A NEW THEORY ON DIVORCE AND REMARIAGE
T PIERCE BROWN
Recently I have heard what is to me a new theory on divorce and remarriage, although it is mixed with several old arguments. We shall try to break it down into its several parts, most of which we consider unscriptural and wrong in their applications.
Basically it is this: Since Jesus was still living under the Old Covenant, what he says in Matthew 5 and Matthew 19 about putting away and re-marrying does not apply to Christians, for he came to the lost sheep of the house ofIsrael, and was talking to Jews. Second, the Law of Moses did not give any authority for a person to get a divorce for adultery, for when a person was guilty of adultery, the punishment was to be death, not divorce. Third, Jesus makes a distinction between “putting away a wife” and “giving her a bill of divorcement” so “putting away a wife” is not divorce, but simply getting rid of her as a wife without divorcing her. Fourth, since “repent” does not mean “reform” or “make restitution” a person may repent of any sin he has done without trying to undo the effects of his sin insofar as he can. So whatever sin he may have committed in his former relationships, repentance merely involves being sorry for them and making a decision not to repeat them. This last argument is not new, of course, but in this particular effort, it was carried to a specific new dimension. The person advancing it said in specific terms that if a person stole something, repentance did not involve any necessity for him to return that which he stole. He did not make clear whether he would carry out that idea if someone stole his car and asked him to forgive him, while keeping the car.
So, when he put his arguments together it amounted to this: What Jesus was saying is that if a person puts away his wife (without giving her a divorce) and marries another, he commits adultery by getting married. Adultery does not necessarily involve any sexual activity. His sin is that he married another person without getting a divorce from his first wife. If she were guilty of adultery, the law gave him no right to divorce her, but condemned her to death. (He did not make it clear if that “law” still applies under the New Covenant, but it seems that he tries to escape the consequences of that by saying that the principle applies, but the law does not. How the principle that is to be applied is not clear.) If he found some uncleanness in her, and divorced her both of them are now free to marry again, for the statement of Jesus, “Except it be for fornication” has no bearing on the issue, for under the Law, if there was fornication, the guilty party was not divorced, but put to death.
Since the promulgator of this doctrine admits that we are not under the Law, and since he says the statement of Jesus does not apply to Christians, for it was given to those who were under the Law, then apparently the statement of Jesus has no present application at all, except in principle, whatever that means. How one goes about applying this principle to a specific situation in this dispensation we are not told.
What may make the theory so hard to unravel for some is that it is interwoven with some truths, as are most false doctrines. For example, it is true that Jesus was living under the Old Covenant, but to assume that his teaching does not apply to the New Covenant would leave out almost everything he said. It should be evident that when he said, “Moses said,—but I say–” that he was giving something new, not merely stating the Old Law. It is true that “put away” and “bill of divorcement” are not the same thing. Of course “divorce” and “bill of divorcement” are not the same thing either. The divorce is the legal proceeding by which the marriage relationship was severed, and the bill of divorcement is the statement of the legality of the proceeding. Just because the term “put away” and “bill of divorce” do not mean the same thing does not prove that “put away” simply means “throw her out of the house.” What Moses was saying was that if a man divorces his wife, he should give her a bill of divorcement, so she would have legal proof that she was no longer married to him. The one who promotes this theory concludes that Moses and Jesus are saying that if a person puts away his wife, he should give her a divorce and that frees her to be married to someone else,
The conclusion is that Jesus is teaching almost the exact opposite to what any ordinary reader would conclude. That is, he is saying, “A man may put away his wife, as long as he gives her a divorce, and she may marry another without displeasing God.” The theorist whose statements I am reviewing did not make clear if he believes that if he puts away his wife for fornication she should now be stoned to death, but apparently tried to escape the consequences of that conclusion by saying that the Law of Moses was not applicable to that part of the statement, although the principle still applies. Again, it is not clear exactly what the principle is, and how it applies, but apparently there is no end to the kinds of interpretations one can find if he wants to circumvent the plain teachings of the Lord.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.
Cookeville, TN. 38501
Phone: (615) 528-3600