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Gus Nichols and J. D. Holder first met in debate at Tallassee, Alabama, in 1944. At the close of that debate, Mr. Nichols' moderator, Rex Turner (now President of the Alabama Christian College in Montgomery) suggested publicly that the debate should be repeated and committed to record for publication.

A rumor was circulated among the Primitive Baptist people near Medina, Tennessee, in 1948 that the church of Christ would not debate with them. Hence a challenge, signed by the elders of the Medina church of Christ, was sent to the nearby Primitive Baptist Church, calling for a discussion of their differences. This challenge was accepted, and the Primitive Baptists endorsed J. D. Holder as their representative. Gus Nichols was selected to represent the church of Christ.

A year passed before the propositions were agreed upon and signed by both speakers. The date (September 11-14, 1950) was mutually agreed to, and due announcements were made.

The first session was held at the church of Christ building. But due to the overflow crowd (which filled not only the church building, but also a tent in the church yard) it was necessary to obtain larger quarters. Permission to use the school gymnasium was refused (1), but an open packing-shed was secured for the last three nights. It was estimated that more than two thousand people were present for some sessions. A public address system was necessary each night. The interest was high, yet splendid order and fine attention prevailed.

Each debater spoke twice at each session, and the speeches were thirty minutes in length. Pervie Nichols served his brother as moderator, while Mr. Holder's moderator was J. M. Bullard.

The manuscript for this book was typed in tape recordings of the discussion, and the disputants corrected their speeches. Effort was made to improve sentence structure where it was needed, and to correct all grammatical errors; but no argument was omitted, added, or changed. Both debaters have approved the manuscript of the debate. The photographs of the debate scenes are used by the courtesy of 0. H. Hogue, minister of the Medina church of Christ.

This is the first discussion between representatives of the church of Christ and the Primitive Baptist Church to be published in book form in more than forty years. Only a few (2) such discussions have ever appeared (one in the present century). All of them are now out of print; therefore this volume will fill a great need in the field of religious literature.

(1) Mr. Holder intimated that prejudice against the church of Christ prevented the use of the school property. (See page 91.) That very sight Mr. Cary Todd, Chairman of the Board of Gymnasium. Directors (a Methodist), said to 0. H. Hogue, Minister of the church of Christ: "Someone has mis-informed Mr. Holder concerning the reason for us not allowing you to use the gym." The following Is taken from a statement (now in possession of the publisher) signed by Mr. Todd: "...the Medina church of Christ was not refused the use of the school gymnasium . . . because of anything that was said or done by members of the church of Christ; neither was it refused because of any ill-will or prejudice. . . . At the time of the debate no religious group would have been granted permission to use the school gymnasium because necessary arrangements with the proper authorities had not been made. (Since then these arrangements have been made to grant its use.)"

(2) Some are: Thompson-Burgess (1867); Franklin-Thompson "The Reynoldsburg Debate" (1874) ; Dalton-Burnett (1886) ; Brents-Herod (1887)'; Lawson-Thompson "Church Identity Discussed" (Publication date unknown to this publisher); Cayce-Srygley (1912).



As moderators we had very little to do in the debate which you are about to read, other than to keep time. While the debaters spoke with positive convictions each was friendly, and the audiences were very orderly and listened with reverence and respect. Though the heat of the controversy could at times be felt, each side respected the other. Rudeness and temper, "mudslinging" and abuse are unchristian, and have no place among those who "earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3.) Paul says he was "set for the defense of the gospel" (Phil. 1:17), yet he says: "The servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient." (2 Tim. 2:24.) It is right to engage in honorable controversy, but it is wrong to engage in strife and wrangling. Quarreling, wrangling, strife, misrepresentation, denying one's own positions, slandering one's opponent, discourtesy, and the like, weaken one's own cause in controversy, and helps the other side. Those who would trust in such evil things to aid them in debate thereby show that they have more confidence in Satan's devices than in the wisdom and ways of God.

Christ and the inspired apostles should be our examples in controversy. Christ had an informal debate with the devil himself. (Mat. 4:11.) He was also often in controversy with the Jews, the Pharisees and Sadducees, as well as with other errorists in his day. (Jn. 8; Mk. 7; Lk. 20.) But he was always a gentleman, was always courteous and kind, was humble and gentle, though he presented his truth with painful and death-dealing blows unto those in error.

The inspired apostles had great "dissension and disputation" with false teachers. (Acts 15:2.) There was "much disputing" in those days. (Acts 15:7.) Of Paul the record says, "Therefore disputed he in the synagogue with the Jews, and with the devout persons, and in the market daily with them that met with him." (Acts 17:17.) Those in error violated the rules and called him a "babbler". (v. 18.) But the defender of the truth is not responsible for what his opponent says and does.

It is believed that this debate in book form will enhance the good done by the oral discussion. May the reader have only one motive in view as he reads the book: the desire to find the truth and embrace it with all his heart and to live it out in his life.

Pervie Nichols



The debate was well attended. Good order prevailed throughout the meeting. Each speaker was easily subjected to the rules of honorable controversy, and put forth their very best efforts to establish their respective views. At times it became real heated when strong issues were introduced, but each speaker gave full credit to his opponent's integrity

The book should have been published long ago, but some how it was difficult to get publishers to contract the work. Elder Nichols has been fair in permitting us to make necessary corrections of grammatical errors. We sincerely hope the consistent reader can properly examine the arguments set forth, and receive a blessing in reading this debate.

It was a happy privilege for me to serve as moderator at this debate, where such kind and Christian friendship was manifested.

In copying, and correcting the original speeches we tried to hold the gist of the arguments and for that reason could not eliminate all grammatical errors.

I hope the reader will be charitable.

Elder J. M. Bullard



By Gus Nichols

It was a joy to greet the large audiences who heard the oral discussion. It is with equal delight that I now greet the readers of the debate. Friends of the truth must defend the truth. (Phil. 1:17; Jude 3.) Truth has no voice of its own with which to defend itself. (1 Tim. 3:14-15.) As soldiers of Christ, Christians must “put on the whole armour of God” and wield “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” (Eph. 6:10-17.) God’s “word is truth.” (Jn. 17:17.) All of the Bible is truth—all the Scriptures used on both sides in this debate. However, these Scriptures do not prove the position of both speakers. The Bible does not thus teach contradictory doctrines. (1 Cor. 14:33.) The doctrines of men and man-made churches are started and perpetuated by perverting the Scriptures. (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Cor. 4:1-3.)


Infidel Method

Infidels are avowed enemies of the Bible. In an effort to overthrow faith in its inspiration, they so interpret the Scriptures as to array Scripture against Scripture, and make the Bible contradict itself. They conclude that it is not of God. Many modernists likewise think that the Bible teaches and supports all the contradictory creeds and doctrines in the world.


Sectarian Method

Sectarians are what they are because they loosely construe the Bible to mean what they want it to mean. In their religious practices they add to and go beyond the word of God, take from it, and substitute their own desires, wishes, dreams, feelings, imaginations, and ways, for the word. Passages susceptible to various interpretations they bend and pervert into an imaginary support of their cherished doctrines. At the same time they either ignore the plain passages which contradict their theories or else explain them away with wishful, wild, and unnatural interpretations which do not allow such Scriptures to tell the truth. (2 Cor. 4:1-3; Mk. 7:13.)


The Christian Method

But the Christian method of using the Scriptures is to accept, love, and believe—at face value—all the Bible says on any and all subjects, letting plain passages which need no comment refute the misapplication of difficult passages perverted to teach error. This was Jesus’ method. (Mt. 4:1-11.) A proper attitude toward the whole truth would destroy denominationalism, and bring all men to the church of Christ as it is found in the New Testament  (Mt. 1.6:18; Rom 16:16-18), and answer the prayer of the Lord for unity. (Jn. 17:20-22; 1 Cor. 1:10.)

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The Primitive or Old School Baptists cling to the doctrines and practices held by Baptist Churches throughout America at the close of the Revolutionary War. This site is dedicated to providing access to our rich heritage, with both historic and contemporary writings.