Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 21, 1955
NUMBER 11, PAGE 8b-9a

Reply To Brother John F. Reese

W. Curtis Porter, Monette, Arkansas

There is an old adage that says: "A drowning man will grab at a straw." That the "principle" contained in this old adage is still true is demonstrated by Brother John F. Reese in his article concerning "A PRINCIPLE ETERNAL" that is published in this issue of the Gospel Guardian. He refers to an article written by Brother Luther Martin and printed in the Gospel Guardian of May 19, 1955, relative to Brother E. R. Harper's use of the expression, "principle eternal," in the debate recently held at Lufkin, Texas.

He commends articles written by Brother Martin concerning Catholicism and published in various papers, but he says: "That we must dissipate our strength, waste our time and allow souls to be lost to the appeals of this man-made religious monster while arguing among ourselves is certainly to be regretted." To this, of course, we all agree, but that kind of reasoning does not justify the setting up of a central agency, composed of one congregation, through which the church universal is to do its radio preaching. The same plea could be made by the Christian Church in behalf of the Missionary Society. But if some are lost to Catholicism "while we are arguing" with the Christian Church about their "central agency" known as the Missionary Society through which the "church universal" may do its evangelistic work, such would still not justify the existence of the Missionary Society.

But Brother Reese thinks he might be able to "come to Brother Martin's assistance," as well as to the assistance of others who might be disturbed, over the question of the "principle eternal" as used by Brother Harper. And Brother Reese says: "It seems to us a bit strange that Brother W. Curtis Porter who incidentally was Brother Tant's moderator failed to enlighten him (and all others) on what he (Brother Porter) was privileged and pleased to call an 'Eternal Principle.' Why Brother Porter could have even furnished Brother Tant with enough inside information that Brother Tant could have told some elders from hundreds of miles away the answer to the question, 'What is this principle eternal'?"

Then he refers to page 94 of the PORTER-TINGLEY DEBATE in which I introduced I Cor. 1:12, 13 to prove that one must have Christ crucified for him and be baptized in the name of Christ to belong to him. It will not be necessary for me to give you the entire quotation from the debate with Tingley or to give you even all of the quotation made by Brother Reese, if you will read his article before you read this reply. But when Paul declared that the Corinthian church was divided, some saying, "I am of Paul, Apollos, Cephas and Christ," I stated that Paul laid down an "eternal principle." So he thinks I was using Brother Harper's argument back in 1947 and that it did not originate with either Brother Harper or with me. But actually I don't know of anybody who has ever denied that there are "eternal principles" in the word of the Lord. Paul speaks in Hebrews 5:12 of "the first principles of the oracles of God" and in Hebrews 6:1 he tells them to leave "the principles of the doctrine of Christ" and "go on unto perfection." I don't suppose anybody denies that these are "eternal principles" for we are told by Peter that "the word of the Lord endureth forever." (I Peter 1:25.) Brother Tant did not even suggest, in the Lufkin debate, that there is no such thing as an "eternal principle." And Brother Martin, in the article referred to, did not even intimate that he was "momentarily stunned" because Brother Harper used the expression, "eternal principle," in his speeches at Lufkin. But he was stunned because Brother Harper used the expression "in the following fashion." It was not the use of the expression to which Brother Tant objected nor that stunned Brother Martin, but it was "the fashion" in which he used it. What was that fashion? Here are the exact words of Brother Harper as taken from the tape recording:

"There are four ways to teach a thing: one is by a command; the other is by an example; the other is by necessary inference; and, the other is by a principle eternal."

In the debate with Tingley I did not use "eternal principle" in any such fashion, as any one can easily see, and Brother Reese is the drowning man grabbing at a straw. Surely there was an eternal principle in I Cor. 1:12, 13, as well as in many other parts of the divine record, but not according to "the fashion" used by Brother Harper. Paul showed that no one had a right to claim to be "of Paul" for Paul had not been crucified for any and none had been baptized in his name. From this we "necessarily infer" that Paul must be crucified for men and they must be baptized in his name before they can belong to him. This is an "eternal principle" revealed to us by way of a "necessary inference," and that "same principle," revealed by the same manner, also applies to Apollos, to Cephas and to Christ. But Brother Harper said this "eternal principle" is separate from and in addition to any "necessary inference." But Porter, in his debate with Tingley, did not use it in any such fashion. There are "eternal principles" revealed in commandments; there are "eternal principles" revealed in examples; and there are "eternal principles" revealed in necessary inferences. For this we have always contended. Both Brother Tant and Brother Martin will contend for it as strongly as any one. But Brother Harper contends that in addition to all these three ways by which God reveals His will to us, there is a fourth way, separate and apart from all of them, known as a "principle eternal" that justifies the Highland church in Abilene in becoming a "central agency" through which thousands of churches may do their radio work. There is no commandment that could possibly include it; there is no example in which it may be involved; and there is no necessary inference to give it any sanction; but separate from all of these there is a "principle eternal" that authorizes it. The expression was not used "in any such fashion" by me in the debate with Tingley, and Brother Reese's source of comfort has completely failed him.

Furthermore, the elders in Oklahoma City, who sent the question, "What is this principle eternal?" did not deny there are "eternal principles" in the word of God. But they wanted to know about this "fourth way" of proving a thing by an "eternal principle" that is not involved in a command, an example or a necessary inference. What about using it "in this fashion"? I am sorry, Brother Reese, but you will have to try it all over again.