PERFORMANCE: A Universalist-Baptist Debate Re-created Gordon Gibson Brief Description This is a dramatic re-creation from the second day of a six-day debate between a Universalist and a Baptist in Mississippi that occurred in Mississippi in July of 1907. It is a late example of an evangelistic tool that Universalists used widely during the nineteenth century. Length: About 40 minutes, although introduction and discussion should ideally be included, and that would take it to about 50 minutes +/-. Characters: Rev. A.G.Strain, Universalist Rev. J.J. Porter, D.D, Baptist Minister Staging: Usually done “on book” so that familiarity with the script is important, but memorization is not necessary. The presentation can be done with no special costuming, although the addition of at least some suggestion of period dress and props can add atmosphere. “Props” could include one or two Bibles for the two debaters and a stack of books representing “the representative theology of his people” that the Baptist debater refers to. Furniture would include a chair for each debater, a lectern or pulpit, and possibly a table. Fuller description: The exchanges excerpted are taken from the second day of a six-day debate near Ellisville, Mississippi, in July of 1907. The issue under debate was, “The Bible and reason teach that all men will finally be made holy and happy.” We have no information about the Rev. J. J. Porter, D.D., the Baptist speaker. The Rev. A. G. Strain, the Universalist, was an itinerant southern Universalist preacher. He was the son of the Rev. B. F. Strain (Universalist), and was named for the Rev. Almon Gage (Universalist). People who as children knew him describe him as a tall, kindly man, with a sense of humor. (“I’m not sure about going to heaven because I can’t play the harp and I don’t like ambrosia, but if they have watermelon and let me play my fiddle it will be all right.”) The debate was apparently taken down by a stenographer. It was published in a book of slightly over 290 pages in length. Such debates were frequently used by Universalists to spread their views. This excerpt from one debate can offer some insight into how this mechanism might have worked. Although the proof-texting by both debaters sounds very ‘retro’ to contemporary Unitarian Universalist ears, careful attention reveals some interesting thinking by the Universalist: “I do not want people to think that Universalism teaches that salvation is going somewhere . . . what I mean by salvation is this - hungering and thirsting after righteousness.” Gordon Gibson has presented the debate at three of the congregations once served by A. G. Strain, and one time one of Strain’s granddaughters introduced the performance. Introduction Over many years and in many places Universalists engaged in debates with their orthodox Christian opponents. It was believed to be an effective tool for spreading the message of universal salvation. Today you get to go back over a century in time and listen to a portion of one such debate. In July of 1907 there was a debate over the course of six days between the Rev. A. G. Strain, Universalist, and the Rev. J. J. Porter, D.D., a Baptist. The proposition that they debated was, “Resolved, that the Bible and reason teach that all men will finally be made holy and happy.” The debate was held at the Burruss Memorial Universalist Church near Ellisville, Mississippi. There obviously was a stenographer on hand to record the debate. In due course the debate was published. It ran to 293 pages of fine print. The Rev. A. G. Strain was the Universalist debater. His father, the Rev. B. F. Strain, had also been a Universalist minister serving southern Universalist congregations. Some people who have heard re- creations of this debate remember the Rev. A. G. Strain as their childhood minister. They tell of a tall man with a gentle sense of humor. The congregations that he served in his career ranged at least from North Carolina to Texas. We know little or nothing of the Baptist, the Rev. J. J. Porter. It appears from comments in the debate that both men were circuit riders. Now, use your imagination to place yourself in the sanctuary of a rural church. It is July 16, the second day of this debate. We will pick up with the Rev. A. G. Strain’s second speech on this second day of the debate, defending the proposition that “the Bible and reason teach that all men will finally be made holy and happy.” STRAIN In answering my brother’s remarks I shall introduce some new scriptures, because when I can make the Bible answer, or when the words of Scripture answer a question as well as I can answer it in my own language, I generally use these words. I doubt if he feels just exactly easy after making the remarks that he did about a personal devil, for after asking me if I believe in a personal devil and obtaining my negative to the same he proceeded to try to make it appear that I denied the existence of the devil altogether. I do not think the brother can feel exactly right over that. If he will tell me where his personal devil was created and who created him, I shall be very much obliged. Further than this, if he will tell where and when his endless hell was made, I will be still more obliged, for I fail to find any account of this in the account of the Creation in Genesis. It seems that these were forgotten in the enumeration of things created; and then in looking over the map I fail to find them on the map, and I did not find nor see so much of them now in the imagination of the people as I used to, so they seem to be fast fading away altogether. He claims that I introduced Scriptures that belong to him. I wonder if he thought I would use an almanac in this debate. I feel I have a right to use any passage in the Bible, and if there is one passage in the Bible that contradicts another, then I would have to doubt the whole. I find it as easy to prove universal salvation from the threatenings of the Bible as from the promises of the Bible. I do not look upon the Scriptures as contradicting each other -- one being on one side and the other on the other side. That will not do. Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned,” showing that there was to be a division at some time, some to be saved and others damned. Again Christ also said, “If I be lifted up from the earth I will draw all men unto Me.” This “all men” includes the saved as well as the damned, and I must believe both of these Scriptures or turn the witness out of court altogether. I therefore accept both Scriptures as true, one to be fulfilled at one time and the other at another time. It is strange to me that when positive proof is presented of universal salvation that some people will look sad. If I believed in the endless reign of the devil; if I believed that there was a single individual; yes, if I believed that there was a single animal anywhere doomed to the endless torture, consigned to endless flames, whose cries for mercy would only serve to sink him deeper into an awful abyss of agony -- if I believed that, I would never smile again, and there is no doubt in my mind but that this infernal doctrine has done more to fill the lunatic asylum than any other cause under heaven. My opponent quotes: “those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh and the lusts thereof.” I would like to know how many people who are present can claim to be Christ’s under this test. I want you to quit looking at somebody else’s faults for a moment, turn your eyes back and answer me the question, and be honest about it, God being your judge, have you crucified the lusts of the flesh? Have you no fleshly desires? No selfish desires? Are you free from those things? Be careful how you answer. God knows whether you are telling the truth or not. I am afraid my brother is not Christ’s if it takes that to make one Christ’s. I believe that Scripture; I believe all that is necessary to make one holy and happy, and I stand before you with the words of Paul. Without holiness no man can see the Lord, and if my brother is not entirely free from love of selfish pleasures, from the lusts of the flesh, if he has not entirely crucified the flesh with the lusts thereof, according to his argument he never will do it for he claims that there is no chance beyond this life. He will go on and die in that condition, and I am afraid hell would be crowded. It would be worse than this schoolhouse if all had to go to hell who have not fully crucified the flesh and the lusts thereof in this life. He made this remark. I quote his exact words. No one can be Christ’s without he has crucified the lusts of the flesh. I want you to think of that. Have you ever crucified the flesh and the lusts thereof? I came before you to prove that in God’s good time this will be accomplished. We do not know how long it will take. PORTER Let me say, my friends, I trust that we shall be honest and sincere in this discussion. We are dealing with tremendous issues -- heaven and hell; life and death are involved. What I want to know is what God reveals in this Book. I want to know the truth, and if God teaches that the impenitent sinner is lost, not only for time but eternity, I will believe it and preach it, because it is God’s truth; and so far as reason is concerned, I like reason, but nothing is better than the Bible; but if my brother has any reason that will overthrow the Bible, let him bring it. I am open to the truth, and regard facts wherever presented. I am not afraid of theory. I have no sympathy for abstract things. I can dodge a theory, but I cannot dodge a fact. I am held responsible for facts and if there are any facts in this book that prove the doctrine of my brother’s proposition, I shall ever be grateful to him to bring these out. Now let me notice some things my brother said. In his opening remarks he said, “I do not know why God created evil.” Will you say, beloved, that God Almighty created evil? You say that you do not know why He created it, come out and say that He did create it! Implying that God did create sin and evil! You said that God made the chaff as well as the wheat, and that he made evil men. The chaff represents wicked men, and because He made these wicked men He will put them into unquenchable fire, for being just exactly what He made them! Is that logic, eh? What has the deity of Christ to do with this discussion? He does not accept of Christ’s deity in his teaching. I have the representative theology of his people, and the deity of Christ is not accepted in their doctrine. I am not here to expose what I believe to be the errors of Universalism from his standard. I have the standard writers and books on theology, and I am not merely after him as to their theology, but after the representative men and the standard teachers. This discussion is going into book form, and thousands of people will read it who know nothing about the theology of Universalism. I am exposing what I believe to be the fallacy of Universalists from headquarters and not merely from this brother way down here in the piney woods. STRAIN Now Brother Porter wants to know if I will take my stand on the statement that God created evil. I will turn it over to Isaiah and leave the matter to be settled between Isaiah and Brother Porter. Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light and create darkness. I make peace and create evil, I the Lord do all these things.” Brother Porter insinuates that Universalism takes people to heaven without repentance. I wish my brother could get this into his head. I hate to have to repeat it so often, but I do not want people to think that Universalism teaches that salvation is going somewhere, and it must be that the people of this congregation understand that what I mean by salvation is this -- hungering and thirsting after righteousness. As I have already quoted, “Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled.” No matter where they go. This is to be the condition of people when they are saved, and I would just as soon go to hell as to heaven, so far as that is concerned. It doesn’t make any difference where I go. It is what I am and I am glad that I have the power and privilege to teach that salvation consists in the changing of the rough nature so that instead of pursuing the awful filthy habits of gambling, drinking and all of these filthy things, that to be saved is to be above these base desires and be filled with desires for righteousness. Now, to show you again what I mean by universal holiness and happiness I will quote from a Baptist. It is strange that a Universalist should quote from a Baptist, isn’t it? Yet I am going to do that this time. It is the first Baptist of which we have any record. He was a Primitive Baptist. Here is what he says. It is recorded in Luke 3:5-6. “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” It seems from this that the Baptists in those days taught what Universalists teach at the present time. This is to be the condition when Christ has made an end of sin and brought in everlasting righteousness. PORTER Mark you, he said that he did not care whether he went to heaven or to hell. I would not be surprised if you did not get your desire. Now, in all frankness, I am uneasy about you. You say that you had just as soon go to hell as to heaven where the river of life flows from the throne of God. What kind of man are you anyhow? Did you mean that, beloved? He says he did. Up there in heaven where the tree of life is and where the angels sing, and where Jesus has prepared a place for those who love and serve him; where the river of life flows from the throne of God as clear as a crystal, and where every saint is at rest and there is no more trouble. He had just as soon go to hell where there is not a drop of water to cool a fellow’s tongue! If you are not choice as to the place, I am afraid you will go down instead of up. When I asked him to take the position that God created evil he read from Isaiah. Well now you know that the word “created” here does not mean that God brought evil into existence and that he created evil in the sense of producing it and turning it loose in this world. That Hebrew word means that God permitted it to come, or do you know the Hebrew? Take a position here and say that the word “created” comes from a word that implies that God Almighty created evil in the same sense that He created good. You bring up the proof and say that it does. It is mighty easy to dodge behind an illustration or a translation that does not convey the idea. STRAIN To review his last speech, I will say that I am sorry that he is not up to now on the subject of hell. It appears that he is badly behind from a statement that he made that there was not a drop of water in hell. The latest on the subject of hell is that that place has been converted into a beautiful park, and looshus grapes are growing there, and there is a railroad built right through the place so that preachers can go to hell on reduced fare. Now way down here in these piney woods that my brother has so sneeringly referred to, he comes before you and when he is confronted with a passage of scripture that perhaps his attention has never been called to, and having to say something on the spur of the moment without having time to study about it, he says I go behind the Bible. Do you remember how he spoke to me and said, “Will you take your stand on that, that God created evil?” Why he seemed so fully wrought up when I said God created evil that I did not take any stand myself, but put the prophet Isaiah between me and the dear brother. I said, “I will leave it with you and the Prophet Isaiah,” and I quoted Isaiah 45:7. “I form the light and create darkness, make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things.” Brother Porter says that is a mistranslation, and denies that God did create evil. When I examined the matter, I found that he spoke altogether without authority -- that he did not know anything whatever about the translation. I find the Hebrew word rendered ‘create’ in Isaiah 45:7 to show that God created evil is the same Hebrew word used in Genesis 1:1, “God created the heavens and the earth.” My opponent will say that is a mistake, I reckon -- a mistranslation. Again, it is the same word that is translated ‘create’ in Genesis 1:21, “So God created the great whales,” the same word. So if it is a mistranslation in one place I suppose it must be in the other, and my brother would have to stand before you now, unless he retraces his steps and acknowledges defeat in this, and say, “No, God did not create great whales.” Further than that, it is the same word that is translated ‘create’ in Genesis 1:27, “So God created man, both male and female, in his own image.” It is the only Hebrew word that is anywhere in the Old Testament translated or rendered ‘create.’ So my brother would have to say, “I do not believe the Lord created anything, for the wrong word is used there.” Now he has a proposition on his hands way down here in the piney woods, as he has so often spoken of it. It is rather strange to find these things way down here in the piney woods. I want to say that this community is famous for its good schools. Most anywhere in the state, you can hear of the good schools at Union, and I am fully convinced that these good schools are detrimental to the doctrine of endless misery. So if you want your people to believe in endless misery, do not have good schools. Let us accept the plain declaration of God Himself that He created evil. Let my brother come up to the proposition and see what he can do with it. I hope he won’t dodge the matter any more but come right square up and show the people what he is able to do with it. That would cause him to appear more like an honest inquirer after truth. Had the people of this community not wanted something else besides the books that anybody can read, they never would have called him here in this discussion, and while I do not wish to boast at all, I do claim the right to think, and when I have an idea of my own, thank heaven I live in a land where I am allowed to express it, and it is his duty to come up to this proposition and meet my arguments. I repeat the question, if my brother is not holy now, and there is no chance to get holy after he leaves this world, and there is no chance to see God without being holy, how does he ever expect to see God? My brother has not quoted a passage, neither can he get one, to show that there is no change beyond this life. Let him try it. Come up now and show that it is all limited to this world. Not a single passage can he find. I will tell you what I think about it. When a preacher wants to make a good scare and cause a great stir among the ignorant masses he assures the masses that there is no chance for reformation except in this world and if they do not make confession now, they will be denied the privilege of reforming through all eternity and many are thus scared into a false confession. The truth is, we are in eternity now just as much as we will ever be and the change that we call death is the change from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Although I am not able to tell the exact time when all men will reach that condition, I have faith in God that these will some day reach it, because God has sworn that all men will have righteousness and strength in Him and thus be holy and happy, and he has all eternity in which to bring it about. I am sorry that my brother again had to misrepresent my cause in saying that Universalists say that all men will be saved whether they are right or wrong when he knows that my position is that being saved means being right. Salvation consists in being holy, absolutely free from all that is sinful. That is the salvation that I contend for. No Universalist ever contended for any other salvation. It is absolute purity, so that when a man is saved he is raised above these wicked desires, hence John said, “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world.” Taketh away the sin of the world, for as long as there is sin in the bosom of man there is no salvation. And the salvation that I am arguing for, pleading for, working for, giving all the energies of my life for is this: A complete deliverance from all sin and selfishness. If I can get a man to quit using tobacco, he is saved from that much. If I can get him to stop drinking whiskey, he is saved from that much, and whenever I, as an instrument in the hands of God, succeed in getting men and women above all the sinful things of life, then I have accomplished, or been the instrument in the hands of God to accomplish, their salvation. That is salvation. That is what I am fighting for, and universal deliverance from all these evils by some means must and will be effected. PORTER Now let us take up that issue about God creating evil. I said when he introduced that piece of scripture to prove from his standpoint that God Almighty created evil in the sense of sin, namely evil, that the construction of that scripture and also the meaning of the Hebrew word “barah” would not prove that God was the Creator or the author of evil -- moral evil or sin, and if he will refer to Mr. Young’s Analytic Concordance, he will find that the first definition that his book gives there of this Hebrew word “barah” is to prepare. That is the first definition. to prepare. Second, to form. Third, to fashion. Fourth, to create. Now it is a very serious and fearful thing to charge God Almighty as being the Creator of sin, when it is stated positively in the Bible that God Almighty hates sin. If He created evil and sin and all of those vile wicked things that we have in this world, then why did He hate that which He created? The meaning of that word in Isaiah 45:7 is to allow, to permit, to bring or create evil upon wicked people. He creates or prepares or forms evil in the sense of punishing them in the way of bringing war and destruction upon them. Let me read a statement from Amos 3:6, “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? Shall there be evil in a city and the Lord hath not done it?” There is an indication of war. That is the way God fashions or prepares evil upon wicked people. That is the sense in which God produces evil and prepares or forms or fashions evil, not that he made the devil who is the evil one. Do you believe that God made the devil, brother? You say that God created evil, and in the Bible the devil is spoken of as the evil one. Do you believe that God created him? I say that God did not make the devil, and I say that God did not make sin. If God made the devil, what did he make him for? Why did He drive Adam and Eve out of the garden and would not let them go back, if he created the thing that they did? Why did He punish them for it? Let me turn over here and prove point blank that my brother has misrepresented God and charged him with creating all the iniquity that we have in this fallen world. Genesis 1:31, “And God saw everything that He had made, and behold it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.” Did you ever read that, beloved? He was speaking of all that He ever created. This book of Genesis means the Creation or beginning. God saw everything that He had made, and He said that it was good. Did God make evil? If He did, then He said it was good, and what are you fighting against sin and evil for when He said that it was good? Now that is your theology. STRAIN Now I will briefly sum up my arguments. You will no doubt remember that I said that our first parents met with a certain punishment and that this punishment was administered in love, because God loved them, and they were driven from the Garden of Eden in order that they might not partake of the tree of life. I do not know what that was, but God saw fit for them to be turned away. It was not the thing for them to take hold of just then, therefore they were sent out. As proof that this act was prompted by the father’s love for his erring children, we have a figure saying that God made them clothes of skin. This is a token of a father’s love for his children, and shows us that God drove them out because he loved them and was looking out for their interest. It is needless for me to say that I have proved beyond controversy that God would punish every individual being for all of his sins. This my brother has not even attempted to show was false. If punishment is inflicted from a spirit of retaliation and revenge, then Christ did not preach right when he gave the sermon on the Mount. If He consigns people to torture, that is fiendish of Him. That is retaliation. If you wrong me, I will wrong you -- you know that is not the spirit of Christianity. I have shown that the punishments inflicted by our heavenly Father are inflicted because he loves the ones punished. I have shown instances where this punishment has brought about obedience, and argued that as it has done in the past so will it continue to bring about obedience in the future, and this is in perfect harmony with the sermon on the Mount. When He said, “Love your enemies,” He breathed the spirit of the gospel, and God must act in accordance with the principle of the gospel by loving his enemies. It would not do for Him to contradict the doctrines that Christ laid down in that memorable sermon, therefore He cannot inflict an endless evil. He must overcome evil with good, just as He has commanded us to do. A thought occurs to me right here. Someone has intimated, and they have shown how little they know about a debate, by intimating that I ought to follow my brother on his remarks concerning the deity of Christ. That is not in this discussion, but remember this, that I have quoted scriptures regarding that that my brother refused to answer. For instance, that Christ prayed to God. Would He pray to Himself? Christ was born of a woman. Was God born of a woman? Christ said, “Of myself, I can do nothing.” Would God say of Himself, “Of myself, I can do nothing”? Why, it is the very height of folly to be talking about Christ being God. You will remember that I made his favorite proof text prove Universalism. Matthew 25:41, “Then shall he say to them on the left hand, depart from me ye cursed into the everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels.” I showed how this was full of love and beauty, and he strives to make it show that God is fiendish and brutal. I argued to show that this fire as well as the fire mentioned in Romans 12 by Paul were representative of God’s infinite love. This seems so plain to me when Paul says, keeping in harmony with the sermon on the Mount, “Therefore if thine enemy hunger feed him. If he thirst, give him drink, for in so doing thou shall heap coals of fire upon his head.” This is the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels, and manifesting this fire the devil and his angels are completely burned up, and I labored, and think I showed to every reasonable man this this kind of conduct, prompted by the love of God, will subdue all evil. I would say here, friends, that if somebody commits an offense against you, I wish you would try it. If somebody commits an offense against you, remember it. Don’t get fiery like my brother’s God. Remember that you overcome evil with good, do not try to retaliate like his God, but as the God of the Bible keep your senses just as our Savior manifested that everlasting fire from the cross, you manifest it toward those who have offended you. Hear him: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” You will find this kind of conduct subdues all the hatred that your enemy holds toward you. This everlasting fire that you manifest, kindled or prepared for the devil and his angels, this everlasting fire will subdue all the evil or chaff that is in the bosom of your enemy, and you will make a Christian of him. This is the means by which the gospel is bringing to obedience every wandering son and daughter of Adam. You will doubtless remember that I showed from a quotation from Revelations how a false worship brought about torment day and night, and referred to the fact that many people in this community who formerly believed in an endless hell were so tormented during the time that they were worshipping the beast that they were made to come to themselves. They rose superior to the worship of the beast and commenced to worship the one true and living God, of whom, to whom, and through whom are all things. I have argued the salvation of all men from the punishment of the wicked for this reason as much as for any other: I do not want my children, or your children, to grow up with the idea that they can do meanness and then shift the punishment off on Christ or any other innocent being. I think that is a cause of a great deal of crime -- the idea that you can commit sin with impunity -- commit sin and then let Christ step in between you and your punishment and receive all your punishment and you go free. Such is the damnable doctrine of substitution or vicarious atonement. I would love for Brother Porter to feel good. I would hate for him to leave here feeling so keenly the pangs of defeat, but friends, I cannot give up the truth to accommodate him. I love the truth better than I love Brother Porter and for that reason I am going to fight to the finish, and I assure you there is no truth in his proposition. PORTER My brother is through with his proposition. His arguments and his proofs are before you. You are the jury to decide whether he has proved it or not. He says that I dodged on that issue of God creating evil. I will let the published discussion show whether I dodged on not. He turned to John 1. That first chapter of John says that Jesus was the word, the divine “Logos,” the Word that was in the beginning, the Word that was with God, the Word that was God, was made flesh and nothing was created that he did not create. According to this scripture Jesus Christ was God. Brother, will you say that Jesus Christ was the son of a man, and that Joseph was His Father? STRAIN - I do not know. PORTER - God was not His father, was He? STRAIN - (silent) PORTER - Well, was Jesus Christ the Son of a man? STRAIN - Yes. PORTER - Who was his father? Joseph? STRAIN - (silent) PORTER He says that Jesus Christ was the son of a man and will not say God was His father, and if Jesus Christ, the eternal Logos here, which John says was God, and had creative power, and created every thing that was created, and if he was simply the Son of man, then you have Jesus Christ the Son of a fallen woman. I warm up when it comes to an issue as to whether my Lord and Master is God’s Son. He is the only begotten Son of God, and no man can be saved through Jesus Christ that denies his deity. Remember that. He said that John the Baptist was a Universalist. John said to some of those Scribes and Pharisees, “Except ye repent you cannot escape the damnation of hell. Ye are a generation of vipers, and the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down and cast into the fire.” Did you ever hear a Universalist preaching that kind of teaching, telling people that if they did not repent they could not escape the damnation of hell? My brother, that is the doctrine you have been denying here. You say that a man can die in his sins and God will raise him to a life of holiness and happiness. There is no repentance in the resurrection when God raises men to holiness and happiness. There is nothing in the grave or in the state of death that he can do, and yet John the Baptist told these men that if they did not repent they could not escape hell. He says that hell is a place of “looshus” grapes and fine sparkling, trickling water, but John the Baptist talked about the fire of hell, and John talked about Jesus Christ who was greater than he and whose shoes he was unworthy to loosen, and he said the He would burn up the chaff with fire unquenchable. You say that John the Baptist was a Universalist. John the Baptist baptized in the River Jordan. The best man that you have in your community has never been baptized. I never saw a better man than this brother here. I hope he trusts in Jesus Christ for life and salvation, and that he believes that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God. Yet you have never baptized him, and did John not baptize people? John would not have said that there was nothing in baptism. Jesus Christ commanded people to be baptized, and yet you will not baptize them. You set aside that commandment and do not observe it, and let me ask, ladies and gentlemen, in all candor, if a man can throw out a part, can he throw out the whole of the Bible? If you can throw out one verse of the Bible, can you not throw out more and more, and finally you will have the Bible all torn to pieces. You had better let John the Baptist alone. Adam and Eve sinned. He went back to that again. Adam and Eve sinned, and God drove them out. I do not know what that has to do with this proposition. God drove them out of the Garden of Eden, and they were cursed, and the earth was cursed, and they had to go out and earn bread by the sweat of their brow, and confusion and strife resulted, and yet, according to his theory, God created all this. God created the sin that Adam and Eve committed, and then drove them out of the Garden for exercising the very thing that He Himself created. And you say God created that! He turned to 1st John to prove that. Then he created that sin? STRAIN - If it is evil, he created it. PORTER - Then why did God punish Adam and Eve for the thing that he created? STRAIN - He punished them for the same reason that He punished Pharaoh after He had hardened Pharaoh’s heart. PORTER - God created the sin and had Adam and Eve to commit it, and then He punishes them and all of their posterity for doing just what God did Himself. If that isn’t a dilemma I never saw a brother in one. God created sin and then cursed them for committing sin. He said, “If you do this thing ye shall surely die.” You talk about an unjust God and an impartial God. God here creating the sin that men commit and pronouncing it good, and because men exercised it, He let sin and death and punishment come upon them. Everything that God created was good, and He created sin, therefore sin was good. Adam and Eve exercised a good thing and God cursed them and cursed all the generations of the earth after them. That is his theology. It will be a wonderful thing to read in print. STRAIN Now, my friends, I want to thank you for your kind attention, and I want to assure you that Brother Porter and I deeply love each other. I have no ill feeling toward him and have no idea that he has toward me, and I do not think the congregation ought to be more affected than we are. It won’t hurt much if you get mad at us, for we are not here much of the time, but don’t fall out with one another. You keep as cool and friendly as Brother Porter and I, and this debate will do good. It is going to be read by many and great benefit will be derived from it. Don’t talk about it in a way that will cause you to hate each other, but strive to feel that as God is the father of all, we are all members of one great family and should love each other accordingly.
Unitarian Universalist History & Heritage Society  UU History & Heritage Convocation 2010 Proceedings
photo by Jim Nugent