IMPORTANT NOTE: All items in green font are additional comments and narration by me, jhb
August 21, 2001 11:08 AM
Don Martin addressed the following MDR scenario question to Tim Haile and myself and posted it Mars-List:
"As most of you list members know, mental divorcement is raging (there are about twenty different doctrines relative to divorce and remarriage over which brethren are presently in disagreement). There is now apparent disagreement between some brethren who at one time appeared to be in unison. Two very capable men (both are my personal friends) that are on ML who are reportedly saying different things are Jeff Belknap and Tim Haile. I would like to pose a very simple question to each of them and have them each respond on the list. Here is the question (please answer "yes" or "no" with as few explanatory words as possible; also, please only address the exact details of the scenario and answer accordingly):
In this scenario, John and Mary are both Christians. Mary has noticed a decline in John's spiritual interests and has tried to be of help, without nagging. John began to show signs of marital restlessness. One day John says to Mary, "I am tired of this marriage and I have met someone else." Mary attempts to talk to John and ask if he would agree for them to meet with the elders for help. John refuses. Two weeks later, John says, "I want out of this marriage, Mary, I have committed adultery and I do not love you anymore!" Mary is heart broken. Mary waits, perhaps out of hope that John will come to his senses. Two months later, Mary receives the serving of the divorce papers against her. In her state, there is a three month waiting period before the divorce is civilly finalized. Mary does nothing of a civil nature, still hoping and praying John will repent and return. Three months later, the divorce becomes final.
Based on the above circumstance, is Mary now (after the civil divorce and in the exact circumstance described) allowed to "divorce" John on the grounds of fornication, since Mary has now totally given up hope for John and the marriage?
Jeff and Tim, thank both of you in advance for being upfront and direct. Thank you list members for your interest in the provided answers. Please read very carefully the answers of both Jeff and Tim, comparing them with Jesus' teaching in Matthew 5: 32 and 19: 9, etc."
Since brother Haile has responded with disdain to my own writing (in personal e-mails and in his “Response to Jeff Belknap’s Article, ‘God-given ‘Rights’ Nullified by Man’s Wrongs,’” posted to the Gospel Anchor web site on 7-11-01), I answered Don’s question with quotes from Gene Frost (who had written about this very scenario in one of his GA articles). I thought that if the words also came from brother Frost (whom Tim respects), it might cause Tim to give a fair consideration to what was written.
August 23, 2001 5:35 PM
To Don and all, Jeff Belknap here.
I will answer just this one question before bowing out of the discussion. (You will notice that I haven't written many posts to the list because there are other things which are completely occupying my time at present.) If you have any other questions, please seek another "capable" man (indeed, there are many whom I fully acknowledge are more capable than I).
To answer Don's specific situation of John and Mary, I offer the following quotes from brother Gene Frost, who succinctly explains the answer I would give:
"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?"
Seven days later, brother Tim gave his answer.
August 30, 2001 1:47 AM
Tim Haile to
Don Martin and the list,
[After some opening comments and quoting brother Martin’s question, brother Tim wrote the following to answer brother Martin’s MDR question. I have removed the *personal references* about me which digress from the question at hand, and restart at the point which Tim himself writes, “Now, to answer Don's question.” ]
Don's question is a breath of fresh air. He has framed a question that involves the very conditions that I have been writing about for the past few months (see www.gospelanchor.com). Don's scenario has the fornication being committed BEFORE any divorce effort is made. This allows me to invoke plain statements of scripture as the basis of my answer. Jesus taught that the presence of fornication changes the dynamics of the entire divorce situation. Fornication presents the potential for far more than just the *marriage* to be affected; it has the potential to sever the marriage *bond.* The absence of fornication means that everyone is wrong when they remarry. However, the Lord's exception clause allows an innocent person to act with regard to the bond, not just the marriage relationship. In fact, based upon my observations, when fornication has been committed, it is most often the case that the fornicator has already broken the marriage relationship. Of course, they have no power over the marriage *bond.* God controls the bond. According to Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, God bases His actions with regard to the marriage bond, upon the intent and action of the innocent party, who may either divorce the fornicator, or reconcile with them. God gave the choice to the innocent. He did not give it to the covenant breakers and American judges….
(*personal references* here)
Now, to answer Don's question. Jesus did not specify any particular procedure for "putting away" an unfaithful mate (see Matthew 5:32 and 19:9). Don asked if Mary could "divorce" John, for fornication, after he had already won the civil case. The answer to that question varies from state to state and culture to culture. In places where counter suits are allowed, that counter suit should qualify as an acceptable method of executing a scriptural "putting away," per the exception passages. Thus, one would say that Mary used that procedure to "put" John "away" in activation of the exception clause. I have known cases where innocent people have done this very thing. The fornicator won the race to the courthouse, and the legal procedure required that, before the innocent party could file the counter action, the case pending (the fornicator's), had to first be settled. So, using the current human definition of the word "divorce," which involves plaintiffs, defendants, lawyers, judges and courthouses, my answer would be yes, Mary may use that procedure, when allowed, to put John away and secure her right to remarry.
It is important to reiterate, however, that since Jesus did not specify any procedure, Mary is not *bound* to the counter suit procedure. She may use any number of methods of public notification. Various forums of public notification might include the local church, the newspaper, radio, or one's circle of friends, relatives and co-workers. Since Jesus did not bind any particular procedure, neither should we. This appears to be the difference between my position and that taken by certain others. They are willing and ready to bind their own procedure, but I am not.
Now, let us answer the question using the biblical definition of "divorce." I hope Don doesn't mind, but in an effort to draw attention to what the Bible actually says about Mary's marital rights, I would like to substitute the biblical action of "apoluo" for the word "divorce." Yes, the word "divorce" may be an acceptable translation of "apoluo" or "chorizo" (see 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, where Paul used "chorizo" synonymously with our Lord's "apoluo," even in the middle voice - also, compare Matthew 19:6, where "chorizo" is translated "put asunder" synonymously with apoluo of verse 9). Thus, even though the word "divorce" may be an acceptable translation of these Greek terms, yet men generally ignore the biblical definition and think only in terms of modern North American civil jurisprudence. This is a dangerous approach to biblical exegesis. We must not allow God's will to be defined by the constantly changing whims of government and society. Biblical terms are not defined by legislative committees and court judges. They are defined by God.
The Bible term "apoluo" means to loose from," "to dismiss," or "repudiate." When "chorizo" is used as a verb it means to "put asunder, to separate" (Matt. 19:6). In the middle voice it means "to depart" or "to leave" (see 1 Cor. 7:10, where Paul commented on divorce scenarios already addressed by "the Lord"). By limiting ourselves to biblical uses of these terms, Don's question becomes this:
Can Mary "loose herself" from her bond to John, because of his fornication, even though he had already won the civil court procedure? Yes, she can. Notice how the presence of fornication changes the outcome of marital rights in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9. Matthew 19:9 says,
"And I say unto you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery."
how the exception clause changes the scenario. Without the cause of
fornication, no one has a right to marry another. In the presence of
fornication, and by activating the exception clause, the innocent party has a
right to marry another. Some have mistakenly tried to argue that the civilly
divorced innocent person cannot remarry even though they were divorced by a
sexually immoral mate. They say the innocent person is still the "divorced"
party and as such, cannot remarry. They pretend to have scripture on their
side, but they do not. They have actually turned Matthew 19:9 completely upside
down! As we shall see, divorcing FORNICATORS are not what Jesus had in mind in
the exception passages. Notice why:
immoral person who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries
another, commits adultery."
Those who try to make the "whoever" of Matthew 19:9a inclusive of fornicators who civilly divorce their innocent mates, run headlong into this contradictory position, and the consequence of their position is both inescapable and ungodly.
What is the solution to this problem? It is simple. The presence of fornication introduces a different scenario than the one specifically addressed in Matthew 19:9a. The exception clause does far more than just allow the "possibility" that an innocent party "may" be able to remarry "if" they cooperate with the fornicator's methods and timing. The exception clause *guarantees* the innocent party the right to make their God-given choice. Yes, they may forego that option, but it is ~their~ option to forego.
In Don's example, Mary may put John away for his fornication and marry another.
In II Corinthians 11:3 Paul wrote, “But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.”
Tim continues to argue that one who has been put away is not really put away, as seen in this statement: “Can Mary "loose herself” from her bond to John, because of his fornication, even though he had already won the civil court procedure? Yes, she can." In such a statement, brother Haile gives permission for a put away person to go through an unspecified procedure which supposedly changes her from the unscripturally “put away” person, into the one who scripturally “puts away.”
Jesus never stated the reason why the man was unscripturally putting away his wife (fornicating or not) in Matthew 19:9. The Lord’s statement is all-inclusive! The divorce by a man who puts away because his wife “burnt the toast” is just as unscriptural and real as the divorce carried out by a man who is already fornicating before he puts the innocent wife away. Neither of the divorces are sanctioned by God, but both result in what the Bible calls “put away.”
Jesus then speaks of the put away woman. Questions: If a putting away is unscriptural, is it any less a putting away? Is she, or is she not, an unscripturally put away woman? May “another” marry an unscripturally put away woman while her first mate lives? Does Matthew 5:32b apply to any (and every) unscripturally put away woman? Do we find anywhere in scripture an exemption (for the one who was put away unscripturally) from the blanket Bible statement, “…and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”?
If this issue is really about her God-given right and obeying God rather than man, and God's law over man's law, why does it matter when the fornication takes place?
Consistency defies the argument that if the fornication did not take place before the divorce, then the divorce stands (and neither can remarry), but supposedly, if adultery was committed before the divorce and the innocent party did not want the divorce, she has a God-given right that cannot be taken away by the law of the land. Why is the ruling of the divorce court binding under certain unscriptural circumstances, but not binding in other unscriptural scenarios? In years to come, these arbitrary rules will be recognized for what they are, and discarded. In the next generation, brother Tim’s same arguments will be used to justify the innocent put away person where fornication was not committed prior to the divorce (just as brother Ron Halbrook argues today).
What scripture can be referenced to allow the laws of man to strip a Christian of her God-given right on the one hand (innocent spouse divorced for a cause other than fornication), but then state that the laws of man should never be able to strip a Christian of their God-given right, on the other?
A brother asked me the following question for brother Tim: “Why can the divorce court take away a Christian's God-given right under certain conditions (after a divorce where no fornication was present), but under other conditions (when the fornicator is doing the putting away), the divorce court cannot take away that right? If it's all about God's law, which governs the actions of the Christian, always taking precedence over man's law, how can the ruling of man's law bind what she is able to do? Why are we allowing man's law to have sway over God's law under certain conditions?"
This brother also wrote: “If man's law (as Tim would argue it) can never have sway over God's law, then it should not matter when the fornication takes place...”
Brethren, there is no way that an unscripturally put away innocent mate (described in the latter halves of Mt. 19:9 and Mt. 5:32) can magically later become the party who scripturally puts away for fornication (now in the circumstance described in the first halves of Mt. 19:9 and Mt. 5:32).
Brother Tim submitted another post to Mars-List the next day after answering brother Don’s MDR query. Within that post he asked a very alarming question:
August 31, 2001 5:46 AM
Tim Haile to Don Martin and the list,
”…Now, here is a question. May we differ in our application of this rule, or must we divide over it? One man says the reunion is adulterous and another man says it is not. Wouldn't it be acceptable to allow each person to act consistent with his own conscience and leave the judgment to God?”
Brethren, in brother Don Martin’s original inquiry he wrote, "(there are about twenty different doctrines relative to divorce and remarriage over which brethren are presently in disagreement)" (emp. jhb).
In light of Don's statement, Tim is now advocating “unity in diversity.” I ask you, how many of those twenty different doctrines relative to divorce and remarriage are we going to be asked to place into the doctrine of "allow each person to act consistent with his own conscience and leave the judgement to God" (i.e. Rom. 14)? Please read my web site article, “Accursed or Acquitted?”.
The reason that the subject of MDR poses a unique quandary for brethren (as it always has and always will) is that Christians are specifically commanded not to fellowship adulterers and are condemned for doing so (I Cor. 5:9-13; Gal. 5:19-21). Therefore, whenever a brother is convinced that what one is advocating is actually adultery (whether some want to call it a simple “difference in application” or whether it is a violation of “principle”), we are Biblically bound not to fellowship them (Eph. 5:11-13)!
Tim acknowledges that we have diverse doctrines on this particular divorce and re-marriage issue. The flood gates are opening, and Israel is in trouble. “Is there not a cause?” (I Sam. 17:29; cf. II Tim. 2:16-19; 3:13).
I think it is finally starting to become obvious who is teaching what regarding this issue of mental divorce. I recommend Don Martin’s answer to his own question (below).
Sent: Friday, August 31, 2001 6:40 PM
Don Martin to the list:
Rather than initiate another lengthy discussion on divorcement, I have posed a question to two capable preachers, Jeff Belknap and Tim Haile, men whom I personally know. They both have answered. I shall now present my answer. Consider carefully the example of John and Mary, as my answer only applies to the circumstances in the case of John and Mary (the only reason I have John and Mary being Christians is to allow for an emotional response, especially on Mary's part. The fact one, both, nor either are Christians is immaterial):
"In this scenario, John and Mary are both Christians. Mary has noticed a decline in John's spiritual interests and has tried to be of help, without nagging. John began to show signs of marital restlessness. One day John says to Mary, 'I am tired of this marriage and I have met someone else.' Mary attempts to talk to John and ask if he would agree for them to meet with the elders for help. John refuses. Two weeks later, John says, 'I want out of this marriage, Mary, I have committed adultery and I do not love you anymore!' Mary is heart broken. Mary waits, perhaps out of hope that John will come to his senses. Two months later, Mary receives the serving of the divorce papers against her. In her state, there is a three month waiting period before the divorce is civilly finalized. Mary does nothing of a civil nature, still hoping and praying John will repent and return. Three months later, the divorce becomes final.
Based on the above circumstance, is Mary now (after the civil divorce and in the exact circumstance described) allowed to 'divorce' John on the grounds of fornication, since Mary has now totally given up hope for John and the marriage?
My answer: Concerned reader, Mary is a put away person in every sense of the word "put away." The put away person is never presented as "putting away." (Note that the put away person is either one put away for their fornication or the unjustly put away (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). To have Mary putting away necessitates the mental divorcement or putting away in the heart position (see below quote). Notice in the example that Mary does absolutely nothing relative to any act that would be involved in putting away. She never tells John or anyone else she is putting John away for his adultery. Also, she is totally passive as far as any civil action is concerned. She does nothing that would constitute apoluo, to repudiate or send away, and there is no semblance of civil or cultural action to be considered as putting away.
It is true that Mary has attempted to spiritually restore John. However, spiritual restoration and putting away are two different matters. In the above example, Mary is not scripturally allowed to divorce John (John has already put away Mary).
In closing and in anticipation of challenges, I have only addressed Mary who is totally passive as far as any putting away action is concerned. John and Mary are not in a "race to the courthouse" and John beats Mary to file first by two hours, etc. As I have stated heretofore, I believe scriptural putting away (apoluo) is more than simply a civil document. However, a person putting away must have action that in congruous with and constitutes putting away. There must be, for instance, the repudiation prior to one allowing oneself to be put away (as Mary did). I believe apoluo entails a mental decision, declaration of the same, and compliance to applicable civil law (same as marriage, the converse). Mary in the above had no mental decision, did not, therefore, declare any intentions to put away John, and, as a consequence, did nothing civilly. To have an example of Mary doing something before the divorcement is final could alter or influence the above conclusion, I believe.
Again, rather than start a drawn out discussion, I invite you to consider the answers given to John and Mary. Analyze them, comparing them to the scriptures. Notice the logic, scripture deductions and inferences, and then the application of the scriptures to the example of John and Mary. Consider any entrance of emotion and sense of fair play, determine its proper place, and do not allow it to influence your decision or answer. I know there can be many emotions in the divorcement issue. I just finished emailing "Gary" about his marital status. According to the information Gary provided me (he emailed asking me), Gary is not allowed remarriage (he is a put away person, Matt. 5: 32; 19: 9). I derived no pleasure from telling Gary this.
Example of mental divorcement or putting away in the heart: "But someone asks: 'What about a woman who is put away (divorced) by a man simply because the man no longer wanted to be married? Fornication is not involved and the woman repeatedly tried to prevent the divorce, but to no avail. After a couple of years the man marries another woman. Is the 'put way' woman then free to marry?' She certainly is, if she puts away her husband for fornication. She would have to do this before God in purpose of heart since the divorce has already taken place, legally speaking. She could not go through the process of having a legal document charging her husband with 'adultery,' but God would know." - Weldon E. Warnock (Searching the Scriptures, November issue, 1985).