Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 30, 1963
NUMBER 5, PAGE 5,12c-13a

The Tucumcari Debate

Derrel W. Shaw

On the nights of June 3-8, 1963, in the meeting house of the church of Christ at 1707 South 3rd in Tucumcari, N.M., brother Jesse G. Jenkins met Mr. Mack D. Abbott in a discussion of six propositions. Mr. Abbott is pastor of the United Pentecostal Church which meets at 1212 N. Washington in Roswell, N.M. A brief summary of the debate is here presented.

The Godhead

Brother Jenkins affirmed: "The scriptures teach that there are three separate and distinct Persons in the Godhead; God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost." He did not affirm there are three Gods or three bodily forms. He pointed out that just as there is one angelhood but many beings, and one manhood but many persons, so there is one Godhood or Godhead (Col. 2:9) but a plurality of Persons, each possessing the characteristics of Deity. In Eph. 4:4-6 there is one Father, one Lord, and one Spirit; this totals three, not one. They are one in work, agreement, and accomplishment, but are nowhere said to be one in person. Many passages were introduced to show that each of the three Persons is distinct from the others; e.g., John 16:7-9; 16:7; Matt. 12:32; 3:11; Rom. 8:26; Acts 10:38. The Old Testament passages which are commonly used to try to prove one Person were anticipated and it was shown that all are contrasting Deity with idol gods.

Mr. Abbott proceeded to use the Old Testament passages (Isa. 43:10-11; Deut. 4:39; etc.), insisting there is one God and charging brother Jenkins with believing in three. He used Job 13:6-12, saying this is the only place in the Bible which talks about persons in reference to God and that it shows such a view to be wrong. He used Col. 2:6-10, 2 Tim. 3:16, and 2 Cor. 5:19, trying to prove that all there is in the Godhead is in Christ. He said Godhead means God's personality and is not Godheads, plural. He gave brief notice to only four of eight written questions which had been handed him.

Formula In Baptism

Mr. Abbott affirmed: "The scriptures teach that the Name of Jesus is the only Name to be used in the act of water baptism." He said that Matt. 28:19 says "in the Name," singular, and that Father, Son and Holy Ghost are titles. Then he used John 5:43; 14:26; Matt. 1:21 to establish the Name as "Jesus." Acts 2:38, 10:48, 19:5 were cited as examples to prove his proposition, and in this connection he referred to Col. 3:17.

Brother Jenkins agreed with most of that Mr. Abbott taught concerning the Name of the Lord, pointing out that the issue is not whether we are to baptize in the Name of the Lord, but whether the New Testament gives a formula which must be spoken over the act of baptizing. Everything we do is to be done in His Name (by His authority, in His service), but we do not have to say we are doing that in order for it to be so. Matt. 28:19 and Luke 24:47 were shown to be parallel in that they require action in the name of Deity. If one specific Name Is to be used, why not "Emmanuel"? (Matt. 1:23) The validity of baptism depends upon obedience from the heart, not upon what is said. (Rom. 6:17-18) Brother Jenkins gave nine written questions which Mr. Abbott ignored.

The Church

Brother Jenkins affirmed: "The scriptures teach that the church of which I am a member is the true church in name, doctrine, and practice." As to the name, it was shown that one of the groups contemplated in Rom. 16:16 would have been a church of Christ. Also compare 1 Cor. 12:27 with Col. 1:18. Our teaching is scriptural in that we teach the church was established on Pentecost, (Isa. 2; Joel 2; Acts 2); at Jerusalem, (Isa. 28:16; Zech. 1:16; Acts 2); by Christ, (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28); all members are equal (Matt. 23:8-19); and the scripture is the only guide. (2 Tim. 3:16,17; 2 Pet. 1:3) Our practice includes the right plan of salvation, the right worship, the right organization and the right work. He contrasted the unscriptural name, doctrine and practice of the United Pentecostal Church.

Mr. Abbott said God never did name the church, and that the true church is known by its practice (to this brother Jenkins agreed). He spent much of his time showing that "church of Christ" is not the only scriptural designation (brother Jenkins said this in his first speech). He said Campbell started the church. He said the church of Christ cannot be the true church because it does not have and practice the spiritual gifts of 1 Cor. 12-14. He defended the name "United Pentecostal" by saying that Jesus prayed for unity. He tried to defend "Reverend" as a title for preachers by saying a woman is to reverence her husband and that just means give him honor. He said the work of the United Pentecostal Church is the same as that brother Jenkins outlined for the church of Christ, but made no defense of his denomination's youth camps, publishing house, schools, etc. He brushed aside eight of nine written questions, taking a circuitous route to answer affirmatively the one which asked if he is an inspired man.

Holy Ghost Experience

Mr. Abbott affirmed: "The scriptures teach that in order to be saved you must be born again and that the Holy Ghost is the Born again experience the same as the Apostles received with the evidence of speaking in other tongues." He said we are promised everything the Apostles had, except Matt. 19:28. He said the 120 in Acts 1 and Cornelius in Acts 10 were examples of those who received the experience of his proposition. He stated that in every example of water baptism in Acts, the person received Holy Ghost baptism either before or after. In response to brother Jenkins' request that he prove his power by healing someone, Mr. Abbott said the Lord did no signs for unbelievers and neither did he. Reference was made to many cases of healing he had seen. He talked at length about speaking in tongues and said that evidence must attend a genuine conversion. He ignored all questions.

Brother Jenkins did not deny the necessity of the new birth, or that the Christian receives the Holy Ghost. On the basis of Eph. 4: 4-5, he denied there are two baptisms today, and showed that the one remaining is in water, not Spirit, as the element. (Acts 10:48) "By" in 1 Cor. 12:13 denotes agency, parallel usages being found in Eph. 5: 26 and Heb. 10:8. By the revealed instructions of the Spirit we are baptized in water. Several verses in Acts 1 and 2 were read to show that only the Apostles, not the 120, received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. We have the same Apostles today and the same miracles. Jesus did work miracles for unbelievers to make believers of them. (John 20: 30-31) Mr. Abbott was challenged to strike brother Jenkins blind. (Acts 13:10) If he has what the Apostles had he can do what they did.

Instrumental Music

Brother Jenkins affirmed: "The use of mechanical instruments of music in connection with the songs sung in the assembly of the saints is without scriptural authority, and therefore, sinful and wrong." He said the Bible authorizes by precept, example and necessary inference and that authority is general or specific. This was illustrated from a chart on Gen. 6; Num. 19; Num. 20; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16. Nine passages were given on another chart showing that God specified singing as the kind of music in worship, therefore instrumental music is without scriptural authority. We can know what pleases God only by reading what He has revealed. (1 Cor. 2:11; 2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 John 9) God's silence is as binding as His injunction. Song books are an aid, not an addition; playing an instrument is another act.

Mr. Abbott made fun of the chart on general and specific authority, reading words at random and saying it had nothing to do with the proposition. He said mechanical music is right because the Bible doesn't say anything about it, and then introduced Ps. 87:5-7 as scriptural authority for it! (Brother Jenkins asked him for the law against sprinkling, and his reply was that maybe brother Jenkins could get a Methodist to debate him on that.) He found instruments in the worship of Israel and thought he found them in heaven, concluding they must be all right in the church. He said there are harps in heaven (Rev. 5:8-9), and the Lord's will is to be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10) He paid no attention to brother Jenkins' subsequent question if he believed we ought to have babies in the church because there will be babies in heaven.

Prayer In Conversion

Mr. Abbott affirmed: "The scriptures teach that prayer is included in the conversion of an alien sinner." He made little or no distinction between repentance and prayer, saying that anyone who seeks God and salvation must ask Him, and the asking is prayer. He introduced the Pharisee and the Publican in Luke 18. He said John refused to baptize people in Matt. 3 until they brought forth signs of repentance, and that part of that fruit or signs is calling on the name of the Lord. He used "calling on the name of the Lord" and "prayer" synonymously. He said Saul was required in Acts 22:16 to call on the name of the Lord. Cornelius was presented as a case of salvation being brought about by prayer. He said hearing, believing, and being baptized are part of the plan of salvation, but that it takes all the plan to save man and prayer Is part of the plan.

Brother Jenkins referred to the nine examples of conversion in Acts and showed that prayer was not included in any of them. In the only two cases where it is recorded the men were praying (Saul and Cornelius) both were told by servants of God to cease their praying and do something else. It was shown that a person must repent, but repentance and prayer are not the same thing. Calling on the name of the Lord means doing God's will, not praying to Him. (Matt. 7:21) Rom. 10: 13-17 shows the order to be: preach, hear, believe, obey. When one obeys he calls on the name of the Lord. Prayer is a spiritual, not a physical, blessing; but all spiritual blessings are in Christ (Eph. 1:3); therefore, only those in Christ have the blessing of prayer.

A Good Debate

Both men conducted themselves in a commendable way, and all the faithful present were pleased with brother Jenkins' presentation and defense of the truth. The same two men are to meet In Roswell, N. M., September 9-14, this year. During the Tucumcari debate Mr. Abbott challenged Bob Craig, who was moderating for brother Jenkins, and brother Craig accepted. Announcement concerning two debates between him and Mr. Abbott will be forthcoming.

— 101 Cedar Ave., Dumas, Texas