This past Monday and Tuesday (August 14th-15th) I attended the debate in San Antonio between Darrell Conley and Mike Luther, who is a member of Catholic Response, a “lay” Catholic organization. Brother Conley was affirming the following proposition: “The church of which I am a member is the one true church of Christ in which alone is to be found salvation (and which recognizes the Bible as the only authority in faith and practice).” Mike Luther (a distant relative of Martin) denied the statement.
Even though the two of us strongly disagree on spiritual matters, there were some things that I found refreshing about Mr. Luther. The first very noticeable attitude which he conveyed was that he believes in the use of logic (although he didn’t apply it properly). In his first speech he quoted from Isaiah 1:18–“Come now, and let us reason together.” Once upon a time, churches of Christ were known for their use of this passage. It was cited often in the days when debates were frequent.
Each time Mike made an argument, it was in the form of a syllogism. He did not put it up on a chart for the audience to see or use technical jargon, but it was in logical form, nevertheless. He also was not averse to pointing out things such as, “There are no other alternatives in this matter. If I am right, my opponent is wrong. If he is right, then my position is wrong.”
Why is this approach so refreshing? In the past few years in the Lord’s church we have had to learn to deal with brethren suffering from logophobia–“the fear of logic.” Many want to run as far away as they can from anything logical. One book I am currently reading by a brother in Christ has made the point more than once that people are not interested in logic. That may be, but rational explanations are what they need . There is too much “it-feels-right”-ism; the Bible says “prove all things,” not “it’s whatever you feel about it.” People were praised for “searching the Scriptures,” not checking their emotional responses and their personal satisfaction levels.
Along with the use of logic is the idea that truth also exists–and that we can know it. Too many people in today’s world either don’t know if truth can exist, or they don’t care. Here, at last, was a religious individual who was willing to acknowledge these concepts. Although his understanding of it was imperfect, he admitted that we can know the truth (John 8:31-32) and that truth is important (Pr. 23:23). Who knows? Maybe some of our own brethren may eventually rediscover its value.
A second admirable quality Mr. Luther possessed was that he was committed to his belief. He thinks he is right and that everyone who is not a Catholic is lost. When brother Conley asked him if in order to be saved, one had to be in subjection to the Roman pontiff, he answered, “Yes.” Obviously, Mr. Luther will never join hands with Max Lucado in a show of unity, as one priest did. He is not wishy-washy and full of compromise. He will not say, as did Rubel Shelly, “For all I know, I could be mistaken.” He knows what he believes. Furthermore, he would probably vehemently oppose a Catholic question-and-answer book published a few years ago which said that a person did not have to be a Catholic in order to be saved.
Mr. Luther actually went a little overboard in being committed to his cause. He suffered at times from being over-zealous. On the second night of the debate he read from a prepared text, failing to realize that brother Conley had already answered his argument in his first affirmative speech. This obtuseness developed into tunnel vision in that when his arguments had been successfully refuted, he appeared not to notice it. Finally, although he conducted himself honorably throughout the debate, the arrogance of the Roman Catholic Church shone through in his final speech when he stated to the audience words to this effect: “Jesus has spoken to you tonight about who has won this debate. Who is right and who is wrong He has made crystal clear to you. Those of you in the church of Christ should leave it and join the Catholic church.” That, too, appeared to be read from a statement prepared before the evening’s debate began. It sounded arrogant because he did not grant the audience the privilege to make up their own minds about the discussion but clearly indicated that Jesus had shown them he was right. Buzz!
The third admirable feature of Mr. Luther was that he was, in fact, willing to debate his beliefs. It’s more than unusual to find someone willing to defend what he believes in this age of religious indifference and “do-your-own-thing”-ism. Trying to persuade others to your viewpoint (or in our case, the truth) is all but taboo. “You have your opinion, and I have mine” is so prevalent that it is indeed rare to find someone who will defend what he believes (1 Peter 3:15).
Certainly, those among the “new left” in the Lord’s church will not do it. Brethren who oppose the “old hermeneutics” and count themselves as “fresh breezes” not only refuse to debate–they don’t want to have discussions of any kind. Some of them don’t want “to puke with buzzards” (they should not assume that all are like them). Can you imagine our Lord refusing to teach the truth to those laboring under misconceptions? Can you imagine Paul not disputing? If the new hermeneutikers think the rest of us are in error, they should be willing to join with us in a public discussion.
Who would have ever thought that a Catholic would believe in truth, the use of logic, and the defense of his beliefs while some brethren have chosen to act cowardly?