An Exchange on Romans 14 and Divorce and Remarriage

 

     The following exchange between Joe Price and me took place on Bible Matters (an Internet list) during the fall of 2004. Joe Price published material on Romans 14 to the list that I believed contained error and I challenged several of Joeís statements in his material. While Joe stated that the teaching of Romans 14 pertaining to unity and fellowship does not include tolerating error, he proceeded to try to show that brethren must place certain differences relative to marriage, divorce, and marriage to another into the protective framework of Romans 14. The particular nuances discussed pertained to multiple causes for divorce and teaching that allows the innocent put away person to later put away and be able to marry another. Joe presented these two aberrant views as simply differing in application of biblical truths and called for tolerance based on his understanding of Romans 14. Joe's original post was published to Biblematters Monday, October 11, '04.  Before reading the below exchange, please read, "Romans 14, an Overview."

 

THE "FORGOTTEN SIDE" OF ROMANS 14, by Joe R. Price

 

Does Romans 14 have practical application for Christians today? Or, is the passage to be relegated to a position of past relevancy without present purpose? How we answer this question will go far in helping us understand how revealed truth has a range of application that must be respected by all who are "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3).

Romans 14 does not sanction unity in doctrinal and moral diversity (2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Cor. 4:6, 17 and other verses expose this error). It is wrong to conclude that all areas of application fall into the realm of judgment. Along with the apostle and in harmony with the Lord's authority, we continue to plead that Christians "all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10).

At the same time, there are some areas in the application of truth that the Lord has left to personal judgment. When we forget the proper role and use of Romans 14, unity among the people of God is hindered. It is truly tragic that the very purpose for which the apostle wrote Romans 14 in the first place - how to remain united in truth when brethren conscientiously differ on some specific items or details in their  application of revealed truth - is the very point we fail to grasp and use in our plea for unity.

At the heart of properly understanding and applying Romans 14 is the reality that there will be differences in how brethren make specific applications of truth. Of course, that application must not violate the word of God, and that is the crucial point here.

It is not "getting soft" and "compromising with error" to point out areas of legitimate differences in the application of truth. Did Paul compromise with error when he said the meat-eater could eat meat? The herb-eater may have been inclined to think so, but it would have been a wrong conclusion. Did Paul compromise with error when he told the herb-eater to not eat meat? The meat-eater may have been inclined to think so, but it would have been a wrong conclusion. Did Paul compromise the truth of God when he acknowledged a brother could esteem one day above another? No, he did not. (Rom. 14:1-6)

Yet, someone responds, "There can only be one correct application of truth. You are condoning error and compromise with such talk." If that judgment is true and just, then the apostle Paul greatly erred by allowing both the meat-eater and the herb-eater to continue their different conduct with fully assured minds (14:1-5, 23).

The truth of the matter had indeed been revealed: meat does not commend man to God (1 Cor. 8:8); all meat is clean (Mk. 7:19). Yet, there is no divine directive that compels one to eat meat. Conscience may restrain one from its consumption.

Thus, accepting the truth that meat is clean also allows us to make different applications of that truth without sin. For example, it was that very area of judgment Paul appealed to in 1 Corinthians 8 to teach the meat-eater to lay aside his right to eat meat for the sake of the brother with a weak conscience (who could otherwise be emboldened to eat in violation of his conscience and sin, 1 Cor. 8:7-13). While "all things are lawful for me", Paul also said, "not all things are helpful" (1 Cor. 10:23). Some times he would eat meat and at other times he would refrain. He would make different applications of the same truth without in anyway sinning against the Lord or His brother (1 Cor. 8:13; 10:31-33).

Consider another example of a revealed truth where application can vary without sin: the truth that God is to be held in reverence. The Scriptures emphatically command us to revere God and only worship Him (Prov. 3:7; Eccl. 12:13; Matt. 10:28; 1 Pet. 2:17).

There is no doubt that our words must show reverence for Almighty God (Psa. 19:14; 51:15; Col. 3:17). But the question arises, how do we apply the principle of reverence to our speech? In an effort to show reverence for God, some good brethren have come to the conclusion that God must be addressed in prayer with the pronouns "Thee" and "Thou". Other equally good brethren reverently address God in prayer using the pronouns "You" and "Your". Both recognize the need for reverent speech before God, yet, in their speech they make different applications of that principle of truth. Is one in error, compromising and sinning against God, while the other is standing strong for the truth? In fact, neither is violating the word of God; both are acceptable to Him. Why? Although reverent speech is authorized, there is God-allowed latitude of application. God has not specified only one approved group of pronouns ("Thee" and "Thou") when addressing God in prayer. Therefore, both will be heard by God. Such is a case of different applications (i.e., which pronouns to use in prayer) of one revealed truth (reverent speech before God).

Please note: irreverent speech is neither acceptable nor approved. Romans 14 teaches those who are united over the necessity of reverent speech to "receive one another" in such areas of differing applications of reverence (Rom. 15:7). It is only when brethren begin to bind upon others their opinions concerning application in such cases that disruption and division occurs. Such division is caused by binding the opinions and traditions of men upon the consciences of others - the very thing Romans 14 is intended to prevent. Have we forgotten how to properly use Romans 14 today?

The past several years has seen interest heightened to the point of debate and division over the subject of divorce and remarriage. Brethren are once again challenged to distinguish the difference between binding truth and allowable differences (cf. Phil. 1:9-11). Is it possible to be united in the truth of the gospel on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and yet differ over some specific points of application? Yes, just as surely as it was for the meat-eater and the herb-eater to differ in their application of food consumption while not having fellowship with the idol. Yes it is possible, just as surely as it is for brethren who agree we must have reverence for God to differ on which pronouns to use when applying that principle of reverence.

The revealed pattern of divine truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage is unassailable and must not be compromised: one man and one woman for life with one exception (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6, 9; Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:10-11; Heb. 13:4). Any teaching or practice that contradicts this pattern of sound doctrine is error and must be resisted. For example, the "one-loosed, both loosed" doctrine that allows for unrestrained remarriage, the desertion exemption for remarriage (that misunderstands and misapplies 1 Cor. 7:15), the so-called "waiting game" and the teaching that alien sinners are not under the marriage law of the gospel of Christ are among the erroneous doctrines that must be withstood because they violate "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3; 2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-9).

Still, it must be acknowledged that brethren who are united on the aforementioned principle of truth (one man and one woman for life with one exception) conscientiously differ on some of the applications of that God-given pattern. Differences in application that do not violate the God-given pattern for marriage, divorce and remarriage should not be made tests of fellowship. That is the "forgotten side" of Romans 14. Will we have the abundant "love", "knowledge and all discernment" necessary to "approve the things that are excellent" and to remain "sincere and without offense till the day of Christ" as we address this subject (Phil. 1:9-10)? Or, will we disrupt unity with the stumbling block of binding personal conscience upon others? Romans 14 still has application today.

We must be able to distinguish between necessary things and allowable differences or we will forever be laying a stumbling block that Romans 14 commands us to avoid (see Rom. 14:1, 10-13). The factiousness of binding where the Lord has not bound is just as devastating to the body of Christ as is loosing where the Lord has not loosed. There is no virtue in being "ultra-conservative" when that means trampling on God-allowed liberties.

Brother Keith Greer recently reminded us of some applications of the Bible's teaching on MDR over which brethren disagree even while they maintain agreement on the divine pattern of one man and one woman for life, with one exception (Matt. 19:4-6, 9). The differences in application he noted were:

1. Does the cause (adultery) have to be written on the papers?

2. Does the cause (adultery) have to be written on the papers?

3. Can an adulterous mate execute a civil divorce against a faithful mate, and the faithful mate be prohibited from remarrying because he/she is the "put-away" mate?

4. What if both parties commit adultery?

5. Can the first mate (the faithful one) take back and remarry the "guilty party" after the divorce?

6. Does death sever the put-away fornicator's marriage bond?

7. Can a Christian put away his mate for the "kingdom's sake" and remain unmarried or be reconciled?  ("Are We Doomed to Divide?", Keith Greer, Knollwood Messenger, July 2004.)

When conscience compels a brother or sister to hold fast to one application over another, and truth is not violated by doing so, we are to respect their conscience and not press our different (though equally sound) application to the point of division. That is the "side" of Romans 14 we must not forget. We must remember to receive one another when there is dispute over "doubtful things" instead of pressing personal scruples to the point of forcing the violation of conscience and rupturing unity in the body of Christ.

Will there be differences among us over what may properly be considered "doubtful things" that allow for such differences in application? Yes, there will. When such differences arise we must rise to the challenge and show "all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love" as we diligently study God's word together to understand the way of God more accurately, always "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:2-3; 2 Tim. 2:14-16; Acts 17:11-12).

Unless and until we are willing and able to distinguish between the revealed truth of the gospel and personal scruples we will be plagued with the liberalism of unity in doctrinal diversity on the one hand, and the factionalism of binding human traditions on the other. Both are instruments of the devil to divide and devour the body of Christ. We must not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11).

Let us be careful how we hear God's word (and each other); not with prejudiced ears and hardened hearts, but with fair minds that search out God's word while thinking the best of one other (Lk. 8:18; Acts 17:10-11; Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 13:4-7). "But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another!" (Gal. 5:15) May the Lord grant His children the wisdom and humility we need to accomplish His will in all things (Col. 1:9-12).

 

My review of Joe's first article, October 11, 04

 

Don Martin to the list:

 

I have elected to review the material published to Biblemat by Joe Price, pursuant to the provision for challenge supplied in the list rules. I am referring to Joe's article titled, "The 'Forgotten Side' of Romans 14" that was published October 10 to this good list and that was also published in Joe's, "The Spirit's Sword." I believe the material contains serious error that must be challenged.

Let me preface this review by saying that I have counted Joe a friend for many years. In fact, Holly Street in Denver, Colorado, where I preach and serve as one of the elders has financially supported Joe since the mid-seventies. However, friends and relationships must not be allowed to cause us to look the other way when error is taught. I shall attempt to be brief and focus on the substantive differences.

A Review of Joe Price's "The 'Forgotten Side' of Romans 14."

There are obviously a number of points that Joe made with which I certainly agree.

Joe asked the question regarding Romans 14: "Or, is the passage to be relegated to a position of past relevancy without present purpose?"

Don comments:

Romans 14 is definitely one of the most abused texts today. It has been misused to become the umbrella for just about every imaginable false doctrine and special cause. The text absolutely does not accept any doctrinal and moral deviation practice or position. With this fact, Joe says he agrees:

"Romans 14 does not sanction unity in doctrinal and moral diversity (2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Cor. 4:6, 17 and other verses expose this error)."

However, as we shall see, Joe has an entirely different view of what constitutes error, at least relative to marriage, divorce, and marriage to another. Romans 14 manifestly contains teaching that is germane to Christians today. I have in mind such teaching as resident in verses 8, 11, 12. Having said this, the special teaching pertaining to the then prevailing problem relative to eating herbs only; observing special days; and oinos or "wine" is somewhat endemic (Rom. 14: 2-4; 5, 6; 21). I say this for a number of reasons and I suggest the exact situation of Romans 14 cannot be completely duplicated today. Regardless if you understand the "weak" brethren as being of a Gentile or Jewish background, this was a condition (the predisposition toward herbs, days, and oinos) that had been in place (its influence, both culturally and socially) for some time. The more one knows of the contemporary Gentile and Jewish world, the more one realizes the attendant peculiarities to the circumstance being addressed in Romans 14. It must be understood, moreover, that the particularity of Romans 14 did not involve sin, unless they violated their consciences, and were morally and doctrinally indifferent (see verse 14, 17; 23). Therefore, to attempt to place any matter of doctrinal and/or moral departure into the text of Romans 14, is to gravely misuse the teaching regarding the special circumstances being treated by Paul. To use Romans 14 to foster an open practice regarding fellowship or to sanction aspects of present day teaching on MDR that are wrong is to also misuse Romans 14. Herein, I firmly believe Joe and a host of others err and must be exposed.

I also agree with Joe's statement:

     "How we answer this question will go far in helping us understand how revealed truth has a range of application that must be respected by all who are "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3)."

Allow me to get to the point: We (the elders at Holly Street) have been corresponding with Joe for several months regarding his defense of the teaching being done by Mike Willis (Joe is a staff writer for the paper regarding which Mike Willis serves as a co-editor). Mike taught here in the Denver metro area this year (the Boston Street church in Aurora) that there are multiple causes for divorce, spiritual incompatibility being one. Mike's teaching is error and contradicts a number of verses that plainly state that divorce is only allowed for fornication (Matt. 5: 32; I Cor. 7: 2ff.). However, Joe has defended Mike's teaching and does not consider it error that must be exposed. It appears that Joe is now looking to Romans 14 for justification of his defense of Mike Willis' teaching and also of Ron Halbrook's teaching on MDR (the innocent put away may later put away when the putting away mate marries another, a form of the old waiting game teaching).  (You might be interested in reading, "Mike Willis Responds!")

Joe and many associated with Truth Magazine and the Guardian of Truth Foundation are heard saying the same thing and that is that we can accept the truth but differ in application of that truth and, yet, continue in fellowship. Joe and some others are all in unison in maintaining that we can differ regarding how many causes there are for scriptural divorce and whether or not the innocent put away is actually put away and if they can subsequently put away and marry another (Matt. 19: 9; Lk. 16: 18).

Joe wrote:

"When we forget the proper role and use of Romans 14, unity among the people of God is hindered. It is truly tragic that the very purpose for which the apostle wrote Romans 14 in the first place - how to remain united in truth when brethren conscientiously differ on some specific items or details in their application of revealed truth - is the very point we fail to grasp and use in our plea for unity."

When I study such verses as Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9 and I Corinthians 7: 2-11, I see the teaching of one man and one woman for life, only one cause for divorce, and the put away, whether innocent or guilty, not being allowed to put away and marry another, as all basic teaching of these verses. However, Joe and others are saying such teaching is not all basic and present. They tell us that teaching that allows divorce for some additional reasons other than fornication and that the put away may later, after the fact of divorcement, put away and marry another are points that we must accept or we are standing in the way of true unity and the teaching of Romans 14. I staunchly take issue with Joe.

Joe used an article written by another friend of mine, Keith Greer to attempt to add credence to his plea. Joe wrote (I have taken the liberty to omit one repeated matter and to numbering them):

"Brother Keith Greer recently reminded us of some applications of the Bible's teaching on MDR over which brethren disagree even while they maintain agreement on the divine pattern of one man and one woman for life, with one exception (Matt. 19:4-6, 9). The differences in application he noted were:

1. Does the cause (adultery) have to be written on the papers?

2. Can an adulterous mate execute a civil divorce against a faithful mate, and the faithful mate be prohibited from remarrying because he/she is the "put-away" mate?

3. What if both parties commit adultery?

4. Can the first mate (the faithful one) take back and remarry the 'guilty party' after the divorce?

5. Does death sever the put-away fornicator's marriage bond?

6. Can a Christian put away his mate for the "kingdom's sake" and remain unmarried or be reconciled? ("Are We Doomed to Divide?", Keith Greer, Knollwood Messenger, July 2004.)

Joe and Keith both contend regarding the above six matters, that we must learn to tolerate and not take issue. After all, if Joe is going to apply Romans 14, then he must also accept the teaching of the text that even prohibits negatively mentioning and exposing the "scruples" of another (Rom. 14: 3, 10, etc.). Joe, like many others, lump several matters of differing gradation together and then says they are all equal. Not so!

Regarding points two and six, the scriptures are decidedly plain.

Based on Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9, and I Corinthians 7: 2-11, an innocent mate can be put away (such is not approved of by God, yet, He recognizes the action as putting away) and not allowed to subsequently put away (there are not two putting aways mentioned) and marry another, even after the putting away mate marries another (point no. 2) and, also, divorce only for fornication is taught and all other causes are sinful (no. 6).

Joe, in his erroneous application of Romans 14 to these MDR issues is in effect appealing to brethren to compromise sin and false teaching. Again, I am hard pressed to present a current day example that I think completely satisfies all the requirements and situational circumstances of the particulars of Romans 14. However, I know beyond all doubt that when Joe inserts what is patently error into the umbrella of Romans 14, he is wrong.

I am very sad that Joe has chosen his present course. Alas, I am saddened that men such as Mike Willis and Ron Halbrook have established their course. Mike will go down in history as one of the primary men of our generation to teach and promote multiple causes for divorce, even when a mate runs up financial charges, and Ron will go down as the promoter of the put away putting away doctrine. Then there are the Joe Prices who abuse Romans 14 to try to get us to at least ignore Mike Willis and Ron Halbrook's teaching.

Brethren, the scriptures teach unity but unity based on truth, not error and compromise (Eph. 4: 2-6). Never, I repeat, never are we to ignore error for the sake of "peace." Such is pseudo-unity (cp. I Cor. 1: 10). Anytime error is inserted into the text of Romans 14, whether it be social drinking of alcohol; institutional practices; cursing and foul language; modern dancing; or MDR errors, Romans 14 is being perverted! Instead of "the forgotten side of Romans 14," Joe should call it, "the incongruous and contradictory side of Romans 14."

Again, I am truly saddened regarding the teaching of an increasing number today. However, we must put truth over friendships and denominational unity.

I thank the list owners for this opportunity to challenge what I most decidedly deem to be rank error and I welcome any rebuttal that Joe may offer on this list. Again, for the sake of simplicity and clarity, I have not challenged Joe's motives or any other intangible matter. I have challenged Joe placing number two and number six into the protective cover of Romans 14. This is the real issue!

Cordially,
Don Martin

 

Joe's first rebuttal to my review, October 12, '04:

 

Like Don, I have no personal axe to grind with him. His challenge has been of my teaching, which he believes to be "rank error", and that deserves a reply.

Don and I agree that Romans 14 has been abused by many. That is not the issue here. We agree that the subject matter of Romans 14 does not involve sin. That is not the issue here. We agree that "to attempt to place any matter of doctrinal and/or moral departure into the text of Romans 14" is a misuse of the text. That is not the issue here. We agree that using Romans 14 to cultivate an open and ongoing fellowship with error is a twisting of the text. That is not the issue here.

What we do not agree on is whether Romans 14 has any present-day relevance and application. Don wrote that "Romans 14 manifestly contains teaching that is germane to Christians today," and offered verses 8, 11, 12 as proof. But please read a little closer. Don believes that since the "exact situation of Romans 14 cannot be completely duplicated today", the "special teaching" of Romans 14 that deals with foods and the observance of days is not relevant to us. Are we to conclude that Romans 14 fails to teach general principles of truth about how we are to live in unity in the body of Christ when we have different consciences over matters of indifference? Is that what Don is saying? It sure sounds like it.

I believe, as I said in the beginning of my article, that Romans 14 does contain practical application for Christians today. Brother Martin has a difficult time agreeing with that simple statement of truth. Will Brother Martin clearly tell us whether he believes Romans 14 applies in this present age? And, if it does, will he state some issues of conscience among brethren today that fit Romans 14? If he will not, it proves I have understood him correctly.

He has charged me with trying to protect error by using Romans 14. That is not an accurate assessment of what I have written. Don is mistaken. I began my article making it clear that Romans 14 does not sanction fellowship with error. I wrote:

"Romans 14 does not sanction unity in doctrinal and moral diversity (2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-10; 1 Cor. 4:6, 17 and other verses expose this error). It is wrong to conclude that all areas of application fall into the realm of judgment. Along with the apostle and in harmony with the Lord's authority, we continue to plead that Christians "all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Cor. 1:10)."

Don wrote:

"Joe has an entirely different view of what constitutes error, at least relative to marriage, divorce, and marriage to another, as we shall see."

Yes indeed, let us see. Joe wrote:

"The revealed pattern of divine truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage is unassailable and must not be compromised: one man and one woman for life with one exception (Gen. 2:24; Matt. 19:4-6, 9; Rom. 7:2-3; 1 Cor. 7:10-11; Heb. 13:4). Any teaching or practice that contradicts this pattern of sound doctrine is error and must be resisted. For example, the "one-loosed, both loosed" doctrine that allows for unrestrained remarriage, the desertion exemption for remarriage (that misunderstands and misapplies 1 Cor. 7:15), the so-called "waiting game" and the teaching that alien sinners are not under the marriage law of the gospel of Christ are among the erroneous doctrines that must be withstood because they violate "the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 3; 2 Jno. 9-11; Gal. 1:6-9)."

The pattern of sound doctrine on the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage is the right of the innocent mate to put away the guilty fornicator because of that mate's fornication, and to remarry another (Matt. 19:6, 9). Don, you do agree with this, don't you? If so, how is it that I have left the divine order?

Does our brother agree with the above stated pattern? The problem arises when Don binds and demands a procedure that the innocent person must follow in order to have a right to remarry. Don has changed the right of divorce and remarriage from the presence of the cause of fornication to the procedure by which one puts away his/her mate. And that illustrates the point that my article on Romans 14 warned against: binding where the Lord has not bound.

I believe that is the essential warning of Romans 14. If we do not heed the warning, we will fall into endless and needless disputes and numberless factions. We will be canceling each other's meetings, dropping each other's support, breaking off fellowship with each other, and separating into enclaves filled with evil surmisings against each other. These very dangers call attention to the importance of Romans 14 properly applied to our conscientious scruples today, just as it was applied in the first century.

God has bound upon us a pattern concerning the "cause" for divorce and remarriage (Matt. 19:9). We must not go beyond that pattern, and we have not done so. When fornication occurs, the innocent person has a right to remarry based on the presence of that cause. Brother Martin believes the innocent person does not necessarily have a right to remarry, even when fornication has occurred. He wrote:

"When I study such verses as Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9 and I Corinthians 7: 2-11, I see the teaching of one man and one woman for life, only one cause for divorce, and the put away, whether innocent or guilty, not being allowed to put away and marry another, as all basic teaching of these verses."

This is consistent with what Don has posted to the Bible Matters list in the past. On April 8, 2003, Don posted "A divorce and remarriage question, our answer":

(Howard) asked:

"My wife left me for another man and promptly filed for and received a divorce. She was committing adultery before she left and received a divorce before I responded. Can I remarry? If not why was the adultery exclusion added to MATT.19: 9?"

To which Don answered:

"Some believe that since your mate committed adultery BEFORE she put you away that you are free to put away and marry another (some believe that even if she had committed adultery AFTER she put you away that you still could put away and marry another). However, this is not what Matthew 19: 9 teaches. Every state with which I am familiar allows some waiting time between the filing and the issuance of the civil divorce document. I believe, alas, that you should have been active before the whole divorce process became history. You are now a "put away person" and according to Matthew 19: 9 are not allowed to "put away" and subsequently marry another.

"Howard, I am sorry regarding your plight, but we can only respond according to the scriptures and how they relate to the provided information." (Bible Matters mailing list, April 08, 2003 4:35 PM; Subject: A divorce and remarriage question, our answer).

Don believes procedure trumps the cause of the sundering of a marriage. The proof: "Howard's" marriage was sundered by his fornicating wife, yet because "Howard" was not "active before the whole divorce process became history" Don tells "Howard" he is now a "put away person" without the right to remarry.

Consistent with this, in his review of my article Don wrote,

"Based on Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9, and I Corinthians 7: 2-11, an innocent mate can be put away (such is not approved of by God, yet, He recognizes the action as putting away) and not allowed to subsequently put away."

Brother Martin binds a procedure that the innocent person must follow in order to have a right to remarry. It is in this area of procedure that the Lord grants an area of liberty. This is the area over which my brother and I have this present dispute. My article on Romans 14 exposes his extremism that binds procedure while ignoring cause. Don has not handled God's word rightly in this matter (2 Tim. 2:15). Don is binding where the Lord has not bound.

I have tried to speak with candor and respect toward Don in view of his objections, and I want to credit him with sincerity of conscience. I hope to express these thoughts for study without degenerating into "disputes over doubtful things" (Rom. 14:1). I do believe the chapter applies today as demonstrated in my previous article, and I urge Don to reconsider his apparent rejection of this much needed chapter. Romans 14 shows that one brother may believe he can eat meat, while another brother may believe he cannot eat meat, but they can receive one another respecting each other's conscience and leave this matter to God (Rom. 14:1-6).

As I pointed out in my article, as an example, one person may believe the cause of fornication must be stated on the writing of divorcement while another may not. One may believe the innocent person must make some kind of formal statement to the church concerning the divorce, while another may not deem it essential that the innocent person be "active before the whole divorce process became history" in order to put away the fornicator. These and other such matters are the areas where Romans 14 finds application today. These are the areas of "doubtful things" that Romans 14 teaches us not to dispute over. That was the very purpose of my article, and the very point to which Brother Martin objects. I ask you to judge from the evidence where the departure from the pattern of sound words has occurred.

Because I will not agree with Don's binding opinion about the procedure of putting away (that would restrict an innocent person from remarriage), he has made the grievous charge of "rank error" against me.

Did Paul depart from the pattern of sound words and teach "rank error" when he wrote Romans 14? No, this chapter is a part of the apostle's balanced approach to promoting sound doctrine and scriptural unity, thus strengthening the faith of brethren so as to defeat every false doctrine. By the same token, when we apply Romans 14 today as Paul did then, we likewise promote sound doctrine and scriptural unity, thus strengthening the faith of brethren so as to defeat every false doctrine.

Our need to remember the "forgotten side" of Romans 14 is thus confirmed. The intent of my article is summed up when I asked:

"Is it possible to be united in the truth of the gospel on marriage, divorce and remarriage, and yet differ over some specific points of application? Yes, just as surely as it was for the meat-eater and the herb-eater to differ in their application of food consumption while not having fellowship with the idol."

Brother Martin does not believe or teach that this is possible, and consequently, challenges my teaching and charges me with "rank error."

Romans 14 teaches Christians to hold their opinions concerning indifferent matters (non-sinful things) with all good conscience. This is to be accomplished by not holding in contempt those who cannot in good conscience partake of a liberty, as well as by not condemning those who are able to do so. The credence of this statement is established in the word of God (Rom. 14:1-6, 10, 13, 14-23; 15:1-7), not in an appeal to any man, including Brother Keith Greer. In my article, I offered some examples from the pen of Brother Greer in order to help us consider how we can "receive one another" in spite of holding different consciences over matters that are indifferent in the sight of God. (BTW, I asked Brother Greer reviewed my article prior to its publication, and he gave his consent to my use of his material.)

Brother Martin takes exception with #2 and #6 in those examples. I will address each one as briefly as possible. First, #2:

"2. Can an adulterous mate execute a civil divorce against a faithful mate, and the faithful mate be prohibited from remarrying because he/she is the "put-away" mate?"

Brother Martin says, "yes" (see his statements above to "Howard"). Jesus addressed the cause of putting away one's mate in Matthew 19:9. The presence of the cause of fornication gives the innocent person the right to remarry. Matthew 19:9 applies in every society regardless of the applicable civil procedures of divorce; it is culturally neutral. "Cause" can be established regardless of what civil procedures exist whereby one ends a marriage. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus directed the Pharisees' attention to "cause", not procedure.

My article on Romans 14 was intended to help us see that Jesus binds the "cause" of fornication for putting away and remarrying while noting that different procedures will occur as that truth is applied.

In effect, Brother Martin says there is only one procedure, and unless it is followed, the innocent person becomes a "put away person" who cannot remarry. Don's teaching negates the "cause", elevating the procedure above the cause.

Did Jesus teach in Matthew 19:9 that the guilty fornicator can prevent the innocent person from remarriage based upon the procedure that one follows in the putting away? If so, where do the Scriptures explain that procedure so we can follow it today? We are sure the cause of fornication must exist in order to put away a mate because Jesus said so (Matt. 19:9). But in the absence of a Scriptural pattern that binds a specific procedure upon us, we must allow for the possibility of different applications as a mate is put away for the cause of fornication.

Now, concerning #6:

"6. Can a Christian put away his mate for the "kingdom's sake" and remain unmarried or be reconciled?"

In 1 Cor. 7:10-11, Paul teaches what Jesus taught concerning the divine order of marriage: one man and one woman for life. Like Jesus, Paul teaches us to not "depart" (chorizo: "put asunder" or "separate" what God has joined together, Matt. 19:6). We are not to sunder a marriage that God has joined together.

Paul shows us in this passage (verses 12-15) there can be occasions when an unbeliever departs (chorizo, put asunder) a marriage. It is conceivable that a believer in such a special case must seek relief and/or protection through the judicial system, even to the point of a writing of divorcement, from that unbelieving, unwilling mate. Such "appeals to Caesar," as I understand it, is the force of number 6 above. There is no Scriptural right for remarriage in such cases because of 1 Cor. 7:10-11.

This is not a matter of trying to make room for any false doctrine or unauthorized practice. It is wrong and a misrepresentation of what I teach to conclude or suggest such. The Bible is clear and simple: When a marriage ends for a cause other than fornication, no remarriage is allowed (Matt. 5:31-32; 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:10-11).

When a marriage ends because one has committed fornication, the responsibility for sundering that marriage lies squarely upon the fornicator, not the innocent person. Even should the situation arise where the innocent person fails to obtain the legal document (writing of divorcement), the marriage is nevertheless sundered (chorizo) because of fornication. Brother Martin does not understand this because he assesses the right of remarriage based on the procedure one follows instead of
the presence of the cause of fornication.

The correct use of Romans 14 allows that brethren will differ from time to time on how some situations are addressed. When differences arise we must be careful that they are not over the revealed pattern of truth - one man and one woman for life, with one exception - but over areas in which different applications of that pattern may occur without sin. Otherwise, we will be guilty of either loosing where the Lord has not loosed, or binding where the Lord has not bound -- or both (Col. 3:17).

Now, I will turn my attention to the matters that Brother Martin chose to inject into his review that are not directly related to my article. I am compelled to address these items to clarify the record so that no misunderstanding exists.

Don correctly notes our friendship goes back many years. My work as a gospel preacher had its beginning with the Holly Street church. In the past and to this present moment they have financially supported me to preach the gospel. I am continually thankful to the Lord for the encouragement and fellowship I have benefited from as a result of my relationship with the Holly Street church.

Brother Martin assures us in his review that he has not challenged my "motives or any other intangible matter." I am sure he believes that to be the case. Unfortunately, his words betray his confident assurance.

He has in fact challenged my motives, as these quotations will show:

Don wrote,

"It appears that Joe is now looking to Romans 14 for justification of his defense of Mike Willis' teaching and also of Ron Halbrook's teaching on MDR (the innocent put away may later put away when the putting away mate marries another, a form of the old waiting game teaching)."

I wrote the article on Romans 14 for the purpose stated therein, to remind brethren of the proper uses of Romans 14, lest we forget them. Evidently, some have forgotten, and thus, the need for the study. Don insinuates my reason for writing the article is to defend and justify men. That is a challenge of my motives, and an incorrect one, at that.

Don also wrote,

"Then there are the Joe Prices who abuse Romans 14 to try to get us to at least ignore Mike Willis and Ron Halbrook's teaching."

Again, a judgment is made as to why I wrote my article. Oh yes, Don has judged my motives, but not with "righteous judgment" (Jno. 7:24).

Don consistently left the impression that I am bent on defending men rather than teaching truth. Don wrote,

"Allow me to get to the point: We (the elders at Holly Street) have been corresponding with Joe for several months regarding his defense of the teaching being done by Mike Willis (Joe is a staff writer for the paper regarding which Mike Willis serves as a co-editor). Mike taught here in the Denver metro area this year(the Boston Street church in Aurora) that there are multiple causes for divorce, spiritual incompatibility being one. Mike's teaching is error and contradicts a number of verses that plainly state that divorce is only allowed for fornication (Matt. 5: 32; I Cor. 7:2ff.). However, Joe has defended Mike's teaching and does not consider it error that must be exposed."

I was initially contacted via e-mail by one of the Holly Street elders earlier this year, in which he urged me to separate myself from Truth Magazine (TM). (This was not from Don Martin, nor was it correspondence from the eldership as such.) That first contact was an undeniable effort to persuade me to cease my association with TM and the Guardian of Truth Foundation. In that post, "multiple causes for divorce" were attributed to Brother Mike Willis. I had not even spoken to Brother Willis about "multiple causes for divorce" at that time, much less written a defense
of such.

I learned a long time ago to get both sides of a story before reaching a conclusion (Prov. 18:13), so I called Brother Willis about this. I then provided that information along with my assessment to the elder who had initially written me. It is the correspondence that has ensued since then to which Don refers.

Neither did I write to defend Ron Halbrook. He speaks for himself and I speak for myself. (Ron would doubtless dispute Don's characterization of defending a "waiting game," in view of his article entitled "Divorce and Remarriage: No Waiting Game," published in Guardian of Truth, Mar. 18, 1993, pp. 168-169.) Nevertheless, my original article offered no defense of mike or Ron and was not motivated by them. They could pass from the scene today and this would not change the real and larger issue. Truth Magazine could pass from the scene today and it would not change the real and larger issue.

The real and larger issue is whether Romans 14 has any meaning and application to specific issues involving conscientious scruples today. I affirm that in the overall context of the book of Romans. While learning to expose and eradicate every false doctrine, we learn in chapter 14 to avoid the dangers of overacting and embroiling ourselves in never-ending "disputes over doubtful things." It appears that Don so narrowly defines the meaning of Romans 14 that it is little more than a historical curiosity and with little or no practical or direct application to specific issues today. As a friend and brother, I urge Don to reconsider. The implications reach far beyond his comments on marriage and the magazine, encompassing a multitude of personal scruples.

I urge Don to see that Romans 14 is part of the glue that holds us together as God's people in spite of a multitude of personal scruples that most all of us have to some degree. The power and importance of the teaching presented in this chapter are underscored by the admonition given in Romans 15:5-7. In this climax, the Holy Spirit admonishes all of us through Paul:

"Now may the God of patience and comfort grant you to be like-minded toward one another, according to Christ Jesus, that you may with one mind and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God."

Yes, all of us need this teaching. We need it today. We need to apply it to specific issues falling under the principles set forth in Romans 14.

Finally, as for divorce, God hates it (Mal. 2:16). The Bible teaches that it is a sin against what God has joined together (Matt. 19:4-6; 1 Cor. 7:10). No divorce occurs without someone being guilty of sin.

I will gladly allow my readers to judge whether my article on Romans 14 or this rebuttal has been an attempt to defend men or to analyze and properly apply the Scriptures.

I wish to thank my readers for patiently and thoroughly considering this rebuttal. I do not intend to be thusly engaged for the next ten days as the rules allow for on the Bible Matters list. Enough has been said here on this subject for the earnest and honest heart to fairly judge what is right (Lk. 12:57; Acts 17:11-12).

The warning I offered near the end of my article on Romans 14 continues to be relevant:

"Unless and until we are willing and able to distinguish between the revealed truth of the gospel and personal scruples we will be plagued with the liberalism of unity in doctrinal diversity on the one hand, and the factionalism of binding human traditions on the other. Both are instruments of the devil to divide and devour the body of Christ. We must not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11)."

Best regards in Christ,
Joe Price

 

My first rebuttal to Joe's rebuttal, October 13, '04;

 

Don Martin to the list:

 

First, I thank you, the reader, for your interest, time, and willingness to sort through one of the major issues facing the church today. I am referring to marriage, divorce, and marriage to another and the treatment of Romans 14. I also commend Joe Price for having the backbone to not run off, but come back to the list with his reply. It would be remiss of me if I failed to acknowledge special appreciation for the list owners providing this medium. I would that there never be any doctrinal differences, but when there are, it is good that we discuss such in the interest of truth.

We, the Holly Street elders, have been in conversation with Joe Price whom we financially assist for several months regarding his association and defense of teaching pertaining to multiple causes for divorce as taught by Mike Willis here in the Denver area earlier this year. We have been very concerned about what we deem to be false teaching emanating from several who are, along with Joe, part of the working structure of the entity known as the Guardian of Truth Foundation and Truth Magazine. In addition to Mike Willis, men such as Ron Halbrook and Weldon Warnock. Since we have been assisting in Joe's support for many years, we believed we not only had a right to ask Joe probing questions as to his relationship with these men but that we, moreover, had a responsibility to know Joe's thinking relative to such matters.

I am disappointed to learn that Joe has had problems with my teaching for some time, but has not said a word, but has silently continued to accept support from us. I suppose, though, that Joe has been able to also place this into Romans 14.

Joe wrote:

"Brother Martin binds a procedure that the innocent person must follow in order to have a right to remarry. It is in this area of procedure that the Lord grants an area of liberty. This is the area over which my brother and I have this present dispute. My article on Romans 14 exposes his extremism that binds procedure while ignoring cause. Don has not handled God's word rightly in this matter (2 Tim. 2:15). Don is binding where the Lord has not bound."

When asked about Mike Willis' teaching pertaining to multiple causes for divorce, Joe responded thus to us:

"The clear error of Homer Hailey that alien sinners are not amenable to the gospel of Christ is not the same nature as Mike Willis teaching that a Christian has the right to exercise the law for protection from a souse in order to remain faithful to Christ (I Cor. 7: 12-15). The one is clearly error. The other is not."

I myself have taught that a wife, for instance, could be in a situation in which she could appeal to the powers that be for relief (severe physical beatings) and could even be in a plight where such could be required of her (drugs being sold from the home, etc.). However, Mike Willis and now Joe Price go beyond this and say that one may divorce a mate for some cause other than fornication (cp. Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9, I Cor. 7: 2ff.). I am adamant because Jesus' teaching is plain and cannot be compromised or diluted by forcing it into a text such as Romans 14 that will not receive it. I am emphatic because the only reason allowed for biblical divorce (possible subsequent marriage to another is not being discussed) is divorce in view of and for the cause of fornication.

Joe not only persists in defending the multiple causes for divorce as taught by Mike Willis, but also is now openly advancing the same doctrine. Joe wrote in his rebuttal to my review of his October 11 material, "The 'Forgotten Side' of Romans 14" the following (reference is to I Corinthians 7):

"Paul shows us in this passage (verses 12-15) there can be occasions when an unbeliever departs (chorizo, put asunder) a marriage. It is conceivable that a believer in such a special case must seek relief and/or protection through the judicial system, even to the point of a writing of divorcement, from that unbelieving, unwilling mate. Such 'appeals to Caesar,' as I understand it, is the force of number 6 above. There is no Scriptural right for remarriage in such cases because of 1 Cor. 7:10-11."

Joe wants to present me as simply extremely engrossed in extraneous protocol to the point of denying the rights of the innocent mate. Look closely at what Joe is actually teaching: divorce for a cause other than fornication.

When one considers all relevant scriptures, one finds that fornication and only fornication, not the matter of failing to provide, not failing to be a faithful Christian, etc., constitutes the ONLY cause for divorce. Brethren, we are facing an epidemic that is rapidly becoming a pandemic. Society is crumbling around us with the deterioration of the family being precipitated by divorce and now we are witnessing men such as Mike Willis and Joe Price brazenly advocating divorce for a cause other than fornication. Such is blatant error but this is what Joe says must be placed into the protective umbrella of Romans 14; thus effecting the posture of do not oppose such teaching lest you be a divisive person and violate Romans 14.

To Joe, multiple causes for divorce is a doctrine comparable to the days, meat issue, and oinos concern of Romans 14.

Joe did a good job shifting the focus in his rebuttal from the multiple causes for divorce and the put away being able to perform a "second putting away" and be able to marry another to:

"...The problem arises when Don binds and demands a procedure that the innocent person must follow in order to have a right to remarry. Don has changed the right of divorce and remarriage from the presence of the cause of fornication to the procedure by which one puts away his/her mate. And that illustrates the point that my article on Romans 14 warned against: binding where the Lord has not bound."

Don comments:

We are hearing strange language today from some, language that is both ambiguous and equivocal. These men are heard repeating in unison, "We must accept the truth but allow differences in application." What does such mean when used in the climate of right and wrong? They have a put away person being able to put away. They have a put away person being able to subsequently put away and marry another (the death of a mate is not being discussed, Rom. 7: 3, 4). All of this is totally antithetical to the plain teaching of such verses as Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9, Luke. 16: 18. Now, some, including Joe, are telling us that one may divorce for reasons other than fornication, just as long as they do not marry another (see I Cor. 7: 2-15). After they finish telling us all of this, they say, "You must accept or at least allow us to teach all of this because of Romans 14!"

Joe repeatedly charges that I do not understand Romans 14. You know what, there are nuances relative to the discussed particularity that I do not fully understand and I admit such. Let me tell you this, though, I know that no particular that involves sin and error can be forced to fit into the climate of Romans 14.

Joe, please allow me to be plain: the doctrine that you are advocating of multiple causes for divorce is false and does not belong along side the meat, days, and oinos of Romans 14: 2-4; 5,6; 21. These particulars reside in a special set of circumstances involving these people that cannot fully be duplicated today and they are all doctrinally and morally indifferent. Your multiple causes for divorce doctrine is not, I repeat, is not doctrinally or morally indifferent.

My old friend Joe stated:

"...The problem arises when Don binds and demands a procedure that the innocent person must follow in order to have a right to remarry...."

Don comments:

Is that the issue, Joe? I thought the issue was whether or not multiple causes for divorce is allowed and if we may teach such. Just what procedure do I bind? Yes, I plead guilty to binding divorce only for the cause of fornication (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). Also, I plead guilty to teaching that "put away" (apoluo) is an action word; thus, there must be some act performed that constitutes biblical putting away.

Weldon Warnock, one man with whom Joe Price is now linked in the Guardian of
Truth Foundation, is famous for saying:

"But someone asks: 'What about a woman who is put away (divorced) by a man simply because the man no longer wanted to be married? Fornication is not involved and the woman repeatedly tried to prevent the divorce, but to no avail. After a couple of years the man marries another woman. Is the 'put way' woman then free to marry?' She certainly is, if she puts away her husband for fornication. She would have to do this before God in purpose of heart since the divorce has already taken place, legally speaking. She could not go through the process of having a legal document charging her husband with 'adultery,' but God would know." - Weldon E. Warnock (Searching the Scriptures, November issue, 1985).

Don comments:

It is past time that we understand that Jesus used "put away" relative to the guilty person AND the innocent person and cease our human reasoning and emotionalism (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9, Lk. 16: 18). Furthermore, the put way, whether guilty or innocent of fornication, is consistently seen as never being able to marry another without sin (I am not referring to reconciliation with the one to whom she/he is maritally bound, I Cor. 7:11). Also, it is high time that we come to some understanding as to the putting away act. Do the scriptures speak of a put away person putting away "in purpose of heart"?

I only know what the scriptures teach. The way we understand scripture is by paying attention to words, structure, syntax, grammar, and both the immediate and remote context. Again there is only one cause for divorce and that is fornication and an innocent mate, according to Jesus, can be put away and not allowed marriage to another (Matt. 19: 9).

Joe Price and Mike Willis are teaching error and others involved with them in the Guardian of Truth Foundation are fellowshipping them in their error. Again, such error cannot find refuge in Romans 14, as Joe persists in claiming.

What is this procedure that I am binding, anyway? I am opposed to mental divorce because I believe that while biblical divorcement involves mental resolve, it entails more. I am persuaded that in addition to mental resolve, there is declaration of intent. I also believe that when the society in which one lives has a civil protocol pertaining to the divorcement act that compliance to that germane circumstance is part of the putting away or repudiation act (cp. I Pet. 2: 13).

I have said that Romans 14 contains universal teaching for Christians today. However, I have also said that to exactly duplicate the circumstance of Romans 14 would be difficult if not impossible to do today. I have also offered other pertinent verses pertaining to unity, such as I Corinthians 1: 10 and Ephesians 4: 3-6. I suggest that if we all started "speaking the same thing," we would not be hearing talk of multiple causes for divorce and the put away putting away and being able to later marry another. We would not be speaking such because such concepts and language are foreign to the teaching of the New Testament.

Joe wrote:

He has charged me with trying to protect error by using Romans 14. That is not an accurate assessment of what I have written. Don is mistaken.

Don replies:

Again, Joe has argued for multiple causes for divorce and such is error. Joe has insisted that such differences in teaching fall under the influence of Romans 14. Hence, Joe has attempted to force error into the umbrella of Romans 14.

Some, it appears Joe included, reason that it is permissible to teach multiple causes for divorce just as long as you do not advocate subsequent marriage to another. However, keep in mind that divorce itself without any consideration regarding subsequent matters is not allowed, except for fornication (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9, I Cor. 7: 2ff.).

I do not say this about Joe or Mike Willis, but I do know based on debates that I have had in the past that have involved men embracing the same teaching who go on to reason after this fashion:

Jack put away Jane (no fornication) because Jane ran up some bills (one of Mike Willis multiple reasons for divorce). Jack was told that he could not marry another. However, when Jane married another, Jack could then put away Jane because she had committed adultery.

Such as just mentioned is perhaps one reason divorce is only allowed for fornication. Also, Jesus' teaching precluded any form of a waiting game practice when it allowed divorce only for fornication and taught that the put away, whether guilty or innocent, is not allowed marriage to another.

I realize that my reply is much shorter than Joe's response. What I would like to see happen is this: I would like to see Joe come back within a short time (not days) and address these two matters:

(1). Multiple causes for divorce as opposed to fornication only.

(2). May a put away person subsequently put away and be able to marry another.

These matters are involved in Joe's contention regarding the activation of Romans 14 (his numbers 2 and 6 inclusion). I firmly believe that to advocate either multiple reasons for divorce or that the put away may put away and marry another are false doctrines that eventuate in adultery and fornication.

Joe, I for one would like to see you respond and deal with these issues.

I, in closing this reply, want you, Joe, to know that I am not your enemy and I am not out to "get you." You have taught error and, as your friend, I must challenge you to cease such. I believe you want unity, but I think you have gotten off track and are now pleading for unity based on compromise of truth. I look forward to your timely and responsible reply.

Here are a couple of questions that shift the discussion from personal matters to face the issue:

(1). Joe, do you allow such causes as Mike Willis does for divorce such as, a mate incurring bills with a credit card that they cannot pay and spiritual incompatibility to the point that one is spiritually discouraged? What all extra reasons (in addition to fornication) for divorce do you allow?

(2). Is the innocent mate who is passive while the other mate mentally resolves to divorce, makes known desire and complies with all applicable civil protocol really a put away person or can she/he later put away and marry another when the other mate marries?

 

October 14, 2004

 

Joe Price to the list,

 

I continue to thank you for considering Godís word with me, the Bible Matters list for providing this forum, and Don Martin for his part in this discussion. In light of Donís statement that I have been taking "days" to respond, I will point out that this reply to Donís last rebuttal is being offered within the "one post a day" timeframe as allowed by the rules of this list, just as was my previous rebuttal.

My previous articles are perfectly clear as to my stand which allows divorce and remarriage only to an innocent mate who puts away a fornicator. I have consistently taught this great truth throughout my preaching life and I am determined to teach it as long as I live. Repeating this stand over and over to Don will not make it any clearer. Neither Don nor I can write a set of rules beyond that point, because it reflects exactly what the New Testament of Jesus Christ teaches in Matthew 5:31-32; 19:6-9; Mark 10:10-12 and Luke 16:18.

Neither will it do for Don to say I have dodged his concerns. My previous two articles have adequately addressed those concerns, as thoughtful readers will see. I do not claim to be able to arbitrate every difficult case or nuance to the satisfaction of Don (or anyone else). This realistic admission of my limitations has nothing to do with a spirit of compromise. As God is my helper, I will continue to preach and press the demands of truth on marriage, divorce and remarriage as I have done throughout my preaching life.

Therefore, I will not continue this exchange beyond this present post. I will offer these comments for your examination of Donís egregious charges, misrepresentations and accusations against me.

New and repeated allegations from Don without evidence include the following:

1. Don insinuates that I have been less than candid and honest about differences between us while accepting support from the Holly Street church.

The point should be noted that my support comes from the Holly Street church, not from one person (namely, Don Martin). I did not make the matters we have been discussing over the past several months a test of fellowship. Yet, Don paints a very ugly picture of me and my intentions throughout this period. That is wrong, and he is wrong, and he should apologize. If the elders of the Holly Street church decide that the church there can no longer support me, that is their right. I await their decision.

2. According to Don, Joe now "defends," "argues for" and is "brazenly advocating" multiple causes for divorce.

That is just not so; Don knows it and our readers know it. I have always taught and continue to teach that putting away (apoluo) is against the will of God (sin).

In an effort to address the concerns Don raised in his review, I commented on the possibility of obtaining protection or relief from civil authorities in order to maintain faithfulness to Christ. Don agrees with that, for he said:

"I myself have taught that a wife, for instance, could be in a situation in which she could appeal to the power that be for relief (severe physical beatings) and could even be in a plight where such could be require of her (drugs being sold from the home, etc.)."

I suggested (not "advocated") that such relief might reach to the need for a writing of divorcement. Don disagrees with that. And for that, I am now (supposedly) an advocate of "multiple causes of divorce." Incredible!

Don is certainly trying hard to cast me (and others) in the worst light possible. That is a debating tactic in the worst sense of the term, unlike the honorable debating of Jesus and Paul, and is not "endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). I would have hoped for better from him. I have never "advocated" divorce and have not done so now. It is pretty obvious from his previous review and his latest rebuttal that he is anxious to pin on me the label of "multiple causes for divorce." He is wrong to do so. And, he will be wrong every time he continues to do so.

Don wants me to give him a list of causes for divorce that I "allow." I am an advocate of marriage, not divorce. I will not go down the hypothetical highway with Don; I will not be put out on a theoretical limb. Don has assumed upon me things that I have not affirmed and do not advocate, and now he tries to prod me into a corner. I am not going to take the bait.

Marriage is for life and there is one exception for putting away and remarrying, that exception being fornication (Matt. 19:9). That is what I "advocate"; that is what I "defend." Don can make of that whatever he wishes. Inasmuch as he repeatedly puts words into my mouth in his latest rebuttal, it is sadly apparent that he will most likely continue to do so. I urge him to stop doing so.

3. Don says, "To Joe, multiple causes for divorce is a doctrine comparable to the days, meat issue, and oinos concern of Romans 14."

Again, Don has put words in my mouth. I have not put moral or doctrinal matters into Romans 14. I have addressed the extent of judicial relief and/or protection obtained by a faithful Christian. Christians who agree there is one cause for divorce disagree on the extent of such protection from time to time, as particular situations arise. But, I am not going to rush out and charge them with believing and defending "multiple causes of divorce" as a result. Apparently, Don has no compunction doing so.

4. Don said I repeatedly charged him with not understanding Romans 14.

I did not charge Don with "not understanding" Romans 14. I charged him with not applying Romans 14 today. I said we agree that "the subject matter of Romans 14 does not involve sin" but that it does find application in areas of conscientious scruples -- such as the extent of judicial relief that is available to an abused spouse. I continue to lament his evident inability to apply Godís word in such areas of conscience. But, I will repeat my question: Will Brother Martin clearly tell us whether he believes Romans 14 applies in this present age? And, if it does, will he list for us issues of conscience among brethren today that fit Romans 14?

That is the issue my article on Romans 14 sought to address. Donís charge that I place "blatant error" under "the protective umbrella of Romans 14" rings hollow because it is false.

5. Don asks, "What is the procedure that I am binding, anyway?"

The procedure you bind on one who is innocent of fornication is that when the fornicator initiates and obtains the writing of divorcement, the innocent one becomes a "put away person" without the right of remarriage.

BTW, whose definition of "passive" and "active" involvement will we apply to such situations: Donís? Mine? You see, that is just such an area where we must be careful not to bind personal scruples on others. That is not a call to allow all manner of divorce.

6. Don plants the seed of doubt about me by presenting a "fornication after the putting away" scenario he has debated in the past.

Don wrote:

"I do not say this about Joe or Mike Willis, but I do know based on debates that I have had in the past that have involved men embracing the same teaching who go on to reason after this fashion:Ö"

Then, why say it at all, Don? You never did tell us why you said it. I can only conclude that you want to leave the impression that that is where I am headed. That is not where I am headed.

I have answered Donís (1) and (2) about divorce and remarriage in this as well as in my previous post. I have also dealt with his final (1) and (2) in this post.

Don has written a review of my article and a rebuttal. I, too, have now offered two rebuttals in reply. I have answered his concerns and his charges. Therefore, I will now close my portion of this exchange lest I become involved in "striving about words to no profit, to thee ruin of the hearers" (2 Tim. 2:14).

If Don chooses to continue to multiply his charges of "rank error" against me, assigning to me positions I have not taken, and impugning my motives, I trust that thoughtful readers will see through it. Repeatedly assigning such things to me does not make them true. On the other hand, as Donís friend and brother, I urge him to give this matter a rest, reread our exchange, and reconsider. Yes, in this matter Don and I urgently need to apply Romans 15:7, "Therefore receive one another, just as Christ also received us, to the glory of God." We need to join hands in upholding the truth and opposing false doctrine as we have done through the years.

Upon running the risk of repeating myself, I do not plan to continue repeating myself over and over, thereby becoming embroiled in endless "disputes over doubtful things."

I would ask that each of us diligently study all of these things in the light of Godís word so that we may be approved workmen in His sight, shunning error and departing from iniquity (2 Tim. 2:15-19).

Regards in Christ,
Joe Price

 

Don Martin to the list (October 14, 2004):

 

Again, I commend you, the reader, for your interest and desire to sort through this current MDR and Romans 14 issue involving multiple causes for divorce and the put away being allowed to subsequently put away and marry another, all contrary to the teaching of Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9, and I Corinthians 7: 2ff. This exchange all started as a result of Joe Price publishing an article to the list titled, "The 'Forgotten Side' of Romans 14." While Joe taught a number of truths in his material, he also quoted an article by Keith Greer that offered the following two matters that Keith and then Joe believe should and must be placed in the protective umbrella of Romans 14:

2. Can an adulterous mate execute a civil divorce against a faithful mate, and the faithful mate be prohibited from remarrying because he/she is the "put-away" mate?

6. Can a Christian put away his mate for the "kingdom's sake" and remain unmarried or be reconciled? ("Are We Doomed to Divide?", Keith Greer, Knollwood Messenger, July 2004)

I took strong issue with Joe and I have charged Joe with teaching "rank error." I have so done because the scriptures teach that an innocent matecan be put away and not allowed marriage to another regardless of the subsequent actions of the other mate (cp. Matt. 19: 9). Also, I have shown from the scriptures that there is only one cause for acceptable divorce and that one cause is fornication (Ibid., I Corinthians 7: 2ff.).

I am pleased that in Joe's second rebuttal he came back in a timely and concise manner. I shall herein address his arguments.

First, let me say again that I appreciate the list owners providing this forum in which Joe and I could discuss our doctrinal differences. I have had about eight debates the last three years on this newest MDR deviation that Joe and others are teaching. While I have nothing personal against these men whom I have debated, I do detest their false teaching that both perverts the truth and offers people false hope in their adultery. Are these strong words? Yes, but they are commensurate with the enormity of false doctrine being propagated on MDR. I have been described by some as doctrinally aggressive and I humbly accept this depiction. I believe that I love the truth and that I love the souls of all men, including errorists. I do not want to see people misled and I believe Joe is doing precisely this very thing in his teaching on MDR, all friendship and past fellowship aside, notwithstanding. Alas, I am saddened that Joe has elected to end his part in this exchange.

Joe wrote:

Don has written a review of my article and a rebuttal. I, too, have now offered two rebuttals in reply. I have answered his concerns and his charges. Therefore, I will now close my portion of this exchange...."

Don comments:

I had sincerely hoped that Joe would continue with the exchange and that we might have a profitable discussion and study as to our actual differences on MDR. However, Joe has done what most of these fellows have not: he, at least, has briefly discussed his convictions and teaching and for this, I am grateful. I have urged Ron Halbrook for years to discuss with me in an open forum his teaching on MDR and he refuses. Mike Willis has also refused such offers. Thus, I commend Joe's limited and brief participation in this matter.

I have been very disappointed in Joe Price, first, his defense of Mike Willis' doctrine of multiple causes for divorce and then the fact that Joe himself now has accepted and is presently teaching multiple causes (more later). However, the thing that disappoints me the most is that Joe has thought Holly Street and I have taken an unscriptural stand on MDR for sometime, yet he has said not a word to us while he has continued to accept our financial support. I am personally hurt over this.

Joe wrote while taking our support:

"...The problem arises when Don binds and demands a procedure that the innocent person must follow in order to have a right to remarry. Don has changed the right of divorce and remarriage from the presence of the cause of fornication to the procedure by which one puts away his/her mate. And that illustrates the point that my article on Romans 14 warned against: binding where the Lord has not bound."

Don comments:

Sounds pretty serious, changing the teaching of the scriptures, and "binding where the Lord has not bound." People who do such things are in sin and not to be fellowshipped (Rev. 22: 18, 19, 2 Jn. 9-11). Notwithstanding, Joe brags about fellowshipping us. Brethren, I just do not understand such! Of course, I suppose Joe can place such in Romans 14, along with the other matters he has crammed into Romans 14 with great violence to the text. As soon as we (the elders) observed that Joe was placing himself in a position of bad association (the Guardian of Truth Foundation), we talked with him. We then became plainer a few months ago about his specific association and fellowship with Mike Willis. Joe, though, defended Mike's teaching of multiple causes for divorce. Now, alas, Joe himself is teaching multiple causes for divorce.

Consider Joe's own words:

"Paul shows us in this passage (verses 12-15) there can be occasions when an unbeliever departs (chorizo, put asunder) a marriage. It is conceivable that a believer in such a special case must seek relief and/or protection through the judicial system, even to the point of a writing of divorcement, from that unbelieving, unwilling mate. Such 'appeals to Caesar,' as I understand it, is the force of number 6 above. There is no Scriptural right for remarriage in such cases because of 1 Cor. 7:10-11."

Don recapitulates:

Joe said:

1. The unbeliever leaves the marriage.

2. "It is conceivable that a believer...must seek relief...even to the point of a writing of divorcement...."

Joe said the above in the defense of the teaching of divorce for a cause other than fornication.

I have pointed out in this exchange with Joe that this whole MDR and Romans 14 issue is characterized by the worst case of word ambiguity and equivocation of any subject that I have ever debated, almost to the point of entering the state of insanity.

I wrote:

"We are hearing strange language today from some, language that is both ambiguous and equivocal. These men are heard repeating in unison, 'We must accept the truth but allow differences in application.' What does such mean when used in the climate of right and wrong? They have a put away person being able to put away. They have a put away person being able to subsequently put away and marry another (the death of a mate is not being discussed, Rom. 7: 3, 4). All of this is totally antithetical to the plain teaching of such verses as Matthew 5: 32, 19: 9, Luke. 16: 18. Now, some, including Joe, are telling us that one may divorce for reasons other than fornication, just as long as they do not marry another (see I Cor. 7: 2-15). After they finish telling us all of this, they say, 'You must accept or at least allow us to teach all of this because of Romans 14!'"

Don continues:

After Joe said that one might elect to divorce for a cause other than fornication in my above word for word quote, Joe then turns around and now says:

"According to Don, Joe now 'defends,' 'argues for' and is 'brazenly advocating' multiple causes for divorce.

That is just not so; Don knows it and our readers know it. I have always taught and continue to teach that putting away (apoluo) is against the will of God (sin).

In an effort to address the concerns Don raised in his review, I commented on the possibility of obtaining protection or relief from civil authorities in order to maintain faithfulness to Christ. Don agrees with that, for he said:

'I myself have taught that a wife, for instance, could be in a situation in which she could appeal to the power that be for relief (severe physical beatings) and could even be in a plight where such could be require of her (drugs being sold from the home, etc.).'

I suggested (not 'advocated') that such relief might reach to the need for a writing of divorcement. Don disagrees with that. And for that, I am now (supposedly) an advocate of 'multiple causes of divorce.' Incredible!"

Don observes:

More word games! Joe says, "I suggested (not 'advocated') that such relief might reach to the need for a writing of divorcement." Brethren, in the name of honesty, intelligibility, and scriptural accountability, it is past time that we cease such word games! Joe is now teaching that divorce can be effected for a reason other than fornication, plain and simple.

Joe wrote:

Don is certainly trying hard to cast me (and others) in the worst light possible.

Joe, my old friend and past fellow-worker, you are casting yourself in the worst light possible with your defense of Mike Willis' teaching, now accepting and teaching multiple causes yourself, your insistence that a put away may later put away and be able to marry another, and, finally, that all of this, even if you are wrong, must be allowed because it goes into the umbrella of Romans 14! Joe, you are wrong.

Yet, Joe went on to say:

Don's egregious charges, misrepresentations and accusations against me.

Joe, I have accurately presented your teaching in your own words. Falsely charging me does not change the fact and reality of your teaching. This whole MDR departure and Romans 14 perversion is characterized by denial and apparent surreal thinking.

Joe complained:

It is pretty obvious from his previous review and his latest rebuttal that he is anxious to pin on me the label of "multiple causes for divorce." He is wrong to do so. And, he will be wrong every time he continues to do so.

Don wants me to give him a list of causes for divorce that I "allow." I am an advocate of marriage, not divorce. I will not go down the hypothetical highway with Don; I will not be put out on a theoretical limb. Don has assumed upon me things that I have not affirmed and do not advocate, and now he tries to prod me into a corner. I am not going to take the bait.

Don responds:

Joe has provided one cause in addition to fornication, the matter of one leaving the marriage and the remaining being able to obtain a divorcement. According to Joe, he believes in multiple causes. This fact is beyond disputing, I just wanted to know what other reasons he offers. The one whom he started off defending, Mike Willis, lists about six different reasons for divorce in addition to fornication. Included in MIke's list are a mate running up bills and spiritual incompatibility to the point of causing one to be spiritually discouraged. Joe, since you have opened the door to multiple causes for divorce, do you have more than two, perhaps you have more than Mike? You see, Joe and beloved, if we are allowed to have more than the stated cause of fornication, where does it stop, two (Joe has stated two), six (Willis position), or twenty?

Joe continues with the word games all these fellows who advocate the doctrine that Joe has now espoused play.

Listen to Joe:

Marriage is for life and there is one exception for putting away and remarrying, that exception being fornication (Matt. 19:9). That is what I "advocate"; that is what I "defend."

Don reflects:

Joe says the above even in the context of "allowing" a divorce based on desertion and not fornication. Brethren, I am at a total loss to understand such word gymnastics. What Joe "defends" is Mike Willis' multiple causes, which Joe also now teaches (we know he has at least two causes).

Joe assigns too much credit to me when he wrote:

Inasmuch as he repeatedly puts words into my mouth.

Joe has said there are two causes for divorcement, fornication and one leaving the marriage. I have not put these words into Joe's mouth, he did so. Yet, he accuses me!

In the same vain, Joe continued:

Again, Don has put words in my mouth. I have not put moral or doctrinal matters into Romans 14.

Don comments:

Joe has defended Keith Greer's number two and six being placed into the asylum of Romans 14. Multiple causes for divorce and the put away being able to later put away and marry another are false doctrines. Joe has, indeed, placed doctrinal error into Romans 14.

Joe wrote in his final rebuttal:

5. Don asks, "What is the procedure that I am binding, anyway?"

The procedure you bind on one who is innocent of fornication is that when the fornicator initiates and obtains the writing of divorcement, the innocent one becomes a "put away person" without the right of remarriage.

BTW, whose definition of "passive" and "active" involvement will we apply to such situations: Don's? Mine? You see, that is just such an area where we must be careful not to bind personal scruples on others. That is not a call to allow all manner of divorce.

Don answers:

I like to debate capable men who know how to apply the heat to my teaching and test it to the limit. I want this done so that you, the reader, can compare positions and thus arrive at the truth. Joe makes his best point in the immediately above because it is emotional and appeals to our sense of "fair play." While I matter-of-factly teach and debate on MDR, I spend much time grieving over the plight of various people whom I have known in the past. However, I must lay aside my emotions and only teach the truth. In a scenario involving the presence of fornication, the innocent mate can be put away if they do not put away. As to who does the putting away FIRST can often be another exercise in word games. Those who believe in the now common doctrine of mental only divorce, it becomes who beats the other to mentally divorcing (imagine all the attendant chaos involved in an attempt to practically apply this doctrine). In the case of the mental and I repudiated you first doctrine, it becomes a race to verbal only repudiation. The fact of the matter is that regardless of how one defines biblical putting away and what one includes in the definition, the innocent mate must put away! There have, no doubt, been cases where the innocent mate did not want to put away (I have known of some cases). They say to their guilty mate, "I want the marriage to continue," while the other mate says, "I am sick of you and I do not want to continue this marriage, I have another one with whom I am in love." The innocent mate continues to want the marriage, even when the other mate petitions the court for divorce. During the waiting period (commonly six months), the innocent mate begs the other to return to the marriage and again repeats, "I do not want a divorce." At an announced date, the court pronounces the marriage dissolved. Now, who is the put away person? Jesus said an innocent mate can be (not "may be") put away and not allowed marriage to another (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9). All, the mental divorcer, the mental accompanied with a statement, and the mental, declaration and repudiation that includes civil protocol (my position) would have to say to be accurate that the innocent mate is the put away mate in the scenario. She was clearly "passive" and did not ever seek to put away, all the way through the whole process.

Joe begins to close the exchange:

6. Don plants the seed of doubt about me by presenting a "fornication after the putting away" scenario he has debated in the past.

Don wrote:

"I do not say this about Joe or Mike Willis, but I do know based on debates that I have had in the past that have involved men embracing the same teaching who go on to reason after this fashion:."

Then, why say it at all, Don? You never did tell us why you said it. I can only conclude that you want to leave the impression that that is where I am headed. That is not where I am headed.

Don begins to close:

Joe, I seriously wonder if you realize what you have affirmed and denied. I am not trying to be rude, but based on all your double-talk, I must say this.

You, when we (the elders at Holly Street) first began talking with you about Mike Willis and your new association with Mike in the Guardian of Truth Foundation, said that you disagreed with multiple causes for divorce, but then you started defending Mike's teaching. Then you started yourself teaching more than one reason for divorce (in this exchange). Now, you say you have never taught more than one cause for divorce. Joe, I can safely make the following prediction: Joe Price will, based on his progression of doctrinal error and denial, graduate to the teaching that Jack may divorce Jill because of her desertion of the marriage (no fornication) and then when Jill marries another, Jack may marry another and be right with God and in scriptural fellowship with the brethren, and, furthermore, divisive men such as Don Martin must keep their mouth shut, based on Romans 14." Joe, please remember my prediction in the days, months, and years to come.

In closing, Joe make me to be wrong in my prediction. Denounce the course you have taken and return to the old Joe Price, the teacher and defender of truth on all subjects, including MDR, that others and I used to know!

I finally add, we have been patient with Joe and have allowed him time to study his doctrinal plight. We have not abruptly withdrawn our financial help from Joe, but have offered time for study and talk. Rather than recant, Joe has proceeded to teach error, even on this list with his recent article and in this exchange. To date, much time in general has been offered in this MDR matter and it is now time for brethren to start deciding where they stand. I close with Joshua's famous statement: "...choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Josh. 24: 15).