Ironside: Agnosticism 

Early in his ministry Dr. Harry A. Ironside was living in the San

Francisco Bay area, working with some Christians called Brethren. One

evening as he was walking through the city he came upon a group of

Salvation Army workers holding a meeting on the corner of Market and

Grant avenues. When they recognized Ironside they asked if he would

give his testimony. So he did, telling how God had saved him through

faith in the bodily death and literal resurrection of Jesus.

As he was speaking, Ironside noticed that on the edge of the

crowd there was a well-dressed man who had taken a card from his

pocket and had written something on it. As Ironside finished his talk

the man came forward, lifted his hat, and very politely handed

Ironside the card. On one side was his name, which Ironside

immediately recognized. The man was one of the early socialists who

had made a name for himself lecturing not only for socialism but also

against Christianity. As Ironside turned the card over he read, "Sir,

I challenge you to debate with me the question 'Agnosticism versus

Christianity' in the Academy of Science Hall next Sunday afternoon at

four o'clock. I will pay all expenses."

Ironside reread the card aloud and then replied somewhat like

this. "I am very much interested in this challenge. Frankly, I am

already scheduled for another meeting next Lord's Day afternoon at

three o'clock, but I think it will be possible for me to get through

with that in time to reach the Academy of Science Hall by four, or if

necessary I would arrange to have another speaker substitute for me at

the meeting already advertised. Therefore I will be glad to agree to

this debate on the following conditions: namely, that in order to

prove that this gentleman has something worth debating about, he will

promise to bring with him to the lecture hall next Sunday 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


"First, he must promise to bring with him one man who was for

years what we commonly call a 'down-and-outer.' I am not particular as

to the exact nature of the sins that had wrecked his life and made him

an outcast from society -- whether a drunkard, or a criminal of some

kind, or a victim of his sensual appetite -- but 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 this man'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 too 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 ideals 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 my opponent to promise to bring with him

one woman -- I think he may have more difficulty in finding the woman

than the man -- who was once a poor, wrecked, characterless outcast,

the slave of evil passions and the victim of man's corrupt living,

perhaps one who had lived for years in some evil resort, utterly lost,

ruined and wretched because of her life of sin. But this woman also

entered a hall where this man 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 for 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 man 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 Academy of Science Hall 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 truth of the Bible."

Dr. Ironside then turned to the Salvation Army captain, a girl,

and said, "Captain, have you any who could go with me to such a


She exclaimed with enthusiasm, "We can give you forty at least

just from this one corps, and we will give you a brass band to lead

the procession!"

"Fine," Dr. Ironside answered. "Now, sir, I will have no

difficulty picking up sixty others from the various missions, gospel

halls, and evangelical churches of the city. So if you will promise to

bring two such exhibits as I have described, I will come marching in

at the head of such a procession, with the band playing 'Onward,

Christian Soldiers,' and I will be ready for the debate."

Apparently the man who had made the challenge had some sense of

humor, for he smiled wryly and waved his hand in a deprecating kind of

way as if to say "Nothing doing!" and then edged out of the crowd

while the bystanders applauded Ironside and the others.

"The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes

of the Lord are trustworthy, making wise the simple. The precepts of

the Lord are right, giving joy to the heart. The commandments of the

Lord are radiant, giving light to the eyes. The fear of the Lord is

pure, enduring forever. The ordinances of the Lord are sure and

altogether righteous" (Ps. 19:7-9).


This article originated on The Salvation Online Network




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