Who Wants A Debate?
Whoever wrote that three-page outburst of irritation in the Gospel Advocate, over the way the BIBLE BANNER carries on, complains that "the 'canny editor' has declined to meet Brother Boles on the 'war question'." It is a fact that Brother Boles sent written challenges to the editor of the BIBLE BANNER, C. R. Nichol, R. L. Whiteside and me. Brethren Nichol and Whiteside are on the Gospel Advocate staff. Brother Boles got replies from the challenged, at least one from each one on his list, but he didn't get a debate and seems inclined to do a little crowing over the matter. On the assumption that the opposition has fled the field and left Brother Boles in undisputed possession of it, it is pertinent to ask what Brother Boles is doing with the field. How much information has he or the editor of the Gospel Advocate given their readers on the "war question"? Since they are willing to debate it, why are they so reluctant about discussing it in their own paper? About all they have said about it so far is that they had rather obey God than men, as though they had a monopoly on that holy sentiment. Begging a question comes a lot easier than discussing it.
Does Brother Boles really want to debate? What did these men, two of whom are staff-writers on the Gospel Advocate, say to Brother Boles in answer to his challenge? It would be right "nice" if Brother Boles would tell the readers of the Gospel Advocate. They could not accept the proposition Brother Boles submitted for them to affirm because it did not define the issue, nor did it even represent their views. They made that clear. Their objections did not even rate a reply from Brother Boles. He evidently did not want a debate bad enough to ask them to frame a proposition they would be willing to affirm, for him to consider. The editor of the Gospel Advocate took over and suggested that we fled from the battle "as the better part of valor." He thinks we did not fight and run away to live to fight another day, we just ran away. Some are likely to wonder whether the Advocate wanted a debate, or just something to crow about, and decided they could crow better without a debate than with one.
A little over a year ago, Brother D. A. Sommer of the Macedonian Call submitted propositions to Brother Boles for a debate on some matters of difference between them. Did Brother Boles debate? He did not. He objected to the propositions submitted to him, and he was not very gentle in the way he said so. He said in a letter to Brother Sommer: "Permit me to make reply in a kind and frank manner." As I read that letter, it may be called "frank" but I cannot see that it is overloaded with kindness. Said Brother Boles to Brother Sommer:
"Your propositions are indefinite and very evasive and unskillfully drafted. You either have written these propositions so that you knew that I would not accept them or else you did not know how to draft propositions for debate
"Why waste time in discussing such a clumsy proposition? Your fourth proposition sets forth no issue in a definite way between us. I am persuaded that you knew this.
"If you really want to debate you can get it. I have no time to waste with anyone who is not a Christian gentleman and one who will not maintain Christian conduct during a discussion. Many preachers do not know, it seems, how to treat an opponent in a courteous and Christian way. If you are not willing to do this you need not make a reply to this letter; if you are willing then you may sign the enclosed propositions and we will arrange a suitable time and place in Indianapolis for the discussion. Your signing the (two) enclosed propositions will be proof that you sincerely desire a discussion."
It appears in this case that Brother Sommer was the challenged party. Brother Boles made it pretty clear that he thought Brother Sommer was trying to get out of a debate by submitting "evasive and unskillfully drafted" proposition, which were too "clumsy" for him to even consider and he was "persuaded" that Brother Sommer "knew" that he was dodging the issue. Evidently, somebody did not "really want to debate" for neither Brother Sommer nor Brother Boles "got it." The desire for debate was not smothered in Brother Boles by his failure to lure Brother Sommer into the open "in a kind and frank manner." He challenged Nichol, Whiteside and Wallace on the "war question." It is my impression, and I think I know, that they think Brother Boles' proposition was "very evasive and unskillfully drafted" and "clumsy" to boot. They are quite sure that it does not set forth the "issue in a definite way between us." And somehow I have picked up the idea that they are "persuaded" that Brother Boles "knew this" when he submitted the "clumsy" thing and that it would be a waste of time to debate it, even if they believed it, which they didn't. The idea of asking a man to affirm a proposition he does not believe, and then crowing around about him not wanting to debate because he will not affirm it! I am wondering if there is any way for me to get it over to the readers "in a kind and frank manner" that such maneuvering is pretty childish.
Brother Boles seems pretty sure that Brother Sommer did not want a debate and knew how to get out of it. If he can get that idea over "in a kind and frank manner" some other polemic Chesterfield might be able to prove that Brother Boles does not "really want to debate" but is anxious for some people to think he does. The way he has gone at it would at least lend plausibility to that thesis. He is somewhat arbitrary. He says in effect: "Here is a proposition I have written out for you, I want you to affirm. If you are not willing to accept it, there is only one conclusion to draw. You do not want to debate, and prefer to run rather than stand and fight." I have known sectarians to resort to such tactics but I "really" did not expect it of Brother Boles.
Besides, I am not so sure that we could get a debate out of Brother Boles if we "really" wanted one. He has "no time to waste with anyone who is not a Christian gentleman." I was under the impression we could qualify along that line until I read some recent personal attacks on the editorial page of the Gospel Advocate, but now I doubt it. I have heard that Brother Boles "passed on it" although I was under the impression that Brother Goodpasture was the editor and did not need to be "passed on." If he was out fishing for "a Christian gentleman" to debate with, I am wondering, in view of the editor's opinion of us, which he seems to have "passed on," why he did not confine his challenges to Nichol and Whiteside and leave us out of it.
Since the matter of gentlemanly conduct has come up, it seems that whoever wrote that bitter editorial about us has already "passed on" those Dorris letters to me and given advance notice of their publication. They appear to have the endorsement of the Gospel Advocate. When they appear, they are going to be a sensational revelation to the public of the Advocate's idea of "a Christian gentleman" and "maintaining Christian conduct during a discussion." Since the Advocate endorses these letters, I think it ought to publish the first one in its columns as a sort of foretaste of what the public is about to receive. When this happens, I'm not too sure that Brother Boles will thank Brother Goodpasture for yoking him up with Brother Dorris and making a public exhibit of them as two of a kind. I already think the editor has done Brother Boles an injustice. Under the circumstances, as nasty a stink as they will raise, I'm not going out of my way to prevent the publication of those letters. If the Advocate and its editor think they can survive the repercussions without getting some of the bad smell on them, they can't say I did not warn them. Personally, I think it is a threat that hasn't scared anybody. I do not believe the letters will be published as they were written. I am preserving the originals for comparison. I already feel a deep sense of regret over the fact that the editor has already lowered the standards of a high-class journal like the Gospel Advocate to the level of endorsing such a riot of abuse and downright "nas'ness." And he has said some things on his own in the way of personal digs, that are too little to merit a reply from me and I am content to leave it to the reader to find an answer for it in his own mind.
The editor of the Gospel Advocate is in all probability a lot better than the editorial he inserted when under the spell of irritation. We devoutly hope that events justify that view, both for his sake and that of the Advocate.
He assumes too much for himself at the expense of others.
"This editor teaches Christians to be in subjection to the powers that be in everything that is in harmony with God's revealed will. If it comes to a clash between the powers that be and God's will, we ought to hearken to God rather than men. The editor is willing to suffer whatever consequences this course may bring."
He assumes in this that he and the brethren who agree with him on the government question have a virtual if not a complete monopoly on loyalty to God. I think I am as loyal to God as Brother Goodpasture is. If "the powers that be" clash with God's will, I am also minded to "hearken to God rather than men." I also think that Brother Goodpasture is poorly informed as to what God's will is in some things that have come up for discussion. Besides if "this editor" is concerned with "God's revealed will" and is anxious "to hearken to God," he should not "war according to the flesh" and. employ "the weapons of the flesh" like he did when he wrote that editorial, if he wrote it. If he thinks that Brother Dorris was using a spiritual weapon when he wrote those letters, then I fear he is in a bad way. I think that both Brother Goodpasture and Brother Dorris are warring "according to the flesh" and that they ought to buffet their bodies and bring them into subjection.