What constitutes biblical divorce? The question is asked by many in the modern church today, for substantial reasons: legal divorce rates are extremely high among at least self-proclaimed Christians. People struggle to find answers, healing for their souls, and realistic expectations for their commitments. And all of these need to be addressed for the sake of the person needing comfort. Sometimes, separation is necessary; and because of the fallen world we live in, that comes under the legal term and status of “divorce.” In effort to address those needs, some of us go so far that we end up hurting the other person by helping them deny reality, and some of us don’t go anywhere, keeping people in abusive relationships that may have never constituted “marriage.”
What all of us teachers need to do, though, is stay true to Scripture. And I came across a novel teaching (aren’t those always fun?) about marriage today. Scot McKnight brought it up here.
Now, I will not presuppose that I know everything about Luck’s views and work; in fact, I’m only going on what was published about it today. However, what I have seen highly disturbs me.
Let me first present the argument by itself:
Someone named William F. Luck has decided to “exegete” Genesis 2:24 to start his argument (I put that in quotes because I am not sure just how much exegesis he actually does). He concludes that the marriage is “intended to last for eternity” and does not “actually last for eternity.” He subsequently concludes that any breach in the intention of either party to last for eternity constitutes a divorce. He covers this by saying such a divorce is tragic, but realistic and thus acceptable. Here, his argument is essentially finished.
Why does he hold this position, though? Because he focuses on the human side of the marital vow, the human side of the unification. And he stops at Genesis. And both of those are huge reasons why I have a problem with his view.
You know, he has a clever argument, and I won’t deny it’s relevance–especially now, when legal divorce is rampant in the church. But I have a problem with clever arguments instead of comprehensive ones. And I also make a very large distinction between “legal divorce” and “actual divorce,” for very good reasons. What Luck seems to be saying is that if the intention of either of the human parties changes, then it is already a divorce. While I think that could be helpful for viewing the spiritual quality of your marriage, I don’t think it makes it a real divorce. Here’s why:
Jesus said that God joins people together. Once the human parties vow, God works, and no one should separate the unification done by God. Malachi also says the Lord hates divorce, because it’s so violent; and that’s important to understanding what Jesus taught about things because frankly, you’d have to be violent just to try to be powerful enough to undo what God actually did. In fact, the only reason Jesus seems to give for divorce is “porneia,” and that’s physical adultery. Jesus even goes so far as to say that the man who marries the divorced woman commits such adultery. Why would Jesus say that? Because the “divorced” woman is not really divorced, and therefore is susceptible to committing adultery because she is with anyone but her spiritual husband. Period. If you’ve married an unbeliever, and that person then decides to leave you because they can’t hang with where God is leading you in your spiritual journey, that’s another story: It’s not actual marriage. Actual, “realistic” marriage is a unification done by God between two honest believers, and as long as they stay believers, there should be no divorce, nor (really) any cause for it. Separation? Yes. Peaceful divorce in the case of severe unbelief? Yes. Divorce among true worshipers of Christ? No, and how would it even be possible?
Even Paul commands (from the Lord!) that divorce should never be done, and that even if it is done the woman is to remain single, or else “be reconciled to her husband.” No room for other relationships, period. Why? Because what God joins together is a symbol of his union with His people, and He is never adulterous.
In other words, “intention to stop the marriage” never constitutes biblical divorce, and from all that Scot McKnight presented, Luck is ignoring NT teachings to make a viable argument that he can sell. We can argue whether or not God actually joins certain people together, but that is now arguing about the term of “marriage,” not the state of an actual marriage where God Himself unifies. What we need to do as a church is discuss how to know that God has unified a couple, not how we know if the couple ever wants it. When was the last time, if you are married, you said, “I had no idea marriage was going to be this difficult”? Hint: all of us who have ever been married have said it, and those who have stayed married have a significant success rate in their commitment by seeing past that self-resistance.
I would be interested to know: Is Luck someone who is divorced? Because his ideas seem intended to merely comfort those who do not want to reconcile with their actual spouses.