Found, the Replacement for Christianity Magazine?
The late Christianity Magazine is declared by many, including this writer, to be one of the most influential papers to promote doctrinal compromise within non-institutional churches of Christ during this decade. While the staff writers remained passive, Ed Harrell taught:
"Reality compels us to acknowledge that, to some degree, restoration has always taken place within a framework of unity in diversity. Included in the unity in diversity is the variety of views held on divorce" (Christianity Magazine, April, 1989). One main variety is, "Homer Hailey believes that those who are baptized into Christ may remain in their present marital state" (Christianity Magazine, November, 1988).
Christianity Magazine was a success in accomplishing it apparent design: doctrinal softness. After it ceased to exist, many wondered what paper would take its place and continue the movement that would, little by little, result in the changing of the very fiber and essential nature of the Lord’s church today. Various papers have emerged and some seemed to be the replacement, but they just did not have the momentum. Many now believe the replacement magazine is clearly visible. It is not a new publication, just the revamping of an old magazine, one that, in fact, had in the past had the outward appearance of standing for something. This substitute magazine is none other than Truth Magazine, a publication of the Guardian of Truth Foundation and having Mike Willis and Connie Adams as Editors, along with about thirty staff writers.
Anterior to Truth Magazine taking the unity-in-diversity torch for Christianity Magazine, there had to be some serious changes and not all of them cosmetic. A totally new look appeared with the first issue of Volume 51 of Truth Magazine. However, of greater significance was the change in policy. Editor Willis wrote:
"There are many papers which do not last fifty years and many of those which endure have changed their doctrinal stance to the point that they are nothing like the magazine which they initially were….We have reached the conclusion that most of the doctrinal issues facing brethren will be fought through the Internet rather than through the papers. We are adjusting our approach to reflect this conclusion. Generally only a small percentage of our readers are interested in the doctrinal conflicts occurring among us. Most brethren think these doctrinal exchanges are distractive. Some turn off the magazine because they view them as preachers’ fights…."
Christianity Magazine had the policy of not allowing challenge and controversy. In other words, they wanted to teach their doctrines without accountability and challenge. They also wanted to work under the guise of positivity. As it turned out, the allowance and tolerance of false teaching was promoted by introducing an aberrant brand of unity. Alas, Truth Magazine has now unquestionably taken up the banner introduced by Christianity Magazine.
One of the primary personalities that was used to advance unity-in-diversity in Christianity Magazine was Homer Hailey and his teaching that the alien sinner is not accountable to God’s marriage law. Mike Willis along with his false teaching of multiple causes for divorce is the impetus for much of the new mission of Truth Magazine.
Mike has boldly taught that there are various causes for divorce, other than fornication. Jesus said:
"32: But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery" (Matt. 5).
Regarding divorce and marriage to another, Jesus forcibly stated:
"9: And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery" (Matt. 19).
Moreover, Paul echoed Jesus’ teaching relative to the longevity of marriage when he stated:
"5: Defraud ye not one the other, except it be with consent for a time, that ye may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again, that Satan tempt you not for your incontinency" (I Cor. 7).
In an apparent attempt to dissuade divorce for a cause other than fornication, Jesus said that the one thus putting away, "…causeth her to commit adultery." Also, in an attempt to discourage such putting away, Paul wrote:
"10: And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: 11: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife" (I Cor. 7).
Editor Willis’ particular brand of false teaching pertaining to divorce is that there are a host of allowed causes. In a sermon outline repeatedly used by Mike Willis, he states about seven causes for divorce. Consider his teaching regarding cause three, five, and six:
"c. A person may be in a marriage relationship in which his mate runs up bills which he has no intention of paying. In this case, one's responsibility to God to pay one's bills would demand that he not be supportive of his mate's ungodly behavior (Rom. 13:8)."
The Christian is to pay his debts, but nowhere is it taught or intimated that such a failure allows divorce (cp. Rom. 13: 8).
Spiritual and emotional health are valuable; yet, the scriptures do not teach that divorce based on such is allowed. Yet, Editor Willis teaches cause number five is:
"e. There are some cases in which one must leave to have physical and emotional health. One's obligation to serve God would require him to preserve his physical and emotional well being."
Civil law has become so lenient that it allows divorce simply on grounds of "incompatibility," which can take in a number of things. Mike Willis’ reason for divorce number six is:
"f. Sometimes a couple becomes so alienated from each other, the hostilities have reached such a point, that they must live apart."
"Brother Martin, Mike does not teach marriage to another in such cases!" I personally do not know what Mike Willis teaches about marriage to another in such cases because he has refused to answer my questions as to his position on this (we are to be held accountable and provide an answer, cp. I Pet. 3: 15). I do know, however, that some with whom I have exchanged through the years who have been influenced by Mike’s teaching equivocate, to where marriage to another is allowed regarding many who initially divorce for a cause other than fornication.
Ron Halbrook, a board member of the Guardian of Truth Foundation and staff writer for Truth Magazine, has been laying the ground work, I believe, for some time for the stance and present teaching being articulated by Truth Magazine through Mike Willis. Ron has stated words to the effect:
"Brethren must agree on the principles taught by Jesus in Matthew 5: 32 and 19: 9, but these same honest men will often disagree when it comes to the application of these principles." Ron continues with his now infamous words, "We can agree in principle, but not agree in application and still maintain biblical fellowship!"
How can we, I ask, agree that the only cause for divorce is fornication and that to be able to marry another, one must divorce for fornication and then teach there are multiple acceptable causes for divorce, and, yet, agree on the principles? The application that allows divorce for some cause other than fornication and often allows the putting away mate to be able to marry another, as most, if not all, of these men teach, is false doctrine that promotes sin!
In 2005, Mike had a series of articles in Truth Magazine titled, "In Essentials, Unity." Just as his close friend Ron Halbrook has done, Mike elected a scriptural concept for his title and presented a lot of truth in the series (see addendum). However, along with this truth, Mike injected much error, error pertaining to divorce and marriage to another. Consider one of Mike’s statements:
"It is tragic that those who are agreed on all doctrinal aspects of divorce and remarriage may tend to draw lines of fellowship with each other because they disagree about a particular marriage case with particular circumstances relating to it (Truth Magazine, Vol. 49, No. 19).
Let us remove all the fluff from the above language. In actuality, here is a repeated and real scenario: John puts away Patty because he believes they have drifted apart and are no longer compatible and hostilities have become such that John believes they must sever their marital relationship (Mike’s reason number six). Fornication is not an issue and is not involved in the case. At this point, John has sinned by divorcing for a cause other than fornication (Matt. 5: 32). John is neglecting his marriage duties and vows (I Cor. 7: 3-10). Furthermore, most who hold the multiple causes for divorce doctrine believe that after Patty marries another, John can then "biblically put her away," based on actual fornication and be able to himself marry another. Notice the real application of Jesus’ stated principles: John sinned in divorcing Patty for a cause other than fornication; John neglected his marital duties; John caused Patty to sin when she married another; John created the circumstance that resulted in the one who married Patty committing fornication; John sinned when he married another; John also caused the one whom he married to enter the state of sin (Matt. 19: 19). Yet, we are expected to say, "We must allow such difference in application."
In order to call for the continued acceptance of Homer Hailey and his false teaching regarding marriage and divorce, Christianity Magazine fostered and promoted like no other, in this writer’s observation, doctrinal unity-in-diversity by abusing Paul’s teaching in Romans 14. Truth Magazine has taken up the cause and is in like manner calling for unity-in-diversity relative to marriage and divorce.
Some associated with Truth Magazine, such as Joe Price, a staff writer, even uses some of the same appeal as Ed Harrell, that appeal being Romans 14. Joe Price contended in the context of attempting to justify Mike Willis’ multiple causes for divorce doctrine as follows:
"Still, it must be acknowledged that brethren who are united on the aforementioned principle of truth (one man and one woman for life with one exception) conscientiously differ on some of the applications of that God-given pattern. Differences in application that do not violate the God-given pattern for marriage, divorce and remarriage should not be made tests of fellowship. That is the "forgotten side" of Romans 14. Will we have the abundant 'love', 'knowledge and all discernment' necessary to 'approve the things that are excellent' and to remain 'sincere and without offense till the day of Christ' as we address this subject (Phil. 1:9-10)? Or, will we disrupt unity with the stumbling block of binding personal conscience upon others? Romans 14 still has application today" (to read in full the exchange that I had with Joe Price, go to the Polemic Exchange section in Bible Truths, accessed from the Site Map page, and when there, click on, "An Exchange on Romans 14 and Divorce and Remarriage").
The Co-editors of Christianity Magazine were brought into a relationship of doctrinal compromise that revolved around Editor Ed Harrell. The Co-editor, Connie Adams, and the staff writers of Truth Magazine are similarly forced into doctrinal compromise as a result of Editor, Mike Willis. While the particular and focus in both cases is marriage, divorce, and marriage to another, their brand of unity-in-diversity cannot be restricted and is potentially inclusive of many other doctrinal aberrations. If not, why not?
Is Truth Magazine the replacement for Christianity Magazine? At this time, all the indications are, yes, the new remodeled Truth Magazine with its rallying call, "We can agree in principle while differing in application" is the tool the devil will use to carry forth his movement among non-institutional churches of Christ, an influence, if allowed to go unchecked, that will result in the destruction and total lose of the identity of Jesus’ church today. (Related reading would be: "MDR and the 1990 Guardian of Truth")
Addendum: In an effort to justify the Guardian of Truth Foundation engaging in the organized and corporate overt preaching of the gospel in their so called "lectureships," thus doing the work God as assigned to his collectivity, the local church, Ron Halbrook wrote an article titled, "Let The Church Be The Church" (Gospel Truths, September 24, 2004). The grotesque thing about Ron’s article is how he set forth many truths about the local church, its nature and work and did so in a twisted and concerted effort to justify the Guardian of Truth Foundation with its board of directors, treasury, and foundation structure providing a means for Christians to corporately preach the gospel (see I Tim. 3: 15).