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Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Divorce and Remarriage III: When Can a Christian Remarry?

The positions held by the church are similar to the views on divorce – some say there is no remarriage, some say that remarriage is permissible, and some say that it is permissible only in restricted cases.

I) No Remarriage.

Obviously, those who believe that divorce is not possible do not support remarriage! However, there are those who support limited cases of divorce, but do not support remarriage. In fact, this is the testimony of the majority of the early church fathers who address the issue.

In this view, only the death of the spouse dissolves the marriage bond. Jesus’exception allows couples to separate in cases of porneia (normally understood as adultery). However, since porneia does not break the marriage bond, neither spouse can remarry. Hopefully, while remaining apart, the erring mate would be driven to repent and return to his or her spouse. Moreover, the so-called Pauline Privilege (1 Cor 7:15) does not allow deserted believers to remarry. Thus, this view allows separation when there is porneia but never allows remarriage.

Those who hold to this view emphasize that the marriage bond is indissoluble and appeal to the Deuteronomy 24 and kinship argument in support. Likewise, Mark 10 and Luke 16 allow no one to divorce, and Jesus’comments (Matthew 19) on creation ordinances and leaving intact what God has joined leave no room for divorce. In Matt 19:9 Jesus says: “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for porneia, and marries another, commits adultery.” Who commits adultery, according to Jesus? The person who both divorces and remarries. Separation alone without remarriage is not adultery.

This view sees Matt 19:9 as an answer to the Pharisees’ question in 19:3 ( “is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause at all?”). Jesus responds that only porneia is just cause, but even then, one may not remarry without committing adultery. This view can be summarized into four points, which I find completely reasonable according to scripture:

1) divorce for any cause plus remarriage is adultery;

2) divorce because of porneia is acceptable, but no remarriage is allowed;

3) whoever divorces a woman forces her into adultery (i.e., once she remarries), unless the divorce resulted because of her porneia (adultery)—in that case she was already an adulteress before the divorce; and

4) whoever marries a divorcée commits adultery himself.

II) Remarriage is always acceptable.

Honestly, this view isn’t really supported Scripturally. Proponents of this position use several arguments that seem to be (and some are) honestly loving, considerate and thoughtful. However, the merits of the emotions in the argument do not translate to merits of the argument itself! They include some scriptural support, but do not address the breadth of Scriptural prescription. Here are some:

“God made and women for each other, so he wouldn’t want you to be alone.” Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” (Gen 2:18)

“God wants you to be happy”

“God doesn’t want your children to grow up without a daddy in the home” (Did he not make them one, with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring.” (Malachi 2:5)

“Divorce is not the unforgivable sin” (but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”—), Mark 3:29

These statements affirm the beauty of marriage, the need to maintain marriages for the sake of children, and the grace of God in Christ. All of these statements (well, not “God wants you to be happy”, since happiness is not a virtue nor possible to produce beyond moments) are true in themselves. God did make men and women for each other, for the purpose of making each other better. God does want children to have a mother and a father, and divorce is not the unforgivable sin. However, none of these represent Biblical justification for ignoring Biblical prescription. Furthermore, the accelerated rate of divorces of those previously divorces demonstrates that this line of reasoning cannot be the right one. Thus, I must dismiss the notion that anyone can remarry for any reason.

III) Remarriage is acceptable only in specific cases.

There are several divorce and remarriage views, most of which are variations of what many call the Erasmian view (named after Erasmus of Rotterdam). Those who hold some form of the Erasmian view consider the exception clauses in Matthew to allow a morally acceptable ground for divorce. Moreover, if divorce is permissible, then remarriage is as well.

Some variations in the Erasmian view stem from one’s understanding of porneia. Many interpret it narrowly to refer only to adultery. On this view, Jesus is saying that if a wife commits adultery, her husband may divorce her and remarry without committing any sin himself. Others object that Matthew’s usual word for adultery is moicheia and that in Matthew 15 he distinguishes between porneia and moicheia. Thus, porneia in Matt 5:32 and 19:9 should be understood in a more general way to refer to any kind of sexual impurity, including adultery, homosexuality, bestiality, and incest.

A further variation of the Erasmian view arises from interpreting Paul as allowing a second ground for divorce (1 Corinthians 7). Paul instructs converts to Christianity not to leave their unbelieving spouses just because they are non-believers. However, if the non-believer leaves the believer and seeks a divorce, the believer is told to let him depart (v. 15); the believer is not bound in such a case. Many understand this to mean that willful desertion of a believer by a non-believer is permissible grounds for divorce. The believer may not initiate divorce proceedings, but if the non-believing spouse does, the divorce is not a sin. Typically, those who think Paul allows divorce for willful desertion argue that if the divorce is morally permissible, so is remarriage.

This view is the view held by many Protestant denominations since the 17th century, which, unlike the Roman Catholic Church, would be almost their entire time of existence! It is interesting to note, that while the Anglican Church was primarily instituted by the King of England to allow his divorce, the Church of England did not allow divorced people to marry in church until 2002!

There are other reasons that some would add to a limited list of reasons to allow remarriage, and they typically mirror the specific reasons for divorce: physical abuse, danger to the family through substance abuse, financial failure, etc. In fact, while few would say one can divorce for any reason, fewer still would stand against remarriage for any reason. How often have you heard, “Jill and Jim are a great couple, but since Jill left her husband who never cheated on her and was a good man, she shouldn’t be allowed to remarry”? Well, pretty much never. Many will claim to be in the limited divorce/limited remarriage camp, but few are, as evidenced by their actions and words when in a situation that demands an opinion be given.

Obviously, I find the no remarriage and limited remarriage cases most compelling. What I have found difficult is this – while I can find never-divorced leaders who will speak of allowing remarriage, never-divorced leaders who will speak of not allowing remarriage, and divorced leaders who will speak of allowing remarriage, I have not found a divorced leader of character who was divorced for a reason included in Jesus or Paul’s words (or even in Deut 24 – abuse), yet stands against remarriage. Can we interpret this without our experience forcing our hand? Let me know what you all think of the presented ideas.

26 Comments:

  • ISTM that the main issue here is exactly what we mean by "divorce". Do we mean separation or dissolution?

    If it means no more than separation then it's a weak term. Then, if divorce does not dissolve the marriage bond, remarriage is impossible - but divorce means less than it is usually understood to mean. This is what lies behind the "divorce is OK but remarriage is not" position, I think. The idea is that divorce doesn't dissolve the marriage, it merely permits the husband and wife to live apart. And that's odd, because there's then nothing to distinguish between divorce and separation.

    If, though, divorce means that the marriage bond has been broken (i.e. divorce is a strong term), there can be no logical reason to oppose remarriage. Marriage is not allowed where there is an existing marriage bond. However, widows and widowers can remarry precisely because the previous marriage has been broken by death. If divorce breaks the marriage bond then remarriage is surely permissible under any circumstances.

    So, as you can see, it seems to me that the only consistent positions that accept divorce are:
    1) divorce does not break the marriage bond; no remarriage.
    2) divorce does break the marriage bond; remarriage is permissible for any reason.
    I cannot see a logical defense for allowing remarriage under limited circumstances once divorce has been accepted. I thus differ from you in which of the three possibilities seem to make sense. But this is because arguments about in which specific cases remarriage is permissible are, in fact, arguments about whether the divorce was strong or weak.

    The central issue then becomes whether divorce breaks the marriage bond or not. Personally, I think that it must. To use divorce in the weak sense is to abuse both language and practice. Strong divorce breaks the marriage bond (or recognises that the relationship is already broken, and dissolves the covenant). That being so, I can see no logical reason to prohibit remarriage of divorcees. However, I can see why some people don't allow it - but that is because they see divorce as a weak action rather than a strong one. The issue is still the view of divorce itself, rather than a separate one.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 8/03/2006 06:10:00 AM  

  • And then we come to the question of how a re-marriage should be carried out:

    1) civil ceremony, or
    2) in church "before the face of God"

    Should someone make the same vows a second time before God, having broken them a first time?

    I do not know my own views on that.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/03/2006 10:14:00 AM  

  • Hi Hammer,

    I think you where very clear in explaining the different views on divorce and remarriage. I am much more likely to consider the opinion of someone else when I know they have considered alternative views to their own before making their case.

    Beliefs regarding divorce and remarriage seem to be an area where a philosophy of how to apply Scripture to life will determine a person’s view. If someone considers the Bible a rule book, then divorce and remarriage break the rules (with maybe a little daylight for exceptions as you explained). However, if someone considers the Bible a guide book, then divorce and remarriage become an undesirable option, but still an option.

    I want to consider the Bible a rule book when the standards conform to my ability and my behavior. However, when my ability or my behavior falls short of the rules, I tend to consider the Bible a guide book. I want to live a perfect life, but no amount of “want” on my part is going to make me or my life perfect. No amount of searching on my part has revealed someone else to me who is perfect either.

    I have also lived long enough and read Ecclesiastes enough times to know that doing the right thing is not always rewarded and doing the wrong thing is not always punished. Therefore, when considering divorce a person should stay married if possible because staying married is the right thing to do. However, if continuing in marriage is not possible, other less than perfect options need to be considered. All of us really do fall short of the Glory of God and need His grace more than some of us, including me, are willing to admit.

    By Blogger David M. Smith, at 8/03/2006 01:40:00 PM  

  • John,
    What you say about divorce was the issue discussed in the second part. As presented there, there are those who agree that there are limited cases of acceptable divorce. This is the reason for denying remarriage.

    Thus, you interpretation of the "divorce but no remarriage" position seems to be completely in line with the position. Furthermore, your reduction of the three to two is also in agreement with them, and allows us to examine the issue from a differing perspective.

    The reason I prefer the three position method is that "divorce" occurs legally when it does not occur Scripturally. When Jesus tells the Pharisees that Moses allowed divorce because of the hardness of their hearts, he was emphasizing that while men were recognizing divorce for many reasons, it was never God's plan.

    As the CofE put it, divorce is happening whether we approve of it or not. I and many others who only agree that divorce happens in the strong case still use the term in the sense of any who are living as if they are no longer married to their spouse.

    Basically, I like your point, and may agree - but since you have not expressed your views on whether divorce is premissible for any reason, specific stated reasons, or not at all, I don't know if I agree with you or not!

    Ruth,
    I believe the answer to your question lies in the answer to the possibility of remarriage and why. If one is in a situation where they are divorced Scripturally (if this is possible), then a church should be a fine place to do it - after all, it was not they who broke the vows! However, if one views divorce as impossible in spirit, or the divorce does not meet the accepted spiritual conditions, then the JP is all you get.

    This is for certain - for me to do a remarriage, there will need to be a Scriptural divorce...that is, assuming I come down on the side of remarriage at all. I do lean Erasmian, so "it was a bad marriage and we fought a lot" won't cut it. They can go get a PCUSA pastor to do it for them, then.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/03/2006 01:49:00 PM  

  • David,
    Great comment. My fear for others is their determination that "continuing in marriage is not possible" is a very vague guideline. Many obviously choose that guideline when merely submitting to each other and compromising, reducing selfishness and committing to the marriage will solve the problem.

    As I look at the possible Scriptural exceptions, I see a connecting line - it is specifically the physical actions of the other spouse that can leave a possibility of a just divorce. Furthermore, in those situations, only one of the spouses would be just and able to remarry! In a juxtaposition of the nature of men and the nature of God, it is only the just one that would question their freedom to remarry, since a spouse who abuses, abandons, or cheats on their spouse is obviously not too concerned about living a life of holiness!

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/03/2006 01:55:00 PM  

  • Hammer,
    "What you say about divorce was the issue discussed in the second part. As presented there, there are those who agree that there are limited cases of acceptable divorce. This is the reason for denying remarriage."

    I don't think I was quite clear enough. The argument in part ii was about whether divorce is permissible and under what circumstances. This part iii is about whether, once someone is divorced, remarriage is permissible.

    My point was that, under whatever circumstances one permits divorce, there are only two possible outcomes: either the marriage bond is broken or it is not. If it is broken, there is no barrier to remarriage under any circumstances. If the bond is not broken, marriage is not permissible under any circumstances. I cannot see a way to permit your middle category - of remarriage being permissible under certain circumstances separate from the divorce itself. The controlling fact is whether the previous marriage still holds or not.

    "The reason I prefer the three position method is that "divorce" occurs legally when it does not occur Scripturally."

    This is true. However, this discussion has been explicitly about Christian marriage. Civil and Christian marriage are related, of course, because we recognise all civil marriages as equal to church marriages. The interesting part is when we look at civil divorce - does it have power over the marriage bond in the Christian sense?

    When the church looks at someone wanting to remarry after a divorce, there will be circumstances under which we say yes and others under which we say no. However, the factor that controls this decision is not the situation of the proposed remarriage but of the previous divorce. Was that divorce strong or weak - did it dissolve the marriage bond or not?

    Thus, perhaps, I end up in your "remarriage is sometimes OK" category. But with the important difference that all the emphasis lies on the nature of the divorce.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 8/03/2006 05:35:00 PM  

  • Hammer:

    Re: This is for certain - for me to do a remarriage, there will need to be a Scriptural divorce...that is, assuming I come down on the side of remarriage at all.

    Could I raise 2 practical issues here? Once a pastor decides that he might re-marry the divorced, he runs two risks (in my opinion):

    1) he has to police how someone was divorced in the first place and could be deceived by the person who wishes to re-marry. Just how far do you take your detective skills in ascertaining the true nature of the divorce? Just how far will someone go to persuade a pastor to re-marry them (in their desire for a beautiful; church / to appease their never-before-married partner)?

    2) Where a divorce was not mutually desired you may run he risk of helping to "rub salt into the wound" of the injured party. You could distance yourself from a distressed parishioner and their family.

    Could I also raise another question (and these geninuely ARE questions - not opinions)

    You have examined the bible in order to reach conlusions on whether divorce is possible and / or permissable. You have produced examples of when it may be. But the marriage vows make no allowance for this whatsoever:
    for better or worse
    for richer or poorer
    in sickness and in health
    .... till death us do part

    I'm not sure whether you use the same marriage service as we do in the UK (please excuse my ignorance), but I never cease to be struck by the intensity of the vows that are taken. The service is quite clear: the vows are to be taken seriously: "those whom God hath joined together, let no man put assunder".

    Here is my preferred approach for the time being:

    No re-marriage of the divorced in church but instead the option of prayer and dedication after a civil marriage (where a couple who are already re-married by the JP) dedicate to God their life together.

    I can see that this is terribly harsh for "an innocent party" who wishes to re-marry, but who, on this earth, is to establish innocence and guilt in these situations?

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/04/2006 02:45:00 AM  

  • Ruth,
    Your two questions are honest ones, so I present my honest answers:

    1) I am not responsible for the sins of others, only my own. Thus, my part is simply to ask if the divorce was a result of abandonment, adultery or abuse. I would only ask a follow-up question with abuse, because of the aforementioned problem with the definition.

    If they wish to deceive me, they likely will. I can only answer for my position and actions based upon what I know, not what I do not.

    2) I'm not sure exactly what you meant, but I'll take my best guess, and if I am wrong, let me know. You wrote of a divorce not mutually desired. I assume it relates to a situation where the "injured party" was the one who initiated the divorce for reasons that are not scriptural, and yet they seek remarriage. My refusal to remarry such a person could certainly create unpleasant feelings and would likely cause them to leave my church!

    I would seek to never do such a thing whenever possible. However, hurting feelings cannot contradict scriptural prescription. If I am a believer in scriptural authority, then I must subordinate my own desire to be liked and to make others feel good. That said, would I make exceptions? Yes, I would. Close family members and lifelong friends - especially those who are not Christians! In fact, the wedding of a non-Christian is something I would consider doing in a case where a Christian cannot remarry. Why? They are lost in their sin already. Furthermore, they are not interested in avoiding sin. Better they hear a word from the Lord than not! A wedding happens to include an opportunity to preach the Gospel to those attending, and that must be considered. But if anyone must be held to the scriptural standard, it is my parishoners, who should not be surprised by my stance.

    I don't mean to belittle your suggestion, but if one knows their marriage is not approved by God, and they claim to be a Christian, why on earth would they do so? Simple - they are either not a Christian or in rebellion.

    One thing must be said - there are those who become Christians after a second marriage who wonder: should I leave my current spouse and attempt to reconcile with my first? The answer is no. Thankfully, I don't even have to interpolate this one, though I think it is easily done:

    “When a man takes a wife and marries her, if then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and ehe writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, and if she goes and becomes another man’s wife, and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, then fher former husband, who sent her away, may not take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord. And you shall not bring sin upon the land that the Lord your God is giving you for an inheritance." (Deut 24:1-4)

    (on a side note, there is a distinct difference between the word abomination (KJV/ESV) here and the word abomination (KJV) or detestable (ESV). The Hebrew Scriptures forbid this type of moral abomination under the word "to-ay-baw", something morally disgusting and abhorrent, while the food laws prohibit those foods as "sheh-kets" - filth. Guess what language I am taking this semester!)

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/10/2006 10:16:00 AM  

  • Hi Hammer

    Thank you for your response to my comment - I like what you have said. I agree with all of that.

    I'm sorry that I was unclear with my second question. What I had meant to say was this: there could be difficulties for a pastor (perhaps) if he or she re-marries a divorced man to a new wife,say, whilst his original wife sits at home sobbing into her handerchief and / or his children from the first marriage have doubts about their new step-mother. (Obviously the gender of who's re-marrying is irrelevant). The first wife and / or the children from the first marriage could see the church as adding to their woes and that could have a detrimental effect upon their relationship with the pastor / the church...???.

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/10/2006 12:45:00 PM  

  • hammer-
    Where exactly is your stand? You pointed out that both of you are remarried, so therefore, unless I am a completely missing something (which I do from time to time) you ARE remarried to each other, so you MUST have a clear standpoint on this. You cannot say you will not remarry other couples when you and your wife are both divorced and have remarried.
    Abuse is hard to call. The abuser (whether physical or emotional or mental) almost NEVER admits to the fact that they have done anything wrong... Even in some cases of infedelity the offender does not admit that what they did was wrong. I say infedelity instead of adultry, b/c I view unfaithfulness in many more ways than just to have sex outside of the marriage.
    So, again, I ask, What is your standpoint? Specificly please.

    By Blogger sah mom, at 8/11/2006 02:13:00 PM  

  • Ruth,
    Thanks for clarifying your question!

    I think the answer is easier than it looks at first. Is it possible that a couple that is in my flock would go through the turmoil of marital strife, separation and divorce and I not know a reasonable level of detail about it? As soon as trouble began to get out of hand, I am certain that I would minister to them to attempt to avoid divorce. This process of pastoral ministry would make them pointedly aware of my stance on divorce and remarriage, and if only one was determined to get a divorce for non-scriptural reasons, I would have that person cast out of the church! Obviously they wouldn't be interested in my reamarrying them!

    That probably sounds foreign to someone in the CofE, since they don't throw anyone out, as far as I know, but Jesus tells us to do this very thing in Matthew 18! Our desire to be liked by everyone has removed church discipline from the mainline denominations and many evangelical ones as well.

    Fear not, Ruth - no woman (or man, for that matter) who is the victim of divorce in my parish will have her heart wounded more by my actions.

    SAH Mom,

    It's nice to see you back! Before I give my current standpoint, I would like to recount a short conversation I had with my eleven year old last Friday.

    "Son, you know I have a tattoo - can I tell you not to get a tattoo with any authority?"

    "No, sir."

    "OK, say I murdered somebody. Can I tell you not to murder someone with any authority?"

    "(pause)Yes you can. I get it."

    My sin does not disqualify me from warning people away from sin and attempting to keep them from it. Because I hold the Biblical position that divorcing a second spouse to reconcile with a first would be sinful, I am not bound to dissolve my current marriage. Also, because I hold the Biblical position of limited remarriage, I can certainly refuse to remarry those I understand to have divorced unscripturally. Even if I change my position to reflect a no remarriage position, I could still maintain it - my sin (in this case) does not prevent me from encouraging godliness.

    I don't know about your reasons for divorce. They sound pretty fluid to me. With your apparently expanded ideas of what constitutes abuse and what constitutes infidelity, many people with those ideas set themselves up for a future divorce.

    The reasons I conclude are scriptural for divorce and hence, remarriage are sexual sin (adultery of some kind - heterosexual, homosexual, bestial, incestual), danger to the family through physical abuse or involvement in a criminal lifestyle, and abandonment.

    I would be very wary about any emotional / mental abuse. Honestly,I would have to go on what the party seeking remarriage tells me - I am not a private eye - so the denial of the other party is irrelevant. However, disregard for your needs, desires and dreams, inconsiderate behavior, financial irresponsibility, constant fighting and outright meanness are NOT mental or emotional abuse. What they are instead are the results of marrying someone you never should have, and are not enough to meet the New Testament criteria for divorce and remarriage.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/15/2006 04:29:00 PM  

  • Couple of points there, Hammer.

    First, be careful of assuming that every pastor knows the whole history of every person coming to them to be married. You may be in the privileged position of only having to marry people who've been in your congregation for years, but not everyone is. (And even then, what about someone who was divorced before they came to your church?) Even in the non-parish churches (like the CofE, which treat everyone within the boundaries as in some sense the responsibility of the church), that's not true.

    Second, careful with your definitions. For example, in your list of reasons not to divorce "constant fighting" is very hard to define so that it's not abuse - unless you mean simply "arguing". Fighting means physical struggle and violence. Plus, of course, even if divorce (in the strong sense) isn't the answer to such a bad marriage, separation might well be.

    Finally, and separately, there's still a tension in your position. (And I know that I don't know the facts about your own situation here - I'm simply trying to reconcile the positions you've put forward here with the generic possibilities.) If a divorce was for the "wrong" reasons, and hence invalid so that no subsequent remarriage could legitimately occur, there is still the question of what people in such a remarriage should do. You've put forward the position that it would be wrong to return to the first marriage - but would it be correct to continue in the sin of the second? Your passage from Deuteronomy doesn't address this (and, according to your arguments, the second marriage wouldn't be valid in any case - unlike the situation posited in Deuteronomy, which allowed trivial divorce.)

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 8/16/2006 03:21:00 AM  

  • ... but surely if you are subject to physical abuse and all of your other 'legitimate reasons' for divorce, that's also because you married the wrong person?

    And what constitutes physical abuse - a slight slap (it does in law) or does she have to be beaten to a pulp?

    My point I that I'm against anyone outside of the courts deciding upon when a divorce is acceptable and when it is not - let alone barring them from prayer and worship on the grounds that they've contravened your interpretation of the scripture!!

    Any Christian who instigates a divorce for whatever reason will repent sooner or later. Is it then all ok? (Can they come back to church?)

    By Blogger Ruth, at 8/16/2006 03:25:00 AM  

  • John,
    I already addressed the issue of how much I would know for those outside my time as their pastor above. I understand the challenges and stand upon my responsibility for my actions, not the truthfulness of those seeking a remarriage.

    I meant arguing. Thanks for clearing that up!

    There is no Biblical prescription to leave a spouse at all. There is one specific instance where God tells Israelites to leave their non-Jewish spouses at that specific time, but it is not prescriptivve. This makes the answer elementary is the Bible is our guide...

    ...which is why, Ruth, I refuse to allow the courts to dictate. My responsibility as a pastor will be to take the action Biblically prescripted (or at a minimum, not Biblically prohibited) based upon my awareness of the situation. The same goes for church discipline. Matthew 18:15-20, 1 Tim 5:20, 2 Tim 4:2, and 1 Corinthians 5:3-5, 13 speak of the duty of ministers to exercise such discipline. If the church cannot expel an unrepentant adulterer who has abandoned his family, we are just a social club.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/16/2006 02:53:00 PM  

  • Hammer,
    You've missed my point slightly, I think. If you're saying that a previous divorce isn't valid and hence that the subsequent marriage is invalid (sinful), then there is no second spouse - the person the divorcee is living with is not (in this view) their spouse at all, because the previous marriage is still valid.

    That is, if someone gets divorced for the "wrong" reasons and is then remarried, and then becomes a Christian (say) and worries about what to do, what do we say? If the divorce is invalid then so is their second marriage - they are still married to their first spouse.

    I know that this is something of a personal issue and I'm not trying to push it in that sense. There's a logic in that position that I'm not sure is consistent. If we allow civil authorities to start marriages, do we allow them to end them? Or are "Christian" marriages somehow superior?

    I've no answers to these questions, only thoughts, which I've outlined already - that divorce must be strong (it must break the marriage bond) and hence the only relevant question is the nature of the divorce. I wouldn't be as limited as you in the grounds I'd accept, though, because I believe that there may be grounds other than adultery or physical violence that justify divorce - there really are such things as emotional and mental abuse, however much some people might water the concepts down.

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 8/16/2006 04:42:00 PM  

  • John,
    I agree with your consistency argument. My disagreement with it stands in the Scriptures, which is why I cited Deut. 24. Why would God be seemingly inconsistent?

    I can only guess, but I would say that the answer to sin and pain is not more sin and pain. What are the consequences to the children and wife of the second marriage? Won't they already suffer the consequences of the previous broken marriage without their family being broken as well?

    While some may not find that argument convincing, I don't insist you buy my take on it - just the Scriptural prescription. After all,

    the foolishness of God is wiser than men - 1 Cor 1:25

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/17/2006 04:35:00 PM  

  • Hammer,
    The problem with using that Deuteronomy passage is that it's closely linked to the easy-divorce camp. The man can divorce his wife simlpy because she "finds no favour in his eyes" because he senses "some indecency in her". That sets the bar for divorce a long, long way below what you would want. And that means that this passage is not talking about the same picture of marriage as you were.

    Which still leaves us in a confusing place! :-)

    pax et bonum

    By Blogger John, at 8/17/2006 05:17:00 PM  

  • A great discussion. Wish I had seen it sooner :)

    An interesting quote:
    "A woman begins to be the wife of no later husband unless she has ceased to be the wife of a former one. She will cease to be the wife of a former one, however, if that husband should die, not if he commit fornication. A spouse, therefore, is lawfully dismissed for cause of fornication; but the bond of chastity remains. That is why a man is guilty of adultery if he marries a woman who has been dismissed even for this very reason of fornication."
    —Augustine, ibid., 2:4:4

    By Blogger von, at 9/15/2006 01:52:00 AM  

  • In fact, the wedding of a non-Christian is something I would consider doing in a case where a Christian cannot remarry. Why? They are lost in their sin already. Furthermore, they are not interested in avoiding sin. Better they hear a word from the Lord than not!

    But is it not a 'word from the Lord' that you are avoiding here? The first effective word from the Lord is conviction of sin, which will not happen if they are not, ummm, convicted of sin.
    And the marriage counseling session where this would be said would be, in itself, a marvelous opportunity for sharing what marriage actually is in Gods eyes, ie a reflection of Christ and His Church, ie who is Christ and His Church... ie the gospel.
    Would John the Baptist have officiated at Herods marriage ceremony?

    By Blogger von, at 9/15/2006 05:15:00 AM  

  • people mary for diffrent reasons, some have very wrong motive for mariage like samson who maried beauty his eyes got plucked out he wanted his own desire and his desire destroyed him, if the mariage is not joined by God then it is not amariage in the eyes of the lord, somepeople were never joined by God they joined themselves, the bible in mathew 19 says what God joins togather let no one separate what about what he does not join togather?nowonder about divorce Jesus concluded inmathew 19 :12 by saying that about divorce let him that can accept his sayings on verse 8, and 9 do so,
    remariage is acccpetable God id the first one to initiate divorce and remariage hose aand solomon, they both were given commands from above, if all those who have been remaried are going to hell then we expect to find solomon there and david too, we must undestand the heart of God towards samson if we are to undestsant his heart towards divorce, he hates divorce but hates them that cover themselves with violence, that means those who batter their wifes, that is another exeption for divorce, you cannot tell people who are divorced for right reasons like adutery or violence to wait for their spouse to die first, what if they cant wait? wht if they start praying for the other mate to die quick so that they may proceed, some will say that is witchcraft but if that is the only way for this person who is bound and locked in the prison of the mind based on some arguments of theological nonsense, what bout thos who are fornicating and saying they say God understands them because they cant marry again because thier spouce is still alive and must die first, are they allowed to watch porn because they cant get with their wife and they are locked in this prison of waiting for the other mate to die before they can remary? ijust have questions because there are many people who are bound by religion and arguments of men and they dont want to listen to the voice fo God they listen to men and their eloquent arguments, but they dont want to see the heart of God in all of this. most people who do not agree with divorcees remarying are those who have perfect mariages and they dont have any problem in mariage, they are arogant and talk with noe eperience.
    prophet teddy

    By Blogger theodore, at 11/23/2007 07:58:00 AM  

  • This is a difficult and painful subject for many, and one that can unfortunately only be fully understood after having gone through it.
    In reading scripture, of course people commit adultery. Of course, it is not perfect nor what God would want for us, as it is not uplifting nor the best. People are human, though, and they do sin. Adultery does happen. Jesus was not letting one off the hook in terms of whether or not they sin. I don't believe that he was seeking to establish a check-list of rules but rather pointing out that irrevocable fact. As pointed out in this article, though, adultery is not unforgivable. The grace of God is one of the most important aspects of true Christianity.

    Through God's grace, people can be healed. People can "re-marry" and hopefully not enter into the same mistakes. It therefore, though, must be very important to think carefully about what happened the first time. To think very introspectively, too, perhaps accepting blame on both sides for we are all ultimately human, and relationships, particularly in our "post-modern" era and disjointed world, can be challenging and complex at times. We unfortunately all fall short of choosing to love our friends, family, mates, and others at times.

    Ultimately, love is a "verb" and a choice, though, not a feeling. If we do choose (and we can choose not just feel) to love another, then we must constantly make that choice.
    If one divorces, there is likely sin involved, unfortunately, because it is that which falls short of the perfect that God would have for us and have us be. He can heal us, though, if we accept it.
    I don't believe the point is for people to constantly debate whether re-marriage is "allowed" or not nor impose things about which they are not certain on others, but it is instead better to seek to love and help others in an active sense and with a mindfulness of the grace of God.

    The world to come is not as this one, completely, and in the long-term spiritual sense, it is difficult to say how relationships will be in the ultimate kingdom. For here and now, though, love (the choice, not the feeling) and grace are important on all sides -- they are the only things that can dim human selfishness.

    By Blogger Eric, at 4/16/2008 02:40:00 PM  

  • Leslie McFall has an interesting way to deal with the so-called exception clause in Matthew 19:9 that appears to allow for divorce and remarriage for marriage unfaithfulness.
    He has written a 43 page paper that reviews the changes in the Greek made by Erasmus that effect the way Matthew 19:9 has been translated. I reviewed McFall's paper at Except For Fornication Clause of Matthew 19:9. I also have some other interesting resources on Divorce and Remarriage on my site. I would love to hear some feedback on this position.

    By Blogger More Christ Like, at 11/24/2008 12:35:00 AM  

  • There are divorcees who stand by the unbreakability of marriage.. Rev Stephen Wilcox abandoned many years ago by his wife stands on this side, you can check out an interview on the subject on youtube.

    By Blogger maria, at 1/14/2009 06:58:00 AM  

  • For me the question is what does one do if they have remarried and then come to believe in the Word of God that to do so was sin? Is it the act of remarriage that is sin, or the sex that results from that remarriage?

    I am remarried. After having done so I came to believe the Word forbids it. But, what do I do about this new marriage? Thus far we have remained celibate and lived separate. But is this the godly response? Yes, I know Stephen Wilcox says it is but that does not make it true.

    Is it possible that, having repented, we are free to continue as man and wife?

    By Blogger Freeman, at 8/13/2009 12:38:00 PM  

  • Freeman,
    Yes. Here is why you can.

    Wilcox's position is exegetically faulty. What is adultery? Adultery is sex with someone other than your spouse. When Christ speaks of the adultery of remarriage, the word is in the aorist "tense", indicating a single event that is in the past. It is the first act of sex with the new spouse that is adultery.

    Christ does not say that they are committing adultery with every union, but that the consummation of the remarriage is an adulterous act. The new marriage is then exactly that. Contextually, is is the casting off of one wife for another that is being addressed, and condemned, in the first place.

    Rejoin your wife and be blessed.

    By Blogger Hammertime, at 8/15/2009 10:18:00 AM  

  • Well, according to that whether you see the adultery associated with remarriage as the one time act of entering into the new marriage vows, or the one time act of the wedding night, the verb tense is in the aorist and thus referring to a single event that is in the past.

    Either way it appears that after more than 3 years of separation I am able to rejoin my wife in marriage.

    WOW.
    WOW.
    WOW.

    It was very helpful to have Wilcox exegesis examined. His writings strongly influenced us when we first began to examine the issue.

    Thank you for being among the voices that have brought clarity to a difficult and distressing 3 year situation. Praise be to God. Amen.

    By Blogger Freeman, at 8/15/2009 11:59:00 AM  

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