Battey – Kniffen Discussion
(Divorce & Remarriage)
March 14, 2015
On March 14, 2015, about 300 people gathered at the Jeff Johnston Fine Arts Center on the campus of Seminole State College. The congregation in Seminole, Oklahoma was hosting its 8th Open Bible Study. (The other 7 Studies are posted on this website.) This present Study involved the subject of divorce and remarriage. The speakers were Malcomb Kniffen (Lorena, TX) and George Battey (Seminole, OK). Both speakers are members of the church of Christ. Both speakers agree that in communion only one loaf of unleavened bread and one cup with unfermented fruit of the vine are authorized by the Lord. Both speakers agree the modern practice of public “Bible Classes” are unscriptural because classes violate the rules governing all assemblies of the church (1 Cor 14). Yet in spite of so many agreements, the two speakers differ on the subject of marriage and divorce.
Malcomb Kniffen was the first speaker. He preached 30 minutes on the assigned topic: “There is no-exception for divorce and remarriage in the gospel age.” To be more accurate, Malcomb Kniffen actually believes Christians may divorce for many causes; he believes remarriage is sinful if the divorced parties marry someone besides their original spouse. This particular detail is not noticeable during Brother Malcom’s sermon, but it is brought to light during the question and answer session.
George Battey was the second speaker. He likewise preached 30 minutes on the assigned topic: “There is an exception for divorce and remarriage in the gospel age (Mt 5:32; 19:9).” Brother George believes all divorce to be sinful except in the one instance where an innocent spouse divorces a guilty fornicator. In this particular case an exception was made by the Lord Himself (Mt 5:32; 19:9). In the case where fornication is involved, the innocent spouse is authorized to divorce the guilty fornicator and the innocent spouse alone is authorized to remarry someone else. The guilty party is never authorized to remarry again.
After a 15 minute intermission, the audience regathered for the Question and Answer session. Malcomb Kniffen fielded questions first. This session would last 30 minutes. Any man in the audience was invited to come forward and stand in line before a microphone. The questioner was limited to 30 seconds. The questioner was instructed to ask a single, one-part question without making comments. After asking a question, the questioner was asked to either sit down or go to the back of the line if he wished to ask another question. The questioner was not free to stand at the microphone and argue with Brother Malcomb. Some of the questioners proved they were either unable to understand the rules or they did not view the rules as applying to them. Brother Clint DeFrance was the moderator in charge of enforcing the rules, but how are rules enforced when brethren do not cooperate? For the most part order prevailed and Brother Clint did as good of a job as any could have done under the circumstances. Rules also applied to Brother Malcomb. He was limited to answering each question within a 2 minute timeframe. In most cases, Brother Malcomb did not need his entire 2 minutes. For the most part, he gave short answers that were less than a minute in length.
George Battey fielded questions for 30 minutes after Brother Malcomb was finished. The same rules applied to the questioners as to the preacher answering the questions.
The audience is to be commended. Good spirits prevailed and everyone treated each other well in spite of disagreeing on a volatile subject. There were many young people present – a good mix of older and younger people from both sides of the issue. As far as we can tell, about half the people present were in agreement with Brother Malcomb and the other half agreed with Brother Battey. The audience was made up of people from all over the country. People came from Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Ohio, Montana, Indiana, and of course Oklahoma – perhaps other states as well.
Below you will find the audio recordings of the Study along with the PowerPoint charts and the booklet which Brother George wrote and passed out to all the members of the audience. Each member was also provided a copy of Brother Irvin Barnes’ tract, “God Hates Divorce,” a newly published tract available by writing to Brother Irvin (3218 East Farm Road 88, Springfield, MO 65803). Brother Barnes takes the position there is an exception under the gospel age (Mt 5:32; 19:9). There is a charge for Brother Barnes’ booklet ($2.00 per booklet + postage I believe; but check with him to confirm the cost).
During the closing announcements, Brother Clint DeFrance issued a challenge to the no-exception brethren to meet with us in a 4-night debate wherein the “marriage question” could be thoroughly discussed. Surely there is a preacher or leader among the no-exception brethren who would be willing to step forward and represent the no-exception side. We hope this challenge will be accepted soon.
The Seminole congregation wishes to thank the following people and congregations for their part in making the Study possible: the Hwy 53 congregation in Healdton, OK; the Ardmore, OK congregation; the Amarillo, TX congregation; the Dardanelle, AR congregation; Brother Irvin Barnes. Each congregation and Brother Barnes knows what they did to help out and the brothers and sisters of Seminole wish to thank them all profusely for their assistance. Thanks to Brother Clint DeFrance for his efforts as moderator and Brother Shahe Gergian for video recording the study and making the video and audio available at www.ChristianLandmark.com.
We hope to post the video files of this discussion soon, but we wanted to go ahead and post the audio files now. Check back for the video postings in a few days. May God bless the teaching and study of His Holy Word.
To view the PowerPoint Charts, please click on one of the following file formats:
To view the Booklet, please click on one of the following link:
Malcomb Kniffen’s Sermon on no-exception for divorce
George Battey’s Sermon on an exception for divorce
Q & A – Malcomb Kniffen
Q & A – George Battey
Malcomb Kniffen’s first speech
George Battey’s first speech
Malcomb Kniffen’s Q & A session
George Battey’s Q & A session
Videos were recorded by Christian Landmark.