Does the Lord REALLY permit divorce?

Status
Not open for further replies.

BobVigneault

Bawberator
I'm troubled by the language that we use when speaking of divorce. The words 'permit' and 'allow' are often used though I don't see that language in scripture. Feel free to correct me but here is my take on the topic.

I was recently asked “Why and when do church people encourage divorce?” Yes, 'encourage' was the word that was used. The answer to that should ALWAYS be NEVER! God hates divorce, the church should hate divorce. The church should never encourage divorce or put it’s approval on it in any way. Jesus made no provision for divorce, neither did Paul and neither should the church. The reason is simple. Marriage is the picture of God’s unbreakable covenant with his church. If the marriage covenant before God is broken then it makes a mockery of the covenant that God has made with His people. As you have stated rightly, ‘what God has joined together let no man separate.’

You will hear folks say that the bible allows for divorce in the case of adultery (or fornication) and abandonment. This is not true, the bible never allows for divorce, period. Divorce is never God’s revealed will. Now, having said that. It is very easy in our culture to get a divorce. Our society has mocked God’s commands at every corner. People get divorced. What do we do with a brother or sister who is the innocent party in a divorce? There is usually an innocent party. Can that person be an elder or serve in the church? Well scripture speaks to these matters. Can that person remarry? Scripture speaks to that question but there can be some different interpretations of the doctrines arrived at. I am not a textual scholar but I do see that much smarter men of God disagree on these important questions. John Piper and John McCarthur are both fabulous preachers who come down on very different sides of this issue.

My leanings in these matters are that divorce is never allowed in scripture but we must deal with the fact that divorces take place and we must ultimately work toward the redemption and salvation of those involved and victimized by the hardness of man’s heart.

I will happily accept feedback because I hear this question too frequently.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Matthew 19:6 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

I would say that Jesus is NOT permitting but he is removing the culpability of the innocent party. This doesn't mean that a divorce should occur and it doesn't change THAT which was from the beginning.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
I would say that Jesus is NOT permitting but he is removing the culpability of the innocent party. This doesn't mean that a divorce should occur and it doesn't change THAT which was from the beginning.
The twist you're putting on it seems very healthy, and needs to be emphasized. That word "except" though is there for a reason. With me (to get embarrassingly personal again) I didn't have a choice. I was willing to live together no matter what, but she did it to me.

Now, put yourself in my shoes. The WCF, as it's understood by the main confessional Reformed churches allows me (if I am ever able to find anyone who wants me) to remarry. So, should I use every legal twist, spending whatever money I have left fighting the divorce she instigated and is pushing for? Or should I accept my Session's ruling that I've been abandoned and am now free?

Would me signing the final dissolusion papers be a sin on my part, if as you say divorce is never allowed by the Lord?
 

satz

Puritan Board Senior
Matt 19:3And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, "Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?"

4He answered, "Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh'? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." 7They said to him, "Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?" 8He said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.

9And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery."
Bob,

The context of the whole discussion is given in v3 – the Pharisees are asking him is it lawful to divorce for any cause. They are promoting, as our society does today, light and frivolous divorce.

That is the context of what Jesus is condemning when in v4-8 he speaks of how it was from the beginning, and not separating what God has joined.

After that, in v9 he gives his position – “And I say to you…”. And he says (by indirect implication) that a man who divorces his wife for sexual immorality and marries another, does not commit the sin of adultery.

I will admit that it sometimes feel that we (well, me) speak of this topic too flippantly in discussing when a divorce can occur. I know God hates divorce. I have tried, probably unsuccessfully to emphasis that it is not an academic exercise of saying “OK now you can divorce since such and such has happened..”, but that it involves the church, pastor and attempts to obtain repentance from the offending spouse, so as to preserve the marriage if possible. However, from what I can see, God’s bible still clearly, in my opinion, states that if it truly is a case of unrepentant adultery, the innocent party may divorce, and remarry without sin.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
The WCF very clearly teaches the permissibility of divorce under circumstances outlined by Scripture.

CHAPTER XXIV.
Of Marriage and Divorce.
I. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.

II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife, for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed; and for preventing of uncleanness.

III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.

IV. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word. Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife. The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred, nearer in blood then he may of his own: nor the woman of her husband's kindred, nearer in blood than of her own.

V. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, gives just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract. In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.

VI. 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.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Tim, you are making my point exactly. There is scripture that PERMITS you, the innocent party, to remarry (after some debate) but there is no scripture that permits divorce. I'm in agreement with you.

What troubles me is that we speak of a permit or allowance for divorce as if God has given an escape clause to marriage. It was brought home to me when I was asked, "In what circumstances does the church encourage divorce?" That question was just creepy.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
Matthew 19:6 What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”

I would say that Jesus is NOT permitting but he is removing the culpability of the innocent party. This doesn't mean that a divorce should occur and it doesn't change THAT which was from the beginning.
I'm not sure, Bob, what the difference is between Jesus permitting the divorce and removing the culpability of the innocent party. ? What's the difference? CLEARLY he is saying that it's permissible. If it's permissible, then it's not sin in that instance. No?
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
Tim, you are making my point exactly. There is scripture that PERMITS you, the innocent party, to remarry (after some debate) but there is no scripture that permits divorce. I'm in agreement with you.

What troubles me is that we speak of a permit or allowance for divorce as if God has given an escape clause to marriage. It was brought home to me when I was asked, "In what circumstances does the church encourage divorce?" That question was just creepy.
Yes, it's a creepy question, but just because the question is creepy doesn't mean that divorce isn't permissible under Scripture. The church NEVER "encourages" divorce, but that fact doesn't mean that divorce is never possible without sin.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
There may be little logical difference, it simply puts the emphasis away from divorce and onto the hardness of heart and it's consequences.
 

Glenn Ferrell

Puritan Board Junior
If divorce after proven adultery or irremediable desertion is not PERMITTED, then does the innocent party divorcing sin?

What the WCF calls "cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage" seems to be permission.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
There may be little logical difference, it simply puts the emphasis away from divorce and onto the hardness of heart and it's consequences.
Bob, I understand your emphatic position that divorce is never permitted. Unfortunately we're forced to deal with the text, and the text does permit divorce under certain conditions. μὲ ἐπι πορνεια, "except for sexual immorality", is a negation of the earlier part of Matthew 19:9, "I say to you, whoever divorces his wife."

Now, our Lord is NOT championing an "out" clause from marriage. We can go back to Hosea and read God's command to Hosea to go take a wife of harlotry, and remain with her, ever after her repeated adulteries. It is NEVER God's plan for divorce to occur. But there will be times when it does occur, even after every effort is expended by one party to keep the covenant intact. In those cases divorce is permitted. It is still a grievous action that will most likely cause pain and anguish for those involved. Even if one party is innocent in the matter, the relationship has been broken because of sin, and sin always causes pain.

What I like most about the OP is that it conveys the serious and destructive nature of divorce.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
If divorce after proven adultery or irremediable desertion is not PERMITTED, then does the innocent party divorcing sin?

What the WCF calls "cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage" seems to be permission.
This is precisely my point - if Jesus' words do not constitute permission for divorce, then I really do not understand what the word "permission" means. Yes, God hates divorce, and Christ's discourse on the matter makes that very clear. It also seems very clear to me that there is Scriptural permission for divorce in some circumstances. I don't, again, know how any difference can be posited between "removing culpability" and "permission".

Also, let's recall this is a confessional board - and as Glenn notes above, the WCF is clear on the matter.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Oh Bill! You speak Greek! How romantic!

Is the text permitting divorce or permitting remarriage? I know what the pharisees asked but did Jesus change the subject?
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
Is the text permitting divorce or permitting remarriage? I know what the pharisees asked but did Jesus change the subject?
I believe our Lord is dealing with the root evil at the heart of the Pharisees actions. They would divorce on a whim in order to remarry. The entire exchange is negative in nature even though permission to divorce for sexual immorality is given. I don't see a positive command for remarriage; although I suppose an argument can be made in verse 9 that remarriage is allowed. A better case for remarriage can be made from 1 Corinthians 7:15.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
This topic is appearing in context on several different threads right now. Admittedly, it is a difficult issue often clouded by emotion and experiences some have had.

If we can, somehow by God's grace see clearly, the Westminster Standards are a faithful summary of the doctrine of Scripture on these points.

God allows it in two circumstances only:

1) adultery
2) an unbeliever irretrievably (by church or magistrate) abandoning a believer.

Christians are never to make these decisions unilaterally because their judgment tends to be clouded, they need more objective assessment, and the reputation of our Lord is involved. It is about the two people involved, but it is also about vows made to our Lord, witnessed by others, believers and nonbelievers, children, weaker brothers, and others.

It is permitted, but not commanded. God has graciously permitted what is otherwise against his will in order to prevent great hardship on the innocent party. Reconciliation can still be sought and indeed, it does happen and is a powerful testimony of what God can redeem.
 

Mayflower

Puritan Board Junior
Also, let's recall this is a confessional board - and as Glenn notes above, the WCF is clear on the matter.
Oke, but can the WCF not be wrong on this issue ?
That is one of the reasons why Herman Hoeksema and the PRCA does not subscribe to the WCF.
 

Theognome

Burrito Bill
I think comparing the OP passage with some of the language found in Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel would be useful. The language of a divorce (God from unfaithful Israel) ie the breaking of a covenant contract, is readily found there. In the same way, thse OT books show that the intention was for the convenant(s) to be continual with Israel, but it was her that wandered away after her own lusts, playing the harlot. Thus the divorce was justified and declared by God through the prophets.

Likewise, the re-marriage is teneble when we see how God, in these same OT books, promised the continuing of the covenant (a remarriage, as it were) through the gentiles- ultimately accomplished in Christ for the sake of the NT church.

Theognome
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
Also, let's recall this is a confessional board - and as Glenn notes above, the WCF is clear on the matter.
Oke, but can the WCF not be wrong on this issue ?
That is one of the reasons why Herman Hoeksema and the PRCA does not subscribe to the WCF.
Hoeksema and the PRCA do not subscribe to the WCF because it is not their confession, since they are/were Dutch Reformed. But it is certainly true that they explicitly reject the WCF on this and the convenant of works.

This board, though, takes the WCF as its base confession in matters wherein there is controversy (or in this case, silence, since the TFU do not deal with divorce at all, as far as I am aware). The WCF clearly teaches the appropriateness in some cases of divorce, and of remarriage, and the teaching is based on this passage in Matthew 19.

Could the WCF be wrong on this? The WCF is not Scripture, so it could be, certainly. However, the burden of proof lies on those who would take up dispute against the confession, and it is the position of this board that the Confession correctly teaches Scriptural truth. (And this is not a forum for picking apart the WCF or the other confessional standards) Here is the Forum rule that is pertinent:

d. Confessional Requirements: One must hold to either the Westminster Standards, the Three Forms of Unity, the Second Helvetic Confession, or the LBCF to be approved for membership without a waiver. This does not mean that the these confessions are viewed as the "Word of God." Rather, these confessions and creeds are taken to accurately summarize the key doctrines of the Bible and allow mutual, like-minded fellowship (Amos 3:3, "Can two walk together unless they be agreed?"). The adherence to any orthodox historical documents assure that the board will be kept "like-minded" in most of the basic points of salvation history and that the fellowship "exhortive and encouraging." Those who seek to modify, depart from, change or disprove the doctrines found in the Confessions will bear the burden of proof to support their claim.
 

PuritanCovenanter

Moderator
Staff member
I am not sure that the marriage Covenant specifically reflects the Everlasting Covenant. It may be an image bearer of it but it is not exactly like it.

I agree with Bill Cunningham. Let's look at God in this matter.

(Jer 3:6) The LORD said also unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot.

(Jer 3:7) And I said after she had done all these things, Turn thou unto me. But she returned not. And her treacherous sister Judah saw it.

(Jer 3:8) And I saw, when for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away, and given her a bill of divorce; yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not, but went and played the harlot also.
Yet I find this rather amusing and full of Covenant Love.

(Jer 3:1) They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, shall he return unto her again? shall not that land be greatly polluted? but thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith the LORD.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
I agree fully Josh, but I'm not the one who started pulling historical narrative and using it to build a doctrine out of. I was simply demonstrating the danger of doing so.

We need to keep to the teachings of Jesus and Paul and use the language they used.

This isn't a hill I would die on and I sure appreciate the feedback I'm getting.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
If Jesus permits divorce, no one can rightfully bind the conscience of someone who has been cheated on.
I think I could even say that divorce is encouraged, when the offending party refuses to repent.
I know I would not encourage someone to stay with someone who is unrepentantly unfaithful, for how could the innocent spouse rightfully fulfill his/her marital duties? To say the very least, to do so would bring the risk of disease.
I think the point may be that marriage is so very binding, that for one party to break their vow by "marrying" another in the flesh, that divorce is a natural consequence.

I think that the innocent spouse is allowed to remain married in attempts to work it out and show forgiveness as we've been taught--but I don't think he or she is obligated, even if the offended was repentant. I think he or she should, but I would never tell someone they were obligated.
 

Herald

Administrator
Staff member
I agree fully Josh, but I'm not the one who started pulling historical narrative and using it to build a doctrine out of. I was simply demonstrating the danger of doing so.

We need to keep to the teachings of Jesus and Paul and use the language they used.

This isn't a hill I would die on and I sure appreciate the feedback I'm getting.
Historical narrative certainly can display God's mind towards His own covenants. When our Lord spoke about divorce in Matthew 19, He quoted historical narrative. Narrative, explained in didactic, is where doctrine is formed. We may not be able to pull doctrine from Hosea's relationship with Gomer, but we can certainly see God's attitude towards His holy covenant.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
What's ironic is that the marriage covenant is intended to show the permanency of God's covenant with his elect, whereas, you are attempting to show that God's covenant has an escape in it which justifies breaking the marriage covenant.

I'm just saying.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
What's ironic is that the marriage covenant is intended to show the permanency of God's covenant with his elect, whereas, you are attempting to show that God's covenant has an escape in it which justifies breaking the marriage covenant.

I'm just saying.
I don't think anything on earth can be equated with God's covenant to His people even marriage. It suffered the fall just like everything else.
 

toddpedlar

Iron Dramatist
What's ironic is that the marriage covenant is intended to show the permanency of God's covenant with his elect, whereas, you are attempting to show that God's covenant has an escape in it which justifies breaking the marriage covenant.

I'm just saying.
Bob, I fear you're using the image (human marriage) to show forth the reality (God's covenant with His elect) in an inappropriate manner. That is, everything that is true of human marriage is not necessarily true of that which it is to represent. You're making too broad an application of the imperfect image, expecting that its imperfections (of which divorce is one) apply to the thing which is imaged (God's covenant with His elect). This is a common, but nevertheless erroneous, leap of logic.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Sarah, Jesus said, "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate." This describes both his eternal covenant and the marriage covenant. I equate based on that description.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
What's ironic is that the marriage covenant is intended to show the permanency of God's covenant with his elect, whereas, you are attempting to show that God's covenant has an escape in it which justifies breaking the marriage covenant.

I'm just saying.

Perhaps it shows us what God could lawfully do to us, but doesn't. Maybe it is showing the seriousness and just reward of our own infidelity.
 
Status
Not open for further replies.
Top