The Hale-Spears Debate in Oklahoma City
Roy E. Cogdill
Canoga Park, California
It was the pleasure of this writer to attend the debate in Oklahoma City between brethren Dudley ROSS Spears and Lewis Hale during the week of March 28 to April 1. Monday and Tuesday nights were given to the discussion of Herald of Truth and Thursday and Friday nights the discussion was on the benevolent organizations such as Tipton Home and Boles Home.
All four nights of the discussion took place in the building at Tenth and Francis Streets where brother Spears is the preacher. While brother Hale was willing to defend his position on these issues and was backed by the church where he preaches, the Southwest Church of that city and its elders, neither he nor they were willing that any part of the debate should be held in their building.
The building at Tenth and Francis will accommodate perhaps nine hundred people and it was well filled each night and a night or two during the debate there was near a capacity crowd. This was an indication of unusual interest among the Tenth and Francis members and also among those in Oklahoma City and surrounding communities who stand with brother Hale. Quite a number of preachers from all over the country came to give brother Spears their backing and encouragement.
We will not undertake to give a detailed review of the discussion but suggest that those interested in hearing it may obtain the tapes of the entire discussion from brother H. E. Phillips for the nominal cost of $12.00. Brother Phillips came from Tampa, Florida, where he lives, and recorded the debate and will be glad to furnish reproductions of it to all who wish to have it. His address is: H. E. Phillips, P. O. Box 17244, Tampa, Florida 33612.
We do believe, however, that it would be interesting to our readers to point out a few things in general about the debate and a few of the highlights in it. The proposition on the Herald of Truth or the sponsoring church issue was a little unusual in its wording: "The scriptures teach that there is an exclusive and binding pattern of cooperation among churches for Evangelism which is violated by the Herald of Truth type of cooperation." Brother Spears affirmed this proposition. He built his case largely on the definition of the word, "Pattern." He defined it as the "sum total of all that the scriptures teach to be God's will concerning any matter." From this he argued that when all the Bible teaches about anything is gathered together, this is the divine pattern of God's will and it is exclusive for the reason that God condemns anyone who goes beyond the "doctrine of Christ" or preaches any "other gospel."
He drew a parallel between the pattern in the scriptures for the worship, work, and organization of the church and the scriptural pattern for church cooperation. He pointed out that these patterns not only include that which is the will of the Lord but also exclude that which God does not will. He further contended that the pattern for church cooperation, consisting of all the scriptures teach on this subject, either includes the sponsoring church type of cooperation or it does not include it. If it includes it, brother Hale was obligated to produce the passage that includes it in the denial of the proposition. If this could not be done, then the silence of God's world would exclude it and the scriptures condemn those who would add it.
In his charts he illustrated that just as singing excludes instrumental music, immersion excludes sprinkling, water excludes an: other element in baptism, the unleavened loaf and the fruit of the vine excludes every other element in the Lord's Supper, so the scriptural pattern of church cooperation excludes the federation of churches, the pooling of resources by churches and centralizing the control under one eldership of the work of many churches.
He argued that in the scriptures we not only have the positive pattern of church cooperation in evangelism but that in this divine pattern there is conspicuously missing any commandment, approved example, or necessary inference for the sponsoring type of church cooperation. From such a pattern there is missing either generic or specific authority for one church sending money to another church to be used in preaching. When the New Testament churches cooperated in supporting the preaching of the gospel, they sent directly to the preacher and never to the church. He challenged brother Hale to produce the passage that teaches directly or indirectly that it is God's will and divine sanction is given to one church sending to another church a contribution to be used to preach the gospel.
It was outstanding that in the two speeches which he made the first night brother Hale did not introduce a single passage of scripture nor even mention any except those which brother Spears had introduced or which appeared on an illustration which he had taken from the weekly church paper, "The Gospel Visitor," which Tenth and Francis publishes and brother Spears edits. The second night on the proposition brother Hale, when he was pressed again by brother Spears for some scripture, finally introduced Matt. 28:18-20. He argued that there is authority for the Herald of Truth in the command, "Go, teach." Brother Spears contended in his last speech in reply to this that if the generic command in the Great Commission included Herald of Truth, it would also include the Missionary Society. He further contended that if the passage excluded the Missionary Society, it would also exclude the Herald of Truth and for the same reason. The most conspicuous thing in the discussion on this proposition was the emphasis given by brother Spears to the fact that brother Hale had tried to establish his position without giving any scripture at all but only by relying upon what he regarded as inconsistencies by him and Tenth and Francis in what they had done and said in the past. He was trying to establish the truth of "what the scriptures teach" without any reference to the scriptures but by sophistry and human reason.
One of the most amusing things during the last night on the Herald of Truth was when, in dealing with one of the charts that Spears had introduced, brother Hale charged that error had been made in the amount of money which brother Spears had said the Herald of Truth received. He pointed out that they had not received all of this money but had only asked for it. In response brother Spears introduced the financial statement of The Herald of Truth for 1960 for the whole year's operation and showed that it had a discrepancy in it for $22,000 approximately. He pointed out that this discrepancy was not a simple error in mathematics or addition but that it was made to balance with $22,000 unaccounted for and that though this was exposed in the Newbern debate several years ago there had been no explanation or correction made until this day to account for it. Brother Frank Cawyer, head mogul of the Herald of Truth since the death of brother Reese, jumped out of his seat like he had been stuck with an old fashioned hat pin when that was brought out. Brother Hale even under brother Cawyer's prompting offered no explanation concerning this. Brother Spears suggested that the point in the mistake was that a group of elders that set themselves forth among the brethren throughout the world as a capable group of business men experienced and competent to oversee a work for the whole brotherhood would put out a yearly financial statement with such a discrepancy in it and that such was definitely a reflection upon at least their competency.
The last two nights of the discussion brother Hale affirmed "It is in harmony with the scriptures for churches to build, maintain and regularly contribute money to such benevolent organizations as Tipton Home, Boles Home and other orphan homes and homes for the aged that are among us." Very evidently feeling the pressure of the first two nights from brother Spears concerning his failure to make a single argument based on a Bible passage, brother Hale decided to introduce some Bible passages of some sort. So he introduced a number of passages in the New Testament on the theme of benevolence in his first speech. Brother Spears pointed out in his first speech that all of the passages introduced by brother Hale either applied to the obligation of individual benevolence or the obligation of a local church to take care of its own needy or assist another church that had more destitute members than it could care for. He emphasized that none of this is questioned or was involved in any way in the proposition. He further emphasized that when brother Hale got down to the real issue in his proposition, the very thing that he was under obligation to prove, he quit the Bible and had not offered a single passage concerning the churches building and maintaining benevolent organizations.
He emphasized that brother Hale had not and could not produce a passage of scripture authorizing churches to "build and maintain benevolent organizations" but in this as in the first issue discussed he had to rely upon the other fellow's inconsistencies or what he regarded as such and upon sophistry and human wisdom for his proof.
Perhaps the most telling thing in the debate was the failure of brother Hale to rely upon Bible proof. This, of course, is always the case in the discussion of these issues. If brethren who so practice had any Bible for what they do, everyone knows they would produce it and rely upon it and when they do not use Bible proof it is prima facie evidence that they do not have any.
Brother Hale sought to confuse the issue by two principal contentions. He argued that if the churches could buy the services of a human institution, they could contribute to it. He tried to put the Tenth and Francis elders in a position of endorsing buying services from such institutions as Tipton by a statement they had made a number of years ago. From this he drew the conclusion that they could make a contribution to such institutions. Brother Spears showed that even though the statement admitted the first and whether or not it was right or wrong, or was their present attitude in such a matter, the conclusion was not warranted and was based purely upon brother Hale's ipse dixit. He pointed out that the Tenth and Francis Church sometimes bought services from the Catholic Hospital nearby but could not rightly contribute to it and pressed brother Hale to say that it could be done. Brother Hale responded that if all the patients in such a hospital were the responsibility of Tenth and Francis they could contribute and purchasing their total services would be equivalent to contributing. He came very close in this position, and all of them do, to admit- ting or contending for limited benevolence. If they do not believe in limited benevolence, why would they stipulate that the churches could run a hospital only when it cared for indigent saints or contribute to its maintenance only when it was caring exclusively for those who were its charge?
Brother Hale tried in the second place, to contend that the benevolent organization is of no consequence. He argued that Tipton Home is under Elders, as elders, even though they are incorporated and empowered to run the home legally as a board of directors. He admitted that by their charter and in the sight of the law they were a board of directors over the home but contended that from the viewpoint of the church they were just Elders. He tried to show this by Chief Justice Marshall's definition of a Corporation as an imaginary thing. Brother Spears countered on this point with a full legal definition of a corporation setting forth that it has a real existence, a legal entity, though it exists only in contemplation of law, and that it can do much of what a person can do legally, such as, hold title to property, buy and sell, sue and be sued, etc. He recited the case of a woman who sued Tipton Home to recover her children that she had placed there and pointed out that she did not sue the church or the elders either as elders or as individuals but the incorporated body or the organization that has charge of and runs the home.
When brother Hale contended that we appoint trustees of the church and incorporate the church and argued that such was not a separate organization, brother Spears showed that church trustees or a church corporation is another organization for a corporation has been held by the supreme court to be a part of nothing and is separate from its directors and those who compose it legally. He also pointed out that there are two different types of corporations. When a church is incorporated to hold title to property, the corporate body and its trustees cannot interfere with or control the spiritual functions of the church. In many of the states it would be illegal for them to do so and in all of them it would be unscriptural. He cited an example of a church corporation, empowered by its charter to appoint and remove elders and control the activities of the church like the incorporation controls Tipton Home and asked if brother Hale would endorse it. He did not answer.
In his work on the benevolent societies, brother Spears introduced a chart setting forth a comparison between the "schools" such as Oklahoma Christian College and others operated by brethren and the "homes" such as Tipton and Boles. He introduced statements by N. B. Hardeman, and Batsell Barrett Baxter that the orphan homes and schools stand or fall together. He also introduced a statement from Reuel Lemmons to the effect that the schools were trying to use the "homes" as the doorstep to get themselves in the budgets of the churches. He challenged brother Hale to tell the audience whether or not he believed the schools could be supported out of church treasuries. He did not find out.
It is singular that the Gospel Advocate crowd contends that the "homes" must be separate institutions from the church and contend that it is wrong and sinful for "homes" to be under elders but must be under a general board while the Firm Foundation crowd believes that a "home" under the elders of the church, as such, is the way to build and run them. The Advocate contends that the churches should support the schools while Reuel Lemmons and those who go along with him contend to the contrary. Yet they will compromise and go along fraternizing each other and try to destroy all who contend that neither is true. Brother Hale tries to straddle the fence and go along with both. He is in the precarious position of a man trying to ride two horses each of which is traveling in different directions.
The debate will do much good. It cannot be productive of anything else. More need to be held but you cannot find many of the liberal modern brethren who believe in de- bating any more. We commend brother Hale for doing his best to defend his cause.
Dudley Ross Spears is doing a fine work at Tenth and Francis. He is young in years but has splendid ability. He is a fluent speaker, a thorough student, impresses his audience with his humility and his genuine sincerity. He did a very fine job of upholding the truth in this debate and is thoroughly capable of upholding the truth against any opposition. It is very encouraging to see the good Tenth and Francis Church that has suffered much discouragement, misrepresentation and abuse in recent years making real progress now and growing substantially. The elders and members gave brother Spears their unstinted support in the discussion and seem determined to militantly contend for the faith once delivered. We thank God for such gospel preachers and such churches.
Truth Magazine X: 9, pp. 14-17 June 1966