Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 19, 1955

Abilene Debate Postponed!


At the urgent request of Brother E. R. Harper and the elders of Fifth and Highland Church, the Tant-Harper Debate in Abilene, scheduled for June 20-23, has been postponed until November. Very serious illness of Brother Harper's daughter was the reason for the request. 'The November date will also give additional time to study the matter presented in the Lufkin discussion last month, and should greatly increase the probability of com­plete accord being reached in Abilene. Exact date for the Abilene discussion will be announced later.

Open Letter To E. R. Harper

(The following letter was sent to Brother Harper before his request for postponement had been received.)

April 23, 1955 Dear Brother Harper:

Now that the pressure is off for a few weeks, and we are able to get back into the normal routine of our work, I want to write you a few lines relative to the Lufkin debate, as well as to the one which is coming up in Abilene in June.

First of all, I would like to ask if you will do me the favor of getting someone to make a rough sketch of each of your charts which you used in Lufkin and mail to me. Only a rough pencil sketch will do, and it will not make any difference at all whether the pictures (which, incidentally, were cleverly done) are included in detail. I want the sketches and diagrams only for study, and to make every preparation possible for the Abilene discussion. If you can find someone to do this for me, I will send you the money to pay for the time necessary.

And while I'm on the subject, may I offer reciprocal help to you in the same vein. If there is any argument I made, or chart or diagram I used on the blackboard which you would like to have refreshed in your memory, I will be most happy to send you whatever you may request.

I want to express my deep appreciation for the truly fine spirit and Christian attitude you manifested throughout the entire discussion. I can truthfully say that I had a greater respect for you and a greater love for you as a brother in Christ when the debate ended than I had when it began. You showed yourself a true Christian gentleman under circumstances that must have been trying indeed. Particularly did I admire the fine spirit in which you accepted the embarrassing developments of the final night. While the Otis Gatewood trickery and deception in the matter of the Dick Smith check will be nauseating to all who learn of it, I am happy to believe that you and the Highland elders did not have full knowledge of the deceit and underhanded actions in the case. I realize that the episode was painfully humiliating to both you and the Highland elders. And your statement that you would not for a moment condone Gatewood's action in the case was most gratifying.

You and I both know that our forthcoming discussion in Abilene in June will probably be the most momentous and significant hour that each of us will ever have on this earth. The unity of the whole church in our generation may well depend on our attitude and our endeavors in that discussion. We shall be under terrific pressure, and under a responsibility that is almost frightening in its magnitude. It is not a thing into which either of us dares to enter without the most earnest and sincere prayer of which we are capable. I shall pray daily between now and June 20, and I am sure you will, that God may help us, may over-rule our mistakes, and may guide our discussions to His glory and the well-being of His cause. I shall secure the very best help that many godly men can give to make certain that the positions I take, and the arguments I advance, are in complete harmony with the Word of God. The entire discussion at Lufkin will be carefully studied and analyzed not only by me, but by as many Bible students as can find time to help (I am particularly asking Roy Cogdill, James W. Adams, W. Curtis Porter, J. Early Arceneaux, Homer Hailey, and C. R. Nichol to assist), in a true and diligent effort to determine exactly what the Bible teaches.

If you plan to make the same kind of effort (as I am sure you do), then our Abilene discussion ought to be far superior to our Lufkin debate. And if we are able to maintain the same high level of brotherly courtesy and the good spirit which prevailed at Lufkin, then it is not only possible, but highly probable, that our Abilene discussion will end on such a note of harmony and agreement as to find us completely united on what the Bible teaches. If that happens it may well presage an era of activity and peace and good-will in the Lord's church unprecedented in our lifetime.

I shall hope to be able to demonstrate at Abilene that the "sponsoring church" type of congregational cooperation is not "according to the pattern" of God's Word. If I can judge of your heart in this matter, I believe your only desire is to do what God's Word teaches. I am certain that such is my desire. Both of us are unreservedly committed to the proposition that the Bible can be understood. The only reason, therefore, for any difference between us on this matter of congregational cooperation is that one of us (or maybe both) has not fully understood the Bible teaching on the question. In our Lufkin debate we came a long, long distance toward closing the breach that has grown up between us on this matter. It is my firm intention (and expectation!) to close the gap completely in Abilene. May God help us both to that end!

Meanwhile, be assured again of my deep respect, and admiration for your fine spirit, and my genuine love for a worthy opponent and a true brother in Christ.

Sincerely yours, Yater Tant