Thursday, April 2, 2015

The Four Positions on Divorce and Remarriage...and Marriage.



What is marriage? This one question serves as the foundation of how we can understand and how we view the four stances on divorce and remarriage. Once we have a clear definition of marriage, we can have a very good conclusion of the subject on divorce and remarriage. The Lord Jesus Christ makes it clear that marriage is from the beginning, marriage is a one-flesh bond between one man and one woman, marriage is joined by God, and marriage cannot be broken by man. (Gen 2:24; Mt 19:4-6; Mk 10:6-9; 1 Cor 7:10,11) 


This definition of marriage is the foundation and presupposition we all must use to understand the various views on divorce and remarriage. 

If scripture proves that marriage is anything other than a lifetime covenant between one man and one woman, then it would appear that the recent push to redefine marriage should have happened many, many years ago. It is generally believed that marriage redefinition of today started with the secular culture, and then escalated with pockets of liberal denominations approving same-sex unions. I, and others will argue that the “compromise” of marriage began many years earlier with how the church evolved on the subject of divorce and remarriage. 

The secular culture played a huge part in marriage redefinition through instituting civil divorce laws such as no-fault divorce. The church always claimed that marriage is God’s design, yet many churches followed the idea that marriage was not only God’s design, but marriage was also a part of civil laws. This union of “church and state” paved the way for many different views on divorce and remarriage that seemed to cheapen the definition of marriage.
We have various views today from various factions of Christianity that support marriage as one man and one woman. These factions are considered “conservative”. 

The major difference of marriage definition among these conservative denominations is evident in how these denominations define marriage, divorce, and remarriage. What is interesting to note is that a majority of these conservative denominations are still complementary in the roles of marriage, family and church leadership, thus these denominations utterly reject the idea that marriage is anything other than one man and one woman.

The liberal churches are egalitarian in the roles of marriage, family, and the church. Though these liberal churches hold a view of marriage as one man and one woman, these church denominations were the first to embrace and include same-sex unions as a redefinition to marriage. What is interesting to note is that these same denominations were the first to go from complementary to egalitarian. These denominations were also the first to reestablish the definitions of divorce and remarriage that over time crept into the conservative circles. There is an increasing slide with the liberal churches to rely more on the personal, emotional, and experiential then to ever believe by faith that God’s word provides the best example and way to glorify God. 

           
There is a definite divide among Christian churches concerning divorce and remarriage. In reality, there is a divide on how these stances view marriage. What is interesting to note is that you will see a very a decline of conservatism among the four views of divorce and marriage. Here are the four views of divorce and remarriage:

1.    No divorce, No remarriage. (The permanence view)
2.    Divorce, but no remarriage. (The semi-permanence view)
3.    Divorce and Remarriage in the Case of Adultery and Desertion.
4.    Divorce and Remarriage for Many Reasons.

  

1.No Divorce, No Remarriage.  I would call this the Permanence View. The one-flesh marriage bond is a “covenant” that lasts until death, and only death can break the covenant. It is a sin to divorce one’s partner. (1 Cor 7:10,11)  And it is adultery to marry another as long as your former spouse is alive. (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11,12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2,3; 1 Cor 7:39) This is the minority view today; few churches hold this view.


This view, though a minority, holds to the truth that divorce is contrived by the hardness of man’s heart believing a divorce decree ends the marriage covenant. Thus, a divorce does not end a marriage covenant because man cannot break the covenant. God specifically says that only death can end a covenant. Therefore, anyone who makes a vow in “remarriage” after divorcing a living spouse commits adultery against his or her spouse. Thus, this “remarriage”, and the accompanying remarriage vows are not sanctified by God. 

This view requires that both spouses forgive and repent where applicable, while remaining in the marriage. This stance makes marriage more important than those who vow into marriage. This view makes God as the officiator and co-covenantor of marriage. Thus, the Lord will remain in covenant with those who remain in covenant, and chastise those who believe that his or her actions can break the covenant vow. This view requires faith in the Lord in all aspects of marriage. This view is the true representation and witness of Christ’s love for His church.


2.    Divorce, but No Remarriage.  The marriage bond lasts until death.  While divorce is permissible in the case of “adultery”, the divorced Christian must remain unmarried as long as his or her spouse is alive.  Reconciliation is the only option. This view was held by virtually all of the early church fathers.  


The only difference between this view and the permanence view is that a divorce is permissible in the case of adultery. Also, the only difference between this view and the permanence view is that even though a divorce ends a marriage, both divorcees must remain single. If marriage can only end in death, a person with this view must believe that a divorce decree actually severs the marriage bond. This view recognizes divorce as a valid reason to end a marriage.

This view believes that if two people not familiar with this teaching join in a remarriage after a divorce, they must remain in the “remarriage”. In other words, proponents of this view believe any remarriage that the church officiates as marriage, remains a marriage and must not be dissolved. The Permanence View states that the “remarriage” is not a marriage, but adultery. Thus, this union must be repented of by dissolving the union. By promoting the idea that “remarriage” is a lawful marriage, this view promotes adultery.

Another note on this view is that marriage, while God’s design, makes one believe that singleness in divorce is only required for the believer. The proceeding views give “special” exceptions for the “innocent” believer, but it is assumed that the unbeliever has no options other than to remain single. However, rarely is there any accountability from the church on the “guilty” party of divorce.  

3. Divorce and Remarriage in the Case of Adultery and Desertion.  God’s “ideal” is that marriage would last until death.  But adultery and desertion by an unbeliever sever the marital bond, opening the possibility of remarriage for the “innocent” spouse. It is probably the majority view among scholars today. This view gained popularity after the Protestant Reformation.  

There are many problems with this very “popular” view. First, this view assumes that the marriage can be ended or broken by divorce. If marriage is a covenant that can only end in death, this view is not only erroneous, it also causes many to sin by divorcing, sin by believing a divorce ends the covenant, and sin in adultery should he or she remarry. The scripture that is popular for this view includes Matthew 5:32, 19:9 and 1 Cor 7:15. 

 However, the Permanence View argues that the word Greek “porneia” used in the exception clause (Matthew 5:32 and 19:9-except for “porneia”) must be referring to a specific sin of fornication that is applicable only to those Christians who understood that fornication occurs before or during the one year of betrothal marriage. This “exception clause” is only mentioned in Matthew’s account which nearly every scholar agrees is specifically written to Jewish Christians who understood the meaning of porneia in this case as referring specifically for betrothal marriage. Betrothal marriage was a time period of about a year in which a wife would remain "pure" (a virgin) for the consummation of the marriage.

The example we have that refers to this is in the same pages of Matthew. As betrothed husband and wife, Joseph sought to put Mary away quietly as she was with child during betrothal. It was assumed by Joseph that Mary committed “fornication” since Mary was supposed to be a virgin. (Matthew 1:18, 19)

This Permanence View corroborates with both Mark 10:11, 12 and Luke 16:18, because both of these gospels have no exception clause since these books were primarily written to the Gentiles. Also, consider that in both 5:32 and Matthew 19:9 that the woman put away commits “adultery” if she remarries. She cannot commit “adultery”, or anyone who marries her cannot commit “adultery” unless she was still in covenant with her husband! Mark 5:32 says,…”and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery.”

Notice it says…”is divorced”. This alone indicates that the marriage covenant does not end in divorce. Divorce today is a civil law, while at the time of Christ divorce was a law of Israel. If we combine this with Paul’s teaching on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, we see that Paul only tells us what he already knows that the Lord Jesus Christ already commanded on the subject.(1 Cor 7:10,11)

 Many who hold the Divorce and Remarriage in the Case of Adultery and Desertion believe that both the Lord Jesus Christ and Paul offered these exceptions for the “innocent” party of the exception clause. This is a problem in Luke 16:18 because the text makes no mention of whether the wife being put away is “innocent” or “guilty” of any sin, let alone adultery. Proponents of this view have to make a grand assumption that unless they read Matthew’s account, Luke 16:18 is incomplete. Mark’s account does not have an exception either, thus both Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18 make it clear that a man must not divorce his wife, and if a wife is divorced, she must remain single. If the man remarries while his wife is still alive, he commits adultery. Also, the woman that marries him commits adultery. 

 This Divorce and Remarriage in the Case of Adultery and Desertion also makes it very difficult to discern if a “remarriage” involved the innocent spouse of a divorce. According to this view, a “guilty” spouse of adultery cannot “remarry”. Yet, history proves that many “guilty” spouses have not only remarried after divorce, they have been “remarried” in churches that promote this view of divorce and remarriage. 

One excuse is that the “guilty” spouse became regenerated by the Gospel, thus he or she repented and the church performed the marriage ceremony. There is a very serious error here. If a “guilty” spouse repents of adultery, should this include dissolving the “adultery” to reconcile to the innocent spouse he or she left behind? The problem with this view is that it allows the “innocent” spouse to divorce and remarry, without considering that the “guilty” spouse may at one point come to repentance. Also, once an “innocent” spouse “remarries”, one could assume that this permits the “guilty” spouse to remain in the sin of adultery, and it also allows him or her to remarry as well. 

 The Permanence View makes it clear that if the “innocent” and “guilty” spouse choose to end the marriage in divorce, both must remain in singleness until death since the marriage covenant does not end in divorce. Both or one spouse has proved hardheartedness by divorce indicating that he or she cannot forgive and/or repent where applicable. If either spouse “remarries”, he or she commits adultery against the other spouse, and this is a continuous state of adultery until the “remarriage” ends.  There is no confusion with this Permanence View, for God is not a god of confusion, but a God of peace.  

 This brings us to the next “exception” to divorce. The scripture in context (1 Cor 7:15) in which the “Divorce and Remarriage in the Case of Adultery and Desertion View” uses, must make the assumption that the “peace” a believer receives from the desertion of a spiritually unequally yoked spouse (2 Cor 6:14) gives him or her the freedom to divorce and remarry. This is erroneous if we already established that a divorce does not end the marriage covenant.

 This also contradicts what Paul writes earlier and later on the subject of marriage. (1 Cor 7:10,11,39) Very simply, the believer’s peace comes in singleness from no longer being in spiritual bondage with an unbeliever. The believer should not feel guilt for the departure of the unbeliever. Since a divorce does not end the covenant marriage, the deserter spouse too must remain in singleness.

 Since Paul already commands that a believer must not put away his or her spouse in verses 12-14, why would Paul command the believer to divorce and remarry once the unbeliever deserts the marriage? What should happen is that the believing spouse remains in singleness and prays for the salvation of the deserting spouse. Since the deserting spouse has no options but to remain single, they will face the wrath of God who remains in the care of the believing spouse. Unfortunately, this teaching provides a believer an escape clause from ever having to deal with a deserting prodigal spouse, and most importantly, it gives the idea that God will not fulfill His duties in the covenant. Tell me how this aligns with the story of the prodigal son?

 What this view does is provides loopholes for both the “innocent” spouse and the “guilty” spouse. This teaching cheapens the definition of marriage, the marriage vow, and it makes God small and powerless. This teaching cheapens grace, lacks church discipline and accountability, excludes repentance, and mocks the power of the Gospel. This view puts the definition of marriage in the hands of men, and not God. 

The real danger of this view shows that every “remarriage”, regardless of “innocence” or “guiltiness” is in adultery. Adultery is a sin that REQUIRES repentance. This view endorses divorce and remarriage and even encourages remarriage adultery. This is dangerous because no adulterer will enter the kingdom. (1Cor 6:9,10)What is even more dangerous is teaching that divorce and remarriage is acceptable. Woe to them through which the offense comes…

4.Divorce and Remarriage for Many Reasons.  God’s ideal is that marriage would last until death.  But certain egregious behaviors are grounds for divorce and remarriage—not only adultery and desertion, but also things like physical abuse, neglect, and the like. This view is becoming more and more popular within the church.

 This view is just as dangerous as the third view. Since this view is applicable to the third view in the areas of adultery and desertion of which the Permanence View proves erroneous, it would benefit to know how one can solve the problems of “egregious behaviors”.  Here is where the church must use church discipline (Matthew 18:15-17), just as in the case of adultery and desertion. The first time a spouse physically abuses another spouse should be the last time. Church discipline should solve just about any problem, but in the case where physical abusive spouse seeks to ignore the furthest attempt at repentance, is when they are handed over to be persecuted at the highest extent of the law. 

God places governments in place. The laws on physical abuse include court order indictments and possible jail time. This does not give any spouse the freedom to divorce. What should happen is that the church as the body of Christ should provide care and assistance in the extreme cases of physical and emotional abuse. An unrepentant abusive spouse proves that he or she is not a believer. Far too often in these cases, the church turns away instead of runs toward victims of abuse. 

Temporary separation is always the first option when either a spouse or the children are in danger. Divorce is not an option because first and foremost, there is no scriptural support to dissolve a marriage covenant, except for death. Thus, an abuser may see the light of Christ in a spouse who loves them despite their offenses. After all, God loved us while we were yet sinners.  Often times, the consequences of these type of tragedies are marriages that began without ever considering that God sets the standard of marriage. Many people marry each other for reasons other than what God requires for the life of a believer.

This Divorce and Remarriage for Many Reasons view also presents a problem before a couple marries. This view gives the assumption that there is a pre-nuptial agreement to marriage. If a person has in his or her head that there are many reasons to divorce, what then is the significance of marriage? This view, like the preceding view, makes marriage anything but a covenant. This view is very popular because it fits well with a world system that rejects God.   
  
 In conclusion, the permanence view of marriage is the true representation of the Lord Jesus Christ and must be stance of His church. What needs to happen now, more than any time in history is that the church must set the standards of marriage without compromise. Next to making a decision of salvation in Christ alone, marriage is the most important decision a person will make. It is up to the body of Christ to defend marriage definition. Instead, many have caved in to believing that marriage is nothing more than a contract, complete with loopholes and escape clauses should your spouse not keep his or her end of the vow. 

The Lord Jesus Christ never leaves us or forsakes us. How can a regenerated child of God ever believe that a marriage ends by the actions of his or her spouse? Imagine if the Lord Jesus Christ divorced His bride? As stated earlier, the permanence view of marriage is the minority view in the world today. Is the Church a friend of the world? Does a regenerated blood bought believer have friendship with a fallen world that embraces both divorce and remarriage? A new creation in Christ is not of this world, and that alone should tell us something about the popular stances on divorce and remarriage and what these stances really have to say about how they view marriage.

James 4:4
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
In Christ’s love,

Neil

No comments: