I feel like I just gave birth!
Well, since I never actually gave birth, only stood by while my wife did that, I don’t suppose I really should pretend that’s what it’s like. But I have just finished a long, arduous and sometimes painful process of finishing, editing, formatting, and releasing a book called “Disqualified? What the Bible Says about Divorce, Remarriage, and Ministry.”
About five years ago I published a series of posts here on the topic and they have remained among our most active over those 5 years – almost every day one or more of them is in our top 10 or 20 most active posts. So, I decided to publish. I worked with a publisher I met at the Annual Meeting, who seemed very interested. In the end, he was only interested in self-publishing and his prices weren’t very good. That’s when I decided to try this service through Amazon called CreateSpace. It’s self-publishing and it’s free. But it also means you have to do all the work. I decided to use this book as a test-run, to learn the ropes and to get the information out there.
I guess I would say – “don’t try this at home!” Unless you have some expertise in grammar, editing, and such things, CreateSpace may not be as easy as you might think. I have been working on this for months (not nine months, I guess, but several). Formatting into book form was far more difficult than I imagined.
it’s a a little scary releasing a book like this, because I know it will offend some folks. I do not take the position that divorce is an automatic and permanent disqualifier against ministry and leadership in the church as a pastor, elder, or deacon. I realize that this position inflames some folks and opens me to the charge of liberal, soft on sin, and such things, but it is the position I’ve come to believe the Bible teaches.
There are two main section in “Disqualified?” – a biblical survey and an application to church leadership.
First, I survey the biblical evidence using the metaphor of the construction of a building. The cornerstone is set in the Old Testament by the establishment of two principles. God made it clear in Genesis 2:24 that marriage was intended to be a lifelong covenant of companionship between one man and one woman and has never deviated from that. But the Old Testament also reveals how sin marred the created order and brought brokenness into the world. Living in this broken world, sinful people do sinful things and the ideal God set in paradise is not always possible. Those paradoxical principles form the cornerstone of biblical teaching – God’s perfect ideal and the realities of living in a sinful world. The foundation is laid in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 in which Moses demands that the Israelite men find some grounds for divorce from their wives, not simply divorce as a result of their own whims. Jesus builds the structure in his teachings, reiterating the divine intent of lifelong covenant (what God has joined together) while also establishing one specific grounds for divorce – adultery. Paul finishes the structure in 1 Corinthians 7, adding another grounds for divorce, abandonment, and dealing with other significant situations. I address the issue of abuse in this section as well.
The second sectiion seeks to help the church occupy that structure, asking how we can apply those principles today. I deal with the all-important question from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1 – what is the “husband of one wife?” After summarizing and applying these principles, I give specific advice to divorced people on how they can find their place in the church and to churches on how they should treat the divorced and deal with this issue. Perhaps the most controversial chapter will be the one on whether a man who was at fault in his divorce is permanently disqualified. I struggled with balancing the biblical concepts of upholding standards of holiness and marital integrity and the wondrous gospel and its power to renew and transform.
That is what makes this topic so difficult. There are two competing biblical concepts. God is holy and so must we be. Any view that ignores the holiness of God or lowers the bar on marriage is unbiblical. On the other hand, the gospel is about forgiveness, renewal, and transformation. Any view that ignores the power of God to transform sinners and heal them is equally unbiblical. Finding the balance there is difficult. I struggled with this and I am sure many readers will say I failed. Oh well…
The book went public yesterday. It will be available on Kindle in a day or two, I hope. I’m not sure why that is taking longer, but it is.
Again, here is the link to the book, if you are interested.