The Major Crux of the Mental Divorce Doctrine

By Jeff Belknap

Brother Ron Halbrook authored the following four quotes and recently sent them out or taught them to brethren. All of these quotes reveal the major crux of why he and his associates teach that some “put away” persons may participate in a SECOND (so-called “Biblical”) divorce and remarriage AFTER having been unscripturally divorced.

Brother Ron wrote:

“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…” (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook  (Notes and Thoughts for Further Study)

Also, brother Ron added his own handwritten contradictory comments to an excellent article written by brother Jim Deason entitled “Mental Divorce? A Reply.” Alongside of this article, regarding Matthew 19:9, Ron added the following commentary:

Passage also is explaining which divorces God will recognize!  i.e. accept (emp. jhb)  Ron Halbrook  (Personal Comments to Jim Deason’s article Mental Divorce? A Reply)

Moreover, during the question/answer session after brother Halbrook’s sermon on “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage” in Belen, NM, the following question was asked, and subsequent to it is an excerpt of Ron’s reply:

Question: “If you have a woman who has been in a situation where her husband has committed adultery and he puts her away.  He’s the one that filed for divorce.  Now where does she stand?”

Ron’s Answer:  “In that case, what you have, you have to make a distinction between a scriptural putting away and an unscriptural putting away.  Because the man goes through the farce of a civil action in putting her away in a legal sense (he has done that—the civil courts will record it), but in the sight of God he has just acted out a perversion and a lie, and God doesn’t accept what he has done…” (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook  (from a presentation on “Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage,” Belen, NM, 21 March 1988)

Furthermore, in July of 2002 brother Ron discussed this issue with a congregation in Athens GA.  The following is an excerpt from that meeting between brother David McKee and Ron:

Ron Halbrook:  In an unscriptural, ungodly sense, that man has a divorce paper.  But I don’t see it as changing anything in divine law.

David McKee:  No, and I don’t either.  That’s why I think the other passages will say, “and he who marries her who is divorced.” That’s why it’s adultery, as well, because she’s still tied to that unfaithful fellow that put her away, and he’s still tied to her in this bond.

Ron Halbrook:  But you would take away that exception, at that point (emp. jhb).  [Ron Halbrook, July 27-28, 2000, MDR discussion with brethren in Athens, GA]  

Due to the erroneous presuppositions that a sinful divorce is not recognized by God and that a couple is still married after such a divorce, this theory goes on to suggest that the exception clause is still available AFTER the unscriptural divorce is completed.  However, why is it that some can clearly comprehend God’s recognition of other actions He does not “approve” of (also known as sin), yet cannot see this truth regarding an unscriptural divorce (cf. Acts 28:24-27)?  Could it be that some refuse to accept the fact that God’s will actually requires put away people to suffer earthly loss as the result of another’s sin (Mt. 5:32a; 18:7)?  For those who think the scales of justice should be balanced in this life, their theory “seemeth right” (Prov. 14:12; 16:25).  Therefore, many seek to modify God’s will to correspond with their own sense of justice.

Contrary to brother Ron’s above assertion that Matthew 19:9 “also is explaining which divorces God will recognize! i.e. accept,” brother Gene Frost wrote:

“The theorist builds his case through specious reasoning, relying heavily upon equivocation.  Let’s follow his reasoning in Matthew 19.

Verse 6: ‘What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.’  The theorist comments that ‘man has no right to put asunder.’  All agree that man has no ‘right,’ meaning ‘Privilege to which one is entitled upon principals of morality, religion, law, or the like,’1  to ‘separate, divide, part’2  husband and wife.  The theorist then shifts from the word ‘right’ to ‘power,’ which among definitions may be used to mean ‘right,’ with reference to law.3 The word ‘power’ also means ‘ability…capability of producing or undergoing and effect.’4  Shifting to this second definition he then contends that man cannot put asunder. Thus he leads one from an admitted conclusion through equivocation to a conclusion which is not true, but which one, unless he detected the fallacy of reasoning, would think he has already admitted as true.  And this fallacious conclusion is the basis of his concept:

They cannot be put asunder.  They cannot be severed no matter what they call it…  We believe that what God hath joined together man should not, and really cannot, put asunder even though he tries….Based upon the ‘cannot’ conclusion, arrived at by the fallacy of equivocation, the theorist builds his whole case.  To strengthen his position he resorts to further equivocation.  He so uses the word ‘recognize.’  Will God ‘recognize’ an unlawful divorce, meaning ‘will God acknowledge with a show of approval an unlawful divorce?’  All respond, no.  Shifting from this definition to ‘avow knowledge of,’ he then concludes that God does not admit that the unlawful ‘divorce’ is a divorce at all.  Therefore the unlawful ‘divorce’ is not divorce at all and ‘divorce’ is used only accommodatively!  The theorist uses his equivocation to misrepresent the opposition.  If one says that God recognizes (has knowledge of, views) a divorce as a putting away, even though He may not approve of it, the theorist will counter, ‘Then you are saying that God approves, honors, accepts all divorces!’  And this is a false charge.  But with those who do not detect his equivocation, the charge appears to be legitimate.  Such subtlety is hardly honest, and exposes him as one who is set upon defending a prejudiced conclusion” (emp. his).

At the close of his article, brother Frost wrote:

“The theorist argues from what he thinks is ‘implied,’ in defiance of what is said.  The argument, as with the concept, is born of a desire to circumvent the Lord’s teaching.  It is the product of wishful thinking rather than sound exegesis” (emp. his).  [Gene Frost, Gospel Truths (Nov. 2001), “The Case for Mental Divorce”]

When does God ever fail to “recognize” a divorce (lawful or not)?  In Matthew 5:32a; 19:9a and Luke 16:18a, the Lord himself indicates his recognition (though not approval) of an unscriptural divorce, when He clearly called an unscriptural divorce “put away” (APOLUO).  This is why Jesus said such a sin “causeth her to commit adultery” (Mt. 5:32).  That is what God also recognizes as the action which makes an innocent person in the second halves of those verses “put away” and unable to remarry another without becoming guilty of fornication themselves.

Although God’s law prohibits abortion, gambling, fornication, drunkenness, divorce for any cause, and adulterous remarriages, man’s law allows them!  The question is: Does God recognize the fact that an unborn child has been murdered?  If He does not even recognize or acknowledge the reality of actions taken against His will (a.k.a. sins), how could the perpetrator of this abomination (or any other sin) be condemned for his sinful actions?  If, on the other hand, God does recognize or acknowledge the murder, does that mean that He approves of the abortion?  Of course NOT!!!

The same question could be asked regarding gambling, fornication, drunkenness, unlawful divorces, and adulterous remarriages!!!  To contend that because God doesn’t “approve” of an unscriptural divorce, He doesn’t “recognize” it, is no better than brother Hailey’s doctrine that the alien sinner is not subject to the law of Christ.  We recognize that a baptism does not change adulterous marriages into pure unions.  Likewise, just because an unscriptural divorce took place against God’s law does not change the fact that it is a divorce nonetheless, for Jesus called it such (Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16:18)!

Those who seek the “right” of remarriage for some unscripturally put away people reason that because God does not “approve” of unlawful divorce, He does not “recognize” it.  However, as in the case of the Hailey doctrine, such convoluted “logic” DOES NOT APPLY WITH ANY OTHER SIN EXCEPT THIS ONE!!!  What is wrong with this picture?

Beloved, it is not those on this side of the issue who are promoting Man’s law over God’s law, as brothers Halbrook, Haile and Osborne contend.  It is only MAN who approves of remarriage for put away (divorced) people, NOT GOD!!! 

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