On July 22, 2022, I went to a United Pentecostal Church in Caldwell, Idaho. I went there to challenge David K Bernard to a public debate on the doctrine of the Trinity versus oneness theology. Mr. Bernard was polite, and we had a brief five-minute discussion. This is a brief account of what happened.
The people at the UPCI (United Pentecostal Church International) were polite. They greeted me with smiles and handshakes. The service was lengthy. There was a lot of singing, handclapping, dancing, and even a few people running around the sanctuary. Please go here to watch some of the videos I took on my phone.
“David K. Bernard is the general superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church International. He founded New Life Church of Austin, Texas, out of which 16 additional churches were started under his leadership. He is also the founding president of Urshan College and Urshan Graduate School of Theology. He has written 37 books that have been published in 39 languages with a total circulation of more than 900,000 copies. (https://pentecostalpublishing.com)
David K. Bernard and preaching 2 Chronicles 20
Finally, Mr. Bernard got up to preach. Of all the texts that he could have chosen, to my surprise, he went to 2 Chronicles 20. This is the text I was assigned to preach on in seminary in my preaching class. Other students were assigned different texts. Each of us had to preach the sermon twice and be cross-examined each time. So, I remember it well. One of the things I found important in preaching that particular text is the necessity of revealing Christ in it. This is because Jesus said that the Scriptures are about him (John 5:39). Furthermore, the text deals with the invasion of Judah by hostile outside forces. In verse 15, God says, “…Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God’s.” This is a critical verse in the pericope. Ultimately, if the enemies of God had prevailed, Judah would have been destroyed, and the messianic line would have been threatened. Therefore, this is, ultimately, a battle for our souls since the enemy sought to destroy the nation through whom the Messiah would come.
I paid close attention to his preaching, and aside from a single half minute of distraction, I did not hear Mr. Bernard reference Jesus as the ultimate reason for God intervening in that circumstance. This is very important because later in our discussion, he told me that instead of debating, he wanted to preach Jesus. I did not say to him that, in his sermon, he failed to preach Christ and Him crucified for the redemption of our souls.
Matt Slick discussion with David. K. Bernard
As I write about what we discussed, I want to clarify that I’m not trying to misrepresent him. For the most part, he was very polite, and I am grateful that he spent time with me.
After the service, he was at the front of the church. So, I approached him there. But the band continued to play music, and it was so loud that it was difficult to have a good discussion. So I asked if we could move to the back of the church, and he graciously agreed.
It was there that I introduced myself as a Christian apologist who runs carm.org, and I asked him if he would be interested in debating me on the doctrine of the Trinity versus Oneness. He responded that he generally did not do debates since he did not think they were productive. He said he preferred to preach the gospel. I then offered to have a discussion with him, to which he told me he was open. I got his email address and emailed him on August 8, 2022. The email is at the end of this article.
A little agitation?
Again let me state that I’m not trying to misrepresent Mr. Bernard or cast him in a negative light. But, during our brief discussion, as a matter of opinion, I said I did not believe oneness Pentecostal theology was Christian and that it teaches a false god. I did not say this with anger but was simply informing him about my position. After all, he thinks the Trinity teaches a false god. Nevertheless, he quickly responded that they had the true God. Our conversation then progressed and, at one point, actually digressed into something less polite.
He then began to ask me questions. Each one was easy to respond to, but he did not wait for me to complete my responses. Instead, he interrupted several times and asked another question. I tried to answer each one, but the same pattern occurred several times.
I cannot remember the exact flow of the conversation but two interesting topics came up: Baptism and Eternal Security.
He stated that baptism was necessary for salvation. I denied that, and, to see how he would react, I stated that, in my opinion, Jesus was sprinkled at his baptism to fulfill the Old Testament law of entering into the priesthood after the order of Melchizedek. (See my article Why was Jesus baptized?)
He scoffed at that idea and told me that Jesus came up out of the water. I responded with Acts 8:38-39, where Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch both went down into the water and came up out of the water. I pointed out that if they both came up out of the water (in reference to Jesus coming out of the water at his baptism), then was Philip immersed as well? He changed the topic.
I cannot remember what led to this topic, but to the best of my recollection, he asked me if I believed we could lose our salvation. I affirmed that we could not. He criticized that doctrine and, to my surprise, also criticized election and predestination – neither of which I had brought up.
Of course, I’ve encountered many people who ridicule the doctrine of security in Christ over the years. They also frequently attack the doctrines of God’s sovereign election and predestination. So, Mr. Bernard was being consistent with his position. I remember trying not to say too much because I did not want to close the door to further discussions.
At this point, some bystanders politely interjected and said that others were waiting to speak with him. They were not rude, but I assume they were aware of David K. Bernards’s slight agitation in our discussion. So, our discussion ended. He graciously allowed me to have a picture taken with him.
I found Mr. Bernard to be polite. He provided the standard Oneness arguments. Unfortunately, he attacked God’s sovereign election and predestination which, I think, is very important theology.
I hope that he response to my email and that we will have a further discussion. I’ll update this article if and when he responds.
Email to David K. Bernard on 8/8/2022
I met you on July 22, 2022, at the United Pentecostal [Church] in Caldwell, Idaho. We had a brief discussion.
I had offered to debate you on the doctrine of the Trinity versus Oneness. You declined that offer but stated you might be willing to have a discussion. You graciously gave me your email address, so I thought I would finally write and ask you about the possibility of having that discussion.
I’m not sure what format you might consider. Nevertheless, I would be willing to travel to where you are and have a live discussion at your chosen location. Or, if you prefer something in written form, I would be interested in that as well. We could establish parameters and publish our discussion on our respective websites. Mine is carm.org.
As a side note, in our brief discussion, you expressed disapproval of the idea of God’s predestination and election. Since I affirm the Reformed doctrines of Grace, I would also be willing to debate/discuss those with you, as well.
Note: I forgot to add the word “Church” in the first line of the email, so I inserted it here in brackets.