To Have and to Hold—What Do We Make of Divorce and Remarriage?

Most of us love a wedding. The pageantry, the party, the dress that showcases the bridal princess; these are all hallmarks of an institution that is very much in vogue. Yes, weddings are more popular than ever. But what about marriage?

Studies indicate that marriage is under threat. The beloved cornerstone of society is crumbling and the rate of decay is alarming.

Divorce is crippling to society and to those involved in the process. The dissolution of a marriage can create poverty, emotionally harm children, and lead to chronic stress in adults.  For Christians already wading through the mire of lawyers, property settlements and child custody agreements, there is also the disturbing knowledge that they are engaged in a process that God says He hates.

With the rate of divorce amongst Christians commensurate with that of the general population, what should be the Church’s stance on this important matter?        Should there be a complete prohibition on divorce? What about adultery or desertion? Are there legitimate grounds for separation that are not mentioned in the Bible? These are some of the complexities associated with one of the most significant issues facing the Church in the twenty-first century.

There may not be any simple answers. While marriage, as a covenant, is not meant to be broken, it exists within a fractured, fallen world; one that enables, even encourages, the violation of that agreement on grounds that may not have existed in Biblical times. The internet, for example, facilitates unfaithfulness, gambling and pornography on a scale not dreamt of a few decades ago. How do we preserve marriage in a world that actively undermines it?

Ideally marriages should not break up but what happens if they do? Scholars are not agreed on whether an individual should remain single or should be permitted to remarry under certain circumstances. How should the words of Jesus and Paul regarding divorce and remarriage be interpreted and applied today? With many people in the church on their second marriage the answers to these questions are extremely relevant.

Our course God, Gender, Sexuality and the Church considers some of the intricacies around divorce and remarriage.

Ross, Michael. “Biblical Grounds for Divorce and Remarriage,” Christian Research Institute. https://www.equip.org/ (accessed April 16, 2019).

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Dr. Rosemary Knight

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