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 Apologetics, Debates, Existence of God, Reviews

The Warren-Flew Debate

By Roy C. Deaver [1922-2007]

[Note: The following review was written by my grandfather soon after the debate occurred, and published in the December 1976 issue of Biblical Notes. The debate was momentous then, and continues to be. Thirty-one years after, in 2007, Flew would publish a startling book reversing everything he stood for in his debate with Warren. Flew would title his book, There Is a God (How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind). In it, Flew refers to his debate with Warren on pp. 67-69. Warren died in 2000; Flew in 2010. The book and DVDs of the Warren-Flew Debate are still available and highly recommended—Weylan Deaver.]

On Thursday, September 16, 1976, Thomas Warren and I moved into a motel room in Denton, Texas to continue preparation for the Warren-Flew debate scheduled to begin on the following Monday night. We were joined on Friday by James Bales and Bob Camp. During these eight days we lived together, prayed together, worked together, studied together — in full and deep realization of the importance of the occasion.

During the months preceding the debate it was advertised as being “The Debate of the Century.” I believe that this is an apt description of it. It was reminiscent of the great Campbell-Owen Debate, but it might be more accurately likened to Paul’s meeting the Athenian philosophers on Mars’ Hill when “…certain also of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him” (Acts 17:18). Upon that memorable occasion Paul preached the God whom they had left out. And in Denton, Texas brother Warren preached the God whom Dr. Flew (and all atheistic naturalism) has left out.

The debate was conducted on the campus of North Texas University, in the massive, beautiful coliseum. The debate was well-attended, with thousands of people having come from distant places. Wonderful fruits—even in generations to come—will be produced by these labors.

Since the debate it has been my privilege to speak a few times about the debate, and in these sessions we have devoted some time to answering questions. In this article I would like to consider several questions which have been asked.

How Was the Debate Brought About?

The University church of Christ in Denton, Texas conducts two Bible Chair programs within the city. One is directed by brother Gary Ealy; the other is directed by brother Rex Dean. These Bible Chairs work together in striving to accomplish the greatest good among the students. Each year they plan something “unusual” for the students. Last year (1975) they had Dr. Douglas Dean on campus for a special series of lectures on evolution. For 1976 the Bible chairs—together with the University church of Christ—planned the Warren-Flew debate. Since the debate was conducted by the Bible Chairs it was permitted to be held “on campus” and in the Coliseum.

An Evaluation of Dr. Flew

Many have asked: “How would you evaluate Dr. Flew?” Dr. Flew’s academic credentials are impressive and are unquestioned. He is a professor of philosophy at the University of Reading, in Reading, England. He is in constant demand as a “special lecturer,” and he travels the world as a spokesman for “atheistic naturalism.” He is without doubt one of the top atheists in the world today.

He writes almost constantly on the subject of “God.” brother Warren pointed out in the debate that he (Dr. Flew) seems to be almost “God-intoxicated.” Dr. Flew responded by saying: “I seem to be sobering up from my God-intoxication, and henceforth will not write upon the subject of God—except in response to those who attack me—but will devote more time to writing on social matters.” I consider this to be a highly significant statement from Dr. Flew—one which indicates that he keenly felt the force of Dr. Warren’s arguments.

In order that I might be of more help to brother Warren I have spent considerable time during the past year reading some of Dr. Flew’s books. I have found him extremely difficult to read (probably because of his British accent!). The vastness of his knowledge is apparent. Many have expressed disappointment that Dr. Flew did not do a better job in the debate. We emphasize that Dr. Flew’s failures were not the consequence of his not being a qualified opponent. No atheist has done more writing, or more speaking, or more debating than has Dr. Flew.

Dr. Flew is a personable, likable man. As brother Warren said, “You can’t help but like him.” It is my judgment that Dr. flew was shocked, bewildered, astonished, flabbergasted. So far as he was concerned “Christianity” meant Catholicism and denominationalism. He had never before encountered simple New Testament Christianity. And, he had never before encountered an opponent of Dr. Warren’s caliber. Dr. Flew, son of a Methodist minister, knows full-well that truth cannot be established upon the basis of feelings (emotionalism, subjective experiences). It must have been quite a shock to him when brother Warren said: “Dr. Flew, we fight that kind of thing just as much as you do. On that point you are just speaking to the wrong crowd.”

I think Dr. flew is honest and has some very strong feelings about truth. Dr. Flew entered the debate as a “positive atheist.” In a very short time he had become a “negative atheist.” Then, he began taking positions that were not atheistic, but that were agnostic. This he admitted. Then, he explained that he was “a spokesman for atheistic naturalism.” It seems to me that Dr. Flew left the debate as an agnostic rather than as an atheist.

Dr. Flew stresses that men “ought to be honest” and “ought to seek after truth.” We can continue to hope and pray that his honesty and concern about truth and evidence will yet bring him to the truth of God.

An Evaluation of Dr. Warren

I have known, loved, respected, and worked with brother Warren for near twenty-five years. I know him better than any other man knows him. I stand amazed in contemplation of his great abilities—natural and attained. He possesses the greatest natural brilliance of mind that I have ever seen. He has worked so hard for so many years in so many different academic disciplines in preparing himself to be an efficient servant of the Lord.

I know of his deep feelings related to the fact that as a people we are not doing enough to combat the forces of atheism and liberalism. It grieves him deeply to know that we sit back and allow the atheists to write our textbooks and to exert their infidel influences in the colleges and universities across the land.

More than twenty years ago he determined to do something about this situation. He knew that it would be necessary for him to hold the highest academic degree—and from a university of unquestioned prestige, and in the field which would be respected even by the atheists. To obtain this degree—his doctorate in Philosophy, from Vanderbilt University—he went into the lions’ den. To say the least, his professors were not favorable toward the traditional view (the Bible view) of God. Upon one occasion the professor said: “Mr. Warren, perhaps we ought to let YOU explain to the class the traditional view of God, since we so seldom have a man in this class who holds that view.” I know how hard and how fervently he prayed that—if the Lord so willed—he might be admitted to that program. At the time, Vanderbilt was admitting only six to eight students out of eighty applicants.

In reality, brother Warren’s debate with Antony Flew was that toward which he had been working for more than twenty years.

The more immediate preparation was made during the past year. The magnitude of this preparation is almost unbelievable (and is indescribable). He had very meticulously prepared over 400 charts for the debate. We used only 75 during the debate, but the others were there and ready to be used, if needed.

We thank God for brother Warren’s abilities, but—more than this, for the fact that these abilities are dedicated, consecrated, to the glory of God.

Why Did Dr. Flew Refuse to Make A Sound Argument?

This question comes in recognition of the fact that it is the case that Dr. Flew did steadfastly refuse to make a sound argument.

In logic, the term “argument” refers to the basic unit of reasoning. It means a “unit of discourse in which beliefs are supported by reasons.” An argument is a unit of discourse which seeks to prove that something is or is not the case. An argument therefore, is made up of two basic parts: (1) premises—the evidence—, and (2) the conclusion.

When a series of statements are intended to prove a point they may be (and, in fact, ought to be) reduced to a syllogism. An error which is concealed in three hundred pages becomes crystal clear when reduced to a three-line syllogism.

In order for an argument to be sound two things are necessary: (1) the syllogism has to be valid, and (2) the premises have to be true. A syllogism is valid when the premises (whether true or false) demand the conclusion. There is a difference in validity and truth. There are definite laws (five basic laws) governing validity, and if a single law of validity is violated the syllogism is not valid. If the syllogism is valid, then the logician asks: are the premises true? If the syllogism is valid, and if the premises are true—then the argument is sound.

Dr. Flew knows full-well what a sound argument is. He knows that argumentation is not assertion and is not insinuation. He constantly chides and ridicules religious people for refusing to make a sound argument. He constantly calls upon them to face up to the task of proving their position. The “Law of Rationality” holds that “We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence.” Dr. Flew respects this law. Dr. Flew (of all people) did not refuse to make a sound argument because he did not know what a sound argument is!

Literally hundreds of people have expressed to me their disappointment because Dr. Flew refused to make an argument. He raised questions. He chided. He insinuated. He indicated that he would eventually get around to actual argumentation. But, he never did. He did a lot of talking and philosophizing, but he never did get down to the task of trying to prove his point. (Dr. James Bales observed: “A philosopher often spends his time throwing dust into the air, and then complains because he cannot see.”) One person said: “Dr. Flew would approach the microphone as if he were really going to do something this time, and then…just fizzle.”

It seems to me that the weak and disappointing efforts upon the part of Dr. Flew really show the force, the power, and the value of the debate. If Dr. Flew COULD have made a sound argument the conclusion of which would have been “I know that God does not exist” Dr. Flew WOULD have done so. The fact that Dr. Flew DID NOT proves that he COULD NOT, and that HE KNEW THAT HE COULD NOT! Dr. Flew’s failure to make an argument also indicated his profound respect for Dr. Warren. He knew that every word he said would be carefully and thoroughly examined by brother Warren, and that no error would be allowed to pass unnoticed. Dr. Flew could not make an argument which would stand up under the light of logical examination.

What Did Dr. Flew Say?

He stressed ideas of incoherence, inconsistency, and logical contradiction. These words relate to two basic points: (1) It is Dr. Flew’s view that the doctrine of eternal punishment in hell is inconsistent with the notion that God is all-loving; (2) He holds that the fact of evil in the world is contradictory to the theists’ concept of an all-loving and all-powerful God. The concept of “hell” is really disturbing to Dr. Flew. He said, “It upsets my British cool.” but, Dr. Flew admitted that the concepts of love and justice were not contradictory, and that God could be just in punishing a sinner for “one minute.” Dr. Flew thus placed himself in the position of judging God in connection with what constitutes just punishment.

The atheist habitually accuses the theist of affirming a logical contradiction. The theist affirms the existence of God who is all-loving and who is all-powerful. The atheist counters: “These concepts are contradictory. There is the fact of evil in our world. If God is all-good He would want to destroy evil; if God is all-powerful He would be able to destroy evil. If He wants to destroy evil, but cannot, then He is not all-powerful. If He is able to destroy evil, but does not want to destroy evil, then He is not all-good. If He is not all-powerful, or if He is not all-good, then He is not God.” But, the atheist fails to understand the relationship of the existence of evil to God’s plan for man’s redemption, and the atheist overlooks (and fails to understand) God’s respect for man’s free-moral agency.

Dr. Flew admitted the fact of human guilt and the fact of the existence of human conscience. He also admitted that atheism has no way of dealing with these. He admitted the existence of “law” higher than international law and that the Nazis were wrong in killing six million Jews. He failed to explain the source of this law.

Whether intending to do so or not, Dr. Flew rejected the theory of evolution. In answer to pointed questions he said that the first human being was not born of a non-human, and that the first human being was not the product of transformation from a non-human into a human! What else is left? Only creation by God.

Dr. Flew admitted that philosophy cannot deal adequately with the matter of origin. He said, “I begin with the universe and end with the universe.” This is a mighty restricted view of things, and fails to deal satisfactorily with either origin or destination.

Brother Warren powerfully refuted the theory of evolution. He stressed that the doctrine of evolution cannot be substantiated by the claims of science. Dr. Flew responded: “I am not a scientist—I am a philosopher.” I find this statement (and the attitude which it evidences) most astonishing. Here is a man who is a world-renowned atheist-philosopher. In rejecting the existence of God he puts himself in the position of having to accept the theory of organic evolution. This theory at least claims to rest upon scientific evidences. But, when the errors, inadequacies, and false claims of this theory are pointed out Dr. Flew simply says: “I am not a scientist—I am a philosopher.” It is astonishing—indeed, incredible—that a man would build his entire atheistic, philosophic house upon a doctrine which at least claims to rest upon science without knowing whether or not the scientific claims were true. How in the world could Dr. Flew be content simply to say: “I am not a scientist—I am a philosopher”? Keep in mind also that when Dr. Flew said that the first human being came (1) not by birth and (2) not by transformation that he rejected the theory of evolution.

What Basic Arguments Did Brother Warren Present?

First, brother Warren presented the cosmological argument. He argued (and proved) that for every effect there has to be a sufficient cause. He discussed our marvelous universe as an amazing effect. He declared that only the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God of the bible is sufficient cause. He considered man—marvelous man—as an amazing effect, and the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God of the Bible as the only sufficient cause. He considered the matter of the existence of law—law beyond national law, and beyond international law—the existence of which Dr. Flew admitted. Brother Warren argued that there can be no law without a law-giver. Brother Warren forcefully argued that the theory of evolution cannot explain (1) our universe, (2) man, or (3) the existence of law higher than international law.

Precisely stated, brother Warren’s argument would be as follows:

MAJOR PREMISE: If it is the case that our universe (or man, or moral law) is of such a nature

that it’s very existence can be explained only in terms of its having been cre-

ated by the all-wise, all-powerful, and all-loving God—then it is the case that

God does exist.

MINOR PREMISE: It is the case that our universe (or man, or moral law) is of such nature that

its very existence can be explained only in terms of its having been created

by the all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving God.

CONCLUSION: It is the case that God does exist.

Second, brother Warren made the moral argument. This argument overlaps the cosmological argument. Brother Warren emphatically argued that there does exist such a thing as outside, objective, moral law—that there is moral law beyond (greater than) international law. Brother Warren stressed that Dr. Flew admitted (1) the existence of this law, and (2) that the Nazis were wrong in murdering six million Jews. Brother Warren also stressed the fact of the existence of human conscience—that “Dr. Flew has a conscience, and Dr. flew admits that he has a conscience.” How explain the existence of moral law and the existence of human conscience? The theory of evolution has no explanation. These can be explained only in the light of creation by the God of the Bible.

Third, brother Warren stressed the argument based upon design—sometimes called the teleological argument. He had carefully and meticulously prepared beautiful charts on the human hand, the eye, the respiratory system, the skeletal system. Brother Warren argued that the marvelous design involved in these could be explained only in the light of an all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving Designer. Brother Warren presented a chart with a picture of an artificial hand. He asked Dr. Flew: “Did this artificial hand have a designer?” Dr. Flew admitted that it did have a designer. Amazing indeed! The artificial hand has a designer, and could not exist without the fact of the designer, but the natural hand does not have a designer! Dr. flew admitted that the automobile has a maker, but denies that the automobile-maker has a maker.  “He just growed.”

Time and space would not allow consideration here of the beautiful and fantastic details with which brother Warren pressed this argument. Its force was completely devastating to atheism.

Why Didn’t Brother Warren Use More Bible in the Debate?

The fact is that brother Warren did use the Bible frequently in the debate, but (for obvious reasons) he did not build his argument upon what the Bible says. As brother Warren said to a certain man who had asked this question: “What passage would YOU cite to Dr. Flew to prove that God exists?”

The argument that the very nature of the Bible proves the existence of God is another entire debate. We felt that to introduce this argument during this debate would have allowed Dr. Flew too much room in which to wander, and consequently, would have detracted from this debate. Brother Warren, in his final speech, did offer to debate Dr. Flew on the “Bible argument,” preferably in Reading, England.

What Do You Think Will Be the Greatest Benefits of the Debate?

There have been and there will continue to be great and wonderful benefits from the debate.

1. Because of the debate many people of the world will hear of the church of our Lord who otherwise would not have heard of it.

2. Some have already been baptized into Christ as a consequence of having heard the debate, and others will be.

3. I think the debate will cause New Testament churches—especially those in the Dallas-Fort Worth area—to become more militant in the battle for truth. The whole world will know that we have absolutely nothing to fear in going up against the forces of atheism.

4. Most probably, there will be other debates. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if one or two debates of this type could be conducted every year—on campuses of colleges and universities everywhere. It seems to me that congregations should—beginning right now—set aside funds to help so that at least one debate per year can be conducted.

5. I think the debate will astound the philosophical world. Dr. Flew will be discredited as a debater in the eyes of his fellow-atheists. Can you imagine an honest, sincere student in one of Dr. Flew’s classes—with a copy of the WARREN-FLEW DEBATE in his hand?

6. The debate will emphasize to God’s people everywhere—and especially to Gospel preachers—the value of and the importance of real education. What an example we have in Thomas Warren.

7. Undoubtedly, the greatest benefits (which cannot be measured) will come from (1) the book, and (2) the video-tape. The book is now being published, and the video-tape will soon be available. These will be tremendous tools in combating the forces of atheism.

CONCLUSION

Brethren, the debate was wonderful and will prove to be one of the most significant events in the history of God’s people.

We express our sincere thanks to Gary Ealy, Rex Dean, Perry Hall, the elders and members of the University church of Christ in Denton, Texas—for making the debate possible. We thank God for—and continue to pray for—brother Thomas Warren. We express our gratitude to the God of heaven by whose providence the debate was brought about. Also, our sincere thanks to Dr. Flew for his willingness to have his atheistic philosophies tested upon the polemic platform. Likewise, we express sincere thanks to brethren Bob Camp and James Bales for their wonderful assistance before and during the debate.

We fervently pray that God will continue to use this great work to His glory and to the salvation of thousands of souls.

I COULD NEVER BE AN ATHEIST

I would have to honest with myself. I would have to be concerned about evidence. I would have to be concerned about proper reasoning. Before I could be an atheist I would have to be able to prove that:

1. Life can come from non-life;

2. Something can come out of nothing;

3. Order can come out of disorder—cosmos can come out of chaos;

4. Chance can produce arrangement;

5. There can be a design without a designer;

6. Like does not produce like;

7. There can be an effect without a cause;

8. Mind can be produced by matter;

9. There is no real purpose in life;

10. There is no hereafter;

11. The Bible is not the word of God;

12. There is no God!

How would YOU like to have the task of proving (1) that the Bible is not the word of God, and (2) that God does not exist?