Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1960
NUMBER 26, PAGE 4,8-9b

The Jenkins - McDonald Debate

R. L. Burns, Fort Worth, Texas

On the nights of August 29, 30, September 1, 2, brethren Jesse Jenkins, Calmont Avenue church, and Thomas McDonald, Mitchell Boulevard church (both in Fort Worth) met in public discussion on the question of benevolence. The debate had to do with (1) the scope of "church-responsibility," and (2) the organization through which this work is to be accomplished.

The origin of the debate may be of some interest to all who read this report, but especially should it be to the brethren in Fort Worth who are aligned with brother McDonald. McDonald wrote in the bulletin of Mitchell, "It is generally understood that careful investigation is the only way to arrive at truth in any field.... Our Master was not opposed to religious investigation. In fact, He was the world's greatest debater....The overwhelming defeat of Satan is apparent from the language of Matthew, 'The devil leaveth him, and, behold angels came and ministered unto him.' (Matt. 4:11).... Truly, this soft spirit of sentimentalism which is opposed to religious discussion is not of God...." Upon the basis of this article, and believing McDonald meant what he said and would want to imitate the example of our Lord, and that at Mitchell Blvd. as well as elsewhere, Jenkins wrote suggesting a discussion between himself and McDonald, with a division of the time between Calmont and Mitchell. McDonald's reply was, "Mitchell's participation in such a debate will depend entirely on the decision of the elders." Unable to get a reply from McDonald or the elders for about four months, Calmont finally authorized Jenkins to issue an invitation to McDonald to meet him ALL OF THE TIME in the Calmont building. (Incidentally, we have never learned what decision the elders at Mitchell reached, since we have never been able to get a reply from them.) But in contradistinction to his writings, McDonald did not want the debate and in an attempt to keep from having it, he insisted upon writing both his and Jenkins' affirmatives, along with other regulations, and concluded his letter of May 24, 1960, by saying, "I do not want to appear contentious, but these are the conditions on which I will meet you in debate." McDonald is not a coward, and is to be commended above those preachers and elders in Fort Worth and elsewhere with whom he stands, but he shows a decided weakness in his own position and an unwillingness to meet an opponent fairly and equitably, by demanding his opponent make every concession and chase him all over the creation to get him to defend what he preaches. If we could get these brethren to be as fair with us as they are with the Baptists, we would be pleased. However, McDonald is no different from every other preacher in Fort Worth who holds to this digressive theory! No preacher in Fort Worth who accepts McDonald's position will meet us in honorable discussion. We hope just one will prove us wrong, for he will find plenty of takers.

The very poorly written proposition which McDonald demanded Jenkins affirm, filled with ambiguous terminology, read: "It is Scriptural for a local church to care for dependent children within its own structure, without a home organization." Brother Jenkins very effectively defined the three key terms as follows:

"Local church" — a group of Christians maintaining a togetherness for local membership, assigned duties, and a mutual treasury and under a common oversight.

"Dependent children" — Children who are Christians, needy saints.

"Home organization" — Like Boles Home and other organizations named in McDonald's affirmative.

Brother Jenkins very effectively divided his proposition, Monday night discussing the scope of benevolence assigned the church, and Tuesday night affirming the organization through which this assigned work was to be accomplished. He spent his time in introducing nine passages (Acts 2; 4; 6; 11; Romans 15; 1 Cor. 16; 2 Cor. 8; 2 Cor. 9; 1 Timothy 5) as every passage dealing with church-action in relieving the destitute. He pointed out in the course of the debate that every case had to do with relief being sent to a "needy saint," never to a "home" or an alien. He charged McDonald to do one of three things: (1) Find another passage showing church-relief being sent to some not saints; (2) Show that Jenkins had misrepresented the passages and that aliens were also named; (3) Admit that only needy saints could be relieved from the treasury of the congregation. Jenkins pointed out that McDonald could not argue that "Jenkins did not introduce a passage saying that aliens were not thus relieved," for he had made the same kind of affirmative argument we make for vocal music. There are nine passages in the Bible showing that saints were relieved with church-funds, and there are nine passages in the Bible showing that music is vocal. Now if someone wants to take church funds and relieve the afflicted of the world, or use mechanical music in worship, let THEM find the passage that authorizes it, Jenkins pointed out.

Jenkins introduced Galatians 6:10 and James 1:27, analyzing them and showing that they must be limited to individual action. To his analysis of these verses in his first speech, McDonald never remotely referred throughout the debate.

On the second night of the discussion, brother Jenkins affirmed the second part of his proposition, the organization through which aforementioned work was to be done. His major argument was a chart showing what was authorized, essential, incidental, and an addition. He illustrated his argument by showing that as God gave Noah the authorization (Gen. 6) to build the ark, necessitated the ark itself, gopher wood, etc.; that the means of conveying the wood was incidental; that another ark, etc., would be an addition. Since Jenkins had used the same chart in a discussion with Hathaway on Bible classes, he pointed out that as God had authorized teaching, and that within the framework of the congregation, allowing for debating, pulpit preaching or Bible classes under the oversight of elders, another agency like the Sunday school organization of denominationalism overseeing the work, would be wrong. He then made his final argument from the chart, showing that God had authorized the congregation to relieve certain destitute, and that methods having to do with the congregation renting, buying or receiving gratis shelter were incidental, but an addition would be another organization than the local church providing these things, as Boles and Tipton do, is wrong. He showed that those who oppose Bible classes on the grounds that the "church is not a school" and those who oppose local congregations doing their own benevolence because the "church is not a home" are both guilty of refusing the local church the exclusive right to do its own assigned work.

McDonald pointed out in his first negative that he would object to an organization (Board of Directors) that built and maintained a plurality of "orphan homes" and paralleled it to the missionary society. Brother Jenkins replied by showing that Boles Home, Greenville, Texas does exactly that by maintaining a "home" at Quinlan, Texas and another at Stephenville, Texas, one known as Boles and the other, Sherwood and Myrtie Foster. Jenkins then called upon McDonald to tell the audience that the organization was sinful and wrong. Needless to say, he never did.

McDonald conceded that Boles Home is "parallel to the private home where the parents are Christians." Jenkins then formed the following formal arguments:

1. The church may contribute to the private home where the parents are Christians.

2. Boles Home is parallel to the private home where the parents are Christians.

3. Therefore, the church may contribute to Boles Home.

McDonald had argued, of course, for general benevolence and that the church could help Baptists or anybody else who was in need. Jenkins then showed the position into which McDonald had placed himself, by showing McDonald's reasoning:

1. The church can contribute to a private home where the parents are Baptists.

2. Buckner Home is parallel to the private home where the parents are Baptists.

3. Therefore, the church can contribute to Buckner Home.

The parallel was striking. McDonald attempted to reply by showing that the church could not contribute to Buckner because "they teach false doctrine." Of course, what proves too much proves nothing, for this forced McDonald (by implication) to argue "limited benevolence" to saints only, since they alone teach the truth.

McDonald denied that a group of elders could scripturally oversee an "orphan home." Jenkins introduced a letter from brother White, superintendent of the Lubbock Children's Home at Lubbock, Texas and maintained by the Broadway church, in which White said that the "Home" was under the elders just like the Bible classes are. This placed McDonald in the embarrassing position of denying the scripturalness of "homes" like those at Lubbock, San Benito, Texas (Sunny Glenn), and others that are operated under an eldership. Of course, this is a growing problem among the advocates of institutionalism, "which shall we keep, and which shall we reject," since we have no pattern for either. We would suggest just here that Thomas McDonald and Reuel Lemmons (or Eldred Stevens) sign propositions and debate "Board of Directors-Homes" and "Eldership-Homes."

McDonald's argument was that the "manner of doing the benevolence adheres in the command." Compare this statement with the following: "When a thing is commanded to be done, and the method of doing it is not prescribed, those commanded are at liberty to use their best judgment in devising ways and means to carry out the command, and they are to act under the principle laid down by Paul in 1 Cor. 14:39, 40...." This statement was made by J. B. Briney in 1908 when he contended that the Missionary Society was scriptural. Exactly the same arguments are made to justify Benevolent Societies. We would like to arrange a debate between brother McDonald and a Christian Church preacher, but we doubt that either of them would be very enthusiastic.

Since McDonald argued that Boles Home was a "destitute private home," Jenkins pointed to the financial statement for the "home" in 1959 that shows $154,104.50 profit. Quiet a tidy sum, for a destitute home!

Miscellaneous Observations

Brother McDonald had said before the debate started that "75% of Mitchell's members would attend." If this is true they must not have more than 60 or 70 members, for they certainly were not represented beyond this at the debate. It is also interesting to note how the liberal preachers have all deserted, not only debating, but the debaters as well. Less than half-dozen of them came as much as one night to hear the discussion, and needless to say, the debate was not advertized much among the churches that support the societies. Out of the 60 churches in Tarrant County, they could persuade 200 people to come and hear. Shades of sectarian prejudice! Not even the "champions" at Fort Worth Christian School came. However, McDonald rejects their theory of church-support for the school, anyway. Even he and his moderator were not in agreement on this point.

Brother McDonald said that the "overwhelming defeat of Satan is apparent from the language of Matthew, 'The devil leaveth him....' " We believe that McDonald's "overwhelming defeat" is apparent from the fact that he will never again debate this question. It was evident both before and during the debate that it was against his wishes to defend that which he preached. We say with him that "Truly, this soft spirit of sentimentalism which is opposed to religious discussion is not of God...." May the day hasten when men can be counted who will meet upon the polemic platform to defend their beliefs and have the courage of their convictions.

Brother McDonald and brother Jenkins were gentlemen from the start of the discussion and the attitude of both was the same when the sessions closed. We certainly do not count brother McDonald as an enemy and hope that he feels the same toward us. We believe that the error which he preaches will destroy the church and the souls of men and our prayer is that he may reconsider the course he has lately espoused and "turn and do the first works."