Spiritual Perspectives


 

RECOMMENDED READING: OVER THE VAST HORIZON

Gary W. Summers

          Over the Vast Horizon is the biography of Guy N. Woods, one of the most significant brethren of the 20th Century, and it is written by brother Harrell Davidson, who knew brother Woods well for many years.  Some writers might have organized the contents a little differently, and the book does contain some spelling errors, but the caliber of the contents more than offset any defects.  The book contains material that few could have furnished regarding this highly influential Christian.

 

     The “Foreword” provides the author’s rationale for the title he chose to give this work (i).  The first chapter supplies details of the subject’s birth and childhood.  He was born in Vardeman Mississippi, near Tupelo.  Various details are given concerning his parents and siblings, one of which that his brother and sister were born in Holladay, Tennessee (1),  a place where many influential preachers, such as N. B. Hardeman, G. C. Brewer, and Boone Douthitt held gospel meetings (4). 

 

     The reason some of these facts are important is that it is this kind of environment that is healthy and encouraging for children.  How sad it is today that many congregations are so lax concerning evangelism that they have not conducted an evangelistic effort in years.  How many young men will be impressed by those who have devoted their lives to preaching the Word, as it frequently happened in previous eras?

 

     Davidson describes the health problem that afflicted Guy as a youngster (5) and then talks about his life as a student (6) and his obedience to the gospel.  One might have thought that Guy obeyed the gospel at the age of nine or ten, but he was actually older, though he could not remember a time that he did not know what the Bible taught (7).  Not long after he became a Christian, he got into a discussion with a Baptist preacher.  Realizing that he was not as prepared as he thought, he immediately memorized Nichol’s Pocket Bible Encyclopedia (9). 

 

     Was it that time period in our nation’s history or just zeal that sparked such a decision?  More memory work and better preparation to discuss the Word with others should be a goal today of parents, Bible teaching programs, and individual Christians.

 

     Chapter 2 begins with Guy’s enrollment at Freed-Hardeman College.  Not surprisingly, he enrolled in the debating society (12).  Brother Davidson writes: “Guy had the greatest analytical mind of any Gospel preacher outside those who were inspired in New Testament times” (11).  That wonderful ability would show itself time after time in his many debates and in his conducting of the Open Forum at Freed-Hardeman College years later.

 

     He left the college in 1929 to do local work (10); the annual lectures were begun in the next decade.  Guy was invited to speak, but he began moderating for the Open Forum in 1947 and did so until he voluntarily retired in 1980 (15).  This 34-year period saw immense changes in the United States, including the rise and demise of Elvis Presley, as well as disco, the switchover to Color TV, and the beginning of the Feminist movement.  It is doubtful that anyone will ever again host a forum for such a long period of time and provide answers so well-grounded in the Scriptures.

 

     The third chapter deals, in fact, with brother Woods’ ability to conduct the Open Forum.  This chapter contains a lengthy and informative transcript of a discussion in 1969 about Campus Evangelism, which was endorsed by some brethren, but others found it suspect and a way to lead young people astray.  Finally, after much discussion, Jim Bevis stepped to the microphone as a representative of the organization and tried to defend what Campus Evangelism was doing.  He argued that the Holy Spirit was moving through him as he co-directed their various functions (38).  He still holds to this position nearly 40 years later.

 

     Brother Woods asked Bevis repeatedly if the Holy Spirit personally indwelled him “separate, independent, and apart from the Word of Truth?”  “Twelve times Bevis said that he did not understand the question  (38).  Finally, Guy asked the vast audience if they understood it, and everyone raised a hand, showing the foolishness of Mr. Bevis.  Brother Woods asked him to demonstrate what the Holy Spirit was doing for him; he responded by making unintelligent guttural sounds.  Guy interrupted him and again encouraged him to show the audience what the Holy Spirit was doing for him.  Bevis replied, “That is what I have been doing.”

 

     Brother Woods had done a masterful job in overseeing the entire discussion, but the President of Freed-Hardeman at that time, H. A. Dixon, wanted everyone to know where the college stood.  The following description by brother Davidson (regarding brother Dixon’s speech) constitutes one of several spiritual high points in the book, which makes it so inspirational to read:

 

Bevis tried to interrupt, but brother Dixon said, “You have had your say. Now sit down and be quiet. I am going to have my say.” Brother Dixon pointed out that Freed-Hardeman would have nothing to do with the movement whatsoever. His final words that afternoon were, “This is where Freed-Hardeman College stands.” This was the first time that I had ever known brethren to put their hands together. A spontaneous thunderous applause broke loose and lasted for a few moments. Campus Evangelism would find no favor in Henderson, Tennessee. One of the main things that defeated it was the moderator of the Forum (38-39).

 

     Would the current moderator of the Open Forum at Freed-Hardeman take such a stand today?  No, he told a false teacher in the 2003 Open Forum (a student at that time) that he made a good point with an absurd interpretation of  John 4:23-24.  [See on our Web site, www.spiritualperspectives.org, under articles, 2003, May 11th, “Is ‘In Spirit and In Truth’ the Holy Spirit?”.]  This past year many were confused by the same moderator’s view on handclapping accompanying singing.  Furthermore, can anyone imagine a current president of the school making a definitive statement, saying, “This is where Freed-Hardeman stands”?

 

     One wonders, in our current climate, if there are yet 7,000 who can still stand up and declare anything definitive.  One wonders how many take the Biblical doctrine of fellowship seriously.  One individual spoke on the same program with Mac Deaver (a well-document-ed false teacher) this year, and he is still writing for the Spiritual Sword.  Doesn’t anyone have enough backbone to say, “We will not fellowship error and those who encourage error”?  One cannot imagine even 20 years ago that otherwise sound brethren would defend someone who taught that re-evaluating elders was an acceptable practice.  Some have quit taking their spiritual vitamins and sorely need some citra-spine-cal.

     The church is indebted to men like brother Woods, who could identify the Pentecostal nature of a movement and expose it for what it was.  The Woods-Warren exchange on the subject of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit will also be of interest to many (39-48).

 

     Chapter four returns to Woods’ personal life and the beginning of his preaching.  The details of his marriage and later separation from his wife are provided.  While it is sad on a personal level, the brotherhood profited by the tremendous volume of work that Guy N. Woods was able to accomplish.

 

     One of the ways the brotherhood was blessed was by the way brother Woods defended the truth (chapter 5).  N. B. Hardeman commented on his ability: “When doctrine was attacked, he was a lion that could be heard to roar from Dan to Beersheba” (66).  It is estimated that C. R. Nichol conducted 300 debates; Joe Warlick and Guy N. Woods were probably next in line for most debates conducted.  Almost 100 of brother Woods’ debates are mentioned by name with descriptions of them varying in length.  Most of these were not taped or recorded; information is often sketchy.

 

     Recorded are those whom brother Woods most respected as debaters (66), the one he most dreaded (67), and the extraordinary preparation he made in order to defeat a very capable denominational opponent (67-68).  Some of the subjects or propositions are listed below:

 

§     The Scriptures teach that it is impossible for a child of God to so apostatize and fall away and be lost in Hell.”  Brother Woods denied (71).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach that in the conviction and conversion of the sinner the Holy Spirit is not confined to the operation of the written word.”  Woods denied (72).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach that man is wholly mortal and unconscious from death to the resurrection.”  Woods denied (74).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach water baptism to a penitent believer, is for, or in order to, the remission of past, or alien sins.”  Woods affirmed (83).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.”  Woods affirmed (88).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach that the Holy Spirit operated today as in the days of the apostles with tongues as signs.”  Woods denied (90).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach that God gives eternal life to the dead alien sinner without a condition upon his (the sinner’s) part.”  Woods denied (92).

 

§     The Scriptures teach that there is but one person in the Godhead; namely Jesus Christ.”  Woods denied (97).

§     “The Scriptures teach that Saturday, the seventh day of the week, is the Christian Sabbath and the day of Christian rest and worship in this age.”  Woods denied (118).

 

§     “It is contrary to the Scriptures for Churches of Christ to build and maintain benevolent organizations for the care of the needy, such as Boles Home….” Woods denied (124).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach that it is right to use instrumental music in Christian worship.”  Woods denied (126).

 

§     “The Scriptures teach that a lost (alien) sinner is saved by grace through faith before and without water baptism.”  Woods denied (137).

 

§     The Scriptures teach that the church of Christ, of which Guy N. Woods is a member, is scriptural in origin, doctrine, practice, and name.”  Woods affirmed (142).

 

     As the reader can tell, brother Woods was prepared to debate just about every subject imaginable.  Many of these topics he debated several times.  Brother Davidson only provides a brief description of most of them, but a few contain questions that accompanied each night’s discussion, along with the answers of the opposition.  The responses are most interesting, and frequently his opponent gave no answer at all.

 

     Debating was not the only value that Guy N. Woods had to the church, although by itself it would have been a considerable help.  Chapter 6 deals with “The Consummate Writer.”  Brother Woods wrote somewhere close to 1,000 articles, which were published in a variety of publications, beginning with the Firm Foundation.   He also wrote thirteen books (167-68).

 

     One section highlights his relationship with the Gospel Advocate.  He wrote the Adult Quarterly for the Gospel Advocate for thirty years (170-71).  He was passed over as editor for the Gospel Advocate—twice, although he had more than proved himself capable.  Finally, in January of 1982 he was appointed editor; he was fired in July, 1985, possibly because of his strong stand against instrumental music and the compromising that was beginning to occur as a result of the Joplin Unity Meeting in 1984.  The person who replaced him as editor was at Joplin and never (so far as we know) repudiated anything that occurred there, including some of his own damaging comments).  The details are indeed sad, but they never diminished the work of brother Woods, who maintained an office at the Advocate until his death.  This chapter concludes with a brief fiction story that he wrote (181-86).

 

     Chapters 7 and 8 recount the obtaining of his law degree when he was a young man and traces his gospel meeting work through the years.  Brother Woods was in such demand for meetings and debates that he quit fulltime work to devote to these endeavors.  He was sought after far and wide for both.

     The ninth chapter contains his five favorite sermons, which he preached during his final gospel meeting in Obion, Tennessee, August, 1992.  Those sermons were:

“The Authority of the Word,” “Prevailing Prayer,” “The Rich Young Ruler,” “Blessed Assurance,” and “Tests of Faith.”  These alone are worth the price of the book.

 

     The final chapter recounts brother Woods’ favorite hobby—being an Amateur Radio Operator.  It includes the tract he wrote to his fellow “ham” operators, titled, “C.Q.”   This review has been able to include very little of the wealth of material found upon the 298 pages of this book.  Brother Davidson is to be commended for what must have taken years to compile.  The book costs $16 plus postage and may be ordered from Christian Family Bookstore in Chattanooga, TN.  One may go to tuckersbooks.com or phone 1-800-782-8175.

 

FAMOUS DOUBLES (4:4)

 

(The list of choices for these is on page 4.)

 

1.   Then the Lord said, “Is it right for you to be angry?”

 

2.  But he answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”

 

3. Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.

 

4. It stood on twelve oxen; three looking toward the north, three looking toward the west, three looking toward the south, three looking toward the east; the Sea was set upon them, and all their back parts pointed inward.

 

5.   Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

 

6.  In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you.

 

7. “Remember the law of Moses, My servant, which I commanded in Horeb for all Israel, with statutes and judgments.”

 

8.  that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor.

 

9.  whose minds the god of this world has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them.

 

10. Circumcise yourselves to the Lord, and take away the foreskins of your hearts, you men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem….

 

11. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling.

 

12. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.

13. And they will turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.

 

a. 2 Chron.          b. Jer.           c. Jonah         d. Malachi

 

e. Matt.               f. 2 Cor.         g. Gal.            h. Eph.         i. Phil.

 

j. 1 Thess.           k. 2 Tim.        l. James         m. 2 Peter

 

 

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "RECOMMENDED READING: OVER THE VAST HORIZON  (09/30/07)."

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