A Conversation Between Louis W. Garrett, Clinton D. Hamilton and Pat Hardeman
(Introductory Note: When we determined to talk to brother Hardeman concerning his spiritual condition, the thought of writing a summary of such conversation never entered our minds. However, after the conversation revealed what it did, we felt brother Hardeman's views should be made known to brethren since there are many questions being asked about him. We did not, however, want to make any public statement about our conversation, except with his knowledge and approval. Consequently, the summary of the conversation, which we had written while our memories were still clear as to what happened, was presented to him and it appears below, except with some alterations which he suggested. He approved our sending the statement to various brotherhood papers. We sincerely regret the necessity of making known these facts and do so with no animosity toward brother Hardeman. We also fervently hope that only good may come from its circulation. We take full responsibility for everything here stated.)
On the afternoon of October 8 we had a conversation with brother Pat Hardeman that lasted slightly more than an hour.
We told him that we had been close to him in the past and since we were interested in his soul, we wanted to talk with him concerning that. He replied by stating that it was true that we had been close in the past but not in the recent past, for he had a feeling that some of his views (moderate drinking, etc.) may have caused a break between us. We responded by saying that we came to talk with him about his own salvation and to ascertain for ourselves actually what he believes firsthand rather than hearing rumors or hearsay reports. Accordingly, we explored with him his convictions on a number of things.
Verbal Inspiration of the Bible. We told brother Hardeman that when some of us talked with him about two years ago (actually May, 1958) he confidently affirmed that the Bible was verbally inspired, and we inquired as to whether he still held this view. He said that he did not. He said there are some statements in the Bible (in such books as Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah) concerning numbers of people which he could not accept on the basis of archeological evidence. He was asked if it might be the case that the evidence in this instance is not all in, and his response was that such is a possibility. "Anything is possible, but we don't have the criteria for passing on possibilities," he said. The evidence he once thought to be sufficient, he now felt was not of such a nature that he was compelled to believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible. Consequently, he has abandoned this view on the basis that he feels the evidence now available does not force one to it. In connection with this, the resurrection of Christ was brought up for it is a belief based on evidence.
Resurrection of Christ. Brother Hardeman was asked if he believed the evidence for the resurrection of Christ was sufficient to convince one that the event occurred. His response was no. He said at one time he believed the evidence was compelling, but upon a re-examination and re-assessment of the evidence in the light of philosophical and scientic truth, he no longer held the view that Christ actuallv was raised from the dead. He said that if this event can be proved, it would be no firm basis for the verbal inspiration and the infallibility of the scriptures. When asked what things of ancient history he did believe and on what ground, he stated there are many problems connected with such history and one has to be honest both with himself and the available evidence in deciding what is true or false. He does not believe there have been miracles, but one fact of ancient history he does believe is the historicity of Alexander the Great.
The Existence of God. In the light of the fact that he no longer believes in the verbal inspiration of the scriptures nor in the resurrection of Christ, brother Hardeman was asked what his conviction was concerning the existence of God. He replied he was still of the conviction that there is a supreme being, God, and since he must start with some hypothesis, this seems to him to be the most rational one. However, he no longer believes that this God revealed Himself in the Bible nor has He spoken infallibly to man. Though he felt a number of our brethren would probably believe that he never taught that he could not prove the existence of God, he said he had always argued that it was an hypothesis and the most reasonable one. He said the very nature of the case is such (God being invisible) one cannot demonstrably prove the existence of God or by formal logic demonstrate any matter of fact. However, he affirmed that he still believes in the existence of God.
What is Religion? We inquired of him if he had any religion, or what was his concept of religion. He said, surely I am religious. I am vitally concerned with the welfare of my fellow men, whatever their condition, station or race. I am constantly seeking to better the general welfare of mankind. He was also asked what matters he believed which he could prove. One such belief he said is the dignity of man. He said that his own self-consciousness proved that he had a soul. When an individual seeks to elevate and improve the lot and condition of men all over the world, he has sufficient motivation for doing good works. He said, a number of people may wonder how I am motivated. This is it. To me it is a grand motivation, and I enjoy serving my fellow man. There is so much that needs to be done and most of us do so little, he said. Take out those references in the gospel to doing good to men and the gospel is terribly mutilated. Thus even my concept of seeking to improve man's welfare agrees with the Bible.
Heaven and Hell. Upon being asked whether he believed in the existence of heaven and hell, he replied that depends on how the terms are used. He said, in the sense you fellows believe in heaven and hell I do not because that belief is based upon the Bible. Asked if he felt he would go to heaven, he said that depends upon how you use the term. Recognizing the dignity of man, I seek to work for his best interests and to glorify God, and if there is a reward for such behavior, I believe I will receive one. One who lives consistently with his views of right and wrong, according to brother Hardeman, will have done his best in life and can expect whatever reward there may be.
Relation to the Church. Several times in the conversation brother Hardeman used expressions to indicate he considered himself to be outside the church and upon being asked whether this was his disposition toward the matter he replied, yes, I am not a member. He then was asked if he were preaching for the Unitarians. He said, I preach for them some and it may be I will start preaching for them regularly. We told him we understand the Unitarians were of the conviction that a man is free under God to believe and teach whatever he pleases. He said, you are correct in this understanding. I believe I have more in common with this group than I do with any others because they let one speak what he believes. I will probably go with them. Asked if he considered us brethren, he responded, "No, not in the sense you use the term. I am your brother, and you are mine, in the sense I use the term."
He said he had received many letters from brethren over the country but had not replied to the letters, for they were of such a nature that he felt under the circumstances there was no need for reply.
Morality. Since he has surrendered belief in the verbal inspiration of the Bible and beliefs founded upon that, he was asked what standard of morality he had. Specifically, did he condemn fornication, drunkenness and the like. He said that he was certainly opposed to fornication on a number of grounds, one of which was it was not good for society because there would be illegitimate children and other such bad effects. He said, I am probably as opposed to fornication as you are. Certainly I oppose drunkenness upon a number of grounds. Upon being asked whether he had been drunk, he replied in the negative. He said, you probably have heard that I go to a number of low-brow bars, but I tell you I do not believe in such things. Frankly, I believe those places are for the birds. The most "lowbrow" bar I visit is the Redwood Room (a downtown restaurant). People who really know me will tell you I am a man of moderation. There may be some people who give reports otherwise, but these are not so.
His Change of View and His Wife. He said that he had heard reports to the effect that brethren felt his wife had strongly influenced him in his thinking. To him these reports were utterly ridiculous. He believes they are false and unfair both to his wife and to his own integrity. We asked him if it were not possible for her to have had some effect on him, as well as he on her, to which he replied that certainly such was the case.
Letter to brother Goodpasture. He was asked if the reports that he had written brother B.C. Goodpasture about his change of view concerning the scriptures and the resurrection of Christ were true. He said that he had written him but that a letter he received from brother Goodpasture two or three days ago had him puzzled, for brother Goodpasture's letter, of about three lines, stated that he had not heard from him and wondered how he was. This he and Sarah interpreted to mean that for some reason brother Goodpasture had not received his letter. When asked how long ago it was that he wrote brother Goodpasture, he said it was about two months.
Present Brotherhood Issues. He said he thought that J. D. Thomas' book tried to defend a position that was untenable and that he had told some brethren this. He also feels that those who oppose brother Thomas' view are likewise involved in inconsistencies just as Thomas is. Brother Hardeman said that the use some people in the church of Christ make of the book of Acts involves them in much subjective reasoning. He feels the concept of the "all-sufficiency" of the church is rather nebulous and subjective because two persons believing in the "all-sufficiency" of the church come out with different ideas on cooperation and relief of the needy. He said that these matters are not the ones that caused him to change his convictions (though they did in some measure enter the picture) and that he felt that these would not be enough ground to change convictions on such major issues as the verbal inspiration of the scriptures.
We told him that we were interested in the salvation of his soul and that we would continue to pray for him. The meeting closed in a very amicable spirit even as it had been conducted. Brother Hardeman assured us that he appreciated our coming and observed that we were the only members of the church that had contacted him specifically to talk about his soul and his present beliefs. Our interest indicated by our visit and comments about prayer were commended by him. He said that we had differences of opinion but that he would not say that we were irrational or ridiculous in our believing as we do. There is an honest difference of opinion between us as to whether the evidence merits our holding the views we do. He also said that our talking with him could have nothing but a salutary effect, and he assured us that he was happy to have talked with us and would be happy to engage us in further conversation.
Louis W. Garrett (Signed)
Clinton D. Hamilton (Signed)
October 9, 1959
Temple Terrace, Florida
P.S. When the foregoing was presented to brother Hardeman, he was asked how he classifies himself as to his convictions -- infidel, agnostic, modernist, etc. He replied that he is "a liberal religionist."
Truth Magazine IV:2; pp. 3-5