James David Bales
AN INTERVIEW WITH JAMES D. BALES
James David Bales was born in Tacoma, Washington, on November 5, 1915. He was one of seven children. His parents were Benjamin Franklin Bales and Ethel Florence Davis Bales. In June 1916 the Bales family moved to Albany, Georgia, and a few years later they moved to Atlanta.
Bales was immersed into Christ by Bruce Nay in 1927. He married the former Mary Smart on July 2, 1940. To this union were born six children. Brother Bales began preaching in April 1934 in Morrilton, Arkansas.
He was educated at Harding College (B.A.); Peabody College (M.A.); Ontario College of Education; University of California (Ph.D.). He served churches of Christ in Macon, Georgia (1938); Toronto, Ontario, Canada (1938-1940); San Francisco, California (1940-42); Oakland, California (1943-44). Brother Bales was added to the Harding faculty in the fall of 1944, and remained there until his retirement in 1988. He preached by appointment while residing in Searcy, Arkansas.
James Bales' many books include: Jesus: The Ideal Teacher; Communism: Its Facts and Fallacies; The Case of Cornelius; The Hub of the Bible; Modernism: Trojan Horse in the Church; Pat Boone and the Gift of Tongues; Forty-Two Years on the Firing Line; The Faith Under Fire; Instrumental Music and New Testament Worship; The Finality of the Faith; The Holy Spirit and the Christian; The Holy Spirit and the Human Spirit; Pentecostalism in the Church; The Sower Goes Forth; Restoration, Reformation or Revelation?; and Studies in Hebrews. There were many other books that came from his prolific pen.
Brother Bales died on August 16, 1995, at the age of 79. I have long appreciated the writings of James Bales. His books have had a prominent place in my library for as long as I have been preaching. With the exception of his views on marriage, divorce and remarriage, I have appreciated his work through the years. In 1994 I conducted this interview with brother Bales. In early 1995 I purchased from him a copy of his book, Modernism: Trojan Horse in the Church, which he personally inscribed to me. In 2000 I acquired a number of his personal copies of his own books along with other items when a friend of mine purchased a large portion of his library.
DENNIS GULLEDGE: How long have you been preaching the gospel?
JAMES D. BALES: My father, Benjamin Franklin Bales, attended Potter Bible College (1903-1904) in Bowling Green, Kentucky. My father and mother (Ethel Florence Davis Bales) were killed when a train hit their car in Atlanta, Georgia, while they were on their way to a class in connection with the Bible (January 4, 1927). When I went to Harding College (Morrilton, Arkansas) the fall of 1933, I thought perhaps I would preach. Once while discussing it with some fellow students, Stoy Pate said, "Bales, if you are going to preach, preach." I stopped talking about it and started in April 1934. I have been preaching for sixty years.
DG: Can you recall the circumstances of your first sermon?
JDB: I asked a small congregation of black brethren if they would let me preach one Sunday. I had copied a sermon Dean L. C. Sears gave me on, "Jesus, the Light of the World." I studied the outline and preached it several times in the woods and in the cow pasture. As far as I know, no cows went dry after hearing my preaching. When the Lord's day morning came for me to preach, I spoke to a congregation of ten black brethren and ten college students who came to hear me preach. During that period of time I was an amateur wrestler, but was more nervous before the sermon than I was when I entered the wrestling ring. But when later I entered the wrestling ring I thought it was easier to preach – until the time came to preach! In the pasture I had preached for twenty minutes, but that morning I finished in thirteen. Fortunately, I observed the rule to get up, speak up, and shut up. A preacher needs good terminal facilities. A sermon does not need to be eternal in order to be immortal!
DG: How do you think the emphasis in preaching has changed since you began? Has the change been for the better or worse?
JDB: Because very early in life I came into contact with unbelievers, I thought there should be more preaching on why we believe in God and the Bible than what I had been hearing. Some other subjects I thought should be preached on by some folks I thought was dabbling in politics. A strong stand was taken against denominationalism. Some today are beginning to try to convince the denominational world that we are one of them. They are speaking for themselves and not for me, and others who maintain that denominationalism is contrary to the word of God. There are some other trends which I oppose because of that for which, and Him whom, I am for.
DG: Name three preachers, of the past or present, who have influenced you the most in your preaching?
JDB: I am not sure of who influenced me the most, but the following had considerable influence on me. J. N. Armstrong with his passion for souls and stand against sectarianism. My father had studied under brother Armstrong in Potter Bible College. G. C. Brewer's courageous stand for truth and against error influenced me. Over the years we became good friends. I was encouraged by his confidence in me. B. F. Rhodes was one of my teachers in Harding. I had many long talks with him and borrowed some of his outlines. Jokingly he said: "J. D., aren't you afraid to shoot those cannon balls in your pop gun?" I couldn't shoot them, for his outlines did not have enough meat on them for a beginner like me. (For his points he would use one word with Scripture reference for each point). I needed more "filler" than that. The "filler" for brother Rhodes was in his mind.
DG: You have held a number of debates over the years. Which one is your most memorable, and why?
JDB: I have had many oral and written debates. I am grateful for the confidence President George S. Benson showed in me in agreeing for me to meet the atheist Woolsey Teller in the Harding College auditorium, October 6, 7, 8, 9, 1947. Every night after the debate we discussed with some faculty and students how best to deal with the matters which were raised. I later debated Teller in Memphis, Tennessee, New York City, and Parkersburg, West Virginia. I am not ashamed of my first debate with Teller. However, I kept studying and he did not. I think my last debate was the best. Only my first debate was published.
As far as I recall, my first debate was with a Dr. West, a Seventh Day Adventist in San Francisco, California. I went on for six Sunday afternoons during the summer of 1944. It was also preaching those Lord's days. Each of us spoke one half an hour, then we were questioned by the audience for an hour. If I got the question I spent five minutes answering it, and then Dr. West spoke five minutes. The same thing was true if he got the question. One member of his church said if I kept debating Dr. West I was going to ruin him. Before the debate started I had filled several notebooks with material on all the Scriptures that I knew they used and all the questions I thought they could ask. I had also pasted in quotations from the Bible in the appropriate places. The first day I was asked only one question to which I had not outlined an answer.
DG: It seems that our brotherhood has seen a decline in debating over the past thirty years or so. Do you agree that this is true, and if so, to what would you attribute the decrease in the number of public discussions?
JDB: First, there are not as many denominationalists who are willing to defend what they believe. Second, in today's world it is not politically correct to say that people can be wrong religiously. However, the irreligious left, and those influenced by them, do condemn what they call the "religious right." Some assume that one church is as good as another and none should be evaluated. Third, some among us do not take a strong stand against denominationalism. However, there are many questions, in addition to denominationalism, which also need to be debated. Fourth, the wrong spirit has turned some off in the past, but truth can and should be spoken in love.
DG: What special word of advice would you like to pass on to young preachers who may read this interview?
JDB: First, the parable of the sower teaches that we should sow the seed of the kingdom, but it also shows we cannot guarantee fruit. Other hearts and minds are involved than that of the sower. Second, though one should not cast pearls before swine, one should be alert for opportunities to sow the seed of the kingdom. Third, seek to be scripturally balanced in your teaching. Fourth, be grateful for gratitude, but labor on though there are those who do not appreciate your work. Remember we labor for the Lord. Fifth, never quit studying. Sixth, be much in prayer. Seventh, be faithful and never, never let anything or anyone cause you to cease serving the Lord.
by Dennis Gulledge, April 3, 2017
Source: This interview is part of a greater series by Dennis Gulledge in a book entitled, "Profiles of Faith & Courage: Interviews with Gospel Preachers." Available on Amazon.com / (Used by Permission 09.08.2020)
Directions To The Grave Of J.D. Bales
The ashes of James D. and Mary Bales rest in the mausoleum located in the Oak Grove Cemetery in Searcy, Arkansas. Oak Grove is the oldest cemetery in Searcy and is located in the north central part, near downtown. If looking at a map, the location is on E. Moore. If traveling from Main Street turn north on N. Horton and it will dead end into E. Moore with the cemetery straight ahead. At the rear of the cemetery you will see a new mausoleum in the new section of the cemetery called Oaklawn Memorial Gardens. Cemetery Map
N35º 15' 363" x WO 91º 43' 850"
Accuracy To Within 15'
On East Wall Inside Mausoleum
Oaklawn Memorial Gardens Is The New Addition At The Rear Of Oak Grove Cemetery
Mary S. Bales
James D. Bales