20 Questions for Pastors Who Believe Divorce is Permissible

In the past, I have listed the arguments for divorce and against divorce. If you are not familiar with the debate or arguments, then please read those posts. This morning I finished reading Daryl Wingerd’s excellent Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View. For those who have taken the position that the Bible sometimes allows divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery and desertion, I offer the following 20 questions.

Jeremiah 3

1. If God’s divorce of Israel in Jeremiah 3 allows for divorce today then must couples today also continue to be devoted exclusively to the sinning spouse (3:1, 7, 12-14, 22), call themselves married (3:14), and maintain their binding covenant (3:16-19) as God did with Israel?

Matthew 19

2. Are pastors today willing to prohibit divorce without any reference to exceptions or nuance or clarifications like Jesus did with the Pharisees’ question until someone raises further difficulties as the Pharisees did (Matt. 19:3-6)?

3. Are pastors today willing to make explicit statements against divorce and remarriage without any qualification as both Jesus and Paul did (Luke 16:18; 1 Cor. 7:39; Rom. 7:2-4)?

4. If the Pharisees were trying to trap Jesus (Matt. 19:3), then how does that happen if he merely admitted that he holds to the relatively conservative Shammai school of allowing divorce whenever there is adultery?

5. Why were the disciples shocked (Matt. 19:10 cf. Mark 10:10) by Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees if Jesus were simply standing with one of the well-known schools (i.e. Shammai: Divorce is permissible for fornication)?

6. If the words “except for fornication” were not found in Matt. 19:9, would it be easier for you to accept that Matt. 5:32 was referring to betrothal and not to divorce within an already established family?

7. If the words “except for fornication” were not found in Matt. 19:9, would it be easier for you to see how Paul was prohibiting all divorce and remarriage in Romans 7:2-3 and 1 Cor. 7:10-11?

8. Would any readers today describe the words “except for fornication” as “clear and unambiguous” in the debate about divorce and remarriage?

9. How much weight then does the “some divorce and some remarriage” position place on two, admittedly unclear and ambiguous words?

10. If Jesus was listing an exception in Matt. 19:9, on what grounds does that exception not include lust and pornography?

11. If lust and pornography are included as valid reasons for divorce, then has the exception not become the rule?

12. What is the significance of Matthew’s record of Joseph’s attempted divorce of Mary as well as the exception clause (“except for fornication”) in Matt. 19:9?

13. Is there any evidence that Mark’s readers assumed that Jesus permitted divorce?

14. Why should Matthew’s account be chosen instead of Mark’s account as the interpretive grid to control the conclusions about divorce?

Romans 7

15. Does Paul use marriage to illustrate that only the work of Christ could save us from the guilt of the law in Rom. 7:2-4?

16. How many ways does Paul provide for a woman to be freed from her husband in Rom. 7:2-3?

17. If a woman may be freed from her first husband in some way other than death, then may not some people be saved from the law in some way other than Christ’s work on their behalf?

1 Corinthians 7

18. Why does Paul explicitly prohibit divorce four times in four succeeding verses (1 Cor. 7:10-13) if he really believes that there are two broad categories for divorce (i.e. fornication or desertion)?

19. Why are the prohibitions in 1 Cor. 7:10-13 so clear and the exception for desertion in 1 Cor. 7:15 so unclear?

Ephesians 5

20. Wherein is the error in this syllogism?

Proposition 1: A husband must be like Jesus Christ in His love for His bride (Eph. 5:25).
Proposition 2: Jesus Christ never divorces His bride.
Conclusion: A husband must never divorce His bride.

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