Opposition to Debates
One of the best methods of teaching the truth to a large number of people at a given time is the public debate. More good can be done than is being done, however, due to the fact that so many debates are characterized by ungodliness on the part of one or both participants (in some cases the moderators also join in). Sadly, the unchristlike conduct is not always limited to the false teacher.
In an article in Truth Magazine, Cecil Willis stated that "It has been my observation that most of those who object to debates because of so many unchristian incidents occur never have attended any debates. Nearly every debate that I have attended has been nearly perfect insofar as audience conduct was concerned." Most, however, who oppose debates, do not do so on the grounds the audience is ill-behaved but because the debaters are!
This article was not written to oppose debates but to point out some areas of misconduct so that greater efforts can be made in the future to eliminate them. Too, the article was not written by someone who is unfamiliar with debates. Rather it was written by one who has debated publicly a number of times, one who has attended more than a dozen debates, read about fifty, and listened to the tapes of others. As a matter of fact, this writer has debated before what is surely the largest audience of any man in the brotherhood (A radio debate with a possible audience of more than 100,000,000; An actual estimated audience of 1,000,000.) This fact was pointed out solely to establish that the writer can view the subject of debating objectively. None can say that this article was written by someone who opposes debating.
Nevertheless, we must call attention to some unfortunate acts engaged in by some of our brethren while a debate was in progress. Only one incident of misconduct will be presented from any given debate. Thus, each untoward act represents a different debate. Also, in each case it will be the conduct of a Christian which will be pointed out.
Item: In a Southern debate one of the disputants jokingly stated that some people have hair and that others have brains. A wag in the audience yelled out, "And some have neither."
Item: In a Texas debate the gospel preacher repeatedly called the sectarian preacher a liar and then disavowed rather piously that he considered the man in any way -dishonest. Nearly everyone in the audience was sickened by the hypocrisy.
Item: In an Illinois encounter the moderator for one brother continually jumped up and disrupted the speech of the other brother. Although this writer was not present at this debate the occasion has been oft spoken of since by hundreds of brethren. (Incidentally, this writer was present at each of the other debates herein mentioned.)
Item: The Midwest saw the moderator for one of our brethren repeatedly refuse to call time when the time was up. If his man had not finished his argument he was allowed to continue until he finished it. No matter how long it took. The sectarian's second wanted to object but the debater refused to make an issue of it bit rather pointed out that such dishonesty would have its reward. Brethren in the area were grievously shamed and spoke of the debate somewhat' reluctantly afterwards.
Item: A faithful brother once made some serious charges against another in a debate only to find out his information was wholly erroneous. He had made the mistake of neglecting to verify his "tip." Such happens because too many are seeking victory and not truth. In such cases truth plays second fiddle.
Item: In a Missouri debate one of "our" preachers refused to deal with the issue but preferred to deal with an issue the Baptist had rejected. As a result most were convinced the Baptist had the situation well in hand and most definitely that he had hurt the cause.
Item: In an aborted effort to debate, one man spoke and grossly misapplied the scriptures in his lesson. When asked afterwards if he believed the scriptures taught what he said he replied, "No, but that is the way the liberals use them." Is it any wonder that some have no confidence in some debaters?
Some people oppose debates because of happenings such as those mentioned above. We who have debated and will debate should recognize that those who oppose debates are neither ill-informed nor cowardly in the matter of debating but are often conscientious, brethren who are sickened by the conduct of some debaters. Let us resolve in future debates to eliminate such and perhaps the opposition to debates will die out.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 16, p. 11-12