Was The Debate A Sham?
Some months ago two gospel preachers engaged in a public debate before a large audience in a town where there are several churches representing different denominations. In the debate brother "A" affirmed a doctrine to be true that he did not believe. He made free use of the Bible in his effort to prove the doctrine he believed to be false, to be exactly what the Bible teaches. His best efforts were put forth to prove what he did not believe. Brother "A" had been assured by more than one party that brother "B" who had been selected 'to reply to his false teaching in the debate, was fully able to expose—show the fallacy of his every contention; that he was able to show all in the audience with honest hearts and who listened without prejudice, that the doctrine brother "A" advanced, and contended to be true, was false.
How many were in the audience who believed the doctrine Brother "A" was affirming I do not know. Nor do I know what they thought of brother "A" as he contended earnestly for a doctrine he did not believe; using the Bible in an effort to prove what he believed to be false. Did the brother pervert the Scriptures in his contention in his effort to prove true the doctrine he does not believe the Scriptures teach? He certainly did. There arises the question: Was he speaking forth the "words of truth and soberness" in trying to prove true what he believes the Bible DOES NOT teach? Can a man contend for a false doctrine and be guiltless? Is one obeying the teachings of the Scriptures: "Preach the word", when he spends time trying to prove what he believes to be false? Is it an evil thing to teach false doctrine? Is it ever right to do "evil" even if it is thought good will come there from?
There is more to the story than recited in the foregoing. The false doctrine which was knowingly taught by brother "A" was to be exposed. Brother "B" had been selected to do that very thing; to show that the false doctrine Brother "A" had so earnestly contended to be the teaching of the Bible, was (is) not taught in God's word, that those who teach it are not teaching the truth; But brother "B" made a failure, he was unable to answer some of the arguments brother "A" had presented, and the debate closed that night. The audience was dismissed, with arguments made, false arguments made by brother "A" not being answered and to quote one who heard the debate, "the truth did temporarily suffer in the debate." The audience left the building that night without hearing the false doctrine preached by brother "A", a gospel preacher completely exposed. No, I am not advised how brother "A" felt about his part in the debate, his presentation of false doctrine, and perverting the Scriptures in an effort to prove true that which he knew was false. Nor do I know how others felt in the audience. But there is more:
I am advised that the "next day" the unanswered arguments made by brother "A" were "thoroughly threshed out" completely answered and shown to be false contentions.
No, I do not know that all who heard the false arguments made were present to hear the unanswered arguments "threshed out" and "exposed." Nor do I have a doubt that the false arguments were shown to be false.
I am bothered though about the righteousness of those proposing such a debate, as well as of the brother making the effort to prove what he believes to be a false doctrine, and using God's word in that effort. I cannot keep another matter out of my mind: What do we people think of a gospel preacher using the Bible in an effort to prove what he does not believe. Was some man in the audience who believed the false doctrine for which brother "A" contended confirmed in his view, and returned to his home more satisfied in his false views than ever. If "Yes" what part did brother "A" have in settling the man in his false views?
Recently I read, in one of the papers published by brethren of the church of Christ, of a debate in which on another occasion one brother affirmed a proposition, and presented the arguments which some think prove a false doctrine to be true; and another brother replied to the arguments. I wonder will it be thought by the advocates of the doctrine the brother affirmed, which is false, were presented fairly; if they were properly represented; and is it possible that some one will think that there was an agreement between the two brethren that the one presenting false doctrine presented only such as he knew the brother representing the truth could make a refutatory reply. Will it be thought by the teachers of the false doctrine that they have been treated right, I am frank when I tell you I would not be willing for some man in the Baptist Church to represent my brethren and present arguments for what I believe, and then have another Baptist preacher make replies to the arguments a Baptist made, purporting to represent what I believe. Nor do I think a Baptist would be willing for me to propose to represent a Baptist, present Baptist doctrine, and have one of my brethren reply to the arguments; even though I know some Baptist preachers who believe me to be honest; nor would I be placed in a position which would require me to knowingly affirm as true a false doctrine.
How a man who believes the gospel, a man who holds the Bible to be God's word, and subscribes to it, can bring himself to stand before the people and present doctrine which false teachers believe, and use the Bible in an effort to prove the doctrine true is more than I can understand. I know I do not want a book of that kind in my library; and I know I would not have part in such a debate. To me it is not one step short of a sham.
It is my persuasion that in the first debate mentioned in the foregoing the brother affirming a false doctrine did his very best to represent the people whose doctrine he was affirming: nor do I question that in the last debate mentioned in the foregoing the brother affirming the false doctrine, presented the very arguments the false teachers would present, nor that the arguments were successfully answered; but I do not think it is ever righteous for a man to contend for a false position; I think it is a bad example. I have no place in my library for such a book, if it is ever published; and I trust it will not be.
"Preach the Word." (2 Tim. 4:2)