"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.5b-6
July/August 1944

"The Fort Worth Debate"

(By G. H. P. Showalter, in the Firm Foundation, Nov. 20, 1931)

The oral discussion between J. Frank Norris, the well known Fundamentalist Baptist preacher and reformer, and pastor of the First Baptist church of Ft. Worth, Texas, and Foy E. Wallace, Jr., of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, evangelist in the church of Christ and late editor of the Gospel Advocate of Nashville, Tennessee, will go down into history as one of the great debates of this generation. The debate was held in the large auditorium of the First Baptist church located on Throckmorton and Fourth Streets in Ft. Worth. The people thronged the great auditorium, stood in rows along the sides of the building, and overflowed out onto the streets on either side in their effort to hear. The audiences which numbered but slightly more at night than at the day services, were estimated at from 7,000 to 8,000. It was a great debate and will be long remembered by those who attended. The propositions were as follows:

1. Christ will establish a literal throne in Jerusalem, and will reign over the whole earth for a period of one thousand years. Dr. J. Frank Norris, affirmed -Foy E. Wallace denied.

2. Jews, as a nation will return to Palestine when Christ returns to the earth, and will then be converted to Christ. Dr. J. Frank Norris affirmed - Foy E. Wallace denied.

3. A child of God, one who has been saved by the blood of Christ, can so sin as to be finally lost. Foy E. Wallace affirmed - J. Frank Norris denied.

4. Baptism, to the penitent believer, is essential, to his salvation from past, or alien sins. Foy E. Wallace affirmed - J. Frank Norris denied.

People came from all over Texas and from a number of other states. There were undoubtedly more members of the church of Christ present than of the Baptist church. On one occasion, Brother J. A. Dickey called for all preachers of the church of Christ to stand, and the number who stood up was estimated to be at least 500. The chairman then asked all Baptist preachers in the audience to stand and the number who stood was estimated to be about one hundred. The audiences were made up of people of the various religious persuasions, and a very unusual opportunity was presented for an exposition of the gospel. Both speakers are to be commended for the fine spirit, which, with very insignificant exception, graced their conduct, throughout the discussion.

Brother Wallace is in the very prime of life, just thirty seven years of age, and speaks with eloquence and power. His voice also, held up almost perfectly and carried well, reaching even those in the remote limits of the auditorium, notwithstanding the extreme use made of it in speaking with great emphasis on important arguments advanced from time to time in support of his contention relative to the questions at issue.

Brother Wallace is a student, and his twenty years of unremitting public service as a gospel preacher and debater represent a rich experience, that is not only profitable but almost invaluable. He speaks with ease and readiness, and wastes no time with superfluous words, or long drawn out and meaningless phraseologies. He is, in my judgment, little less than a master in polemics. His arguments are presented with simplicity and clearness, and are urged and emphasized with a power that carries conviction. His defense of the peculiar tenets of the church of Christ, both as to the system of salvation through Christ set forth in the New Testament, and as to the untenable and unsafe speculations of the premillennialists and restorationalists on unfulfilled prophecy, was altogether worthy of the confidence reposed in him by representatives of a great people who desire nothing more nor less in religion than to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where it is silent and who invited him to represent them in this discussion.

As for Dr. J. Frank Norris, he is a man too well known either personally or through reputation - to the thousands of my readers - for me to contribute much information by writing of him. Either from the platform or through the press he is known not only throughout our own country but his fame has reached to foreign lands. He is editor of a weekly religious paper that boasts a circulation of more than 50,000, and the author of a number of books and pamphlets. More than eight hundred of his sermons have been published. Dr. Norris, when a lad, was baptized into the church of Christ, but later went over to the Baptists. It will be recalled here by many of our readers that Alexander Campbell once went in with the Baptists and then went out. My prediction is that Dr. Norris will quit the Baptists entirely some day and be known simply as a Christian. I may not be a good prophet, but that is my prediction, anyhow. And that will be a glorious day - provided, of course, that his faith and practice accords with such a profession. Nothing better than to be known as, and then live as, a Christian only.

Among the Baptists, J. Frank Norris is better described as a reformer - not a regular Baptist. He has fought with them a thousand battles, and to use an expression of his own, has "passed through deep waters." He does not enjoy their fellowship, nor depend on them for endorsement or support. As to their teachings, and their superstitions in religion, Dr. Norris has ten times as much against them as he has against the teaching, faith and practice of the churches of Christ. And if Modernist Baptists question this, I am willing for them to ask J. Frank Norris himself. Dr. Norris is not only a reformer in his religious communion, but also in civil, social and political life. He is aggressively outstanding as a prohibitionist, and is an inveterate foe of the infamous liquor traffic. With all his faults - and whether they be many or few - I suppose there is not living a man today, who has done more during the last quarter of a century to expose and oppose vice, social evils, crime, and political and moral turpitude in the city of Ft. Worth than has J. Frank Norris. And much of this work represents an heroic struggle that dates to the dark criminal days of the open vice districts and the open saloon, when many, otherwise good, but less courageous souls, actually felt that it was futile even to undertake to eradicate such monstrous evils - such politically shielded and strongly organized, fortified and defended systems of both lawless and legalized debauchery and crime. Such work is appreciated by all law--abiding citizens who stand for clean lives and high moral standards. Norris has effected much along this line and so have the churches of Christ that have been established and built up in Ft. Worth during these years.

On the platform, Dr. J. Frank Norris can hardly be excelled for courtesy, tact and diplomacy. He has a voice that carries remarkably well and he is a ready, easy, and entertaining speaker. He is kind and polite in his manner, and is often impelling in his deliveries. While he presented the usual arguments for his side of the questions at issue, he relied more on the effusive and sentimental to secure an acceptance of his position, than on strict logical deduction, or on rigid interpretation or exactness in the reading of the sacred text. He is an elegant and effective speaker - excelling in the explosive type of oratory.

I am of the persuasion that the debate did much good, and I am hoping that it may be repeated by the same speakers in some other places, and that even greater care may be exercised by all concerned to discard and dispense with everything that is inappropriate, unnecessary, irrelevant, or that, in its final analysis, is not germane to the questions at issue, so that the discovery, acceptance, and exaltation of truth may be the sole desire, aim, and purpose of all. In this way the name of God will be glorified, the cause and kingdom of our Lord will be magnified in the earth, and lost souls will be saved from sin. O glorious, happy thought! To this end may we all persistently strive and industriously labor.

Brother C. M. Stubblefield who handled all details in arranging for this great debate and who was chairman for Brother Wallace will give our readers a general report of the discussion. A large number of others are sending in reports which will be printed as space permits.

At the time the above report was written, Brother Showalter felt that there was some hope of reaching J. Frank Norris with the truth, and he thought the crushing effect of the debate might turn him in later sober moments of reflection toward the truth which he had failed to successfully oppose. His generous remarks on Norris personally were doubtless so designed. But in the light of developments after the debate and the course pursued by Norris the decade past, Brother Showalter would undoubtedly modify his personal remarks in Norris' direction. An effort has been made by Norris to capitalize on what he terms the attitude of the Firm Foundation toward him. It is quite proper therefore that the full text of Brother Showalter's editorial be inserted, as above, that all may see it and know that there is not one sentence in it favorable to J. Frank Norris so far as the results of the debate are concerned.

As a matter of service to the readers of the Gospel Advocate, the publisher of that reputable paper sent the office editor, W. E. Brightwell, to the debate and he reported it as follows. It is inserted here exactly as it appeared in the Gospel Advocate.