Friday, March 10, 2017

Eternal Security or Preservation / Perseverence of the Saints Debate: Kent Brandenburg vs. Larry Hafley

A number of years ago, Pastor Brandenburg debated Larry Hafley, a prominent debater of the Campbellite or so-called "Church of Christ" denomination on the subject of eternal security.  The debate was never posted on YouTube, but I have now uploaded all eight videos.  You can watch the Eternal Security or Preservation / Perseverance of the Saints debate between Kent Brandenburg and Larry Hafley on YouTube at the playlist on my YouTube channel (KJB1611) by clicking here.  The official topic for the first four videos was:  "The Scriptures teach that a child of God, once saved by the blood of Christ, may so sin as to be lost in hell," Larry Hafley (Church of Christ of Alexander Campbell, Affirm), Kent Brandenburg (Bethel Baptist Church, Deny), while for the second four it was "The Scriptures teach that a child of God, once saved by the blood of Christ, cannot so sin as to be lost in hell." Kent Brandenburg (Bethel Baptist Church, Affirm); Larry Hafley (Church of Christ of Alexander Campbell, Deny). I would encourage you to "like" the debate and also leave useful comments on the videos both here on this post and also below the respective videos.  There are many things that could be said about the debate; here are a few.

1.) In terms of the content, Pastor Brandenburg won in a devastating way.  For example, he argued from John 4:13-14: 

13 Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: 14 But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.

Pastor Brandenburg pointed out that with the physical water, one must keep drinking and drinking or one would get thirsty again.  By way of contrast, for the spiritual water that Christ gives, a person drinks one time and has the strongest possible guarantee (ou me in Greek) that he will never ever thirst again.  This contrast of a one-time drink with the need to continually drink is confirmed by the Greek tenses (aorist for the spiritual drink and present tense for the physical water).  Furthermore, Pastor Brandenburg pointed out that every single instance of the word "drink" in the aorist represents a point-in-time action.  Larry Hafley had no response to this argument; he just ignored it, put up a chart or two that did not deal at all with the exegetical realities, and yelled a lot.

As another example, Larry Hafley argued that people can be in the book of life and have their names blotted out when they allegedly lose salvation.  Pastor Brandenburg argued, against this, following the argument in the study "The Book of Life and Eternal Security," that the "part" in the book of life is only prospective, not possessive, because the "part" is also in the holy city, and nobody who is actually in the New Jerusalem loses his salvation and falls out.  This exegetical reality was also confirmed by other grammatical and contextual arguments.  Mr. Hafley simply ignored the fact that the "part" was not just in the book of life but also in the holy city, never dealt with that fact, and kept yelling a lot to make his case that the book of life refuted eternal security.

It was sadly interesting to see to what lengths Mr. Hafley went to support his position--he even denied the perfect foreknowledge of Christ, claiming that the Lord Jesus did not know that Judas would betray Him when He chose him, and likewise claimed that Christ's prayer in John 17:24 that all believers (John 17:8) would be with Him in heaven was not going to be answered but was just kind of a nice thing to ask.  Such horrible conclusions ought to be tell-tale to anyone who cares about what the Bible actually teaches.

2.) While Pastor Brandenburg clearly won the debate on content, for people who like a sort of "Southern" style and don't know the Bible very well, Larry Hafley used a lot of rhetoric, smoke-and-mirrors, and invalid plays on people's emotions that could convince people that he was correct.  He said over and over again things like "You didn't think that we would let you get away with that one, did you, Mr. Brandenburg?" or "We've got you programmed, Mr. Brandenburg" or "This audience can see my point, Mr. Brandenburg, even if you don't," accompanied by a lot of passion and yelling.  When someone sat back and actually listened to the content, Mr. Hafley didn't have much there, other than a lot of charts with verses taken out of context.  However, an unsaved person who does not know the Bible very well could come to the conclusion that Mr. Hafley must be correct because of his antics, which is probably what many people in the Campbellite religious organization concluded as, led by Satan, they shut out what Pastor Brandenburg was saying and soaked up all that Mr. Hafley was arguing.  As a response to Mr. Hafley's rhetoric, sometimes Pastor Brandenburg needed to "fight fire with fire," using more rhetorical devices himself than would be by any means characteristic of his regular preaching ministry in normal church services.

3.) I would also point out that it was the Campbellites who recorded the video, and at times that biased things towards them.  For example, they would put the camera for long periods on Pastor Brandenburg when he was reading from a chart, while they put the camera on the chart itself for Mr. Hafley for longer times on various occasions.  Furthermore and very frustratingly, they cut out what I said the first day where Bethel Baptist, its website, and its information was mentioned, while leaving in the video means through which their Campbellite website and Campbellite information could be obtained.  Also, the audience was in the majority hostile to eternal security because we had the debate at the Campbellite meeting house, as we did not want to give a false teacher equal time behind the pulpit of a true church like Bethel Baptist.  Nevertheless, I believe that the fact that Pastor Brandenburg's position was correct still clearly and decisively won out.

4.) I think that watching the debate could be very useful for saved people who are members of strong churches and know the Bible well, and who want to see what the best stuff is Campbellites have against eternal security, so that they can minister to people in that corrupt false religion.  I think it could also help an unsaved Campbellite or other unsaved person who really cares about what the Bible says and, enabled by God's grace, can fight through the rhetoric of Mr. Hafley to pay attention to the actual content.  I trust that making the debate available on YouTube will help such persons to seek out the truth, and also find out how false the Campbellite doctrine of salvation by baptism is by reading such works as Heaven Only for the Baptized? The Gospel of Christ vs. Baptismal Regeneration, a work I wrote in conjunction with a debate I had with Mr. Hafley on that crucial topic.

5.) I am also thankful for the length of the debate--it became more and more apparent over time that Pastor Brandenburg's position was Scriptural.  By video #8 there was a lot of blood in the streets for Mr. Hafley's case, while at the end of video #1 it was not as clear for someone who did not already know Scripture well that Mr. Hafley's position was false.

6.) Finally, I am thankful that Pastor Brandenburg was defending a Biblical position that eternal security means one is permanently saved from both the penalty and power of sin, so that one's life is changed and he will not continue in sin (Romans 6; 1 John 2:19; 2 Corinthians 5:17), rather than a position that one is just saved from the penalty of sin, after which one can do whatever he wants and still be saved.  Mr. Hafley, despite his biblical shallowness, had debated a "Free Grace" or anti-Lordship Ph. D. before and crushed the "Free Grace" or anti-Lordship guy by putting verses up on repentance when the "Free Grace" guy rejected Biblical repentance.  Had Pastor Brandenburg attempted to defend the position that eternal security means you are saved but you can still live for the devil as long as you say the magic prayer, he would have lost the debate instead of convincingly winning it.
8.) I heard that some time after the debate Mr. Hafley was removed from the Campbellite ministry for committing adultery.  So much for his anti-security position keeping one from sinning.  However, at some point afterwards he was restored again (I suppose after he got his salvation back) to become one of their religious leaders again.  However, it is hard to get firm documentation on this, as the Campbellites do not very boldly tell everyone when they remove one of their religious leaders for adultery.  If a Campbellite can provide me with proof that this never happened, I will remove this section of the post, as I believe accuracy and honesty are extremely important.

9.) Pastor Brandenburg wrote some posts on the debate shortly after it happened; they are below:

Special Annoucement
Debriefing on Debating
Verbal Pong
You Just Like to Argue
Seventh Inning Stretch
The Story of the Debate #1: An Empty Cup
The Story of the Debate #2: Winners and Losers
How the Arguments Hashed Out
What Was I Supposed to Do?
More on the Debate:  The Big "If"
Further Debate Fodder; Revelation 22:18-19 and the Holy City
Oh My, Mr. Hafley

I have embedded the videos below in case you wish to view them here instead of on YouTube.

Video #1:

Video #2:

Video #3:

Video #4:

Video #5:

Video #6:

Video #7:

Video #8:

10.) Finally, please feel free to post comments on the debate videos on Youtube.  Also, if you enjoyed the Dan Barker-Thomas Ross debate, "The Old Testament is Mainly Fiction, not Fact," I would encourage you to put comments on that debate on YouTube as well, as I have recently opened the comment section up there, since, as far as I understand, allowing comments improves the search status of the debate.  Of course, that debate is still up on my website as well.


Stephen Garrett said...

Listened to the debate years ago, if you remember. I know Hafley well. He has always been a blowhard.

After this debate he got in trouble with the Campbellites for his marital infidelity.


Stephen Garrett

Tyler Robbins said...

Appreciate the links to the videos. I'll listen to them while I'm jogging!