By Jeff Belknap

One way to advocate a doctrine (whether true or false) without using your own words is by highly recommending the teaching of another man who holds to the same doctrine.  The very reason I have been promoting writings by Gene Frost, Donnie Rader, Dennis G. Allan and Gary Fisher at the end of my articles on this website, is to advance what they have written!

In spite of the abundant evidence provided on this website which clearly shows that brother Halbrook has been teaching mental divorce for years, some continue to deny the facts, cover them up, and / or downplay their significance.  This article is written to provide further confirmation of the doctrine that Ron has been encouraging since at least 1983.

In the early December 1983 issue of Guardian of Truth, brother Halbrook authored an article entitled, “David Lipscomb on Marriage and Divorce” (pg. 3).  In this article brother Halbrook highly praised brother Lipscomb, stating, “The real man spent long years in a devout study of God’s Word and in fervent proclamation of the gospel. Our appreciation for Lipscomb’s work is heightened by an awareness of the formidable obstacles which he faced and overcame by faith. Time spent sitting at his feet by reading his writings can be richly rewarding.”

In his article, Ron mentioned Lipscomb’s book numerous times and recommended, “Questions Answered by Lipscomb and Sewell, published by Gospel Advocate Company in 1921.  Both books have been reprinted and are still available today, providing a wealth of stimulating material on a wide variety of subjects.”  Lest anyone think I am anti - Lipscomb, I also believe that a study of some of his writings may be profitable, inasmuch as they correspond to biblical teaching.

The problem I have with Ron’s article is that he quoted brother Lipscomb’s promotion of what is known as “mental divorce” without confronting the error and sent this article out to brethren in support of his own beliefs on this issue.  This advocacy of Lipscomb’s views on the topic of “mental divorce,” is one of the many writings that Ron sent to a young evangelist, in support of his own mental divorce “application.”

Ron’s Lipscomb article speaks volumes to those who have witnessed his attempts to advocate mental divorce through the back door approach.  Directly beneath Ron’s quote about the “real man” (Lipscomb) whose “writings can be richly rewarding” is the subtitle, “A Controversial Subject Across The Centuries.” Under this subtitle Ron wrote the following: “Lipscomb and his cohorts faced questions on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, even as did the Lord Himself and his disciples. Matthew records two occasions upon which Jesus dealt with this ever-present and controversial matter.”

The next subtitle is, Lipscomb Faced the Issue, So Must We!  Under this, Ron wrote, “As can be seen from the following selections which appear in Questions Answered (pp. 185-86, 434), Libscomb and Sewell were called upon to deal with the permanent nature of the marriage bond (emp. jhb).

Here is where Ron’s advocacy of error begins, for although the “bond” is permanent until death separates (as a rule), the marriage may or may not be (as is verified in passages such as Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16:18; I Cor. 7:11, 15).  His unbiblical terminology (i.e. “marriage bond”) inextricably links the marriage (the physical relationship) to the bond (the spiritual obligation). When one implies that as long as one is bound (by God), they are married, they have erred from the truth (cf. Mt. 5:32; 19:9; Lk. 16:18; Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:11, 15).  This error leads some to further reason that only when a couple is loosed (by God), are they really divorced (at least, in some circumstances). Therefore, a distinction is made between marriages and divorces that are “real” (approved in the eyes of God) and those which are “merely” civil (approved solely in the eyes of man).

Brother Ron’s use of the term “marriage bond” confuses the separate entities of marriage and bond.  The Bible teaches that men and women are “bound by the law” to their spouse (Rom. 7:2-3; I Cor. 7:39), not by a “marriage bond” (which term leaves the incorrect connotation that there must be a marriage whenever there is a bond).  However, one may be “bound by the law” while scripturally married (Rom. 7:2), or “bound by the law” while unscripturally divorced / unmarried (I Cor. 7:11; Mt. 5:32, 19:9; Lk. 16:18).  

Marriage and divorce are only man’s part in the joining or separation of the physical relationship. Man is commanded not to put asunder what God joined together (Mt. 19:6), necessarily implying that he has the ability to do so, even though God commanded him not to.  From the teaching in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9, it is obvious that God does His part in loosing a person from the bond of His law only when man puts away for fornication (necessarily inferring that the couple is still married when the putting away takes place).

Continuing now in Ron’s article about Lipscomb, he wrote:

“We are also reproducing the more extensive treatment on “Marriage and Divorce” by Lipscomb which appears in Queries and Answers (pp. 280-84). We call the reader’s attention to a few observations on this material. It shows that modern controversy on the subject is but a repetition of problems which have always faced the people of God.  Since we cannot ‘wish’ these difficulties away, we must grapple with them in the light of God’s Word just as Lipscomb and others have done. There is no excuse for dodging or ignoring such issues. No matter how unpleasant the task or how fierce the opposition, loyalty to God requires us to insist upon God’s appointments. No apology should be made for opposing ‘all innovations and changes upon his order at every point along the line of duty drawn by him,’ as Lipscomb put it ‘After Fifty Years’” (emp. jhb).

Shortly after this comment, the first quote Ron chose to include was a question and answer from brother Lipscomb’s book that directly advocates mental divorce.

[Before getting into that quote, let me first express disappointment at the fact that while Ron articulates an attitude of great boldness and faithfulness to God in this article, his present actions are absolutely contrary to what he has written.  For quite some time now, Ron has been asked specific questions regarding his beliefs on this issue, but he has DODGED and IGNORED every effort by many who have encouraged him to publicly come out and deal honestly and forthrightly with his views on this subject! What is even worse, Ron claimed that he has already been completely open and forthcomingwith J. T. Smith and others regarding his convictions on this matter (Gospel Truths, March 2001), notwithstanding the contrary evidence revealed on this web site.  Moreover, as relates to this issue, according to Ron’s own assessment, he condemns himself as manifesting a lack of “loyalty to God,” by his unwillingness to “grapple” with “these difficulties” he himself said God “requires us” to do.  (For further illustration of this point, please read my web site article: “A Plea For Clarification” to Ron Halbrook.)] 

What Ron has done in comparatively private settings has been much more than just simply discuss the possibility of an innocent put away person deciding whether or not to “divorce” their ex-mate who fornicated before the “civil” divorce. (This is the scenario that brethren who have written on this subject want to address, but it is a far cry from what Ron has taught. Ron’s “application” allows a post-civil-divorce-divorce and remarriage to another, even when the scriptural cause - fornication - is committed after the civil divorce.)

Here are just a couple of quotes written by brother Ron (published on this web site), which he recently sent out along with his Lipscomb article:

"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" (emp. jhb).  Ron Halbrook, Notes and Thoughts For Further Study” dated 1986

"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." Ron Halbrook, E-mail “discussion with friends about fine-tuning some points of application,” February, 1998

Now, picking up where we left off in Ron’s Lipscomb article, just before the quote in which brother Lipscomb advocates mental divorce, Ron writes, We call attention to Lipscomb’s careful study on divorce and remarriage in order to remind us of principles of truth which never change and to stir us up that we will teach them….” (emp. jhb). 

Next, under the subtitle: Marriage and Divorce By David Lipscomb

(1)   If a brother and sister marry and live together for a while and then separate without a Bible cause, and at the time of the separation the brother pleads with the sister to stay with him, makes all necessary acknowledgements, begs her pardon, and promises to do better in the future, but she will not hear him, has either party, under the circumstances, the right to marry again?  If either party marries again, will that give the other one the right to marry also?’


“The Bible is very clear that nothing, save adultery on the part of one party, breaks the marriage bond.  Paul says: The Lord gives charge “that the wife depart not from her husband (but should she depart, let her remain unmarried, or else be reconciled to her husband); and that the husband leave not his wife” (1 Cor. 7:10,11).  This shows the possibility of their living separate, but they must remain unmarried.  There is no ground given for either to marry, unless one be guilty of adultery.  For either to marry is to be guilty of adultery; so if either marries, that one is guilty of adultery.  This breaks the marriage bond, and the other is free to marry, I would say, though many deny the right of a person once married to marry again during the life of the other party.  In a separation, the one who forces the other to leave does what causes that one to commit adultery; and if one, by a sinful course, forces another to commit adultery, that one is as guilty as the one that commits the sin.…”

Brethren, I trust that you can discern the flaws in brother Lipscomb’s untenable conclusions.  Nevertheless, why would brother Halbrook praise Libscomb, encourage us to purchase and study his words and, out of all of the writings in Lipscomb’s whole book, quote the above (question and answer) without challenge, if he himself did not approve of what Lipscomb stated therein?  Ron revealed four different questions and answers from brother Lipscomb’s book in his article, but his very first quote deals with and advocates mental divorce!

Moreover, in James Burton Coffman’s Commentary on 1 and 2 Corinthians (Pg. 104), Coffman commented under I Corinthians 7:15, “David Lipscomb also believed that, ‘In such cases, remarriage is not approved’;<29> but he went on to add that if the departing unbeliever should marry again, the wife or husband forsaken would be at liberty to remarry.”  ENDNOTES: <29> David Lipscomb, op. cit., p. 102.

The similarities between Coffman’s assessment of Lipscomb’s views and Ron’s application are apparent.  If you will also review the assorted quotes of brother Ron posted towards the top of this web site, you will see what has been and continues to be the REAL issue. This is the “application” that Ron (and others) contend may be fellowshipped.

Unfortunately, when mature brethren have addressed Ron with public inquiry about this specific question, his responses have been indirect and ambiguous at best, and he has continued to sidestep the entire scenario! This became especially apparent last year on three occasions that I am aware of: 1) In Ron’s answer to a mental divorce scenario / question from J. T. Smith, “answered” by Ron in the April issue of Gospel Truths (2001).  2) At the Lakeland, FL discussion during the question / answer session, where brothers David McKee and Steve Diaz asked Ron to answer their questions on this issue (June 4, 2001).  3) At the preacher training program in Ellettsville, IN during a question and answer period when brother Bryan Dockens asked him a mental divorce scenario question (Fall, 2001).  In contrast to his evasiveness to such questions Ron wrote in his Lipscomb article, “we must grapple with them (these difficulties; jhb) in the light of God’s Word just as Lipscomb and others have done (emp. jhb).  In light of such words, Ron’s actions are disingenuous (cf. I Jn. 3:18) and indicate a desire to avoid the consequences of his teaching.  People who have proven themselves to be courageous opponents of error (as has brother Halbrook) do not dodge, ignore, and evade examination of issues for which they have scriptural support.

Furthermore, please note Ron’s words in his own article, “Are We Doomed to Divide over Every Difference on Divorce and Remarriage” (pg. 4), which are peculiarly applicable to this issue. Ron wrote, “False teachers will not tolerate the preaching of the truth, though they plead for toleration toward their teaching of error.  This is generally true both of those who teach error on divorce and remarriage and those who claim the truth but want unity-in-doctrinal-diversity on the matter. People who cannot abide sound doctrine simply cannot abide the open examination of controversial issues and cannot stand the searchlight of truth (Jn. 3:19-21; 2 Tim. 4:3-4) (emp his).

Jesus stated, “For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again” (Mt. 7:2; cf. Rom. 2:21-23).

Special note: Please consider the following additional study materials:

Divorce & Remarriage; What Does The Text Say?, by Donnie Rader,

  • Chapter 8 Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry);

  • Also consider pages 145-149 in the APPENDIX

Is It Lawful? A Comprehensive Study of Divorce By Dennis G. Allan and Gary Fisher,

  • Chapter 13 What Constitutes Divorce? (by Bob Waldron);

  • Chapter 38 Can You Put Away the Put-Away? (by Gary Fisher);

  • Chapter 39 The rights of an Innocent Put-Away Person (by Kevin S. Kay).

Mental Marriages and Mental Divorces (by Gene Frost).

Marriage is Honorable (by Gene Frost)

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