"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.XIII Pg.9b-10
July/August 1944

"The Norris-Wallace Debate"

(C. M. Stubblefield in Firm Foundation, Nov. 20, 1934)

(Because Brother C. M. Stubblefield was chairman of arrangements, and had presided over the sessions of debate, it was suggested to him by Brother Showalter that he should write his report of the events before, during and after the discussion. This was done in the following articles, two in one, as inserted here.)

* * * *

In reply to numerous letters I have received, letters to which I shall probably never reply otherwise, and for the benefit of many others who have a desire to know, it is thought that I should make a rather extended report of the Norris-Wallace debate conducted in Ft. Worth November 5, 6, and 7. I shall be in no hurry to finish, nor shall I be stingy with words in the effort to express myself. This was no ordinary affair and but few, very few, even here in Ft. Worth, know all the details. It came about in this way:

Dr. Norris preaches over a radio. Certain brethren in Waco heard him say thus and so. They wrote him a letter, challenging him to debate certain issues in their city with Brother Hardeman, who, at that time, was there in a meeting. On receipt of that letter, Dr. Norris invited me into a conference with him. He said, in substance, that he didn't care to go to Waco for a debate with anyone, on any subject, but, that if I would procure a man whom our churches here would endorse as their representative, he would be glad to engage us in debate here. To that proposition I replied, in substance, that I could not speak for the churches at that time, but that I would confer with them about it and give him answer at the earliest convenience.

The elders of the various churches were then asked to send one from among their number empowered to speak authoritatively to a meeting or convention to consider the matter and decide what answer should be returned to Dr. Norris. At that meeting it was decided (1) to have the debate, (2) to authorize me as their representative, or spokesman in all matters pertaining to it, (3) a committee was named to select the man who should do the debating, and, (4) a plan perfected whereby it should be financed.

With but little effort, Dr. Norris and I agreed on propositions to be discussed, rules governing disputants, and how the debate should be conducted in a general way.

With these matters out of the way, the committee set about to select a man to: conduct our part of the debate. Brother N. B. Hardeman of Henderson, Tennessee, was our first choice. However circumstances with him were such as to prevent his coming at the time Norris demanded that the debate be had. I say "demanded," and that is the proper word. He is a Pre-millennialist, mind you, and conducts a semi-annual Bible school in which preachers are indoctrinated in those principles. He demanded that the debate occur during that school, flatly, but politely, refusing to so much as consider any other time whatsoever. We were forced, therefore, to make another selection, or refuse his invitation to debate with him. We chose the former course, and wisely so I think. Our next selection was Brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr. He came, he did the work, and we are satisfied. Dr. Norris is a smart man. Very smart indeed. So very smart is he that never again will he engage in a debate during his Pre-millennial Bible school. Mark my words.

The debate was conducted in the spacious auditorium of the First Baptist church. The building is precisely a block long, and a half block wide. Every particle of space in it, including the aisles was occupied at most every session. Besides, a large room in the basement, equipped with loud speaker system, gave accommodation to around five hundred people. All this to say nothing of the folks who stood all the way around the inside wall, and on the sidewalks and in the streets. Never in my life have I seen so many people at a religious gathering, and never have I seen better attention, even by small assemblies. Many people stood throughout an entire session of three hours, never attempting to get a seat or leave the place. And yet we are told that people are not interested in debates.

(November 27)

I have spoken of the enormous crowds in attendance at each session. This was as we had hoped. We wanted the people to come, we wanted them to hear every word of the discussion, we wanted them to know the truth on the subjects discussed. But in the handling of the great assemblies we came face to face with a matter that proved a source of constant embarrassment to me and worry to our brethren.

Doctor Norris wanted to charge a small admission fee for the purpose he said, of defraying all expenses incident to the discussion. He asked me a number of times how much I thought "we" should pay Brother Wallace. I told him, of course, that we had "ways and means" of taking care of that matter, and that he might dismiss that part of the subject. He still insisted, however, and we finally came to the following agreement, dictated by him, written by his stenographer, and signed by both of us as a part of the general contract concerning the debate:

(1) "The members of the church of Christ will be given a separate entrance at all times where no collection or admission will be asked or charged."

(2) "On Tuesday night the members of the church of Christ shall be permitted to make a free-will offering for the purpose of defraying their part of the expenses. Said offering is to be turned over to Rev. C. M. Stubblefield."

(3) "If the First Baptist Church and friends so desire they may take up an offering or charge admission at another door different from the entrance used by the church of Christ. Or they may elect to take an offering in the same manner as the church of Christ, but at another time." The wording of those three items is a little awkward, but the true intent is apparent to all. The members of the church of Christ were to enter at one door, where no admission would be charged, and all others at another, and different one.

For my part in this agreement, I deserve the censure of every right thinking person in Christendom. Of all the blunders, of all preachers, of all times, I set this one down as the crowning act of them all. Upon his first proposal of such a thing, I should have deliberately walked from his presence and thereafter refused so much as a conference with him until he had apologized for his deed. The very idea of inviting people to a religious service, and then charging them for admission is repulsive to every fiber of my being. But the churches of Christ in our city had been challenged to a debate, they had accepted it, and the announcement had been spread far and near. I reasoned that it would be preferable to accept this arrangement than to carry the odium of a refusal to debate. And so I signed the thing, and went ahead. But, as already said, it was the source of constant embarrassment to me throughout the debate, and my face burns with shame every time I think of it. The sight of my brethren in Christ, the fairest, the purest, and the most enlightened religionists on the face of the earth, standing for hours, some of them, around the closed door of the First Baptist Church in Fort Worth, waiting until its pope should permit them to enter, will haunt me until my last hour. It would be difficult for me to wish upon Frank Norris a greater harm than that he might suffer the chagrin I have not yet ceased to feel.

The auditorium will easily and comfortably seat 3,000 people. Far more than that number attended every session barring one. At ten cents each, 3,000 people would produce a "gate" of $300.00. Six sessions would bring in a total of $1,800.00. Not so bad, eh!

There are ten entrances to the auditorium. One of these, according to the contract, was designated as an entrance for the members of the churches of Christ. It was at a corner, far removed from the speaker's stand, and once inside it, it was still necessary to climb a flight of steps to reach the main floor. Not so of the other entrances. Great crowds gathered about all floors, for no admittance was allowed until a short while before the debate should begin. Around the door we were to enter, a huge throng milled about, extending far back into the street making traffic on that busy thoroughfare well nigh impossible. When the time came for opening the doors, instead of opening one door for the members of the churches of Christ, and another for all the others, in keeping with the contract, one door was opened for us, and nine others for the others. And to add insult to injury, only one of the shutters to our door was opened, instead of two, thus forcing our folks to enter one at a time, instead of by two's or three's as at all the others. When our brethren saw that all the seats were being taken by the throngs rushing in at the other doors, while they were trekking in one at a time, they promptly walked around to some other door, paid their dime and went in. My family did this, along with the others. Yes, many, very many of our brethren paid their way in. We invited them to come, and they accepted our invitation. Many of them came long distances. And we charged them a dime per session to listen to the debate. When I, as spokesman of the churches of Christ in Fort Worth, placed my name to that agreement I made the capital blunder of all preachers of all times. Not the dime, Dr. Norris, but the dirt of your trick, will we remember for many a moon. I am not drawing conclusions, mind you; I am merely recording some facts. And I am doing this because I feel that an explanation is due my brethren who were thus forced to pay this unjust tribute, and especially those who were our visitors and guests in the city.

Dr. Norris said some very nice things about me and my associates in this affair, for all of which I thank him heartily. But I much prefer that he had been less profuse in his eulogiums, and more generous with his doors.