The Norris-Wallace Debate A Reply To "The Fundamentalist"
(By E. C. Fuqua, Condensed From The Vindicator, December 1934)
When a Christian is conscious that truth is being assailed and humbled by error, and when opportunity is presented for speaking for the truth, he speaks not, he is guilty of sin. "To him therefore that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin." (Jas. 4:17.) That warning is responsible for this paper's appearance, and the latter is printed to meet the wholesale misrepresentations being circulated in "The Fundamentalist," edited by Dr. J. Frank Norris, regarding the recent Norris-Wallace Debate in Fort Worth. There is such a glaring mis-statement of facts, that no man with respect for the truth can hold his peace. That Dr. Norris could stoop to such disregard for veracity and honor, is inexplicable, save on the ground that he feels the need even of falsehood to comfort his terrified soul. Had he felt the ease and complacency that pervade the Church of Christ concerning the debate, he would have left the actual debate with the people and been content with their verdict - as the Church of Christ intended; but fearing that verdict, he proceeds to force upon them his own will as to what they must believe about it. That dastardly trick of his is what calls forth this SPECIAL from THE VINDICATOR press. We are meeting him on his own ground and intend to keep him before the people in his own color. Nothing herein said is intended in any personal way; we attack Dr. Norris only as a public exponent of religious principles, and exclusively touching his conduct in the recent debate...
A vast audience, more than filling the auditorium of the First Baptist Church, heard the debate. The popularity of Dr. Norris was largely responsible for the great assemblage. Norris is just another Aimee Semple McPherson Hutton in his hold upon the people; a psychologist capitalizing religion for earthly glory and filthy lucre. The people worship the man, just as Aimee's Los Angeles Temple crowd worship the woman. The strong magnetism of both characters is directed against the truth, and the people, mistaking this magic for spiritual powers, become easy victims to the deception and fully pass under the hypnotic spell.
Brother Foy E. Wallace, Jr., did his work in a masterly way, exposing the sophistry and cunning of Dr. Norris at every point. Nothing escaped his eye or passed unexposed by the word of God. But Foy's hands were tied so that he was restrained from exercising his native and full powers. Dr. Norris was painfully ridiculous and piteously impotent at all times. He proved himself unreliable and crooked as a debater, and as having but one design in entering the debate - namely, to prevent the word of God from reaching the people. He was dishonest and wholly lacking in that integrity that should characterize a Christian in controversy. One outstanding example of this was exhibited when he read from a book, telling his audience that he was reading "from Alexander Campbell' to show that Campbell did not believe that baptism was essential to salvation, when in truth he was reading a quotation from Martin Luther! Wallace exposed that falsehood; but instead of correcting it, as a man of integrity and honor would hastily have done, Norris merely grinned as a criminal caught in the crime; thus proving that it was a deliberate falsehood he hoped to palm off on the unsuspecting public, an unscrupulous disregard for both truth and honor.....
For some unknown cause, the first speeches were each one and a half hour in duration. This alone was ridiculous. I believe it was arranged by Norris in the hope that Wallace's voice would give down, thus calling off the debate. The First Baptist Church is said to be the largest church in the world. Norris, being mostly "all wind" anyway, is accustomed to speaking easily in the vast auditorium, but Wallace was not. But Wallace by no means failed; he held up splendidly - to Norris' chagrin. Norris then had to seek for some other advantage over Wallace. In fact, throughout the debate Wallace was incessantly forced to fight against some disadvantage that Norris, in violation of every principle of honor, threw across his way - to block the unfolding of the truth. The last night of the debate especially showed the unprincipled spirit of Norris. He brazenly demanded (and got) a change in speeches that would give him one full hour for his final rejoinder. . . . Wallace was forbidden to speak, but a time or two, when Norris was misrepresenting a book from which he was reading (matter to which Wallace had every right to reply), Wallace quietly opened a book containing the correct answer to the misrepresentation, and laid the book, opened at the passage, on the desk right under Norris' nose; but Norris slammed the book closed and threw it back at Wallace. That was done, I think twice. Norris arbitrarily walked over all rules henceforth, and when he concluded his harangue, instead of sitting down until the moderators could dismiss the assembly (which is was their place to do), Norris dismissed it in the next breath after he closed his speech. That was done to cut off all opportunity for his lawlessness to be exposed by Wallace or the Moderators. He knew he had acted the craven coward, and as a common criminal fears the law, Norris feared justice; hence, the abrupt and speedy dismissal to provide cover for his escape. . . . . I do not know whether or not Norris had a gun, but I do know that he was mad. He had enough to make him mad, for Foy E. Wallace Jr. had turned every scripture citation against him and he was forced to resort to every trick and cunning that he could invent as a smokescreen under cover of which to escape the truth. It was madness that led him to threaten violence at the hands of his One Hundred Henchmen. It was madness that moved him to threaten that if one person left the audience while he was making his last speech, "I will put it into the record that you attempted to interrupt my final speech." Only a mad man moved by criminal fear could have resorted to such unhumanly and unchristian threats to his audience. Only a coward would attempt to fence himself behind such protections, and people who can calmly estimate Norris well know that he knew that he was a thoroughly whipped man or he would not have felt it necessary to resort to such unscrupulous and insulting measures. But both his doctrine and his tactics had been fully exposed to the vast audience before whom he stood, and many of whom had fairly looked upon him as a demi-god, and the consciousness that he had proved unable to stand before the word of God, was sufficient to drive him to the folly that has sounded his doom in Fort Worth. Every word uttered by him or by his friends, to the effect that he met Wallace, either in point of doctrine or in honorable controversy, is untrue to the thoroughly exhibited and overwhelming facts in the case. Too many people saw too clearly to be hoodwinked by such pusillanimous appeals. Norris went down in irrecoverable defeat, and his threats and fits of madness prove it . . . . .
This paper makes no attempt to argue the debate. Wallace did that to eminent satisfaction. We are only meeting "The Fundamentalist" braggadocio. Since so much is claimed for Norris, we are simply showing what he really is, and that from his own doings in the debate.
John R. Rice confesses: "Dr. Norris soon lifted the debate off the plane of a petty squabble over the meaning of the Greek word `eis.' In Norris' hands the subject discussed soon loomed larger than a splitting of hairs, a twisting of phrases, with wise-cracks and comebacks."
John did not intend what he here admits; namely, that Norris backed down from meeting Wallace on "eis." The whole debate, on that proposition, rested on "eis," and Norris knew it. No wonder he soon shifted the debate off the "eis," as on that the whole Baptist Church goes under. Thanks, John, for admitting that Norris refused to meet Wallace on "eis." . . . .
What does that "Dr." attached to Norris' name signify? That has proved his undoing in the debate. He made the glaring statement that "the Greek preposition `eis' in Acts 2:38 may mean either `because of or `in order to.' " No educated man, respecting his scholarship, will make such a statement. "Eis" is always prospective, never retrospective, and Norris knows it if he is educated. Either he was ignorant of its universal meaning, or else he attempted a deliberate deception when he made the above statement...
Another evidence of that mistrusted "Dr." is exhibited in Norris' unscrupulous handling of the writings of Alexander Campbell, in his puerile efforts to show that "Campbell did not believe that baptism is essential to salvation." Campbell was brazenly misrepresented, as every well-read man knows. Norris read about three extracts from Campbell, every one of which bears internal and irrefragable proof that Norris misrepresented Campbell. . . . . Not one of the propositions involved Campbell any more than Franklin D. Roosevelt. But Norris was a spanked child whining for sympathy, and he had to find it --to the genuine amusement of the Church of Christ -- in Alexander Campbell's garbled writings. And such Baptists as John R. Rice are "tickled pink" because Norris was cunning enough to use Campbell to escape meeting Wallace in the debate. Any man is a great preacher and debater among the Baptists, who is cunning and unprincipled enough to escape meeting the truth by an adroit and dishonorable perversion of Campbell's writings. That is precisely what Norris did in the debate.
There being no comfort for Norris in the word of God, he was put to the extremity of applying other sources for that greatly needed article. He brought upon the rostrum (in violation of every principle of honor and justice toward his opponent) a certain "premillennialist of Dallas," purporting to represent "the church of Christ" in that city, whom he had to speak for a few minutes, right in the midst of the discussion. This pitiful puppet demonstrated the most abject slavery any demi-god could wish for. With little arguing he would, apparently, be ready to kiss the toe of Dr. Norris: a weak and beggarly vassal ready to betray his Saviour for a crumb of recognition from the rostrum. There was not a Christian in that audience who was not ashamed of him! And what a shame to Norris that he was forced to honor a Judas Iscariot for comfort! What use has Christ for a man who will rush before the public to endorse the sectarianism of Norris who had shown every contempt for justice and honor and the word of God, and array himself against the contention of Wallace, which he knew to be the truth? When Stubblefield denounced him as "an apostate," he correctly informed the audience, for no true member of Christ's body will ever avow loyalty to crooked sectarianism.
But to those who think that Premillennialism can do no harm, view this case. This Dallas man is led by it to denounce the entire gospel plan of salvation and endorse the entire system of denominationalism, just to "have company" along his hobbyistic route. He turns against Christ in order to accompany J. Frank Norris to ruin. Such men may grace Norris, but they are a disgrace to every true and self-respecting Christian.
The Bible in Norris' hands is a missile of destruction. On Mark 16:9 to the end, in order to escape the deadly 16th verse, Norris claimed this whole passage was uninspired and is omitted by the Sinaitic and Vatican manuscripts. Thus he attempted to steal away a part of the Inspired Scriptures; for while it is true that the manuscripts named do omit the passage, which for awhile worried the higher critics, the genuine inspiration of the passage has never been questioned; only its authorship by Mark was questioned; and that was long ago settled when it was discovered that the two manuscripts named had undoubtedly been copied from Mark's gospel after the final page had been lost. This accounts for the abrupt or unfinished ending at Mark 16:8. The passage is genuine. . . . .
Finding in Foy E. Wallace Jr. a man he could not begin to grapple with, Norris began looking for any small hole through which to escape meeting him in Dallas, as had been agreed upon.
"Because he ("Brother Wood") did a neighborly deed in getting Dr. Norris the book that Chairman Stubblefield forgot to get, or for some reason did not give to Dr. Norris, and because he is a premillennialist; he was denounced publicly in the debate by Brother Wallace as a `renegade,' was called by Brother Stubblefield an `apostate' and it was prophesied that he would be hanged `higher than Haman' with the `Churches of Christ.' Dr. Norris urged Brother Wallace not to denounce this good man. The first time it was done Dr. Norris tried to smooth it over. After the third time Dr. Norris announced that he would not be a party to a debate in Dallas with Brother Wallace because of his personal bitterness toward Brother Wood and others whom Brother Wallace threatened to skin when he came to Dallas. Dr. Norris offered to meet some other representative `Church of Christ' minister in Dallas but not Brother Wallace, on that basis."
Another "hard-boiled" hypocritical maneuver! I believe Frank Norris capable of any deception. That shameless exhibition proves it. I deny that there is one element of accuracy in the reason assigned for not meeting Wallace in Dallas. Norris was afraid for his and Rice's disciples in Dallas to witness a like defeat as showed itself in Fort Worth.