Truth Magazine Against Truth Magazine
By Jeff Belknap
Many are well aware of the four articles that have been recently written by brother Bill Cavender in Truth Magazine within his series entitled “Observations and Experiences Regarding Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage” (March 18; April 1; May 6; May 20, 2004). For the most part, brother Cavender relied on emotion filled “personal experiences” to rationalize his views on “divorce” and remarriage. Moreover, he denies his position is “mental divorce,” etc., and anyone who disagrees with his position is binding “where Jesus did not bind.” To begin our review, please note the following quotes:
“When we get into areas of opinions as who files for divorce in the civil courts, who gets the divorce decree in civil courts, what does the paperwork and divorce decree say, and invent such phrases as ‘mental marriage,’ ‘mental divorce,’ ‘waiting game,’ ‘second putting away,’ ‘the innocent, put away person cannot remarry,’ etc., we solve no marriage problems, we help no one in their troubled marriages, we bind where Jesus did not bind, and make no scriptural contribution to the cause of truth and salvation of souls.” Bill Cavender, Truth Magazine (May 6, 2004).
In his following article, Bill wrote:
“She was unjustly ‘put away’ in a civil court of men by an ungodly mate but in the court of heaven she is innocent and could remarry if she desired to do so.” Bill Cavender, Truth Magazine (May 20, 2004).
Shortly after brother Cavender’s fourth article was published, Connie W. Adams wrote the following words in Truth Magazine that sets forth a stark contrast with brother Cavender’s articles.
“‘Binding Where Jesus Did Not Bind’
It is just as wrong to loose where the Lord has bound as it is to bind where he has not bound. When it comes to the issue of divorce and remarriage, we must be careful to respect exactly what the Lord has said. There is a good deal of tension now over what is being called ‘mental divorce’ in which a party who was put away for some other cause than fornication may later put away a mate who either marries again or else commits adultery after the fact of the divorce. Jesus said, ‘And whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery’ (Matt. 5:32). The same thing is stated in Matthew 19:9. When we have exhausted all the emotional arguments about fairness, and the intricacies of what constitutes ‘putting away,’ these passages will still say what they have always said. We can minimize the matter all we want to and call this an invention of man, but it still is what the Lord said. We can quibble about ‘who gets to the courthouse first’ and the like, but the Lord still said, ‘Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.’ It is not binding where Jesus did not bind to say that one who has been divorced is not free to marry for that is precisely what Jesus said. If what is described here does not constitute a mental dismissal, or a second putting away, after the marriage has ended legally and in fact, then I am at a loss as to what to call it. Our own personal experiences in dealing with difficult marital tangles may be interesting, but they do not set aside what the Lord has plainly said.” Connie W. Adams Editorial Left-overs; Truth Magazine, Vol. XLVIII, No. 16; August 19, 2004
Many were encouraged by brother Adams’ timely words. He taught the truth in spite of having family and friends who teach the opposite view. Further, his associate, the principal editor of Truth Magazine, Mike Willis, had recently published articles absolutely contrary to what Connie wrote and, more importantly, contrary to the word of God.
However, in the very next issue of Truth Magazine, brother Willis directly contradicted what Connie had written. In fact, brother Willis’ words denied, as did brother Cavender’s, that the doctrine of “mental divorce” is, in reality, erroneous doctrine. Now, note the difference between brother Adams’ teaching above with that of brother Mike Willis:
“On Wednesday, Greg Gwin, Ron Halbrook, Harry Osborne, and Donnie Rader participated in a discussion of ‘The Role of Civil Government in Divorce (Mental Divorce).’ Brother Gwin designated the position of those who disagree with him as sinful and called on brethren to draw lines of fellowship in keeping with his definitions, explanations, and qualifications of what he calls ‘mental divorce.’ Brother Halbrook pointed out that there are any number of views, scruples, and judgments among brethren on this subject, even though we are equally committed to preaching Matthew 19:9. Therefore, he urged all of us to be careful not to ‘splinter the remnant’ by dividing the church over our individual judgments. Brother Osborne showed that the word ‘divorce’ is used in three different ways by brethren, and, therefore, we at times make different judgments and reach different conclusions about the procedure for a scriptural divorce. Brother Rader presented a view which opposed any post civil-divorce cause which can give an innocent party the right to remarriage, but did not call for a division with those who have some judgments which disagree with his concerning details and procedures. This session was well attended and everyone’s demeanor was conducive to study.” Mike Willis “First Annual Lecture Series: “‘The Renewing of Your Mind’” Truth Magazine, Vol. XLVIII, No. 17 (September 2, 2004).
Let’s clearly draw the difference: Connie represented the issue of disagreement as “what is being called ‘mental divorce’ in which a party who was put away for some other cause than fornication may later put away a mate who either marries again or else commits adultery after the fact of the divorce.” To the contrary, Mike’s commentary on this dispute described it as a “post civil-divorce cause which can give an innocent party the right to remarriage.”
It is undeniable that brother Gwin’s “position” on the issue of post-divorce “putting away” and remarriage to another is in perfect harmony with brothers Adams and Rader. In fact, brother Gwin even concluded his forum transcript by quoting from Donnie Rader’s book:
“Yet these differences have been glossed over by saying that everyone agrees in principle while simply differing over the application of the principle. I do not really accept that explanation. However, even if we grant the use of this terminology, this is the bottom line: the ‘application’ being taught by some will result in people committing adultery. That, my brothers, cannot be ignored or glossed over.
Concerning this, brother Rader wrote: ‘Shall we allow people to divorce and remarry and live in adultery and never say a word? Shall we let the preachers and teachers who encourage such relationships pass without notice? . . . Those whose teaching causes others to become adulterers and adulteresses cannot be fellowshipped anymore than the adulterer or adulteress themselves’ (Divorce & Remarriage: What Does The Text Say? 145).
I agree with brother Rader’s conclusion.” Greg Gwin, Open Forum: Mental Divorce
However, brother Willis described brother Gwin’s teaching of “precisely what Jesus said” / “exactly what the Lord has said” (as worded by Connie Adams) as “his definitions, explanations, and qualifications.” Further, brother Willis asserted that Greg’s quarrel was with those who “disagree with him” (emp. jhb). Contrariwise, he described brother Halbrook’s advocacy of “any number of views, scruples, and judgments among brethren on this subject,” as an example of those who are “committed to preaching Matthew 19:9” (emp. jhb). Does that not clearly draw the line (Cf. II Corinthians 10:12)?
When brother Willis described brother Osborne’s presentation at the Lectureship, he stated that “brother Osborne showed that the word ‘divorce’ is used in three different ways by brethren” (emp. jhb). Thus, according to Mike’s words, neither brother Halbrook’s nor brother Osborne’s presentations were about “what Jesus said,” but rather about the various differences among brethren.
Regrettably, the departure from the focus of “precisely what Jesus said” / “exactly what the Lord has said” to the “judgments” and “different ways” of “brethren,” speaks volumes (cf. Isaiah 8:20; 55:8-9; cf. I John 4:1, 5-6)! This current trend among Truth Magazine associates is reminiscent of the Lord’s words in John 5:43-44 when He sated, “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive. How can ye believe, which receive honour one of another, and seek not the honour that cometh from God only?” (cf. II Timothy 4:3-4).
Brethren, when the editor of Truth Magazine makes his preference for the authority of men so apparent, is it any wonder “that there are any number of views, scruples, and judgments among brethren on this subject”? Whatever happened to the one and “only” standard of authority (I Peter 4:11)? Since when does the word of “brethren” hold a candle to the inerrant word of The Almighty (I Thessalonians 2:13)?
Their theory is a false hope to those who have been wrongfully put away. Further, their encouragement to tolerate “any number of views, scruples, and judgments among brethren on this subject,” is paving the way for additional perversions to come. The concerted effort of these men is not only diametrically opposed to what Jesus taught regarding the put away, but also seeks to deviate from the Lord’s will regarding fellowship (Ephesians 5:11; II John 9-11; Revelation 2:14, 20-22)!
When we compare the teaching of Connie Adams with that of Mike Willis, it is readily apparent that their “views” are complete opposites! Question: How can such adverse “positions” maintain Biblical fellowship (cf. Amos 3:3)? Did not brother Adams write “It is just as wrong to loose where the Lord has bound as it is to bind where he has not bound”? Additionally, he went on to say, “We can minimize the matter all we want to and call this an invention of man, but it still is what the Lord said. We can quibble about ‘who gets to the courthouse first’ and the like, but the Lord still said, ‘Whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.’ It is not binding where Jesus did not bind to say that one who has been divorced is not free to marry for that is precisely what Jesus said.”
Additionally, brother Willis’ well-documented doctrine that advocates multiple causes for divorce1 along with his promotion of “mental divorce” explains why he has also employed “the closed door policy” on this issue in Truth Magazine. He asserts that such disagreements belong under the proverbial umbrella of Romans 14 (cf. James 1:8).
Please notice the nearly five year old quote below that illustrates the combined effort of Mike, Harry and Ron to condone a “post civil-divorce cause which can give an innocent party the right to remarriage.”
“Brother Pickup made me aware a couple of years ago that it is being widely reported that Mike Willis and I differ in doctrine on this. As I left home to come, I sent my manuscript to two people for proofreading purposes by computer. After their proofreading it, not only they helped get the corrections done, but also I received this statement from Mike Willis: ‘This is to affirm that I have read brother Halbrook’s material. I agreed with him that our differences on how to treat one whose mate is guilty of FORNICATION FOLLOWING A DIVORCE which he tried to avoid is a difference of judgment in the realm of application of the one law of divorce and remarriage and not the teaching of another law.’ Harry Osborne made in essence the same statement. Those are the two who proofread it for me” (emp. jhb). Ron Halbrook [Towards A Better Understanding (False Teachers, Ron Halbrook’s Rebuttal to Bob Owen (pgs. 34-35); Burnet, TX (February 3-4, 2000)].
In brother Donnie Rader’s book [“Divorce and Remarriage: What does the text say?,” Lesson 8, Mental Divorce (May Some Put Away People Remarry)], he condemned the second “putting away” theory as “sin,” “adultery,” and what the Bible “emphatically forbids” (p. 78). However, Mike wrote, “Brother Gwin designated the position of those who disagree with him as sinful” (emp. jhb), and went on to write, “Brother Rader presented a view which opposed any post civil-divorce cause which can give an innocent party the right to remarriage, but did not call for a division with those who have some judgments which disagree with his concerning details and procedures.”
When we compare what Donnie has written in the past, with Mike’s words above, either Mike mischaracterized brother Rader or Donnie has mischaracterized himself! Alas, if brother Willis’ synopsis of brother Rader’s presentation is accurate, then Donnie voted for fellowship with this doctrine, after he voted against it. Nevertheless, it appears that Mike has no problem with Connie’s and Donnie’s opposition to this doctrine which promotes “sin,” “adultery” and what the Bible “emphatically forbids” just as long as they inconsistently fellowship those who teach and practice it.
Just what are the associates of Truth Magazine going to do with this major variance among themselves? Will they simply close their eyes to the obvious and tell the world, “we see no evil” (Matthew 23:24)? How can some cite the exclusive directive of the Lord, but then be willing to “receive” contradictory “judgments among brethren?” In the long ago, Elijah asked the people, “How long halt ye between two opinions? If the LORD be God, follow him: but if Baal, then follow him,” but sadly, “the people answered him not a word” (I Kings 18:21).
The contamination of “the party spirit” is very deceptive and produces a devastating domino effect (cf. Galatians 2:11-14)! Sadly, it has become painfully apparent that another movement of “unity in diversity” is gathering steam among the very brethren who have so vehemently condemned it in others (Matthew 7:1-5; Romans 2:1-3, 23). When men begin to “minimize the matter” of fellowship with “adultery” and make unashamed concessions with “sin” and what the Bible “emphatically forbids” it will only increase unto more ungodliness and will wax worse and worse unto a much greater disrespect for the authority of God (cf. Jeremiah 2:13; 6:13-15; 8:8-12; 23:14).
See also [Gospel Truths, “Divorce For A Reason Other Than Fornication…,” Volume XV, Number I January 2004 (pp. 9-10)]. Brother J. T. Smith also made the following comment after the article:
“Editor’s Note: I contacted brother Willis and asked if he would like to write a response to this, but he declined.”
Note: Brother Greg Gwin wrote an article in response to brother Mike Willis’ unjust statements (quoted above) which were published in Truth Magazine and submitted it to Mike for publication. Nevertheless, brother Willis refused to publish Greg’s rejoinder. It is amazing how easy it is to ascertain which side of a controversy has something to “hide.” In an effort to “set the record straight,” See: Concerning The ‘Mental Divorce’ Open Forum (by Greg Gwin). - Jeff
In “Truth Magazine and Controversy,” Connie W. Adams summarized the spirit of the paper from its inception when he said:
“Yes, this is a militant paper. We mean to keep it so. The devil has not called off the battle yet. There are still surging issues which need to be discussed. Brotherly reserve and restraint ought to be employed. But no quarter should be asked or given in the conflict between truth and error. If we are found in error, then let brethren get out their typewriters and point it out. We can take it” (Guardian of Truth, 23 Nov. 1973, pp. 60-61).
“The spirit and stamina of the Guardian of Truth magazine will be severely tested in the days which lie ahead. Those who write articles or read them in this paper, or any other paper, should view it as simply a medium for teaching the truth, nothing more or less. The Guardian of Truth has no ambitions or pretensions to control churches, preachers, or anything else, but it will be charged with such unworthy motives by those who feel the pressure of truth and fear the exposure of error. Papers, like individuals, face the challenge of maintaining their fidelity to truth into the third and fourth generations. Those who publish and write for this paper are subject to all of the same strong cultural influences as anyone else in this country, and we ourselves will be tempted at times to accommodate ourselves to the demand for a softer, more polished, more positive posture, and thus to wear the “Protestant smile.” If we begin to give in to that demand, may God confuse and confound our purposes, and cause this paper to die forever. If the Guardian of Truth continues in its heritage of boldly proclaiming the gospel of Christ without compromise, may God bless its efforts and extend its usefulness. If the magazine and its writers take any other course or posture, may God raise up faithful men and faithful papers which will renew the heritage of faithful preaching” (Guardian of Truth, 20 July, 1995, pp. 433-436).
A Response To Brother Bill Cavender (by David Watts, Jr.)
Doctrines and Principles Regarding MDR (by David Watts Jr.)