KING AND BRADLAUGH DEBATE - PART 6
CHRISTIANITY VERSUS SECULARISM
SIX NIGHTS' DISCUSSION BETWEEN DAVID KING AND CHARLES BRADLAUGH
From "The Interpreter" 1909.
WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY?
Wednesday, 28th September, 1870.
MR. BRADLAUGH'S FIRST REPLY
MR. BRADLAUGH: - What I shall tell you is that I have asked four times, three times last night and once tonight, and our friend has not yet told you whether he believes that the doctrine of eternal torment is part and parcel of the doctrines of Christianity. If I am to discuss Christianity I must know whether he holds that.
He has not yet told us what the "particular document" is.
I did not ask him to quote from 1 Cor. 13, but to quote the passage that faith without love is worthless.
He says he did not tell us last night that the Old Testament was to us what the New Testament was to the Jews. Will he tell us how much of the Christianity of the Old Testament he does recognise and how much he does not?
Our friend says I have been guilty of a stale trick, but surely a great man like Mr. King, a man so able in dealing with the subject, ought to be prepared to answer these questions. With regard to crowding in too many points, he was good enough to tell you that it was not my duty to press my objections but to agree or disagree with the views he expounded, and that was to last all though the debate? If this debate is ever published, however, it will show the points I have contradicted.
I don't know whether it is worth going into, but Mr. King seems to have been guilty of a trick. Our friend said several times last night, that justification by faith alone was only named to be repudiated. Well, I read the texts he gave, and they did not bear this out, and then it was said that the word "alone" only occurred once and there it was repudiated. But faith was mentioned alone, contradistinguished from anything else. We are told in distinct and express terms that it is by faith, and not by works, that men are justified, and if our friend meant that as an argument which reasonable men, reading the debate, are to pay attention to, I can only regard it as a trick which has not the merit of staleness.
Then he says that the Church of England does not teach this doctrine of justification by faith. Curiously enough, one of the most striking Articles of the Church says: - "It is the fault and corruption of the nature of every man that naturally is engendered of the offspring of Adam, whereby man is very far gone from original righteousness, and is of his own nature inclined to evil, so that the flesh lusteth always contrary to the spirit, and therefore in every person born into this world, it deserveth God's wrath and damnation." Now you could not have a more clear and explicit declaration of doctrine on the part of the Church of England at any rate.
Then he quoted clergymen, and he says that perhaps some of them are Secularists. Well, perhaps they are, for the more sensible they were, the more heterodox they got. He puts it that possibly even some of the bishops are Secularists. It is very likely, for as they became more sensible, they became more infidel, and the only thing is that they have not the honesty to acknowledge it. Our friend said that I should like to be kicked by a bishop. Would he give evidence of any instance where I have been, and have expressed my liking for it; or if it was a mere vulgar impertinence, I'll beg him not to repeat it during this debate.
My opponent told you of an old trick played upon himself. He was in the gallery at the Oddfellows' Hall, at Birmingham some years ago, when I put a question to him, and challenged him to prove that Christ was three days and three nights in the heart of the earth; and he has never answered it till now, so that he ought to have been prepared with an answer long ago.
Well, there is little else in his speech. He says that the Epistle of James is not a contradiction to Romans and Galatians. But what does James teach? And by the by my opponent did not give you chapter and verse - I presume he meant James 2:26 - but I give you chapter and verse, and I at least expect my opponent to take the same course. He says there is no contradiction, but let us see whether there is or not. Take in the first place Gal. 2:16, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law shall no man be justified." Well, then, as against that you read "Even so, faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone:" and I ask you, if faith without works is dead, whether it is not a precise contradiction to the text which says that faith saves without regard to works. What I read from Romans is still more striking, and what does my opponent say now? He says, that faith saves which produces repentance and eventuates in improvement in life.
Now the faith of David is praised in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and I will ask Mr. King where the faith of David is stated to have produced repentance and eventuated in improvement in life. I will ask whether he did not die as confirmed a rascal and as blood-thirsty a man as he had lived. The faith of Jacob is praised, and where is he said to have repented of lying, cheating, trickery and knavery? When was the improvement in his life produced by that faith?
Then I am told it is a trick to crowd so many things together. Is it my fault that I put more into one speech than can be answered in another? If he knew that, it was known before the debate was begun, and if it was one of the things he could not prepare for in the debate he ought not to have sought it. I knew that he could not answer them, and I shall not trouble to comment on things unless my opponent commits himself to something extremely foolish or something extremely unwise.
Then he talks about scrap-doctoring, but is there any case in which he quotes the whole of the chapter or of a context? Not one. The texts he has taken by scraps to suit his purpose. I am indebted to him for the diploma he gives me, and it shall not be my fault if I do not give him back before this debate is over more than I receive.
Well, then, he urged the atonement theory as a binding portion of Christianity - that, as put in 1 Cor. 15:21, and Rom. 5:12 and 14, by the sin of one man (Adam) sin and death came into this world, so by one man (Jesus) there shall be redemption and atonement for that sin; and I say that that involves a belief in the story of Adam's fall, as recorded in the Book of Genesis, and that belief you are told to practice in order to be saved. The Christian belief involves the same belief in the history of Adam and his fall as in any other portion of the Gospel. You must believe that God made Adam and, on the same day or about the same time, Eve; that he put them into a garden and forbade them to eat of the fruit of one tree, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, saying that "the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die:" that God made the tree pleasant to the eyes and good for food, - a tree to be desired to make one wise; that he made a serpent, more subtle than all the beasts of the field, who tempted the woman who gave the fruit to the man who ate of it; and that for that disobedience the man was punished by God, and death and sin came into the world.
Is that Christianity? Are you to believe that because Adam took of the fruit of the forbidden tree on the temptation of a woman who was tempted by the serpent which God had made - are you to believe that because of that, death and sin came into the world, from which man was only to be saved long afterwards by the coming of Jesus? Is that Christianity? It appears to me to be so, and if it is then I urge to you that Christianity represents that God made the Garden of Eden as a sort of damnation trap for the human kind, baited by the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, which he knew the man could not help partaking of, and that the moment of his taking it God cursed Adam and the whole human race yet to be born for a sin they had no share in whatever.
But is it true, as appears from Rom. 5:17, 21, that until Jesus all were damned? Is it true, more than this, that we are to believe in Jesus as the atoning Redeemer, for when on the cross he cried out in the agony of human pain "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" Now, is it part of Christianity to believe that Christ was forsaken, or that he was mistaken, or that he was not mistaken at all, but that in the pain and despair of the moment that that cry came from Him. I want to know if I am representing the belief of Christians correctly.
Unless I be contradicted on this and matters which were in my earlier speech I shall leave them as arguments as to the legitimate effects of Christianity, which is set down for another night. I always look for nothing short of fair, honest, manly adherence to the truth, and that I do not conceive our friend treated us with in his effort to escape from the dilemma he had got into as to faith alone being only mentioned once to be repudiated. If you have a statement of Charles Bradlaugh being in a room, and don't speak of his being by himself, you presume it until you have something to make it more distinct. What does our friend say? That you are to judge the Bible as you would any other book. Therefore, we conclude, as stated in Rom. 2:10, that men are to be justified by faith alone without the deeds of the law. [Applause].
MR. KING'S SECOND REPLY
MR. KING: - I heard a man today speak of Mr. Bradlaugh as in a certain place, and he said nothing at all of any other persons being present, and I did not infer that Mr. Bradlaugh was there alone, and I should have been a simpleton if I had. I find that in the New Testament salvation is attributed to various causes, and I find those causes named, first one and then another, not with the word "alone," but without the mention of any other of them, and yet the absence of the other is not implied.
For instance, we read that men are saved by faith, we read they are saved by hope, without the mention of anything else; also by the blood of Christ, without naming faith or anything else - by baptism, without mentioning anything else, etc. Now, does any man conclude when he reads - "Baptism doth now save us," that men were to be saved without faith - without repentance? No one would say, or could say, that such would be a fair conclusion. There are a number of items to be taken into account, and the book sometimes specifies one and sometimes the other. You don't run over the whole in each instance, but you must clearly understand that reference to the one implies the existence of the other in every instance where the Divine system is referred to. James, it was alleged, contradicted Paul; but what do we find in the Epistle to the Hebrews? Our friend has given no reply to my comments on the passages from Galatians and Romans. The apostle is speaking of justification by the deeds of the law, and his argument is, that justification is without the deeds of the Mosaic law. He is not speaking on any other subject, and it is an abuse of the case to bring in any other matter.
In Heb. 11:4, we read - "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts; and by it, he, being dead, yet speaketh," and so on. Now here faith does something - faith is that by which he offers a more excellent sacrifice. This faith is a principle of action, and, as James puts it, faith is made perfect by action, consequent upon and growing out of it.
Further down we read - "By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith." He built an ark by faith; but was it by faith alone? Had he sat down with folded arms his ark would not have been built; but faith, active, nerves the arm and heart for the work they have to accomplish, and through its mighty power we do that which in all probability we could not otherwise accomplish. (Cheers).
The Epistle says again - "By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went." Here, then, Abraham is doing something - sacrificing something - and in so doing his faith was perfected by its corresponding action. Further, at the 17th verse, we find - "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac, and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son;" and James says that by that offering his faith was perfected. Here, then, you have the matter settled.
We will just notice in the next place the extraordinary assertion of Mr. Bradlaugh in answer to his own question as to what makes up the Christian faith. Now, all the alleged contradictions which he has put before you are, so far as regards this particular part of the question, so much time wasted. The Saviour told His disciples to preach the gospel to every creature: that he that believed their preaching would be saved, and he required them to wait until endowed with power from on high. As recorded in Acts 2, there came the endowment with power - the promised baptism of the Holy Spirit - and then the apostles commenced to preach.
What did they preach? What did they tell the people that they must believe to be saved? That they must believe the four gospels, of which not one was written? All the Book of Revelation - not a line of which was penned? They told them nothing of the sort. Did they tell them that they must believe all they found in the New Testament? Nothing of the sort - it was not written.
When they were preaching to the Gentiles did they require them to study and understand the contents of the Book before their confession of faith was accepted, on which confession they were enrolled in the Church of Christ? Why, the supposition is perfect nonsense. The very nature of the case shows that it could not be so. The Book of the Acts of the Apostles is filled with accounts of conversion showing you Christianity as preached by the apostles, and that this absurd measure or extent of belief was not required in any instance, and could not have been required.
Further than that, we have evidence as to what was required. We shall find it by turning to Rom. 10:9, where the matter of faith is introduced, and where we read - "That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved." That was the great cardinal proposition to be preached to sinners - all that was presented for their belief - and when that was so believed as to eventuate in that repentance which secures a reformed life, then there was that faith which is counted for righteousness and by which they were justified.
In 1 Cor. 15:1, Paul (who had planted the Church in Corinth) writes as follows:- "Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand: by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures." Here you have the facts just mentioned embodied in the statement that Jesus in the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is the gospel - not the whole of the Bible.
I am not saying that the Bible may be dispensed with, that the Bible is to be rejected. I am only now stating what must be believed in order to reception into the Church of Christ and to obtain that pardon and adoption which constitute the salvation which appertains to the Kingdom and Church of Christ, established by Him on the earth. Here you have the effects of what was done in the preaching of the gospel, and a definite statement of what was required.
Take an illustrative fact from apostolic history. You have the conversion of the eunuch by Philip, and who, when he came in sight of certain water, asked why he might not be baptised. The answer is recorded in Acts 13, "And Philip said, if thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God." The eunuch was not sent away until he was baptised, which was done immediately, and he went on his way rejoicing, recognised from that moment as one of the brotherhood of Christ. This, then, is the New Testament answer to Mr. Bradlaugh's mistake as to what a man must believe in order to be saved.
The Church of England, in her Articles, does not declare that all persons are to be damned who cannot believe, as my opponent is in the habit of putting it. His statement of it amounts to this, damnation is resting on every member of the human family because of Adam's transgression, and only those who believe all the Bible says about Christ can be saved; and, therefore, all who do not and cannot believe are left eternally damned. I say that there is not a popular Church that teaches that doctrine. The Church of England does not teach it, as applying under all circumstances to all people, nor does any other Church.
My opponent asks whether it is a fault on his part that he puts too many questions. It was a very innocent inquiry that - exceedingly innocent. I answer, yes it is a fault, and a great fault too. He knows very well that it takes far longer to answer a question than to ask it, generally. [Hear, hear]. I can put ten inquiries to you and ask for explanations which you are perfectly able to give, and while it takes me two minutes in every instance to put each question, it will occupy you ten minutes in every instance to give the information required. Mr. Bradlaugh forgets this, and goes on piling question upon question without giving a chance of reply to them all, and for the purpose of rendering such reply impossible. I say that if a man thus crowd in his questions and then say you have not answered them, and you cannot answer them, he is playing the part of a trickster, and this matter shall be fully exposed. We shall teach them better methods of conducting controversy, and see that this kind of thing in discussions shall come to a close. [Applause.]
DAVID KING INDEX