Focus On Faith, Winter 1983

Debate In Retrospect

The second week of October was an exciting week for this congregation. We had the opportunity to defend the word of God during a religious debate.

The interest was high during the debate. Nearly all of our members were present at each session. We are sorry to report that the same cannot be said for the Emmanuel Baptist Church which endorsed my opponent, Gerald Smith. For some reason their members did not seem interested in an open discussion of the word of God. On the first evening of the debate, there were no more than five Baptists from the city of Evansville present!

When the issue of the lack of attendance by the Baptists was pressed, John Hatcher of the Emmanuel Baptist Church informed us that he "forgot" to announce the debate to his congregation. Such an attitude toward open Bible discussions is inexcusable.

Hatcher then went on to explain that his people had already made up their minds on the subject of baptism, and were not interested in studying the matter any further. I am reminded of the Jews in the first century who had already made their minds up about Jesus, and thus rejected the Messiah.

Much of the debate centered around John 3:5, where Jesus said, "Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." Gerald Smith tried in vain to remove the word "water" from this passage. When the debate was over, the passage still taught the necessity of water baptism in order to obtain salvation.

We also discussed the Bible concept of “faith and works.” In an attempt to uphold Baptist doctrine, Smith tried to convince the audience that “works” have nothing to do with our salvation—this is in direct conflict with what the Bible teaches in James 2:26, that is, "faith without works is dead."

In my first speech on Monday we brought up Ephesians 4:4-6, where Paul gives the platform of Bible unity. He tells us there is "one body and one Spirit… one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God…” We asked our opponent to explain why baptism was placed in such an auspicious list, if baptism is of no importance. To the amazement of all present, Mr. Smith accused me of placing baptism in that list!

Of course, a good deal of time was spent discussing Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost." In this passage, Peter makes an inseparable connection between “baptism” and “the remission of sins.” Mr. Smith attempted to negate the force of the “and” in this passage but the word of God stands sure.

Despite the small turn out by the Baptists, we would like to have another debate here in Evansville next year. I tried to coax Mr. Hatcher into a debate, but he declined. This doesn't surprise me in the least.

Focus On Faith (Issue #24; Winter 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).