Are there Biblical Grounds for Divorce?

This is a very helpful 30-minute round-table discussion on the grounds for divorce. Churches have failed in this area by encouraging further abuse instead of protecting the victim. Pastors/Counselors need to watch this as they deal with these matters in the Church. The covenant of marriage presupposes basic human rights. This discussion highlights the nature of God and how that ought to shape our view of marriage. This is a topic worthy of the Church’s attention.


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9 thoughts on “Are there Biblical Grounds for Divorce?”

  1. I believe this table talk discussion is reasonable but it does convey some misconceptions about the dynamics of domestic abuse. It gives too much hope that the abuser can be reformed and the marriage repaired in a wholesome way. In my observation genuine abuser reformation is very rare. And way too many churches are holding out this carrot of hope to victims but it’s based on Pollyanna thinking.

    The people at the table makes the assumption that other men in the church will not be deceived by the abuser in the so-called redemptive healing journey. In my experience, most folk in churches are not wise enough to detect the lies and resist the subtle manipulations of abusers, so they get beguiled by feigned repentance and reformation of the abuser. And the same goes for many counselors and pastors. This whole issue of how the abuser recruits allies so they won’t get on his case was not dealt with in this presentation, and that’s a major omission.

    Also, the speakers all seem to accept that ‘God hates divorce.’ This is a very wrong belief based on a mistranslation of Malachi 2:16. Please see the blog A Cry For Justice for good teaching on abuse

    And for a thorough treatment of what the Bible says about divorce for abuse, please check out my book “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce For Abuse, Adultery and Desertion.” Click on my name to explore the book and read review by theologians and others.

    The fellow on the left of the table says that the victim is not outside God’s redeeming work if she has divorced. He does not seem to realise that this statement is offensive to many victims. Victims who have divorced their abusers have not sinned by taking out a divorce. So their action does not need to be ‘redeemed’ because their divorce was not a sin. The sin was the abuse, not the divorce. The sin is to be sheeted home solely to the abuser whose heinous conduct and attitude trashed the marriage.

    I agree with the point that one person cannot do the work of two people to make a marriage work.

    But to me, the people at the table do not show enough outrage about the way the church is often mishandling this issue and causing untold grief to victims by the way they mishandle it.

    For me, the woman in the video snippets who is a survivor of domestic abuse is the most useful voice in this presentation. Her story is real, believable, and authentic.

    1. I appreciate your thorough reply.
      As you can see you cannot say everything about a matter in 30 minutes. I will also say that to expect a certain outrage from people is not the most helpful type of dialogue. This is a discussion on an important and serious issue and I think they handled it well with their limitations. This is also a final discussion in a series of discussions. As for the redeeming comment, I understood them to be saying that there is redemption for the individual who has undergone such abuse; he/she can find refuge and comfort again. I did not understand them to say that the victim needs to find some type of soteriological deliverance. Neither did I hear them say that the victim is sinning for leaving their abusive espouse. In fact, they seem to have provided plenty of exceptions and biblical rationales for divorce perfectly within the confines of God’s revealed word. I trust these two experienced counselors, but I am willing to consider your thoughts. I will look at the blog and purchase your book. Thanks, again.

    2. I also agree with you that Malachi 2:16 was not dealt with, but just assumed. The entire verse needs to be considered and shalach needs to be understood in light of its explanation by Yahweh.

  2. Great, Uri. Happy to hear your thoughts. Yes, wanting a certain degree of outrage may be asking too much of people at this stage of their awareness of the issue. However, if you were in my shoes, with my extensive knowledge of how survivors of domestic abuse have been dealt with by by Christian leaders, teachers, authors, etc, you might understand more about why I desire to see more outrage.

    While you took the word “redeem” in that presentation to be referring to how victims of abuse can find refuge and comfort again, I would like you to be aware that most victims of abuse would hear this speaker’s use of ‘redeem’ as referring to the fact that God can forgive the victim for the sin of divorce. What would spring into their minds is the word ‘redemption’ in Ephesians 1:7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses . . . ”
    Most victims of abuse and most of the church have been so brainwashed to think that divorce is a sin (albeit a forgivable sin, perhaps, under some circumstances) that this idea needs to be fully, firmly and repeatedly rebutted. The way these presenters have done this is, in my opinion, not strong enough, not definite enough.

    What I argue in my book is that treacherous divorce is sinful, but disciplinary divorce is NOT sinful (and therefore does not need to be forgiven). Disciplinary divorce can be taken out for adultery, abuse, or simple desertion-by-an-unbeliever. I argue abuse as a valid ground on the basis of 1 Cor. 7:15. Abuse is a form of desertion because abuse effectively pushes away the other spouse. Abuse so violates the covenant of marriage that it destroys the marriage. It causes separation: whether or not the parties are still ‘under the same roof’ is irrelevant to this reality of relational separation; the abuser’s conduct sunders the marital covenant, trashes the marriage vows, and turns the relationship into a devilish inversion of what Christian marriage ought to be.

    When people use the word ‘redeem’ like the speaker did above, victims of abuse hear it as implying that they have sinned in both the marriage and the divorce (if they *have* taken the step of divorce). Anyone who speaks about this topic needs to be aware of how much this kind of language is a trigger for victims.

    The way we use language is really important, so that victims can be set free from all their false guilt. It’s not enough to say “That’s not how I heard it.” We have to be aware of how victims and survivors of abuse will hear it. They are the ones who are suffering, not the bystanders and not the people who profess to be teachers on this topic but have never experienced domestic abuse themselves in their own marriages, or been hurt by the way churches and fellow Christians have responded to their plight.

  3. Very helpful. Thanks. I ordered your book. Perhaps in the future you would be willing to be interviewed for my podcast Trinity Talk?

    1. Happy to, Uri. But I live in Australia, so it would have to be a long distance phone call or Skype or the like.

      I do visit the States from time to time, mostly Oregon where Ps Jeff Crippen lives (he’s my co-blogger at A Cry For Justice). I imagine that he would be willing to do a phone interview with you, if that were easier than trying to hook something up to Australia. Or when I next come to the States we could do it. Email me if you want to.

  4. Barbara, my interviews are done differently following a similar NPR model. It can be done if you have a simple audio recorder on your laptop. You record your answers and send them back to me and I will do all the editing.

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