Jeff Belknap's Response to Tom O'Neal

Tom O'Neal's Material

To read the complete exchange with brother O誰eal see: The Complete E-mail Exchange With Tom O誰eal

Dear brethren,

In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that brethren of experience and reputation would be capable of resorting to the ungodly and extreme measures they have employed in their recent attacks against me. However, the following exchanges (and the documented facts behind them) will prove once again, that truth is many times stranger than fiction.

Below, I have posted the response letter that I mailed to brother Tom O誰eal on 2-10-04, after he sent (via USPS) an eleven page letter to myself, and mailed a copy to each and every household of those who regularly attend the services in Beckley, WV, both members and non-members. (Some even revealed to me that it was an ordeal to keep unbelieving mates from reading Tom's letter). Additionally, several brethren have informed me that brother O'Neal sent copies of his letter to individual members of various other churches throughout the state of WV. Written on the envelopes of letters sent to the members of the church in Summersville, WV, was a note that stated: Eric Norford said I should send this to you. Moreover, when two of our members called Tom O'Neal and asked him who sent him the directory of all the members in Beckley, Tom told them that it was Weldon Warnock.

Moreover, Tom's eleven page letter, filled with numerous unfounded allegations and several evil surmisings, was also posted on Tim Haile's website (2-17-04). The collusion and concerted effort of these men to be "partakers" of this sinful conduct is beyond me (cf. I Timothy 5:22; II John 11).

Brother O'Neal's public letter immediately follows my response. - Jeff


February 9th, 2004

Dear brother O誰eal,

First of all, I would like to thank you for bringing to my attention my mistake regarding the date of your quote which states your belief regarding Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage. Actually, that quote did come from a letter that you wrote to me (dated 9-28-03); I simply posted the wrong date. I知 sorry for this mistake, and have corrected the date on the website.

It gives me no pleasure to write the rest of this necessary reply to your letter dated 2-4-04, (received 2-8-04 via USPS, and copies of which you also sent to the members of the Carriage Drive church of Christ, with whom I labor).

As I was working on this response, I received various phone calls from different members of our congregation commenting on their receipt of your letter and its highly critical tone and demeanor. Moreover, some of these brethren have told me that they are considering how to best let you know that your letter was not appreciated.

The men who attend the business meetings have been well aware of your discontent since we asked you a specific marriage, divorce and remarriage question. Your unwillingness to answer that specific question was documented in the Carriage Drive business meeting minutes from our meetings that were held on Sept. 28th, 2003 and Oct. 27th, 2003, after I read your statement of faith answer to the men. For over two months, we pleaded with you to address our question directly, but unfortunately, you would not.

Please let me answer the untrue charges from your most recent letter that need to be addressed: 

1) Documenting a quote with the wrong date does not prove that I知 途eckless, only that I知 not perfect. It is clear that regardless of the date the quote was written on, my mistake would have no effect of swaying brethren痴 thinking in any way, or influencing them unfairly. Nevertheless, the same cannot be said about the incorrect charges you have made against me.   

To clear up any misunderstanding regarding this matter, you wrote that quote in a letter to me, dated September 28th, (which actually was the reiteration of a statement that you had sent to brother Leonard on September 7th). In your subsequent letter of 10-14-03, you also stated 的 would appreciate it if you would share this letter as well as the previous letter with all the men of the congregation at Beckley (emp. jhb). This request indicates your desire to make your letter (including your statement of faith) a public matter, not a private correspondence.

2) Your charge that I was 砥nethical, dishonest and cannot be trusted to deal with a brother fairly because I published your complete statement of faith (which you wanted me to share with Beckley痴 brethren), without your permission is an unusual charge. Surely, your request for me to share your letters with the men of the congregation indicates that they were not a private matter. I find it ironic that someone who claims to be honest and open would have such a problem with another brother quoting his public statement of faith (which he requested be shared with the men of this church) in its completeness, as I did.  

My permission to manifest your public teaching is given by God in Ephesians 5:11, 13. In contrast, you had been given no permission from heaven or earth to publicize your false charges against me to our members (or anyone else). It is evident that your thinking is biased when you claim that my publishing an exact quote of your public statement of faith without your permission proves my dishonesty, yet you believe that you have manifested honesty by your public distribution of false charges against me (obviously, without my permission).

Moreover, if you believe that an author痴 permission is necessary to further publicize his public quotes and review them, and that to do so without permission is a violation of 鍍he golden rule, then you and your associates have been violating your own mandate for far longer than I have. There is obviously nothing wrong with quoting and reviewing a person痴 public teaching from one venue, in another one. This is standard practice for Truth Magazine associates. Harry Osborne confirms this truth in the following quote from the section 徹bjections to Distribution in his letter (http://www.watchmanmag.com/0306/030621.htm) to brother Caldwell, dated July 8th, 2000:

典here is no ethical problem with answering public teaching or conduct without advance, private consultation. Paul answered Peter without a private consultation (Gal. 2:11-14). We are told of no private meeting which preceded Paul痴 condemnation of Hymenaeus and Philetus along with their false doctrine (2 Tim. 2:16-18). In both cases, the wrong action and false teaching were public and the effect was broader than an individual matter. Hence, the answer and rebuke was public. The same is true with the actions and teaching allowed at Florida College.

Additionally, on page 10 of your letter, you charge me with treating brethren badly, citing the example of my having posted 田ertain quotations without the full context from an exchange between brothers Weldon Warnock and Jim Deason. Yet, when you possess copies of my complete replies to you that vindicate me against your charges, you send copies of your letters to the brethren at Beckley that include only 田ertain quotations without the full context of my replies to you. I am sad to say that your unreasonable charges against me have been inconsistent with your own practice (Matthew 23:3-4; Romans 2:1).

3) The absurdity of your implication that I did something wrong because I did not 堵ive a copy of your letters (filled with your false allegations) to all the brethren for them to have the opportunity to read 殿t their leisure when the men in the business meeting had declined the offer to have a copy of our exchange is self-evident. In the meeting, I had encouraged the men to read the exchange. However, what they were wanting was a simple answer to their question, not volumes of accusations against their preacher. 

4) Your three different efforts to answer the men痴 question were the same answer each time. Never once did you directly address our question regarding the Lord痴 teaching about the put away in the 2nd halves of Matthew 5:32; 19:9 and Luke 16:18. I explained this to the men in the business meeting, and they encouraged me to again try and get you to directly answer the specific question. I complied with their request by attempting to reword the question for you twice, yet each time you remained unwilling to reveal your views. And now, even after 11 more pages of hollow accusations, you have still failed to answer the men痴 question.    

5) You implied that I had been dishonest in first speaking 塗ighly of you to brother Bragg and then saying that 的 do not know you, Tom in one of my letters to you. 

Nevertheless, I never portrayed to Leonard that I knew you personally, when he asked me about you. Regarding Leonard痴 statement, you said that, 鄭t the time, I thought how could he speak highly of me when I have never met him so far as I know, have never worked with him in a meeting and he has never worked with me in a meeting, (page 2 of your letter, emp. jhb). When Leonard had asked me about you, I told him that although I did not know you personally, my assessment of your worthiness for support was based upon my knowledge of your writings in your publication, 展alking in Truth. So, in the sense that he asked, I was able to speak highly of you.

On the other hand, in our correspondences, when I wrote that I don稚 know you, it was in the sense of being able to predict how you would react in a particular situation, and the context of my quote (page 7 of your letter) easily confirms that fact.

After writing your assessment of the supposed discrepancy, you stated, How can you in good conscience speak 蘇ighly of someone you 租o not know? Or does your conscience not bother you to tell such? Which time were you telling the truth, brother Belknap? Whichever is the truth, the other is your lie! 

Yet, in one of your previous letters to me that you quoted in your recent letter (on page 5), you stated, 的 have never been to Beckley and don稚 know any of the brethren there except Leonard Bragg and only him through correspondence. Admittedly, you have never met Leonard either, yet you stated that you knew him. I may be wrong, but I believe that if someone asked you what you knew about brother Leonard Bragg, you would reveal the context of your knowledge of him (just as I explained to Leonard the context of my knowledge of you) and speak highly of him as well! 

Obviously, in view of your own acknowledgement that you 徒now Leonard - but only through correspondence, you yourself understand that there are different degrees of knowledge of brethren. Thus, your charge that I have lied is wholly unreasonable.

6) At the top of page 5 of your letter you insinuated that I was a 登ne issue preacher like others you have known. You later called for my repentance 鍍hat you (I) might be forgiven of your (my) sin of hobby riding at the close of your letter. You wrote, 的f he is preaching on creation, baptism or Abraham he usually has a way of getting his hobby in somewhere in his sermon. Paul preached the whole counsel of God (Act 20:26-27). Paul did not preach one thing to the exclusion of other themes.

The fact of the matter is that the last time I had preached on MDR was approximately one and a half years ago. Nevertheless, in light of the recent misrepresentations against me and my teaching, just a few weeks ago, the men requested that I preach on it again, in order to address any questions that our brethren may have, which I did yesterday.

I marvel that I am 登bsessed and a 登ne issue preacher, but other preachers (whom you agree with) are not, though they have repeatedly dealt with error in the midst of controversy? Truth Magazine published 39 articles about Edward Fudge痴 error (see archives search engine at www.TruthMagazine.com). [After almost two decades how many articles has 典ruth written (and still counting) about brother Homer Hailey and the subsequent Romans 14 error?] In addition to the Truth Magazine coverage, Searching the Scriptures published articles that addressed brother Fudge痴 error, as well. Nevertheless, I could find no writing by associates of Truth Magazine or Searching the Scriptures that ever charged anyone with being out to destroy Edward Fudge, nor of 登bsession or 塗obby riding. Indeed, 鍍he legs of the lame are not equal. See also: The Charge of 滴obby-Riding by the Error-Siding! (cf. Ecclesiastes 1:9).

7) You continued on page 5 and said, perceive that for some unknown reason known to me, your web site is not just about 僧ental divorce but has an under lying effort to destroy Ron Halbrook. I could be wrong in this, but that is the perception that I have gotten from what little I have seen of your web site. Look at the number of articles you have on your web site that target Ron Halbrook by name. Why not some other preacher? (emp. jhb).

Tom, the fact of the matter is: I also have articles addressing the erroneous teaching of several 登ther brethren whom you mentioned in your letter! You went on to say on page 6, 添ou mention Ron Halbrook, Harry Osborne and Tim Haile as well as others. If I learned that they were in error or in sin, I will just as quickly have my say with them as I would with any others. (emp. jhb). You mentioned those brothers names, as well as the names of two other men, Mike Willis and Weldon Warnock. Apparently, you were not aware that all of their teaching was also being examined and exposed on the website, as well as brother Halbrook痴. Again, I realize that you have limited the time that you are willing to devote to reading from my website, but if you are taking the time to make charges against it, I would expect that you would first do some more research, to make sure your charges about the website agree with what is on it, before going forward.

8) On page 9 you wrote: 添ou have violated my trust by posting on your web site that which you did not have my permission to do so. (emp. jhb). Amazing! You imply that you had 鍍rust in me before I posted your public statement of faith to the website, yet the day after you received my very first request for you to answer the men痴 divorce and remarriage question (and even before you replied to me) you wrote to brother Bragg, inquiring if the question was really asked at the request of the men (as I had told you), or if it was asked of my own accord?

In addition, in your very first letter to me, in response to the men痴 question (page 3) and the request that you answer with an 的 agree or 的 disagree (and stating that if you disagreed with any or all of the statement, you were free to clarify why), you charged me with attempting to be 屠udge, jury and prosecuting attorney in this case.  Yet, in your most recent letter to myself (and the members of this congregation), you expressed that your letters had been written in 堵ood faith (page 9). Let痴 be 塗onest.

9) Your assessment that I do not believe for one moment that the brethren in Beckley would have come up on their own wanting your question answered without your influencing them (emp. yours) is an insult to the brethren here. Your portrayal of me as some mind-controlling preacher who can influence our 澱rethren to do what he wants them to do reveals more of your uncharitable thoughts for someone you don稚 even know. (I don稚 deny that I may have an appropriate amount of influence in teaching our brethren what the scriptures say about this issue or any other isn稚 that the point of preaching? Does your teaching not influence brethren regarding the issue of the 7 days of creation, the deity of Christ, or Romans 14, etc.? When a preacher痴 teaching stops having an influence on faithful brethren, then it is time for him to quit preaching.) 

Because it is generally understood among our members that the teaching of some on this issue involves the advocacy of adultery, they came to the realization that the matter of fellowship is involved. When brethren read Matthew 5:32b; 19:9b and Luke 16:18b, they do not need the 妬nfluence of a mind-controlling preacher to understand what Jesus said. Thus, as has been confirmed to you by both brother Bragg and myself, the question I asked of you (and the other brethren who were scheduled to hold our meetings) was asked at the express direction of the men of the congregation.

Brother Tom, anyone can make wild, baseless accusations against another, but that is a far cry from proving them. You made absolutely no attempt to back up these charges with any source whatsoever, except your own mind. Your comments on page 7 of your letter state, 添ou charge me with 爽nbrotherly surmisings in my letter. I tried to be as kind and gentle as I knew how to be, yet, at the same time to say plainly what was on my mind (emp. jhb). Then in the next paragraph, you state, When I say as kindly as I can what I think, you charge me with 爽nbrotherly surmisings着 Brother Tom, that is exactly what 兎vil surmisings (I Timothy 6:4) means suspicion of evil against another. Suspicion does not come from reality, but rather from the subjective mind.

Further evidence of numerous 兎vil surmisings against me in your 2-4-04 letter are as follows (all emphases mine, jhb, unless otherwise noted:

鼎ould it just be that you are not the great power of God that is keeping the church from going into apostasy that you seem to want to portray on your web site? (page 1)

展hen some preacher痴 name is mentioned, they want to know if he is sound on the 殿uthority question which is their way of asking about his position on the covering. You seem to be doing the same thing with the 杜ental divorce question. (page 4)

I perceive that for some unknown reason known to me, your web site is not just about 杜ental divorce but has an under lying effort to destroy Ron Halbrook. (page 5)

的 have seen your up-dates to your web site from time to time but do not have the time to read all of them. In fact, I have read little of what is there. I do not have the time. I do not see how you have the time to spend on such and do the work of gospel preaching. (page 5)

鄭gain, do you see why I perceive that you are after Ron Halbrook? (page 6)

It appears to me that you might have thought that brother Willis might have shown you that you were the one in error. (page 6)

典his is why I say that you are obsessed with and are a one issue preacher -only marriage seems to matter. All other issues seem unimportant to you. (page 7)

鼎ould it be that you feel that I am guilty of 砥nbrotherly surmisings because either (1) I have hit closer to home than you want to admit, or (2) you cannot answer what I have said? I feel that it maybe some of both and a whole lot of each. (page 7)

You seem to be the one who is right all of the time and others are wrong because they don稚 agree with your say so. (page 7)

添ou should just be a man enough to say that I respect my brother (or brother-in- law) Harry Osborne above what is written (I Cor. 4:6) for that is the clear implication of what you have said. (page 7)

My personal opinion is that you did not give a copy of each of my letters to all the brethren for them to have the opportunity to read them at their leisure. (page 8)

展hen I see how inaccurate you are when I can check your documentation, it makes me wonder how inaccurate you are in other places where I can not check your sources. (page 9)

I had a feeling when you first wrote me that you were going to make this matter a test of fellowship and that in time you would cancel the meeting. (page 9)

I do not believe for one moment that the brethren in Beckley would have come up on their own wanting your question answered without your influencing them. (page 9)

It appears to me that my efforts to communicate with you as a brother in Christ has been met by the spirit of the Muslim religion which says 電estroy at all costs regardless of the tactics. (page 9)

摘ven so, you seem to have an obsession which causes you to see your brethren in Christ as enemies, and this obsession causes you to know no bounds of honor or fairness in your determination to destroy your brethren. (page 10)

Conversely, please note the credence that God lends to the way things 都eem to men in Proverbs 14:12; 16:25.

[The above quotes are only a fraction of the slanderous statements within your letter. In your many other false assertions about me, you stated them as established facts, without such words as, 的 perceive, or 妬t appears to me, or 的 do not believe, or 的 had a feeling, 土ou seem, etc., yet failed to verify the source of your knowledge of such things. A prime example can be found on page 9, where you stated, 添ou need to wake up to the fact that you have become obsessed with certain technicalities and minutiae related to divorce and remarriage. However, where you claim my 登bsession to be 吐act on page 9, you, yourself admit that it is mere supposition (土ou seem to have an obsession) on page 10.]

Your above quotes have manifested that you have some very some strong 吐eel(ings), perceptions, beliefs, and 菟ersonal opinion(s) about what I think, say, do, motivations behind my actions, and what I will do in the future.  Yet, you, yourself admitted that you have never met me and do not know me. Nevertheless, the scripture says, 斗ovethinketh no evil, I Corinthians 13:4-5 (see Albert Barnes commentary).

II Corinthians 13:1 and I Timothy 5:19-21 (cf. Matthew 18:16-17) clearly teach that in a dispute involving a charge against a brother, every word must be established by a plurality of witnesses before it goes public. Regarding the above charges, you offered no proof, provided no source [other than 努hat was on my (your) mind and 努hat I (you) think, etc.] nothing that would even hint that your information was based on facts. You claim that I was 途eckless and inaccurate for mistakenly documenting a wrong date on my website, yet you have publicly leveled page after page of 兎vil surmisings against me on nothing but your own think-sos. Based on the facts, who has been 途eckless and inaccurate?

Brother, if you had any charges that had an actual basis in truth, I would expect that you would provide either written verification (in the same manner that I have verified charges of false teaching against the brethren whom I have quoted on my website) or provide names of the witnesses.

Regarding all the other unfounded charges you repeated (from our previous correspondence) in your most recent letter, please refer to the replies I wrote to your own previous letters. My earlier responses contain the answers to your questions and accusations, as well as the numerous questions I have asked of you which you have yet to answer. I see little point in copying all my responses here, which you already have. (If you have lost track of them, please let me know and I will resend them.) Upon request, I will gladly supply our entire previous correspondence (which brother Leonard Bragg had received copies of) in chronological order to our members (as I also previously offered in the business meeting).

Additionally, you imply that my unwillingness to have you come to Beckley and 都it down and study is a sign of cowardice or reluctance for the brethren 鍍o whom I preach from week to week to hear you (me) try and defend your (my) views (page 1 of your letter). In our correspondences you wrote, 的 am willing to come at my expense to Beckley and sit down with you and the brethren and let you ask any question you desire. You also stated on page 3 of your letter, 的 have no problem answering the question that you sent or any other question. Nevertheless, after several correspondences (over two months), the specific question we asked of you remained unanswered and has still not been answered to this day. 

Your writing reveals that your idea of being 登pen and honest in a discussion of our differences does not entail giving a direct answer to the specific question the brethren asked of you. Different times, you reiterated your statement of belief regarding the right of an 妬nnocent person, but after repeated attempts to reword the question about those who are put away, you still responded with your pat statement of belief about the rights of the innocent.

The men of the congregation were not satisfied with your indirect answer. It is highly unlikely that you would deal any more 登penly with our specific question in person than you did in writing, especially when you claimed that you had already specifically answered our question, when you had not. Such a meeting would be pointless, considering your idea of openness and honesty in answering direct questions with specificity. In addition, you have only misrepresented me in your correspondences. Why should someone who has been proven to malign another be given further opportunities to do more of the same?

On the other hand, do you believe it is a sign of courage to repeatedly avoid directly answering one simple question (within the numerous pages of correspondence you have already written)?

If you really want to debate, and are willing to 田ome out in the open and 電efend your views (as you imply I知 not), then you should not be opposed to discuss specific propositions in writing that define and address our differences (not your generic statement of faith) for all (not just the brethren at Beckley) to 都tudy. We could put this written debate on the website and any other publication(s) you desire. I would also give copies to all interested members in Beckley who may or may not have access to the other venues. As you yourself said, 展ould you be willing to do that? If not, why, not? Truth has no fear of an honest investigation.

Brotherly,
Jeff

(P.S. In regards to Raymond Harris article regarding hobby riders, please refer to the response I wrote on my website entitled, The Charge of 践obby-Riding by the Error-Siding! Interestingly, even though brother Harris refused to reveal to me whether he had me in mind when he wrote the article, from your comment, it is obvious that he was willing to reveal it to you or someone whom you are in contact with. I appreciate your willingness to confirm the fact of the matter.)