What About Divorce?

Divorce is a hot button issue among Christians today. It seems to have been a pressing issue in Christ’s day as well. Needless to say, divorce involves a wide range of opinions and engenders serious disagreements. Some state that the Bible teaches no divorce for any reason for any Christian ever. Others consider divorce an unfortunate, but unavoidable fact of life that should cause no undue concern for the people of God.

In truth, the Bible teaches neither of these positions. Let us examine one of the most extensive passages on this difficult subject, namely 1 Corinthians 7:10-16.

Divorce Among Believers

The passage opens with the words, “now to the married.” The Apostle Paul directs his attention to married members of the church in answer to their questions about divorce. This follows instructions already given to singles asking if it is OK to remain single (1 Cor. 7:1), married church members about the propriety of celibacy within marriage (1 Cor. 7:2-7), followed by questions from Widows and Widowers regarding remarriage after the death of a spouse (1 Cor. 7:8,9). Now Paul returns to married believers to field their questions about divorce.

It is important to understand exactly who is giving the first set of instructions that Paul characterizes as from “not I, but the Lord.” This is his way of reiterating the previous teaching of Christ. What did Jesus teach when He was upon the earth? He declared that there should be no divorce among believers unless the marriage bond has been broken by adultery. God established marriage to be permanent, and divorce followed by remarriage is adultery. The only exception is if adultery has already broken the marriage. In that case, the innocent party is permitted to divorce and is free to remarry without sanction. This teaching is clear enough as far as it goes (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9). 

Paul agrees with Christ, which is exactly what we would expect. Believers should not divorce. If a separation or divorce occurs, there are only two options. The Christian may either remain unmarried, or else be reconciled within the original marriage. This is the teaching of Jesus and it is also the teaching of Paul, an Apostle of Christ. It is noteworthy that Paul gives the same rights and responsibilities to wives as well as husbands. There is no inequality between the sexes in his teaching.

Divorce Within Mixed Marriages

In verses 12-16, Paul addresses another category with the words, “but to the rest.” He now answers the Corinthians’ questions regarding mixed marriages, where one is a believer and the other is not.

There were probably many such marriages in the church of Corinth—people who were both pagans when they married, but now one has been converted. This is a situation which has not yet been addressed. The words of Jesus applied to two believers, not mixed marriages, as there were very few mixed marriages among the Jews of that day.

But we are also puzzled by Paul’s statement, “I say, not the Lord.” Are these words not inspired? Are they contrary to something taught by Christ? No, Paul is very aware that he is an inspired Apostle, but this phrase alerts us that the following instructions constitute additional revelation not addressed by Christ. Jesus previously gave no command regarding mixed marriages, but now He does through Paul. Both sets of instructions are inspired. The first were spoken by Jesus on Earth, and the second are delivered by Christ from Heaven through the pen of the Apostle Paul.

And what are these instructions? Let’s take the first question. May the believer in a mixed marriage initiate divorce? Answer, No (1 Cor. 7:12, 13). Mixed marriages, though not ideal, are lawful marriages, and Christians have no right to dissolve them. If the unbeliever is willing to remain, the marriage should continue.

Is the believer defiled by the unbeliever? Answer, No (1 Cor. 7:14). A Christian is not rendered unholy by an unbelieving spouse. In fact, the opposite is true. The unbeliever is sanctified by the believer. “Sanctified” in this context means set apart for God’s purposes, not rendered holy in the sense of cleansing from sin. An unbelieving husband in the home provides protection, provision, and stability for the benefit of the believing wife. God blesses the unbeliever to provide benefits for His own dear child. Furthermore, the unbeliever himself receives divine blessings for the sake of the believer, including the possibility of converting grace.

But what if the unbeliever initiates divorce (1 Cor. 7:15)? If the unbeliever is not willing to maintain the marriage, the believer must allow him to depart. Not may, but must. This is a command, and in this situation, the believer is “not under bondage in such cases.” He is free to remarry, a totally different situation than when two believers divorce and are commanded to remain single or be reconciled. No permission to remarry is granted in the case of two believers who divorce for reasons other than adultery, but within mixed marriages, if the unbeliever departs, the believer is free.

This constitutes the second allowable reason for divorce followed by remarriage. The first is adultery, and the second is desertion, but only when a believer is deserted by an unbeliever.

But please note that divorce is permissible, not required. It is always possible that the testimony of the believer may be powerfully used by God to convert the unbeliever. (1 Cor. 7:16). There is always reason for hope, and therefore, the believer is encouraged by stay engaged with the unbeliever as long as possible. But if the unbeliever insists on divorce, let him go for the sake of peace and as a testimony to the world that Christians are not rancorous and unreasonable. After all, when two pagans marry, and one is converted, the unbeliever finds himself in an entirely different situation than the one he joined in marriage. Hopefully, he will be content to remain. If not, recognize how the altered circumstances probably look like injustice to him, and let him depart in peace.

Additional Questions

Are remarried divorcees living in adultery? Answer, No. If the divorce was not sanctioned by Jesus or Paul, the remarriage after divorce constitutes an act of adultery. Jesus said so. But the act of adultery breaks the marriage bond. Once broken, the bond is broken. Such persons are not living in adultery. They committed adultery, but are not living in adultery. Remarriage broke the previous bond and dissolved the former marriage relationship.

What can I do now about a previous unbiblical divorce? It is impossible to unscramble an egg. Acknowledge your divorce and remarriage as sin. Confess your sins and receive Christ’s forgiveness. Make your present marriage a model of Christian love.

Conclusion

Divorce is a serious matter, and it is always grievous. There is no such thing as an inconsequential divorce. Divorce should never be undertaken lightly, which is why the Bible issues strong restraints against it.

However, in recognition of the broken world in which we live, God graciously allows divorce and remarriage in certain situations. What the Bible allows must be acknowledged and received by the people of God. May God’s Spirit do such a mighty work among His people that divorce becomes uncommon. May God’s Spirit also so work among His people that those who have experienced the grief of divorce will always know the love and encouragement of their fellow believers in Christ.

Greg Barkman 2018 bio


G. N. Barkman received his BA and MA from BJU and later founded Beacon Baptist Church in Burlington, NC where has pastored since 1973. In addition, Pastor Barkman airs the Beacon Broadcast on twenty radio stations. He and his wife, Marti, have been blessed with four daughters and are expecting their ninth grandchild.

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TylerR's picture

There's so much common sense in this article, my head might explode ...

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

One category that seems to be growing, or at least being observed more, is the person divorcing their spouse who does not respond to church rebuke and discipline--do we then assume that person is an unbeliever (and let him or her know that) and let them go?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

kirkedoyle's picture

One area I'd like to see expanded on is how we define an "unbeliever" in the second section.  If someone claims to be a believer despite no substantial fruit in their life, and they divorce their believer spouse, what should be used to determine whether the divorced spouse is free to remarry?  I'm convinced that God gives us some clear examples of how we can differentiate believers from non-believers, but we open ourselves up to a bit of a judgment call which can be influenced by our emotions.  There is no way to be certain, but they must be free to make the best decision possible about their former spouse with much prayer and guidance.

ScottS's picture

First, it would appear that Jesus's "adultery" exception in divorce itself comes from a hardness of heart in Israel's failure to follow the Law. By Law, one's spouse should have been put to death for adultery (Lev 20:10, Dt 22:22), and that death would have severed the relationship of marriage, freeing the other spouse to remarry. This possibility of a death sentence extended even before the actual marriage, during the betrothal stage, if fornication happened near a populated area and it was deemed to be fornication and not rape because the woman did not cry out (Dt 22:23-24). So someone choosing to divorce on grounds of adultery during the time Jesus was speaking was not following the Law.

This would still imply that believers today may, if they choose, get a divorce on those grounds. In short, when adultery is committed, man does effectively separate "what God has joined together" (Mt 19:6).

Second, regarding "mixed marriages," the change in believers lives that occurs, the death to sin (Rom 6:2), appears to constitute the grounds for a possible divorce if the unbelievers desire it. The new union with Christ takes precedence over the union in the prior marriage; but as I think is correctly noted, it is up to the unbeliever to determine if that is unacceptable or not to remain in that now mixed marriage.

Third, marriages of unbelievers was not covered. But the primary principle of marriage is universal, that God does the joining in that marriage (Mt 19:3-6, quoting Gen 2:24). So while unbelievers will do what they will do regardless of what God's word says, Christians ought not to ever counsel unbelievers to get divorces, except in the case of adultery. And should a divorce occur for other reasons, Christians ought not counsel unbelievers to re-marry, as that is still counseling for them to commit the act of adultery (and I agree that it is the remarriage that is a one time act of adultery, not that they continue to live in adultery: they become adulterers and adulteresses by such an act, but they are not perpetually committing adultery by remaining in the new marriage).

 

Scott Smith, Ph.D.

The goal now, the destiny to come, holiness like God—
Gen 1:27, Lev 19:2, 1 Pet 1:15-16

TylerR's picture

The "unpardonable sin" among many folks from the evangelical-fundamentalist tradition ... Even murder can be forgiven and moved past. Not divorce!

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

Bert Perry's picture

Scott, appreciate the reality that death was the penalty for adultery or fornication.  Do you suppose "hardness of heart" includes the case of "evidence is compatible with adultery or fornication, but not enough to prove in court"?  

Along those lines, the reason I asked about refusal to work with church discipline is that very often, when I see "divorce for less than Biblical grounds", there are Biblical grounds not too long after the divorce--i.e. someone moves on.  I would suspect that many spouses confronted with evidence of other sin by church leadership might choose to just move on rather than repenting of sins like spousal abuse.  In other words, absent the blessed occurrence of repentance, a lot of people caught in sin are going to make the decision precisely according to 1 Cor. 7's "let the unbeliever leave" case.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Thank you for another perspective on not only Divorce (the title of your post), but Remarriage (a different topic).

I have done enough personal research into this to have concluded this: no one can claim he has the answer to every scenario involving divorce and remarriage. God left the matter sufficiently ambiguous that any number of conclusions can be made and we would be wrong to be dogmatic on the matter. We must be willing to love others in every case, stand on the truth where it is clear, and be willing to accept other opinions in the unclear.

Just one example where you made a statement based on inference (there are others):

G. N. Barkman wrote:

He declared that there should be no divorce among believers unless the marriage bond has been broken by adultery. God established marriage to be permanent, and divorce followed by remarriage is adultery. The only exception is if adultery has already broken the marriage. In that case, the innocent party is permitted to divorce and is free to remarry without sanction. This teaching is clear enough as far as it goes (Matthew 5:31-32, 19:3-9).

The only exception for divorce is adultery (that question is also very reasonably up for debate), but where did the "free to remarry without sanction" come from?

 

Here are just a handful of the wide variety of scenarios; I'm sure many of you are convinced you have the scripturally-provable dogmatically accurate answer. I would argue some of these cannot be proven and are reasonably open to debate.

2 Saved Partners
No "porneia" > partner 1 divorces partner 2; partner 2 did not want or seek a divorce. Clearly partner 1 is in sin and partner 2 is not. But can partner 2 then marry someone else?
"Porneia" involved by partner 1. Partner 2 initiates a divorce, claiming Matthew 19:9. Clearly partner 1 is in sin and, according to that Matthew 19:9 interpretation and application, partner 2 is free to divorce. Can partner 2 remarry?
Partner 1 physically abuses partner 2. Is divorce allowed? Is remarriage allowed by either person? Differing opinions abound.

1 Saved Partner
Unsaved partner divorces saved partner. According to Corinthians, saved partner committed no sin in this scenario. Can the saved person then marry someone else? (Just what, exactly, does "not bound" really mean?)
Unsaved partner commits "porneia" > saved partner initiates divorce. Can the saved person then marry someone else?

How about this one:
Two unsaved people are already married. They divorce. One of them gets saved. Can that new Christian then marry someone else?

 

My opinion: God hates divorce. He permitted it in the OT due to the hardness of Israel's hearts. Would I want to council someone to follow that pattern? If a Christian is walking in the Spirit, I would never say "you are free to pursue a divorce" - because I would assume their hearts are not hardened. One Flesh being broken apart always will cause damage. Always. God's grace is sufficient for every need and in every circumstance.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

dmyers's picture

"What can I do now about a previous unbiblical divorce? It is impossible to unscramble an egg. Acknowledge your divorce and remarriage as sin. Confess your sins and receive Christ’s forgiveness."

As an unwilling divorcee, this strikes me as pretty limp.  Perhaps I'm misunderstanding, but this sounds like a private acknowledgment and confession of sin.  Given the very public nature of divorce and its very wide-ranging (negative) effects, there should be repeated public and private apologies until, as much as possible, all affected by the sinful divorce have been made aware of the initiator's repentance -- including apologies to the wrongly divorced spouse, the children, the in-laws, the local church, friends of the wronged spouse, Facebook friends, and so forth.  If the wrongdoer is truly repentant, they should be eager to make these attempted amends.  If they balk, I'd doubt the repentance.

Bert Perry's picture

One thing we need to keep in mind is that in a great portion of divorces, at least one participant tends to "move on" relationally in a way that--Mitch Daniels' case aside--tends to make it very difficult or impossible to go back.  If one is remarried, one cannot mend things with the former partner without additional sin, no?

Overall, I think we need to get a grip on this--whether it is by gross sin among believers, or believers marrying (knowingly or otherwise) unbelievers, a much bigger portion of divorces come to fit the mode of adultery or abandonment than we might guess.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

I'm fascinated that so many have read this article yet so few have commented. Too great a possibility of hurt feelings / too close to home? Or is it that most agree that God left the matter ambiguous enough that another perspective is just that - yet another perspective?

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Ron Bean's picture

We may debate the Biblical reasons justifying divorce with the majority view seeming to be that it is justified in cases of adultery or abandonment by an unbelieving spouse. Then we introduce abuse into the mix. Abuse may mean that the legal (man-made) bond of marriage be terminated.

The conflict arises when divorced persons want to get remarried, and they usually do, placing pastors in a sometimes awkward situation.

One may look at God's plan for marriage as a permanent relationship. A conclusion that would leave the disciples saying objecting, “If those are the terms of marriage, we’re stuck. Why get married?” (Matthew 19:10)

Some pastors counsel couples planning to marry that their marriage is a permanent spiritual relationship that cannot be terminated. There are Christian people who have experience legal divorce and will not remarry for that reason.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

JNoël's picture

Ron Bean wrote:

Abuse may mean that the legal (man-made) bond of marriage be terminated.

I have yet to hear/see a scriptural argument allowing for an abused spouse to seek a divorce. Sure isn't Luke 6, which tells an abused person to pray for their abuser and to turn the other cheek. The only single allowance in scripture for a saved person to seek a divorce is "porneia" - and that is in the context of God allowing it out of the hardness of a person's heart. (I'm not dogmatically saying that means a Spirit-filled Christian must never seek a divorce when there is a porneia-based problem, because I believe the Bible is ambiguous enough to allow for a conscience decision.)

But for those of you who believe an abused Christian spouse can rightly (scripturally) seek a divorce, please help me out. I'm perfectly open to conversation on the matter, because I know many believe this way. Incidentally, I think we probably first need to agree on what the word "abuse" even means. Are we talking physical abuse only? Sexual abuse? Abuse of their children? Emotional/verbal abuse?

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Ron Bean's picture

I'm talking about the termination of the legal (not spiritual) contract of marriage. Possible types of abuse would be severe physical abuse where someone's life or health was in danger or a marriage where a spouse is cleaning out the financial assets of the family because they have legal access to property. I've seen both.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

TylerR's picture

This is one area where some Christians have very, very rigid thinking and are either unwilling or afraid to apply basic principles when Scripture doesn't speak directly and specifically to an issue. I also believe that, in the evangelical-fundamentalist tradition, it remains the defacto "unpardonable sin."

I remain absolutely comfortable with advice I gave to a Christian woman whose unbelieving husband abandoned her and her children, shacked up with a girlfriend, and landed in jail for breaking into a church. I advised her to divorce, and remarried her to a fine Christian man some time afterwards. No regrets.

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JNoël's picture

TylerR wrote:

I remain absolutely comfortable with advice I gave to a Christian woman whose unbelieving husband abandoned her and her children, shacked up with a girlfriend, and landed in jail for breaking into a church. I advised her to divorce, and remarried her to a fine Christian man some time afterwards. No regrets.

But that one's easy, Tyler - there was porneia involved, so the Matthew "allowance" is well within bounds. And physical abuse cases are also actually rather easy - legally, it is pretty easy to deal with a batterer (but I'm not saying I would pursue or encourage a divorce - I'd encourage taking appropriate legal action, which would be things like restraining orders, possible jail time, etc., but that doesn't mean the abused needs to get a divorce). The more difficult ones are cases of emotional abuse or abandonment. Neither have any scriptural "allowances" like Matthew's Allowance.

As far as "unpardonable sin" is concerned - I agree that too many people view it this way, and doing so is, in itself, sin of a different kind.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

TylerR's picture

A scholar named David Instone-Brewer has argued (somewhere) that Deuteronomy allows for divorce in abuse situations. It always seemed like a big, big stretch to me (from the text, at least). You can look him up if you want to read something on this. I don't remember what he wrote about it; I just remember that I thought it was an exegetical stretch. I could be wrong!

Tyler Robbins is a pastor at Sleater-Kinney Road Baptist, in Olympia, WA, and an Investigations Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist

JNoël's picture

TylerR wrote:

A scholar named David Instone-Brewer has argued (somewhere) that Deuteronomy allows for divorce in abuse situations. It always seemed like a big, big stretch to me (from the text, at least). You can look him up if you want to read something on this. I don't remember what he wrote about it; I just remember that I thought it was an exegetical stretch. I could be wrong!

And Piper's response to I-B is excellent.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/tragically-widening-the-grounds-of-...

And no, I'm not saying I completely agree with Piper's position on the Matthew clause, either (again - this is unsettled), but at least Piper's argument is sound exposition. I-B's doesn't even come close.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

Jason, my take is that while the Scriptures don't explicitly condone divorce for physical or other abuse, a use of church discipline to temporarily separate the couple and appeal to the offender for repentance will very often end in the offender moving on relationally--and providing Biblical excuse for divorce, either the offender's adultery or the offender's abandonment of the spouse while unrepentant.

Not always, thank God, but in my observation of fighting couples, this is unfortunately the reality.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Ron Bean's picture

There are some who see the possibility of the termination of the legal decree of marriage for a Christian that does not allow for remarriage. There are also some who believe that the spiritual and covenantal bond of marriage can only be terminated because of adultery of abandonment and remarriage allowed.

BTW, I'm one of those who doesn't see divorce and/or divorce and remarriage as unpardonable sins.

"Some things are of that nature as to make one's fancy chuckle, while his heart doth ache." John Bunyan

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Jason, my take is that while the Scriptures don't explicitly condone divorce for physical or other abuse, a use of church discipline to temporarily separate the couple and appeal to the offender for repentance will very often end in the offender moving on relationally--and providing Biblical excuse for divorce, either the offender's adultery or the offender's abandonment of the spouse while unrepentant.

Agreed on the former. Many times (most? some say virtually every time) abusers are found to be involved in the Matthew Allowance.

But on the latter - still haven't heard any scriptural allowance for the one abandoned to seek a divorce.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

Jason, I'd argue that 1 Cor. 7:12-15 gives that case.  Now we could quibble that technically it is the leaving spouse who initiates divorce, but it turns out that (a) legal documents for divorce in Roman days were probably limited to the middle class and up and (b) the person being abandoned did not need to be served with legal papers even if there were legal papers.   So practically speaking, a fair number of divorced people would "infer that from circumstances". 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Jason, I'd argue that 1 Cor. 7:12-15 gives that case.  Now we could quibble that technically it is the leaving spouse who initiates divorce, but it turns out that (a) legal documents for divorce in Roman days were probably limited to the middle class and up and (b) the person being abandoned did not need to be served with legal papers even if there were legal papers.   So practically speaking, a fair number of divorced people would "infer that from circumstances". 

1 Cor 7:12-15 is specifically speaking to a believer married to an unbeliever, of course.

Does "separate" tell us the unbeliever initiated/committed divorce against the saved? Just an honest question.

I'm perfectly fine with a variety of interpretations on the "is not bound" clause, but only in the context of the unbelieving spouse leaving the believing spouse. The "not bound" clause is a case of scriptural ambiguity, but the conditions are not ambiguous at all.

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

Bert Perry's picture

Jason, my take is that it's probably not a bad assumption to assume that the person who abandons a believing, non-adulterous spouse probably would get to the Matthew 18:17 stage of things and can be viewed as a nonbeliever.  Not a perfect correlation, to be sure, but it's an awfully good guess.  So I would argue that it is virtually implicit in the context.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JNoël's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Jason, my take is that it's probably not a bad assumption to assume that the person who abandons a believing, non-adulterous spouse probably would get to the Matthew 18:17 stage of things and can be viewed as a nonbeliever.  Not a perfect correlation, to be sure, but it's an awfully good guess.  So I would argue that it is virtually implicit in the context.

Fair enough. And that's where I think the conversation transitions from "what does the Bible say" to "what do we do in such-and-such a situation" - because every situation has unique circumstances, and time is almost always a factor. We are so very impatient; many times, just as you said, we'd likely find that Matthew's Allowance is indeed available, if the victim so chooses to agree that it is, indeed, an allowance by ignoring the heart-hardness thing. I'm not convinced either way. I think Piper's position is an acceptable interpretation of Matthew's Allowance, but I'm not settled on the matter.

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

josh p's picture

Piper follows Heth’s original argument but Heth  later changed to the majority position- divorce for adultery and abandonment. 

M. Osborne's picture

The law recognizes the concept of "constructive desertion," that is, when one spouse's behavior is so egregious that the other spouse cannot live with him/her. What kinds of behavior cross the threshold probably have to be decided case by case.

The WCF reads as follows:

Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case (24:6).

If 1 Corinthians 7 allows divorce from a deserting unbeliever, the ordinary church discipline process with an abusive spouse would, if the spouse does not repent, lead to his/her excommunication, i.e., the conclusion that the he/she is not a believer. If such a person makes it impossible to live with him or her (e.g., it's just not safe), then that's constructive desertion.

This is not a decision for the abused person to make willy nilly; the church and the civil authorities should be involved. We may expect police reports. We should certainly expect documented counseling / confrontation sessions.

@JNoel: it's not the explicitly Scriptural case you're looking for, but I do think it fits logically with what Scripture allows.

Our church's leadership was dealing with an edge case and for a long time had to counsel a man not to initiate divorce proceedings with his wife, despite some pretty egregious behavior on her part. In my mind that was an effort to hit a "can in no way be remedied" standard where we could conclude that we'd done everything we could to reconcile them. One of the things that held us off, too, was that the "innocent" husband was not completely innocent...long story. During that time, if the wife had initiated the divorce proceedings, we wouldn't necessarily have disciplined him for not fighting the divorce.

 

Michael Osborne
Philadelphia, PA

JNoël's picture

M. Osborne wrote:

@JNoel: it's not the explicitly Scriptural case you're looking for, but I do think it fits logically with what Scripture allows.

If I were looking for explicit, I'd need a different Bible. We all know the Bible doesn't explicitly speak to cases of abuse. My question is regarding the scriptural support used by those who believe the Bible does indeed speak to scriptural allowance for divorce in cases of abuse. We will never find a Henebury C1 or C2, but even the C3s have enough scriptural support upon which one can reasonably base his argument. Quoting the WCF isn't scriptural grounds of any kind, at least not in the quote you posted; I understand that the WCF likely has scriptural reasons behind the statement and that they are likely better than Instone-Brewer: his argument is not sound exegesis; I'm pretty most of us can agree with that. Piper comes to conclusions at least based on sound scriptural analysis but they are his conclusions, they aren't explicit statements, and thus are subject to interpretive debate. All this to say I'm not settled on the matter and I'm growing increasingly confident that I never will be, either. And I'm okay with that - and I'm still listening. Smile

 

Ashamed of Jesus! of that Friend On whom for heaven my hopes depend! It must not be! be this my shame, That I no more revere His name. -Joseph Grigg (1720-1768)

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