Notes On The Jackson-Porter Debate
(The following report and resume' of the Jackson-Porter debate held at Poplar Bluff Mo., has been in type since June but due to the fact that the July issue of the Bible Banner was a special number, this is the first opportunity it has had to appear. The able discussion of points and passages by Bro. Porter makes the contents of the article current, though late.
As this issue is being printed Roy E. Cogdill is debating Jackson at Lufkin, Texas, a report of which will appear in the next issue—Editor.)
Some interesting things that occurred in the Poplar Bluff discussion with D. N. Jackson I wish to give to the readers of the Bible Banner.
Four propositions were discussed. 1. The Scriptures teach that the sinner is saved by grace through faith, before water baptism. Jackson affirmed this, and I denied. 2. The Scriptures teach that water baptism, to the penitent believer, is for (in order to obtain) the remission of sins. I affirmed this proposition, and Jackson denied. 3. The Scriptures teach that the child of God, one washed by the blood of Christ, is in such relationship to God he is beyond the possibility of ever being lost. Jackson affirmed; I denied. 4. The Scriptures teach that the child of God, one washed by the blood of Christ, may so apostatize as to be lost in hell.
I affirmed; Jackson denied.
Salvation To The Believer
On the first proposition Jackson made the usual run of arguments that Baptists make in an effort to prove that salvation comes before baptism. His major argument was stated somewhat in the following form: "All blessings that belong to the saved person are said to belong to believers. But men believe before they are baptized. Therefore, all blessings that belong to a saved person come before baptism." To sustain this argument he introduced John 5:24, 6:47; 3:13-18; Rom. 5:1; 3:24-26 and similar passages. These passages state that the believer has "passed from death unto life"; that he "hath everlasting life"; that he shall "not perish"; that he "is not condemned;" that he is "justified" and has "peace with God." And all of these, he contended, are blessings that belong to the believer before baptism. I showed that he could just as reasonably contend that a sinner is saved before he loves God, for "all the blessings that belong to the saved person belongs to believers." But men believe before they love God. Therefore, all blessings that belong to a saved person come before one loves God. His line of argument would, therefore, prove that a sinner can be saved while hating God just as conclusively as it proves he can be saved before being baptized. I agreed that these blessings belong to a believer, but to what kind of believer? Do they belong to an obedient believer or to a disobedient believer? In John 8:30, 31, Jesus talked with certain Jews "who believed on him." And in verse 44 Jesus said of these believers: "Ye are of your father, the devil." Will Jackson say that these men had "passed from death unto life"? Will he say they "had everlasting life"? Will he contend that they were "not condemned" but were "justified" and had "peace with God"? Well, they were believers; the book says they were: and if all believers are children of God, these were, for they "believed on Christ." But Jesus said they were still the children of the devil. Furthermore, I showed from John 12:42, 43 that certain of the chief rulers "believed on him" but they "did not confess him" for "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God." I asked Jackson if these men were saved? The Bible says they were believers on Christ; and if all believers are saved, then these were. I, therefore, concluded that when the Lord says the blessings of the saved belong to the believer, he refers to the obedient believer—not to the disobedient one. And under pressure Jackson admitted that it is the obedient believer who is saved.
He claimed, however, that the rulers of the Jews did not confess him at that time, because they feared excommunication—they were afraid they would be put out of the synagogues. But later, he said, some of them did confess him. Then I wanted to know whether they were saved "at that time" when they believed but did not confess him. At that time "they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God:" Were they saved then? They were believers then—were they saved? But Jackson never gave an answer to this question.
Saved By A Living Faith
Concerning salvation by faith I asked Jackson two questions that gave him no end of trouble. The questions follow:
1. Is a sinner saved by a living faith or by a dead faith?
2. Is faith without works living or dead? He answered the first question like this: "The sinner is saved by a living faith." In answer to the second he said: "Faith without works is dead, but dead in the sense of being inactive."
This put him into a predicament from which he could never extricate himself. He thus took the position that a sinner cannot be saved by a dead faith—it must be living. But a faith without works is dead. So he cannot be saved by a "faith without works." If he is saved by faith without works, he is saved by a dead faith; but Jackson said it must be a living, active faith. Since, then, the faith that saves must be a living, obedient, active working faith, I pressed Jackson to tell us what makes the faith a living faith. If it must be obedient faith in order to save, then when does the faith obey and what does it obey? As a saving faith is an active faith, when does faith act? And what does it do? And as it must be a working faith, what work does it perform? His answer to the two questions already mentioned upset every argument he made in an effort to prove the sinner is saved without any kind of works. I kept reminding him that he had already said that the sinner cannot be saved by a dead faith—a faith that does not work—and he must make an effort to get himself out of the difficulty. If a man is saved the moment he has faith, he is saved by faith without works. That would be salvation by a dead faith, and Jackson says that cannot be. On the next proposition—"baptism for the remission of sins"—he gave me a question like this: "Since you say that faith must work in order to save, how much work must it perform?
I responded that Jackson has worded the question incorrectly. He should not have said: "Since you say faith must work in order to save." He had already agreed that a sinner cannot be saved by a dead faith—a faith without works. So his question should read: "Since we say that faith must work in order to save." We both said it—we were agreed that an inactive faith cannot save. And as he has said it as well as I have, then let him tell us how much work the faith must perform. In replying to this in his last speech he declared that he had not said works were necessary to save; that "Porter had fibbed on him" and "should ask the Lord to forgive him for telling the fib." I had no chance to reply while on the question of a sinner's salvation, as he made the charge in the closing speech on the question. But when we came the next night to the final salvation of the child of God, I returned to the charge he had made that I had "fibbed" on him. I said the audience knows that I did not lie; they heard Jackson answer the questions just as I stated. They know that he said the sinner is saved by a living faith and that faith without works is dead. But in order to put him back on the spot I wished to vary the questions a little so they would apply to the matter then being discussed. So I gave him the two questions in this form:
1. Does a child of God reach heaven by a living faith or by a dead faith?
2. Is his faith without works living or dead?
I insisted that Jackson write down his answers to these questions so he would not back out and charge me with lying when I pressed his answers upon him. It would take only three words to answer the questions, and surely he could find time to write down three words. The first question could be answered by writing either "living faith" or "dead faith" as Jackson desired. And the second question could be answered by writing either the word "living" or "dead" as he preferred. Surely he could write that much. But he did not give his answers in writing. However, he said: "The child of God reaches heaven by a living faith." And he said, in reply to the second question, "faith without works is dead." So he was right back on the same spot that had become so uncomfortable for him. I wrote his answers on the board and asked him to say whether I was fibbing. He said faith without works is dead; but a child of God cannot reach heaven by a dead faith; so I concluded that he agreed that a child of God must work to reach heaven. If a man can add two and two and get four for the answer without lying, then I am not lying when I say Jackson's statements mean a child of God must work to reach heaven. The audience could see this—and Jackson too—and he made no further effort to fix it up.
Created Unto Good Works
Eph. 2:8-10 was used by Jackson to prove salvation before baptism. He showed that Paul said we are "created in Christ Jesus unto good works." And he wrote the expression on the blackboard: "Created unto good works." He showed that the word "unto" as here used proved the creation first and then the good works followed—"created unto good works." I agreed that this is true. The word "unto" means toward and shows the good works here mentioned by Paul followed the creation. Then I wrote just beneath what he had written: "Baptized unto remission." The Revised Version in Acts 2:38 reads this way. Then I wanted to know if "created unto good works" means the creation first and then the good works, why doesn't "baptized unto remission" mean the baptism first and then the remission? If it works in one case, it works in the other. But Jackson replied that Porter knew the word "unto" in the passages did not come from the same Greek word. He had found that out in the debate last year at Flint, Michigan, when he was working under the impression that it was the same word. So I stated that I knew there were different Greek words in the two passages, but I wanted to know if the word "unto" is a proper translation of both original words. Can the original words in Eph. 2:10 and Acts 2:38 be properly translated by the English word "unto." If this is true, then does the word "unto" in the English translation in both passages have the same meaning? And if not, what is the meaning of the word in the verses mentioned? I could never induce Jackson to tell me about this.
Jackson used the language of Paul to the Philippian jailer to prove salvation by faith before baptism. When the jailor inquired what to do to be saved, Paul replied: "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ." "If Porter had been there," Jackson said, "he would have said: 'Paul add baptism. Please add baptism. I am in a tight at Poplar Bluff and need baptism added'." I showed in reply to Jackson that Paul did add baptism. Perhaps he looked down through the years and saw that Porter would get in a tight at Poplar Bluff with a Baptist preacher if he didn't add baptism. So he added it and kept Porter out of a tight, for the very next verses, which Jackson did not quote, say: "They spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house; and he took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes, and was baptized, he and all his, straightway." "Do you suppose," I asked Jackson, "that the jailer was baptized the same hour of the night without being told to be?" So Paul added baptism and Jackson ignored it.
In my affirmative on baptism as condition of salvation I used Acts 2:38 in which Peter said: "Repent, and be baptized, every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins." I showed that the King James Version translated it: "for the remission of sins." But the American Revised translates it: "unto the remission of sins." Charles Kent in his translation gives it: "that you may have" the forgiveness of sins. And Goodspeed's translation says: "in order to have" the remission of sins. And the same expression in Mark 1:4 he translates: "in order to obtain." All these translations, therefore, show baptism to be a condition of salvation. And I stated that I knew of no translation on earth that gave it: "because of the remission of sins" to harmonize with Jackson's position. If he knew of one, I asked him to produce it and let me look at it; or at least tell me the name of it so I could order one. When he replied he said he had a number of translations on his table, and pointing to them, said: "Here is one; and here is one; and here is one; and here is one; and none of them give Porter any comfort for his doctrine." In response I begged him to hand me the one among his translations on his table that said "because of the remission of sins." Although I pleaded much for him to do so, he did not hand it to me. But in his closing speech he took up the matter of translations. He picked up Clarke's Commentary and began to read his comments on Acts 2:38 to prove I was wrong about the translations. He was trying to put it over in good style when I spoke from my seat and said: "Jackson, is that a translation?" He said: "No, but it is just as good as one." The audience saw his trick and the thing backfired.
Water The Mother
Often Jackson has something that he will not risk in the course of the debate when his opponent has a chance to reply, but will save it till his last speech when no reply can be made. Incidentally, I have never been able to get Jackson into a debate unless he is given the closing speech of the debate. In his closing speech on the salvation of the sinner, when I had no chance to reply, he made that charge that if "born of water" refers to baptism, water is my mother. And if I was baptized in the White River, I had a white mammy; if I was baptized in the Red River, I had a red mammy; and if I was baptized in the Black River, I had a black mammy." But this was thrown in for effect when he knew I had no chance to reply. Had I been given a chance to reply, the thing would have been turned back upon him. He had contended that when Paul said in 1 Cor. 4:15, "I have begotten you through the gospel," that the word begotten meant born. And so Paul had "born" the Corinthians; yet he had baptized only a few of them. Hence, he concluded baptism had nothing to do with being born of God. From his standpoint of reasoning I could have said: "Jackson, according to you, the preacher is your father. And if you were converted by the preaching of a white man, you have a white pappy; if converted by a red man, you have a red pappy; and if by a black man, you have a black pappy." But the preacher is our father only in the sense that he taught the truth to us. In the strict sense God is our Father. The preacher and the water are but agents or means which God has seen fit to use to bring about our salvation.
In contending for the impossibility of apostasy Jackson used Col. 3:3, with other related Christ in God." He reasoned after this fashion: Scriptures to prove that "our lives are hid with "We are in Christ, and Christ is in God; therefore, the devil cannot touch us. The only way for the devil to reach a child of God who is in Christ is to get into Christ himself. And if he gets into Christ, he becomes a Christian and would therefore not want to take a child of God to hell." So this proved, according to Jackson, that a child of God cannot be lost. I showed that his argument not only proved the ultimate security of the believer and the salvation of the devil, but it also proved the ultimate destruction of all the devil's children and the damnation of Jesus himself. So I drew the parallel. Jackson says for the devil to get a child of God he must get into Christ just as the man did; and then he becomes a child of God himself and would not take another to hell.
Well, turn it around. Following the same kind of reasoning, in order for Christ to get one of the devil's children, he must get into sin just as the man did; but if he thus gets into sin, he becomes a sinner and would not want to redeem any of the devil's children. So it proves entirely too much. If it proves that no child of God can ever be lost, it proves that no child of the devil can ever be saved.
How Erase The Name?
Jackson used Luke 10:20 to prove that God writes the names of his children in heaven. And how can the devil ever get into heaven to erase that name? I showed the devil would not have to erase it. The Book declared if any man takes away from God's word, God will take away his part out of the book of life. Rev. 22:19. So the devil will not have to erase the name; God said he would do it himself. But Jackson claimed that "his part" in the book of life does not refer to his name. He said this had to do with the unsaved and simply referred to his "opportunity of being saved" as "his part" in the book of life. God would take away that if the sinner takes away from God's word. But this was entirely too much. According to Jackson if a sinner ever takes away from the word of God, his doom is forever sealed. God takes away his opportunity of ever being saved—he must remain lost forever and ever—and nothing can be done about it. God removes all opportunity of salvation for that man. Indeed, that leaves such sinner in a hopeless state.
Half Dog And Half Hog
Another trick of Jackson's had to do with "the dog turning to his own vomit again and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." Peter used the proverb in 2 Pet. 2:20-22 to illustrate the return to sin of one who had escaped the pollutions of the world. Jackson claimed this was just a moral cleansing—an outside cleansing—and not genuine conversion at all. "The hog was still a hog; and the dog was still a dog," he claimed. To this statement I gave assent, but also showed that man is still a man after conversion. If he should be changed into a god, he might not sin any more; but he remains a man, and can return to his sins just as the dog returns to his vomit and the sow to the mire. But the sow could not return to the mire if she had never been out of it; and the dog could not return to his vomit, if he had never been separated from it. And man cannot return to sin if he has never been freed from it. But in the last speech of the debate, when I had no chance to reply, Jackson said that Porter claimed that man is half hog and half dog; and he takes the man who is a monstrosity—half hog and half dog—to the creek and baptizes him and makes a full-fledged Campbellite out of him. This twist he did not risk when his opponent had a chance to reply. Such are the tricks of Jackson. But Porter did not say that man is half hog and half dog. If the use of the proverb proves that, then it was the apostle Peter and not Porter. But such was never said by either. Peter simply compares a man to a dog and a hog, but that does not make man a monstrosity. Oftentimes in the Bible men are compared to animals for the purpose of teaching some lesson about them. In trying to prove the doctrine of hereditary depravity Jackson has been known to use these statements; "Man is like the wild ass's colt" and "O generation of vipers'." He has claimed these show the condition of the infant when born—that the infant is like the donkey and the serpent. Following his line of argument, we could say that Jackson claims that babies are born monstrosities—half donkey and half snake. And when they grow a little older, Jackson takes a man who is a monstrosity—half donkey and half snake—to the mourner's bench and then to the creek and makes a full-fledged Baptist out of him. Even Jesus has been compared to animals. He is referred to as a lion. And he is also called a lamb. Jackson would just as well say that Jesus was a monstrosity—half lion and half lamb. And they took this man who was half lion and half lamb and nailed him to the cross and made a full-fledged Savior out of him. This would be the same sort of argument that he urged against me concerning the dog and hog question. But he knows when to make such breaks—when he is in the last speech and his opponent has no chance to reply.