“The soul of a marriage can be a trusting place where two people can come together quietly from the struggles of the world and feel safe, accepted, and loved … or it can be a battleground where two egos are locked in a lifelong struggle for supremacy, a battle which is for the most part invisible to the rest of the world” (Keith Miller, The Taste of New Wine). For 38 years I’ve sat on my side of the pastoral desk, handling the ugly carnage of marital warfare. The stories are numerous, with gut-wrenching heartache as the perpetual theme.
To be honest, I knew this would be the case when I entered the ministry. I can’t plead the Fifth with the popular excuse “They didn’t teach me this in seminary!” Both in seminary and throughout my pastoral years, I’ve attempted to do my homework on the various views of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Having done so, I don’t claim to have the corner on the truth; I continually desire to be teachable. I also have learned that good and godly people hold views opposite my conclusion. This has tempered me to hold my position with gentleness, grace, and humility. All that being said, I hold the position that the weight of Biblical evidence lands on affirming no divorce, no remarriage after divorce. Why do I hold that position?
By David Huffstutler. Read Part 1.
“Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found myself asked to present my view on divorce and remarriage.” This paraphrase of Jude 3 reflects how I feel as a Christian and pastor who has dealt with the difficult topics of divorce and remarriage after divorce. Perhaps you feel the same as I do. Divorce involves a broken marriage, broken hearts, suffering, and sin. And even if one allows for remarriage, painful memories linger. Can we talk about salvation instead?
But as difficult as this topic may be, we need to know what the Bible teaches about it, and we should understand our fellow Christians even when we disagree. I look forward to reading Pastor Shirk’s article to help me better understand his view, and I will do my best to present my own. Knowing that many readers may not hold my position, my goal is not to persuade but merely to present my view.
In my understanding of divorce and remarriage, the Bible allows for divorce and remarriage in certain circumstances. I will explain my view according to three related statements: (1) the Bible describes marriage as a covenant; (2) if the marriage covenant is broken, the Bible allows for divorce; (3) if the Bible allows for divorce, the Bible also allows for remarriage.
Editor’s note: Baptist Bulletin ran a three article set on the topic of divorce and remarriage in the November/December 2020 issue. Below is the first, an introduction by the magazine’s managing editor.
By David Gunn
In some ways, marriage and other family relationships is where the rubber meets the road for Christian ministry and living. Here, in the daily hustle and bustle of human lives lived in close proximity to one another, theory and doctrine are put to the test. Sometimes we rise to the challenge and glorify God in and through those relationships. Sometimes we don’t.
Marriages present Christian ministers with some of the thorniest issues they’ll ever deal with. Probably chief among them is the issue of divorce and remarriage. Does Scripture permit Christians to pursue that course? And if so, under what circumstances and according to what guiding rules and principles? Gallons of ink have been spilled exploring these questions, and no decisive consensus seems to be forthcoming.
Among Regular Baptists, two views on the subject appear to be dominant: some hold that the Bible does permit (although it does not command) divorce and remarriage under a limited set of circumstances. Others hold that divorce and remarriage are never Scripturally authorized. Sometimes these views are referred to as the “exception clause” and “no exception clause” views (although that verbiage is probably too narrow, as it doesn’t reflect the full range of passages and issues the discussion entails).
Periodically, throughout the years, I’ve re-visited the “when can Christians legitimately divorce” issue. First time was before seminary, when someone asked me if she had biblical grounds to leave a spouse who beat her. Second time was at seminary, where I was taught the “only for adultery and desertion” approach. Third, fourth and fifth times have been over the past decade-ish, since I’ve been a pastor.
Well, I come before you to declare I’ve figured everything out …
This is a hard topic. I’ve had to think through this issue again, and so I present my conclusions here to you. I may be wrong, of course. Some will undoubtedly disagree with me. I don’t interact with opposing viewpoints; you can find whole books that will do that for you. This is not an exhaustive discussion, but a brief positive survey of the most primary texts. Perhaps it will change one day. You may find my complete paper here.
The bottom line is a Christian may divorce under the following scenarios, each of which is an egregious fracture of the marriage covenant:
"I now believe that 1 Corinthians 7:15 implies that divorce may be legitimate in other circumstances that damage the marriage as severely as adultery or desertion. This change in my position has come because I reached a new understanding of Paul’s expression 'in such cases' in 1 Corinthians 7:15." - CBMW