By Jeff Belknap

The purpose of this article is to request brother Osborne’s clarification (in the venues that he disseminated his writings) regarding some things he has asserted in writing and verbally. While he states his desire to make things “clear,” I must admit that (at best) I am very confused.  Please let me explain.

In his reply article entitled “Rejoinder to Brother Belknap” Gospel Anchor (posted 05-25-01), brother Harry wrote:Though I have specifically stated that I reject any doctrine teaching ‘mental divorce’ or a second putting away, brother Belknap first apologizes for accusing me of such and then charges me with defending what appears to him as a second putting away. Let me try to make this clear for our brother - there is only one time that a putting away or sundering of a marriage can take place. After that point, there can be no second, third or any other putting away of that which has already been sundered” (emp. jhb). To brother Harry’s statement that there is “only one time…a putting away…can take place,” I agree. However, from other of brother Osborne’s statements, it appears that he disagrees with himself.

I have apologized to brother Osborne for using terms that he finds offensive in attempting to summarize the gist of his writings, in terms that the reader can comprehend. After apologizing (several months ago), I asked him to send me some written materials by the faithful brethren he contends have held the position he espouses, so that I can learn how to represent his beliefs fairly. He has never complied with this request – so I will continue to do the best I can with the knowledge I have gained from brother Osborne’s words in his writings and from a transcript of his sermon. It has never been my intent to misrepresent him. Nevertheless, because Harry continues to assert contradictory statements that necessarily infer his belief in what he has denied, I must continue to charge him with the doctrine he disavows. Furthermore, at the end of this article, you will see that he plainly advocates what we know as mental divorce and the second putting away. What I am asking Harry to clarify is this: How can he say, “I reject any doctrine teaching ‘mental divorce’ or a second putting away,” when he also argues that (under certain circumstances) a person may “Biblically put away” an ex-spouse who has already put them away civilly?

Furthermore, in his sermon, “What is Biblical Putting Away?,” (Lakeland, FL, May 29, 2001) he also affirmed, “Neither is this a defense of a second putting away.”  This becomes confusing when viewed alongside of brother Osborne’s oral and written statements dealing with this issue, where he contends that a civil divorce proceeding is NOT synonymous with “Biblical putting away.” For example, in his “Rejoinder to Brother Belknap” Gospel Anchor, (posted 05-25-01) under the subtitle: “Does Scripture Specify Procedure for Biblical Putting Away?” he wrote: “Brother Belknap repeatedly asserts that the biblical putting away is synonymous with the civil proceedings of legal divorce. Yet, he cannot find the civil procedure in a single Scripture. He cannot find the legal action in the Scripture. He can find no court, no filing, no lawyer, no court record, no writ of judgment, no judge, no procedural statute nor other matters pertaining to the civil procedure of legal divorce in Matthew 19, Matthew 5, Mark 10, Luke 16, 1 Corinthians 7 or other passages dealing with the subject” (emp. jhb).

In contrast, brother Donnie Rader’s book, Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say?,” [the beginning of lesson 8 entitled “Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry)”  Pg. 74], defines mental divorce, in part, by stating: “In recent years there have been differences among brethren concerning whether some put away people could remarry. In previous chapters, we have stated that no put away person can remarry. There are several among us who believe otherwise. They would not affirm that all put away ones could remarry, but only certain ones. Actually this is an effort by some to justify remarriage following an unlawful divorce(emp. jhb).

Furthermore, please note what brother Rader wrote in this same chapter on page 83: According to the position under review the put away one now puts away his mate. That is two putting aways. Jesus didn't know anything about a second putting away. If a man puts away his innocent wife and then remarries, what more can she do in ‘putting him away’ that he has not already done? If he has already terminated the marriage and the covenant what more can she do? She can't put him away if they are no longer married” (emp. jhb).

What is a “mental divorce” except a “divorce” that a civilly (already) put away person desires to exercise after already having been put away by the accepted procedure of the society in which he lives?

What I am asking Harry to please clarify for us is how can he deny the civil divorce (what I affirm as the first and only divorce proceeding, in this country, at this time) in some circumstances, in order to accept a subsequent (second) action by the innocent civilly put away person? Again, in his sermon, “What is Biblical Putting Away?,” Harry stated: Is the civil or legal action in a modern divorce proceeding, is that synonymous with Biblical putting away? Some would hold that it is...And we also want to look and notice whether God's law is subordinated to human law, modern law as it is in American jurisprudence maybe with regard to the divorce proceedings. Is that what determines what putting away is today?” (emp. jhb).

[If by use of the term “Biblical putting away” brother Osborne means a scripturally approved divorce, then I think we would all agree that the answer is “no” - the legal action taken in a modern divorce proceeding is not always done in accordance with scriptural mandates. Nevertheless, we cannot deny that an unapproved divorce is Biblical in the sense that the Bible, in fact, acknowledges that man is capable of enacting a divorce for a cause other than fornication (Mt. 5:32, 19:9 and Lk. 16:18), and that the Bible applies consequences for that unlawful act to both the one who divorces and the one who is divorced.]  

Then at the conclusion of this sermon, [after having made a gross misrepresentation of Nevada divorce laws, (please see The Nevada Strawman on my website)], he plainly revealed his belief that an innocent already put away person could exercise another “putting away,” which procedure many know as mental divorce. [If what brethren have called “mental divorce” or a “second divorce” does not involve a divorce of a different procedure, subsequent to an unscriptural civil “putting away,” perhaps brother Osborne will be so kind as to reveal the differences between what he believes on this subject, and what exactly he thinks brethren have called “mental divorce” and a “second divorce” in times past.]

In spite of the preceding civil putting away, he disagrees that this subsequent, undefined (unrecognized by society) putting away procedure (by the one who has already been civilly put away by a fornicating mate) is indeed a second “divorce” procedure.  His justification for this denial seems to stem from a belief that (at least some) unscriptural divorces are not “Biblical,” and are therefore not really divorces. He frequently uses the term Biblical putting away as though the Bible speaks nothing of an “unscriptural divorce” (or an “unlawful divorce” as brother Rader mentioned, above), nor of its consequences.

Please look very carefully at what brother Harry has stated: “And yet, some would suggest by the idea of making the civil proceeding that which is equated to Biblical putting away – here goes a person out here and takes the civil action – person doesn’t know that – I particularly know of a case of this happening in Houston.  Man went away to Las Vegas. His wife thought he was leaving on a Monday to go on a business trip to New York; he actually went to Las Vegas with a girl he had been having relations with.  He went out there on Monday, filed for divorce, and in Nevada you have a three day waiting period, you can mail the procedure to the spouse.  When it was mailed, it didn’t get to her before they got back on Friday. When they get back on Friday, he says, ‘by the way hun, I didn’t go to New York, I went to Las Vegas. I’ve divorced you, I’ve married her.’  The first his wife knew about it was at that time. She told him, ‘I don’t want to have anything to do with you if you’re ungodly and going to stay in that relationship. I’m going to put you away.  That farce that you had of an action out there in Las Vegas is not what was putting away.’  If civil procedure is the putting away, that woman was divorced, didn’t know about it, and there is no way she can be protected by the law of GodI suggest to you the principles of God would show the very opposite.  The principles would show she does have a right to say “here’s why I’m going away from you.  I’m expressing that as the reason why.  I’m taking action.  You get your stuff out of here.”  That’s Biblical putting away - and it’s Biblical putting away for the cause, and it’s Biblical putting away after the very principles that Jesus made clear” (emp. jhb). 

Furthermore, in an e-mail letter brother Harry sent out (9-6-01) to myself (as well as to brothers Joe Price; Mike Willis; Pat Donahue; Tim Haile; David McKee and Stan Cox), he wrote the following words: “I do not believe the innocent party in a marriage severed for the cause of the guilty party’s fornication is ‘the put away spouse’ regardless of who initiates the civil action” (emp. jhb).


Additionally, in an another e-mail letter brother Osborne sent out (9-27-01) to myself (as well as to Joe Price; Mike Willis; Pat Donahue; Tim Haile; David McKee and Stan Cox), he wrote, “I believe the vast majority would also affirm that an innocent party in a marriage severed for the cause of fornication has the right to remarry even if the guilty fornicator filed first and secured the civil divorce(emp. jhb).


What is so ironic is the fact that brother Harry, himself, acknowledges that the unjust “civil action” severed the marriage (see underlined words above). Yet, he would allow for her to later say to him: “I don’t want to have anything to do with you… I’m going to put you away. That farce that you had of an action…is not what was putting away (emp. jhb).


Brother Gene Frost dealt with this very issue in his article “Marriage Divorce and Remarriage and The Innocent.” (posted 6-6-01 on Gospel Anchor). In his article he wrote:  "I have been asked to address the situation in which an unlawful mate (guilty of fornication) files for divorce from his wife. Specifically what are her options?...Note that God's stated rule (or principle, or procedure, to use synonyms) is: No one has the right to remarry following divorce, except the one who puts away a mate guilty of fornication and for this cause. All who marry one who is put away commit adultery…What is [sic] are the options of one who is innocent at the time when her mate, guilty of fornication, files for divorce?  First, if a mate is guilty of fornication and files for divorce, the innocent mate has the choice to either put the guilty mate away, under the same petition for divorce, or be one who is put away with the attendant consequence….To establish their reason for divorce, neither can look beyond the time when the court grants the divorce....The one who respects God's marriage law (Genesis 2:24) will establish the fact of his/her cause. Prior to the divorce, he will establish the cause. Prior to the divorce, he/she will make the cause a matter of record. Just as one could inquire as to when and where two were married, the marriage being validated as a matter of record, even so he could determine when, where, and why a divorced was obtained…when we begin to question what constitutes fairness, and assume thereby that, since God is fair, He will do even as we conclude is appropriate, we subtly, and perhaps unwittingly, leave the area of authority and enter the realm of emotion. And when emotion dictates what God's will is instead of revelation, we are in trouble…Does 'God mean' for every innocent person unjustly put away to have a right to remarry? Whereas there may be some very persuasive emotional arguments made, we need to content ourselves what God says. I have always understood God to say what He means. So, what does He say about the women put away, obviously unjustly put away? Here it is:  'Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.' (Matthew 19:9)” (emp. jhb). 


Although brother Harry’s words are indefinite at times, it is obvious that he (at least) believes that an innocent woman divorced by a fornicating mate is NOT REALLY put away! Although this is a most unfortunate and unlawful scenario, if we take the position that an unscriptural (civil) putting away is NOT a REAL divorce, what will the emotions of the next generation allow? And then the one after that? Brother Osborne offers no scripture for his contention that such a woman is exempt from the consequences of those who are “put away.” Neither does he point to any Biblical text that would support his differentiation of the put away in the above scenario, as opposed to the put away in an unlawful divorce where no fornication is committed.  Brother Harry, would you please clarify these things?


“The least initial deviation from the truth is multiplied later a thousand fold.”
- Aristotle (384-322 BC), Greek philosopher

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM