Index by Subject

Third Negative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

Root of the Problem: Eph 4 says elders bring people to “the unity of the faith.” But many see elders as a board of directors whose job is balancing a check-book, buying supplies, and managing property. Nothing to do with “faith” at all. If you had to work a full-time job and then run a business after-hours, you wouldn’t have time to teach, study, pray or visit much either. This is why you hear so many complaints about preachers doing the work of elders. What a sad waste of the talents of many good men, and what a loss to a congregation.

The work of elders is much more important. They can make the difference between saints falling away or getting to heaven. They are too busy teaching, studying, praying, visiting, rebuking, encouraging, and counseling to privately decide all matters of judgment. The spiritual leaders (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers) in Eph 4:11 lead in “the faith.” Do they “make decisions” as they lead? In some limited ways. Evangelists decide how to present a lesson to convert the sinner. Teachers decide what topics to present in class. Do evangelists and teachers privately decide matters of judgment for the church? No, leadership in the faith isn’t private decision-making in collective judgment. Why can’t we see the same for elders?

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Third Affirmative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

With this affirmative, my part of the debate comes to a close and judgment is passed to the readers. Please consider all the material carefully in the light of the scriptures and render a verdict on the evidence. The full debate, without additional material, is to be printed in book form as per our agreement. No new material should be introduced in the final negative.

My Third Affirmative will establish from Generic Authority that the scriptures permit elders to make decisions in the realm of unstated options (judgments), arising from specific commands.

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Second Negative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

The Problem Grows: When elders privately decide all matters of collective and individual judgment for others (2A, ¶ 19), the plane has landed in Boston. We’re told elders may decide whether a member needs circumcision (1st Debate, 2N, ¶ 7). If the saint disagrees, they cite Heb 13:17 and decide for him (2A, ¶ 19). Folks, where does it stop? Compared to involuntary genital surgery, deciding what house you may buy is trivial. But there is no scripture to stop such things once you accept the Affirmative position.

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Second Affirmative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

My first affirmative showed that the definitions of scriptural terms (bishops, elders, etc.) permitted elders to “exercise the oversight” (1 Pet. 5:3), thereby empowering them to make private decisions on behalf of the congregation. Now we will prove in a scripture study that elders actually did make decisions “before and without” calling together the whole congregation.

Arguments: 1) Acts 4:34-37. From the beginning, decisions were made privately (not secretly, as Vance charges): this is not “new” doctrine. Disciples brought gifts to the apostles “and they distributed to each as anyone had need.” This “apostolic example” showed male leadership making private decisions about who the needy were, how much each received and how long they were to receive it, without congregational meetings. Vance says they sinned!

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First Negative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

Introduction. As before, my articles represent my own views and not those of any church, eldership, or other saints. Quotes from Tom’s material are italicized, as are Greek words.

The Problem. Many are stuck between the false choice that elders either privately decide all matters of judgment, or else they have no authority or function at all. Since the latter is wrong, many are driven to the former. But there is a third way — the Bible way. In the Bible, elders perform authoritative spiritual leadership by calling and presiding over assemblies, teaching the flock, rebuking sinners, convicting false teachers, correcting the erring, counseling, visiting and lifting up the weak, leading in prayer, admonishing (warning), and showing less mature saints how to get to heaven. Both of the extremes described above have bad consequences. The first (“elders privately decide everything”) led to many of the disastrous consequences of the Boston Movement. The latter (“elders are just older saints with no leadership authority”) is associated with a breakdown of the meaning and purpose of the local church. The Affirmative position accepts the first extreme in its zeal to avoid the second. The Negative denies both extremes in favor of the Bible pattern.

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First Affirmative

Proposition 2: The Scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.

Proposition: “Resolved: The scriptures teach that the elders of a local church are authorized to assemble privately to make decisions in matters of judgment for the local church before and without calling together the whole congregation.”

Definitions: “The scriptures,” the 66 books of the Bible. “Teach,” instruct by commands, approved examples or divine implications. “Elders,” men who are scripturally authorized and appointed (1 Tim. 3; Tit. 1) over each local church (Acts 14:23; 1 Pet. 5:2). “Local church,” the congregation in a given locality in its corporate entity (Phil. 1:1). “Authorized,” empowered, permitted. “To assemble,” meet in their eldership capacity (Acts 20:17). “Privately,” (Gk: idios) “pertaining to one’s own; to do one’s own business (1 Thes. 4:11), apart (Mt. 24:3)” (Thayer, p. 296-7). “To make decisions,” come to a conclusion. “In matters of judgment,” distinct from matters of faith. “For the local church,” represent, act on behalf of, in the interest of the local congregation. “Before,” in advance of. “And without,” lacking, in the absence of. “Calling together,” summoning, requesting. “The whole congregation,” the ekklesia.

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Third Negative

Proposition 1: The Scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).

The responsibility of the negative in a debate is to follow the affirmative and answer his arguments. I have done this and Vance’s proposition has failed. My three affirmatives will follow in a privately printed book which can be obtained from GOT.

Fellowship: Vance labels as sinful the practice of elders making decisions. Will he fellowship what he considers sinful? His views will divide brethren in local churches.

Leadership & Authority: Collectivities (congregations, families, etc.) require decision-making to reach a common mind, whether by elders or church votes. Leadership and authority are inherent in decisions. Evangelists and Bible class teachers have no authority but elders do (1 Pet. 5:3). This oversight includes private decision-making (Acts 6, 11, 15, etc.). I refuse to debate Luther Blackmon or any other than Vance. But if Christ has “all authority” (Matt. 28:18) without delegating any, explain why resisting authorities (magistrates, fathers, husbands, elders) is to resist God (Rom. 13:1-5; Eph. 6:4; 5:22; Acts 14:23).

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Third Affirmative

Proposition 1: The Scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).

Fellowship. Had I wanted to debate fellowship, I would have put it in the proposition.

Leadership & Authority. The argument that leadership requires private decision-making for others is wrong. Many leaders (e.g. evangelists, Bible class teachers) don’t privately decide collective activity. Negative assumes leaders privately decide everything, and since elders are leaders, they must be an exception to the pattern of including the whole church. He must prove this assumption. He has already denied it by granting that spiritual leadership doesn’t necessarily infer private decision-making in collective judgment (Titus 2:15).

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Second Negative

Proposition 1: The Scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).

My worst fears are being realized in that, as the debate advances, Vance is progressing deeper into error, affirming a position with dreadful consequences of feminine equality and denial of eldership oversight which some will accept. The negative requires that I answer his material yet not allow him to side-track me into debating other men or affirming a non-existent “GOT” position. I fear he confuses criticism of a public position with persecution (Matt. 5:11).

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Second Affirmative

Proposition 1: The Scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).

Observations: 1. Tom agrees Acts 6 and 15 both show a church deciding a matter of judgment (Q. 1). But Connie Adams, Guardian of Truth 3/3/94 p. 4, said “In both instances divine revelation resolved the problem at hand.” 2. Tom agrees women were present in some business meetings in the NT (Q. 1). But Mike Willis, GT 3/18/93 p. 185, said “the desire of women to be present at these meetings” is “a usurpation of the authority God gave to men.” Bobby Holmes, GT 12/2/93 p. 723, said “The inclusion of women participants in business meetings thus violates her role given in I Timothy 2:12…” (ital. in orig.). I commend his courage in breaking with GT on these issues. Perhaps he will receive the blessings of Matt 5:11, as I have.

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First Negative

Proposition 1: The Scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).

This debate is important because Vance suggests a radical departure from the practice of the NT and makes his unscriptural “pattern” a test of fellowship. As one who serves as an evangelist and an elder in a local church, I deny his affirmative as both unscriptural and impractical. Our difference is not personal nor is his honesty or sincerity impugned.

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First Affirmative

On Women in Business Meetings

This debate initially appeared in Guardian of Truth magazine in 1994.  It is reprinted here with the permission of the authors.

Proposition 1: The Scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).

Proposition: “The scriptures teach that the pattern of decision-making in matters of congregational judgment must always include the whole church (including women) under male leadership in all local churches (both with and without elders).” I ask each reader to join me in affirming this proposition.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in my articles are my own and are not intended to represent in any way the views of the elders or members of my congregation.

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