While brother Ron has refused discussion of the present issue of controversy for the past several years, he was definitely not silent about it before public examination of the topic began. He has consistently refused public comment regarding his revealed “application” (below), yet repeatedly claims that he is being misrepresented.
Ron mailed out this exchange (along with more of his e-mail letters and written materials which articulate his “application”) to a young evangelist in early Spring of 2001.
Letter Written To Ron Halbrook
As you can see, a copy of this is being sent to _____ and _____ with whom both of us have talked independently some about this subject.
I do not want to misrepresent anyone, even unintentionally, on any position they might take. _____ believes I have misrepresented you on this subject. He wrote, “Please do not tell people that Ron believes in ‘mental divorce’ when he plainly does not. If you have told others this, please make it right with those you have influenced. That is only right.” I will be more than happy to do so, IF I have misrepresented you. However, very little that I read in those fowarded articles (admittedly I could have missed something) addresses the issues that I had in mind...
Let me ask about a specific situation:
Alice divorces Bill because she doesn’t love him anymore (no fornication with either party before the divorce). Bill didn’t want the divorce, he tried to talk Alice out of the divorce, and HE never reputiated the marriage, but SHE did. Sometime later Alice finds another man and commits fornication. Bill learns of it. He then repudiates the marriage (mentally divorces Alice). QUESTION: Does he then have a right to remarry?
In the interest of brotherly love and a clearer understanding of one another
Response From Ron Halbrook
First, I want to make very clear that I do not believe it is possible to put away a mate and then wait for that person to fall into adultery, and then to claim a second merely mental divorce on the ground of fornication, followed by the right to marry a new mate. I will forward my article, “Divorce & Remarriage: No Waiting Game.”
Second, I want to make very clear that I do not believe it is possible to just think, “I am married,” or, “I am divorced,” and to thus mentally marry or mentally divorce.
My understanding is that a person who is faithful to the marriage vow and bond when sinfully abandoned and divorced is not involved in a “waiting game.” The faithful mate has no control over nor responsibility for the sinful conduct of the unfaithful mate (whereas in Matt. 5:32 Jesus clearly assigns responsibility for adultery to the man who divorced his mate without cause, as well as to the divorcee and her new mate who go to the bed of adultery). Rather than waiting and hoping for a mate to commit adultery, the faithful mate works and waits for the unfaithful mate to repent and to be reconciled.
If a person in this situation were to approach me, I would review the principles laid out in Matt. 5:32 & 19:9. Then, I would make them aware that brethren sometimes differ on how to apply the principle to such a case. I would provide material for study of both sides of the matter. I would then leave the final determination of the matter between the person and God.
It is my understanding that marriage and divorce include personal and public declarations. Both marriage and divorce should be dealt with in a way which is open and aboveboard. When two people prepare to marry, there are personal and public declarations made in order to avoid any appearance of sinful intentions or actions. If a divorce occurs in a case where one mate is determined to be faithful to the marriage vows and bond, that faithful mate should be open and aboveboard about his or her determination to act in keeping with the bond created by God. It ought to be communicated to the unfaithful mate, to brethren, to family members, and to all who may have an interest in the matter. When the unfaithful mate goes further into sin by committing adultery, the faithful mate should not hesitate to declare the sin just what it is, and to repudiate this violation of the marriage vow and bond. The fact that sinful, corrupt, ungodly courts will not allow the faithful mate to take legal action does not prevent him or her from making every personal and public declaration which is possible.
Then, the question arises as to whether that person may marry a new mate. The New Testament is not a book of case law, i.e., it does not list and categorize all the various situations which might arise. It certainly makes no direct reference to the question at hand. It is incumbent on us to refer to the principle revealed, to assess how the situation relates to the principle, and then to make a determination or application. Faithful brethren recognize in common the principle revealed in Matt. 5:32; 19:9; Mk. 10:11-12; & Lk. 16:18: one man for one woman for life, with only one exception (when fornication occurs, the innocent party may put away the guilty party, and marry a new mate). False teachers attack, deny, and seek to destroy that very principle. Faithful brethren who embrace and defend the principle sometimes struggle to apply it to some situations which are not so clear cut as others, and we sometimes differ in our conclusions. This latter point is true of virtually everything the Bible teaches. In fact, I cannot think of an exception, can you?
I believe we can distinguish the attacks of false teachers which destroy a Bible principle from the earnest efforts of faithful brethren to apply a principle which we all embrace and defend. I have addressed this difference in a 2 part article, “Are We Doomed to Divide Over Every Difference on Divorce?” Part 1 deals with the attacks of false teachers which destroy a Bible principle and result in inevitable division. Part 2 deals with the efforts of brethren to apply a principle which we all embrace and defend. (This material is being forwarded to you.) You have asked a question which falls into the realm of brethren earnestly seeking to apply a principle which all embrace and defend. In trying to assess the situation and apply the principle, you would conclude an innocent mate should not marry a new mate by appealing to the same principle and passages I would use to conclude the decision should be left between that innocent mate and God.
Again, thank you for your message and for your patience in awaiting my reply. I am going to close shop and warm the bed a few minutes since it is well past midnight.
If you are ever in the Louisville area, please look us up. I would be glad to become better acquainted with you. I pray that God may bless your every endeavor in the proclamation and defense of the gospel.
In Christian love,