By David King
A series of public discussions was recently conducted in Wichita, Kansas between William Sexton, evangelist for the Westside Church of Christ, and Robert Loudermilk, evangelist for the Clark and Water Church of Christ. The propositions basically dealt with the cup and class issues which have divided our brethren. However, the propositions-and practically every other aspect of this debate-were an unusual departure from similar discussions of the past.
This discussion arose out of an earlier debate on the “cup” issue that these brethren had in September of 1975. That was the first debating experience for both men and the usual cup proposition was used. Over the next couple of years, Bill and Bob continued to study together privately. As a result of their debate and the studies that followed, the propositions for a second discussion were drawn up. There were six propositions in all: two on the container, two on the bread and two on the class arrangement. Instead of cramming the whole discussion into one week, it was spread out over a three-month period: the container issue on January 13-14, 1978; the bread issue on February 17-18, 1978; and the class issue on March 24-25, 1978. A final session of summary speeches and questions-and-answers was held on April 2, 1978. Jerry Cutter and Lonnie York moderated for brother Loudermilk. This writer and Keith Schoonover moderated for brother Sexton.
The container issue centered on the following propositions: “The Scriptures teach that in the communion `the cup’ (drinking vessel) is emblematic of the new testament (new covenant) and the fruit of the vine `the cup’ is emblematic of the blood of Christ. ” (Laudermilk affirm, Sexton deny) “The Scriptures teach that in communion `the cup’ of Luke 22:20 and First Corinthians 11:25-26 refers to the fruit of the vine which is emblematic of the blood of Christ by which the new testament was sealed. ” (Sexton affirm, Loudermilk deny.) As far as I know, this is the first time that any one-container brother has ever affirmed in debate the doctrine that is the foundation of the one-container error: viz, that the container is a third element in the Lord’s supper, representing the new covenant of Christ. This peculiar belief has surfaced in practically every debate on the container issue, but this is the first time it has been openly defined and defended.
Loudermilk based his defense on the language of Luke 22:20 and First Corinthians 11 25:26 (“This cup is the new testament in my blood”). Sexton argued that the Old Testament concept of a covenant always involved a blood sacrifice; hence, “the blood of the new testament” in Matthew 26:28 and Mark 14:24-which clearly refers to the fruit of the vine. He also outlined the whole context of irst Corinthians 11:25-26, in which Paul obviously recognizes only two significant elements in the Supper: that which we “eat and drink” (v 26, 27, 28, 29). Loudermilk evidently realized the force of this latter argument, because he never responded to it.
It is the conviction of this writer that this doctrine of the third element in the Lord’s Supper is the Achilles heel of the one-container brethren, and we should exploit it more than we do. Loudermilk himself stated that “spiritual significance is the heart of the issue,” and if it can be shown that the container is given no spiritual significance in the Scriptures, then their plea for one container becomes empty. Faithful brethren would do well to press this issue when studying with these brethren.
The February session dealt with another issue that receives scant attention: the number of loaves (pieces) of bread that can be used in the Supper. The propositions were as follows: “The scriptures teach that when a congregation of God’s people partake of the Lord’s supper, the `bread’ MUST be in one piece or loaf.” (Loudermilk affirm, Sexton deny); “The Scriptures teach that when a congregation of God’s people partake of the Lord’s Supper, the `bread’ MA Y be in more than one piece or loaf” (Sexton affirm, Loudermilk deny).
Loudermilk quoted from scholars and questionable translations in an effort to prove that the word for “bread” in the Lord’s Supper (Greek arton) ought to be translated “loaf.” He also appealed to First Corinthians 10:17 (“we are all partakers of that one bread”) as proof of his proposition.
Sexton defended his proposition on four grounds: (1) Thayer, Robinson, Bullinger, Berry, etc., give the primary definition of arton as simply “bread”; (2) the four “recognized” translations (KJV, ASV, NASV, RSV) uniformly translate arton as “bread” all 12 times it is applied to the Lord’s Supper; no other translation could be found that uniformly translated arton as “loaf” all 12 times; (3) in several other passages where ARTON is used (notably John 6:31, Matthew 6:11 and John 6:23) it clearly refers to more than one piece; a (4) the context of First Corinthians 10:17 forces us to understand the “one bread” as all the Lord’s supper bread partaken of by all Christians, the “one body” of Christ. The passage says nothing about how many pieces of bread are to be used in a local assembly.
Laudermilk also used a “four undivided bodies” argument, based on the Passover Lamb and the unbroken body of Jesus on the cross. Sexton replied that the New Testament carries the symbol of Christ’s body only this far-“This (bread) is my body”-and we dare not carry it any farther.
Third Discussion .
The proposition for the March discussion were as follows: “The Scriptures teach that a congregation of God’s people may use the Bible class arrangement, among other arrangements (as is sometimes practiced by the Westside Church of Christ), in carrying out the command of God to teach His word. ” (Sexton affirm, Loudermilk deny); “The Scriptures teach that a congregation of God’s people may use a woman to teach a Bible class of small children or young women (as is sometimes practiced by the Westside Church of Christ) in carrying out His command to teach His word. ” (Sexton affirm, Loudermilk deny).
Most debates on classes and women teachers use a single proposition that , includes both classes and women teachers-actually two propositions in one. That has always seemed illogical to me, and especially so when I see no-class brethren run a circle between the class arrangement and women teachers. These propositions were specifically designed to avoid that kind of dodgingone proposition devoted strictly to the class arrangement, and another to women teachers.
Sexton defended the class arrangement as an expedient to carry out the command to teach the word. He showed from the scriptures that a congregation can teach the word (1) in the assembly (specifically commanded) and (2) out of the assembly (generally authorized). Classes fall under the second category, along with radio-TV programs, bulletins, home studies, men’s training programs, etc.-methods of teaching the word that do not violate or conflict with the command to assemble. Loudermilk attacked the classes on two grounds: (1) they violate the command to assemble; and (2) it is impossible to classify people into classes.
Sexton defended women teachers by showing from the scriptures that they can teach (Titus 2:3-4,; Acts 21:9, etc.) and that the church can use their talents (Romans 16:); Ephesians 4:11-12); hence, using women teachers in some classes is authorized. In response to Loudermilk’s charge that such violated First Corinthians 14:34-35 and First Timothy 2:11-12, Sexton reminded him of the context in each passage: The woman is not to teach “over the man” (1 Timothy 2:12), and she is to remain silent when “the whole church be come together into one place” (1 Corinthians 14:23, 34)-neither of which is violated by our women teachers.
This series of discussions did not feature “big name” debaters, so it has not attracted much attention. But it plowed new ground, so to speak, in exploring areas of difference that have not been previously explored in public debate. These two brethren plan to continue private studies in the coming months, in an effort to come to a common mind and restore unity. We believe, at this point anyway, that Bob Loudermilk is an honest young man who will face up to inconsistencies in his position. If youthful pride and ambition do not blind him, future study will either lead him to the truth or force him into dishonesty. We pray for the former.
Truth Magazine XXII: 44, pp. 715-716
November 9, 1978