The missing pro-family issue

Al Mohler calls “pro-family” activists on a major blind spot:

As [University of Washington] Professor [Mark] Smith surveyed the front lines of the culture war, he was surprised, not so much by the issues of hot debate and controversy, but by an issue that was obvious for its absence – divorce.

“From the standpoint of simple logic, divorce fits cleanly within the category of ‘family values’ and hence hypothetically could represent a driving force in the larger culture war,” he notes. “If ‘family values’ refers to ethics and behavior that affect, well, families, then divorce obviously should qualify. Indeed, divorce seems to carry a more direct connection to the daily realities of families than do the bellwether culture war issues of abortion and homosexuality.”

That logic is an indictment of evangelical failure and a monumental scandal of the evangelical conscience. When faced with this indictment, many evangelicals quickly point to the adoption of so-called “no fault” divorce laws in the 1970s. Yet, while those laws have been devastating to families (and especially to children), Smith makes a compelling case that evangelicals began their accommodation to divorce even before those laws took effect. No fault divorce laws simply reflected an acknowledgment of what had already taken place. As he explains, American evangelicals, along with other Christians, began to shift opinion on divorce when divorce became more common and when it hit close to home.

When the Christian right was organized in the 1970s and galvanized in the 1980s, the issues of abortion and homosexuality were front and center. Where was divorce? Smith documents the fact that groups such as the “pro-traditional family” Moral Majority led by the late Jerry Falwell generally failed even to mention divorce in their publications or platforms.

“During the 10 years of its existence, Falwell’s organization mobilized and lobbied on many political issues, including abortion, pornography, gay rights, school prayer, the Equal Rights Amendment, and sex education in schools,” he recalls. Where is divorce – a tragedy that affects far more families than the more “hot button” issues? “Divorce failed to achieve that exalted status, ranking so low on the group’s agenda that books on the Moral Majority do not even give the issue an entry in the index.”

But the real scandal is far deeper than missing listings in an index. The real scandal is the fact that evangelical Protestants divorce at rates at least as high as the rest of the public. Needless to say, this creates a significant credibility crisis when evangelicals then rise to speak in defense of marriage.

via Divorce — The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience | Christianpost.com.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • Kirk

    It would be tough to galvanize people against divorce when a full 40% of your base is divorced. Not to mention that for Falwell’s televangelist friends and RR political allies, divorce was practically a way of life.

    That not withstanding, I do agree with Prof. Smith that it is a stark hole in the broad, moral political platform. I’m not sure it’s something that should be legislated (though I could see taking steps to make divorce more difficult, legally), I do wish that pastors and priests would speak out more strongly against it. The complication, again, is alienating divorcees.

  • Kirk

    It would be tough to galvanize people against divorce when a full 40% of your base is divorced. Not to mention that for Falwell’s televangelist friends and RR political allies, divorce was practically a way of life.

    That not withstanding, I do agree with Prof. Smith that it is a stark hole in the broad, moral political platform. I’m not sure it’s something that should be legislated (though I could see taking steps to make divorce more difficult, legally), I do wish that pastors and priests would speak out more strongly against it. The complication, again, is alienating divorcees.

  • Joe

    I wonder what the rate is for Lutherans? Does anyone know or do we get lumped in with mainline protestants for these studies?

    Anyway, this point is completely valid and it is a sin that churches shy away from this topic. No fault divorce laws are not the problem. The failure to catechize on marriage and God’s view of divorce is the problem. If Christians really took this issue seriously, taught it and preached it, then it would not matter what the civil laws said. Of course, we are sinful and divorce would still happen – we will never eradicate it but I think that we would see less of it if there were intentional catechises on the topic. And, when it does happen the church should have the courage to say it is wrong and when the people hear it said, it should not come as a surprise.

  • Joe

    I wonder what the rate is for Lutherans? Does anyone know or do we get lumped in with mainline protestants for these studies?

    Anyway, this point is completely valid and it is a sin that churches shy away from this topic. No fault divorce laws are not the problem. The failure to catechize on marriage and God’s view of divorce is the problem. If Christians really took this issue seriously, taught it and preached it, then it would not matter what the civil laws said. Of course, we are sinful and divorce would still happen – we will never eradicate it but I think that we would see less of it if there were intentional catechises on the topic. And, when it does happen the church should have the courage to say it is wrong and when the people hear it said, it should not come as a surprise.

  • Joe

    “The complication, again, is alienating divorcees.” Very true but thankfully with Christ there is forgiveness. Any intentional preaching and teaching on this topic (as with all) would need both Law and Gospel.

  • Joe

    “The complication, again, is alienating divorcees.” Very true but thankfully with Christ there is forgiveness. Any intentional preaching and teaching on this topic (as with all) would need both Law and Gospel.

  • Dan Kempin

    I prefer not to see this in light of a “culture war.” (I would prefer, in fact, that the whole concept of “culture war” went away, but that is beside the point.)

    This is a crisis within the church, not limited to “evangelicals.” From the Roman Catholic sophistry of annulments to the tacit practice of acceptance de facto by doctrinal confession without action, the western church has been deluged with this destructive sin. (Including my beloved Missouri Synod, of course.)

    It is truly a connundrum for soul care, for who would wish to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your membership, directly or indirectly? And, indeed, what can be done? Pastors of all stripes are deluged with divorce. Most judge (I’m guessing) that to take this on would overwhelm their ministry, or else their attempts to do so have simply been turned aside.

    It is indeed an issue, not for the “pro-family” political movement–for who could blame a politician for avoiding the third rail that could alienate the majority of constituents–but for the church. Regardless of the culture’s status, the voice of the church must be clear.

  • Dan Kempin

    I prefer not to see this in light of a “culture war.” (I would prefer, in fact, that the whole concept of “culture war” went away, but that is beside the point.)

    This is a crisis within the church, not limited to “evangelicals.” From the Roman Catholic sophistry of annulments to the tacit practice of acceptance de facto by doctrinal confession without action, the western church has been deluged with this destructive sin. (Including my beloved Missouri Synod, of course.)

    It is truly a connundrum for soul care, for who would wish to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your membership, directly or indirectly? And, indeed, what can be done? Pastors of all stripes are deluged with divorce. Most judge (I’m guessing) that to take this on would overwhelm their ministry, or else their attempts to do so have simply been turned aside.

    It is indeed an issue, not for the “pro-family” political movement–for who could blame a politician for avoiding the third rail that could alienate the majority of constituents–but for the church. Regardless of the culture’s status, the voice of the church must be clear.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I don’t know what has happened in “evangelical” circles with this. It certainly doesn’t seem to bother many people these days. It is though a societal blight. And yet a very painful subject for many that have gone through it. I speak as one who has gone through it. I preach against it as much as any other sins. But I’m under no delusions that law is going to change the matter. Perhaps if we changed the laws of the land and stopped giving incentives for divorce things would change a little.
    And much of the ministry really has to be about helping people pick up the pieces. where it huts the most is parenting. And now I head to the airport for a long day of travel so I can see my son.
    But yes the no fault divorce laws, and perhaps the tacit approval of divorce, is much more damaging to family values than anything else effecting or society.
    Nothing new, it is why the pastoral epistles have so much emphasis on being good parents, loving your wives, and teaching wives to love their husbands.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    I don’t know what has happened in “evangelical” circles with this. It certainly doesn’t seem to bother many people these days. It is though a societal blight. And yet a very painful subject for many that have gone through it. I speak as one who has gone through it. I preach against it as much as any other sins. But I’m under no delusions that law is going to change the matter. Perhaps if we changed the laws of the land and stopped giving incentives for divorce things would change a little.
    And much of the ministry really has to be about helping people pick up the pieces. where it huts the most is parenting. And now I head to the airport for a long day of travel so I can see my son.
    But yes the no fault divorce laws, and perhaps the tacit approval of divorce, is much more damaging to family values than anything else effecting or society.
    Nothing new, it is why the pastoral epistles have so much emphasis on being good parents, loving your wives, and teaching wives to love their husbands.

  • Porcell

    Joe, According to this site, Lutherans and Catholics have the lowest divorce rate among the denominations The actual numbers are: Lutheran, 21. Catholic, 21. Presbyterian, 23. Methodist, 26. Pentecostal, 28. Episcopal, 28…

  • Porcell

    Joe, According to this site, Lutherans and Catholics have the lowest divorce rate among the denominations The actual numbers are: Lutheran, 21. Catholic, 21. Presbyterian, 23. Methodist, 26. Pentecostal, 28. Episcopal, 28…

  • DonS

    Hmmmm. I’m not sure I see the point Mohler is trying to make. Obviously, the abortion issue was the main issue about which Christian activists were focused in the ’80′s, because it was the most appropriate for a political/legal solution. It was the Supreme Court which had caused the problem, enshrining the murder of children in our Constitution, and the natural response was outrage and attempts to bring the country back to morality on this issue. As for homosexuality, I don’t remember it being that much of an issue in the ’80′s, except for the issue of AIDS, which impacted more than just homosexuals. That was a fear-driven issue, because the disease was so scary and so little was known about it, and it caught up a lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, many of whom acted ridiculously on both sides. Since then, gay marriage has become a major political issue. But this is defensive, as activists have sought to overturn marriage laws and conventions which are biblical and traditional, extending back for thousands of years. And, more egregiously, they have often sought to impose their will through the courts, rather than through the political process.

    So my point is, how, exactly were the so-called activists of the ’80′s supposed to address divorce? Thankfully, divorce is a state issue, not a federal one, so a national political response wasn’t reasonable. Moreover, I think everyone understood that no-fault laws were here to stay, and there wasn’t much chance of reversing them. To say that Christians don’t address the issue of divorce is just not true. There were and are an abundance of available marriage seminars, counseling, books, and programs in the Christian world which strongly teach that marriage is a covenant not to be taken lightly or broken by divorce. Most pastors that I know require those they marry to go through comprehensive pre-marital counseling. I abhor the divorce rate in the country and particularly in the Christian community, but I don’t think it is for lack of teaching.

  • DonS

    Hmmmm. I’m not sure I see the point Mohler is trying to make. Obviously, the abortion issue was the main issue about which Christian activists were focused in the ’80′s, because it was the most appropriate for a political/legal solution. It was the Supreme Court which had caused the problem, enshrining the murder of children in our Constitution, and the natural response was outrage and attempts to bring the country back to morality on this issue. As for homosexuality, I don’t remember it being that much of an issue in the ’80′s, except for the issue of AIDS, which impacted more than just homosexuals. That was a fear-driven issue, because the disease was so scary and so little was known about it, and it caught up a lot of people, both Christians and non-Christians, many of whom acted ridiculously on both sides. Since then, gay marriage has become a major political issue. But this is defensive, as activists have sought to overturn marriage laws and conventions which are biblical and traditional, extending back for thousands of years. And, more egregiously, they have often sought to impose their will through the courts, rather than through the political process.

    So my point is, how, exactly were the so-called activists of the ’80′s supposed to address divorce? Thankfully, divorce is a state issue, not a federal one, so a national political response wasn’t reasonable. Moreover, I think everyone understood that no-fault laws were here to stay, and there wasn’t much chance of reversing them. To say that Christians don’t address the issue of divorce is just not true. There were and are an abundance of available marriage seminars, counseling, books, and programs in the Christian world which strongly teach that marriage is a covenant not to be taken lightly or broken by divorce. Most pastors that I know require those they marry to go through comprehensive pre-marital counseling. I abhor the divorce rate in the country and particularly in the Christian community, but I don’t think it is for lack of teaching.

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Bror Erickson,

    Well said! (BTW, I haven’t forgotten about private correspondence with you; but my Email at school won’t permit me to contact you. Try emailing me: jaiello@admin.clio.k12.mi.us)

  • http://enterthevein.wordpress.com J. Dean

    Bror Erickson,

    Well said! (BTW, I haven’t forgotten about private correspondence with you; but my Email at school won’t permit me to contact you. Try emailing me: jaiello@admin.clio.k12.mi.us)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I feel like I’m missing something in Kirk’s (@1) and Dan’s (@4) comments: “It would be tough to galvanize people against divorce when a full 40% of your base is divorced.” “Who would wish to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your membership, directly or indirectly?”

    I certainly understand that being a pastor is a tough job, as you are constantly battling people’s sinful natures, but, well … isn’t the job of a pastor to confront your congregation with issues that affect 100% of them?

    If one is timid about mentioning divorce because so many are divorced, then how does one handle lust, or hatred, or idolatry? Moreover, is it really tough to galvanize people against sins that they themselves commit? Every Sunday, I hear my pastor preach against sin — sin that I commit — and every Sunday, I agree heartily with him, even as I confess that in the previous week, I repeatedly committed the sins I agreed were wrong last Sunday.

    If anything, it would seem that the problem is, when divorce is discussed, the divorcees in the crowd do not solemnly nod their heads and think, “Yes, it is a terrible thing, thank God for his mercy towards me, a sinner” but rather inwardly seethe and say, “Hey, he’s calling me a bad person! I’m a Christian!”

    Which suggests that the deeper problem is that there are churches in America where people can go, week after week, and not feel convicted of their personal sins, but rather get the idea that they’re actually quite good people, certainly better than the people who aren’t at church.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    I feel like I’m missing something in Kirk’s (@1) and Dan’s (@4) comments: “It would be tough to galvanize people against divorce when a full 40% of your base is divorced.” “Who would wish to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your membership, directly or indirectly?”

    I certainly understand that being a pastor is a tough job, as you are constantly battling people’s sinful natures, but, well … isn’t the job of a pastor to confront your congregation with issues that affect 100% of them?

    If one is timid about mentioning divorce because so many are divorced, then how does one handle lust, or hatred, or idolatry? Moreover, is it really tough to galvanize people against sins that they themselves commit? Every Sunday, I hear my pastor preach against sin — sin that I commit — and every Sunday, I agree heartily with him, even as I confess that in the previous week, I repeatedly committed the sins I agreed were wrong last Sunday.

    If anything, it would seem that the problem is, when divorce is discussed, the divorcees in the crowd do not solemnly nod their heads and think, “Yes, it is a terrible thing, thank God for his mercy towards me, a sinner” but rather inwardly seethe and say, “Hey, he’s calling me a bad person! I’m a Christian!”

    Which suggests that the deeper problem is that there are churches in America where people can go, week after week, and not feel convicted of their personal sins, but rather get the idea that they’re actually quite good people, certainly better than the people who aren’t at church.

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Todd @9

    You’ve hit on it exactly! Or so I would say. To admit/confess that divorce involves sin, the first sin it involves is the pride of believing that we all know what we’re doing and that God has to bless our activities whether or not we listen to what he has told us as we chose our spouse and establish our marriage. It is God who defines what marriage is and how we are to use our sexuality. But when we redefine marriage and decide for ourselves how best to use our sexuality, we put ourselves above God; specifically above His Word. This is the most common issue I find in marriages that end in divorce; namely, that someone is shocked and surprised when their own ideas of what love, marriage, and sex are supposed to be have only led them to disappointment and failure. But instead of confession their sin against the first commandment, they want pardon for making a “mistake.”

    For example: how can any Christian who fears God (“we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things”) believe that sexual activity before marriage is anything except sinful? Then, when the marriage falls apart, can we confess that it is because we did not listen to God and honor His Word? Oh how we love to fool ourselves into believing that we can tell the difference between good and evil but that God cannot.

    In all matters relating to sex and marriage (single parenthood, gay union/marriage, cohabitation before marriage, pornography, and the like), we so easily set aside God’s Word because we all struggle with these sins in one way or another. Now, why is this so with the matter of divorce while not homosexuality and abortion? Others can postulate why that is so, but my point is that the first commandment sins involved in marriage, as a whole, touch all of us. And most people cannot confront the sin of desiring to “be like God” by which they would judge for themselves what is good and what is evil.

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Todd @9

    You’ve hit on it exactly! Or so I would say. To admit/confess that divorce involves sin, the first sin it involves is the pride of believing that we all know what we’re doing and that God has to bless our activities whether or not we listen to what he has told us as we chose our spouse and establish our marriage. It is God who defines what marriage is and how we are to use our sexuality. But when we redefine marriage and decide for ourselves how best to use our sexuality, we put ourselves above God; specifically above His Word. This is the most common issue I find in marriages that end in divorce; namely, that someone is shocked and surprised when their own ideas of what love, marriage, and sex are supposed to be have only led them to disappointment and failure. But instead of confession their sin against the first commandment, they want pardon for making a “mistake.”

    For example: how can any Christian who fears God (“we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things”) believe that sexual activity before marriage is anything except sinful? Then, when the marriage falls apart, can we confess that it is because we did not listen to God and honor His Word? Oh how we love to fool ourselves into believing that we can tell the difference between good and evil but that God cannot.

    In all matters relating to sex and marriage (single parenthood, gay union/marriage, cohabitation before marriage, pornography, and the like), we so easily set aside God’s Word because we all struggle with these sins in one way or another. Now, why is this so with the matter of divorce while not homosexuality and abortion? Others can postulate why that is so, but my point is that the first commandment sins involved in marriage, as a whole, touch all of us. And most people cannot confront the sin of desiring to “be like God” by which they would judge for themselves what is good and what is evil.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The real scandal is the fact that evangelical Protestants divorce at rates at least as high as the rest of the public.”

    My question is whether this includes folks who got divorced before they became Christians. I don’t know if there is any disaggregation.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of Christian men had initiated a divorce, vs. how many women initiated it.

    The point is that preaching against divorce is preaching against women, because women are the ones most often who initiate divorce and get disproportionately favorable treatment. Probably many men would welcome teaching against divorce. Now, this is not my own idea, rather an idea I have heard from men. I am just repeating it.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “The real scandal is the fact that evangelical Protestants divorce at rates at least as high as the rest of the public.”

    My question is whether this includes folks who got divorced before they became Christians. I don’t know if there is any disaggregation.

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of Christian men had initiated a divorce, vs. how many women initiated it.

    The point is that preaching against divorce is preaching against women, because women are the ones most often who initiate divorce and get disproportionately favorable treatment. Probably many men would welcome teaching against divorce. Now, this is not my own idea, rather an idea I have heard from men. I am just repeating it.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Paul (@10), “why is this so with the matter of divorce while not homosexuality and abortion?” If I may, I will engage in the postulating you declined, though it’s really just a restatement of my earlier comment (@9).

    American Christianity feels free to wage war against homosexuality and abortion because (so goes the notion) those are the things “they” are or do — those outside the church, the sinners, the bad people.

    It’s the converse of why American Christianity doesn’t talk about divorce so much. If you spend any amount of time talking to members of a congregation, it’ll quickly become obvious that “we” — those inside the church, the good people (so goes the notion) — have a lot of divorcees among us.

    It’s a question of what the function of the sermon is, the liturgy is, the church is, and even what Christianity is. Is the church a bunker where the troops on the side of Good hunker down and hear a rallying speech from their commander before they go out and battle the forces of Evil? Or is the church building itself — or, more honestly, the heart of every Christian — part of the battlefield, such that the shots need to be fired at the Old Man in each of us, in order to kill him? (Friendly fire? Only if you think your sinful nature is your friend.)

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Paul (@10), “why is this so with the matter of divorce while not homosexuality and abortion?” If I may, I will engage in the postulating you declined, though it’s really just a restatement of my earlier comment (@9).

    American Christianity feels free to wage war against homosexuality and abortion because (so goes the notion) those are the things “they” are or do — those outside the church, the sinners, the bad people.

    It’s the converse of why American Christianity doesn’t talk about divorce so much. If you spend any amount of time talking to members of a congregation, it’ll quickly become obvious that “we” — those inside the church, the good people (so goes the notion) — have a lot of divorcees among us.

    It’s a question of what the function of the sermon is, the liturgy is, the church is, and even what Christianity is. Is the church a bunker where the troops on the side of Good hunker down and hear a rallying speech from their commander before they go out and battle the forces of Evil? Or is the church building itself — or, more honestly, the heart of every Christian — part of the battlefield, such that the shots need to be fired at the Old Man in each of us, in order to kill him? (Friendly fire? Only if you think your sinful nature is your friend.)

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Smith makes a compelling case that evangelicals began their accommodation to divorce even before those laws took effect. No fault divorce laws simply reflected an acknowledgment of what had already taken place.”

    Not having read Smith’s book, I don’t know why the reviewer considers his case compelling. However, taking an more accommodating attitude towards divorced folks before no fault divorce laws seems quite different from taking such a view after the new no fault divorce laws. People could always get divorced, it would just be very expensive or painful, just like breaking many other contracts. So, most unhappy folks would only choose to divorce if it were still preferable despite the losses they would incur by breaking the contract.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “Smith makes a compelling case that evangelicals began their accommodation to divorce even before those laws took effect. No fault divorce laws simply reflected an acknowledgment of what had already taken place.”

    Not having read Smith’s book, I don’t know why the reviewer considers his case compelling. However, taking an more accommodating attitude towards divorced folks before no fault divorce laws seems quite different from taking such a view after the new no fault divorce laws. People could always get divorced, it would just be very expensive or painful, just like breaking many other contracts. So, most unhappy folks would only choose to divorce if it were still preferable despite the losses they would incur by breaking the contract.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “American Christianity feels free to wage war against homosexuality and abortion because (so goes the notion) those are the things “they” are or do — those outside the church, the sinners, the bad people.”

    Not sure about that. The war against these things is waged by individuals working together. American Christianity is split on homosexuality and abortion with certain denominations allowing both. It seems the resistance and preaching against homosexuality and abortion is directed first at church members and then at laws that are unfair to victims of abortion and laws that give gays more rights than other people like hate crimes penalties etc.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “American Christianity feels free to wage war against homosexuality and abortion because (so goes the notion) those are the things “they” are or do — those outside the church, the sinners, the bad people.”

    Not sure about that. The war against these things is waged by individuals working together. American Christianity is split on homosexuality and abortion with certain denominations allowing both. It seems the resistance and preaching against homosexuality and abortion is directed first at church members and then at laws that are unfair to victims of abortion and laws that give gays more rights than other people like hate crimes penalties etc.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg
  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg
  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD, you are right church has to be about confronting the people that are there with their sins, not the sins outside. But this is what the culture war has done. Eventually though culture wars go bad most for the people who wage them. And it is coming home to roost.
    Sg,
    Statistics certainly point out that women are most likely to “initiate” divorce. But that says nothing of the reasons for initiating. I’ll leave personal experience out of this. I have many divorced people in my congregation. Some honest enough to claim fault. Some who rightfully don’t. Men and women. I know some who initiated divorce for reasons unacceptable by scripture. I know others wh initiated for acceptable reasons. Some men put up with sh*t they shouldn’t to stay married. Some women do the same. Some get divorced because the toothpaste wan’t closed and later regret it
    I suspect though that society could do a better job even without laws of instilling the value of marriage and teaching people to love and forgive each other.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    tODD, you are right church has to be about confronting the people that are there with their sins, not the sins outside. But this is what the culture war has done. Eventually though culture wars go bad most for the people who wage them. And it is coming home to roost.
    Sg,
    Statistics certainly point out that women are most likely to “initiate” divorce. But that says nothing of the reasons for initiating. I’ll leave personal experience out of this. I have many divorced people in my congregation. Some honest enough to claim fault. Some who rightfully don’t. Men and women. I know some who initiated divorce for reasons unacceptable by scripture. I know others wh initiated for acceptable reasons. Some men put up with sh*t they shouldn’t to stay married. Some women do the same. Some get divorced because the toothpaste wan’t closed and later regret it
    I suspect though that society could do a better job even without laws of instilling the value of marriage and teaching people to love and forgive each other.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “It seems the resistance and preaching against homosexuality and abortion is directed first at church members” (@14). When was the last time you heard anyone in any church anywhere preach against those things using the second person? When was the last time you heard a sermon that assumed that gay people and women who’d had abortions (or men who’d encouraged them to) were sitting in the pews?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    “It seems the resistance and preaching against homosexuality and abortion is directed first at church members” (@14). When was the last time you heard anyone in any church anywhere preach against those things using the second person? When was the last time you heard a sermon that assumed that gay people and women who’d had abortions (or men who’d encouraged them to) were sitting in the pews?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “When was the last time you heard anyone in any church anywhere preach against those things using the second person? When was the last time you heard a sermon that assumed that gay people and women who’d had abortions (or men who’d encouraged them to) were sitting in the pews?”

    Usually phrased as we, meaning you and I. So, first and second person. Such is not infrequent, neither is it a constant refrain.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “When was the last time you heard anyone in any church anywhere preach against those things using the second person? When was the last time you heard a sermon that assumed that gay people and women who’d had abortions (or men who’d encouraged them to) were sitting in the pews?”

    Usually phrased as we, meaning you and I. So, first and second person. Such is not infrequent, neither is it a constant refrain.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Just to be clear, SG (@18), you’re saying that you “not infrequently” hear a sermon “that assumes that gay people and women who’ve had abortions (or men who’ve encouraged them to) are sitting in the pews”? Is that correct?

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    Just to be clear, SG (@18), you’re saying that you “not infrequently” hear a sermon “that assumes that gay people and women who’ve had abortions (or men who’ve encouraged them to) are sitting in the pews”? Is that correct?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD @19 yeah, don’t you?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    tODD @19 yeah, don’t you?

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I suspect though that society could do a better job even without laws of instilling the value of marriage and teaching people to love and forgive each other.”

    Society? probably not.

    Fathers, probably could.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “I suspect though that society could do a better job even without laws of instilling the value of marriage and teaching people to love and forgive each other.”

    Society? probably not.

    Fathers, probably could.

  • helen

    “It would be interesting to know what percentage of Christian men had initiated a divorce, vs. how many women initiated it.

    The point is that preaching against divorce is preaching against women, because women are the ones most often who initiate divorce and get disproportionately favorable treatment. Probably many men would welcome teaching against divorce. Now, this is not my own idea, rather an idea I have heard from men. I am just repeating it.”

    sg: You’ve said you’d like to know who initiates divorce in one case.
    In the next paragraph, you think you do know and how it turned out, as well.

    Which is it?
    [My "anecdotal evidence" is 3-1 the reverse of yours, BTW.]

  • helen

    “It would be interesting to know what percentage of Christian men had initiated a divorce, vs. how many women initiated it.

    The point is that preaching against divorce is preaching against women, because women are the ones most often who initiate divorce and get disproportionately favorable treatment. Probably many men would welcome teaching against divorce. Now, this is not my own idea, rather an idea I have heard from men. I am just repeating it.”

    sg: You’ve said you’d like to know who initiates divorce in one case.
    In the next paragraph, you think you do know and how it turned out, as well.

    Which is it?
    [My "anecdotal evidence" is 3-1 the reverse of yours, BTW.]

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Helen, I used a qualifier: Christian.

    I have not seen disaggregated data on people who were believing Christians before they initiated divorces.

    The article gives data on how many Christians have ever been divorced but not whether they were Christians before the divorce.

    I have seen general data on the US population, but again, that is not just Christians.

    So, I don’t know. The data are not sufficiently disaggregated.

    I noted the opinion as not my own. I can’t have an opinion without better data.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Helen, I used a qualifier: Christian.

    I have not seen disaggregated data on people who were believing Christians before they initiated divorces.

    The article gives data on how many Christians have ever been divorced but not whether they were Christians before the divorce.

    I have seen general data on the US population, but again, that is not just Christians.

    So, I don’t know. The data are not sufficiently disaggregated.

    I noted the opinion as not my own. I can’t have an opinion without better data.

  • helen

    I was assuming your “Christian” qualifier, sg. [I'm not sure Christ would, in most cases of divorce these days. He was fairly plain about it. The Pharisees were evading the Word then and we are doing it now.]

    All of my (too small) sample were members of LCMS at the time they broke up, (but the LCMS is not congruent with the invisible Church).

    As you say, the data are not sufficient for an opinion, let alone a thesis on the subject!

    I’ve read one Lutheran Pastor who interprets Christ’s words more literally than Pr. Lassman (who is quoting the official position of LCMS, I think).

  • helen

    I was assuming your “Christian” qualifier, sg. [I'm not sure Christ would, in most cases of divorce these days. He was fairly plain about it. The Pharisees were evading the Word then and we are doing it now.]

    All of my (too small) sample were members of LCMS at the time they broke up, (but the LCMS is not congruent with the invisible Church).

    As you say, the data are not sufficient for an opinion, let alone a thesis on the subject!

    I’ve read one Lutheran Pastor who interprets Christ’s words more literally than Pr. Lassman (who is quoting the official position of LCMS, I think).

  • James Sarver

    Christianity generally does not seem to have a good handle on the nature of marriage, thus making it very difficult to address divorce (or social/political assaults on marriage for that matter)in any significant way. As an LCMS layman I have heard and seen in print a wide variety of opinions on marriage and divorce from LCMS pastors. We are all over the place just in our little denomination. As an example, many LCMS pastors (perhaps most) will tell you that their pronouncement in the marriage ceremony “creates” marriage when the early 80′s CTCR document on human sexuality (the closest thing LCMS has to an official position on this subject) says it ain’t so.

    Some significant group of Christians will have to be in agreement on marriage as well as divorce before anything can be effectively addressed in the wider culture.

  • James Sarver

    Christianity generally does not seem to have a good handle on the nature of marriage, thus making it very difficult to address divorce (or social/political assaults on marriage for that matter)in any significant way. As an LCMS layman I have heard and seen in print a wide variety of opinions on marriage and divorce from LCMS pastors. We are all over the place just in our little denomination. As an example, many LCMS pastors (perhaps most) will tell you that their pronouncement in the marriage ceremony “creates” marriage when the early 80′s CTCR document on human sexuality (the closest thing LCMS has to an official position on this subject) says it ain’t so.

    Some significant group of Christians will have to be in agreement on marriage as well as divorce before anything can be effectively addressed in the wider culture.

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    1. Is it just me or does anyone else notice that LCMS pastors who graduated from the seminary before 1973 have a different understanding of marriage and divorce than those who graduated after that time?

    2. I do assume that there are those with homosexual orientation and practicing homosexuals and those related to them, as well as those who have had or have contemplated having or are related to someone who has had or contemplated having an abortion sitting in the pews; just as there are heterosexual sinners and drunk drivers who’ve caused fatal crashes, etc. etc. sitting in the pews. Is there anyone who has not “played God” by redefining the commandments or justify himself? We have all brought sin into the world just as our first parents did. There is no need to point fingers “out there” when the pews are filled with repentant sinners – of which I am the first – unless there are those who still seek to justify themselves. It is they who must hear the Law (that whole ‘log in your own eye thing).

    3. Bror: is there such a thing as an ‘innocent party’ in any divorce? I’ve never heard of such a thing, unless there is someone who has their own righteousness under the Law. The Law convicts us — every one of us. What good is there in saying that one part of the other has “the greater sin”?

    4. James @25: Such is only one anecdote of some clergy among us who wish to create a systematic theology to their own liking. We must ask them as one professor of mine was wont to ask his first year seminarians: “Where did you get that idea?” They must show us from Scripture or they must return to their subscription to the Confessions (or at least stop talking about what they do not know).

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    1. Is it just me or does anyone else notice that LCMS pastors who graduated from the seminary before 1973 have a different understanding of marriage and divorce than those who graduated after that time?

    2. I do assume that there are those with homosexual orientation and practicing homosexuals and those related to them, as well as those who have had or have contemplated having or are related to someone who has had or contemplated having an abortion sitting in the pews; just as there are heterosexual sinners and drunk drivers who’ve caused fatal crashes, etc. etc. sitting in the pews. Is there anyone who has not “played God” by redefining the commandments or justify himself? We have all brought sin into the world just as our first parents did. There is no need to point fingers “out there” when the pews are filled with repentant sinners – of which I am the first – unless there are those who still seek to justify themselves. It is they who must hear the Law (that whole ‘log in your own eye thing).

    3. Bror: is there such a thing as an ‘innocent party’ in any divorce? I’ve never heard of such a thing, unless there is someone who has their own righteousness under the Law. The Law convicts us — every one of us. What good is there in saying that one part of the other has “the greater sin”?

    4. James @25: Such is only one anecdote of some clergy among us who wish to create a systematic theology to their own liking. We must ask them as one professor of mine was wont to ask his first year seminarians: “Where did you get that idea?” They must show us from Scripture or they must return to their subscription to the Confessions (or at least stop talking about what they do not know).

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    There is usually enough sin to go around in any divorce. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a party that has more or less been the victim in the crime. Or how is it the aptostle paul say’s “let the unbeliever go.”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    There is usually enough sin to go around in any divorce. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a party that has more or less been the victim in the crime. Or how is it the aptostle paul say’s “let the unbeliever go.”

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #9,

    I’m a bit belated, and there is much subsequent discussion, but you said, “I feel like I’m missing something in . . . Dan’s (@4) comments: . . . “Who would wish to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your membership, directly or indirectly?”

    “isn’t the job of a pastor to confront your congregation with issues that affect 100% of them?”

    “the deeper problem is that there are churches in America where people can go, week after week, and not feel convicted of their personal sins”

    It seems that you are not missing anything, since you essentially underscore my point. I identified it as a “crisis within the church,” and my comments on pastors was not meant as a thin rationalization for conceding to the culture, (though as I re-read it I can see how you might get that. Maybe.) My point was that pastors are under water in this struggle. They are deluged. It is hard enough to preach divorce as a sin–something I think most pastors attempt to do–but when I said “Who wants to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your congregation,” I was referring to church discipline. Those in unrepented public sin are to have Matthew 18 applied, leading to (God forbid) excommunication.

    It is one thing to stand in the pulpit and say, “that is a sin,” and trust that your hearers assent. It is another thing, and an even more difficult thing, to say, “Listen, this sin endangers you, John, and if you don’t repent you cannot continue in fellowship with the church.” Do that, and you will quickly begn to discover how people really feel.

    (That doesn’t even take into account the pragmatic considerations, like what if one partner is repentant and the other is not? What does repentance look like if a person is already re-married?)

    None of this is an excuse for a pastor to ignore sin, of course. (Praise God for those faithful pastors who love their people enough to speak the truth!) I’m just saying that it is a tough slog for faithful pastors, and they need your support and ardent prayer.

  • Dan Kempin

    tODD, #9,

    I’m a bit belated, and there is much subsequent discussion, but you said, “I feel like I’m missing something in . . . Dan’s (@4) comments: . . . “Who would wish to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your membership, directly or indirectly?”

    “isn’t the job of a pastor to confront your congregation with issues that affect 100% of them?”

    “the deeper problem is that there are churches in America where people can go, week after week, and not feel convicted of their personal sins”

    It seems that you are not missing anything, since you essentially underscore my point. I identified it as a “crisis within the church,” and my comments on pastors was not meant as a thin rationalization for conceding to the culture, (though as I re-read it I can see how you might get that. Maybe.) My point was that pastors are under water in this struggle. They are deluged. It is hard enough to preach divorce as a sin–something I think most pastors attempt to do–but when I said “Who wants to bring forth a shame that would affect 2/3 of your congregation,” I was referring to church discipline. Those in unrepented public sin are to have Matthew 18 applied, leading to (God forbid) excommunication.

    It is one thing to stand in the pulpit and say, “that is a sin,” and trust that your hearers assent. It is another thing, and an even more difficult thing, to say, “Listen, this sin endangers you, John, and if you don’t repent you cannot continue in fellowship with the church.” Do that, and you will quickly begn to discover how people really feel.

    (That doesn’t even take into account the pragmatic considerations, like what if one partner is repentant and the other is not? What does repentance look like if a person is already re-married?)

    None of this is an excuse for a pastor to ignore sin, of course. (Praise God for those faithful pastors who love their people enough to speak the truth!) I’m just saying that it is a tough slog for faithful pastors, and they need your support and ardent prayer.

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    The only Biblical rationale I know of for divorce is this: “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” Paul reflects this, but Jesus is painfully clear in Matthew 19:6. Perhaps divorce is a lesser evil than to destroy one another completely, even to destroy faith, but fidelity even to giving up one’s life for the spouse though rejected or even tortured is how Christ “loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” What greater love is there than for one to “give up his life for his friend”? My point is that we must have changed the Word of God to allow for no-fault or low-fault divorce. “It was not this way from the beginning.”

    I submit that this is the crux of this thread: that we condemn those things which are different only in degree; we condemn the homosexual because the degree of his sin reveals that we have committed the same sin but only to a lesser degree. We condemn the abortionist because the degree of his sin reveals that we have committed the same sin but only to a lesser degree (to determine the time and circumstances of pregnancy; cf. Onan et. al.). So birth control brings sex for recreation. Sex for recreation allows for infidelity and all manner of sex as an end to itself outside of marriage, hence cohabitation, “homosexual sex” (which, to me, is an oxymoron) and on and on. We only wanted to change God’s Word a little bit to allow for sex without the possibility of pregnancy. But those who live together without marriage, have babies without marriage, engage in sexual perversions (also with no possibility of pregnancy) have twisted the Word so dramatically that it reveals our own sin. Therefore, if we can condemn those who have taken the same principle to an extreme we can excuse ourselves for only doing so a little bit. The real problem is that we have forgotten “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Didn’t birth control start this ball rolling?

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    The only Biblical rationale I know of for divorce is this: “Moses allowed you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” Paul reflects this, but Jesus is painfully clear in Matthew 19:6. Perhaps divorce is a lesser evil than to destroy one another completely, even to destroy faith, but fidelity even to giving up one’s life for the spouse though rejected or even tortured is how Christ “loved the Church and gave Himself up for her.” What greater love is there than for one to “give up his life for his friend”? My point is that we must have changed the Word of God to allow for no-fault or low-fault divorce. “It was not this way from the beginning.”

    I submit that this is the crux of this thread: that we condemn those things which are different only in degree; we condemn the homosexual because the degree of his sin reveals that we have committed the same sin but only to a lesser degree. We condemn the abortionist because the degree of his sin reveals that we have committed the same sin but only to a lesser degree (to determine the time and circumstances of pregnancy; cf. Onan et. al.). So birth control brings sex for recreation. Sex for recreation allows for infidelity and all manner of sex as an end to itself outside of marriage, hence cohabitation, “homosexual sex” (which, to me, is an oxymoron) and on and on. We only wanted to change God’s Word a little bit to allow for sex without the possibility of pregnancy. But those who live together without marriage, have babies without marriage, engage in sexual perversions (also with no possibility of pregnancy) have twisted the Word so dramatically that it reveals our own sin. Therefore, if we can condemn those who have taken the same principle to an extreme we can excuse ourselves for only doing so a little bit. The real problem is that we have forgotten “what God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” Didn’t birth control start this ball rolling?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    1 Corinthian 7:8 ,” for the divorced and widowed, I say it is good for them to remain as I am but if they cannot exercise self control, they should marry for it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”.
    Many exegetes, and the better of them, make the case that Paul was more likely divorced than widowed. I think he probably understood the intracacies of this better than you. It just isn’t rational or Biblical to expect these people to remain single.
    I think the biggest problem with divorce and the church has actually been an irresponsible and legalist approach to it that fails to forgive thos sinned against and ostrcizes them like a leper. Which is reflected in constantly opting for the worse translations available of things like Matt 16. Titust chapter 1. 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Corinthians chapter 7.
    As for no fault divorce that is a right hand kingdom issue and has nothing to do with changing God’s word.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    1 Corinthian 7:8 ,” for the divorced and widowed, I say it is good for them to remain as I am but if they cannot exercise self control, they should marry for it is better to marry than to be aflame with passion.”.
    Many exegetes, and the better of them, make the case that Paul was more likely divorced than widowed. I think he probably understood the intracacies of this better than you. It just isn’t rational or Biblical to expect these people to remain single.
    I think the biggest problem with divorce and the church has actually been an irresponsible and legalist approach to it that fails to forgive thos sinned against and ostrcizes them like a leper. Which is reflected in constantly opting for the worse translations available of things like Matt 16. Titust chapter 1. 1 Timothy 3 and 1 Corinthians chapter 7.
    As for no fault divorce that is a right hand kingdom issue and has nothing to do with changing God’s word.

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Bror:

    I am saying nothing about those who are divorced being remarried. I am talking about confessing that our inability to remain in a marriage comes from our inability to keep the first commandment. If it were not for the hardness of heart which comes because we do not love God as we should (and the divorced are no more guilty of this than anyone else – I simply wish to point out that divorce is not blameless for either party) then divorce would be unthinkable even to the offended because the two have already become one.

    Again, I am not talking about whether those who are divorced should remain single. I don’t know where you’re getting that. But since you bring it up, since when do you, Bror, subject the Word to what is rational? It is always unrational to believe that a fallen human can obey the Law. What’s new? But we must be careful to not suggest that since it is unrational to believe that we can satisfy what the Law demands that it’s okay to discount divorce as sin. Divorce is, by definition, contrary to the Word of God. Therefore, divorce is always sin.

    In no way do I mean to suggest that there cannot be forgiveness or even that the Law should be preached to those who broken by sin and in a broken marriage. What I mean to say is that we have come to accept divorce as a reasonable option as long as we observe certain criteria; which is just what the Pharisees were attempting with Jesus.

    Finally, your assertion that St. Paul probably understands the intricacies of this better than me is just a put-down meant to dismiss my point. I could likewise suggest that you are too close to this question to be objective about it, but I won’t do that since it doesn’t add anything to the discussion. By the way, has anyone ever noticed that those who want to legitimize cohabitation are those who desire to cohabitate while those who wish to de-sin divorce are those who want to or have divorced?

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Bror:

    I am saying nothing about those who are divorced being remarried. I am talking about confessing that our inability to remain in a marriage comes from our inability to keep the first commandment. If it were not for the hardness of heart which comes because we do not love God as we should (and the divorced are no more guilty of this than anyone else – I simply wish to point out that divorce is not blameless for either party) then divorce would be unthinkable even to the offended because the two have already become one.

    Again, I am not talking about whether those who are divorced should remain single. I don’t know where you’re getting that. But since you bring it up, since when do you, Bror, subject the Word to what is rational? It is always unrational to believe that a fallen human can obey the Law. What’s new? But we must be careful to not suggest that since it is unrational to believe that we can satisfy what the Law demands that it’s okay to discount divorce as sin. Divorce is, by definition, contrary to the Word of God. Therefore, divorce is always sin.

    In no way do I mean to suggest that there cannot be forgiveness or even that the Law should be preached to those who broken by sin and in a broken marriage. What I mean to say is that we have come to accept divorce as a reasonable option as long as we observe certain criteria; which is just what the Pharisees were attempting with Jesus.

    Finally, your assertion that St. Paul probably understands the intricacies of this better than me is just a put-down meant to dismiss my point. I could likewise suggest that you are too close to this question to be objective about it, but I won’t do that since it doesn’t add anything to the discussion. By the way, has anyone ever noticed that those who want to legitimize cohabitation are those who desire to cohabitate while those who wish to de-sin divorce are those who want to or have divorced?

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    “No fault” or “Law fault” sin is most certainly a spiritual issue (though perhaps by a different definition). “It was the serpent!” It was “the woman whom you gave me!”

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    “No fault” or “Law fault” sin is most certainly a spiritual issue (though perhaps by a different definition). “It was the serpent!” It was “the woman whom you gave me!”

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul, ithink I got you confused with some things dan kempin implied above sorry. That is as far as remarriage is concerned. And as for raional, I mean to say it is not rationnal according to what scripture itself says.

    As for this it is a breaking of the first commandment bit and we are all sinners bit. The same goes for a couple that remains married. That doesn’t mean that the other person in the divorce did something worthy of being divorced by biblical or even human standards.
    You also seem to have some delusion concernng america being a christian society and bound by God’s law as put forth in the Bible. Divorce is a spiritual issue, the laws concerning it are not, not where the government is concerned.
    But don’t go around blaming the woman for the divorce whne her husband ran off on her for a younger girl, or vice versa. It is really unhelpful. They have sin for sure, they don’t own the divorce.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul, ithink I got you confused with some things dan kempin implied above sorry. That is as far as remarriage is concerned. And as for raional, I mean to say it is not rationnal according to what scripture itself says.

    As for this it is a breaking of the first commandment bit and we are all sinners bit. The same goes for a couple that remains married. That doesn’t mean that the other person in the divorce did something worthy of being divorced by biblical or even human standards.
    You also seem to have some delusion concernng america being a christian society and bound by God’s law as put forth in the Bible. Divorce is a spiritual issue, the laws concerning it are not, not where the government is concerned.
    But don’t go around blaming the woman for the divorce whne her husband ran off on her for a younger girl, or vice versa. It is really unhelpful. They have sin for sure, they don’t own the divorce.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All of my (too small) sample were members of LCMS at the time they broke up, (but the LCMS is not congruent with the invisible Church).”

    That’s an important point because we don’t get to know who are the invisible Church. So the divorce among some x % of folks who now self identify as Christian is meaningless for the purpose of preaching. It seems Lassman’s statement is forthright, however that is the message that teens need to hear as much as anyone.

    Teens are the ones we may be missing when we teach on marriage and the sin of divorce. Ideas are formed long before marriage and young men and women need to be taught because the larger society will not teach them that divorce is wrong.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All of my (too small) sample were members of LCMS at the time they broke up, (but the LCMS is not congruent with the invisible Church).”

    That’s an important point because we don’t get to know who are the invisible Church. So the divorce among some x % of folks who now self identify as Christian is meaningless for the purpose of preaching. It seems Lassman’s statement is forthright, however that is the message that teens need to hear as much as anyone.

    Teens are the ones we may be missing when we teach on marriage and the sin of divorce. Ideas are formed long before marriage and young men and women need to be taught because the larger society will not teach them that divorce is wrong.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All of my (too small) sample were members of LCMS at the time they broke up, (but the LCMS is not congruent with the invisible Church).”

    That’s an important point because we don’t get to know who are the invisible Church. So the divorce among some x % of folks who now self identify as Christian is meaningless for the purpose of preaching. It seems Lassman’s statement is forthright, however that is the message that teens need to hear as much as anyone.

    Teens are the ones we may be missing when we teach on marriage and the sin of divorce. Ideas are formed long before marriage and young men and women need to be taught because the larger society will not teach them that divorce is wrong.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    “All of my (too small) sample were members of LCMS at the time they broke up, (but the LCMS is not congruent with the invisible Church).”

    That’s an important point because we don’t get to know who are the invisible Church. So the divorce among some x % of folks who now self identify as Christian is meaningless for the purpose of preaching. It seems Lassman’s statement is forthright, however that is the message that teens need to hear as much as anyone.

    Teens are the ones we may be missing when we teach on marriage and the sin of divorce. Ideas are formed long before marriage and young men and women need to be taught because the larger society will not teach them that divorce is wrong.

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Bror:

    What did I ever write about America being a Christian nation that leads you to call me delusional? I said no such thing, except for using the word “Law” by which I completely mean God’s Law, not man’s. And yes, I punned “no fault” and “low fault” divorce, using a man’s-law term to demonstrate how we seek to reduce the spiritual fault for sin in the same manner that we have reduced the civil fault for sin; that is, excusing ourselves because we hold less fault than the other as I meant to demonstrate by referring to Eve’s blame of the serpent and Adam’s blame of Eve. Sin is sin. Divorce is contrary to the will of God and is therefore sin. Single people should not live as though they are married and married people should not live as though they are single. While the State has a role in upholding the divine institution of marriage, it is God who makes the two to be one which man should not thereafter “put asunder.” My point is simple: there is no such thing as a God-pleasing divorce. Like tODD, I merely wish to remind divorced folks that this is evidence of their damnation under the Law – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    And yes, I also agree that those who are still married are just as damnable for their sinful desires and self-justifications of sexual sins even within marriage; as Jesus said, “But I say to you, if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you have committed adultery.” The Sixth Commandment condemns us all, every one, whether before, during, or after marriage. I am not saying that the divorced are more culpable than the undivorced. Indeed, there are many people still married who live as though they are not. I merely want to keep away from the notion that there is ever anyone who can say that our less-than-perfect marriages are “not my fault.” Sometimes we are able to reconcile. Sometimes, again because of our pervasive sinfulness, we are not. Even believing Christians can be unable to reconcile; i.e., to overcome their hardness of heart. That is what Jesus meant by saying “Moses permitted you to divorce . . . . because your hearts were hard.” I simply want us ALL to see that we suffer from this same, sinful, hardness of heart. To do this, we must reject the notion that anyone is ever “the innocent party.”

    All of this flows out of the question of why we Christians can point out the sins of Abortionists and Homosexuals without seeing the logs in our own eyes first. I’m with tODD on this one: preaching only to those who sin to some certain degree can only lead the rest of us to become comfortable in our sinfulness (assuming I understand him correctly).

    According to God’s Moral Law, divorce or pornography or ‘fooling around’ or even lustful-looks are never permissible any more than abortion or homosexuality is ever permissible. Knowing this, we sin anyway — we all do! But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

    I only seek to warn us against the self-righteousness of those who believe that they can live without sin in any area of life. By applying the Law only to those who most grieviously offend God, we give the false impression that our “minor” offenses are pardonable leading hearers to feel justified while they are not.

  • http://plauer.net Paul

    Bror:

    What did I ever write about America being a Christian nation that leads you to call me delusional? I said no such thing, except for using the word “Law” by which I completely mean God’s Law, not man’s. And yes, I punned “no fault” and “low fault” divorce, using a man’s-law term to demonstrate how we seek to reduce the spiritual fault for sin in the same manner that we have reduced the civil fault for sin; that is, excusing ourselves because we hold less fault than the other as I meant to demonstrate by referring to Eve’s blame of the serpent and Adam’s blame of Eve. Sin is sin. Divorce is contrary to the will of God and is therefore sin. Single people should not live as though they are married and married people should not live as though they are single. While the State has a role in upholding the divine institution of marriage, it is God who makes the two to be one which man should not thereafter “put asunder.” My point is simple: there is no such thing as a God-pleasing divorce. Like tODD, I merely wish to remind divorced folks that this is evidence of their damnation under the Law – no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    And yes, I also agree that those who are still married are just as damnable for their sinful desires and self-justifications of sexual sins even within marriage; as Jesus said, “But I say to you, if you look at a woman with lust in your heart, you have committed adultery.” The Sixth Commandment condemns us all, every one, whether before, during, or after marriage. I am not saying that the divorced are more culpable than the undivorced. Indeed, there are many people still married who live as though they are not. I merely want to keep away from the notion that there is ever anyone who can say that our less-than-perfect marriages are “not my fault.” Sometimes we are able to reconcile. Sometimes, again because of our pervasive sinfulness, we are not. Even believing Christians can be unable to reconcile; i.e., to overcome their hardness of heart. That is what Jesus meant by saying “Moses permitted you to divorce . . . . because your hearts were hard.” I simply want us ALL to see that we suffer from this same, sinful, hardness of heart. To do this, we must reject the notion that anyone is ever “the innocent party.”

    All of this flows out of the question of why we Christians can point out the sins of Abortionists and Homosexuals without seeing the logs in our own eyes first. I’m with tODD on this one: preaching only to those who sin to some certain degree can only lead the rest of us to become comfortable in our sinfulness (assuming I understand him correctly).

    According to God’s Moral Law, divorce or pornography or ‘fooling around’ or even lustful-looks are never permissible any more than abortion or homosexuality is ever permissible. Knowing this, we sin anyway — we all do! But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

    I only seek to warn us against the self-righteousness of those who believe that they can live without sin in any area of life. By applying the Law only to those who most grieviously offend God, we give the false impression that our “minor” offenses are pardonable leading hearers to feel justified while they are not.

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror, #30,

    “Many exegetes, and the better of them, make the case that Paul was more likely divorced than widowed.”

    Who? And on what basis? What reputable scholars or exegetes have proposed this?

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror, #30,

    “Many exegetes, and the better of them, make the case that Paul was more likely divorced than widowed.”

    Who? And on what basis? What reputable scholars or exegetes have proposed this?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan, I’ve read it in not a few books dealing with this passage, it has been some time and I’m not in my library to give you citations. Maybe I’ll be there monday. I have also heard Voelz make the same argument and say that he was thoroughly convinced of it, which is one reason he makes the argument Paul was not a pastor. I vehemently disagree with him on the second part. I cank remember what lockwood says.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan, I’ve read it in not a few books dealing with this passage, it has been some time and I’m not in my library to give you citations. Maybe I’ll be there monday. I have also heard Voelz make the same argument and say that he was thoroughly convinced of it, which is one reason he makes the argument Paul was not a pastor. I vehemently disagree with him on the second part. I cank remember what lockwood says.

  • Paul

    How can you cite a professor as an authority on one point and then vehemently disagree with him on another? Either he is an exegetical authority or he is not, I would think.

  • Paul

    How can you cite a professor as an authority on one point and then vehemently disagree with him on another? Either he is an exegetical authority or he is not, I would think.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    For a guy like you or even I, who are absolutely correct on everything we ever utter, it is hard to understand how an authority can be right on one point and wrong on another, but I have learned that it does happen. In anycase dan asked me to name an exegete who holds to what I wrote above, and I have.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    For a guy like you or even I, who are absolutely correct on everything we ever utter, it is hard to understand how an authority can be right on one point and wrong on another, but I have learned that it does happen. In anycase dan asked me to name an exegete who holds to what I wrote above, and I have.

  • Paul

    Okay. I’m done with any attempt to discuss with Bror today since clearly doesn’t want to discuss the issue. G’day all.

  • Paul

    Okay. I’m done with any attempt to discuss with Bror today since clearly doesn’t want to discuss the issue. G’day all.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    i’m sorry but your comments have hit somewhat of a raw nerve on this subject. No one is arguing here that one party should see themselves righteous and another party not. This isn’t about self-righteousness before God. Righteousness before God cannot be obtained except through Christ. We get that.
    This is about civic righteousness. Not everyone who is divorced is at fault for that divorce, and by Biblical standards are considered innocent. They are also encouraged to marry again if they are aflame with passion.
    Dan asked a question, I answered it. I disagree with Voelz on a few things. That said he is a reputable scholar and an exegete.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Paul,
    i’m sorry but your comments have hit somewhat of a raw nerve on this subject. No one is arguing here that one party should see themselves righteous and another party not. This isn’t about self-righteousness before God. Righteousness before God cannot be obtained except through Christ. We get that.
    This is about civic righteousness. Not everyone who is divorced is at fault for that divorce, and by Biblical standards are considered innocent. They are also encouraged to marry again if they are aflame with passion.
    Dan asked a question, I answered it. I disagree with Voelz on a few things. That said he is a reputable scholar and an exegete.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    I don’t have an exhaustive library dealing with First Corinthians Chapter Seven. As I noted earlier Voelz in a conversation I had with him went so far as to say that it was almost inconceivable that Paul wasn’t divorced given the evidence.
    Luther argues on 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul must have been a Widower.
    Lockwood allows for the possibility and seems to hold it probable that Paul was divorced.
    Craig Keener in “…And marries another” Was the one that first tipped me off to the fact that some scholars argue for Paul’s divorced status. But then dismisses it on dubious the basis that First Century Jews would not have considered Faith in Jesus to be apostasy, and the Second that Paul was a rare young scholar who had never been married. Unfortunately he does not cite any of the scholars who argue Paul was divorced. (pg 56) I find it hard to swallow either proposition with which Keener dismisses the proposition that Paul was divorced.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    I don’t have an exhaustive library dealing with First Corinthians Chapter Seven. As I noted earlier Voelz in a conversation I had with him went so far as to say that it was almost inconceivable that Paul wasn’t divorced given the evidence.
    Luther argues on 1 Corinthians 7 that Paul must have been a Widower.
    Lockwood allows for the possibility and seems to hold it probable that Paul was divorced.
    Craig Keener in “…And marries another” Was the one that first tipped me off to the fact that some scholars argue for Paul’s divorced status. But then dismisses it on dubious the basis that First Century Jews would not have considered Faith in Jesus to be apostasy, and the Second that Paul was a rare young scholar who had never been married. Unfortunately he does not cite any of the scholars who argue Paul was divorced. (pg 56) I find it hard to swallow either proposition with which Keener dismisses the proposition that Paul was divorced.

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror,

    Thanks for the follow up to my question. This thread is probably dead, but just in case you check it, I will follow up in turn:

    You originally said, “Many exegetes, and the better of them, make the case that Paul was more likely divorced than widowed.” I found that an astounding assertion, and after a small amount of checking, I am still rather astounded.

    I checked Lockwood’s commentary, for instance. He doesn’t exactly “make the case,” let alone “seem to find it probable,” (though I won’t quibble), but he does say that it is a “possibility” that Paul’s wife left him because of his conversion. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t offer any evidence for this–not even a footnote to another commentator’s opinion. (p. 235, btw) He simply asserts it as a possibility. It astounds me that a scholar, especially a Lutheran scholar published by Concordia, would make such a statement without any support. (As opposed to the theory that Paul may have been a widower, for which he offers the norm of Judaism and the commentary of Luther.) That seems to be the same standard of scholarship which allows one to say it is a “possiblity” that Paul was gay, and a further possibility that his visions were the result of a head injury. But I digress.

    Keener also, apparently, fails to cite any scholars who support the divorce theory.

    This leads me back to your conversation with Dr. Voelz. You state his opinion that it was “almost inconceivable that Paul wasn’t divorced given the evidence,” yet you cite no evidence. That is what I want. What is the basis, the evidence, for even hypothesizing that the apostle was divorced?

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror,

    Thanks for the follow up to my question. This thread is probably dead, but just in case you check it, I will follow up in turn:

    You originally said, “Many exegetes, and the better of them, make the case that Paul was more likely divorced than widowed.” I found that an astounding assertion, and after a small amount of checking, I am still rather astounded.

    I checked Lockwood’s commentary, for instance. He doesn’t exactly “make the case,” let alone “seem to find it probable,” (though I won’t quibble), but he does say that it is a “possibility” that Paul’s wife left him because of his conversion. The interesting thing is that he doesn’t offer any evidence for this–not even a footnote to another commentator’s opinion. (p. 235, btw) He simply asserts it as a possibility. It astounds me that a scholar, especially a Lutheran scholar published by Concordia, would make such a statement without any support. (As opposed to the theory that Paul may have been a widower, for which he offers the norm of Judaism and the commentary of Luther.) That seems to be the same standard of scholarship which allows one to say it is a “possiblity” that Paul was gay, and a further possibility that his visions were the result of a head injury. But I digress.

    Keener also, apparently, fails to cite any scholars who support the divorce theory.

    This leads me back to your conversation with Dr. Voelz. You state his opinion that it was “almost inconceivable that Paul wasn’t divorced given the evidence,” yet you cite no evidence. That is what I want. What is the basis, the evidence, for even hypothesizing that the apostle was divorced?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    The evidence Paul lumps himself in with the divorced and widowed. I would argues that agamois cannot be translated widower given its subsequent use within 2 vereses clearly meaning divorced. Paul wasn’t a widow.
    Keener is compelled to think Paul was never married at all. Which is not at all probable nor possible given that he lumps himself here with those who have been married.
    Further evidence proffered to me was his young age, and that his wife would have been even younger. The likelihood that she died being very minimal, though I suppose possible.
    For the idea that she would have left him. Paul being who he was would have been married into a family of prominence, who would not have suffered their daughter to be married to an apostate.
    So the evidence is in the text itself.
    As for Lockwood and CPH. Well Lockwood is an incredible scholar and his commentary is one of the few commentaries I can actually stand to read. I wish he had cited a few scholars there in favor of that possibility. But I’m glad his commentary was published.
    Doctrinal review is broke, everyone knows that. I really fail to see how it works even conceptually. CPH, perhaps for the sake of Christian charity, and in light of the fact that they do do some good work, I’ll keep my opinions there to myself at least here. But there are reasons confessional authors, translators and so on are going elsewhere with their work.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    The evidence Paul lumps himself in with the divorced and widowed. I would argues that agamois cannot be translated widower given its subsequent use within 2 vereses clearly meaning divorced. Paul wasn’t a widow.
    Keener is compelled to think Paul was never married at all. Which is not at all probable nor possible given that he lumps himself here with those who have been married.
    Further evidence proffered to me was his young age, and that his wife would have been even younger. The likelihood that she died being very minimal, though I suppose possible.
    For the idea that she would have left him. Paul being who he was would have been married into a family of prominence, who would not have suffered their daughter to be married to an apostate.
    So the evidence is in the text itself.
    As for Lockwood and CPH. Well Lockwood is an incredible scholar and his commentary is one of the few commentaries I can actually stand to read. I wish he had cited a few scholars there in favor of that possibility. But I’m glad his commentary was published.
    Doctrinal review is broke, everyone knows that. I really fail to see how it works even conceptually. CPH, perhaps for the sake of Christian charity, and in light of the fact that they do do some good work, I’ll keep my opinions there to myself at least here. But there are reasons confessional authors, translators and so on are going elsewhere with their work.

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror,

    Glad to see you didn’t go away, even though I haven’t checked in for a while.

    For the record, I’ve got no particular beef with Lockwood or Concordia. I just thought that was a careless comment to have made with no documentation.

    I think, perhaps, that I may have to concede to the limitations of a blog comment. I am not following your argument, and I don’t think this is the forum for me to hear you fully.

    It seems that you are basing your argument on hypotheticals of probability. I can go along on the excursion to “what if” land and concede that Paul MIGHT have married into a family of prominence who MIGHT have considered his conversion apostasy, and who MIGHT have encouraged their daughter to leave . . . but to say that argument is in the text would require a whole lot more than you have given.

    Thanks for responding, though. I appreciate your discussion and the frank sharing of your own background.

  • Dan Kempin

    Bror,

    Glad to see you didn’t go away, even though I haven’t checked in for a while.

    For the record, I’ve got no particular beef with Lockwood or Concordia. I just thought that was a careless comment to have made with no documentation.

    I think, perhaps, that I may have to concede to the limitations of a blog comment. I am not following your argument, and I don’t think this is the forum for me to hear you fully.

    It seems that you are basing your argument on hypotheticals of probability. I can go along on the excursion to “what if” land and concede that Paul MIGHT have married into a family of prominence who MIGHT have considered his conversion apostasy, and who MIGHT have encouraged their daughter to leave . . . but to say that argument is in the text would require a whole lot more than you have given.

    Thanks for responding, though. I appreciate your discussion and the frank sharing of your own background.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    I think you are probably right, this may not be the best forum.
    However, I’ll just say, though I have dabbled in some probable hypotheticals here, The substance of the argument is from the text itself and its use of the term agamois (probably transliterated badly) which means divorced, and the improbability that Paul was a widow. He may have been a widower but that isn’t the term used. And it is hard to see how the term could mean widower and divorced in what is the same paragraph if not sentence.

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Dan,
    I think you are probably right, this may not be the best forum.
    However, I’ll just say, though I have dabbled in some probable hypotheticals here, The substance of the argument is from the text itself and its use of the term agamois (probably transliterated badly) which means divorced, and the improbability that Paul was a widow. He may have been a widower but that isn’t the term used. And it is hard to see how the term could mean widower and divorced in what is the same paragraph if not sentence.


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