THE WACASTER - SPARKS DEBATE (PART 2)

GARY W. SUMMERS

   

The second night of the debate found Missionary Baptist speaker Bobby Sparks teaching some incredible doctrines. Following is his response to Tom's question: "If Noah had not obeyed and built the ark, would he have been saved from the wrath of God?" "He would have drowned in the flood." That answer was given in that night's first affirmative speech. In the second speech Sparks added much more to this point:

Now he has tried to imply that Noah was going to be saved spiritually and receive the remission of sins for building an ark. Nonsense! Genesis 6:8: "But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord." Genesis 6:9: "These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations. And Noah walked with God." Never started a day's work on an ark. He was already found grace [sic] in the eyes of God. And he walked with God. FolkS, it's absolutely SHEER NONSENSE to get up here and teach that Noah was going to be saved from the remission of sins and get to go to heaven just because he built an ark. He was saved before he ever started the ark.... Noah built the ark because he was already saved, and you'll fly in the face of God to deny that.

Nobody had denied that Noah was already saved. The question was, "Would Noah have continued to be saved if he had refused to obey God?" Sparks cannot answer that because he believes there is only one salvation ("once saved, always saved"); so all he could do was say that Noah would have been drowned if he disobeyed God. Obviously, however, he thinks he would be spiritually saved. Think about it: According to Sparks one can be saved spiritually while purposely disobeying God. Now that position is SHEER NONSENSE!

Another question that Tom asked was, "According to Missionary Baptist doctrine, were the chief rulers in John 12:42 lost or saved?" Sparks answered that they were saved. This is an incredible statement since they refused to confess Jesus, and the force of the Greek verb is that "they kept on not confessing Him." Clearly, Sparks does not believe Matthew 10:32-33 or Romans 10:9-10. He thinks people can be saved without confessing Christ with their mouths.

Sparks imagines that the Scriptures say what he wants them to say. On this last point, he said people are saved if they confess Christ in their hearts, but the Bible says confession is made with the mouth. He affirmed that the book of Romans talks about being justified by faith before God and that James talks about being justified before men. When pressed for some basis for that distinction, he was quiet. Perhaps his silence was due to the fact that nobody (except him) has ever seen that text say: "Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works (seen by men) is dead" (James 2:17). Sparks simply made a careless assertion, calculated to throw some in the audience off the track.

Also in his first speech of this evening Sparks affirmed that John 3:18 and other Scriptures prove that one can be saved without baptism. He did not know how to deal with the figure of speech, called synecdoche, in which a part stands for the whole. John 3:18 does not mention repentance, confession, or baptism; yet these are all required for remission of sins. In two evenings Sparks failed to prove his affirmative proposition, presenting only two arguments, which were easily refuted.

November 29th, The Third Evening

The focus of attention shifted with Tom Wacaster now affirming: "The Bible teaches that water baptism is for and in order to receive forgiveness of sins." Tom began by making three excellent affirmative arguments; anyone will be impressed by these, and they can be heard on the tapes. The reason we are not going to discuss them in this review is that Sparks never dealt with them. One can only pray that those supporting him in this debate noticed his failure to respond.

In Sparks' first negative speech he did not answer any of Tom's arguments (the responsibility of the negative speaker in a debate). He reverted to the proposition he had upheld the first two nights and continued to argue it. He did put up a chart which claimed that Tom had discovered 3 types of faith, 2 kinds of water baptism, 2 gospels, 2 kinds of salvation, and 1,219 plans of salvation. It proved humorous, if not altogether accurate. Actually, Tom had said that all men of all ages have been saved by faith plus obedience.

In Sparks' second speech of the evening he tried to pit John 3:18 against Mark 16:16. When a person attempts to offset one Scripture by another, he is inadvertently playing into the hands of atheists, who want to find contradictions in the Bible to disprove it. Yet Baptists frequently act as if contradictions are all right. They deny that Acts 2:38 and Mark 16:16 mean what they say because of John 3:18 or the "thief on the cross." Thus, the two concepts conflict with one another; therefore, baptism must not be necessary.

Our approach is to point out that no conflicts exist. Faith is essential to salvation, and it causes people to repent and be baptized, thus obtaining forgiveness of sins. Faith is sometimes used, then, as a synecdoche in which one part of the process stands for the entire process. These passages are thus harmonized and not made to seem at odds with each other.

In his second speech of the evening Sparks continued to ignore Tom's affirmative arguments, but he did introduce some negative material. He presented some "problems" that Tom allegedly has with Mark 16:16. "First of all, in a-a-l-l-l-l the Book he cannot find a verse of Scripture that says he that is baptized not shall be damned." Of course, such a point is irrelevant, since the promise is made to the one who believes AND is baptized. Baptism would be useless if one does not believe. But Tom gave him the verse! The Gospel, by Sparks' own admission, is the death of Christ on the cross for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection (1 Cor. 15:1-4). People must obey a FORM of that Gospel (Rom. 6:17-18). Baptism IS that form of the doctrine (Rom. 6:3-7). One who does not obey the Gospel is lost (2 Thess. 1:8); therefore, one may believe but not be baptized (not obey the Gospel) and be lost.

2. "He cannot find a Scripture that says the believer is condemned." Tom had already presented John 12:42-43; Sparks ignored the passage.

3. "Mark 16:16 contradicts Church of Christ doctrine because one has to do a whole lot more than [be, gws] baptized to be saved." Jesus is talking about initial salvation. Of course, a person must live by faith after his sins are initially forgiven. Only Baptists teach that one need not ever live by faith in order to be saved. Sparks teaches that, once a person is saved, he has salvation forever. He may walk in darkness all the rest of his life, but he will be saved regardless. He can live immorally, never serve God a day in His life, and die cursing the name of Jesus and still be saved because, once he has it, he cannot lose it. This really is SHEER NONSENSE that flies in the face of God and the Book.

Eis

Sparks argued that the Greek word eis (rendered "for" or "unto" in the English language) can just as easily mean "because of"; he eventually quoted a few scholars who agreed with him. But the fact is that he could not cite even one occasion in all of the New Testament (and he claimed eis was used 1,747 times) in which any major translation uses "because of." One would think that, if the Greek preposition so obviously meant "because of," scholars would occasionally translate the word that way. But they do not--not even once!

Tom also pointed out to Sparks that the construction in Matthew 26:28 is identical to that of Acts 2:38. There Jesus said: "For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." If we are baptized because our sins are already forgiven, then Jesus died on the cross because our sins were already forgiven. Sparks did not make even one comment regarding those parallels.

In response to Tom's mentioning that we are baptized eis (into) Christ, Sparks put up a chart in the form of a wheel, showing that we can believe eis (into) Christ. Tom explained, citing Greek experts, that when eis is used with the dative (particularly in the book of John), it is translated "in" rather than "into." Sparks countered by saying that the very first English translation (John Wycliffe's) chose into in four passages (John 12:37; 17:20; Acts 20:21; and Rom. 14:10).

This was a strange argument. We could not help wondering how many people in the audience had a copy of Wycliffe's translation (one may be obtained from Amazon.com for $800). If anyone did own one, could he read Middle English very easily? Below is a sample of it:

And the Lord spak alle these wordis, Y am thi Lord God, that ladde thee out of the lond of Egipt, fro the hous of seruage. Thou schalt not haue alien goddis bifore me. Thou schalt not make to thee a grauun ymage, nethir ony licnesse of thing which is in heuene aboue, and which is in erthe bynethe, nether of tho thingis, that ben in watris vndur erthe: thou schalt not herie tho, nether thou schalt worschipe; for Y am thi Lord God, a stronge gelouse louyer; and Y visite the wickidnesse of fadris in to the thridde and fourthe generacioun of hem that haten me, and Y do mercy in to a thousynde, to hem that louen me, and kepen myn heestis. Thou schalt not take in veyn the name of thi Lord God, for the Lord schal not haue hym guiltles, that takith in veyn the name of his Lord God.... Onoure thi fadir and thi moder, that thou be long lyuyng on the lond.... Thou schalt not sle. Thou schalt do no letchrie. Thou schalt do no theft (Ex. 20:1-15).

Second, why would anyone introduce an English version of the New Testament from the 1300s to prove his case? The answer is that it is unlikely that anyone has translated eis "into" in connection with believing in Christ since; therefore, he had to reach way back.

Third, although we all owe Wycliffe a debt of gratitude for translating the Bible into Old English for us; we must realize that he translated from the Latin Vulgate (THE translation from the fifth through the fifteenth centuries). He did not work from the Greek language and therefore was not making a statement about the Greek word eis.

Fourth, Tom pointed out to him that we repent eis Christ and we confess eis Christ, along with believing eis Christ and being baptized eis Christ. Now if each of these means "into," then how do we get OUTSIDE of Christ in order to get back in? We believe into Christ; then somehow we step back outside so that we can repent into Christ. Once again, we remove ourselves so that we can confess into Christ; finally we take a hike one more time so that we can be baptized into Christ. Sparks' position makes no sense.

His chart presents 45 times in which one is said to believe eis Christ. Included in this plethora of passages is John 12:42. Those who "kept on not confessing Jesus" believed eis Him. Hmm. According to Sparks' "logic," these who refused to confess Christ with their mouths were saved anyway. How can one who has truly repented of sins refuse to confess Jesus as the Son of God? Would Saul of Tarsus have been saved if he believed eis Christ on the road to Damascus but then refused to confess Him and in fact continued to persecute Christians?

In his final negative speech of the third night, Sparks violated the rules of the debate (and his moderator did not call him to order) by introducing new charts and new material. In fact, about half of his speech consisted of new material that he had not introduced previously or referenced. Tom let him go because it was advantageous to learn his argument so that he could research it and answer on the final night.

The Final Night

Brother Wacaster's first two speeches are absolutely outstanding. Sparks did not substantially deal with any of Tom's affirmative arguments. He ignored them and just repeated what he had already said. He reaffirmed that there has only been one gospel for all time and continued to mention the thief on the cross as if Tom had not dealt with these points. His final speech reiterated the ten reasons why he does not believe in water baptism (that he presented on Monday evening while he was supposed to be in the affirmative). Tom had already answered these in his first speech that evening, but Sparks ignored Tom's comments entirely.

Throughout the debate Sparks had insisted that repentance precedes baptism. In one speech he said:

Now repentance includes faith. The word repentance means a change of the mind; it means to turn, and in the process of repentance the mind is changed from unbelief to belief. And a man has not fully repented until it culminates in faith.... There's no such thing as an unbeliever who has truly repented, and there's no such thing as a believer who has not already repented.

This statement appears to be an attempt to make repentance and faith occur simultaneously, which is odd because he kept citing passages to prove that repentance comes before faith. Tom kept asking, "How can one repent unless he first believes?" Until a person knows who God and Christ are and believes the truth concerning Them, and unless he comprehends sin, how could anyone actually repent? Sparks, however, cited four Scriptures which he thought proved his case.

The first one is Matthew 21:32: "For John came unto you in the way of righteousness, and ye believed him not: but the publicans and the harlots believed him: and ye, when ye had seen it, repented not afterward, that ye might believe him" (KJV). This passage is not talking to sinners who have no knowledge of God. These were Israelites who knew God and the law but who refused to hear a prophet of God. It is a perfectly natural order for them first to have repented of their hardness of heart and then believed the message of John.

The same can be said of John's message to Israel: "Repent ye and believe the gospel" (Mark 1:15). They already had God's holy law; they were not abiding by it. They needed to repent and prepare themselves to receive an even greater covenant--the Gospel system.

In Acts 20:21 Paul is summarizing what he had done: in the region of Ephesus: "Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." The order of repentance and faith cannot be considered significant in a summary statement. Since he put the Jews first, the order is consistent with the other two passages.

The final reference in Hebrews 6:1 contains a list of six items, the first two of which are "repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God." Scholars differ on the meaning of this entire passage, but regardless of one's interpretation, the six things are not arranged in a strict order. One would have to prove that the arrangement of these six items is significant.

The fact is that, in specific accounts of conversion faith comes first, then repentance, then baptism. In Acts 2 the people believed Peter's message and they were pricked in their hearts. When they asked what to do, they were told to repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38). Saul of Tarsus believed first: "Who art thou, Lord?" (Acts 9:4-6). Then he repented, as indicated by his following the Lord's instructions to go into the city (v. 8), his fasting (v. 9), and his praying (v. 11). Then he was baptized (v. 18).

Paul asks the question in Romans 10:14: "And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?" Indeed, how can one repent of sins BEFORE Jesus has been preached to him?

Many other issues and points of interest were brought out in this debate; the audio tapes are worth purchasing. They may be ordered from Tullstar, 1621 Baseball Loop, Diana, TX 75640. Their telephone number is (903) 663-0111. There are twelve cassette tapes in all, and the price for the entire set is only $24.00, plus shipping.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "THE WACASTER-SPARKS DEBATE (PART 2) (12/23/01)."


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