Thursday, September 18, 2008

Views about Marriage and Divorce


By B Ward Powers

One of the most controversial issues in the church is that of divorce and remarriage. I have identified eleven different views which are (or have been) held in the church. A tantalizing question is: how can so many teachers look at the same passages in the Bible and come to so many different conclusions as to what they mean? The explanation I have arrived at about this is a combination of two factors.

Firstly, we do not live in a vacuum, and when we come to look at the teaching of the Scriptures we bring ideas and interpretations which we have heard or opinions we have already half formed: and often we tend to see in the Bible what we expect to see. Secondly, we can focus on selected Scriptures as being the most basic and build our interpretation from them alone, assuming that those which appear to differ from them imply the points we accept or are somehow secondary.

If we really want to draw out the New Testament teaching on these issues, we must be prepared to consider them afresh without being committed to one or another point of view that we have heard or been taught, and moreover, to take the entire teaching of the New Testament on these matters into account in forming our interpretation.

One view I accept. The other ten viewpoints fall into three groups:

(a) Total Indissolubility Interpretation: No divorce is possible, because the marriage continues in God’s eyes notwithstanding whatever we may purport to do, so that remarriage after divorce is always adultery. [But this interpretation involves selective obedience to the commands of Scripture, there are fundamental inconsistencies at its heart, and it goes beyond the warrant of Scripture. In fact, it succeeds in holding God and marriage up to ridicule.]

(b) Specified Grounds Interpretation: This permits divorce (and remarriage) upon specified grounds, which are accepted as exceptions to an overall rejection of divorce. This group of views differ between themselves as to the acceptable grounds, whether both parties or only the “innocent” one can divorce, and whether remarriage is permitted. [But we need to face the fact that no “exceptions” can make an evil thing good and acceptable to God.]

(c) Ideals And Guidelines Interpretation: These views regard the teachings of Jesus and Paul as helpful guidelines, or an ideal to be striven for, but a goal which is often unattainable, and towards which one can make several attempts, with different partners. [But this is denying that Jesus expected his followers to obey his teaching, or that the Scripture in general has any authority.]

For the view that fits what we find in Scripture, read “Marriage and Divorce – the New Testament Teaching” by Rev Dr B Ward Powers (Jordan Books), 384 pages, posted for $AUD33, or $US25, or £Stg15.

[Click for "Marriage and Divorce" table of contents, topic list or order info.]
[Click to go to the Ward Powers Home Page.]


More Christ Like said...

Les McFall has an interested way to deal with the exception clause in Matthew 19:9. He has written a 43 page paper that reviews the changes in the Greek made by Erasmus that effect the way Matthew 19:9 has been translated. I reviewed McFall's paper at Except For Fornication Clause of Matthew 19:9. I would love to hear some feedback on this position.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best books I have read on this topic. Thank you!

Mark Conner