Monday, March 02, 2009

Review of: Divorce & Remarriage: a permanence view

I just finished reading Divorce & Remarriage: a permanence view by the elders of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City. This book takes a look at the view of divorce that holds there are no allowed exceptions for divorce and there is no remarriage if a divorce does take place, until a spouse dies, thus the permanence view.

The first part of this book deals with the biblical foundation for the permanence view. The second part of the book looks at various real life situations and how the permanence view works itself out in the church and family life.

I came to this book holding what is probably the most popular view among conservative evangelicals and that is that there are two exceptions that allow for divorce. Along with this it is commonly held that remarriage is allowed if a divorce was within the bounds of the two exceptions. While I have held this view and was greatly influenced by a number of well-known evangelical writers I have had concerns with how to reconcile this with various scriptures. Such issues I struggled with were that God says He hates divorce (Mal 2:16) as well as that even in the passage that mentions the exception clause (Matt 19) Jesus seemed to be saying that divorce was unacceptable and not allowed.

Well this book deals with the exception clause in a manner that made great sense. Mainly that we have for too long taken the minimal amount of speaking on an exception and used it to define the greater evidence for no exception. We should instead seek to define Jesus comments on an expectation for “divorce” by His claims, even in the same chapter, to marriage being for life and not to be separated. The authors’ explanation of how the exception is not dealing with marriage but is dealing with betrothal makes great sense of the text and is most consistent with the rest of scripture.

The book also does a very good job in part 2 of showing how this view on marriage is dealt with in a number of real life scenarios. The crux of the matter is that all too often divorce seems like the easy way but it is not what it appears to be. God knows best and that best is for marriage to be permanent.

I would encourage you to read this book. If you have a view contrary to its view it will challenge you. If you already hold to the “permanence view” I think this book may help you better frame your understanding of how to explain this view. For sure the second part of the book is useful to be able to have ideas of how to handle various situations.

I can truly say that this book has helped solidify what I had previously not been too sure of, thus my view before reading this book is not what it was. In our current day and age it is too easy to take a view of marriage, the exception and remarriage view, which unwittingly may even add to the divorce rate within the church. As a pastor I need to have this area figured out well before it is needed. Not necessarily just for dealing with divorce but more so with remarriage. Many that even hold the exception view will be firm that this is to only be a last resort but when it comes to remarriage we often become more lax.

So gain read this book and let scripture speak to the situation and do not let current cultural norms drive your understanding of the issue. The church today, by some statistics, has a divorce rate similar to the worlds and much of this stems from a church that in an effort to be culturally relevant has become subsumed by the culture. We need to let scripture dictate our views on marriage and I think the elders of CFKC have done a good job of this.

Added 6/10/10: In that I find it important to know, whenever possible, an author's presuppositions/hermeneutic I have recently found that Jim Elliff holds to New Covenant Theology. I thought it important to let others know of this and while the conclusions the book makes may be the same without his NCT presuppositions I will be taking another look at the text see if this is so.

Even though I presently hold to the “permanence view” spoken of in the book this is definitely an area I am not as assure of as others. Since I do not desire to put more restrictions on individuals than God does I plan on spending more time in this area of doctrine.

Since reading this book I have also listened to a sermon By Voddie Baucham on this subject that you can listen to or download here: The Permanence View of Marriage


Charley said...

Hey Tony,

John Piper addressed this very issue (with the same conclusion) in two sermons during the summer of 2007. He works hard to address what appears to be acceptance of divorce in particular situations.

The two sermons (for reading, or for download) are HERE and HERE.

Personally, I agree with him and believe that one shouldn't pursue or go willingly into a divorce. There are situations where separation is appropriate, but if divorce is off the table, the offending party isn't released to go enjoy him/herself while leaving the offended party to struggle.



Scott M. Head said...

We recently (last year) struggled through this very issue, landing on this position after searching the scriptures and laboring over the Word. Thanks for the review, I believe I will get a copy to look over and share with my fellow elders.

Rev said...

I can honestly say that I have felt the conservative Evangelical stance on this is soft as well. My impression was that it is too easy to see people as victims and squeeze them into of of the exception clauses.

So let me get this straight. Is the Perminance view saying that there is no real exception clause? And that the two so-called exception clauses are for betrothal and not marriage?

That's interesting. I never thought to consider that.

Tony said...

Dave: Yes the view in the book is that the exception clasue relates to betrothal. I had not heard this before but it does make sense of the other places that it would appear there are no exceptions.

Charley: Thanks for the links. I think I may have heard Piper speak on this before but sometimes it is good to see such things in writing as it is easier to look over the text and re-read what was said.

Scott: It is a worthwile book to read as it was very helpful, at lest it was tome.

Glenn Leatherman said...

Howdy Tony,

I just got my copy of this book and am excited to read it. Thanks so much for your review as well. As you know I came to a strong confidence in this position on marriage and divorse.

You may want to also see the perminance of marriage discussed in Piper's book on Marriage - "This Momentary Marriage." You can read this book online at (see the last couple of chapters).

Tony said...

Hi Glenn;

It is a good book. I have in the past wanted to go this way but did not want to add more restrictions than scripture does and the exception clauses always go in the way. I am sure others have explained it to me adequately but for some reason this book sealed my understanding.

Enjoy the book, even though the subject matter in reality is sobering.

I will have to check out Piper’s book

Cheryl said...

I recommend "The Trojan Horse Within the Church" - by Dr. Joseph Webb. A great study of the marriage & divorce.

Another great source of study is

Why I Repented of a marriage God Called Adulterous

Esther said...

Thank you for your protection of marriage.
It is not clear where you stand.
What about a spouse who commits a sin for which he should get the death penalty?
A man in bed with the midwife after his wife births a child. She sees them in the act and divorced him to protect her girls. She remained single till he was in his old age then remarried to provide for him, but he lived in a cottage out back.
God hates divorce, yet he hates adultery too.

Tony said...

Hi Esther:

Thanks for stopping by. My position on divorce is that scripture does not allow for it. While many would see two exception clauses with regards to divorce I am not convinced by scripture those apply to marriage, but instead apply to the betrothal period. With regards to remarriage I would say that scripture reveals that remarriage is not allowed while the spouse is still living but after their death remarriage is allowed as the “one flesh” bond is broken by death.

As far as your example, that is where things always get harder. In the case given I would think separation may have been called for rather than divorce if reconciliation could not be made. I would say that remarriage to the previous spouse is allowed provided the husband had not divorced and still had a living spouse. If neither had been remarried the “one flesh” union had really not been broken even if there was a divorce so remarriage would seem permissible.

I hope I was clear. I have not been faced with many of these situations so when scenarios present themselves they often take much prayer and study. I have to always work from God’s word and then apply that to the situation. From our finite position we may think things seem wrong or hard but God’s word is perfect so we need to go by it. I think that God’s position is often more cut and dried than we think. It is the working out of His commands in our sinful world that are difficult. Thankfully God forgives where we go astray.

I also agree that God hates divorce and adultery. The problem is that the church today has been so lax on both that they have become common place. While we may expect the world to deny God’s standards the church is not to act as the world does but unfortunately they have.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tony,

I hold what I consider the permanence view, but it differs greatly from Mr. Piper's. I personally do not believe remarriage breaks the "one flesh" bond any more than adultery within a marriage does. Both are labelled as adultery to Jesus--no differentiation. Mr. Piper teaches that those who enter into remarriage should stay in those marriages. To me, that is such a confusing stance. We should STAY in adultery, though in God's eyes we are bound to our first spouses? The confusing thing is he teaches that NOTHING but death severs the original marriage bond. Then he teaches that remarital adultery severs it for ONE party(the one who gets remarried). He then teaches the one who has not yet remarried has to stay unmarried and honor the covenant they entered into. Either for him, the original marriage covenant HAS been dissolved by a remarriage to the first one remarried, or he truly is teaching polygamy........but only for the one who is first guilty.

Either a marriage IS until death and ALL other relationships are sin outside of that marriage, or the marriage covenant CAN be dissolved. I take the stance that NOTHING separates what has been joined by God----except death. Adulterous remarriages need to be forsaken if repentance is genuine. Just my two. Blessings......

Anonymous said...

I’m currently going through a divorce so this hits close to home.

After five years of marriage (the last 2 ½ of which my wife was being unfaithful) she filed for divorce and is planning on getting back together with one of the guys she cheated with.

I have tried for years to save this marriage, I’ve prayed endlessly and done everything I possibly could to reconcile our relationship. Nevertheless that has not mattered to her and in a few days she will be gone.

This book and people who promote such unbiblical doctrines apparently have no concept of some peoples real lives.

A God who would allow all this to occur, and then insist that despite her infidelity and leaving me we’re still married and that I’m committing adultery if someday down the road I find someone who cares about me the way I’ve cared for my wife… well that would be a cruel and vindictive God, and is not what the God I follow is like.

Tony said...

I think it is a mistake to think that those that hold to the “permanence” view of divorce do not care about others feelings or situations. But what is of greater concern is to delve into God’s word and see what it says, even if it seems to our finite minds as difficult. It is wrong to call something unbiblical because it does not fit ones desired view of God.

If God was only concerned about comfort and happiness why would He even call anyone to Himself since we continually as His people deny Him and disobey Him. Yet He does not leave us because of our unfaithfulness if we are truly His.

At the end of the day we are not called to look for the God we want to worship but to find the only God that is worthy of worship, as revealed in His word. We are called to follow His commands, also revealed in His word, even if they are, from our perspective, difficult.

So, while I sympathize with your situation ones situation cannot dictate ones interpretation of scripture. Again we are to seek the God as revealed in scripture and not for the a god that fits our desires of what we want God to be. I would advise you read the book that was reviewed and then argue and struggle with the texts used as it is with scripture that the understanding of divorce and remarriage has to begin and end.

Anonymous said...

I take exception to the claim that the permanence view represents a higher view of marriage than does the view that adultery is an exception. That is rhetoric that only manipulates the debate.

As for the betrothal view, I have read all of the leading proponents of it and find it to be a skillful importation of something into the text that is not there. I do, however, appreciate any desire to stem the ungodly proliferation of divorce. I do not think, however, that this is the proper approach and I do not think that it will have a meaningful impact on the number of unbiblical divorces in the church.

Tony said...

Dear Anonymous;

I am not sure who has claimed that the permanence view represents a higher view of marriage, if the authors did I do not remember this and I am certain I did not intend this, but it does represent a different view from the “exception” view. So I do not see any manipulation here.

While you may disagree with the betrothal view that does not make it incorrect. It is consistent with basic hermeneutics to look at a text as it relates to other texts and see how they can all exist in harmony. I would suggest you read the books explanation of it as the idea of betrothal is brought in as an explanation of how to have the texts in question harmonize.

I believe the thoughts of the authors of this book is to first be faithful to God’s word and then allow that impact the church. We are not to interpret scripture so as to have impact but to correctly interpreted scripture which will have the impact God desires.

The disagreements you have here should be placed before the authors as they may better answer your questions as they have wrestled with this not only from a authorial perspective but as they are all pastors they have dealt with this from a pastoral perspective as well.

Terry said...

The thing that surprises me about this issue is how much we look at the issue of divorce for Elder Qualification, but do not truly consider the other qualifications. So, I assume all of the elders out there are perfect in these areas?

I know as a man, the one qualificaiton of "husband of one wife is easiest to do versus the other commands of the Elder. So what about major discussions on those. What about the man who has a pride issue? Do you disqualify him? Oh, what if he repents? Is he now qualified?

I think the divorce issue is too easily used for disqualification. To be open, I am divorced and I feel the desire to serve God as a leader. I can teach a Sunday School class (a small church), but I cannot get ordained? Any hypocrisy? I am a believer in the sufficiency of all scripture and interpretation and use of all God's promises and qualifications. I know God hates divorce, but he also hates, pride, anger, greed, etc. So how do you justify one sin over the others? Please someone explain.

Tony said...

Terry: I do not deny that the divorce issue is a difficult one and I also agree that all too often people overlook many issues in the life of a prospective elder that need to be addressed. We should look at all the qualifications that God’s word gives with regards to who is qualified to be an elder. In truth those qualifications are qualities that scripture requires of more than just elders, except for being able to teach.

The requirements given do not speak of perfection and yes it is much easier to deal with the marriage issue as the results are much easier to see versus dealing with pride, lust and such which can be hidden, for a time. However, because we as a church do not deal with the other character traits required of elders does not mean we should throw out the marriage/elder issue. It instead means we need to do a better job of dealing with the other areas.

As far as repentance and those other areas I assume, and that is always dangerous, you are equating repentance on divorce and if one can repent of pride and then be an elder then repentance on divorce should settle the issue. Repentance is what God requires us for all sin but repentance does not necessarily mean there are no consequences. What makes divorce such an issue is the consequences stay before us especially if one has been remarried. So repentance of pride and many other traits you can think of may not carry with it the same God imposed repercussions, as it relates to ministry, as divorce does. It is God that brings up the issue as it relates to ministry so we have to take that seriously.

As far as the hypocrisy you may be correct but I do not think that we are to justify any one sin over another but need to see how God deals with each and the repercussions of each. The issue is always an emotional issue and often that is because of a lack of correct teaching on it for far too long. I have been a believer for 20+ years and have never heard the issue dealt with in more than a cursory way and this is having been in “conservative” churches.

I would remind you that even if you cannot be an elder that does not mean you cannot serve. But most importantly God does forgive as divorce is not the unpardonable sin; sadly the church does seem to have made it so. Again, there may be restrictions God places on those who are divorced as far as how one may serve but you can still serve.

Terry said...

I do not disagree that there are consequences to any sin. And I am more than content in my faith in God to serve Him where He wants me. I am just amazed at how much "press" the marriage requirement gets versus the others. Since you have been a believer for many years and have served within "conservative" churches, you know that divorced people regardless if the reason is biblical or not are viewed as committing the unpardonable sin. My divorce was the hardest thing I have ever had to endure. I am still living the consequences personally every day and then I get online and see the venom (not yours or this blogs) that is written about people who endure this issue and I wonder... What about Grace? What about Mercy? Not just for serving, but being accepted as one who loves the Lord with all of his heart, soul, mind and strength.

I view many of the articles that have been written on the Internet are by people who are not exhibiting the leadership qualities of 1 Timothy or Titus. Divorce is just a means of deflecting attention off of their pet sins. Yes this is an emotional issue, but for me I get emotional because people speak of divorce in an "objective" manner and forget that there are people behind the issues they are discussing. I bet if their sin of choice was being discussed they would be emotional too.

Tony said...

Terry: I agree that many times people do treat divorce as the unpardonable sin. The fine line to tread is to preach about God’s view on divorce and then also show grace to those that have undergone divorce. Unfortunately the church for too long as derided divorce but has been at fault for not teaching about it prior to divorce happening. They have more been in a reactive state than a preventative state and this leads to where we are today. You are also correct that the church tends to avoid those sins it can hide and trades them for the ones that are out in the open but more often than not it is the hidden sin that leads to the more outward ones.

I think that we ought ot be able to speak of divorce in an objective manner as it relates to the text of scripture and at the same time deal with people that have undergone divorce in love. Doing this does not mean we accept divorce but realize that divorce is not unpardonable and that people will live with the consequences of their sin, as did David, but can still be used by God in the context of His word and His church.

I never speak on this subject lightly as I know it is difficult and painful but it needs to be dealt with biblically and with grace and I pray that I have done that here.

Terry said...

Tony, I appreciate your views on this matter. I want you to understand that I know and have come to accept the consequence of my divorce. If it were not for God's grace, I would be in a constant state of depression and shame because of my actions, but praise be to God for his love and mercy!

I thank you that you understand not only the biblical text behind divorce, but are willing to love and accept those of us who have to endure the consequence of our sin as you and others have to endure the consequences of your sins.

I agree with your position that the church needs to be upfront in the prevention of divorce. I fear that the church today is more concerned with its "building" of its own Kingdoms then they are of walking alongside people in struggles — that takes time and it takes effort. We have relegated that to just those in "full-time" ministry and have forsaken the call of all believers to personal ministry. I know God has called me to a personal ministry and I am working to prepare myself for the people he places in my life. May God richly bless you my brother and may you and your family have a Blessed Christmas!

Christopher McNicol said...

There is other material very similar to John Piper's, which I think some of you will also find very helpful; especially in the context of the exception clauses. This material comes from the New Creation Teaching Ministry here in Australia. A short article which is very useful is by Rev Colin Jones. It can be found at:

Additionally, the Rev Dr Geoffrey Bingham's Book "The Profound Mystery" is a more comprehensive dealing of this same topic. The entire book is available on line at:

Another book which you may also find helpful in addition to the above is David J Engelsma's book "Marriage - The Mystery of Christ & the Church" Published by the Reformed Free Publishing Association. This book does not deal with the exception clauses. But it is a powerful book, which combines theology, history, together with an analysis of the tremendous social costs of contemporary abandonment to our Lord's teaching within so much of the Church on this issue.

Tony said...

Christopher: Thanks for the toher resources.


Anonymous said...

Forgive me if this may have been covered here, but I have been studying and searching on this issue for months; I do have to raise the question from a proponent of this view.

I go back and forth between seeing that repentance means undoing the second marriage to return to the first, and seeing that the second marriage requires being kept as "valid." The problem with this position, as I see it, is that this would imply the first relationship is broken, "put asunder" means it is able to be broken - and yet the permanence view argues it cannot be broken, correct?

It seems to me the thought is that it is only an act of adultery, not a constant state of adultery, correct?

Tony said...

I would have to admit that this is one issue that is difficult but for me I have not been able to throw out what would seems clear teaching for an aspect I do not fully understand. Voddie Baucham in speaking on the Permanence View deals with the women Jesus talks to who has had many husbands to deal with this issue in John 4:17-18 : .

Anonymous said...

I don't think he deals with it well at all. If I understand him correctly, he sees Jesus talking to the woman at the well and says "well said, for you have had 5 husbands..." and takes this to mean that because Jesus called them husbands, he is condoning the appropriateness of her staying in the second, or the third, or the fourths... I don't think we need to read this into the passage at all. All it really HAS to be saying is that Jesus acknowledged she was married 5 times. It doesn't HAVE to be implying that each marriage was considered legitimate in GOD'S eyes. It seems a weak argument to me. If God says it's adultery, how is it right to stay in it?

Tony said...

Again I struggle with the issue of what to do with those that are remarried within the context of what I see as the biblical teaching of marriage and divorce in the permanence view. The issue is that sin is messy and what do you do with those that have not been taught the permanence view and are remarried. Do you nullify past marriages as the Roman Catholic Church has done with marriages it sees as wrong or do you see the forgiveness of God in the matter and seek to move on in the truth.

As far as Voddie’s sermon I agree he makes some assumptions but I would say, and I cannot really speak for him, that his assumption may be that Jesus says she “had” 5 husbands not that she “has had one” husband and 4 adulterous affairs since he seems to speak of her current partner was not her husband\ and thus it was illicit. Of course we are dealing with what Jesus could have said and that can be a slippery place to go.

At the end of the day I am still working through this aspect of this view of marriage and divorce but, again, find it hard to throw out the entire view simply because I do not understand all its implications in this particular situation. Again sin makes things difficult and we need to work though years of sloppy teaching on marriage.

Anonymous said...

I do appreciate your honesty. So you know the spirit of where I come from on the issue, you should know that before I married, I was a "no divorce, no remarriage" kind of guy. While I was VERY happily married, I was confronted by a friend with Jay Adam's book, "Divorce and Remarriage."

I had to change my view. Some years later, my marriage came undone, and I went back and revisited the issue, wanting to make sure I was free to remarry.

Now that I am in a remarried situation, I find myself wishing I could wind back the clock, but I have learned to go slowly and carefully on these things, because I do not want to move on what I want, but on what God wants.

A few months ago, a thought occurred to me (don't know if it was from the Lord, or if it was just my own thinking) but it occurred to me that it sure would have been a bummer if you were in a tough marriage in Mark's or Luke's church rather than Matthew, because Matthew's followers had an exception for adultery; the other ones didn't.

That started me looking at the whole issue. The first thing I saw was that if you blend the reasons together for allowing divorce and remarriage, you have Paul and Matthew contradicting each other, and Matthew contradicting Mark and Luke.

The middle position seems the worst here - either we blend the scriptures and ultimately come up with the idea that many things can violate the covenant, or we come to the conclusion that it can't be broken, and therefore it is not an act of adultery, but a state of adultery. This, I think, is where Voddie seems to make a quantum leap in that sermon, without good logic or scripture to back it up.

Thank you, though, for your honesty. I, too, am struggling with it, and it will have big ramifications for my situation no matter how it comes out. I just want to do what God wants. It is how this part of it seems to be not handled properly from the permanence camp that has me leaning more toward the idea that it IS a STATE of adultery, and must be repented of.

What a mess. And thanks, also, though, for your willingness to say hard things that need to be said.

Anonymous said...

For what it's worth, I've posted a blog myself, and I've put up a response to Voddie Baucham's sermon on the permanence view.

your thoughts are welcome there, too.


Nikke said...


I have been struggling lately, not only with marriage and divorce, but in my faith.

I have been known as a Christian all my 29 years. I have had my good and bad times. I got baptized when I was about 21. I got married when I was 22 to a man who at the time called himself a Christian. This man was my worst nightmare. Not only did he verbally (foul language) abuse me, but also mentally (putting me down, comparing me to ex-girlfriends,committed adultery and caused me to get in trouble with the law. I was charged for a crime because he was using my name to conduct illegal business.

I stuck by him all this time, though he spent all day playing poker online with no job. He adopted weird ideas about the universe being God and giving you what you want by the power of positive thinking and energy. Then he started with the drugs again. He used them before our marriage and now he was using again, in our house where our children slept.
I found out he was starting to conduct business in my name again. I just couldn't bear living through what I already had. I nearly lost my kids before, and almost went to prison!

My pastor died. After he did, I found out many things about him--his life, that contradict all his teachings. The person that I considered to be an authority of my religion well, lied. Now I wonder if the things he taught were even right. Furthermore, I am starting to have doubts about Christianity.

I am divorcing my husband. I believe it is acceptable in the eyes of GOD. What I fear, is being single forever. I desire not the lust and passion of a man, but rather companionship, security, protection. Someone to hug and enjoy time with. I am all alone, my mother is my only family besides my kids. If she dies, I am all alone. I already miss the security of having a male figure around, but going back to my husband is not an option.

What can I do? How do I cope with the struggles I have, and of losing faith. Not only that, but being alone? I am so lost.

Tony said...


I have prayed for your situation.

One place I always start is God’s word as our situations and circumstances can often cloud our understanding of His word and our relationship with Him. While we are not to ignore our circumstances and experiences they are to be interpreted by God’s word and not the other way around. For me that brings great hope in that, while often difficult, I can always turn to the word of God and know it does not change.

That all said I would not from my understanding of scripture say divorce is ever allowed but that does not mean one may not be separated (1 Cor 7:10-11) due any number of issues. Where so many problems begin is in not being part of a committed body of believers that provide support in such situations as you are in. When one has this support one can run the race and finish the course as God desires. Hebrews 10:24 speaks to how we are to each build one another for the race before us and Hebrews 12:12-13 alludes to helping those that struggle to also finish. So, again biblical community is essential to the race God has before us as His children.

I would encourage you to find a church that is grounded in God’s word and truly has biblical community. Not simply a community that pats one on the back but one that will be integral in your sanctification.

As far as questioning ones faith I think there are times we may all do this. I am always encouraged with reading 1 John in that it has us look at the content of all of our lives so that as we look at it from more than a momentary perspective we can then see if God is indeed working. 1 John is grounded in the fact that God does change his people and it is that consistent change over time that is to encourage and assure us. At the end of the day our assurance comes from the promises of God who calls us and again that is what 1 John deals with.

With regards to your pastor I would move from there and spend time in God’s word and, again, find a good church in your area that is strong in teaching from scripture as that is what will sustain one under duress. This along with a biblical community is what you need at a time like this. Being a believer does not negate suffering but knowing we are a child of God brings hope in the midst of suffering.

One place I would go to search for a church is Sermon Audio ( ) as many of the churches there are strong in teaching. I obviously cannot speak for them personally but it is a good place to start as it not only has great teaching you can listen to it has a church finder as well so as to try and find a church in your area.

God has not created us to travel the road of sanctification alone so try and find a good church to grow with. I pray you will seek His face and His way and not let the circumstances that may seem overwhelming to dictate what you do. If you are not sure you really know God then spend time in His word and with His people and listen to Him. If you are one of His children you will be sanctified. Yes sin may come in but the content of life will be one of sanctification.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the view advocated by this book is that it is an attempt to be more righteous than God. The Bible clearly allows for two exceptions. This is nothing but gross Phariseeism that turns marriage from something gracious to a burden no one can carry. It denies the mercy of God to those who are victims of terrible sin with no hope of ever enjoying the beauty of marriage again to someone truly godly. This book does to marriage Wagtail the Pharisees did to the Sabbath day.

Neal Doster said...

Tony says "The authors’ explanation of how the exception is not dealing with marriage but is dealing with betrothal makes great sense of the text and is most consistent with the rest of scripture"

This supposition is referred to as the “betrothal or espousal theory” and the vast majority of the permanence view advocates teach it. They use Joseph’s dilemma with Mary’s pregnancy (Matthew 1:18-20) as an example of the exception clause. Having rejected the belief that infidelity after marriage is biblical grounds for divorce these teachers set forth the supposition that fornication is premarital and adultery is marital. By defining these words thus they precede to build a case that divorce was allowed before marriage but not afterwards.
This illustrates how the permanence view advocates alter a text. By adding their own convictions (eisegesis ) it makes their view convincing. The premise that “porneia” (fornication) is premarital and adultery is marital is more a sleight of words than uniformly true. That’s why it’s important to define these words from a comprehensive perspective of scripture. What they fail to see or acknowledge is, that in Jewish biblical culture, premarital fornication while betrothed itself would be an act of adultery. What’s important to see here is that the Bible doesn’t differentiate between these two categories of infidelity in the same manner as these men are doing. Both these acts of infidelity resulted in the same retribution, same recourse in the Old Testament (Deut. 22:22-24). If this is true then what the permanence view teaches is not!
Their advocacy for premarital divorce on these grounds actually hurts their position and supports the proviso view that infidelity is so serious that, as in the bible, it warrants the same and severe recourse under both conditions. Deuteronomy 22:23,24 affirms that covenant obligation precedes the marriage. Fornication (with someone else) while betroth consequently would be adulterous. Fornication and adultery in this instance would refer to the same act. Therefore their ensuing defense, that God allowed divorce for fornication and not adultery is proven both a sleight of words and false.
The reader should note that there is no biblical grounds to solely link betrothal divorce with the exception clause whatsoever. The context in both references (Matt. 5:32, 19:9) is referring to marital divorce. There is no reason whatsoever to see fornication as anything other than it’s normal meaning of sexual immorality and as noted earlier, in this case it results in adultery. The only difference implied is, that one is the consequence of the other.
Compare Deut. 22:23,24 with verses 28,29 and ask what’s the difference there? Why the different retribution in verses 28,29? The obvious answer, there is no violation of the marriage covenant. Fornication in this instance did not result in adultery, adultery being the grounds for capital punishment. In verses 23,24 covenant obligation is violated even though the woman is not yet married. Fornication in this instance is adulterous.

Tony Konvalin said...

I cannot speak for all those that hold to the permanence view but of those I know and from what I can tell in reading the authors of the book reviewed they do not start with a view that rejects infidelity after marriage as biblical grounds for divorce. Most I have read and heard start with a question as to why the exception clause is not seen more and in asking that question as well as others and as knowing that God hates divorce end up where they do. Do some perform eisogesis, possibly, but from what I can tell not the authors I have read.

Do some scholarly men disagree, yes. Do I struggle with the arguments, yes again. But that does not mean the men who hold to the permanence view are performing a slight of hand. One could take a similar view in that case with those that put forth the exception clause as starting with the desire to deal with rampant divorce in the professing church and in doing so seek to make divorce more acceptable. I am not saying that most do this but there are some that do.

Bottom line we need to realize divorce is a serious thing and the professing church has taken it too lightly. I would even say that very few divorces among those professing to be believers would even fall into the “expectation clause” if one holds to that view.

Again as I said before I struggle with what is the correct answer because I have good friends that take opposing views but one thing we all agree on is that as mentioned above the professing church as a whole has taken divorce too lightly.

Neal Doster said...

I commend you for your high view of marriage. If any position on this issue doesn’t believe marriage should be permanent it wouldn’t be the Christian view. Divorce should burden everyone. The problem with the permanence view is not the idea of permanent marriage. The problem comes when dealing with corresponding issues like adultery, divorce, and remarriage. The confliction within the permanence view leaves people confused. You are not alone when you talk about struggling with the correct answer, because the permanence view introduces an enigma that the view itself can’t answer. These advocates can’t agree on what to counsel the divorced and remarried.
You write “they do not start with a view that rejects infidelity after marriage as biblical grounds for divorce” One of the three main predicates of their teaching is “Initiating a divorce is never lawful.” This demonstrates otherwise. Their whole view is based on these three predicates. In order not to leave room for an exception these predicates are stated in absolute form. This is where all permanence view advocates find agreement. But this is also what causes great consternation for the view. They argue among themselves what to instruct the remarried. They have bound themselves with the idea that a marriage can’t end, their main premise is “The one flesh union created in marriage is permanent until death,” so where does this leave the millions of established homes in regard to subsequent marriages?
This is the reason men who believe marriage should be permanent argue against the permanence view of marriage. They will not follow the unprecedented view of those within the permanence view who call for all those remarried after divorce to now divorce their present spouse and return to their first spouse. You will immediately object by saying these authors and others like Voddie Baucham and John Piper don’t advocate this extreme. Then explain to us how they can abandon their main premise when counseling the remarried to stay in their present marriage. If the first marriage can’t be broken, where does this leave the remarried? Polygamy? Can you explain how marriage can be both permanent and not permanent?
If we stay with the provisional recourse and the realities in scripture we have a path forward to resolve these dilemmas. Two good resources are found in John MacArthur and Jay Adams teachings as they are known for a more exegetical exposition of scripture.

Kathy Garrett said...

Have you all read or used an Interlinear Bible for study? I use a Hebrew/Greek to English translation. In Mark 10:12 the translation reads, " Whoever divorces his wife and marries another is in adultery with her."

Someone asked above about the one time act versus state of being. Something interesting is that adultery regarding marriage is sex with someoen other than your spouse. I think it is convenient to see remarriage as a one time act because humans seek to please one another. This seems to ignore what adultery means, though, regarding marriage.

Additionally, the betrothal view does not add to text. In the only book that has an "exception", the betrothal view is provided an example of with Joseph and Mary. Divorce during betrothal was well documented, and we know that betrothal was quite a serious agreement at one time.

The one flesh state brought about through marriage is a picture of Christ and His Bride. Will there be any way for Christ and His Bride to not be 'one' after marriage?

Kathy Garrett said...

Also, how would we counsel someone who is committing adultery?

I would advise someone to stop committing adultery. Because remarriage is adultery, the remarriage state needs to be forsaken.

While this may be difficult and people involved my have a lot to work out: family, children, housing, finances, this is small price to pay when we consider the cost Christ had to pay for our chance at salvation.

The Words of God do not indicate ease in living a life in agreement with His commandments; He offers us trials and persecution.

Do we somehow think that we can live His way and yet our own way at the same time? Is it acceptable to say His way is beyond our understanding and then only live His way when we understand why?

There are many that will not inherit the Kingdom of God. Of those are peope who are living in or have not repented from adutlery. Is it worth our fleshly, human desires to live and encourage others to live in a way that will keep them from His Kingdom though they enjoy life on earth?

The permanence view of marriage is God's view. Ths view does not appeal to our flesh. This view also, however, has no conundrums. It is actually quite simple when all of our emotions are removed.

Neal Doster said...

It is quite illuminating to perceive that Jesus was not talking to the Church or Christians when He commented on the issue of divorce and remarriage. He spoke to and while in the Old Testament theocratic system. This means His words had primary relevance to those He was addressing. This means His words were relevant to what was occurring and had been occurring for hundreds of years. This means we should seek to understand it’s relevance to the Jewish Nation before we make application to the Church.

Everyone who studies the MDR debate seems to initially think that remarriage is being forbidden. It seems that we all want to fix the problems divorce creates. For the permanence view it means adding abrogation to Jesus’ teachings. This brings credence (falsely) to the idea that Jesus was not merely exposing tradition for what it caused, but also meant to repeal God’s tolerance for remarriage.

Any Christian tradition that keeps people out of marriage, or worse calls for homes to be broken up to remedy the ensuing adultery exceeds God‘s Word. To hear the testimonies of those who have left families or marriages “that God calls adultery” is heart wrenching. It should be of interest to everyone how God had responded to this type of adultery. This is the only precedent to understand God’s will for the divorced. The Patriarchal society that Jesus was addressing did not give women the final chose in the matter. Women were divorced and left without a provider. This state could have been what God insisted on in light of what remarriage causes. The fact is, He did allow them to remarry. He did not impose on them the burden of someone else’s chose. He did not make them culpable for the ensuing adultery, as Jesus reveals the former husband was. These are the things Jesus was pointing out to the Pharisees. The sum of what Jesus taught was not about keeping people out of marriage, but conversely keeping them in it. For some to teach that Jesus’ purpose was to stop what His Father had allowed is ludicrous.

Jesus was not revealing new truth about divorce and remarriage, He was revealing the consequence of an age old problem caused by prematurely ending a marriage. He offers one solution, stop separating what God has join together. He does not fault the one who was the victim of a divorce. He does not castigate them for entering into companionship with another (remarriage). He does not tell them they must demonstrate repentance by divorcing their present spouse. He does not threaten them with hell. He does not instruct them to sacrifice the joys and pleasures of marriage. These addendums are the reason why those who believe marriage should be permanent argue against the permanence view of marriage.

Neal Doster said...

We can formulate logical answers/conclusions to carefully posed questions. Questions like, do you think God wants you to commit adultery? Or, you don’t think God wants you to live in adultery do you? These are legitimate question if the one who is to answer them understands the adultery being referred to. If they don’t, then the state of uncertainty is endless for those remarried or contemplating remarriage. There are many confused individuals that can testify to this quandary. The error of not differentiating between an “in marriage affair” adultery and the adultery that occurs in the next marriage creates the illusion that they are one and the same. If they were one and the same then they would have had the same retribution, they didn’t. The consequence of failing to differentiate here is why the permanence view exist and all the unique doctrine it posit.

I stand in the shadow of many of these godly men (permanence view teachers) and although I stand with them in their declaration of the sacredness of marriage, I cannot stand with them as they overturn God’s grace to the divorce and for some of them, over ruling His very Word. Do we as Christians want to make a doctrine that teaches all the Old Testament women who God allowed to remarry went to hell for the ensuing adultery caused by their former husband releasing them to marry another. Do we want to create that doctrine for now? Is God mutable, so that He wants self denial now, but not then? I’m of the persuasion that born again Christians do not move in and out of salvation, their sin debt has been paid for in it’s entirety. Heaven and hell is not determined by the state of being a sinner of any type, it is determined by a Holy God who justifies the unrighteous. God will chastise every son (daughter) whom He receives (for sin in their lives) but will in no wise cast him out.

The legal procedure that allowed a man to release his wife to another did not release him from moral culpability. While divorce prevents adultery within the first marriage, it doesn’t prevent it altogether. He caused his wife to violated the moral principle of fidelity (Romans 7:3) inherent in marriage resulting in adultery. Moral culpability is not circumvented by divorce as the Jewish men believed. They were guilty of causing adultery. In light of God’s creative design for marriage unfaithfulness cannot help but follow divorce and remarriage (provisos excluded). This fact was Jesus’ cut to the chase answer to the Pharisee’s question about divorce (Matt. 19). Be alert for those who add to God’s Word and oppose biblical precedents when they offer solutions for adultery. God’s grace has not changed.

Anonymous said...

I pastor a church . I am married to the only person I have ever Biblically known. I have no intention to ever divorce. Yet when I read scriptures concerning divorce in the old covenant I find that the priests have the obligation to free the innocent party from an adulterous situation. It is a death till you part marriage. Yet how can you hold everybody to theirs if you aren't willing to stone the guilty till they die relieving the guiltless fulfilling the vows. Are we breaking a greater covenant? PS I haven't stone anyone yet have you?

Neal Doster said...


Your comment seems to miss the point that divorce in the Old Testament was allowed for reasons that didn’t involve adultery. Thus marriage was not “a death do you part marriage.” This is what Jesus addressed when He spoke on the issue and is the reason why Christians have mixed feelings about remarriage. Remarriage outside of the death of a spouse causes intimacy to be share with another. Because God’s design for marriage is lifelong (Matthew 19:8), divorce violates that principle. Consequently the ensuing intimacy violates the principle of lifelong fidelity. The very thing that was to be exclusive until death. Jesus was revealing (as it has application to the Church) that if you violate the Christian vow of “keeping only unto each the other” adultery results. Thus the divorce and remarriage dilemma.

Neal Doster said...

In my earlier post (several years back) I didn’t differentiate between The Permanence View and those who hold to other Permanence beliefs. Sense the Elders of Christ Fellowship of Kansas City does not advocate “indissoluble marriage” nor the “divorce to repent” supposition, I feel that I should at lease say they should not be confused with those who do. My criticism was premature in regards to these two distinction.