Response to Donnie Rader’s lecture In the FC Lectures – Bob Owen

February 8, 2001

My response today is to the manuscript of brother Rader’s lecture as it occurs in the Florida College series of 2001. Very possibly, I am making a mistake in responding. In the past I have ignored charges from pulpits and publications in order not to fuel the fires that stir ill will among brethren. Still having this feeling, I will not participate in an on-going fray over these matters. Please save your stamps and email time. I feel compelled, however, to respond to misrepresentations made here before people with whom I work and worship. They need to know these charges are false and misleading. Also, I wish to express my personal regrets that the college administration has allowed these charges to be published and distributed without my having equal opportunity to respond in the Florida College book.

On page 181 of the lecture book brother Rader attributes a view to me that I do not believe, have never believed, and certainly do not teach. He goes further and assigns a motive for my alleged teaching and it is false. I do not believe or teach that the message of Matthew 19 is unclear. I heard a lecture in 1996 in which it was said that the language of Matthew 19:9 might be ambiguous but rather than giving a more liberal interpretation of the passage as brother Rader has implied, the variant reading would actually prohibit divorce for any cause. I have never accepted that view. I believe and teach publicly what brother Rader preached today: the only basis for divorce and remarriage is fornication. Further, I believe God’s moral laws, including the divorce law, apply to all people.

On page 186 brother Rader says that I fellowship those who believe and teach error on divorce and remarriage and implies that I would do so under any and all circumstances. This is misleading. Like brother Rader, and I suspect like all in my hearing, I participate with brethren with whom I have some doctrinal disagreements. There are other brethren with whom I do not participate. Differing on the interpretation of a passage is not the only consideration. Does the association imply that I endorse a view I believe to be wrong? If so, I refuse the association. Does the association cause me to practice something I believe unlawful? If so, I refuse. Does the person who holds the differing view cause dissention and sow discord among brethren? If so, I refuse him.

Brethren, these matters call for more than a question of do we differ on an interpretation. I know for a fact that brother Rader associates closely and publicly with preaching brethren with whom he differs on some doctrinal matters – including some issues on divorce and remarriage. Labeling their difference as judgment does not keep it from being doctrinal. He has a perfect right to judge that the association does not compromise him and does not imply his endorsement of the other’s view. A local church has the right to make similar judgments. One congregation might deem a man desirable to hold a gospel meeting while another might feel this person is unsuited for them. This judgment decision is commonly practiced.

If bother Rader feels a person is unworthy of association but knows I associate with him, brother Rader has a perfect right to observe privately or publicly that he thinks my judgment is bad. However, I believe he is wrong in charging me with sin or claiming my doctrine is false because I do not accept his judgment. He makes his judgment the law of God. This is Phariseeism in full bloom.

Neither should the attack be based on someone’s supposition that my views will lead to some gross error. That is a supposition, not fact. Look at reality: my lessons on fellowship deal with issues such as the covering and the war question — not to divorce and remarriage. I have taught my views on fellowship for almost forty years. I know of no person and certainly of no congregation that has been influenced to a loose view on divorce and remarriage because of my influence and teaching. Because I have not made the same judgments as some have regarding a particular high profile case, it has been charged that I hold my views on fellowship in order to accept people in adulterous marriages. Nothing could be further from the truth .

In closing, let me observe not what might occur but what has occurred among brethren. I’m not speaking about what I think might happen – this has happened. Through suspicion and misrepresentations, a division has been precipated among honest, sincere brethren who believe the same things on divorce and remarriage, who preach the same thing on divorce and remarriage, and who practice the same thing on divorce and remarriage. I need not remind this audience of God’s attitude toward division and toward those who cause division. The same God who hates divorce considers division and the sowing of discord an abomination. I pray that each of us will investigate his own heart as well as his own doctrine. I am thankful that the ultimate judgment is in the hands of a God who judges righteously.