Are divorce and remarriage and homosexual relations comparable?

Are divorce and remarriage and homosexual relations comparable? April 1, 2012

A recent guest editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune (April 1, 2012) argues that evangelicals are inconsistent, if not hypocritical, when they tolerate divorce and remarriage but condemn homosexual relations. (I am assuming the author means by the latter monogomous and faithful homosexual relationships.)

Former pastor Tim Turner closes his editorial with “Writing this certainly isn’t going to endear me to my evengelical friends, whom I love and cherish. However, it seems that despite their zeal to hold to a ‘literal’ reading of the Bible, the ability to pick and choose what one reads literally remains alive and well.”

Turner makes the case that Scripture, including Jesus himself, condemns divorce and remarriage with the sole exception of adultery as the reason for the divorce. And he argues that the biblical case against divorce and remarriage is even clearer than the case against homosexuality (by which I take it he means homosexual sexual activity).

Turner then assumes that, by-and-large, American evangelicals have come to tolerate divorce and remarriage both in society at large and within their own churches.

My question to Turner and to you is whether this is comparison and critique is justified. Are divorce and remarriage and homosexual activity ethically identical from a biblical perspective (in terms of their being wrong)? Is an evangelical church that tolerates divorce and remarriage (for causes other than adultery) inconsistent, perhaps even hypocritical, when it then excludes from full fellowship or disciplines a homosexual couple known to be engaging in sexual relations?

I am not sure whether Turner’s editorial is available on line. If so, it will be found at the web site of the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

I think this is an important challenge and evangelicals either need to explain themselves/ourselves or change our habits.

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  • Scott Gay

    There are so many habits we need to change. My biggest one is saying negative things about people when they are absent. Why did we drop the habit of church within church on different days of the week. There is no habit of connection of the new man to fruits. In general, we are not kindly toward heterodox and unbelievers. This is just pietism 101. I think we need the basics to keep from elevating one bad habit as more acceptable than another- which can become hypocritical.

  • I think it is a valid argument if we are talking in general about marriage as a civil liberty as it is tied to a religious covenant as it is in the USA. The best ‘defense of marriage’ evangelicals can mount is to take marriage itself very seriously.

    The problem is one of our own devising in that the church leant to the state the power of ‘marriage’ and it is that specific term ‘marriage’ that we have lost to the state because of our political allegiance. The LGBT community cannot settle for anything less than ‘marriage’ because that is the name of our legal civil covenant. Admittedly Christians take the marriage covenant to a different level than the civil definition, or then again maybe we don’t, either way Christians are paying the price for the marriage (pun intended) of church and state as we lapse into a post-Christiandom world.

    • rogereolson

      Some time ago (at least a year) I posted about that subject here and advocated the government getting out of the business of deciding who is “married” just as it has gotten out of the business of deciding who is ordained. I won’t repeat all that I wrote in the post, but perhaps I will post about it again soon.

  • ME

    If a church believes a person in a monogamous homosexual relationship is continually sinning and therefore unworthy of being a church leader while at the same time allowing a divorced and remarried person to be a church leader, then yes, I would say the church is being inconsistent because the level of clarity in the bible regarding the morality of divorce and remarriage is greater than that of homosexual sex.

    Whether the ramifications of this inconsistency justify the comparison, I don’t know.

  • Andy

    I predict it will be difficult for us to stay on topic with this subject this topic. I think the question/topic is whether Turner’s comparison between homosexuality and divorce/remarriage is justified? How about in terms of being wrong? How about his implied critique of how we handle (because I think his context is the church)?

    Turner compares homosexual relations to divorce and remarriage. But he could have compared it to gossiping, or to selfishness, or to overindulgence. He compares “A” and “B”, but could just as easily have compared to “A” to “C”, “D” or “E.”

    I suggest that the comparison is valid, but too narrow (probably on purpose to make a point). We are a broken and fallen species, prone to destructive behaviors. Divorce/remarriage stances recognize that we are fallen (I leave it to others to use Deuteronomy and Corinthians to validate that point). Why not recognize our mutual brokenness when discussing gossip, overindulgences, addictions, and similar destructive behaviors?

    Yes, homosexuality is destructive and less than best. It is certainly not something we would desire for our children! Neither would I desire divorce for my children – or a lifestyle of overindulgence, or gossip. Divorce is destructive, not loving, and revealing of sin. Gossip is … well you get the point.

    Why do we single out homosexuality? I suggest we single out homosexuality because most of us don’t have that particular destructive sin. I am suggesting that we take a step back and realize we are all fallen.

    Perhaps homosexuality is particularly destructive, and perhaps that explains the church’s tendency to emphasize it? I certainly have disliked the tendency for recruitment within the homosexual community and would agree for church measures against that.

    Back to Turner’s comparison: both homosexual relations and divorce/remarriage are less than best. And Turner is right that we tolerate one and condemn the other.

    Did I stay on topic? I tried.

    • rogereolson

      Good job.

      • Brian

        I just realized the link the Smedes article I posted above cuts off portions of his writing. I can’t find another version of the article online. I do have a portion of it quoted in a paper I wrote some years back along with a very brief summary, which I’ll include here.

        Some connecting points between divorce/remarriage and homosexuality for Smedes include:

        1. Both divorce and remarried partners and homosexual partners are seeking to fulfill a fundamental, God implanted human need for a shared life of intimate, committed and exclusive love with one other human being.
        2. Both are fulfilling their God given human need in the only way available to them, not what the Creator originally intended…but the only way they have.
        3. Both are striving to do the one thing the Lord considered supremely important about all sexual relationships: they are living their sexual lives within their covenants with each other.
        4. Both are trying to create the best lives they can within the limits of personal conditions they cannot change.
        5. Both want to live as followers of Christ within the supportive embrace of the church.

        Smedes writes:
        Early on, back when I was talking about divorced and remarried people, I mentioned three shifts in the church’s consciousness that were going on behind the scenes and preparing the way for their embrace by the church. Let me recall them. For one thing, the church became sensitive to the growing number of divorces and remarriages among their own sons and daughters. For another, the church began to see and feel the sacrament more as medicine for our spiritual illness than as a symptom of our spiritual health. And, thirdly, it became more aware that it could not tell how the Lord’s Word about marriage should be applied to real people unless they also had eyes for the real people it affected.

        It seems to me that our attitudes toward Christian homosexual partners are being modulated these days in exactly the same way. And I wonder whether the changes might be preparing us for the consideration of a new policy of embrace just as they did half a century ago.

        To sum up, I’ll quote Alan Verhey in his book Remembering Jesus who writes, “If we read the texts concerning homosexual behaviors less generously than we read the texts about divorce, we must ask why.”

  • Aurelia

    This is a very good question. I haven’t heard this comparison before (normally the parallels stick to slavery and women in ministry, or so it seems). I was really hoping that you would give more of your thoughts/opinions on it! Maybe in another post?

    • rogereolson

      I agree with Bev who says we evangelicals have some ‘splainin to do.

  • Michael Leong

    Honestly, I do think we (conservative American evangelicals) are inconsistent on this. I view adultery, divorce/remarriage for invalid reasons, and homosexuality as all the same thing at its root: sex outside of the marriage covenant God has created.

    Here’s an example: right now in the Republican presidential primary, Newt Gingrich is one of the contenders. He’s two times divorced, and it seems at least one (and maybe both) wasn’t for a valid reason on his side. I know he’s claimed he’s repented, but think of this for a second. If he had been openly gay at any point in his life (even if he claimed he’d become celibate now), do you think he would have gotten anywhere near the Republican nomination? Disclaimer: I’m not trying to equate Republicanism or any form of politics with Christianity or evangelicalism. I chose Gingrich simply because he has two divorces and yet has prominent evangelicals backing him.

    So it seems to me that in order to be consistent, our options are to either clamp down on divorce more or lighten up on our opposition to homosexuality. Or maybe a bit of both.

    Thanks for this blog. I’m a regular reader and really appreciate it.

  • Bev Mitchell

    Turner’s is one of the best commentaries ever on this hot-button issue. We have some ‘splainin’ to do!

  • So is the question for clarity: Is there a difference between a remarried heterosexual couple and a homosexual couple? Should their be a difference in how we view them according to Jesus? As we’ve integrated remarried heterosexual couples into church life should we do the same with homosexual couples?

    • rogereolson

      That is, I take it, the main question Tim Turner is asking in his editorial.

  • Joshua

    I agree with the logic of the editorial. It seems to me that the only reason divorce/remarriage (for other reasons than adultery) is acceptable is that it isn’t homosexuality. In other words, this brings to light a very real, though denied, homophobia in the church. This isn’t to justify the rightness of homosexuality – just the obvious partiality by which it is judged as THE issue facing the church today, when divorce (for reasons other than adultery) is clearly just a big of an issue, if not bigger. This irony was really driven home for me when Newt Gingrich began decrying the woes of homosexuality as an affront to the traditional nuclear family. Coming from a man who had been divorced twice, and with his third wife, having divorced both previous wives when HE was the one who committed adultery – it doesn’t get more ironic. I think his comments concerning homosexuality, despite his own past, is the real plank in the eye of Evangelical Christians, who not only agree with Gingrich, but to some extent display the same level of hypocrisy.

  • Brian

    Lewis Smedes argued for the comparison. Well worth a read:

  • LexCro

    I think Turner is partially right here. The Scriptures are VERY clear about the rightful reasons for divorce and subsequent re-marriage. Evangelicals violate this all the time, and it ruins our witness. Moreover, we are being hypocritical when we allow for unbiblical divorces and unbiblical re-marriages. However, Turner is incredibly off-base when he claims that the biblical authors are more clear about divorce and subsequent re-marriage than they are about homosexual sex-acts. The biblical authors are clear about both. Homosexual sex-acts (not same-sex attraction) are sinful in the eyes of the biblical authors. And monogamy does no more to rescue same-sex sex-acts than it did to rescue Herod from John the Baptist’s charge of incest for taking his brother’s wife.

  • I’ll bite.
    Paul permits a divorce if the unsaved person initiates it, 1 Cor. 7:15. Moses has some principles for concubinage that one could argue from the lesser to the greater apply to marriage, Exodus 21:10-11. This article is helpful, . Provision is a clear expectation of God on the husband, and the lack thereof is a grounds for divorce by the wife. Prohibition of certain sexual relations is also a clear expectation, consistent between Old and New Testaments, not only homosexual but also certain family relations, even if not in blood closeness, hence John the Baptist’s condemnation of Herod’s marriage and Paul’s condemnation of the guy and his step mom in Corinth.
    The church is aware God nuanced the marriage/divorce theme because of our sinfulness, but not the limits of who we are to have a erotic relationship with.
    God is good

    • rogereolson

      I take it Turner’s complaint is that for the most part evangelicals do not even discuss the valid biblical reasons for divorce and re-marriage; we just accept the divorced and re-married person as if nothing sinful happened. (Here I’m just interpreting Turner, not stating my own view.)

  • Peter
  • i remember reading an article last year which made similar claims. I think it was lewis smedes who wrote it and made this same comparison and believed that eventually we evangelicals will accept homosexuality to the same degree that we tolerate divorce and remarriage. I do not think it is a suitable comparision. Divorce is regrettable and complicated but it seems, to me anyhow, to not involve the same degree of shifting of views of humanity that homosexuality does. I suspect that the issue of homosexuality is going to be a more difficult issue for many faith communities to navigate than divorce.

    • rogereolson

      As I understood Turner’s editorial, the issue he raises isn’t divorce so much as re-marriage.

  • The Bible is clearly more against divorce than it is against homosexuality. I also believe that it is against remarriage for the most part, but at some point remarriage is no longer an option.

    However, I also don’t think the two issues are related. They are entirally different from each other. So I don’t see this as a consistancy issue.

    • rogereolson

      Why are they entirely different from each other?

  • John Mark

    Hmmm. I would say we have fumbled the ball on marriage. Certainly we have not convinced all our young people to marry within the faith, and we have not done a very good job at promoting healthy marriages. I think many evangelicals know this is a problem, and are trying to address it. This is anecdotal, but at a denominational gathering 40 years ago one of my leaders commented that when we no longer saw adultery as a crime we would now see a great increase in moral decline. Some might see where we are today as evidence a moral ‘slippery slope.’ I think we need to look at all the nuptial language in scripture in how God looks at his people (wife in the O T, bride in the New Testament) and challenge believers to live out marraige as best we can to reflect this greater reality. It is very likely that just as we slowly accepted divorce (now, even in our pulpits); have tolerated cohabitation before marriage and/or after, we will eventually relax our prohibitions against homosexuality. I pray this will not happen, but it may.

    • Steve

      John Mark
      Here in Australia in my lifetime this has been the trend. I definitely see homosexuality as becoming mainstream entirely in this country. No question. And I will see it in my lifetime. The entire sexuality question, which is how I think we need to view things, is symptomatic of a cultural shift away from Biblical truths on how we need best to relate to one another (sexually and in many other ways) and a general move toward the ‘SELF’. The mistake in this country is that the individual and his or her ‘happiness’ is paramount. This is the deathnell for me and it is only a matter of time before all morality becomes subjective which is where we are now. So I am not surprised.

  • Rob

    I know that there are people who approach the bible’s moral instruction as all having the same force, but it is not clear to me that it does. Why think that? I do not know if that is what Turner is relying on to make his argument but it is a pretty common strategy.

    The first thing I would point out is that treating all sins as being the same or claiming that all sin deserves the same response is inherently legalistic and cynical. The only thing that all sin has in common is that it is forbidden and so the only rationale available that justifies lumping all sin together is that all sin shares the same prohibited status. A person who can only understand sin in terms of its illicitness is a legalist and fails to grasp the nature of sin.

    In addition to being legalistic, I consider such an understanding cynical because it suggests that the person does not oppose the sinful act itself but is only contingently opposed to it because the person has been told that it is unlawful. As far as that person can tell, it could have been deemed lawful and have been perfectly okay.

    As to reasons why the two sins might be treated differently here are a few:

    1) As long as we are being legalists we might as well note that the rate of infidelity is so high in the U.S. anyway that many of these divorces could have probably been justified according to the letter of the law.

    2) The details of the marital problems leading to a couple’s divorce (including and especially infidelity) are messy, subject to interpretation, rarely willingly revealed, and just very difficult to know in general. Evangelicals could have canon tribunals like in the Catholic church to investigate the details, but notice already that this is very different from the case of two people engaged in homosexual relations as most admit it and the simple admission is enough to know that they are living in sin.

    3) Here I might be drawing too much upon Catholic thought, but the sexual union of two bodies under the covenant of marriage is inherently a good thing. Divorce might compromise the goodness of such a union just as fornication or adultery might, but that does not change the fact that such a union is by its nature good. Its inherent goodness is why it is so dangerous and subject to strict regulation. The same cannot be said for homosexual acts which inherently frustrate the telos of the human body.

    • Joe Canner

      Re your #2): I assume that you have never met or interacted with a Christian homosexual, otherwise you would not glibly claim that homosexuality is a cut-and-dry issue, as compared to divorce and remarriage. I also assume that you have never spent any time contemplating any of the arguments that have been made that would suggest that Biblical condemnations of homosexuality have very little to do with the committed monogamous same-sex relationships that are increasingly common today. I’m not saying that such arguments are absolutely correct, but I think they are a lot “messier” than the Biblical arguments about divorce and remarriage.

      Re your #3) Again, how about asking a GLBT person whether they feel their orientation is “frustrating their telos”? I would venture to say that most would find their telos frustrated a lot more by Christian attempts to regulate their innate and very personal preferences.

      • rogereolson

        I will let Rob reply for himself, but I think you misunderstand his comment about human telos which is philosophical-theological and has nothing to do with how a person feels.

        • Joe Canner

          I think I understand what he means, but it would help if he elaborated a bit on what that “telos” actually is. I agree that it probably doesn’t have anything to do with feelings per se, but I’m not sure how it can be divorced (no pun intended) from them. Has God created a certain subset of people to be miserable all their lives because they are not fulfilling His plan? I suppose it’s possible, but God also said “it is not good for man to be alone.”

          • rogereolson

            Again, I should just let Rob respond and not put words in his mouth. But I suspect he was referring to the Catholic (but not only Catholic) idea of natural law–based on Aristotle and Aquinas–that everything in creation has its purpose (telos). Traditionally, Catholics have believed that the sole purpose of sex is procreation, so sex that cannot result in procreation is unnatural. But, again, I hope Rob will jump in and explain.

  • Beth

    Ravi Zacharias explains it well…

  • May I make just a general suggestion about the blog? You mentioned in the comments that you had once written a post suggesting that the state get out of the marriage business. I would like to read that. In fact, there have been several of your posts that I’ve thought I’d like to go back and read, but as far as I can tell there’s no way to find them. If you would add tags to your posts and a search bar to the side, it would make it easier for folks to find previous posts. Or better yet, you could find old posts and link to them when you reference them. Just a suggestion. Thanks for this blog. Keep up the good work!

    • rogereolson

      Most of my posts to this blog are easy to find using google. The one in question here was posted April 10, 2010 and is entitled “A Modest Proposal to End to the Gay Marriage Debate.” I found that just now by googling my name and a few key words.

  • Bob Brown

    The problem of divorce goes back to Moses who permitted it because of the hardness of their hearts. Not so homosexuality. It was never a ‘problem’ in the Scriptures. It was never debated or questioned.

    If Turner’s point is that evangelicals are lax on moral standards and impurity then let those with ears to hear, hear what the Spirit is saying to the church.

  • J.E. Edwards

    It’s never right to justify anything that is already sin with more sin. That is slide that definitely leads to destruction. Divorce in the church is a serious matter. Most churches don’t administer church discipline and the ones that do much of the time don’t do it biblically. This is where the church has dropped the ball. As far as homosexuality goes, that has no place in the life of a Christian. Why? It’s sinful biblically to engage in sexual activity before marriage for heterosexuals, but that has always been the case for homosexuals. What makes a person a homosexual? They have had sex with someone of the same sex and marriage is not an option for them. Isn’t the Scripture clear on this??? See Romans beginning in chapter 1.

    • J.E. Edwards

      That was a little unclear…Let me be straight up. Homosexuality is sinful. It’s not o.k. for homosexuals to marry, even if they abstain from sex until marriage. There is no place for this in the church and no place for it in the life of anyone who claims to have trusted Christ to forgive them for their sins. I’m not speaking of Christians who have fallen into this sin and need help. I’m speaking of those who willingly live in this and refuse to repent. That is un-Christian.

    • rogereolson

      Dear Mr. Edwards: Why do you come here? You obviously are of a different theological orientation and mindset and continually disagree with me and most others who regularly visit and comment here. Are you just here to correct us? Do you learn anything valuable that contributes to your own spiritual-theological path here? You seem to think that your interpretation of the Bible is identical with the Bible itself as if you have some direct knowledge of everything the Bible means whereas others who disagree are interpreting the Bible (something you don’t do).

      • J.E. Edwards

        Do we disagree on homosexuality as a lifestyle? Is this behavior ever o.k.?

        • rogereolson

          From most others I would find that question innocuous, but given your track record here of seeming to disagree with everything I say, I don’t trust the question. I have actually addressed it here before. Go to the archives. I don’t like inquisitions and this question is usually inquisitorial.

          • J.E. Edwards

            I’m trying to understand why Christians would be trying to weigh out which sin is worse. I don’t believe I’ve been hostile here, but it seems plain speech isn’t always welcome. Do accept my apologies for any perceived hostility. I’ve been addressing the issue at hand, yet you have been attacking me and avoiding what I’m trying to say.

          • rogereolson

            I have not been attacking you. I have been asking why you are here if you disagree with everything I say. You do come across as a person who is only here to disagree and promote an alternative point of view. I won’t ban you for that alone, but I am just puzzled why you do it. I don’t go to Calvinist blogs to heckle them.

  • Scott M

    I would argue that, strictly limiting the comparison to civil liberties, yes it stands. If we are making laws based on biblical morality then it is only fair that one should bring up divorce/remarriage and homosexual marriages. To simply deny a person the right to a civil marriage based on Deuteronomy and a few verses in the New Testament and then turn around an accept (without much protest): multiple divorce’s and remarriages, Las Vegas style marriages, and tv. show’s the offer a Bachelor a chance at marriage is beyond my comprehension. We as Christians get so distracted by the symptoms that we no longer see the disease. I would encourage a reading of human vitae.

    On the other hand, ecclesiastically I strongly oppose same sex marriages. I do believe we should not only take into account the biblical opposition to same sex relationship but the natural, and sacramental argument as well.

  • Stan Fowler

    No, I don’t think the issues can be compared in the way suggested. It is not easy to identify “the” biblical view of divorce and remarriage. The OT is not a lot of help, because we know by Jesus’ own commentary that Mosaic law on the topic was a divine concession to reality. Matt 5 and 19 seem to allow the one exception noted in the article, but Mark 10 doesn’t seem to allow any exception. Paul seems to allow remarriage for a believer whose unbelieving spouse refuses to continue the marriage (1 Cor 7), although some dispute that “not bound” implies this. But would Paul extend the same liberty to a believer deserted by a professing believer? We have different opinions on that one. Synthesizing Scripture on divorce and remarriage is not simple, and there is no unanimity in sight. But Scripture is clear and consistent on the topic of homosexuality, with none of the diversity of the divorce texts. Do evangelical churches need to take divorce more seriously? No doubt, because it often occurs for reasons no one could call biblical, but there are lots of difficult cases in which the biblical answer is not clear to all.

  • Sam

    Quite honestly it has been a little disconcerting reading the posts in response to the question. Very few people seemed to have evaluated the question at hand along the lines of Scripture. The trend seemed to be more of logic that comes from individuals and from the current trends of the Christian church culture. Divorce, remarriage from divorce, and homosexuality are sin. They are not condoned by God. The church today seems to look at the exception clause for divorce as if it is the golden ticket out of marriage. If we look at both divorce/remarriage and homosexuality we see one similarity: they are sinful.

    In Matthew 5 and 19 at face value there are some interesting things to consider:
    (NOTE: I chose this Gospel because of the exception clauses that people use in these passages)

    Matthew 5:27-32
    1. Lust is adultery (sinful)
    2. Adultery is the clause allowed for divorce
    3. Therefore lust enables one’s spouse to divorce you. This means that all of you out there that are lusting need to watch out because your spouse has the chance to leave you because of your unfaithfulness. This may be why we are told not to talk about sexual temptation to our spouses – fear they will leave you. However, if you are continually lusting there is a greater concern than your marriage (i.e. Salvation – 1 John is filled with verses that support this).
    4. John Piper has some good things to say about divorce in this passage of Scripture (the article hyperlink is at the end):

    “Matthew 5:32 does not teach that remarriage is lawful in some cases. Rather it reaffirms that marriage after divorce is adultery, even for those who have been divorced innocently, and that a man who divorces his wife is guilty of the adultery of her second marriage unless she had already become an adulteress before the divorce.”

    Piper expounds on this thesis thoroughly, and so I recommend reading it. I will not go into it deeply here for sake of your time and the space provided.

    5. Looking deeper, specifically within the Greek, into the passage can shed some light. I am not a scholar but those that are can assist in this matter, and they can explain it better than I can. Oddly enough, Piper (“This Momentary Marriage”), N.T. Wright, and Ben Witherington III (“What’s in the Word”) all have similar (not the same) views on this texts concerning divorce and divorce in general: it is sin. It is a sensitive topic, but it is sin. Each of these resources can assist on the topic at hand.

    Matthew 19:1-12
    1. Similarly, at face value, one could conclude that immorality could lead to divorce. Some of those out there that believe they can continue professing to be a believer and continue on practicing that sin (Pretty much the whole book of 1 John but 1 John 3:4 is one example) better watch out. Two things, again, are at stake: salvation and their marriage.

    2. However, looking closer one can see that the point here is something deeper. Number 4 above covers this though I do want to point something out. Why would the disciples say “If the relationship of the man with his wife is like this, it is better not to marry, (Matt 19:10)” if divorce was an option? Their response is not a positive one. Here is an excerpt from John Piper’s article on the topic (Hyperlink at the bottom):

    “11.1 Several years ago I taught our congregation in two evening services concerning my understanding of this verse and argued that “except for immorality” did not refer to adultery but to premarital sexual fornication which a man or a woman discovers in the betrothed partner. Since that time I have discovered other people who hold this view and who have given it a much more scholarly exposition than I did. I have also discovered numerous other ways of understanding this verse which also exclude the legitimacy of remarriage. Several of these are summed up in William Heth and Gordon J. Wenham, Jesus and Divorce (Nelson: 1984).”

    There is much to be said on the topic of divorce and remarriage. There is not anything outside of the death of a spouse that enables one to be remarried so it is even more difficult to get a divorce because the divorced couple cannot get remarried without it being sin. This is said to conclude that divorce is sin and remarriage is sin.

    I do understand that I am probably a minority on the topic. I also realize that I have far from covered every view on the subject. However I encourage you to study it. But I want to note that this is not a complex subject in need of significant debate. All sin leads to death (Romans 5), and so homosexuality, adultery (any kind) due to remarriage, and divorce are all sin before God.

    As said above, homosexuality it is sinful (Leviticus, Romans, etc…). Marriage is relationship between a man and a woman. Whether one is saved or not, marriage between a man and a woman is not sin (Though there are stipulations on this that I will not get into that have to do specifically with particular texts i.e. unbelievers and believers getting married or marriages of incest). As believers, there is no argument that homosexuality is sin, therefore I do not need to go further here.

    Why do I start with these simple observations? What does this have to do with the question at hand? Before you start getting mad at me for not answering the question immediately or because I am long winded, here is the answer:
    Sin is sin and many outside the church, including those that are in sin with homosexuality, see the sin of the church. They see that the church holds some sins in higher standing than others, and the sin of being partial for some sins over others. The church looks at homosexuality and says – “You’re going to Hell.” However, the church does not call out the 50% of our congregations that look consistently at porn or the 51% divorce rate (Higher than those outside the church), and the church is in sin for this (Read “Undefiled” for more stats and information:

    The Christian church does not want to acknowledge its sin when it is called out by unbelievers. It comes down to pride and love of sin in the church.

    Paul calls out the Corinthians when he sees sexual sin in the church (1 Cor. 5). He also tells the church that there should not be even a hint of sexual sin (immorality) in the church (Eph 5:3). Yet the church today runs rampant with sexual sin, divorce, remarriage (including adultery), pride, and much, much more. This needs to be repented of, and the article under evaluation specifies the sins of the church. The author of the article and the homosexual community is absolutely justified in their anger. The church is filled with hypocrites (Those who judge sin and practice the same sins) and needs to repent. Do not be deceived. God is not mocked. The adulterers, practicing divorcers, idolators of marriage, greedy, cowards, homosexuals, porn watchers, lustful men and women, liars, and all professing believers that love their sin more than God will not enter in to the Kingdom of God (1 Cor. 6:9-10, 15:50, Gal. 5:21, Eph. 5:5, Rev. 21:8).

    I hope the question posed will help us see the need for repentance and faith in the Holy God. Maybe I sound too religious or too harsh. I do not mean to be cruel but I am not going to lie that with such a question Scripture is not the first reference. Sin is the reason many will go to Hell, and if we claim, as believers, that Scripture is our resource than the topics at hand should be the subject of our answers.

    To make it simple:

    “My question to Turner and to you is whether this is comparison and critique is justified.”

    Yes, it is justified. Sin is sin. The description does not matter. Either one is sin.

    “Are divorce and remarriage and homosexual activity ethically identical from a biblical perspective (in terms of their being wrong)?”

    They are all sinful Biblically.

    “Is an evangelical church that tolerates divorce and remarriage (for causes other than adultery) inconsistent, perhaps even hypocritical, when it then excludes from full fellowship or disciplines a homosexual couple known to be engaging in sexual relations?”

    I do not think they are hypocritical in the sense that they are committing the same acts. However, they are in that they allow for some sins while excusing others. The church judges sinners, though they should not be condemning them (1 Cor. 5) while condoning the sin in their own church. So in a broader sense they are definitely hypocritical. In a specific or particular sense it depends on the church. If hypocrisy is judging one sin while doing the sin that is judged, then some churches are hypocritical and need to repent while others may not be.

    There is much more I would want to say but I will stop my long winded response.


    • rogereolson

      Piper and other conservative evangelicals who argue that Jesus allowed for divorce and re-marriage ONLY in cases where one partner found out the other one had pre-marital sex (fornication) are wrong. The Greek word is porneias which covers a lot of immorality. Older English translations translate it “fornication,” but most modern English translations correctly translate it “sexual immorality.”

      • Sam

        By your response I assume you would not agree with Witherington on the topic either? Just wondering. 🙂

        • rogereolson

          Sorry, I don’t know Ben’s view on this.

  • John Inglis

    The two moral issues are not equivalent, nor have evangelicals been inconsistent with their condemnation of the two.

    Evangelicals condemn divorce consisently, and that condemnation is ever a sore point among divorcees who talk about their congregation’s refusal to accept them, refusal to allow them to serve, gossip about them, shun them, don’t consider second marriages acceptable, castigate even the innocent party, etc. Not that this treatment is consistent across all evangelical churches, but few and far between would be the evangelical churches that accept all divorce as OK and moral.

    Furthermore, the Bible condemns both as immoral and contrary to God’s intent. However, the Bible deals with this-world punishment of each immoral action differently. Divorce, though immoral, was allowed by “Moses” because of hardness of hart. Homosexuality, however, has been consisently condemned throughout the Bible and the time period covered by the Bible, with not exceptions or leniencies granted. And this includes cultural contexts in which homosexuality as a lifestyle existed.

    The inconsistency for evangelicals is that many have gotten divorced despite the teachings of the church, for reasons contrary to what their church have understood to be acceptable (e.g., sexual and marital abandonment by the other party). This is similar to Catholics’ widespread use of contraception despite the consistent condemnation of its use by the Pope.

    Because homosexuality affects so little of our population (in the low 1’s), it is not possible for there to be widespread evangelical homosexual practice despite church condemnation. On the otherhand, since heterosexual marriage is extremely widespread and prevalent, it is of course possible (and indeed the fact) that there be widespread non-compliance with church condemnation of the practice.

    I would also note that Turner is incorrect on other matters. His divorce and remarriage does not is not a sin that necessarily and irrevocably excludes him from the kingdom of God. Laws against smoking and bastard babies are not more easily supported than laws against homosexuality–by which I take him to mean “supported by the Biblical text”. Biblical condemnation of homosexuality is straightforward and even admitted to be so by homosexual theologians. Whether that condemnation is still binding on us is another question, as is the question of whether the state should prohibit homosexuality. God creates neither homosexuals nor hetersexuals (other than the very first couple, who were heterosexual and presented as the paradigm for humanity). Etc.


  • C. J. Summers

    The crux of Turner’s argument appears to be that since Jesus specifically condemned divorce and remarriage, but “never addressed homosexuality at all, not a word,” therefore, divorce/remarriage is the more serious sin. Is this a valid argument? I think the answer is clearly “no.”

    First of all, Jesus also did not discuss rape, incest, bestiality, polygamy, or even pre-marital sex–in fact, Jesus didn’t discuss any other sexual deviation. Are we thus to conclude that the sinfulness of these deviations is somehow mitigated? That they’re not as bad as divorce and remarriage because Jesus “never addressed [them] at all, not a word”?

    Secondly, even though Jesus did not specifically address each and every sexual deviation in the Gospels, he did discuss and uphold the marriage standard which was set in Genesis: one man with one woman, joined together into “one flesh” by God. Twice Jesus refers to how we were made “at the beginning” in Matthew 19:4-8.

    And he answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so.

    God’s plan for marriage from the beginning, Jesus says, was one man with one woman, joined together into “one flesh” by God, and remaining joined for life. Thus stated, Jesus didn’t need to recite a list of sexual deviations from this standard to make his point. The principle is that anything short of this standard is outside the bounds of God’s will.

    Lastly, 2 Timothy 3:16 states that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” Even though Jesus himself didn’t specifically address homosexuality, the Bible as a whole clearly condemns it in both the old and new testaments. There is no warrant for holding God’s word as spoken by Jesus and recorded in the Gospels as a higher authority than the rest of God’s Word (i.e., the rest of Scripture). Jesus’ silence on a specific issue does not negate clear teaching on that issue elsewhere in the Bible.

    All of that said, I do agree that the Church is too lax on divorce and remarriage. The Church should be challenged to get their house in order and uphold the sanctity of marriage. Divorce statistics within the church are indeed no different than divorce statistics outside the church, and this is a serious sin that certainly does not glorify God. But the remedy is not increased laxity regarding the sin of homosexuality.

    Jesus, after pointing out the hypocrisy of the Scribes and Pharisees in regards to the woman caught in adultery, didn’t then condone her adultery. He told her to “Go and sin no more.” They all (Scribes, Pharisees, adulterer) needed to repent. And so it is with us. The Church needs to repent of the divorce in its ranks unjustified by Scripture, and homosexuals need to repent of their homosexual practices. We are all called to be holy as He is holy.

    • John Inglis

      Good point. Red Letter Bibles are not to be used as if the Red Letters have a higher authority, and something not mentioned in Red Letters but elsewhere in the Bible has secondary or no authority. Jesus, who is God, upheld all scripture as the authoritative word of God.

  • Elliott Scott

    The best book on this issue is Robert Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice. It’s a comprehensive but worth the time.

    • rogereolson

      I have read it and I agree that it is very comprehensive and worth taking the time to read. However, a person who reads it should read something on the other side also.

      • Elliott Scott

        Granted. I’ve read books by Scroggs, Via, and Jack Rogers, plus a host of articles in various publications over the last 20 years. I just haven’t found anything that substantively addresses Gagnon’s arguments. Opponents usually avoid him and treat his arguments as if they don’t exist, or they lob ad hominems.

        Do you know of anyone who actually attempts a rebuttal to his arguments?

        • rogereolson

          A few years ago I led a discussion group that read Gagnon and a book that took the opposite position. I don’t recall what the alternative book’s title or author were, however. I thought Gagnon completely blew the other author away with his arguments. But some in the discussion group thought the opposite. I’m always amazed at how equally well-intentioned and intelligent people can look at the same evidence and come up with such different conclusions.

          • Elliott Scott

            Yeah, the cultural shift toward accepting homosexual behavior has left many in the church confused. Most of the time we’d rather not stand against the culture. It’s especially difficult when the shift is portrayed as an a move toward freedom, equality, and enlightenment.

            It seems to be doubly difficult when the shift is over sexual ethics. Coming out of a mainline denomination that is splintering, I can say most people want to treat sexual ethics as a peripheral matter, and “move on to more important things”. The Bible’s lofty view of the human body and sexual practice is very inconvenient in this culture.

  • Marc

    Scripture lists several legitimate reasons for a divorce (as listed in the comments), or for a way out of a marriage. Where it gets murky is when dealing with re-marriage. Does infidelity allow you to re-marry? Or does it allow you to simply not be part of the marriage covenant anymore, as in not fulfilling your duties/vows?

    It seems to me that marriage ought to reflect Christ/God’s character, his faithfulness. So even though we may have legitimate reasons to opt out of a marriage, or even ought to because of various serious abuses, does that mean we are free to re-marry? Does the “until death” part of the marriage vow mean nothing? It does not say until infidelity… Is there a way of arguing that re-marriage is not (covenantally appropriate) until death sets in, but that one is allowed to modify the covenant, i.e. live apart and not fulfill the vows?

    I think we may benefit from seeing marriage in a covenantal context, and then always view that in lieu of God’s covenant with us, how he never leaves us, despite our unfaithfulness. I don’t know… just pondering.

    One thing that a re-marriage also hinders is reconciliation between the two people who originally entered into a covenant before God. Re-marriage is the is the more difficult issue… the place where we indeed have some explaining to do.

  • Jessica

    All I read in this article and these comments at hate. I am a divorced mother, whom would be dead had I not left my marriage. ( literally) this hate that is spewing in this is what kept me from church for five years. What part of sin is sin don’t you all get. Look in the mirror. Did you not feel that plank in your eye??? I am a Christian woman, with a Christian husband raising faith filled children. Please share Gods love.

    • rogereolson

      You certainly misunderstood the article which was not at all expressing hate toward anyone. Nor has anyone here.

  • Jessica

    And let me tell you. I don’t go around explaining and telling about the abuse that caused me to flee. I am elbowed in the chest, openenly ridiculed, when I first left him I was denied any kind of Finacial help and starved for months while caring for four children. Denied, ridiculed, physically assaulted by Christians!

    • rogereolson

      Your point is unclear; please explain your experience’s relevance to the discussion at hand.

  • George

    Greetings from Singapore! Why are divorce and remarriage acceptable and homosexuality not? Because majority rules. If half the church is divorced and remarried, it would be rather foolhardy to condemn divorcees. They will take their money and go elsewhere and the pastor will be out of a job. A church in the US did not welcome an Asian-white couple from Singapore or their children. Why? Majority of the congregation opposed interracial marriages and they will walk out and cut off their funding and they found support for their decision in the Bible. However, this church is silent on divorce and remarriage. Why? Because half the church is divorced and some are in the process of getting remarried while the others are already remarried. Some are like Newt Gingrich. So it all comes down to the bottom line. Money.

    • rogereolson

      Well, that’s one explanation–a quite cynical one. When I asked the question I meant–other than that (your explanation). Why do thoughtful, reflective Christians accept serial marriage among church members but not “gay marriage” or committed, mature homosexual partnerships? It’s just a question. By it I don’t mean to suggest anything other than a “why?”