Review of the Asher–Deaver Debate

by Elmer Moore

Part One

On the nights of April 22nd; 23rd; 25th; and 26th (1996), a debate was conducted in the Pan Handle of Texas on the subject of the "Sponsoring Church Arrangement." Brother Jeff Asher of Amarillo, Texas was in denial of such an arrangement and Brother Mac Deaver was in support of it. There was super deportment throughout the debate by all involved. This brief review is not intended to be a "blow by blow" description of the affair. The debate is available in both audio and video tapes. I am sure that the tapes may be obtained from your favorite bookstore.

The first two nights Brother Asher affirmed, "The scriptures teach an exclusive pattern of independent concurrent congregational cooperation". Jeff pointed out that he was affirming an exclusive proposition; one that argued this and only this. He referred to a number of statements made by other brethren, including Roy Deaver, where they laid out the procedure to follow when affirming such a proposition. One such statement appeared in "Ascertaining Bible Authority" by Roy Deaver, page 49. "The Bible authorizes by WHAT IT SAYS—NOT BY WHAT IT DOES NOT SAY…inspiration stresses that the Lord Himself could not possibly serve as a priest after the Mosaic system. Why? Because there was no authority for it! Note the reading: 'For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe MOSES SPAKE NOTHING' (Hebrews 7:14)." Roy made the same basic arguments on gopher wood and singing. He said, "If God said gopher wood back here, He said, 'don't use pine,' then over here when God said sing, He said, 'don't play.'" Jeff used these points very effectively.

Jeff pointed to the passages that discuss churches cooperating: the Judean relief of Acts 11:27-30; the great collection for Jerusalem, (Romans 15:26; Acts 24:17; First Corinthians 16; Second Corinthians Chapters 8 & 9). He showed that in each of these circumstances you have a definite pattern. In the Judean relief, churches helped each other in times of emergency, (Acts 11:28). Churches helped each other by contributing directly to the needy church, (Acts 11:29). The contributing churches were those with ability and they determined how much to send, where to send it and by whom to send it, (Acts 11:29-30). In The great collection for Jerusalem, churches helped each other in times of emergency, (Romans 15:26; Acts 24:17), by contributing directly to the needy church, (First Corinthians 16:3). When many churches contributed to one church it was to create an equality, (Second Corinthians 8:13-14), between abundance and freedom from wont. Each church determined how much to send and by whom to send it.

 Jeff showed that this was independent because each church either determined what was sent or how it was distributed. There was no common oversight (Sponsoring Church) or pool. It was concurrent because each church was overseeing its own works while at the same time agreeing with other churches which were overseeing their own works. It was congregational because the cooperating unit was a local church only. There was no central agency or board involved. It was cooperation because the churches were working together toward a common goal, the "relief' or supply of want". Jeff pointed out that in the absence of anything to the contrary he had proved his proposition for, just as God said "don't use pine" when he commanded Noah to "use gopher wood",  He likewise  said "don't us any other type of cooperation" when He gave examples showing independent concurrent congregational cooperation. In order to prove that the Lord's Supper may be observed on some day other than the first day of the week, you must find scriptural evidence where the church observed the Lord's Supper on some day other than the first day of the week, and likewise, Mac must find the passage or passages that show that churches cooperated in some other way.  Mac assured us that he had such passages but would not produce them, declaring that he was in the negative. Mac acted like a defense lawyer in a case involving circumstantial evidence. All he tried to do was create a doubt by bringing up incidental matters in an effort to deny scriptural pattern. Jeff pointed out that one could do the same thing with the cases of scriptural conversion, but that so doing would not deny that in each and every case: men heard the gospel, believed it, repented of their sins, confessed Christ as the divine son of God and were immersed in water in order to have their sins forgiven; and this proves a pattern that Mac accepts.

Mac denied that the contribution described in Second Corinthians Chapters 8 & 9 was for the purpose of relief. He argued that the Macedonian church was in much worse shape than the Jerusalem church. He argued that the Macedonians were "bathed in poverty" and therefore were in much worse shape than Jerusalem. By so doing, he reversed what Paul wrote in 8:13, "for I say not this that others may be eased and ye distressed." Mac in substance said that this is exactly what happened but Jeff pointed out that the contrast was between Corinth and Macedonia and not Jerusalem and Macedonia.

Throughout the debate, Mac asked questions and endeavored to show an absurd consequence, or contradiction involving Jeff's answer and applied the answer to his concept of the subject, and not what Jeff was presenting.

Part Two

The Asher/Deaver debate continued Thursday and Friday nights (April 25th and 26th, 1996) in the meeting house of the Wellington Church of Christ, Wellington, Texas. Brother Mac Deaver was in the affirmative of the proposition: "The scriptures teach that one church may (has the right to) contribute to (send funds to), or render assistance to another church which has assumed (or undertaken) the oversight of a work to which both churches sustained the same relationship before the assumption of the oversight".  This is a rather technical way of describing the "Sponsoring Church Arrangement of Cooperation". It is an arrangement where one set of elders think they have the ability to spend more money than they have and consider it a virtue; and also, have the ability to promote their project to other churches and persuade them to furnish the money, to do a work that all churches have the same responsibility toward. You can see why they need a technical proposition.

Brother Deaver had promised the first two nights that he had and would produce a passage or passages that would deny that Brother Asher had affirmed an exclusive proposition. Mac cited Philippians 4:15 and tried to connect this with 2Corinthians 11:8 where Paul declared that he "robbed other churches taking wages..." Mac would have you to believe that the church at Philippi was a sponsoring church. Jeff pointed out that the chronology in the New Testament would not support Brother Deaver’s claim, and that if this is a case like his sponsoring church, then the contributing churches were not having fellowship with Paul for he wrote, "no church had fellowship with me in this matter of giving and receiving, but ye only." Mac based his argument on the fact that Brother Roberts made an extensive argument on this back in the 1950's. He didn't tell us what Brother Roberts' argument was; just that he answered all the questions. This is a reflection on Brother Deaver's knowledge of logic. He engaged in an evasion of the "Law of Rationality".  The evasion takes the form of an "Appeal to reverence", (Lionel Ruby, Logic, p. 129). Mac did the same thing by his constant reference to Thomas B. Warren. (Brother Warren knows better than that).

Instead of doing what he promised; i.e. presenting Bible proof, he cited a syllogism and said that this syllogism itself proved his proposition. A syllogism is simply a tool that is used to present an argument, not an argument itself. The statement of the major and minor premises, in a true syllogism, and a valid argument must be SHOWN TO BE TRUE, NOTJUST ASSERTED. The first two nights Mac stated that Jeff had not made an argument because he did not use a syllogism. Jeff pointed out that by that kind of reasoning brethren could not teach their neighbor Acts 2:38 without the use of a syllogism. Ruby in his book, Logic, states: "We shall study VARIOUS TYPES OF ARGUMENTS, but our chief emphasis will be devoted to syllogism, ONE of the basic forms of deductive reasoning" (p. 149).

The syllogism that Mac said proved his proposition was as follows: Major premise: All total situations the component parts of which are Scriptural are total situations which are Scriptural. Minor premise: The total situation described in my proposition is a total situation the component parts of which are Scriptural. Conclusion: The total situation described in my proposition is a situation which is Scriptural. Jeff pointed out, and Mac agreed in answer to the question, that terms that are used in a syllogism must always retain their same meaning. If not, one is guilty of ambiguity and his syllogism is false. Brother Deaver used two terms in an ambiguous way. The term SCRIPTURAL was used in an ambiguous way. He sometimes used the term Scriptural in the sense of being AUTHORIZED, and at other times in the sense of CONTAINED IN THE Scripture even though the referenced scripture does not teach anything about one church sending funds to another. Passages used must HAVE REFERENCE TO THE SUBJECT UNDER DISPUTE, namely, one church sending funds to another. Another term that Mac used in an ambiguous way was the term WORK. Sometimes he used the term to refer to that which God assigned, and sometimes in the sense of an arrangement to do that which was assigned. Remember brethren how they used the term HOME?

I am convinced that Brother Deaver failed miserably as a student of the Scriptures and of logic. Get the tape and see for yourself.