The Till-McDonald Debate
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
question-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
The position McDonald took in the debate was based entirely on an
assumption 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 challenged McDonald, who claims that the Bible is his only
guide in religious matters, even to cite a single scripture that says that
"morality emanates 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
speakers were often interrupted to allow operators of recording equipment
to correct 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 63080.
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