By Norman P. Smith
On the nights of March 7, 8, 10, and 11, 1977, Brethren J. T. Smith and Bob Melear engaged in a debate on the divorce-remarriage question. The following is my personal opinion of what transpired and is based upon personal observation.
The debate was held in Costa Mesa and Santa Ana, California and drew the poorest attendance of any debate I have attended. Brother Smith had debated Brother Glen Lovelady and Brother Lyle McCollum in two previous discussions on this subject. From statements made by some in attendance and some who did not attend, I am confident the poor attendance can be attributed to the fact that many had attended one or both of the previous debates and did not desire to sit through another four nights of listening to the false doctrine espoused by Brethren Melear, Lovelady and McCollum.
As he did in the two previous discussions, Brother Smith very boldly and forcefully proclaimed the teachings of the scriptures on this subject. Brother Melear attempted to prove on the first two nights that the Scriptures teach that even the put away fornicator can remarry without sin: and the last two nights taught that if a person is put away for any cause other than fornication, if he remarries, his first mate may then put him away (a second putting away) for fornication and everyone be free, thus putting a premium on sin. In his efforts to uphold this false doctrine he appealed to human reasoning, emotionalism and a perversion of the scriptures.
Brother Smith utterly destroyed every argument presented by Brother Melear by simply presenting the passages of scripture that deal with divorce and remarriage. Brother Smith’s arguments were presented so clearly that anyone who wants the truth could understand the plain teaching of the Bible on this subject. Even with Brother Melear’s desperate efforts to “help” the listeners misunderstand Brother Smith’s arguments it was obvious that Brother Meleax failed miserably in this attempt also! In what was supposed to be his affirmations on the last night, instead of affirming his proposition, Brother Melear resorted to the tactics used by all those who know they can not meet the force of the opponent’s arguments and defend their position. He made fun of, ridiculed, belittled, misrepresented and falsely accused Brother Smith of making statements he never made. These brethren bemoan the fact that it is difficult to find men who will debate them. I am convinced that one of the reasons is because of the way these brethren use the aforementioned tactics when they realize their erroneous teachings can not be substantiated by the scriptures!
When the debate was over, I asked Brother Ken Cheatham (moderator for Brother Melear), “When are you brethren going to give up your false doctrine and start preaching the truth on this subject?” His answer was (and I paraphrase), “If what you brethren are teaching on this subject is the truth, you can have it!” That statement confirms what I have believed is their attitude about this issue since I first learned of their position; i.e. even if he admitted we have the truth on the subject under consideration, he wants none of it!! It is my earnest prayer that those who hold and espouse this false doctrine will renounce it, repent and ask God’s forgiveness and make their stand on the teachings of God’s holy word.
Truth Magazine XXI: 31, p. 489
August 11, 1977