This is the final post of More Harm than Good.....
In the first post I wrote this..."If scripture exposes these three premises for what I believe is a clear breach in the marriage covenant, then these premises must be thoroughly rejected."
After carefully reading and considering Dr. James Dobson’s three premises on why he believes divorce and remarriage are optional to a one-flesh covenant that no man may break, I have concluded that the word of God by what Jesus and Paul said, never allowed loopholes to exit a one-flesh marriage covenant. These three premises allow for both divorce and remarriage....You can find these premises on his website, here. “Dr. Dobson on Divorce and Remarriage.” You can find the first post here, and the second post here, and the third response the second premise here, and the response to the third premise here.. Here is the final response...I pray that God be the glory...
The last paragraph of this web page (“Dr. Dobson on Divorce and Remarriage..”) says this….
“Having said this, Dr. Dobson would hasten to add that we must not become so caught up in defining the biblical justifications for divorce that we fail to have compassion for the individuals involved. They need our friendship and understanding regardless of the circumstances surrounding the breakup of their marriage. To treat them as "lepers" or second-class citizens is not only cruel and insensitive, it is also a breach of Christ's commandment that we love one another as He has loved us. There can be no sense in inflicting greater pain upon those who are already hurting. Instead, we are called to become agents of healing in their lives.”
I could not disagree more with these parting statements because they are based on the presuppositions (The three premises) that marriage is NOT a one-flesh covenant. If you believe like this, you have zero compassion for helping a sinner come to repentance because you acknowledge that a hardhearted person does not need to endure the permanence of the marriage covenant by seeking to forgive, repent, and reconcile wherever this is applicable to each spouse within the marriage. Once you believe divorce is “ok” or "allowable" in certain situations, you have given up to the fact that there was never hope to stay in a marriage to begin with. Then a remarriage is the icing on the cake of your self-gratification and happiness because by a hardhearted decision to divorce, or believing your marriages ends in divorce, you feel justified to receive grace to remarry.
Sin is compatible with divorce, as repentance and forgiveness of sin is compatible to the Gospel. Divorce is never compatible to the Gospel. Divorce came after the fall of man. Man instituted divorce, not by the grace of God, but by the hardness of man’s heart. God hates divorce. Divorce represents resentment, bitterness, unforgiveness, and impenitent hearts. Divorce causes sin. Divorce creates more problems. Divorce splits families and friends. Divorce has a profound impact on our children. Divorce is selfishness, self-gratification, and prideful.
One thing I have yet to consider in all this is the children. A child who experiences a divorce never forgets this all the days of their lives. Not to mention that many grow up to marry, divorce, and remarry, just like their parents. The examples parents set for their children through divorce are hardheartedness, unforgiveness, bitterness, resentment, hate, mistrust, vehemence, and vengeance. If the church would teach the permanence of marriage with no excuses or exceptions to divorce, while actively enforcing church discipline in the case of sin, there would be an end to divorce and remarriage in the church after one generation.
Divorce is always somebody’s fault and most every time it is the fault of both spouses when one or both have hard hearts to divorce. If marriage gives either spouse zero options to divorce or remarry, the only logical solution is to make the marriage work, or live in singleness the rest of their lives. (1 Cor 7:10,11) It is eternally important to understand what a person must do should a spouse sin against them.
This is the bottom line when a person divorces. A spouse divorces because someone sinned, or they perceived a spouse sinned. I will agree that sin may initiate a hardhearted action to divorce, but I will not agree that a spouse may willfully divorce because a spouse broke their vow by sin. A vow to each other is important because God witnessed the vow. Therefore, anyone who breaks a vow against a spouse breaks a vow against God. Vengeance is mine says the Lord. Divorce says that vengeance is ours. God’s arena is to chastise a prodigal that refuses to repent of sin, not ours. We must obey his word on what to do so that repentance will occur. Anything other than obedience to His word is disobedience to God. The Lord Jesus Christ gave this example for us to follow when someone sins against us…this includes a spouse.
The following scriptures are called accountability scriptures or Church Discipline. They help us to restore a sinner to repentance.
Matthew 18:15 Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.17 And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church: but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican.
This is a church discipline scenario – Joe and Mary leave their mother and father respectively, and join in the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman as God ordains. Joe and Mary are both confessing believers…Mary has an adulterous affair with Bob.
According to the word of God, Mary has sinned against Joe and God because of her adulterous affair. Joe seeks to use church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) and takes the three steps so that Mary would repent. Joe has the right to forgive Mary should she seek repentance of the adulterous affair and wish to remain in the marriage.
Worst-case scenario, Mary refuses to repent in all areas of church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) and files for divorce. According the state laws in which they reside, Mary divorces Joe. Even though she filed, and the state approved her divorce, she is still in a one-flesh covenant marriage with Joe. A state issued divorce does not nullify a one-flesh covenant marriage. Bob is also in adultery because he is with another man’s wife.
According to the word of God, Mary may not marry anyone else because she is in the sin of adultery and according to the church; she is an unbelieving unrepentant adulterer. She has two choices, and that is to seek forgiveness (repent) by dissolving her adulterous union and be reconciled to her husband, or remain in unrepentant adultery without an option to remarry anyone else.
The church should inform Mary and Bob of these two choices and it will be on record. This should also include other churches in the area as well so that it is clear that if Mary chooses to remain in adultery she is labeled as an unrepentant sinner. Joe has the right to forgive Mary should she seek repentance of the adulterous affair and wish to remain in the marriage. The forgiveness of the sin of adultery and their reconciliation will preserve the marriage.
If Mary refuses to repent, and marries Bob according to the laws of man (remarriage), she, as well as Bob remain in adultery unless she returns to her husband. Their “remarriage” is not valid because she is still in a first covenant marriage with Joe. Her marriage to Bob is invalid in the eyes of God because it is currently the sin of unrepentant adultery. The church must keep a record of this adultery. The church must inform the church or person who married two adulterers (Mary and Bob) that this remarriage is nothing more than adultery. Therefore, they too are responsible of validating adultery should Mary and Bob elect not to repent. Joe must remain single until reconciliation of the marriage or the death of Mary.
If church discipline is used in these circumstances, it is more than likely a prodigal will repent of their sin. That is the whole reason for this church discipline. We must consider the work of the Holy Spirit in this, and the fact that once Mary backslides, she becomes an enemy of God. This church discipline is designed to cause repentance, then forgiveness, and then eventual restoration of the marriage.
The three premises totally ignore church discipline in favor of loopholes to provide happiness for the parties involved…. This is why I titled this series of posts “More Harm than Good.” These premises cause more harm than good because they cheapen grace and neglect repentance. This is a salvation issue at the very heart.
The three premises work something like this…
Premise 1 - ”I was a not a believer when I divorced and remarried after I came to Christ, therefore my marriage is valid according to Dr. James Dobson. I know what Luke 16:18 says, but my pastor and Dr. James Dobson says that I should just read Matthew 19:9 and 1 Cor 7:15. Even though I stood in a church, in front of witnesses and before God in my first marriage, and made a vow to my wife and a God I did not believe, the marriage is not a marriage because I was not a believer”…
Premise 1..”I was not a believer when I divorced my spouse, therefore, since I came to Christ, I can marry the missionary woman I met through a Christian dating site, and God will bless my remarriage.” Meanwhile, the woman he divorced is still waiting for his return because she honored her vows to God. She has told him this and he has witnessed this, yet that is not an option for him because he believes the marriage is already over through the teaching of Dr. James Dobson, and he loves someone else now anyway....
Premise 2-…A woman leaves her spouse because he cheated on her. He truly repents of his sin of adultery and begs for the restoration of the marriage. The woman used the theology of Dr. James Dobson believing that she has a “right” to divorce and remarry because he determines that her husband is lying, thus divorcing him and remarrying her new lover who also happens to be a pastor who divorced his wife because she demonstrated the traits of an unrepentant unbeliever who will never repent…
Premise 3- A believer woman marries an unbeliever man. Instead of being a 1 Peter 3:1-6 woman, she constantly nags him to become a believer. He tires of her constant badgering and leaves her. She reads Dr. Dobson’s post and believes she can divorce and remarry another man. Unfortunately, she marries another unbeliever. Meanwhile, her covenant husband repents of His sin, comes to saving faith in Christ, and seeks to restore his marriage, only to find a woman who backslides with her new unbelieving husband.
Premise 3- An unbeliever woman marries an unbeliever man, she comes to salvation in Christ and remains obedient to God’s word by staying in her covenant, and even represents a 1 Peter 3:1-6 wife. The unbeliever leaves anyway, gets divorced by the laws of the state and remarries another woman. He comes to Christ and then realizes he is in adultery, he sees that his first covenant wife remained faithful to God. His pastor says that his first marriage was not a marriage because he was an unbeliever; this pastor also states that he should not divorce or he would break another marriage, and after consulting Dr. Dobson’s site, he remains in his remarriage even though his first covenant wife remains single and waits for his return.
Or this… “If I go to Dr. James Dobson’s “Dr. Dobson on Divorce and Remarriage” on his website before I get married, I can clearly see that if my marriage does not work out the way I thought it would, I still have the options of divorce and then remarriage”…
You can see that these premises pose a problem. If a person knows before they even make a vow that the marriage only ends in death, are they responsible to keep that vow even if their spouse does not? The answer is yes. A spouse who remains in a marriage sanctifies the marriage vow with her obedience to the Lord. Jesus and Paul both taught the permanence of marriage, and so should we.
This is exactly why I titled these posts “More Harm than Good.” Dr. James Dobson’s teachings on this subject cause more harm than good because every “remarriage” he believes he saves is nothing more than adultery. His premises encourage adultery because they fail to tell that marriage is a one-flesh covenant no man may break. Therefore, what must Dr. James Dobson do to make things right?
Consider these options….
- Dr. James Dobson and all affiliated with his ministry as well as Focus on the Family must personally admit that he has misled singles, families, and marriages by incorrectly teaching sound doctrine on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. He must seek forgiveness in the Lord, and then seek forgiveness to all the ministries, pastors, and people he mislead.
- Dr. James Dobson and all affiliated with his ministry as well as Focus on the Family must restructure the ministry…teaching that a one-flesh covenant marriage is never dissoluble by divorce and that all remarriages are adultery is a start. This would involve dissolving all remarriages. Unfortunately, many remarriages have children born in this adultery. This dissolution of remarriage is not a condemnation to these children, but an act of repentance against the sin of adultery so that the blood of Christ will cover all involved. These children will grow up knowing that the blood of Christ covers them and that their parents obeyed God by dissolving an adulterous union thus coming to, and living in salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. These parents are just as responsible to raise the children, yet this will not be through bitterness of divorce, but through obedience and faith in God to do the right thing. Compare this to a hardhearted person who divorces, thus separating the family by divorce. Any divorce recovery ministry will tell you of horror stories of how parents put the children in the middle of their ugly separation battles. Which divorce honors God? Divorce from marriage, or divorce from adultery remarriage?
- Dr. James Dobson and all affiliated with his ministry as well as Focus on the Family will be able to continue this new ministry like never before. The focus will be on family and marriage without the need to talk about divorce. There will be a greater emphasis on church discipline and consequences for those who remain hardhearted. There will also be a need for singles ministries for a spouse who has a prodigal spouse. This single ministry would focus on the single spouse remaining in Christ while preparing to greet the prodigal when they come home. These ministries will have a greater impact on a world in desperate need to see the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ lived out through marriage.
In conclusion, if these three options take place now, within one generation we will see the permanence of marriage in the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. No one, and I repeat, no one will ever be able to redefine marriage when they see a Christian man and woman taking every step possible to ensure they enter marriage according to God’s will, and remain in marriage according to God’s will, so help them God. The world will see the salt and light of the single spouse who will not give up on a prodigal. The world will see the sharp rebuke of the church to those who remain impertinent sinners…and the compassion, forgiveness and restoration when they repent and come home. This is love, as God loved us.
Finally, let us pray for the permanence of marriage for this generation and the generations to come so that God will receive the greater glory! Let us pray that the Holy Spirit would soften the heart of those who seek divorce. Let is pray that the stiff-necked prodigal comes to repentance so that when we see him or her yet far off, we run to welcome them home.
Luke 15:18 I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, 19 And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. 20 And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. 21 And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. 22 But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: 23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry.
In Christ’s love,