Be Not Deceived:  It is the Waiting Game!

(Plain and Simple)


By Jeff Belknap


In 1993, brother Ron Halbrook wrote an article entitled Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game, published in Guardian of Truth, March 18, 1993, pp. 168-69.  This article has been widely circulated amongst brethren, especially since the beginning of this website.  [While Ron has refused to openly discuss his “application” (as expressed in his quote below), he has sent the aforementioned article – among other materials – to brethren who have questioned him regarding his views related to that quote (and others like it).]


While the title of brother Halbrook’s article gives the impression that he is opposed to “the waiting game,” his teaching in the following quote belies such a claim: 


“Next, a man may have enough regard for social convention that he will not go to bed with the ‘cute little thing’ he wants rather than his wife; therefore, he may divorce his wife, then marry the ‘cute little thing,’ thus going to the bed of adultery.  Once again, the original marriage bond stays intact under divine law until he commits adultery against his wife; his legal steps do not dissolve the bond put in place when God joined them together (Matt. 19:9).  Since his true wife remains faithful to the marriage bond, she & she alone has the right to repudiate the marriage under divine law.  She may scripturally do so even when she is not able to do so legally because of legal steps taken by the treacherous husband” (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook (E-mail “discussion with friends about fine-tuning some points of application,” February, 1998)


Among sound brethren over the years, it has been long-established that the post-civil-divorce putting away doctrine (better known as “mental divorce”) is synonymous with “the waiting game” (i.e. where the one who is unlawfully divorced (Mt. 5:32b; 19:9b; Lk. 16:18b; I Cor. 7:15) waits for their ex-spouse to fornicate, then “puts” them “away” and remarries another). 


However, according to the post-civil-divorce putting away advocates’ new definition of “the waiting game,” the unwilling put away person in an unlawful divorce cannot be charged with playing this game.  [They claim this, even though the unwilling put away person waits to “put away” their ex-spouse (for fornication committed after the fact of unlawful divorcement), and then is supposedly rewarded with the ability to “scripturally” remarry another.] 

Case in point: in the Patton – Phillips Debate [February, March, and April (1987) issues, Searching the Scriptures], brother Patton gave his (revised) definition of “the waiting game:”

“Furthermore, this expression ‘without…his/her approval’ excludes from this proposition those who would play ‘the waiting game.’  By ‘the waiting game’ I mean what is generally understood by that expression, namely, where husband and wife mutually agree to divorce with a view to waiting until the other commits fornication thinking that he/she is then free to remarry.  The mutual agreement makes each an active participant in the putting away.  Such action is without divine authority, is in violation of the law of God, and is the cause of the adultery that follows regardless of which one commits it.  I want it clearly understood that such persons are excluded from the proposition which I affirm.  I make no effort to justify such persons in remarriage.” 

In brother Patton’s Second Affirmative he wrote under the heading “The Waiting Game”:

“Brother Phillips accuses me of endorsing the ‘waiting game’ even though I denied it.  I still deny it AS DEFINED in my definition of terms” (emp. his).  Marshall E. Patton [Patton – Phillips Debate, Second Affirmative, STS pg. 342 March (1987)]. 

Then in his Third Affirmative he wrote:

“I answered Brother Phillips on the ‘waiting game’ in my last article.  One thing he has not done—One thing he cannot do—and that is pin on me the ‘waiting game’ AS DEFINED in my definition of terms” (emp. his). Marshall E. Patton [Patton – Phillips Debate, Third Affirmative, STS pg. 368 April (1987)].


Likewise, notice the similarities between brother Patton’s argumentation above, and brother Halbrook’s following quote (which is taken from his same letter as that I have previously quoted):


Some object that this makes her guilty of a “waiting game” in violation of Matt. 5:32.  To the contrary, she is not guilty of any such sin but is maintaining fidelity to the marriage bond put in place by God!  If she were to divorce her husband w/o cause, & wait for him to find & marry a “cute little thing,” so that she could then claim to be an “innocent” party with grounds for remarriage, THEN she would be guilty of the waiting game.  Jesus indeed precludes the waiting game in Matt. 5:32, but it seems to me that some brethren have missed the point of what the waiting game really means.” (emp. jhb; cp. w. Prov. 16:25).  Ron Halbrook (E-mail “discussion with friends about fine-tuning some points of application,” February, 1998)


According to the above modernists’ revised definition of this “game” (as first outlined by Marshall Patton and then reiterated by brother Halbrook) the put away party is no longer among those who can be charged with playing this game.  


Thus, post-civil-divorce putting away advocates have set the stage so that they can claim they do not believe in “the waiting game,” for all concede that “the waiting game” is error.  It is only by such a redefinition of terms that advocates of this doctrine are able to refrain from crossing their fingers while they declare that they do not believe in “the waiting game.”  And it is only by such examples of the “sleight of men” (Eph. 4:14) that they are able to deceive the hearts of the simple (Rom. 16:17-18) into thinking that they do not teach a position that has been commonly recognized as error over the years (cf. Jude 4).


The rationale behind this newly prescribed distinction is an unverifiable, arbitrary exemption (to God’s law regarding the put away) for the person who remains “true to the ‘marriage bond’.”  Since they believe that this spouse is not really “put away” as detailed in Mt. 5:32b, 19:9b; Lk. 16;18b when they are divorced, we are told that they can instead become the person in Mt. 5:32a; 19:9a; and Lk. 16:18a who puts away for the cause of fornication when their (ex)spouse later remarries.  


Moreover, through their additional redefinitions of other commonly understood terms, they have also been able to deny that they advocate a second putting away (which all understand is unauthorized in scripture), mental divorce (though it has all the identifying hallmarks of that previously-recognized erroneous doctrine) and advocating adulterous remarriages too!  

You will notice that whenever advocates of the post-civil-divorce (mental) putting away make such confident assertions (cf. I Tim. 1:7b) - such as brother Halbrook did in his above quote - they consistently fail to express the verse that supposedly authorizes their declaration.  In their presupposition that Jesus sanctioned the divine prerogative to put away for fornication as long as “the bond” is intact, they actually contradict what the Lord specifically stated:


That “whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.”


And they deny what is necessarily implied in His teaching:


That permission to put away for fornication is only authorized while THE MARRIAGE is still intact. 

We all agree that the “man exposing his mate to the sin of adultery” would be guilty of playing the waiting game, if he sought to employ a second “divorce” and remarriage if and when his estranged spouse remarried.  However, what about the woman who “is put away”?  Notice how brother Ron bases his teaching upon an unfounded assumption that only the one who unlawfully puts away their spouse can become guilty of playing “the waiting game.”  He makes no attempt to back up such a presupposition with a single scripture that would exclude the put away person from the Lord’s teaching.  

After various statements in which Ron expressed his own definition of “the waiting game,” he also stated (regarding the scenarios that he considers to be “the waiting game”) in his article:

“They all share the concept that all remarriages, regardless of the circumstances, can be justified by waiting.  A person can put a stumbling block before his mate, wait for her to fall over it, then proclaim himself free to enter another marriage” (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook  [Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game; Published in Guardian of Truth, Mar. 18, 1993, pp. 168-69]


Again, like Patton and without any scripture to back up his exclusion of certain people who are put away, Ron never acknowledges the possibility for a put away person who remains “true to the ‘marriage bond’” to also “play” this game.  Moreover, shortly after the above quote, (as if he has dealt with “all” possible aspects of “the waiting game)” Ron stated:


“Jesus prohibited and precluded every possible variation of ‘the waiting game’ in divorce and remarriage” (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook  [Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game; Published in Guardian of Truth, Mar. 18, 1993, pp. 168-69]


Unfortunately, Ron’s above statement fails to take into account the put away person who “remains true to the ‘marriage bond’” as a potential participant in any “variation” of that “game.”  Within Ron’s article, he has conspicuously eliminated one of the contestants of the game (i.e. the person who did not want to be unlawfully divorced).  Unlike Christ’s teaching on this subject, Ron’s “application” focuses solely on the one who unlawfully puts away (the perpetrator of the divorce), while completely ignoring the revealed consequences for the victim of this divorcement.


Towards the end of his article Ron stated:


“The rule announced by Jesus forever prohibits and precludes people breaking up their marriage and waiting for their mate to commit adultery, as a pretext for claiming the right to select a new marriage partner!” (emp. jhb). Ron Halbrook [Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game; Published in Guardian of Truth, Mar. 18, 1993, pp. 168-69]


While Ron’s quote (immediately above) is true, it reflects only part of God’s word on this subject.  In addition, “the rule announced by Jesus” also clearly “precludes” those who are put away from remarrying another (Mt. 5:32b; 19:9b; Lk. 16:18b), but that is a “rule” (law) that brother Halbrook attempts to get around with his arguments to support the post-civil-divorce putting away.


Three times in no uncertain terms, Jesus stated that whosever marries a divorced person commits ADULTERY (Mt. 5:32b; 19:9b; Lk. 16:18b), PERIOD!  The scriptures clearly teach that after unlawful divorcement, the only event that severs the bond is death (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39).


Impartial Documentation That Ron’s Doctrine is Indeed the Waiting Game


There is a considerable amount of evidence which proves my point that “the waiting game” was commonly understood to include the unwilling put away party in an unlawful divorce, prior to brother Patton’s and brother Halbrooks’ revised definitions of the “game.”   

First, on pages 82-83 in brother Donnie Rader’s book Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say?, Chapter 8 Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry); brother Rader wrote under “VI. Consequences Of This Position”


“If one is going to take the position that some put away people can remarry, he must be willing to accept the consequences. 


Waiting game: If a woman is put away and ‘cannot contain’ and thus remarries before he does, she is guilty of adultery.  However, if she does not marry until after he marries first, she is not guilty of adultery we are told.  This is the waiting game.  She may have to wait him out ten years.  But as soon as he remarries, she has the right to mentally put him away and remarry.


I wonder why some of these brethren don’t think the man who puts away his wife (for a cause other than fornication) is free to remarry if she remarried first.  Of course, the mental divorce advocates deny that they promote the waiting game.  Some of them tell us that the put away one who has a right to remarry must have fought the divorce all the way.  This, we are told, would discourage the waiting game.  This assumes then that the woman of Matt. 19:9b wanted the divorce, which wouldn’t fit the circumstances of that time.  The Jewish woman, if divorced, couldn’t get a job and had no way to support herself.  So most Jewish women wouldn’t want the divorce…This rule, that she must have opposed the divorce, is just an arbitrary rule made by the advocates of the position” (emp. jhb).


In addition, under section VII. Arguments (pgs. 84-85), brother Rader revealed the contention of post-civil-divorce putting away advocates and then refuted their denial of “the waiting game” advocacy.


Under argument # 3, Donnie cites the contention of post-civil-divorce putting away advocates: 


“‘The put away one who can remarry must be one who was against the divorce and opposed it. This eliminates the waiting game which is mutual agreement’” 

He then disproves the above line of argumentation with the following:

“There is nothing in Matt. 5:32b or 19:9b that suggests that either party was opposed to or both mutually agreed to the divorce.  This is an arbitrary rule.  I wonder about a case where the couple mutually agree to a divorce, so he puts her away for a cause other than fornication.  He then remarries, committing adultery.  Can she not put him away mentally and remarry?  What passage says she must have opposed the divorce?” (emp. jhb).


Additionally, in response to brother Weldon Warnock’s writing in 1985:


[“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)]


Notice brother Adams’ direct response to the words above, (editor of Searching the Scriptures):


“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 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.  I am also made to wonder if we may have the ‘mental divorce’ then why not at the other end of the marriage have a ‘mental marriage’ before the fact of social and legal requirements being met.  Indeed, is this not the very thing claimed by those who insist that two people may cohabit as long as they have a ‘meaningful relationship’ and plan to get married anyhow?” (emp. jhb).  Connie W. Adams (Searching the Scriptures, February issue, 1986). (See brother Adams’ full editorial in the complete Warnock-Deason Exchange posted on this website.) 

Moreover, brother Phillips’ affirmed that brother Patton was indeed advocating “the waiting game,” even though Patton denied it: 

 “Brother Patton’s definition of the ‘waiting game’ is more accommodative to his position than it is to the meaning of the words as they relate to this subject…However he defines ‘the waiting game,’ his position demands that the put away person of his proposition must wait until the he/she who did the putting away remarries or commits adultery.  That is a key element in his/her being qualified for remarriage, according to brother Patton’s proposition.  He can deny it all he wishes, but the fact remains his particular “her” MUST play ‘the waiting game’ before she can remarry, and he admitted that in his second affirmative” (emp. his).  H. E. Phillips [Patton – Phillips Debate, Third Negative, STS pg. 370 April (1987)].


 “He has not been able to escape ‘the waiting game’ in order to get the person of his proposition remarried.  He has vehemently denied it throughout the discussion, but he must accept that consequence or renounce his position.”  H. E. Phillips [Patton – Phillips Debate Rebuttal STS pg. 371 April (1987)]. 

Dear reader, the above writings prove that “THE WAITING GAME” was once widely understood to be a “game” played by either party after an unlawful civil divorce.  However, after redefinitions and “some fine-tuning” of this false doctrine, the defensive arguments of the change agents have shifted.   

Ron wrote his well-known Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game article after the Patton-Phillips Debate and then recommended it in another GOT article entitled Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage.  Notice how through the years, Ron has continued to advocate his erroneous position:

“These recent questions spawned by the constant liberalization of American divorce laws are discussed in the following articles: Weldon Warnock and Jim Deason, Searching the Scriptures, November 1985, pp. 535-36 and March 1986, pp. 60-62; Marshall Patton and H. E. Phillips, SS, February-April 1987; Ron Halbrook, ‘Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game,’ GOT, 18 March 1993, pp. 168-69” (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook [Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage: Study Material by J. W. McGarvey; (December 2, 1993, GOT p. 716)] 

Brethren, in comparing brother Patton’s quotes with brother Halbrook’s, it is not hard to ascertain which side of the Patton - Phillips Debate Ron Halbrook identifies with.  Nor is it difficult to understand WHY Ron wrote the article “Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game,” and continues to promote his article today whenever the mental divorce doctrine is discussed.  Ron desires to eliminate the inherent guilt of “the waiting game” for the unwilling put away person whose spouse subsequently commits adultery after the marriage has been unlawfully TERMINATED.   

Although this issue has been “in the closet” since the Patton – Phillips Debate, in the last year or so, it has “come out” with much refinement (sophistication).  In brother Ron’s own words, he himself wrote:

“The following e-mails reflect discussions with friends about fine-tuning some points of application, but we agree on the basic principles of MDR.  I do not attempt to get into all these points in preaching. If someone asks a question about such a point, I generally explain both views and encourage them to weigh them in their own conscience” (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook 

When I hit my computer thesaurus on the word “fine-tuning,” it showed the following words: “modification; alteration; minor change; improvement; enhancement.”  In spite of Ron’s many denials, much documentation on this website reveals that he has indeed gotten into “all these points in preaching.”  He may not have gotten into “all” these points in his preaching in some places, but he has gotten into them indeed.   

Ron’s fine-tuned definitions of terms associated with the post-civil-divorce putting away doctrine, are definitely NOT the same as those commonly understood in the past.  Hence, the warning is sounded (cf. Ezk. 3:17-21; 33:4-5): “Buyer beware” (Prov. 23:23)!  Do not be deceived by strategies and bogus definitions (Eph. 4:14; Heb. 13:9a).  There are many quotes written by brother Ron Halbrook (on my website) which clearly reveal his advocacy of the post-civil-divorce putting away doctrine (a.k.a. “Mental Divorce;” “The Second Putting Away;” “Biblical Putting Away”).  Do not be deterred from these obvious and revealing quotations by the various smoke screens being sent out by Ron (and his associates) that only confuse and mislead.   

Since the remaining bond in an unscriptural divorce is the pivotal element that supposedly justifies a post-civil-divorce putting away, the next generation will contend that the one who obtained the unlawful “civil” divorce has as much a right to employ the procedure as the one who was victimized by it.  This is true because, as was aptly pointed out long ago, the inconsistencies of all false doctrines tend to a progressive, corrupting nature (II Tim. 2:16-17; 3:13).  Moreover, when we begin to accept such convoluted non-sense (i.e. that a put away person can actually put away a marriage that is already sundered), what other twisted theories will be next (Psa. 11:3)? 

Dear ones, we cannot compromise the will of the Almighty to placate men, for when we seek to appease the anger of men, we will arouse the indignation of God.

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 12:41 PM