The Changing Basis For Permitting Remarriage After Divorce For Adultery: The Influence Of R. H. Charles -- By: William A. Heth

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 11:2 (Fall 1990)
Article: The Changing Basis For Permitting Remarriage After Divorce For Adultery: The Influence Of R. H. Charles
Author: William A. Heth


The Changing Basis For Permitting
Remarriage After Divorce For Adultery:
The Influence Of R. H. Charles

William A. Heth

TAYLOR UNIVERSITY
UPLAND, INDIANA

I. Introduction

In the Fall of 1979 I was taking my required third year Greek exegesis course in the Book of First Corinthians. One of the course requirements was to write a twenty page biblical theology paper on one of three hot topics in our day and to which 1 Corinthians speaks: (1) “An Interpretation of the Biblical Evidence Concerning the Role of Women in the Church;” (2) “An Interpretation of the Biblical Evidence Concerning Tongues;” and (3) “An Interpretation of the Biblical Evidence Concerning Divorce and Remarriage.” As one might expect, about half of the nearly two hundred students in the six or so sections of this course chose the subject of divorce and remarriage. And ninety-eight percent of those students based their papers on the only two books available on the subject in our seminary bookroom: Divorce1 by John Murray (1953) and Divorce and Remarriage (1967) by Guy Duty. Both books defend what I have called the Erasmian or evangelical Protestant view.2 This well-established view allows the innocent party to divorce and remarry in two different situations without breaking the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery”): (1) When one’s spouse has committed a serious sexual sin, usually adultery (Matt 19:9); and (2) when the believer is divorced and deserted by a nonChristian mate (1 Cor 7:15).

Like most of my classmates I purchased and studied Murray’s classic defense of what may be called the majority view among evangelicals today.3 In the middle of writing my paper I became uncomfortable with his arguments, for two reasons. First, in the very Preface to his book Murray had expressed his convictions about the light Gen 2:24 sheds on the question of divorce. He wrote:

At the very outset this [Gen 2:23–24] enunciates the nature and basis of marriage and clearly implies that divorce or the dissolution of the marriage bond could not be contemplated otherwise than as a radical breach of the divine institution. It is impossible to envisage any dissolution of the bond as anything other than abnormal and evil.

I had a difficult time reconciling this strong statement with Murray’s later treatment o...

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