Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 1, 1951

Concerning Debates

C. D. Crouch, Trumann, Arkansas

Sometimes efforts are made to promote a debate. Sometimes so much anxiety is manifested about a debate that the ones endeavoring to promote it will propose to debate without a proposition. And again, it is sometimes proposed that one will affirm in public debate that some particular thing is as scripturally right as is something else. That is about on a par with the proposal to debate without a proposition. The only possible outcome of such a meeting is a wrangle or personal quarrel. If it is impossible to frame a proposition that defines a definite, specific issue, then it is far better to have nothing to do with a debate. No possible good can come from such an encounter. If the issue is not clearly and pointedly defined in the proposition each one of the disputants will be charging his opponent with holding to that which he does not avow, and that sort of thing can be pushed to an extreme that will hurt.

To propose to affirm that something is as scripturally right as something else is to propose to confuse. Why not in all fairness to oneself propose to affirm that something, without endeavoring to lug into the discussion another matter that may or may not be agreed upon?

I have engaged in a few debates. I have long been convinced that debating is one of the best means of eliciting truth and exposing error. I have never engaged in a debate without a specific proposition that defines a definite, clear cut issue. And even at that, I have found it difficult at times to hold an opponent to the issue. I have attended other debates when I noticed the same difficulty encountered by my brother who was contending for the truth. In the Gospel Advocate, September 20 issue, brother I. A. Douthitt makes his "Proposal Again." He submits a proposition and says: "I know the proposition states an issue." And in the very next sentence, without stopping to take a much needed rest due to the exhaustive labor required to make that statement, says: "A group of brethren, writing much on the subject, take the position that it is right for individual Christians to support these institutions but wrong for the elders of the congregation to do it." Now if brother Douthitt has correctly stated the position of that "group of brethren," I think he ought to be able to see that the position he assigns to them is not identical with the simple negative of his proposition. He says next: "My proposition states that it is right for both to do it." But he has already said that the "group of brethren" he alludes to take the position that it is right for individual Christians to contribute to such "institutions." According the last quotation above, he agrees that it is right for the individual Christian to thus contribute. Then, brother Douthitt, can't you see there is no issue between you and the "group of brethren" you say have "been writing much on the subject" on that particular point? If the "group of brethren" you are writing about insist that it is wrong for the churches as congregations, to contribute to schools, and you say it is right for churches as such to so contribute, why not, brother Douthitt, propose that one of the brethren affirm that it is scripturally right. That is what you said they deny. Since you say all are agreed that individual Christians may contribute to those institutions, with scriptural warrant, it would seem that it ought to be evident that there is no issue on that point. And since the disagreement is with reference to the churches contributing funds from the church treasury to the support of said institutions, that seems to be the only point at issue in the matter. Then, why not brother Douthitt, frame a proposition that defines that issue?

"It is scripturally right for the elders of a congregation to contribute funds from the church treasury to such institutions as David Lipscomb College.

Affirm _________________

Deny _________________

Personally, I see nothing wrong in the way this proposition is worded, nor with what it says. In fact, I think it states the truth. But, I am not hankering for a debate. Now why not one of the "Giants" who have been clamoring for a debate, sign and submit the above proposition to that "group of brethren" whose position brother Douthitt attempted to state. If he correctly stated their position, (and I think he did in so far as he said they teach that it is wrong to use the funds of the church treasury as contributions to the schools) the above proposition seems to express the issue. Brother Douthitt, why not have brother Brewer sign and submit the above proposition to that "group of brethren who have been writing much on the subject," and see if they are "just bluffing"? Your proposition does define the issue, if you stated their position correctly; you can see that. Another question, brother Douthitt: Can you see anything wrong with the wording of the proposition given above? Can brother Brewer see anything wrong with the way it is stated? Brother Totty doesn't need a proposition; he will debate without one. So, it wouldn't matter with him how it is worded.

You need not be concerned about the fact that the above proposition does not involve the negative in inconsistency, which you seem to think the "group of brethren" are afflicted with. Maybe they are inconsistent. I am not so sure that they are not guilty, if that is the charge against them. But, if you should propose to affirm that in debate with them, they might not have the courage to deny a proposition of that sort. Besides, somebody said once, that he had rather be right than to be consistent. Maybe they feel like they are right in contending that it is wrong for churches as congregations to contribute to schools, etc. Do you suppose, brother Douthitt, they could be like that? Then why not submit a proposition that clearly defines the issue, and treat them as though they were sincere in their contention? You proposition doesn't.