Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 1, 1962
NUMBER 38, PAGE 6,15b

News And Views

Charles A. Holt, 4662 University, Wichita Falls, Texas

"A Word Of Caution"

Several weeks ago, there appeared in this paper an article from me under the above heading. The article has provoked considerable response. A number of people have taken the time to write commending the point that I was seeking to make; but there were some others who became indignant and greatly disturbed by what they THOUGHT I said. Three or four of these have felt called upon to "answer" the remarks I made about divorce and remarriage. The sad part is that not a single one of the critics who have talked to me, written me and whose "reviews" I have seen or heard about, has dealt with the real issue. They missed my point entirely or else I failed to make myself clear — and this explanation may well be the answer. There has been attributed to me almost every position imaginable on the question, and "replies" to these "straw men" have been forthcoming. Evidently some "read into" my article — between the lines, I suppose, what they thought I meant. They jumped to some erroneous conclusions (and some of us are expert "conclusion jumpers") and attempted to deal with some imaginary position rather than with the real point under consideration. One man says that my article was one of "censure" and not one of "caution." That there was an element of censure in it I do not deny. This same brother attributes to me the following position, which he spent several pages dealing with: "A man can put away his lawful (in God's sight) wife for some cause other than fornication, marry another woman, cohabit with her, and AFTER baptism continue the same act (cohabitation with woman number two) with impunity." If I advanced such a position as that I was wholly unconscious of it and I know that I did not intend to do so. Go back and read what I said again and see if there was any such position as that advocated or even defended. Perhaps my writings are not always clear and I realize my limitations along this line better than anyone else, but surely I did not advance such an idea. Maybe I did leave the wrong impression in my article by failing to make myself perfectly clean. If so, I certainly am sorry. However, I am afraid that there are too many "trigger-happy" brethren among us — who still try to stand firmly for the truth — who are much too anxious to pounce on any brother who fails to parrot "our" traditional or generally accepted view of some question (such as I discussed in the article) or who dares to question some position about which they are so absolutely sure and certain they have reached perfection in understanding. There is a real danger that we can become factious, and too hastily draw lines and measure soundness on the ground that some brother fails to accept and act upon my view of such a question as now discussed.

Relative to this matter, some brethren have impugned my motives and their wrath I am likely to feel one way or the other. One brother, for whom I have much respect, wrote an article in his bulletin in reply to my article. He ASSUMES that "There's a ______ in the woodpile somewhere," and "That something is rotten in Denmark." Just think of what those two statements imply. This, and other implications of like nature in his article, are personal reflections upon me and leave the wrong impression completely. Even if true, such would have nothing to do with what is true and right in the case. It is, however, this type of personal recrimination and attack ("skunk and buzzard" type of debating, preaching and writing, as one preacher described it) that makes any kind of objective and honorable discussion so difficult; and which leads to bitterness, strife and division.

If these few misunderstood my writings so badly and gathered such erroneous notions therefrom, then perhaps a further word of explanation and clarification, if indeed I can ever explain or clarify it for those who have so positively made up their minds relative to what they THINK I said, is in order. To that end I strive now. I shall NOT try now to clarify or elaborate upon the point and purpose of the article, which is surely needed and deserved, but shall deal only with the point I raised concerning divorce and remarriage.

Actually in my article I did not take any position at all. I merely questioned the matter of whether we can be so absolutely certain about a conclusion drawn, and especially the necessary consequences thereof, that some apparently would force on others. Let it be clearly understood that I recognize that God's law governing marriage applies to all alike, saint or sinner. I have always repudiated and opposed the false theory that the alien sinner is not amenable to the law of God. It is not a question with me of what baptism does or does not do as it relates to this matter. Marriage is not a church ordinance. I do not intend to apologize for nor defend in any way the sins of adultery or fornication. I affirm as strongly as anyone that all who die guilty of such sins will be lost forever; and I condemn such sins as positively and plainly as I know how. Certainly I do not desire to make the church a haven for adulterers and adulteresses.

Moreover, let it be understood that I believe what Jesus taught in Matthew 5:32 and Matthew 19:9: "Whosoever shall put away his wife....and shall marry another, COMMITTETH adultery...." This statement of Jesus is too clear and positive to admit of any doubt. Anytime a man puts away his wife for any other cause than adultery and marries another, he "COMMITTETH adultery." The Lord SAID this, in "plain English," and I believe it. For this point we have a clear, positive "black and white" statement. There is no difficulty nor problem at all to this point; and the reason is that for this we have a "thus saith the Lord." So there is perfect unity.

The only problem, and the point I QUESTIONED in my article is this: What of one who did put away his (or her) companion for some other cause than adultery and has remarried. What MUST this party do in order to be forgiven of the SIN COMMITTED and finally go to heaven? Right here is where some step in with ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY and give their conclusion or deduction: "He MUST separate from his present companion and either go back to the first woman or else remain single the rest of his life!" Thus the verdict is rendered as though it is PLAINLY stated in the law of the Lord; even as if this decision had been handed down by the Lord in those very words. With some it is as "plain as day" and "right there in black and white."

It must be admitted by all who are honest and who think, that neither Jesus, nor any inspired man, handed down such a verdict or stated such a conclusion. The decision is not there in those words or any others of the same import. We must all admit that this is an INFERENCE, CONCLUSION or DEDUCTION reached by US on the basis of what is said! That there is reason and evidence for such a conclusion I freely and readily admit — and have never denied! Furthermore, such an INFERENCE appears to be justified and even SEEMINGLY necessary, but is it really an ABSOLUTE NECESSARY, sure and certain, inference or conclusion? If we had never heard the view under question advocated, and thus eliminate the possibility of trying to read into the passage justification for this conclusion — could study the question without bias and wholly objectively, is it possible that we might fail in reaching such a conclusion — especially of such certainty? This is the ONLY thing that I have questioned and the point that none of my critics have dealt with. Frankly, I acknowledge that I have some doubt that the conclusion is so obvious and certain; especially to the point that some brethren apparently advocate in that we need to begin a survey of the members, examine their marriages and certainly their divorces, and FORCE all those judged to be "living in adultery" to accept and act upon — "separate from the present companion and either go back to number one or live single the rest of their life" — our deduction and conclusion or else withdraw from them. It was at this point alone that I urged a word of caution. If this makes me a "softie" and afraid to preach "all the truth;" proves that "there is a ______ in the woodpile;" and shows that I do not believe what Jesus "said" in "plain English," then I will just have to own up to it. I just do not believe that the inference is that absolute, clear and positive, so as to demand making this point into an "issue" in the church; pressing and forcing the conclusion and its necessary consequences (and how many really seek to carry out the consequences — withdrawing from any and all those "living in adultery?") upon the members of the church; making the point a test of fellowship and a mark of soundness! I do confess that I am not THAT CERTAIN of the conclusion or verdict.

There is no doubt that people who are involved in the situation under discussion have a real problem — of much greater significance than most of us who have never been in it can possibly realize, and their happiness here and hereafter may well depend upon how it is settled. Surely they sinned when they entered into a second marriage, but having done so, how to correct the situation is NOT, in my opinion, nearly as clear and positive as some others seem to think it is. Let us teach the truth — the whole truth — on marriage, divorce and remarriage; let us teach it positively to young and old and do all we can to keep people out of such difficulties; but let us also be certain that we have not run past the requirements of Divine law and seek to impose our own law upon such people. Without clearer and more certain evidence, I can not (and I speak for myself alone) demand of such people that they accept and act upon MY deduction and conclusion in order to have fellowship in the congregation or be recognized as faithful Christians. I can and will tell them what I THINK and what SEEMS to me to be the right thing, but that is as far as I am willing to go and cannot make their acceptance of and action regarding it a test of fellowship. As I pointed out in my former article, after all is said and done it is still a matter for INDIVIDUAL application; and when they will confess that they sinned when they "marry another," then what they do about the second relationship must be settled by the couple themselves.

I ask my critics to be patient with me. Perhaps EVIDENCE can be presented to prove such a deduction to be absolutely justified and necessary, but as yet I have not seen such. I shall gladly consider anything presented on this point. However, let me ask that all efforts be directed toward the point in question. Villification of and personal attacks upon me and my motives will not prove the point. Some good articles, without reference to persons, objectively written would certainly be of value in a serious study of this matter.