By David O. Bonner
On the nights of November 30, December 1, 3, 4, Jesse G. Jenkins of Oklahoma City, OK, met J. Marlon Cole of McKinney, TX, in a public debate on the class question. The first two nights Jenkins affirmed classes as practiced by the Eastside church in Denton, TX, are scriptural and Cole denied. This took place in the building of the LaPrada Drive church in Mesquite, TX. The last two nights J. Marlon Cole affirmed that when a congregation is taught the word of God it must remain in one assembly as practiced by the McKinney church in McKinney, TX. Jenkins denied. This took place in the building of the Main Street church in Lewisville, TX. Sam Potter moderated for Cole and I moderated for Jenkins. Good order prevailed although there were several points of order called for clarification. All who attended were of the very best behavior. Debates like this one should cause people to want to have more debates to learn and try for unity. Approximately 200 attended and some came from great distances. Every opportunity was extended Cole and those with him for future debates with any of us if they so desire.
Jenkins was asked to give up his classes for unity but Jenkins pointed out we would still be divided in belief. We know of four big areas of disagreement. We object to (1) their teaching that it is wrong for a local church to conduct Bible classes as we do, (2) they teach against what they call the “located preacher system,” (3) their practice of having social halls in their buildings and playground equipment out-side on the premises, and (4) their belief in “general benevolence” for a local church to practice. Perhaps some of these other questions may be debated with them in the future. We hope so!
An unusual agreement regulated charts which was insisted upon by Cole. No projectors were allowed and every chart introduced had to remain before the audience while that pro-position was debated. This made for a lot of paper charts hanging at all times. Some charts were copied and handed out.
In Jenkins’ affirmatives, he argued there is Bible authority for Bible classes by arguing the church must teach and some of the teaching may be done outside the assembly. He then argued our classes are an arrangement outside the assembly for teaching. He then argued that anything the church may support one to do, the church may do because the local church functions through oversight, treasury, and authorized agents. He then argued the church may support preachers to teach in the assembly and out of the assembly (Acts 20:17,20f, etc.). He concluded the church can teach in and out of the assembly. One of Jenkins’ arguments that the church can teach out of the assembly was based on 1 Peter 5:2. He argued that if elders went as elders to teach a saint, that would be the church doing it. Cole denied this and affirmed it would only be the elders going personally and doing their teaching, and not the church teaching. Jenkins could not get Cole to answer what it would be when elders teach in the assembly.
Cole tried to parallel 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 with 1 Timothy 2:11-12 to show both are assembly passages, then argued every class we have is a church assembly and should be regulated by both these passages. He claimed it would be wrong for women to even speak in our classes. Jenkins argued 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 is an assembly passage and our assembly is like theirs relative to women. Jenkins then showed 1 Timothy 2:11-12 regulates women every place where there is a woman, man, and Bible study. Jenkins showed that if this passage applies only in the assembly, then it only teaches women to be modest (v. 9) in the assembly and men are to pray in every place (v. 8) in the assembly. Cole wanted to know how we classify those in our classes (age, sex, knowledge, etc.). He tried to show no way would be good but then admitted he wished classes were scriptural because he knows they do good. I’ve never heard one of them make this admission. Cole said God had specified the arrangement for teaching and had condemned classes and he would show it the last two nights in his affirmative. If he did this, we missed it. Cole argued our classes are like denominational classes but Jenkins showed similarity is not identity for a denominational local church may be like us in some ways. Our classes are not an organization like the denominational “Sunday School” but are the local church at work teaching the Bible.
Jenkins tried to get Cole to show Scripture for his practice of having certain things based upon generic authority such as the church owning a building, a radio program, a baptistry, etc. Cole would not do this. He observed the passover.
Cole did say once he would not try to find a church building in Hebrews 10:25. We still wonder where he does try to find it since he would not tell. Cole called our classes a “divided assembly” but when Jenkins showed the Eastside church in Denton (church of the proposition) has classes on Sunday AM and Wednesday PM, such classes met before the assembly of the church. Cole would not after that make his divided assembly argument. Cole asked Jenkins if we can have the Lord’s supper in the classes, but Jenkins showed no class is the assembly where the Lord’s supper is to be taken (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 11:20).
Cole argued anywhere a woman can teach, she can eat, and wondered why we don’t have food in our classes. Jenkins got on their large social hall and asked if women can teach in it! Cole affirmed anywhere a woman can teach, she can teach a man, and said he knew of no restrictive passage applying to women in a general way. Jenkins showed 1 Corinthians 11:3 is such a passage and then discussed 1 Timothy 2:11-12 showing it regulates women in Bible study with men anywhere. Jenkins showed anything right for both the church and a woman to do, the church may use a woman in doing. He showed teaching women the Bible is one thing both can do (Tit. 2:3-4). Jenkins also showed the word for silence in 1 Timothy 2:11-12 is not an absolute silence but means a relative silence as it does elsewhere (2 Thess. 3:12; Acts 22:2), but the silence of l Corinthians 14:34-35 is an absolute silence. Cole is much looser with women than are we, believing a woman could be the teacher for a class of men at home. He tried to support it with Acts 18:26. Jenkins used 1 Timothy 2:11-12 on this situation also.
This was Cole’s first debate and perhaps (?) is the reason he did not follow Jenkins in so many points and questions he was asked. The veteran debater, Jenkins tried to answer all Cole said, and I believe he did a good job getting to it.
Debates do good. The people with Cole who furnished the building the first two nights were very gracious to us in every way. We like them. (The Main Street church which furnished the building the last two nights was gracious too!) We hope there can be more debates with them. Surely in time with enough effort unity can be arrived at. Jenkins made it plain that giving up our classes would not bring unity for we would still be divided in belief on this and other practices they have.
Guardian of Truth XXXVII: 5, p. 12-13
March 4, 1993