Welcome to Carnivorous Caribou

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Marriage Killed by Bad Hermeneutic

When you make a statement like, “I do not believe it is ever Biblically justified to pursue divorce,” (as I made in the previous post), you usually get a retort, “But what about adultery? Jesus said divorce is permissible through adultery.”

This summer, I have the privilege of preaching a sermon series on commonly misunderstood passages of the Bible. To date, we’ve covered Psalm 37:4, Proverbs 22:6, Isaiah 55:11 and 1 Chronicles 7:14. We’ll also take a look at Mark 16:16, Matthew 7:1-5, Matthew 18:20 and Philippians 4:13. Each week, we’ve taken a look at these passages, often misunderstood by those in evangelical corners, and try to return to the author’s original intent. To loosely quote what I heard Allistair Begg say once, “I must first figure out what Paul’s intent was for the people of Corinth before I can ever discern the application for my people in Cleveland.”

The church suffers every time a passage is misrepresented. Undoubtedly, faulty application is borne out of faulty hermeneutic. And inevitably, faulty application in a church produces a diminished gospel witness to the world.

We lament that the divorce rate is the same in the church as it is in the world. Both have a divorce rate sitting somewhere around 50%. (Which is a faulty statistic, because most people who have been divorced once get divorced again, therefore increasing the divorce rate. A better gauge may be to calculate how many first time divorces survive…but I digress). We as Christians weep and wail (as we should) and immediately look to the world to see how it has influenced us.

But could the inverse be the problem. When Christian, Biblically minded people began to think they had an “escape clause” for their marriage and therefore proceeded to severe the union of man and wife, could the world have taken its cue from us? Has the misunderstanding of two verses in Scripture created a mentality that “‘til death do us part” allows the bride and groom to have their fingers crossed? Have we diminished the mystery of marriage (which is Christ and the Church) to a good idea for cohabitation?

The two passages, mishandled to great destruction of the church, the gospel message and the sanctity of marriage are:
but I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except for the reason of unchastity, makes her commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery—Matthew 5:32
And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery.

So, if I believe this passage has been badly abused, why am I not preaching it this summer? A few reasons:
    Rather than one week, the content of these two verses would take over a month to unpack in a sermon format. Therefore, you’ll get it here on this blog, in small doses.
    I wish for these words to be accessible, and myself held accountable, to them for a longer period of time. Sermons can have a bit of shelf life that I hope written word will exceed. People can go back and reread it, rather than trying to remember what was said.
    I do not want this to seem to be a rebuttal toward a specific person’s misapplied teaching of this passage. Therefore, I want to attack this issue before I find out any specific people who are teaching otherwise. (I know there are obviously some, but have purposely attempted to keep from knowing who.)
    There are so many disclaimers involved (that we need to respond differently to those we disciple through this situation and those having already suffered from this misteaching, etc.) that it would take half of my sermon every week.

Therefore, I will proceed with this discussion, via blog, understanding the following issues:
    I believe this passage has been terribly mishandled, and therefore we must graciously, but accurately, redirect people to the text. (I am not seeking to condemn anyone, but rather, return to the original intent of Matthew as he recorded these words from Jesus.)
    We’ll work through the passages exegetically before we consider giving any sort of application. (I understand that this discussion may stir up emotion…who’s life hasn’t be affected by divorce…but I urge you to consider the arguments as they are presented and later we can deal with application.)
    We will not cover most of the other passages (unless I decide through the course of conversation that it would be beneficial to continue) understanding that they all highly support marriage as a lifetime covenant.

Again, I grieve for those who have been discipled to take action with a bad hermeneutic. I do not desire to point fingers at anyone. But I also feel compelled to present a more Biblically faithful way to understand these passages.

I believe the quality of our marriages, and the clarity of our gospel presentation are greatly affected by it.


  • At 11:31 PM, Blogger Lauren Reifsnider said…

    i'm basically glued to my computer, waiting for your next post. this topic has been so near to my mind lately, and i don't understand the Bible on the subject. i'm so glad you're talking about it on your blog; i can't wait to read the rest of the posts!

  • At 9:47 AM, Blogger danny2 said…

    thanks for the encouragment lauren. just yesterday i was discussing the series with someone who basically said they don't think people are interested in this.

    i'm glad to hear it will be a good process for you to think through now, and i hope the thoughts are conveyed clearly enough that it can be a resource for discipleship in the future as well.

  • At 1:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I for one am interested in this!! This is one topic in the Bible that I stuggle with what it really means.. lg

  • At 8:00 PM, Anonymous J-Lo said…

    I am also very interested in this topic, since I have been married and divorced almost five times now!

  • At 9:53 AM, Blogger danny2 said…


    i would encourage you to read john 4.

    it will quench your thristy soul.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home