The Problem of Divorce, Part 3 -- By: David J. MacLeod

Journal: Emmaus Journal
Volume: EMJ 03:1 (Summer 1994)
Article: The Problem of Divorce, Part 3
Author: David J. MacLeod

The Problem of Divorce, Part 3

David J. MacLeod1

The Teaching of Jesus


“The picture of marriage in America is not pretty,” say the Fellows of the Christianity Today Institute. Roughly half of all marriages end in divorce; cohabitation outside of marriage has increased by 443 percent since 1970; and children in the 1990s face an even chance of growing up in single-parent households.2 The sociological reasons for divorce are many and varied. Veteran missionary and seminary professor David Seamands observes that “immoral lifestyles, lax divorce laws, and our amoral media have combined to create a society that sees marriage as provisional rather than permanent.”3 John R. W. Stott, the popular Anglican pastor, Bible teacher and theologian, adds these ingredients: “the emancipation of women, changes in the pattern of employment (both parents working), [and] the pressures on family life exerted by

unemployment and financial anxiety.4 Andrew Cornes, vicar of All Saints Church, Crowborough, England, adds the following changes in popular attitudes and behavior: the stress on rights not duties, unrealistic expectations of easy and sustained happiness, the removal of parental support due to the mobility of modern life, the explosion of infidelity caused by extended periods of separation during military service, and [too] early remarriage (often to provide two parents for young children).5

Stott argues that the greatest single reason for the increasing divorce rate in our time is “the decline of the Christian faith in the West, together with the loss of commitment to a Christian understanding of the sanctity and permanence of marriage, and the growing non-Christian assault on traditional concepts of sex, marriage, and family.” Seamands agrees. He asserts, correctly I believe, that with the divorce issue we now face “a mission-field situation.” The Christian consensus on sexual morality that was at one time widely accepted has now been abandoned by our culture. Church leaders (i.e., elders, overseers, or pastors) find themselves in situations as complex and difficult to resolve as those faced by the Apostles in the pagan world of the first century (or by missionaries to Asia and Africa in the 19th century) when they encountered widespread adultery, divorce, and polygamy.6

Those who view the Bible as their final authorit...

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