I produced the following for use as an official policy/position paper at South City Church (Milwaukee). It is largely inspired by and makes modifications from John Piper and Bethlehem Baptist’s A Statement on Divorce & Remarriage in the Life of Bethlehem Baptist Church.
As those who believe that “the Bible is God’s very word, … supremely authoritative for what is true and right,” and, as such, “is to be … obeyed in all that it commands” (I. Scripture under Membership Affirmations in the Constitution), we must look to scripture to determine how we should view, handle, and approach the matter of divorce and the potential remarriages that would follow.
However, the subject of divorce and remarriage is one over which many faithful Christians disagree. All agree that remarriage is intended to be a life-long union, with remarriage being permissible after the death of one’s spouse. But, with regards to remarriage after a divorce, whereas some believe that such remarriages are always wrong, others believe that remarriage after divorce may be permissible in certain select cases. Good, respectable arguments exist on both sides. And faithful, Bible-believing Christians disagree.
As members of this church, we are called to hold one another accountable and to intervene in each other’s lives (church discipline) when we stray from following Christ. And we have covenanted to do just that (see the Church Covenant in our Constitution). This discipline and mutual-accountability encompasses all areas of life, no less our marriages, divorces, and potential remarriages.
The question thus emerges, how shall we as a church engage in this sort of mutual-accountability and discipline in the midst of potential disagreements over what is right or permissible with respect to divorce and remarriage? To this end we accept the below principles, which we believe express minimum strictures expected of Bible-adhering Christians, as our boundaries for accountability and discipline.
Top (from left): Al Franken, Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Roy Moore. Bottom: John Besh, Kevin Spacey, Jeremy Piven, and Richard Dreyfuss. (AP images)
The past month or so, we’ve seen incident after incident after incident of sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct (Weinstein, Franken, Moore, etc.). We’ve witnessed (or participated in) the #MeToo trend, bringing awareness to and identifying what is apparently a pervasive problem in our society. Yet, as these scandals have unfolded, many have responded with shock and surprise. “I can’t believe that [so and so] did that…”
Christians believe in the doctrine of sin — that humanity is broken and rebellious against God, rejecting his good purposes. And so, on the one hand, Christians are never totally surprised when humanity acts heinously. We have theological categories for this.
On the other hand, there’s a certain level of shock that should always be present — a shock that matches the degree of sin’s audacity. Even as we understand humanity’s disposition to sin and propensity to commit great acts of evil, this reality doesn’t make sin any less appalling. Furthermore, due to God’s (common) restraining grace on humanity, we expect people to treat others with a certain base-level of dignity, even in their sinfulness.
But, at this point in the cultural story, if you’re still surprised when the latest sexual assault scandal emerges, you shouldn’t be.
Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views by H. Wayne House
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Good, substantive discussions (minus Richards, see below).
Laney provides a great survey of the texts, although I wish he had engaged the main “issues” more.
Heth is on point. Superb scholarly work here. (Note: Heth later changed his view, so lots of respect for this guy given his willingness to go where he thinks the text leads despite the sacrifice involved — his previously scholarly stand, e.g., his contribution here.)
Edgar is a juggernaut of destruction, ripping other authors and arguments to shreds. He’s good; but his tone is unfortunate. He also succumbs to building lots of straw man and frequently overstates his case. (Laney and Heth rightly take note of this.)
Richards… Oh, Richards. I don’t know how his piece made it past the editor. How did this guy get invited to contribute to this project? He only cites two sources… two endnotes! (compare that to Heth’s 106 endnotes). Seriously. Horrible exegesis. Loads of eisegesis.
He basically argues (and this is no exaggeration) that all divorce and remarriage is wrong, but people can do it anyway and we shouldn’t judge since that’d be legalistic. … Antinomianism would be a better title for his position!
Besides Richard’s though, lots of good stuff here.
(The following evaluation of each author’s contribution is not necessarily reflective of whether I agree or disagree with their position, but is based on the quality of their contribution, regardless of whether I agree with them.)
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Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible: A Fresh Look at What Scripture Teaches by Jay E. Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Content — good.
Tone — could be improved at points, particularly when dealing with those with whine he disagrees (typical Jay Adams).
Sometimes a little simplistic in its handling of things.
Sometimes the opposite: stances were so, “If this, then that… If this, than that… If this, then…” (etc.) that things felt several levels removed from the text itself, and one began to feel suspicious of their legitimacy.
But, all in all, an impressive little treatment — cuts through a complex issue with a lot of clarity (even if being in danger of a little over-simplicity at times).
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