Tuesday, September 21, 2010

"Divorce & Remarriage: A Permanence View": A Book Review

This work is published by Christian Communicators Worldwide, written by Daryl Wingard, Jim Elliff, Jim Chrisman, and Steve Burchett.  As the title states, the book deals with the often debated topic of divorce plus the follow on subject of remarriage.  Rather than simply sharing their opinions on the matter, they tackle this difficult yet commonplace aspect of our society using the Scripture and straightforward reasoning.

Based on conversations I have had with many professing Christians, the authors' conclusions are not going to be welcomed by many.  Most modern day expositors teach at least 2 Biblical exceptions to the permanence view of marriage, namely, adultery and abandonment.  However, these godly authors attack these exceptions with God's Word clearly and carefully.  Here is a brief sample: 

"...there is no text of Scripture that conclusively proves that God permits divorce in cases of adultery, while several passages prohibit divorce categorically. ... Matthew 19:9 is, at best, inconclusive on the subject of remarriage after divorce, and in Matthew 5:32 Jesus clearly prohibits remarriage after divorce, even for the innocent spouse, by specifying that though she was not guilty of adultery prior to the divorce, she commits adultery when she remarries."

The authors summarize their understanding of the teaching of Scripture on marriage, divorce, and remarriage at the very beginning of the book:

1.  The one-flesh union created in marriage is permanent until death.
2.  Initiating a divorce is never lawful.
3.  Remarrying after divorce is an act of adultery if a former spouse is living.

Part 1 of the book examines the Biblical texts on the subject.  Part 2 of the book discusses applications of their conclusions.  The second part is extremely valuable since it contains answers to many of the situations which often confront pastors in their ministry to troubled marriages (or second marriages).

I suspect many will disagree with their conclusions.  Those who do, however, must provide a more convincing interpretation of the Scriptural passages examined by this work.  Opinion, pragmitism, and philosophical arguments will not suffice.  The authors have based their conclusions on Scripture.  Those opposed must do likewise.

Personally, I enjoyed reading the work.  My own view on this matter has undergone considerable change over the past couple of years thanks, in part, to the work of John Piper.  Basically, I came to the same conclusions as the authors roughly a year ago.  Their work confirms my view on marriage.

I do remain in disagreement with the book's position on the matter of divorce as it relates to the qualifications for a pastor.  The authors conclude that those men who have divorced their wives and remarried remain qualified for the pastorate.  They provide their arguments for their position in the "application" section near the end of the book.  However, I am not yet convinced of their position and the interpretation they are giving to the 1 Timothy 3 passage.

Though I disagree with their position on pastoral qualifications, I support the remainder of their book. I highly recommend it to others, especially those who are still struggling with the subject of divorce and remarriage.

1 comment:

Neal Doster said...

When we read the teachings of the Lord on this matter we want to do everything we can to try to stop the destructiveness of divorce. Our propensity as Christians is to try to fix it, for some in an all out way. The ensuing guilt of adultery arms us with the evidence that remarriage should be avoided. The question is, how or to what extent? Where should the Church place the emphasis on stopping adulterous remarriages. The permanence view solution is to advocate that there is no justifiable grounds for marital divorce and/or no grounds for remarriage except the death of a spouse.
They advocate that Jesus changed the present reality at that time for divorce and remarriage. They contend He annulled the provision that had allowed for it. Keep in mind this is one of the things that’s in dispute. For no such claim exist in Christ teaching. Then there are those that contend that in those passages Jesus said nothing about changing provisions for remarriage. Rather, He was revealing a misconception among the Jews being that divorce circumvented adultery. He was refuting the long held belief among many that remarriage after divorce had no sinful consequences to it. He was reaffirming the sacredness of marriage and the original intent of God for it but He said nothing about forbidding remarriage or mandating singleness.
The first contention advocate’s that those that were allowed to remarry in the Old Testament are no longer free to do so now. The second contention advocate’s that those who were allowed to remarry remain under the same code but were being informed that divorce did not give impunity from sin, not then, not now. In other words Jesus was not revealing new truth about divorce that applied from here on out but rather reality that had always been true. Nothing changed except the misconception that divorce granted the moral right of remarriage and hopefully attitudes about the sacredness of marriage.