Is Tim Haile a False Teacher?
By Jeff Belknap
On Monday, January 20th 2003, I received an “Update On Biblical Putting Away” from and “by” brother Tim Haile. In this update, Tim wrote, “It is amazing that some have branded me as a ‘false teacher’ for teaching that innocent people may remarry, even though they may have lost a civil divorce case….”
Let’s evaluate (I Jn. 4:1) what brother Tim has been advocating and make an informed decision as to whether or not what some have branded him with, is justified.
Part 1: Tim’s Unauthorized Second Putting Away
Tim, like Ron, has already clearly advocated post-civil-divorce “putting away” for both pre- and post-civil-divorce fornication. Tim includes both scenarios in the classification of “innocent people” who “may remarry, even though they may have lost a civil divorce case.” In order to understand what brothers Tim Haile and Ron Halbrook have actually advocated, you need to be aware of how they use the term “innocent,” otherwise you will be misled (Rom. 16:17-18; Eph. 4:14).
According to Tim and Ron, the “innocent” person is one who remains “true to the marriage bond” until such time as their bound partner fornicates and he/she “divorces” them for fornication. (This “provision” is claimed to be applicable, regardless of whether a civil divorce preceded the fornication or not).
First of all, let’s acknowledge a quote from brother Halbrook, and compare it with the words of Tim Haile. Ron declared the following in his paper, Notes For Further Study:
“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].
The following quotes by brother Haile were made by Tim in his sermon, “Biblical ‘Putting Away’” at an all day Bible study; at the Warfield Boulevard church of Christ in Clarkesville, TN (2-12-02):
“If I go put my wife away today, if I go divorce my wife today, there’s no fornication involved on the part of either of us, who has the right to remarry? Neither. Neither party has any right. Neither party has any power. What if one of us commits fornication? God said the other one has a power, has a right. Well, is that until the ah, guilty party makes the quick move, secures the civil divorcement? Is that until that? And somebody said, Yeah, that’s up until that point. No, I didn’t read anything about that in the Bible.”
“I have broken, I have deserted, I have left, I have loosed, I have broken my marriage. Guess what remains intact? The marriage bond. I did absolutely nothing to affect that marriage bond, and guess what? If I go out and commit fornication, I’ve done something that might be used to affect the marriage bond, but I have still by that action, not affected the marriage bond. You know it’s still intact? That’s why Jesus gives the option for the innocent party to put the guilty away or not.”
Then, during the Q/A session, when a brother asked Tim a question specifically about post-civil-divorce “putting away” for post-civil-divorce fornication, Tim stated:
“Brethren like to talk about that a lot. Ah. That is something that is being studied. Ah, I’ll tell you what I’m comfortable speaking on, I’m studying that question with some brethren right now. Ah. It’s a difficult one because it gets into motive. Did that fella leave in order to go meet up with his new girlfriend? Did he leave in order to go have an affair with his secretary? Those are a lot of questions. If he left, and the cause of the break up—the cause of the break up was fornication, then I’m a little more lenient on that. But I think it is in the realm of study and we need to be careful and study those things. But I really don’t want to get into any questions, in fact I won’t answer any questions today, about fornication committed after, ah, ah, the break up. I just won’t do that.”
However, in the above quotes from the body of his lesson, Tim had – without even realizing it – already answered our “questions” regarding his view of whether post-civil-divorce putting away is scripturally possible when fornication is committed only “after” “the break up.”
Brother Haile has spent most of the last two years avoiding discussion of “putting away” for post-civil-divorce fornication. Instead, he has focused on the less extreme and more emotional scenario of the second “putting away” for pre-civil-divorce fornication, but he has nevertheless revealed “the rest of the story.” Brother Haile’s speech has betrayed him (cf. Mt. 26:73); his own mouth has spoken from the abundance of his heart (Mt. 12:34).
Tim’s own quotes prove that he, like Ron, believes that whether the fornication takes place before or after one wrongfully puts away his/her bound mate, the “innocent” party has scriptural grounds to “put” the other “away” and remarry another.
In his article, “The Plain Truth About Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage,” brother Donnie 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” (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) posted at:
Tim and Ron have contended for BOTH of the positions that brother Rader clearly condemned as “unauthorized” and which result in “adultery.” In addition, Donnie’s words manifest his belief that contending for this “right” (to remarry) in BOTH scenarios stated above can be characterized as “a trend towards softening the gospel message” by “speaking smooth things about divorce and remarriage.” Cf. Isaiah 30:9-10; II Peter 2:1.
In addition, note what brother Rader also stated in his book, “Divorce &
Remarriage – What Does the Text Say?,” chapter 8 (p. 74), Mental Divorce
(May Some Put Away People Remarry?), section III. No Authority (p.
“The silence of the scriptures must be respected. We must do all things by the authority of Jesus Christ (Col. 3:17). We must always act within the doctrine of Christ (2 Jno. 9). To go onward and beyond what is authorized is to have not God. God’s silence is not permission to act. Jesus could not be a priest on earth for he was of the tribe of Judah ‘of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood’ (Heb. 7:14). Thus, to do what is unauthorized is to sin. That’s why it is wrong to have instrumental music in worship or put ice cream on the Lord’s table.
There is no passage that authorizes any put away person to remarry. That person cannot remarry for the same reason that we do not use instrumental music in worship: no authority!
Furthermore, for the mental divorce concept to work there has to be a second putting away. Jack put Jill away for burning the bread. That is one putting away. He then remarries, thus giving her the right to mentally put him away (the second putting away) and remarry. The Bible is as silent about a second putting away as it is about the remarriage of a put away one” (emp. his).
Then, in the next section of this same chapter, Donnie also wrote under section IV. The “Put Away” One Forbidden To Remarry (p. 78):
“Not only does the Bible not authorize any put away one to remarry, but it emphatically forbids it” (emp. jhb).
Without question, the errors advocated by brothers Haile and Halbrook, are in direct opposition to the words of the Lord (cf. Tit. 1:16; II Pet. 2:1), as well as to Donnie Rader’s teaching of it! Not only do Ron and Tim advocate what brother Rader declares is tantamount to “instrumental music in worship” and putting “ice cream on the Lord’s table,” they are also condoning what Jesus specifically condemned!
Part 2: Tim’s Foundation for His Unauthorized Second Putting Away
During the Q/A Session of the all day Bible study in Clarkesville, TN, Tim revealed the basis for his belief that post-civil-divorce “putting away” for post-civil-divorce fornication is authorized:
QUESTIONER: “The second clause in Matthew 19:9; ‘Whoever marries her that is divorced commits adultery,’ and um, it seems like there –” (Tim cuts in here)
TIM HAILE: “Except it be for fornication, but, but go ahead.”
QUESTIONER: “Does the exception clause apply to that clause?”
TIM HAILE: “The exception clause has to extend to that. The exception clause has to extend to cover that. You see how, that by, by, uh, inserting the exception clause it changes the course of the passage. Now, an exception clause is just that. You have a rule, you have an overall rule, that is, if you divorce your wife, uh, and marry someone else, you commit adultery, and whoever marries her, when she remarries, they commit adultery. There’s the rule. The exception clause, it sort of diverts that, it redirects. What Jesus is saying is, without the exception presence of the, the, basis, presence of the cause, then both parties commit adultery when they remarry. With the cause present, it changes the scenario, it is except in cases of fornication, it changes it so that someone has a right to remarry without committing adultery. If you read the exception clause in, it works one way. We have this result. If you read the exception clause, take the exception clause out, you have an entirely different scenario. By one, the insertion of one simple little exception clause, Jesus created two different scenarios there – two entirely different scenarios.”
* (Since the posting of this article, brother Haile made a clarification regarding this quote. Please see this explanation, regarding the exception clause, at the end of this article).
Brethren, this erroneous conclusion is also exposed in brother Rader’s book,
“Divorce & Remarriage – What Does the Text Say?” Although brother Tim
asserts, “The exception clause has to extend to that” (to the
second clause of Mt. 19:9), let us acknowledge what others have to say about
this assertion. In chapter 4 of brother Rader’s book (p. 31), Matthew 19:9
(Part 2), under section I. The Exception Phrase (pp. 31-33), Donnie
wrote the following:
“The exception phrase cannot grammatically modify both the first and last parts of Matt. 19:9. As it modifies the first clause it is an adverbial phrase (qualifying “shall put away”). Yet, if it modified the second clause it would be an adjectival phrase (qualifying “is put away”). This cannot be done grammatically! I wrote to Bruce M. Metzger asking him, ‘Does the exception clause (‘except it be for fornication’) modify the phrase ‘and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery’?’ His answer was ‘no, it qualifies the preceding clause.’
The following quotes, compiled by Gene Frost, are from teachers and professors of English and Greek who say that this phrase cannot modify both clauses.
There is no evidence from the English, Greek, this text or any other that demands that this exception modify the last clause.
The consequence of such a position is that the fornicator would be protected. The put away fornicator would be free to remarry while one put away for burning the bread could not. A little fornication would make the second marriage all right. Who can believe such?”
Brother J. T. Smith affirmed the very same thoughts expressed by brother Rader, in his article, Divorce And Remarriage, Gospel Anchor, Vol. IV, March 1978.
Brother Haile’s pronouncement that the exception clause in the first part of Matthew 19:9 also extends to the second part of the verse, paves the way for many unsound theories, as is characteristic of all doctrinal error (its “progressive, corrupting nature,” II Tim. 3:13).
All of Tim’s quotes cited above may be verified in the transcript of his lesson and Q/A session at: http://www.mentaldivorce.com/mdrstudies/Transcript-TimHaileAtWarfieldChurch.htm
Additionally, you can hear the quotes by clicking on to AUDIO CLIPS and choosing the audio quote(s) you desire to download and/or listen to.
Brethren, either Donnie Rader was wrong in his teaching regarding this subject – and is therefore binding what God has not (as some have accused me of), or brothers Halbrook and Haile are wrong in their teaching – and are thus loosing what God has not. One cannot equate something with “instrumental music in worship” and “ice cream on the Lord’s table” and then defend that same thing as an acceptable “application,” unless he is willing to defend fellowship with those practices he has equated it to. We cannot have it both ways.
* Brother Haile wrote a clarification regarding his above quote two days after I posted this article to Bible Matters which states:
“Until recently, I had assumed that my additional comments, along with the several points I had already made in my lesson, were sufficient to explain what I meant and did not mean about what the exception clause ‘extended’ to. My remarks were not intended as a diagram of Matthew 19:9. In context, I was referring to how the exception clause would apply to any innocent spouse, once the mate has committed fornication, and that would include the “her” of the second clause of Mt. 19:9. There is no fornication committed in the scenario that Jesus treats in Mt. 19:9. But once it is, the exception clause would apply to both him and her. Activation of the exception clause changes the outcome of the Lord’s scenario. The presence of fornication actually introduces a whole new outcome not specifically stated by Jesus! By necessary implication, Matthew 19:9 teaches that whoever puts away his wife for fornication does not commit adultery when he remarries. No, Jesus did not specifically say this, but it is safely inferred, and faithful brethren have inferred it for years. At Clarksville, I was making the point that regardless of what the guilty party does, including beating his innocent mate to repudiation or the courthouse (as some insist), Jesus extended the putting away and remarriage liberty to the innocent mate. I did not say the exception clause ‘applied to’ or ‘modified’ the last clause!”
In relaying Tim’s quote from Clarkesville, I was not implying that brother Haile accepts what brother Rader called “the consequence” of that position (that a “put away fornicator would be free to remarry while one put away for burning the bread could not”). If, by using brother Rader’s quote, I left that impression, I apologize. I fully acknowledge that brother Haile does not advocate any remarriage rights for a put away fornicator and would not have knowingly implied otherwise.
However, consider brother Haile’s last sentence in the above quote, “I did not say the exception clause ‘applied to’ or ‘modified’ the last clause!” When coupled with his following section entitled, “Another Misrepresentation By Jeff Belknap,” it appears that brother Haile is denying that his Clarksville quote (about the exception clause being “extended to” the second clause of Mt. 19:9) expressed the same thought as what brother Rader meant by “modified” in his above quote. Even now, I fail to see any appreciable difference in “modified” and “extended to” - as those terms are used in the quotes which are in question. However, I am content to let the reader judge as to whether my connection of these terms was a misrepresentation or not.
Additionally, brother Haile’s answer to the question posed to him in Clarkesville showed that it was he himself – not me – who equated the term “apply to” with his, “extend to.” The question asked of him was, “Does the exception clause apply to that clause?”, and Tim’s immediate response was, “The exception clause has to extend to that….”
Also note a quote / acknowledgment from his “clarification” paper, (“The question was asked as to whether or not the ‘except for fornication’ clause of Matthew 19:9 applied to the second clause in that verse. I replied: ‘The exception clause has to extend to that….’”). Tim’s own words clearly show that my quotes of these men’s words were not a misrepresentation.
(Please note that in my article, it was not me who used the term “applied to,” “apply to,” or any derivative thereof, in reference to Tim’s beliefs regarding the exception clause. That term was only used as a direct quote from the questioner, and then repeated by Tim, himself, in his clarification. This is evidence that it was he, himself who primarily equated “applied to” with “extend to,” and that if such correlation is a misrepresentation at all, then it is not I who is responsible.)
His entire “clarification” (posted to Bible Matters) is posted below for your consideration:
----- Original Message -----
Clarification Of My Quote
by Tim Haile
Lengthy controversies generate lengthy dialogue. Studies are conducted, discussions are arranged, sermons are preached, conversations are had, articles are published, letters are exchanged, and in some instances debates are conducted. Those who presume to speak on behalf of God are bound by the strictures of the scriptures to "speak as the oracles of God" (1 Pet. 4:11; Isa. 8:20). Regardless of the format or forum, we are to accurately handle the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
Of course, some formats do more to contribute to one's accuracy than do others. For example, before publication, written materials may be examined and reexamined as many times as necessary in order to achieve the highest possible degree of accuracy and clarity. Sermons and other prepared speeches often involve several hours of preparation and premeditation. Conversely, some situations do not allow one the luxury of such preparation. One may be required to speak and answer questions extemporaneously. Though I thoroughly enjoy such formats, I freely admit that my word selection, and sentence and paragraph structure is not always as clear as I would prefer. Forums that produce spontaneous questions usually require spontaneous answers. The more complex, or controversial the subject, the more this spontaneity may hinder our efforts to provide clear and concise answers. Just as there have been times when I was satisfied with my answers, there have been times when I was not.
There is another important factor for the public speaker to consider. Though we often choose to ignore it, some men have no scruples. In controversy, their goal is to make themselves appear smart and good by making their opponents appear dumb and evil. If it serves their purpose to draw one word from a sentence, one sentence from a paragraph, or one paragraph from an entire speech, in order to cast doubts and aspersions upon their enemy, then that is what they will do. This fact again emphasizes the importance of our guarding every word. We must never allow ourselves to be lulled into underestimating the persistence and determination of those who would attempt to win their cause at any cost. For them, no method is too mean and no tactic is too terrible. They will do whatever is necessary to "win" the argument.
Poor expression leads to two terrible things: 1). Lovers of the truth may be misled or confused by our inadequate, unclear expression. This is terrible, for our real purpose was to speak for the purpose of their "edification, exhortation, and comfort" (1 Cor. 14:3). 2). Enemies of the truth are assisted in their effort to misrepresent their opponent, and deceive and mislead their audience. Through careless wording, the truth teacher inadvertently hands his opponent a club to use against him and against the truth!
The Clarksville Study
Some time ago, Dudley Spears invited me to speak on the subject of "Biblical Putting Away" at a monthly Bible study where he preaches in Clarksville, Tennessee. I agreed. Our format was the typical format for that study. One speaks on an assigned topic, and following the speech there is an informal question and answer period. All speakers take their duties seriously. All appreciate their duty to speak as the oracles of God. However, many of the topics are controversial and may involve areas of judgment and principle application. Our differences are openly and honestly discussed in a brotherly, gentlemanly manner. The attendees are friends. They respect each other. No one attends these studies for the purpose of finding fodder for "writing others up." Men of iron are merely looking for other iron whereby they may "sharpen" one another (Prov. 27:17). This is as it should be.
Concerning My Quote
Several comments were made following my speech and several questions were asked of me. History has revealed that one of my answers was not as clear as it should have been. It is especially unclear when it is lifted from the overall context of my speech and other comments. However, I do not blame those who quoted me. I blame only myself for this lack of clarity. I should have taken more time and been more careful. I wish now to set the record straight as to what I intended by my remarks.
The question was asked as to whether or not the "except for fornication" clause of Matthew 19:9 applied to the second clause in that verse. I replied:
"The exception clause has to extend to that. The exception clause has to extend to cover that. You see how, that by, by, uh, inserting the exception clause it changes the course of the passage. Now, an exception clause is just that. You have a rule, you have an overall rule, that is, if you divorce your wife, uh, and marry someone else, you commit adultery, and whoever marries her, when she remarries, they commit adultery. There’s the rule. The exception clause, it sort of diverts that, it redirects. What Jesus is saying is, without the exception presence of the, the, basis, presence of the cause, then both parties commit adultery when they remarry. With the cause present, it changes the scenario, it is except in cases of fornication, it changes it so that someone has a right to remarry without committing adultery. If you read the exception clause in, it works one way. We have this result. If you read the exception clause, take the exception clause out, you have an entirely different scenario. By one, the insertion of one simple little exception clause, Jesus created two different scenarios there – two entirely different scenarios."
Until recently, I had assumed that my additional comments, along with the several points I had already made in my lesson, were sufficient to explain what I meant and did not mean about what the exception clause "extended" to. My remarks were not intended as a diagram of Matthew 19:9. In context, I was referring to how the exception clause would apply to any innocent spouse, once the mate has committed fornication, and that would include the "her" of the second clause of Mt. 19:9. There is no fornication committed in the scenario that Jesus treats in Mt. 19:9. But once it is, the exception clause would apply to both him and her. Activation of the exception clause changes the outcome of the Lord’s scenario. The presence of fornication actually introduces a whole new outcome not specifically stated by Jesus! By necessary implication, Matthew 19:9 teaches that whoever puts away his wife for fornication does not commit adultery when he remarries. No, Jesus did not specifically say this, but it is safely inferred, and faithful brethren have inferred it for years. At Clarksville, I was making the point that regardless of what the guilty party does, including beating his innocent mate to repudiation or the courthouse (as some insist), Jesus extended the putting away and remarriage liberty to the innocent mate. I did not say the exception clause "applied to" or "modified" the last clause!
Another Misrepresentation By Jeff Belknap
In an article on his website, Jeff Belknap falsely represented me as teaching that the exception clause "applied" to the second clause of Matthew 19:9. He then invoked, as he usually does, the writings of brethren Rader and Frost in opposition to what he tried to get me to say. Had I actually taught what Belknap misrepresented me as teaching, brethren Rader and Frost would have soundly answered me.
Brother Belknap is wrong again. However, I do accept some responsibility for his misconception. In answering the question at the preacher’s study I used language similar to that used by others who intended something that I did not intend regarding the grammatical and syntactical positioning of the exception clause. I wish to retract that language and apologize for my lack of clarity. I will make every effort to avoid this lack of clarity in the future.