It is amazing how vocal brother Ron Halbrook can be when he is on the offensive, and how silent when he is put on the defensive (Matthew 7:1-2; Romans 2:1)! While Truth Magazine has repeatedly derided Christianity Magazine for their closed-door policy to controversy on MDR and Romans 14, Mike Willis and the Truth Magazine associates refuse to openly and honorably discuss both sides of the present (“mental divorce”) issue that is causing so much division in the church. While Truth Magazine writers continue to ridicule those who defended and enabled (while admittedly disagreeing with) brother Hailey’s MDR erroneous teaching, many of them are now guilty of the same regarding brother Halbrook’s (and others’) MDR error (i.e. post-divorce “putting away” and remarriage to another for put away people, when fornication is committed following the divorce). See: An excerpt from Ron Halbrook’s rebuttal to Bob Owen
What is more inconsistent is: 1) Truth Magazine professes to have the same “open door policy” that Ron commends below, yet it will not allow for any open studies of the present divorce and remarriage dispute. 2) In the below article, Ron boldly states his MDR principle: “one man for one woman for life, the only exception being that an innocent mate can divorce an immoral one and marry a new mate,” which we now know means allowance for the “innocent (divorced, jhb) mate” to employ a post-divorce “putting away,” and to remarry another. However, he goes on to say (in his article) that “at times it will be necessary to vigorously discuss and examine various points of application.” However, since his “principle”/“application” has come to light with abundant documentation, Ron has been unwilling to “discuss and examine” his “various points of application”! Brother Don Martin wrote:
“Am I somehow misrepresenting Ron Halbrook? I honestly do not know how I can be. I have invited Ron to join me on another list that does allow exchange. So far, Ron’s general reply to me has been, ‘I do not have time to discuss the matter.’” See: MDR Double Talk
Nevertheless, in the below article, it was Ron himself who wrote, “Though we may tire of the struggle between truth and error at times, we cannot be wiser than God and we cannot successfully proclaim and defend the truth of the gospel of Christ without an open door to necessary controversy...My hat is off to J. T. Smith, not as a man who claims perfection, but as a gospel preacher who reflects the spirit of Christ by keeping the door open for the discussion of difficult and controversial matters.”
What a “stark contrast” between the consistent, open door policy of Gospel Truths and the inconsistency of Truth Magazine (which professes to have an open door policy, yet “forbids healthy exchanges” on this topic)! Considering that Truth Magazine’s staff writers hold conflicting views on this issue, their uncharacteristic avoidance of the topic of controversy is not difficult to understand. “The legs of the lame are not equal.”
Ron wrote below: “The irony of such a situation cannot escape brethren who are objectively trying to weigh these matters.” “The closed door policy is frought with many dangers like the shoals and jagged rocks along a treacherous seashore.” - Jeff
An Except from:
By Ron Halbrook
IN the first issue of Gospel Truths in January of 1990, J. T. Smith made it abundantly clear that this journal would maintain an open door to the discussion of controversial questions and issues. Brother Smith does not claim perfection either as a Christian or as an editor, and the editor’s seat is often a hot seat. Recently, he told me that at times he thinks of what “Robert Turner said in his bulletin a number of years ago when he received a knotty problem about the divorce and remarriage question. His next words, after stating the problem, were, ‘Typewriter for sale—and the job that goes with it.’” In spite of the knotty problems that come with the editor’s job, in all fairness it must be said that Gospel Truths has maintained its open door policy from its beginning until now.
I, for one, offer my commendation to brother Smith. This principle of openness characterized the preaching of Christ, of His apostles, and of first century evangelists (Matthew 21-23; Acts 15:2, 7; 17:17; I Peter 3:15). It was the hallmark of brethren who pled for the restoration of New Testament Christianity in both spirit and form nearly two hundred years ago.
In contrast, the early issues of Christianity Magazine made it clear that the language of “contemporary controversy” along with the tools of “debate” and “polemics” would be excluded from the pages of that journal (January and April of 1984, page 5 respectively). Knowing the editors (Dee Bowman, Ed Harrell, Sewell Hall, Brent Lewis, and Paul Earnhart), I do not doubt the sincerity of these men in formulating their “positive,” no-debate policy. Regardless of their sincerity, this policy is fraught with dangers.
After some very one-sided controversial teaching was done advocating unity-in-doctrinal-diversity on divorce and remarriage, I pled with every editor of Christianity Magazine to make some arrangement to allow the other side to be printed in fairness. The answer given was, “Christianity Magazine is not intended for the type discussion brother Halbrook suggests” (September 1990, page 7). In spite of the best intentions of the editors, their policy results in one-sided debate rather than no debate. While many brethren privately say, “There is a place for such a paper with a ‘positive’ policy,” I have yet to see anyone publish and attempt to defend the biblical basis for such a concept. Such a concept is contrary to both the spirit and form of New Testament Christianity and bodes ill for the cause of truth. The closed door policy of Christianity stands in stark contrast to the open door policy of Gospel Truths.
Brother Smith has reviewed the “positive” policy of Christianity Magazine and its editors. Some brethren have privately complained about “how he has handled it.” I think it only fair to remind these critics that brother Smith has invited the editors of Christianity Magazine to respond in Gospel Truths, while Christianity Magazine closes the door against brother Smith! The irony of such a situation cannot escape brethren who are objectively trying to weigh these matters. So far as I can tell, the door of Gospel Truths is open even to brethren who criticize the way brother Smith has discussed these matters. If there is a better way to handle it, brother Smith will publish criticisms, suggestions, and especially demonstrations of the better way. How could brother Smith be any fairer?
Unafraid of Controversial Questions
The August 1993 issue of Gospel Truths carries another example of the fairness of its open door policy. Brother Bernard Macon, Sr. submitted an article on the divorce issue which was published in full. Brother Smith reviewed that article and disagrees with some things in it, but does it in a way which reflects kindness and love and a total absence of the abuses sometimes attributed to controversy by fearful brethren. For the life of me, I cannot see why Christianity Magazine excludes and forbids such healthy exchanges. When such exchanges are published, this openness serves as a safety valve to help all of us sort out difficult questions and helps us to change our course if we see that we are drifting from the truth. The closed door policy is frought with many dangers like the shoals and jagged rocks along a treacherous seashore . . .
. . . My point in mentioning the publication of the letter is that brother Smith was not afraid to open the door to the discussion of a difficult and controversial question, and he does not hesitate to let both sides be heard because of his confidence that such material promotes healthy Bible study. Someone may want to disagree or comment further on my comments published by brother Hogland. If so, I may need simply to read and ponder rather than to respond too quickly in this case. Those of us who discuss them are equally committed to the basic principle Jesus taught on marriage (one man for one woman for life, the only exception being that an innocent mate can divorce an immoral one and marry a new mate). We cannot live long enough to pursue to the nth degree every possible point of application which might arise, but we must concentrate on proclaiming and defending the principle itself. While we must concentrate our time and labors to upholding and defending the principle, at times it will be necessary to vigorously discuss and examine various points of application. Gospel Truths is to be commended for allowing such open discussion.
Other Examples of Openness
Gospel Truths has blessed brethren by providing the benefit of open discussion from time to time. During 1990 an exchange was published with Ed Harrell, one of the editors of Christianity Magazine, even though a similar exchange could not appear in Christianity Magazine because of its so-called “positive” policy.
In July of 1992 Jerry Bassett was permitted to publish his analysis of his two debates defending what brother Smith regards as utterly false doctrine. Recently Gospel Truths has carried an exchange of views between Dale Robins and Larry Hafley on the ramifications and implications of the so-called “positive” philosophy. Other discussions will doubtless continue to be published from time to time for our benefit.
As is evident from reading the Bible, God Himself framed the truth in a format which includes controversy, discussion, and debate. Though we may tire of the struggle between truth and error at times, we cannot be wiser than God and we cannot successfully proclaim and defend the truth of the gospel of Christ without an open door to necessary controversy. We do not “think of men above that which is written” when we give “honor to whom honor” is due (1 Corinthians 4:6; Romans 13:7). My hat is off to J. T. Smith, not as a man who claims perfection, but as a gospel preacher who reflects the spirit of Christ by keeping the door open for the discussion of difficult and controversial matters.