Dugger's Debates

Perhaps the most well-known historical figure in the Church of God (7th day) is Andrew N. Dugger (1886-1975). In the 1920s, Dugger was the vigorous leader of the Church at its headquarters in Stanberry, Missouri. At times, Dugger was quite a showman and debater.

Younger Church of God ministers often challenged and were challenged for public debates on the Sabbath question. Often they called for the well-versed Dugger to take over in their place. Stidham and Canadian, Oklahoma were scenes of two 1921 debates recalled by Dugger. His debate at Canadian shows how he operated.

Dugger's opponent at Canadian was Elder Searcy of Oklahoma City, one of the leading theological and political debaters of the south. They signed an agreement for ten nights of discussion in Canadian and Dale, Oklahoma. Each night there were two thirty-minute speeches by each debater. The one on the rostrum could ask questions of his opponent that had to be answered by a yes or no. Dugger deliberately played weak on certain scriptures, leading his opponent to grasp at them, resting the entire Sabbath question, and a $1,000 bet, on whether the word "rest" in Hebrews 4:9 was translated from the Greek word Sabbatismos meaning Sabbath instead of Katapausis meaning rest.

Having held so many public investigations with different clergymen, Dugger had previously written ahead to a local university professor of Greek, and already had a letter from him stating that the word was Sabbatismos, meaning "a keeping of a Sabbath," and thus won the debate.

The whole town was said to have been convinced of the Sabbath, but Searcy refused to pay the $1,000, even though he was well able to do so. The debates at Canadian and Dale resulted in the conversion of T.J. Marrs and his sons Burt and Mitchell, all of whom later became Church of God ministers. Forthwith, a Sabbath meeting was set up at Dale by Dugger, led by T.J. Marrs.

Frontiersman Davey Crockett has been quoted as saying, "Be sure you are right, then go ahead." Today, if some young minister wants to debate others on the Sabbath question, it would be wise to be well-grounded in the Truth before such a thing is even considered. Think what might happen if you end up facing a Sunday-keeper who is more prepared than you are.

written by Richard C. Nickels