Front Page: summer 1991
THE DEAVER-TILL DEBATE
On March 25-28, Farrell Till met Mac Deaver, a Church-of-Christ preacher
from Austin, Texas, in oral debate on the campus of Southwest Texas State
University in San Marcos. The issue was Bible morality. Deaver affirmed
that none of the acts done or authorized by the God of the Bible were moral
atrocities; Till affirmed that some acts attributed to the God of the Bible were
actual atrocities that disprove the doctrine of divine inspiration.
At no time during the two nights he was affirming did Deaver examine any
of the more infamous Bible events, such as the massacre of the Midianites
and Amalekites, to show that they should not be considered atrocities. The
debaters having agreed to exchange five questions prior to each night's
session, Deaver immediately tried to put Till on the defensive by discussing
arbitrarily conceived inconsistencies in Till's answers to the first set of ques-
tions. Specific cases of questionable moral conduct on Yahweh's part had to
be introduced by Till.
The questions directed to Till had been designed to trap him in contra-
diction concerning his position on objective or absolute morality. In his
answers, Till had rejected Deaver's concept of objective morality but had
nevertheless recognized the existence of moral standards that man has an
obligation to respect. Deaver perceived this as a contradiction and spent
much of his time from then on pressing the point. Till's response to this was
to show that determination of good and bad has to be an intellectual process.
He cited Romans 2:14, where it was said that the Gentiles who "have not the
law" (revealed objective morality) "do by nature the things of the law," to
show that even the Bible recognizes that people can by natural processes
discover moral principles without having them divinely revealed.
By the third night when he assumed the affirmative, Till had forced
Deaver to take the position that God can do anything, even kill babies, and
it would be morally right. Till urged the audience to consider the conse-
quences of that position. Rather than to think of the Midianite and Amalekite
massacres in vague, abstract terms, he asked that these events be considered
in the specific, concrete terms of what had to occur if both events happened
as recorded in the Bible. Thirty-two thousand Midianite virgin girls were
kept alive for the sexual whims of their captives; this meant that 32,000
specific cases of sexual abuse of children had to occur. It also implied that
about 32,000 specific male children were killed to comply to Moses' order to
"kill every male among the little ones" (Num. 31:17). The Amalekite massa-
cre, if it happened according to the Bible account, meant that there were
hundreds or even thousands of specific incidents in which specific Amalekite
women, children, and babies were run through by Israelite swords. Till
urged Deaver to tell the audience if each of these specific killings of women
and children was a "good thing."
Deaver would not answer the question directly, but the substance of what
he said in response indicated that he thought these deeds were all expres-
sions of God's perfect morality. Till then pressed the audience to bear in
mind that Deaver's position forces one to believe that killing babies is a
morally good act. In the main, Deaver's only defense of this charge was
ridicule. "God didn't do things quite the way that Farrell Till would have,"
he chided Till, "so therefore they were wrong."
Audio ($15) and video ($30) tapes of the debate can be ordered from
Thomas Gardner, 2229 Lotus, Ft. Worth, TX 76111 (Tel. 817-838-0828). Both
men have agreed to debate the same subject at a later date.
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