Rejoinder To Brother Stan Cox
By Jeff Belknap
Although I strongly disagree with brother Stan’s version of current events and his estimation of “fairness” in his recent article on www.Watchmanmag.com entitled, “Honor in Controversy, Revisited”, I do believe he made one valid point in his article, which deserves my apology and correction. I encourage you to read Stan’s article to give it a fair hearing.
On November 18th, when brother Osborne invited me to commit this web site to publish the upcoming debate, I wrote, “I, like brother Cox, will reserve ‘the right to review the debate before publishing’ it on my website. If (after reviewing it in its entirety) I desire to publish it, I will first ask permission from brother Cox to reprint it.”
After reading brother Cox’s article, I realize that having published brother Lytle’s debate review (which included a complete portion of the debate with a side-by-side examination) contradicted my above word. I assure you, this was an absolute oversight on my part. I never suggested or asked brother Lytle to write a debate review (nor did I solicit one from brother Seavers) and when I received it, I simply viewed it as an excellent review of the debate. I never stopped to consider that in printing it, I was doing what I had said I would first ask permission to do. I sincerely apologize to brother Cox for this mistake and have already written and spoken to brother Lytle to inform him that I will be removing the written debate part of his review (cf. Matt. 5:37; Jas. 5:12; Psa. 15:4). Consequently, I will keep only the commentary portion of brother Lytle’s article on the web site.
Again brethren, I am sorry for my mistake, and ask for your forgiveness. Especially at times like this, I ask for your prayers that I may handle this issue with even more care than I have in the past. While I believe that I have striven to be as kind, honorable and fair as possible in the midst of moving forward with truth throughout this controversy, one can never be too careful (Gal. 6:1). In such circumstances, it becomes even easier to step over a line without even realizing it (Prov. 24:16). I pray that you will not allow such a mistake on my part to hinder your desire to examine what is written in light of the scriptures. In addition, I ask that you pray for all involved on both sides of the issue.
Due to the accusatory nature of brother Cox’s article, I now feel compelled to answer several misrepresentations and incorrect allegations. Since I began dealing publicly with this issue, the opposition has made numerous personal attacks on me and others who have recently spoken out (or written) against the post-civil-divorce-divorce. Such actions only serve to divert attention away from the issue, so I have striven to keep those things off of the web site as much as possible. However, instead of sticking to the issue, the opposing side has continued to make unfounded charges against me personally, as well as others who have submitted articles to my site. Nevertheless, I believe it absolutely necessary for me to reveal some materials which prove that I have been misrepresented by Stan’s portrayal of my written words.
If I was guilty of all that these brothers have charged me with, then brethren would be well-advised to view what I write with more than healthy skepticism. However, when it can be proven that such charges are trumped up, it is important for the reader to know who is really responsible for unbrotherly treatment and false accusations, so that they can observe appropriate extra caution in their reading. The Greek word translated “false accuser” (#1228; II Tim. 3:3) is the same word that is translated devil (Rev. 12:9). Indeed, it is apparent that someone is engaged in wrongdoing, and I trust that if the reader will take his/her time and read the factual information, they will be able to ascertain who is doing what.
BROTHER COX REVEALS HIS AGREEMENT
It is apparent that brother Cox agrees with brothers Osborne, Haile and Halbrook, or at least strongly disagrees with my view (evidenced by his calling my view “peculiar” in his article). Additionally, he spoke in defense of these men (including brothers Willis and Halbrook, in spite of their obvious erroneous doctrines examined on my website). Moreover, Stan implies that brother Sheridan’s position was “defeated” in the debate, thereby rendering Harry’s position as truth! This is sophistry, and it is wrong, especially when brother Osborne’s arguments undergo the crucible of examination.
Another indication of Stan’s viewpoint is his choice of adjectives to describe me and those who have written articles on my website, versus those adjectives he uses for brother Osborne and those who agree with him. It is obvious that he is not arriving at his perspective and charges from an objective standpoint.
[Incidentally, I believe it is brothers Osborne, Haile and Halbrook who are taking the “peculiar view” on this subject. Many of their arguments have been examined and exposed by numerous sound brethren through the years, as documented on my website. It is only recently that we have seen the revised arguments aimed at winning acceptance for the same erroneous doctrine (post-civil-divorce-divorce), yet Stan refers to Harry’s system of belief as “the alleged error” and my view as “peculiar.” Moreover, brother Cox also identified and promoted Harry’s doctrine on more than one occasion as “Biblical putting away.”
BROTHER COX CALLS ME A LIAR
In Stan’s article, he reprinted a portion of my letter to him:
However, please note that this “post” (less than one page can hardly be called “lengthy,” as he describes) clearly revealed the full reason for my decision. However, brother Stan never mentioned the reason I gave. Click here for the link to read the entire letter, to determine whether the reason was justified or not. So you may arrive at your own conclusion, I believe that you are entitled to the information that brother Cox has neglected to provide.
In spite of my explanation, brother Stan stated in his article:
At best, such a statement is surmising and does not reflect Stan’s alleged desire for “fairness” and “ethical” treatment of a brother.
One thing to keep in mind, dear reader, it is clear that the efforts of brethren (who are defending fellowship with this erroneous “application”) divert attention away from the documented errors of brother Ron Halbrook. Such diversions include deriding my efforts and character, and putting forth “applications” that may be deemed less extreme than Ron’s “application.” These brethren have not and will not declare agreement nor disagreement with brother Ron’s application, which allows for a “scriptural” divorce (and remarriage) after one has been put away, whether their ex-spouse fornicated before or after the civil divorce (see Ron Halbrook’s Notes for Further Study and other documents).
BROTHER COX HAS CHANGED HIS EDITORIAL POLICY
While I readily admit and apologize for having violated my own word by publishing the debate inadvertently (as part of a review) without requesting permission, I deny brother Stan’s charge below (emphasis his, jhb):
I have not researched copyright law in full detail. However, neither brother Lytle nor I altered the debate, as Stan charges. It was copied verbatim and placed next to brother Lytle’s comments, the debate being printed on the left side of the article and brother Lytle’s comments separate, on the right side (with a line dividing the two). In light of this fact, as well as brother Stan’s own written policy giving permission for others to reprint the articles, it is clear that I did not violate the editorial policy of Watchman. Nor were any copyright laws violated, as the law specifically states, under the “fair use” clause, that to reproduce such a work for “…purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research is not an infringement of copyright.” (Section 107, title 17 of United States Code - see http://www.loc.gov/copyright/faq.html#q47 for more details, particularly note circular 21, end of page 5 through the top of page 6). Such attempts to slander me, or others, as lawbreakers (by violating civil law) must cease.
The irony of this charge is that Stan claims I have sinned in violating civil (copyright) laws, which, of course, was done in an attempt to OBEY God’s COMMAND to expose error (cf. Eph. 5:11, 13). However, where civil law would merely nullify a divine “LIBERTY,” brother Harry (whom Stan defends) argues that we should not recognize it, for doing so would allow man’s law to usurp God’s. If this is not a double standard, I don’t know what is!
If brethren do not want their writings to be examined (reviewed), then they should cease writing! The claim of copyright violation reminds me of the familiar cry of brethren who seek impunity for their error by claiming “church autonomy.”
BROTHER COX CONTINUES TO SHOW HIS AMPLIFICATION OF THINGS
Brother Stan stated in his article:
To further demonstrate brother Cox’s skewing of the facts, the truth is that he only wrote two “posts” to me, not “several.” Click here for a link to the two e-mail letters (each) that I exchanged with brother Stan. I had not planned on posting them to the web site, since I had hoped to avoid further diversions from the issue at hand. Nevertheless, Brother Stan’s article has made the publications of this correspondence necessary, because he quotes from the letters extensively in his article while leaving out important facts and other quotes which are essential to give an accurate portrayal of my words.
The documentation in these letters clearly proves that even though brother Stan’s claim that “The debate (itself, jhb) was held on a high plane” may be true, the conditions under which it was set up were definitely not “held on a high plane.”
While I do not know the extent of brother Cox’s personal involvement in setting up the conditions of the debate, I do know that he was sent carbon e-copies of the correspondence between Harry and Terrence, regarding the organization of the debate. (It is because I received copies of this correspondence that I am also aware of what went on during the debate’s organization.) It was during this correspondence that brother Osborne wanted me to agree to publish the debate with the “no editorial comment” stipulation under his (and Watchman Magazine’s) conditions, which I could not do. The bottom line is, as editor of the publishing venue for the debate, Stan shares responsibility for the debate conditions which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, clearly favored brother Osborne.
In addition to the e-mail exchange between brother Cox and myself, the following is an excerpt from Harry Osborne’s 9-29-01 letter to Terrence Sheridan in which Harry rejects Terrence’s second attempt to word an affirmative that Harry will accept. In the second paragraph, Harry also made it plain that he would not come to the table in this debate with an affirmative, and that if his own conditions were not acceptable to Terrence, that he would “cease the discussion.”
In addition, on the same date (9/29/01) Terrence wrote Harry a letter which stated:
Considering those letters from Harry, it is no wonder that on 1/9/02, Terrence wrote to those involved:
Brethren, I trust that after reading the two e-mail letters that I exchanged with brother Stan, you will realize the reasons behind my quotes which Stan published in his article and how they were taken out of context. Moreover, I trust that you have seen why I have stated that the conditions under which the Sheridan-Osborne debate was set up were definitely not “held on a high plane.”
Brother Stan makes many accusations of my “unfairness” and makes great swelling words about the necessity of fairness. However, in a letter that brother Terence sent to brother Osborne (cc’s to both Stan and I) on 9-27-01, he asked for three simple conditions to be met to ensure fairness to both parties. He stated:
All three of those conditions seemed reasonable (yea, essential) to me – how about you? However, brother Osborne would agree only agree to number two (see below).
On 9-29-01, Harry’s partial reply to brother Sheridan's post stated:
“(3) In your follow-up post, you said that you wanted to be able to publish the debate as well. That would be fine with me as long as I have the opportunity to check that it before publication, it is published unaltered and it is published without editorial comment. In other words, giving me the same courtesy you would be afforded in Watchman Magazine.”
After brother Stan quoted the above two portions of Terence and Harry’s letters, he stated, “You may note that fairness, as indicated by brother Osborne, would dictate that the debate be allowed to stand on its own merit in any publication. As brethren we have the responsibility to be honorable toward one another” (emp. jhb).
But, didn’t brother Terence also state his desire for Harry to meet three conditions “for the sake of ensuring fairness?” Was not what brother Terence considered “fair” just as reasonable and important as what brother Osborne did? And if it is not honorable for one brother to go against what another deems as “fair,” how was it “honorable” for Stan and Harry to set up the debate with no regard to what was fair to brother Terence? It seems that according to Stan and Harry, the rules of “fairness” change with the people involved. For the sake of facilitating a “fair” debate, should not have brother Cox, as a facilitator, made some attempt to encourage brother Osborne to honor brother Sheridan’s requests?
Nevertheless, only when it became apparent that there would not be a debate unless brother Sheridan submitted to brother Osborne’s conditions, Terence agreed to what he considered less than ideal conditions, just to get Harry to come to the table.
BROTHER COX QUOTES MY REFERENCE TO BROTHER OSBORNE
Brother Cox also casually mentions that I have characterized brother Osborne as “crafty and dishonest” in an e-mail letter. The context of Stan’s quote leaves the impression that I throw around such accusations lightly. The fact is, just prior to that assertion, I had documented evidence of Harry’s actions that proved the charge, by anyone’s standards (for proof, see link below). However, it is important for you to know (as the recipients of the letter did) some of the reasons why.
Brother Stan was a recipient (among others) of the e-mail letter in which I used those words describing brother Osborne. However, in spite of the fact that I first cited numerous verifiable examples of Harry’s “crafty and dishonest” actions, brother Stan has evidently overlooked all of this proof and defended Harry. Nevertheless, in his article, he has characterized me and my actions with such words as: “deplorable,” “dishonorable,” “unfair,” “unethical,” “disingenuous,” “ungodliness,” “incredulous,” “egregious act,” “desecration of honor,” “a lie,” “another lie.” All this, because I refused to post their orchestrated “debate” and then had the audacity to violate their ordained “standards” for “fairness” by reviewing it.
In my letter to brother Osborne you will see definite evidence of untruthfulness. However, there is no indication that Stan ever addressed brother Osborne on this matter. Neither has Harry ever offered any retractions or apologies for such misrepresentations. As a matter of fact, Harry has never cleared up any of his exposed errors or fallacious arguments throughout this whole controversy. Yet Stan portrays him as blameless, while characterizing me with the words above.
Click here for a link to the e-mail letter I wrote to Harry (cc’d to others including Stan). This letter reveals what led to my “characterization” of his actions. This is also a letter that I had not planned on posting to the web site. Nevertheless, Brother Stan’s reference has made its posting necessary, since he left out the numerous important facts which are essential to give an accurate portrayal of my words.
BROTHER COX TRIES TO IMPLY A “LOGICAL CONCLUSION”
It is obvious that Stan’s real problem is not that I would - or would not - put the debate on my website. [He first offered the option and was “disappointed” when I declined, then (rightly) condemned me for having included it inadvertently without permission.] What he considers so unfair, as revealed in his letters, is that I published a REVIEW of the debate. Brethren, there is no sin in that. He can say that it is “unfair.” He can say that I “mistreated” brothers Osborne and Sheridan in reviewing the debate. However, just because Stan asserts it, doesn’t make it so. Since when is reviewing a debate sinful??? This is silliness.
BROTHER COX’S CRITICISM ABOUT MY NOT DEBATING HARRY
Brother Cox stated, “First, Harry Osborne has offered to debate Jeff Belknap, either in an oral or written format. Belknap has declined.”
Though brother Harry has made repeated references to my refusal to debate him (and now Stan has, as well), they fail to share the documented reasons why. As I wrote in my Reply to Tim Haile and Harry Osborne (on this website), “I have no problem with ‘honorable debate’ or discussion, but personal attacks and false implications are ungodly and counterproductive to an examination of truth.” Furthermore, I stated: “I am not trained or skilled in oral debate, but even if I were, I would hesitate to involve myself in a debate with a brother who has exhibited the attitude displayed in Harry’s writings. Nevertheless, I informed Harry that if he was truly interested in debating the issue (as opposed to me), I know of some men who would be willing to ‘debate’ him. To this offer, he has yet to respond (as was already explained in Response to ‘Do All Applications Equal Doctrine?’ posted 5-25-01 on Gospel Anchor).”
The hypocrisy of this constant charge (as if my refusal is a manifestation of something sinful or cowardly) is made manifest by the fact that Harry was not willing to debate others on the real issue. In various exchanges, Harry refused to debate brother David McKee because he said that David had misrepresented and failed to deal with the arguments raised. He also neglected to respond to invitations to debate brother Don Martin as well as Pat Donahue, and declined the opportunity to debate with brother Carrol R. Sutton (because he said he considered himself less able than brother Sutton). Even with brother Terrence (whom brother Osborne knew to have no experience in debate), Harry made it clear that he would not participate unless his (one-sided) conditions were met.
On the other hand, brother Terry was willing to debate the issue at what he himself considered a “handicap” just so the issue could be examined. Yes, brother Sheridan did suggest a minor modification of the affirmative which Harry accepted. That does not negate the fact that Terrence still agreed to come to the table at a disadvantage with a proposition very different from the one he felt he could most ably affirm. Neither does that negate the fact that brother Osborne never came to the table with his own proposition to defend. I believe that brother Sheridan did remarkably well under the one-sided circumstances he was given to work with. Nonetheless, I think all non-partial observers would agree that if Terence had been allowed to word his own proposition and if Harry had been required to defend an affirmative of his own, the real issue would have been more effectively examined.
Moreover, brother Fred Seavers has sent a letter to invite brother Osborne to debate him. Will Harry accept with conditions that favor both parties, and is he willing to deal with the real issue, which includes the post-civil-divorce-divorce, when fornication is committed even after the civil divorce?
THE CRUX OF THE MATTER
Toward the end of Stan’s article, he quoted me:
Then Stan stated:
This is yet another misrepresentation.
First, when have I ever stated or implied I do not “believe that brother Sheridan was successful in his efforts to ‘expose’ brother Osborne’s error”? I have repeatedly commended brother Sheridan’s efforts even though, as he put it, he “had to make concessions to Harry in order for him to even come to the table. These (he, jhb) I reluctantly made.”
In the limited amount of words brother Sheridan was allowed in the debate, there was no way he could have “answered” all of Harry’s wresting of the scriptures and misrepresentations of various particulars. (This is amplified by the fact that the unanswered questions asked by brother Harry in his second negative could not be answered, for he was the last respondent in the debate.) If the Lord is willing, there will be more articles to come that will expose Harry’s errors that have yet to be pointed out (For example, please read brother Fred Seavers’ article, Some More Thoughts On The Sheridan-Osborne Debate).
One thing comes through loud and clear: Stan does not want any “redebates” to steer discussions back to the real issue. What ever happened to “the truth has nothing to hide” and “the only thing that suffers investigation is error”? I have tried to deal with the issue. If steering the focus back to the real issue is a “spin,” then it’s a spin in the right direction!
Stan again characterizes the debate as “fair,” with no explanation or defense for the lack of an affirmative on Harry’s part. Now, that might seem fair to one who gets to do the negating, but it is not fair in any real sense of the word. If Stan believes that this is fair, then I invite him to publish a debate with the same conditions reversed – where the opposition gets to word the affirmative for Harry (or someone else with whom he agrees) and where the opposition is not required to set forth an affirmative to be defended.
BROTHER COX’S IMAGINARY DEBATE NEGOTIATIONS
One thing is for sure, if I were to debate a Baptist preacher (or anyone else), there would be two affirmatives whereby both could have a last word! In fact, in every debate I have knowledge of (except for the Sheridan - Osborne Debate), each participant has been required to affirm a proposition, thereby giving the opposition opportunity to “fairly” examine it.
Please acknowledge some very important facts:
1) On the web site, I have published quotes in their context, with verification.
2) I have always included the name of widely known publications from which I have quoted, or posted a link to the publication in my articles so that the reader can determine for themselves whether I have misrepresented what I am examining. This is something that Stan did not do with his “Honor in Controversy, Revisited” article. In the debate review, I provided a link to Watchman Magazine, and in my article which responded to Tim’s last article, I included a link to his new website (Bible Banner) so that others who may not be familiar with the publication would be able to access it. In contrast, Stan did not do so, but simply mentioned “his web site.” Although I firmly believe it to be more “fair” to include such, I would not claim that his omission was “unfair” and “unethical.”
3) My website is designed for one thing, and one thing only: to expose the Mental Divorce Doctrine that is now being disseminated with fervor.
4) Brother Seavers has corresponded with Stan (2-2-02), asking if he would post his two forthcoming reviews of the debate. Stan declined.
5) Stan made the statement in his article: “…neither Jeff Belknap, Terence Sheridan, David McKee or any other individual had ever submitted an article or made inquiry to Watchman Magazine concerning a public discussion of the issue.” He must have determined that the words “concerning a public discussion of the issue” qualified that statement since brother David McKee submitted an article to him on Nov. 3rd. He NEVER posted the article and has now stated that it is “completely unnecessary” (see e-mail exchange with Stan and the note the top of David McKee’s latest article) because he considered the debate to sufficiently cover the issue.
6) Stan stated (see link to correspondence above) that even if he were to post brother McKee’s article, it would “need a response.”
7) As editor, Stan ensures that what he believes to be truth, is afforded the “last word.” But I am “unfair and unethical” for ensuring that what I consider to be truth have the last word on my own website (by reviewing a debate which was clearly orchestrated to favor the position I oppose)???
Unfortunately, brother Cox’s double standards result in much more “fairness” for some than others (cf. Mt. 7:1-5; Rom. 2:21-22)!
Brethren, the purpose of this article is not to whine or complain. I am simply defending myself from Stan’s unjust charges so that we can get back to a study of the issue. If Harry, Tim, or their associates write other articles regarding this and related issues, please take note of whether or not they are willing to study the real issue (post-civil-divorce-divorce and potential remarriage when fornication is committed even after the civil divorce). Notice whether their articles dwell on a scriptural examination of that issue, or whether they scrutinize brethren and/or side issues while avoiding the issue at hand.
Special note: Please consider the following additional study materials: