The Belknap – Halbrook Exchange
Below, is the complete record of the correspondence that took place between Ron Halbrook and myself – Jeff
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:
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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. Thank you for your kindness in sending your material, but there is no way I can read it now. It may be 2-3 months before I can get to it, not because I am unwilling, but because there is an avalanch of work after one of these trips. I do not remember our discussion 5 years ago (maybe vaguely, but I have slept since then), but when I checked to see if I still had my 1993 letter to J.T. Smith to resend it to him, I saw where I made a note on the back that I sent you a copy at some time. Doubtless, that would be the occasion you remember. 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. If you mean I am not open because I don't address and press all these judgments in the pulpit, 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. In my 40 years preaching experience, I have seen the bitter fruit of pressing and binding those latter matters. Both liberalism and factionalism are dangerous to our spiritual welfare and to the cause of Christ. I tried to address this concern in love with the brethren in Athens, GA. I am trying to address it in love with you. My heart is as much open to you now as ever in the past years to discuss any matter as we have time and opportunity. You are always welcome at my house in you are in this area. I pray God will bless your life and labors in His kingdom.
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
“SPEAKING THE TRUTH IN LOVE” (EPH. 4:15)—WHY HALBROOK FELLOWSHIPS SMITH, RADER, AND OTHER FAITHFUL MEN IN SPITE OF SOME DIFFERENCES……………….
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
So that you may familiarize yourself with Ron’s doctrine, links of his documented materials are provided below:
1) Ron Halbrook E-mails (February 8, 1998)
2) An excerpt from Ron Halbrook’s rebuttal to Bob Owen (Burnet, TX, February, 2000)
3) Ron Halbrook’s Hand-Out Study Papers at Athens, Georgia (July 27-28, 2000)
4) Audio Excerpts Of: Ron Halbrook (February 21, 2004)
5) An Examination of Ron Halbrook’s Charts (Posted on Truth Magazine’s Website).