Now online: Edmund Bunnius, "Of Divorce for Adultery, & Marrying again: no warrant so to do" (1595)

Discussion in 'Announcements' started by Admin, Oct 24, 2020.

  1. Admin

    Admin Administrator Staff Member Typist Anglican

    Posts:
    501
    Likes Received:
    207
    bunnius.png



    Edmund Bunnius, Of Divorce for Adultery, and Marrying again: that there is no sufficient warrant so to do (1595)


    The question of matrimony is one of perennial relevance, perhaps more than some more obtuse points of theological nicety, because of its tangible effect in lives of spouses, families, and vulnerable children. And yet, this question remains a source of impassioned conversations for Christians when approaching it from opposite angles and even theologies. There are a few typical schools of thought commonly adopted when discussing anything to do with the topic, but a surprisingly small focus has been allotted to the Anglican theology of marriage, as expounded in Bunnius (and others, forthcoming). And yet, this overlooked framework potentially carries the depth and nuance that are missing in other conversations, with a fresh perspective that is entirely distinct from some of the other views paramount in the Christian world today.

    In this ground-breaking work, Edmund Bunnius steps into debate around matrimony which swirled in his day, in circumstances not unlike today. He had spent his life in a social context when various previously-settled questions in theology became reopened again, and one of them was the indissolubility of Matrimony. Among some Roman Catholics and Reformation thinkers, the social pressures, increased rationalism, and particular views of the Church and State had created a new pressure to re-formulate the family structure into a far more malleable social institution, than it had been to that point.

    While some theologians rushed into the opening, others like Edmund Bunnius sought to buttress the traditional family, by reasserting the indissolubility of marriage with new supports and defenses. In perhaps one of the most virtuoso performances of the Reformation, Bunnius illustrates how Matrimony might be said to be indissoluble from the data of Scripture alone. He strenuously engages with some of the most famous Roman Catholic, Reformed, and Lutheran theologians of his era, from Erasmus, to Calvin, Beza, and Martin Chemnitz, offering criticisms to their alterations in theology, and meticulously constructing a case for entirely indissoluble Matrimony on the bases of the Old and the New Testaments. This tour de force may be found here:

    Edmund Bunnius, Of Divorce for Adultery, and Marrying again: that there is no sufficient warrant so to do (1595)
     
  2. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,275
    Likes Received:
    626
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Christian
    I started reading this treatise, but after a while my eyes glazed over. I'd better wait for someone to summarize it.

    My feeling on divorce is that it should be undertaken only rarely and for serious reasons, but that it would amount to a legalism to block divorce altogether. Picture the person who deceives the other party in order to gain marriage, or the person who abuses the spouse. We could think of many situations in which it would be horribly destructive, perhaps even life-threatening, to force the couple to remain together. On some occasions, divorce may be the key to protecting the offspring. Divorce is wrong, yet at the same time divorce sometimes is the best course of action among mistake-prone human beings.

    I believe that God set up marriage between a man and a woman in the way He did, partly to serve as a type and foreshadow of His relationship with the Bride of Christ, the body of believers. God's agape love, whereby He "will never leave us nor forsake us," is clearly reflected in the agape love a man and woman are supposed to have for each other in marriage. God's unbreakable promise to redeem the believer, and the Presence of the Holy Spirit living in the believer as a surety of future fulfillment of that promise, is supposed to be echoed in the firm blood-covenant bond of matrimony. This would be the ideal. But how often do fallen, sinful humans live up to ideals? How well are they able to measure up to the standard of perfection? We know that we fail utterly in multiple ways to meet the ideal standard, and we throw ourselves upon God's mercy and grace through Christ.

    Thus, I feel that no ecclesial body should ever make a dogmatic, inflexible declaration concerning divorce, because (1) as in the law, rules inevitably necessitate exceptions (which in turn necessitate exceptions to the exceptions, ad infinitum); and (2) the matter ultimately lies between the individual and God, for God alone knows the heart and God alone can correctly judge.
     
  3. JonahAF

    JonahAF Moderator Staff Member Typist Anglican

    Posts:
    160
    Likes Received:
    133
    Thank you for that comment. I wished that the text was a little less technical, and we did try to make it as readable as possible, given the original (and you should have seen the original!). Perhaps we can continue to improve the text in the future.

    As for the questions you raised, I am by no means an expert, but in the Anglican legal tradition there has not really been a concept of divorce. As Edmund Bunnius says, What God has joined, let no man put asunder. This seems to say, that divorce is more than just wrong or inconvenient, but rather it's impossible, unattainable to human agency. Bunnius appears to be saying this again and again.

    The only kind of separation that's been possible historically, after a marriage was validly conducted, was what was called "divortium a mensa et thoro," which just means a legal separation of the two parties. The spouses still have no human power capable of breaking their marital bond, but they may be allowed to live separately from each other and deny the conjugal and family rights to the other party. This would seem to be the advised course in the cases of spousal abuse, or adultery.

    As for defects in the espoused (such as fraud or deceit), that would seem to fall under the category of "impediments to marriage," many of which are listed in the Books of Common Prayer; where if those conditions existed, then the marriage could not have been sealed in the first place. Marriage tribunals would be the best places to sort through that.
     
  4. Rexlion

    Rexlion Well-Known Member

    Posts:
    1,275
    Likes Received:
    626
    Country:
    USA
    Religion:
    Christian
    That's interesting, thanks. I can see what you're saying.