Posted in Doctrine, Marriage

Remarriage Right and the Law of the Husband

By Mac Deaver

Recently, Weylan posted the oral exchange between my father, Roy Deaver, and Gus Nichols (listen at: biblicalnotes.com/audio/roy-deaver-gus-nichols-debate). The exchange took place on the campus of the then Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee in 1973. At issue between the two parties was whether or not the “guilty party” of Matthew 19:9 could by scriptural authority remarry. Deaver said that the “guilty party” could not remarry. Nichols said that he could.

Deaver spoke first and gave an argument based on the alleged unfairness of allowing the guilty party to remarry since God disallowed the “innocent party unjustly put away” the option of a remarriage. That is, according to Matthew 19:9, if A put his wife B away, not for fornication, then A and B were still joined in marriage, and so if someone married B after the legal divorce, the second marriage was only legal but not scriptural. The case is such that A’s condition at the time of the putting away is simply that of a non-guilty party who legally divorces his wife but not for fornication. The wife in the now legally divorced condition commits adultery with whoever legally marries her. So, she is stuck in a scripturally necessitated celibacy as long as she remains the “innocent party” unjustly put away by a person not guilty of fornication. She is still scripturally married to her husband regardless of his attempt to get rid of her.

Now, Deaver’s argument that he presented was based on this point. That is, if God necessitated the perpetual celibacy of the “innocent party unjustly put away,” that it would be unfair for God to allow the remarriage of a “guilty party” put away because of his fornication. How could God reward the “guilty” with a new marriage and “punish” the “innocent” by withholding one? Dear reader, it doesn’t seem to make sense, does it? Deaver’s syllogism was:

(1) If it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of an innocent party unjustly put away, then it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of the guilty party justly put away.

(2) It is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of an innocent party unjustly put away.

(3) Then, it is the case that Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 do not allow the remarriage of the guilty party justly put away.

This syllogism was based on the principle that punishment is justly related to sin committed. He cited Matthew 12:41-45, Matthew 11:20-24, Luke 12:47-48, and 2 Peter 2:20-21 to identify the principle that the syllogism incorporates.

In response, Nichols declared that we, as a people, have always taken the position that someone who kills his wife has a scriptural right to a new marriage, but that if we say that (1) a murderer can remarry, but that (2) a guilty fornicator cannot, we are allowing, in effect, the more guilty more right and the less guilty less right. Nichols did not use these exact words, but these words represent precisely his point. He was saying, in effect, that Deaver’s position is not fair. That is, if a man can kill his wife in order to marry another woman, but that the “guilty party” cannot remarry, then we are imposing on people a position that is completely unfair. So, he was hitting at Deaver’s argument based on the concept of fairness. I must confess that I had always taken Nichols’ position on the murderer’s right to a remarriage as the correct position, but in this reinvestigation, I think that my father was, after all, correct in his analysis of the situation. And I am very glad to now see what he and Warren affirmed in 1973. As usual I come to the truth as a latecomer.

Now, let me say that Deaver’s position (that the guilty party has no right of remarriage) did not depend upon any argument on “fairness,” though I now agree that the argument is sound. And in all fairness to my father, in his discussion with Nichols, he rightly observed that the contention that the guilty party can remarry is in outright contradiction to the “except for fornication” clause! It was not clear to Nichols at the time, however, that Deaver’s own position regarding the guilty party was fair at all.

When my father later faced James D. Bales (from whom Nichols said that he had learned his position on the “guilty party”) at Searcy, Arkansas he had a syllogism based on Matthew 19:9 that was not based on the concept of fairness. The syllogism was written:

Maj. Prem. If it is the case that Mt. 19:9 teaches that the only scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage is the ground of one’s having put away his companion because of that companion’s fornication, then it is the case that any interpretation of any passage which contradicts that teaching is an erroneous interpretation.

Min. Prem. It is the case that Mt. 19:9 teaches that the only scriptural ground for divorce and remarriage is the ground of one’s having put away his companion because of that companion’s fornication.

Con. It is the case that any interpretation of any passage which contradicts that teaching is an erroneous interpretation (“Marriage, Divorce, And Remarriage—Harding Lecture, April 19, 1977, p. 15).

Now, this more wide-sweeping argument covers the “guilty party” issue as well as other matters. But in Deaver’s 1973 confrontation with Nichols, he used an argument that was more narrow in scope or focus and which he thought would do the job in exposing the idea that the “guilty party” did have a right to a remarriage. God is, after all, always fair. That is certainly correct, but it needs to be noted that “divine fairness” is not always easy to comprehend due to human failure to grasp features of a situation that only God can know. What was fair to Deaver didn’t seem fair to Nichols at all.

Fairness” is not always easy to discover. Some issues become so involved that it is hard to determine where fairness lies. And I would repeat that, though we know God is always fair since he is infinite in justice, we are not always able to determine how it is that he is fair when he gives definite positive legislation. At times the “fairness” is somewhat hidden from our view. God kept Cain, the brother-murderer, alive and allowed him to remarry and yet later decreed that all such murderers should be put to death (Gen. 4:9-15, 17; 9:6). And following his humanly undetected adultery, David was allowed to marry the widow of the soldier that David had killed under the camouflage of war (2 Sam. 11, 12). Because we are not privy to all knowledge to which God is, we are not always aware of how something is fair or “fair enough” in the eyes of God at a given time. So, from this angle of examination, “fairness”—though always rightly ascribed to God and to God’s applicable law—can be fair without our being able to explain in what way it is fair or why it is fair at all. The “fairness” of some laws is not on obvious display.

The issue of “divine fairness” has come up many times in marriage discussion. Some have wondered how it is fair for God to allow fornicators (before marriage) to commit fornication for hundreds of times and then be given scriptural right to marriage, while at the same time disallowing a “guilty party” the right of one more marriage. No preacher that I know has ever taken the position that the Scriptures teach that unmarried fornicators cannot enter a scriptural marriage. What about a person who—knowing Bible teaching—purposefully refuses to marry for years, during which time he fornicates over and over again? Let us say that in his 60’s he decides finally to marry. Where is the passage that disallows the marriage? Is the New Testament law on marriage and divorce unfair if it allows an habitual fornicator to get married?

Note carefully that we are not discussing whether practicing fornicators can go to heaven. They cannot (Gal. 5:19). But entry into heaven is not to be confused with marriage rights on earth. Nichols made this point in his part of the discussion. And he was correct. To say that a man has a right, given his circumstances, to another marriage is not at all the same thing as saying that the man stands before God approved and heaven bound. Plenty of people have a right to marriage who at the time of the application of the right are not in fellowship with God. But since God allows all persons guilty off pre-marriage fornication the right of entering a scriptural marriage and yet disallows, per Matthew 19:9, some parties to remarry, it is evident that God looks at the marriage covenant as something to be protected and maintained. After all, God does the actual joining in marriage (Matt. 19:6); he is no party to fornication!

Now, at the 1973 confrontation between Deaver and Nichols, Nichols took the position that if a man killed his wife in order to marry some other woman, that even though the murder was certainly sinful, marriage right still characterized the murderer since his wife was now dead. Evidently Nichols was thinking of Romans 7:1-6, though I do not remember his actually referring to the passage. But when he said that a man could kill his wife and marry again, both Deaver and Thomas B. Warren (who was in the audience and who in the question/answer session asked Nichols some questions) objected and declared that the murderer had no such right. When Nichols called for the passage that prohibited the murderer from remarrying, Deaver cited Matthew 19:9.

Earlier in his own presentation, Deaver had gone over Matthew 19:9 very carefully, presenting the words in Greek and giving a detailed analysis of the passage. Clearly, per Matthew 19:9, someone may and someone may not remarry. If all can remarry, according to God’s approval, then, Deaver asked, why did the Lord address the topic at all? The passage affirms that someone may remarry without being guilty of adultery and that someone may remarry but only by becoming guilty of adultery. “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery.” According to Deaver, the Lord said that only persons who put away their mates for fornication are persons who may marry again without committing adultery. And guilty fornicators are not in that class of persons.

I agree with my father and Warren that the guilty party cannot with divine sanction remarry. And it is my view that Deaver’s 1977 syllogism that he gave to James Bales presents the truth on the topic. Furthermore, in the past (although I have taken the position that Nichols took at Memphis with regard to a wife-murderer having the right to another marriage since his wife was now dead), I now confess that such is absolutely wrong. I now see that Deaver and Warren were both correct in their claim that no wife-murderer has the right of remarriage even though his wife is dead. I had taken the position that even though a wife-killer was hell bound, his eternal destiny and his marriage rights were not to be confused. And they should not be. However, as we will see as our examination continues, though a wife-murderer is no longer bound to a wife, he is still bound to God who in the New Testament gives him no more marriage rights.

When Nichols called for the passage that prohibits a wife-killer from remarrying, Deaver, as already stated, cited Matthew 19:9. Now, Matthew 19:9 deals with putting away and marrying again and with someone’s marrying the party put away. Murder either is a form of putting away or is not a form of putting away. If Deaver cites Matthew 19:9 as conclusive that a murderer (who kills his own wife in order to marry some other woman) has no right to a remarriage, then he is saying either that murder is a form of putting away or he is saying that murder is not a form of putting away. But, he cannot be saying that it is a form of putting away, because the last part of the verse contemplates a marriage on the part of the put away party. The “put away party” is not a dead person but a living one. Since we are told that “he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery,” we know that the “put away” party is a living party. If we say that murder is a form of putting away, we are then implying that someone can marry the dead which is, of course, absurd.

So, Deaver must be saying that murder is not a form of “putting away.” So, why would he think that Matthew 19:9 applied to the murderer’s case? How does the passage apply at all to the case of a murderer? Evidently, he thought it did because the only cases of remarriage allowed by Matthew 19:9 were cases involving “putting away” by parties whose spouses or ex-spouses were still living. No one else (no murderer) was being contemplated in the cases that involved “putting away.” Since all that we are to do is to be authorized by the New Testament (Col. 3:17), and since Deaver knew or at least assumed that there was no other passage that gave the scriptural right of remarriage to anyone else, then he cited the passage as conclusive that no man could kill his wife and then marry again. And this would mean that Deaver (and Warren, who agreed with Deaver that no man could kill his wife and remarry) considered Romans 7:1-6 to be inapplicable to the murderer’s case.

And this would mean, then, that Warren and Deaver considered Matthew 19:9 as applicable to the case of murder in the sense that it authorized only cases of remarriage on the part of non-murderers (just as the passages that authorize singing authorize singing only, and because of the complete absence of any other passage authorizing mechanical instruments in worship in addition to singing, then only singing is authorized). Deaver and Warren evidently thought that Romans 7:1-6 was inapplicable to the case of the murderer since, though the passage teaches that when the husband dies, the wife is free from the law of the husband so that death ends the application of the law of the husband generally speaking, it does not terminate the application of that law in cases of murder.

Now, if Romans 7:1-6 does not apply to a wife-killer (thus giving him a right to another marriage), how can we prove it? How was it that Deaver and Warren were both convinced that the wife-killer had no marriage rights? This exact point was not a part of the formal discussion at Memphis. And I do not remember ever discussing this point with my father or with Warren. But if they were right, how could we prove it now? From the discussion it is clear that Nichols thought that Romans 7:1-6 released the wife-killer so that he could remarry; it was Deaver’s and Warren’s contention that Romans 7:1-6 did no such thing. But there was no recording of any elaborate support of the Deaver-Warren position. I want to supply that information right here.

In Romans 7:1-6, Paul draws an analogy between the relationship that obtained between (1) a man and his wife and between (2) a Jewish Christian and his relationship to Christ. First, he gives the fundamental principle that the law was binding on a person only so long as that person was still alive. The law ceased in application to anyone who had been under it at the point of that person’s death (7:1). Second, after stating the fundamental feature of any law regarding its application, he then applies the binding nature of applicable law to marriage. He states that a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he is living. When he dies, she is free from “the law of the husband” (7:2). If she is joined to another man while he still lives, she is an adulteress, according to marriage law, but if the husband is dead she is not an adulteress though joined to another man (7:3). Third, Paul then draws an analogy between the two cases: that of a woman bound to a husband under the law and to Christian Jews who were once married to Moses but who are now married to Christ (7:4). Paul affirms that Christian Jews are not now in “spiritual adultery” because the first husband was dead (7:4). Moses, (the binding law of Moses) was now dead. And even though they were now joined to Christ, the joining was not “spiritual adultery” because the first husband had passed away.

Now to the very point of contention: how do we know that this passage does not free a wife-murderer to remarry? We know it because Romans 7:1-6 is a discussion of the relationship of the law of Moses to Jews who were now Christians. And these Jewish Christians who were now joined to Christ had been formerly married to the first husband (the law of Moses, or Moses) to whom they were “made dead” by the body of Christ (7:4). And notice: that law (the first husband) to which these Jewish Christians had formerly been married was a law that demanded the death of any murderer! Murderers did not have remarriage rights in Israel. Murderers were to be put to death (Exod. 21:12; Lev. 24:17). The analogy that Paul draws is between (1) the law of Moses and its binding nature on Jews (a law that gave no marriage rights to murderers) and (2) the law of Christ which, unless it be Romans 7:1-6, gives no marriage rights to murderers either). This proves that “the law of the husband” does not give marriage rights to murderers of their wives even though their wives are now dead! Wife-murderers are still bound to God’s marriage law which disallows them a new marriage.

And this serves as proof that in Deaver’s confrontation with Nichols, he and Warren were correct to think that according to Bible teaching, no wife-killer had scriptural right to another marriage. Notice further that if “the law of the husband” (now completely incorporated within the law of Christ) still binds the “put away fornicator” (the “guilty party”) to God so that any marriage attempt on his part in the future will be simply a case of “adultery,” then it follows that “the law of the husband” binds a wife-murderer to God so that any marriage attempt on his part in the future will be simply a case of “adultery” as well. Both cases entail “adultery” by parties no longer bound to their spouses but still bound to God’s marriage law. Nichols had contended that when the handcuffs that bound a husband and wife together were taken off due to fornication or death, both parties were free to remarry since they were now free from each other. Deaver had correctly observed that there were three sets of handcuffs in any scriptural marriage. One set of handcuffs bound the married persons to each other, and one set bound the husband to God’s law, and the final set bound the wife to God’s law.

It amazes me that my father and brother Warren were so clear and correct in 1973 in their contention that not even Romans 7:1-6 gave a wife-murderer the right to remarry. They were far ahead of most of us then and, perhaps, many of us now.

Let me make one final comment concerning the relationship of Matthew 19:9 to Romans 7:1-6. Please note that the precision in language used by Paul together with the precision of language used by the Lord presents to us a striking instance of internal testimony to the profound inspiration of Scripture! Not only does Romans 7:1-6 not condone “murdering one’s way” out of a marriage so as to give the remarriage right to the murderer, but the language is so precise as not to contradict the allowance of polygamy under Gentile-ism and Judaism! Notice carefully that while Jesus restricted divorce right, compared to the most generous divorce allowance by the law of Moses (Deut. 24) in his remarks in Matthew 19:9, that Paul is careful in his use of marriage in his analogy as to protect divine sanction of polygamy under the previous regimes. He says that if a woman is joined to another man while she retains a living husband, she shall be an adulteress, but he does not say that a man joined to another woman while having an already living wife shall be called one under the governance of “the law of the husband.” The “law of the husband” allowed, in principle, both polygyny (one husband with more than one wife) and monogamy (one husband with one wife). The kind of polygamy (many marriages) allowed by God in the previous regimes was only polygyny. It was never polyandry (many husbands with one wife). Thus, Paul’s precision is for the purpose of harmonizing his illustration not only with the permanent New Testament requirement of monogamy but with divine approval of polygyny under Gentile-ism (i.e. Patriarchy) and Christianity. Incredible!

Posted in Debates, Doctrine, Marriage

Roy Deaver-Gus Nichols Debate: Can the Guilty Party Remarry?

By Weylan Deaver

A preacher’s forum took place in November 1973 at the Harding Graduate School of Religion in Memphis, Tennessee between Roy C. Deaver and Gus Nichols. Each man respected the other. In fact, in the November 1972 issue of his paper, Biblical Notes (p. 73), Deaver wrote: “When brother Nichols preaches, it is obvious to the hearer that here is a man who is not just keeping an appointment. It is apparent that he knows the difference between having to say something and in having something to say.” But love for the gospel compelled Deaver to defend it, even if doing so meant opposing a friend. At the time, Deaver was in his prime (around age 51). The question at issue that day at Harding Graduate School was: “Can the guilty party, put away for fornication, scripturally remarry?” Gus Nichols said “yes” and Roy Deaver said “no.” Thomas B. Warren was in the audience and, when it came time for the Q&A session, he also held Nichols’ feet to the fire on this crucial doctrinal point. Listen to the two speeches and the Q&A session at the three links below.

1 Roy Deaver. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? (November 7, 1973 / Harding University Graduate School of Religion)

2 Gus Nichols. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? (November 7, 1973 / Harding University Graduate School of Religion)

3 Questions and Answers. Can the Guilty Party Remarry? Deaver vs Nichols (November 7, 1973 / HUGSR)

Posted in Inspiration

The Unity of the Bible

By Roy C. Deaver

The great general area of study called “Christian Apologetics” deals with evidences (or proofs) related to (1) the existence of God, (2) the deity of Jesus Christ, (3) the inspiration of the Bible. With regard to “evidences of inspiration” there are (1) evidences external, and (2) evidences internal. One of the most powerfully convincing internal evidences is the marvelous unity of the Bible.

Unity in Theme and Purpose

The Bible is a wonderful unit in theme and in purpose. By “theme” we mean the Bible’s basic message. By “purpose” we mean the reason for and the consequent blessings of that message.

It has been accurately observed and properly stressed that the “theme” of the Bible is: The coming of Christ. The Old Testament message is: The Christ is coming. The New Testament message is: The Christ has come and will come again. In statement, type, shadow, copy, and figure the Old Testament presents this message. In plain declaration, in anti-type, in substance, in original, and in the real— the New Testament presents this message. All is involved in the Christ— his gospel, his church, his blessings to men.

But, what about the “purpose” of the Bible? (1) The Bible relates to the need for human redemption. The first three chapters of Genesis explain how sin made its entrance into the world. Human beings are born into a world where sin is. (2) Accountable persons, in transgressing God’s law, thereby become sinners. The tragic fact is that all accountable persons do transgress God’s law and do become sinners. Cf. Romans 3:23; I John 1:8. (3) Redemption is in and through Jesus Christ, Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14. (4) As previously indicated, the Old Testament points to Christ. “And beginning from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself,” Luke 24:27. The Old Testament Scriptures bore witness of Christ, John 5:39. Paul persuaded “them concerning Jesus, both from the law of Moses and from the prophets, from morning till evening,” Acts 28:23. (5) Human redemption glorifies God. “Sonship” through Christ is “to the praise of the glory of his (God’s) grace,” Ephesians 1:6. “Unto him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever, ” Ephesians 3:21. “To the only wise God, through Jesus Christ…be the glory forever,” Romans 16:27.

It is based upon consideration of these five basic facts that we summarize the purpose of the Bible as follows: THE GLORY OF GOD AND THE SALVATION OF MAN, THROUGH JESUS CHRIST OUR LORD. This is the purpose line which runs all the way through the Bible— from Genesis 1:l through the last verse of the Revelation. Every word in every verse in every paragraph of every chapter of every book sustains a vital relationship to this purpose line.

Unity in Books

The Bible is one book, but it is made up of many books. It has 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. It is one in theme; it is one in purpose.

Every book of the Bible has a unique message of its own. Every book of the Bible makes a unique contribution to the overall purpose of the Bible. Every book of the Bible does something (with regard to the purpose line) which no other book does. And, it is from this viewpoint that we declare that every book of the Bible is the greatest book of the Bible. Each book does something which no other book does. It is my job as a student to learn the basic message of each book— to learn the unique contribution which each book makes to the overall purpose.

Think of the book of Genesis. An appropriate title would be: The Book of Beginnings. Its purpose is, to set forth the beginning and early development of the scheme of redemption. It divides itself into five natural sections: (1) from the creation to Abraham, (2) the life of Abraham, (3) the life of Isaac, (4) the life of Jacob, and (5) the life of Joseph. But all as involved in the beginning and early development of the scheme of redemption.

Ephesians is: The Church of our Lord— God’s Plan for Man’s Salvation. Chapters one through three deal with the nature of the church; chapters four through six deal with the Christian’s life in that church.

The book of Hebrews is: The Way of Christ— The Better Way. Paul emphasizes: (1) Christians have the better medium, 1:l-4:13; (2) Christians have the better high priest, 4:14-10:18; (3) Christians have the better way, the way of faith, 10:19-13:25.

Whatever the book, it is a marvelous unit, it has a unique message, and it makes a unique contribution to the purpose of the Bible.

Unity in Presentation

If one begins reading in Genesis one and continues through the Bible, he is reading the gradual unfolding of God’s wonderful message of redemption. It is one beautiful connected story. In the Old Testament the story is told consecutively from Genesis through Nehemiah (Esther should be read at the end of Ezra 6). The books of Job through Malachi give additional details that are involved in the connected story. In Old Testament history “God Prepared the Perfect Plan.” In the New Testament history “God Presented this Plan to Man.”

This beautiful, amazing story of redemption is presented in wonderful consistency. There are no contradictions in the sacred message. Men have often referred to apparent contradictions, but thorough investigation never fails to remove the difficulty. “Contradictions” are often imagined where there are none.

From first till last the Bible was written by approximately forty writers, and over a period of sixteen hundred years. It was begun by Moses in the desert of Arabia, and was completed by John on the isle of Patmos. The writers generally were not conscious of the works of others. They were widely separated in geography and in chronology. They were fishermen, farmers, shepherds, soldiers and kings. They wrote in palaces, pastures, prisons and in tents. There were men who were highly educated, and there were men untutored and unlearned (so far as concerned formal education of the day). These were not a literary people. Yet, when these writings are all brought together in one sacred volume, there is perfect unity— there are no contradictions.

Conclusion

If a forty-piece orchestra should suddenly begin to play— in perfect timing, melody, and harmony— it would be evidence of direction by a single mind.

If forty archers, in forty different places, widely separated in time, should shoot their arrows and all hit the same target “dead-center” it would be evidence of (proof of) direction by a single mind.

If forty men— widely separated in geography, with varied backgrounds, and living over a period of sixteen hundred years— should each write down a few lines, and these lines when brought together constituted a beautiful poem, it would be evidence of direction by a single mind.

Because of its marvelous and otherwise inexplicable unity, we believe the Bible came from God— that it is miraculously inspired and is divine authority.

Posted in Debates, Doctrine, Marriage

Giving New Life To Old Error

By Mac Deaver

The Bales-Deaver Debate on marriage, divorce, and remarriage was published by the Firm Foundation Publishing House in 1988. That is twenty six years ago now, and a lot has changed in our world and in the brotherhood since that time including the continuing demise of morality in our country. Many who are young adults now were at the time of the great controversy in the church over marriage and divorce unaware as to what all was being said and done regarding the discussion of the proper application of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:9.

On April 19, 1977 Roy Deaver and James Bales met on the campus of Harding College (now University) to discuss the issue of the application of Matthew 19:9. Later Thomas B. Warren hoped that he and brother Bales could debate the issue orally. Bales declined, for health reasons, but proposed a written debate between the two. Warren turned down that offer, and finally an agreement was reached between Bales and Roy Deaver for a written discussion. It lasted about five years. Bales, Deaver, and Warren were all friends and each respected the ability of the others. Bales had the year before moderated for Warren in Warren’s debate with the atheist, Antony Flew. Deaver also had assisted Warren in that momentous discussion held in September of 1976. When Bales learned that I was to teach a course on Acts in Tennessee Bible College in the early 1980s, he mailed me a thick notebook full of his own notes. It was a most generous gesture. He had a great mind and had done a tremendous amount of good through his teaching and his writing. He had been a great force for good. But now his talents had come to be employed in the defense of a position on Matthew 19:9 that was “new ground” for the brotherhood. The question was whether or not the novel position was scriptural.

In his own personal study, Bales had concluded that the church as a whole had misunderstood the application of the Lord’s teaching in Matthew 19:9. He had decided that Matthew 19:9 applied only to marriages that were composed of a Christian married to another Christian. The passage did not, according to him, apply to a non-Christian married to another non-Christian or to a Christian married to a non-Christian. This novel approach to the passage he attempted to defend in his time consuming written debate with my father. The reader can still purchase that written account and study it carefully. I cannot here go over everything or even most of what was said between the two participants. Very few things from the debate will be discussed.

In completion of my work at Tennessee Bible College for the terminal degree in Christian Apologetics, I presented to the faculty of the graduate school there my dissertation in January of 1991. It was entitled “Moral Law, The Law Of Christ, And The Marriage-Divorce-Remarriage Issue.” In that paper I discussed the existence and nature of moral law, the moral law and positive law, some implications of denying the existence of moral law, and moral law in some recent discussions on the marriage-divorce-remarriage issue. That last part entailed a critical analysis of the (1) Warren-Fuqua Debate, (2) McClish-Billingsly Debate, and the (3) Bales-Deaver Debate. It was clear to me then, and it is clear to me now that the effort to deny the universal application of Matthew 19:9 to all marriages was completely without evidential support.

It came to pass in time that I debated Dan Billingsly in January of 1995 in Arlington, Texas (Dallas-Fort Worth area). He affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that Matthew 19:9 is not New Testament doctrine.” The following September I debated Olan Hicks on the marriage-divorce issue in Robertson County, Tennessee. Brother Hicks affirmed: “The Scriptures teach that God approves marriage for every person, including all who have divorced or have been divorced by a mate, regardless of cause.” The reader can still obtain a written copy of that debate and study carefully what was said. Then in April of 2004, I engaged Dan Billingsly in a second debate in Bedford (Fort Worth area). He affirmed that the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all a part of the Old Testament. Of course, if he could have proven that (which he could not and which was exposed as false), he could have gotten rid of the “troublesome” passage (Matthew 19:9). The position taken by Billingsly in this debate showed the extent to which some of us were willing to go to get rid of the “bothersome” passage. The morality of the country was degenerating, and Christian families were certainly involved. Surely, there had to be a way to get around the restriction of Matthew 19:9.

At the end of my doctoral dissertation, at the end of my polemic encounters with Billingsly and Hicks, I was convinced that the application of Matthew 19:9 is today for all men, both Christians and non-Christians. I never faced a sound argument that proved the contradiction, and I presented many sound arguments in the discussions to verify that for which I was contending. It was and remains clear to me that fornication is the one and only reason for a divorce that allows the innocent (other) party to scripturally remarry.

Now, why do I at this time bring all this back up to view. I do it because recently a book has been published by Weldon Langfield entitled The Truth About Divorce And Remarriage. It claims to be “A Politically Incorrect View of Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in Today’s Church.” The purpose of the book is to resurrect the idea that 1 Corinthians 7:15 does, in fact, supply the Christian with a reason for divorce and remarriage other than fornication (as provided by the Lord in Matthew 19:9).

All through the book, Langfield refers to preachers who hold that Matthew 19:9 is of universal application and gives us the only scriptural basis for a divorce and a remarriage as “politically correct” preachers. He calls them “PC” preachers. Thus, in informing us that 1 Corinthians does give us an additional reason for divorce and remarriage, he is providing the “politically incorrect” view by which, of course, he attempts to endear his position to our brethren (who generally despise “political correctness”). On page 88 he concludes, “A critical examination of the PC position shows it to be without support.” Again, on page 153 near the end of the book he writes, “Two-thirds of denominational scholarship and many distinguished brotherhood preachers and scholars are correct in their understanding that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides grounds for remarriage.”

If the reader hopes to find conclusive proof for this position, he will be disappointed. If he searches for a sound argument to prove it true, he will search in vain. He will find many gospel preachers of the past quoted to lend support to his position, but he will not find where a sound argument is ever provided by these quoted preachers to prove the contention true. And this is the very thing that Langfield needs: a sound argument (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:21; Romans 12:2). We all should know that we prove nothing about the alleged accuracy of a conclusion by citing an approving quotation from someone who also believed it to be true. If the quoted party provided the “proof,” then provide his proof. Langfield couldn’t do this because there was no “proof” from anyone that he quoted to show that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provided an additional basis for divorce and remarriage in addition to what the Lord had provided in Matthew 19:9.

Langfield refers to many preachers on both sides of the issue. He refers to brother Bales several times in the book, but only mentions my father twice in the text, once in connection with his brief debate with Gus Nichols in their 1973 encounter at the Harding Graduate School in Memphis (p. 69) and the second reference (p. 126) is by means of a quotation taken from the July, 1980 Spiritual Sword periodical, the quotation being a description given by my father of the devastating nature of brother Bales’ position to the gospel. However, Langfield never refers to the Bales-Deaver Debate at all, a debate in which my father exposed Bales’ contention that 1 Corinthians 7:15 does provide, after all, an additional basis for divorce and remarriage other than that provided by the Lord in Matthew 19:9.

And this is the very position to which Langfield attempts to lend support in his new book. Brother Bales believed that Matthew 19:9 only applied to Christians married to Christians and that 1 Corinthians 7:15 applied to Christians married to non-Christians and to non-Christians married to other non-Christians. If the reader has not read that debate, I would suggest that he do so. It is indeed interesting and somewhat curious that Langfield, while referring to many books regarding the marriage-divorce controversy, never quotes from this pivotal debate in which Bales himself tried to prove the position to which Langfield in his new book attempts to lend support. Again, I remind the reader that Langfield refers to Bales several times, but he never quotes from Bales or from my father in their debate which was a discussion of the very issue that concerns Langfield in his recently published book.

Bales took the position that the Lord had addressed one group of married people in Matthew 19:9 and that Paul was addressing another group of married people in 1 Corinthians 7:10-15. The Lord had only the “covenant people” in mind (Christians only), and Paul had in mind non-covenant people (non-Christians) and especially Christians married to them, so that Matthew 19:9 did not even apply to the group that Paul was now addressing. It is clear to me that my father exposed this contention conclusively and in several ways. However, among the many things that he taught in the debate, in my judgment, if he had only said one thing that he did to Bales, it was absolutely devastating. And it is something that either Langfield does not know or chose not to notice in his new book. Langfield shows familiarity with some of the crucial material written during the controversy, but for some reason, he never quotes my father (nor James Bales) in the Bales Deaver Debate.

In my father’s second affirmative, he presented his argument on the tense of a crucial verb in 1 Corinthians 7:15. He wrote, “The word ‘bondage’ is the translation of the Greek dedoulotai which is perfect passive indicative, third person singular of the root word douloo. The perfect tense is significant. The force of the perfect tense here is: the deserted believer is not now and in fact never has been under the kind of bondage signified by the word douloo—the kind of bondage which would compel the Christian to give up his or her Christianity in order to preserve the marriage” (p. 61). Bales wasn’t impressed and called for proof that this was the meaning of the tense (p. 90). Of course, all Bales had to do was consult a Greek Grammar and think about the description of the perfect tense (for example, Essentials of New Testament Greek by Ray Summers).

Summers points out that the perfect tense “…indicates completed action with a resulting state of being. The primary emphasis is on the resulting state of being…The real nature of the Greek perfect is seen in the passive voice better than in the active” (p. 103). The verb (“under bondage”) in 1 Corinthians 7:15 is in the passive voice. Summers points out that there are three ideas involved in the perfect tense: “an action in progress, its coming to a point of culmination, its existing as a completed result” (p. 103). He illustrates the force of the tense by appealing to the verb gegraptai (“it is written”). [The reader can consult Matthew 4:1-11 and see where the Lord three times uses a perfect tense verb when he says, “it is written”]. According to Summers the meaning is that “it has been written and stands written” (p. 103). If this had been a negative remark (as we have in 1 Corinthians 7:15), it would have meant: “it has not been written and it stands not written.”

Therefore, the meaning of the verb (“under bondage” with the negative word “not”) is that the brother or sister “has not been and is not under bondage.” The force of the tense means that the brother or sister in the case being described has never been in the bondage to which reference is made! That is one way that my father knew that it could not be referring to the “marriage bond.” The brother or sister had been in that bondage (the marriage bond) if they had been joined in marriage by God (Matthew 19:6; Romans 7:2). But the bondage to which Paul refers is one that had never entailed them at all. It is a kind of bondage different from what the marriage bond is. The marriage bond never entails the “slavery” involved in the word used for “bondage” in verse 15!

My father knew that the verb for “under bondage” in verse 15 could not possibly refer to the marriage bond. Furthermore, he knew that in verse 27, we find another perfect tense verb referring to a “bondage” which in the passage is undoubtedly the “marriage bond.” The words “Art thou bound unto a wife” certainly refer to the marriage bond. But, it is a different Greek word! The word in verse 15 is doulao and the verb in verse 27 is deo! Therefore, in verse 15 Paul had said that a believer married to a non-believer had never been, and was not at the time he was writing, in slavery that would compel the believer to pursue the marriage at the expense of his soul. In verse 27 he said that if anyone was married he had been and now remained in that same condition (perfect tense) in a state of “bondage,” but he clearly used a different word for this “marriage bond”!

But, even if we knew nothing about Greek tense, shouldn’t Paul’s last words in verse 15 (“but God has called us in peace”) and the words following in verses 16-24 show us what he had meant in verse 15? If the non-believer has left the believer (“let him depart”), the believer is to remain in peace, and not feel compelled to go after the non-believer with the hope of converting him/her. Paul is anticipating the thinking of the deserted believer. “If I can only find him, I can surely convert him and bring him home.” Paul says that you do not know that you can convert him (v. 16), and you are not (given the fact that he has departed) to feel obligated to go after him.

And please notice that Paul then declares that no one has the right to use his conversion as an excuse to alter a non-sinful state. It was not sinful for a Christian to be married to a non-Christian (see verses 12-14). And it does not matter whether one is converted while he is in the condition of circumcision or non-circumcision (v. 18-19), or as a slave or a free man (v. 21-23). But please notice that each condition is an illustration of a non-sinful state. Paul does not say that it is all right to remain in any sinful condition, including adultery! Repentance precedes baptism.

But now, let me make one more basic point in addition to all that has been said in the past to falsify the contention that 1 Corinthians 7:15 provides an additional reason for divorce and remarriage. My father took the position that Matthew 19:9 was universal teaching covering all marriages today. Brother Bales took the position that it applied only to Christians married to Christians. He took it that when Paul said “to the rest” (v. 12) he was referring to those other than Christians married to Christians, and he took it that “not under bondage” (v. 15) gave the deserted believer the right to remarry without fornication being committed against him/her per Matthew 19:9.

Notice, please, that the passage says that if the non-believer departs from the believer that then “the brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases” (v. 15). But the question arises, “What if the non-believer chooses not to depart but to remain with the believer?” If Matthew 19:9 applies only to Christians married to Christians, then (1) what is the relationship of the Christian to his non-Christian mate who chooses to remain with him/her and (2) what is that Christian’s relationship to the marriage bond? Notice that Paul did not say that the brother or sister was “not under bondage” in the case where the non-believer chooses to remain with the believer. If anyone today were to take the position that brother Bales did on verse 15, claiming that it was the marriage bond as such, then he would need to face these questions.

Paul said, “Yet if the unbeliever departeth, let him depart: the brother or the sister is not under bondage is such cases” (v.15). But what is the Christian’s obligation and what are his rights if the unbeliever remains (does not depart)? Now, if we were to allow Bales to assume that the marriage bond is being referenced in verse 15 (although we have already shown it is not), then Bales would face the following problem. Notice what Paul would be and would not be saying:

  1. Paul would not be saying that a Christian married to a non-Christian is “not under bondage.”
  1. Paul would be saying that a Christian married to a non-Christian is “not under bondage” if the non-Christian departs.

And remember, that Bales believed that Matthew 19:9 did not apply to the case of the believer married to the unbeliever at all, period. Then that would mean that (1) if the unbeliever chose not to depart but to remain with the believer and (2) if Matthew 19:9 never applied to the case of the believer married to the unbeliever, then we would have to face the following facts:

  1. If the unbeliever who remained with the believer later committed fornication against the believer, the believer would have no right based on Matthew 19:9 to put away the unfaithful mate for his fornication and innocently remarry another (since Matthew 19:9 didn’t apply to him/her, according to Bales).
  1. The believer living with a non-believer who chose not to depart was under bondage to that non-believer.
  1. Since, per Bales, Matthew 19:9 had never applied to a mixed married couple, then we learn that Paul is saying for the first time in the New Testament that a believer is bound to an unbeliever if that unbeliever chose not to depart.
  1. Since Paul is telling us, per Bales, that Matthew 19:9 never applied to a believer married to an unbeliever, it would mean that Jesus in Matthew 19:6 was only talking about believers married to believers as well when he said, “What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.” [My father made this very point to Bales (Bales-Deaver Debate, p. 133)].
  1. Then if the unbeliever can depart and thus give the believer and himself the right to remarry (per Bales according to 1 Corinthians 7:15), then Matthew 19:6 never applied to unbelievers married to believers and believers married to unbelievers either.
  1. If Matthew 19:6 never applied to anyone in a “mixed marriage” (believer to unbeliever), and if it never applied to a marriage involving unbeliever to unbeliever (per Bales), then the only people whom God has joined in marriage are Christians married to Christians! All other “married” couples are not married at all!
  1. But this conclusion contradicts the position implied at point #2!

When my father engaged Bales in their encounter at Harding in 1977, he referred to a letter that he had recently received from a man in Africa desiring to become a Christian but who was living with several wives. What was he to do? My father asked brother Bales his counsel. Bales responded that the man would need to put away all the wives but the first! But this was completely contradictory to the position that he was taking on the world’s non-amenability to the Lord’s law on marriage and divorce. If God had, in fact, joined the man to these women in marriage (and polygamy has never been against moral law as such), then how could anyone suggest that an alien sinner separate from the wives to whom he has been joined by God?

Brother Bales was no adulterer, but he unintentionally took a position that sanctioned some cases of adultery. I think it is very sad and so unfortunate that we had to go through such a time in the church when there seemed to be so much uncertainty with regard to marriage and divorce.

Years ago, my father and mother were living with my wife and me in Wellington, Texas. I was preaching for the church there, and Daddy was still engaged in his Biblical Notes writing work. Not long before brother Bales passed away, he called the house. I answered the phone. Brother Bales was evidently satisfied to talk with me for he never asked to speak to my father. But he told me that he wanted us to know that he loved us. In the light of that call, I take it that in light of the tremendous battle over marriage, divorce, and remarriage in which we had all been engaged, he wanted us to know that there was no anger or bitterness involved at all. He wanted things to be right between us. He was calling to tell us that he loved us.

I’m sorry brother Bales made this doctrinal mistake. I know he meant well. He was a good and brilliant man. But all of us are responsible to God for our own lives and decisions. None of us can excuse himself for adultery (if he finds himself in that state) because of Bales’ unintentionally sanctioning some cases of it. Each of us must search the Scriptures for himself (Acts 17:11). I once heard brother Warren express himself as he reflected on brother Bales’ situation. He said, “There’s got to be some room for grace.” I hope he found it, too.

The ungodliness in American culture helped to create the situation in the church where we began to think that we needed some relief from the stricture of Matthew 19:9. May God help us never again to allow any cultural condition to weaken our resolve to stand with proven truth (1 Thessalonians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 15:58). And may God give us the wisdom to reject any current effort at giving new life to old error.

Posted in Restoration History

I Left the Meeting Scared

By Roy C. Deaver [1922-2007]

In 1967 I was working with the Brown Trail church in Hurst, Texas. Beginning in 1961, this congregation had developed a very strong interest in evangelizing by means of the mail system. Especially during the years 1965 through 1967 there was a great deal of pressure put upon the Brown Trail elders to investigate what was going on among the people in the “Independent Christian churches.” We kept hearing rumors that there were many among these people who were really concerned about becoming “one” with those of us in churches of Christ. The Brown Trail elders were—to say the least—very skeptical. Yet, they were deeply concerned about getting the gospel message to any and to all.

The elders decided to invite Don DeWelt and Seth Wilson to come to Hurst, Texas to spend two days with them, and with a few other gospel preachers. Brown Trail would pay their plane fare. Don DeWelt was a professor in Ozark Bible College (a college operated by the Independent Christian Church people), and Seth Wilson was Dean of the College.

So, on May 19 and 20, in 1967, the proposed meeting took place. We spent a great deal of time in discussion of the use of mechanical instrumental music in Christian worship. The elders discussed in detail the hermeneutical principles based upon which we were forced to the conclusion that the use of mechanical instrumental music in Christian worship is wrong! It was stressed repeatedly that there simply is no Bible authority for it!

All present listened patiently as DeWelt and Wilson presented their view. They made no special effort to attempt to justify by the Scriptures the use of mechanical instrumental music in Christian worship. It was clearly their view that it simply makes no difference: It is all right to have it, and it is all right not to have it. In fact, Wilson pointed out that he preached for a church which had on the sign in front “Church of Christ.” He stressed that this church where he preached DID NOT USE mechanical instrumental music in worship. “But,” he declared, “not because we are opposed to it—we simply do not have it.” DeWelt emphasized that he had not in any sense changed his mind about mechanical instrumental music in worship.

These men clearly and strongly felt that there could be (and that there ought to be) unity simply upon the basis that it makes no difference—whether we do or whether we do not. In their thinking, it was not necessary for them and their brethren to regard the use of the instrument as being sin.

I left that meeting on the last day as scared as I have ever been in my life about the church of our Lord. It had become crystal clear to me that these men had not changed their thinking one particle, and that they had absolutely no intention of changing their thinking. On this point, we had been terribly misinformed by many who had insisted that we meet with these men. The thing which scared me was this: They had not changed their position at all, and had no intention of doing so. BUT, THEY KNEW THAT THEY SAW AMONG US A WILLINGNESS TO ACCEPT THEM (FELLOWSHIP THEM) WHILE THEY CONTINUED TO HOLD THEIR VIEWS INDICATED! It frightened me then, and it frightens me now to know that on this point, they were right.

Why can’t brethren wake up? Why is it that many cannot be warned? These men (and those who follow their leadership) are not interested in unity based upon plain Bible teaching. They are not about to give up the instrument. But, as liberalism takes its toll, they know that many in churches of Christ are willing to accept them ON THEIR TERMS.

Posted in Biography

Roy Deaver, My Granddad

Roy C. Deaver

By Weylan Deaver

My grandfather, Roy C. Deaver, left this life on March 2, 2007 at the age of 84. To the church, he was Roy Deaver the preacher. I’m sure no man knows how many thousands of sermons he preached across the country—how many souls heard the gospel through his voice, even if it was raspy for years after a horse accident that broke his ribs and temporarily paralyzed his vocal cords. He was Roy Deaver the defender of truth in countless debates with error, yet always concerned for the soul of the one he was opposing. He was Roy Deaver the helper, always willing, when asked, to visit a congregation in peril and help them work through threatening problems, or help a preacher prepare for an upcoming debate. He was Roy Deaver the writer, penning thousands of pages in articles, class notes, books, and his personal publication, Biblical Notes. He was Roy Deaver the teacher, spending decades in the classroom giving his all to the training of another generation of preachers to carry on the work. He was Roy Deaver the Greek scholar, always ready with a new jewel from the New Testament in koine. He was Roy Deaver the administrator, serving as founding president of Fort Worth Christian School and founding director of the Brown Trail School of Preaching and vice-president of Tennessee Bible College. He was Roy Deaver the elder, concerned for the individual sheep in the flock where he served. In fact, at one time, he was an elder, preached every Sunday, taught classes all week, directed the preacher school, conducted numerous gospel meetings, and did all this simultaneously. How he did that I may never know, but the Lord blessed him with the energy and drive to rise early, stay late, and do all for the gospel’s sake. In fact, he used to pray to God to “wear us out in Thy service.” He meant it.

To his grandkids, he was “Dede.” However the name came about, it stuck, and that’s what I called him all my life. You might not think his frantic schedule allowed any time left for grandkids, but somehow it was there. I’m sure I roamed into his study many times as he concentrated on some important thing, but he never shoed me out or made me feel unwelcome. He was more likely to stop whatever he was doing and divert attention to the visiting grandson. When I was little, he sawed a scrap of lumber into two rubberband guns for my brother and me. I still have mine, and it saw fierce combat in heated battles of my fun-filled youth. When I was nine, he took my brother and me to the movie theater to see Star Wars. I’m convinced he didn’t understand a frame of the entire movie, but he did it for the grandkids. Country music was something he did understand (having sung on the radio, himself, with his own band, way back in the day), and he twice took me to see the Statler Brothers in concert. When I was an early teenager, he and my grandmother taught me how to drive a car (his stick-shift, silver Subaru) in the cow pasture. If I asked him a question, he might reply that it would be a good subject for me to do some research on (now I torture my own kids with the same answer). He liked to go for drives in the Tennessee countryside. One time, I was in a Beatles music phase, and I went with him, taking an audiotape of those songs to play loudly in his car. Looking back, I’m sure the music was not to his taste, but he didn’t complain and let me blast it out anyway. Talk about longsuffering.

Mine was a childhood of privilege, growing up as the proverbial “fly on the wall” when men like Thomas B. Warren would come visit my grandparents’ while I was there. I heard gospel preacher talk. It was instilled in me that their business—the Lord’s business—was important. I liked hearing him introduced at some lectureship by someone who couldn’t say enough good things about my granddad. I liked that he was known and appreciated wherever I went across the South. When, as a kid, I got to ride with him each night on the way to his debate with J. T. Smith on the orphan home issue in 1984 in Gainsboro, Tennessee, it was a privilege to ride with the man I knew was the “hero” of the debate—at least in my eyes. On the drive back home, I got to hear all the post-debate conversation among the grownups in the car. I imagine I even injected my own immature observations, which were not discouraged. He always loved horses, and I spent my share of time in the saddle right behind him, holding onto the belt loops of his blue jeans. One day when I was about eight, he and I were riding in a back pasture in Fort Worth. In my best effort to impress him with a logical thought, I said to Dede, “Some trees have thorns. Pecan trees don’t have thorns. But, just because a tree doesn’t have thorns doesn’t mean it’s a pecan tree.” Duly impressed, he said to the little kid sitting behind him in the saddle, “Weylan, that’s logic.” I replied, “But there’s so many things I don’t know.”

And, there still are “so many things I don’t know.” But I do know this. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints. Dede, I will see you after a while.