Reply To Honestly By Tom Copeland Part 1

Are there dangers to conservative interpretations? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Tom Copeland is a minister and a teacher from what I gather who has written a book on issues involving sexuality for Christians. There is much in the book that is good and worthwhile. However, when I got to the chapter on sexual orientation, I was disappointed.

Keep in mind this is a book that does come from a Christian perspective so there’s no discussion here of “Well maybe the Bible got it wrong.” I also will not be speaking about the scientific issues involving studies on sexual orientation. I am interested in looking at his arguments from a biblical and somewhat political perspective.

Copeland does say that sometimes same-sex attracted people are compared to singles who don’t know if they will marry. Both have to remain celibate. He does say that for the straight singles, there is the possibility they can find someone in a marriage approved by the church. However, if you have same-sex attraction, this means that you have a situation with no hope and God will never approve of your relationship and there is no chance of life-long intimacy, companionship, or partnership.

The problem I see here is that first off, sex is being put on way too high a pedestal. I would be lying if I said as a divorced man I don’t miss having sex. Of course I do. I pray God will grant me that joy again. At the same time, if I have to go without, God has promised me so much more still in the afterdeath. I hope He will grant me this love again still as I do want to have a companion on the earthly journey as well as the possibility of children, but He owes me nothing.

Also, these ideas like companionship and partnership can be found with friends. They are not sexual relationships, but they are still true partners. I know plenty of same-sex attracted Christians who are beacons of joy in what they say and do. There are also some who have entered into opposite-sex marriages.

He also writes about the saying of “Hate the sin. Love the sinner.” He says you can’t say that to someone who has the sin as an integral part of their identity. How can this be though? If one is a Christian and holds something is sinful, it cannot be an integral part of your identity. It is instead a part of you that is not central. I can be a prideful man, but pride is not an integral part of my identity. We live in an age of identity politics where one would think the most important question of a job interview is “Who are you sleeping with?” Your identity is much more than who you find sexually attractive.

Copeland goes on to list some dangers that can come to a conservative approach to Scripture. The first he says is that we live as if our interpretations of Scripture are more important than relationships. I wonder at this because if one believes their interpretation is what God is really saying, shouldn’t that be the most important? One can still have good relationships with people who are same-sex attracted. However, I will not change my stance on the issue to please another person if I think the stance I hold is the one that God gives in the Scripture.

The second problem he sees is we discount knowledge of God and/or Christ gained through experience if it goes against our ideas. I have spoken about this before though saying that too often we let our experiences interpret the Scripture for us instead of letting Scripture interpret our experiences. He says we would discount St. Teresa of Avila and other mystics. I am not saying I would dispense with them entirely as I don’t know enough about her experiences to do so, but I am saying I would compare with Scripture first.

He says we can become so sure we are right in our interpretation without considering we could be wrong. This part, I do agree with. We should always be open to the fact that we could be wrong. I notice this in many people outside of Christianity, such as atheists and cultists, who don’t ever read anything that disagrees with them and treat their worldview as a given at the start. This is why I actively read material I disagree with.

The next danger is that we can be so sure about being right that we overlook grace and love. I don’t really have a problem with this. One should not tell a same-sex attracted person that they cannot act on their desires with glee and joy. One should recognize that this is a real struggle with them and walk through it with them.

Next time, we’ll look at dangers on the liberal side of interpretation.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)







No. The Bible Doesn’t Spell It Out

Does the Bible have to state everything explicitly? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday, I spent some time engaged with a Sabbatarian in *cough* debate, if you can call it that. It’s really amazing when you catch these guys in an error proven in what they say and then say in their next post they’re not going to admit anything wrong and go on and act like it didn’t happen and then they go and do just that. Anyway, the main line that kept being used was “Tell me where the Bible says that the Sabbath was changed from Saturday to Sunday.”

One of my favorite responses I like to give to these people is to say “Oh! That’s right next to where the Scriptures tell us to gather books together and call them the New Testament.” That’s not in there either. Also on this point, a lot of these people don’t care what the church fathers said, you know, the ones that oversaw the text and helped us figure out what was and wasn’t canon?

The real problem is that a lot of people do have this idea that the Bible has to spell everything out, when it doesn’t. If you don’t have a specific chapter and verse, well then we just can’t go with it. There are a number of statements Scripture doesn’t speak on and we have to make decisions on them without that. We can look to other sources, like philosophy and the Fathers, but there is no one chapter and verse.

There are a lot of doctrines Protestants reject, whether rightly or wrongly, that are in this category. Nothing in the text tells you to pray to Mary explicitly or that she was a perpetual virgin. The RCC takes a strong stance on birth control, which I understand, and while they could be right, there is no chapter and verse on this.

There are some people who think the only argument that could exist for the Trinity is that verse in 1 John not found in the oldest manuscripts and remove that, and there’s no Trinity. (Atheist Frank Zindler actually argued this.) Sure, it would be easier if we had such a verse, but we don’t. Many doctrines are systematic in the sense that you take all the verses and references from all of Scripture and put them together. There is no one verse of Scripture you should go to to get your doctrine of salvation or of the end times, for instance.

So what about Sabbath issues? The question I kept asking was “Why should this show up?” Let’s suppose that the case is correct, which I think it is, that the Sabbath was moved to Sunday because of the resurrection of Jesus. Which verse needs to say that? None. If there is no indication that this was a debate going on in the Christian community, nothing needs to be said about it.

One reason is because of a high-context society. In this society, background knowledge is assumed. Here in America, if you go back and read the Federalist Papers, they’ll talk about events in Greek and Roman history casually. They never explain them. Why? They assumed that any educated person would know about that and would understand. Today, many of us reading them would need to look them up.

Today, imagine watching a news report and the report tells about a bomb that went off in Tehran. The reporter might say “the capital of Iran” to explain that. That’s because we live in a low-context society. Background knowledge is not assumed.

The problem when we come to Scripture is we treat a high-context book as if it was a low-context book. It doesn’t explicitly state some things because A. It expects you to figure them out or B. They just don’t really matter.

So where does Scripture make the claim about the Sabbath? Nowhere. Go through the rest of the New Testament though and you will see the first day of the week emphasized quite a lot. The writers expected you to figure it out.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Motion in the First Way

Is the first way of Aquinas about scientific motion? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

So many times, when I encounter atheists on the internet and they want to know why I believe in God, I ask them a simple question. I want to start with the first of the five ways of Thomas Aquinas. I don’t want to know what you think of the argument first. I just want you to tell me what the argument is.

It happened again yesterday with someone making a statement not just about what the first way was, but about all the ways of Aquinas and why they are all wrong. Again, not what I had asked for. It’s really a simple request. First, tell me what the argument is so we can make sure we’re discussing the same argument.

The number of atheists that have met this request so far is zero.

Not only that, but what they think are devastating objections are really the same ones I hear all the time and one of the most popular ones is that this is bad science. We understand motion differently now. So what’s wrong with that?

For a start, let’s look at the argument itself.

The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion. It is certain, and evident to our senses, that in the world some things are in motion. Now whatever is in motion is put in motion by another, for nothing can be in motion except it is in potentiality to that towards which it is in motion; whereas a thing moves inasmuch as it is in act. For motion is nothing else than the reduction of something from potentiality to actuality. But nothing can be reduced from potentiality to actuality, except by something in a state of actuality. Thus that which is actually hot, as fire, makes wood, which is potentially hot, to be actually hot, and thereby moves and changes it. Now it is not possible that the same thing should be at once in actuality and potentiality in the same respect, but only in different respects. For what is actually hot cannot simultaneously be potentially hot; but it is simultaneously potentially cold. It is therefore impossible that in the same respect and in the same way a thing should be both mover and moved, i.e. that it should move itself. Therefore, whatever is in motion must be put in motion by another. If that by which it is put in motion be itself put in motion, then this also must needs be put in motion by another, and that by another again. But this cannot go on to infinity, because then there would be no first mover, and, consequently, no other mover; seeing that subsequent movers move only inasmuch as they are put in motion by the first mover; as the staff moves only because it is put in motion by the hand. Therefore it is necessary to arrive at a first mover, put in motion by no other; and this everyone understands to be God.

Aquinas tells us what motion is in this. It is the reduction of potentiality to actuality. What does that mean? Think of actuality as what is. Think of potentiality as what could be. That what could be is also not necessarily good or bad. I am sitting down right now in actuality. I have the potential to stand up and I could do so. On the other hand, I am alive in actuality right now, and I have the potential to be dead. Let’s hope that’s not any time soon.

So what is motion? Pretty much, any kind of change whatsoever.

“Okay. But the objection still seems valid. Isn’t physical change a kind of change?”

Of course, it is. The problem is that the objection acts as if that is the only kind of change Aquinas has in mind. It is not. Just my mind going from one idea to another is from potentiality to actuality. Let’s take a look at another example. Angels.

At this, an atheist can say “But angels aren’t real!”

Irrelevant question. If we are studying Aquinas’s system, we have to realize that he thought they were real. So what does he say?

Prima Pars. Question 53. Article 2.

On the contrary, If the angel be moved from one place to another, then, when he is in the term “whither,” he is no longer in motion, but is changed. But a process of changing precedes every actual change: consequently he was being moved while existing in some place. But he was not moved so long as he was in the term “whence.” Therefore, he was moved while he was in mid-space: and so it was necessary for him to pass through intervening space.

I answer that, As was observed above in the preceding article, the local motion of an angel can be continuous, and non-continuous. If it be continuous, the angel cannot pass from one extreme to another without passing through the mid-space; because, as is said by the Philosopher (Phys. v, text 22; vi, text 77), “The middle is that into which a thing which is continually moved comes, before arriving at the last into which it is moved”; because the order of first and last in continuous movement, is according to the order of the first and last in magnitude, as he says (Phys. iv, text 99).

The technical stuff doesn’t really matter at this point. What does matter is that Aquinas speaks of motion twice. He speaks of that for angels. In Q. 50 and Article 2, he quotes Dionysus to make his point.

On the contrary, Dionysius says (Div. Nom. iv): “The first creatures are understood to be as immaterial as they are incorporeal.”

Thus, motion plays to things that are not physical as well. Laws of science do not change that. We could hypothetically have a world where we were all angels and a group of holy angels and a group of fallen angels got together to discuss ultimate reality and there are somehow atheist fallen angels. The argument would still work.

This is also why science cannot touch this argument at all. As long as you have any change going on, you have the motion that is needed in the argument. Those who jump to science misunderstand the argument greatly.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Do We Believe In Magic?

Is our society more involved in magic than we realize? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

No. This isn’t really about the New Age movement or about witchcraft. This isn’t about reading Harry Potter or watching Sabrina: The Teenaged Witch. This isn’t really about fantasy as fantasy.

In our day and age, we like to think we are a scientific people. We have abandoned the ways of magic and religion. We only believe in that which can be empirically verified, and by that, we mean scientifically verified, even though the two aren’t identical. All scientific verification is empirical, but the reverse is not so.

If anything, today we see science as a new priesthood. I do not say this to demean science in the sense of the study of the material world. That is wonderful and that needs to continue. What I do demean is the idea that because someone is a scientist, they are qualified to speak on areas outside their expertise. However, there is also the danger that something can supposedly fall under science, but like scandals of bought priesthood in the past, so a scientific person can be bought off as well.

The Covid “pandemic” really brought a lot of this to light. At the time, I was not at all worried about it. It was a virus. It would come and it would go like any other virus. I never got caught up in mask hysteria and when I was required to wear one, I took it off as soon as I could. I never practiced social distancing for the virus. If I was doing it, it was generally just because I don’t like being close to people in general. I am also one of those people who never got a vaccine at all.

And yeah, I’ve never had Covid.

My parents also never got the vaccines and they’re in their 70s. They each got Covid earlier this year and then within a week of each of them getting it, they were both fine. My rule has been to never get caught up in hysteria where everyone is panicking.

Many of us now look back and realize that a lot of mistakes were made. The lockdowns were a mistake. Pulling kids out of school was a mistake. Plenty of people are questioning the vaccines and it used to be a conspiracy theory to say the virus came from a lab in Wuhan. Now it’s pretty much established fact.

A number of us also don’t support climate change hysteria either. When I take any kind of online survey, I can easily answer questions when it comes to environmental claims. It’s not that I don’t care about the planet, but I think that many of our solutions are harmful in the long-term even if we think there are short-term benefits. I would like to see us using nuclear power more and I would like to see the Keystone pipeline open.

As soon as I say any of this, there are people out there getting their proverbial pitchforks ready. After all, I have questioned the reigning dogma. We have seen that people who do go against whatever the reigning dogma is, particularly today on climate change, are quickly castigated and they are the new heretics.

“The difference though is science is evidence-based and religion isn’t!”

Which is entirely a straw man. The evidences are different, but all sides use evidence. Religions tend to use history and philosophy more as well as interpretation of sacred texts and analysis of it by believers and skeptics. Of course, some dogmas can be right, just like in science, and some can be wrong, just like in science.

One area that this comes to an interesting place is in how we use words. Magic is the idea that one can use words to somehow alter reality. Properly, this isn’t always the case. When a minister says “I now pronounce you husband and wife”, he is doing something his words have the power to affect. There are times when this is not the case.

Neil DeGrasse Tyson has referred to seeing men’s and women’s bathrooms as segregation. Don’t believe me? Go take a look here. (Warning. This is something unedited so there is language in the video.) It starts around 2:50. Shortly after 4:00, NDT says he sees men and women bathrooms and thinks “Colored and white”.

Go back twenty years, maybe even ten, and this wouldn’t be being questioned at all. Now NDT acts like it’s segregation. Why? It’s the spirit of the age. It’s where the politics lie.

I recently shared this picture on my Facebook.

One of the first replies I got was “Transwomen are women.”

What is this said today but a mantra? Repeat it enough and it will become true?

The next worth talking about is I just asked the question “What is a woman?” and got told that the idea of a woman is a societal construct. To which, I gave the reply that the idea that the meaning of woman is a societal construct is itself a societal construct.

We live in an age where we believe if we declare it to be so, it is. What is it called when someone goes in for a transgender operation? “Gender-affirming care”, when it is really the exact opposite. We have said that we should include couples of the same sex under the label of marriage, but did we stop to ask what marriage is and what it means? Consider also a group like Black Lives Matter. So if you don’t support the group, which is about many many things besides black lives, then you don’t think black lives matter?

This isn’t science. This is magic.

Too many of our leading scientists are also leading the way in this. The basic reality of biology would not have been denied until the political climate rolled around and then all of a sudden, we think we know something that no one else before us in history knew. We live in a society where we want to erase differences between men and women, do economic Russian Roulette and think only our intentions matter, and think that if we say the words, we can change reality. We can’t.

Reality will always win in the end.

For those in the scientific establishment also, this has only hurt them in the long run. There are more and more people unwilling to trust science when we think that there is a political side to it. If anything, we are not a scientific society. We are anti-science.

That doesn’t make us like religion in the past. Religion in the past still tried to tether itself to external reality by basing their conclusions on the idea of a supreme being outside the cosmos that created a rational universe and thus made the universe rational. Now, the basis for how we see reality is not without, but it is within. How someone feels about themselves and society determines reality.

The good news is, this path cannot last long. It will destroy itself.

The bad news, I have no idea how much it will take out with it when it collapses.

Let’s be prepared.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

A Prayer For Our Country

What is part of my prayers every night? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I pray every night before signing off of my computer and going to bed, and part of that prayer every day is a prayer for my country. I love America. I just don’t love what has happened to her. I still think that this nation can be a city on a hill once again.

When Israel was in the promised land, they were meant to be a kingdom of priests for those on the outside. They were meant to intercede for their pagan neighbors. When the nation was in exile, we see in Daniel 9 that it is Daniel who repents on behalf of the nation of Israel. There is a precedent of the righteous interceding on behalf of the wicked, especially shown in the cases of Jesus and Stephen.

Because of this, I pray every night for our country and it includes the following, which is centered on our children.

First, we have killed our children.

Wednesday while listening to the radio, and I only listen to talk radio, I heard someone talking about the massacre of the people at a concert in Israel and how that was the greatest act of evil he could think of in our times. I get what he was saying. It was a hideous act of evil, but I could easily think of a worse one.

Every day in abortion clinics across our country where hundreds if not thousands more are murdered every day in the name of freedom and reproductive rights. I have often said that we’re worse than the pagans were in the past. When they sacrificed their children, they did it for the good of the harvest or for the welfare of the nation. We sacrifice our children at the altar of convenience.

Pray for our repentance and forgiveness.

Second, we have mutilated our children.

More and more children are claiming that they are transgender and at a young age are being told they have such authority to say who they are. We have people having their bodies destroyed and letting themselves be sterilized for this purpose. it is an irreversible decision in many cases and don’t be surprised if within a few years, there are major lawsuits against “health-providers” for this. Even more amazing, we call it “gender-affirming care” when it’s exactly the opposite.

Pray for our repentance and forgiveness.

Third, we have groomed our children.

We have Drag Queen Story hours where we are normalizing children to sexual behavior they shouldn’t be normalized to. We have children celebrating Pride events at schools. Florida was blasted for a bill called by the media the “Don’t Say Gay” bill when all it said was sexual matters should not be talked about with children who are third grade or less.

Pray for our repentance and forgiveness.

Finally, we have indoctrinated our children.

We have a generation of people growing up who know next to nothing about the history of our country. They sit on laptops with their smartphones drinking at Starbucks and complaining about how evil capitalism is. They repeat cliches so much so that now in light of events in the Middle East, you have them saying “From the river to the sea” and talking about “There is only one solution” not even realizing where these terms come from. They are growing up to be more and more narcissistic and basing their lives on social media.

Pray for our repentance and forgiveness.

Then after this, I pray for something else.

I pray that the church rise up and be the church and change our society once more.

No. This is not a Catholic prayer in the sense of the Roman Catholic Church, but it is a catholic prayer in the sense of the church universal. It is the prayer that we who are Protestants, Catholics, and Orthodox, will rise up and unite together in this cause. I have areas where I disagree with Catholics and Orthodox, but I have plenty more where I agree with them on and that’s where I choose to focus. I am blessed to meet regularly with some Catholics to study Aquinas and when I am asked what I believe about certain passages of Scripture, I speak freely. I doubt that I am agreed with, but I think they know I try to be as fair as possible. I am not antagonized. If anything, the joke I make is I am there to make sure everyone has their doctrine correct since I’m one of the ones asked about hard questions on Aristotelian thought.

It’s not about my being recognized as an authority in something. That’s nice, but the primary thing is I am recognized as a fellow Christian regardless of differences. Our country is at war fighting for the soul of our country and I want that to be our main emphasis.

I recommend that you join me in this nightly prayer for our country, but at the same time, don’t just make it a prayer and do nothing. Act. Do something to be the salt and light you need to be.

We can change this country. More accurately, Christ can change this country through us.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


What am I thankful for? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Thanksgiving is really not my favorite holiday. When you’re someone on the spectrum who doesn’t care for social gatherings involving food and get anxiety around food you don’t like, it happens. I tell people today that my favorite Thanksgiving ever was growing up and I had the flu and I had to stay home. Ocarina of Time had just come out and I spent all evening trying to figure out the Forest Temple.

Yet just because I don’t care for the festivities, that doesn’t mean I can’t be thankful today. Here is my list of things in my life I am thankful for.

First, I’m thankful for being saved by grace by Jesus Christ. Growing up, the church was always part of my life, but I had no idea how much of a role it would play. Now I am in ministry and it’s something I really do enjoy doing. Being in this position has brought me to so many different cities I have called home.

I’m thankful for my parents who raised me a Christian and who have never stopped believing in me. Being on the spectrum, my mother was told all the things that I would never do because of that. Fortunately for me and unfortunately for them, I have done all of them and more. I sometimes wish she could find some of them again and when they ask how I am say “Oh. He’s just living in New Orleans about 600 miles away on his own with a job and a car and working on his Master’s in philosophy.” Also, my family includes my sister who is one of my biggest fans.

I am thankful to be in this city and to be attending New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. I have grown to be recognized around this place and so many people now know they need to tell me that they affirm the virgin birth, which I do affirm. I seriously don’t think there’s anyone who does more in the area of humor than I do on campus. I’m not trying to brag. That’s just the way I see it. My therapist here said he thinks humor is my form of small talk and if it is, then I do it well as I’m always trying to make people laugh.

I am thankful I have a good job. I have worked at the post office on campus ever since I came here. I have learned a lot about the mail and I get along well with my boss. I get to meet all the students that come in here and I get plenty of time for my own reading when things are slow.

I am thankful for the relationships I have here. Just yesterday, I went with a fellow student to a local park and we spent hours there playing Pokemon Go. It was really a joyous experience and being out in a community with others with the same interest, it helps me forget at times about being divorced.

I am also thankful that I have survived the divorce and am surviving it every day. I made it a personal vow that I was playing to win and I would not let her win the day over me by her actions. Of course, it still hurts every day, but I am working every day to overcome the pain and hope to find love again one day.

Right now, our country isn’t doing well, but I am still thankful to be an American. I can for the time being worship freely and read my Bible freely. Some of us may not have a lot in our minds financially, but drop us off in a number of countries in the world and we would be some of the most wealthy people of all. I still think this is the best nation on Earth.

I am thankful for my friends. So many people have come alongside me and joined me in the journey. Some I know in person or have met in person. Some I have never met, but I still consider them friends.

I am also thankful for so many of you who have decided to become donors through Patreon. If you aren’t already, please do sign up. Even if you just give $1-$5 a month, that is still something and it means a lot to me.

I am thankful for all that I have to keep me busy here as well. I have plenty of books for my reading, plenty of games I can enjoy, and a whole lot in streaming services I can watch. I can always have something to do throughout the day.

Do I have a lot of work to do? Yes. Do I have a lot of challenges? Yes. Are there still aspects of life that I am sorrowful about? Yes.

Yet in the face of this, I am still thankful for the blessings I have.

Now go and make your own list.

Happy Thanksgiving!

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Are We Arguing the Demiurge?

Do we miss the point of an evolution debate? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

While I was watching on Facebook an atheist and a Christian debating evolution, I started pondering what was being argued. Both came from a position where this was a dealbreaker. If you disprove evolution, lo and behold, there’s God! If you prove evolution, lo and behold, God is out of a job!

Looking at that, one question comes to mind.

Which God?

For us, is that all God is? Is He just a fill-in-the-gap and if a naturalistic process comes along, then God is done? That’s not really a worthwhile way to see God.

For the atheist, isn’t it the same then? God is just a placeholder until we have something else that can take His place. Again, not worthwhile.

Both sides also treat the material world as a given to some extent. An atheist can say it’s a brute fact and the Christian seems to go along with it. The Christian can say “Yeah, we agree on the Big Bang Theory (Unless they are YEC), but after that, it’s all God.”

I don’t doubt that’s an imperfect representation, but there are similarities.

However, not only is matter treated as a given, it looks like both sides also treat existence itself as a given. The atheist says “The natural world is here and you have to prove a supernatural world.” (I am using terms that they use. For reasons why I don’t use the term “supernatural”, see here.) The Christian seems to too often buy into that and thinks he has to accept the material world as is.

The problem is this isn’t God being argued. This is the demiurge.

If you’re not familiar with that, it comes from Plato where the demiurge is a being invoked in a dialogue of Plato’s called Timaeus. This is a being that does not create matter so much as he just takes it and shapes it and makes what needs to be done. Implicitly if Christians accept this, we are arguing for a lesser god.

From the perspective of Aquinas, we need to go and ask about existence itself. The material world is not a given. It needs to be explained. Existence is not a given. It needs to be explained. If you can take the concept of God and remove it from your theology and still have something that exists, you did not have a true concept of God.

This is not to say you shouldn’t argue for or against evolution. That being said, if you want to argue against, let evolution fall scientifically. If it is bad science, that will happen. The main point is to know what kind of God you are arguing about.

If you are not arguing for the demiurge God, then your opponent has to give an account for everything to change your mind. Everything. He has to explain the universe, morality, numbers, ideas, and even the very fact of existence itself.

That’s quite a tall order.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views

What does Larry Richards have to say? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This was an odd chapter. Pastorally, this was the best chapter in the book. Not even a contest. Richards really takes the time to emphasize the love and concern needed for people walking the path of divorce.

Exegetically though, it’s the worst, easily. There are simply several assumptions thrown out and while they could be right, no reason is given for them. As one respondent says, Richards only has two footnotes. That’s far below anyone else.


I have yet to meet a Christian who, when he or she stood before pastor and family and church to say “I do,” planned on divorce. I have yet to meet anyone who enjoyed divorce. For each person involved there is pain: worry about the children, uncertainty, sudden loneliness, financial hardship, the lingering and agonizing death of hoped-for love and belonging.

For most Christians there is also a sense of guilt, the awful realization that somehow they have failed, falling dreadfully short of God’s ideal of a permanent, lifelong relationship. Even the “innocent party” feels guilt. What did he or she do wrong? What might he have done differently? What happened to destroy a relationship she entered with such joyous expectation?

It is true that in our society divorce is all too common. It is also tragically true that the Christian community has proven as susceptible as the general culture. Most churches have men and women attending who have been divorced and, in many cases, have remarried. I have no statistics on the Christian community, but the most recent study I’ve seen suggests that about 51% of Americans who many for the first time will divorce. Many of these divorces will be unnecessary. If both parties were willing to receive counseling, to work at the relationship, most marriages that end in divorce could probably be saved.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 215–216.

Amen and amen. Would that every contributor remembered this. This isn’t just an academic exercise in this case. One could say a debate on eschatology for instance might not have a lot of immediate significance for one’s life, but this one does. A lot of people who pick up this book could be going through the pain of divorce themselves or know someone who is. This isn’t just an academic interest for them. Richards brings that out.

First, we must guard against being so swayed by sympathy for hurting people that we ignore or reject Scripture. As Oswald Chambers once wrote, “It is possible to have such sympathy with our fellow man as to be guilty of red-handed rebellion against God.” Now I confess to a great sympathy for many struggling with the option of divorce. One of our neighbors, whom I’ll call Brenda, has an abusive husband. For some ten years he has belittled and sworn at her, constantly ridiculing her. What troubles Brenda now is that her husband treats their two girls the same way. How can she stay with him and see her daughters emotionally damaged for life by his verbal abuse? Is it right for her to stay in a relationship where not only she but her girls are victimized?

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 216–217.

Indeed. Not only this, but how many marriages could be saved if we called out bad behavior on the part of one spouse (Or both if need be) instead of trying to make sure feelings weren’t being spared. We have an idea that we should try to love people into the Kingdom. We often forget we can love them into Hell as well.

Looking more closely at Malachi, we note that something happening in our society today was also happening then: Men were deserting the “wives of their youth.” This phrase, repeated twice in Malachi 2:13–16, makes it clear that these were older couples and suggests that, then as now, older men were deserting their first wives to marry younger, more sexually attractive women.

Partnerships forged by years of shared struggle and joy were being broken up by men who “failed to guard themselves in their spirits.” This phrase, also repeated twice, reminds us that as men grow older they, like Solomon, become more susceptible to sexual temptation. So it is clear from the context of Malachi that when God said “I hate divorce,” he was speaking of divorces motivated by lust, divorces that involved abandonment of women who had been faithful, loving partners through years of married life. You and I also hate this kind of divorce. We recognize its source in selfishness and sin. We see the anguish it causes a partner who has lavished years of loving care on a person who now pushes her aside. No godly person treats another in this way. And nothing can justify such a divorce.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 218.

I too hate this kind of divorce as well. It’s one we should never encourage in the church. It is sad that some of the rabbis did say a man could divorce if someone prettier came along.

It seems to me that there is only one way to avoid the two dangers I have identified above. On the one hand, we must avoid arguing from human experience. It would be easy to list case after tragic case and to so play on emotions that any sensitive reader would cry out, “No! Let him or her go!”

It would be almost as easy to list case after case of selfish and unnecessary divorce and to trace their tragic consequences. But we Christians do not find moral guidance in human experience. We find moral guidance in Scripture, and we then apply Scripture to help us evaluate experience. Thus any valid discussion of divorce and remarriage must begin with a study of the Word of God, not with appeals to have compassion on hurting people.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 219.

And I agree again. Many of these stories can have appeal to emotions. I have made it a point to not often share my story and even when I do, I leave some details out, mainly out of a way of still not wanting to speak ill of my ex-wife.

So far, so good, but now we get into the argumentation.

Jesus then goes on to sketch three useless routes people sometimes take in a search for spiritual greatness. The Pharisees, who raise a legal question about divorce, represent the way of Law (19:1–15). A rich young man, who takes pride in his humanitarianism, represents those who seek greatness by doing good works (19:16–30). Workers in a vineyard represent those who seek greatness by working harder than others in God’s service (20:1–16). In each case Jesus shows why the route chosen is useless as a way to spiritual achievement.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 220–221.

This could be, but I’m skeptical. I found it intriguing, but I think a stronger case needs to be made. I don’t think the Pharisees were trying to use the law to find greatness. If they were, divorce seems like an odd place to start.

If God, sensitive to the fact that human hardness of heart would turn some marriages into destructive caricatures, announced through Moses that marriages could be ended, how can we deny divorce to those few whose suffering cries out that their marriages, too, should end? If Jesus recognized hardness of heart as the rationale for permitting divorce in Old Testament times, how can we insist that there is no rationale for divorce today, even when one spouse persistently sins against his or her partner?

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 223.

This point I do think is valid. What happens today if one spouse hardens their heart and refuses to honor the covenant? Tough luck for the other person?

Jesus’ words warn us that pastors and other Christian leaders have no more right to stand in judgment over the dissolution of a marriage than did the Pharisees. His words tells us that theologians have no right to decree, “People in this situation can divorce and remarry, but people in that situation cannot.” Jesus’ words to the Pharisees confront us if we, like those jealous men of long ago, take it upon ourselves to convene our ecclesiastical courts to make pronouncements on an issue which must in the last analysis be a personal decision—a personal decision that Christians will consider only as a last resort, and then prayerfully and purely, with a heartfelt desire to know and to do God’s will for them.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 226.

While Richards thinks this is a powerful argument, I really do not see this in the text. I see nothing about ecclesiastical courts or anything like that. I don’t see Jesus at all saying we have no place to judge someone else in the case of a divorce. This is especially so since Richards earlier in this chapter described one scenario and said we hate this kind of divorce.

On the other hand, the way to treat a wayward spouse, as illustrated by God’s treatment of adulterous Israel and Hosea’s treatment of his adulterous wife, Gomer, is to seek reconciliation and renewal (see Hos 1:11). Adultery may be grounds for forgiveness, but it is not grounds for divorce!

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 229.

This statement puzzles me since it looks like Jesus does explicitly say that, yes, this is grounds for divorce. I am all for trying to seek reconciliation and renewal first, but if that is resisted, what then? You can’t reconcile with someone who doesn’t want that.

First, he means that the Law, which says “give her a certificate of divorce,” does not express God’s highest standard or ideal. The Pharisees thought that it was righteous to divorce one’s spouse as long as the legalities were observed. Jesus makes it clear that, while it is permissible to divorce, it is not righteous. Divorce falls short of God’s will for us and reveals human failure. In view of God’s ultimate standard for us, divorce, while permissible, is still sin. And remarriage, while permissible, involves an act which measured against the ideal must be acknowledged as adultery.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 233.

This really strikes me as dangerous. Divorce is sin? It can be, but are we to say that a wife who divorces her husband who is a cheater and who beats her and the children is sinning? Also, if remarriage is adultery, is Richards seriously telling us then to go on and sin in divorce and go on and sin in remarriage committing adultery and God will forgive you? Dangerous indeed!

When Richards goes pastoral, it is much better, as he does here:

Too many pastors and teachers insist that there is no forgiveness for the divorced, no fresh start. In many Christian communities, if your marriage fails, you are marked forever and dismissed to a lifetime of loneliness—unless, of course, by some legalistic twist or turn you can be pronounced the “innocent party.”

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 236–237.

Thankfully, this is not my experience, but i know it is the experience of some men.

How strange! We would invite a converted murderer to give testimony from our pulpits. Yet we will not permit a person who has been divorced and has remarried to praise God in our choir.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 237.

This is indeed strange. I have had a Baptist minister tell me this same concern. I am not at all say a converted murderer should not give a testimony, but one can be redeemed of murder but not divorce?

We can draw a number of important principles concerning divorce and remarriage from Paul’s discussion of the issues that troubled the Corinthian church. First, a single, permanent marriage relationship is unquestionably God’s will for his people (7:10). There can be no debate over this question. Marriage is intended to be a lifetime commitment, in which couples share not only their bodies but all of life, and especially their spiritual life.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 239.

This is something we should all agree with. Yes. Marriage was meant to be forever.

As ministers of God’s good news, we will affirm the forgiveness that the divorced can claim. We will show by our own warmth and caring that Jesus values them, despite the worthlessness they now frequently feel.

In our churches we will try to provide social groupings where the divorced can feel they belong. We may sponsor seminars to help them deal with unexpected feelings and tasks for which they are not equipped. If we are uncertain how to minister to the needs of the divorced, we will take the initiative and purchase a helpful book, such as the 1987 Zondervan release Effective Divorce Ministry by Sue Richards and Stan Haggameyer.

Larry Richards, “Chapter 4: Divorce & Remarriage under a Variety of Circumstances,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 244.

Yes, churches. Please do this. A Babylon Bee article a couple of months ago said a new Christian dating app had come out that said “Just go to church,” Many, myself included, said in the comments that that does not work at all for a lot of us. If anything, it’s easy to feel lonely in the church. You go in and see married couples and couples talking about their children and there you sit by your lonesome. Churches. Please remember this!

I do think in looking at the responses, something Laney says definitely needs to be commented on.

While I would agree that divorce and remarriage should not disqualify one from all service in a church, the office of elder and deacon have a specific marital requirement, “husband of one wife” (1 Tim 3:2, 12; Tit 1:6). While divorce and remarriage is a forgivable sin, it would be disqualifying in terms of church office.

J. Carl Laney et al., Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 253.

I really am stunned to see this kind of thing. If followed consistently, Jesus and Paul could not speak at a church. They are not the husband of one wife. Also, if we went this route, anyone to speak must have at least two children. After all, the man must see that his children obey him. Gotta have two. This kind of thinking has done a lot of harm to a good number of divorced men.

I think Edgar also has a powerful reply to Richards:

Richards claims that he originally held the no-divorce and no-remarriage view, but has changed due to a restudy of the passages. How can this be? It does not take a restudy of the passages to change from the view that the Bible teaches that divorce is always sin and remarriage is always adultery to his present view that the Bible teaches that divorce is always sin and remarriage is always adultery but go ahead since God will forgive it Did he need to restudy the Bible to be aware that God is merciful and gracious and will forgive sin? This is the only real difference in his position. All of the writers in this book would agree that God will forgive the sin of improper divorce; we would not all agree that this makes it a valid option.

J. Carl Laney et al., Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 266–267.

In conclusion, overall, I side with Edgar’s view the most. Pastorally, I appreciate Richards the most, and the one I disagree with not only in his chapter but in several responses is Laney.

We’ll see what comes next time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)


Book Plunge: Divorce and Remarriage — Four Christian Views Part 3

What do I think of Thomas R. Edgar’s chapter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Edgar holds to a view of divorce and remarriage in the case of adultery and desertion. To clarify on this, I would include in my own view a couple of other possibilities as legitimate divorces such as a spouse who is being abusive to a member of the family. I don’t know if Edgar holds that position, though it wouldn’t surprise me, but I am stating it here.

So what do we have in Edgar’s chapter?

The opinion that marriage is indissoluble may be held dogmatically, as in the Roman Catholic tradition, or may be derived from an alleged teaching of Scripture regarding the nature of marriage. No verse in Scripture explicitly teaches that marriage is indissoluble. However, those who are convinced of this tend to interpret every passage on divorce and remarriage with this assumption rather than following normal procedures for interpretation and the most natural meaning of the biblical passages involved.

Thomas R. Edgar, “Chapter 3: Divorce & Remarriage for Adultery or Desertion,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 152.

This is certainly true. Nothing in Scripture does say that marriage cannot be undone in any way. If there is divorce in even the Old Testament and remarriage there, it would seem that the answer is indeed that marriage can be undone. Whether it should be undone is a different question.

The view which allows for no divorce, even because of adultery, may seem to be more ethical. However, it could also be considered quite the opposite—as a more tolerant view of adultery—in that it treats adultery no differently than numerous other marriage problems.

Thomas R. Edgar, “Chapter 3: Divorce & Remarriage for Adultery or Desertion,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 152.

This is an interesting point. As it stands, with someone who is an adulterer, or even in our day and age, a porn addict, such a stance could be enabling. I am sure Laney and Heth would agree that adultery is bigger than many other marriage problems, but does Laney’s view in particular lead to this conclusion? Heth at least does allow for divorce so he doesn’t have as much of a problem.

Edgar’s main exegesis in his chapter is on Matthew 19’s section on divorce. I am not at all condemning exegeting that, but as one responder points out, there are other passages. There is little if no interaction with the Old Testament on this matter. That should at least be consulted.

That being said, Edgar’s exegesis of the passage is intense, if not at times seemingly tedious. I do think he spent too much time on weaker objections. I also agree with one responder who said that he spends a lot of time telling us what the passage is not saying and too little saying what it is saying.

While I agree with Edgar’s position, I do get concerned when he says this, and one of his responders will as well.

Many conservatives, perhaps unaware, seem to hold a similar position. For example, those who insist that the exception is not “understood” in Mark 10:2–12 or that Mark 10:2–12 disallows any exception since it is determinative of Jesus’ teaching on divorce have implicitly surrendered the inerrancy of Scripture. It must be kept in mind that both Matthew 19:3–12 and Mark 10:2–12 are recording the same historical incident and the same statements of Jesus. Neither is attempting to give his own view, nor the church’s view on divorce; rather, both are reporting the very same conversation between Jesus and the Pharisees. Matthew explicitly states that, not only on a previous occasion (Mt 5:31–32), but in this very conversation, which is also described in Mark 10:2–12, Jesus specifically stated the exception. Unless Matthew 19:9 is inaccurate, in the conversation recorded in Mark 10:2–12 Jesus did state the exception. Therefore, it must be understood in Mark’s account even though he does not record it Mark, as often happens in other passages, merely omitted a detail which Matthew included.

Thomas R. Edgar, “Chapter 3: Divorce & Remarriage for Adultery or Desertion,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 166.

I would say instead that they are having an inconsistent hermeneutic. If Mark has no exceptions and Matthew does, and you don’t want to throw out inerrancy, then to be consistent, you have to say that Mark most likely took the adultery one as a given. This is what I find consistent with other writers on the topic. Saying that there is a denial of inerrancy leads to outcomes I have seen before, namely in the inerrancy wars starting in around 2010.

Overall, Edgar’s argument in Matthew 19 is highly complex and I don’t think I can summarize it here. I do think it is the way most Protestants do understand the passage, however. For now, let’s also look at 1 Cor. 7.

The crux of the issue is the meaning of 1 Corinthians 7:15. The arguments against interpreting this verse as referring to a divorce and allowing remarriage are few. It is argued that the verse only refers to allowing the partner to leave and says nothing about remarriage. If such an approach were followed elsewhere, many doctrines, including the doctrine of the Trinity, would be lost. The situation Paul refers to either allows remarriage or it does not This is what needs to be determined.

Thomas R. Edgar, “Chapter 3: Divorce & Remarriage for Adultery or Desertion,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 189.

I look at this claim repeatedly and while Edgar could be right, he doesn’t explain it at all which leaves me wondering just how it could be that this leads to a denial of a doctrine of the Trinity. This is a serious danger. Edgar needs to do more than just throw it out there.

Some argue that the deserted believer is not permitted to remarry, because the entire context of 1 Corinthians 7:17–24 urges the believer to remain as he or she is and not to change his or her status. This opinion ignores the details of the context The preference for remaining as is refers also to those never married and to widows and widowers. If this aspect of the context prohibits remarriage, it prohibits all marriage. The passage actually teaches the preference of staying single, but if you desire to marry it is not sin. Although this statement may not specifically allow remarriage of divorced persons, on the other hand, the context does not specifically deny it unless it denies all marriage. Paul implies in 1 Corinthians 7:10–12 that he has something to say that was not specifically covered by the Lord. Since Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:9 is true for all, including believers and unbelievers, Paul must be doing more than repeating the same teaching for application to a mixed marriage. If he merely repeats in verse 15 what he said in verses 10–11, that divorce and remarriage are prohibited (except for adultery) and that separated people should remain unmarried, then he has stated nothing that the Lord did not already say. If verse 15 is mere repetition, why then would Paul state that the Lord did not speak regarding this matter?

Thomas R. Edgar, “Chapter 3: Divorce & Remarriage for Adultery or Desertion,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 191.

I do agree with this. If the argument is that this is why these people shouldn’t remarry, then it proves too much. It is an argument why no one should marry, even the man who is engaged to the virgin he wishes to marry. I also think it is concerning a famine that was going on in Corinth at the time and that needs to be considered in the context.

Many approach the subject of divorce and remarriage as a policeman would who is not primarily interested in stopping robberies, but more interested that the criminals not enjoy the benefits of their crime. They seem less interested in avoiding marriage failures and more interested in keeping the divorced from remarriage

Thomas R. Edgar, “Chapter 3: Divorce & Remarriage for Adultery or Desertion,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 192.

Thankfully, I have not encountered this in my path through divorce, but I do understand the legalism. The pastoral side must be remembered. In a book like this, there are real people and I would that every contributor had remembered this more. We’ll see that more in part 4.

Laney’s response comes first where he says this at the start:

Edgar writes, “The Bible specifically states that God intended for marriage to be maintained” (p. 191). He also states, “We should not sever that which God has joined” (p. 191). It is surprising that Edgar can make such strong statements regarding God’s design for marriage and then take the entirety of his article to argue the legitimacy of divorce and remarriage.

J. Carl Laney et al., Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 197.

But what is surprising about this? I agree with this as a divorced man. Marriage should be maintained. We should not sever what God has joined. The problem is, if one person doesn’t want to maintain a marriage, they won’t. What God joins does get severed. I hold that divorce can be a necessity sometimes, but in all cases, it is a tragedy. Someone broke their promise on the wedding day, a tragedy.

A major difficulty with Edgar’s viewpoint is the absence of an exception in Mark 10:1–12 and Luke 16:18. According to Edgar, Mark “merely omitted a detail which Matthew included” (p. 166). I would have to say that Mark’s omission of an exception to the permanence of marriage is more than a detail! Eusebius records that Mark carefully recorded the teaching of Peter for the church at Rome after Peter’s death. The church at Rome was apparently not taught by Peter that there was an exception to the permanence of marriage. Peter’s preaching contained no exception. Neither did Mark’s Gospel. Neither were the gentile readers of the Gospel of Luke informed as to an exception. This is not a minor historical detail. This omission would have a significant impact on the lives and marriages of Mark’s readers.

J. Carl Laney et al., Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 199.

Yet this assumes that everything Peter was teaching is found in Mark. If Edgar’s case is correct, the exception is understood. It is a problem to say Mark’s Jesus said no exceptions and Matthew says an exception and both are true. The most likely scenario is Mark’s is understood.

Laney also says that Edgar’s view seems to have no place for forgiveness or promise-keeping. In response, I can say I have always held the door open for the forgiveness of my ex-wife. It doesn’t mean I will trust her again, but I can forgive her.  You can forgive someone for doing something, but you don’t have to trust them again. If the babysitter you hire abuses your children, you can forgive them, but it doesn’t mean you let them sit your kids again.

As for promise-keeping, you can hold Edgar’s position and still believe in promise-keeping. I do. If she did not want to keep her promise, how is that being unfaithful to mine? People around me can tell you I still don’t speak ill of her.

I really had a problem when Laney said this:

Instead of presenting a thorough biblical study of the subject, Edgar continually appeals to logic and states that the arguments of the opposing viewpoint are illogical (compare, pp. 173, 179, 180, 186, 192). I would hasten to point out that many biblical doctrines—such as election and free will—do not fit our categories of logic. How is the doctrine of the Trinity—three equal persons in one godhead-logical? Frankly, I would rather be biblical than logical if a choice is demanded.

J. Carl Laney et al., Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 201.

If the Trinity is illogical, then that means it is impossible and should not be believed. I do not for a moment think the Trinity contradicts logic. Does the doctrine go beyond our understanding? Absolutely, but to say it is illogical is a dangerous path. I suspect Laney doesn’t really understand what is meant by logical, but I wish he would for he has opened a dangerous door with this statement.

There is nothing in Heth that I didn’t find in Laney worth commenting on, but in Richard’s response we read:

It may be correct for us to advise the injured party that he or she “can” divorce. But it is not for us to advise that he or she should. Instead we need to work toward the healing first of the persons involved, and then of the marriage.

J. Carl Laney et al., Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 211.

This is a great point. We often forget that when the bride and groom come together on a wedding day, it’s not just them making a promise. The congregation is also to promise to support and help the couple. We don’t spend enough time doing this. We should all be working to help marriages in our community. I have told couples where I am that if they have a marriage problem and want to talk, my door is open.

Next time, we will look at Larry Richards’s position.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)

Book Plunge: Divorce and Remarriage Four Views — Part 2

What do I think of William Heth’s view? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

In this volume, Heth defends the position that divorce is allowed, but not remarriage. This is an older work as since then, Heth has changed his position to allow for remarriage after adultery and desertion. Therefore, we can say that eventually he came to abandon his arguments here, but he still has his arguments and we need to address them.

To begin with, I do agree with parts where Heth speaks highly of marriage. I also think ideally that marriage should be permanent, but the problem is that it is too often not. This is even the case with God essentially sending a divorce certificate to Israel and Judah when He allows them to go into exile. There have been some who have said the same thing happens again in Revelation. Hosea 2 has God explicitly saying to Israel “I am not your husband.”

Heth says marriage happens when a man and a woman announce their covenant love for one another and consummate that love together. He says one is not sufficient in itself, pointing to 1 Cor. 6:16. The problem is, as was said yesterday, that 1 Cor. 6:16, quotes Genesis 2:24, which is said to be the foundational passage on marriage. Nothing in Genesis 2:24 speaks about announcing covenant love, for instance.

I do agree with Heth in that the purpose of marriage is not companionship. That is a purpose, but it is not the purpose. After all, men and women have plenty of sources for companionship. They’re called friends. We even consider our pets our companions. That being said, being divorced and single is quite lonely and so yes, that companionship is definitely missed.

I am unconvinced by his point on Deuteronomy 24 considering it does not allow for remarriage of the first husband. The purpose is that it still allows for remarriage. My thinking on this is that a back and forth exchange gives the impression that this is a case of men working together to have the same woman and claim to do so legally. It creates a love triangle scenario.

He speaks on Ezra with the marriages to other tribes at the end and says

As early as 1890, George Rawlinson observed:

It is quite clear that [Ezra] read the Law as absolutely prohibitive of mixed marriages (Ezra 9:10–14)—i.e., as not only forbidding their inception, but their continuance. Strictly speaking, he probably looked upon them as unreal marriages, and so as no better than ordinary illicit connections. For the evils which flow from such unions, those who make them, and not those who break them, are responsible.

William A Heth, “Chapter 2: Divorce, but No Remarriage,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 89.

I find this extremely flimsy. Are we to say that pagan nations had no “real marriages” since evils could flow from such unions? If all that is required for a real marriage is a public testimony and a consummation, then these were real marriages. If these were real marriages, then these were real divorces.

Heth goes on to say that

Yet the most serious cases of unlawful unions could be punished by the death of both parties, just like adulterers (Lev 20:10). Numbers 25:6–15 records the case of an Israelite who took a foreign wife and was summarily executed. It could be a significant act of kindness that Ezra only demanded the “divorce” of the foreigners, not their execution.

William A Heth, “Chapter 2: Divorce, but No Remarriage,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 90.

This also strikes me as problematic. In this case, we have no indication that the two were husband and wife. What is going on is a judgment has come to Israel and right after a public statement denouncing this, a man and a woman brazenly go in public so everyone can see them and then go into a tent and start doing the deed together. Phinehas says that that is enough and takes a spear and runs through both of them in one blow.

Thus, I hardly see this as a parallel. Add in also that Deuteronomy had standards for marrying a woman who was a captive and Rahab and Ruth were foreign women who we see in the genealogy of Jesus. Are we to think that those were illicit marriages?

As we move on, we see a quotation from Tony Lane, a lecturer on Christian doctrine at London Bible College.

If Jesus did allow remarriage, presumably it happened. How did it then cease to happen, despite the fact that his teaching was known, leaving no trace either of a period when it happened or of any controversy.

William A Heth, “Chapter 2: Divorce, but No Remarriage,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 97.

However, what I want to know is how is this known? For instance, let’s go with the early church having a problem with sex for pleasure. Are we to assume then that nowhere in the early church could we find couples having sex for pleasure? The reality is we just don’t have the marriage statistics on the early church so this is really an argument from silence.

Later when talking about Jesus and divorce, Heth says:

Divorce for marital unfaithfulness may be conceded in view of the prevailing social mores, but there must be no remarriage lest adultery be committed. The disciples then react in unbelief at the thought of a life of singleness apart from marital relations: if a man cannot get out of a marriage so as to marry another, it is probably better not to marry at all (v. 10). Jesus then responds by saying that his standards on divorce and remarriage are indeed difficult to understand and to live by. Nevertheless, God gives true disciples the ability to understand and live by Christ’s teaching. Furthermore, God will give faithful disciples the grace they need if they should face a divorce they cannot prevent (v. 11).

William A Heth, “Chapter 2: Divorce, but No Remarriage,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 106.

First, we don’t know why exactly the disciples reacted the way they did. We just know that they did. However, if someone was stunned at the prospect of a life of singleness without sex, there’s a sure way to get that. Never get married. At least if you get married, you could say you can have sex for some time.

I also don’t deny that God can give grace to those of us who have gone through divorce, but at the same time, He can also give us new spouses who will love us faithfully. There is no doubt God can provide for me regardless. My hope is still that that will be through another companion.

As for Paul, Heth says

Paul’s statement that the believer is “not bound” in such cases has the same function that the exception clause does in Matthew 19:9: it relieves the innocent party of the guilt of violating Christ’s command not to divorce. In the case of Matthew 19:9 the woman who commits adultery is held responsible for the breakup of the marriage, while in 1 Corinthians 7:15 Paul exempts the Christian from the responsibility for the divorce which an unbelieving mate brings about. Nothing is said one way or the other about the possibility of remarriage for the believer.

William A Heth, “Chapter 2: Divorce, but No Remarriage,” in Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 112.

This seems like a strange interpretation. Not bound means that the person is not guilty? That doesn’t seem to be the main issue at play here. No one seems to be asking “Who is guilty of the divorce?”

Finally, in looking at the responses, I want to only look at one comment from Thomas Edgar.

Heth’s argument that unless divorce is required it cannot be argued that the one-flesh relationship has been broken due to sexual sin, fails to take into account that although relationship with a prostitute is “one flesh” it is not marriage unless a certain legal ceremony is carried out. In the same way sexual sin breaks the marriage bond, but the marriage is not actually dissolved until a certain legal procedure (divorce) is carried out Does anyone argue that the marriage itself is actually dissolved the instant one enters into sexual unfaithfulness? I think that my discussion of the syntax shows that Heth’s view of Matthew 19:9 is incorrect. It is grammatically impossible to claim that Matthew 19:9 does not allow remarriage in the case of the exception.

J. Carl Laney et al., Divorce and Remarriage: Four Christian Views (ed. H. Wayne House; Spectrum Multiview Books; Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, n.d.), 142.

This is an excellent case. Adultery does not ipso facto destroy the marriage as there can be repentance and it’s not as if the moment a spouse commits adultery, they are a divorced couple and then if the cheater comes home and resumes normal sex with the spouse, that the unaware party is having an affair? Just as the ceremony is part of the marriage, so it is part of the divorce. Adultery doesn’t necessitate divorce, but it is sufficient for it.

Next time, we will look at Thomas Edgar’s essay.

In Christ,
Nick Peters
(And I affirm the virgin birth)