My Impressions of the Deaver-Vick Debate

By Marlin Kilpatrick

It was my privilege to attend the Deaver-Vick Debate. The debate was conducted October 24-27, 2011, in the building of the church of Christ on Shelbyville Road, Indianapolis, Indiana. Brother Ben Vick is the preacher and an elder in the church at Shelbyville Road, while Mac Deaver is the preacher and an elder in the church of Christ, Sheffield, Texas. Both debaters utilized PowerPoint presentations of their respective materials. The proposition the first two nights read, “The scriptures teach that Holy Spirit baptism has ceased and is no longer in the church today.” Vick affirmed the proposition and Deaver denied it. Each debater had three (3) twenty (20) minute speeches, each evening. Brother Holger Neubaur served as Chairman for the debate and as brother Vick’s Moderator. Brother Weylan Deaver served as brother Deaver’s Moderator.

As a debater, I believe brother Vick is a capable advocate. He is not as experienced on the polemic platform as is brother Deaver, but he did a commendable work in presenting his material. Vick followed the usual line of reasoning, claiming that only the apostles and Cornelius’ household and near friends received the baptism in the Holy Spirit. He claimed that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was a miracle and since the miraculous has ceased, then Holy Spirit baptism has ceased. In response brother Deaver pointed out that the baptism in the Holy Spirit was not a miracle and, if it is, then every conversion today is a miracle. In my opinion, brother Deaver answered every point brother Vick made. Brother Deaver also pointed out that Vick’s duty as an affirmative speaker was to present a sound argument the conclusion of which proved that Holy Spirit baptism has ceased. It appeared to me that brother Vick had difficulty with understanding the nature of an “argument.” He often asserted certain things about certain scriptures, but assertion alone is not an argument, which Deaver called to Vick’s attention. When brother Vick finally presented four (4) or five (5) arguments in syllogistic form, Deaver pointed out that his first argument was unsound, as its minor premise was false. Each of Vick’s syllogisms was based upon the claim that Holy Spirit baptism was a miracle. So, when Deaver answered the first argument he had, in effect, answered each of the remaining arguments.

The last two nights of the debate involved the proposition which read: “The scriptures teach that when a person becomes a Christian he is baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit.” Now, the order was reversed with brother Deaver in the affirmative and brother Vick in the negative.

In his first affirmative speech brother Deaver reminded Vick and the audience that Vick, while in the affirmative, had six (6) speeches in which he failed to present a sound argument to prove his proposition, therefore he had failed in the debate. Deaver then proceeded to present several sound arguments to prove his proposition. Interestingly, brother Vick did not attempt to answer Deaver’s arguments. Instead, he continued to present more affirmative material and question some of Deaver’s conclusions, but as far as dismantling brother Deaver’s arguments by showing that their form was invalid or that either one or both of the premises were false, this Vick never attempted. Evidently, brother Vick was feeling the pressure of the debate when he claimed that the sinner’s nature is changed at the point of repentance. Deaver pointed out how he doubted that brother Vick really believes that and he likely had never made such a statement in his life, until the debate. Vick also claimed that the sinner receives forgiveness of his sins after he comes out of the water, instead of while in the baptismal water. Brother Deaver pointed out several problems with such a conclusion, to which Vick never adequately responded.

Overall, I believe the debate was a good debate. In my opinion Vick was feeling the pressure of Deaver’s arguments, and this led to him hurting his cause by referring to brother Deaver as a “half-baked Pentecostal.” He also claimed that Deaver is a Calvinist. Deaver countered by presenting a chart, enumerating the main tenets of Calvinism which he denied believing. He also pointed out that he had been scheduled to debate a real Calvinist, but, just two or three days before the debate was to begin, his opponent withdrew from the debate! In my judgment, brother Deaver was more calm and deliberate in his presentations. I also believe he was very able in proving the truthfulness of his proposition.

The debate was well attended. The audience was very courteous in listening to both debaters. The attendance the last two nights was somewhat less that the first two evenings; perhaps the rainy weather and cool temperatures played a role in the decreased attendance. The debate was also watched by several hundred people over the Internet; this, also, may have caused less attendance the last two nights.