A PLEA FOR CLARIFICATION
article is a request for clarification of brother Ron Halbrook’s letter in the
April issue of Gospel Truths (please review his letter before reading these words
of concern). With all due respect
to brothers J. T. Smith and Ron Halbrook, I beg to converse further regarding
the answer Ron gave, concerning his “application.” It is not only what Ron
has stated in his reply to J. T.’s inquiry that I must take exception with, it
is also what he has not declared
(about his beliefs) that continues to concern me.
I have no desire to misrepresent Ron or his views, and have therefore
used his own quotes from other writings. I assure you, if I am sounding a false
alarm, I will do whatever is necessary for me to make amends!
question J. T. asked Ron to comment on was this:
decides to put away his wife and she begs him not to. He decides to go ahead and
do it anyway. She goes to the church and elders and voices her opposition to it.
The divorce is final. A few years later the husband remarries. She then goes
before the church and elders and expresses to them that she is now scripturally
putting him away. She can then remarry without sin.”
Ron’s reply, he states, “…99.99 percent of the time fornication is
actually the cause of the breakup.” I do not know where Ron obtained his
information, but I recently came across some statistics in the article, Seven
Myths of Divorce (Peter Orli, Ph.D., http://www.divorcesource.com/CA/ARTICLES/peter1.html).
Myth #1 states, “Most men cheat on their
wives.” Dr. Orli then answers
this erroneous belief by saying, “Actually,
the best designed study to date indicates that nearly 80% of men report that
they have never cheated on their wives.”
even if one chooses to use Ron’s statistics, in his own statement, there is an
inherent admission that in 0.01 percent of unscriptural divorces, fornication is
not involved. Therefore, we must be concerned with God’s regulations for
that one in ten thousand, as well as His answer for the 9,999 others.
God’s word has given us “all things that pertain to life and
godliness,” (II P. 1:3). He would
not leave even 0.01 percent of his people without guidance in this matter (cf.
following is a quote from a letter that Ron wrote, which he forwarded to a young
preacher less than a year ago. In
it, he unveils his “application” to the real question raised by J. T.:
a man may have enough regard for social convention that he will not go to bed
with the ‘cute little thing’ he wants rather than his wife; therefore, he
may divorce his wife, then marry the ‘cute little thing,’ thus going to the
bed of adultery. Once again, the original marriage bond stays intact under
divine law until (emp.
jhb) he commits adultery against his wife;
his legal steps do not dissolve the bond put in place when God joined them
together (Matt. 19:9). Since his true wife remains faithful to the marriage
bond, she & she alone has the right to repudiate the marriage under divine
law. She may scripturally do so even when she is not able to do so legally
because of legal steps taken by the treacherous husband.”
is clear that in his April GT reply / letter to J. T., Ron does not
address the question of concern, like his above quote does. The scenario that J.
T. posed to him does not
involve fornication as “the cause of the breakup,” as Ron’s April 2001
personal experience, I believe the incidence of this situation to be
significantly greater than the 0.01% that Ron does. He relays that he does not
know anyone in the circumstance that J. T. asked about.
However, I have personal knowledge of a local brother who is in this
exact situation. Furthermore, even
with my relatively limited associations, I know of two other preachers who are
presently facing this scenario in the congregation where they preach, as well. I
also know of a church from which a deacon recently had to withdraw membership
after finding that one of the elder’s sons has remarried under similar
circumstances, when the elders sought to defend the man’s present adulterous
relationship. Moreover, it is evident that this is a circumstance that Jesus
knew would exist, since He thoroughly taught on it (cf. Mt.
; 19:9; Lk.
in answer to such a scenario posed by J. T., Ron only wrote, “As to your question, I see the problems and issues raised by a
marriage under such circumstances and would
not encourage such a remarriage…” (emp. jhb). I am assured that he
would not “encourage” it, for he
knows that several brethren would have “problems” and raise “issues”
with such a remarriage. However, the question was not
whether Ron would “encourage”
such, but rather may she in this exact circumstance “remarry
a statement preceding several letters that Ron forwarded to a young preacher
less than a year ago, he stated, “The following e-mails reflect discussions with friends about fine-tuning
some points of application, but we agree on the basic principles of MDR. I do
not attempt to get into all these points in preaching. If someone asks a
question about such a point, I generally explain both views and encourage
them to weigh them in their own conscience.” In addition, on page 9 of his
April 2001 GT article, Ron states, “In
an effort to be completely open and forthcoming, I also expanded the letter
(1993 to brother Smith, jhb) to deal with a number of side issues on divorce and
remarriage which I find difficult to sort out at times. I do not attempt to deal
with all such matters in preaching. When asked about them, I try to provide
information on opposing views and leave such matters to the individual
conscience.” Harmonizing these quotes with his above quote from page 11 in
the April 2001 issue of GT, it seems
that while Ron may not “encourage”
anyone to remarry in this circumstance, he explains the divergent views, and “encourages”
them to make their own conscientious decision.
practice implies that he considers the decision one makes in such an instance to
be nothing more than a matter of conscience, not of doctrine which could
possibly involve “adultery.” I
agree that some who are put away (after having been bound by the law of God)
are scripturally authorized to remarry (
writes in his letter to J. T., “Brother
Smith, if I may speak frankly, it appears to me that you are alarmed in part by
someone who thinks I am preaching one thing publicly and pressing some other
agenda privately. There is no such private agenda, and never has been.” Although I personally do not believe that brother Ron has an
“agenda” that he is “pressing,” he indeed has been teaching something
“other” than what he has revealed “publicly” in GT.
Whether he realizes it or not, his preceding statement is not accurate. I
maintain (with evidence) that Ron has
taught something in various “private” settings, that he has not revealed to
J. T. in his “1993 Letter to Brother
Smith” (Truth Magazine website), nor in his article “Why Halbrook Fellowships Smith, Rader, And Other Faithful Men In Spite
Of Some Differences” (GT, April 2001 issue), nor in his personal letter /
response to J. T.’s direct question of a MDR scenario (GT, April 2001 issue).
To the best of my knowledge, Ron has yet to openly
discuss this particular issue in such
a forum as this paper, like he has in other, less public settings. (Please refer
to brother Donnie Rader’s words about the dangers associated with even private
dissemination of this doctrine in DIVORCE & REMARRIAGE: What Does The Text
Say?; Top two paragraphs on page 146).
page 9 of his April 2001 GT article (“Why Halbrook Fellowships...”), Ron
refers back to a letter that J. T. wrote to him
the following quote is from Ron’s paper, “Notes
and Thoughts For Further Study” dated 1986 (but which he sent to a young
preacher less than a year ago, in addition to the various e-mail letters noted
above). Notice what Ron has asserted
below, and compare it with what he has revealed to J. T.. Regarding Matthew
19:9, Ron wrote:
passage explains which divorces and remarriages God will accept as valid under
the terms of his law and which He will not accept. If a person sinfully and
wrongfully rejects or puts away his mate, his action is a farce so far as
changing the obligations he has to that mate under God's law. In terms of God's
law, the man is still bound to his mate so long as he lives. If he has unlawful
sexual relations with another (whether before or after he wrongfully puts away
his true mate), his true mate has scriptural grounds to reject or put him away.
…if he commits adultery (before or after his action in the courts of man),
there is something else to be said by divine law…”
words from Ron’s own pen concisely articulate the position that he has also
expressed to me personally and to personal acquaintances, as well as what he
verbalized on July 27-28, 2000 in a documented discussion on this very subject
with the brethren in Athens, GA. I
ask you, do not his own words above deal with J. T.’s specific scenario, and
answer the very question that he asked of Ron?
are also other writings by Ron on this subject that I have recently acquired
(outside of what I have quoted in this article) which further articulate his
“application.” It is clear from the sum of these materials that Ron has
indeed advocated that the exception clause in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 is still
available to the innocent put away party (under certain circumstances) after
an unscriptural civil divorce has transpired!
What Ron has taught (in writing and by his own words) is not just a
“rumor,” it is factual and can be established with concrete evidence.
Ron’s answer to J. T.’s question, he wrote in the seventh paragraph: “As brethren discuss some details of application, my main concern is
that we not bind a position which says when a mate commits fornication and
initiates court proceedings, the innocent party is automatically viewed as the
put-away person regardless of what stand and action she takes (as by
countersuing, etc.).” However, this is not the issue of controversy. This
may be Ron’s “main concern,” but it is not
the “main concern” of J. T.’s direct question (MDR Scenario). The question
specifies that the fornication took place AFTER
the (unscriptural) civil divorce had been FINALIZED.
Ron has yet to answer (in this forum)
is this: Does he deny or affirm belief that it is possible for an unwilling
woman who has been put away (civilly, although unscripturally) by her husband
(without fornication being committed while they were civilly married) to later
have the possibility to “put away” by “the law of God,” if and when that
man fornicates some time later (under certain circumstances)?
This is a serious question that raises serious concerns. Therefore, if Ron is to truly address it, he must stick to the specific issue / scenario posed. It is my heart’s desire and prayer to God, that Ron will agree to print his full views on the exact questions asked of him so that, as the noble-minded Bereans did, we can search the scriptures to see whether these things are so (Acts 17:11).