Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 23, 1954

April 11 And June 20


At long last, after many trials and readjustments, Brother E. R. Harper of Abilene, Texas, and the editor of the Gospel Guardian have agreed upon two dates for their discussion of the "church cooperation" question — April 11-14 in Lufkin, Texas, and June 20-23 in Abilene, Texas. Mark those dates on your calendar, and make your plans now to attend at one place or the other. This is destined to be an important milestone in the controversy which has been in progress for some years now. Let us all fervently pray that it will be a step toward healing the breach which has threatened, and toward uniting all the followers of Christ into a way "that is right and cannot be wrong."

We carried last week an exchange of letters between the editor and Brother Harper. There have been other letters between us since then, and we think the following, our latest to him, is fairly well self-explanatory. It will bring the readers up to date as to the progress of the negotiations.

December 13, 1954 Mr. E. R. Harper

Church of Christ South Fifth and Highland Abilene, Texas

Dear Brother Harper:

I have delayed answering your letters of November 24 and December 1 until after I had written two or three churches asking for a change in my meeting schedule with them, so as to permit me meeting the dates you suggest. I am now happy to report that I have been able to make the necessary changes, and in compliance with the suggestion in your letter of December 1, I will be present for the discussions as follows:

Lufkin — April 11-14 Abilene — June 20-23 The Propositions

I am grateful that you have submitted another set of propositions. The first ones you suggested were of course impossible, since you were asking me to deny that you believed certain things. Of course I could not make such denial. Nor do I see anything to be gained by a discussion of whether you do, or do not, believe in certain things. If we have a discussion, I am determined that we shall deal with the issue — the Biblical pattern for church cooperation — rather than with a whole multitude of side-issues. I have submitted to you a proposition which fairly, clearly, and definitely declares the difference between us. Here it is:

"It is scripturally right for a plurality of congregations to combine their funds into the treasury of one congregation, and under its supervision perform a work such as a national radio broadcast."

That proposition sets forth the point at issue. It describes precisely what is being done by brethren in the Herald of Truth" arrangement, as everybody recognizes. I cannot understand your reluctance to defend it, since you obviously are practicing it.

But since you ignore that proposition, and send me a proposition of your own wording, along with an ultimatum, "Sign this proposition or there will be no debate," I yield to your demand. I am signing your proposition and returning it to you, having added the simple restrictive clause "relative to the Herald of Truth." So that now the proposition as submitted by you, and amended by me, reads as follows:

"The Church of Christ, South 5th and Highland, Abilene, Texas, is scriptural in organization, and in her teaching and practice of congregational church cooperation relative to the Herald of Truth."

I sign the proposition reluctantly and under duress, as the only chance of having the discussion. I am not interested in debating with you the organization of Highland Church except as it relates to the Herald of Truth. Actually, I am not denying the scripturalness of the organization, but rather the scriptural functioning of the organization. I would suppose the organization is scriptural; I am certain its functioning is unscriptural. Let it therefore be distinctly understood, and hereby made a matter of record and agreement between us, that my signing the negative of this proposition does NOT obligate me to deny the scripturalness of the organization of Highland Church in any way at all except as it relates to Herald of Truth. Further, my signing of the negative does NOT obligate me to deny the scripturalness of ALL Highland Church's teaching and practice in the matter of congregational cooperation, but only such of it as relates to Herald of Truth.

As to Proposition II, I am also yielding to your ultimatum ("Sign this proposition or there will be no debate"), and am returning to you the signed proposition. Again I am adding the phrase "relative to Herald of Truth" so as to tie down our discussion to the issue — the Biblical pattern of church cooperation — , and prevent endless excursions into realms not germane to that subject. Your proposition reads:

"The Gospel Guardian, with her associate organizations or companies, is scriptural in design (purpose), teaching, and practice."

Inasmuch as the Gospel Guardian is known by all to have an "open forum" policy, printing material on both sides of disputed issues, I am inserting the word "editorial" before the word "teaching." Otherwise your proposition would obligate me to defend everything that has been published in the paper. Obviously no sensible man would seriously ask me to defend what YOU have written when I am in the very act of debating you to DENY the scripturalness of your position!! I am sure you will appreciate this, and accept the necessary limitation.

The clause "relative to the Herald of Truth" at the end of the proposition I take to be essential to prevent o ur spreading out into many questions not germane to the issue. The proposition I am returning to you with my signature reads,

"The Gospel Guardian, with her associate organizations or companies, is scriptural in design (purpose), editorial teaching, and practice relative to the Herald of Truth."

The proposition is faulty, unclear, and very poorly expresses the difference between us. But you have issued an ultimatum, ("Sign this proposition or there will be no debate") so I am signing. But let it be distinctly understood, and hereby made a matter of agreement between us, that my signing of Proposition II does NOT obligate me to defend every article or every argument on every subject which has appeared in the Gospel Guardian; but only the "design" (purpose) of the paper and her editorial teaching and practice relative to Herald of Truth. I really did not know we had any difference over the "design" or purpose of a gospel journal; but since you want to debate it, I'll accommodate you. It shall be my task to demonstrate from the scriptures that Christians have the right to publish such papers as Gospel Guardian, Gospel Advocate, and Firm Foundation for the "design" (purpose) of teaching the truth. I am frankly puzzled at your desire to deny such. But since you want it that way, so be it.

III. "Psycho-Somatic"

As to your health, let me express again my sympathy for the illnesses you have had. If your doctor continues to insist that you NOT debate, then I urge you to abide by his advice. I should think the removal of 83 gallstones, plus six years of undulant fever, plus fevers raging up to 106 degrees would have long since put an ordinary man in his grave. And if your heart has been so weakened by these sufferings as to make it dangerous to your life for you to engage in this discussion, then by all means you should excuse yourself from it. Surely the Highland elders can find some other gospel preacher among the many thousands in the land who will be willing to undertake the task. Remember, I have NOT issued an ultimatum that "It must be you or nobody"; I am perfectly willing to meet whomsoever those brethren may select.

My use of the word "psycho-somatic" in an article some weeks ago was in no sense intended as derogatory. Our mutual and beloved friend, Dr. C. B. Billingsley, of blessed memory, was the physician who told me that some of your trouble (though certainly not all) was "psychosomatic" in origin. The term is a medical one, and has to do with the origin rather than with the reality of an illness. It does not even remotely hint (as you erroneously infer) that the illness is "imaginary." It accepts the fact of illness, and simply places its origin as psychological rather than pathological. A three minute telephone call to any reputable physician would have saved your hurt feelings on this score, and would have spared us all the stream of vituperation and animosity from your pen which my use of the word provoked. I intended no offense at all. Nevertheless, since you misunderstood the meaning of the word, and took it as an insult, I herewith offer apology for having used it. I sincerely hope this will end the matter for all.

IV. Church In Business

In your letter of December 1 you take sharp exception to my brief statement in the Gospel Guardian relative to Highland Church's going into the business of renting out her television films. You say, "The ONLY COST involved is the TRANSPORTATION of the film to and from Chicago, the distribution point for the film." Brother Harper, I do not see that the amount of your rental charges is relevant to the discussion. The cold fact is that Highland Church is now engaged in a commercial enterprise — the production and rental of television films. Is it your contention that she is right in charging only "transportation" costs, but would be wrong if she added to that production costs? And production costs would surely include the salaries of the men who give the sermons, as well as office overhead; would they not?

I do not want us to get involved in a discussion of "the church in business" right now, but once we have concluded our discussions of Herald of Truth, I will be happy to arrange a time and place to debate you on the following proposition:

"It is scripturally right for a congregation to raise finances by the production and sale of merchandise."

Frankly, I am not surprised that Highland Church has gone into this business; for it is a demonstrated fact that once a congregation goes liberal on one point, she will be likely to go liberal in many ways. Highland Church has departed from the New Testament pattern for church cooperation; why should she not also be expected to depart from the New Testament pattern in the matter of church finances? One of her former preachers, Brother Cecil N. Wright, not long ago wrote the preface to a book in which he clearly showed that the church where he preaches has gone into the publication business; some of .the churches operating the institutional orphan homes have gone into the farming business; the ranching business; the dairying business; the real estate business, and perhaps many others. It all fits together. Highland Church's entry into the business of producing and renting television films should surprise no one.

You keep telling me I am going to have to face the judgment. Thank you for reminding me. All of us are too prone, I am sure, to forget that solemn and awful truth. I pray that when I do face that judgment it may not be laid to my charge that I encouraged even in the smallest degree any departure from God's word. If I ever shall gain heaven's portals, I know it will be only by the unlimited mercy of a compassionate Father. I shall not deserve it, I am quite certain.

V. Ultimatum

In the course of our correspondence you have issued some four or five ultimatums to me (you must have the right to name your opponent "or there will be no debate"; the scriptural organization of Fifth and Highland must be denied "or there will be no debate"; the Gospel Guardian "with her associate organizations or companies" must be defended "or there will be no debate"), and now you require that we dispense with a Chairman Moderator because, as you say, "I do not wish to be bothered in my manner of discussions and as to what I think is on the subject and not."

Well, as I have done in every ultimatum you have issued, I yield again to your desire in this respect. I had a particular and special reason for suggesting a Chairman Moderator, for I wanted to be certain that both disputants should confine themselves to the point at issue — the scriptural pattern of church cooperation — and not spend their time in discussing side-issues. Your letters and articles have indicated rather clearly that your chief interest is in "exposing" the Gospel 'Guardian, her editor, her writers, and her sympathizers as "factionists," "hobbyists," "church-splitters," etc. In such a discussion I have no interest at all. If you should sustain every single charge and accusation your fancy could invent, that still would not prove that Herald of Truth is a scriptural pattern for church cooperation. But since you "do not wish to be bothered" by the rulings of a Chairman Moderator I submit to your desires in the matter. I want a full, frank, and brotherly discussion of Bible teaching. I intend to confine myself to that type of debating. If you follow the course your letters seem to indicate you have in mind, it is my intention not even to notice, much less respond, to matters not on the subject.

In one of your articles or letters you stated that I would always be welcome in your home. To tell the truth,I have often wished that I might have opportunity to visit in your home, and have you in mine. In the calm and brotherly atmosphere of the breakfast table, or gathered before the big fireplace at bedtime, I have hoped we might have a completely friendly, brotherly, and prayerful study of God's word. It has been the earnest prayer of many of those whom I will call upon for assistance in preparing my part of our discussion (Brother Cogdill, Brother Douthitt, Brother W. Curtis Porter, Brother Homer Hailey, and perhaps scores of other faithful gospel preachers whom you love and respect) that our discussion might be used by God to show you where and how "Herald of Truth" is a violation of that gospel which you have preached so ably for so many years. Perhaps we are too optimistic, but some of us honestly believe that once you can be calm and serious in your study of the question, you can be shown the truth. And once you are convinced of the truth, no one doubts for a moment that you will use your great ability in joining with thousands of other faithful men in an effort to stem the tide of "digression-ism" and "institutionalism" which seems to be eating away at the very foundations of the New Testament church.

Your many ultimatums have somewhat dimmed that hope; but even so, I do most earnestly desire and solicit your cooperation in having a discussion free from personalities, bitterness, and tension. Let us make these sessions times of study, not of wrangling. It is Bible teaching we want to set forth. And both of us should enter these debates with a fervent prayer that we come out of them with our respect for each other increased rather than diminished, and our unity in the cause of Christ enhanced rather than weakened. If we can't have that kind of a debate, then we'd better not have any kind.

VI. Agreement By Elders

I must insist that the Highland Church elders sign the agreement attached hereto, endorsing you, promising to have the debate in Abilene, and agreeing to furnish another man in case you become ill or feel indisposed for any cause to carry through the discussion. If you desire such an agreement from the Lufkin elders, they will be more than happy to supply it. And Brother Cogdill stands ready at a moment's notice to take my place in case of necessity. I presume, however, you desire no such agreement or statement from the Lufkin elders, inasmuch as you have said you will debate NOBODY but me. I have issued no such ultimatum. I want to discuss Bible teaching, and have not felt it my place to tell Highland Church who they had to put up against me. If they want to use you, very well; but I will meet whomsoever they endorse. My interest is in the subject, not in the man. I want to have a brotherly discussion of Bible teaching, and certainly am not interested at all in picking out some individual against whom I feel a personal animus, and demanding that HE be the one to do the debating.

I have already made provision to change my meeting dates, and will be looking forward with the keenest of pleasure to meeting you next April. Meanwhile, if you will sign the propositions and agreement and send to me, we can begin our preparations for the debate.

Sincerely yours in Christ, Yater Tant (Signed)

Propositions And Agreement

Proposition I

The Church of Christ, South 5th and Highland, Abilene, Texas is scriptural in organization, and in her teaching and practice of congregational church cooperation relative to the Herald of Truth.


NEG. Yater Tant (Signed)

Proposition II.

The Gospel Guardian, with her associate organizations and companies (if any), is scriptural in design (purpose), and in her editorial teaching and practice relative to the Herald of Truth.

AFF. Yater Tant (Signed)


1. Each proposition shall be discussed two nights, the speeches consisting of four thirty minute speeches according to the common rules of religious discussions.

2. Each speaker shall secure a moderator or time keeper, and each speaker shall be placed on his own honor as to the manner in which he conducts his part of the debate.

3. This discussion shall be conducted at Lufkin, Texas, April 11-14, 1955; and at Abilene, Texas, June 20-23, in auditoriums provided by the Timberland Drive Church of Christ and by the Highland Avenue Church of Christ.

4. It is specifically agreed by a majority of the elders of Fifth and Highland Church that we endorse Brother E. R. Harper and the propositions as he has signed them. It is further agreed that in the event Brother Harper is prevented by illness or any other consideration from participating in either discussion we will provide an alternative to take his place at the appointed time.

Elders, Fifth and Highland Church