Brother Warnock’s 19 Year Progression of Error
By Jeff Belknap
It has been a heartrending experience, during the last few years, to witness the resurrection of the second “putting away” (mental divorce) doctrine within the body of Christ. Regardless of the many denials by its advocates, this is the exact same issue (with a few, cosmetic changes) that has been identified by the well-known term, “Mental Divorce,” and that which was silenced back in years gone by.
This false doctrine’s re-emergence began to be exposed after various brethren reported (with documentation) that brother Ron Halbrook was teaching his “application,” far and wide. Moreover, additional evidence of this allegation was made manifest when he mailed his own writings (which advocate post-divorce putting away for post-divorce fornication by the “innocent” put away mate) to other brethren. Shortly after that, cassette tapes of his public preaching began to emerge which also plainly revealed his second “putting away” position.
Since the documentation of brother Halbrook’s error has become available to the public, Ron and other fellow Truth Magazine associates are abandoning their previous efforts to deny his promotion of post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication, in favor of engaging a campaign to justify it! Unfortunately, after almost two decades, the advocates of this doctrine have become much more aggressive than in the past (II Timothy 2:16-18; 3:13).
The leavening effect of this error (like any other that goes unrestrained) has become painfully obvious. Paul repeated the admonition: “Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?” (cf. I Corinthians 5:6; Galatians 5:9). Moreover, he assured us that “tolerance” toward false teaching is not the answer, for it “corrupts” good morals (I Corinthians 15:33) and will lead “many” away from “the way of truth” (Matthew 15:14; II Peter 2:1-2).
Although I discovered that brother Weldon E. Warnock had taught this doctrine 19 years ago in Searching the Scriptures magazine, there was no further evidence that he continued to promote the doctrine after brother Connie W. Adams and Jim Deason refuted his teaching in the same venue. See: The Warnock-Deason Exchange
Hence, while the establishment of the Mental Divorce website (www.mentaldivorce.com) was not about brother Weldon Warnock, he has lately become a very active participant in pressing this position. Regrettably, my friend (and mentor) has been publicly preaching this view in a very active way on a local radio station heard in the two Virginias (WJLS – 99.5 FM, Beckley, WV, sponsored by the Beech Creek church of Christ in Meador, WV). Although he has preached on this topic at least four times in almost as many months, his last lesson was recorded on tape. Sound clips are available online. Just click: AUDIO CLIPS
Back in the mid-eighties when Weldon taught this theory in Searching the Scriptures, our brother wrote:
“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. …” Weldon E. Warnock (Searching the Scriptures, November issue, 1985)
However, this teaching was subsequently presented as error by the Editor of STS when brother Connie W. Adams wrote the following:
“He brought up a case in which divorce occurred which was not for fornication, then stated that should the one putting the other away remarry, the other party could then put the husband away ‘in purpose of heart’ and be free to remarry. This involves the notion of mental putting away after the fact of actual divorce and termination of anything that might even resemble a marriage.
It is my conviction that there are only three classes of people who have a right to marry: (1) those who have never been married: (2) those whose companions are dead; and (3) those who have put away a companion for the cause of fornication. It appears to me that any attempt to find authority for anyone else to marry, must trade on the silence of the scriptures. I realize that brother Warnock’s illustration involves fornication but it is after the fact of divorce and not before. It is very difficult for me to see how this is not in reality the ‘waiting game’ for one waits until the other sins and then claims scriptural cause.” Connie W. Adams, Editorial, The Warnock - Deason Exchange, STS (March 1986)] The Warnock-Deason Exchange
According to the words of brother Adams, to arrive at the position Weldon has advocated, one “must trade on the silence of the scriptures.” Moreover, Connie (Weldon’s dear friend – both then and now) equated this topic with “‘mental divorce’” and “the ‘waiting game’”. Hence, these are not present-day prejudicial terms, but widely recognized and accepted expressions that have been used to identify this doctrine for decades.
Connie also revealed the flaw in Weldon’s position. He stated it was “after the fact of divorce and not before…for one waits (post-divorce, jhb) until the other sins and then claims scriptural cause” (emp. jhb).
Unfortunately, almost nineteen years later, brother Warnock is still teaching the same unauthorized doctrine criticized by brother Adams (and Jim Deason) in STS. On January 25th 2004, brother Warnock preached on “Trouble in the Church.” Within his lesson he made the following statements:
“… Well, another problem in the church, a cause of trouble, is binding opinions, and preachers are bad about this. There are others as well, who want to bind their opinions but preachers come along, and they have their own personal views and notions, and they impose ‘em upon the church and make them a law of God, ah, in their own minds. You know this is serious business, Ladies and Gentlemen, of binding where God has loosed and loosing where God has bound. …”
“… And then, here’s the latest one that’s come along, just in the last few years. And that is this idea that no put away person, no one who’s been divorced may remarry. Now, that is one of the most irrational, absurd positions that’s come along in a long time. Now, you think about it. Here is an innocent woman, faithful to her husband. He commits adultery and he beats her to the courthouse, puts her away, and because she becomes the put away, he won the race to the courthouse; she cannot remarry.
Or he doesn’t want to be married anymore, he’s not guilty of adultery, but he’s got his eye on somebody else. And – and in just a short while after the divorce takes place, now here she is an innocent, faithful wife, he marries somebody else, or he commits adultery, he does the putting away. She can’t remarry because she’s the put away! …”
“… The innocent party, according to the teaching of the New Testament, the law of Christ, may remarry if the mate, the spouse is guilty of adultery. Makes no difference which one gets to the courthouse. Courthouse has nothing to do with it. There’s nothing, neighbor, in Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19, verse 9, about a courthouse, or a judge, or a lawyer. Doesn’t say that: “Whosoever puts away his wife at the courthouse,” it doesn’t say that. Preachers put that in there, bless your heart. …” (emp. jhb). Weldon E. Warnock, “Trouble in the Church,” [WJLS, 99.5 FM (1-25-04), Radio program sponsored by the Beach Creek church of Christ, Meador, WV.]
For additional excerpts and sound clips from this lesson, click here: AUDIO CLIPS
At the Truth Magazine website, under “archives” there is an excellent article by Elmer Moore, entitled, “Definition of Terms.” Within this article is the following quote:
“A divorce takes place when this marriage covenant has been dissolved. In our present society a divorce occurs when a legal decree has been issued. This seems to accord with the Bible use of the term (Deut. 24:1). The word basically means to ‘to let loose from, let go free’ (W.E. Vine, p. 331). Like the marriage covenant, this may be with or without God’s approval.
The words ‘put away’ describe what takes place when a divorce occurs. The original for ‘put away’ is ‘used of divorce, as to dismiss from the house’ (J. H. Thayer, p. 66). The King James Version agrees with this. ‘But I say unto you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery’ (Matt. 5:32). Jesus uses the terms put away and divorce interchangeably. In this passage, the one who is put away is the one who is divorced. In other words to put away means ‘to set free, let go’ (W.E. Vine, p. 918).” Elmer Moore, Definition of Terms (Guardian of Truth, XXXIV: 1, pp. 2, 32 January 4, 1990) See: Who May “Put Away”?
It’s amazing how a magazine’s doctrinal stance can be modified through the years to accommodate its staff writer’s ever-changing amendments to the “law of God.” [See: An excerpt from Ron Halbrook’s rebuttal to Bob Owen]. Ron Halbrook and other staff writers of Truth Magazine (including brother Warnock - above) are now professing that a civil divorce is “nothing.” See: It Is Nothing and Recognizing The Reality of Man’s Sin Via Human Agency
Brother Warnock’s first inaccuracy was the misrepresentation of the actual controversy itself. Weldon described “the latest” cause of trouble in the church “that’s come along, just in the last few years” with the words “this idea that no put away person, no one who’s been divorced may remarry.” Within this statement, Weldon (like others who have been pressing the post-divorce “putting away” theory for post-divorce fornication) distorts the argument, then spends most of his time arguing against the distortion!
The issue of controversy is not the “idea” that “no put away person, no one who’s been divorced may remarry.” The subject being examined and exposed is that “no put away person” is authorized to employ a second “putting away” (what brother Connie Adams equated with “mental divorce”) and to remarry another while their obligated partner is still living.
Notice how Weldon has constructed a straw man which makes it appear that those who oppose his doctrine reject clear Biblical teaching:
“Now, this matter of the put away may not remarry. What if ah, a man puts away his wife, and ah, he doesn’t remarry, but he just doesn’t want to be married and he puts her away, then he dies. Is she free to remarry? Now, she’s put away, huh? Or, if this, look at this scenario. He puts away his wife and he marries somebody else, and he dies. Can she remarry? Now, someone says, “oh yes, because Romans chapter 7, verse 2 that the husband dies, she’s at liberty, she’s free to marry whom she ever will. Well, ah, she’s still the put away! Now, if the put away can’t – can‘t – remarry, and the mate dies, Romans 7 says that she’s free, but according to the theory these brethren are espousing, ah Matthew chapter 19, verse 9 and other passages in the gospels, wouldn’t allow her to remarry ‘cause she’s the put away, because the put away can’t remarry.”
Contrary to Weldon’s implication, the Mental Divorce website is replete with articles that reiterate the teaching in Romans 7:2-3, which authorizes innocent, put away people to remarry another after the death of their bound mate.
Moreover, where has anyone in this present controversy (“that’s come along, just in the last few years”) ever advocated “the race to the court house”? This has been one of the many prejudicial (false) assertions made by those advocating the after the fact “putting away” and remarriage to another. In fact, for some reason or another, Weldon felt compelled to stress this inaccuracy again later in his lesson:
“You know what’s done, is they make, these brethren today make two conditions for divorce and remarriage. One is, that the innocent party may remarry, that the Lord gives that condition in Matthew 19, verse 9. But they add one, they add one. They say that the innocent party must initiate the divorce, and that just isn’t true, that’s not so, neighbor.” (emp. jhb).
Nevertheless, what really “isn’t true” and “isn’t so” is the charge that those involved in the present controversy are “say(ing) that the innocent party must initiate the divorce.” In spite of the many denials to this unfounded accusation and clear statements to the contrary (as well as an entire website which is devoid of even one quote to substantiate such a charge), this falsification continues to be proclaimed. [Did you know that the Greek word translated “false accusers” is the same Greek word translated “devil”? (#1228; cp. II Timothy 3:3; Titus 2:3 w. Revelation 12:9-10, et al).] See: Mar’s List Mental Divorce Scenario Question and Answers and My Personal Convictions
While listening to brother Warnock’s lesson, I was at least grateful that he didn’t follow some other brethren’s lead in (falsely) affirming that those involved in the present controversy also believe and teach that “fornication” must be on the divorce decree. See: A Review of Harry Osborne’s Sermon
It is also absolutely untrue for Weldon to assert that “this idea that no put away person, no one who’s been divorced may remarry” is a teaching “that’s come along, just in the last few years.” His statement misrepresents the fact that this topic has long been a source of periodic controversy among brethren. Debates on this very issue among brethren such as Maurice Barnett and Ken Cheatham (Gospel Anchor, Vol. V — No. 10; February 1973 to May 1974); H. E. Phillips and Marshall Patton (STS, February–April 1987) and the above-quoted exchange between brothers Weldon E. Warnock, Jim Deason and Connie W. Adams (STS, November 1985 – March 1986) predate “the last few years” by decades!
Notice what brother J. T. Smith recently wrote in a Gospel Truths article [The “Innocent” Party; Volume XIV Number 9; (September 2003)]:
“For several decades the question of whether “putting away one’s mate and marrying another” is right in God’s sight has existed. In recent years there has been a resurgence of interest in the subject. Many articles have been written and debates conducted. In the past I have had a number of discussions of the subject (six to be exact). I am by no means an authority on this or any other subject. Yet, it seems to me that somewhere along the line brethren have gotten off the track. In many of the debates held the late brother H. E. Phillips and I worked very closely. …”
Notice the topic of some debate propositions revealed in this article by brother Smith:
“The third proposition is that ‘The Scriptures teach that when a man puts away his wife for any cause other than fornication and subsequently marries another that his first wife must remain celibate or be reconciled to her husband.’ H. E. Phillips (J. T. Smith) will affirm and Jack Gibbert will deny.
The final proposition is that ‘When a man puts away his wife for any cause other than fornication and subsequently marries another that his first wife then may put him away for fornication and she has the scriptural right to marry another.” Jack Gibbert will affirm this position and H. E. Phillips (J. T. Smith) will deny.’” See: The “Innocent” Party
There are also other men such as Gene Frost and Willie Ramsey who have recently written articles who have made similar statements which confirm that this controversy is revisited from the past. See: The Marriage Covenant and Ratification and “Committeth Adultery Against Her”: Mark 10:11
Frankly, I am at a loss for words regarding Weldon’s incorrect representations. Nevertheless, the most disappointing of all, is his contention that his opponents’ position is “one of the most irrational, absurd positions that’s come along in a long time.” Later in his lesson, he stated that to deny an “innocent party” the right to employ post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication “is false in nature” and “nonsense.” Notice closely what he stated:
“Now, may she dismiss him? Not talking about the courthouse, may she dismiss him – the innocent party, and marry somebody else? Indeed she may. She has, the innocent party has one putting away, neighbor, that this theory today, which is false in nature, does not allow. Yeah, here’s the guilty party goes, and uses the civil law to dismiss his wife or to divorce his wife, but she can’t use the law of God – to do what Jesus allows her or him to do, the innocent party? That’s nonsense!”
Dear reader, let it be acknowledged, that brother Connie W. Adams was not the only man of reputation who has cried out against Weldon’s post-divorce “putting away” speculation. Men such as J. T. Smith, Gene Frost, Maurice Barnett, Willie Ramsey, H. E. Phillips, Carrol R. Sutton, P. J. Casebolt, A. C. Grider, Jim Deason, Greg Gwin, Don Martin, John Humphries and Donnie V. Rader (just to name a few) have been teaching against this misconception for many years!
Brother Weldon is teaching the same assumption he advocated back in 1985 (which others promoted even before him). Although his teaching is ultimately the same as nineteen years ago, note the latest modification. His latest quote is seasoned with a little more emotionalism than his previous scenario. In 1985 he asserted the following:
“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.” (emp. jhb).
More recently (1-25-04), he stated it this way:
“Or he doesn’t want to be married anymore, he’s not guilty of adultery, but he’s got his eye on somebody else. And – and in just a short while after the divorce takes place, now here she is an innocent, faithful wife, he marries somebody else, or he commits adultery, he does the putting away. She can’t remarry because she’s the put away!” (emp. jhb).
This time, brother Warnock portrays the scenario a little differently. He states that the man who unlawfully put away his wife had “his eye on somebody else” and “in just a short while after the divorce takes place…marries somebody else.” He then mocks the conclusion (which our Lord stated in Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b; Luke 16:18b) that, “She can’t remarry because she’s the put away!”
Obviously, according to Weldon’s teaching, it does not matter if this man has “his eye on somebody else” and then “marries somebody else” after “a short while” or “after a couple of years”! Weldon asserts that one may employ a post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication (according to “the law of God–to do what Jesus allows her or him to do”), BUT WHERE IS HIS PROOF (I Thessalonians 5:21)?
question is: How can a person scripturally “put away” his obligated mate
(i.e. sunder the “one flesh” marriage relationship, Matthew 19:6;
Mark 10:9) after the marriage has already been
separated by divorcement, and the involved parties are “unmarried” (I
Corinthians 7:10-11)? How can the “put away” who has already been dismissed
“from the house” (J. H. Thayer, p. 66), “dismiss from the house”
someone who no longer resides in (or is a part of) “the house”?
Obviously, Jesus gave the exception clause to those who are married,
not “unmarried.” See:
Who Does the Exception Clause Apply To? and
“It Appertaineth Not Unto Thee”
Brethren, the progressive, corrupting nature of this teaching is clear. Once it is tolerated, it grows, increases and abounds! Now, not only do Weldon and others demand acceptance of this public teaching, but they accuse those who have the audacity to teach against it of being “another problem in the church,” and a “cause of trouble” and “binding opinions.” These so-called “trouble” causers are charged with teaching “the race to the courthouse,” “nonsense,” what “is false in nature” and “one of the most irrational, absurd positions that’s come along in a long time” (cf. I Kings 18:17; II Timothy 2:9)! Yet, the Bible teaches that those who “trade on the silence of the scriptures” are the ones who cause “trouble” (I Kings 18:18; II Timothy 2:10; cf. Acts 15:24; Galatians 1:6-9)!
Brother Warnock’s “claim” is not according to the divine order for putting away revealed in “the law of God,” nor is it “what Jesus allows her or him to do.”
Please acknowledge what brother Donnie V. Rader has recently written. In his article, “The Plain Truth About Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage,” he 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.” (emp. jhb).
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. Others argue that if one is put away by a mate who has committed fornication, he can remarry. 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)]
Similar reviews by brother Rader of this loose teaching can be read at the following links:
According to the scriptures, who causes “trouble”?