By Ron Halbrook
Consistent Pattern of Openness
It is important to emphasize that Truth Magazine has never been characterized by that bigoted brand of journalism that can allow only one side of vital issues to be published. From its earliest days, there has been openness to consider opposing views, to let them be heard. This does not mean the paper has become a forum for the propagation of every crackpot idea to come along. Editorial restraint and balance has guarded against the paper becoming needlessly repetitious, tedious, or irresponsible. When modernism was opposed at the beginning, Roy Key was allowed to make his defense. When institutionalism was opposed, not only were opponents allowed space when they asked it, but special debates were arranged to ensure both sides a fair hearing. During the battle over the new grace-unity movement, opposition articles have been reprinted from other journals, those asking for space have been given it, and those who have been under review have been invited to respond.
If militant propagation and defense of truth is vital, the posture of openness is no less so. The author’s first contact in recent years with editor Willis, was for the purpose of responding to two articles which had appeared in truth Magazine (cf. Ron Halbrook, “The `Spiritual’ and the Prayer Amendment: A Review,” XVI, Aug. 31, 1972, pp. 663ff.). Exchanges with R. B. Sweet and Lindy McDaniel have already been noted. Discussion on both sides of the carnal war question has been allowed (cf. Bruce Edwards, Jr., Cecil Willis, and Robert H. West in Vol. XVI, Oct. 12, 1972, pp. 757 and 755; XVII, Dec. 21, 1972, pp. 122-124). When he was under review, Randall Mark Trainer asked to have “Having Trouble Over Baptism?” printed (Vol. XVII, Sept. 27, 1973, p. 722). As he promised to do, Cecil printed a letter from Edward Fudge in “Editor’s Memory Is Fallible!” (Vol. XVIII, Jan. 24, 1974, pp. 179-180).
The editor’s willingness to apologize when appropriate — something impossible for a closed mind — has already been mentioned. Brethren who have felt a need to criticize the editor’s way of expressing himself on a subject, have been allowed a hearing in print (cf. Vol. XVIII, July 11, 1974, pp. 546-550). When a potentially misleading statement has been called to his attention, Cecil has been willing to clarify. One example is his “Concerning the Brethren In Tuscaloosa, Alabama,” on December 6, 1973. The preacher at Tuscaloosa, Aubrey Belue, Jr., added an unsolicited statement regarding Cecil’s editorial work — “not because I am in `his party,’ but because he and I stand together on Scriptural truth.”
Brother Willis has been “knocked” more than praised — I myself have been critical of his editorial judgment. It is very easy for us who are onlookers to see flaws-or things we think are flaws-in the activity of those who are at work. I am sure that he has expected some of this, and I am glad to see that it has not deterred him from doing his duty as he saw it (Vol. XVIII, pp. 83-84).
Along this same line, Brother Willis has not attempted to make Truth Magazine a one-man show, even on the matter of editorial judgment. Throughout his fifteen years of editing, he has tried to surround himself with men of mature, sound judgment and has actively sought their counsel. In recent years, he has repeatedly sought the advice of men like Roy Cogdill, James Adams, Earl Robertson, and others. His “Tell Us It Is Not So” article “was not published until several other brethren of great knowledge and experience, and to whose wisdom I often resort for editorial advice, had read the article and unanimously recommended it be immediately published,” as he later explained (Vol. XVII, Oct. 18, 1973, pp. 771-775).
Looking to the Future
Perhaps the one piece of advice repeatedly offered which Cecil Willis has found hardest to accept is the warning that he was pressing himself beyond reasonable human limits in his work. After ten years of editing, Cecil wrote “Ten Years Ago,” saying he enjoyed the work in spite of its demanding rigors (Vol. XVI, Sept. 7, 1972, p. 675). “Looking to the Future” in 1974, he said the “tenuous existence” of a paper like Truth Magazine hung upon one thing: “its contents.” In addition to the two generations already on the staff, Cecil announced that “yet a third generation of preachers and writers” was to be added-beginning with his youngest brother Mike as a new Associate Editor, and’including several others shortly as “Staff Writers.” Without compromise “in soundness, ability, work out-put, or quality,” the additions would enhance the papers effectiveness, he felt. He added that Mike, being nearby, would assist in “the editorial position a little.” Mike had developed “very good work habits” before and during college, was “a very capable worker in personal evangelism,” had “good pulpit ability,” demonstrated “competent writing skills,” and maintained “a rigid reading schedule” (Vol. XVIII, Apr. 25, 1974, pp. 387-389). The Staff Writers were presented the following November: Donald P. Ames, Karl Diestelkamp (who had actually been writing in Truth Magazine for twelve years, and doing the `News Briefs” for some time), Bruce Edwards, Jr.,- Ron Halbrook, Jeffery Kingry, John McCort, Harry Ozmont, Steve Wolfgang, and, as Circulation Manager, George T. Eldridge (Vol. XVIX, Nov. 7, 197’4, pp. 3-12).
For the past fifteen years, besides editing Truth Magazine, Cecil Willis has been writing books, debating, traveling to preach in foreign countries, holding numerous gospel meetings in this country, trying to do located preaching work most of the time, and serving as an elder part of the time. As of April 1, 1977. he formally resigned the editorship of Truth Magazine and related responsibilities with the Cogdill Foundation. Recurring health problems coupled with some personal considerations and pressures which have mounted over time, helped bring about this action. The Corinthians gave beyond what Paul expected and “beyond their power” to the needy saints of Jerusalem. Just as certainly, Cecil has given himself to editorial and related duties along with evangelistic labors beyond what could be expected of any human being. Extending himself beyond the limitations of human power-with reference to normal needs of rest, recreation, and diversion — his body has forced him several times to curtail his work and to lean on the faithful help of co-laborers like Mike Willis.
Though still relatively young at 45, brother Cecil Willis has accomplished more in the variety and volume of his work than most of us can do in a lifetime. He has paid a dear price in the demands, pressures, and sacrifices of such labor. Though mortals cannot make the final .judgment or evaluation of this labor — “to his own master he standeth or falleth” (Rom. 14:4) — yet we can know that we have benefitted and shall continue to benefit from these labors. We are not ashamed to say what a great debt of gratitude we owe Cecil Willis. We are not afraid to say that we hope and trust that his future labors will benefit us yet again and again. Somewhere these words are inscribed on a wall at a university: “On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions, who at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest and resting, died.” Obviously, Cecil Willis did not sit down in the editor’s chair to rest! Perhaps his determination throughout as editor is best portrayed in an editorial on “Our Obligations Toward Truth”: Procure It, Practice It, Proclaim It, Protect It, Plead It (Vol. XVIII, Nov. 15, 1973, pp. 35-37).
Truth Magazine’s early years set the tone for a wellbalanced paper, a militant paper, an evangelistic paper. During the next fifteen years of diligent, determined labor, the paper has continued admirably in that same path. Looking back, and looking forward, we must realize that now is not the time for hesitation or rest. Truth Magazine must continue to be well-balanced. militant, and evangelistic. We believe it shall!
III. Hopeful Anticipation (1977- )
Truth Magazine will continue to be well-balanced, militant, and evangelistic because its newly announced editor is Mike Willis. “On the plains of hesitation lie the blackened bones of countless millions, who at the dawn of victory, sat down to rest and resting, died.” Mike Willis has not taken the editor’s chair to rest. He brings the energy of youth to this demanding job, and brings as well a maturity beyond his years. The editor’s mantle is passed on to safe and hopeful hands. We view his work with hopeful anticipation because we know Mike, and because he comes to his work with hopeful anticipation.
Mike’s willingness to press the demands of truth in the face of denominational error has been evident since his first article in Truth Magazine. His article entitled “Abolished” dealt with the Sabbath, and was to be followed later by one on “Contradictions in the Book of Mormon” (Vol. X1I, Apr., 1968; XIV, Feb. 12, 1970). His second article dealt with “The Goodness and Severity of God” (Vol. XII, Aug., 1968). In “Vestigial Organs” on the subject of evolution, Mike quipped that some members of the church appear to be vestigial organs (Vol. XIV, Nov. 27, 1969). After several other articles on a variety of subjects in 1969-70 (Vol. XIV, pp. 60, 164, 320, 752, 787), he examined at length the “Ancestry of the English Bible” the following year (Vol. XV, ten parts between Feb. 11 and Apr. 15, 1971). Another good series the next year was presented on “Archaeology and the Bible” (Vol. XVI, ten parts between Aug. 24 and Oct. 26, 1972). He has wrestled with such difficult subjects as “The Problem of Suffering” and written on such unpopular ones as “More Evidence on Smoking” (Vol. XIV, p. 164, p. 752).
By the time Mike began writing in Truth Magazine the institutional battle had passed its hottest period; the two groups had pretty much gone their own ways. But when controversy broke out over grace-unity-fellowship, it became quickly evident that Mike had been doing his Bible homework. His March 1, 1973, article, “Unity in Diversity or Unity in Doctrine?” compared Ketcherside’s plea to Paul’s approach in 1 Corinthians: “Paul urged that unity in the body of Christ be attained by unity in doctrine; not by unity in diversity!” Mike dealt with other key concepts related to this matter, such as the authority of silence (March 8, 1973), the charge of legalism (March 15), and the exclusive nature of truth (Nov. 22). In “When It’s Me and When It’s You,” Mike pointed out that when Ketcherside reviewed someone he said he was simply stating his convictions, but when someone reviewed him they were guilty of journalistic propaganda — “Ketcherside `speaks with forked tongue’!” (Mar. 22). Mike continued to uproot error with articles on “Sins of Ignorance” (exposing such special pleading as essentially situationism; July 18, 1974), “The `Unity Movement’s Distinction Between `Gospel’ and `Doctrine’, ” (Oct. 24, 1974), and `Twisted Scriptures” (June 12, 1975). The latter in Vol. XIX (pp. 488-492) began a series reviewing Ketcherside’s reconstruction of many passages; the timeliness of this series can be seen in the fact that Ketcherside recently re-issued his own volume entitled The Twisted Scriptures. Beginning January 8, 1976 (Vol. XX, pp. 23-24), Mike also followed a similar series by Leroy Garrett on “The Word Abused,” dealing first with Amos 3:3, then Romans 14:23 (p. 235f), 1 John 1:7 (p. 264f), 2 Peter 2:1 (p. 518f), 1 Cor. 1:10 (p. 647f), and others. During this time, he also presented a series on “Descriptive Terms of Christians” and prepared the “Book Briefs” column.
Honored to Serve Through This Medium
Mike wrote the wrap-up for Vol. XX (Dec. 23, 1976, p. 804), observing that Truth Magazine emerged during “the fight against institutionalism and the sponsoring church concept.” In more recent years, Truth Magazine exposed “the grace-unity heresy as propagated by Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett, etc . . . . Frankly, those of us who are associated with this paper are honored to have served the Lord in exposing this heresy through this teaching medium.” Obviously, Mike’s work will not represent an apologetic or compromising stance with reference to the previous editors’ determined work for truth and against error. In time, it will be apparent that the work of these men blends, overlaps, and bonds together as a unified whole.
Just as Cecil Willis had earlier indicated would be the case, Mike was doing editorial work at the beginning of 1977 (Vol. XXI, Jan. 13, 1977, p. 22). Mike’s editorials have appeared with unbroken regularity since February 3, 1977. On March 10, Mike announced these additional Staff Writers: Bill Cavender, Daniel H. King, Keith Sharp, and Johnny Stringer. Therefore, Mike was to begin editing the paper with ten Staff Writers, including Donald Ames, Karl Diestelkamp, Ron Halbrook, Jeffery Kingry, John McCort, and Steve Wolfgang. As Mike formally began editorial labors on May 19 (announced in the issue for that date), his Associate Editors were O. C. Birdwell, Luther Blackmon, Roy Cogdill, Larry Hafley, Irvin Himmel, Earl Robertson, and Jimmy Tuten, with George T. Eldridge the Circulation Manager. One sample of Mike’s work can be seen in the special issues arranged on Gospel Preaching and The Work of the Church which appeared March 17 and 24. Already, he is working ahead to produce similar issues on other interesting and important topics.
What lies ahead? No man can predict the future, but we believe fully that hopeful anticipation is justified. Reviewing the history of Truth Magazine helps us to see that it has been a well-balanced, militant, evangelistic paper. So long as the paper keeps that character, it will be a much needed voice in a world of darkness and sin. Should it ever lose that character, it will deserve to die. Our loyalty is not a printed medium called Truth Magazine, nor to the Cogdill Foundation which publishes it nor to any man or group of men connected with the paper. Our loyalty must be to deity alone, to Jesus Christ, to the everlasting gospel! With that in mind, those of us who have promised to write should do so, to the very best of our abilities. Mature men connected with the paper should give Mike all the benefit of their advice, wisdom, and counsel. We encourage our readers to re-subscribe (why not use the automatic renewal plan), and to subscribe for others who might not otherwise take the paper (only $5.00 per month for 10 subscriptions, or $10.00 for 20).
“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unm,oveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:58).
Truth Magazine XXII: 5, pp. 88-90
February 2, 1978