The following article was written by Greg Gwin as a response to statements made by Mike Willis in Truth Magazine. Brother Gwin submitted his response to brother Willis for publication in Truth Magazine, but it was refused. At my request he has allowed me to post it here in an effort to “set the record straight.” - Jeff
Concerning The ‘Mental Divorce’ Open Forum
By Greg Gwin
Brother Mike Willis recently published a review of the Truth Magazine Lecture program, and in it he commented on an Open Forum session in which I was a participant. I feel that his report unfairly represented me, and I appreciate this opportunity to respond.
The Open Forum session in question discussed the currently controversial subject of ‘mental divorce.’ Manuscripts of the presentations of Ron Halbrook, Harry Osborne, Donnie Rader, and me are available. Audio copies of the presentations (including the question and answer period which followed) can also be obtained. I mention this in order to emphasize that what was said at Bowling Green can be fully documented.
Concerning my involvement in the Open Forum, brother Willis wrote:
“Brother Gwin designated the position of those who disagree with him as sinful and called on brethren to draw lines of fellowship in keeping with his definitions, explanations, and qualifications of what he calls ‘mental divorce.’”
With all due respect to brother Willis, I am disappointed by his conclusions about me. Although I take a view that is obviously contradictory to the one held by a number of the Truth Magazine board members and staff writers, I would have hoped that brother Willis would grant that I have acted on the basis of my sincere understanding of the Scriptures, and not on some set of arbitrary rules or personal judgments. Specifically, I object to the implications of the phrase: “Brother Gwin designated the position of those who disagree with him as sinful.” In reality, all of us believe that those who teach a doctrine which contradicts God’s Word are sinners (Galatians 1:8, 9). Brothers Halbrook, Osborne, and Rader do the same as I do in this regard. The real issue is NOT who disagrees with ME, rather what does the Bible teach. I believe that my participation at the Open Forum stressed this, and I hope that brother Willis and others will acknowledge it.
Furthermore, this brief review suggests that I insist that others accept my “definitions, explanations, and qualifications.” Any who care to read the manuscript of my presentation will conclude otherwise. For instance, I said:
“. . . in every culture or society there is a recognized method by which a marriage is terminated. . . Regardless of the procedure – remember, I am not here to argue in favor of specific procedures – such a means of identifying the termination of marriage is essential. And, when a marriage has thus been ended, there are consequences which follow, including this biblical one: The remarriage of a “put away” person (to another while their bound mate lives) is specifically forbidden.”
Please note that I was not maintaining that specific “definitions, explanations, and qualifications” be met. Instead, I simply stated that once a marriage has been terminated (by whatever method might be the norm in a given place or time) the result is that the “put away” person cannot be married to another while their bound mate lives. The manuscript proceeds to reference Matthew 5:32, Matthew 19:9, and Luke 16:18 as proof of the conclusion – NOT my own set of “definitions, explanations, and qualifications.”
Additionally, I spent several valuable moments of my brief time allotment to discuss the Greek word “apoluo” which is translated as “put away” or “divorce” in our English Bibles. I said:
“Here’s my position on the definition of “apoluo” – as pertains to this doctrinal question, you can define “apoluo” any way you want, and the outcome is the same. . . the woman who has been the object of the verb “apoluo” is left in the position of not being able to remarry without sin. . . I’ll tell you what I’ll do. I’ll let you define “apoluo” any way you want – and I think we’ll see that the outcome is always the same. . . It’s really very clear. You can define apoluo any way you want, and the outcome is the same. The woman that has had “apoluo” happen to her cannot remarry without committing adultery.”
Having had full access to the material I presented, it is hard for me to understand how brother Willis could suggest that I was insisting for my own “definitions, explanations, and qualifications” when I had actually done just the opposite.
Finally, in regard to the fellowship questions, it is true that I acknowledged that lines of fellowship will ultimately be drawn on this question. God’s Word says, “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9). What will we do with that verse? Why would brother Willis or others think it remarkable that someone would say, “yes, there are fellowship considerations on this issue?” What else would a conscientious believer do? Brother Willis, if you find a person who is committing adultery, do you fellowship such a person? If you identify someone as teaching a doctrine that leads people to commit adultery, do you fellowship that teacher? The answers to these questions are obvious to all. In fact, at the 2001 Florida College Lectures, Donnie Rader said:
“When a man teaches that one who has no right to remarry can remarry, his teaching leads his hearer to commit adultery. Most agree that we can’t fellowship the man who is in adultery. However, we are told we can fellowship the man who teaches him that it is scriptural (reference Harrell, Owen, Dawson, Kimbrough).”
Brother Willis and others with Truth Magazine commended and defended brother Rader for his courageous stand, and rightly so. Why now – when I say effectively the same thing – is it being implied that I am reacting in some extreme way that designates “those who disagree with him as sinful?” Regardless of your position on ‘mental divorce,’ it is clear that there have been and will be fellowship implications associated with this doctrinal issue.
Greg Gwin, firstname.lastname@example.org
In “Truth Magazine and Controversy,” Connie W. Adams summarized the spirit of the paper from its inception when he said:
“Yes, this is a militant paper. We mean to keep it so. The devil has not called off the battle yet. There are still surging issues which need to be discussed. Brotherly reserve and restraint ought to be employed. But no quarter should be asked or given in the conflict between truth and error. If we are found in error, then let brethren get out their typewriters and point it out. We can take it” (Guardian of Truth, 23 Nov. 1973, pp. 60-61).
“The spirit and stamina of the Guardian of Truth magazine will be severely tested in the days which lie ahead. Those who write articles or read them in this paper, or any other paper, should view it as simply a medium for teaching the truth, nothing more or less. The Guardian of Truth has no ambitions or pretensions to control churches, preachers, or anything else, but it will be charged with such unworthy motives by those who feel the pressure of truth and fear the exposure of error. Papers, like individuals, face the challenge of maintaining their fidelity to truth into the third and fourth generations. Those who publish and write for this paper are subject to all of the same strong cultural influences as anyone else in this country, and we ourselves will be tempted at times to accommodate ourselves to the demand for a softer, more polished, more positive posture, and thus to wear the “Protestant smile.” If we begin to give in to that demand, may God confuse and confound our purposes, and cause this paper to die forever. If the Guardian of Truth continues in its heritage of boldly proclaiming the gospel of Christ without compromise, may God bless its efforts and extend its usefulness. If the magazine and its writers take any other course or posture, may God raise up faithful men and faithful papers which will renew the heritage of faithful preaching” (Guardian of Truth, 20 July, 1995, pp. 433-436).