Vol.VI No.III Pg.1
May 1969

Winning Debates

Robert F. Turner

Twenty-five years ago, or more, I attended a debate in East Texas, between John W. Hedge and Ben Bogard. It was held in a small country community where there was a congregation of eight Christians, all women.

Bogard, a famous Baptist debater, was at his best; and moved from one brilliant (?) quibble to another, ignoring the fair implications of the text presented and playing to the audience with wit and sarcasm. Looking back on it now, I believe it was all in the game with Bogard, and he played well. Several of our folk thought bro. Hedge should put on some steam, and reply in kind.

But John W. plodded on, placing passage after passage on the board, and sticking with his basic purpose — to show his proposition scriptural.

The week following the debate, I went into this community and held a gospel meeting. I baptized eight people, several of them men, doubling the size of the congregation there. My pride was somewhat dulled when most of the converts told me they had learned the truth, not in my meeting, but during the debate. But a young preachers pride can be, and was, cancelled by joy over souls saved.

Who won the debate? That depends on the purpose one has in mind when people come together to discuss their differences. This was the first, but by no means the last time I was to see the fickle minds of shallow folk carried away by flashy rhetoric, while level-headed, thinking people responded to the truth of God.

Not every preacher is a public debater. There are skills needed here that are unnecessary in other fields. The ability to see through arguments rapidly, to remain cool under fire, to anticipate the opponent, to make unambiguous illustrations, and to beach the audience. But the most brilliant use of carnal tools in debate, can not take the place of truth. There is no power like that of the gospel of Christ. (Rom. 1:16)

A godly life may win debates when words fail (1 Pet. 3:1) Let us be soul, not win hungry.