THE FARR-WALKER DEBATE
May 1, 1998 Issue
by Billy D. Dickinson
On March 13-14, a series of discussions took place on the issues of Bible classes with women teachers and the number of containers to be used in the Lord's supper. Carl Farr of Little Rock, AR defended our position on these issues and Johnny Walker of Jacksonville, AR was his opponent.
The discussion on Friday night (March 13) took place in Jacksonville where Bro. Walker preaches. It was obvious from the beginning that Bro. Farr was better prepared for the debate and he had a better grasp of the issues than Bro. Walker. Bro. Farr introduced several charts in his first affirmative speech, contending that "when a church calls an assembly for the purpose of teaching the word of God... the teaching must be done in an undivided assembly, using men only as teachers." Bro. Walker not only didn't have any charts to offer, he didn't have any substantive arguments to offer. In fact, he admitted that the early church did not use the class arrangement of teaching. He reasoned, however, that the church cannot grow without Bible classes. From that premise, his arguments grew weaker and weaker.
On the morning of March 14, the same issue was discussed again in our building at 8007 Mablevale Pike in Little Rock, except more emphasis was placed upon the aspect of women teachers. Bro. Farr introduced a chart on "Walker's Blunders"; it summarized some of Bro. Walker's mistakes the night before: (1) Bro. Walker insisted that Bible classes do not violate the one assembly, yet he denied a proposition that affirmed the one assembly. (2) He said that the church cannot grow without classes, but he admitted that the first century church had no classes. (3) He refused to give a clear answer to the question- "Are your classes a gathering of the church?"- while he simply described the size of his building and class rooms in response. (4) He said that having "no scripture for Bible classes" (an admission he made) is like having no scripture for meeting at ten o'clock. He confused an expediency (meeting at ten o'clock) with an addition to the arrangement specified when the church comes together (the one assembly, Heb. 10:25). (5) He said that "silence" in I Cor. 14:34 simply means to be "still." But Paul said it means "it is not permitted unto them to speak." Thayer says it means "to keep silence, hold one's peace" (Page 574). Also, the tongue speaker was told to "keep silence" if there was no interpreter (1 Cor. 14:28).
Bro. Farr pressed Bro. Walker to tell him whether classes are public or private. Bro. Walker responded unequivocally that his classes are private. Bro. Farr then asked him: "If your classes are private, will you allow in them everything that can take place in a private situation, like common meals, instrumental music, and feet washing?" Bro. Walker was visibly shaken as he tried to explain what he would and would not allow in his classes! While he ignored the matter of feet washing, he said he would allow meals in his classes, but under no circumstance would he permit instrumental music. He really felt his inconsistency when Bro. Farr pressed him on this point: "If your classes are private, and a woman can teach a man in private, why can't a woman teach a man in one of your classes?" Bro. Walker never could reason his way through this dilemma. It was at this juncture in the discussion that something amusing transpired. Bro. Farr used the example of Aquila and Priscilla in Acts 18:26 to show that a woman can teach a man in a private, individual capacity. However, Bro. Walker responded by demanding that Bro. Farr prove that Priscilla was a woman. He asked, "Are you sure Priscilla was a woman?" Bro. Farr read Acts 18:2 where it says that she was Aquila's "wife." Needless to say, Bro. Walker dropped that argument like a hot potato!
In the afternoon session of March 14, Bro. Walker was supposed to affirm that the New Testament teaches by command, example, and inference the use of individual cups in the communion. I say "supposed to," because he never once read or even referred to his proposition in any of his speeches, much less tried to live up to what it obligated him to do! Bro. Farr did a fine job showing that multiple cups have no scriptural authority, since it is actually the use of one cup that is taught by command, example, and inference in the word of God. Bro. Walker admitted from the beginning that Christ instituted the Lord's supper with one container. That admission proved too much for him to overcome. When it was all said and done, "the large assembly argument" was all Bro. Walker had to offer. However, Bro. Farr refused to be sidetracked from the real issue of what is authorized by the Scriptures.
We commend both men for their willingness to contend for what they believe in religious matters (Jude 3). Also, both men conducted themselves as gentlemen, and a good spirit prevailed throughout the discussions We only wish that more of Bro. Walker's brethren had attended; we were disappointed by their poor attendance. Why didn't they come? Are they not interested in hearing the Scriptures discussed, or were they encouraged not to come? Either way, this was their opportunity to learn more about issues over which the church has been divided. Our people provided the bulk of the audience and we had several preachers present. Bro. Carl Farr did an excellent job defending the truth. I was honored to serve as his moderator.
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