Reviewing Lewis G. Hale Except for Fornication (2)
Ronald D. Hooves
A Questionable Power
Our intrepid author decided to end his scholarly section of the book with an emotional appeal.
It is also true that if once put away he can never remarry, the wife has the power to restore his home with her or put him away and thus deny him the right to ever be married again. Would you care to have such power? If you had it would you dare exercise it? Remember, even if you should die, his sentence of celibacy continues until his death!(1)
Apparently Hale is trying to frighten us off firm ground with scare tactics. Brethren, I do not shed tears when the murderer is executed, the rapist locked up, and the thief put behind bars. Law, civil or spiritual, is a product of the divine right to rule and to enforce penalties. Without laws and without penalties for those laws, we would be an anarchical society.
We never rejoice at the unfortunate circumstances of others, but neither can we afford to shed crocodile tears when justice is meted out. That God gives the innocent party of Matthew 19 this prerogative is sensible, just and a fitting deterrent for a most heinous crime. Let us hold up the hands of those who must make these decisions and not brow beat them into distraction with our misplaced emotions.
Grammar, Grammar, Grammar
Pages 32 through 44 of our subject text deal with ten common objections to Brother Hales thesis. I have chosen to deal with objection number 4 which I find the most objectionable of all. In four pages Brother Hale seeks to prove his point by using the grammatical argument. Several years ago when I held Brother Hales position, this is what had convinced me. Someone said "Why the grammar proves it," and whipped out a sentence diagram showing the "except for fornication" phrase modifying the second clause in the compound sentence of Matthew 19:9. In other words, "Whosoever marries a woman who has been put away commits adultery, unless she was put away for fornication, and then its okay." This is where Brother Hale should have pitched his tent to begin with. If that is what the scripture says then that is what the true believer will hold fast to. It matters not if the implications of the position demand that the whole civilization comes tumbling down around our ears. "What does the scripture say?"
Some General Objections
Brother Hale makes an argument that smacks of intellectualism. How many times have I heard a Christian Church preacher say, "Well, if you non-instrumentalists knew the Greek, you would admit that we're right." I distrust anyone who cannot find their position in the English Bible. One of my all time favorite quotes is from Brother Edgar Srygley who says he is often asked if you have to know Greek to go to heaven!
My second general objection is that Brother Hale again finds himself in the same old quandry of having to quote himself as an authority. He comments,
Firm Foundation (Fib. 20, 1973, p. 921) carried a diagram of Matthew 5:32, diagrammed by a Greek teacher in one of our Christian colleges. It did not carry the Greek words, so they have been supplied . . . . while I do not believe the diagram is strictly correct (emp. mine - rdh) I would like to use it, but, with one addition. Please note apart from a matter of fornication on the dotted lines. This indicates it as being understood.(2)
He does not believe it is strictly correct, but offers us no scholastic credentials to challenge those of the Greek teacher. Not only that, but our intrepid brother puts himself up against 500 years of English Bible translations when he says "excuse me while I insert this little phrase down here" (paraphrase mine - rdh). At this point, I am inclined to say, "I don't care that you don't believe it is correct Brother Hale. That is not the issue. What can you prove?"
In another of his amazing attempts to enlist support for his views, he resorts to Dean Alford again. Again, he winds up having to admit
the witness is unfriendly to the position herein advocated.(3)
Even a casual observer would cross his eyes at this juncture and ask, "Why use a man as an authority when he doesn't agree with you?" Alford knew the grammar backwards and forwards which is evident from Hale's respect for him, and yet Alford did not believe the scripture taught what Hale says it does.
But now, what about grammatical argument, or logical implication, or that inserted, understood phrase? Does it really belong. there in the second clause? Several universities have been polled on this question and here is a sampling of their replies to our question, "Gramatically speaking, does the phrase except for fornication modify the clause in the compound sentence in Mt. 19:9?
Texas Tech: "From a strictly grammatical standpoint the phrase except for fornication modifies whosoever shall put away his wife."
University of Georgia: "The phrase except for fornication should not be read into the second clause."
University of Wisconsin: "No, it is not possible for the except to modify both clauses."
This is just a drop in the bucket sampling of the overwhelming grammatical evidence against Brother Hale's position. Our young adult class here at St. Paul, polled 35 state universities on this question. The results are overwhelming. Simply put, the verse does not say what Brother Hale wants it to say. It does not say it. It does not mean it. It does not imply it. It does not teach it.
I hope for this article a wide circulation among those of my brethren whose lives have been touched by this false doctrine. It must be met and defeated, we must speak out, as truth cannot defend itself. My personal thanks to Cecil Willis and Glenn Burt who paddled my britches on this topic four years ago.
1. Op. Cit., Lewis G. Hale, p. 30.
2. Ibid, p. 36.
3. Ibid, p. 39 (see also Greek Testament, Vol. 1, Henry Alford,) (Chicago, 1958), p. 194.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 49, pp. 792-793