Lawful divorce for failure to provide?

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ValiantforTruth

Puritan Board Freshman
Suppose a man, through carelessness and/or laziness, consistently failed to provide for his family. Would this constitute lawful grounds for divorce, similar to abandonment? Assume he is not under the oversight of a church, nor amenable to arguments from Scripture that would instruct him to change his behavior.

The extremely tricky part seems to be that "failure to provide" is a continuum problem, whereas abandonment is usually true/false.
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
I'd say the bigger problem is not being under authority. If he's not a member in good standing with an evangelical church, no right minded Session would allow him to take communion; he's considered technically a nonBeliever, whether or not he's a Christian. Church membership is something of a legal tool.

I've heard it argued that not being under authority is a divorcible offence. But the big problem there is that the woman still couldn't remarry, since she wasn't abandoned or cheated on.

So a woman in that case would have to be counseled by truly advanced church officers.
 

Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
Have you reviewed the papers on Divorce and Remarriage?

PCA Historical Center: Index to the Position Papers of the Presbyterian Church in America

See particularly the discussions which relate to these findings:

g. That under extreme circumstances, a Session following the BCO may properly judge (see i below) that such desertion (separation) has occurred, even though the deserting spouse is still physically present in
the home (“desertion” being viewed in the sense understood in the Committee report, Chapter 2, Section II.E.4.). Adopted.
h. That the believer in the aforementioned cases (f, g) is free to make the Biblical divorce a legal divorce in the eyes of the State. Adopted.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
I don't think failure to provide is a divorcible offence. Surely he is not loving her as Christ does, but even if he were providing for her abundantly, he'd still not be loving her as Christ does. I think the Bible is somewhat specific on divorce so that we don't take every sin against us and use it to divorce. I think since divorce is so brutal it is reserved for when the relationship has been ripped asunder already. If a man is adulterous, he has already destroyed the unity of his marriage. If a man leaves/abandons his wife, the oneness is now incomplete. If he is not taking care of his wife he has not become unglued to her, though he is sinning against her and that will have many sad consequences.

Hope my opinion helps!
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter XXIV
Of Marriage and Divorce

....

VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage:[14] wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.[15]
This concise summary of the doctrine of Scripture would tell us, no, and that we are oft prone to find excuse.
 
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Edward

Puritanboard Commissioner
This concise summary of the doctrine of Scripture would tell us, no, and that we are oft prone to find excuse.
The question here is, to restate it slightly, whether the willful failure to support by one who won't submit to church discipline, is 'wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate'.

It's an issue that has been addressed by the denomination. It's not an issue with an easy answer. And it's not a question of what the Confession says, it's a question of how what the Confession (and the Scriptures) apply to the facts.
 

paculina

Puritan Board Freshman
So let me ask all of you who are saying failure to provide is not grounds for divorce, then what do you think the wife in this situation should do in order to protect and care for herself and her children?
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
This concise summary of the doctrine of Scripture would tell us, no, and that we are oft prone to find excuse.
The question here is, to restate it slightly, whether the willful failure to support by one who won't submit to church discipline, is 'wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate'.

It's an issue that has been addressed by the denomination. It's not an issue with an easy answer. And it's not a question of what the Confession says, it's a question of how what the Confession (and the Scriptures) apply to the facts.
The answer would still be no, and because the Confession summarizes the doctrine of Scripture to say "no," and because, as it says, it is because we imagine all sorts of scenarios to try and "put asunder."

Could a grounds be for a husband who "fails to love his wife?" Or for a wife who "fails to love her husband?"

One might somehow equate that with desertion. [Look how the Apostle uses the term in I Cor. 6, it is depart, not merely insufficient financial input]

Consider the end in view here.

When we say one who refuses to submit to church discipline, the end in view is not divorce. It is steps that lead to ex-communication, that's where church discipline goes. But that doesn't grant the former, not at all.

What is not easy is the difficulty that all these kinds sins create for people who are to live together intimately-

and for those who seek to intervene when they become public.

---------- Post added at 08:40 PM ---------- Previous post was at 08:25 PM ----------

So let me ask all of you who are saying failure to provide is not grounds for divorce, then what do you think the wife in this situation should do in order to protect and care for herself and her children?
No way of knowing without a lot more information, including "both sides of the story."

If protection in the physical sense is what you are implying, it might require separation, always with reconciliation in view.
 

paculina

Puritan Board Freshman
So let me ask all of you who are saying failure to provide is not grounds for divorce, then what do you think the wife in this situation should do in order to protect and care for herself and her children?
No way of knowing without a lot more information, including "both sides of the story."

If protection in the physical sense is what you are implying, it might require separation, always with reconciliation in view.
I mean even just making sure she and her children have proper shelter and food and clothing, basic necessities. I agree we would need more information to really know, but a lot of women are really financially dependent on their husbands because they've chosen to be a SAHM or are disabled or whatever, and there's a big difference between a SAHM who has a husband not providing and a working mother who makes $50K/yr. The SAHM is clearly in a more desperate situation.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
I guess what you are coming to terms with is that marriage, as instituted by God, is more than just a conditional association of consenting adults. It's for richer, poorer, better, worse....

in God's eyes.

And the only grounds in His eyes are adultery, or a believer being irremediably abandoned by an unbeliever (that means physically gone with all that entails). And it is not commanded even in those cases, reconciliation is still the aspirational goal for the believer.

Westminster Confession of Faith

Chapter XXIV
Of Marriage and Divorce

I. Marriage is to be between one man and one woman: neither is it lawful for any man to have more than one wife, nor for any woman to have more than one husband, at the same time.[1]

II. Marriage was ordained for the mutual help of husband and wife,[2] for the increase of mankind with a legitimate issue, and of the Church with an holy seed;[3] and for preventing of uncleanness.[4]

III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent.[5] Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord.[6] And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.[7]

IV. Marriage ought not to be within the degrees of consanguinity or affinity forbidden by the Word.[8] Nor can such incestuous marriages ever be made lawful by any law of man or consent of parties, so as those persons may live together as man and wife.[9] The man may not marry any of his wife's kindred, nearer in blood then he may of his own: nor the woman of her husband's kindred, nearer in blood than of her own.[10]

V. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, gives just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract.[11] In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce and, after the divorce,[12] to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.[13]

VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage:[14] wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.[15]


---------- Post added at 10:19 PM ---------- Previous post was at 10:04 PM ----------

I mean even just making sure she and her children have proper shelter and food and clothing, basic necessities. I agree we would need more information to really know, but a lot of women are really financially dependent on their husbands because they've chosen to be a SAHM or are disabled or whatever, and there's a big difference between a SAHM who has a husband not providing and a working mother who makes $50K/yr. The SAHM is clearly in a more desperate situation.
Think about this, the logic of this kind of (self centered) viewpoint, what about a husband who has a terminal disease and can't provide financially- its the same viewpoint of conditionally, though we might say the reason is okay, yet the result "abandonment" is what is trying to be used to justify it.

It just doesn't work this way, not in the Kingdom of God.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
So let me ask all of you who are saying failure to provide is not grounds for divorce, then what do you think the wife in this situation should do in order to protect and care for herself and her children?
So let me ask all of you who are saying failure to provide is not grounds for divorce, then what do you think the wife in this situation should do in order to protect and care for herself and her children?
No way of knowing without a lot more information, including "both sides of the story."

If protection in the physical sense is what you are implying, it might require separation, always with reconciliation in view.
I mean even just making sure she and her children have proper shelter and food and clothing, basic necessities. I agree we would need more information to really know, but a lot of women are really financially dependent on their husbands because they've chosen to be a SAHM or are disabled or whatever, and there's a big difference between a SAHM who has a husband not providing and a working mother who makes $50K/yr. The SAHM is clearly in a more desperate situation.
Well, if we were looking at the pragmatics, she would still need those basic things had she divorced her husband. How would divorce give her that provision?
If my husband refused to work, I would see it as a spiritual battle of his and try to help him with encouragement and prayer, but I might also tell him that I am going to find a job myself. If he refuses to let me (some husbands think that it is wrong for wives to work--not mine, but just in case) I would have a conversation with him that is honest: You aren't working. I know you are having difficulty making yourself get to work. I am not sure why. If you want to talk, I will listen, love, but I think that while you work this out, I NEED to get a job. I know that you think it is sinful for me to work, but I don't and I DO want to submit to your leadership but maybe I could convince you of why it isn't sinful...insert scriptural evidence here.... Sweetie, we are not OK financially and I don't want to scare you, but one of us has to get a job. If you really think it sinful for me to work, then it will have to be you. I will help you find a job and help you here at home be good at your job. I love you so much, but we really need an income. Maybe you could talk to a pastor (since in the scenario the man doesn't have his own) or another man for more encouragement. I totally understand that there are so many reasons you don't want to work, but maybe you could find a job that you would enjoy and feel like you are doing what you were created to do. But again, until then, maybe I should get a job so we can pay the rent and feed the kids? You are such a great guy and great husband and I don't like to see you hurting, so I don't want you to return to a job that causes you any pain, so what would your dream job be? Maybe I could work while you go to school to become that? I know we were planning on homeschooling the kids, and maybe we still can with you doing a lot of the teaching when you aren't in class and me when I'm home from work, but if we have to send them to school, they will live! God's grace is big enough to cover them in a school.

Something like that, anyway. I don't know if the people in the scenario have kids, but the homeschooling issue would be the case if it were us. If it were my husband, I'd be more worried about him than bitter about me. Not that I'd blame a woman for being bitter, but I would be hurting with my husband. Obviously, even if for the man in question it is simply laziness, there is a spiritual issue at hand. I'm sure it is not easy for the man to let down his family because of his sin. I think a wife's first and 7 * 70th duty is to forgive the man and encourage him to succeed. Not that this will be easy for her, or even her natural response, but this, instead of divorce, is what the Bible calls her to do.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Were we to be without guidance of Scripture, e.g. related to vows, we could imagine all sorts of (self centered,self justifying) reasons to abandon the vow.

For example, here is how the question could be phrased to appeal to that logic,

(this is to illustrate the point not in any way advocate it)

"Suppose a woman fails to submit to her husband, consistently. Assume she will not submit to the oversight of the church, and is not amenable to arguments from Scripture to change her behavior....

It's so bad the man can't sleep at night and does not have peace of mind, and can't protect his family from her spending excessively, to the detriment of their ability to meet basic needs..."


Lots of these terms are subjective, likely from a one-sided perspective, but the question you are really asking is what are the conditions of the vow?

Biblically, the Westminster Standards summarize the doctrine of scripture to say they are very, very limited.

While everyone is troubled by people's inability to get along, and we spend a lot of remedial time in the church (and the magistrate) trying to repair the effects of people's self-centeredness, the issue of the marital union is not that complicated from the standpoint of Scripture. The ways to deal with sin are, but not the union or vows.

I think it is fair to understand biblically that our Lord provided a way out in adultery to spare an innocent spouse an undue hardship. Same with a unbelieving spouse who takes off without a trace. And these always require outside evaluation, by church authority for a believer.

But all these other sins, difficult, oppressive as they are are not grounds. Sin causing suffering. It may mean even having to go back to the church for financial provision for temporary financial help (e.g. even basics like food and clothing). The sin may be cause for discipline, for rebuke, who knows how God will work them if the innocent party entreats our Lord in prayer constantly.

And it may open opportunity for mercy.

But it does not negate the union or the vows.
 
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lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
My sister had to leave to avoid physical battering. She chose not to press charges (against the advice of the cops) and also did not think she had grounds for divorce as there had been no adultery on his part, or desertion, "just" his anger and violence.

She came up against PA law, which was that unless she filed for divorce, the courts could not make him pay up one single penny. She had 5 kids from 7-14 and he had said she had to move back or he would not give her anything ( he was loaded). What was she supposed to do? The courts allow nothing for just a legal separation. He was forced to pay up all the medical insurance and monthly support.

Her heart stayed right for many years in that had he repented she would have gone back, but he never did (and eventually she did date a couple guys with the rumors going around that he was seeing other women already.)

I would allow lawful divorce, but necessarily remarriage. The civil courts do provide justice in forcing evil men to pay for their children and take care of them. But those same courts insist on divorce. So I would think of the children, and do what needs to be done to get them medical insurance and monthly support. I don't know of a single decent church that would have the money to do that instead; all the good churches I know of are tight for money.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
By the way, our Lord addresses this topic generally, and to the point of how this works in the Kingdom of God:

Matthew 19


3The Pharisees also came unto him, tempting him, and saying unto him, Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?

4And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.

12For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.
 

ValiantforTruth

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks for all the thoughtful and Scriptural posts.

I see that a more concrete description of a hypothetical situation might be helpful, and then perhaps it is more appropriate to ask "What SHOULD the wife do in this situation?"

I will use my own family as the hypothetical example, with one small difference, that instead of being an elder in the PCA, imagine that I am a rather fringe charismatic type who (a) fancies myself a pastor so that I am not under the supervision of any church authorities and (b) am invincible to any explicit commands of Scripture condemning my behavior.

Now, in my family, we have a 10 month old baby. Additionally, my wife is from Brazil, so for linguistic, legal or pragmatic reasons, it might be truly impossible for her to find work, nevermind about caring for the baby.

At the end of the month she will go back to visit her family, with the baby. Her parents might notice that she was extremely thin and not in good health, and maybe the baby looks underweight.

Obviously there is a lot to be said in this situation about (A) my spiritual condition and (B) my wife's wisdom in marrying me originally and in having children in a situation where they can't be supported. I think the points to be made there are quite transparent, so I am more interested in GIVEN A and B, what should she do? Should she return home, or stay with her family? It seems to me if she stayed with her family that would be the same as desertion/divorce.

Thanks!
 

TimV

Puritanboard Botanist
fancies myself a pastor so that I am not under the supervision of any church authorities and (b) am invincible to any explicit commands of Scripture condemning my behavior.
If he's not a Christian and she is she can leave the guy. The tougher part is her getting remarried. That's why you've got to get a lot of good counsel.
 

he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
Thanks for all the thoughtful and Scriptural posts.

I see that a more concrete description of a hypothetical situation might be helpful, and then perhaps it is more appropriate to ask "What SHOULD the wife do in this situation?"

I will use my own family as the hypothetical example, with one small difference, that instead of being an elder in the PCA, imagine that I am a rather fringe charismatic type who (a) fancies myself a pastor so that I am not under the supervision of any church authorities and (b) am invincible to any explicit commands of Scripture condemning my behavior.

Now, in my family, we have a 10 month old baby. Additionally, my wife is from Brazil, so for linguistic, legal or pragmatic reasons, it might be truly impossible for her to find work, nevermind about caring for the baby.

At the end of the month she will go back to visit her family, with the baby. Her parents might notice that she was extremely thin and not in good health, and maybe the baby looks underweight.

Obviously there is a lot to be said in this situation about (A) my spiritual condition and (B) my wife's wisdom in marrying me originally and in having children in a situation where they can't be supported. I think the points to be made there are quite transparent, so I am more interested in GIVEN A and B, what should she do? Should she return home, or stay with her family? It seems to me if she stayed with her family that would be the same as desertion/divorce.

Thanks!
I say it stinks, but this is certainly still a time "for better or for worse," applies. If she's the one doing the desertion, then she will never be rightfully divorced. I really feel bad for this hypothetical woman. I think that using my pretend conversation with my husband she could still explain her situation to him and say: I don't want to be separated from you, but since I cannot work here and we (include caring for him in her search for work as much as possible!) need to bring in some kind of income, maybe I should stay in Brazil for a bit while I earn some money. My family can take care of the baby while I'm working and I will try to save up enough for all of us. And then if you do find employment in the meantime, we can come right back. I know we will miss each other so much, but I will miss you more if you die from starvation. Or sweetie, an even better idea is you come to Brazil with us, so that we can still be together, but I can find a job! I know you would hate to leave, but we are going to die without money.

The man you are describing, though, would probably not listen to reason. If he forbade her to go to Brazil, I don't know what I'd do. If I were her, then I'd go to a church myself and explain that I have no food and am barely surviving; I'd beg them to give me some kind of job as a janitor or whatever, so that I can survive while not divorcing my husband.
(I cannot empathize with this scenario very well because my husband is my best friend and truly cares for me. If we did end up in a position where he was depressed or something and decided not to work even though he was ably bodied, I'm sure he'd come with me to Brazil. Or the thought of me needing to leave and be away from him for survival would make him try very hard to snap out of it.)


If there were no God, I'd go to Brazil and never look back because the worldly wisdom looks attractive here. But as it is, I'd have to trust God and do what he commands.
 

SRoper

Puritan Board Graduate
If he's not a Christian and she is she can leave the guy. The tougher part is her getting remarried. That's why you've got to get a lot of good counsel.
Tim, where do you see in scripture that this is grounds for divorce?
 

paculina

Puritan Board Freshman
If he's not a Christian and she is she can leave the guy. The tougher part is her getting remarried. That's why you've got to get a lot of good counsel.
Tim, where do you see in scripture that this is grounds for divorce?
I just think he has it backwards. In 1 Cor 7 where Paul talks about mixed marriages, he says if the unbelieving spouse is willing to live with the believing spouse, the believing spouse should not leave. But if the unbelieving spouse leaves, then the believing spouse is free to remarry. It looks like Tim just mixed it up.

I think there's a lot of slippery slopes here, particularly if you're the Brazilian wife. On one hand, it will be argued that she doesn't have biblical grounds for divorce, because the man is still physically present although by all other standards, he has abandoned his family. (Apparently that doesn't count here though.) Then if he tells her not to work, someone will no doubt play the submission card. If she worries about how she's going to feed her baby since she can't work and her husband won't work, she'll get told to trust God and submit to her husband. And the immigration/legal issues involved are another can of worms all together that really have nothing to do with her husband, but make her situation all the more sticky. No matter which way she turns, she's going to be jumped on for violating some command or confessional standard somewhere, but if she doesn't do something, she's going to end up dead or nearly so, never mind what will happen to the baby.

My original question about what she should do was not to advocate for divorce, but it was about pragmatics. She has to eat. Her child has to eat. Is she supposed to obey her husband and submit to him even if it costs her her life or her baby? I just don't like this seeming vibe of "It's more important that she holds to the confession than that she takes care of herself or her child."
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Lynnie,

These are difficult, emotional situations, and particularly when it is a relative.

Without knowing all the facts and circumstances, let me try to interact with this biblically, dispassionately- it may not be possible in such a charged emotive fact situation, but it might be helpful to some to try- and see clearly what principles from Scripture might apply.

Please understand this is not intended as a rebuke of what happened, or even the motives- there simply is not enough information established to do that. Only an attempt to interact biblically with a situation that sin causes to be quite cloudy.


My sister had to leave to avoid physical battering. She chose not to press charges (against the advice of the cops) and also did not think she had grounds for divorce as there had been no adultery on his part, or desertion, "just" his anger and violence.

Self defense can be discerned from Scripture if there is a clear and present physical danger. That could involve temporary separation.

That's not the same thing as first resort to divorce. Not at all.

Nor is it the same as bad words, an uncontrolled temper or other things sometimes termed "abuse" nowadays.

If this person is a believer, anything beyond a very temporary incidental action (such as in response to a crises), they need to seek mature Christian persons to clarify. That is priority for a believer.


She came up against PA law, which was that unless she filed for divorce, the courts could not make him pay up one single penny. She had 5 kids from 7-14 and he had said she had to move back or he would not give her anything ( he was loaded). What was she supposed to do? The courts allow nothing for just a legal separation. He was forced to pay up all the medical insurance and monthly support.

This illustrates why the church needs to be involved (assuming a believer).

The laws of men are not ultimately determinative.

Think of it, a poor person might say that they "could not" marry their child's father because they would lose welfare benefits if they did. Doesn't make it right (or even logical).

Did that person prioritize seeking Christian counsel?
Did that person seek mercy help from her church as the situation occurred?
Did the person have absolutely no joint property while married (e.g. joint checking account, joint title on car, land, savings accounts?) There are ways, for example with taxes, to apportion costs in these situations. They may not be immediately easy without cooperation, but there are ways.


Her heart stayed right for many years in that had he repented she would have gone back, but he never did (and eventually she did date a couple guys with the rumors going around that he was seeing other women already.)

What biblical cause was alleged before the world in the court proceedings?

I would allow lawful divorce, but necessarily remarriage.
My understanding is that a biblical lawful divorce also implicitly allows re-marriage (some may disagree). It might not always be expedient, there may be lifetime consequences to it, but that would be another issue.

The civil courts do provide justice in forcing evil men to pay for their children and take care of them. But those same courts insist on divorce. So I would think of the children, and do what needs to be done to get them medical insurance and monthly support. I don't know of a single decent church that would have the money to do that instead; all the good churches I know of are tight for money.
Having seen situations similar, the spouse moves in with another family temporarily, various mercy ministries kick in, the spouse starts a home business or works part time outside the home, mediated counseling with the former spouse begins.

Now, it is possible, after an extended period of absence (nothing quick or short term) like this that it eventually becomes desertion. It's remote to the initial action, but it could within the Westminster summary eventually become that, and I think that's what the PCA Study Paper is getting at on this topic, which there is reason to believe that that is what was contemplated by the Divines.

(and that may be what Edward is referring to also in his earlier post- thanks, Ed.
 
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he beholds

Puritan Board Doctor
If he's not a Christian and she is she can leave the guy. The tougher part is her getting remarried. That's why you've got to get a lot of good counsel.
Tim, where do you see in scripture that this is grounds for divorce?
I just think he has it backwards. In 1 Cor 7 where Paul talks about mixed marriages, he says if the unbelieving spouse is willing to live with the believing spouse, the believing spouse should not leave. But if the unbelieving spouse leaves, then the believing spouse is free to remarry. It looks like Tim just mixed it up.

I think there's a lot of slippery slopes here, particularly if you're the Brazilian wife. On one hand, it will be argued that she doesn't have biblical grounds for divorce, because the man is still physically present although by all other standards, he has abandoned his family. (Apparently that doesn't count here though.) Then if he tells her not to work, someone will no doubt play the submission card. If she worries about how she's going to feed her baby since she can't work and her husband won't work, she'll get told to trust God and submit to her husband. And the immigration/legal issues involved are another can of worms all together that really have nothing to do with her husband, but make her situation all the more sticky. No matter which way she turns, she's going to be jumped on for violating some command or confessional standard somewhere, but if she doesn't do something, she's going to end up dead or nearly so, never mind what will happen to the baby.

My original question about what she should do was not to advocate for divorce, but it was about pragmatics. She has to eat. Her child has to eat. Is she supposed to obey her husband and submit to him even if it costs her her life or her baby? I just don't like this seeming vibe of "It's more important that she holds to the confession than that she takes care of herself or her child."
Hi, I think you are addressing me because I was interacting with your questions trying to focus on the pragmatics, too! I just wanted to point out that I never mentioned the Confession. Not that I think it goes against the Bible or anything, but I did point to the Bible alone when answering. I obviously think the specifics in the scenario are terrible and trying. But I think we could all look at so many of our issues and be overwhelmed by the specifics and trust worldly wisdom. How do you decide which sin she should commit? Is really the only way she will not die to get a divorce? If truly so, I imagine do not murder trumps her promise, but I'd tread lightly going forward with that. Is that really the only way for her and her child to survive? In my marriage, I'd rather suffer with great physical want, even illness, than be apart from my husband. I'd want to face the hardship as a team.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Scott, I don't disagree with what you said, but in this case the ex would not listen to pastoral rebuke ( a few times) and there was nobody in a position to take in six people. Nobody at least who cared. Christians tend to have one income and smaller homes with more kids.

Your analogy about welfare is fair in saying that we can't put civil law above scripture. But in your example the woman is still having immoral relations to keep money coming in. In this case, the woman is not engaging in immorality and indeed would perfer to see the marriage back together.

In this case she was clear that she was divorcing him to force child support ( which he is biblically responsible for) and was not intending to remarry but wanted him to apologize and repent and stop hurting her physically. I was actually impressed with the court system in that before custody was decided secular shrinks met with him alone, her alone, and the kids. They really do want to give help to the adults and see that the kids get what is best, even if they are secular therapists. In her case she got full custody as he was violent.

If there are no kids I would counsel a woman not to divorce over this. But kids have a right to medical care and decent food, and if the only way to provide for the kids is a divorce, then the blame is on the wicked husband and the state if you ask me. I would rather the court had gone in and impounded his bank accounts and given him a good thrashing and a jail cell, but that is not the way things are.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Thanks, Lynnie, maybe interact further.

Scott, I don't disagree with what you said, but in this case the ex would not listen to pastoral rebuke ( a few times) and there was nobody in a position to take in six people. Nobody at least who cared. Christians tend to have one income and smaller homes with more kids.

Your analogy about welfare is fair in saying that we can't put civil law above scripture. But in your example the woman is still having immoral relations to keep money coming in. In this case, the woman is not engaging in immorality and indeed would perfer to see the marriage back together.

Sounds like an "innocent" spouse, in terms of grounds for dissolution.

But, what were the biblical grounds alleged?

Is a biblical grounds to get (sufficient) child support? (Difficult situation, certainly though)


In this case she was clear that she was divorcing him to force child support ( which he is biblically responsible for) and was not intending to remarry but wanted him to apologize and repent and stop hurting her physically. I was actually impressed with the court system in that before custody was decided secular shrinks met with him alone, her alone, and the kids. They really do want to give help to the adults and see that the kids get what is best, even if they are secular therapists. In her case she got full custody as he was violent.

If there are no kids I would counsel a woman not to divorce over this. But kids have a right to medical care and decent food, and if the only way to provide for the kids is a divorce, then the blame is on the wicked husband and the state if you ask me. I would rather the court had gone in and impounded his bank accounts and given him a good thrashing and a jail cell, but that is not the way things are.
Lots of details here from one account, this is why the Confession summarizing the doctrine of Scripture, says the parties are not "to be left to themselves."

Could she have sought temporary work, perhaps home based business as part of a temporary solution?

- These are all things that would need to be evaluated by mature believers from outside the immediacy of crisis?

Could the wife have applied for government welfare?

It's hard to know what temporary remedies might have been available through church, a ministry or could have been arranged through them if there was a prioritized seeking of them.

Maybe there was.

Is it acceptable for an aggrieved spouse to (mis)represent to the world "irreconcilable differences" as grounds in order to make the proceedings more convenient for them? (not saying that was grounds here, but what were the grounds alleged?)
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Scott- you might like this PCA paper on divorce and abuse. (Not quite the same as failure to provide.)

Regarding the welfare thing, should our taxes go to pay for kids whose scumball fathers don't want to provide, just so the wives don't have to get a divorce? Best to have a law that the man pays up, divorce or not, but given that the state law requires divorce to force child support, should taxes pay instead of a father loaded with money paying? Should the deacons fund spend piles of money to take care of kids when the state can tell the father to pay up or go to jail? -if and only if the wife divorces? What about a church with limited money- who do you cut, the widows or the missionaries?

In retrospect, in this situation, the cops wanted her to press charges and put him in jail after she was at the ER getting X rays, and she chose not to. It was a small town and she wanted to spare herself and her kids the shame and embarassment. I've never been through wife beating, thank God for a loving husband, but I know that the woman feels great ( misplaced) shame, and to subject her to public exposure feels to her like being stripped naked. It can take years to get over it all. In the meantime the kids need to eat.

Not saying you are wrong, but at the time we put the blame for the divorce on the husband, even if she was the one filing...much like this position paper on desertion. A wife can desert, but is she to blame if he caused it? I don't think so. Going to the ER for X rays after years of being hit, well, he is the cause, the blame is on him. And in some situations with refusing to work as this thread is about, I can see a wife leaving and being forced to file for divorce to get anything for the kids, either from the sale of the house or whatever money he does make. And while the state law is wrong, and she should be able to get money with only a separation, if she does file, I put the blame on him, so long as she is getting lots of help with her own sins at her church.

http://www.pcahistory.org/pca/2-267.pdf

Conclusions.
The Puritan movement, with the Westminster Assembly coming at its culmination, manifested both a masterful knowledge of Scriptural teaching and also a pastoral sensitivity to the needs and tendencies of the human soul. This combination is apparent in the materials that would have been available to the Westminster divines as they dealt with the subject of divorce and whether physical abuse could be regarded as a grounds for dissolution of a marriage.
1. To a direct question of whether physical abuse could be a grounds for divorce, the Puritan tradition informing the Westminster Assembly would have answered, No, not per se or by itself. William Perkins and William Ames before the Westminster Assembly, William Gouge as a member of the Assembly, and Richard Baxter soon after the Assembly are all consistent with Calvin and Beza and the Genevan tradition in emphasizing adultery as the essential cause for divorce.
278
POSITION PAPERS
2. This same Puritan tradition also saw that under certain circumstances desertion could be a grounds for divorce, and physical abuse could be the basis of a desertion, the spouse guilty of the abuse being reputed as the deserter even though the other one may have departed. Before such a situation could be the grounds for a divorce, however, a sufficient time would have to expire for the efforts of both church and civil magistrate to seek to achieve a reconciliation.
What do such findings indicate for our contemporary setting? First of all, in the Reformation era settings of Geneva, Scotland, and England the civil magistrate could be expected, to a greater degree than in late-20th-century America, to be mindful of and respectful toward Scriptural principles. With regard to a matter like divorce, while we must be respectful toward the secular courts, we cannot rely on contemporary judicial principles to determine what is right.
Secondly, this means that we must rely even more than did the Reformation era, on the constructive discipline of the church. When physical abuse is occurring in a marriage, the church must deal with a situation which, as the Puritans saw, is contrary to God’s purpose for marriage. A temporary separation may be necessary for safety, which the church may need to facilitate, and the abusing partner should be disciplined, with helpful counsel but eventually to the point of excommunication if there is no repentance in deed as well as in word. The situation is complicated in our cultural setting when the marriage partner is not a member of a church, or is a member of some other church; nevertheless, discipline must be attempted. Only after a suitable length of time and a sufficient process of church discipline should a divorce be granted for such a desertion of one’s marriage partner and the marriage covenant. (This is essentially the conclusion reached by David D. Prescott in The Problem of Wife Abuse: Wife Abuse and Pastoral Counseling, Westminster Theological Seminary D.Min. project, 1991; cf. pp. 212-221 on “Divorce: Is It a Possibility?”)
In its understanding of the Bible’s teaching on divorce as “nothing but adultery or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage,” the Westminster Assembly was seeking to steer the Scriptural path between two demonstrable extremes and in the process uphold God's high ideal for marriage. On the one hand, this ruled out the Roman Catholic concept of no divorce, allowing divorce for adultery and under certain circumstances desertion. On the other hand, it ruled out divorce for incompatibility as some such as Milton were advocating. Physical abuse of a spouse was seen as contrary to the biblical purpose for marriage and would thus be grounds for church discipline and could, if it led to prolonged separation without remedy, become a cause for dissolution of a marriage. Such circumstantial details can be handled only by a body of elders cognizant of and close to the situation. Whereas proven adultery would be readily acknowledged as grounds for a divorce, desertion on the basis of physical abuse as a cause for dissolution of a marriage should be determined from the circumstances by the local session or in the case of a minister by the presbytery.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Regarding the PCA study paper,

Yes, I think they got it right in terms of Scripture, and the the Westminster doctrinal summary.
1. To a direct question of whether physical abuse could be a grounds for divorce, the Puritan tradition informing the Westminster Assembly would have answered, No, not per se or by itself.
Allowing that after an extended time, after deliberate attempts toward reconciliation with church and/or magistrate involved, it might become desertion, owing to the fact that physical separation was required for self defense.
however, a sufficient time would have to expire for the efforts of both church and civil magistrate to seek to achieve a reconciliation.
Difficult, and painful, but hopefully this will help others discern biblical truth in situations that can be greatly clouded by sin, emotion, and self interest.

One final thought,

It's not clear at all if these were the grounds in the fact pattern described above, and it's not the intent to even evaluate that specific situation.

But it is worth noting how very rare it is in our day that believers are willing to suffer through the circumstances to follow God's mandates.

We see the broad road is to declare an unbiblical ground (e.g. irreconcilable differences), determined without accountability to anyone outside themselves, and without determination to do the hard, even impossible work our Lord calls us to...

Loving even our enemies.

Loving our neighbor as ourselves.

If that doesn't begin with our spouse, even when they are unlovable, and if it does not begin with a love of God to keep vows made to Him, it does not begin anywhere.

I think that was the context for the Puritans, and that of Scripture.
 

schwarzeneggerchia

Puritan Board Freshman
Divorce is a humanistic option. Moses (not God) permitted divorce on the grounds of infidelity because the hearts of the people were hard. Divorce is a non-negotiable because God clearly says "I hate Divorce". A theocratic covenantal relationship does not allow it.
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Divorce is a humanistic option. Moses (not God) permitted divorce on the grounds of infidelity because the hearts of the people were hard. Divorce is a non-negotiable because God clearly says "I hate Divorce". A theocratic covenantal relationship does not allow it.
While I can understand the sentiments, marriage is not a theocratic covenant relationship- it's not quite that.

And while God hates it, in a dispositive way, it is in very narrow circumstances permitted. It is never commanded, but is permitted, within the greater contexts of love and reconciliation. Likely, it is to prevent undue hardship upon an innocent spouse.

E.g.
Matthew 19

9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.
 
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TexanRose

Puritan Board Sophomore
Is it acceptable for an aggrieved spouse to (mis)represent to the world "irreconcilable differences" as grounds in order to make the proceedings more convenient for them? (not saying that was grounds here, but what were the grounds alleged?)
Scott,

It seems that you are saying that one should only file for divorce with Biblical grounds (adultery or desertion) officially stated as the grounds for divorce. However, in many states, this would not be an option. In many states, the standard is a no-fault divorce ("irreconcilable differences" or "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage") and you can only file for an at-fault divorce if your spouse has been imprisoned, is certifiably insane, has abandoned you, etc.

So in those states, one might have solid Biblical grounds for divorce (i.e. unrepentant adultery) but still be forced to file for a "no-fault" divorce if the guilty spouse has not also, say, committed a felony.

Of course, the Christian spouse filing for a no-fault divorce in those states would presumably seek accountability from church authorities, who would understand that the divorce was not, in fact, "no-fault."
 

Scott1

Puritanboard Commissioner
Is it acceptable for an aggrieved spouse to (mis)represent to the world "irreconcilable differences" as grounds in order to make the proceedings more convenient for them? (not saying that was grounds here, but what were the grounds alleged?)
Scott,

It seems that you are saying that one should only file for divorce with Biblical grounds (adultery or desertion) officially stated as the grounds for divorce. However, in many states, this would not be an option. In many states, the standard is a no-fault divorce ("irreconcilable differences" or "irretrievable breakdown of the marriage") and you can only file for an at-fault divorce if your spouse has been imprisoned, is certifiably insane, has abandoned you, etc.

So in those states, one might have solid Biblical grounds for divorce (i.e. unrepentant adultery) but still be forced to file for a "no-fault" divorce if the guilty spouse has not also, say, committed a felony.

Of course, the Christian spouse filing for a no-fault divorce in those states would presumably seek accountability from church authorities, who would understand that the divorce was not, in fact, "no-fault."
My, how legal grounds have changed in one generation!

All the states except Nevada had very narrow grounds that had to be proven for dissolution to be granted. This was not long ago. As recently as the 1980's some states still required grounds.

I'm not sure of the status in every state now.

But Scripture would require a declaration of the biblical grounds, combined with some accountability from the church for a believer.

It may be quicker, easier and cheaper perhaps to claim a nonbiblical ground- but that is not acceptable (to misrepresent it before the world) nor to do it ought out of mere personal convenience. The thinking is, take the easy route, because to prove or allege the other would cost more, or complicate matters. While that is a common rationalization, it is not acceptable before God.

---------- Post added at 09:34 PM ---------- Previous post was at 09:23 PM ----------

I'm aware of one situation where the spouse forced it on him through the courts.

He stood in the Court, told his attorneys, communicated to his spouse and his attorney he would not accept it, but they forced it, from a "this world" legal standard. It was clear to all, though it was painful and humiliating, and probably delayed the stress.

But this man's conscience was clear.

Remember, just because a court says something does not mean it is so in God's eyes.

Soon, we will have homosexual fornication forced on the states as a recognized basis for "marriage" in the imaginations of political leaders. But that does not make it so, any more than two people who get a court to grant something that God does not recognize as grounds.

The painful and difficult fact is that unbiblical grounds leaves the guilty party under all sorts of chastisement- violating vows, committing adultery in future re-marriage, and sins related to it by dating toward it.

This is wreaking great havoc in our country, and God's people are often following right along with this rebellious way to live their lives. It is sapping the energy and resources out of many churches, and messing up the next generation to not have the benefit of a normal two parent home.

In the above situation, in the end, a long chain of redemption began, with lots of consequences to suffer through.

God allowed us all to see Him take the former spouse (she died), the other spouse remained ready and willing to reconcile, denied himself even dating.

God, after many, many years brought him a wonderful spouse (after the early one had died), and the process of restoring what the locust has stolen is marvelous to behold.

Very few of God's people seem willing to suffer to do what is right- they want is easy, quick, cheap and least painful, and they do not want accountability for their actions, or to bear the often lifelong consequences for their actions. They want immediate relief first and foremost, and this brings God's chastisement on the lives of many. The church spends a lot of remedial time on dealing with the fallout from these patterns.

Our Lord's commands on this are clear, and like vows made in His name, we violate them at our own peril.

Matthew 19

4And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female,

5And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?

6Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder.

7They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away?

8He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

9And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.

10His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with his wife, it is not good to marry.

11But he said unto them, All men cannot receive this saying, save they to whom it is given.
 

William

Puritan Board Freshman
This doesn't exactly answer your question, but I've addressed the question of divorce from Jesus' perspective. I believe Jesus tends to redirect these kinds of questions to focus on a commitment to marriage. We tend to focus on the exceptions. He focuses on God's rule! Here's a link to a brief video: Pharisees: “Divorce?” Jesus: “Marriage!”
 
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