Back Page: autumn 1991
tion of their leader is a glitch in the Bible that must be explained before
rational people can accept the inerrancy theory.
THE TILL-McDONALD DEBATE
The Till-McDonald Debate on the issue of Bible morality was held in
Sullivan, Missouri, on July 29-30 and August 1-2. It was poorly attended,
with a low of 12, besides participants and moderators, and a high of 19.
The audience was obviously comprised of confirmed fundamentalists, who had
come to see an agnostic take a good shellacking, for during the nightly ques-
tion-answer period following the speeches, all questions from the audience
were addressed to Till. None were directed to McDonald, although he had
taken some absurdly ridiculous positions.
As fundamentalists always do in debates on this issue, McDonald defended
the massacres of the Midianites, Canaanites, and Amalekites as acts ordered
by an infinite God who can do no moral wrong. In answer to a question Till
directed to him, McDonald even said that if he had lived in biblical times, he
would have willingly participated in these massacres by "personally killing old
women, pregnant women, mothers, children, and infants." Apparently without
seeing the absurd inconsistency in it, he later criticized Till for refusing to
take a public stand against abortion.
The position McDonald took in the debate was based entirely on an as-
sumption of the existence of objective morality, "which emanates from the
nature of God." Till emphasized that proof of this position would require
McDonald to prove (1) that God exists, (2) that his nature is infinitely good,
and (3) that this infinitely good god was Yahweh, who had commanded the
Israelites to commit the massacres under consideration. Till repeatedly chal-
lenged McDonald, who claims that the Bible is his only guide in religious
matters, even to cite a single scripture that says that "morality ema-
nates from the nature of God." He was never able to do it.
Like all Church-of-Christ preachers, McDonald piled assumption onto
assumption throughout the debate and considered mere assertions to constitute
proof. Several times he flashed a chart on the screen that listed 10 elements
in his proposition that he had "proven": (1) God does exist, (2) objective
morality does exist, (3) the Bible is of divine origin, (4) God is good, (5)
God is merciful, (6) God is holy, (7) God has the attribute of wrath, (8) God
hates sin and is sinless, (9) God is love, and (10) God is omniscient. Just
to list the elements is enough to show the absurdity of McDonald's claim,
because, with the possible exception of number seven, one would have to
spend days and write volumes even to come close to presenting a reasonable
defense of any one of the other nine and especially the first three. His
"proof," of course, consisted primarily of scripture quotations that said the
very thing he was trying to prove, and to the fundamentalist mind this is
Although we were promised audio tapes after each session, we received
them only after the first one, and they were not of good quality. The speak-
ers were often interrupted to allow operators of recording equipment to cor-
rect problems and change tapes that ran out midway in a speech. As we
prepare for press, we have received no word on availability or cost of tapes.
Inquiries should be sent to Jerry McDonald, 97 Florence Street, Sullivan, MO
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