Donnie Rader, in the Florida College Annual Lectures for 2001, addresses the teaching of Matthew on divorce and remarriage. In the course of the lecture, he mentions my name, along with Ed Harrell, Bob Owen, and others, in a less than favorable light. For my part, I am somewhat like the man Abraham Lincoln told about who was tarred, feathered, and ridden out of town on a rail. The man said, "If it wasn’t for the honor of the thing, I had just as soon walk." Being named along with such men as Harrell and Owen, I feel about like the little ant that crossed an old wooden bridge, with an elephant. As they completed the journey, he said, "Boy, we sure made that thing rattle."
Now I don’t mind the Brother Rader’s rattling. That’s come to be expected from the council of brotherhood correctness. But I take issue with his assertion, wherein my name is mentioned. He says: "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; Owen; Dawson; Kimbrough.)" (Jesus for the New Millennium , 186.)
It will be noticed that he gives neither quotation nor reference from the work to which the footnotes indicate that he is referring. Why not? If I told that, why not give the quotation, or at least tell where it is found? The reason is obvious. It would interfere with the impression he wants to leave, namely, that I have told people it is Scriptural to fellowship a man who teaches that it is Scriptural to fellowship one who lives in adultery. It is easier to make an accusation by an unsubstantiated assertion than to provide the proof for it. It has the same results with unthinking brethren who will take what the Great Sanhedrin says regardless of the facts in the matter.
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.
Brethren Harrell, Owen, and others may have said enough to make our critic gnash his teeth, but I hardly see why I ought to be brought into this thing with what little I have done. In 1993, I wrote a historical review of the attitude brethren had in the past regarding those who held views considered by other Christians to be erroneous. I said, "Honest and studious brethren have differed over the question of the remarriage of divorced Christians for many years without it becoming a fellowship issue up until the present time." This is historically true , whether it is right or wrong. This fact effectively took away the claim some were making that brethren mainly had been in agreement on the issue. It also crippled the late blooming crusade to brand Homer Hailey as a false teacher with the sanction of "past practice." Of course, past practice does not justify action, then or now, but it can be a powerful tool for those who want to direct the brotherhood without sufficient Scriptural tools to effect the direction.
If Brother Rader gave as much attention to the Lord’s teaching about liars (Revelation 21:8) as he does to marriage and divorce, he might be less inclined to distort what others say in order to show himself to be "sound" in the faith.
(Copies of How To Treat Brethren With Whom We Disagree are available free.)