Paul Ferguson was a prolific debater and teacher in the United Pentecostal Churches from the 1960's through the 1970s. Ferguson's first public debate was in 1969 against, "church of Christ" denomination preacher, Wayne Jackson on the subject of the Godhead. Ferguson's last debate was in 1978 against, "church of Christ" denomination preacher, David Harkrider on the subjects of the Godhead and Spiritual Gifts.
From 1969 till 1980, Ferguson debated many times on the subjects of the Godhead, Baptismal Formula, and Spiritual Gifts. At that time, Ferguson held an MA (Greek & Hebrew) and an MDiv from Wheaton College, Illinois and served as an instructor at Western Apostolic Bible College (now Christian Life College), Stockton, California. Ferguson represented one of the top Oneness scholars of this time. Paul Ferguson's debates (that I am aware of) are as follows:
1969 - Wayne Jackson - Godhead
1970 - Wayne Jackson - Written "debate" on Spiritual Gifts i.e. "The Ferguson-Jackson Love Letters"
1971 - Roy Ferris - Spiritual Gifts
1972 - Larry Hafely - Godhead, Baptismal Formula
1973 - Larry Hafely - Spiritual Gifts?
1976 - Ben Shropshire - Spiritual Gifts (at Gateway College, now Urshan College)
1978 - David Harkrider - Godhead, Spiritual Gifts, and Baptismal Formula?
1980 - 3-Man Debate Beaumont, TX: Billy Stanley, David Myer and Paul Ferguson (Pentecostal) vs Max Dawson, Danny Brown And David Watts ("church of Christ") - Spiritual Gifts.
Ferguson went on to complete his PhD (Theology) from Chicago Theological Seminary. He served as Professor of Old Testament for many years at Christian Life College, Chicago until his death in March of 2018.
I first came across some of Paul Ferguson's writings around 1994. Elder C. E. George of Jonesboro, Arkansas gave me a copy of "Five Smooth Stones," Ferguson's apologetic on the Baptismal Formula. I reached out to Bro. Ferguson later that year, and he mailed me a box of his writings which included his commentaries on Acts, Genesis, and John, and written transcripts of public debates with Wayne Jackson and Larry Hafely.
To say that I became a "Ferguson Fan" is an understatement to say the least. His scholarship and debate style (along with Billy Lewis) became very influential to my bible teaching and debating. I even titled my written debate with John Lewis, "The Lewis-Weatherly Love Letters" after Ferguson's correspondence with Wayne Jackson ("The Ferguson-Jackson Love Letters")!
Although I never had the privilege of meeting Dr. Ferguson in person, I did find the opportunity to talk with him on the phone a few times, and we exchanged emails/letters over the past 25 years. Just last year (2017), Dr. Ferguson mailed me one of his MDiv thesis papers on 1 Corinthians 11, his entry in the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia on "kephalē," and an article he wrote for a theological journal. Below are some excerpts from a letter he sent me in 2008:
"February 25, 2008
These are some of my attempts to respond to your questions:
1. My first debate was with Wayne Jackson in Stockton CA. It was around 1968 [NOTE: the debate was actually April 24 & 25, 1969 - JLW] so I think I was about thirty. (The students at WABC got it up.) I printed it out. I have a copy in horrible condition I will send you. I put paragraph headings, footnotes and an appendix with 105 things Jackson didn’t answer. My favorite heading was “Jackson’s Jet” where he took a paragraph to talk about my arguments and changed his rebuttal into an extraneous affirmative. After he saw my printout, he accused me in his stupid newsletter of not being satisfied with my efforts during the debate. So my own newsletter had a cartoon of David holding up Goliath’s head. The head was saying, “David was not satisfied with how he slung the stone so he had to cut my head off.” Can you believe it! THE GUY ACCUSED ME OF BEING MORBID!!!! A lively exchange occurred which I printed out in the “Jackson-Ferguson Love Letters.”
2. My last debate was the one you have was in 1978. So I haven’t done that in about 30 years. There are a couple of things not on the tape. They called point of order on me after the debate for whaling (verbally) on an idiot spectator that came up to insult me. The best part was the tract I had my henchmen pass out at the door called “Why I’m a member of the Lord’s Church”. I put it out in their own jargon. They were not happy campers. In another debate we passed out the Full Gospel Bus. Men’s book called “The Acts of the Holy Spirit in the Church of Christ Today”. They got up and announced, “Not one of those people are in the Church of Christ.” My moderator responded, “We’re so ignorant we shout about it anyway.”
Speaking of “their own jargon” I kept aggravating one of their star debaters to sign on to rebut the following proposition that I wanted to affirm: “The Church of Christ of which I am a member is scriptural in name, origin and doctrine.” He kept refusing.
My most unusual debate was in Austin Texas. It was like a tag team match. There were three members on each team – a beginner, a middle guy and a veteran. One guy challenged me to go out to the cemetery and raise someone from the dead. I said that we didn’t need to do that because there were so many dead people around my opponent’s table. Then I quoted from Abraham who said someone who didn’t believe the Bible wouldn’t believe a person coming back from the dead either. He brought up the challenge the last night so I said, “We might as well go out to the cemetery because I imagine the stiffs at the cemetery could put up about as many arguments as this guy has.”
3. I think the best opponent was one where I was a moderator. (All the guys I debated were golden-tongued academic idiots.) Guy N. Woods. He was clever. My buddy accused him of getting bald butting against the truth. He responded that it wasn’t what you had on the outside but what’s on the inside.” My hero in the UPC was D.L. Welch from Pensacola FLA. I also liked Marvin Hicks from Texas. My greatest hero when I was in Bible College in Tulsa was Bishop S. C. Johnson.
7. You won’t get Heitmueller in English. It wouldn’t sell. Put an ad in the paper for someone to translate parts of it for you. I had to learn how to read German on the way to the doctoral degree. They said I had to know what the Germans were saying. Then when I had my orals for the dissertation they said, “We’re disappointed in you because you have been too much affected by the Germans.” That was actually my last debate. It was in Dec. of 1987. They lied to me. They said it would be just small questions clarifying minor details in case I wanted to publish it later. It turned out to be an Indian gauntlet. There were scholars from Notre Dame, Univ. of Chicago, etc. They invited guests from CTS.
They gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse. The dissertation was on the book of Jonah. I had written half of it showing that it fit the historical scenario and the repentance could have happened. They asked no questions about that part but told me I had to throw it away. I took it out and published it later in other places. Since then I have been on a Don Quixote quest to settle 50-year-old grudges against professors I had who didn’t believe the Bible. God moved me from the attic to the basement. I am vigorously defending the historical accuracy of the OT. That’s where all my time goes. (I have a chapter in John Ashton’s Big Argument on reliability of OT which is being sold in a lot of Christian bookstores.)
This is not a good time to come up. I am up to my neck in books. For every course I teach I write a book on it and sell it to the students for a high price. Then I give the profit back in student scholarships and aid. I am also getting ready to make a missions trip to Israel. Last time I was there I gave a 45 minute lecture in Hebrew at Israel Bible College.
You got me 30 years too late. I used to know everything. Now I barely know my own name on some days. If I go back and try to answer questions on doctrine, I may accidentally give the wrong information. I am a little disgruntled about past debates because Pentecostals I worked with didn’t like that method. Also the other side was snotty, snooty and often just plain obnoxious. In addition to this all the debates jangled my nervous system. Someone from the Church of X called me about a year ago. I treated him like a telemarketer. My story is I won all the debates and there’s no challenge anymore.
I hope this “off the cuff” ranting helped you,
Thanks for thinking of me,
Over the years, I misplaced or lost most of the articles Dr. Ferguson initially mailed to me. However, recently, Elder Robert Fenner, from Texas, entrusted me with his entire collection of Paul Ferguson books, articles, and audio debates. It has become my goal to upload all of this material to public domain on the internet, so that these treasures will never be lost again. Below are links to both Archive.org and YouTube to Ferguson material that has been uploaded.
If any of my readers have ANY old Paul Ferguson books, booklets, articles, journals, and ESPECIALLY audio cassettes of preaching or debates, PLEASE email me. I would love to be able to upload all of these for the world to share.