Does physical abuse justify divorce?

Status
Not open for further replies.

Hamalas

whippersnapper
I don't want to derail this thread, (and mods if you want feel free to make this a separate discussion) but what about in cases of physical abuse? Is there any situation where that could be grounds for divorce? :think:
 

Leslie

Puritan Board Junior
I think it does justify divorce in that it is a type of abandonment. Emotional abuse (provided that it is real) would also qualify.
 

PresbyDane

Puritanboard Doctor
I thought he bound them to be one flesh?

+ if you could remarry if only you had a good reason, then I would go tell somebody I know whoes wife has alzheimers.
He could really need it
 

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
I think it does justify divorce in that it is a type of abandonment. Emotional abuse (provided that it is real) would also qualify.
I would agree with this if the abuse is of such an ongoing and violent nature as to make it impossible for the victim to remain in the home. This constitutes abandonment on the abuser's part (seems to me), even if the victim is the one who physically leaves the home.

Still . . . it's vital that we not confuse "acceptable grounds for divorce" with "mandates divorce". Reconciliation of the marriage and rehabilitation of the abuser is always what we should strive and pray for initially.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
We have a very acute sense of right and wrong, and so when we see or hear of "abuse" taking place our hearts naturally cry out, "That's NOT right!" And since we live in a culture that places paramount importance on "being treated right" and even greater significance being given to "happiness is a need," when those all come together we have the emotional and moral response to "abuse" being, "Surely it isn't wrong to escape the situation through divorce!"

And so we erect theological arguments and construe supposed logical implications from the Scriptural texts, all designed to get around an unalterable fact: Despite the brutally male-dominated and female-supressive culture of the Greco-Roman world, the Bible does not list physical abuse - much less "emotional abuse" - as being justifiable grounds for divorce.

Now, perhaps abuse is grounds for divorce. Maybe. But a number of real-life practical situations make me very slow to say "yes" and even then it would be on a case-by-case basis.

First, the myth floating around is that domestic violence looks like "Sleeping With the Enemy." Namely, that she's an innocent dove doing her best and he is a total psycho who without provocation beats her down. Certainly that type of scenario occurs, but it isn't normal. They've done a number of studies and there is a very common "composite" of the "typical" domestic violence situation. And in the "typical" situation, she isn't so innocent. In fact, in the "typical situation" she gives almost as good as she gets. Here is a nutshell synopsis of the "composite": There is usually a verbal argument that has lasted 10-15 minutes and has escalated to them screaming and cursing each other. It usually occurs in the bed-room. Usually one of them tries to leave but the other won't let him/her. Then usually she throws something at him - typically it is either a shoe or a book or a phone. And then he responds with what is referred to as "domestic violence." That is the composite. That is the real average. The Army is having a huge problem with it. I counsel 1 of these per week and almost always my counseling mirrors the "composite." Of course, every now and then it doesn't. But it usually does. Now, the image presented by the "myth" is one of a brutal monster who should be fled. The image presented by reality is of a couple who has had a gross breakdown in how to relate to one another in conflict. The answer, as I see it, is good counseling.

Concerning "verbal abuse..." That is even more tricky. This is in large part because in our narcissistic and feel-good culture, we want to be affirmed and told that we're "super stars" and so we have VERY LITTLE tolerance from being made to feel less than that. Often times - and anyone who counsels regularly knows what I'm talking about - the "victim" will say something "He berates me and continually tells me I'm no good." or "She mocks me continually telling me that I'm not a real man." Etc, but they leave out what precisely was said, and more importantly, the context in which the words were uttered. (That is, were you just berating him/her? What were you and him/her doing?)

In the happenchance that there really is some dramatic abuse occuring we should look into it. But more often than not, both parties are acting sinfully. And it is imprudent to make rules based upon the exceptions.
 

Marrow Man

Drunk with Powder
A couple of factors that sometimes get left out of the discussion:

1) If Biblical church discipline is practiced, one of three things will generally happen: either reconciliation (the goal), excommunication (in which the person is treated as an unbeliever), or abandonment (a refusal to submit to church discipline). The second situation is tricky, but in many cases the result (if not reconciliation) ultimately leads to some form of abandonment.

2) While the church can exercise the keys of church discipline, the state can exercise the power of the sword. There always seems to be some reluctance to do this because the various issues that arise, but if she (and possibly the children) is in danger, the duty of the magistrate is to protect!
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Graduate
We have a very acute sense of right and wrong, and so when we see or hear of "abuse" taking place our hearts naturally cry out, "That's NOT right!" And since we live in a culture that places paramount importance on "being treated right" and even greater significance being given to "happiness is a need," when those all come together we have the emotional and moral response to "abuse" being, "Surely it isn't wrong to escape the situation through divorce!"

And so we erect theological arguments and construe supposed logical implications from the Scriptural texts, all designed to get around an unalterable fact: Despite the brutally male-dominated and female-supressive culture of the Greco-Roman world, the Bible does not list physical abuse - much less "emotional abuse" - as being justifiable grounds for divorce.

Now, perhaps abuse is grounds for divorce. Maybe. But a number of real-life practical situations make me very slow to say "yes" and even then it would be on a case-by-case basis.

First, the myth floating around is that domestic violence looks like "Sleeping With the Enemy." Namely, that she's an innocent dove doing her best and he is a total psycho who without provocation beats her down. Certainly that type of scenario occurs, but it isn't normal. They've done a number of studies and there is a very common "composite" of the "typical" domestic violence situation. And in the "typical" situation, she isn't so innocent. In fact, in the "typical situation" she gives almost as good as she gets. Here is a nutshell synopsis of the "composite": There is usually a verbal argument that has lasted 10-15 minutes and has escalated to them screaming and cursing each other. It usually occurs in the bed-room. Usually one of them tries to leave but the other won't let him/her. Then usually she throws something at him - typically it is either a shoe or a book or a phone. And then he responds with what is referred to as "domestic violence." That is the composite. That is the real average. The Army is having a huge problem with it. I counsel 1 of these per week and almost always my counseling mirrors the "composite." Of course, every now and then it doesn't. But it usually does. Now, the image presented by the "myth" is one of a brutal monster who should be fled. The image presented by reality is of a couple who has had a gross breakdown in how to relate to one another in conflict. The answer, as I see it, is good counseling.

Concerning "verbal abuse..." That is even more tricky. This is in large part because in our narcissistic and feel-good culture, we want to be affirmed and told that we're "super stars" and so we have VERY LITTLE tolerance from being made to feel less than that. Often times - and anyone who counsels regularly knows what I'm talking about - the "victim" will say something "He berates me and continually tells me I'm no good." or "She mocks me continually telling me that I'm not a real man." Etc, but they leave out what precisely was said, and more importantly, the context in which the words were uttered. (That is, were you just berating him/her? What were you and him/her doing?)

In the happenchance that there really is some dramatic abuse occuring we should look into it. But more often than not, both parties are acting sinfully. And it is imprudent to make rules based upon the exceptions.
Right. Quite often it seems the physical part is the gross topping on an already nasty cake.

My DF and I have had discussions about families with verbal and physical abuse. Some poor souls draw a line at physical abuse and agree that "we won't go beyond that but anything up to that is fine." I think this is a huge mistake. Warnings about words are found all through the scriptures. A couple of years ago we agreed with each other that we will not even yell at each other. So far we have kept that agreement and I think if more people were counseled to see the physical as a symptom of something much worse rather than a straw breaking the camels back, society would be much better off.
 

Scott Shahan

Puritan Board Sophomore
would giving a spouse the silent treatment be a form of abuse... ? and if so, then is that grounds for divorce? wouldnt that be a form of abandonment? (emotionally)
 

Prufrock

Arbitrary Moderation
Here is a link which will take you to Ch. 21 (XXI) of Martin Bucer's treatise on divorce (which is actually a translation/paraphrase thereof by John Milton). It continues about 15 pages to p.282: it can be read or skimmed quite quickly. This is not to say that all he says is true: but here are the thoughts of one certainly eminent divine.

(He does, indeed, allow divorce in such cases of true abuse)
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
:agree:

You could separate but not divorce, neither remarry
I still do not see where the bible has a concept of “separation”, especially with the view of forbidding remarriage.

Either a person is allowed, in God’s eyes to divorce, in which case he or she can remarry, or they are not.

I thought he bound them to be one flesh?

+ if you could remarry if only you had a good reason, then I would go tell somebody I know whoes wife has alzheimers.
He could really need it
He made them one flesh, but he also set out the (rare) times in which that bond may be broken. If a man puts away his wife for fornication and remarries, he does not commit adultery (Matt 19:9).

The principle here is, I believe, like other posters have stated – genuine unrepentant abuse is to break the marriage covenant just as adultery or abandonment does, and leaves the abandoned party free to remarry.

In the case of lady with alzheimers, she has not broken her covenant. I think it is a distinguishable situation...

-----Added 3/22/2009 at 04:38:18 EST-----

And so we erect theological arguments and construe supposed logical implications from the Scriptural texts, all designed to get around an unalterable fact: Despite the brutally male-dominated and female-supressive culture of the Greco-Roman world, the Bible does not list physical abuse - much less "emotional abuse" - as being justifiable grounds for divorce.
I don’t think it is about being soft hearted and trying to read our own emotions into scripture. We could turn this argument around and say that despite the sex saturated world of the NT, the apostles never explicitly forbade p0rnography. But the prohibition is very clear by applying bible principles.

Likewise, the bible does not need to explicitly mention physical abuse as a grounds for divorce for it to be so. It is the very same principle by which we do not limit acts of mercy and necessity on the Sabbath day to picking corn, helping animals from ditches and supernatural healing of lame men. Things which are similar (or worse) than adultery or abandonment likewise fall under God’s allowance for divorce and remarriage.


Now, perhaps abuse is grounds for divorce. Maybe. But a number of real-life practical situations make me very slow to say "yes" and even then it would be on a case-by-case basis.
The OP was, I believe, about whether physical abuse was a biblically allowable reason for divorce. The bible has an answer to that question, and our practical experience cannot change or affect the bible’s position. It just makes us (or the pastor handling a situation) more cautious in fully finding out all the facts to see if this is a case of genuine abuse (as opposed to the situations you have mentioned).

I agree with you that these situations need to be examined very carefully and prayerfully to ascertain what is really going on. But I don’t see why abuse should be treated to a higher level of skepticism than adultery or abandonment.
 

SolaScriptura

Puritanboard Snowflake
But I don’t see why abuse should be treated to a higher level of skepticism than adultery or abandonment.
It isn't a "higher level." With adultery or abandonment it is cut and dry: Either a party has or they haven't. The extinuating circumstances (she was a bitter shrew in his opinion) doesn't negate the objective reality of his act (abandonment or adultery) which carries with it the biblical permission to divorce. No such clear cut biblical treatment is given to "abuse."
 

Anton Bruckner

Puritan Board Professor
Physical abuse warrants the intervention of the civil magistrate to bring sanctions. Physical abuse also warrants the abused spouse to leave the home for her protection until the abuser has fully repented.
 

Rich Koster

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
:agree:
I think that it justifies separation, but not divorce.
-----Added 3/22/2009 at 07:40:16 EST-----

:agree:
Physical abuse warrants the intervention of the civil magistrate to bring sanctions. Physical abuse also warrants the abused spouse to leave the home for her protection until the abuser has fully repented.
I would also add long term counseling for both parties, not just a 30 minute kiss and make up session in the pastor's office.
 
Last edited:

raekwon

Puritan Board Junior
would giving a spouse the silent treatment be a form of abuse... ? and if so, then is that grounds for divorce? wouldnt that be a form of abandonment? (emotionally)
I don't think anyone here would argue such a thing, no.

(And I'm not convinced that calling physical abuse to the point of the victim having to leave necessarily leads to such a thought.)
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
I have a dear Christian relative in Pennsylvania who finally separated after many years of abuse when she landed in the hospital for X-rays. 5 kids ages about 9-16. We had been exhorting her to leave sooner as it seemed possible he would kill her. She tried her best but he was a beast.

Anyway, she did not think she had biblical grounds for divorce (neither did we) but when she pursued child support the lawyers said she had to divorce him to get it. He made good money and didn't want to give her one nickle unless forced to by the courts. In the state of Pa, separation could not force him to pay up. She did file just to get the health insurance and monthly child support. She looked at it as a legal necessity but tried to keep her heart open to the creep if he did seek counseling and repentance. She would have remarried him ( he just got worse so she didn't).

But anyway, the courts do not necessarily make fathers pay for kids if wife leaves, in at least that state you must divorce.
 

Brian Withnell

Puritan Board Junior
I think it does justify divorce in that it is a type of abandonment. Emotional abuse (provided that it is real) would also qualify.
I would agree with this if the abuse is of such an ongoing and violent nature as to make it impossible for the victim to remain in the home. This constitutes abandonment on the abuser's part (seems to me), even if the victim is the one who physically leaves the home.

Still . . . it's vital that we not confuse "acceptable grounds for divorce" with "mandates divorce". Reconciliation of the marriage and rehabilitation of the abuser is always what we should strive and pray for initially.
I'd go one further and say that physical abuse, which includes wounding (a crime) is grounds for having the abuser arrested by the police. If the abuser is arrested, convicted, and sentences to jail, they have abandoned the innocent spouse (even if it was not abuse, but some other crime). That would seem to be willful desertion that is beyond remedy of the church or civil magistrate, and is by the WCF, sufficient reason to dissolve the marriage. Abuse ought to result in abandonment by the abuser.

I agree, it does not require divorce in any case....
 

Mushroom

Puritan Board Doctor
One related question I had was that in listening to an old Barnhouse sermon last week, I heard him say that the exception given by the Lord in Matt. 5 for fornication was only refering to a man finding that his bride was not actually a virgin on their wedding night, and not to adultery later. Anybody heard that before? Where would he get that?
 

Montanablue

Puritan Board Doctor
One related question I had was that in listening to an old Barnhouse sermon last week, I heard him say that the exception given by the Lord in Matt. 5 for fornication was only refering to a man finding that his bride was not actually a virgin on their wedding night, and not to adultery later. Anybody heard that before? Where would he get that?
I have also heard this - not in a sermon, but from friends. I've investigated it to the best of my ability, but I've not been able to find anything that legitimately (in my mind) supports this. Having said that, I can't read the original Greek, so its possible that I could be missing something that is in the original text.
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
But I don’t see why abuse should be treated to a higher level of skepticism than adultery or abandonment.
It isn't a "higher level." With adultery or abandonment it is cut and dry: Either a party has or they haven't. The extinuating circumstances (she was a bitter shrew in his opinion) doesn't negate the objective reality of his act (abandonment or adultery) which carries with it the biblical permission to divorce. No such clear cut biblical treatment is given to "abuse."
Ben,

I'am not sure if adultery and abandonment are as cut and dry as you say. I am sure many many questions could be raised as what constitutes abandonment. As for adultery, yes, it is clear cut whether the act has happened or not, but I think most would agree that in the context of determining if a divorce should take place, it is generally not a "one strike and you're out" approach. From what the rest of the NT teaches, I think there is a fairly strong implication that it is unrepentant adultery that is grounds for a divorce. Effort should be made as to recover the offending spouse and obtain repentance. How much effort and when the decision can be made that enough is enough is, I think, not clear cut at all.

Again, I don't think it matters that the bible does not explicitly mention abuse. I agree with everything you wrote on how what people say is abuse is not always the full picture, but that is the same with divorce or abandonment. A pastor will always have to make full enquiry into the facts. I just don't see that abuse should be treated with more skeptism just because it has to be inferred from the bible rather than being explicitly stated.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top