"Nothing more impressive than an intellectual and spiritual approach to seeking truth and a willingness to embrace it unconditionally."

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: May Both Parties in a Divorce Remarry?

My answer to this question is going to cause some people to jump off my bandwagon. Many Apostolics believe that the "innocent party" may remarry, but the "guilty party" may not remarry. In most cases, terms like "innocent" and "guilty" are are misleading. The Bible does not discuss the MDR question in terms of guilt or innocence. Rather, it discusses MDR in terms of covenant. The concept of covenant brings me to my first question. 

Whom Does A Broken Covenant Release?

For those who do not believe both parties are freed to remarry in divorce I have a question:

  • Is a broken covenant still in force? The answer to this question is, "No, it's broken." If it is broken enough for the party who did not break the covenant to remarry without committing adultery, then it must no longer be binding. If the covenant is no longer binding, then what covenant is being violated if either party remarries? The covenant can't be binding for just one party; it's either binding for both or neither. The only biblical answer is that once the covenant has been broken legitimately then both parties are free to remarry. 
In Deuteronomy 24.1-3 the woman in whom the uncleanness was found was free to go be another man's wife after she was put away with a bill of divorce.  She could not be another man's wife just being put away, because there was a covenant still in place. But if she was given a bill of divorce—even though the uncleanness was in her—she was free to remarry. There was no way to release just one party from the covenant. Again: it's both or neither. So the answer to the question about the so-called guilty party remarrying is, "Yes, they can!"

Friday, October 13, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: What is the Purpose of Divorce?

When discussing MDR the conversation usually surrounds whether remarriage is ever permitted. And if it is, when is it permitted? The purpose of this blog is to demonstrate that inherent to a biblical divorce is the right to remarry—it's assumed. There is no other biblical purpose for divorce other than to free the parties to remarry. If divorce does not include the right to remarry, then it would differ nothing from separation.

The text that provides the basis for this idea is Deuteronomy 24:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife. (Deuteronomy 24:1-2 KJV)

Moses commanded to give a bill of divorce in addition to putting away one's spouse (Matthew 19:7). Why would he do that? If neither putting away (separation), nor a bill of divorce (divorce) freed the parties to remarry then why not just "put away" one's spouse? Because if they were just put away without a bill of divorce, then the marriage covenant is still binding. Therefore, if the "put away" wife were to remarry, then she and the person she married would be committing adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9 YLT). 

Putting away a wife without a bill of divorce put her in a bad situation. Another man could not marry and provide for her, and she couldn't provide for herself well. So to put away a wife without a bill of divorce was to deal "treacherously" with them (Malachi 2:14). It is putting away, and not divorce that God hates (See here). Therefore, to prevent men from putting their wives in this position, Moses commanded that if they were going to put away their wives that they would also give them a bill of divorcement.

There is a simple reason for commanding to give a bill of divorcement when you put away a wife: And when she is departed out of his house, she may go and be another man's wife (Deuteronomy 24:2). It was so that she could go marry another man! To remarry was the only purpose of the bill of divorcement. The theological conclusion then is this: if the divorce is valid then remarriage is necessarily permitted, In Jewish and biblical thought, the debate is never about  whether remarriage is permitted, but whether they were given a bill of divorce when they were put away. There are the additional concerns about valid causes for divorce. But biblically, if the divorce is valid; the remarriage must also be valid. Remarriage is the purpose of divorce!

As always, all comments will be published. ESPECIALLY the opposing comments made with the reader's name. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: What are the Permissible Causes?

There are a lot of different views in the Apostolic movement on MDR. Even among those who teach that some divorce and remarriage is permissible, there is no consensus as to what the parameters are. Some think that only infidelity is a valid cause for divorce and remarriage, and then only for the innocent party. I hold a much more broad view of valid causes. In this blog I am going to tell you what those causes are, and then I will defend them in later posts. 

  1. INFIDELITY: This is the one with which most agree. The scripture is clear that adultery is a justifiable cause for divorce. God, the ultimate standard for righteousness, put away his wife and gave her a bill of divorce because she committed adultery (Jeremiah 3:8). 
  2. DESERTION BY AN UNBELIEVER: Paul taught the Corinthians that if an unbeliever was not please to dwell with a believer and departed that the believer was not "under bondage in such cases" (I Corinthians 7:15). What is the bondage of this context? The only logical referent is the bondage to "remain unmarried" (1 Corinthians 7:11). Therefore, if an unbeliever deserts his/her believing spouse, then the believing spouse is free to marry any Christian they chose. I like to use this phrase: God always sides with the church!
  3. REFUSING MATERIAL PROVISION: A husband is obligated to provide for his wife food, clothing and the duty of marriage (Exodus 21:10-11). If he does not, then she can go out free. This means that she is free to be married to another man. If a man does not provide for his wife he also falls under the above category of an unbeliever (I Timothy 5:8). 
  4. REFUSING SEXUAL INTIMACY: This point is drawn from the text for the above section. A husband must give to his wife the "duty of marriage" (Exodus 21:10-11). Paul alluded to this concept with the phrases "defraud not" and "due benevolence" (I Corinthians 7:3-5). Paul also made "due benevolence" the responsibility of both the husband and the wife. If either spouse willingly persists in refusing to perform these duties, then they are breaking covenant. 
  5. PHYSICAL ABUSE: If a spouse is being abusive to their spouse or children then they are obviously not "pleased to dwell" (I Corinthians 7:12-13). And even if the abusive spouse claims to be a Christian, if they do not repent then they are to be declared an unbeliever (Matthew 18:17). 
These are the reasons that I believe justify both divorce and remarriage. As stated earlier, I will provide a fuller defense of them at a later time. 

As always, feel free to comment!

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: Does God Hate Divorce?

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously. (Malachi 2:16 KJV)

Anyone that has engaged the topic of marriage, divorce and remarriage (MDR) has either heard or used this verse. In most cases, from my perspective, it is misused. Many anti MDR advocates will throw out the phrase "God hates divorce" to prove that divorce and remarriage is a sin. As will be demonstrated in this blog, that is misleading at best. 

Does Malachi 2:16 teach that God hates divorce? Furthermore, does it teach that divorce is a sin? Ultimately does it teach that all remarriage is sinful? I am going to argue in this blog post that the answer to each of the above questions is no. 

God Hates Divorce

I will be refuting that "God hates divorce" is either a biblical phrase or means that divorce is sinful. Firstly I am going to deal with the idea that it means that divorce is sinful. Secondly I will deal with whether or not it is a biblical statement. 

Is Divorce Sinful?

Does the phrase "God hates divorce" based on Malachi 2:16 teach that divorce is sinful? The answer is, no! Then what could it possibly mean? Am I saying that God actually likes divorce? The phrase neither means that God likes divorce nor that divorce is sinful. Like many issues, its not as simple as an either-or. Many times there is a third, or even fourth option. Such is the case here.

"God hates divorce" cannot mean that all divorce is sinful. How can I say that with such confidence? Because God himself divorced his wife Israel (Jeremiah 3:8). If all divorce is sinful, then it was a sin for God to initiate his divorce. This would add a whole new layer to the Could Jesus Sin? debate. No one will claim that God sinned. Therefore, whatever Malachi 2:16 means it cannot mean that all divorce is sinful. 

So what could the phrase possibly mean? For anyone to say that they hate something does not mean that they think the thing they hate is immoral. The following is an extreme example: I hate anchovies. This by no means suggests that I think eating anchovies are immoral. It just means that I don't like them. Obviously God's hatred for divorce is much more significant than my hatred for a tiny fish. But the point is that we often hate things at are morally neutral. We even hate things that are morally good. Does anyone besides me hate to pay bills? Does anyone besides me hate to correct your kids? While we hate to do them, they are necessary actions. If Malachi 2:16 teaches that God hates divorce, then I would argue that while he hated it, it was a necessary and moral response an unrepentant adulterous wife. As a divorced man, I can say truthfully that I hate divorce. I can say confidently that I—and others who have suffered divorce—hate divorce more than those who have never been divorced. 

What Malachi 2:16 Actually Says

Malachi 2:16 does not say as is often quoted that "God hates divorce." It says God hates "putting away." There is a difference between "divorce" and "putting away". I am going to introduce a concept here that I will flesh out in more detail in later blogs. I realize that this concept will be strange and difficult for many of my readers to wrap their heads around. But I ask that you open your mind and consider what I am about to say.

The argument for the distinction between "divorced" and "put away" is found in Deuteronomy 24:1:

When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then let him write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. (Deuteronomy 24:1 KJV)

Notice carefully the progression in this text: write her a bill of divorcement, and give it into her hand, and send her out of his house. The bill of divorcement is separate and distinct from sending out (putting away). It is possible to put away one's spouse without divorcing them. And men in Israel were doing just that. When they put away their wives without a bill divorcement, they were putting them in a position that they could not remarry. And if they did remarry they would be guilty of adultery. So Moses commanded them to not just put them away but to also give them a bill of divorcement (Matthew 19:7). If she received a bill of divorcement when she was put away then she was free to remarry (Deuteronomy 24:2). 

Can you see the injustice of putting away a woman and not giving her a bill of divorcement? Yes? So did God. When the men of Israel put away their wives with out divorcing them God said they were dealing "treacherously" with their wives (Malachi 2:14). God hated putting away without a bill of divorcement—not divorce. Now you know why I stated earlier that it is misleading to say that "God hates divorce." So, does God hate divorce? I am sure he does in the sense that it broke his heart that Israel was unfaithful. But that was not the issue that Malachi 2:16 was addressing. So the answer is, the Bible never states that God hates divorce!

Friday, October 6, 2017

Divorce and Remarriage: Husband of One Wife

I have had repeated and extended conversations on this topic over the last few weeks. Those conversations have come from various sources. One of the questions that continues to arise concerning this issue is whether a preacher—specifically a pastor—may remarry after divorce. I am going to address that issue in this blog. I realize that I have not stated my full position on divorce and remarriage. However, assume with me for the sake of this blog that there are biblical causes for divorce and remarriage. What does that look like for the biblical injunction for bishops to be the "husband of one wife"?

A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; (1 Timothy 3:2 KJV)

For many this text is open-and-shut with no interpretation necessary. Just how complicated can it be? How many ways are there to understand "the husband of one wife"? There are two primary answers with several secondary answers. I will define the two primary answers briefly.

One Wife at a Time

This is the answer that usually makes people who deny any valid reason(s) for remarriage scoff. The response is usually something like: "So I can just divorce and remarry as much as I want for any reason I want?" Well of course the answer is, no! There are parameters on divorce and remarriage. Divorce and remarriage is not a free-for-all. So let me give a more nuanced statement. The "husband of one wife" must me understood as the husband of one biblical wife at a time. For Paul "the husband of one wife" had nothing to do with how many times a Bishop had been married. Rather, it had everything to do with how many current biblical wives he had. I shall give a few examples to illustrate the point.

  1. With one exception, every apostolic preacher I know believes that a bishop can remarry if his wife has died. Theoretically, he could remarry several (many) times if his wives all died. Because death frees—this will be key later—one from the marriage covenant/contact a bishop may remarry every time death occurs. Therefore "the husband of one wife" has nothing to do with how many times a bishop has been married. Only that the bishop is biblically free to remarry.
  2. This example is a little more split in the Apostolic movement. Many who oppose a preacher remarrying after a divorce in the ministry have no problem with man who was divorced and remarried prior to conversion being in the ministry. The argument here is that even though he was divorced and remarried prior to conversion, the wife that has when he becomes a Christian is his one wife in the eyes of God. Again the issue is not how many times he has been married, but how many biblical wives does he currently have?
  3. Now to the most important point of this section. What about a preacher who has divorced and remarried in the ministry? Can this man be considered "the husband of one wife?" I shall argue that he can. If he had a biblical grounds for divorce, then he has biblical grounds to remarry. I understand that I have not made the case yet that there are biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage. This is a case I will make in subsequent blogs. For now, the argument is that if divorces for biblical reasons frees a person from a marriage, then a bishop may divorce for biblical reasons and remarry and still be the husband of one wife. If divorce like death frees one from marriage then in neither case does he have more than one wife if he remarries. Allow me to repeat myself. It's not about how many times one has been married, but how many biblical wives do they currently have. I will use car ownership as an analogy. Purchasing a car is like getting married. The contract on the car is like the marriage covenant/contract. Legally selling the car is like getting a biblical divorce. I have owned five or six cars in my life. But how many cars I have purchased says nothing to how many cars I have. If I had sold all of my previous cars but the one I currently own, then no one would insist that I am the owner of six cars. Likewise, if a bishop married and legally divorced his wife and married another wife, then no one can logically say that he has more than one wife. 

One Woman Man

This is the heart of the issue. It is not that the previous section is untrue, but that this section pinpoints the spirit of the text under consideration. This is what Paul was getting at with the phrase "the husband of one wife." As David Instone-Brewer points out, the phrase means "a one-woman man" (Instone-Brewer, Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, 2003). To further clarify, let's take look at what a couple of translations say for "the husband of one wife":
  • "faithful to his wife"—NIV
  • "he must be faithful to his wife"—NLT
This strikes at the heart of what Paul was saying. To understand it in this way is actually more restrictive. Technically, a man may have been married one time and be a serial adulterer and be the "husband of one wife" if my view is not correct. But this view says that a bishop must not be a womanizer. It is much more commendable that a man would be married more than once and be faithful to his wife, than to have one been married only once and be flirtatious, or worse, an adulterer.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Marriage and Divorce: Introduction

I have written about this topic in the past. However, I have avoided it in the last couple years. Because I have gone through a divorce, I did not want to be seen as trying to justify myself. However, I am not the only person in my sphere of preacher friends who have suffered a divorce. Therefore, I am writing more for them than I am for me. 

I don't know if I will ever remarry, but the possibility certainly exists. But for my friends—who shall remain nameless until they make a decision—who chose to remarry, I will provide both a biblical and personal defenses of them.

Yes, there are great apostolic preachers who have gone through divorce that have never remarried. But that choice may not be for everyone. Some, for various reasons, will make a different decision. I believe that they have a biblical right to do so. My view on divorce and remarriage is not a new one for me. I have believed that there are causes for divorce and remarriage for at least 15 years before it was a real option for me. I understand that some will not accept this explanation. Consequently, I am willing to accept what ever heat I will receive on behalf of my friends. 

I understand fully the divisiveness of this issue. So I will write with humility—but I will write. This is an issue that must be discussed. We all agree that the topic of divorce and remarriage has tremendous real-world implications. This is true particularly for the ministry. In subsequent blogs I am going to articulate my view and answer objections. I will answer general objections to my view as well as appropriate objections that readers may raise in the comment section. I will publish all comments, especially the ones who disagree. I want my readers to see all sides of the issue. I will publish all comments with the exception of those who post anonymously. 

Anouncing a New Journey

On Sunday, October 1, I was elected as the pastor of Point of Mercy Sanctuary in Lisbon, OH. This caught even me by surprise. Due to recent events in my life I had relinquished the idea that I would ever pastor again. But here I am. And I am thankful! I will not be fully onsite until October 31.

I am super excited to settle in and cast vision. Perhaps the thing I am most excited about—in terms of pastoral duties—is teaching on a weekly basis. Of course I looking forward to building relationships with all the amazing people that make up the membership and leadership of POM.

I believe there are great things in store for both myself and the congregation. LET'S DO THIS!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

My Health Journey

I think it was March of 2016 when I started my weight-loss journey. When I began I weighed 350 lbs. Just saying it now is embarrassing. It’s even more embarrassing as I look back at pictures from that era. On April, 20 I weighed 236.2 lbs. To keep you from doing the Math, that’s -113.8 lbs. While that is a great accomplishment, it is one that should have never been needed. I am proud to say that I have succeeded in my weight-loss journey without any weight-loss supplements or surgeries. However, I have not accomplished this without help. It has been a work of grace. In typical grace fashion, it required repentance and a change of behavior. But grace always comes with empowerment from the Spirit. 
The approach I shall take in this blog is two-fold: Firstly, I shall share my personal testimony, and secondly I shall share a theology of health. I will be as discreet as I can on the personal testimony portion and still make my point. And I shall be a humble as I can on the theology side portion and still make my point.

Personal Testimony

            I have battled with my weight my entire adulthood. I have rarely been fit. It has always been a matter of how out of shape I was. And for much of my life I have I was obese to the point of embarrassment. However, I was never able to reach the place in my mind and will to where I could make long term choice for health.
            I was very sensitive about it even though I always laughed it off. If people joked about my weight I would externally laugh with them, but it made me feel horrible inside. It led to depression and extreme insecurity. And no amount of shaming me resulted in me losing weight. This makes for the perfect opportunity to say if you have a loved one that is overweight do not try to shame them into losing weight. It will not work. It makes them feel worse and they will eat more as a coping mechanism. For me I would be depressed about my weight and appearance and so I would eat to drown the depression. You can see how this becomes a vicious cycle.
            For anyone to decide to lose weight they have to find something in life that means more to them than their appetite. Sadly, in many cases this is a life crisis. For me it was divorce. Becoming coming physically healthy was one of the ways that I responded to tragedy of losing a 19 year marriage. I will talk about systemic health later. My point is this: you can’t make up anyone’s mind for them. They will have to come to that conclusion themselves—however that is.
            For me it was shortly after deciding to get emotionally healthy from my divorce that I decided to get physically healthy. I shall suggest that in most cases emotional/spiritual health and physical health go hand-in-hand. Obesity is almost always a reflection of a mental or spiritual dysfunction. I willingly confess that this was the case for me. I needed healing a grace that could only come from my Father. I shall explore this idea further in the Theology of Health section.

The Theology of Health
And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thessalonians 5:23 KJV)
My journey to systemic health began with emotional health. It then flowed out into physical health and continued into my spiritual heath. Every part of man (spirit, soul and body) is connected. The goal is systemic health. I will not be able to discuss this fully here, but I will give you the big picture.

            It is important to note that the God of peace must sanctify in order to realize systemic wholeness. Why the God of peace. Paul is drawing from the Hebrew idea of shalom. And shalom (peace) is not just absence of conflict, but rather wholeness or to be set at one again. The God of wholeness wants to make us whole. The way that happens is to create in us health I spirit, soul and body. This is peace. And we lose peace when we lose health and any one of these three areas. It is our responsibility as spirit filled believers to allow the God of peace to sanctify us wholly—including our bodies. I will do a Facebook live video about this later. But as Christians we do not glorify God when we do not allow the Holy Spirit to produce physical health in us. Yes God is concerned about your body. After all it is his temple (1 Corinthians 6:19). I am writing this to encourage my fellow Christians to take care of your bodies for the glory of God. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Perspective on Preaching: Why I Got that Sermon!

I was speaking with Pastor Todd Nance and in passing he commented that God gives us preachers sermons to address a need in the body of Christ. It is easy for preachers to think that we got a good sermon because we are brilliant or spiritual. In reality, it has little to do with either. God desires to speak to his people. So out of love for them, he reveals a word to us. 

God does not reveal his word to us for us to be known as great preachers. Rather, God reveals his word to us so that we will edify and feed his church. If at any point we get it twisted, then we have lost sight of what ministry and preaching is all about.