A Reply To Earl Kimbrough

Donnie V. Rader

The reference I make in my printed lecture to Earl Kimbrough was,

When a man teaches that one who has no right to remarry can remarry, his teaching leads his hearer to commit adultery. Most agree that we can’t fellowship the man who is in adultery. However, we are told we can fellowship the man who teaches him that it is scriptural (See: Harrell, Homer Hailey 6; Bounds ; Owen, Dawson, Kimbrough).

I referred to brother Kimbrough’s booklet, How Shall We Treat Brethren With Whom We Disagree? , primarily because of Bob Owen’s recommendation of it in the two sermons that were cited in the lecture. Those sermons have been well circulated.

Did Brother Hailey Teach that it was Scriptural to Fellowship a Man Who Lives in Adultery?

Brother Kimbrough says,

Furthermore, I do not believe that Brother Hailey ever taught that it is Scriptural to fellowship a man who lives in adultery. I have heard Brother Hailey preach on adultery and his denunciation of the sin is as plain as anyone can make it. If a person wants to take issue with the fallacy of his reasoning about the question, that is right, but to accuse him of teaching that we can fellowship one living in adultery is manifestly false. He did not believe it! He did not teach it! He abhorred adultery as much as Brother Rader does.

I never said that brother Hailey "taught that it is Scriptural to fellowship a man who lives in adultery." Don’t forget that brother Kimbrough chides me (in his second paragraph) for providing neither quotation nor reference. No one ever questioned whether brother Homer Hailey abhorred adultery. The point has been that his teaching (and others who teach the same) says that aliens, who divorce for causes other than fornication, are scriptural in their remarriage. Thus, his doctrine told people who are living in adultery that it is scriptural.

Does brother Kimbrough believe that brother Hailey abhorred the adultery of the guilty fornicator remarried before baptism as much as he does? Personally, I abhor that form of adultery which brother Hailey condoned as much as the form where a married man is cheating on his spouse. Does brother Kimbrough believe that brother Hailey abhorred the adultery of the one divorced and remarried without scriptural cause before baptism as much as he does? I also abhor that form of adultery which brother Hailey condoned as much as the form where a married woman commits adultery with her boss. The differences between the teaching of brother Hailey and myself was not merely a theoretical difference which led to no sin when put into practice. The difference is that brother Hailey’s teaching encouraged people to remain in adulterous unions while I teach them to cease the sinful relationship. One whose teaching has the effect of encouraging the continuance of adultery may state a hatred of adultery and sincerely believe that he opposes adultery, but his actions aid in the increased practice of adultery. It is a sad fact that many thought so highly of a man that they negated the effect of that which was written by justifying continued fellowship with him rather than obeying the Bible commands in such a case (1 Cor. 4:6; 2 Jn. 9-11; Rom. 16:17).

Now, does brother Kimbrough believe that we can fellowship men who teach what brother Hailey taught in his book? If so, that’s the point I made in the paragraph which cited brother Kimbrough’s name.

Historical View or His Own Position?

Brother Kimbrough’s reply says that his booklet was a "historical review". No one who reads his booklet would deny that. However, he did state his own position. In his conclusion (p. 11) he says, "But there are some things, in my opinion, that should be kept in mind." He then list ten points to his conclusion. Here are four of them:

2. No Christian, preacher, religious journal, or institution operated by Christians has a Scriptural right to state the "official" position of the churches of Christ on this or any subject. Nor do they have a Scriptural right to demand that any who hold variant views remain silent on the matter or be publicly branded as false teachers by them (p. 11).

5. If the issue continues to be pushed on an "us" and "them" basis, and with the attitude that "we" alone have the right to speak and all of "them"must be silent or be branded as heretics, then a rupture of fellowship is inevitable. And the "fault lines" might run in as many directions as a seismographic map of California. In fact, a fissure may very well run beneath some of our own houses (p. 11).

7. The raising of the issue to an "us" and "them" level necessarily results in a partisan alignment that tends to honor and uphold learned brethren on "our" side and to dishonor and discredit those on "their" side, when all of them have feet of clay (1 John 1:8) (p. 12).

9. If brethren can be silenced from expressing the conclusions of their honest study on this matter [divorce and remarriage – DVR], unless they happen to agree with the "prevailing view," or what some think the prevailing view should be, then brethren can be silenced on every question of Christian behavior over which brethren differ as a matter of faith. How does that differ from having a human creed, except that it is written in religious journals and proclaimed from pulpits by leading evangelists instead of being written in a creed book?

Are sound brethren not to "silence" those who promote error? The Bible teaches that those teaching error are to be silenced by those upholding truth (Titus 1:10-11; 1 Pet. 2:15).


Consider the charges that brother Kimbrough levels at me and some others. (1) He refers to us as "the council of brotherhood correctness." (2) He refers to us as "the Great Sanhedrin." (3) He charges that some of us with trying to "direct the brotherhood without sufficient Scriptural tools to effect the direction." (4) His last paragraph in essence calls me one of the "liars" of Revelation 21:8. (5) He cast doubt on some who would read or hear the lecture as being "unthinking brethren" who will take what is said regardless of the facts in the matter. Quite frankly, I give my brethren more credit than to consider them as "unthinking" folks who swallow anything they hear.

I wonder if brother Kimbrough’s fourth conclusion in his booklet would fit here. He said,

4. Even when we are sure we are right on the subject, a little humility and a touch of mercy in dealing with those with whom we disagree would not be out of place (Matt. 5:6,7) (p. 11).

Again, I wonder if I had made those kind of statements about Earl Kimbrough would Colly have allowed it without comment and announce that I had it to distribute?

See brother Kimbrough’s bulletin article:Dealing With Marriage And Divorce