Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 7, 1957

A Debate Refused

C. F. George, Brownwood, Texas

On Saturday, January 19, 1957, some of the elders of the Southside Church in Brownwood and the Eastridge Church of Fort Worth sat in on a conference between Cecil B. Douthitt, Tom Warren, and A. G. Hobbs, concerning the material that was to go in the debate book. The book is to be a record of the debate that took place in South Houston, Texas, between Cecil B. Douthitt and Tom Warren. The point at issue in the conference was in regard to some charts which Brother Warren wanted in the book. Brother Douthitt contended that they were not used in the debate as they were to be in the book, if Brother Warren's request were granted. Brother Warren claimed that they were so used. The elders at Southside did not attend the debate, and had not read the tape recording of the debate. Brother Warren claimed that Brother Douthitt was seeking to keep the charts out because he was afraid of their effect upon his position. Not being in a position to say who was in error, because of our not having first hand information, we, the elders of the Southside Church, proposed that a new contract be drawn up, which all could understand. The elders of Southside proposed that the debate be repeated in Fort Worth and Brownwood. The elders of Eastridge said they would debate us in Brownwood, but not in Fort Worth. I asked them if they were afraid to debate in Fort Worth, and they replied that they had already studied the question and had come to a conclusion that Brother Warren's position was the truth.

Their attitude in this matter brings to mind some lines written by John Stuart Mills:

"If any opinion is compelled to be silent, that opinion may, for all we can be certain about, be true. To deny this is to assume our own infallibility.

"Though the opinion may be in error, it may contain a portion of the truth, and since the prevailing seldom contains the whole truth, it is only by getting both sides that the whole truth can be arrived at.

"Even if the prevailing idea is the whole truth, and the other wholly wrong, it is only by being contested that the real truth will survive.

Otherwise it will only be held as a prejudice." Since there has been no free and open discussion in Eastridge upon these issues, it is my belief that what these brethren believe to be the truth is held by them only as a prejudice, and may not be the truth at all. In refusing to debate the issue in their own building they are also assuming their own infallibility in the matter. If I have been correctly informed, however, they had already reached this conclusion before Brother Warren ever became their preacher, and he had to change his position or lose his job.

I shall now examine some scripture which may be used as an example of the settling of doctrinal differences. I shall quote from the Revised Standard Version because it is written in modern English.

"And when Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and debate with them, Paul and Barnabas and some others were appointed to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question." (Acts 15:2.)

"The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter, and after there had been much debate, Peter rose up and said to them " (Acts 15:6, 7.)

You will notice that Paul and Barnabas debated the question with the circumcision party first in Antioch, and when no agreement was reached, they were sent up to Jerusalem. A debate was held in Jerusalem, where the doctrine of circumcision originated. Although the apostles were inspired they engaged in debate in order that the real truth might survive as truth, and not as a prejudice. This "total situation" business originated in the minds of Tom Warren and Roy Deaver. Both live and preach in the city of Fort Worth, and I believe it ought to be debated in that city. Since these elders have injected themselves into this controversy by paying for literature that was distributed in South Houston, Texas, I believe they should defend their doctrine and action in their home congregation. They are only men, their conclusions are not infallible, and we challenge them to defend their conclusions in the place where these doctrines began. We await their silence.