The Problem of Divorce, Part 4 -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 03:2 (Winter 1994)
Article: The Problem of Divorce, Part 4
Author: David J. MacLeod

The Problem of Divorce, Part 4

David J. MacLeod1

The Teaching of Paul

In his fascinating (and sometimes frightening) book, Future Shock, Alvin Toffler describes contemporary America as the “throw-away society.” Increasingly rapid change and mobility have brought increasing transience to a nation he calls “the new nomads.” Whereas Americans once held on to their possessions as long as possible, now rapidly changing fashions and the abundance of goods mean that things like clothes, kitchen gadgets, and automobiles have a built-in obsolescence, for it is understood that they will be kept only a short time and then thrown away. In our highly mobile society this attitude has extended to personal relationships. We now have “the disposable person.” Applying this idea to marriage, Toffler suggests that in the future a person will normally have a series of marriage partners (“serial marriage”), each one suited to a different stage of life.2

Such opinions, treated with great seriousness by many in our secular society, are diametrically opposed to the teaching of Scripture where marriage is viewed as a lifelong commitment. Barely two generations ago, at least in the Christian community, the institution of marriage still had a healthy, vibrant glow to it. Nearly everybody got married “for life.” At the wedding ceremony two people vowed “for better or for worse” and committed themselves permanently to each

other with the words “till death do us part,” with more dread of parting than of death.3

Today, however, marriage is in serious trouble, and the problem has invaded the Christian church. It is imperative, therefore, that those who instruct God’s people be very clear in their understanding of the Bible’s teaching about marriage and divorce. Having considered the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ in an earlier article,4 we now turn our attention to the teaching of His apostle, Paul.

To listen to some modern scholars, however, the Apostle Paul is the last person we should consult when studying questions relating to marriage and divorce. Rupert E. Davies, for example, says that Paul had only “a grudging approval of marriage” in 1 Corinthians 7 and a conviction that sex was an evil and undesirable thing.5 Likewise Günther Bornkamm writes, “In the detailed discussions of

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