Right from the start, it was clear that this book, “divorce & remarriage” a permanence view” was NOT a true advocate for the permanence of marriage. However, despite this fact, many will not like this book because it is very accurate in concluding that all remarriages are adultery. The only problem (a very serious problem) is that all four authors, Daryl Wingerd, Jim Elliff, Jim Chrisman and Steve Burchett believe that God blesses many sinful second marriages. The problem is how these authors define the marriage covenant and how this relates to their positions as “ordained” ministers of God.
In the Preface they write,
“Additionally, we do not believe that a person in a wrongfully second marriage is committing adultery through each intimate act with his or her spouse. Lastly, we believe and teach that marriages that began sinfully are true marriages, that they can be healthy and happy, and that they should be nourished and cherished in a manner that honors Christ”-page 7
If we look at this with just a rational understanding that good is not evil, and evil is not good, this statement is a fallacy. This is erroneous teaching and so simple to see the fallacy that a young child can discern the mistake. How can something be “wrongful” and “sinful” and be blessed by God at the same time? If this is the case, is a same-sex marriage blessed by God if it is “wrongful” and “sinful” at the same time? According to this statement, that would be the case. However, I can hear the author’s response to this already. Marriage is a one-flesh covenant between a man and a woman, not a woman and a woman or a man and a man. Yet, what is the difference between what God calls adultery and what God calls homosexuality if both are sins? Also, what is the difference between an “ordained” minister that approves same-sex marriage and one that does not? After all, are they not both ordained by God?
The gravest error in this book, and for many books that teach on the covenant of marriage, is that the misunderstanding that a marriage ceremony approved and officiated by an ordained minister is approved and overseen by God. This is the central issue of this book. The authors have come to the conclusion that marriage is God’s design which they can regulate. What this book shows me is that these men already performed and officiated “remarriages” that God specifically calls adultery. These clergy believe that God specifically ordained them to be the word of God. Yet, I know that many who remain in remarriages are also those who “tithe” to the churches. If there was a church wide statement that all remarriages must be dissolved because they are adulterous and unlawful, many a clergy would lose their salaries because they would lose their congregants.
Part 1 of this book centers on specific verses that point to the permanence of marriage. Overall, these authors do a great job of providing sound biblical hermeneutic of the texts presented. They prove or at least make a very good point that marriage is a one-flesh covenant, permanent until death. They also make it clear that initiating a divorce is never lawful, and that remarrying after divorce is an act of adultery if a spouse is living. The only discrepancy we should have with this teaching is their stance that remarriage is an “act” of adultery rather than a continuous state of adultery which require repentance.
Part 2 deals with real questions and answers that derive from Part 1. This is where we should have specific questions that align with scripture. When I first read this book, I sent an email to Jim Elliff. Here is a few excerpts from the email:
"I just finished reading “divorce & remarriage a permanence view” and must say that this book is nearly perfect in what the Lord says in scripture on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. I say nearly perfect because there is one very important issue that does not line up with scripture when I got to chapter 16 (Questions About Remarriage After Divorce). I understand your permanent view for marriage but when the Lord says in Matthew 5:32, 19:9, Mark 10:11,12, Luke 16:18 is that anyone who divorces and marries someone while their spouse is living commits adultery. In other words, the divorced spouse commits adultery in the place of marriage. The Lord is saying that you cannot marry someone because it is adultery. The marriage is invalid in God’s eyes. How can a second marriage be valid if God calls this adultery?
I like to put it like this. The spouse who believes he/she had the “right” to divorce believes he/she does not have the right to forgive a spouse he/she left behind. Your answer to question nine on page 107 is not the right answer because anyone who enters a “remarriage” should have the knowledge that what they did (remarry while a divorced spouse is living) was wrong and is adultery.
Q:I have already divorced and remarried but my former spouse is still alive, I now realize that I committed adultery when I remarried, but what should do? –page 107
According to scripture, this second marriage is invalid for two reasons. First, the spouse asking the question (We will call him Bob) entered into an adulterous union and must repent of adultery. Second, the woman he “remarried” (We will call her Sue) must have had foreknowledge that she was marrying a man who is still in a covenant. Therefore, she too is in adultery and must repent. Repentance is dissolving the “remarriage” because it dissolves the adultery. “Remarriage” is always a permanent adultery situation and Paul IS referring to this in Romans 7:2,3. Combine this with 1 Cor 7 and we see that just because we have Paul’s statement in 1 Cor 7:1-5 this would have no bearing on a current 1st century “remarried” couple remaining in adultery. If they read what Paul is saying, this would convict those who “remarried” to repent.
Another thing to consider is the spouse of the first marriage. (We will call her Mary) Mary was not a perfect wife by any means but she truly repented to Bob and sought to preserve the marriage. She even went as far as seeking church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17) against Bob and Sue, but Bob and Sue remained defiant and sought to “remarry”. Mary believes scripture tells her to remain single until Bob repents of adultery. However, according to your book and other similar books, Bob and Sue have entered into a valid marriage even though God calls this adultery. After five years, Bob comes to salvation in Christ and realizes that he sinned against God and Mary. According to this book, Bob must not divorce his current wife (Sue) because he would sin. Thus, Mary remains single believing God could help preserve the marriage by believing Bob would repent and reconcile their marriage by covenant. How is this making sense? It would seem by your view on “remarriage” that the spouse (Mary) who remained obedient to God has the only option to remain single while the adulterous couple need only repent and then remain in remarriage.
Very few people will admit that a “remarriage” after divorcing a living spouse is a “permanent” state of adultery. This is very dangerous only many levels. I see many “remarriages” who believe God blesses this union because they learned from their past mistakes. They validate their “remarriage” because their first spouse was abusive and make the claim that the abuser will never change. They say that they were “unequally yoked” and now God has blessed them with a “good” second marriage. This self-gratification is not a substitute for sound biblical doctrine. I guarantee you that those who made vows of marriage for a second or third time were convicted that what they were doing was wrong. They have no qualms validating a divorce that disrupts children’s lives, tears apart families and destroys relationships. However, as soon as you say anything about adulterous remarriages you have questions like: What should we do, break apart and return to our first spouses? What about the children we have from this second marriage? Do we have to return to singleness? Do we have to repent for our “remarriage” and reconcile the first marriage?
These questions were never considered when they sought a divorce. Instead of forgiving and repenting in marriage, it is more acceptable to validate a “remarriage” of a couple who demands you forgive them of their sin. The person who receives the most pain is the one who stands by the word of God and hopes for the restoration of a marriage. If they read your book and realize there is no hope of that ever. These single divorced couples are often scoffed at and ridiculed for remaining obedient in singleness. Combine this with virtually no ministries for single divorced people and their only sound relationship is in Christ. This is the heart of the issue. We will not be in marriage to our spouses in His kingdom; we will be married to Him.”
This is the response these authors give to this question (I have already divorced and remarried but my former spouse is still alive, I now realize that I committed adultery when I remarried, but what should do?)
“You should view you current marriage as a merciful blessing from God and stay married.”
What vows does God recognize if these vows are hollow? This is where these men error simply because they believe that God recognizes vows into adultery. I am thoroughly convinced that the reason clergy will tell you that a “remarriage” is a valid marriage is to save their own hides. Jim Elliff responded to this email but did by no means challenge these words. Men like Elliff stand to lose many congregants if he boldly state that a remarriage is not marriage any more than a same-sex marriage is not a marriage.
Another fallacy is believing that God blesses a second, third, and fourth marriage just because a man of the cloth says he does. I am convinced that nothing is most wicked than a man who calls Christ Lord and calls a remarriage a marriage. The subtle lies from the pulpit are the most destructive lies of all. The moment anyone preaches that remarriage after divorce of a living covenant spouse is acceptable is the moment a man calls evil good, and good evil. Elliff and men like him like to call people like me a Pharisee. Yet, it was the Pharisees who permitted both divorce and remarriage. The Lord Jesus Christ had the most condemning words for the Pharisees.
In conclusion, this book is great for seeing the truth that marriage is a covenant and that divorce and remarriage are sinful. Yet, I TOTALLY reject this book on the premise that it believes that clergy like the authors of this book have the power to call a remarriage a marriage when it is not a marriage at all. As if a vow into adultery is really a vow at all...Remarriages are adultery and remain adultery until dissolved. In other words, the only valid divorce is divorcing from a remarriage that God has already called adultery. Jim Elliff was warned. I pray that he did not delete my email. I pray that he and the other authors would reconsider their stance before it is too late. God help these men if they do not repent. Unfortunately, this would require humility and contrite hearts, and most importantly, not to believe that the clergy system they adhere to and admonish is nothing more than composed of and controlled by hirelings…to quote Upton Sinclair.
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
In Christ’s love,