12 August 2012

Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

Putting aside that the Bible clearly inveighs against such behavior, there is plenty of worldly reasons to oppose it as well.  The marital behavior described in the linked article weakens marriage by attacking the institution's seriousness and permanence (i.e., one man, one woman, until death). Given that the husband has remarried, and we have no information about the wife's behavior, but odds are she had fornicated at least once in the 50 years between divorce and remarriage. Thus, at the very least, one, if not both halves of this couple returned to land that was defiled and greatly polluted, mocking the gravity of marriage overall and sending the message that pursuit of one's happiness justifies anything, that divorce is not really all that bad, and there are take-backs and "undos" where marriage is concerned.  With breezy attitudes such as this, little wonder that traditional marriage is on the ropes in our society. [Emphasis added.]
This, naturally, begs the question:  just what, exactly, is traditional marriage?

EW gets part of the answer correct by noting that the Bible defines marriage as a life-long union between a husband and a wife, with divorce being permitted only in the event of adultery.  The proof text for this is Matthew 19:1-10, which says:
Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these sayings, that He departed from Galilee and came to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.  And great multitudes followed Him, and He healed them there.

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made[a] them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so.  And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
Note that Christ makes his argument not from the technicalities of Moses law (in fact, note that Christ rejects Moses law as being nothing more than a concession to Man’s hardness of heart) but from “the beginning.”  His argument is based on first principles, and it behooves us to look at the first marriage in order to see God’s design for marriage.  Note what’s found in Genesis 2:21-24:
And the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall on Adam, and he slept; and He took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh in its place. Then the rib which the Lord God had taken from man He made into a woman, and He brought her to the man.

And Adam said:
“This is now bone of my bones
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.”

Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
Note what’s missing here:  God did not take Adam and Eve to a justice of the peace in order for them to get married.  This is because marriage exists solely in the mind of God, and is not subject to man’s control or regulation. Man may choose to acknowledge a specific marriage, or man may try to say that a given living arrangement is a marriage, but ultimately man’s pronouncements on marriage are completely and totally meaningless.  All that matters is what God has to say on the matter. Therefore, marriage only occurs when an unbound man and an unbound woman pledge their lives to one another in the sight of God.  Anything and everything else is not marriage, full stop.

Therefore, two men can never marry, no matter what Man says.  Two women can never marry, no matter what man says.  Three or more people can never be married, no matter what man says.  A human and an animal can never be married, no matter what man says.  No one person can be married, no matter what man says.  No human and inanimate object can be married no matter what man says.

Furthermore, note that the marriage covenant is so important to God that the only time that he allows it to be ended (and note that he does not command it to be ended) is when one party ceases to reserve himself or herself for their spouse.  In essence, the only time one is allowed to end one’s marriage is when one’s spouse refuses, by his or her actions, to belong solely to the person to whom he or she has pledged his or her self.

The problem many social conservatives have* is that they do not view marriage properly.  They view it as a legal institution rather than a spiritual institution, and they do not view it as seriously as God does.  Thus, they think that the institution of marriage is subject to Man’s laws, which is why they are often unconcerned with fundamental problems (like feminism) and why they latch on to trivial problems (like gay marriage). In essence, they strain out a gnat and swallow a camel.  Because they do not view marriage properly, they have not defended it properly, which is why “traditional marriage is on the ropes in our society.”

* And this indictment does not necessarily include Elusive Wapiti.


  1. Speaking as a RC, I totally agree. Where the RC Church went wrong (at least in the USA, and, no doubt, other nations) is that the Bishop's Conference set the rule that a couple must jump through the secular government's hoops (e.g. get a marriage license) before the wedding.

  2. Thanks Simon for the link. I appreciate your not lumping me in with the socon masses and their hybrid spiritual-legal view of marriage.

    I've posted my response over at my place; click here.

  3. I believe your analysis of "Moses gave you this law" is incorrect. It's an honorific. Moses is a prophet foreshadowing Christ and of a type Christ is and this is said in scripture. Moses speaks for God and Moses and Christ are bookends in scriptural type and history.

    The phrase "Hardness of heart" refers to our SIN condition, thus Saying "Moses gave you this law" doesn't degrade the law, it upholds it, and it states that it's authoritative as an utterance of God. It also stops to pat Moses on the back for who he is. It's a symbolic and formal and real.

    It's a way of saying "God gave you this law through his servant Moses, who is like me (Jesus) of whom there are no other prophets, except me and him. The law was given to you because you are sinful," reminding the people he is speaking to, of the obvious.

    Frankly that's what all laws are like, so Jesus is reminding you that he thinks a lot of Moses, that Moses spoke for God, not putting words in God's mouth, but reciting them for us to hear. He's reminding you that all law is a result of sin. Because of sin there is divorce, because a perfect set of married people, wouldn't commit adultery.

    Thus divorce becomes a punishment enacted by a woman's "Lord" (her husband, see Peter's quote of Sarah) not an insertion into law by a fallible man (Moses). Remember, it says in the first part of the same book, words penned by the same author (Matthew) under the inspiration of God, that JOSEPH sought to divorce MARY because he had every reason to believe she had sinned. He does this quietly (and this is the important part), because he is "a just man."

    Joseph doesn't do this out of the hardness of HIS heart, he does it as a merciful person picking what to do with someone to whom he wishes to show mercy whose heart he has every reason to believe, is hard (sinful). What was the punishment for a woman caught in adultery? It was DEATH. Joseph seeks another way through law, to deal mercifully (justly) with Mary. We need to see divorce law in this context.

    Next, marriage is a kind of covenant. The covenant needs all consenting parties to be present. Bare minimum these parties are the LORD, the male and the female. This is why in Ezra and Nehemiah we see the putting away of "strange" women, because God was not a party to their unions, and these women were forbidden to Israel because of their unbelief (See Ruth for the exception).

    A first marriage for the male and female, in Israel, involved GOD (of necessity, since they were under contract to believe), the Father and or Mother of the bride, the Father and or Mother of the Groom, the Groom and the Bride.

    There is also no specific word for marriage in the Old Testament, where all these things are discussed. We need to remember that marriage is described, but there is no word for it, apart from the idea of covenant or contract.

    A shorter form is that marriage is a form of covenant to which all eligible parties must agree. A widow for instance, could make her own arrangements, so we see Abigail for instance, leaving with David after the death of Nabal.

    We could complicate this whole discussion by pointing out that there were concubines, and that both concubine and her master were called husband and wife with reference to each other, but they weren't said to be married. I'll leave that for another day.

    At the very least, I think we can see that our marriages don't follow a Biblical pattern the vast majority of the time.

  4. @Carnivore- Yeah, somehow government control of religion doesn't seem problematic to them as long as the government agrees with them. Once it changes, then there's an issue. Too bad they aren't intelligent enough to simply prevent the issue by not getting into bed with the government in the first place.

    @EW- You're welcome. I'll make sure to check out your post.

    @The Pharisee- It may be an honorific, but Christ's authority supersedes Moses' authority (see the "parallel" passage in Matt. 5, e.g.). Again, Christ's argument is that God's intent for marriage is seen in the beginning and is the higher law. I didn't get into this originally, but part of Christ's response to the pharisees is based on correcting their theology, in that the pharisees tried to loosen the law (cf. Matthew 5:17) instead of uphold the underlying principle. God, through Moses, was not trying to encourage divorce but limit it, and his concessions were, as you noted, based on the man's sinfulness.

  5. Indeed, Christ's authority exceeds that of Moses. That hardly means that Moses in this case is overruled. If that was necessary, you've made Moses into a false prophet, inserting his ideas into the narrative of the Law.

  6. My sentiments run along the same lines as the argument you've made here, but we also have to contend with the fact that many people in Scripture are shown having multiple wives. Though the events of the narrative pretty much always point to bad consequences of polygamy, I don't see any indication that one of them is the 'real' wife and the others aren't. The law was not lax in its response to illegitimate children, so there would have been plenty of occasion to distinguish.

    How does this fit into the view you've put forward here?

  7. The "bad consequences of polygamy" is a cultural reading of scripture. Most early Biblical patriarchs were polygamous (polygynous actually) and few were demonstrably monogamous. The two other correlations that have more support are the amount of detail we have about those relationships and man's sin nature.

  8. @The Pharisee- Of course Moses is overruled. If the son of God himself tells you that there is higher standard to follow, then there is a higher standard to follow. Indeed, the central premise of the book of Hebrews is that Christ is better than Moses. His law is better, is sacrifice is better, etc. Now, you can argue that Christ's specific argument at that specific point in time did not overrule Moses' law while Moses' law remained in effect. However, Moses' law is no longer in effect, since it has been superseded by Christ's law. As such, it behooves us to obey it.

    @Allen Short- When Christ was asked by Peter about what would happen to John (cf.the end of John 21), Christ responded by asking, "what is that to you?" I think the same question is appropriate now: if God saw fit to allow marriage to multiple wives (or, tolerate some amount of fornication, whichever the case may be), what is that to you? In Romans 9, Paul points out that God can have mercy on whoever he wills. If God wants to overlook the ignorance and hard-heartedness of the patriarchs, or of the children of Israel, that is his prerogative. Consequently, if he doesn't wish to extend that same grace to us today, that is his prerogative. Therefore, it is not our duty to concern ourselves with how he justified multiple wives (we may as well wonder how he justified sin through animal sacrifices), but rather it is our duty to live according to his will as best we can.

    In regards to your specific question, my personal opinion is that God was willing to overlook some amount of ignorance in the O.T. Personally, I think he tolerated some amount of fornication (instead of, say, recognizing multiple wives). However, I think there could be some credence to the concept of God-ordained second wives, which I addressed in a post titled "The Theology of Game."

  9. Of course Moses could be overruled by Christ, but would a man who says the following, do such a thing?

    "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven."

    Does Christ then make himself least in the kingdom of heaven?

    I continually hear this. Of COURSE Christ is "Better than Moses." That doesn't mean that anything Moses said, particularly at the direction and on behalf of the LORD is automatically "overruled" because Christ is superior. Trinitarians (of which I am one) would firmly support the idea that Christ was right there when Moses was writing any law.

    Lest you think Moses inserted his own beliefs into the "Mosaic Law" (a phrase I often hear right before someone tries to cancel a portion of it), you make Moses out to be a false prophet.

    Christ and Moses both are a type of prophet of which there are only two. Christ and Moses. Clearly, Christ is the better expression of that type of prophet, as he is perfect and God Almighty.

    I shall have to read your post, "The Theology of Game."

  10. @The Pharisee- Your argument has a serious logical error in it. In your attempt to beg the question ("Does Christ make himself least in the kingdom of heaven?"), you implicitly present a false dichotomy. In essence, you try to make the case that Christ overruling Moses necessarily implies relaxing the law. The reality of the matter, though, is that it is possible to overrule a law without weakening it in the least. All that one must do is make the law stricter, which is exactly what Christ did.

    Whereas God, through Moses, permitted fornication in the form of polygamy, Christ forbids fornication in all of its forms. Does Christ overrule Moses? Yes. Doe he weaken the law? No; in fact, he strengthens it because Christ's standard is higher than Moses' standard.

    So, let's cut to the chase. As Christ claimed, he came not to relax ("loosen," in the original language), but to fulfill it. Christ was intended to be the perfect expression of the law of love (cf. Matthew 22:35 ff.), and the law that he was to bring forth was to be the epitome of God's love. As such, there are no longer any concessions to hardness of heart since Christ's law is focused on making sure the heart is right (cf. Matt. 5:21-30, eg.). Therefore, the concessions that God made through Moses regarding the practice of polygamy are no longer in effect because Christ ushered in a higher law to which we are now subject. Therefore, we must stop trying to defend and rationalize the sinful practices of polygamy and frivolous divorce. Instead, we should focus on adhering to God's ideals for marriage to best of our abilities.

  11. My point about Matthew 5 is that all cannot possibly be fulfilled, which is why I referred to "Full Preterism." Thus Christ, while saying he comes to fulfill, clearly states that all is not fulfilled.


    Heaven and Earth have not passed away.

    You make the fallacy of complex question as well in "Concessions God made through Moses regarding the practice of Polygamy." God never permitted Polygamy, he permitted a certain form of it only. Also, you label them "Concessions." I see no evidence whatsoever that they were "Concessions." As far back as Tamar and Judah we see God's recognition of and requirement of "Yabam," a form of marriage to raise up offspring for a dead man. No consideration is given to the man who fulfills this righteous command when he has an existing wife, so God required plural marriage of men entirely without any overt and wrong act on their part.

    I would like to know how the "Higher Law of Love" abrogates Polygyny.

    As I mentioned before, I see your interpretation of "Hardness of Heart" and raise you the evidence of scripture that every time that phrase is used elsewhere, it means simply "sinful condition." So because of SIN Moses (who is honored not derided in this passage) gave you this LAW.

    That means divorce is a result of sin.

    That does not mean Moses made it up on his own, an implication often relied upon in this discussion.

    What is the SIN when Joseph, said to be "Just" and not wishing to harm Mary, wishes to divorce her?

    Her adultery. Not the hardness of Joseph's heart.

    You see, most of the "Givens" you rely on, I simply don't accept as "Givens."

  12. @The Pharisee- Having read your blog, it makes since why you do not accept Christ's teaching in Matthew 19, nor the principles established by it. Christ quite clearly states that concessions to a less-than-ideal state of being (polygmay, divorce, etc.) are the results of Man's hardeness of heart. That is, God tolerated certain things (polygamy, divorce, etc.) even though he did not necessarily approve of them.

    Christ also argues that God's ideal for marriage can be seen in the beginning. Thus, frivolous divorce is forbidden. Likewise, as a matter of principle, polygamy would also be forbidden because Adam only had one wife. If God desired for Adam to have two or more wives, he would have brought Adam two or more wives. That is to say, if polygamy were the ideal state, it would have been present from the beginning.

    Now it takes a special kind of stupid, which you happen to possess, to take the idiomatic expression "till heaven and earth pass away" as a literal condition, then misapply it in reference to what Christ says in Matthew 5.

    In Matthew 5:17, Christ clearly claims that he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets. In verse 18, he claims that the old law will not be done away with until it is fulfilled. In essence, the old law will not be done away with until it is fulfilled. Now, in Romans 6-8, Paul argues that we are no longer under the law of Moses but under the law of Christ. This is because Christ did away with the law of Moses by fulfilling it, which is ultimately seen in his death. Briefly, as mentioned before, Christ claimed that love was the foundation of the law (Matthew 22). Christ, in fulfilling the law, became the perfect living embodiment of love (self-evident). Additionally, Christ lived his in fulfillment of O.T. prophecy (he fulfilled the law and prophets, after all). Once he kept every part of the law and the prophets, the old law could be done away with. Since the O.T. prophets not only predicted his death (Is. 53, eg.) but also his resurrection (Psa. 16, eg.), the law of Moses could not be done away with until after his resurrection. Since Christ has risen from the dead (cf. Matthew 28), the law of Moses can be done away with.

    What will be the nature of this new law? Matthew 5:20 provides the answer: the new law will be one that requires a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees.

    Getting back to Matthew 19, the pharisees taught that divorce was allowable in a wide range of cases (Cf. also Matt. 5:31). Christ said that it was not ("I say unto you..." Matt. 5:32). Christ's righteousness exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and pharisees. Furthermore, since Christ's line of reasoning was predicated on arguing from original intent, as demonstrated in creation, we can, by extension, reason that God's original intent for marriage is seen in creation: there is to be one man, one woman, joined together by God, until death doe them part. Fornication, polygamy, homosexuality, bestiality, incest, and divorce have no part in this ideal. This is the righteousness we must aspire to, at least if we desire to lie righteously according to Christ.

    If, however, you still desire to commit fornication through the practice of polygamy, then you might consider living under the old law, which permitted this. As your screen name suggests, you might be well-suited for this task. However, as you consider the ramifications of this decision, I would strongly encourage you to read the book of Hebrews in order to see whether the law of Moses or the law of Christ is superior. In the meantime, please refrain from spreading your dishonesty, poor reading comprehension, bad theology, and hardness of heart in the comments section of my blog.