Why is Desertion a biblical grounds for divorce.

Discussion in 'Family Forum' started by puritanpilgrim, Dec 8, 2009.

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  1. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    I understand why adultery is considered a biblical ground. But, why desertion? And how is desertion defined?
  2. Osage Bluestem

    Osage Bluestem Puritan Board Junior

    As a husband and wife are a family, they support one another and live together under the same roof and share finances. If one spouse just abandones the other, they have left them for dead. They have decided to not care for their spouse and disregarded the marriage covenant as nothing to be concerned about. This normally happens because the spouse who did the abandoning was an unbeliever.

    1 Corinthians 7:14-15 KJV
    [14] For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.
    [15] But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
  3. larryjf

    larryjf Puritan Board Senior

    Consider that most desertions would also be adulterous. For instance, when a husband leaves his family one wouldn't expect him to remain faithful to his wife in more intimate matters since he's been unfaithful in these other matters
  4. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    As David cited, I Cor. 7:14-15.

    It is one of the scripture proofs supporting that proposition of doctrine in the Westminster Confession.

    It's hard to know exactly why God (the Holy Spirit speaking through Paul) indicates desertion by an unbeliever of a believer might be grounds for recognition in God's eyes.

    There were in Paul's day many instances of one spouse becoming a Christian and finding themselves, suddenly, married to an unbeliever. This is true of course today.

    But, if the husband leaves, for example he abandons all the incidents of the marital contract- everything including protection, providing, procreation... everything.

    And if the offending party cannot be retrieved to imperfectly at least try to fulfill the marital obligations, it puts the innocent party in a perpetual state of deprivation.

    Perhaps, I don't want to say because I'm not sure Scripture says this related to abandonment explicitly or implicitly, but it is too great a lifelong hardship on the innocent party.

    As far as how "desertion" is defined, my understanding is something like disappearing without a trace. The courts can't find them, the church can't find the person. They took off and cannot be reached for child support, alimony, maintenance, their legal debts.

    Notice how the parties are not left to themselves to decide "abandonment."

    It's interesting, a generation ago virtually every American state followed the biblical model.

    Some states did not allow abandonment as a legal grounds. In those that did, the innocent party had to make a great deal of effort to try and locate the one who abandoned. It was never enough for the person to just say they didn't want to be married, and move to another state and try to get re-married. Remember, without a legal dissolution, they could never legal re-marry and that has all kinds of legal implications. If they did, it is a crime, bigamy. If they co-habitated with someone with whom they were not married, it too was usually a (minor) crime, something like "fornication and adultery."

    And, of course, if someone abandoned supporting their children, it could be a crime. That desertion still lands "deadbeat dads" in jail. Still. And civilly, it still can land fines and wage garnishments if they refuse to pay alimony.
  5. TheDow

    TheDow Puritan Board Freshman

    Seems to me that forcing a brother or sister to remain faithful to a husband or wife who has deserted them such that it cannot be remedied would be akin to bondage, which Paul specifically mentions in the aforementioned passage.
  6. puritanpilgrim

    puritanpilgrim Puritan Board Junior

    what if the deserter is a "so called" christian?
  7. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    That's one of the many reasons for membership in a church with a functioning, Biblically run eldership. They're brought up on charges and either repent or are labeled unbelievers.

    So the verse from Corinthians applies. You don't know the person's heart, and the sentence of excommunication doesn't mean the deserter isn't a Christian. It's a legal tool giving guidance for dealing with just these sorts of cases.
  8. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    Are they a member of the church? Then they should be disciplined by the church...going through the Matthew 18 process..

    I was talking to a young newly married couple recently, they profess Christ but are not in a church home; so I was sharing the benefits and security a marriage has within a Biblical based Church that practices Church discipline..they didn't know if their previous churches practiced discipline or not as they had never witnessed it..but they are a young couple early 20's..and as teens may not have paid attention..they both liked the way it was described as an under girding of their marriage..and both wish their parents would have had such..

    They were talking about how they would be moving in a few months and weren't sure about joining a church now, to which I explained, if you start going, they could then help you locate a church home where you will be moving too..they liked that idea as well..
  9. BJClark

    BJClark Puritan Board Doctor


    If they refuse to support their children from the marriage, they can also have their drivers license suspended, any businesses licenses suspended, if they own a home/vehicle they can have a lien placed on those by the state..

    The jail time for deadbeat parents (it's not only men) typically isn't that long, I know of one man who would rather spend his month in jail than pay his child support..and every year when the state is really coming down on him he goes to the local police station and turns himself in..
  10. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Because marriage to an unbeliever isn't ideal anyway.

    In the OT other action was prescribed for this. See e.g. Nehemiah.

    In the case of a believer or "believer" abandoning/divorcing his/her spouse, the response will be different.

    In the Gospels Christ doesn't address things from this perspective e.g. what can you do if an unbeliever separtes (divorces) you, but when do you as a believer have the right to separate (divorce) from your spouse.

    Paul is addressing the Q, When are you allowed to accept a non-beliver abandoning/divorcing you and what to do about that?

    In the former case it's only in the case of porneia.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2009
  11. Scott1

    Scott1 Puritanboard Commissioner

    Practically, let's assume a situation where both spouses were members at the same church.

    One disappears irremediably by church or court, (and others are involved in making that determination).

    The church could proceed with discipline, and eventually ex-communicate. That's a declaration "as if" the person were an unbeliever.

    God gave authority to the church to determine that through the "keys."

    So, after all that, it would in my understanding be a case of a believer being abandoned irremediably by an unbeliever.

    What would that mean?

    The church could recognize dissolution on that grounds, if the innocent party party chose to seek it.
  12. TimV

    TimV Puritanboard Botanist

    That was what I was originally getting at, Scott.
  13. Peairtach

    Peairtach Puritan Board Doctor

    Paul's teaching could possibly cover cases of spousal abuse by professing believer or unbeliever upon the believer also, although church courts must always be careful not to make grounds for separation/divorce broader than they should be in the Reformed and evangelical world.
  14. Semper Fidelis

    Semper Fidelis 2 Timothy 2:24-25 Staff Member

    [bible]1 Tim 5:8[/bible]
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