"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee, that it may be displayed because of truth." — (Psalm 60:4)
"Lift ye up a banner upon the high mountain, exalt the voice unto them." — (Isaiah 13:2)
Devoted To The Defense Of The Church Against All Errors And Innovations
Vol.VI No.XIII Pg.55b-56a
July/August 1944

"Why There Will Be No Debate"

The above heading is found in a recent issue of the Norris publication. Running true to form Norris is publishing letters addressed to "All The Pastors Of The Church Of Christ, Fort Worth, Texas" but does not publish the replies to his letters. He says in his paper: "The time has long passed for a reply and no answer has come." But the facts are that his letter was answered. What happened to the answer? Believe it or not, the answer to his letter was refused by Mr. Norris. The answer was sent to him in registered mail with return receipt. It came back to the Fort Worth preachers marked "REFUSED." Norris refused the answer to his letter and put in his paper: "The time has long passed for a reply and no answer has come." Mr. Bogard says Norris exaggerates, but there is a word in our language with fewer syllables that spells what he does! The envelope bearing the mark "REFUSED" is being held for use at the proper time and in the proper way.

When Norris was writing those letters back in 1934-35 making what he called certain "offers," he did not make them to be accepted. He simply printed his letters to us in his book, ignoring the answers, and put beneath the printed letters that they were "declined." He wrote the letters for his book - not for acceptance, and knew all of the time that he would ignore any answer to them. Precisely the same thing is being done in this instance. He is writing his letters for publication purposes, prints them in his paper, refuses the answer, and lets the Baptists think that his "offers" are "declined." The perfidy of such conduct on the part of a leader of a religious movement is unspeakable. It can be explained only on the ground that he believes the Baptist doctrine of hereditary total depravity and the impossibility of apostasy.

No one will deny the fact that there are circumstances under which a man may very properly "refuse" a letter or communication, and turn it back. But certainly not when he has sent a letter to the responding parties demanding an answer. Norris did that; and when the answer came to his own letter, he "refused" it, but said in his paper that "the tune has long passed for a reply and no answer has come." But the answer did come. A photograph of that letter, with the envelope marked "Refused," would be interesting.

After publishing the above falsehood Norris then inserts a paragraph in his paper under the heading "Why There Will Be No Debate." The reason is, he says, that certain "laymen" in the churches of Christ in Fort Worth have told him that they do not want a debate! It is expected that there would be a few such "laymen" in Fort Worth or any other city. But does that dispose of the challenges of J. Frank Norris? Not on his life! Fifteen churches of Christ in Fort Worth, in due order and proper process, have accepted his challenges over the signatures of the entire eldership of those churches, together with the signatures of their preachers. But what some "laymen" have "told" Norris privately is put up against the signed statements of the elders and the preachers of fifteen churches! Any "laymen" in the churches of Christ in Fort Worth or elsewhere, who would say the things that Norris claims they said, or in any way collaborate with him, would not be respected by a single loyal member of a church of Christ anywhere. If such there be, they will in time be known to all men by their presents. But I wouldn't take Norris' word on that matter, nor on any other matter. Even Mr. Bogard says in his paper that Norris is a great "exaggerator" and does not always tell the truth. And I still say that "exaggerating" is not the word for what Norris does.

But suppose none of the churches in Fort Worth should accept the Norris challenges for debate - does that dispose of his challenge? It does not. The Dallas churches have accepted his challenge unanimously. Remember, he cancelled the other one in Dallas. Then, there is Oklahoma City. We are waiting for him there - and ready to give him what he is asking for. If he insists that the debate must be held in Fort Worth - why? Surely, not merely because that is where he lives - for Oklahoma City is where I live, and I could as reasonably refuse to debate him anywhere else. It's a poor rule that would not work both ways. The truth of the matter is that J. Frank Norris will not debate anywhere with anyone unless and until he has all the advantage, sole and complete control of the debate and the premises where it is held, full control of the stenographers, exclusive possession of the manuscripts, and personal "charge" of everything else including the doors and "admission fees." When he sees that he cannot do so; that he must accept equal terms and conditions, and place himself under the binding rules of honorable debate and decent decorum, he will not debate with anybody. That is why there will he no debate, if none is to be. J. Frank Norris does not want an honorable debate. All he wants is an opportunity to bully the preachers, browbeat the churches, and deceive the Baptist boys who are "sitting at his feet" in his so-called seminary. Some seminary it is! The Norris theological cemetery would be a better name for it, for the boys who go there.

We shall keep before the public one thing, namely, that J. Frank Norris can have one, two or three debates, as he chooses - in Dallas, Fort Worth, and Oklahoma City, either or all, as he chooses. And if he will not debate on his own challenge in Fort Worth, a challenge that has been accepted by fifteen recognized churches of Christ in that city, then I hereby challenge J. Frank Norris to meet me in debate in Oklahoma City under the terms and conditions of the contract which has been submitted to him and which is published herein. I am authorized to make this challenge, and I hereby do so, and shall henceforth keep him and the public reminded of it.

The statements appearing in the Norris publication as to "why there will be no debate" are sheer subterfuge. They can only mean that J. Frank Norris backed out of his own challenges. Something happened that he did not expect. His bluffs have boomeranged. He will get out of it the best way that he can - but the fact will remain that he backed out. This has been a desperate effort on his part to stage a come-back in Fort Worth and regain a part of the personal prestige he lost ten years ago. But he has failed. He will only lose more, if he has any left to lose. His bold challenges have been exposed as bluff and bluster. His day has declined. His sun has set.