At one of the oldest of "Primitive Baptist" web sites, there is given "A Listing of Public Debates in which Primitive Baptist Ministers Have Participated" (SEE HERE). Then we have this commentary about the history of Hardshells as regards religious debates.
"During the nineteenth century, religious discussions in the form of public debates, between some of the leading advocates and representative men of several religious denominations, were frequently held. In almost all cases, the Primitive Baptists were challenged by others to participate in these debates, rather than challenging others. The religious body which most often challenged our people was the "Campbellites," as they have been of a disposition to want to debate, probably due to their founder, Alexander Campbell, having set that example. Such discussions were much less frequent during the twentieth century, at least as far as the Primitive Baptists are concerned. Religious debates are still being held by other denominations, but we seldom hear about them, and relatively few of our present ministry have engaged in them. However, as our beliefs have not changed, we have republished several of these old debates (see our lists of books and microfilms for sale)."
There are several things that I would call into question in response to what is here stated. First, how many of those nineteenth century debates were the result of being challenged, versus those where the Hardshells challenged, is not known. The Hardshell (Webb?) who wrote these words wants us to believe that it is not apropo for ministers to challenge others to debate or discuss. He must think this is more in line with what the Scriptures teach, yet I find it teaching just the opposite.
Second, it is also doubtful that challenges to debate came primarily from the "Campbellites." Many sovereign grace Mission Baptists also challenged the Hardshells to debate. But, it seems the debates with the Mission Baptists did not get so much attention and were not selected for either participation or publication, as did the ones with the "Campbellites." The reason for this is obvious to me. The debates with the Baptists, especially towards the end of the nineteenth century, found the Hardshells losing badly in debates with Calvinistic Missionary Baptists, more so than with the "Campbellites." Of course, such debates did not get "republished" by the Hardshells as time went on, but were buried in oblivion.
Third, this Hardshell (who is giving an 'apology' for Hardshell debating) has to confess that some of the Hardshell leading debaters did challenge others. So, what does this say of this Hardshell's insinuation that challenging others to debate is not apropo? One wonders, in reading this apology, whether this Hardshell is proud of the debate history or not. He seems to be of the opinion that debating is wrong, thinking that the amount of debating is a reflection of the health of the church and ministry, yet he wants to find justification for its prevalence among his nineteenth century forefathers. In other words, debating with others was good for Hardshell leaders of the nineteenth century, but is no good for ministers in the twentieth, or now, twenty first century.
In my own mind, this difference between neo Hardshells and the first Hardshells shows one generation to be superior to the other. But, which? To many Hardshells today, the practice of not debating or discussing is a sign of better health, revealing how today's Hardshells are superior to their forefathers. Of course, I would interpret this differently, seeing present day Hardshells as inferior to their debating forefathers.
The article continues:
"Debates were held from the earliest pioneer days. Elder Wilson Thompson chronicles his participation in debates in his autobiography. Elder Daniel Parker debated the Methodist champion, Frank King, in Tennessee, before coming to Illinois, and here he met the leading mission advocate, John Mason Peck. As shown below Elder R. M. Newport and Elder Joel Hume participated in debates at a very early date. There were many others whose names we do not have at hand. In the latter half of the nineteenth century, Elders Lemuel Potter, George Y. Stipp, T. S. Dalton, John R. Daily, and others, were often called upon to defend the cause of truth in this way, in the midwest."
From these words, one would think that the debaters named were such men that today's Hardshells would gladly welcome in their pulpits were they present today. Yet, how many Hardshells know that Wilson Thompson was a Sabellian? A denier of the Trinity? A believer in "eternal vital union," a Two Seed tenet? That he wrote warm letters of fellowship to both Gilbert Beebe and Daniel Parker? That he believed in the preexistent humanity of Christ? How many know that Hume and Newport held to Two Seed tenets and fellowshipped with Parker? How many know that T.S. Dalton preached the gospel means view before he changed his mind upon the death of Elder John Clark?
The article continues:
"1873 Elder John A. Thompson (Primitive Baptist) vs. Elder Benjamin Franklin (Disciples of Christ), at Reynoldsburg, Ohio, from November 10th through 13th, 1873, on the following propositions: 1. Remission of sins as set forth in the gospel is offered to the unconverted or alien sinner on conditions in which they exercise free-will and have power to perform; 2. The quickening of the sinner by the Spirit of God into new life or eternal life is independent of the written word or Scriptures; 3. Baptism as commanded in the commission is in order to the remission of past sins; 4. The eternal salvation of Christians as set forth in the scriptures is the work of God independent of conditions to be performed by man."
I have read this debate, have it in my library (very old copy). It is one of the earliest records to show how the no means view was being promulgated. Yet, in this debate, I do not recall Elder Thompson affirming that conversion, which followed "quickening," was optional, but that which would surely be experienced by all who were quickened.
The article continues:
"1886 Elder S. F. Cayce (Primitive Baptist) vs. Eld. E. A. Land (Christian), at Enon PB Church, Perry Co., Tennessee, February 9, 1886 and several following days. Two propositions, Cayce affirmed that the Holy Spirit operates independent of the Bible in regeneration and conversion; Cayce denied that eternal salvation of sinners is conditional. Synopsis of speeches in The Primitive Baptist."
Yes, and Elder S. F. Cayce was one of the leaders in revamping the Hardshell church in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Such a proposition was never affirmed by the Hardshells of the 1830s-1850s.
One of the things about this write up on Hardshell debate history is the absence of many debates in the list. There is no mention of the debates that Mark Bennett had with Grigg Thompson in the early 1850s. Why not? I can tell you. Why is there little mention of debates held with the Missionary Baptists?
Now, I am getting old and my days of holding a week's oral debate are probably finished. In fact, in my last debate with the Campbellite Bruce Reeves, I determined and announced that I would not enter into any more debates with them. I have made my case against Campbellism in more than a dozen debates and there was no use to continue them. As far as debating with the Hardshells, let them come forward here in this blog, and we will be happy to engage them. But, unlike their forefathers, they will rather talk behind our back than to engage us face to face. The fact that we have had only one Hardshell to enter into a debate here is revealing. You can interpret for yourself what it reveals. You all know what it says to me.
My view is that the Bible commands ministers to do apologetics, that they be always ready to give a defence for their views. I do it when challenged. But, today's Hardshells will not defend their views. But, they are the superior ones, remember?
I certainly challenge this Hardshell elder to prove his assertion - "as our beliefs have not changed."