Weldon Refuses To Debate
By Jeff Belknap
After almost two years of repeated radio broadcasts by brother Weldon Warnock over Beckley’s local air waves1 about his desire to debate and expose the “absurd” MDR position of the preacher “in Beckley” who causes “dissention and problems across the country,” brother Warnock has again turned down the opportunity to debate.
In addition, brother Warnock not only continues to use the Beech Creek weekly radio program (broadcasted in and all around Beckley, WV) for his own personal “outlet”2 (his word, not mine), but his misrepresentations (well-documented in previous articles)3 have now waxed worse. After having conceded that I hold the same position on MDR that Connie Adams and Donnie Rader hold,4 Weldon has now falsely asserted that the preacher in Beckley, WV believes “it’s a race to the courthouse,” “who gets to the courthouse first” Play Clip! and “who gets to the courthouse and files.” Play Clip!
In his radio broadcasts, with absolute disregard for the souls of the Beckley community that the church is trying to convert, brother Weldon has repeatedly vilified “the preacher in Southern WV, in Beckley,” whom he calls “JB,” who now preaches at the church where he used to preach “for ten years.” He has repeatedly stated that I am “afraid of” debate, that I won’t “come up to the lick log” for debate, etc.
Additionally, when discussing my computer, he stated that “it’d be a good thing if somebody walked in over there, and stole the thing.” Play Clip! His public advocacy of adulterous remarriages (for the put away), and stealing is the kind of blasphemy condemned by Paul in the first century (cf. Romans 2:20-24).
Even more regrettable is the fact that brother Warnock’s verbal assaults have been launched – not out of love for the brethren and/or souls of men, but purely out of self-interest (Philippians 2:21). This is clearly manifested by his numerous pledges to discontinue his offensive conduct if I would simply remove his public teaching and all the reports of his behavior from my website. Notice a couple of Weldon’s self-serving statements:
“You just remove my name from that website and all the material and then I won’t have to deal with this, will I?” Weldon E. Warnock, [3-7-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
“And then they come along and say I caused some problems. I made this proposition that if my part would be taken off, I’d leave this alone, wouldn’t mention it, wouldn’t have anything to do with it. But no, no, no, no! Can’t do that.” Weldon E. Warnock, [9-13-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
This attitude explains why Weldon has no problem in getting along with brothers Connie Adams and Donnie Rader, even though he has acknowledged that they teach the same doctrine that I do. While he denounces my (and thus, their) MDR teaching as “indefensible,” “ludicrous,” “radical,” “extreme,” “deplorable,” “invalid,” “sophistry,” “fallacy,” “nonsense,” “far-fetched,” and “absurd,” he tolerates it among those who continue to fellowship him and suffer his propagation of the doctrine that they call “adultery”5 (II Corinthians 11:19-20; cf. Isaiah 56:10; Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11)! Amazing! Play Clip!
The History Behind the Current Situation
From the first day that the Mental Divorce website was established, the top of its front page has clearly stated the reason I felt it necessary to expose brother Ron Halbrook’s “mental divorce” error. After Ron’s denials6 that he was teaching the post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication doctrine, and because I had received numerous documents that proved his denials to be false, I had no other choice but to expose the error he had been disseminating behind the scenes for over twenty years, as Ephesians 5:11 commands.7
Even with that documentation, before initiating the website, I wrote four articles on the subject and sent them to Ron in hopes that he would reconsider his teaching, but was disappointed by his continued denials. Then, after my website was established, I subsequently posted a written – not oral – debate invitation for Ron on the website.8
Though brother Halbrook never responded to the invitation, brother Warnock announced on his Beckley radio program that he would accept this challenge and offered to take Ron’s place in debate:
“Now, wouldn’t it be nice, ladies and gentlemen, if we could get some of these boys today, these brethren today, to debate this, on this putting away? And there’s a brother, a preacher in Southern West Virginia, who’s on the computer challenging a brother like Ron Halbrook for debate. Yeah, he’s been brazen. I want, I want a debate, and chided him ‘cause, brother Ron because he won’t debate. Well, Ron decided that’s not the – the best, ha, ha, as far, as far as he’s concerned, but I tell you what, I’ll do it.” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [2-22-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
Although my debate offer to brother Halbrook had been for a written exchange and I had stated that I was not an “oral” debater, Weldon subsequently stipulated that he wanted to debate me “orally.” At that time, due to Weldon’s repeated broadcasts that insisted on an oral debate in Beckley, the men of the congregation discussed the situation in our monthly business meeting. The joint decision of the men was that there be NO debate held in or near Beckley due to their determination that it was Weldon’s divisive and destructive radio broadcasts (and other tactics)9 that had already caused some disunity among the congregation.
Weldon was hence notified of the men’s decision to have NO oral debate in or near Beckley by a member in Beckley whom Weldon had previously baptized. He was also notified of this decision by myself – and possibly others of the congregation with whom Weldon maintains regular contact, as well. He even verbally stated his knowledge of the men’s decision on his radio program.
Please note the evidence of Weldon’s knowledge of this decision and his self-contradictory attempts to make others think that the reason for my unwillingness to debate in Beckley is because I am afraid to debate him, instead of an act of honoring the decision of the men:
“And if they (the men of the church in Beckley, jhb) don’t want to have it, certainly in the church building, we could move to someplace else and just have it on our own. We can have a discussion, but he doesn’t want one, he wants to hide behind the men. And he can hide behind the computer. And he loves that computer and he hides behind it, and he can say anything he wants to, he can take two or three days and holler for help, if he has to, ‘How am I going to answer this?’ ‘What am I going to do about this?’ And he can call around or send e-mails around over the country and get his answers, and then, put down something. But in a public discussion, friends, you’ve got to know what you’re talking about because you’ve got to answer in just a little bit. And you can’t pull this kind of stuff and so I’m saying, let’s have a public discussion.” (emp. jhb) Weldon E. Warnock, [7-25-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
It is perplexing why Weldon would think I need to “hide behind” anything to avoid debate, when his own repeated actions have proven that all that is necessary to avoid debate is to simply say that he doesn’t want to debate anywhere but in Beckley, and that’s good enough. Apparently brother Warnock seeks to hold others to a much stricter code of conduct than the one he lives by (cf. Matthew 7:2).
Next, brother Warnock made various untrue statements about me on his radio program such as “he refuses to have a public discussion,” “he doesn’t want one,” etc., when I have never refused any such thing. In fact, it was my own plea to brother Halbrook for a written “public discussion,” that caused brother Weldon to call me “brazen” in the above quote. However, since I refused Weldon’s own personal dictates as to the kind of debate he desired, he asserted that I refused to debate altogether.
During the time that these events were unfolding, I also personally contacted brother J. T. Smith, (editor of Gospel Truths) and brother Danny Brown (editor of Preceptor magazine) to ask if they would be willing to print a written exchange on post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication between brother Warnock and myself. They both affirmed their willingness to do so.
Therefore I sent a short note to Weldon notifying him of these arrangements, including debate propositions on 3-18-04. Nevertheless, Weldon turned down that offer – at least until I was willing to “have a public, oral discussion at Beckley first.” He was able to make this offer with the full assurance that he would never have to fulfill his word, in light of his previous notification that I would not orally debate him in Beckley.
To make matters worse, after Weldon had excused himself from the written debate I had arranged by making it contingent upon something he knew to be impossible (i.e. an oral debate in Beckley), he had the audacity to claim that I gave a false impression by asserting that he was turning down the opportunity to debate. Note what he stated:
“Now then, I want to get to this website just briefly. Someone the other day sent me a printout of what was on the website. Now this brother in Southern WV, brother JB – and I don’t know what his aim is, what his motives are – but he says among other things, that I continue to decline a wonderful, waiting or ready, waiting opportunity to have a written exchange with him in two religious journals that he names.
Now, he leaves the impression, ladies and gentlemen, that I’m turning this down. There’s an editor of a religious journal (J. T. Smith, jhb) that I heard he said that I’d run from JB, and JB had me scared. And I called him up and I’ve known him for 50 years (he’s a friend of mine), I said ‘I understand you said this and you got it all wrong.’ I said, ‘Here, here’s what happened: I said I would have this written exchange with this brother over in WV, providing we could have a public, oral discussion at Beckley first’” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [7-25-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
Frankly, I do not have to leave any “impression” that he is “turning” anything “down,” for Weldon’s own words are doing a fine job of that all by themselves!
Recently, I offered six men (including brother Warnock) who have publicly advocated the false doctrine of post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication the invitation to debate with the following challenge: “Let the record reflect that I am offering the following propositions (which are harmonious with the focus of my website, as well as with the numerous documented examples of their error) for debate (oral or written) in various journals or at a location central to both participants” (emp. jhb).10
Subsequently, on his Beckley-broadcasted radio program, Weldon announced that he not only “agreed to the propositions,” but also stated “and I accepted the challenge,” moreover, “I accepted that challenge.” Note exactly what Weldon said publicly:
“Now, about the debate. I mentioned this a couple of weeks ago and that there’s a brother over in Southern WV that has challenged me for a debate. It’s on his website, as well as five other preachers. And I accepted the challenge, even agreed to the propositions! But he doesn’t want it in Beckley. He doesn’t want it in Beckley or around Beckley. And I don’t know how far you’d have to go outside of Beckley, to not be near Beckley (doesn’t want it around there.) Would Charleston be far enough? Or Parkersburg? Or over in Lexington, KY, or where? But he just wants to get it out of Beckley, WV” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [4-17-05 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
“Last Sunday night I mentioned a brother who challenged me for a public debate, an oral debate or a written exchange and I accepted that challenge. He lives over in Beckley, WV and I haven’t heard one word so far. I don’t know what the problem is. Now that, his website goes out over the country and people see that, it looks that like I won’t debate. And I’m not just eager to have a debate anywhere with anybody. But in view of the fact that he has put on his website some things about me initially and started all this concerning this marriage, divorce and remarriage issue and then he challenged me for a debate, I’m ready” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [5-3-05 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
What was “that challenge” to which Weldon was referring? It was the very one that stipulated it be held “at a location central to both participants.” The definition of “central” is: “Situated at, in, or near the center,” hence “a location central to both participants” obviously cannot be at the location of one of the participants!
However, brother Weldon misleadingly claims that he “accepted” my challenge by agreeing to debate me “in Beckley,” as if Beckley was a location that I had challenged him to debate at, or a location where it was even possible. The definition of “accept” is: “to make an affirmative or favorable response to; specifically: to indicate by words or action one’s assent to (an offer) and willingness to enter into a contract.”
Since I never made “an offer” to debate “in Beckley,” for Weldon to “accept,” either he was dishonest when he stated “I accepted the challenge, even agreed to the propositions” / “I accepted that challenge,” or he has since rescinded his acceptance to “that challenge.” Weldon’s obvious disregard for the keeping of his own words is a stark contrast to the noble actions of Jephthah in Judges 11 (Hebrews 11:32), in which he kept his vow, even to his “own hurt” (cf. Psalm 15:1, 4; Matthew 5:37; James 5:12).
During the time of Weldon’s deceptive claim of acceptance, I received an agreement from the brethren at the South End congregation in Louisville (whose building can seat 350 people, with ample parking and easy expressway access) to host an oral debate between Weldon and I. However, Weldon’s latest “reason” for refusing to debate me in Louisville (or at any place outside of the Beckley area) is reflected in his following words:
“Somebody told me that the brother here in Southern WV, here in Beckley, had on his website that somebody said they’d open their facilities over in Louisville, KY to have the debate. But I don’t want to debate over in Louisville, KY; I want to debate in Beckley, WV, where he began riding this hobby and causing disturbance and dissention in the church.” (emp. jhb) Weldon E. Warnock, [4-24-05 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
Nevertheless, if his reasoning proves true, then he should be happy to debate the issue anywhere else in “the country” in light of his previous charge:
“So you can see how absurd and illogical all of this is, Ladies and Gentlemen. That’s why I’d just love to have the chance for a public oral debate, so I could show the fallacy of this brother’s argument, which he’s dividing the church and causing dissention and problems across the country.” (emp. jhb) Weldon E. Warnock, [2-29-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
Now, 1) if I’m really “causing dissention and problems across the country” as well as “in Beckley,” and 2) if Weldon would really “just love to have the chance for a public oral debate, so I (he) could show the fallacy of this brother’s argument,” then why does he have absolutely no interest in exposing this “absurd and illogical” “fallacy” to those “across the country?” I find it ironic that brother Warnock has stated, “I’m ready to defend what I preach,” but apparently the only place he thinks he can defend it and show its fallacy is before the brethren in Beckley, WV. Hence, it is irrefutable that the only thing standing in the way of Weldon debating this issue where it is actually possible, is Weldon himself!
Why does he insist on debating it in the one and only area where he knows I will not debate it, out of consideration to my local brethren’s wishes? I think the readers are intelligent enough to draw their own reasonable conclusions from the evidence of his unreasonable actions.
I have always thought that the purpose for debate was to afford a wide range of brethren the opportunity to objectively examine both sides of a controversial issue. However, Weldon’s unwillingness to debate anywhere but Beckley (coupled with his frequent radio rages against me to those in Beckley), manifests that his motive is questionable at best (Matthew 7:20). Play Clip!
Additionally, although brother Warnock had previously assisted another brother in his labors to slander me (by sending brother Tom O’Neal our church directory to provide him with our members’ addresses), he has also now enlisted the help of brother Tim Haile in his efforts.
On April 6th, 2005, brother Tim Haile posted an article to his website entitled: “Weldon Warnock Accepts Jeff Belknap’s Debate Proposition.” Within the article, Tim stated that Weldon accepted my propositions to debate “in Beckley,” knowing full well that my proposal for debate was not for “Beckley,” but in fact, included the stipulation of “a location central to both participants.” Brother Haile also wrote “Will brother Belknap agree to debate brother Warnock? We shall see.”
After reading this absurdity that was obviously concocted to put a spin on the situation, I immediately wrote brother Haile the following day (4-7-05) and sent A Response To Brother Warnock’s Partial Acceptance To My Debate Offer. In that response, I even verified that I would agree to “ANY CITY in the U.S. that is not near Beckley.”
Brother Tim then wrote a rejoinder asking disparaging and misleading questions of me and placed both articles on his website. Subsequently, I wrote a Reply To Tim Haile’s Rejoinder Regarding A Possible Debate (cc: J. T. Smith, Gene Frost, Maurice Barnett, Don Martin, Greg Gwin, Connie Adams, Donnie Rader and Bill Reeves), in which I answered the questions in his article and exposed his pretense with documented facts. However, though Tim has posted other articles on his website after acknowledging receipt of my answer/reply, he has yet to post my reply on his website. This willful neglect leaves the impression that I did not or could not answer him, and that I am the one responsible for circumventing debate!
Making matters worse, brother Warnock has been using his “outlet” (radio program) to depict me as too cowardly to debate him, unwilling “to step up to the lick log.” This is obviously just another one of brother Warnock’s continued malicious misrepresentations. Notice just a few of his distortions:
“Now, let’s see if a fellow has enough courage to step up to the lick log, and just defend what he preaches. You’re not going to call me a false teacher, you’re going to get in a debate, if you’ll have it and don’t run from it, now” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [2-22-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
“And I’m answering, I’m responding to his propositions and to his challenge, and I’m on the list. And so let’s see if he’ll come up to the lick log or if he’s just bluffing. And we’ll, we’ll see, we’ll let you know ladies and gentlemen. Now I’m tired of this! Here’s a fellow that all he does is to dabble in this stuff, night and day and he’s got me on his website. And wants to challenge me and tries to portray me as a false teacher, as a heretic. And he’s been doing this for the last three years or so, two or three years. And I deny his charge, his allegation. There’s not a word of truth in it, ladies and gentlemen. He’s got an extreme position. He says he wants to debate. And so, I’m ready, just come on, bring it on and I’m ready to do it! Now we’ll see what happens” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [3-27-05 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
“Now he presented me as a false teacher, and I resent that. Of all the years I’ve preached, ladies and gentlemen – I’ve been preaching for 52 years. And I know brethren all across this country. And all of a sudden here in the past few years, you’ve had some of these over zealous brethren on their websites who’ve made a hobby out of marriage, divorce and remarriage, and calling those who disagree with them on some of these procedures, as false teachers and heretics. And you know, I’m not going to take that. And I’m ready to have a public discussion. And we’ll just see what side the bread is buttered on. As we use the old saying, ‘come on up to the lick log now.’ And let’s get this thing under way” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [4-3-05 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
Again, brother Warnock makes these statements knowing full-well that the men of the congregation in Beckley made the joint decision NOT to have a debate in or around Beckley. Nevertheless, brother Warnock seeks to pretend that the men of the Beckley congregation never made that decision and make believe that my refusal to debate in the Beckley area is wholly self-directed.
Additionally, after it became clear that Weldon was evading the debate which Tim claimed Weldon was willing to engage in, now brother Haile has twice written that he would like to debate me – specifically in Beckley.
Furthermore, while in attendance at the Haile-Smith debate in Tulsa, OK, I had come to Tim and proposed that he and I debate our differences over post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication. He stated that he would only agree to debate using propositions that reflect the same focus as that of the propositions he used with brother Smith. End of story. Nevertheless, now that brother Haile knows I will not debate in the Beckley area, he has offered to debate me in Beckley, stating in all confidence that, “I’m sure we can work out propositions that are agreeable to each of us.” Hmmm…
Moreover at the Haile-Smith debate in Bowling Green, KY, brother David Watts Jr., also offered to debate brother Haile using the exact same propositions that Tim had used with brother Smith. Interestingly, brother Tim has yet to accept David’s invitation. As Alice in Wonderland says, things keep getting “curiouser and curiouser!”
How badly can these brethren want to “show the fallacy” of their opponent’s position in debate, and how much confidence in their position is displayed by making their agreement to debate contingent upon an impossibility?
Regardless of these facts, brothers Warnock and Haile have continued to claim that I am afraid of public discussion because I will not disregard the men’s decision by debating them in Beckley. Such thinking is simply beyond my comprehension. The only conclusion that can be drawn from such statements is that Weldon and Tim apparently have no problem with running roughshod over the decisions made by the men of the congregations where they preach in matters of opinion. Nevertheless, I do not operate that way! If the men in Beckley ever change their mind and make the joint decision for me to debate this issue here, then it will be arranged at that time – not before.
The blatant inequity in judgment among Weldon and his associates is eye-opening. Though it was Ron Halbrook’s teaching that was responsible for forcing this present controversy, Weldon reveals his approval of Ron’s refusal to debate the issue, just because “Ron decided that’s not the – the best.” Play Clip!
Additionally, although the elders in Paden City, WV never told me to “have a debate down there in your own back door,”11 as Weldon falsely charged, his comments nevertheless reveal his view that it was right for the brethren at Paden City to decline a debate at their location, as well. 1) Play Clip! 2) Play Clip!
Moreover, Weldon thinks it’s reasonable and right that he, himself first refused a written debate offer because he wanted it to be “oral,” then secondly, rejected the oral debate challenge (which he claims he has “accepted”) because the one place where he wants to have it is off limits.
Hence it is clear that, when it comes to those who support or defend his own views, brother Warnock considers any frivolous, self-imposed excuse to refuse debate anywhere and everywhere to be good enough. Yet, when one who exposes Weldon’s theory of a post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication12 agrees to debate ANYWHERE in the entire U.S. except the one small area that the men of the local congregation have asked him not to, then he is supposedly “afraid of” debate and won’t “come up to the lick log.” The wise man wrote, “These things also belong to the wise. It is not good to have respect of persons in judgment” (Proverbs 24:23).
When you consider the unreasonable thinking behind brother Warnock’s and brother Haile’s statements, it’s no wonder that the same minds could have been subverted by a doctrine that patently violates the Lord’s clear and specific teaching in Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b and Luke 16:18b. See: Fellowship
2 “But time is about to get away from me, here. I wanted to say I appreciate you listening tonight and sorry I had to present this stuff, but this is my only outlet, when a fellow takes his website and plasters it all over the country, then I’ve got to say something about it.” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, (2-22-04) Play Clip!
4 “Most brethren who disagree on this issue have been tolerant toward one another and not divisive… Concerning Connie Adams, he and I remain the best of friends. I just talked to him on the phone last Saturday. I was a staff writer for Searching the Scriptures, which Connie edited, for many years, even to its final publication in 1992. We differed on this point, but we didn’t go around calling one another a heretic. Such shenanigans would have been stupid. Connie’s attitude toward Ron Halbrook, Larry Hafley and others is one of tolerance and moderation. Why can’t you be of the same persuasion? As you perhaps know Donnie Rader holds the same position you do, but we have no problems as we work together in the Guardian of Truth Foundation. I don’t consider Donnie a heretic and he doesn’t look upon me as one, either.” Weldon E. Warnock (7-8-02), See: Public Correspondence With Weldon E. Warnock; Play Clip!
In brother Donnie Rader’s book [“Divorce and Remarriage: What does the text say?,” Lesson 8, Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry)], he condemned the second “putting away” theory as “sin,” “adultery,” and what the Bible “emphatically forbids” (p. 78). Question: How can a Christian (in all good conscience) maintain fellowship with “adultery” and what he believes the Bible “emphatically forbids”?
Ron’s Reply To J. T. Smith Gospel Truths April 2001 (with comments)
11 “…he wants his material distributed in Paden City, WV and I’d like to see a debate up there. Well, he was told to have a debate down there (laughs) in your own back door…” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [2-22-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
“Yeah, he wanted to send his material up to Paden City, WV, and have them distribute it up there among all the members. And he wanted to have an oral debate up there. He didn’t want to do it up there, but he suggested they have one up there. And he was told, ‘have one down there in your back door.’” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, [2-29-04 Radio program (WJLS 99.5 FM, Beckley WV) sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.] Play Clip!
“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…” (emp. jhb). Weldon
E. Warnock (Searching the Scriptures, November issue, 1985)