The Heinselman-Jenkins Debate
Ronald G. Mosby
Valley Station, Kentucky
A debate between brethren Bill Heinselman and Ferrell Jenkins was conducted in Akron, Ohio, Dec. 4, 5, 7, 8, 1967. Brother Heinselman was endorsed by the West Side church in Akron where he labors as evangelist. Brother Jenkins was endorsed by the Brown Street church in the same city where both he and Brother Connie Adams serve as evangelists. Both congregations hosted the debate and each debater affirmed his proposition in the meeting house of his opponent.
Brother W. L. Totty was the moderator for brother Heinselman, and, except for a few curt remarks, was unusually well behaved throughout the discussion. It was my pleasure to serve as moderator for Brother Jenkins. Brother Heinselman has engaged in a few more religious debates than has Brother Jenkins though it was not apparent from his performance. It was Brother Jenkins' second religious debate. The recognition his debate team received during three years of intercollegiate debating was justified by the skill and poise that characterized brother Jenkins throughout the debate.
Brother Jenkins possesses an unmatched scholastic ability for accurate research. He carefully documented more than 100 charts in preparation for this debate and presented only about one third of his material. He was forceful in his presentation and yet his characteristically humble manner and pleasant countenance demonstrated his being master of the situation throughout the discussion. Brother Jenkins had charts to answer every quibble brother Heinselman made and even some that, answer quibbles that evidently Heinselman has not even thought of as yet!
The First Two Nights
The proposition for the first two nights involved the contributing of funds from the church treasury to benevolent institutions such as Mid-Western Children's Home, Cincinnati, Ohio, and Potter Orphan Home and School, Inc., Bowling Green, Ky. The first night, brother Heinselman affirmed that it was scripturally right for a local church to contribute funds from its treasury to support such institutions. Brother Heinselman spent the majority of his time the first night trying to show inconsistencies in the practices of local churches in the Akron area and in the writings of Brother Jenkins. He claimed that such passages as James 1:27; 1 Timothy 5:16; and Galatians 6:10 proved his proposition. Brother Jenkins very carefully showed how brother Heinselman first shifted from individual responsibility to church responsibility, and then from church responsibility to the benevolent institution, and thus totally perverted the James 1:27 passage. Even the very young in the audience could see the wresting of scripture in this message.
Then brother Heinselman tried to show that either James 1:27 and I Timothy 5:16 supported his proposition or contradicted each other. Again, brother Jenkins showed the church's responsibility to widows indeed in the I Tim. 5:16 passage, and also the individual's responsibility in the same passage as well as in James 1: 2 7. Then brother Heinselman tried to make the term, himself, in James 1:27 refer to the church because a pronoun was used in Ephesians 5:25 to refer to the church and it was to be without spot. Brother Jenkins pointed out that the meaning of pronouns must be determined by their antecedent in a given context, not in ten books back. Brother Jenkins pointed out that the same one who visited was to keep himself unspotted.
In an effort to come to grips with the issue, brother Jenkins prepared a summary chart granting fourteen passages showing individual benevolence; six passages showing the church's responsibility to its own (included with these he granted Gal. 6:10 and James 1:27 for the sake of argument); and four passages showing one church sending funds to relieve the needs of another church. He left another whole column blank and repeatedly pressed brother Heinselman to put the scripture in it which showed a church sending fund to a benevolent institution. When Brother Jenkins so thoroughly exposed brother Heinselman's perversion of his alleged proof texts, brother Heinselman would cut a vacillating trail from one scripture to another making only vague assertions and never really committing himself.
Finally, in his last negative speech, when brother Jenkins had no opportunity to reply, brother Heinselman suddenly ceased vacillating and claimed that the messengers of the churches in 2 Cor. 8 and 9 were really not messengers of the churches but a benevolent institution like Mid-Western and Potter and that Paul was probably the "Chairman of the board of directors." Heinselman used I Cor. 16:3; 2 Cor. 8:6, 19, 23 in an effort to prove this wild assertion. It is significant that brother Heinselman made no reference to his committee chart in the first two affirmative speeches when it is proper for a debater to lay out his proof for his proposition. He went two and one half minutes beyond his allotted twenty minute speech in his second affirmative presentation and used the last forty-five seconds of this time and referred to the messengers as a committee, implying that they were acting for the churches like a board of directors would in securing property. Even though this was a new argument in his last speech and such a flagrant violation of scripture, there was no point of order made at this time. It is also significant that even though Heinselman did not refer to the messengers as a benevolent institution until his last speech, and even though he never really made an argument on the passages used, brother Jenkins replied every time even to his vague assertions with a clear chart showing that the messengers were acting for the churches like a post office would and were not separate and apart from the churches acting on their own like a benevolent institution does. Brother Heinselman was criticized even by his own people for this unfair tactic and he apologized to Brother Jenkins more than once for his antics during the discussion.
Brother Jenkins very forcefully showed that brother Heinselman occupied the same position a Christian Church preacher does when he demands a specific passage which shows the instrument to be wrong. Brother Heinselman kept demanding a specific passage showing the benevolent institution to be without authority. This was damaging to brother Heinselman and the audience could see it. Brother Heinselman demanded that brother Jenkins show the word in James 1:27 which excluded the church. Brother Jenkins illustrated the absurdity of such a question by asking what word in God's command to Noah to build the ark excluded Methuselah from building it? Brother Jenkins pointed out that God's authority is inclusive and that he would be satisfied with just general authority which showed a church sending fund to a benevolent institution.
The Last Two Nights
The propositions for the last two nights involved churches sending funds to a cooperative arrangement such as the Herald of Truth Radio Program sponsored by the Highland church in Abilene, Texas. As mentioned earlier, brother Heinselman tried to make a benevolent institution out of the messengers of 2 Cor. 8 and 9 in his last negative speech on Tuesday night when Brother Jenkins had no opportunity to reply. This became a quibble that backfired the last two nights. Brother Jenkins effectively exposed the error by showing that brother Heinselman would now call the same group of messengers a missionary institution, which, in fact, he did. Brother Heinselman made at least two damaging admissions during the discussion. He admitted that the college and orphan home stand or fall together. He also would not deny his belief in a missionary institution that could stand between the church and the work to be done in the same way he claimed a benevolent institution could stand between the church and the work to be done. Brother Heinselman merely replied that Brother Jenkins' argument was with the New Testament on that point and not with him. By these admissions, he denied the allsufficiency of the Lord's church both in preaching the gospel and in doing its own benevolent work!
In his affirmative speech, instead of coming out forthrightly and presenting scripture in an effort to prove his proposition, brother Heinselman only affirmed what churches and brethren have practiced over the years. lie actually spent eleven minutes and thirty seconds of his second, affirmative speech quoting what brethren have done. His affirmative case had no scriptural arguments in support of his proposition. Brother Heinselman seemed like a man fresh out of material!
The cunning craftiness of a debater who has signed to defend an untenable proposition is to resort to trickery and caviling rather than a forthright dealing with the arguments of his opponent. He is careful to evade the real issue defined in the proposition, being careful never to commit himself in too positive a way so as not to reveal to his opponent, as well as to the audience, the vulnerability of his position. Brother Heinselman used these tactics throughout the debate. In six appearances when, he was speaking in the affirmative, he made not one solid argument based upon scripture. The tapes will bear this out. He accused Brother Jenkins twice of either ignorance or indifference in knowing how to debate in the affirmative and yet it was he who never made a scriptural affirmative argument! This was most apparent in the last night when brother Heinselman waited until then to make his affirmative presentation when he was supposed to be in the negative! Brother Jenkins did a masterful job in answering every passage brother Heinselman put forth and still was able to present to the audience his solid affirmative case to which brother Heinselman made no real effort to reply.
Brother Heinselman immediately tried to switch the passages he used the first, two nights in his vain effort to prove a benevolent institution and tried to prove the sponsoring church the last two nights, only to meet with the same failure. He again ignored the plain Bible teaching of church cooperation where one church could send funds to another church when the receiving church had a special need common only to them and which they were unable to provide for themselves. Brother Jenkins also pointed out the fact that preaching the gospel is a universal need to which all churches sustain the same equal relationship and -that no one congregation has any greater need to preach the gospel to the lost than another, and that each congregation has a responsibility proportional to its ability and opportunity. Brother Jenkins repeatedly pressed brother Heinselman with the simple life principle that ability plus opportunity equals responsibility and that responsibility is limited by one's ability whether it be an individual or a local church. Brother Jenkins asked: "If a sending church is not needy when it wills to send more than it is able, then why is a spending church (Highland) considered a needy church because it wills to spend more than it is able?" Brother Jenkins very forcefully illustrated this scriptural principle by showing Highland's perversion of it by contributing only 2 per cent of the yearly proposed world saturation budget to the Herald of Truth while contributing churches (over 2700) are providing over 97 percent of the resources. Brother Jenkins showed the parallel of the Herald of Truth to the Missionary Society by its assuming the position of the universal church and claiming to be in need of funds to do what they have willed to do even though it is extremely beyond their ability! Heinselman never dealt with this argument and the audience could see that he did not. Brother Jenkins showed the Bible pattern of church cooperation in preaching the gospel where the sending church always converted the funds into service. He cited Acts 11: 22-26 where Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch. In Acts 15 the-church sent both the message and the men.
In benevolence, Brother Jenkins showed that the receiving church converted the funds into service because they (the elders) sustained a relationship to their own flock that no other church or elders sustained (I Pet. 5:2; Acts 20:28). Brother Jenkins clearly showed that the sending church sent funds in benevolent work to meet a special need within the receiving church, but the same churches converted their funds into service to meet a general need in proportion to their ability to provide.
Conduct in the Debate
Both men in the discussion conducted themselves as becometh the gospel of Christ. Brother Heinselman, like Brother Jenkins, is a very personable man and easy to like. He has a very pleasant appearance and is a good speaker. The only disappointment in the whole discussion was that brother Heinselman refused to pinpoint the real issue and try to prove his proposition from the scriptures. Brother Jenkins was hopeful before the debate that brother Heinselman would be the exception to the rule and really try to prove what he believes by the Bible.
Akron had never hosted a debate on these present issues and it was a new experience for most of the brethren there. I am sure from the comments made that faithful brethren will want to have more debates since this is about the best medium for study. Brethren attended the debate all the way from Tennessee to Canada. All appreciated the very fine way brother Jenkins defended the truth and exposed the error that is being taught by some of our own brethren. There are ten churches in Akron which stand for the truth on these issues and only two who refuse to give book chapter, and verse for their practices as regards these issues. The attendance at all four sessions was overflowing with approximately 500 present each night. Even before the debate closed, responses began coming in from people who had been unsettled in their convictions on these matters, but who now take their stand on the side of truth.
Personally speaking, to me it was the best debate yet to be conducted on these issues and only good will continue to come from such an effort. Most of the charts used in the debate have been printed in THE ENLIGHTENER, a paper published monthly by the Brown Street Church, 1835 Brown Street, Akron, Ohio 44301. You can receive this paper free upon request. Also, should you care to hear the discussion in its entirety, the complete debate on four reels of 1 = mil. Mylar (polyester) base tape recorded at 3 > speed may be ordered for $12.00 from Phillips Publications, P. 0. Box 17244, Tampa, Fla. 33612.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XII: 5, pp. 16-19