The Problem Of Divorce -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 01:2 (Summer 1992)
Article: The Problem Of Divorce
Author: David J. MacLeod

The Problem Of Divorce

David J. MacLeod1

Part 1: A Survey Of Opinions

The 1992 World Almanac confirmed the widely reported statistic that one out of every two marriages is now ending in divorce.2 Anyone with just minimal pastoral experience knows that divorce is one of the major problems facing Christians today.3 In this two-part essay I shall seek to present the various Christian approaches to the problem, give attention to the relevant biblical texts, and outline a position on divorce and the local church’s response to it. My goal is to help elders and other leaders think through the issues of this serious problem.

Definition of Terms

In dealing with a problem as serious as that of divorce, it is important that we begin by defining our terms. In particular, we need to define marriage, separation, divorce, and annulment.


Defined positively.

It is a testimony to the confusion of our times that one has to define something so basic as marriage. The following definition is an attempt to summarize the teaching of

Scripture: Marriage is an exclusive, lifelong relationship of fidelity between a man [husband] and a woman [wife] entered by mutual agreement, solemnized by social custom, sealed by physical intercourse, and made holy by divine approval.4 This definition has six elements:5 (1) Mutual consent. It is clear that both the man and the woman must agree to be married. Even in the case of arranged marriages in biblical times, this seems to have been the case [Gen. 21:21; 24:57–58, 67]. (2) A marriage agreement. The agreement differs from culture to culture, but some form of contract or covenant is a common element in all valid marriages. In some societies this involves a dowry [Gen. 34:12]; in others the contract is more informal. In all cultures some form of commitment is made before witnesses. (3) Conformity to custom. The Bible clearly commands believers to submit to God-ordained authority [Matt. 22:21; Rom. 13:1]. In some cultures this has meant the proof of virginity [Deut. 22:13–17]; in others it has...

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