Harry Ironside, a well-known evangelist of the twentieth century, was in San Francisco once taking part in a Salvation Army street-meeting (passing out literature and preaching to passersby) when a renowned protagonist of agnosticism challenged him to debate the subject “Agnosticism versus Christianity.” This was how Ironside replied:
“I will be glad to agree to this debate on the following conditions: namely that in order to prove that Mr. ___________ has something worth debating about, he will promise to bring with him to the Hall of Science next Sunday (the time and the place of the proposed debate) two people whose qualifications I will give in a moment, as proof that agnosticism is of real value in changing human lives and building true character.
“First, he must promise to bring with him one man who was for years what we commonly call a ‘down and outer’ . . . a man who for years was under the power of evil habits from which he could not deliver himself, but who on some occasion entered one of Mr. __________’s meetings and heard his glorification of agnosticism and his denunciations of the Bible and Christianity, and whose heart and mind as he listened to such an address were so deeply stirred that he went away from that meeting saying, ‘Henceforth, I am an agnostic!’ and as a result of imbibing that particular philosophy found that a new power had come into his life. The sins he once loved he now hates, and righteousness and goodness are now the ideal of his life. He is now an entirely new man, a credit to himself and an asset to society–all because he is an agnostic.
“Secondly, I would like Mr. __________ to promise to bring with him one woman . . . once a poor, wrecked, characterless outcast, the slave of evil passions, and the victim of man’s corrupt living [but who also] entered a hall where Mr. __________ was loudly proclaiming his agnosticism and ridiculing the message of the Holy Scriptures. As she listened, hope was born in her heart and she said, ‘This is just what I need to deliver me from the slavery of sin!’ She followed the teaching and became an intelligent agnostic or infidel. As a result, her whole being revolted against the degradation of the life she had been living. She fled from the den of iniquity where she had been held captive so long; and today, rehabilitated, she has won her way back to an honored position in society and is living a clean, virtuous, happy life, all because she is an agnostic.
“Now,” he said, addressing the gentleman who had presented him with his card and the challenge, “if you will promise to bring these two people with you as examples of what agnosticism can do, I will promise to meet you at the Hall of Science at four o’clock next Sunday, and I will bring with me at the very least one hundred men and women who for years lived in just such sinful degradation as I have tried to depict, but who have been gloriously saved through believing the gospel which you ridicule. I will have these men and women with me on the platform as witnesses to the miraculous saving power of Jesus Christ and as present-day proof of the Bible.”
The agnostic smiled weakly in defeat and quietly left the meeting.
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