Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Seriousness of the Sin of Remarriage after Divorce, part 9

This is a postscript to my article seriesThe Seriousness of the Sin of Remarriage after Divorce”.  After I wrote this series, I did some research on history of this issue.  I was particularly interested in the history of the issue in the Restoration Movement (or Stone-Campbell Movement) because I am a member of one of the congregations of the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ, which is one of the three groups of churches that sprung out of that movement.  Yet my congregation and every other one that I know of in the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ is an apostate congregation because they reject Jesus’ teaching on remarriage after divorce.  They don’t just allow adultery, but support it.

I had a feeling that, in the past, people took this issue very seriously and uncompromisingly, but I hadn’t seen any evidence to back it up.  Then I read an article on the history of this issue in the church, both generally and within the Restoration Movement.  The article is posted on a church of Christ (non-instrumental) website.  It would seem from the article that, though there were varying opinions within the Restoration Movement about the issue, some more and some less strict than mine, remarriage after divorce was generally regarded as adultery and anyone guilty of such was supposed to be put out of the church in accordance with I Corinthians 5.

I have also viewed some sermons and other materials from the church of Christ that seem to be favorable towards a literal, uncompromising interpretation of the passages on remarriage after divorce.  I don’t believe that there is anything wrong with using instruments in a church service, but I’d rather go without instruments than to be in a church where adultery is practiced within the four walls of the church and with the consent of the elders. 

But the other reason for this post is to examine one particular aspect of that I hadn’t really considered before.  Some in the Restoration Movement took a position which is even stricter than mine.  According to the article (referring to the “Disciples” branch of the Movement), “’If a person not yet a Christian divorces for other than adultery, remarries, and is then converted, can he enter the fellowship of the congregation?’ Except for two church spokesmen, the answer demanded that the current, and, in their opinion, unscriptural marriage be dissolved.

I do not agree with this opinion.  Even though such a marriage is obviously unscriptural, it shouldn’t be dissolved without some other reason and such a dissolution certainly shouldn’t be a precondition of church membership.  I can see two reasons why people may think that this is case.

      1.    Because in the passages in the Gospels, the Greek verb “commit” is in a “continuous action” tense. 
      2.    Because it is called adultery, it cannot be a real marriage.

My understanding of the Greek is that is the verb tense that is used sometimes indicates a continuous action, but not always.  Furthermore, even if the intended meaning is that adultery is continuously committed after the joining in (re)marriage, there is no indication in Scripture that dissolving such a union is the proper remedy in such a situation.  Nothing indicates that such action would put a stop to the adultery.  If this were the case, then, for example, Matthew 5:32b would instead read something like, “Whoever is married to a woman who was put away by another husband is committing adultery.” 

At the beginning of this series of articles I wrote, “I take all these passages at face value without exception.  I am absolutely not saying anything more or anything less about the issue than what the New Testament clearly teaches.”  Every passage of Scripture on this subject calls the sinful joining in marriage by the name “marriage”.  If these were not marriages at all, then God wouldn’t confuse us by calling it by that name, just as He would not call it by the name “adultery” if that were not also the case.  It may be counterintuitive that both are true of the same union, but if that is what God says about it, that is what I believe it to be.  One of the sayings in the early Restoration Movement was, “Call Bible things by Bible names.”  A corollary to the idea that these aren’t really marriages is that the remarried can or should rejoin their previous spouse, something which is condemned even by the Law of Moses, which is much more lenient on this issue (see Deuteronomy 24:1-4).  Thus this doctrine may be even more dangerous in some ways than the idea of rejecting the whole teaching on remarriage altogether.

In conclusion, in the absence of sufficient evidence to prove that either (1) divorce or separation puts an end to an adulterous state brought on by a remarriage after divorce or that (2) remarriage after divorce under the prohibited conditions is not marriage at all, it should be assumed that all Scriptures concerning marriage should apply even to one which is adultery, which includes those which condemn divorce.  

Labels: , , ,