Divorce, Remarriage and Ministry: What Does the Bible Say?

by Dave Miller on January 13, 2012 · 66 comments

This is the beginning of a series of articles I will be posting in the weeks (months?) ahead on this topic. This series is based on a series I did several years ago on my personal blog – which is now engulfed by spider webs.  

Is divorce always a sin, or are there times when obedient followers of Christ are permitted to end a marriage?  If divorce is permissible in some circumstances, may those who divorce also remarry?  Should those who have been divorced be considered eligible for service as pastors, elders or deacons?  What does the Bible say on such topics?

Once, the evangelical church spoke with an essentially united voice on issues related to divorce.  Those who divorced were sinners and were largely marginalized, sometimes shunned.  They were certainly not permitted roles of influence in the church.  Divorcees were not pastors, elders or deacons; at least not in evangelical churches.

It was pretty easy to enforce an ethic like that in days gone by.  Divorce was rare; it was something respectable people just did not do.  I remember as a child hearing the whispers and sly comments about the woman who lived across the street and a couple of doors up.  She was a divorcee and, to compound things, had given birth to a child outside of marriage.  We were not the kind of neighborhood that practiced shunning, but she was not considered respectable.  There may have been sin, dysfunction, unhappiness or abuse going on behind closed doors, but our neighborhood was one in which mothers and fathers lived together in lifelong marriage and raised children together.

Then, a (not so) funny thing happened.  Divorce swept through our nation and churches were filled with people who had been divorced.  As so often happens, the doctrines and convictions of the church conveniently changed to reflect the new culture of divorce.  We developed a man-centered, therapeutic faith that was more about making people happy than making them holy.  Gradually, divorced people took more and more significant places in the church.  As the moral slide continued, divorce turned into a minor issue.  Some denominations today are discussing whether to marry and ordain unrepentant homosexuals.  In that kind of culture, divorce seems like a much less crucial issue.

American Christians have a long history of being led more by our culture than by the Scriptures.  When Southern culture approved and defended slavery, so did Southern Christians.  As the feminist agenda took hold of our national mindset, women in pulpits became more common.  As homosexuality has become more acceptable in culture, it has become more acceptable to Christians.  Is this what has happened with divorce?  Has the prevalence of divorce caused us to sacrifice biblical moral standards for the sake of convenience?  Or, perhaps, did the prevalence of divorce cause us to reexamine beliefs that were long-held and traditional, but not biblical?

There is only one way to answer such questions. We must seek to understand what God’s Word says about the topic. We are called to be biblical and our first responsibility is to God and His Word.  If what the Scripture teaches is offensive to culture, we must offend.  But as we must let Scripture confront what is culturally popular, we must also allow Scripture to confront our personal and denominational traditions.  We like to assume that our traditions are firmly based on Scripture, but many may not be.  So our goal is to look at the biblical evidence and live by that, even if we find ourselves in conflict with cultural norms or church traditions.

You will have to continue reading to get my full view on divorce.  But this I will say now.  I believe that many Christians have wrongly let our cultural norms dictate biblical interpretation and have made unacceptable compromises that lower our standards of holiness.  But I also believe that much of the traditional church teaching on divorce was based on cultural norms and church traditions more than it on the Bible.

So, in this study, we will set forth some preliminary concerns, and then we will look at every passage in the Bible that deals with the subject of divorce.  We will look for answers to several questions.  Is divorce always a sin?  Can a divorced person remarry?  What positions of service can a divorced person hold in the church?

We will seek biblical answers.  I know that some who read this will disagree with my position.  I will argue that my position is soundly based in the proper interpretation of Scripture and that it is the view that is most faithful to the intent of the Word of God.  I will argue that those who disagree are misinterpreting Scripture and arguing more from traditional bias than from biblical truth.  I believe that the position I am advocating here is the one that bests fits all the scriptural pieces together.

But I do not question the faith, biblical integrity or love for our Lord of those who disagree.  I can disagree with someone’s position on this issue without calling their love for Jesus or for the Word into question.  I can say I think your position is wrong questioning your faith.  So, I am going to argue forcefully for the position I believe, but not break faith with those who hold to a different position.

In fact, the church I serve as pastor operates on an unwritten policy that is different than my position.  I have told them what I believe and why I believe it.  Several men thought my position was a signal of compromise and could not accept it.  Several stated unequivocally that they would leave the church if my position was adopted.  I think the official position of my church is wrong.  Yet, I still serve that church with joy.  I will continue to try to convince them that my position is biblical and I assume they will continue to advocate for their position.  But, as we study this, we can have uninterrupted fellowship and I can abide by a church policy with which I do not agree.

Defining the Sides

There are just about as many positions on divorce as there are teachers on the subject.  I am going to try to categorize the views, but it is actually more of a continuum.  Each of the major positions has subtle variants.  The danger of simplifying is always over-simplifying.  I believe that there are three major positions on divorce that modern evangelicals have fallen into.

The “Compassion” View

Divorce is traumatic – it rips apart homes and families, devastates lives and brings heartache to all.  There is really no such thing as an easy divorce.  You hear celebrities sometimes talk about a “friendly” divorce.  In reality, those are very rare.   Those affected by divorce have their lives blown apart.

The advocates of this position are primarily concerned with ministering to the divorced and helping them.  Of course, all of us must do that.  Advocates of every position believe in ministering to divorced people and their families.

This position is unique because it refuses to hold divorcees accountable for their behavior or apply any moral standard to the situation.  The church is told to be compassionate, non-judgmental and accepting of those who have been divorced.  A pastor in my community recently announced to his church that he and his wife were getting a divorce.  He then told them that he and the board would be meeting to decide whether it would be best for him to continue in the pulpit of that church.  Compassion without standards marks this view.

Churches do not want to seem judgmental or exclusionary.  That is a heinous sin in our culture.  So, these churches welcome the divorced without judgment.  They are permitted to serve in any and every position in the church without distinction.  Biblical mandates have taken a back seat to therapeutic concerns.  We don’t want to harm people’s self-esteem by confronting them with sin.

The positive side of this view is its compassion for those whom life has damaged.  Every viewpoint should include the desire to minister to and make welcome those who have gone through the trauma of divorce.  The doors of the church must be wide open to the divorced.

But we who love the Word cannot so easily dismiss its teachings.  We cannot just pretend the Bible does not hold up the standard of “till-death-do-us-part” marriage.  We cannot ignore the warnings of our Savior that those who divorce and remarry contrary to Scripture are adulterers.  Those commands have not been abrogated and we have no right to act as if they are not in God’s Word.  Our position must be biblical.  It must uphold Scripture, not compromise it.

The “Prohibitionist” View

“We must uphold the biblical standard of marriage.”  That is what I have heard almost every time I have advocated my position.  Of course, I agree with that statement, as any Biblicist must do.  We cannot abandon scriptural truth that is unpopular or unwanted by our society.  To do anything less than to uphold biblical standards in marriage is a sin.  But the assumption behind this statement is that the Bible advocates a strict prohibition on divorce, on remarriage after divorce and on service in the church.  Those who say this often make an assumption I do not think is warranted by the biblical evidence.

To the proponents of this position, the clear teaching of Scripture is that all divorce is sin and all divorcees are prohibited from leadership in the Body of Christ.  Most make an exception for adultery, but some do not even grant that.  Because all divorce is sin, remarriage after divorce is adultery.  Since adultery is sin, those living in adulterous relationships are not eligible to serve in positions of responsibility in the church.  Pastor, elder, deacon; these and other leadership positions are prohibited to those who have been divorced. Some make exceptions for those who were divorced before they were saved, figuring that what a person did before salvation should not be held against them afterward.  Those who hold this position are often still reluctant to allow the divorced to serve in key church positions.

On the positive side, proponents of this view have a high view of Scripture and are willing to stand by Scripture even if it offends culture.  This is admirable.  If their position is biblical then their stand is noble.

My problem, though, is that I do not believe that the Bible teaches the position they are advocating.  I think that position is based on church traditions and ancient cultural mores.  So, if the proponents of this position are not upholding the standard of Scripture, they are enforcing an extra-biblical position on divorced people.  They are excluding them contrary to the revealed will of God.  If their position is biblical, it is noble.  If it is not biblical, it is unnecessary and cruel.

So, the question is simple: is the prohibitionist position biblical or not?  That is the focus of this study.

The “Redemptive” View

This is the position that I will advocate. Obviously, I have chosen a sympathetic name for this view, but I also believe it is an accurate descriptor. I reject the “Compassionate” view because it does not uphold biblical standards.  I reject the Prohibitionist view because I think it enforces a standard that goes beyond that which is taught in Scripture.  It is exclusionary beyond what scripture permits.  In fact, I believe that the Prohibitionist view fails to fully appreciate the  redemptive power of Christ.  I know that such is not the intent of anyone who advocates that view, but I believe that it is the effect.

The redemptive view is based on the transforming power of Jesus Christ and the Cross. This view upholds the biblical standard of lifelong marriage and recognizes that divorce is the result of sin on the part of one or both partners.   What this view refuses to do is put divorcees into a special category of sin.  And it emphasizes the transformational, renewing power of Christ.

Jesus came to forgive sin and redeem sinners.  A murderer can be forgiven and redeemed.  An adulterer can have his sin washed white as snow.  So can a thief, a drug addict, a prostitute, even a homosexual.   In the same way, those who are divorced are forgiven and redeemed by the power of Christ.

Leadership in the church is a matter of character and integrity.  Those who lead the church must have spiritual integrity in their walk with Christ and must have demonstrated character to the church and community in their public walk.  We are all sinners, though that sin takes different forms.  God is working to conform us to the image of Christ.  Those who lead the church are those who are farthest in the process of Christlikeness.

What matters is not what I did 20 years ago, but what I am today.  Maybe 20 years ago I was a drug dealer.  But today I am walking with Christ and people can see what I am.  Maybe 20 years ago I robbed a bank.  I did my time, got right with God and began to grow.  If I have demonstrated that I am a new man in Christ, and have reliable character, I can be a leader in God’s church.

Why is divorce any different?  If I am in the middle of a divorce, I am certainly not ready to be a pastor, elder or deacon in the church, even if I am the “innocent” party in the divorce.  But if I was divorced 25 years ago, remarried, and have been a faithful husband to my wife for all these years, should that divorce forever eliminate me from significant service?

I believe that blanket elimination of a person who has been divorced from service in the church is a denial of the redemptive power of Christ.  Jesus came to redeem sinners and to make them like Christ.  To continually throw a sin of the past in the face of someone who has repented and has been renewed in Christ is, to me, an unintentional but real denial of Christ’s transformational work.

Once again, if the biblical evidence supports the Prohibitionist viewpoint, then my view is weak and compromising.  If Paul, when he told Timothy that leaders must be “the husband of one wife” meant “never divorced”, then my view is wrong.  That is why we need to inductively study Scripture.

Toward a Biblical View

The biblical position strikes a balance between the opposing sides of prohibitionism and compassion.  We must take into account both God’s terrible holiness, and His gracious forgiveness in view of the sinfulness of man. It must stress both the sanctity of marriage in God’s eyes, and the harsh reality of life in a sinful, fallen world.  It must stress forgiveness and restoration to divorced people, just as is true for people guilty of other sins. To find the biblical position on divorce and remarriage issues, we must:

1. Approach the Scriptures open-mindedly. We all have the tendency to believe what we’ve always been taught, without looking at our views critically to see if they are consistent with Scripture. The person who desires to know God’s mind must always come to the word with a pure heart and an open mind, leaving prejudices and preconceived ideas behind. What is most important is that we find out what God’s Word says about divorce, not what our traditions or culture say.

2. Look at all the scriptural evidence. We cannot just rely on those verses which support our cherished positions.  That is how we so often argue Scripture.  I marshal several texts which support my position, then deny or ignore the texts you have marshaled to support yours.  For a view to be biblical, it must fit every scriptural text into the view without denying or doing hermeneutical violence to any position.

3. Look at each Scripture in its context. The context of a passage will never change the meaning of a verse, but it will clarify the meaning. Each text must be studies on its own, faithfully understanding it in context.  Then, we seek to put all the verses together into a unified and consistent whole.  If the Bible is God’s Word, then every verse’s clear meaning will fit together into a totality that is logical and consistent.

In this study, we will look at every passage in the Bible that deals with divorce in any significant way, and then discern answers to the three key questions set out above.

  • Is divorce ever permissible for the obedient believer? (If so, when?)
  • Is a divorced person allowed to remarry without sin? (If so, when?)
  • May a divorcee serve in positions such as pastor, elder or deacon in the church?
1 Jim January 13, 2012 at 2:29 pm

Thanks for this post. This issue has caused trouble in our church.

2 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 2:35 pm

It has been a divisive issue in many churches.

3 cb scott January 13, 2012 at 2:36 pm

What right do you have to put this post on SBC Voices?
What does it have to do with Mark Driscoll, Beverage Alcohol, or Calvinism?

4 Christiane January 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

C.B. you forgot ‘football’

5 Stephen M Young II January 13, 2012 at 9:00 pm

:)

6 cb scott January 14, 2012 at 12:40 am

Thank you L’s. Thank you Stephen M. Young II

But don’t forget, football is still with us. Tebow and the Broncos play tomorrow evening. :-)

7 Doug Hibbard January 13, 2012 at 10:41 pm

Can a never-divorced person freely choose to drink O’Doul’s while watching non-SEC teams pretend to play football while wearing a Mickey Mouse t-shirt like Mark Driscoll?

8 cb scott January 14, 2012 at 12:41 am

LOL Excellent work Doug.

9 Ed Goodman January 13, 2012 at 3:05 pm

Dave, this post is reasoned, biblical, and long overdue. I agree with your position. The church that affirms grace with its lips often fails to act on it with its lifestyle. People often argue, “If our church leaders have been divorced, what does that say to the lost?” The lost aren’t looking for a standard of perfection, but an attitude of forgiveness. If our sins are thrown into the sea of God’s forgetfulness, then why does a grace-affirming church bring up the sins that God has completely covered?

Dave, your rationale is superb. Sin needn’t be frivolously dismissed, but authentic repentance must be considered when evaluating a person for any leadership role. If divorce disqualifies a man to be a deacon or a pastor unequivocally, then God really isn’t gracious unconditionally. If grace abounds, let it abound for everyone!

10 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 3:26 pm

Thanks, Ed.

11 Bob Cleveland January 13, 2012 at 3:32 pm

You probably weigh less than I do, so I now have two things to admire you for .. that and your chutzpah in tackling this one.

I shall be on the lookout for what follows, which will doubtless include dead cows alongside the road.

:)

12 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I don’t know about the weight thing, Bob. I’m 6’4″ and I still have a ways to go on my weight loss to get down to 300 pounds.

13 Sheila January 13, 2012 at 3:52 pm

While laudable on its surface, to me your post has hidden potholes, Dave.

1. You wrote: “The redemptive view is based on the transforming power of Jesus Christ and the Cross.” But how much has the divorced person been transformed? How completely has he/she truly repented and changed to more effectively reflect the love of Jesus in his/her life? My point: Too often we just go to a new version of the same marriage that does not reflect God at all.

2. You wrote: “Those who lead the church are those who are farthest in the process of Christlikeness.” While we’d all like this to be true, we know this isn’t so, as a blanket statement. How could you be “farthest in the process of Christlikeness” and be involved in an illicit sexual relationship, including the “victimless sin” of pornography? Or steal from the church? Or be a physical or emotional if not sexual abuser? Or a number of myriad other sins, such as the gambling a beloved Catholic priest in Nevada just was arrested for.

e. You wrote: “But if I was divorced 25 years ago, remarried, and have been a faithful husband to my wife for all these years, …” But being a “faithful” husband — meaning one who does not commit adultery — leaves the door wide open for a number of other failings. Do you belittle your wife in public or private? Is she a priceless treasure to you, or a burden to be saddled with? (She’ll feel the difference.) Do you support and encourage her, or ignore her at the same time expecting her to respect your every utterance? And that list goes on. My point: there’s a lot more to marriage than not sleeping with other women. I write thusly because you are a man. Same type of thing for a woman. My further point: Marriages dissolve primarily — yes, I think primarily — because the spouse starts looking at the failings/inadequacies/imperfections of the other; usually the other spouse does the same, almost in personal defense, and the couple becomes polarized. In the new marriage, is spouse number one going to be that same kind of person, one who looks for imperfections instead of accepting their spouse as an individual loved and treasured? My position is that a person is not ready to remarry until they have “fixed” in themselves whatever led to the previous divorce, whether or not they were the “innocent victim” in the demise of the marriage.

On the other hand, I completely agree with your statement: “To continually throw a sin of the past in the face of someone who has repented and has been renewed in Christ is, to me, an unintentional but real denial of Christ’s transformational work.” The failing we as Christians have is that we pretty much like ourselves just the way we are; we think we’re ‘right’ in our actions and attitudes because if not, surely we’d change because we do WANT to be ‘right.’ My point: Let each of us — myself included — truly be transformed into a sold-out, committed, radical Christ-follower. Then we’ll be truly servants of God, and some of us will be called out for more visible — ie: leadership — service.

Sheila

14 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 4:02 pm

Sheila, I can’t help but think that you are arguing with things I didn’t say, challenging beliefs I don’t hold and inferring what I did not assert.

15 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 4:28 pm

Let me be more clear:

1) I have known some divorced folks who have been transformed since their failures. They have rebuilt wonderful marriages which demonstrate God’s grace and power.

2) Of course I spoke in the ideal. In this world, the ideal is seldom realized. But are you suggesting some kind of tie between divorced people and these other sins? I’m just not sure how this point has any relationship to what I wrote.

3) When I say someone has a 25 year marriage that demonstrates Christ I would include with that the idea that these other things you mentioned were not in evidence.

Again, it is hard to respond since what you wrote has almost no relationship to anything in my post.

16 Dr. James Willingham January 13, 2012 at 4:32 pm

As a minister who has a second marriage, the first one ending due to divorce and knowing some of the agonies involved in such experiences, it seems proper and fitting that I should comment on this issue. First, let me say, I hate divorce. And with good cause. After all, I was a child of divorce, my parents’ marriage went to pieces in 1944, and they were divorced by 1945-46 and I wound up living with my maternal grandparents for 11 years. Being deprived of both parents is a grievous and devestating blow to a child/ After my conversion and call to preach (1957-58), I was married the first time in 1961 with the determination that I would never get a divorce. Such determinations must take into account the other person in the marriage. I almost committed suicide as result of the horrendous end of that first marriage. Only the help of some friends and some works on divorce and remarriage (Duty, Divroce and Remarriage and Dr. John Murray’s Divorce and Remarriage) helped me to get throught that terrible time. In 1969, I met and married the lady who has been my wife for these past 42+ years. She would raise my daughter from the first marriage, and we would have a son who is also a minister (this coming April, he will complete 13 years as pastor of the church which called him just before he graduated from seminary). My longest term pastorates have been during this second marraige, 11 years at the first church and 12.5 years at the second. I pastored two churches during the first marriage, 26 mos. at one and 18 mos. at the second.

I found that having a second marriage did not hinder me from pastoring. In fact, sometimes it was a help, especially when people were suffering from the problem of divorce and remarriage. They would come to me, saying, “I can talk to you. The other pastors do not understanding.” About all they meant was that the other pastors did not allow for divorce and remarriage ane showed no sympathy for their situation, no understanding, no insight.

There are problems in marriage which leave no doubt as to the result of insisting on the continuance of a relationship which was utterly destructive. During my first year in seminary, a minister told of how he and his church helped a woman and a man get back together (due to the idea of no divorce), and the man murdered the woman. The minister said, “Well, we are not going to do that again.” My wife said, “”It is about time.” She was being a little facetious.

I do not recommend divorce unless there is violence or the threat of it in a marriage. There is also the issue of some who violate the boundaries of sex with reference to children. Incest and pedophilia are grounds, as far as I am concerned, for divorce and remarriage. The catch-all term for this would be “fornication.”

Within the past few years, I looked more closely at the issue of God’s hating divorce (Malachi), and yet there is the fact that He did it (Jer.3:8). God says, concerning Israel, “I gave her a writ of divorce and sent her away.” John Piper has written an answer to this, removing any comfort that it might offer to those caught in the throes of divorce. And yet, God is willing to appear in the character of one giving a wife a divorce. And God goes even further, willing to appear in the character of a Bigamist (two wives, Judea and Israel). I have wonderered at such willingness of be identified in such characters and how that is meaningful to his children who suffer from such traumas.

One does not desire or want divorce and remarriage; they are the court of last resort so to speak. But we can’t afford to make second class church members out of God’s children who are striving to do the best they can within their limitations. If God has forgiven anyone for any sin, surely He has forgiven His children who are divorced and remarried. We Baptists have a poor record in the area of treating believers as forgiven in these areas. I remember my mother not even being allowed to work in the nursery, when she had two daughters by her third husband to contribute to the cradle roll and a son who would become a minister and a daughter who would be married to a ministers. She would also have two grandsons who would be ministers.

I can remember how American Indians were treated as second class people and were not accepted into the membership of that church (which led the Southern Baptist Convention for11 years or more in putting young people in to the ministry and mission field). Later, a pastor of the church would have an American Indian from Oklahoma preach a revival in that church. Eventually, that church would have an African American who would serve as a deacon and even chairman of deacons. He was an engineer with McDonnell Douglass.

How can we look on brothers and sisters as second class citizens, when God has chosen them, forgiven them, and made them His children. I had a half-sister who due to a birth injury suffered from limitations, physically and mentally. One day, she said to our mother, “You must love Jim, Joy, and Sarah more than me, cause there so much smarter than I am.” Mom replied, “I don’t know but what I love you more, cause you try so hard.” Not one of us would have objected to her saying that..as we knew Debbie.

Step-parents have a burden. Remember the story of the wicked step-mother in Cinderella? No all step-parents are like. I preached the funeral this past Tuesday of one of the men who was a deacon when I came to Gum Springs Church in ’72. His wife had four children by a previous marriage which had ended in the death of the first husband. Two of the men, my deacon’s step-sons, told me that if they could have chosen a step-father, they would have chosen Franklin Glosson. Franklin had a cheerful outlook on life’ he was the son of a minister who had been named for C.H. Spurgeon and who had three degrees. Franklin would take me visiting. Let me add, that my wife’s mother had been a step-parent two two children from her husband’s previous marriage. My wife told me that during World War II, her mother would go to the mailbox and get the letters written by her step-son who was in the Marines and serving on Saipan and Tinian (just two name tow really bad places) and she would stand there and read his letters and weep just as if she was his mother (which she surely was in a sense of the word)/

Compassion and redemption are a part and parcel of this process. I would not approve of divorce in every case, and I think we ought to work to preserve ever marriage that we can. But when there is no other options left, then the new marriage and new relationships deserve all our support and encouragement.

Dave, I think you did the best you could with a very painful issue. Just remember forgivenness is a blanket work. David, your namesake?, was still named as a patriarch as well as a prophet (Acts 2:29,30) though he was guilty of murder and adultery.

17 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 4:37 pm

James, I’m not sure I agree with every sentence of this, but it is a VERY GOOD comment. Very well written and argued. Thank you.

18 William January 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm

At the outset one should at least acknowledge that there isn’t crystal clear clarity on the matter of divorced clergy or deacons.

I know you’re going to get around to the texts later, but those who say that divorce doesn’t diqualify one from being a pastor or deacon should make some specifics here. I feel sure you will answer all of these in time but:

1. Must the pastor/deacon be the innocent party?
2. How is the above determined?
3. What is the limit for divorces after which the individual should not be considered for the position of pastor or deacon? Two? Three? More?

…will be interesting.

19 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 5:05 pm

Yep, those are some of the questions I’ll try to dig in to.

20 Lydia January 13, 2012 at 5:24 pm

Here are some biblical chronilogical video resources from David Instone Brewer, a Hebrew Scholar at Tyndale House, who has studied this issue in depth:

http://www.instonebrewer.com/divorceremarriage/

And yes, I know Piper disagrees with him which is a plus to me. :o)

21 Frank January 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm

I read SBC Voices often, but have little or no desire to get bashed over my views on alcohol, so I’d don’t post anymore. I have limited myself to only one post on a topic (this topic) so I don’t fall back into wasting hours on the internet discussing issues with people whose minds are already made up.

This post by Dave is superb. It is a bit surprising. I’d expect Dave to be much more of a fan of Young. Now that the pastors have made him rich, why does he care what anybody else thinks.

Remember, it is pastors falling all over his Creativity Seminars that “created” him. I gave up on the “Creativity Movement” before I spent one time buying into it.

Sex is not society’s root problem — not even close. Young has been out of the spotlight for awhile and like any self-promoting celebrity he had to find a way back in. I’m sure revenues were slacking off.

Sad day when he is related to the “Preaching Order.”

22 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 6:04 pm

Not sure how to respond to a comment like this, Frank. No one who knows me is surprised I am not impressed by shenanigans like this.

23 Frank January 13, 2012 at 7:57 pm

Dave, nothing personal meant. Just making my personal observation. Obviously, you do not agree with his “shenanigans.” My personal note was in reference to how you have spoken about “creative” approaches in the past, and what I thought was a generally sympathetic leaning toward Mark D., who has a similar approach to sex and preaching as Ed Y.

Again, nothing personal. I stand corrected.

24 Frank January 13, 2012 at 9:10 pm

PS–Dave, the lack of activity in posting makes this present conversation look odd since it is on the wrong thread. I have no idea how my post jumped from Ed Young’s bed to this post.

I should’ve listened when Mom said “don’t jump on the bed!”

25 Jim Pemberton January 13, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Divorce is handled in the Bible, but only because the hardness of people’s hearts. Knowing that people have different convictions than I do, I tend to give some grace being unwilling to bring out private sins that may be handled by believers closer to a situation. There’s a sense in which grace goes with discretion.

But I’m also aware that some people’s view of scripture on this matter is informed not by a careful study of scripture, but by a desire to self-justify. I’ve heard too many people say that God just wants them to be happy. That’s not a good hermeneutic. I’ve heard sound biblical arguments supporting divorce and remarriage, but there’s a need to arrive at a theological conclusion with good intents. A good conclusion is necessary, but so is a right approach to revelation.

That said, I disagree with you, Dave. But I do so with all respect to your study and intent and look forward to seeing how you spell out your case. I won’t go into my case, but the short of it is that I agree with John Piper on the matter and you can read his case here.

While the Bible addresses divorce, I don’t have the idea that divorce is on the same level as marriage. What I mean to say is, marriage is an institute divinely given by God and recognized by civil institutions. Divorce is a civil matter that I don’t believe has true bearing on the divine institution of marriage. So while people may have good practical reason for civil divorce, like physical abuse, I don’t follow that it frees people from the divine institution. That seems to make the most sense in explanation of Luke 16:18.

That’s my conviction, but I’ll give grace to those who don’t see it, just as God gave grace to the Hebrews in the Mosaic law.

26 Smuschany January 13, 2012 at 10:51 pm

Are you saying that if a woman was physically beaten and abused by her husband, and got a divorce, that in your interpretation of scripture, she should not marry again?

27 Jim Pemberton January 14, 2012 at 1:51 am

Yes, that’s what I’m saying. The divorce is civil. I believe that in the divine institution of marriage she is still married, albeit separated physically for her own safety and well being. If she must marry another, she commits adultery. It’s certainly forgivable, but I don’t see another way to understand scripture on the matter. Matthew gives an exception, but I think John Piper’s view of that is the more hermeneutically sound and explains why Mark and Luke can, in good conscience, leave it off.

My first goal, as always, is to get the scripture right and then apply it rather than import sentimentality or cultural sensibilities and then try to figure out how to get the scriptures to make me feel good about it. Spousal abuse is a terrible thing. I have a cousin who was severely abused by his estranged wife and there have been several family members I care deeply for who have divorced and remarried. But I can’t let it affect how I interpret scripture.

28 Smuschany January 14, 2012 at 12:43 pm

Frankly I find you sick and disgusting. I assume you have never known anyone that was abused, both physically and mentally in their marriage. If you had your way, they would be forever condemned for something that was not their fault, by saying they will sin if they ever try to find comfort and help to help cure the pain of their abuse. What’s next, are you going to say that that woman should never truly divorce that abusive husband, or that she should seek to remarry him over time? After all, an abusive husband is only so for a short period in his life then he gets better…right? Again you sicken me. I challenge you to go to a womans shelter and talk with the women who are there. Who are running for their lives in many cases. Sit down and talk with them, and then see if you can tell them with a straight face, that you think they should never marry again because then they would sin.

BTW, A) John Piper does not deal with abusive marriages in his article. B) As much as I like him, John Piper is not always right.

29 Jim Pemberton January 14, 2012 at 4:38 pm

Frankly I find you sick and disgusting.

Seeking the truth of scripture is sick and disgusting?

I assume you have never known anyone that was abused, both physically and mentally in their marriage.

You didn’t read my comment. Of course I know people who have been abused, both physically and mentally.

If you had your way, they would be forever condemned…

Once again, you didn’t read my comment. This is why I said it was “certainly forgivable.”

…for something that was not their fault,…

We’re all guilty of far worse and deserve far worse as punishment.

…by saying they will sin if they ever try to find comfort and help to help cure the pain of their abuse.

So are you saying that remarriage is the cure to a bad marriage, or even the cure for abuse? That’s a stretch.

What’s next, are you going to say that that woman should never truly divorce that abusive husband, or that she should seek to remarry him over time? After all, an abusive husband is only so for a short period in his life then he gets better…right? Again you sicken me.

You are reaching conclusions for me that I do not reach. It’s a non-sequitor to reach the conclusion of scripture that I do and from there jump to the conclusions you say I must agree with here. I do not. I don’t believe “truly divorce” is possible. She can get a civil divorce, and that may be to her benefit legally. I don’t believe that woman should go back to her husband.

But if we’re talking about redemption leading to practical action here in this post, the same redemption should apply to the abusive husband who repents. I don’t believe it does in every case. So I believe that a repentant husband should not necessarily get the woman back. Likewise, I believe we need to be careful when those who committed adultery to obtain a second marriage repent. Grace given in light of repentance to sin does not always yield complete restoration in this world. We may be free from the eternal penalty of our sins, but we still must deal with the temporal consequences of our sins. And often, we must deal with the temporal consequences of other people’s sins. it’s part of the suffering we must endure in this world.

I challenge you to go to a womans shelter and talk with the women who are there. Who are running for their lives in many cases. Sit down and talk with them, and then see if you can tell them with a straight face, that you think they should never marry again because then they would sin.

I would tell them that because I could only tell them the truth and I care about their relationship with Christ that further sin would certainly affect. Some may be angry. I don’t care. People often get angry when confronted with the truth. But that shouldn’t assuage us from bearing the truth. But you assume once again that remarriage is the cure for their situation. Whatever happened to the gospel? The work of Christ should not play second fiddle to the perception of happiness in marriage.

Additionally, I must say that the feminist movement has yielded some good in this: In biblical days women needed men. For a young woman to be divorced by her husband, she would need to remarry in order to be cared for financially. That’s why Jesus said in Matt 5:32 that a husband who divorces his wife causes her to commit adultery because she would have to remarry. Today, women can get along by themselves just as well as men. There is no financial need to remarry.

BTW, A) John Piper does not deal with abusive marriages in his article. B) As much as I like him, John Piper is not always right.

It’s true that John Piper doesn’t deal with abusive marriages in his article. Abusive marriages don’t change the veracity of scripture. Likewise, you brought up abusive marriages in this discussion and presumed to import false conclusions and apply them to me. You are in error.

And John Piper may not always be right, but I think he’s right on this and it was more helpful to link to him than to go through the trouble of trying to sum up my own understanding since I agree with him on it.

For what it’s worth, I care deeply for people in difficult situations like spousal abuse. I’m the kind of guy who walks into a room and is drawn to the marginalized people sitting on the fringes. I have the gift of mercy and would go to a woman’s shelter in a heartbeat if I thought that the presence of a man would be welcome to those women who have been abused. Generally, it’s better for those women if they are ministered to by other women. A man ministering in that way would present the type of relationship that would only confuse the issue. What men are best for in this case is going to the abusive husband and breaking his knees. It’s sad that we can’t legally do that anymore. It may cut down on spousal abuse. I tell you if I saw someone abusing someone else like that, my military training would kick in an without thinking I’d step in and physically give it back to the abuser. It’s happened.

30 Dave Miller January 14, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Jim, you answered this much better than I would have. While my position is much closer to Smuschany’s than Jim’s (which I strongly agree with), I find the tone of your post unacceptable, Smuschany.

Jim is articulating a conviction from scripture, and even if I disagree with it, I’m not going to permit anyone to call someone such strong names here.

Frankly, I was going to delete both your comment and Jim’s answer, but I thought he answered your insults with grace and I wanted people to see an example of a positive response to an ungodly insult.

But, do not do it again. Argue theology. Do not insult people.

31 Smuschany January 14, 2012 at 9:46 pm

Being the son of a mother who was abused (thankfully not my father), the insinuation that my mother sinned after leaving that abusive relationship and remarring is sickening to me. Yes it is personal, and I am sorry if my anger offends people but I will not have women like my mother called a sinner for a certain action, when they are not.

32 Smuschany January 14, 2012 at 9:52 pm

BTW…If you want to argue from scripture, fine. Scripture does NOT deal with what happens when a divorce is due to physical abuse. By lumping such divorces in with ones caused by adultery, that is adding to scripture and reading into scripture that which is not there. And I find nothing in scripture that says God would call a woman who was physically abused an adulterer because she remarried (God willing to a godly, loving and abusive man).

33 volfan007 January 14, 2012 at 10:03 pm

We’re given the reasons that divorce is permitted in the Bible. Adultery and abandonment on the unbelievers part.

Even though you might not agree with Jim, it is what the Bible teaches, and I thought he gave a great answer here, which is true to the Scriptures.

Legal separation is what I would encourage any woman going thru abuse. Legally separate from that creep, until he either gets right with God, or else moves on in his life. And, most men will move on…find another woman…eventually. Then, she would be free to remarry, but only in the Lord…according to 1 Cor. 7.

David

34 Dave Miller January 14, 2012 at 10:10 pm

You cannot argue a theological point with a chip on your shoulder. Many Christians believe that all remarriage after divorce is a sin (like Jim and evidently Piper). Others believe (like I do) that a divorce on biblical grounds implies the right to remarry. Other views exist.

But you can’t make it personal. If someone believes your mother was not authorized to remarry, they are interpreting scripture, not insulting your mother.

It is not fair of you to make this debate personal, or to attack Jim because of his beliefs.

35 volfan007 January 14, 2012 at 10:11 pm

I do want to say that I dont agree with everything that Jim said above…but, the Bible does teach that the only reason for divorce is adultery and abandonment on the part of the unbeliever.

Remarriage is allowed if adultery has been committed, and if the unbelieving spouse who abandoned the marriage has moved on…found another one…so that there is no hope of the marriage being put back together.

David

36 Dave Miller January 14, 2012 at 10:12 pm

Let’s imagine we were talking about homosexuality. Does the fact that one of us in the discussion has a homosexual son mean that the rest of us are attacking him if we say homosexuality is a sin?

You just can’t attack someone for articulating their convictions because it affects someone you know (or love).

37 cb scott January 14, 2012 at 10:49 pm

Jim Pemberton,

I want to take issue with something in your response to Smuschany.

In the response you gave above this exchange occurred:

Smuschany: “…for something that was not their fault,…”

Jim Pemberton: “We’re all guilty of far worse and deserve far worse as punishment.”

Jim Pemberton, I understand what you mean here, and you are right. We all are guilty. We all deserve punishment, even to the extent of eternity in hell. We are sinners before a just and righteous God.

But, (and this is a big and debatable “but” I realize) that “punishment” is eschatological in nature. It is a decree of God. It is not administered at the hands of man.

No woman deserves to be beaten and abused by a man. No child deserves to be beaten or abused by a man. God has decreed that we, who are men, take care of women and children in this life.

The logical conclusion of your comment here could be taken to mean that the children abused by Jerry Sanduskey was deserved on their part simply because they are sinners. That is not true. The Scripture will not support your argument that “We’re all guilty of far worse and deserve far worse as punishment.”

Frankly, I think (although it can be well argued that I have no scriptural support for this) any man who abuses and beats women and children has a deep seated, subconscious wish to either go to hell in a hurry or go to prison for a long, long time. Therefore, I can see no reason for a civilized society not to oblige him.

38 Frank January 13, 2012 at 9:14 pm

Since I’m here, I’ll say that divorce and remarriage has been one of the most heart-wrenching biblical searches for me. Even when I can come to a conclusion biblically, I remain heart-broken for those upon whom divorce has fallen. In many ways I think we have made divorce the “unpardonable sin,” and in other ways I think we have justified it falsely too many times. I don’t know if I will ever come to a really comfortable position theologically.

On a lighter note: I have come up with one irrefutable justification for divorce that I hold personally: I’m all for divorce when my wife feels her only recourse may be murder.

39 Squirrel January 13, 2012 at 9:41 pm

As I told some folks who asked about this subject a long time ago, “1Timothy 3 and Titus 1 don’t actually mention divorce. What the Biblical criteria actually is is, ‘a one-woman man’. There have been plenty of men, married just once, who were decidedly not ‘one-women men’ – a certain former President of the United States comes to mind…”

All of the criteria for elder(pastor)/deacon refer to the man’s current spiritual condition. When a sin has been truly repented of, that repentance bears fruit which shows that the repentance is real. Spiritual maturity is what should be looked for. Not “where was he?” but “where is he now?”

Thank you, Dave, for writing and posting this.

Squirrel

40 Dave Miller January 13, 2012 at 10:07 pm

Yep. I agree with you about present character vs. past.

41 Dr. James Willingham January 13, 2012 at 10:27 pm

There are many things that are hard to be understood, things that combine to condemn us altogether for what we are, namely, sinners. Self-justification is an easy and familiar habit into which we all fall now and then, but there are strange things that happen to us in our lives over which we have no control. One of the strangest was to meet an Arminian type Southern Baptist minister who was my pastor for about three years. He had been won to Christ by a Black Christian on a war ship out in the Gulf of Mexico. I say Arminian without meaning anything derogatory. One day, he shocked me, when he said concerning a minister who had run off with an organist, “He had better get back into the ministry.” I was stunned, and then he said to me, “Don’t you believe the Bible. Does it not say the gifts and callings of God are without repentance on his part?” I had never thought of it until that moment. And then there was my ordaining pastor who would not even perform the wedding for his nephew whose wife had walked off and left him. And yet he wrote me a letter stating, “The Lord will restore to you the years that the canker worm has eaten.” That saying from Joel has been more than amply fulfilled in my life. There are many things we can neither explain nor justify. Period. Only God can vindicate us, if He so chooses. He does ask the question, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect?” I do not take that as a blanket statement to justify and and all evils which come into our lives, but it does speak concerning something which Baptists do not address, namely, our legalistic attitudes in the face of His forgivenness.

42 Leigh January 14, 2012 at 12:43 am

Good post. We recently discussed this in our church as we voted to allow divorced deacons. Basically we took what you are calling the redemptive view, as well as the belief that the qualifications for deacons describe a person who is now faithful–not a person who lived like they were redeemed before they were saved. Looking forward to seeing the rest of your series.

43 Christiane January 14, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Divorce is an evil. But not because divorced people are ‘evil’. The ones I know have suffered and their children were devastated.

Divorce is a source of real pain for people, and divorced people NEED the ministry of the Church for healing of their wounds.

How that ministry is planned and delivered to these injured, let it be formed from the heart of Christ the Physician,
and it will bring peace to them.

There are many Bible verses, and many ways have they been ‘interpreted’ among the multitude of denominations, yes. Hence all the ‘differences’ in responding to the tragedy of divorce.

But the ‘heart of Christ’ remains intact . . . let ministry be formed in Him and it will strengthen the broken.

44 cb scott January 14, 2012 at 11:16 pm

“…their children were devastated.”

L’s,

If the Christian community never comes to a unified understanding of the Scripture relating to marriage, divorce, and remarriage, one thing cannot be argued:

“their children were devastated.” The scars on the hearts of the children of divorce are deeper than the ocean.

45 Christiane January 14, 2012 at 11:20 pm

AMEN, C.B.

46 Dr. James Willingham January 14, 2012 at 11:03 pm

The Bible says people are evil, as in, “There is none that doeth good, no not one.” And Jesus said, “There is none good, but God.” Even so, there is an allowance for divorce. The idea that marriage permits unlicensed abuse, physical violence against a spouse is enought to make any one who is sensitive to this issue almost upchuck. A former missionary couple with the FMB of the SBC complained to the IBM concerning her spouse’s sexual abuse of their children. To make a long story short, it costs the FMB a pretty penny, when she went to court over it. Surely, those who advocate no dissolution of marriage do not think our Lord would be so inhumane as to demand that a couple remain together, when the man uses his wife as a punching bag or his children as sexual objects. Speaking as a professional counselor who has had to deal with the effects of incest and pedophilia on children throughout their lives, I must insist that there is a depth of mercy and compassion in the Lord Jesus Christ that goes beyond the reading of what He says as mere harsh laws. In fact, a more careful study of His teachings and of those of His servants in the OT and NT reveals a depth of caring that can scarcely be imagined by many who failed to look on the Bible as the Book of Great, Glorious, Grace, unconditional favor, unconditional love. As to living to win such violators of the covenant, one can only do what he or she has the grace to do. Beyond that one cannot go. Look at David as guilty of adultery and murder and yet called a patriarch and a prophet, at the call of God as unchanging on His part, at the willingness of God to be so identified with those in such a situation that He is willing to be shown as giving Israel a writ of Divorce and sending her away, though He plainly says He hates it…and no amount of explanation and exegesis and exposition and expounding will explain that away and be able to force it into conformity with a hide-bound legalism that causes the deaths of so many. This is not to approve of that antinomianism which indulges every whim and desire of those who cast off all restraint. Everything is a balance issue, and if we wish to minister to those in murderous situations, we had better keep that in mind or we might wind up with a number of murders that could be charged to our accounts, because we fail to recommend that the threatened ought to get out of a situation where lethal harm is clearly evident.

47 cb scott January 15, 2012 at 12:02 am

Dave,

One of your questions was: “May a divorcee serve in positions such as pastor, elder or deacon in the church?”

Here is a response that may or may not surprise some:

The late Dr. John R. Rice stated, “I believe that any of these major sins (wrong divorce, drunkenness, murder etc.) can be forgiven and are forgiven when there is honest repentance. Then when God has forgiven and when one has done all he can to repudiate and undo the sins of the past (which of course, can never be undone entirely and sometimes not at all), and when he has taken time to live it down and proved himself a dependable, trustworthy Christian so that his usefulness is not hindered by the past, then he might do whatever God calls him to do and whatever God’s people trust him to do…I do not believe in passing a rule that one who has ever been drunk can never be a deacon or preacher; likewise, I do not believe in passing a rule that one who has ever been divorced cannot be a deacon or a preacher. And my response is very simple: there is no such rule in the Bible.”

48 volfan007 January 15, 2012 at 12:20 am

CB,

I am shocked that John R. Rice said this. With him being an Independent, Fundamentalist Baptist, I am shocked.

David

49 cb scott January 15, 2012 at 12:34 am

He said it. As you probably know John MacArthur Jr. said something very similar.

50 cb scott January 15, 2012 at 12:46 am

If I am not mistaken, Dr. C.I. Scofield was both divorced and remarried.

51 John Wylie January 15, 2012 at 12:54 am

CB,

Yes C.I. Scofield was divorced and remarried. A little interesting fact, he was actually ordained in 1883 while his divorce was still not final. He got remarried the same year also.

52 John Wylie January 15, 2012 at 12:57 am

Also he founded the First Congregational Church in Dallas, TX, the church exists today as the Scofield Memorial Church.

53 cb scott January 15, 2012 at 1:21 am

I had read that to be the case. Dave Miller does not believe this, but I was not actually around for Scofield’s second wedding, much less the first.

54 Dave Miller January 15, 2012 at 1:55 am

Really?

55 cb scott January 15, 2012 at 1:26 am

So, Maybe the question remains. Can a man who has been divorced and yet, is living in harmony with the other requirements to serve the local church as a deacon or pastor do so according to Scripture?

56 Dr. James Willingham January 15, 2012 at 4:36 pm

I have known of Dr. John R. Rice’s views on divorced ministers for years. I have also known of his views and, yes, of his grinding his teeth, when a minister got up and preached Sovereign Grace in a conference. John R. didn’t like the doctrines of grace, and he would leave out the references to that issues in his reprints of Spurgeon’s sermons in his paper, The Sword of the Lord. It will be interesting to see how things are viewed on the other side. I have known many of the ministers or people who have known them who were leaders in the 20th century. My experiences gives substances to that idea that we are only 6 persons removed from oeveryother person on earth. When I preached the 181st Annual Sermon of the Sandy Creek Baptist Assn. (I think that was its number..or maybe it was simply in 1981 and was the 223rd Annual Sermon -ouch the issue of age), I had six ministers stand up and shake hands in order, indicating that we were only 6 handshakes removed from Shubal Stearns. Just hink 6 handshakes removed from George Washington.

In any case, let this excite all of you. God makes use of us in spite of foibles, and follies, and faults, and flaws, and futilities, when He by rights should use none of us. This is the exceeding greatness of our God. He can take a person from where that person is and bring that person to where He wants that person to be. He can and does change, transform, remake, reshape, remold, make anew, give new life, new birth, second birth, spiritual resurrection, you name it, He does it, and others will notice the change, the new attitude, the new joy, the zest, the zeal, be able to laugh at the child’s mistakes, like I laugh with tears at my baby’s words, when she said, “Buggy Baby,” meaning, “Baby Buggy!”

We have yet to see what God will do in a Third Great Awakening, in Heaven dropping down to earth, in the coming of the Holy Spirit in a New Visitation of Power upon the ministry of the word, in Revival and Resurrections of the Spirit, forerunners of the Final Bodily Resurrections. When God saves and forgives and makes a sinner into one of His adopted children, no one can lay anything to the charge of one so forgiven. The only thing required is for that saint to keep his or her nose clean, meaning, behave yourself or you will be disciplined and, if the church won’t do it, the Lord will.

Permit me to say as one who is divorced and remarried, that I still hate divorce. God hated it, and yet He gave Israel a writ of divorce. I am thankful for the happy marriage I have had for 42 years, for my wife raising my daughter from the first marriage, and for our son who has been a pastor for the past nearly 13 years (it will be 13 in April). There has been times of torment and torture of the spirit, of second guessing, of anguishing, of extreme agony for the sake of children. Excruciating pain for a child cannot be dismissed. I would not wish it upon anyone, but when it happens one must make the best of it that one can. Let the ministers and the deacons go on to minister as forgiven, saved, servants of God, doing His work, when others feel led to call such as pastor. There is nothing like a person who has been there and done that, that has been through the fire, so to speak, who can speak with sympathy and empathy for those who are passing through similar trials.

As to the devils who get in pulpits, let us remember Judas and that our Lord chose him as an Apostle!!! Who can explain that? I can’t, and I won’t even try. I know only this: I bow as best I know how to Jesus of Nazareth as the eternal, one-of-a-kind Son of God who was and is on the footing of face-to-face equality with God the Father.

If memory erves Jonathan Edwards used Judas as one of his justifications for taking George Whitefield to task for preaching against an unconverted ministry. Years later Whitefield who had denounced harvard would use his considerable money raising skills to raise money for Harvard’s library which had burned in a fire.

Also while we are on it, Whitefield would say he wanted Wesley to preach his funeral sermon, and, when taken to task for it due to theological differences, said he didn’t expect to see Wesley in Heaven. When pressed about why, he answered that Wesley would be so close to the throne and he so far from it, he would not be able to see him. Wesley did the same thing in reverse with reference to his preaching of Whitefield’s funeral. Cf. Pollock’s Biog. of Whitefield which I read many years ago.

None of this is easy; it costs us tears, agony, and suffering, but it is worth it all. God will make it so as He says in Roms.8:18.

57 John Wylie January 21, 2012 at 4:45 pm

Dr. Willingham,

You preached the Sandy Creek Baptist Assn. annual message? Now that is really cool, brother. I love history and getting to have that kind of connection with it is awesome. Cool, very cool.

John Wylie
Springer, OK

58 Jason Roth January 17, 2012 at 1:30 am

Something that is rarely considered is the timeline of events. My father was divorced and remarried twice and then he came to a life changing knowledge of Christ. It has always seemed odd to me that churches would proclaim that God forgives all sins and we are washed white as snow but then hold a man’s past against him. At the same time I have a serious discomfort with church leaders who leave their spouses for another and then want to get back into leadership shortly after. All sins are sins and should be dealt with but some behavior should carry more serious consequences and longer times to rebuild trust.

59 Dr. James Willingham January 17, 2012 at 1:09 pm

Truth is that people do hold one’s past against him or her, even if he or she is in the right. A member of a pulpit committee once said, “He had two living wives.” My wife informed me that I had one, and if I got another, I would still have one, because she wouldn’t be there. My daughter from my first marriage said re: a church’s refusal due to the second marriage, “O its that old second marriage thing.” What a lot of people never seem to realize is that such events hurt the children; they suffer too. And another person steps up to the plate, to use a baseball metaphor, and goes to bat as the new mother or father, as the case might be.

Step-fathers and step-mothers often have bad reputations (remember Cinderella? And yet who remembers Abraham Lincoln’s beloved step-mother? He went to see her, when he would hardly see his father. I preached a deacon’s funeral last week (week ago today), and his step-sons said that if they could have chosen a step-father, they would have chosen him!!!! Some parents cannot be parents, and some step-parents were surely appointed by the Lord to stand in the gap. And ministers with second marriages who have had difficult times were surely appointed to stand in the gap with church members who are trying to make the best of their situation. The one undeniable factor not much considered in all of this is that of God’s forgiveness. If He has forgiven a transgressor, that person is free to be and to do whatever God chooses. David was free to be a patriarch and a prophet after forgivenness for murder and adultery. Paul was chosen an apostle and preacher even before the world, and yet he was a blasphemer and injurious, to mention a few of his evils.

I think we ought to focus on the Lord Jesus Christ as the One original operative who is able to move, change, alter, transform, fallen, sinful individuals, making them into wonderful instruments of grace. He is the key to the whole issue. to producing a real sense of mission among the sorriest of sinners, like taking a bunch of misfits and making them into some of the most dynamic and inspiring individuals who ever lived, people who turn the whole world upside down. Who cares about the messenger’s defects: “How beautiful the feet of one bringing hope and relief.”

60 Clark Goble January 21, 2012 at 3:57 pm

This is my first comment on SBC Voices, but as a divorced and remarried Christian who is a member of an SBC church, I would like to express my gratitude to Dave for tackling this difficult topic. My local church has a blanket policy that no one who has been divorced (or is married to a woman that has been divorced) may serve as Deacon. This policy has been a subject of great consternation for both my wife and I.

What Dave refers to as “The Redemptive View” seems quite close to my own views regarding Scripture’s take on the subject. I am eager to read the rest of the series.

61 Dave Miller January 21, 2012 at 4:14 pm

Clark, I’m trying to avoid corny jokes like, “I loved you in Gone with the Wind.” You’ve never heard that, right?

Anyway, your situation is very similar to mine, except that I have never been divorced. But I am pastor of a church that has never permitted the divorced to serve as deacons. I’ve shared my views, but the traditional view is very ingrained here.

I would give you a word of encouragement. Don’t let the fact that the church holds that position hinder you. Find another outlet for ministry and keep serving God. We have a church with a bunch of divorced folks (like pretty much every church today) and you can serve God well without the title “deacon.”

62 Clark Goble January 21, 2012 at 4:36 pm

Dave,

I completely agree with your last paragraph. For the past year, I have served as an adult Bible study teacher within my local church. It is an outlet for ministry that perfectly complements my education (I am currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Biblical Theology) and is one that I truly enjoy. On a personal level, I am perfectly comfortable in my church and have willingly submitted myself to the church’s leadership despite my quibble with their “blanket” policy.

The source of my consternation, however, is that as a father and a husband I feel that I should model the grace God has shown me to my family. Not so long ago, my wife (who also has a divorce in her past) shared with me that our church’s policy made her feel like a “second-class” member of the church and had caused her serious doubts concerning her salvation. She told me that she often felt worse upon leaving church than she did upon arriving. Her confession regarding all of this broke my heart. I realized that while I had personally made peace with our church’s policy that I had not taken into account how it might affect my wife and our five children.

To make a long story short, I am currently on hiatus from teaching Bible study as I struggle to decipher what is best for my family. I feel blessed to have found your article here and am genuinely encouraged that there are those within the SBC who are willing to examine this issue with an open mind.

Perhaps I have shared too much, but I thought my situation might speak to the relevance of your topic.

BTW, I hadn’t heard a Clark Gable joke all day so yours is much appreciated!

Clark

63 dr. james willingham January 22, 2012 at 12:56 am

David, I think of all the blogs you have written, this one comes out as the best of all…You handled the various approaches to the issue superably. None of it is easy, and I speak from experience not only as a minister and a counselor (one of the first thousand of Licensed Professional Counselors in the state of NC) but from the perspective of a child of divorce and as one who suffered such as I have indicated above…So when I say I appreciate what you have had to say, I mean it emphatically. I do not necessarily agree with all you have said, but I like so much of what you have said that the differences are not really of consequence. God bless you, dear brother, for caring.

As to Gone With The Wind My pastor friend, Dr. Isaac Block, who had been raised an orthodox Jew, was married to the lady who won Margaret Mitchell, the author, to Christ. Mamerta de los Reyes Block was speaking at the Temple Baptist Church in Atlanta, when Mrs. Mitchell came forward and was counseled and received Christ as Lord and Savior…all without Mrs. Block even iknowing who she was. Cf. Mrs. Block’s book, The Price of Freedom. Alexandria (?), Va.: Three Rivers Pubs., 2005). Dr. Block was a fellow student at SEBTS from 72-76. He and Mrs. Block visited in our home numbers of times as dear friends. Mrs. Block won the fellow to Christ who supervised her torture during World War II, when he came to DC after the war as a member of the Japanese embassy staff. And you all should hear Dr. Block’s conversion experience and his experiences as a Marine in WWII.

Brother Wylie of Springer, Okla. I once preached in Bokoma (sp?), Okla. back in the Spring of 59. My b-i-l pastored the FBCs of Maud, Okemah, Clinton, and Ootlewah (sp?). As to preaching the Annual Sermon, I count even more dear, the privilege of preaching on the first sermons to the Pastors’ Prayer Meeting of the Sandy Creek Baptist Association in the Fall of ’73 and the fifth and the 10th anniversary sermons to that meeting, the first sermon in ’73 on the subject of A Great Awakening, Eph.5:14 and the latter two on A Third Great Awakening, Hab.3:2, if memory serves correctly. I have done a good deal of research on Sandy Creek. My thesis for the M.A. degree in American Social and Intellectual History was on the subject, “The Baptists and Ministerial Qualifications: 1750-1850,” and it covered Sandy Creek Assn. along with Philadelphia, Ketockton, Kehukee, Charleston, and Elkhorn in Ky. I live in Apex, NC

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