessity. Brother Woods introduced proof from the State Welfare Board of the State of Tennessee in an effort to uphold his contention relative to legal necessity, but when he was shown that this board is only a governmental bureau and not a law making body and was challenged to produce the law on the question, he could not do so.

The most ludicrous thing about the whole question, however, was the fact that Brother Woods suddenly derided that "incorporation" had nothing to do with the issue — that it was wholly beside the point. After having made so much of it under other circumstances, his sudden lack of interest in the question was laughable. Brother Woods tried to get out from under his difficulty by suggesting that Cogdill would not endorse a benevolent organization such as he (Woods) defended whether it was incorporated or unincorporated. Brother Cogdill readily admitted this to be true, but suggested to Woods that the incorporation of the institution simply made it easier to expose its unscriptural character. Cogdill's point was that the very charter of the organization pinpoints the fact that it is a separate body from the local church designed to perform the functions which God has laid upon the church. Woods would not, according to his own admission, endorse the incorporation of a church if the corporation when delegated functions that properly belong to the congregation and its elders. Yet, he was defending incorporated bodies established by the churches through which they might perform their obligations to the Lord with reference to the relief of the destitute. Brother Cogdill pressed all of these points vigorously. It is the conviction of this writer that less and less will be heard from Woods and his colleagues on the subject of "incorporation."

Woods Contradicts Himself

Another unusual aspect of Brother Woods' argument was a gross contradiction of himself. He argued in the debate that James 1:27 and 1 Tim. 5 considered together lay upon the church the responsibility for the "care" of "orphans" and the "aged." He argued in the Gospel Advocate, and Brother Cogdill read his statements to him, that 1 Tim. 5 proves that "the early church operated a home for destitute widows." In the Birmingham debate, he contradicted himself in the most glaring fashion by arguing that the church cannot "care" for orphans or "operate a home." He argued that it is legally impossible and scripturally untenable for a congregation to do so. If a congregation should attempt to do so, according to Woods, it would usurp the functions of another divine institution, the home. He argued that this would be Catholicism and would set a precedent for the invasion of the church and its field of activity by the home. Brother Cogdill exposed this glaring inconsistency, but it seemed to embarrass Brother Woods not at all. The fact of the matter is, in his own mind, Brother Woods is never inconsistent. According to him he has never made a change.

Woods' Immutability

Brother Woods, as usual, had much to say about changes that Brother Cogdill had made. Cogdill was man enough to acknowledge and identify his changes and tell why he made them. Woods, on the other hand, when confronted with his writings and utterances of the past, maintained without a blush that he had not changed. He even made a lengthy effort to justify his past statements in the light of what he now teaches. May it be said to the credit of his colleagues that they know he has changed and would like to see him admit it. They are considerably embarrassed by his insisting that he has not. Unfortunately, Brother Woods cannot now acknowledge having changed without indicting his own veracity. He has denied changing too many times. That is his story and he will have to stay with it. Nevertheless, any person of average intelligence who has read his past writings knows that he has completely reversed himself. His calculated efforts to produce prejudice by charges of changing are, therefore, graceless, hypocritical, and despicable.


Much more could be said about the first three nights of the discussion, but this will suffice to give the reader an idea concerning the trend of events and argument. The discussion will be published both by the Gospel Advocate and the Gospel Guardian from a common manuscript. Friends of the Gospel Guardian are urged to get their pre-publication orders in to the office at once. Simply order the book giving your name and address. Your money may be sent later after price and date of publication are announced.

In an article or two to follow immediately, we shall discuss the events and argument of the last three nights of the debate. The question for discussion had to do with the scripturalness of such cooperatives as "The Herald of Truth."