Posted in Debates, Reviews

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.

Posted in Debates, Reviews

Two Mints In One

By Weylan Deaver

At the recently concluded Deaver-Vick Debate in Indianapolis (October 2011, archived here), Mac Deaver affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that when a person becomes a Christian he is baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit.” Deaver made the case for a single baptism, consisting of two elements, in harmony with Jesus’ statement in John 3:5 that kingdom entry is on the basis of being “born of water and the Spirit.”

Listeners to the debate repeatedly heard Ben Vick belittle Deaver’s position with an appeal to an old slogan for Certs breath mints: “Two, two, two mints in one!” One might think that a discussion centering on the Holy Spirit—a person of the Godhead—might be treated with more dignity than afforded by a Certs commercial. But brother Vick thought it appropriate. In fact, on the final evening, he even began his first negative speech by trying to play a video clip of a real Certs commercial. To some, the embarrassment of his effort was compounded by his technical problems in getting the clip to play before the audience (Vick even called for his time to be held while his helper tried to get the situation sorted on his computer). Finally, the audience got to see the clip play and hear the Certs catchphrase: “Two mints in one!”

What was the point? Well, brother Vick’s accusation was that Deaver was trying to do the impossible by taking immersion in water and immersion in Spirit and combining them into a single baptism. So, Vick made a joke out of it by repeating the Certs expression. This, in spite of the fact Deaver proved that Scripture speaks of two bodies becoming one body (1 Cor. 6:16), and of two spirits becoming one spirit (1 Cor. 6:17). Therefore, there is biblical precedent, with inspired language indicating that a plurality can form a singularity. And, if God talks about it that way, who are we to contradict him? A baptism in the physical element of water and the metaphysical element of Holy Spirit can be called “one baptism” in Ephesians 4:5, resulting in a person’s being “born of water and Spirit.” But Deaver’s point (along with many others) seemed completely lost on Vick, who continued to make light of the concept that two could really be one.

Which leads to this interesting question. What if the Certs commercial were turned back on brother Vick, and he were asked this question: “True or False: An individual Cert is a single mint.” What would Vick say? He could not answer “false” without showing himself ridiculous. But, he could not answer “true” without seeming to admit the very premise he fought so hard against (i.e. that two elements could be combined in one event). How thick the irony, that brother Vick’s slogan, designed to disparage Deaver’s position, should, in reality, go to demonstrate the very point Deaver was making.

Two mints in one? Absolutely.

Posted in Debates, Reviews

Impressions from the Deaver-Vick Debate

By Ron Thomas

The remarks below are simply impressions, nothing more. I am sure that others have an entirely different impression of the debate. Below, I have three primary paragraphs: 1. Style, 2. Substance, 3. A final word. I was present for two nights (Monday and Thursday). For the Tuesday and Wednesday presentations, I watched it online (now archived here).

With regard to style, it must be said that “style” gains no points of substance in a discussion like these two men were engaged in. However, it does convey (to me anyhow) the comfort one has going in with (1) the occasion, (2) material. I thought both men carried themselves reasonably well. Of the two, Mac Deaver was more polished, but that is not to say that Ben Vick was bad. In fact, as I interpreted their mannerisms, both looked relaxed, engaged, and capable of presenting their position and countering the other’s. I was especially struck by Mac’s disposition and methodology throughout. Ben was erratic, but don’t let this word give you the sense that he did not know what he was doing, or even how. It’s just that there were more “starts and stops” with him than with Mac, who appeared much more fluid.

With regard to substance, Ben seemed to speak a bit about Mac’s insistence at his (Ben’s) lack of offering a logical argument for his position (the first two nights). Ben denied that he had failed to do so, and when he did ultimately offer one, Mac negated one of the premises of Ben’s argument by stating that Ben did not prove the premise correct, but only asserted it; thus it was an unsound argument (though valid in form). When Mac was in the affirmative, he quickly set out his arguments (Wednesday) and took time to prove each one of his premises which warranted the conclusion Mac presented to the debate audience. Ben did not address a single one, though he made an attempt on the last night of the debate (though it was not much).

One final word, I noticed throughout the debate what I thought were some unfortunate remarks by Ben. Though he complained that Mac was condescending (something I did not detect at all), it was actually Ben who made a few remarks that I thought were a bit disparaging. Those things happen, and I would have dismissed it if it would not have been for Ben’s last speech Thursday evening. There is only one word that I would use – pitiful! It was condescending, belittling, and entirely useless for the occasion. It appeared to me that Ben wanted to go out as a “dragon-slayer,” and he wanted to be in the negative for exactly this reason. Moreover, it also appeared to me, that Ben wanted his “faithful brethren” to know (with this last speech) that he stood with the “truth” and opposed a “false teacher.” Yes, it appeared that Ben wanted to “throw his chest out” and warn others about teaching something contrary to what is believed to be sacred.

Though, I have never been asked, I would recommend that if one wanted to debate brother Vick, that person think very seriously about allowing him the opportunity to speak last. If this is his manner, you might regret giving him an audience.