Playing Down Divorce and Marriage to Another Issue
By Don Martin
I have preached long enough to observe the modus operandi of some when open division seems inevitable. Rather than responsibly addressing the actual doctrinal differences, they begin to accuse those with whom they disagree of being divisive. Those who have access to the printed medium effect articles in which they urge “unity,” “love,” and “tolerance.” It is interesting that this urging is always to their benefit and in their favor.
Mike Willis has just completed his second installment under the title of, “In Essentials Unity; In Non-Essential, Liberty; In All Things Love,” the second installment simply being titled, “In Essentials, Unity (2)” (Truth Magazine, Vol. 49, Number 19, October 6, 2005). Since I anticipated that the paramount prompting for the writings would be prevailing differences on marriage, divorce, and marriage to another (MDR), I was watching for such a specific application and I did not have a long time to wait.
In treating the maxim “In essentials unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things love,” Mike makes a number of valid and needed points, with which I most whole heartedly concur. However, it was not long before Mike introduced MDR and pleaded his case.
I personally take strong issue with Mike’s multiple causes for divorce position. As I study the scriptures, I see only one cause for God approved divorce and that is when the innocent mate puts away the guilty mate based on the fornication of the guilty mate, all things equal and understood (Matt. 5:32, 19:9). Paul is emphatic in teaching the indissolubility of marriage in I Corinthians chapter seven, a chapter which, strangely enough, is now being used by Mike and others to contend for multiple causes for divorce. I also take issue with the teaching of men such as Ron Halbrook, who advocates that in certain circumstances the put away innocent mate may perform a “second putting away” and be able to subsequently marry another. Notwithstanding, the teaching of Matthew 19:9 precludes the put away, any put away, from being able to perform some kind of second, post divorce putting away.
Since the MDR issue has come to a head, I have begged to no avail both Mike Willis and Ron Halbrook for public dialogue. They, rather, have expended their energies talking about those who oppose unity and who cause division over MDR (I suppose I am included). In Mike’s alluded to article, he wrote:
“It is tragic that those who are agreed on all doctrinal aspects of divorce and remarriage may tend to draw lines of fellowship with each other because they disagree about a particular marriage case with particular circumstances relating to it.”
Hence, Mike continues to play down the doctrinal differences between him and a number of us, sometimes calling such differences “particular circumstances.” I believe Jesus said that the innocent mate may only divorce their fornicating mate and Mike says they may divorce for a number of reasons, even for the umbrella cause of severe “spiritual incompatibility.” (I have no proof that Mike has in this exact circumstance provided for marriage to another, but most others who hold Mike’s view do allow marriage to another, after one mate commits fornication. Remember, all such action is post divorce activity). Rather than forthrightly addressing our doctrinal differences, Mike talks about how some churches have maintained a “brotherly relationship with each other” over a factious brother. One church withdraws from a brother over factionalism, Mike illustrates, and another local church then receives the brother. Mike talks about how these two churches do not experience any interruptions in their “brotherly relationship.” Yet, reasons Mike regarding MDR issues:
“However, a couple divorces and remarries. Two congregations in town are equally committed to Jesus' teaching on divorce and remarriage, but they reach a different judgment about whether or not that couple is guilty of adultery based on some personal judgment issues.....”
Mike specifically mentions some “personal judgment issues.” I find it rather interesting that Mike does not specifically and explicitly address the real MDR issues presently dividing brethren: Multiple causes for divorce and post divorce divorce. I have not heard of one church dividing over whether or not the cause of fornication is specifically stated on the civil document (one of Mike’s examples). Also, I have not personally known of a church developing fellowship problems simply due to who initially signed the divorce petition papers (another one of Mike’s illustrations). However, I have taken strong issue with brethren who have taught and practiced multiple causes for divorce and that the passive innocent put away may later put away and be able to marry another while the putting away mate lives. These matters are not simply “personal judgment issues,” they involve doctrinal and moral matters.
“Why can these brethren not recognize that they are teaching the same truths but have a disagreement about whether or not a given couple is guilty of violating the commonly held truth, just as they do about the factional brother?”
One place I preached had a factional brother who effected division within the church. The brother would not repent and the church had no choice but to “reject” the brother (Tit. 3:10, 11). This brother took others with him and they defiantly started their own church. Now, I ask you, what should have been our attitude toward these people? According to Mike and this neo unity accompanying these MDR differences, I suppose we should have told all who inquired, They and we both believe, respect, and obey the scriptures, we just had a difference in application, but we have a “brotherly relationship.” If this reason works for factionalism, why not other matters, such as social drinking, not working and providing for own, etc.? One church withdraws from a brother over not providing for his own and another church “receives with open arms” the brother, should not the disciplining church have a “brotherly relationship” with the receiving church, according to Mike’s reasoning (I Tim. 5: 8)? I suppose Mike would say that when an institutionally minded brother who contends that the church treasury must be used to support colleges, etc. is marked, there IS NOT to be a “brotherly relationship” between the disciplining church and the receiving church. Mike and others are being forced into a number of inconsistent positions in defense of their MDR errors! (Cp. Jas. 2:10.)
Being an amateur historian but mainly one who loves the truth, I am watching with great interest and sadness the stages and gradation of this MDR apostasy. I predicted in the beginning that Truth Magazine would go down in history as the main purveyor of these MDR errors. Donnie Rader who was on the board of the Guardian of Truth Foundation and a staff writer for Truth Magazine apparently reached his limit of the MDR error and resigned. There are other board members and staff writers, I believe, who know the truth on MDR, when will they follow Donnie’s good example and distance themselves from this latest MDR digression?
I have always taught that an apostasy is not circumvented to one doctrinal issue. Some over the years have taken issue with me regarding this. I hope they, those still living, are watching this current apostasy. Alas, the general biblical teaching of fellowship is now being distorted in an effort to justify error on MDR. How many other precious Bible truths will be mutilated along with God’s teaching about divorce and marriage to another? We now have the Guardian of Truth Foundation openly having lectures (gospel meetings) and seeking to save souls through the organized preaching of the gospel (cp. I Tim. 3:15). It is sad but very effective for the devil that many of these men now associated with the Guardian of Truth Foundation and Truth Magazine once in truth represented the cause of conservatism and doctrinal purity. These men are now introducing into churches damnable error and a neo-institutionalism.
As always, though, errorists often refuse to address the real issues while they hide behind the cry for unity and pronounce all who doctrinally differ with them as horrible and divisive people.
In closing, all who carefully read Mike’s latest foregoing mentioned article are aware of their continued rationale that brethren may believe and teach the same thing but differ in application and still maintain fellowship. Mike has now in writing including factionalism (Tit. 3:10, 11) as an example of brethren believing alike, but differing in application and still having fellowship. Please follow this major departure and see what the next doctrinal item to be introduced as one regarding which we all believe the same thing, yet differ in application, while we maintain fellowship will be.