The Chicago Debate

Elza Huffard
Chicago, Illinois

In the April issue of TRUTH magazine, Bro. Leslie Diestelkamp, in his News Briefs, reports on the "Chicago Debate" in which Bro. Richard Weaver and I were the participants and Bro. Diestelkamp the moderator for Bro. Weaver. When one reads, especial1y the second paragraph, he wonders where Bro. Diestelkamp got his information. The only conclusion to which I can come regarding the report is, he either got mixed up on which debate he was describing, thus getting the facts misplaced, or else he deliberately falsified. Seeing he was there and heard every word which was said, saw every chart and every illustration on the blackboard, and had access to the tapes to confirm his memory or correct it, such gross misrepresentation is inexcusable -- unless somehow his notes of some other debate got mixed up in those which he took of the "Chicago Debate."

His first error was his statement about the "two significant (emphasis mine, E.H.) differences in the arguments presented."He accuses me of basing my proposition on the argument that the Bible did not forbid the practice. No accusation could be more wrong. At the outset of the debate I mentioned three ways the Bible authorized something among them, direct command or statement. I further stated that I was going to prove my proposition by direct statement and attempted to do so. Now Bro. Diestelkamp could have said that I failed in the attempt, and that would have been his personal judgement of the matter, to which he has a perfect right and which he has every right to express; but when he says that my appeal was "to human reasoning" in contrast with Bro. Weaver's "thus saith the Lord," such total misrepresentation is wholly unbecoming of a fellow gospel preacher.

Bro. Diestelkamp mentions my putting a square on the board asking Bro. Weaver "to put in it the passage which forbids the things which he (Huffard) affirmed." Actually, what I did was ask Bro. Weaver to put a passage in the square which taught what he affirmed. Besides that, I did not put just one square en the board. I put six - each calling for a Scripture which upheld some vital phase of his position. When the debate was over, all six squares were empty, and in four speeches he made no attempt to put a single Scripture in them. Then Bro. Diestelkamp infers from what he said about the square that I meant to teach that the church can do any good work not forbidden and that I differed with Bro. Weaver on Scripture authorization by direct command, approved example, or necessary inference. Bro. Diestelkamp was present as moderator and he had access to tapes. So, there was really no excuse for his not knowing that I began my part of the debate by declaring that the Scriptures teach by these three means. Neither was there any excuse for his not knowing that I accepted Bro. Weaver's declaration of the same principle time and again. It is hard to understand how a brother can honestly and sincerely contradict what is recorded truth in such a matter.

Furthermore, Bro. Diestelkamp goes on to say that "Brother Weaver drew a circle on the board and asked brother Huffard to put in it the passage which authorizes the things which he (Huffard) affirmed were right." Now, that took place at no time in the debate. Why Bro. Diestelkamp says it did, I cannot figure out. Bro. Weaver did draw two circles on the board and asked for some Scriptures on another subject than we were debating and about which we both agreed, and I put the passages in the circles. But the circle Bro. Diestelkamp describes was never drawn. If it had been I would have put plenty of Scriptures in it.

A most uncalled for misstatement of fact was his contrast between my "few brief scriptural references" and Bro. Weaver's "quoting and reading passage after passage." If Bro. Diestelkamp had missed the passages I read and quoted, he could have checked the tapes before going out on a limb on this one. However, this must have been calculated to discredit me, for he himself admits that the number of passages do not matter. Many a person has argued with reams of Scripture when the passages had little or nothing to do with the subject. Besides that, I admitted that many of the Scriptures Bro. Weaver used taught what he claimed. My criticism of Bro. Weaver's use of Scripture was that he ignored others and that when those he ignored were considered it changed the picture considerably. It happens that I have taken the time to count from the tape recording of the debate the number of passages I used during the course of the debate. One hundred seventeen different verses of Scripture were used by me during the eight speeches. (Allowance will have to be made for error, for I only went through it once.) I also counted the number Bro. Weaver used. In each case I did not count repetitions, but just the number of passages cited - then quoted, read, or described. It looks like this childish quibble backfired. The difference in the actual number of different verses used by each of us was extremely insignificant.

Now, as to Bro. Diestelkamp's predictions and conclusions: they are as erroneous as his report. Certainly there is always the danger of going beyond the Scripture. Both individuals and the church stand in danger of doing so. But, the church is in no more danger of doing it than the individual. In fact only when the individuals of the church apostatize will the church do so, and the church never will until the individual members do.

It was really interesting to see how impressed "most of those who heard the Chicago debate were . . . with the necessity of distinguishing between the work of the church, as such, and that of the individual Christian." If it made such an impression why cannot I get Bro. Weaver or his helpers (in the debate) from TRUTH magazine interested in publishing the debate? Bro. Diestelkamp handed me an agreement to publish the debate the first night and asked me nearly every night whether I had signed it. Even from the platform in some of his questions Bro. Weaver goaded me about signing it. After it is all over, none of them are interested in its publication. Maybe Bro. Weaver's arguments did make a real impression after all.

The Chicago Debate - Reviewed

Leslie Diestelkamp
Cicero, Illinois

Please read brother Elza Huffard's discussion of the above subject and then consider the following:

1. In his first affirmative speech, in which he was affirming that the scriptures teach that the church, from its treasury may contribute to any needy people of the world, brother Huffard used the following exact language (as taken from the tape): "I put I square up here on the board: before brother Weaver can support his part of this proposition, seeing he says it's a sin for the church to use one penny of its treasury to help a sinner, he is bound to show the law that forbids that, or else a law that is transgressed. Now that's a little square up there; I put it out of the way so when he flops his chart over it'll still be there because I want him to see it right straight through this thing. I want him to put up the scripture - just one, that's all I want -- one scripture that forbids the church to help a sinner, or that gives one single law that is violated when you do help a sinner."

In his second affirmative he said: "And I'd like to see that passage in that square up there. I think if you have a passage, you ought to put it up there. If you know where there's a law that says you can't do it - a law that forbids it - a law which is transgressed found in all of God's word, I'd like to see it done."

In brother Huffard's third affirmative he said: "Now you put up in that square a law to the church which tells them not to go outside the church to do any help. That's what we want. Now I have a passage up here - l Jn.3:4. I want you people to turn to it and read it - I Jn.3:4. It says that sin is the transgression of law. Now that's what it says. Before the church can sin in helping someone outside the church, there has to be a law against it. Now you find the law against it - the scripture that says it, and put it up there."

2. At the end of the debate brother Huffard's squares were empty, not because brother Weaver had failed to put in the proper verses of scripture that had been violated, but because brother Huffard erased them each time. Brother Weaver put I Cor.4:6 ("That you might learn not to go beyond what is written.") and 2 Jn.9 ("whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God") in the square, but finally in his sixth speech brother Weaver said that he would not write them again for brother Huffard would just erase them. Brother Weaver did not try to put in a verse that specifically says the church can't do as Huffard affirmed for brother Weaver believes that the church must be authorized in all of its activities and that we must do on1y that which is thus authorized.

3. My first report of the debate was written from memory, without use of tapes (I had none). Upon checking, since getting brother Huffard's response, I find that I did err regarding Brother Weaver's circle. He asked for brother Huffard to put a passage in the circle that forbids Christians to use instrumental music in worship to God. He did this to illustrate, for he knew that brother Huffard would rely upon the positive command to sing. Brother Huffard, of course did not try to insert a verse that says we cannot play. Brother Weaver used this to illustrate that in like manner the benevolent work of the church must be authorized by the positive word. Again and again and again brother Weaver begged for a verse that teaches the church to help the needy people of the world from its treasury. He showed that New Testament churches used their treasuries to support gospel preachers and to help needy saints, and that that is all they did with it.

4. Regarding the number of passages used. Brother Weaver quoted and read so much that finally brother Huffard said, "He complains because I don't answer his reams of scripture." Of course he said he agreed with brother Weaver's scripture quotations, but nevertheless he admitted that brother Weaver had supplied "reams" of it. That was a good description, too.

5. Regarding publishing the debate: Brother Weaver is altogether agreeable, and it is certainly not his fault that it is not published. I only speak for myself, but personally do not believe it could be published without considerable loss to the publisher. If brother Huffard wants to finance it he is welcome to do so. The agreement we asked brother Huffard to sign would have permitted publication if we deemed it wise to do so. Since this magazine has already published a debate that covered much of the same material, it certainly seems unwise now to publish.

Truth Magazine III:1, pp. 8-10
October 1958