Vol.XV No.VII Pg.4
September 1978

The Good Fight

Robert F. Turner

According to an old story, when a Campbellite baptizes a man he comes from the water shouting, "I challenge anyone to debate!" The prejudice in this tale is apparent, but it points to a reputation that, right or wrong, has stuck with restoration efforts. If there is rational explanation and scriptural justification for confrontation (we believe there is) then we should better understand our role, and make a determined effort to carry it out to the glory of God.

Light and darkness are eternally in conflict (Jn. 1:5), and truth is a sword, opposing error (Matt. 10:34-f). The truth re. baptism, the church, worship, etc.; is in stark contrast with error on these subjects. We can not scripturally put light under a basket (Matt. 5:13-f). God commands us to "go — teach" (Mk. 16:15-f; 2 Tim. 2:2), and all who have genuine convictions re. truth, and recognize responsibility toward their fellowman, must try to teach others also.

But we are told our "approach" is wrong; we are too aggressive. People who want their own way regardless of consequences — who want to "go to hell quietly" — will not consider the truth no matter how it is presented. The god of this world has blinded their mind (2 Cor. 4:4). We do not, however, consider our brethren blameless. Some blunder in ignorance, ineptness, and misguided zeal. Their technique could be improved, but they are already far ahead of those who make no approach, who "couldn't care less." We thank God for those who try regardless of blunders, for we know The Cause rests upon their shoulders.

The salvation of souls is the ultimate reason for teaching truth, and we must measure our "approach" by its contribution to this end. Some debaters say they are "defending the truth" but this must be understood in reference to teaching; for God's truth is the anvil, and is not damaged by hammers of error. God doesn't solicit our effort to sustain truth, lest it perish; but to convey it to others. We are not serving God simply because our sermon or article is "strong as horse-radish." We may be driving folk away from truth. Nor do we serve God because we are mild mannered. In our desire to spare their feelings we may be withholding from our hearers truth that is essential to their salvation. Hearers and circumstances vary, and our judgment will be imperfect, but our goal must remain the same. Let us measure our shouts and whispers by what they contribute to leading others to Christ. This is the real test.

And in the process of upholding truth, let us demonstrate the effect of truth in our conduct. Rules of controversy are, for a Christian, those which govern every affair in life. He does not try to win battles for God by use of Satan's instruments.

But a fair statement of desirable principles have long been recognized in "Hedge's Rules." These are from a book, "Elements of Logic" by Dr. Levi Hedge, third edition, 1821. Because the book is not readily available, we are publishing those rules (slightly condensed) on a page to themselves; so they may be reproduced, passed to others, and we hope — used to improve the clime of religious discussion.

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