Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 3, 1954

The Garrett - Humble Debate

Pat Hardeman, Urbana, Illinois

On April 20-23rd, there was held in Kansas City, Missouri, one of the finest debates of this generation. Bill J. Humble, evangelist for the 39th and Flora Church of Christ in Kansas City, met Leroy Garrett, editor of Bible Talk, in a debate on the question of the employment by a congregation with elders of a preacher to preach the gospel regularly to the church, and also of the college question. Brother Humble, in this his first religious debate, utilized to a wonderful advantage his years of experience in debating in college and in teaching debating in college. The result was a crushing defeat of Garrett's hair-splitting distinctions which he has pressed to the end of divisions in the Lord's body.

Brother Garrett had formerly made much of the supposed testimony of Greek scholars in support of his distinction between "preach" and "teach," but Brother Humble, armed not only with the truth of the matter, but also with years of study and teaching of Greek himself, exposed Garrett's misuse of Greek scholars devastatingly. So much was this done, that finally Garrett called the RSV scholars who he formerly paraded as the finest available, "swaggering seminarians." Brother Humble not only spoke forcibly but also kindly and instructively, illustrating almost every argument with the finest charts imaginable (thanks to the wonderful work of Brother Everitt Woods, of Philadelphia). The last night, after Brother Humble had paralleled Bible Talk with Florida Christian College so closely that it was evident to all that one would stand or fall with the other, Brother Humble asked, "Brother Garrett, would you notice one of my charts if it came down from above?" and immediately descending from the large stage ceiling in the Masonic Temple where the discussion was held was a backdrop with three more large, clear charts (which Garrett also ignored). Brother Humble showed both that it is in harmony with the scriptures for elders to employ a preacher to preach the Gospel to the church, and also that Garrett's opposition to it is woefully inconsistent with his admissions and practices. Leroy Garrett has had one of his very last debates, not only because of the admissions he has been forced to make which will render further debating an impossibility, but also because his own brethren will not long endorse him. During the Kansas City debate, the young preachers which follow the Garrett-Ketcherside theories said they would not defend either Bible Talk or Mission Messenger. Humble had made it impossible for them to do so, and still press their theories. These same young preachers suddenly became woefully dissatisfied with the propositions being debated. Garrett at one time said, 'We are debating practices, not just theories." Then when he was shown that we practice exactly what he said would fit the definition of a scriptural evangelist, he said, "your practice is not what is being debated." He had to say this, because he had been forced to admit that an evangelist can do his duty and travel no more than from house to house in one city for a lifetime.

Garrett said over and over, "I'm not obligated to defend Bible Talk or what I do in preaching." Bill Humble had asked why, if the elders are to do the debating, the elders of the Liberty St. Church had asked Leroy Garrett to come to the debating. When Bill pressed them, finally one of the elders said, "I'll meet you," but of course he won't, and Garrett knows they won't.

All in all it was a wonderful debate with Bill Humble doing a masterful job of exposing God's truth for all to see and mercilessly prosecuting error in the real Christ-like spirit. The writer, who served as moderator for Brother Humble, felt that a new level of debating was reached by Brother Bill Humble in this debate. The spirit, the scholarship, the exposition of principles rather than quips, the logical rigor of the arguments, and above all, the evident love of truth for truth's sake, were outstanding in Brother Humble's work. May we have more debates such as this one!