LETTER SENT TO
Dear brother _______,
It is with a heavy heart that I write this letter. About five years ago, I called Ron Halbrook about a MDR belief which I was told he held. I called him in hopes that I would find that it had been a misunderstanding. Of all people, I couldn’t conceive that Ron would hold an erroneous view on MDR after his extensive study and efforts to expose false doctrine in that very area. Unfortunately, his response indicated that he was entertaining such thoughts, but I wasn’t overly concerned because he said he was just “tossing around” the idea with another brother. In recent months, though, I have found (from reading from some of his letters, posts, and hearing his words on tape) that he is now defending this “belief.”
As a result of him sharing this belief with others, two of my friends have had to be re-convinced of the truths taught in Mt. 5, Mt. 19, and Lk. 16. Moreover, a brother and friend of mine had a meeting cancelled and outside support abruptly discontinued very shortly after canceling a meeting with Ron, due to this issue. Since three of my close associates have been so significantly effected by this doctrine, it is troubling to consider how many others may have been effected, as well.
Due to the misunderstanding of many as to what Ron really does believe, in my recent correspondence with Ron, I have encouraged him to be open about his actual position on this issue.
Since publication of the March 2001 issue of Gospel Truths, he has written a response to J. T. Smith, and pasted it in his reply to me. In it (speaking regarding J. T.), Ron states:
“Also, several years ago, he wrote me saying he had heard that I teach, ‘When a man puts away his wife for any cause other than fornication and he subsequently marries another, his first wife then may put him away for fornication and she has the scriptural right to marry another’ (Smith to Halbrook, 2-17-93). My letter dated February 27, 1993 explained that I do not believe or teach such a view. In an effort to be completely open and forthcoming, I also expanded the letter to deal with a number of side issues on divorce and remarriage which I find difficult to sort out at times. I do not attempt to deal with all such matters in preaching...” (emp. jhb)
Ron’s aforementioned 1993 letter to J. T. has been posted to the Truth Magazine website. For comparison, below I am pasting Ron’s “notes for further study.” Though written in 1986, Ron just months ago sent these study notes (along with other materials, attached) to a friend who had enquired about Ron’s position.
I will let you decide for yourself if he has been open and forthright.
Because there is much misunderstanding as to what Ron actually believes, I thought it important to share with you a compilation of actual beliefs and teaching, as represented by himself. Attached are some of Ron’s writings to individuals and lists, and a partial transcript of a meeting held at his request, to explain his beliefs with the brethren in Athens, GA. [The reason Ron requested the discussion is because, upon learning of his unscriptural position the congregation had cancelled his Gospel Meeting.]
Because of my concern for Ron and the souls of others who may be influenced by his doctrine, I have written four articles to examine this position and its associated ideas, with the light of God’s word. If you are interested, I will send them to you.
It is my heart’s desire that you will carefully read the attached writings. I pray that in seeing Ron’s words for yourself, you will understand the inherent danger involved in allowing this doctrine to go unchallenged. It is already spreading. The Lord’s cause could be greatly benefited by your efforts, and your influence may help Ron, as well as prevent others from being carried away.
Your brother and fellow
P.S. If you would like to verify the first hand accounts of those I have referenced in this letter, feel free to contact me and I will give you their contact information.
[Ron Halbrook’s words that most clearly express his position have been colored in blue (jhb)].
NOTES AND THOUGHTS FOR FURTHER STUDY
Is Matt. 19:9 (a) and (b) a sequence of events OR does (b) set forth a separate situation in which a woman put away for an unscriptural reason is married by a third party?
The passage explains which divorces and remarriages God will accept as valid under the terms of his law and which He will not accept. If a person sinfully and wrongfully rejects or puts away his mate, his action is a farce so far as changing the obligations he has to that mate under God's law. In terms of God's law, the man is still bound to his mate so long as he lives.
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. She now may put away, reject, or divorce him as a moral and spiritual act. Some suggest that this would be a mere mental or emotional farce-a whim, or a meaningless abstraction. Certainly her intellect and emotions are involved, but the action involves her whole being. Just as once she bound herself to the obligations of marriage with her whole being under the law of God, now she looses herself from those duties with her whole being under the law of God. With her whole being she once accepted the bond and duties of marriage-now she rescinds that commitment. Her commitment was first made to God in her own heart. She made it known to the man who was asking for her hand. She was not ashamed for others to know she had made that commitment and so she stated her commitment in the formal manner customary to society and required by law. But now she puts away, rejects, or divorces that man as a spiritual and moral act under the law of God. This is first a decision and an act of her own heart-known only to herself and to God. She will make it known to the man who wrongfully rejected her that she scripturally rejects him. Society and the courts of men are not concerned with the moral and spiritual aspects of scriptural divorce (any more than with scriptural baptism or worship). Therefore, no provision is made by society or the courts of men for a formal statement of this divorce. Yet she would be willing to acknowledge her rejection of her husband to any and all interested parties, in private or public. Because the law of man does not recognize the law of God at this point, naturally they make no formal provision for it and make no record of it in human courts. Because of this failure of human society and law to recognize God's law on divorce and remarriage (that it must be for immorality), some Christians believe the man's wrongful act of rejecting his wife precludes her from scripturally rejecting him. This means that since the courts of men recognize his sinful efforts and ignore her righteous efforts, Christians must define acceptable divorce and remarriage according to the courts of men and not by the immutable laws of God. In other words, if the court after granting the man a wrongful divorce would at some time hear the appeal of the woman that her husband was living in adultery, would agree that it had erred in granting him a sinful divorce, and would grant her a rightful divorce, then she could remarry. This means that when the laws of God and men contradict on divorce and remarriage, God's law is not operative and applicable until men agree to make it so in their own courts.