Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage. I thought I should post an update here. My views have changed.

Hello. Welcome back to the blog. You may be here because you're recently struggling with this whole issue of marriage, divorce and remarriage as a state of "perpetual adultery" or you're here for some other reason.

I've heard from many on this issue over the years, with competing views and interests, some more charitable than others. But so many concerned about seeking God to see what His desires are for their lives.

I republished all the posts I had up in the past (back in 2011 through part of 2013) when I had accepted this position as the most consistently biblical position.

It is NOT the position I hold now. But I thought it helpful for you to see where I was at with all of this back then as a backdrop for where I am now.

I don't want to build this site out anymore about the topic; it seems it would serve purposes better to continue the discussion for those still struggling with this over at a newer site I've been working on over the past few years.

For now, if you're interested in discussing this at my current site, please feel free to pop over and comment at this page:

God is good and He is merciful. Do not feel trapped. God is bigger than our mistakes. He has a plan for you. Hope to see you there. I will be filling in my story over there as time permits.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

God is good, and God is faithful. I've learned much in the last few years. I have thought occasionally about this blog that I started several years ago, wondering if I should take it down or leave it.

I must honestly say that my views have changed much in a couple years ago as I prayed through the issues again.

I will be writing more on the topic; but likely not here. Your comments are welcome.

In fact, I would appreciate your feedback here for the purpose of seeing where to go from topic-wise at our new location. The new blog is not primarily oriented toward divorce and remarriage as the main thrust; but it will have articles posted there as the situation requires. The intent is to post a page there outlining resources helpful for those interested in my current position.

Perhaps I will just redirect you to another place to comment. I will be doing a redevelopment and a re-examination of the themes discussed here from a better theological understanding of these issues.

There is freedom in Christ. We all need to be aware of what that looks like.

Anyway, join the discussion at: TheCognitiveMan

Friday, February 3, 2012

It Seems To Depend On How You Spin It

It is curious to me how much this picture of divorce and remarriage can look right or wrong, depending on how you look at it.

If a man leaves his wife, everyone in the church says to him that he needs to make it work with her, no matter how difficult, because it's the right thing to do. If he not only leaves his wife, but moves in with another woman, everyone in the church says to him that he needs to leave this relationship because it's adulterous; he needs to reconcile with his wife. If he divorces the wife while living with the girlfriend, the people in the church will encourage him to stop living with the woman, because it's immoral. But then, as soon as the husband and the new girlfriend make vows to each other to be faithful to each other as long as they live, all of a sudden this new marriage is the one that God now wants to bless - and now most people in the church will say that he shouldn't have done it, but now that he did, he has to remain faithful to these new vows he made.

So what do we do with Jesus' words where he says that anyone who divorces and marries another is committing adultery? Isn't this exactly what he is referring to when he says it is committing adultery? Voddie Baucham and the like would say that it is the making of the new vows which is the act of adultery; but now that the vows have been made, God expects the man to stay in this new situation.

I'm not sure I see this. Jesus didn't say it was an act of adultery. He described it as an ongoing condition of adultery. That's what the Greek says. And I find it an unfortunate thing that many will want to redefine adultery to mean "the making of vows" and take the greek where it speaks of an ongoing condition of adultery and try to state that it really must mean a single act of adultery. In fact, Craig S. Keener goes so far as to state that Jesus must have meant that it was an act of adultery, and not an ongoing condition of adultery, because if it was, then there would be all these people in the church who are living in adultery, but this can't be the case, so this can't be what Jesus meant.

The problem is that everyone in Jesus' day understood adultery to mean sex with someone outside of the marriage relationship. And you can't change the definition of the words to make them mean something else just so you don't have to deal with painful realities.

Why is it that living with the woman is adultery, but as soon as the man makes vows to commit to staying in this adulterous relationship for the rest of his life, and that he makes vows to faithfully commit adultery with no one else anymore except this one woman, that it's not adultery anymore, but now a valid marriage in God's eyes? How does the pronouncing of these vows change the definition of what they are doing from living in adultery, as Jesus says, to living in a God-blessed relationship?

I've struggled with the realities of this concept for a while now, I have to admit. Some have suggested it could it be that when Jesus made this remark about marriage to the Pharisees, that he was really speaking of a situation where a man had already in his heart decided that he wanted to share his affections with another woman, and so divorcing so as to be free to marry another he had already picked out was his true goal? In other words, was Jesus saying something like, "he who divorces his wife just to be free to marry another is really merely entering into an ongoing condition of adultery?"

What do you do with all the couples who divorce because of abuse, or neglect, or sexual infidelity or perversion, and who do not divorce at the time in order to remarry, but do so to break off (on paper) a relationship which has really already been violated anyway? What do you do about all the couples who, having divorced, believe that God brought someone else into their life and gave them permission to remarry? How do you go back and unscramble the egg?

Monday, December 19, 2011

The power to define the terms is the power to win the debate

I read, with interest, an article on the "Faithful Word" website, regarding the thought of getting back together with your first husband or wife after one or both of you have been remarried in the meantime.

The Faithful Word, on remarrying an original spouse

The author of this web site supports his or her position rather well - the arguments seem reasonably well thought-out, and based on the presuppostions brought to the consideration, it seems he or she is trying to be fair to the argument, and the consideration at hand.

As I see it in review (and I read it recently, though not just now, before I write this review, so please bear with me if I miss a finer point or two) but it seems there are a couple presuppositions that are made in this particular assessment of the situation which seem to be made incorrectly, and which I wish to challenge, or at least to try to challenge with some thoughts of my own.

The position presented is basically that the wedding vows initiate the marriage covenant. It is not sex that forms the marriage bond, and as such, the "adultery" that occurs when a remarriage takes place is an ACT of adultery, not a STATE of adultery. The adultery is the act of making a new marriage covenant, when there is one that is still in place previously, (logically, I would assume, because the divorce didn't end the first marriage covenant.) And so "adultery" occurs "in the act of making new wedding vows." The position presented on that web site says that the sex that occurs in the new marriage is not sinful; it was the initial act of making the wedding vows to the new spouse that was an act of sin, and it is that act of sin that needs to be repented of, and repentence from that doesn't mean busting up the new marriage to put the old one back together; instead, repentence means acknowledging that the sin of adultery had been committed in the making of the vows, but the new vows stand, and they should be maintained.

I've heard this argument before. It's the common one made from that side of the fence on the divorce-remarriage debate. But the position has its problems. First of all, it seems there some logical "quantum leaps" taken here (unintentionally, it seems obvious enough, but quantum leaps in logic, nonetheless).

First of all, the commonly understood definition of "adultery" by any biblical or non-biblical scholar is sex by one (or both) of the partners in the marriage with anyone outside of the marriage. It has been said before that the power to define the terms in an argument is the power to win the debate. And in this case, it seems in order for this argument to be made, you have to buy that author's position that adultery occurs with the making of wedding vows. That seems a real stretch. The reason that Jesus said that divorcing a spouse and making wedding vows to another person is entering into an ONGOING CONDITION OF ADULTERY (and that is what it says in the greek - not an act, but an ongoing condition) is because the point he was making was the fact that simply proposing new wedding vows to a new bride or groom doesn't automatically mean that God is putting His blessing on this new "marriage" simply because we invoke His name to do so. Jesus' point was made around an obvious assumption - the assumption that new wedding vows were made in order to legitimize the acts of sexual intercourse which would afterwards be "justified" in the mind of the new husband and wife because of the vows somehow making it right. Jesus' point was that the new vows didn't change anything - the ongoing living condition that would result after the new vows is simply a condition of living in an ongoing state of adultery.

Another common problem that I see in the author's logic is such as is in his analysis of the passage in John, chapter 4, where he is speaking of Jesus with the woman at the well. This paragraph I will quote from the website itself:

"...it was Jesus who said she had had five different husbands, and the man she was living with at the moment was not her husband at all (John 4:18). From this we know that simply living with someone and having sex with them does not make them a spouse, for marriage requires a binding contract. We also know that Jesus considered each one of her previous marriages to have been real marriages, for He called each of her five previous covenant partners 'husbands' even while recognizing that the last lover was not a 'husband.' "

First of all, the author says, "From this we know that simply living with someone and having sex with them does not make them a spouse, for a marriage requires a binding contract." This is true. But then he says, "We also know that Jesus considered each one of her previous marriages to have been real marriages, for He called each of her five previous covenant partners 'husbands' even while recognizing that the last lover was not a 'husband.' "  This is not necessarily true, at all.

The new testament looks a fair bit different when you look at it in Greek than when you look at it in English. For instance, there are a few things to note that are significant before you even begin to look at the translations. In Greek, there is no different word for wife or woman, there is no different word for husband or man. The only way to tell which is implied is by context, and if the person is referred to as "the man" or "a man" or "her man." Similarly, it is "the woman" or "his woman." If it says, "her man" or "his woman" it is translated "husband" or "wife." Secondly, the expression "to have" or "had" in the context of discussion about husbands and wives is pretty much a synonymous term with "married." For instance, when the Sadducees approached Jesus with the story of the seven brothers, they used this expression - "the first one had her, the second one had her..." and it was understood in the context, and is translated so, that they were saying these brothers all married her. (Another curious little tidbit is that there is a word for widow in greek, but no word for widower; read that into 1 Corinthians 7 and it takes a different flavor, but that is a different topic.)

Anyway, look at what it says from the Greek, and then let me try to put a different "spin" on what it says (we all have 'em - like it or not, every translation has a "spin" on the text based on the presuppositions brought to the translating table). And so, based on this same text with Jesus and the woman at the well, but looking at it with the presupposition that remarriage is an ongoing condition of adultery, based on the greek... what it says is...

"... the woman answered him and said, 'I have no man.' Jesus said, 'you said correctly, for you do not have a man, for you have five men, and the one you are having now is not your man."

What it means (how it is interpreted, which is what any bible translation requires - an understanding of what it says, and what it means when it says it, when spoken in the words of another language) What I believe it means (with good reasons to say it, also...) is...

"Jesus said, 'you have spoken correctly, that you do not have a husband, for you have become married to five men, and the one to whom you are now married is not really your husband." That's a mouthful! And as controversial as it seems to be, I think there is ample justification to translate it this way. It all depends on the presuppositions you make theologically before you try to interpret the text in the original based on language and cultural considerations before you try to translate it into your current language.

If you make the presupposition that divorce ends the covenant (or, as in the case of The Faithful Word, here) you make the assumption that the new wedding vows break the old one) then you interpret "the one you now have" as a lover (as "The Faithful Word" does) rather than as a husband by law (as I and many others believe); if you make the assumption, based on the Greek text, that Jesus spoke of the ongoing new marriage as an ongoing condition of adultery, then you will translate Jesus' words here as "the one you are now married to" as a "husband," yet not one she is entitled to have in God's eyes, because it is an adulterous marriage. "The husband you have now is not your husband."

Like I said before, the power to define the terms is the power to win the debate. If we define adultery as making new vows rather than having sex outside of a legitimate marriage, then we can justify a whole bunch of stuff as now legitimate. But if we define adultery as sex outside of marriage, then we have to see in Jesus' words a statement that declares remarriages are not legitimate in God's eyes. And so, in this case, the question becomes, "if it is an ongoing condition of adultery, rather than a single act of adultery, then what does repentence look like?"

I have heard others, such as Craig S. Keener and Voddie Baucham propose the idea that the adultery that Jesus was speaking of was an act of adultery, and not a state of adultery, but the greek in these passages does not bear this out. The early church fathers, when they spoke of these sayings of Jesus in their writings all understood Jesus to be referring to an ongoing state of adultery, rather than a mere "single act" of adultery. And they were familiar with the common usage of the greek, and understood this, so much so that in their writings on the subject, they spoke even more clearly of this adultery as an ongoing condition, and they even went so far at times as to require church discipline until these new "marriages" were repented of and walked away from.

In fact, Craig Keener makes the very bad argument (in my opinion) that Jesus could not have been speaking of adultery in these cases as being an ongoing condition, because if he did, then it would mean that all these divorced and remarried people we see today are living in a state of adultery, but this just doesn't seem that it can be the case, and so we have to conlude from this that Jesus' point was really about an act of adultery, not an ongoing condition of adultery. This seems to be constructing an argument based on the conclusion you want to make. It seems to be bad logic. Defining remarriage as an act of adultery rather than a state of adultery (based on what you can do with the English translation) and redefining adultery to include the idea that marriage vows are adultery, rather than sex outside of marriage being the adultery changes the whole conversation.

As I said before, the power to define the terms is the power to win the debate. But careful consideration of the terms requires some tweaking from "The Faithful Word" on this post. As Walter Martin once said, "if words don't mean in context what they mean by definition, then we have lost the ability to communicate."

As always, your thoughts are welcome.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Revised Post - The Butterfly Effect

There is an interesting phenomenon described as "the butterfly effect" that says that some things are very sensitive to influence by other things, and a small change at one place can sometimes result in large differences somewhere else, later on. And, on a practical note, the implication is that, sometimes, when you mess with something, you REALLY mess with the future in ways you have no idea how much...

I've studied this whole issue of divorce and remarriage for over a year now in great depth. There is a lot I've learned that I had no idea about before. I had previously read from most of the popular books on the subject - Craig S. Keener, Jay Adams, Guy Duty, and others. Something that never seemed to get much coverage from any of the popular authors on the subject is the history of the manuscripts from which we get our bibles. And I think this is extremely important.

You see, when translators work going from Greek to English, they sometimes have to translate what the words say, sometimes what the meaning is, and sometimes they have to choose one over the other. And many of these passages dealing with divorce and remarriage are subject to this kind of decision-making in translation. But the translators typically learn the theology of divorce and remarriage from English texts before they learn to understand Greek, and so they often lean on tradition and predetermined theology for translation as much as they do the actual Greek manuscripts when push comes to shove.

But what if there was a wrinkle in the history of the transmission of the manuscripts? You can go to a link for this history, which is both interesting and disturbing:

A look at what Erasmus did to the text of Matthew 19:9

The short take on it is this, though. Erasmus was a humanist theologian in the Catholic church who justified his idea, contrary to Catholic theology, that divorce should be allowed in some circumstances. And it is this Erasmus who was responsible, in his day, for coming up with the Greek New Testament from which Calvin, Luther and others did their work. They at first praised him for his great work on this new Greek new testament, but later wrote him off as a pervert and a pedophile. But in the meantime, they bought into his manuscript where he had introduced a single word into Matthew 19:9 - the Greek word "ei" which changes the meaning of Matthew 19:9 completely.

With this change, the passage reads, "anyone who divorces his wife, except for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery." Without this change, the passage reads, "anyone who divorces his wife, even if for fornication, and marries another, commits adultery."

Later editions of our greek manuscripts have since had this change corrected, and yet our modern translations still translate this passage as if the "ei" is in there.

If the greek of the passage is considered with the "extra" word, it would seem to say in Matthew, "anyone who divorces his wife, except for pornea, and marries another, commits adultery." Without the extra word, a clearer rendering of the text into English might well be "anyone who divorces his wife (not speaking of pornea here) and marries another, commits adultery." The question then becomes, "what does pornea here mean?" It can mean adultery, and is at times used this way, but in the context, it might be just as reasonable to consider that Jesus was referring to any number of things besides adultery (especially since he used the word adultery in the same sentence). I would suggest, in keeping with the otherwise consistent interpretation of all the other texts in the new testament, he might be referring to marriages considered invalid in God's eyes - and which therefore should be undone because they never were lawful in His eyes. It's a thought....

This might be a fair understanding, since in Matthew's telling of the story, the gospel writer is writing to Jews, and they would have been familiar with the Shammai-Hillel debate about the reason for divorce, which is why Matthew includes, "is it wrong to divorce for every and any reason." And I believe that Jesus was saying "anyone who divorces (except where the divorce would be required because of an 'uncleanness' - pornea - that violates the law of marriage because it was never a legitimate marriage in the first place) and marries another enters into a state of adultery...."

There is a place for tradition, I know. But there is also something to be said for stating what is true, no matter how painful it is. After looking at what Matthew emphasized to the Jews, and Mark emphasized to the gentiles, what I believe Jesus was saying was this: "anyone who divorces his wife (unless it was an illegitimate marriage in the first place, in which case it should be undone) and marries another, commits adultery." This is essentially the same as what he says in Mark 10. Any legitimate marriage is not undone by divorce; though the laws might support it, the covenant is still in place, which is why Jesus calls the next marriage an ongoing condition of adultery.

So what happened after Erasmus introduced the "ei"? Luther eventually wrote Erasmus off as dangerous, the manuscripts have been corrected so that they no longer show this mistake. But it was translated "except for fornication" in the KJV based on this error deliberately planted in the greek manuscript at the time. And now, who can question the KJV?

OK. Now, having said that, I have to state the reasons for why the opinion I just spouted off should be taken with a grain of salt. It's interesting to look at these passages and to try to determine what Jesus was speaking about; but it's also helpful (perhaps, anyway) to look at how the early church interpreted the Matthean exception. And if you look here,

A Look at the Historical Views on Divorce and Remarriage in the Early Church

You will see the following: the Shepherd of Hermas (A.D. 90) taught that if a husband had a wife committing adultery, he was required to divorce her, as a means of disciplining the wayward wife, but also required not to remarry, as he needed to remain single so as to take her back as his wife if she repented of the adultery; Clement of Alexandria, in A.D. 208, wrote that "if a man divorces his wife, except for adultery" he causes her to commit adultery. But he refers to the divorce as a separation, not that it ended the marriage - more of a space, for discipline. And he also said that anyone who would take the divorced woman as his wife was perpetuating her adultery; Origin, A.D. 250 said that if a man divorced, except for adultery, he was causing her to become an adultress - so he read Matthew as "except for" (though not as a permission to remarry, and neither could the woman, because their union was still a covenant in God's eyes); and if you look at the others, it seems they generally saw adultery/fornication in the same way - divorce was allowed in the case of consistent promiscuity. So Jesus' "except for fornication" was seen by the early church to be referring to adultery just as easily as anything else. But it didn't end the covenant, and if a remarriage occurred, it was considered a state of adultery, which needed to be repented of.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Some Questions To Think About

Some questions to think about:

God hates divorce. Are there some things He hates worse?

Do you know the first divorce that was mentioned in the Bible?

Did you know there were times that God REQUIRED people to divorce?

If adultery is an exception for divorce, then why did Paul not mention anything about it in 1 Cor. 7 ?

If Jesus gives an exception only for marital unfaithfulness, and Paul gives an exception only for desertion, then are they contradicting each other?

If they aren't contradicting each other, but they are simply stating general concepts to make a point, but they all assume their audiences understand that exceptions are implied, then how many exceptions are there?

If there might be other exceptions, how far can they go? Abuse? Sexual abuse only? Or physical abuse? What about mental cruelty? What about the unwillingness of a partner to be intimate with their mate? What about neglect? What about emotional neglect? How far can you wander down the path of exceptions before it becomes such a wide basket of exceptions that the rules don't really mean anything anymore?

If Jesus was understood by his followers as having exceptions implied when he was quoted in Mark, then why did His disciples have such a wild reaction to what He said?

If Jesus was saying that remarrying was an act of adultery, rather than entering into a continuing condition of adultery that needed to be repented of, then why did everyone in the first five centuries of the church, who spoke the koine greek the new testament was written in, all get it wrong and think he meant an ongoing state of adultery, when we, as 21st century english speakers can see so clearly that He merely meant an act of adultery?

If the remarriage is only a single act of adultery (as Voddie Baucham would say), then when does the adultery occur? Is the making of the new covenant on the afternoon of the wedding the act of adultery? Or is the consummation of the new marriage on the evening of the wedding the act of adultery? If they really are husband and wife in Jesus' eyes, then why is it adultery? When does it cease to be an act of adultery? Is it a sudden end (perhaps during the consummation of the new marriage) or is it something that "gradually becomes non-adulterous"?

If the proper response after remarrying is to stay in the new marriage even though it is adulterous (as John Piper would say) then where is there any other precedent or parallel in the bible that says you shouldn't have started a lifestyle of sin, but now that you've started it, you need to keep doing it forever?

If Deuteronomy 24 is a commandment that if you've divorced and remarried, no matter the reason, then you can't ever go back and remarry the first spouse because it made her to be defiled, then what was it that defiled the woman so that they could never remarry? Was it the fact that she had sex with another man? Does Hosea line up with that? Was it because there was a new marriage vow formed? Does king David line up with that (2 Sam 3:12-15)? Does GOD even line up with that (Jer. 3)?

Just some questions to think about. Your opinions are welcome...

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Your thoughts, my thoughts...

I'm sure everyone has an opinion that may contain some truth or some things to consider. I'm looking at a lot of perspectives on this whole divorce and remarriage issue, trying to sort out good logic from bad, good theology from bad, trying to discern the Lord's heart and mind on this one. I have a leaning, but I'm interested in your thoughts, particularly if they differ from mine. "As iron sharpens iron..."

I think we all learn in many ways, particularly by wrestling with ideas that don't always agree with us. Truth is truth, whether we like it or not.....

If you have any thoughts, comments, questions or suggestions about some of the web pages listed or on any previous blogs, please feel free to post a comment or question. If you have something not addressed in a blog but would like to comment, I would be willing to put up a new blog post for comment and feedback.