Divorce and the Seventh Commandment

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Jonathan95

Puritan Board Sophomore
I have a few different questions surrounding the topic. I would like to hear your thoughts and/or be recommend resources to check out if you wouldn't mind.

1) I've heard a pastor say that there is no biblical grounds for divorce. Even in cases of abandoment and adultery, if the offending party repents, the offended party should seek reconciliation because God hates divorce. If the offender continues in their sin of adultery and abandoment and will not repent then a divorce should ensue to allow the innocent party to become remarried. Would you agree with this?

2) The Lord says that adultery is a reason for divorce. Do you believe He was referring to extramarital relations or that it was a broad reference to all that is forbidden by the Seventh Commandment?

3) If, after adultery takes place, the couple seeks reconciliation, do you believe that a divorce can later be sought out? In other words, if a year goes by and the offended party is having a hard time being married to the person that sinned in this way, would it be biblical to then seek out a divorce at any time?


Thank you for your answers!
 

Taylor

Puritan Board Senior
I've heard a pastor say that there is no biblical grounds for divorce.
How could anyone who has read the Bible argue this?
The Lord says that adultery is a reason for divorce. Do you believe He was referring to extramarital relations or that it was a broad reference to all that is forbidden by the Seventh Commandment?
No, not just any breaking of the seventh commandment is grounds for divorce. When Jesus says that anyone who lusts after another has already committed adultery in his heart (Matthew 5), he was not saying, as some conclude, that therefore lusting is the same as actual adultery, and thus ought to have the same result, namely, divorce. The Larger Catechism says that "all transgressions of the law of God are not equally heinous" (WLC 150).
If, after adultery takes place, the couple seeks reconciliation, do you believe that a divorce can later be sought out? In other words, if a year goes by and the offended party is having a hard time being married to the person that sinned in this way, would it be biblical to then seek out a divorce at any time?
In this scenario, it seems that no actual reconciliation occurred in the first place.
 

B.L.

Puritan Board Sophomore
Jonathan,

I noticed your sig block changed and you are now attending an OPC congregation instead of the Reformed Baptist congregation your wife had roots in. How has this transition gone for you both? I can PM if you prefer since it is off topic here.
 

Jonathan95

Puritan Board Sophomore
Jonathan,

I noticed your sig block changed and you are now attending an OPC congregation instead of the Reformed Baptist congregation your wife had roots in. How has this transition gone for you both? I can PM if you prefer since it is off topic here.
You may PM me. Thanks.
 

SeanPatrickCornell

Puritan Board Sophomore
How could anyone who has read the Bible argue this?

The "marriage permanence" view which states that there are NO VALID grounds for divorce and that all divorce is sin is not unknown among Reformed folk.

Naturally, I do not hold to that view (I am in fact divorced and remarried), but I understand how some come to this conclusion.
 

Jonathco

Puritan Board Freshman
In this scenario, it seems that no actual reconciliation occurred in the first place.
Agreed; in that scenario, it would appear that forgiveness and reconciliation never truly materialized.

Assuming the offending spouse repented and sought true reconciliation after their sin, and assuming the married couple determined that they would move forward in love, healing, and forgiveness through Christ, would it not be wrong for the offended spouse to then decide a year later that they simply cannot overcome the past sin of a truly repentant believer, who is their spouse? This argument, of course, assumes true repentance has occurred by the offending spouse, but the point remains: at that point, it would seem the offended spouse is withholding forgiveness from a repentant believer.

So much of scripture deals with forgiveness; it's something we must consider here.

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Eph. 4:32 ESV

"Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." Col. 3:13 ESV

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Matt 6:12 ESV


Also, this is yet another matter where the local church should be involved, with elders to help shepherd and provide biblical counsel. I had never thought of 1 Corinthians 6 in this light until earlier this year, when my pastor was preaching through the the entire book.

"When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" 1 Cor. 6:1-7 ESV

Certainly, God does hate divorce; also, there are cases where it is permissible (as stated in scripture); however, just like with church discipline, the goal should never be divorce (or excommunication). The goal is reconciliation, if at all possible, through repentance and restoration.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
Just from a historical perspective, the other day I was reading Carlos Eire's Reformations. He says this about the consistory in Reformation Geneva:

"Quite often, the consistory was lenient with first-time offenders, and took to admonishing, teaching, and counseling rather than to punishing. This was especially true in cases of marital problems, ranging from loud quarreling to flagrant adultery. In some cases, the consistory actually advised incompatible couples to divorce." (p.300)

And this further on in the book about Protestantism in general:

"The absolute necessity of having a good marriage was taken so seriously that Protestants began to allow divorce and remarriage -- something that the Catholic Church had forbidden since time immemorial. Marriage courts that handled domestic disputes would try to reconcile couples, but only up to a certain point. When it became apparent that a marriage was an irreparably hellish arrangement, Protestant courts would reluctantly admit that the marriage had 'ceased to exist' and allow the couple to divorce. Martin Bucer in Strassburg was one of the earliest pioneers on this unexplored frontier. Eventually, divorce would become a common last-ditch solution to troubled marriages among all Protestants, even in Calvin's puritanical Geneva." (p.713)
 

arapahoepark

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Just from a historical perspective, the other day I was reading Carlos Eire's Reformations. He says this about the consistory in Reformation Geneva:

"Quite often, the consistory was lenient with first-time offenders, and took to admonishing, teaching, and counseling rather than to punishing. This was especially true in cases of marital problems, ranging from loud quarreling to flagrant adultery. In some cases, the consistory actually advised incompatible couples to divorce." (p.300)

And this further on in the book about Protestantism in general:

"The absolute necessity of having a good marriage was taken so seriously that Protestants began to allow divorce and remarriage -- something that the Catholic Church had forbidden since time immemorial. Marriage courts that handled domestic disputes would try to reconcile couples, but only up to a certain point. When it became apparent that a marriage was an irreparably hellish arrangement, Protestant courts would reluctantly admit that the marriage had 'ceased to exist' and allow the couple to divorce. Martin Bucer in Strassburg was one of the earliest pioneers on this unexplored frontier. Eventually, divorce would become a common last-ditch solution to troubled marriages among all Protestants, even in Calvin's puritanical Geneva." (p.713)
I had read that too. Bucer was an oddball on this, something the other Reformers weren't, obviously. Since it was largely the cities, do you know if there was fallout between the reformers, sessions and the magistrates?
 

Wretched Man

Puritan Board Freshman
Agreed; in that scenario, it would appear that forgiveness and reconciliation never truly materialized.

Assuming the offending spouse repented and sought true reconciliation after their sin, and assuming the married couple determined that they would move forward in love, healing, and forgiveness through Christ, would it not be wrong for the offended spouse to then decide a year later that they simply cannot overcome the past sin of a truly repentant believer, who is their spouse? This argument, of course, assumes true repentance has occurred by the offending spouse, but the point remains: at that point, it would seem the offended spouse is withholding forgiveness from a repentant believer.

So much of scripture deals with forgiveness; it's something we must consider here.

"Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." Eph. 4:32 ESV

"Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive." Col. 3:13 ESV

"And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." Matt 6:12 ESV


Also, this is yet another matter where the local church should be involved, with elders to help shepherd and provide biblical counsel. I had never thought of 1 Corinthians 6 in this light until earlier this year, when my pastor was preaching through the the entire book.

"When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded?" 1 Cor. 6:1-7 ESV

Certainly, God does hate divorce; also, there are cases where it is permissible (as stated in scripture); however, just like with church discipline, the goal should never be divorce (or excommunication). The goal is reconciliation, if at all possible, through repentance and restoration.
I'd encourage you to wrestle with 1 Corinthians 7:15. Paul arguably presents this as a command to let unbelieving spouses depart.
 

Guido's Brother

Puritan Board Junior
I had read that too. Bucer was an oddball on this, something the other Reformers weren't, obviously. Since it was largely the cities, do you know if there was fallout between the reformers, sessions and the magistrates?

I don't know. I haven't researched that, nor can I recall having read anything about it.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
3) If, after adultery takes place, the couple seeks reconciliation, do you believe that a divorce can later be sought out? In other words, if a year goes by and the offended party is having a hard time being married to the person that sinned in this way, would it be biblical to then seek out a divorce at any time?
The legal term for that is 'condonation' - back before the no-fault divorce era, the common law rule was that if the offended spouse took the offender back after learning of the infidelity, then they were estopped from holding it over the offender's head and changing their mind later.

That's the only one of your propositions in which I find merit. Because it isn't the infidelity that's causing the divorce, it's something else. Of course, there's always the pair of questions to ask your client when proving up a divorce after the statutory time has run, and they couldn't stay out of bed with their soon to be ex for the 30 or 60 (or whatever the count is in a particular state) for the clock to run between "separation" and court hearing. 1 "Have you attempted reconciliation". "Yes". 2. "Was it successful". "No". "Nothing more, your honor".
 
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