Focus On Faith, Spring 1983

Debate On Water Baptism Planned

Propositions for a religious debate to be held here in Evansville have recently been signed. Gerald Smith, a Missionary Baptist preacher, has agreed to meet me in a public discussion during the first week of October. Smith preaches at the Northside Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky.

We signed the propositions and rules for the debate in Indianapolis on March 18, 1983. The exact wording of the propositions and the rules for the debate are as follows…

Rules For The Debate

This discussion will be conducted according to Levi Hedge's Rules Of Honorable Controversy. In addition, the following rules will be observed and all will be fairly enforced by the named moderators of both parties:

  1. No outbursts from the audience or public expressions of support are to be made during the discussion. These should be discouraged by the disputants and their moderators.
  2. This discussion will be held four nights. Each disputant's supporters will provide for two nights of the discussion in an appropriate auditorium.
  3. There will be four thirty-minute speeches each evening; two affirmative and two negative.

Debate Propositions

  1. "The Scriptures teach that water baptism is for (in order to obtain) the remission of sins." (David Padfield affirms, Gerald Smith denies)
  2. "The Scriptures teach that remission of sins for the alien sinner comes at the point of faith, before and without water baptism.” (Gerald Smith affirms, David Padfield denies)

According to the agreement, each side has to provide an auditorium for two nights of the debate. Due to the limited seating capacity of our meetinghouse, we have rented a suitable auditorium with a seating capacity of 250. I recently spoke with Mr. Smith and informed him about our auditorium. He has agreed to provide a building for the last two nights of the debate.

Since Mr. Smith is not from Evansville, I have asked him to send me a letter of endorsement signed by a local Baptist church. He has agreed to do this, and to give us the location for the last two nights of the debate by July 4, 1983.

As far as I can determine, this will be the first religious debate in Evansville, at least it is the first in recent memory.

It is sad that no local Baptist preachers are willing to defend their doctrine on the polemic platform. I have tried in vain to get one to sign a debate proposition concerning the plan of salvation.

There was a time when Baptist preachers loved to debate. Men like Ben Bogard and D. N. Jackson went all over this country to defend Baptist doctrine. I guess they took a lesson from the Mormons and decided to halt all public discussions. It seems that Baptist churches always lost several of their members after people saw the truth displayed during a good debate.

After our debate this October, I would be more than happy to meet any local Baptist preacher in a debate. I would encourage you to ask your preacher to consider this. If he is willing, please have him drop me a line.

The Latter-day Saints once were very eager to debate. As a matter of fact, they are commanded to debate. A book which they consider to be inspired, Doctrine and Covenants, bids them to "confound your enemies; call upon them to meet you both in public and private." Today they refuse to debate. They have found by experience that their "inspired" command to debate is in error.

We are all looking forward to this debate. A great deal of preparation has already been made. We hope that you will take the time to mark the dates on your calendar and make. A special effort to attend. Remember, truth will always welcome investigation. The only thing that ever suffers from an open discussion is error.

Focus On Faith (Issue #20; Spring 1983)
The bulletin of the Northwest Church of Christ in Evansville, Indiana

For further study

View other articles on this debate or download Charts from the Padfield–Smith Debate. Over 100 overhead charts used by Padfield in this debate. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view the charts. You are free to print the charts and use them in sermons and Bible classes (PDF file size: 10.3MB).