Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
NUMBER 5, PAGE 8-9,10b

The Lexington Debate

Howard See, Lexington, Kentucky

On March 26-31 Brother W. Curtis Porter of Monette, Arkansas met in public discussion Mr. Julian Hunt of Lexington, Kentucky, who is identified with the conservative element of the Christian church. The discussion was conducted in the University Heights church building in Lexington.

The questions under consideration were the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship and the name of the church. That this was indeed a momentous occasion may be easily seen in that Lexington is within twenty miles of the old Cane Ridge meeting house where Barton W. Stone and others had such a profound influence upon the restoration of the New Testament order and only ten miles from Midway where almost a century ago D. L. L. Pinkerton introduced a melodeon into the worship of the church. Perhaps this was the first such discussion in this stronghold of digression since the tide of digression wept over the church.

Interest was such that on the first night of the discussion the building was overflowing to the extent that the elders deemed it wise to move the discussion to a larger auditorium. However, Mr. Hunt refused to go to another auditorium. This refusal undoubtedly kept many from enjoying the discussion who otherwise could and would have attended.

The conduct on the part of both disputants and the audience was excellent. Brother Porter, who has no superior in meeting sectarian quibbles, did an excellent job in showing the unscripturalness of Mr. Hunt's positions and in presenting the truth on these matters. The truth was presented so clearly that those present who desired to do God's will could not help but see the force of Truth as it demolished the false position and reasoning of the opposition.

The first two nights Brother Porter affirmed the following propositions: "Resolved, that one can scripturally use aids in the category of tuning forks, hymn books, collection baskets, etc. and condemn the contention that a mechanical instrument of music can be used as an aid in connection with singing during Christian worship." In support of this proposition Brother Porter used a series of charts on Aids' in which he listed several commands given to Christians, and some things which would aid in the doing of that which God commanded. These charts were for the purpose of showing that playing on a harp, pipe, organ, etc. was not parallel with the use of song books, tuning fork, voice parts, notes, etc. Brother Porter showed very forcibly that the harp, pipe, organ, etc., sustained the same relationship to play for which we have no command, that song books, tuning forks, voice parts, notes, etc., sustain to the command to sing. When playing is added to singing it is not an aid, but an addition of another element of music. This was further shown the second night by a second series of charts introduced by Brother Porter and to which Hunt never once referred.

In his first negative speech, Hunt announced that he did not intend to "Brother Porter's speech much," a course which he pursued throughout the discussion. His negative speeches were composed mostly of reading from manuscripts, with very little reference made to the arguments presented by Brother Porter. In a brief reference to the charts used by Brother Porter the first night, Hunt endorsed all of them but the last one which showed that pipes, harps, etc., sustained the same relationship to play that song books, etc. did to sing. He countered by quoting Porter as saying "when you use the instrument and sing you have two acts — two elements of music." He further said that when you use a tuning fork and sing you have two acts, therefore you can have the instrument on the same basis that you can have the tuning fork. To this, it was shown by Brother Porter, that when a person uses a tuning fork he is not producing another element of music, but when instruments are used with the singing a second element of music is used.

In his negative speeches Hunt made use of a large chart on which he had listed the negative objections to the proposition and the negatives counter-claim. His fourth objection, and the essence of the first part of his chart, stated that "sin is the transgression of the law," and therefore since there is no law against the use of the instrument in the New Testament, then it is not sinful to use it. In this connection, Brother Porter asked him on what basis he would condemn sprinkling for baptism. To which Hunt replied that he would condemn sprinkling on the basis that it was a substitution. Brother Porter pointed out that if he would only condemn sprinkling on the basis of its being a substitution, then he would have to admit that it would not be wrong to sprinkle if it accompanied immersion, inasmuch as this would simply be an addition and not a substitution. At this point, Hunt spoke from the floor and said that he would not endorse sprinkling even connected with immersion. Brother Porter showed that Hunt himself admitted that a thing doesn't have to be a substitution to be sinful, but that a thing can be sinful if it is an addition, which was the very thing which Porter had been contending for. Therefore on the basis of Hunt's own admission it would be wrong to add the instrument of music to the worship of God.

In his counter claims Hunt attempted to establish the use of instruments by placing them in the realm of expediency. He said that an expedient must, first, not change God's laws; second, not usurp authority over God's Laws; and third, not be wrong within themselves. He said that the use of an instrument did not change God's laws because you still sang; its use did not usurp authority over God's laws because you still sang; and neither was it wrong within itself, therefore it could be used and not be sinful. Again Brother Porter showed that by the same argument blackberry jam could be used on the Lord's Table. The use of jam would not change God's law because you would still eat the bread; it would not usurp authority over God's law because you would still eat the bread; and it is not wrong within itself. Therefore according to Hunt's argument it would be all right to use it. Of course what proves too much proves nothing. It was amazing to see how closely Hunt's argument on this point resembled the component parts argument which has recently been making its rounds throughout the brotherhood. Hunt's argument, like the component parts argument, listed three things which were true, but did not list all which was necessary to the proving of his proposition. It had at least one major component part missing, i.e., an expedient must not be an addition of a new element to that which God specified. This of course would have defeated his own argument and position. When it is necessary for some brethren to resort to this type of reasoning which is employed by digressives and sectarians, in order to prove their projects, it is certainly time that faithful brethren scrutinize closely those things which are being pushed into the church. It would have been interesting to see how those who have made use of the component parts argument would have answered Hunt's argument on the instrument.

The third and fourth nights Mr. Hunt affirmed "Resolved, that the New Testament Scriptures authorize the use of such musical instruments as pipes, harps, and trumpets in the service of God." For Hunt to affirm that the use of such musical instruments was authorized in the New Testament scriptures was rather amusing inasmuch as he had stated several times in his negative speeches that a thing was either scriptural, unscriptural or anti-scriptural and since music was not found in the New Testament it was therefore neither scriptural nor anti-scriptural, and came in a class which he labeled unscriptural. This position was taken in an attempt to establish that since it was neither scriptural nor anti-scriptural therefore it was in the realm of expediency and could be used or not used. His affirmation that the scriptures authorized the music was a reversal of his position the first two nights.

However, in support of this proposition Hunt relied primarily upon the use of a large chart on which he had listed fifty passages which he said mentioned the pipe, harp, or trumpet either by name, character or by person and that they were used in the service of God. He said that everything in the New Testament is either condemned, neutralized or upheld and proceeded to state that in these fifty passages that music was both condemned, neutralized and upheld. That its being condemned, neutralized or upheld depended upon how it was used. That a thing might be condemned when used for the wrong purpose, but upheld when used for the right purpose. Therefore the right use of music was authorized in the scriptures.

In this connection Hunt used dancing as an illustration and said that it was upheld in the lesson of the Prodigal Son, but condemned in the way that the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod. According to his own argumentation this was an affirmation that under some circumstances dancing would be permissible. Since he made the statement that it was his personal conviction that the prodigal son was a genuine case of Gentile conversion after the cross, His own argument ,would say that when a man leaves the scriptures on some things there is no end to the unscriptural positions he will be forced to take unless he repents.

Brother Porter read from the Smith-Hunt debate and showed that Hunt had changed his position since that debate. In that discussion Hunt said that anywhere instruments were used in the New Testament they were used in worship of God. Brother Porter also read another statement from Hunt saying that music instruments were not condemned anywhere in the Bible. In this debate he said that they are both condemned in the New Testament and in the Old Testament. Brother Porter also took up the different passages which Hunt used and showed that he based his argument for the use of instruments of music in the church of God on earth with passages which referred to harpers in Babylon, the Habitation of devils and of every unclean spirit; harpers in heaven; the sounding of trumpets in connection with the rising of the dead; the sounding of trumpets in heaven in connection with the woes; the sounding of trumpets preparing for battle and other similar circumstances. He further pointed out that there were many things used and done in heaven which Hunt would not allow in the church. Hunt would not slow infant membership in the church, but there are infants in heaven. Therefore his arguments that they were used in heaven was not sufficient to justify their use in the church of the living God.

The last two nights Hunt affirmed "Resolved, that Christian' is the name of the New Testament church." Again he had contradicted this proposition in his previous speeches by continually referring to the church not as "Christian" or "Christian Church," but the "Church of Christ" and discussed at length about the "Church of Christ" going into apostasy.

In his definition of terms he defined "Christian" as "one in Christ, a follower of Christ." Brother Porter very forcibly pointed out that Hunt's definition of this term killed his entire speech and defeated his proposition. He showed that "one in Christ" and "a follower of Christ" both are singular in number. Therefore if the name Christian (singular) is the name of the church, and it refers to "one in Christ" then there would be as many churches as there are persons in Christ. One person would comprise the church rather than many persons. Since Hunt admits that the expression "Christian" applies to "one in Christ" and yet there are many members of the body of Christ, I Cor. 12:20, therefore by his own admission the name "Christian" applies to the individual and not to the entire congregation.

An example of the way in which Hunt tried to establish his proposition may be seen by his argument on 2 Samuel 7:12-13 where the prophet said that the seed of David shall build an house for my name. From that he went to Mt. 16:18 where Christ said, "I will build my church," and then to I Cor. 3:9 where Paul said, "ye are God's building." Then he used I Tim. 3:15 to show that the house of God was the church of the living God. He concluded therefore that the church was the house which was to be built for "His Name", and went to Isa. 56:5 and said that it was to be given an everlasting name. This everlasting name he said was the "new name" of Isa 62:2 and had its fulfillment in Acts 11:26 when "the disciples were called Christians first at Antioch."

In answer to this Brother Porter turned to Isa. 56:5 and read what the passage actually says, i.e., "Even unto THEM will I give in mine house sand within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give THEM an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off." From this it was noted that the everlasting name was to be given to THEM IN THE HOUSE, which was what was said to be done in Acts 11:26 "The disciples were called Christians."

In this connection Brother Porter introduced three charts on Acts 11:26, Acts 26:28 and I Peter 4:16. On Acts 11:26 he pointed out that the expression was DISCIPLES (plural) WERE CALLED (plural verb) CHRISTIANS (plural) and not the CHURCH (singular) WERE CALLED CHRISTIANS as Hunt maintained. On Acts 26:28 it was shown that Agrippa (one person) said, "Almost thou persuadest ME to be A CHRISTIAN. (singular). This expression could not refer to the church (many persons). Again I Peter 4:16 clearly states that if any MAN (singular) suffer as A CHRISTIAN (singular) and not if a CHURCH (many persons) suffer as A CHRISTIAN (singular). Hence the name Christian was given to the individual rather than to the church collectively.

Although Hunt tried to rearrange these charts to change their construction and meaning, he was never able to overcome the force of this plain teaching of the scriptures.

Space will not permit us to give all of the arguments and answers which were given in the discussion, but these will serve as an example of the weakness and illogical positions espoused by Hunt and those of the digressives who would endeavor to uphold these unscriptural positions. The discussion is to be printed in book form. We recommend that all secure a copy.