Wayne Partain’s Own Words
Regarding The “Mental Divorce” Doctrine

 By Jeff Belknap

On 3-2-07, Mike Willis sent the following to Morris Bowers (and others), regarding Wayne Partain’s comments on “mental divorce:

“...I (Mike Willis, jhb) wrote him (Wayne Partain, jhb) about the matter and, with his permission, I quote his reply:

‘Let me say right up front that I can’t write a ‘short paragraph’ for you on this. So this may not help you.

In the first place, I am pleased and honored that my article was recirculated by Morris. All three of the main points I deal with are very critical: the Deity of Christ, the days of Creation and divorce-remarriage. There’s a tremendous amount of softening going on in the brotherhood over these crucial issues. I can’t imagine soberminded gospel preachers fellowshipping those who say that Jesus never used divine attributes and that He forgave sins only as the apostles did, didn’t actually ask to be worshipped, etc.

But my article did not deal with the so-called ‘mental divorce’ issue. This is an inflammatory expression to prejudice minds. Whether or not a woman who has been repudiated by her husband (not for fornication) can remarry when he remarries does come under the heading of Romans 14, just as the no-remarriage-after-fornication issue.

Brother Partain is confident in his assertion that the post-divorce “putting away” doctrine for post-divorce fornication comes under the heading of Romans 14. Yet, if he wants to prove this contention, he must first prove that the practice is “pure” before God (v. 20; cf. James 3:17) – a matter that involves nothing more than the violation of one’s conscience, as opposed to God’s law (as was shown in the case of eating of various meats, v. 23).

However, brother Partain knows very well that those who oppose the doctrine are opposed on the basis of Jesus’ teaching that “whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery” (Matthew 5:32b; cf. 19:9b; Luke 16:18b). Thus, we firmly believe that those who promote post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication and remarriage to another while their bound mate lives, are advocating a doctrine that is no less adulterous than the one that brother Hailey taught.

Brother Partain continued and wrote:

I do not teach that such a woman can remarry, but neither have I been on the band-wagon of those who want to divide the church over this issue. I could never accept and use the faulty arguments being used.

I do not understand how teaching that “he who marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” is using a faulty argument! Moreover, since this is the doctrine of Christ, those who contradict it must of necessity come under the heading of II John 9-11, not Romans 14.      

If the case against this practice were an open and shut matter, as clear as baptism and the Lord’s Supper, brethren wouldn’t misuse Mark 10:11 to prove their contention. The very idea that when a man divorces his wife not for fornication and marries another he does NOT commit adultery against his first wife is ridiculous on the face of it. That’s as senseless as saying Mark 16:16 doesn’t say ‘and is not baptized.’ Ask a few wives who have been the victims of fornicating husbands and see if they think their husbands have committed adultery against them. And, no, what word is adjacent to what does not prove that argument.

Mark 10:11-12 does not address the one who “is put away,” but only speaks to those who would put away their God-joined mate and marry another. Thus, this teaching (much as the teaching in the “a” portions of Matthew 5:32; 19:9 and Luke 16:18) is not helpful when discussing those who are divorced, unless a biblical pattern for post-divorce “putting away” can be established. After several years of this controversy, no such pattern has been made known (II Timothy 1:13; cf. Hebrews 8:5).

Obviously, if brother Partain could cite positive Bible authority for the doctrine of post-divorce “putting away” for post-divorce fornication and subsequent remarriage to another (while one’s bound mate lives), he would TEACH it. But yet, he readily approves of those who do teach it! Why? Because he insinuates that the Lord’s MDR teaching is not “clear” nor “open and shut.” Please read II Corinthians 11:3

Let’s review Christ’s teaching that actually addresses the one who has been put away: “and he who marrieth her that is put away committeth adultery.” Funny, but that’s crystal clear to me! This is not rocket science! One becomes “put away” when his/her marriage partner puts him/her away, thus sundering the marriage relationship (Matthew 19:3-6; Mark 10:2-9; I Corinthians 7:10-11; cf. Deuteronomy 24:1). There is absolutely no biblical pattern for UNMARRIED people to “put away” (or repudiate, via whatever definition one wants to use) their man/woman. The subject only gets murky when we take our eyes off of what the Lord has said, and listen to men who want to extend the exception clause to those who are “put away” / “unmarried.”

Brother Partain continued and stated:

Nor could I ever teach that when a man divorces his wife not for fornication and marries another woman he is still the ‘bound-mate’ of his first wife. This also is ridiculous. Bound (deo) means just that, bound to him, bound to be a wife to him. If she were still bound (subject to the law of her husband), still obligated to be a wife to him, he could come back and visit her any weekend, she’d have to cook for him, wash his dirty underwear, sleep with him and raise his kids. Furthermore, if she is obligated to be a wife to him, then she is obligated to become one flesh with a fornicator (1 Cor. 6:16).

Evidently, brother Partain has forgotten that the Lord has only authorized two to become “one flesh” within a lawful marriage relationship (Genesis 2:24). In fact, that is exactly what I Corinthians 6:16 teaches as well! Paul made a distinction between becoming “one body” with a “harlot” (i.e. committing fornication), versus the words “for two, saith he, shall be one flesh. No intimate relations are authorized outside of a God-joined “marriage” (Hebrews 13:4; cf. Romans 12:17; II Corinthians 8:21)!

Next, brother Partain wrote:

Some would say, ‘Oh, he would never do that, he has another wife.’ Don’t kid yourself. I know a preacher in Mexico whose father has 16 families. His father’s name is Manuel, his name is Manuel, and he has four brothers whose name is Manuel.

Also it is claimed that in such case ‘deo’ just means ‘restrained from marrying anyone else.’ What Greek lexicon are they using? Of course, if a woman is ‘bound’ to a husband, she cannot be a wife to another man, but that begs the question: is she ‘bound’ to be a wife to a fornicator? Deo means bound literally and in its figurative use regarding marriage means subject to the law of one’s husband or wife. It means just what it says. And she would be bound to be a wife to him as long as he lives no matter how many other women he has. And we should insist on that and divide the church over it?

Therefore, she is free to remarry? That’s not the point. The point is brethren should not divide the church over this issue when their thinking is so cloudy that they have to make baseless arguments to ‘prove’ their points.

Also, look at all the arguments floating around about apoluo and court house action with regard to divorce. Brethren are divided umpteen different ways over this and yet they want to divide the church over it? How ridiculous can we get?

Brethren are divided over many aspects of Bible teaching. Does brother Partain have a certain number of brethrens’ varied arguments on one subject that proves the issue to be unclear and thus, not worthy to “divide the church over?” If there were an equal number of varied arguments related to the Hicks-Bassett-Hailey teaching, would it still be “ridiculous” to divide the church over their error? Or, does brother Partain simply expect us to accept his unproven word that those who stand with the Lord’s teaching that states, “he who marrieth her that is put away from her husband committeth adultery” are divisive? Does he expect us to accept that the teaching of the Lord regarding those who are “put away” is “baseless?” Does he expect us to believe that the Lord’s teaching is “cloudy” “thinking” (I Corinthians 4:6; II Corinthians 10:5)?

Now for brother Partain’s final words of tolerance for those who teach differently than he does (i.e. “unity-in-diversity”):

Brethren need to back off, cool down and start dealing with the real threats to the truth. When brethren use fallacious arguments to try to build a case against what they call ‘mental divorce,’ this greatly encourages weak-kneed brethren who want to tolerate the teaching of Hicks-Basset-Hailey, etc.



Brother Willis’ final statement to the recipients of this email letter:

It appears that the one who really needs to pay attention to what brother Partain believes and writes is brother Bowers. I agree with brother Partain that some brethren are dividing the church over their judgments. The division is not only unnecessary, it is factional and sinful.

Mike Willis”

Brethren, I teach that “he who marrieth her which is put away from her husband committeth adultery.” The divine decrees of Christ are not matters of “judgments.”

“Judge ye in yourselves:” Who causes division those who stand with the Lord, or those who teach that which is unauthorized (Romans 16:17-18; I Timothy 6:3-5)?

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Last Updated:  Thursday, January 26, 2006 03:41 PM