10 October, 2007

Opinions sought on a fresh analysis of Christ's words about Divorce

I read this post on Divorce and Remarriage this morning, and it has been rattling in my head all day. I am not ready to express any opinion on it, but if anyone is I'd love to hear it.

HT: Suzanne McCarthy in Complegalitarian, a new blog dedicated to civil discussion of the complementarian/egalitarian issue.


Milly said...

Thinking on it all

preacherman said...

There is alot to think about. It isn't just cut and dry. It isn't simple.

Lynne said...

I've just put a comment on this on the other blog. maybe I'm missing something, but I can't see any problems at all with what this guy is saying. it seems very balanced and reasonable to me, and one of the clearest explanations I've ever read.

tari said...

All I can say is that I'm grateful for this fresh analysis. He may not be right, but it gives me hope that he is.

codepoke said...

I'm still not ready to comment, but let me talk for just a second about what this might mean. Not one person has said, "This guy's ideas are wrong." And why would anyone? Anyone who can add 2 + 2 knows this guy has answered 4.

I look at this guy's answer, and I smell a rat. I just don't know which side the smell is coming from yet. If he's wrong and I believe him, then I have stepped across the clear words of Jesus Himself. It's not like I disobeyed Martin Luther or Jonathon Edwards or some peon like that.

But if he's right, then how many Christians are bleeding for a lie? It's taking me years to figure out just what my marriage really cost. And what's more, the presumptive lie tied both my hands behind my back just when I needed to be negotiating from a position of equality. When you find yourself with only two negotiating tools - leave and cower - and "leave" is made a non-option by God - guess what's left?

Cowering ain't much of a bargaining position.

If - if - Christians are allowed to negotiate a broken marriage contract like mature adults, it sure sounds like a good thing. If -if - God permits a Christian to walk away from contract-violating neglect and abuse even without adultery and in freedom, it might be a very, very good thing. It might even save some marriages that are worth saving.

Check out Suzanne's latest on the subject by the reformation hero Martin Bucer. Here's his story on Wikipedia.

Missy said...

CP, I have still been chewing on your last post about divorce & remarriage. What this guy says is certainly more compassionate than you are to your situation. But I understand and share your caution.

Of course, most days, I am happily married - so what do I know? :)

karen said...

I don't think the guy's wrong.
I look more to Ephesians, I suppose, and the way we are supposed to treat each other. Some people break that covenant of marriage, love, and respect, and I don't think the partner has to put up with infidelity, emotional abuse, verbal abuse, or physical abuse. I don't think they have to put up with the breaking of marriage vows. If there is no repenting or attempts, why would God want his son or daughter in that kind of bondage? Didn't God kinda divorce Israel? ;-)
Anyway, CP. . .I'm with Missy. I got all fired up because you're too hard on yourself.
I think Jesus was more concerned in these verses about men just dumping their wives for no good reason.

Kansas Bob said...

I read what you wrote over at complegaliatian Kevin and almost cried. While, I only know you in blog world I have to say that you are one of the most spiritual, thoughful and kind guys that I know.

Seriously consider what this author and what your blog friends are telling you Kevin, We all love you and each one of us would be honored to attend your wedding.. none of us (I think) would think that you were out of God's will if you remarried.

As for me, I would love to be a part of a study that you led.. you have a great gift for studying and explaining the scriptures.. any group would be honored to have you in leadership.

Hope I didn't cross the line in this comment Kevin. I so appreciate your faith journey and just want to add a few words of support for you.

Your friend, Bob

codepoke said...

Bob, Karen and Missy - thank you so very much.

I used to tell a made-up story about little kids who thought their Daddy said they was not supposed to have the ice cream when really he'd said to have it. Some kids heard their Dad rightly, and they enjoyed their ice cream. And some kids heard their Dad wrongly, but had the ice cream anyway. They felt guilty, but they had their ice cream and it was OK in the end.

It's the kids who heard wrongly and obeyed that I always felt for. They were confused by their Daddy, and that was hard. They were confused by the other kids, and that was hard. They didn't have their ice cream, and that was hard. Worst of all, though, they thought being miserable was making their Daddy happy. And worse even than the worst was if they never got up the courage to ask their Daddy if they'd heard wrongly, and just kept "pleasing" him.

I don't think I'm the only one out there bearing confusing, unnecessary burdens to make His Father happy, but I seem to go a little further than most before I figure out I've been wasting precious ice cream - and been confused with my Daddy for nothing.

Thanks for caring enough to ignore the lines. Ya'll touched me more than I'll say.

Patchouli said...

CP, here is something for you to read: http://www.divorcehope.com/marriagevowscovenantsagreements.htm

codepoke said...

I'll add this one to the list. Why remarriage fails.


Bill said...

You are the same guy who said he feels guilty about killing a spider, right? ;)

Seriously, Kevin, I'm sorry I haven't been able to offer any words for your past marriage. I can't even muster up the obligatory words of polite consolation and shared regret. But I guess that's because (when I think about it) I do feel the regret, very deeply, if only an infinitesimally small fraction as much as you must still. And yet, since I wasn't there at the end, I can't blame you. And I don't blame you. I'm just sorry.

To a more positive note.

Someone had to leave the church here recently, though she didn't want to. Then a sister told her, "The will of God for my life is never in my past. It is always right now."

Soak that one in. Believe it.

I read the article you linked, and I liked it. I think my only 'caution' against it would be that we not ever write any absolutes in either direction. The author's conclusion today isn't really so far away from what he told that interview board - to judge each case on its own merits. And to avoid the 'no fault', 'any cause' situation most of all.

We know Jesus promotes love, patience, kindness, longsuffering... all the things you'd like to be challenged by, in an enduring marriage. I'm sure that author doesn't mean it's okay to punt all that. Quite the contrary, the way I read him.

At some point, Kev, I pray you make your peace with God about the immovable past. If you can find the freedom and the grace to believe this, I absolutely believe it's "okay" with God if you remarry at some point.

The question seems to be: is it okay with you?

codepoke said...

Thanks, Bill.

I guess I should clarify. The only qualms I feel about remarrying are whether it is wise for me, not whether it is right. My divorce was unambiguous. In scriptural terms, the unbeliever chose to depart and the physical union was unambiguously broken.

The confusion I am experiencing here is whether I might have chosen to initiate the divorce prior to adultery and been as clean before God as I feel now. The benefit of such a statement being possible is not that I could have gotten out of my marriage sooner, but that I might actually have saved it.

The marriage slid so far down the tracks because I was powerless within it. There were a number of reasons for my weakness, but one of them was that I had no bargaining position. I was reduced to, "If you do this, you make me unhappy. I'll never leave you, nor in any other way equalize our relationship, so just stop if you feel like it."

The old saying is that good fences make good neighbors, and I had no permission to put up a fence.

I think it was Allender who wrote, "Boundaries." The essence of the book is that without boundaries there cannot be healthy union. Without a "me" I have nothing to share. And yet the Christian ideal of marriage, at least the one I was given, takes away all hope of building fences.

If the Lord takes away my right to leave a truly abusive spouse, then how can I assert any other rights? any other fences? Any me?

But if I can divorce within the will of God for true, serious enough violations of all of the three contractual duties of marriage, then I have somewhere to plant my feet. I can stand my ground on those three duties much earlier in the conflict lifecycle. I can say with authority that I won't take certain violations, and stop them before they grow to marriage-ending proportions.

Maybe most people do this anyway. I did not.

Bill said...

Hey again. Thanks for the clarification. I had to come back to re-read your reply again before I got settled on understanding what you mean.

Hope I'm not misunderstanding you again... I think I see what you're talking about in your last comment. But I'm not sure why you feel divorce needs to be an option in order to avoid powerlessness. Personally, I like to think either partner in a marriage has the right to be assertive and draw reasonable boundaries without using the "nuclear threat" option.

I feel for what I hear you saying. And I do think the Lord "allows me to leave a truly abusive spouse", as you say. I just don't quite get what else that's linked to inside you, or why.

I read Boundaries once (Townsend & Cloud) and I liked it, as far as I remember. I think boundaries are good... and may the Lord give us all grace to learn better ways of setting them and making them helpful tools for building more fruitful relationships.

love ya, bro

codepoke said...

Good stuff, Bill. Thanks.

> But I'm not sure why you feel divorce needs to be an option in order to avoid powerlessness. ... without using the "nuclear threat" option.

Do remember that I went through every option I knew before we even got near divorce.

The point is that she had the nuclear option, and I did not. Imbalance of power.

Eloquorius said...

I mentioned this over at the other blog, but I'll point it out here, too: God is divorced. Think on that whenever divorce comes up and it puts the issue in an entirely different light. In this statement if Biblical and historical fact I'm not trying to pose any conclusion about remarriage. Rather, I'm only noting that when we speak of divorce we speak of an act which God took, and when we speak of divorced persons God takes it just as personally. Jer. 3:8 (and it's confirmation in Is. 50) are so, uh, "dangerous" that MANY denominations and Bible commentaries avoid the verses entirely. I've seen so-called "Comprehensive Report on Divorce and Remarriage" produced by major denominations. You know what? In 50 or 100 pages they complete ignore that God is divorced. This is such a dirty little secret in th Church that I was a Christian for 10 years before I'd hear it -- in a book on Divorce. I've had Christians steaming mad at me just for introducing that verse because of the damage it does to their extra-biblical conclusions. When someone speaks of all divorce as "sin" they're calling God a sinner; When someone speaks of divorce as a shameful disqualification from Church leadership, they must first unseat God from His Holy Throne. After discovering this verse I had to personally repent of how I had spoken about divorced persons and divorce. Since I'm not a pastor with salary tied to a denominational position, I can repent and gain a more Biblical understanding without losing my job :-)

By the way, can we NOT frame what's right/wrong based on how "compassionate" a position might seem to our individual senses? Rather, can't we frame it around "what's more Scriptural?" I've read some really "compassionate" articles promoting all sorts of things for which the Bible commands us to repent. In spite of what our wicked hearts may tell us, we know that there's nothing compassionate about making someone comfortable with their sin.

codepoke said...

Thank you Eloquorious,

As I may have said in a couple of places, my question is not generically about divorce, but about divorce for causes other than adultery. God divorced Israel for adultery, so that doesn't really say much to this particular point. But if a person can divorce and remarry with the blessing of God for a cause other than adultery, then that is a huge break from what I've believed for decades now.

Back in the 70's I believed in divorce and remarriage for adultery, and without negative consequence. I carried that belief forward until my divorce 4 years ago. I still carry that belief, since it is so blatantly obvious in scripture.

The article in question is stirring thoughts for me because it says many people I know are legitimately divorced, but they don't feel they are. Also for the reasons detailed about in comments.

> By the way, can we NOT frame what's right/wrong based on how "compassionate" a position might seem to our individual senses? Rather, can't we frame it around "what's more Scriptural?"

Hmmmm. I've seen what happens when men begin to believe they know the "clear teaching of scripture." They feel responsible to ignore compassion, and people get hurt for nothing.

The objective of this blog is to focus on both scripture and compassion. No good comes of leaving either one behind. Where the two seem to be in conflict, then it is the job of the Christian leader to go to Christ and find the reconciliation between them.

Eloquorius said...


I e-mailed you a document that I think you'll find helpful in examining whether or not the New Testament restricts divorce and remarriage to only cases of literal physical adultery or desertion. many people are deeply entrenched in their view of divorce and remarriage, so this kind of material isn't real popular if you know what I mean.

But the problem in this discussion (in general, not between you and I specifically) is an intellectual disease ravaging the evangelical church: we have confused showing support for individuals with showing support for their sin. In this case, defending divorce is often spun at his defending the sin that causes it. Of course, nowhere will anyone find anyone defending sin, but the vicious opponents of a biblical understanding of divorce and remarriage need to engage in such disingenuous games as a form of either strawman or ad hominem attack.

It's amazing to me how when it comes to this issue otherwise normal, congenial, well-meaning Christians simply can't think! I had one guy (on the ropes, so to speak, at this point in the debate) look at me, staring the obvious conclusion in the face, and exclaimed, "I just can't accept that! I know, I know, it makes sense, I see which are saying. But I just can't accept it!" It's pathetic for sure, but the preaching of God's glorious grace has fallen on hard times, usually spun as "license for sin" or some such garbage. There is a reason they call it scandalous grace, and this issue just may take the cake. Because divorced people are one of the last few "safe" categories of believer that we can beat up on in our sermons in books, I have a dear friend of mine who uses this topic (even though she's widowed, not divorced) as a litmus test issue for whether or not to join or except a church. These days, she observes, how churches treat "the least of these" is often reflected in how they treat divorced people.

Oh, by the way, did I mention that God doesn't hate divorce, as many think that Malachi 2:16 says? Let me know when you're ready for more information on that one, as I've got a barn burner of the paper written by a prominent New Testament scholar that proves that the "God hates divorce" translation of Malachi 2:16 is not only a poor translation but may be antithetical to what was intended.

God bless, brother, and may you walk this week in the peace we have for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (Romans 5)


codepoke said...

The document you emailed did not arrive. I'm not aware of any spam blocking that might be going on at my ISP, so I don't know what the explanation might be.

Thank you again, Phil,