Monday, May 10, 2010

Help me with Divorce (and Marriage and Remarriage)

My Text for Sunday Evening at St Philips: Matthew 5:31-32:
"It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
  • Is this the final word on divorce?
  • How does divorce cause her to become an adulterer?
  • Is there room in Scripture for a person to get remarried after divorce?
  • Historical situation?
  • Pastoral Implications?
  • Best things to read? Sermon to listen to?
  • Anyone I should call?
I want to get this one right.

And it is not easy.

Pic taken from my iPhone of Evening Congregation out for dinner last night. A local city restaurant opened for us, and about 75% of the congregation came. It was fun. They had to find more seats and make more food!


RodeoClown said...

Something else to consider is the command to young widows at the end of 1 Tim (just read it this morning).

The whole situation is pretty tricky. Our church has heaps of remarried people.

Seumas Macdonald said...

If you dig around the mars hill site, you'll eventually find a 25 page document working through some of this issue. it's not the final word either, but I found it very helpful sorting through this issue a year or two ago. I might have it on my harddrive somewhere too...

Anthony Douglas said...

Back in my day, the recommended writer was David Instone-Brewer. I've got a copy of his popular book on the topic, but it's probably too far away to help you!

(trust Angus to get in the centre of the photo...he should be a model ;-)

/Karen/ said...

You probably don't have time to read books, but here's my round-up of reading about divorce (mainly from a sociological point of view; Judith Wallerstein just excellent for getting a feel for what divorce is like for the family):

Personally I think the evidence speaks for itself: divorce is just really bad for the family relationship. It makes working at those relationships harder. Furthermore, it doesn't solve the problems it sets out to solve--even in cases of domestic violence.

/Karen/ said...

Also (to toot my own horn and promote The Briefing)

Kurt Peters said...

The book to think it through:

The thicker book gives good summaries of opinions and asks lots of the questions. My senior minister and I are divided on whether he makes a decent enough case for his position.

Chris said...

Lego version of Instone-Brewer's thoughts.

/Karen/ said...

Hey Jacqueline!

Apologies, I didn't mean to offend. My comments were coming from my reading of Judith Wallerstein's books, which in turn were drawn from her longitudinal study of 130 Californian families who divorced around when no fault divorce was introduced in the US. Wallerstein points out that often divorce proceedings were begun by the couples in question because of domestic violence. However, the effects of the divorce did not solve the central problem (namely the abusive spouse's behaviour). The spouse usually continued to be abusive, though usually from a distance. Sometimes he (and it was usually a he) would turn the children against their mother--saying she was a bad mother to separate him from his kids--fleeing in the night without so much of a word, etc.

The children in turn did not always understand that the divorce came about because of domestic violence; often the mother would think that the link was clear, but often they did not see it, or had trouble connecting the dots because the father would be affectionate and gentle with them, even as he was abusive towards his wife. Sometimes the children would resent the mother for taking them away from their father--to the point where at least one of the boys in the study ended up being abusive (verbally and physically) towards his own mother later on in life. (Thankfully for that boy, even though he replicated his father's behavioural patterns in his own romantic relationships, he grew to see how manipulative his father had been and how unhelpful this sort of behaviour was, and eventually settled in a fulfilling healthy marriage of his own.)

I hope that gives some clarity and context to my comments. Again, apologies for any offence caused.


/Karen/ said...

Thanks Jacqueline! To answer your question, Wallerstein has stats about the study in the back of her books--including the ages of the children when the parents divorced--but she doesn't specify how old the children were in situations involving domestic violence.

Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

Good on you for asking Justin.

Perhaps I've gotten used to saying 'well, of course, it's more complex than that...'?

But what if it isn't?

I found this paper by John Piper recently which may be worth a glance.

I suspect that most would accept that divorce is not good.

I suspect many could agree that divorcing someone (ie being the initiator) is not good.

I think greater resistance to a suggestion that a person who was divorced by someone might be forbidden to remarry.

Might this reveal something about where and when we expect justice and happiness?

Markus said...

As you are no doubt aware Justin Matt 5:17-20 is important for setting the context of this part of the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is arguing that ‘just because it is legal, doesn’t mean it is loving’ and the Kingdom of Heaven is to be characterised by love of God and love of neighbour.

I don’t think this is the ‘last word’ on divorce – other passages, such as 1 Cor 7, need to be taken into account. And how the whole garment of the Bible’s teaching on this issue fits together may depend on how you see the authority of Scripture applying to areas where the scripture is silent.

From my reading
- Divorce is not a part of God’s plans and purposes for creation
- God 'allows' divorce because of sin in the world.
- Divorce is explicitly allowed on the grounds of sexual immorality and where an unbelieving spouse wants out – are these the only reasons, or is there a principle that can be applied?
- The allowance of divorce doesn’t necessarily mean an allowance for re-marriage is given.
- Where two Christians get divorced, they should not get remarried (Mark 10:1-12, 1 Cor 7:10-11) – is this in all cases of divorce, or just in situations where there has been no justifiable reason for divorce. Is there a difference in 1 Cor 7 between being separated and being divorced?
- Is it significant that Paul doesn’t explicitly forbid Christians whose unbelieving spouse has divorced them, from remarrying?
- Widows are allowed to remarry (as long as they marry a Christian). Does this mean that a divorced person is free to marry if the ex is dead?

I think Bp Glenn Davies has written a paper outlining his thoughts in this area. If I can dig it up would you like me to email it to you?

Justin said...

Thanks Marcus. Send me what you have!

Cameron and Alex Grey Jones said...

re. divorce being permitted in situations of marital unfaithfulness...

Is it that divorce is permitted in such circumstances, or is Jesus focus not on divorce but on adultery?

If it is adultery is the sin to be avoided then Jesus point is that divorce leads to sex outside of a vowed lifetime of commitment and that he regards that as adultery.

If this is the case then 'except for marital unfaithfulness' is not a comment allowing grounds for divorce but is pointing out that in such a case adultery has already occurred.

annie said...

There is a great trio of sermons from the Carey Conference of 2009:




Other good ones on related topics include 'The Broken Family' and 'Hope in Parenting', both available from the same site as linked above.

I particularly recommend the one on singleness - I know this isn't what you asked for! - but it's a great one. Although I have recently joined the non-single camp, I have many years of memories of the awkwardness of being the single one while a pastor was preaching on marriage!

But that was in a different culture. Sounds like here in your new evening congregation, it wouldn't be so weird to be single.

Anyway, do check out the Carey Conference sermons. Highly recommended.

Lucy said...

I was just looking at your site after watching "The Shadowlands" and trying to find out the Anglican Church's stance on marriage and divorce. The scripture you site here does appear tricky. Here is some information I found regarding the translation of "adultery" in that passage which was actually the word "fornication":

Matt. 5:31-32 - the Lord permits divorce only for "porneia." This Greek word generally means unlawful sexual intercourse due to either blood relations (also called incest) or nonsacramental unions. The Lord does not permit divorce for "moicheia" (adultery). It is also important to note that in these cases, a marriage never existed in the first place, so the Lord is not actually permitting divorce, but a dissolution of the unlawful union.

The source is here:

The page is chock full of other scriptural references on divorce and remarriage including this one:

1 Cor. 7:12-15 - these verses set forth what the Church calls the "Pauline privilege" - two unbaptized people marry, and afterwards one of the people is baptized. If the unbaptized person decides to leave the marriage, the Christian is free to remarry (because the first marriage was not sacramental, and a union between a baptized and an unbaptized person can jeopardize the baptized person's faith).

It appears to me that this would apply to Joy Lewis' situation when she divorced and remarried C.S. (Jack), but apparently the Anglican Bishop refused to allow them to marry for some reason.

As a Catholic, it can be reassuring to know that we have strict guidelines the priests are to follow, (even though, sadly, they don't always follow them).

Anyway,keep up your admirable search for truth and God Bless you and your lovely family! :D

In Christ,

Lucy said...

I forgot to mention that if you scroll down on that page:

they also give lots of quotes of the early Church Fathers on the divorce/remarriage subject.:D

God Bless--Lucy

Athrunxala said...

These are some really great questions. I'd love to bring it up with my New Jersey divorce attorney and get his opinion on the whole matter.

Lawyers Sydney said...

Divorce is a serious problem especially for kids.

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