Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 6, 1955
NUMBER 34, PAGE 4-5a

Open Letter To E. R. Harper


Dear Brother Harper:

I have just received your letter of December 15, in which you "close the books" on the matter of our having a public discussion of Herald of Truth. You say, "I am closing the books with this letter, taking for granted that this letter of yours (published in the Gospel Guardian of December 23) is expressive of your final decisions in the matter, which decisions I cannot accept."

You astonish me. The letter to which you refer contained my acceptance of your propositions. You refused to sign the propositions which I considered a fair statement of the difference between us, and sent your own propositions, saying "Sign this or there will be no debate." I signed your propositions and returned them to you, adding only the words "relative to Herald of Truth" — and am even willing to delete that if necessary.

And now you write me calling off the whole thing!

Your attempt to back out at this late date will be a bitter disappointment to many thousands who are interested in the discussion. It will astonish and dismay those brethren who have looked to you as a worthy champion of the cause you have led them into. You and the Highland elders have used your enormous prestige and influence (built up by many years of faithful preaching and service) to promote and "sponsor" a type of cooperation which is unknown to God's word. You are morally obligated (as I told you in Abilene a year ago) to defend the thing, or else quit it, and apologize to your brethren for having encouraged them into such an undertaking.

You have written me that you are a sick man, that you are very inexperienced in debating, having had only four debates in your life, and the last of them being twelve to fifteen years ago. You say your doctors have told you NOT to debate, etc., etc. Brother Harper, I have tried to make it perfectly clear that I did not make any kind of requirement at all that YOU should do the debating. If you are as sick as you say (and many brethren are convinced you are even sicker), then by all means let Highland elders provide an alternate.

As to your being "inexperienced" having had only, four debates, I am even more inexperienced than that; I've not even had one debate! There are six of us who are associated on the staff of the Gospel Guardian. Five of the number — Roy E. Cogdill, James W. Adams, Cecil B. Douthitt, W. Curtis Porter, and Charles A. Holt — are experienced debaters. When I first approached you about a discussion of Herald of Truth, I suggested that you meet one of these brethren. You refused with emphasis. Some months later when you did come around to the point of being willing to defend what you brethren were doing, you picked out Yater Tant (the only one of the six men who was totally without experience in debating!) and said you would debate NOBODY BUT YATER TANT!

I realize, as do all who have heard us, that I am not even remotely in your class as a pulpit speaker. When you issued your ultimatum ("Yater Tant or nobody"), I was naturally reluctant to enter into the controversy with you. But the truth of God was at stake; and no matter how timid or apprehensive I might have felt inwardly, I responded at once to your challenge by accepting the responsibility. Since I knew I would have the truth of God's word, and you would be trying to defend error, I was willing to entrust the matter wholly to God, and was determined to use whatever ability I might have simply in presenting Bible truth. I knew you could NOT do that relative to Herald of Truth, and I trusted faithful brethren to be willing to make allowance for my inexperience and poor showing by comparison with your oratorical ability. I judged that the truth even from halting lips would overcome error, no matter how brilliant and mighty the one who espoused error. It has been evident, I think, from the very beginning of our correspondence that we have two different objectives in mind: I have wanted a friendly, brotherly Bible study as to the type of cooperation now being practiced and promoted by Herald of Truth; you have made it abundantly clear that your chief interest has been in "exposing" the Gospel Guardian, her editor, writers, friends, subscribers, and sympathizers as being factionists, trouble-makers, obstructionists, inconsistent, etc., etc.

You tell me you are going ahead and planning your work for next spring and summer, and making no provision for any time for the debate. Well, you know of course that I already had my work planned; arrangements had been made for many months. But now, to make this debate possible, I have completely readjusted my schedule, being released from one meeting, rearranging three others. This involved considerable difficulty both for me and for the churches involved. But they gladly helped in the matter, that we might have the debate at the time suitable to your convenience. And now you want to back out!

Brother Harper, will it change your mind any, and make you willing for the discussion if I agree to send you my arguments and scripture citations many weeks in advance of our first discussion? This will give you ample opportunity to study them, to get all the help you can from brethren who hold the same false position you do, and to work out what you consider good answers. So confident am I in the scriptural position which I (along with thousands of other faithful preachers and congregations) occupy in this matter that I am perfectly willing for you to have the arguments and scriptures by which I would hope to sustain that position. I offer this as an incentive to you to overcome your fear and timidity, to encourage you to go ahead with the discussions. I would make the same offer to a Methodist preacher on the subject of baptism. The truth is so obvious, overwhelming, and irresistible that there is no way by which those in error can meet it — no matter how many weeks, months, or years, they may spend in trying to figure out an answer!

I now leave the matter in your hands. If I knew anything else to do to bring the debate to pass, I would do it. If now you still refuse, then all brethren everywhere (and God himself) will know that I have done everything within my power to get a fair and brotherly discussion of this false teaching which you have promoted. You said you would debate nobody but Yater Tant; I yielded. You agreed to a date the first week in March; I accepted, and made plans accordingly. You changed it then to April and June; I again yielded, going to considerable trouble both to myself and to several congregations to make the schedule you set. You demanded that the debate be held in Lufkin (where we have no problem at all concerning this matter); I yielded. You put up a proposition that did not state the real point of difference, issuing an ultimatum "Sign this proposition or there will be no debate"; I yielded. I knew that regardless of the wording of any proposition I would discuss the issue, setting forth Bible teaching relative to the type of congregational cooperation practiced in Herald of Truth. You submitted another proposition relative to the Gospel Guardian, demanding that I sign it "or there would be no debate." I signed, even though I considered the proposition inane.

And now you back out! I leave the matter here, trusting God to be merciful to both of us in that great judgment to which your letters have so often pointed me.

Sincerely, and in deep disappointment, Yater Tant