Divorce - and the Grounds for Divorce

Discussion in 'Family, Relationships, and Single Life' started by Botolph, Jun 3, 2023.

  1. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    The subject of Divorce has been raised in a number of threads, and it is always possible to run a thread of its rails, so I have generally refrained from responding.

    Jesus left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

    Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?’ He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ They said, ‘Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her.’ But Jesus said to them, ‘Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation, “God made them male and female.” “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’

    Then in the house, the disciples asked him again about this matter. He said to them, ‘Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.’

    Suppose a man enters into marriage with a woman, but she does not please him because he finds something objectionable about her, and so he writes her a certificate of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house; she then leaves his house and goes off to become another man’s wife. Then suppose the second man dislikes her, writes her a bill of divorce, puts it in her hand, and sends her out of his house (or the second man who married her dies); her first husband, who sent her away, is not permitted to take her again to be his wife after she has been defiled; for that would be abhorrent to the Lord, and you shall not bring guilt on the land that the Lord your God is giving you as a possession.

    ‘It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

    When Jesus had finished saying these things, he left Galilee and went to the region of Judea beyond the Jordan. Large crowds followed him, and he cured them there.

    Some Pharisees came to him, and to test him they asked, ‘Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any cause?’ He answered, ‘Have you not read that the one who made them at the beginning “made them male and female”, and said, “For this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.’ They said to him, ‘Why then did Moses command us to give a certificate of dismissal and divorce her?’ He said to them, ‘It was because you were so hard-hearted that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but at the beginning, it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another commits adultery.’

    His disciples said to him, ‘If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.’ But he said to them, ‘Not everyone can accept this teaching, but only those to whom it is given. For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by others, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.’

    Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: ‘It is well for a man not to touch a woman.’ But because of cases of sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise, the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another except perhaps by agreement for a set time, to devote yourselves to prayer, and then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. This I say by way of concession, not of command. I wish that all were as I myself am. But each has a particular gift from God, one having one kind and another a different kind.

    To the unmarried and the widows, I say that it is well for them to remain unmarried as I am. But if they are not practising self-control, they should marry. For it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.

    To the married I give this command—not I but the Lord—that the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does separate, let her remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and that the husband should not divorce his wife.

    To the rest, I say—I and not the Lord—that if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. It is to peace that God has called you. Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.

    I hope I have picked up the core biblical material. Mark is indeed a harder reading, however, the interesting thing to note is the mutuality of the capacity to commit adultery.

    Matthew holds more clearly to the accepted ground for divorce being adultery.

    The Deuteronomy passage which allows one to write a certificate of divorce does not permit that to be rescinded. This provided protection for the women who would essentially be left destitute without a man.

    Paul provides another cause for divorce and that is in the case where one member of the couple is a believer and the other is not - Paul presumes to allow the non-christian partner to end the marriage.

    Laws in the various jurisdictions in which we live generally have adopted a 'no-fault' divorce where the grounds are simply the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship.

    Are there more causes for divorce that we might find acceptable? If a woman's husband decides to go off and fight for Islamic State, would that be grounds? If one party is requiring the other to break the law in a substantive way, would that ground? Unreasonable violence and hostility to a partner might also be grounds for a divorce.
     
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  2. Thomas Didymus

    Thomas Didymus Member

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    There is a lot of ground to cover here. An annulment would be the more practical option before divorce is to be considered. If trickery is involved leading up to the marriage, where at least one spouse has not been entirely honest, from personal no-fault dilemmas such as one of them being gay when the other isn't, to one of the prospective individuals having an active criminal life that has not been disclosed. These can be issues for their own reasons, ranging from varying degrees of relative innocence like the first example or the gregarious scenario in the second one as laid out above. It is important for the hopeful couple to know the kind of commitment (100% each) to give each other in mutual understanding.

    Hosea in the Bible delicately deals with the subject of unfaithful marriage, ultimately demonstrating God's forgiveness to everyone who seek to sincerely acknowledge their faults and amend their ways through thought and action; repentance in the Covenant, by which is the source of a sound and holy marriage. All marriages will have their challenges and struggles; men and women in particular are not that much different from each other, at least physiologically. They are just often raised and taught to have contrasting expectations for cultural reasons that are meant to help society work properly (this is not necessarily easy of course). I bring this up because any good marriage will be healthier learning to handle obstacles and grow with each other over time and circumstance. Any event that leads to a traumatic experience is in no way the same though. I recall reading a Rabbi once state, "We are to have faith in God because God has faith in us".

    twin
     
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  3. JonahAF

    JonahAF Moderator Staff Member Typist Anglican

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    Make sure to consult our forefathers in the faith on this. They comment on those passages in scripture in detail.

    Starting with Saint Augustine:
    https://www.anglican.net/works/augustine-concerning-adulterous-marriages-to-pollentius-1550/

    Then Edmund Bunnius; this one will blow you away:
    https://www.anglican.net/works/edmund-bunnius-of-divorce-for-adultery-and-marrying-again-that-there-is-no-sufficient-warrant-so-to-do-1595/

    John Howson, if you know Latin:
    https://www.anglican.net/works/john...nicatione-aliam-non-licet-superinducere-1602/
     
  4. bwallac2335

    bwallac2335 Well-Known Member

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    I would for sure say spousal abuse is grounds for divorce especially physical abuse.
     
  5. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    I think divorce is a very serious matter. It should not be undertaken lightly (as it so often is nowadays) or for wrong motivations. It is to be avoided if possible even when one has the right motivations. But God is merciful to His children, those who trust in Him, and He takes into account the thoughts and intents of our hearts.

    I think Bunnius recognized that many people have sinful motives for divorce. 'My spouse committed adultery once or twice? Whee, now I can be free of him/her and I can go get a new, improved spouse instead!' That is not at all a godly motivation. Where is the love? The forgiveness? It's simply selfishness.

    Oh, if only we all were selfless, as is Christ! We ourselves commit sins weekly if not daily, yet our Lord does not divorce us; He gently urges us to repentance and reconciliation. Even when we are unfaithful, God is faithful, for it is His nature to be loving & faithful and He cannot deny Himself.

    I knew a man who became disenchanted with his wife, particularly in the bedroom, and began a secret affair with another woman. After 7 years of carrying on this affair, he chose to divorce his wife of 30+ years and marry the mistress. What a horrible thing to do. But what of that first wife? If the former wife were to remarry, would God hold it against her? What is in her heart?

    I knew a young Christian man who was pursued by a young woman with evil in her heart, and she managed to hide it well, so the man loved her and they married & had two children. The woman committed adultery secretly, then began abusing alcohol and drugs, then progressed to (in open defiance) dressing provocatively and going out in the evenings to a pick-up bar to meet other men for sex. The husband tried every means of reconciliation he could think of, but her behavior continued to become more and more outrageous and the husband saw the deleterious effect it was beginning to have on the children, so he divorced her. Does God hold it against him? What if he were to remarry? Again, what is in his heart?

    There are all sorts of people in the world. One can think he/she knows the person he/she is getting involved with, but that other person does not come with a transparent window by which one may view the inner thoughts and intents. One cannot clearly see if the other will become abusive, unfaithful, even dangerous. I think that some divorces are not acts of disobedience or fickleness toward God, but instead are acts of desperation or perhaps even basic self-preservation.

    The scriptures that cover the subject of divorce are there for all to read. There appears to be some ambiguity as to their interpretation, with some taking a "no divorce, period" stance and others thinking that some valid reasons for divorce are allowed by scripture. Since whatever does not come from faith is sin (Romans 14:23), a Christian who contemplates divorce or remarriage should examine his own motives and his conscience, pray to the Lord for direction, and act in accordance as he is led. If he has already done something that he now perceives he shouldn't have done, he can only repent for the past mistake which cannot be undone and resolve to obey & do what is right from that point onward.

    For my own part, I credit the help and grace of God for the fact that my wife and I have remained married and faithful to one another for 43 years. To God be all the glory.
     
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  6. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    I think I've made this rant before but I feel like it bears repeating. The damage done to the "sanctity" marriage and family didn't come from the LGBTQ+ community. It's honor was impugned well before the marriage equality movement started gaining traction. Straight couples who demanded no fault divorce on demand and engaged in serial marriages without fully appreciating the damage it did to each other or to children brought up in those situations is what really did the institution in.

    My parents divorced when I was around 6. It was a truly traumatic experience for me. I brought up the pain it caused me to my father a few years back. His response was that he didn't like the man who my mother made him become and needed to leave no matter what. He then told me I was just collateral damage but that it was worth it. That didn't sit well with me, obviously. But I've come to recognize that his comment was made in a moment of honesty not in an attempt to be mean. There are many like him who, if they are honest with themselves, must come to the same conclusion. And, if I may engage in a little bit of broad generalization, I think it was the peculiar brand of narcissistic self-centeredness that is ubiquitous in the Baby Boomer generation that resulted in an explosion of broken homes, just like mine, in the 1980s. My siblings were several years older, part of the Gen X crowd. I was born in the first years of the Millennial generation (at least by the old calculations). It is amazing how the trauma of those divorces manage to wreck the lives of those generations that followed after the Boomers and continue to do so today. It becomes all too clear to me why the writer of Malachi depicted God as saying the He hates divorce.
     
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  7. Shane R

    Shane R Well-Known Member

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    Wow. I'm at the upper end of the Millenial demographic too. My parents went through a rough spell at the end of the 90s into the early 00s and probably should have divorced but neither one had the courage to do it. Mom would occasionally walk out for a night and go stay at a cheap hotel. If they had gone through with it I'm confident Dad would have started living in a pick-up truck camper.

    I don't know that they ever truly reconciled but neither ever moved out either. They have a weird detente going on. They can put on a good front for the grandchildren but they aren't really close anymore.
     
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  8. Botolph

    Botolph Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I really do get this argument, HOWEVER, I am not sure about chaining people in dysfunctional and destructive relationships either. A good marriage is a great thing, and from what I have observed, a bad marriage can be diabolical. I would say that divorce may be preferable to an unexplained spousal demise.

    Partly, I think we should do more work preparing people for marriage, and the intent of marriage to be a lifelong union should be clear, front and centre. The question is, given that we do not live in a perfect world, what do we do when it doesn't work? Simply saying OK, divorce, and you are free to do it again, doesn't seem that helpful either, and indeed I think somehow we need to help people who have been through a divorce to do the work so that are not simply repeating the same errors.

    There is a sacramental and legal approach that needs to be in dialogue with a pastoral and realistic approach. Given the mess the hetero world has made of marriage, I am not sure that any other group is going to do a whole lot better. The law is better at dealing with property than it is at dealing with people and relationships.
     
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  9. ByOldEyes

    ByOldEyes Member

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    I think it makes good sense to recognize that separation/divorce is sometimes a lesser evil than what would take place otherwise. To recognize that divorce is an evil is not to say that it is necessarily always the greatest evil. A woman who flees the persecution of a persistently raging and dangerous husband seems to be a lesser evil than sticking around to continue being destroyed. In fact, her departure is what she should do in such a situation, as it is better than the alternative.

    But even while that is true, the consistent testimony of the Church (on the basis of fairly clear scriptural precepts) is that a person generally gets one shot at choosing their spouse. If things go south, it is not a license to marry another one. If reconciliation is not reasonably possible, the proper response is to remain chaste. Other people's unfaithfulness and persecution are not a license for one's self to be unfaithful.

    IMHO, the root of the attack on the sanctity of marriage in our culture is not divorce itself (which is a symptom), but rather, it's a lack of sexual selfcontrol and an unawareness of any sexual ethic. This applies to heterosexual people just as much as homosexual people. The idea of abstinence or voluntary celibacy are met with scoffing and marveling from the average person. Children are raised with an addiction to pornography and masturbation that is considered normal, even among Christians. When a romantic relationship ends, panic sets in over how long it will be before they can have sex with someone again as though this is the most important aspect of life. Remaining unmarried after a divorce is considered sexually unrealistic. And overall, sex is pursued primarily for pleasure and release, and only secondarily, if at all, for its utilities toward creating a family. All of this is far away from how our fathers in the faith thought. They would consider us to have reduced ourselves to being animals.

    The divorce-remarriage conundrum would pretty much go away in our society if people trained themselves to control their sexual desires. Sorry if this seems offtopic, but personally I find these things to be connected.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2023
  10. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

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    Even better, the problem would go away if married people put God, not themselves, in first place and placed their spouse's needs on an equal footing with their own (loving one's spouse as oneself). I think this is at the root of controlling one's desires (of all types).

    One cannot force (or usually even convince) a spouse to change. All those little idiosyncrasies and irritations can add up. But if a couple truly love God and seek to please Him with their lives, the individuals are more likely to be the one to change (even if it means accepting the things one doesn't like or changing oneself to accommodate) because the unconditional agape love for God and for one's spouse permeates one's thoughts and motivations. This extends even into the difficult areas like anger management which can lead to spousal abuse; a person who seeks to please God will want to exercise self-control and will do what it takes, whether it's counseling or whatever. One who puts God's love first will not welcome opportunities for intimacy with other individuals, either.

    When most people who marry nowdays are nonbelievers or else have a tenuous faith, we should not be surprised that they will act self-centered. So when things get difficult and the grass looks greener on the other side of the fence, they will act in their own selfish interest. They are not willing to suffer discomfort for the sake of anyone else... not for a spouse, nor for Christ. Whatever they desire (sexually or emotionally) is more important to them than love for God and acting according to His will. Among so-called Christians, this is little more than Modern Therapeutic Deism.
     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2023
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  11. Lowly Layman

    Lowly Layman Well-Known Member

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    I agree B.

    I also think we need to stop ignoring the long-lasting effects divorce has on all involved and should push for therapy to be an integral component of divorce both prior to and after legal process is completed. Therapy for children of course but also for the couple.
     
  12. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    The quote from Matthew 19:1-12… amplifies Mark 10:1-12
    The issue is that one school taught that a man could divorce his wife for any reason, including trivial or contrived reasons; essentially allowing a man to divorce his wife at will.

    Marriage laws today have pretty much produced this situation except that now either party can divorce the other at will, and I believe that women are twice as likely to initiate divorce than men. (e.g. Forbes, 69% of Divorces Are Initiated by Women)

    Marriages in Jesus’s time were largely contractual rather than romantic and there were well defined social rules for expectations in marriage. Possibly today we have less well defined roles and higher expectations. While people in the past would have accepted a satisfactory marriage this is no longer good enough compared to an ideal marriage.

    Deuteronomy 24:1-6 dealt, according to commentaries I have read, with a particular type of prostitution where a man would "divorce" his wife to allow her "marry" another man for a significant financial advantage, and then "marry" her again.
     
  13. Stalwart

    Stalwart Well-Known Member Anglican

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    Separation is not the same thing as divorce. They’re very different from each other. To my mind forgetting this distinction has been the single greatest source of issues on this question.
     
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  14. ByOldEyes

    ByOldEyes Member

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    Fair point.
     
  15. CRfromQld

    CRfromQld Moderator Staff Member

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    Ah, so that's how to do spoiler buttons.
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