March 25, 2017

October 1, 2010

Al Mohler: Divorce — The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Mohler nails it again

When the Christian right was organized in the 1970s and galvanized in the 1980s, the issues of abortion and homosexuality were front and center. Where was divorce? Smith documents the fact that groups such as the “pro-traditional family” Moral Majority led by the late Jerry Falwell generally failed even to mention divorce in their publications or platforms.

“During the 10 years of its existence, Falwell’s organization mobilized and lobbied on many political issues, including abortion, pornography, gay rights, school prayer, the Equal Rights Amendment, and sex education in schools,” he recalls. Where is divorce — a tragedy that affects far more families than the more “hot button” issues? “Divorce failed to achieve that exalted status, ranking so low on the group’s agenda that books on the Moral Majority do not even give the issue an entry in the index.”

But the real scandal is far deeper than missing listings in an index. The real scandal is the fact that evangelical Protestants divorce at rates at least as high as the rest of the public. Needless to say, this creates a significant credibility crisis when evangelicals then rise to speak in defense of marriage…more

Share this story:

Recent Related Posts



My wife once told me that she would never divorce me, but that she would always reserve the right to exercise the “Death do us part” clause.  Horse-women can be scary.

carl wink

[1] Posted by carl on 10-1-2010 at 09:15 AM · [top]

This stems from the idea that man’s primary purpose in life is to be happy.  We increasingly cannot comprehend even the idea of suffering and sacrifice as a necessary calling.  Happiness is the ultimate criteria of the self-centered life, and the self is not amused when others stop serving its interests.


[2] Posted by carl on 10-1-2010 at 09:23 AM · [top]

Carl (1)  Is your scary wife Anglo-Catholic?  That sounds like “Divorce Italian Style”!

Carl (2)  On a more serious note, I quite agree with you.  Our culture has no sense of the differences among storge (self-centered), eros (erotic), and agape (self-sacrificing, Godly) loves.  I expect most broken marriages are filled with rather more storge than agape.  Cohabitation may promote storge, with its center on “will this work for ME—what’s in this for ME.”

[3] Posted by CanaAnglican on 10-1-2010 at 09:41 AM · [top]


He gets it so well! The credibility of Christians as they speak out on issues such as same sex unions is greatly diminished and their attempt to bolster their objections with Scripture citations ammounts to mere cherry picking in light of this reality. Christians have made accomodation for divorce and remarriage, equally condemned in Scripture and cause of much more societal disruption than the issues they clamor against as destructive to the family;  it is as Mohler states “privatized”!!!! 

Eventually someone had to point out the obvious again! I just did not expect and evangelical to do it…kudos to him!



[4] Posted by seraph on 10-1-2010 at 09:55 AM · [top]

Excellent article Matt!  Thanks.
I have wondered if liberals like the homosexual and abortions issue so much because it puts someone else on in the vanguard of a privitized sexuality.  I totally agree that divorce is a massive issue, an ignored family value to be sure.  I am proud of the way, at least on paper, ACNA is handling the issue, has put it up front: a clear standard applied in individual cases with mercy.

[5] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 10-1-2010 at 10:32 AM · [top]

My mother left my father before I was born. He was physically abusive. My father never divorced my mother. He was Roman Catholic. My mother never divorced my father. She was Church of England. The Church of England did not countence divorce except in cases of adultery. Cruelty, while grounds for seperation, was not grounds for divorce. How the world has changed.

[6] Posted by AnglicansAblaze on 10-1-2010 at 11:10 AM · [top]

And yet, when we elected a homosexual bishop the orthodox went crazy, but there is scarcely a peep when we elect a divorced bishop and a giant yawn when a priest gets divorced. I tried to get some enthusiasm up to oppose the election of “Bp” Beisner, who is twice divorced, and no one cared.

[7] Posted by David Keller on 10-1-2010 at 11:16 AM · [top]

David - when the GC (2006, I think) voted to consent to the electin of the new Bishop of Northern California, who had been divorced twice, the only objections came from conservative bishops and delegates.

Yes, divorce is a scandal in the Church.  I submit that the Church should have been stricter about divorce and, if it had, the issue of homosexual “marriage” would never have come up.  Homosexual marriage is the result of, not the cause of, the destruction of Christian Marriage.

Phil Snyder

[8] Posted by Philip Snyder on 10-1-2010 at 11:33 AM · [top]

One pastor of my acqaintance once told me, “I’ve counseled hundreds of couples going through divorce in my career, and I’ve noticed that without exception, both parties are at fault.”  The irony was that while he was counseling me to “not pick sides,” in my own parent’s divorce, he had done just that.  He was my uncle you see, and it was his unwritten duty to support his brother through the mess. 

So, though he said it, and though it is certainly true, he didn’t practice it himself. 

Another pastor told me once that friends of divorced people had better pick the spouse who was in the right, lest they adopt the wacked-out value system of the spouse in the wrong.  That’s further from the truth, but closer to the way we have been conditioned to think about divorce.  In fact, it’s about right on the money. 

Unfortunately, there are consequences that go beyond the clawing and the division of assets (not to mention the huge logistical difficulties that come about at weddings, funerals, and supporting the parents in old age).  The real damage is to the kids, who must pretend that whichever parent they are with at the moment, was the one in the right all along. 

Eventually, they start to believe it.  And that has consequences for them and the next generation. 

What. A. Fricking. Mess.

[9] Posted by J Eppinga on 10-1-2010 at 11:49 AM · [top]

I don’t think most people divorce because they will be happy…just less sad.  It’s usually a case of deciding between bad alternatives: choosing to continue to live in a marriage with an abusive, addicted, or unfaithful spouse or choosing to divorce with its negative social and economic impacts.  Fortunately, most evangelicals today do not judge the divorced person, just as they don’t judge for many other sins such as cohabiting before marriage or having a child out of wedlock.  We are told not to judge others.  This is not being hypocritical to defend the standards set in the Bible, even though we know that we will fail to achieve those standards.  That’s why Christ died and paid for our sins…our self righteous actions have not paid for our sins; but only are our response in gratitude for His action.  However, when selecting elders (or bishops) we are given strict guidelines (e.g., “the husband of one wife”), and we should try to abide by such standards. Nevertheless, ALL of us continue to sin, and those who have sex before marriage, or have children out of wedlock (as if these sins are worse that other sins that most of us do every day) are not claiming that such actions are pue and in accordance with God’s will, and demanding our civil rights to do so and have the church accept such actions as the Spirit’s new revelation, as the LGBT community does with their sins.

[10] Posted by BobC on 10-1-2010 at 12:11 PM · [top]

Moot (9)
As a pastor, I’d like to distinguish on what your uncle had to say.  For example, in the post #6 from AnglicansAblaze—no divorce in that case, but she certainly could have divorced him.  I would not have said, “both parties are at fault.”  This person’s mother certainly didn’t deserve to be beaten, and it was godly to get herself and children out of there.  In my experience, the vows require two people, and it is often the case that one person actually meant, or abides by them, and one doesn’t. 

Having said that—I also know that in most situations, there’s some sort of real emotional need that the parties are not meeting for one another.  If they could get over themselves, stop hurting their spouse, then go beyond that and actually do for their spouse what they promised, the marriage can be restored.

[11] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 10-1-2010 at 12:15 PM · [top]

I don’t buy the idea that there are always two parties to blame for a divorce. I’ve seen several now in which its pretty much one person’s fault and one person’s decision.

[12] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-1-2010 at 12:19 PM · [top]

We don’t address divorce because it scares the stew out of pastors and it is an issue that affects a lot of people in the pews, not just a small minority.  Everytime that I have seen a preacher tackle the subject in a Biblical manner, it has always upset people.  That is no reason to avoid the subject, however.

[13] Posted by Townsend Waddill+ on 10-1-2010 at 12:58 PM · [top]

I’ll fess up, I am divorced. Both of us are to blame. My own blame lies in the fact that I ignored God when He told me in many ways and at many times to NOT marry this man - even up to just before the ceremony began. I knew He was right, but couldn’t figure out how to get out of it. What followed was a marriage that was okay for a while, then became mentally abusive, dishonest and unfaithful. We lived out in the country, far from family and friends. He later admitted that he had planned it that way. As well, he admitted that his unfaithfulness was something that had always been taking place, even before we married. His unfaithfulness was the worst part and even now I have to carry the burden of a disease he gave me as a result. Now, I am not telling you this because I am looking for sympathy or absolution. My absolution has come from God, to whom I prayed daily for 6 years, asking Him to tell me what to do. I waited and I listened all that time until the answer came. I know divorce is forbidden and it was a very difficult decision to reach and to carry out. I felt very undeserving of God’s mercy.

[14] Posted by lizzier on 10-1-2010 at 01:36 PM · [top]

okay, I hit ‘submit’ by accident. Ooops! Anyway, the point is I have learned to listen closely to what God is telling me. If I should be so blessed as to marry again, I will not ignore Him should he tell me ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I still ask Him for guidance in all things, but most especially for guidance and understanding of those who have been down this particular path. It is so easy to lay blame and be judgmental, but one never knows the circumstances behind the decision.

[15] Posted by lizzier on 10-1-2010 at 01:40 PM · [top]

I echo my agreement with this article too. I am so saddened to see what divorce does to the witness of the Church. We proclaim Christ as the Prince of Peace, the great Mediator between the Father and His fallen creation. But then we divorce at the same rate as atheists, as if the Prince of Peace cannot bring peace to our own households. What does that say to the world about the power of Christ to heal and reconcile?

I guess my big question is, how do I encourage my church to value marriage more highly, and how do I help married couples better fulfil their vows? Only with the grace of Christ.


[16] Posted by SHSilverthorne+ on 10-1-2010 at 01:42 PM · [top]

Fr. Mario Bergner (recovered homosexual turned staunchly orthodox Anglican priest w/at least five kids) teaches that the problem of homosexuality is a 2nd generation sin, caused by the 1st generation sin of divorce.  He argues that if we get the state of marriage repaired in this country, that it will (eventually) take care of the homosexuality problem.  I’m more convinced then ever this is the case.

[17] Posted by timmysdaman on 10-1-2010 at 01:50 PM · [top]

#8 Phil—I think posts # 9 to 17 bolster my point. No one wants to comment on divorced clergy.  I’ll bet there’s not one among us, lay or clergy, who are still married, who couldn’t have gotten a divoce at some point in our marriages, but somehow WORKED at dealing with whatever the problem was. My antecdotal experience is that very few of my divorced freinds and acquaintces divoced over bona fide abuse, alcoholism etc.  We all have crap in our lives.  The issue is the committment to marriage and then dealing with the crap.  And clery in general and bishops in particular should be setting the example. In an instant gratification society, most people don’t want to do that, and they don’t want to complain about divorced clergy, because they want to make sure that door is always open for them as well. I was at Minneapolis and can attest there was a fire storm from the right which has resulted in where we are today—the destruction of the Episcopal Church.  That same passion does not exist for other Biblical principles, which makes me believe many on the right are very selective with their outrage. Since most of us will never engage in a homosexual act it is easy to point fingers at that sin.  Yet we apparently want to keep the door open to our own potential heterosexual sin, so we just take divorce with a big yawn. This, to me, is a big example of not pointing out the speck in someone else’s eye, until you are willing to deal with your own crap. And one other point—I am not an absolutist on divorce, and I believe through God’s Grace we are all capable of receiving forgiveness.  But no wonder the world thinks we are hypocrites. And when they think that they won’t listen the the message—the Good News of Jesus Christ.

[18] Posted by David Keller on 10-1-2010 at 02:49 PM · [top]

Divorce, like homosexuality and all other sin, is a symptom of a bigger problem, not the problem itself. 

The root cause is a rejection of Jesus and His teachings.

Making it harder to get divorced will not make marriages better.  Converting hearts to love and follow Jesus will.

For the record, divorce is horrible, painful and affects everyone you know and many you do not.  It takes two to make a marriage, but only one to make a divorce.  So be careful before you decide to judge someone who is divorced. 

I am personally grateful for God’s grace, who helped me through some really awful times, who protected me and my children through things many of you can’t even imagine.

[19] Posted by B. Hunter on 10-1-2010 at 02:53 PM · [top]

#19—I don’t know if your comment is directed to me, but if it was,please re-read the tail end of my comment.  I totally agree with you, but it still bugs me that we will jump on a bandwagon against a sin almost all of us will never commit, and some will even call it unforgivable, without examining our own lives first. And for the record, I was vocally and vociferiously against the consent for Gene Robinson and have paid a hefty price in my home church and diocese because of it.

[20] Posted by David Keller on 10-1-2010 at 03:17 PM · [top]

#19 - nope, not directed towards anyone.  And thanks for your steadfastness in opposing VGR despite hefty opposition.  grin

Divorce sucks.  When you have kids it’s the “gift that keeps on giving”.  A guy at work was going through a really nasty one - lost 40 lbs and his job in the middle of it.  Just awful.  And he’s a good guy - she’s nuts and has lots of $, so she changes lawyers every 2 months and they re-depose him.  He wanted to have shared custody of their daughter, but his ex has finally worn him down and he will end up being a “weekend father”.  Breaks my heart.

[21] Posted by B. Hunter on 10-1-2010 at 03:28 PM · [top]

I’m not sure where folks are getting the idea that there wasn’t vociferous opposition to the Beisner consent for his multiple marriages or that nobody cared about his approval.

There was huge and vocal opposition to his consent.

I should know—I was at the committee hearing on the Beisner issue at GC 2006, and I’ve pasted the transcript of the proceedings below at the end of this comment. 

Further, there were numerous articles in the AAC GC newsletter during that convention detailing the issues with Beisner. 

Further, the committee hearing was so divided that it was all delayed several times with three executive sessions because the committee could not come to a conclusion:

Further, there was a minority report issued from the Consents committee itself, with six signatures on it—a list of honor:

Further, a brave priest actually objected at the consecration itself:

So again, why on earth people are claiming that there wasn’t heated opposition to the Beisner consent I don’t know.

Here’s the live blog of the *first* committee hearing on Beisner, held in a small committee room—no other bishop had this kind of challenge that year, and there were a number of consents given—note that the hearing was packed with Beisner supporters, because they *knew* that it was a contentious issue—they all trailed up to the mike to speak for Beisner—and after this hearing, the committee ended up meeting again on two more separate days, and in executive session three different times:

I scuttle out of the briefing to my hearing—it is on the committee on Consecration of Bishops and is on the consent to the Election of the Reverend Barry Beisner of Northern California. For some reason the hearing is delayed and we hover outside the room in the hall for a good thirty minutes. The hearing is packed—the committee seems surprised over the numbers—it appears to be about 70—although I suppose the people are there in part because of the controversy having to do with Bishop elect Beisner’s marital background. Briefly, he has been married three times, divorced twice.

I see on the committee Bruce McPherson, Tobias Haller, Mark Lawrence, and others.

Matthew Chew opens the committee and outlines the procedure—Bishop Lamb will speak for five minutes, the bishop elect will speak for five minutes, six endorsers will follow and speak 1.5 minutes each, the committee will then ask questions of the candidate, and then if there is time there will be comments from others in the gallery.

Bishop Lamb offers a brief background about the diocese, particularly taking note of its size and the driving distance that a bishop undertakes to visit within that diocese, due also in part to the two mountain ranges. The see is in the south-central part of the diocese.

He speaks of coming to know Canon Beisner—who had served congregations in four dioceses, and also served on numerous diocesan commissions and committees when Bishop Lamb asked him to serve as Canon to the Ordinary in 1992. A very gifted man, great planning ability, very interested in the welfare of clergy and clergy families, a person who is an extraorinarily gifted preacher, extremely well thought of in the diocese. He points out that from the beginning of the balloting Canon Beisner had the majoirty of the clergy votes, and nearly the majority of lay votes on the third ballot—it took four ballots to elect.

Canon Beisner speaks next. He believes that the diocese is a microcosm of our country in its ideological and cultural divisions; it is also a microcosm of the Episcopal church, but they have thankfully held together, barely at times in recent years. The election was across the spectrum, including some of the most liberal and some of the most conservative clergy. He is a self-described ‘radical moderate’.

He says that there is some controversy attached to his election due to his previous marriages. Canon Beisner introduces his wife of eight years, a priest and therapist. He states that he was married for the first time at the conclusion of his freshman year of college in the context of the 1960s Southern California radical Jesus milieu. While folks around them were doing LSD, they were doing Jesus. While it was the summer of ‘free love’ their group was discussing Paul and deciding that it was indeed better to marry than to burn [some laughter here].

At age 19 Canon Beisner was the elder of a Christian commune. Because they believed that they would be the last generation alive, even their wedding vows were changed from ‘until death do us part’ to ‘until Jesus’ imminent return’. In three years that marriage was over and he was left with full custody of a child to care for.

He was married again in seminary and that marriage lasted 16 years.
The parting was tragic, and rooted in human sinfulness. However the parting was honorable on both sides. He has been criticized for respecting his former wife’s privacy, but since they live in the same town and have shared child-rearing duties, he wants her and her husband to be spared his comments in the press.

Mentions that many of the traditional side voted for him. ‘I will fight for them and honor them all, conservative and liberal alike, and work for the unity of this church.’

The endorsers speak—six people who were part of the nominating committee, or a deputy, or the chancellor, or some other position of authority within the diocese. One person speaks from the Diocese of California as well.

The committee then offers questions: one from Daniel Dice of Southern Ohio on his experience in that diocese and time at General Theological Seminary. Canon Beisner, in the midst of his reflections, mentions seeing someone he recognized—and then mentions that one of the great things about the Episcopal church is that we all know one another—but that it is also troubling since it indicates that we are a smaller church.

Mark Lawrence asks how his past marriages will affect how he disciplines and pastorally cares for clergy in marital difficulty.

Canon Beisner says that it has helped him to be a more appreciative pastor. He has a higher regard for marriage having experienced the death of a marriage. He has also experienced the price of unity and fracture—the Episcopal church that he joined, and whose priest presided over his second marriage, and which sent him to seminary, left the Episcopal church over the ordination of women and the 1979 BCP. He has experienced the pain of that loss of unity and he thinks the Windsor Report is pleading with us to work to increase the bonds between us.

Another committee member asks what he did to find resurrection after these deaths of his two marriages.

Canon Beisner speaks of doing the work of repentance and renewal after both divorces, as well as seeking the help of the community.

A bishop on the committee asks how he might respond should he find that his consecration has destroyed bonds of affection within the Anglican Communion. He notes that he has come to realize that many provinces see divorce as a much more serious problem.

Canon Beisner responds by mentioning paragraph 125 of the Windsor Report which acknowledges acceptable differences in the way that different provinces see divorce and remarriage. He would ask for his help should such a problem arise

Lloyd Casson asks what his broader vision is about the brokenness and division in the church, nation, and world.

Then Bishop MacPherson says that the role of marriage is to model the church and asks whether his marital history might be an impediment to establishing parameters for clergy within the diocese.

Canon Beisner has thought of the idea of setting a policy that clergy may be divorced only so many times—but he wonders if that suggests that it is okay somehow to have a divorce at all. ‘I don’t think it was okay—I think that it’s always a tragedy rooted in human sinfulness’—‘canonical criteria need to be brought to bear.’

The chair asks for comments from the floor, and two from the Diocese of Northern California rise to speak about his different gifts, and one from the Diocese of Los Angeles rises to support Canon Beisner.

The committee sends everyone out into the hallway as they discuss.
About 20 minutes later they come out with a statement of adjournment until 7:30 p.m. due to lack of time to discuss. They will be in Executive Session at that time.

[22] Posted by Sarah on 10-1-2010 at 03:33 PM · [top]

I’d be curious to look back into Christian magazines in the 50’s and especially 60’s for conversations on changing values with marriage.  Was there a hue and cry that finally was just drowned out by the sheer volume of divorces?

I disagree with 19 (B.Hunter) on the law and divorce.  The law is a tutor for the immature (as Paul argues in Galatians).  Without a doubt, prior to the revolution of the sixties, divorce rates, out of wedlock births, sexually transmitted infections/diseases, abortion, pornography, (what else?) all were less.  Law and intense social pressure were part of what kept these social evils at bay. 
At the same time, innocent people stayed in horrible marriages, or divorced and remarried decent people and were pariahs in their churches—Episcopal, Roman, Assemblies of God, etc…  There really is a Gordian knot here—hold the standard and innocent people suffer; lift the standard and chaos reigns.  What do we do?
So again, we must hold the standard and apply it with mercy. 
Personally, I use and love the work of Willard Harley.  His Needs, Her Needs; Love Busters;  Buyers, Renters, and Freeloaders; Surviving an Affair; and others have proven to be very helpful for counseling, and for my own maturation as a husband of 21 years.

[23] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 10-1-2010 at 05:01 PM · [top]

Thank you #14 lizzier for your testimony. I know that was not an easy thing to share, even anonymously.

[24] Posted by Adam 12 on 10-1-2010 at 05:50 PM · [top]

Marriage is an institution whose legal status is controlled by the state.  In the past, we have depended upon state-enforced institutional barriers to deter people from precipitously ending a marriage.  These barriers were by and large instantiated through the law, and were put in place to constrain people from acting on what they perceived to be their immediate interests.  The public good of marriage was considered more important than the individual circumstances of those who might find themselves in an unhappy marriage.  Those barriers made it hard for people to sever their commitments, and forced them to try to reconcile.  It also raised the stakes for marriage, and caused people to consider more carefully who they chose to marry in the first place. 

However, we live in an individualist culture that despises institutional restraints on its behavior.  Politics follows culture, and so it was only a matter of time before the institutional barriers designed to constrain behavior would come under attack.  We generally don’t care about the institution of marriage.  We care about our problems, and divorce is a wonderful solution to the problem of an unhappy marriage.  The costs of divorce are dispersed and realized in the aggregate whereas the costs of being forced to stay in an unhappy marriage are realized in the particular.  For a self-centered culture wedded to the notion of individual happiness as the purpose of life, that’s not even a competition. 

In order to give prominence to the sovereignty of the individual, our culture has made divorce easy to obtain.  Since the culture at large desires easy access to divorce, Christians who live in that culture now have easy access to divorce.  We can employ the same solution to the problems we all experience.  We live in a culture that imposes no social stigma for divorce.  It’s like pornography on TV.  It’s so easy.  It’s right there just a button-push away, and no one will ever say a word.  All your problems solved with one easy dissolution.  It should not surprise us that divorce is prevalent in the Christian community.  We live in this culture and share in its weaknesses.  We are sinners, after all, and the temptations are common to all men.

The institutional barriers are gone, and aren’t going to be replaced.  We need to establish ethical barriers in their place, and then live behind them knowing full well that only our will-power will be able to stop us from crossing those barriers whenever we wish.  This does not mean we simply have to preach the traditional Christian message on marriage.  In means we have to reject the dominant idea of life in our culture.  We have to accept that life may involve permanent loss and suffering.  We have to accept that life is unfair, and that some people will have heavier crosses to carry than others.  We have to accept that we are not entitled to happiness, and that duty may require us to sacrifice our most precious dreams and aspirations.  These ideas are anathema to the modern world, lost as it is in philosophical materialism.  It demands easy divorce because it will not accept life on these terms.  It insists that personal happiness must be greater than the sacrifice, and obligation and commitment and duty we owe to others.  This is the barrier we must re-establish.  It will not be easy.


[25] Posted by carl on 10-2-2010 at 12:12 AM · [top]

I think scripture clearly allows for divorce in two cases:

1. adultery

2. the abandonment of an unbelieving spouse.

In those to cases churches not only should, but must allow divorce or risk imposing a standard over and above God’s own.

Remarriage is a difficult question but I can see the arguments on both sides. Remarriage, I believe, would have been the norm in Jesus’ day and while he clearly forbids it for the offending party (the adulterer) it is not so clear that he forbids it for the one offended. I suppose it is also necessary to understand what Paul means by “free” or “not enslaved” in 1st Cor 7:15.

At Good Shepherd we’ve had to disfellowship a vestrymember for just deciding to leave his wife, divorcing her, without cause—refusing even to try counselling.

But at the same time, the vexing questions of when or whether it is permissable to allow remarriage has been tough for me personally.

I tend to think that new converts who are divorced even multiple times before their conversion, are to be given more grace than those who profess to be mature Christians. I also think that an abandoned spouse or the injured party in a marriage that has been destroyed by adultery, may be permitted to remarry.

But I could be wrong.

[26] Posted by Matt Kennedy on 10-2-2010 at 09:11 AM · [top]

I think that the NT principle, based on the Scriptures which ban us from divorcing our spouse and remarrying, and those you alluded to that seem to permit divorce in some serious circumstances, can be summarized as: don’t break up your marriage, but if your spouse breaks it up, you are free. 

That was a big shift in both 1st century Jewish and Graeco-Roman cultures where divorce was easy - rather like nowadays in Western countries, since the advent of “no fault” divorce law (which is exactly the opposite attitude of NT teaching… that divorce always involves sin)

[27] Posted by Zwingli on 10-2-2010 at 12:38 PM · [top]

Well, personally, I’m in #1’s court.  No divorce except Italian- or where I’m from it’s called “white shotgun” divorce.  And Matt, whether you are or are not a Christian, when is a vow not a vow? 
I would argue that the Slippery Slope of the Episcopal Church was begun 40 some years ago when we authorized re-marriage of divorced persons.  And I am interested that no one on this thread- neither anglo-Catholics nor evangelicals, has mentioned Annulment.  When used properly ( and let’s admit it, the Roman Catholic Church has made a science out of using it improperly), it is a useful tool.  It is what makes it possible for the woman who was abused to remarry in the Church or for the man who married a crazy woman to remarry in Church, etc.  There have always been people who have married with impediments that were not known at the time they made their vows - do we punish their partners for those impediments?  No, we annul the marriage. This is just another example of a tool the Church has had that has been misused through the ages and so fallen into disrepute and now is not used.

A friend of ours (a priest) who married a seriously sick woman, when finally having been beaten too many times, divorced and petitioned his Bishop for an annulment, was asked by that Bishop, what difference it would make.  His response, while flip and funny was none-the-less true- he said it would make him a demonstrator model rather than a used husband!  Had he ever been considered to be a Bishop, it would have been clear who had been at fault and that there was no blame attached to him.  Had Beisner’s marriages been annuled, we could have wondered at his character judgement and perhaps the quality of his marriage counselling, not his fidelity and how much he valued those “life” vows he took.

[28] Posted by NED on 10-2-2010 at 12:52 PM · [top]

ps “the fact that evangelical Protestants divorce at rates at least as high as the rest of the public .... creates a significant credibility crisis when evangelicals then rise to speak in defense of marriage”.

This is not accurate!  The rate of divorce among people in the US who claim to be “born again” was found to be higher than the US average by Barna in 1999 ( ).  But lots of people claimed to be born-again, not just evangelicals, and when Barna looked again in 2008 and included questions to determine whether someone was an evangelical born-again (eg uniqueness of Christ, assurance of salvation, view of Scripture etc) they found that divorce rates were lower among evangelicals ( ). 

Furthermore, this study found that whereas 84% of born again Christians marry, only 65% of agnostics and atheists do. So the divorce statistics are skewed because many secularists don’t marry.

Nevertheless, the figures for evangelicals are far from suggesting that people only divorce in extreme circumstances.. not a good witness!!

[29] Posted by Zwingli on 10-2-2010 at 12:54 PM · [top]

I’ve never understood how the never-actually-was part of an declaration of annulment is supposed to, theoretically, impact (i) the years the accidentally co-habitated people spend together, and (ii) the friends and family they accumulate on both sides of the building that happens to look a lot like a parish and (iii) the offspring that result from the accident. 

I know, I know .. I’m a bastard for asking.  wink

[30] Posted by J Eppinga on 10-2-2010 at 01:26 PM · [top]

I also, thank you, Lizzier, for your testimony of our Lord’s unfathomable grace.  Whether we are acting in abject rebellion or the fog of unbelief, His grace to us sinners is beyond words.

[31] Posted by Jemimah on 10-2-2010 at 01:55 PM · [top]

Annulment is a legal fiction of spurious biblical pedigree.  Unless it occurs prior to consummation, it is divorce by any other name.  We wave a magic wand, and the marriage ceases to exist - except all the children are still legitimate.  What utter logical and moral nonsense.  The presence of adultery and abuse seven years after the fact does not establish grounds for annulment.  That however is the exact reason a Roman Catholic friend of mine asked for and received an annulment.  I don’t know what the formal justification was, but the true justification was adultery and abuse.  Thus do people try to find ways around their own rules.  It’s like Gene Roddenberry always trying to work his Star Trek plots around the Prime Directive.  You must have the rule, but you must be able to ignore it when required by circumstance.  Do we really buy any credibility by simply changing the name of ‘divorce’ to ‘annulment?’  People will not be deceived.

I suppose there are pathological cases where the vows spoken could not be considered binding for one reason or another, although I am hard-pressed to understand what those cases might be.  If a man gets an annulment because his new bride turns out to be a transsexual, I would wonder if there was really a valid marriage to annul in the first place.  If a woman discovers her new husband has lied about his identity and is in fact a convicted sex offender, I would still wonder why they weren’t validly married.  In any case, these kinds of circumstances represent such a minuscule portion of the total that they warrant no place in this discussion. 


[32] Posted by carl on 10-2-2010 at 02:04 PM · [top]

Carl writes (#60):  “If a man gets an annulment because his new bride turns out to be a transsexual, I would wonder if there was really a valid marriage to annul in the first place.”

You don’t “annul” valid marriages.  If the marriage is not valid, a declaration of nullity (aka annulment) is appropriate.  If the marriage is valid, a judgment of nullity is not appropriate.  Annulments don’t purport to “invalidate” or “nullify” anything.  They are rather a judgment of preexisting nullity.

Although there is no question that the annulment process has been abused at times, and that incorrect judgments have been rendered (which is true in any legal system), it is also true that sometimes valid matrimonial consent or other essential element of marriage can be provably absent from the beginning, and that in justice such a purported marriage should be declared to be what it is—namely, invalid.  Examples:  shotgun weddings, incestuous lliasons, “marriages” where one party is already validly married, relationships in which one party is provably not capable of understanding the essential nature of marriage,  a “marriage” in which one party provably harbored an intention not to engage in sexual relations or not to have children, a “marriage” in which one party is underage, “antecedent and perpetual impotence to have intercourse” (CIC 1084), “marriage” contingent upon the occurrence of some future event (CIC 1102), “marriages” in which there is no matrimonial consent expressed (CIC 1104), “marriages” in which one or both parties lacks the “sufficient use of reason” (CIC 1095), etc.

Christian marriage is a lot of things, but one thing it certainly is is a contract. A legal system obviously has to have the ability to relieve people from what looks like a contract but in reality is not—contracts entered by fraud, coercion, etc.  To admit that marriages can be invalid ab initio is merely to state that they are important enough to have at least the foundational requirements of a contract.

[33] Posted by slcath on 10-2-2010 at 04:06 PM · [top]

Yesterday I learned that a neighbor and a former co worker had both divorced.  In the neighbor’s case, his wife left on their anniversary and refused to say why.

The former coworker replied to her husband’s suggestion that they discuss a 25th anniversary cruise by saying she wanted a divorce, and again, would not say why.

Now I haven’t spoken yet with either lady, and in the case of the neighbor I most likely never will, but I’ll be interested to hear my co-worker’s side of the story.  It would not be the first anecdote I’ve encountered of a woman who decided she was just done and was not willing to even say what was wrong.

[34] Posted by Ed the Roman on 10-3-2010 at 01:55 PM · [top]

Here is an article on Scriptural gounds for divorce “What God Has Joined Together,” by David Instone-Brewer published in Christianity Today.

Divorce statistics are grim.
Re-marriage statistics are moreso.

Christian evangelicals have a higher divorce rate than the unchurched.  50% of first marriages, 80% of second marriages, 90% of third marriages, 80-90% of marriages with a disabled child get a divorce. 

Remarriage is hard work and it’s best to have counseling and therapy to ferret out the heal the root causes of the first marriage failure. (personality defects, bad relational skills, addiction, effects of past trauma such as childhood abuse, abandonment, etc.)  Blended families are very, very hard, hard work.

[35] Posted by St. Nikao on 10-3-2010 at 08:14 PM · [top]

“Christian evangelicals have a higher divorce rate than the unchurched.”

I don’t see where you get this statement. Here is the Barna report data: 26% of evangelical Christians have been divorced, but 30% of atheist/agnostic have.

[36] Posted by robroy on 10-3-2010 at 09:06 PM · [top]

St. Nikao,
Yes, they are very hard work, but by the grace of God, they can work.  Rev Matt has it right, and the remarriage of the offended (I do not say innocent for none of us are) party is in keeping with the exception clause.  It is harder when children are involved, and harder still when both parties bring children to the marriage.  But can testify that such marriages can not only work, but be an example of God’s grace in the community.

Divorce is not ‘forbidden’.  It, like execution is permitted under very specific and limited conditions.  Both are extreme sanctions for extreme sins.  Both are very highly controlled and permitted only in extreme circumstance.  Execution after conviction of murder, and divorce after sexual impurity or abandonment.

We have too many who kill other men for reasons not consistent with scripture and we have too many who divorce for reasons not consistent with scripture.  That does not mean that either of them should be abandoned as the extreme sanctions they should be used for.

May God grant you healing, and if it is His will one to make up for the years the canker worm hath eaten. 

On the remarried clergy, if the candidate is truly a one woman man, I would not hold it against him that he, in his youth, had chosen to commit to a woman who was not a one man woman, who was unfaithful and abandoned him.  Nor would I hold it against a candidate that he now has a second wife due to widowerhood ending in remarriage.  The loss of the wife is no more under his control in the first condition than the second.

[37] Posted by Bo on 10-4-2010 at 08:40 AM · [top]

#36 - Ed the Roman - I’m so sorry to hear about your co-workers situations.  Been there, done that; it’s not really that uncommon, starting around the 10-year mark.  I don’t know you, but would be happy to talk to your co-workers or just pray for them - just send me a private message or email (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)).

With regard to annulment - I do know a case where a couple had waited until marriage for “maritial activity”.  On the honeymoon the wife asked for a “3-way” with someone she just met.  Seriously.  I’m thinking he might deserve a “mulligan” for that situation.

[38] Posted by B. Hunter on 10-4-2010 at 10:22 AM · [top]

Zwingli at #31, thanks for setting us straight on the real facts about divorce. I knew I had seen them but wasn’t sure where to find them. The fact is that committed evangelicals do NOT have a higher divorce rate than the general population, and probably have a lower one, in real terms.

I also agree with Carl on annulment - I have great difficulty in finding any reference to it in scripture, or even among the church fathers.

This whole area of divorce and re-marriage is a very difficult issue - I take my hat off to our pastors, who have to deal with it in reality.

One thing that strikes me about a church that truly reaches out to the community - it will probably have a lot of divorced people in it, simply because there are so many in society. If your church can do that, and if you can then achieve a relatively successful rate of re-marriage of those people after they join, then you are doing very well indeed. I have seen it happen.

[39] Posted by MichaelA on 10-4-2010 at 07:00 PM · [top]

With regard to annulment - I do know a case where a couple had waited until marriage for “maritial activity”.  On the honeymoon the wife asked for a “3-way” with someone she just met.  Seriously.  I’m thinking he might deserve a “mulligan” for that situation.

There would be grounds: if that tale be true it demonstrates lack of proper intention.

Of course, that fact will have to be granted by herself.

[40] Posted by Ed the Roman on 10-7-2010 at 07:33 AM · [top]

[43] Ed the Roman

[I]f that tale be true it demonstrates lack of proper intention.

Too bad we can’t operate financial transactions like that.  “I guess you don’t understand Mr Loan Officer.  I didn’t form the the proper intent when I signed that agreement.”  Or more to the point, in what sense was Hosea actually married under this concept of proper intention?

When the LORD first spoke through Hosea, the LORD said to Hosea, “Go, take to yourself a wife of harlotry and have children of harlotry; for the land commits flagrant harlotry, forsaking the LORD.”  So he went and took Gomer the daughter of Diblaim, and she conceived and (I)bore him a son.  Hosea 1:2-3

Gomer did not intend to remain faithful to Hosea.  Did she therefore not form the proper intent?  Was there never a valid marriage to begin with?  How then could she represent Israel’s adultery against God?  Without a valid marriage, there cannot be adultery. 

Someone is soon going to say “That’s different.”  This is what drives me crazy about annulment.  Everything proceeds from subjective determination of subjective intent.  It’s like viewing exactly the same scene through a different lens, and saying the reality captured by the picture has changed.  The facts are not altered - only the perspective from which they are viewed.

I have been wondering about the woman who suggested a third sexual partner on her honeymoon.  How much time would have to elapse between the wedding and the suggestion to establish valid intent?  When does adultery really become adultery?  I am sure that someone will now say “It has nothing to do with time.”  Then I will repeatedly hit my head against the nearest wall in frustration.


[41] Posted by carl on 10-7-2010 at 08:08 AM · [top]

The actions of Gomer justify divorce (even as God divorced Israel for her repeated adultery).  The great love story here is that Hosea didn’t divorce her (just as our Lord does not divorce us, His bride, even when we give Him ‘Just Cause’).

[42] Posted by Bo on 10-7-2010 at 10:25 AM · [top]

[45] Bo

I agree with you, but I was wondering about the implications of annulment for this marraige.  Remember what Silver Lake Catholic said in [35]? 

You don’t “annul” valid marriages.  If the marriage is not valid, a declaration of nullity (aka annulment) is appropriate.  If the marriage is valid, a judgment of nullity is not appropriate.  Annulments don’t purport to “invalidate” or “nullify” anything.  They are rather a judgment of preexisting nullity.

This is a clear statement that annulments are intended to legally declare a pre-existing reality - that there never was a marriage in the first place.  In itself, this troubles me, because I don’t understand why a legal recognition is required if nothing real happened in the first place.  If I presume to buy the Brooklyn Bridge, the actual owner doesn’t require a legal declaration saying the sale was fradulent.  My title is invalid on its face.  Not so with annulment.  The fact that annulment is required tells me that a legally-binding agreement must be dissolved.  Annulment changes legal status.  Saying “All annulment does is recognize that there never was any legal status” sounds like double-speak to me.

Now, consider Hosea.  He was told to marry an unfaithful wife in order to illustrate Israel’s unfaithfulness.  Gomer had no intention of staying faithful to her husband.  Now, Ed the Roman in [43] says that an intention against monogamy is grounds for annulment.  We have also been told that annulment simply recognizes that there was never in fact any marriage to begin with.  So did Hosea have grounds for annulment?  If so, did he ever in fact validly marry Gomer?  If they were never married, how does she exemplify Israel’s adultery? If Hosea did in fact validly marry Gomer, then what are we to make of Ed the Roman’s assertion in [42]?

if that tale be true it demonstrates lack of proper intention.

If Hosea did not validly marry Gomer, then how are we to understand the Scripture?

It’s much simpler to presume that God holds us accountable for the words we speak whether we speak them thoughtlessly or not.  It’s much simpler to presume that God holds us accountable for the covenants we make whether we make them carelessly or not.  Esau lost his birthright for a simple supper.  He may have forgotten his words, and thought them non-binding.  But the Lord who heard them did not.


[43] Posted by carl on 10-7-2010 at 12:16 PM · [top]

I think we are agreeing with different words.  Hosea didn’t have ‘annulment’ as a ‘choice’, nor did God with Israel.  Annulment is a legal fiction, divorce, though hated of God, is a legal and acceptable option when that ‘unity from twain’ that is a marriage is broken by the infidelity of one of them.

[44] Posted by Bo on 10-7-2010 at 12:55 PM · [top]

Carl states (#46): 

...I don’t understand why a legal recognition is required if nothing real happened in the first place….The fact that annulment is required tells me that a legally-binding agreement must be dissolved.

The fact that an annulment “is required” means nothing about the validity or invalidity of a marriage.  Rather, it means that there is enough of an appearance of a marriage that proper respect for marriage demands that questions of invalidity be formally resolved.

It’s actually quite simple.  Everybody would agree that some “marriages” are not valid even though to the audience at the wedding, everything seems OK. Obvious examples would be situations in which matrimonial consent is coerced by covert threats of violence; or where it turns out that one of the parties is actually married already.

Proper respect for Christian marriage (i.e., marriage of two baptized persons) means that when there is a challenge to validity (a) there needs to be a way of reliably determining the facts; and that (b) the person asserting that the facially valid marriage is invalid shoulder the burden of proof. This is what occurs in Catholic canon law.

Canon 1060 states the governing principle:  “Marriage enjoys the favor of the law; consequently, when a doubt exists the validity of a marriage is to be upheld until the contrary is proven.”

To state that marriage enjoys the favor of the law means simply that a legally recognized marriage is presumed to be a valid union.  When validity is doubtful, invalidity must be proven according to the norms of [canon] law for the marriage to be declared invalid.  [Par.]  The presumption of law presupposed an “appearance of marriage,” that is, a wedding ceremony according to canonical form for Catholics and some indication of publicly recognized exchange of consent for non-Catholics.  In other words, there must be an objective reason to presume that an exchange of consent took place. —The Code of Canon Law:  a Text and Coommentary  Paulist Press, 1985, p. 744.

[45] Posted by slcath on 10-7-2010 at 08:50 PM · [top]

[48] Silver Lake Catholic

Obvious examples would be situations in which matrimonial consent is coerced by covert threats of violence; or where it turns out that one of the parties is actually married already.

No one is talking about these obvious examples.  A covenant must be entered voluntarily, and cannot be entered at all if a prior covenant exists.  If those were the only circumstances involved, no one would even be arguing about this issue.  The problem comes about by suggesting that a marriage can be retro-actively declared null and void several years after the fact on the basis of subjective determinations about intent at the time of the marriage.  Where are these criteria found in Scripture?  Where does it say that a woman who suggests a ‘three-way’ on her honeymoon has ipso facto established grounds for annulment?  Why is this different from a woman who makes such a suggestion three days or three weeks or three months or three years after the wedding? 

In effect, you answered the one question that could be cleanly addressed by Canon Law, but ignored all the difficult questions in my posts. What have you to say about Hosea and Gomer?  Why didn’t Hosea have grounds for annulment?


[46] Posted by carl on 10-7-2010 at 10:36 PM · [top]

[49] Carl, since neither Hosea nor the harlot had received Christian baptism, theirs was not a sacramental marriage, and the discussion of annulment is really quite beside the point in their case.

[47] Posted by slcath on 10-7-2010 at 10:54 PM · [top]

[50] Silver Lake Catholic

[S]ince neither Hosea nor the harlot had received Christian baptism, theirs was not a sacramental marriage, and the discussion of annulment is really quite beside the point in their case.




[blink, blink]


So ... you are suggesting that the fundamental nature of marriage - established from the beginning of Creation - was altered after the time of Christ?  You are saying there was no such thing as an invalid marriage at the time of Hosea?  You are saying that it would have been impossible for anyone at the time to render a marriage null and void by means of improper intention?  Do you have any Scripture to support this contention? 

It is the nature of marriage that is in question, and not the sacramental views of the RCC.  God establishes and enforces the marriage covenant.  He does so for believer and unbeliever alike.  A marriage can only be considered null and void if God considers it null and void.  That determination will be made according to an unchanging standard that applies to all marriages everywhere.  The RCC has no authority to establish what God specifically forbids. 


[48] Posted by carl on 10-7-2010 at 11:20 PM · [top]

50 Ahhhhhhhh!  That statement was a total disaster.  In the first place, cutting off a marriage as non-sacramental because it happened in the Old Testament would be like saying the crossing of the Red Sea has nothing to do with “Christian baptism.”  What a disaster.  One God we worship, one sovereign will, one work in creation by the Spirit and the Word.  Unity of purpose from Genesis to Revelation.  The miracle at Cana redeems what marriage from its fall in Genesis, and looks forward to the wedding feast of the Lamb in Revelation.  The Hosea story is all about salvation—God’s mercy towards us that goes above and beyond the normal bounds of covenant love.  Hosea is a type of Christ.  I am reminded that Judas ate of the Eucharist, and all the apostles abandoned Christ on feet he had washed, with the passover meal still in their bellies.  Look again at the reasoning Paul uses in 1 Corinthians 10 on the continuity of baptism and eucharist from the Exodus.  AHHHHHHHHHHH.  See Carl, I can get pretty teed off when people denigrate the Word of God. 
Marriage is pre-political, and pre-church.  Marriage was ordained by God in creation and uniquely displays God’s character and image in the union of male and female, and in redemption of an unfaithful spouse (Isaiah also uses this image repeatedly).  Indeed, the fullness of the mystery of marriage is revealed in Christ and marriage helps us understand Christ (Ephesians), but to cut and slice God’s work as you have done is, and I mean this in all seriousness, the stuff of that arrogant heretic Marcion.

[49] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 10-7-2010 at 11:30 PM · [top]

Discussions of marriage in the Old Testament are not always instructive as to the new regime of the Gospel.  Although the will of God was constant “from the beginning” (Matt. 19:4), concessions were made to the “hardness of heart” of the people.  Jesus stated this directly: “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”  (Matt. 19:8-9.) It would seem to follow from this that one would not look to Deuteronomy 24:1-4 [bills of divorce; multiple marriages] to judge questions of the indissolubility of Christian marriage.  Nor would one turn to Nathan’s words in 2 Samuel 12:8 to David that the Lord “gave your master’s wives into your bosom” in an attempt to justify polygamy.  Nor would one necessarily look to the book of Hosea as instructive on questions of matrimonial consent within the context of the sacraments established by Christ.

[50] Posted by slcath on 10-8-2010 at 12:14 AM · [top]

53 That’s all you have?  How disappointing.  At least you quoted a few verses with some decent points, but didn’t come close to addressing frankly wacky statement that OT marriage and marriage of the baptized are totally unrelated. 
Good night, and good luck.

[51] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 10-8-2010 at 12:20 AM · [top]

Silver Lake Catholic,
We have our Lord’s word on what marriage was to be from the beginning (one man, one woman, one lifetime), with an exception to that last clause available for ‘unchastity’.

When He is asked about the matter He doesn’t make any distinction between that established in the beginning and the rules for subsequent marriages, other than in the fallen world provision is made for the hardness of men’s hearts and for marriages broken by adultery - that provision is divorce.  We know that God Himself divorced Israel (not annulled the marriage), under the ‘unchastity’ clause. 

Where does the idea that those in the body of Christ have some ‘new form of marriage’ where the answer is something other than the provision made by God, given to Moses, and used by God Himself come from?

[52] Posted by Bo on 10-8-2010 at 12:44 AM · [top]

Sorry, this should have been at the end:
“6 And the Lord said to me in the days of king Josias: Hast thou seen what rebellious Israel hast done? she hath gone out of herself upon every high mountain, and under every green tree, and hath played the harlot there.

7 And when she had done all these things, I said: Return to me, and she did not return. And her treacherous sister Juda saw,

8 That because the rebellious Israel had played the harlot, I had put her away, and had given her a bill of divorce: yet her treacherous sister Juda was not afraid, but went and played the harlot also herself.” Jeremiah 3:6-8 Douay Rheims translation.

[53] Posted by Bo on 10-8-2010 at 12:49 AM · [top]

[54] I did not say, suggest or imply that that “OT marriage and marriage of the baptized are totally unrelated.”  Of course they’re not “totally unrelated.”  But neither is marriage in the Old Testament a sacrament of the New Covenant.  If that is wacky, so be it.

[54] Posted by slcath on 10-8-2010 at 12:49 AM · [top]

Silver Lake Catholic,
Let me ask another way.

If divorce was good enough for God, why ain’t it good enough for the Bishop of Rome?  Why invent some ‘never happened’ fiction when God Himself just divorced the unfaithful partner?

[55] Posted by Bo on 10-8-2010 at 12:56 AM · [top]

Silver Lake Catholic,

since neither Hosea nor the harlot had received Christian baptism, theirs was not a sacramental marriage,

Hence, the firestorm. 
This conversation has included technicalities on canon law, but as part of a bigger conversation on, um, marriage as revelatory of God’s character and what it is to be created in the image of God.  You declared the conversation on Hosea as irrelevant. 
Perhaps you’d rather put that another way…

[56] Posted by Theron Walker✙ on 10-8-2010 at 07:32 AM · [top]

I speak as one divorced against my will in 1991 when my now ex-wife abandoned me and went AWOL, eventually ending up marrying a member of the clergy where we were attending church. The results to me were a considerable amount of emotional and financial damage, requiring a agreed one-year relationship with a wealthy live-in girl friend who happened to be a psychotherapist to repair the damage to me and my finances. While God provided for me generously in this regard, the experience for me overall was devastating. I would support legislation, both civil and ecclesiastical, to prohibit spousal abandonment and classify it as a grave sin.

That said, in 1992, God provided me a replacement wife who is childfree, gorgeous, great in bed, and earns a good income. Those who behave as my ex-wife did, as well as the clergy person who suborned her conduct, need to be held responsible for their acts and compensate their victims.

[57] Posted by DesertDavid on 10-10-2010 at 10:45 AM · [top]

[60] DesertDavid

requiring a agreed one-year relationship with a wealthy live-in girl friend who happened to be a psychotherapist to repair the damage to me and my finances.

The phrase ‘live-in girl friend’ would typically imply a sexual relationship.  Why would this situation ‘require’ an illicit sexual relationship?  If I have completely misunderstood your intent, then please correct me.


[58] Posted by carl on 10-10-2010 at 11:26 AM · [top]

DesertDavid, I’m terribly sorry to hear of what you went through, and happy to hear how God provided.  May He continue to heal you wherever there still may be hurt, and may He bless you and yours.

[59] Posted by Wilf on 10-10-2010 at 12:26 PM · [top]

“childfree, gorgeous, great in bed, and earns a good income”   - a list that belongs to our Cosmopolitan magazine-centered culture, not Holy Scripture.

Scripture’s description of desireable womanly attributes is: chaste, pure, gentle, kind, lasting inner beauty, God-fearing, etc. (see Titus 2, I Timothy and II Timothy) bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, kindness, self-control, etc. (Galatians 5:22-24).

[60] Posted by St. Nikao on 10-10-2010 at 12:47 PM · [top]

DesertDavid (#60),

I have enjoyed and learned from this thread, especially Rev. Mohler’s essay, and some of the comments.

Your comment is confusing to me. Your intent is not clear to me.  It appears to me filled with inconsistency and double entendre; I am unable to discern whether or not intended.

When you wrote “While God provided for me generously in this regard…”, are you saying that God provided you with a “one-year relationship with a wealthy live-in girl friend who happened to be a psychotherapist to repair the damage to me and my finances.”?

When you wrote” God provided me a replacement wife who is childfree, gorgeous, great in bed, and earns a good income.”, are you saying that the criteria you list were God’s?

Please help me understand what you meant by what you said.

God bless.

[61] Posted by Ol' Bob on 10-10-2010 at 02:10 PM · [top]

imho - DesertDavid is welcome here and I’m glad he is here; he may make remarks we don’t understand or find exactly up to par with what we expect, but an online forum board also isn’t really an ideal place for discipleship to occur; I think that if he wants to have discussions re. the ethics of these things, he’d do best live and one-on-one.  I certainly can understand a desire for clarification, but I doubt the clarification is likely to be helpful to DesertDavid or to others on SF.

[62] Posted by Wilf on 10-10-2010 at 03:17 PM · [top]

#60 Wow it’s like Cosmo for Episcopalians. Any gossip on LiLo?

[63] Posted by driver8 on 10-10-2010 at 03:21 PM · [top]

“Replacement wife” - that’s gotta sting.

[64] Posted by driver8 on 10-10-2010 at 03:24 PM · [top]

I don’t subscribe to the “traditional” Christian view of sexuality - only within heterosexual marriage. This arose out of OT purity codes (which Jesus himself did not follow) and the concept of a woman as property, neither of which reflects present reality. My sexual ethics are as follows:

1.If you marry, you do so for life, with absolute fidelity unless your spouse dies or is physically and permanently unable to have sex.
2.If marriage is not in your plans, but you want company, cohabit.
3. Don’t have sex if you have a STD.
4. If you don’t want children, get fixed or use effective birth control.
5. Same sex and opposite sex relationships are equally valid.
6. A woman has a right to choose to give birth or have an abortion until the fetus is viable.
7. Children have an absolute right to support, including a college education. If you can’t afford children, don’t create them.
8. Given the large numbers of abused and neglected children, adoption is preferable to procreation for those who desire and can afford families.

I call it David’s Responsible Sexuality System (DRSS)

My system is based on my own research and observations. My system is also practical and compassionate, and if adopted by the Church, would go a long way towards repairing relationships between the Church and the world to bring more followers to Jesus on IMPORTANT issues, like homelessness, hunger, and other poverty-related issues. Jesus is about putting down the mighty from their seat and exalting the humble and meek, not sexual purity!

[65] Posted by DesertDavid on 10-12-2010 at 08:07 PM · [top]

My system is based on my own research and observations.

Mine is based on Scripture, supported by tradition and reason.

[66] Posted by JustOneVoice on 10-12-2010 at 08:15 PM · [top]

I call it David’s Responsible Sexuality System (DRSS)

I call mine Christianity.

[67] Posted by JustOneVoice on 10-12-2010 at 08:17 PM · [top]

DesertDavid, thanks for sharing your personal sexual and relationship views.

Since I believe that God revealed His own sexual and relationship views in Holy Scripture, I will try to confine my own views to His structure for sexual relationships.

I cannot conceive of any reason whatsoever why the Church should adopt DesertDavid’s personal sexual and relationship views over God’s revealed views on same.

[68] Posted by Sarah on 10-12-2010 at 08:32 PM · [top]

[68] DesertDavid

This arose out of OT purity codes

The Canaanites weren’t destroyed without mercy because they violated “Old Testament Purity Codes.” 

I call it David’s Responsible Sexuality System (DRSS)

That’s nice.  Now, if only you had the authority to define sexual morality, you would be all set.

1.If you marry, you do so for life, with absolute fidelity unless your spouse dies or is physically and permanently unable to have sex.

Yes, because an inability to have sex has always been grounds for dissolving a life-long covenant.

2.If marriage is not in your plans, but you want company, cohabit.

Let’s re-write this. “If commitment is not in your plans, but you want sex, fornicate.”  Yeah, yeah, you will say cohabitation is not the same thing because there is some implicit idea of monogamy in cohabitation (without that whole life-long commitment thing, of course).  But since you aren’t actually committed, why do you have to be faithful?  The whole point of cohabitation is to have sex with someone who has no legal hold on you.

3. Don’t have sex if you have a STD.

Which you wouldn’t have acquired if only you had just avoided fornication.

4. If you don’t want children, get fixed or use effective birth control.

Because the primary purpose of sex is personal gratification, and everything else is optional.  Lord knows we wouldn’t want to suggest that assuming the privilege of sex imposes an obligation of accepting the responsibility of children.

5. Same sex and opposite sex relationships are equally valid.

Multiple partner relationships are still under investigation, however. 

6. A woman has a right to choose to give birth or have an abortion until the fetus is viable.

Guess she wasn’t paying attention to DRSS 4.  Besides, if she couldn’t abort she would be unfairly burdened by children she doesn’t want, and we have already discussed this issue in DRSS 4.  Children must be an optional outcome of sex. 

7. Children have an absolute right to support, including a college education. If you can’t afford children, don’t create them.

Unless, of course, we kill them first.  It is after all the desire to avoid the responsibility of parenthood that motivates virtually all abortions.

8. Given the large numbers of abused and neglected children, adoption is preferable to procreation for those who desire and can afford families.

There might not be so many abused and neglected children if we hadn’t devalued them by granting people the right to kill them.

Quite a system you have there, David.  I suppose it looks right in your own eyes.


[69] Posted by carl on 10-12-2010 at 08:33 PM · [top]

Desert David, I don’t have the time to comment on all of you rather bizarre propositions for sexual morality.  But for starters, let’s look at #7:

7. Children have an absolute right to support, including a college education. If you can’t afford children, don’t create them.

Leaving aside whether parents are the “creators” of their children, are you really saying that only people who have absolute control over their finances from the conception to the completion of college for every one of their children are the only ones who can morally give birth?  If my finances are now or maybe in the future shaky, am I obliged to abort?  Are you saying that individuals/couples are supposed to insure that their finances are secure despite the fluctuations in the stock market, government policies, inflation of college tuition and degrees (the graduate degree of today is roughly equivalent to the bachelor degree of 20 - 30 years ago)?  Can only the super rich elite, the Gordon Gekkos, morally be parents?

[70] Posted by slanehill on 10-12-2010 at 08:34 PM · [top]

Thanks to slanehill, Carl, Sarah and JustOneVoice.
Y’all were much nicer than I’d have been.  I’m glad you got there first.

[71] Posted by Bo on 10-12-2010 at 09:03 PM · [top]

Hey great.  If I can’t afford college for my unborn son, then I am obliged to murder him in the womb.  And I don’t have to get married to the human blow-up doll I cohabitate with or if I do I can always divorce them when the economy clears up or I meet a better looking blow-up doll.  And it doesn’t matter if my blow-up doll is male or female.  And I can have sex with as many human blow-up dolls as I want, unless I get an STD.  And I should adopt rather than procreate, because it’s important to train up the next generation of human blow-up dolls. 

I see.

[72] Posted by J Eppinga on 10-12-2010 at 09:16 PM · [top]

Wilf (#65),

It seems to me DesertDavid’s “clarification” has been helpful.  Some of us now have a better understanding of some of his basic value systems, enabling us to better interpret his future comments.

God bless.

[73] Posted by Ol' Bob on 10-12-2010 at 09:31 PM · [top]

Ol’ Bob, Desert David comments here regularly and I’m not surprised at his views on sex.  I was a bit surprised at his comments on the “replacement wife” etc. etc., but thought that these comments were the type which would likely draw criticism in a manner that Desert David wouldn’t help Desert David much.  Actually, I’d hope that Desert David, if he re-read these comments carefully, would see that there was something wrong in how he formulated things.  I’d hoped that if he did go on, he’d at least indicate that his phrase “replacement wife” was ill-chosen.

There are places we can help, there are places we can’t.  I think it’s unlikely that we’ll be able to convince Desert David or provide for his edification in any way when it comes to matters regarding sexuality, except in showing that we’re being honest and also charitable.  The problem with his remarks here was it was exceedingly difficult to provide a response which is both honest and charitable.

I do think that Desert David can learn here about other aspects of faith, especially basic matters as in the creeds, and about Christ.  But I don’t think this is the right place for him to reflect on sex.  He is probably so convinced of his own views that he’d need someone he trusts personally in his life to help him re-evaluate his sexual ethical code.

[74] Posted by Wilf on 10-12-2010 at 09:58 PM · [top]

Registered members are welcome to leave comments. Log in here, or register here.

Comment Policy: We pride ourselves on having some of the most open, honest debate anywhere. However, we do have a few rules that we enforce strictly. They are: No over-the-top profanity, no racial or ethnic slurs, and no threats real or implied of physical violence. Please see this post for more explanation, and the posts here, here, and here for advice on becoming a valued commenter as opposed to an ex-commenter. Although we rarely do so, we reserve the right to remove or edit comments, as well as suspend users' accounts, solely at the discretion of site administrators. Since we try to err on the side of open debate, you may sometimes see comments which you believe strain the boundaries of our rules. Comments are the opinions of visitors, and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Stand Firm site administrators or Gri5th Media, LLC.