A Misrepresentation of Stan Cox?
By David McKee
In the June edition of Watchman Magazine (found at www.watchmanmag.com), Stan Cox submitted a series of lessons on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, entitled, “Let none deal treacherously.” I responded to a number of statements made by brother Cox in that series in an article posted at www.mentaldivorce.com, entitled, “‘One Man, One Woman, For a Lifetime, With One Exception’ (The wolf in sheep’s clothing).” Now, in the editorial of the August edition of Watchman Magazine, brother Cox takes exception to some of statements I made in that article, claiming that he has been greatly misrepresented. If such is proven to be the case, I owe brother Cox a public apology. I would ask for the help of others in determining if such is the case. At present, I do not see it, but that does not mean that I am not wrong.
Brother Cox and I have talked on the phone and shared a number of e-mails, so we are not strangers to one another’s arguments. In the past, I have asked brother Cox if he would allow me to post an article on his site concerning this subject, but he refused. I asked if an exchange could be posted on his site, which would have allowed him the opportunity to expose my flawed thinking before all of his readers, but this also was refused. Eventually, the Sheridan-Osborne exchange was posted. This exchange, and the upper hand given to brother Osborne in that exchange, was a clear indication of where brother Cox would stand on this issue.
However, an objective reading of brother Cox’s editorial does cause me to wonder if I have been wrong in assigning a position to him that he does not hold. I do know that brother Cox strongly defends the teachings of Ron Halbrook, Tim Haile, and Harry Osborne on this subject, but that does not have to mean that he believes as they do. I know that brother Cox makes the same arguments as do brothers Halbrook, Haile, and Osborne, in defending the position under discussion, but again, one does not have to conclude from that that brother Cox believes as they do on this subject simply because he makes the same arguments.
Others have obviously had the same trouble with brother Cox as he admits in his editorial when he wrote, “Some have desired that I expound further on the current dispute. I think perhaps some are more desirous that I endorse a position, rather than being satisfied with what I have written.” And a few sentences later, “I have no desire to engage in speculation regarding processes and possible scenarios.” Perhaps brother Cox does not realize that it is not so much a matter of endorsing a position as it is clearly stating what one believes. Stating what one believes makes it much easier for brethren to figure out where one stands. If brethren who teach error are defended, and one is found making the same arguments as those in error, has the brother doing so been misrepresented when assigned like beliefs? Yet, here is the fault brother Cox finds with what I have written.
But consider again these quotes (in blue) that I sited from brother Cox’s articles, (with a few additional comments of mine in red):
“In reality, at times civil government goes beyond its legitimate authority. God’s law is not to be subjugated to civil law. Though a civil judge may refuse to recognize an innocent’s repudiation (because he or she has already been put away) of his or her mate for the cause of fornication, and may even grant a judgment of divorce to the guilty party (the first putting away), this does not abrogate the innocent party’s divine right to put away his or her spouse for the cause of fornication (the argument for a second putting away).”
“In Matthew 19:9, Jesus specified the cause for the putting away, not the procedure (this argument is used to set aside the civil procedure in our land, allowing one to ignore the civil action that has been taken already). Note that the question in verse 3, asked by the Pharisees, was, “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” (KJV). Jesus’ answer was that the only cause sufficient for justly putting away a spouse was “fornication.” Regardless of the civil procedure (meaning, whether or not said action has already been taken against a spouse), the individual who puts away his or her spouse for the cause of fornication (even after the civil procedure, [wherein action was taken against her], has been followed; in essence making it a second putting away) is free to remarry.”
“While Matthew 19 indeed indicates that a civil divorce must be obtained, no scripture ever specifies a procedure.” (True. The necessary conclusion of our Lord's statement would find its application in whatever the understood procedure is in one's given culture, thus allowing the gospel to be taken into all the world; a world with varying procedures for marrying and divorcing. In our great land, the action of putting away does involve the civil courts. And when said action has been taken, a spouse has been put away, unable to remarry another).
“One may find it necessary to file first, or to have adultery stated on the papers as the cause of the dissolution of the marriage. Another, though “putting away” his spouse for adultery, may not be conscience bound to follow that exact same civil process.” (Brethren never argue that a woman should not follow the civil process in our land if she is the first to take the action against an unfaithful spouse. But if she finds herself to be the one against whom the action has already been taken, now without a civil process to follow, brethren will argue that she may not be bound to “follow that exact same civil process.”)
Yet, brother Cox took exception with this one paragraph that I wrote:
“What brother Cox would have us accept is the belief that since the actions of sinful men and women cannot alter “God's established rule for marriage” – “one man, one woman, for a lifetime, with one exception,” then their actions can be ignored. What he would have us end up believing is that the innocent wife who is put away against her wishes, who maintains her marriage obligations, may put away her ex-mate upon his subsequent fornication and remarry. Brother Cox would argue that she followed the rule and the man did not, so his actions do not count and are not to be recognized. Unfortunately for the woman, and contrary to what brother Cox argues, our Lord recognizes the husband’s action as sinful and identifies her re-marriage as adulterous.”
As I stated earlier, it may have been my mistake to assume that because brother Cox makes the same arguments as those teaching error on this subject, and defends those who are teaching error on this subject, that he must draw the same conclusions. If brother Cox informs me that he does not draw those same conclusions then I do owe him a public apology. I would hope that brother Cox would understand that if one is seen having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, rather than exposing them (Eph 5:11), one might be thought to be sharing in their evil deeds (II Jn 10-11).
When I pointed out these conclusions from brother Cox’s arguments, though finding them in contradiction to Scripture, I assigned no motives for why he would make such statements. However, under the bold heading of “Honor in Controversy” brother Cox wondered out loud as to why I would say what I did.
“There are several possibilities that may explain why brother McKee would make these false claims about my material. One is that he did not carefully read the material. Perhaps he looked only at the article Race to the Courthouse, and assumed that I believed what he attributed to me. However, that would not explain why he would claim I argued a position I never argued. Perhaps brother McKee does not have the maturity to rightly discern the positions taken. Perhaps he has the sectarian mentality. He may consider himself part of a party, and believe that since I am not of his party, I must be of another. He may be a disreputable fellow, unconcerned with the rightness of tactics, determined only to smear, destroy and obfuscate. Regardless, I can not imagine a single honorable reason for such treatment.”
This is brother Cox’s version of “honor in controversy,” and it is disappointing. Brethren cannot get caught up in such while souls are perishing. If I am wrong and mistaken, show me where. Brother Cox went on to say, “I do not harbor any allusions that McKee will apologize, though the misrepresentation is blatant.” I ask brother Cox to show me where I have misrepresented him and I will gladly apologize. I would like to find that I have been mistaken about a number of my brethren. I would like to find that they are not going in the way of Cain, the error of Balaam, and the rebellion of Korah (Jude 11). Yet we have among us a teaching that will permit adulterous marriages and too many are defending the teaching, defending those teaching it, or standing by and doing nothing. God’s word condemns all three approaches as sin. I will await brother Cox’s reply.