An Examination of Ron Halbrook’s
By Jeff Belknap
Below is an e-mail letter recently sent out by brother Ron Halbrook to various Filipino brethren as well as to an unknown number of brethren in the United States (forwarded to me from a brother in this country).
Within the letter, Ron continues to avoid open discussion regarding HOW he establishes authority for his “Waiting Game” (AKA “The Second Putting Away” or post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication) doctrine and seeks to deflect attention away from his erroneous teaching.
Ron references me when he tells the Filipino brethren and others at large, “I corresponded with him a few times, but I finally stopped because of his bitter attitude and unfair accusations.”
I regret that it has once again become necessary to defend myself from such unsupported accusations. Nevertheless, brother Halbrook’s erroneous charges have made it necessary for me to reveal the entirety of our correspondence, to defend myself.
Ron charges his opposition with “hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, etc.” However, he cites no specific example in which these sinful attitudes and conduct were exhibited. Furthermore, he asks the Filipino brethren to pray for brethren in this country that “we will not bite and devour each other as Gal. 5:15.”
When you read the exchange following Ron’s letter to Filipino brethren, please ask yourself who (if anyone) manifested a “bitter attitude” and made “unfair accusations”? If any, who displayed “hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, etc.” with malicious personal attacks and failed to provide proof of his charges (cf. II Corinthians 10:3-4; 11:14-15)?
Subject: YOUR INQUIRY ABOUT JEFF
Dear Filipino brethren,
Some of you are asking how did brother Jeff get your e-mail address and why is he always sending you some articles, many attacking me. I do not know how he obtained your address. I will share my answer to a recent inquiry about brother Jeff.
Greetings in the name of Christ.
Thank you for your inquiry. This is a brother I have known and helped for many years in the past.
Among brethren faithful to the teaching of Jesus in Matt. 19:9 (Jesus permits an innocent mate to divorce only the fornicator and then to marry a new mate), sometimes there is a difference of understanding about some details and how to apply those details. Some brethren think that certain legal details and other steps and details must be followed in a certain way.
Others such as myself do not believe Jesus is discussing all of those details. Because your culture and laws are very different in the Philippines, it might be hard to understand what some U.S. brethren are arguing about on these points.
Some brethren like this dear brother are very insistent about their views. It seems at times some are obsessed with one or two of these points and they imagine everyone who does not agree is liberal, unfaithful, apostate, false teacher, etc. This brother is constantly accusing me in that way.
I try to love and to be patient with these brethren. Christ also died for them. If I have time and opportunity, I am willing to talk with these brethren about their views, but I do not focus on these sideline points in my preaching. I try to focus on the fundamental truth or basic principle Jesus taught in Matt. 19:9.
Meanwhile, I do not have time to read so many articles constantly sent out by this brother for 3 years, almost every week 2 or 3 more articles but all saying the same thing again and again. Some brethren sent him a message, “Please send no more messages,” because they are weary with him. You can just decide what is best in your case. Please pray for us here in my country that we will love the Lord, love the truth, and love each other, and we will discuss any sideline point patiently, but we will not bite and devour each other as Gal. 5:15.
When this brother first started sending out his articles, I corresponded with him a few times, but I finally stopped because of his bitter attitude and unfair accusations. If I continued to argue with him for 3 years, I might also be tempted to retaliate with a bitter attitude and unfair accusations.
Then, I might be guilty of the ungodly attitudes forbidden in Gal. 5:19-21 (hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, etc.). Therefore, I thought it best for him and for me if I will not continue to respond again and again, so that I will not be guilty.
Please pray for him and for me. I want to go to heaven and I want him to go to heaven.
Also, I hope to see you in heaven.
In Christian Love, Ron Halbrook
First, Ron states, “Among brethren faithful to the teaching of Jesus in Matt. 19:9 (Jesus permits an innocent mate to divorce only the fornicator and then to marry a new mate), sometimes there is a difference of understanding about some details and how to apply those details.”
It is an absolute distortion to summarize “the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 19:9” with the following: “Jesus permits an innocent mate to divorce only the fornicator and then to marry a new mate.”
Jesus’ emphasis in Matthew 19:9 is clearly not to point out what is permitted, but rather what is not authorized. When one reads the actual text of Matthew 19:9, he finds that three things are condemned:
1) Man’s sundering of the “one flesh” relationship (cf. vs. 3, 5-6) for a cause other than fornication.
2) Remarriage to another by the one who wrongfully sundered the relationship (while the other bound mate lives, Romans 7:2-3).
3) Remarriage to another by the one who “is put away” (while their bound mate lives, Romans 7:2-3).
Just as Jesus authorized no remarriage to “another” for the one who wrongfully puts away (Matthew 19:9a), he likewise authorized (“permits”) none for the one who “is put away” (Matthew 19:9b)!
Contrary to Ron’s summary, the words “committeth adultery” are found twice in that verse! These are not just unimportant “details!” It is true that Jesus included one exception within his rule regarding putting away, however those whom Jesus authorized to put away and remarry another in Matthew 19:9a are obviously not those in Matthew 19:9b who He said commit adultery whenever they remarry another! Unfortunately, this is one of those indisputable “details” that Ron would have us to simply dismiss!
Nevertheless, Ron asserts that his own, distorted synopsis of the verse is all that “faithful brethren” need unite upon, where Matthew 19:9 is concerned. To him, the rest of what Jesus taught in that passage are just inconsequential “details.”
Interestingly, if we do not need to concern ourselves about “details” that “must be followed in a certain way,” as Ron advocates, then it would not matter whether the “innocent” wife protested – or whether she agreed to her husband’s unapproved divorce (and then waited for him to commit fornication before remarrying another).
Not to leave a wrong impression, you can rest assured that brother Ron adds conditions to limit his post-divorce “putting away” doctrine to those who protest the unapproved divorce. Nevertheless, is that not a “detail” that “must be followed in a certain way?” It is the height of presumptuousness for Ron to require his own details (found nowhere in the Bible), while dismissing the Lord’s plain teaching within Matthew 19:9 (“he who marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery”) as an unimportant “detail.”
When Ron re-emphasized the teaching in Matthew 19:9 to justify brethren’s unity in disagreement (regarding the current controversy of post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication), he said, “Among brethren faithful to the teaching of Jesus in Matt. 19:9 (Jesus permits an innocent mate to divorce only the fornicator and then to marry a new mate), sometimes there is a difference of understanding about some details and how to apply those details.”
Nevertheless, Homer Hailey (whose MDR teaching Ron has spent the last twenty years in exposing and refuting) would have fit into this category as Ron summarized it. Obviously, there are more “details” to be considered. Though Ron’s uninspired creed is offered to provide brethren who disagree over the current issue something to unite upon, it comes back to destroy his previous teaching that excludes other MDR errors. As the old saying goes, “Oh, what a tangled web we weave...”. This is a powerful example of the progressive corruption which results from the rejection of divine “details.”
Moreover, we all agree that “Jesus permits an innocent mate to divorce only the fornicator and then to marry a new mate.” However, Ron is suggesting that we totally discard the Lord’s “details” within the context of Matthew 19:9, as to what it means to “divorce” (i.e. to sunder the “one flesh” marriage relationship, as taught in vs. 5-6). Additionally, he expects us to accept his unproven premise that the Lord authorized put away people to somehow further sunder (separate) a “one flesh” relationship that no longer exists for fornication that is committed after the fact.
[Please acknowledge that the three different Greek words used interchangeably (apoluo; chorizo; aphiemi) to define “divorce” are equated with the separation of the physical, “one flesh” marriage relationship. See Chart - Synonymous Terms For Divorce]
Secondly, while brother Halbrook makes several critical statements regarding those who are examining his doctrine, he is unwilling to simply write one article to explain where he finds Biblical authority for a put away (divorced) person to “put away” (or sunder a “marriage” for post-divorce fornication) that is already sundered.
Thirdly, the complete correspondence of Ron Halbrook and myself (which Ron mentioned in his letter to the Filipino brethren) is revealed below. When reading it, please look closely for my so-called “bitter attitude” and “unfair accusations” (cf. Deuteronomy 19:16-19; Proverbs 18:13).
March 9th, 2001
Dear brother Ron,
It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter. About five years ago, I called you about a MDR belief which I was told you held. I called, in hopes that I would find that it had been a misunderstanding. Of all people, I couldn’t conceive that you would hold an erroneous view on MDR, after your extensive study and efforts to expose false doctrine in that very area. Unfortunately, your response indicated that you were entertaining such thoughts, but I wasn’t overly concerned because you said you were just “tossing around” the idea with Weldon Warnock. In recent months though, I have found (from reading from some of your letters, posts, and hearing your words on tape) that you are now defending this “belief.”
As a result of your sharing these beliefs with others, two of my friends have had to be re-convinced of the truths taught in Mt. 5, Mt. 19, and Lk. 16. Moreover, another of my friends has had a meeting cancelled (very shortly after canceling a meeting with you), and support from the same congregation was abruptly discontinued after he challenged your teaching. If three of my close associates have been so significantly effected by your doctrine, then I am troubled to think of how many others there might be that I’m not aware of.
Additionally, the doctrine (differences in “application”) which has arisen to justify fellowship with you and your position, is just as unsound and fraught with as much danger as the misuse of Romans 14. As a result, several brethren have arisen to justify you and your position, using the same novel idea: the necessity to agree over fundamental biblical principles, but liberty to differ in matters of application. Donnie Rader has even publicly defended his continued association with you, using this same reasoning. This is even more alarming to me, since chapter 8 of his MDR book exposes your position as erroneous. Because of this inconsistency, I fear that his open defense of you will cause his reputation to be tarnished when others become aware of just what your position is.
Men such as Virgil Gooselaw have also come to your defense using your own words, which to them and others, seemed to show that you really don’t hold the position that you do, regarding the ability of one who is legally divorced to later “put away” their ex-mate (if the right conditions exist).
I understand that you consider this a matter of “conscience.” However, out of your numerous writings and the Athens, GA tapes on the subject, you are far from convincing me that it can be placed in that category. It is because of my strong conviction that this is clearly a matter of faith and fellowship that I have written four articles on these issues (attached - Word 97) in an effort to help you (and others) consider the danger of all of these various conclusions. (While most of these arguments are written to address your teaching, some points address ideas that others have used to advance the same or a similar position.)
Ron, it is my heart’s desire that you will publicly denounce your position! However, if you won’t do that, please at least be open with all about these convictions, so that if others come to your defense, they will know what they are defending.
Yours In His service,
Links to the four articles mentioned above that were sent to Ron with the above letter:
----------------------- Internet Header --------------------------------
Subject: THANK YOU FOR SENDING YOUR MATERIAL
I hope this note finds you and your loved ones
well. This is my first chance to glance at your message because I am drowning in
work preparing to leave for the Philippines on Monday for a 6 weeks trip, the
Lord willing. For over 2 weeks I have been getting 0 to 5 hours of sleep most
nights and am exhausted. I am so slow in getting my work done that I often
wonder how the Lord could ever use me to any profit.
In Christian love, Ron
P.S. Below is my response to J.T. Smith’s March 2001 editorial.
Ron Halbrook, 3505 Horse Run Ct., Shepherdsville, KY 40165-6954
Considering brother Halbrook’s oft-cited and re-cited shortage of time, I must point out the multitude of time that he has taken to respond to the questions of other brethren, with diversions and false accusations against those who oppose his teaching.
If brother Halbrook would spend just a fraction of that time explaining to us how Matthew 19:9 (or any other New Testament passage) authorizes a post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication, there would be no need for brethren’s extended efforts to have this discussion!
I implore Ron to simply take the time just once, to cite a single New Testament passage which modifies or negates the Master’s teaching in Matthew 19:9b, that “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” for the innocent, unwillingly put away person, while their bound mate lives (cf. Romans 7:2-3). Such writing should take no longer than his letter to the Filipino brethren did to compose, and would render all future-such letters a moot point. In doing so, he could not only stop this controversy in its tracks, but would also receive an apology from myself and many others who have been opposing the doctrine of post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication.
If, after this article, Ron takes the time to offer a defense, please note whether it is a defense of himself and fellowship with his teaching, or whether it is a scriptural defense of his post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication doctrine.
One must ask himself why, if Ron has scripture to support his position, is he unwilling to do this, for the sake of peace among brethren. Why does he continue to shut up his bowels of compassion from us and withhold the teaching we need to see and hear (cf. I John 3:17-18)? Does a brother exhibit love “in deed and in truth” when he withholds the Biblical teaching that could end a controversy which is tearing churches apart and alienating brethren? Not only is Ron, himself, prolonging this controversy by continually declining open discussion, he is the one who continues to get personal with unconfirmed charges of rancor.
QUESTION: When will brother Ron come out and honorably and openly discuss the doctrine that he has been pressing so far and wide, which is well-documented at www.MentalDivorce.com? - Jeff
March 15th, 2001
I realize that this is a busy time for you, and don’t necessarily expect you to get back to me right away. But I did want to respond to you before you left, to address some things in your letter to me. I hope that you will consider them sometime during your travels, and pray that your journey will be safe.
You wrote: “...the problem is NOT my lack of openness, but it is your lack of understanding the difference between preaching and pressing revealed principles of eternal truth and binding all of our judgments, opinions, and personal conclusions or scruples.”
Had Homer Hailey been “pressing” and “binding” his position when he was exposed? Was it wrong for you to have exposed him, when he was just sharing his position with a few?
Obviously, Homer Hailey viewed his MDR doctrine as an issue which was inconsequential to fellowship. He held his position for many years before it was exposed, and all the while, he desired and maintained continued fellowship with those who opposed his position. He did not concede that his position was on a par with the issues which divided brethren in years past. Such is always the case with a brother who seeks to introduce a new doctrine.
Should you have given deference to this idea, simply because he believed so? Obviously not, you had to act upon what you believed - that brother Hailey had crossed the line of fellowship that God had drawn.
But now, you have said that since I believe you have crossed that same line, I have a “lack of understanding.” Brother, that was not true in the case of your dealing with Homer Hailey, and neither is it in mine with you.
It is disappointing to me, that when I say that I strongly believe this issue to be a matter of faith and fellowship, you simply state that I don’t understand the difference between matters of faith and opinion. No book, chapter and verse to show me why I am mistaken, just the same points of reasoning that have been used to “justify” fellowship with every false doctrine which has arisen over the past 50+ years.
Though Harrell et al agree that Hailey’s position is false, and many even agree that it is doctrinal, they deny the position’s relevance to the issue of fellowship among us. Harrell was wrong because he stated that though he believes Homer Hailey was in error on a doctrinal issue, it should not effect fellowship.
You ask the same of me, when I say that I believe you to be in doctrinal error, and you contend that I (and those who believe the same) should maintain fellowship on your say-so.
In essence, you seem to be saying that it is only right for you to act upon your convictions when you are convinced that one’s teaching in a matter of faith is wrong (as in the case of brother Hailey). However, anyone who would believe that your teaching is doctrinal error must be in the wrong and pressing their opinion. Should we just heed your opinion – that this isn’t a doctrinal matter – no matter what the scriptures have led us to believe?
The only argument that I have seen you offer to justify fellowship with your position is to point out that there are other issues (“applications to principles”) which we are not united upon (the war question, the head covering, Lord’s Supper issue, etc…). This has always been a standard contention of those who seek impunity while introducing something which others in the body would disagree with.
The flaw in such an assertion is that it does nothing to prove that what this new doctrine teaches is in accordance with scripture, and should be fellowshipped. In this case, Jesus’ teaching is so simple that it cannot be misunderstood without a great deal of adding to and taking away from clear biblical truths. I cannot hide behind the premise that since we can’t come up with all the answers to unite upon every difficult question, then I can’t act upon those issues which are very obviously error. I strive to be consistent and have studied the other issues many times. However, if being consistent in others’ eyes means that I must look the other way when I clearly see error, then I guess they can just view me as inconsistent.
You responded to my letter to you which states:
“Though I cannot remember what all we discussed when you called 5 years ago, that letter fully informed you of my views, which distinguishes principles revealed and bound for all men from some of the variations in judgment calls made from time to time. This makes hollow your implication that I have tried to hide something and have not been “open with all” about these matters. I was open with you, wasn’t I? I have treated no one differently than I treated you.”
How can you say that you were open with me when you don’t even remember what we talked about? Recently, it has become clear that the letter to J. T. Smith failed to “fully” inform me (or him) of your views (“applications”). Moreover, I wrote in the very beginning of my letter to you:
“About five years ago, I called you about a MDR belief which I was told you held. I called, in hopes that I would find that it had been a misunderstanding. Of all people, I couldn’t conceive that you would hold an erroneous view on MDR, after your extensive study and efforts to expose false doctrine in that very area. Unfortunately, your response indicated that you were entertaining such thoughts, but I wasn’t overly concerned because you said you were just ‘tossing around’ the idea with Weldon Warnock.”
I recently came to the realization that when you said you were “just tossing around the idea with Weldon Warnock,” that it had been three years prior when you wrote the letter to J.T. Smith responding to his question on your beliefs in this area. When you said “tossing around the idea,” it left the impression with me that this “application” was one you had just recently been considering – not one which you had been dwelling on for over three years. I view that as being less than open with me!
Were you “open” with the brethren at Holly St. when they posed their MDR question to you? Virgil Gooselaw wrote:
Floyd, and the List:
In the Spring of 1999 Ron Halbrook held a Gospel Meeting for the Holly St. church of Christ in Denver, Co. At the end of each service Ron offered a question and answer period. During one of these periods Ron was asked the very question under consideration. “Does the innocent put away party have the right to remarry?” His answer was “No”. The question was then asked concerning the condition of both parties if a subsequent remarriage occurred and the answer was “Both parties would be in sin”. I am one of the elders serving the church and am witness to Ron’s answers......
Were you open to Virgil Gooselaw when you wrote:
“Dear Virgil, Thanks for this forward. You represented my view accurately on this matter and I have never believed anything different from that....”
I don’t understand how you can deny having “believed anything different from that” (emp. jhb) which was stated in Virgil’s letter to Floyd, and the list, when in the context of your position you wrote:
“Other brethren hold the view that other principles mentioned above come into play, permitting her to put away her adulterous husband on the ground of his immorality. The adulterer who initiates the civil divorce is still just as obligated to the marriage bond as he was on the day he said, “I do.” It is only when the innocent party puts away and repudiates the adulterer that God does the dissolving. That is to say, divine law predominates over civil law both in the matter of joining two people and in the matter of dissolving that bond. The man’s unscriptural action does not preclude the wife from repudiating the man on the ground of his immorality and appealing to God to dissolve the union. For some time, I have been trying to study everything I can find from both viewpoints, and to this point I believe the second of the two views. The reason is that I believe that divine law rather than civil law is the final determinant with reference to marriage (WHERE GOD DOES THE JOINING) and divorce (WHERE GOD DOES THE DISSOLVING), according to Matt. 5:32 & 19:9.” (emp. jhb).
This is but a small example of your teaching.
Also note brother Smith’s words:
“Maybe it’s time for brother Halbrook to quit just teaching it privately when asked and allow it to be publicly put to the test by the Scriptures. If he teaches the truth why not shout it from the housetops? If it is truth not known and believed by others, all need it.
How is it possible to believe the truth about the principle and not the application? Our institutional brethren set forth the same passages as we do about what is taught in the Scriptures on the subjects of benevolence and evangelism. It’s how they apply the passages that causes the problem.” (emp. jhb).
Again, I entreat you, for your sake and the sake of others (not to mention the entire Kingdom) - PLEASE be absolutely open.
Subject: RE: Charge Lack Openness
Dear Jeff, I leave in a few minutes for the plane and won’t be back until May. I scanned your reply and will just make this brief note. 1. Our disagreement is not parallel to the Hailey problem. He denied the whole principle you and I profess, whereas you and I differ only in how to make some judgments on some points of application of the principle. Also, he declared the principle you and I profess as nothing but human tradition, which Jesus forbids, and offered his book as the remedy. I leave these matters of judgment to the parties involved. 2. Though I don’t remember the phone call (& the expression you quote does not sound like my lingo, which makes me wonder if you are remembering parts of calls to more than one person), the reason I say I was fully open with you is that I sent you the entire text of the 1993 letter, which is the most thorough effort I have made to discuss these matters. 3. You quote statements I made on different issues and in different contexts to prove I tried to hide something. That is a weak way to make your case. I may not satisfy your notion of how to answer questions, but I am willing to stand before God to answer with a clear conscience regarding my honesty and integrity. 4. When you say I offer nothing but assertions w/o scripture expecting you and others to accept my say-so, you have to ignore the scriptural arguments presented in the 1993 letter. I pray God may bless you, your family, and your work there. In Christian love, Ron
Ron states, “the reason I say I was fully open with you is that I sent you the entire text of the 1993 letter, which is the most thorough effort I have made to discuss these matters.” Although he claims the letter is “the most thorough effort” he has made to “discuss these matters” (Ron’s point # 2), he never once presented any “scriptural arguments” (see Ron’s point # 4) to support his post-divorce “putting away” doctrine for post-divorce fornication. Moreover, within that “thorough” letter, he actually denied belief in his now well-documented position! You may verify these things for yourself at: Ron Halbrook’s 1993 Letter To J. T. Smith
Considering Ron’s other quotes (links to the entire documents follow), do you honestly believe that he has portrayed his position with “honesty and integrity?” Brother Don Martin, who is the evangelist and a fellow elder with brother Gooselaw, witnessed Ron’s similar “openness” in the Spring of 1999 (mentioned in our exchange above), and later wrote the following: MDR Double Talk
In Ron’s point # 3 above, he charges, “You quote statements I made on different issues and in different contexts to prove I tried to hide something. That is a weak way to make your case.”
It seems very odd to me that brother Halbrook feels justified to throw out a reference to my “bitter attitude and unfair accusations” with absolutely no attempt to cite quotes or provide any evidence that I was guilty of what he accused. Yet, when I provide actual quotes of his clear teaching, I am accused of taking quotes “on different issues and in different contexts to prove I tried to hide something.” Now I have gone even further to provide evidence (the entire documents from which the quotes were taken) that Ron’s charges about my misuse of his quotes are also false.
This is the third instance that I have been informed of, in which Ron has accused those who pointed out quotes from his own teaching, of misrepresenting him by taking quotes out of context. Such seems to be the habitual method of operation by which brethren seek to avoid having to take responsibility for what they have taught. Please compare the following observation made by H. E. Phillips in his article, Three Phases of Digression to this present controversy: “Again and again I have taken the very words of a promoter of some digression doctrine and had him cry, ‘You have misunderstood and misrepresented me.’”
The reason I have shared Ron’s own quotes (as well as my writing, to which he refers in his letter to the Philippines) is so readers can make their own determination of whether Ron has been “fully open” and has made a “thorough effort” to “discuss these matters.” Since Ron’s writings to brothers Smith and Gooselaw are shrouded in many words which avoid Ron’s teaching about post-divorce “putting away,” I have linked to them for your consideration.
As responsible readers, we must be noble-minded and search a brother’s words to see whether what one is denying is so, especially in the face of irrefutable evidence that the quote has been made. If there is truly any doubt about the context of what was spoken, we should ask the one who provided the quote to show the entire context. Along those lines, please read the entire contexts of the quotes he refers to, to see if they were made “on different issues and in different contexts,” as he claims:
Ron Halbrook E-mails (February 8, 1998)
Virgil Gooselaw’s Exchange on Mar’s List (With Ron Halbrook’s Reply)
In contrast to all of Ron’s denials of belief in post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication and expressions of “I do not believe or teach such a view,” we need to familiarize ourselves with some of his many well documented materials:
1) An excerpt from Ron Halbrook’s rebuttal to Bob Owen (Burnet, TX, February, 2000)
2) Ron Halbrook’s Hand-Out Study Papers at Athens, Georgia (July 27-28, 2000)
3) Audio Excerpts Of: Ron Halbrook (February 21, 2004)
4) An Examination of Ron Halbrook’s Charts (Posted on Truth Magazine’s Website).
Brethren, why does Ron continue to confidently affirm his position in certain venues, but when his words are called into question, he bobs and weaves, ducks and runs? While churches are presently splitting around the entire country because of his teaching, support is being abruptly taken from men on both sides of this issue and meetings are being canceled, why does Ron allow this to continue without coming out to discuss the matter? There are several men who would like to discuss this topic with him! – Jeff