The Divorce Debate

by Tim Sohn

“If God dropped us whenever we sinned and he felt neglected we would be hopeless.”

The reality of sin is that our world is filled with brokenness. We lack the ability to faithfully keep covenants, and in this age we do more covenant breaking than we do covenant keeping. Marriage is the strongest bond that we can commit to in this life. We enter into a holy covenant before God to faithfully care for and cherish our spouse for the rest of our natural lives. Yet, this commitment is often treated flippantly like a romantic first date. When the romance wears out, we get out of the marriage and go on to other things. Over the past decades we’ve seen an increase in divorce rates regardless of what faith a person confesses. The topic of divorce has once again made its way to the national stage because of last month’s Christianity Today article titled, “When to Separate What God has Joined: A Closer Reading on the Bible on Divorce.”

The traditional teaching on divorce from Scripture is that one may find grounds for divorce for marital infidelity. Yet, even then, divorce should not be the first option to be pursued. In his Christianity Today article, David Instone-Brewer argues for an alternative teaching on divorce that is grounded in Exodus 21. Instone-Brewer argues that in Jewish times, divorce was allowed on the grounds of neglect. This is more formalized later in Jewish and Christian marriages as “love, honor, and keep.” Thus, the divorce was allowed for both sexual unfaithfulness and for various forms of neglect. Neglect is a broad term that can easily be expanded to include many things.

In response to this article John Piper wrote, “To put it bluntly, the implication of this article is that every marriage I am aware of could already have legitimately ended in divorce…. Now Instone-Brewer may not want to say it, but he does say it: We have a ground for divorce if we are not “honored” by our spouse. I don’t know any spouses who are so well honored by the other that they could not make a case that they are insufficiently honored.” The main implication of Instone-Brewer’s interpretation is that any of us could make a case for divorce. This is the last thing we need in an age where one’s word is practically meaningless, and covenant breaking is treated like a bad habit.

The divorce controversy has been picked up by Time magazine to show that there is controversy within the Christian community. “Still, the controversy suggests that even the country’s most rule-bound Christians will search for a fresh understanding of scripture when it seems unjust to them. The implications? Flexibility on divorce may mean that evangelicals could also rethink their position on such things as gay marriages as a generation of Christians far more accepting of homosexuality begins to move into power.”

Reading these articles I tried to imagine what our view of marriage and divorce says about our perception of God. If God dropped us whenever we sinned and he felt neglected we would be hopeless. Marriage is designed to be a radical display of Christ’s love for His church. A witness to the world that God is a covenant keeper, and will never ‘divorce’ or abandon His people. Piper writes, “The world we live in needs to see a church that is so satisfied in Christ that its marriages are not abandoned for something as amorphous as ‘emotional neglect.’”



The Beacon is the monthly newsletter for Lighthouse Bible Church in San Diego, California. It covers a variety of subjects including LBC events, church history, current events from a Christan perspective, ministry profiles, and messages from our pastors and elders. To join the Beacon ministry, please contact Stephen Rodgers.



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