Hardeman-Bogard Debate, N. B. Hardeman
N. B. Hardeman, president of Freed-Hardeman College and Ben Bogard, Dean of Antioch Missionary Baptist Institute, debated at Little Rock, Arkansas, April 19-22, 1938. Subjects discussed included: The Work of the Holy Spirit, The Necessity of Baptism, the Establishment of the Church, and the Possibility of Apostasy. This is one of the two debates printed by brother Hardeman although he held several debates. Hardeman’s debate skills were developed largely by his instructor and mentor, A. G. Freed. The church has been blessed by the efforts of Freed and Hardeman in so many ways that there is no way to calculate the good they accomplished. Ben Bogard had debated many of the prominent men in the brotherhood including Foy Wallace (son of Foy E. Wallace), Joe Warlick, G. C. Brewer, A. G. Freed, and J. D. Tant. He was considered the most prominent Baptist debater of the period. The relationship between these men was not ugly as some who criticize debating often assume is the case. The issues can be discussed openly and in a friendly manner.
There is much material that could be presented in this review for consideration. One of the passages quoted frequently relates to the operation of the Holy Spirit. Based on the reported confusion on this matter, the quote should be brought to our remembrance:
But how does the Spirit operate? That is the question. My answer, first, last and all the time, is that he influences through the gospel, which is God’s power. The word is the medium through which the Spirit accomplishes his work. If that book there were the sinners heart and this hand were the Holy Spirit (placing hand on book) there is direct and immediate contact; if you put something between, the hand will operate on the book, but this time it is through the medium of this tablet. That represents the only two ideas that can be had from this proposition. That represents the difference between Dr. Bogard and me, the difference between error and truth! (p. 21).
It is tragic that some today feel more comfortable with the position of Ben Bogard on this matter. Some even think it strange that one would claim that the Holy Spirit operates on man solely through the word of God in conversion and sanctification; however, that is the position faithful members of the past and present have held. Any position that degrades the all sufficiency of the scriptures either directly or implicitly is to be reviewed cautiously. This debate will provide much to think about along these lines. A question for the recent publishers of the concept of the Holy Spirit operating in a supra-literary way to preserve the Christian—would not the greater effort be required in the conversion of the alien sinner than keeping the converted saved? If the Holy Spirit is using only the word of God to save the sinner, why would He require more resources to keep the Christian saved?
A humorous incident occurred in this debate. Ben Bogard had bragged to E. R. Harper (who was the minister where the debate was to be held) that he was going to present the negative on the possibility of apostasy. Bogard boldly exclaimed “…your folks haven’t introduced a new argument in forty years on the question of apostasy. I intend to write my first negative speech and read it, for I know every argument Professor Hardeman will make.” E. R. Harper advised N. B. Hardeman of Bogard’s plan. So, brother Hardeman organized a complete new line of arguments that caught Bogard off guard and unable to effectively reply to the affirmatives Hardeman made. The impact was devastating to Bogard’s effectiveness in the debate since his negative was written to respond to what he thought surely would be the affirmative material. Hundreds if not thousands have been converted to the truth during the various debates Bogard has had with our brethren. It is sad that Ben Bogard could (or would) not recognize and accept the truth. This is a lesson for us in that it shows the difficulty of those entrenched in false doctrine to see the truth clearly.
This debate has been widely recommended since its publication in 1938. Many who attended the debate (or read the book) consider it worthy of required reading prior to allowing a preacher to graduate from school. Hopefully, we are encouraging our young people to read this material prior to going to some of our schools since some schools seem to have wandered off track.
Originally printed West Virginia Christian, Vol. 13, No. 8, August 2006, p. 3. Reprinted by permission.