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Mr. Jeff Belknap
Dear brother Belknap:
this I will acknowledge your email of
The men met for our monthly business meting last night. Since you would not answer our specific
question, we made the unanimous decision to withdraw our request for you to
come and hold a meeting in
Since this did not demand an immediate reply, and other things were more pressing, I have waited until now to answer.
Brother Belknap, I am sorry that you have chosen to make your views upon what you choose to call Amental divorce@ a test of fellowship. Therefore, you should not object to my making this known to brethren. In view of your making your views upon this question a test of fellowship, plus the fact that you have absolutely refused to sit down and discuss this matter with me when I offered to come to Beckley, I challenge you to a public debate without propositions. Since you think that I am in error, I will first present what I believe the Bible teaches and then you can have the opportunity to refute it by the Scriptures. If I am so wrong, you should have no difficulty showing my error. Now, we will see just now much confidence that you have in what you are teaching. It is one thing to sit behind a key board on a computer and write all kinds of things when others have no chance to reply, and it is another thing to meet a live opponent in open discussion. We will now see how much courage you have about your position. Could 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? Are you afraid for those to whom you preach from week to week to hear you try and defend your views? It would be a pity for the members there to see how weak you really are when you have to come out in the open.
I wrote to brother Leonard Bragg on
as well as Acreation.@ To his request, I sent him some material that I had written upon said subjects. On December 18 I wrote brother Bragg indicating that I had already sent him the material he requested, gave him some references that he requested and said, AIf you have any specific questions, I would be happy to answer them for you. I would be glad to visit with you, preach a few nights and let you get to know me first hand.@ What I had to say and the material I sent brother Bragg evidently was sufficient for that was the end of that matter. I put him on the mailing list of Walking In Truth and he has received each issue since. When I said, AI would be glad to visit with you, preach a few nights and let you get to know me first hand@ I thought that the church would be supporting me. Had I known that the funds left by brother and sister Toothman and administered by brother Leonard Bragg would be the support, I would not have suggested coming and preaching for the church.
In brother Bragg=s email to me on December 21, 2000 he said in regard to references Abrother Jeff Belknap who preaches for us at the Carriage Drive church in Beckley, WV.,...spoke highly of you.@ At 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. How could he know me so well as to speak Ahighly@ of me? You sure have changed your attitude toward me in a short time. Now you think I am a false teacher but you still do not have enough courage to test what I teach by the Scriptures in open discussion.
I find it very interesting that in brother Bragg=s letter of December 21, 2000, he says that you Aspoke highly@ of me, yet you write to me on September 29, 2003, AI do not know you Tom.@ How can you in good conscience speak Ahighly@ of someone you Ado not know?@ Or does your conscience not bother you to tell such? Which time were you telling the truth, brother Belknap? Which ever is the truth, the other is your lie! I am sure you will want to ignore this just like you have the other things I have said that you could not answer without putting yourself in a predicament.
your email of
Without exception, when an unlawful divorce has been finalized via compliance with one=s respective
civil (or socially-recognized) laws, the one who was put away (repudiated) commits adultery upon remarriage to another (Matthew 5:32b; Matthew 19:9b; Luke 16:18b) for as long as their bound mate still lives (Romans 7:3).
You said, Aspecifically, we need a straightforward, >I agree= or >I disagree= answer.@
I answered your question, but it did not please you, so you rejected my answer, which was: I believe that God=s law of marriage is: one man for one woman for life with one exception, that exception being if fornication is committed, the innocent of fornication has the right to put away the guilty fornicator and remarry; if the guilty fornicator remarries, they commit adultery. What was there about that answer that was difficult for you to understand?
Since I did not give you what you wanted, you came back a second time with quotes from brother Ron Halbrook and then wanted to know:
Regarding the scenario in the above quotes, do you believe that if the woman described were to remarry another [after she Aput her mate away@ for her husband=s post-unscriptural divorce fornication], that her remarriage would constitute a lawful union or an adulterous one?
I saw that nothing that I said would please you, I wrote you in an effort to
get you to see what a mistake you were making in making your views on this
question a test of fellowship. My taking
the time and trying to be very patient with you fell upon deaf ears. However, here is what I wrote to you on
AWith this letter I will reply to your=s of September 6 and 23. I am sorry that I did not get your original letter to me but as I explained to brother Bragg I never received it. Why I do not know.
AI will take my time in replying but I want you to know up front that I have nothing but good will toward a brother in Christ and don=t want you to think otherwise. I hope you will receive this in the same manner in which I am sending it.
ATo me, your request is rather strange. Since I started preaching in June of 1954, which included the time that the institutional controversy was raging, I have never received a letter asking that I state my position on any subject. I have not preached in as many meetings as some brethren have, but over those years I have preached in enough to know how to preach and conduct myself in a Gospel Meeting. I have never cause any trouble for a church during a Gospel Meeting. I have known of preachers stirring up problems during a meeting and the local preacher and the elders having to spend several months cleaning up the mess some preacher made during a meeting. I have been on the cleaning up end a few times.
AHowever, the brethren anywhere have the right to know the convictions of any man they bring to their pulpit. In fact, they not only have the right to know, but they should know. I have no problem answering the question that you sent or any other question. In fact, to show you and the brethren there at Beckley, WV, how open and honest I am to answering questions, I am will to come to Beckley at my expense and sit down with the brethren and let them ask me any question they desire. The question that you asked was:
AWithout exception, when an unlawful divorce
has been finalized via compliance with one=s respective civil (or socially-recognized)
laws, the one who was put away (repudiated) commits adultery upon remarriage to
another (Matthew 5:32b; Matthew 19:9b; Luke 16:18b) for as long as their bound
mate still lives (Romans 7:3). [E-mail to me,
AYou then gave me two options with which to answer the question: (1) AI agree,@ and (2) I disagree.@ Brother Belknap, I will not permit you or anyone else to both ask me a question and then supply the answer I must use. I will not allow you to be judge, jury and prosecuting attorney in this case. As I told brother Bragg, this question is very poorly worded. It is not clear to me exactly what you are asking. I just wanted to be sure that I understood what you were asking before I answered. In your response, you did not try to restate the question, explain the question or clarify the question. You abandoned the question completely. Why? The second thing I had a problem with was that the question contain a contradiction. How could a divorce be Aunlawful@ when it was done in Acompliance@ with Acivil law?@
AIn an open and honest effort to give you and the brethren at Beckley my position, I stated to brother Leonard Bragg exactly what I believe: I believe that God=s law of marriage is: one man for one woman for life with one exception, that exception being if fornication is committed, the innocent of fornication has the right to put away the guilty fornicator and remarry; if the guilty fornicator remarries, they commit adultery (E-mail to brother Leonard Bragg, 9/7/2003, 14:59 PM). Your response to that was it AIs too generic and obviously does not specifically address the unscripturally divorced.@ That is what you say. But I thought I was being rather specific in my answer. I stated openly my position but you did not like the way I answered. Must I answer the way you want me to before you will be satisfied?
AAnother thing I thought strange about your question
was, you did not ask about a number of other issues. You did not ask about: (1) what I thought
about the Deity of Christ on earth, (2) the Sunday evening Lord=s Supper, (3) the covering of 1 Cor. 11, (4) the AD 70
doctrine, (5) church support of benevolent institutions and colleges, (6) the
sponsoring church, (7) the number of cups in the Lord=s Supper, (8) women teachers, (9) women in the
business meetings, (10) if a church could have Bible classes, (11) the located
preacher question, (12) premillennialism and (13)
unity-in-diversity. Are these questions
not important? Do you and the brethren
there not want to know what a preacher that comes to conduct a Gospel Meeting
believes on these questions? Are they
not important? Why ask about marriage
and not all these other issues that have troubled brethren over the years? Another question I might ask is: have you and
do you ask all the preachers that conduct meetings there at
AThere are brethren who have done with the covering question what you have done with the so-called Amental divorce@ question. They take that one issue and that is about all they talk about it seems to me. When their name is mentioned the covering is associated with their name. They get all excited about it but seem not to be concerned very much with other issues that have caused brethren problems over the years. One of these preachers has written four different tracts in regard to the covering. When some preacher=s name is mentioned, they want to know if he is sound on the Aauthority question@ which is their way of asking about his position on the covering. You seem to be doing the same thing with the Amental divorce@ question.
AWhen I preached at the
AWith several brethren I helped get a new work started
“He came, and guess what? He began
to press the covering question. The
brethren finally got tired of his harping on it and such related matters and
they left. Today, there is no sound
AWill the same thing happen in
AAs I have said, instead of rewording your question, clarifying your question, you give me two excerpts from the pen of Ron Halbrook. You see why I think you are after brother Halbrook.
AYour quotations are from two larger documents. I would not answer without having the fulll document from which these are taken. Again, I am not opposed to answering
questions and that is the reason why I am willing to come at my expense to
AYou state in your E-mail to me on
AI 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. However, from one that I did
read you quoted Ron Halbrook from a sermon he preached in
AAnd so, in conclusion from this (1 Cor. , 15 jhb) we learn that unscriptural divorce releases neither party from marriage. When you have an unscriptural divorce, as men count it, it=s not so with God. That bond is still in tact. And that little piece of paper is nothing in the sight of God. Just as well use it as Kleenex and blow your nose and drop it in the toilet. It doesn=t mean a thing to God. God=s law rules over the laws of men.@
AWhen I read that, I may be dense, but I couldn=t believe anyone would disagree with that. I wondered why you would take exception to it. Questions: (1) Do you believe that when two people unscripturally divorce that God recognizes their sinful action [as valid]? The flip side of that coin would be - do you believe when two people unscripturally marry that God recognizes their piece of paper [as valid]? If God recognizes it [as valid], how could they be living in adultery? (2) Do you believe that AGod=s law rules over the laws of men?@ or Do you believe that Aman=s law rules over the laws of God?@ Which is it? Again, do you see why I perceive that you are after Ron Halbrook?
AYou say AIn spite of your relationship to brother [Harry, TGO] Osborne, we want to give you the opportunity to define your own convictions.@ My relationship to Harry is that he is my brother, my brother-in-law (I married his sister, Carolyn) and my brother in Christ. I personally resent the implication. From the time I started preaching in 1954, I have made up my mind on the basis of what I believe the Scriptures teach on any question. If I were going to be influenced by family or friends, I would have made that decision years ago during the institutional question. I had/have three family members who are/were institutional preachers and it would have avoided a lot of conflict within our family if I had sold out to the institutional idols. Today I still have friends among the institutional brethren who are well respected preachers, but they know that I would quickly debate them today if they were willing. You 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.
ABrother Belknap, my perception at this point is that
you want to ask questions and post things on your web site, but that you do not
want to discuss and study these issues.
You have refused to discuss these matters with Harry Osborne. You refused to post Harry=s written debate with brother
Terence Sheridan on your web site and let the readers make up their mind after
having read it. You added your comments
which were designed to slant the debate in favor of brother
Sheridan. This was a slap in the face to
When you got complaints, you took the entire debate off your web site,
instead of just taking your comments off. You were not willing to have a fair
reading of the debate without your input.
Seems like you didn=t
think brother Sheridan did a very good job defending his position. When brother Mike
Willis was with the church in
AI would suggest that you and the brethren there ask brother Weldon Warnock about me. We have known each other for over 40 years. He preached at one time in my home town. I think that he will tell you and the brethren that I am no trouble maker, radical, hobby-rider or unreasonable person.
ABrother Belknap, I look forward to meeting you, being
with you and the brethren at
AMay God bless both you and yours and the brethren at
ANOTE: Brother Belknap, You do NOT have my permission to post this letter on your web site unless you post it in its entirety, with no comments from you.@
ADear brother Belknap:
AThis is a reply to your email of
AI believe that Jesus gave the innocent of fornication the right to put away their fornicating mate and to marry again per Matt. 19:9. Is that not what you believe? Or do you believe something different? I find it hard to understand why you are having such great difficulty understanding what I believe.
ABrother Belknap, do you intend to make this issue a test of
fellowship? Are only preachers who agree
wholly with you going to be allowed to conduct Gospel Meetings at
AYou say that you will decline to respond to the points that I made about the covering because such is not at issue. I agree the covering is not the issue. I was only using it as an illustration of becoming obsessed with one issue to the exclusion of other issues. Some covering advocates see that as the all important issue that must be defended, but where has their voice been in opposition to those who teach that Jesus on earth was a man like every other man? In fact, I have not seen anything from you in regard to the false teaching that Jesus gave up his divinity when he came to earth and lived upon this earth like all other men. This 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.
AYou charge me with Aunbrotherly sumisings@ 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. Could it be that you feel that I am guilty of Aunbrotherly 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.
AWhen I say as kindly as I can what I think, you charge me with Aunbrotherly surmisings@ but you don=t see anything wrong with what you say that I object to. You seem to be the one who is right all of the time and others are wrong because they don=t agree with your say so.
ABrother Belknap, You write, AI do not know you Tom, but as the Bible teaches, there is potential for all of us to become >respectors of persons.= (If you doubt this, review James 2, which warns us all against it, as well as the numerous passages that point out that God is not a respector of persons.) It is obvious that family (those whom we are the closest to, on this earth) would head the list of those who are usually respected above others. Even if we have stood - and still >stand= in this area, we are well advised to >take heed lest (we-jhb) fall=.@ You should just be a man enough to say that I respect my brother (or brother-in-law) Harry Osborne above what is written (1 Cor. 4:6) for that is the clear implication of what you have said. Otherwise, your words have no meaning. I told you in a previous letter that I do not let either family or friends determine what I believe and preach. Your words are not very conciliatory. I would expect better of you but from what you say, maybe I don=t have that right.
AI have stated to you: (1) I believe that God=s law on marriage is: one man for one woman for life with one exception, that exception being if fornication is committed, the innocent of fornication has the right to put away the guilty fornicator and remarry; if the guilty fornicator remarries, they commit adultery@ and (2) I believe Jesus gave the innocent of fornication the right to put away their fornicating mate and to marry again per Mt. 19:9. Brother Belknap, what is there about those two statements that you do not understand? Do those statements contradict whatever your position is on the question?
AYou failed to tell me when I could come to
AI close waiting for you to (1) set the date for the meeting next spring, (2) accept my statements of what I believe on the marriage question, or (3) allow me to come up there and meet with the brethren and face to face answer their questions and study with you. Which will it be?
AAgain, brother Belknap, you do NOT have my permission to post this letter on you website unless you post it in its entirety, with no comments from you.
AP. S. I would appreciate it if you would share this letter as well as the previous letter with all the men of the congregation at Beckley.@
Belknap, in an E-mail to me on
(1) While you deny that I have answered your question, the above letters contain three different efforts to answer your question. You were not satisfied with my answer.
(2) You will observe that in these two letters I conclude them by saying, ABrother Belknap, you do NOT have my permission to post this letter on your web site unless you post it in its entirely, with no comments from you.@ However, you show your true colors when in violation of what I said in private correspondence to you, you quoted excerpts from my letters on your website in your article AThe MDR Creed.@ This shows that you are unethical, dishonest and cannot be trusted to deal with a brother fairly.
(3) You have violated my trust by posting on your web site that which you did not have my permission to do so. Now, I challenge you to publish this letter in its entirety which contains the two previous letters. Now we will see how honest you are.
You say on your web site concerning the first quotation from me that it was an Ae-mail letter addressed to Jeff Belknap@ on
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. Naturally, I was not surprised when you did. I have been around long enough to know how a
preacher can influence brethren to do what he wants them to do if he is not
honorable. I do not believe for one
moment that the brethren in
Brother Belknap, I wrote to you in good faith with the hope that we could communicate as brethren in Christ, trying to approach you according to the Golden Rule of Jesus in Matthew 7:12, treating you as I would want to be treated. My letters expressly stated you did not have my permission to post anything but my full and complete letter, without any comment from you. It was my hope that you would grant me the courtesy and fairness to post the entire letter so that your readers would have the full context of my letter.
Rather than comply with my request you ran roughshod over my express statement. Why did you brake my trust and violate the Golden Rule in this way? Why did you find it necessary to destroy my efforts to engage in good faith communications with you as brethren?. If we disagree does this demand that you treat me as a reprobate and an infidel unworthy of courtesy and fairness? 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 Adestroy at all costs@ regardless of the tactics.
need to wake up to the fact that you have become obsessed with certain
technicalities and minutiae related to divorce and remarriage. Paul warns against such in 1 Timothy 6:4 and
2 Timothy 2:23. Webster says the word Aobsess@ originated in
a Latin term which meant to Abesiege,@ and obsession meant Aoriginally, the act of an evil spirit in possessing or ruling a person.@ The dictionary
goes on to explain that being obsessed means a state of mind Abeing obsessed with an idea..@ In 1 Samuel the mind of King Saul was filled with an
evil spirit so that he was obsessed by the idea that David was his enemy. Actually, David was his friend and brother in
other brethren have called this obsession to your attention, but it seems you
only press on harder and harder as though possessed by a spirit of bitterness
and strife. Brother Weldon Warnock wrote a letter on
Belknap, as a brother I want to offer some friendly advice to you which I hope you will not reject. Your obsession has hurt the work and
reputation of the
have not written in an effort to bring harm, strife, and division into your
life as a Christian. This is an effort
to help you overcome the harm, strife, division you are generating in your own
life and in the lives of other brethren.
The sheer volume of writing and posting you do on this one topic, and
the unjust and unfair tactics you use, make it clear that you are truly
obsessed. Whether or not you realize it,
I am speaking as your friend and not your enemy in an attempt to open your
eyes. Paul asked in Galatians , AAm I become
your enemy, because I tell you the truth?@ If you persist in
this obsession, you will only further harm yourself, the brethren in
I give you permission to post this letter in its entirely on your web site. Of course, since you ran roughshod over my previous request, broke my trust, and violated the Golden Rule, perhaps you will only persist in the same conduct again. If that happens, I can only say it will further confirm your obsession. For your own spiritual health and for the good of our brethren , I hope and pray you somehow will break free of this obsession and begin to heal
Raymond E. Harris had an excellent article in the
The Hobby Riders -- Continue to Ride!
As far back as I can remember, there have always been hobby riders in the church. For any who might ask, AWhat is a hobby rider?@ The answer is this: AHobby Rider@ is a term used to describe a AOne Issue Preacher.@ In other words, he is a preacher who become so totally obsessed with a particular doctrine or problem, that he cannot preach, teach, or write about anything else. He becomes so preoccupied with some Adanger facing the church,@ that he neglects all other matters.
Through the years countless brethren have become consumed, controlled, and dominated in a crusade to slay one dragon or another, real or imagined! Even if the brother is right in his assessment of a false doctrine, his persistent and excessive attention to one issue will cause him to become ineffective in his work as an evangelist. Not only that, after awhile his incessant carping can cause people to Aturn him out,@ as they tire of his never ending and unrelenting preaching and writing on the one monumental concern!
Back through the years, some brethren plunged head long into a life time campaign regarding Athe clergy system,@ the Aone cup@ issue, or the Aanti-Bible class@ question. Others, portrayed a bulldog, snapping turtle mentality against Bible class literature, women teachers, or the ASunday School.@ Even when their concerns were justified, some neglected all else, committing themselves to exposing the evils of Masonry, Catholicism, and countless other Aisms.@
Today, we have some, very real, serious matters troubling
Brother Belknap, when you read this article you felt the pressure so much that you called complaining to brother Harris. He identified you so well without calling your name that you knew who was being described and so will others who read the article. By your complaints you admit to what he said. Thus, you should repent and pray God that you might be forgiven of your sin of hobby riding and causing strife and dissension within the body of Christ.