REPLY TO BROTHER HAILE’S REVIEW
By Jeff Belknap
This article is written in response to brother Tim Haile’s article, “A Review of Error in Jeff Belknap's ‘Review of Error...’” posted 1/9/02 at his new website <www.biblebanner.com>. I encourage you to read his review to determine for yourself whether I have misrepresented what has been written. I also encourage you to read my original Review of Error in the Sheridan – Osborne Debate to determine whether brother Haile accurately represented what I wrote.
It is my intent to illustrate the error and lack of substantiation in Brother Haile’s broad claims: “This article (the debate review, jhb) is filled with Jeff's misrepresentations of biblical texts and of his opponents' views. On at least one point, Jeff Belknap deliberately misrepresented brother Osborne's views in a critical area of doctrine…Truth loving brethren should be able to reasonably discuss their differences with others without misrepresenting them. Perhaps brother Belknap will repent of his inflammatory and erroneous comments. I hope he does…It is too often the case that when a disputant begins to rely upon unscrupulous tactics in order to get an advantage over his opponent, it is a reflection of his own dishonesty.”
In brother Tim’s second paragraph he wrote: “Anyone who knows brother Osborne and is acquainted with his writings knows that he doesn’t need me or anyone else to defend him. He is quite capable of defending himself.” With this statement, I wholeheartedly agree. Moreover, as I will demonstrate in this article, he has also proven himself to be “quite capable of defending” brother Ron Halbrook.
Just after the March 2001 Gospel Truths publication of an article which I wrote to examine brother Ron Halbrook’s’ fellowship / application theory, I received a carbon copy of an e-mail letter written by brother Pat Donahue to brother Wayne Goforth (March 15th). In this letter, Pat wrote “I have been having an ongoing e-mail discussion with Donnie, Ron, and Harry Osborne…” As I scrolled down this letter, I found that the topic of discussion revolved around a copy of my article, “Differences in Application” which (on March 14th) Ron had forwarded to brethren along with a note stating the following: “[J.T. said Jeff has me in mind in this article. It appeared in the March GOSPEL TRUTHS with J.T.'s editorial. My thought is this: If Jeff cannot see the vast distinction between doctrinal differences and differences in some point of application, he will end up thinking virtually every difference is doctrinal regarding funerals & and weddings in the building, the Sunday P.M. Lord's Supper, the covering, etc., etc. Ron].”
It was just after this letter, that brother Harry Osborne responded to my article in Gospel Truths with his rejoinder, “Do All Applications Equal Doctrine?” and the exchanges were on. For several months now, brothers Tim and Harry have done much writing to redirect the issue away from Ron Halbrook’s “application” to a more emotional scenario (i.e. a mental divorce after a fornicator has put away his innocent spouse).
However, both brothers Osborne and Haile know that the topic I began to expose and examine related to this issue, is the scenario taught by brother Ron Halbrook. Ron’s scenario allows an innocent put away person to “put away” his/her ex-spouse for the cause of fornication, whether it is committed before or after a civil divorce (please see brother Halbrook’s quotes on this web site for verification).
Brother Tim did not comment on that part of my review, although it was a major factor in my examination of the debate. In fact, both Tim and Harry continue to act as if brother Ron’s position has nothing to do with this entire controversy.
After numerous ignored requests for Tim and Harry to either acknowledge or disavow agreement with Ron’s written “application,” we have received no comment. Yet, these brothers repeatedly return to the scenario of one who was put away by their already fornicating mate, as if that was the issue of focus (Ron similarly diverted the focus of his own “application” to this less offensive scenario when answering brother J. T. Smith’s question in the April 2001 issue of Gospel Truths. This is illustrated in my web site article, Plea For Clarification, to brother Ron Halbrook.)
Additionally, within the second paragraph of Tim’s review of my words he says, “This article is filled with Jeff's misrepresentations of biblical texts and of his opponents' views.” However, please note the applicable words of the late H. E. Phillips, in an article he entitled, Three Phases of Digression (Searching the Scriptures, June, 1989). “Again and again I have taken the very words of a promoter of some digression doctrine and had him cry, ‘You have misunderstood and misrepresented me.’ No false teacher can stand up under the fire of truth, and when his digressive teaching has been answered and his ridicule exposed, he will try for a compromise somewhere between truth and his stand. If this is rejected as it must be, he will play the persecuted martyr who stands for truth and unity is rejected” (emp. jhb).
This is exactly what Tim and Harry have been doing, while Ron Halbrook remains silent. Tim and Harry continue to claim that they have been “misrepresented,” while arguing that I (and others) have begun a campaign advocating “the race to the court house.” These brethren seek approval of their own position (a scenario which comes short of Ron’s “application,” but which nevertheless allows a “putting away” and remarriage for one who has already been put away by an ungodly fornicator). This maneuver to propagate “a compromise somewhere between truth” and Ron’s “stand” is a case in point of brother Phillips’ words above.
Brother Tim only deals with two points of my review of the debate (i.e. my comments regarding Donnie Rader’s writing related to I Timothy 4:1-3 and my comments on I Corinthians 7:36-38). The rest consists of inflammatory statements and personal attacks which I will not address. I will deal with his two issues in their chronological order. First of all, under the subtitle: “Concerning 1 Timothy 4:1-3,” Tim wrote, “After citing historical cases of human governments forbidding marriage, brother Osborne rightly appealed to 1 Timothy 4:1-3 to make his argument. According to Paul, the Spirit expressly stated that the doctrine "forbidding marriage" was a "doctrine of demons." This doctrine remains a "doctrine of demons" regardless of what authority promotes it, whether denominational, Catholic or secular…Like Sheridan, Belknap had absolutely no answer for brother Osborne. Of course, it is very easy to see why Belknap and Sheridan have dismissed the relevance of this passage in this present controversy. It does more than just destroy their position: it actually exposes their position as being in agreement with the devil's position!”
Moreover, Tim also stated, “As though it weren't bad enough to take a position on divine liberties that puts him in perfect agreement with the devil, brother Belknap adds to his crime by a deliberate misrepresentation of brother Osborne's position on marital rights. In a feeble attempt to escape the weight of 1 Timothy 4:1-3, Belknap misapplies an excerpt from Donnie Rader's book. Belknap wrote the following….Brother Rader's comments were not directed against those who side with Paul in contending for the right of eligible people to marry; they were directed against those who argue the right of remarriage for ineligible people! Brother Belknap couldn't be more wrong in his application of Rader's material. What is worse is that by using Rader's argument against Osborne's position, Belknap leaves the false impression that Osborne accepts all remarriages as scriptural and right, regardless of the conditions and circumstances! Belknap shamelessly attributes a position to Osborne that he knows he doesn't take and has never taught. That is what I call dishonest” (emp. his).
I absolutely agree with Tim that what brother Rader wrote was “directed against those who argue the right of remarriage for ineligible people!” After this sentence Tim writes, “Brother Belknap couldn't be more wrong in his application of Rader's material…”
This is where brother Tim is mistaken. What brother Rader has previously written in regards to this subject is an irrefutable exposure of the position that Tim and Harry are now advocating! In his article entitled “The Plain Truth About Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage.” Brother Rader stated: “There is a trend towards softening the gospel message. As society and the religious world moves in a more liberal direction, we too are affected. In that effort to be more tolerant, some have made the gospel message more palatable by ‘smoothing it out’ in various ways.”
Then, under the subtitle, “How Are Men Speaking Smooth Things About Divorce And Remarriage?,” he answers this question with the words, “Allowing some put away people to remarry. Some argue that the one who has been put away (for a cause other than fornication) can remarry if their former mate remarries first (this is the position taken by Ron Halbrook; jhb). Others argue that if one is put away by a mate who has committed fornication, he can remarry (this is the position which Tim Haile and Harry Osborne have contended for; jhb). Neither of these are authorized by the Lord. In contrast, Jesus said, ‘and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery’ (Mt. 19:9b; 5:32b; Luke 16:18)” (emp. jhb). [Reprint from Truth Magazine, XLII, No. 12 (June 18, 1998) posted at www.truthmagazine.com site under articles - Christian living.]
Both Harry and Tim “argue that if one is put away by a mate who has committed fornication, he can remarry.” Hence, brother Rader’s words necessarily infer his belief that these brothers are advocating that which is not “authorized by the Lord.” In addition, Donnie’s words manifest his belief that the contention of brothers Osborne and Haile for this “right” (to remarry) of one who is put away by a fornicator is “a trend towards softening the gospel message” by “speaking smooth things about divorce and remarriage.”
Of such brethren who advocate what is unauthorized and then claim that “forbidding to marry is a doctrine of the devil (1 Tim. 4:1-ff),” Donnie says, “That contention could be used to prove that all have a right to remarry. That would allow the guilty party and the one put away where no fornication is involved and the one who puts away for a cause other than fornication to remarry. The fact is that there is not one of the advocates of this argument that doesn’t teach that there is someone who can’t remarry.”
Now, will Tim and Harry charge brother Rader with “forbidding marriage,” “agreement with the devil's position” and taking “a position on divine liberties that puts him in perfect agreement with the devil”? Or is this judgment reserved for only those who are active in presently opposing and exposing this false doctrine and the individuals propagating it?
With that in mind, compare what I actually wrote in my response with what Tim asserts that I wrote. I said, "In addition, in brother Donnie Rader’s book, Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say? under the heading 'More Arguments On The Mental Divorce Position' (pg. 148) brother Rader has offered an answer to Harry’s objection. Regarding the dispute that, in this case, 'Forbidding to marry is a doctrine of the devil (1 Tim. 4:1-ff),' he rightly answered, 'That contention could be used to prove that all have a right to remarry. That would allow the guilty party and the one put away where no fornication is involved and the one who puts away for a cause other than fornication to remarry. The fact is that there is not one of the advocates of this argument that doesn’t teach that there is someone who can’t remarry' (emp. jhb). Since brother Rader’s words are true of Harry (as regards his opposition to brother Hailey’s error), will he apply his own charges of ‘forbidding to marry’ and ‘devil’s doctrine’ to himself?"
After my quote, brother Tim says that it “leaves the false impression that Osborne accepts all (emp. his) remarriages as scriptural and right, regardless of the conditions and circumstances!”
Apparently, Tim has not read brother Rader’s quote closely enough, for it said that the “devil’s doctrine” argument “could be used to prove that all have a right to remarry.” Donnie’s quote does not leave the impression that those who use the argument DO USE it “to prove that all have a right to remarry,” just that usage of the argument itself is worthless because it “could be used to prove that all have a right to remarry.”
Brother Rader further clarified his point by saying, “The fact is that there is not one of the advocates of this argument that doesn’t teach that there is someone who can’t remarry” (emp. jhb). Obviously, by my debate review’s reference to brother Osborne’s tackling of the Hailey error, I acknowledged that brother Osborne does deny the right of some to re-marry. That is precisely the point. If brother Osborne wants to use the argument that those who “forbid marriage” are guilty of the “doctrine of devils,” he condemns himself, for he teaches against some remarriages as well.
Brother Hailey believed that Harry was binding human legislation by his opposition to the non-amenability doctrine, (just as brothers Haile and Osborne believe that I am wrong in regards to this issue). If brother Hailey had contended that Harry’s opposition to his own error, was “forbidding marriage” and guilty of “a devil’s doctrine,” would that assertion have been valid?
The burden of proof is upon those who claim that Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b and Luke 16:18b do not apply to certain put away persons. If they could show where I have denied a divinely authorized exception of Jesus’ words which prohibit a put away person from remarrying, then their accusation would be just. However, there is no scripture which negates Jesus words in those passages, nor which differentiates the fate of some “put away” persons from that of others.
My point is obvious, “forbidding marriage” is the same indictment that has been used against sound men, for decades. What does pointing out what the will of God teaches about adulterous remarriages have to do with “agreement with the devil's position”? Were John the baptizer, Jesus Christ, and the apostles guilty of “forbidding marriage” and “agreement with the devil's position” when they taught against adulterous remarriages (cp. w. Mk. 6:18; Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Rom. 7:2-3; et al)?
Moreover, I have never advocated “forbidding marriage.” What I have attempted to expose is the sin of an adulterous REmarriage (Mt. 5:32b; 19:9b; Lk. 16:18b; Rom. 7:2-3).
Furthermore, now consider the words of brother Gene Frost. After quoting Matthew 19:9 brother Frost writes, “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?...Note that God's stated rule (or principle, or procedure, to use synonyms) is: No one has the right to remarry following divorce, except the one who puts away a mate guilty of fornication and for this cause. All who marry one who is put away commit adultery…Any rule (or principle) that men formulate that contradicts the Lord’s stated will (or rule, or principle) is false. This is precisely what the Jews did. From commands or precepts clearly stated, they extrapolated conclusions and formulated rules, which were handed down for generations. These traditions became tantamount to revelation to them. Yet before they were done, their explanations as to what God meant actually contradicted what God said. (Mark 7:9)” (emp. jhb). [Gene Frost, “Marriage Divorce and Remarriage and the Innocent” (posted 6-6-01) Gospel Anchor.] (Additionally, I am personally thankful for the recent Gospel Truths articles written by brother Frost, to help clarify this issue.)
Unfortunately, the writings of brothers Tim and Harry have only derided the teaching of “Belknap and Sheridan” (and David McKee), as if there are only a few unknown brethren who have the audacity to challenge their teaching. However, when both brother Sheridan and I have shown written proof of identical teaching by brothers Rader and Frost (to name a few), they have either ignored it or claimed that we have misrepresented.
Will brothers Frost and Rader also be charged with “a position on divine liberties that puts him (them, jhb) in perfect agreement with the devil” (cf. Jas. 2:1, 9)? Moreover, will Tim also charge me with misrepresenting brother Frost? Brethren, I would not wish such twisted scrutiny upon anyone, but I am simply pointing out an inconsistency.
Additionally, in an e-mail letter to several brethren by brother Virgil Gooselaw (an elder of the Holly Street church of Christ in Denver, CO; 12-27-01), he wrote, “The Bible gives only one cause for divorce (fornication/adultery) and that must be prior to divorce, Matt 19: 9 & 5: 32. This nonsense about a ‘race to the courthouse’ and etc. is nothing more than a smokescreen…” (emp. jhb).
Furthermore, in the March-April (2001) issue of Abundant Life brother Mark Roberts wrote, “Can I share a concern with you? Recently I have noted a concerted effort on the part of some to play down the error of the ‘second putting away position’…My concern is that some who know this view to be dead wrong have seemingly decided to call it a minor issue not worthy of concern…Reasons for not labeling such teachers as ‘false teachers’ have been constructed. All of this done, for the most part, by those who have been the most aggressive and determined in rooting out error on Romans 14 and false teaching regarding God's law on divorce and remarriage being for all, Christian and non-Christian alike. Why is it that their determination seems lacking when it comes to the error of ‘mental divorce?’ I confess I do not understand this at all. The end result of the ‘second putting away’ teaching is people living in sin, living in adultery…” (emp. jhb).
It is apparent in Harry’s and Tim’s efforts to redirect brethren’s attention “somewhere between truth” and Ron’s “stand,” that they hope to eventually gain the brethren’s acceptance and fellowship of Ron’s “application.” If I have misinterpreted the circumstantial evidence leading to that conclusion, I beg Tim and / or Harry to publicly expose Ron’s “application” as unauthorized and adulterous, and I will apologize! My website is hereby offered to publish their condemnation of Ron’s “application,” as worded in his quote below.
The second point that brother Tim examined in my evaluation of the Sheridian—Osborne debate relates to my comments on I Corinthians 7:36-38.
First of all Tim states, “Throughout the race-to-the-courthouse divorce controversy, brother Osborne and I have offered many Bible examples of human authorities attempting to prohibit the exercise of divine liberties. Brother Belknap has done much in the way of misrepresenting our arguments, but he has done nothing in the way of answering them” (emp. jhb). Brother Haile once again makes broad accusations with no factual basis.
Not one of the “Bible examples” cited by brothers Haile and/or Osborne deal with divine liberties. Contrariwise, every one of their examples concerned cases which involved murder, (necessitating disobedience to divine law). Brethren, does this strike you as an honest comparison of “Bible examples” to support their contention (that “human authorities” have no right “to prohibit the exercise of divine liberties”)?
As I have previously answered in a rejoinder to brother Haile (“God Given Rights Nullified by Man's Wrongs”), such examples (of governments requiring participation in murder) are not applicable to respecting the authority of civil law in a case involving only divine liberties. Moreover, brother Osborne’s writings have cited numerous non-biblical examples, which I have also pointed out cannot be used to prove biblical authority (cf. I Cor. 4:6; Col. 3:17; I Pet. 4:11).
With the exception of the loosely extrapolated “example” of Jewish women in the first century (which is answered in my debate review article), literally all of their non-murderous “examples” (i.e. “lawful slavery,” “Nazi Germany,” “Communist” regimes, etc.) are not “Bible examples.” If this claim is not true, I ask brother Tim to please prove by quotes from previous writings, where he and/or Harry have “offered many Bible examples of human authorities attempting to prohibit the exercise of divine liberties” – examples that would not involve a Christian’s participation in murder.
As I mentioned above, what Tim calls “the race-to-the-courthouse divorce controversy” has never been the focus of my efforts to expose Ron Halbrook’s position which states, “If he has unlawful sexual relations with another (whether before or after he wrongfully puts away his true mate), his true mate has scriptural grounds to reject or put him away. That might involve countersuing in the courts if he has a suit for divorce pending. But if he has already been granted a divorce by the courts of man, the laws of man make no provision for her to act. So far as the courts of man are concerned, legal issues such as property rights have already been settled and there is nothing else to be said in the realm of human law. But if he commits adultery (before or after his action in the courts of man), there is something else to be said by divine law-by the moral and spiritual law of the court of God” (emp. jhb), Ron Halbrook, Notes and Thoughts For Further Study.
It is apparent that at least brother Osborne believes that his own “application” is more palatable to brethren than Ron’s above application for in an e-mail letter to several brethren (9-27-01), Harry stated, “I believe the vast majority would also affirm that an innocent party in a marriage sundered for the case of fornication has the right to remarry even if the guilty fornicator filed first and secured the civil divorce” (emp. jhb).
Considering this, is it any wonder that both Harry and Tim continue to return to that scenario time and again, thereby effecting deflection from the focus of Ron’s “application?” If Harry and Tim are successful in convincing others that their own “application” is scriptural, then full acceptance and fellowship of Ron’s “application” is sure to follow. When one accepts that even one person who has been put away, is not really put away, the door has been opened and there is no end to the “applications” that will fit and flow through it—a Pandora’s box, indeed.
After quoting I Corinthians 7:36-38 (NKJV), Tim wrote, “Jeff Belknap cited this passage in an attempt to prove the ‘vital principle’ (as he called it) that human authorities have divine permission to dissolve lawful provisions within God’s word…”
Tim also stated, “Brother Belknap’s position ignores both the immediate and remote contexts of 1 Corinthians 7:36-38. Paul plainly said that he did not intend to ‘put a leash’ (see the NKJV) on these brethren. However, Belknap’s explanation does precisely this! He is fully prepared to do the very thing that Paul refused to do - bind where God had not bound! Brother Belknap contends that the virgin’s father ‘had the divine right to revoke her right of lawful marriage...Let us assume for a moment that brother Belknap is right, and that this father had divine authority to set aside divine liberties. If so, wouldn’t this authority then be limited to times of persecution? The logical consequence of Belknap’s argument is that civil courts of law may decide marital rights, but only in times of persecution!” (emp. jhb). First of all, there is no assumption necessary. The text clearly affirms that the virgin’s father had this authority!
The words in my debate review clearly acknowledged that “the circumstances behind this situation were unique (‘the present distress,’ v. 26)” but then stated, “it does not alter the fact that an earthly authority had divine approval to deny a God-given “right” to one under his authority (I Cor. 7:2).” Consequently, how can Tim truthfully say “Brother Belknap’s position ignores both the immediate and remote contexts of 1 Corinthians 7:36-38”?
I readily concede that Paul’s instructions in these verses were not meant to “put a leash” on God’s people, but to guide them in wisdom. Paul was careful here not to press his personal “leash” and bind his own recommendations on the brethren, for he recognized that he had no authority of himself over brethren. However, he clearly recognized and affirmed the divine right of a father (as an authority over those God placed under his subjection) to bind his own judgment upon his virgin daughter(s).
What sayeth the scripture? Paul wrote, “So then he that giveth her in marriage doeth well; but he that giveth her not in marriage doeth better” (I Cor. 7:38, emp. jhb). How readest thou? Even though this advice was given under distressing circumstances, it was consistent with God’s law. Both giving a daughter in marriage and not giving her in marriage were approved. If Paul’s inspired words were contrary to God’s law, then we must draw the impossible conclusion that Paul was advocating situation ethics (cp. Rom. 3:8 with II Cor. 13:7).
Moreover, to argue that the present distress during the writing of I Corinthians 7 was the only time a father had the right (as a human authority) to revoke his children’s divine right to marriage, places today’s fathers of young teens in a curious predicament. 1) IF a father cannot ever deny his children this “divine right,” and 2) IF the laws of the land cannot usurp that “divine right,” and 3) SINCE the Bible does not specify at what age a person becomes eligible to exercise this “divine right,” THEN those fathers who prohibit their 14 year old infatuated children from marrying, are guilty of sin and the “doctrine of devils.” This is a necessary conclusion to Tim’s contention that fathers (as human authorities) have no divine right to forbid divinely authorized marriages to those who are subject to them.
Furthermore, history even suggests that betrothed brides in the first century were eligible at the age of 12 to complete their marriages (see the American Tract Society Dictionary, under BETROTHING.) Also, the Pulpit Commentary (vol. 19) comments that the meaning of “pass the flower of her age,” in I Corinthians 7:36 is “If she be more than twenty years old, which the ancients regarded as the acme of the woman’s life” (emp. jhb). Hence, if our historians are correct, we cannot deny that from the ages of 12 to 20, a virgin was divinely authorized to marry, yet could be lawfully kept from exercising that right by her father.
Additionally, as I have written in response to brother Haile before, I Peter 2:13-17 is another text which clearly proves that service to God involves recognition of the civil authorities, even to the point of relinquishing divine liberties in obedience to them.
Peter wrote, “Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; 14 Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. 15 For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: 16 As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. 17 Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king” (emp. jhb).
Does I Peter 2 require us to honor civil authorities only when they are good and uphold God’s liberties? Can we use our liberties in Christ to validate defiance of the powers that be? Obviously not, for verse 18 of the same context continues on with the same thought, instructing servants to remain in submission to their masters, even when they are harsh (cf. 3:1-6). It then states that Christians should be willing to suffer wrong in order to remain in submission to man and to keep a clear “conscience toward God.”
This is the teaching of the Almighty – not man. These instructions were not given as simple suggestions for those who lived during the time of distress, yet they teach the same principle that I Corinthians 7:36-38 teaches. We must submit to those whom God places in authority over us, even when our obedience results in the revocation of divine liberties. The only time that God has specified an exception to this rule is when submission to the civil authorities would necessitate rebellion to Him (Acts 5:29). In Romans 13:2 Paul wrote, “Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation” (emp. jhb; cf. II Pet. 2:10; Jude 1:8).
In his article, brother Haile stated: “Belknap’s position is only viable if he can find at least one Bible passage that actually teaches that God allows human authorities the power to repeal His holy word, at least in the area of divine privileges and liberties…” Again, I ask brother Tim and others to please acknowledge I Corinthians 7:38.
Brethren, judge for yourselves whether or not the cited scriptures support the viability of what I have taught. Let us compare what is said by all with the references given – the biblical ones. Let us not accept baseless accusations/claims as truth. Let us be fair-minded and search the scriptures to see whether these things are so (cp. Acts 17:11 with II Pet. 2:18-21).
Special note: Please consider the following additional study materials: