Hicks – King Debate

By Jimmy Thomas

During October 25, 26, 28 and 29, 1982 a public debate was conducted in the circuit courtroom of the Pike county courthouse in Pikeville, Kentucky between Olan Hicks of Searcy, Arkansas and Rick King of Cromona, Kentucky. Joe Mattney of Richlands, Virginia served as moderator for brother Hicks and I served for brother King.

The first two nights King affirmed the following proposition: “The scriptures teach that the one who puts away his mate and marries another, except for fornication, continues to commit adultery as long as he lives with the second mate.” The last two nights Hicks affirmed: “The scriptures teach that couples who commit adultery by unscripturally divorcing and remarrying, may be forgiven of that adultery without separating.”


This discussion was held in an area which has been disturbed for sometime over the issue of divorce and remarriage. Brother Hicks’ approach to the question was novel to most who attended; yet he has lectured widely, written several booklets and had engaged in at least two prior debates on this subject. It appeared to many that he entered this discussion underestimating his opponent, who as a young man was engaging in only his second debate.

Since the discussion, reports have been received of those who have been strengthened in their opposition to unscriptural divorce and remarriage. A few, including area preachers, have changed their views and are now standing opposed to such marriages. Some who were responsible for brother Hicks’ part in the debate have openly expressed their dissatisfaction with his efforts. On the other hand, nothing but praise has been heard for brother King’s thorough preparation and powerful presentation.


Rick’s main argument was that in a scriptural marriage “God joins the man and his wife together in a covenant relationship witnessed by Him” (Mal. 2:14; Prov. 2:17). This covenant, he insisted, “binds them to one another as long as they live” (Rom. 7:2, 3), “God joins,” he said, “and only God can release. We read that He releases one from the bond by reason of marital unfaithfulness by one’s mate (Mt. 19:9).” He then concluded that the Bible reveals no other cause for which God releases one from “the marriage bond.”

Olan charged that Rick’s position was the same as the “Catholic sacrament theory.” He demanded the Scripture where any apostle ever required the unscripturally married to separate. Rick responded that repentance called for giving up an adulterous relationship (Acts 26:20). He also stated that polygamists and homosexuals could not continue with such illicit mates, yet there is no specific incident of their being told to separate.

Hicks contended that the relationship of those unscripturally divorced and remarried was not wrong although it was entered by sin. He insisted that “adultery” in Matthew 19:9 had nothing to do with a sex act. According to him, to “divorce” and “remarry” constituted “adultery.” When Rick persisted in calling for one lexicographer who gave such a definition of “adultery” he read Thayer’s secondary meaning (p. 417) where the word for “adulteress” is used figuratively in James 4:4. Rick pointed out that even in the figurative use, the literal meaning is under consideration, i.e. “unlawful intercourse with another’s wife.” He also showed from Hicks’ writings that he did not really know himself where the sin is, as he one time wrote: “He does not sin if he marries” and again “marrying is where the sin is.” Furthermore, Hicks stated that “divorce is a sin” yet wrote that it was not.

Hicks claimed that Paul gave “100 percent of men and 100 percent of women” the right to marry (1 Cor. 7:2). He charged that to forbid marriage is to teach “the doctrines of demons” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). He argued that Paul allowed all divorced people to remarry (1 Cor. 7:27, 28); yet he also insisted that Jesus said the two acts – divorce and remarriage – were adultery (Mt. 19:9). King pointed out that Hicks’ position was unclear and contradictory throughout.

On Romans chapter seven Hicks claimed that Paul was talking to those under the law of Moses, which did not allow women to divorce their husbands. King stated that it was the law of her husband to which she was bound (Rom. 7:2). He explained that Paul was showing how the Jews were now free from the law to be married to Christ, since they had died to the law, just as a wife is free to marry again when her husband dies. Hicks said that “the law did not die and it did not commit adultery.” He asserted that the Jews were divorced from the law and married to Christ. Rick charged Hicks with teaching that Christ came in and broke up the marriage of the Jews to the law and stole away the law’s bride.

This is not intended as a full review of the debate but only to give a brief overview. If you wish copies of the tapes send four quality 120 minute blank tapes to Rick King, Box 185, Cromona, KY 41810. I suggest that you send plenty of stamps along to cover postage.

Guardian of Truth XXVII: 5, p. 137
March 3, 1983