Friday, April 22, 2016

Grounds For Divorce?

Robert L. Dabney writes, "Under the New Testament, divorce proper can take place only on two grounds, adultery and permanent desertion, See Matt. xix : 9; v : 32; 1 Cor. vii : 15."

I am sorry, but this is false interpretation. Mr. Dabney was a very godly man, but even godly men can make mistakes, whether it involves personal feelings or situations that hit close to home. But neither of these change the truth of God's Word. Both of these must bow to the authority of Scripture. If my wife were to cheat on me, yes, it would very much hurt me, and my emotions tell me that I should divorce her for being unfaithful to me. But if marriage is a portrait of Christ and His church, should Jesus be allowed to divorce us when we are unfaithful to Him? If so, then we ought to teach and believe in the loss of salvation because that is precisely what divorce reflects. Where is the Gospel in any of that?

"What do the Scriptures teach?" That is and must be our only concern! Our personal feelings and opinions have no weight in the matter. Context and exegesis do not support the false interpretation of allowance for divorce that Mr. Dabney and most Christians argue for. It perplexes me how so many Christians, past and present, could err on these passages. They need to check their emotions and opinions at the door and pay attention to the context and exegesis of the passages. Let us look at 1 Corinthians 7 first.
"Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace." 1 Corinthians 7:15
In 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, Paul gives commands that come directly from God: "not I, but the Lord." If these come directly from God, would it be wise of Paul to give commands in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 that contradict what God has just said? Look at the context surrounding verse 15. With what is said in verses 12-14 and 16, how can anyone eisegetically derive a cause for divorce and re-marriage from verse 15? What Paul is saying is that if the unbelieving person wants to leave, let them leave! Forcing them to stay will be like all the verses in Proverbs that warn about living with a contentious spouse. Nowhere in this verse is there an allowance for remarriage. Such an idea is imposed on the text by our emotions and opinions.

If verse 15 allowed for divorce and remarriage, it contradicts the context of Paul's words (vv. 12-14, 16) and the words of God (vv. 10-11). According to God's words, if a person wants to desert their spouse, let them remain single for the rest of their life or be reconciled to their spouse. Desertion or divorce, it amounts to the same thing. So if God has said what He has said, it would be foolish for Paul to give instructions that contradict it. Furthermore, when a marriage takes place, there are three people who enter into the marriage covenant: God, the husband, and the wife. If a husband or wife deserts or divorces their spouse, there are still two people who remain in that covenant: God and the desertee. The following verse should help to shed some light as to what Paul is trying to say.
"For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?" 1 Corinthains 7:16
The Gospel According to Matthew was written to the Jews. Everything written therein they would understand perfectly. We Gentile Christians today cannot read Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 and impose our understanding, or even our emotions and opinions, upon the text. That is eisegesis. It was written to the Jews, therefore it must be understood in relation to their customs and practices of the day. If we want to find application in the text from their customs, then it applies directly to our engagement period prior to being married. Deuteronomy 22:13-21 and Matthew 1:18-25 inform us as to what Jesus meant by the "exception clause." Mary and Joseph were not even married yet, and he was going to divorce her. How do you divorce someone you are not yet married to? Jesus is stating that if Mary had been guilty of what Joseph thought, then he would have been justified in so divorcing her. But this is before they were married; and the language of all three passages in Matthew, Mark, and Luke regarding the committing of adultery is taking place after divorce.

There is but one cause that dissolves the marriage bond and allows a person to remarry: Death!

Concerning Deuteronomy 24:1-4, observe what R. L. Dabney shares:
Christ does not concede that [the Pharisees] interpreted Moses rightly; but indignantly clears the legislation of that holy man from their licentious perversions, and then, because of their abuse of it, repeals it by His plenary authority. He refers to that constitution of the marriage tie which was original, which preceded Moses, and was therefore binding when Moses wrote, to show that it  was impossible he could have enacted what they claimed. What, then, did Moses enact? Let us explain it. In the ancient society of the East, females being reared in comparative seclusion, and marriage negotiated by intermediaries, the bridegroom had little opportunity for a familiar acquaintance even with the person of the bride. When she was brought to him at the nuptials, if he found her disfigured with some personal deformity or disease (the undoubted meaning of the phrase "some uncleanness"), which effectually changed desire into disgust, he was likely to regard himself as swindled in the treaty, and to send the rejected bride back with indignity to her father's house. There she was reluctantly received, and in the anomalous position of one in name a wife, yet without a husband, she dragged out a wretched existence, incapable of marriage, and regarded by her parents and brothers as a disgraceful [e]ncumbrance. It was to relieve the wretched fate of such a woman that Moses' law was framed. She was empowered to exact of her proposed husband a formal annulment of the unconsummated contract, and to resume the status of a single woman, eligible for another marriage. It is plain that Moses' law contemplates the case, only, in which no consummation of marriage takes place. She finds no favour in the eyes "of the bridegroom." He is so indignant and disgusted that desire is put to flight by repugnance. The same fact appears from the condition of the law, that she shall in no case return to this man, "after she is defiled," i.e., after actual cohabitation with another man had made her unapproachable (without moral defilement) by the first). Such was the narrow extent of this law. The act for which it provided was divorce only in name, where that consensus, qui matrimonium facit, in the words of the law maxim, had never been perfected.
Compare that with what is said in Deuteronomy 22:13-21. With that understanding, Deuteronomy 24:1-4, Deuteronomy 22:13-21, and Matthew 1:18-25 complement each other, which makes the argument that Jesus provided an exception clause for divorce after marriage even more less likely. How people can claim that Jesus provides a cause for divorce due to adultery committed after marriage when the language of His words concerning those committing adultery is taking place after divorce just baffles me. Christians today are teaching:
Marriage + The Act of Adultery = A Cause For Divorce
But the language of Jesus' words teach:
Marriage + The Act of Divorce = The Committal of Adultery
The "exception clause" applies to their customs and practices of their day. The certificate of divorce had little to do with the act of marriage. Once entered into the covenant of marriage, that was it. Upon consummation, the two become one flesh. They are no longer two. It is like gluing two pieces of paper together. To try and separate them would be messy. This is why we need to guard against pre-marital sex. Covenants are for life. As long as members of that covenant are alive, it remains in effect. While one spouse may desert the other, God and the remaining spouse are still in that covenant together.

It does not matter that I am in the minority when it comes to understanding these passages. The majority of people are interpreting them based on their emotional desires rather than the context and proper exegesis. What I feel has no barring on the issue. It is about not marring the image of Christ and His church that marriage reflects, and it is about maintaining the Gospel. While your spouse being unfaithful to you no doubt hurts you severely, try considering what your sins and unfaithfulness to Christ did to Him on the cross. There is no comparison. The Gospel, always, first and foremost.

May God bless those experiencing these pains, grant them the comfort they need, and give them the strength and integrity to forgive, to reconcile, to love again, and to be a witness to the world through their circumstances.

Given the information presented by R. L. Dabney concerning Deuteronomy 24:1-4, and what we know from the context of Scripture regarding Deuteronomy 22:13-21 and Matthew 1:18-25, Jesus' words, apart from those addressing Adam and Eve, may have nothing to do with the act of marriage itself whatsoever. Consider this...

In those days, it was common for arranged marriages. Given the information Mr. Dabney shared, it could be possible that Jesus' words addressing divorce and the committal of adultery thereafter, all have to do with the pre-marital period. Arranged marriages were entered into with agreements or pacts. The information Mr. Dabney presents shows that if a wife was maimed or disfigured or whatever, that the husband could break that agreement or pact by issuing her a statement of divorce. The act itself was divorce in name only as the act of marriage had not yet taken place.

Possibly, what Jesus is saying, concerning their customs and practices, is that the only just cause for issuing such a statement of divorce is for the cause of pre-marital sex with another person. Meaning that an arranged marriage could no longer be broken simply because the spouse was maimed or disfigured or whatever. These are some of my own personal considerations. Regardless whether His discourse on divorce and the inevitable committal of adultery applies to the pre-marital period or the marriage union, as far as the marriage union itself is concerned, Jesus makes it abundantly clear by addressing Adam and Eve that marriage is a life-long covenant dissolved by death only.

Remember, when the Pharisees approached Jesus and asked Him if it was lawful to divorce, He immediately referred them to Adam and Eve, quoting from Genesis, and informing them that what God has joined together, no one has the authority to separate. It is after this conclusion that the Pharisees ask Jesus why Moses commanded Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Then Jesus answers in accordance with that.

Our customs and practices of our culture are quite different. People get engaged and then, for whatever reasons, call off the engagement. Unfaithfulness could be a cause for doing so. Regardless of cultural customs and practices, the state of the marriage union remains the same from one end of the globe to the other. It is a life-long covenant commitment that can only be dissolved by death.