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BIBLE GOD FORBIDS DIVORCE

Divorce is permissible and is a human right. Marriage is only a human institution and so it can be dissolved. While it is true that it is to be hoped that marriage will last for life, it does not follow that the couple should be forced or obligated to stay in a dead marriage. It is compelling them to believe they are joined together when they are not. When the relationship breaks down the marriage is over and divorce must not be the dissolution of marriage but the recognition that the marriage is no more.
 
Jesus allowed divorce if adultery has taken place. But not a word of the Bible allows remarriage after divorce. It is said that Paul allows you to divorce your pagan spouse if you become a Christian. He says you are not enslaved. The context is not about remarriage but about being single. So there is nothing at all that permits a married person to get wed again if the spouse is still alive.
 
The Bible is against divorce for remarriage under all circumstances for it holds that once a valid marriage takes place it can only be dissolved by death. The truth about marriage is that it is about having sex with nobody else until death they do part. It is not about love for it doesn’t countenance parting when love ceases. The living together is not even important. A married man and his wife are still considered married if they live apart. For the marriage to be "real" it is enough to have sex once. Marriage is not about love but about sex which is why it cannot be holy or sensible. When it is about sex that might not be very good then logically divorce is wrong for divorcing is done for the sake of happiness and marriage treats happiness with indifference.
 
The Church says that sexual activity outside of marriage even masturbation and sexual fantasy is immoral. Jesus said that if a man looks at a woman lustfully he has already committed adultery with her in his heart which supports the Church’s prudishness. Today we know that if we don’t masturbate or let ourselves enjoy sexual daydreams we will never get far with enjoying our sexuality and our performance in bed will be dreadful. We need to know our own bodies and minds to enjoy our sexuality. We all like different kinds of sex and pre-marital sex is important and necessary. To say that sex outside marriage is wrong is to say that marriage is good and holy.
 
The Church says that to have sex outside marriage means you are telling the person you are having sex with, “I am giving you my whole self now. This means I am giving you myself for life.” They argue that sex is only suitable for marriage, where a man takes a woman for life as his sexual partner, for outside of marriage it is simply a lie. Sex in marriage then means that the husband is telling his wife that he belongs to nobody but her for life and vice versa.
  
If sex means you give your whole self then why say that it means you give yourself to your partner for life? Why not eternity? Why should it just be for this life? If you really give your whole self then you give yourself forever.
 
If sex is giving your whole self to another person then how can it be right to look for a new partner or wife or husband if that person dies? To say I give myself to you until divorce if it happens is putting a condition on it as much as saying I give myself to you until you die is. It is not giving your whole self. If you give your whole self to a person you will be like the person who having lost their beloved wife or husband refuses to even think about a new partner for they loved the old partner so much.
 
Sex isn’t the only way you give yourself to another person. You give yourself to your child when you get pregnant. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have any more babies or that the child should stay with you instead of getting married and going away. When you tell your sweetheart that you love her or him and nobody else and swear undying love are you not giving yourself in a deeper way that sex could ever signify? The closeness of that moment could be closer than sex. Don’t you see then the absurdity of the Christian doctrine that sex means you are giving yourself not just now but for life?
 
When you work you are giving your precious time to your employer and yourself. You could be dead next week and better off having a party instead of working and yet you work. You put the job before the thought that you could be dead and should be living it up in the meantime. Does this giving yourself mean you should work to this person until death?
 
You could intend a great commitment to a person through sex outside marriage and then when you get married you may feel less committed. Marriage can change relationships. To say that unenthusiastic and unloving sex in marriage is good for it promises and signifies lifelong commitment and that sex between two unmarried people who are really into each other and are soul mates should but does not just because they are not married and so is a lie, is just bigoted cruel insulting nonsense. It is really just saying that there is no honest commitment without a simple ceremony. Did you know that you are insincere when you take out a loan wearing white shoes?
 
If sex outside marriage is lying to the sexual partner that he or she is the one for life as the Church says then sex within marriage when one of you believe in divorce is also lying. Why? For the marriage could end in divorce and the sex is not saying, “I take you for life no matter how bad things get”, but, “I take you for life but if things get too bad we will get divorced”.
 
How far must a man and woman go before their sex is saying, “I take you for life”? Does oral sex say that? Anal sex? Heavy petting? Foreplay? Masturbation? Is ejaculation necessary? Can you see how saying sex says that confines people to a silly biological morality in which it is physics that count more than feelings and intentions?
 
Nobody ever gives their whole selves to anybody. You might give your body and your time in sex but that is all. Are husbands who don’t feel much for their wives giving their whole selves? They are holding back and yet the Church permits their sex. As long as separation or divorce is allowed by having sex you are saying that you are giving yourself only as long as the other person doesn’t do something that entitles you to look for a separation or divorce! That is not giving your whole self.
 
Deuteronomy 24:1-4 seems to allow divorce. These are the only regulations for divorce in the Old Testament. Jesus could be interpreted as having said that Moses allowed it here because the people were too stubborn to obey God’s will that man and woman should be one flesh for life and Moses did not necessarily think divorce was okay. Some scholars disagree with Jesus for Moses said a man could divorce his wife just because he found something immoral in her which is so vague and therefore very liberal so Moses went so far that the peoples’ stubbornness had nothing to do with his law for he could have worked out some compromise.

The point that Deuteronomy 23:1 permits no fault divorce but only for men is made in the book Christianity is Not Great. I would add that it was extremely cruel in a nomadic culture where poverty would have been rife. But it proves that nobody can argue that its teaching agrees with that of Christ. If you were Moses and were allowing divorce reluctantly you would be that libertarian.

Since Jesus believed in Moses I believe Jesus held that Moses could not be explicit on what grounds he would allow divorce for the people were too vicious. Jesus thought it was up to him to decide what Moses meant. Perhaps Jesus thought that the divorce law was absolutely right but should not have been revealed for it was too open to abuse but that God and Moses had to put it in the Torah for the people were too stubborn to do without it. This would imply that divorce is fine but only under very restricted and extreme conditions but a blanket ban was imposed by Jesus for even then it would be abused and the way would be opened for misuse. Even then there is nothing said about a right to remarry.

Suppose Moses did allow divorce though God did not want it. Though divorce is sanctioned as a civil decree and even Catholics allow it when it is believed to be only just that and when it is necessary to preserve overriding rights but not a dissolution in the sight of God, remarriage is not explicitly approved of in Moses’ text. It is not enough for any scripture to allow divorce. It has to say it allows remarriage for that alone would clearly prove that the marriage bond was not considered indissoluble and that divorce in the Bible wasn’t just a form of legal separation without any right to marry. Separation is always divorce in a sense because the Church says that marriage is the undivided union of man and woman which requires them to live together for life (page 263, Moral Philosophy) for if it were not for life the union would not be as strong. It follows that they have a duty to be as close as possible and even if they cannot get along they have to live together.
 
The marriage is indissoluble for the estranged husband and wife still have the right to have sex but in a divorce as Jesus means it the other rights to be close to one another and share everything and the property are gone so the marriage is partly dissolved. It follows from Jesus’ ban on divorce that a wife should take abuse and beatings and cheating from her husband. If she needs to do something to protect herself walking out is not an option. I repeat, logic says that if remarriage is wrong then marriage cannot be dissolved. If marriage cannot be dissolved it means even an estranged husband and wife still have the right to have sex with one another and no right to have sex with anybody else. People in the Christian context have no right to have sex unless they are prepared to support and help one another as much they humanly can so it follows that separation is always wrong. The right to have sex implies that the husband owns the wife’s body and personhood which her body is part of. When he owns her physically and emotionally it follows that this right takes pre-eminence to her welfare. For example, a wife who leaves her husband because he beats her up has no right to when he owns her for sex.
 
Even if the wife cannot live with the husband and he cheats on her and beats her up, because sex expresses marriage and makes it real, it follows that she should have conditions set up so that they can continue to have sex.

Times, critics have said this: “It is said the regulations in Deuteronomy 24 do not expressly permit or approve of divorce meaning the ending of the marriage bond of fidelity but just seek to control divorce which could still be considered an intolerable evil by God that he has to put up with for the people are too headstrong. We reject this view for the regulations certainly imply that divorce is right for God did not have to tolerate it or to forbid a first wife to return to her man after she married and divorced somebody else. Jesus would have noticed this when he himself gave out laws that the people loathed and yet he deceptively said that God had no choice but to put up with divorce! The Law is tolerant of a man divorcing his wife for finding something indecent in her. This could be anything. When a law is worded like this it must be perfectly legal to divorce on a whim. What isn’t made illegal is legal. The school of Hillel at the time of Christ were right to be liberal on divorce. But it is plain that
God has gone too far in allowing unrestricted divorce. He didn’t need to allow divorce at all when he allowed polygamy (another reason why it is wrong to suggest that the bloody-mindedness of Israel compelled God to let them have divorce as Jesus did). Men should have been told to be kind to their unloved wives. In summary, because the grounds for getting rid of a wife were not specified it follows that God was liberal when it came to divorce.”

But the passage only discusses what a man who gives his wife a divorce is to do. It does not say if the marriage is really ended or not.

Deuteronomy says the first husband must not take her back as his wife. God does not want him to remarry her for they are already married. Some would say the first husband must not take her back without remarrying her and should not remarry her for she has dirtied herself with another man. That would suggest that that the remarriage is just a formality because only if the first marriage was still valid would the first husband have grounds to consider her to be shoddy goods.

Forbidding a wife to return to her first husband if she married another after leaving him does not necessarily imply that her marriage to her first husband no longer exists and that that is why she cannot go back. It could mean that since she committed adultery by marrying another that he should not take her back. She has defiled herself. God is saying that she is not a good woman and he is better off rid of her so the argument that this indicates that marriage can be dissolved is wrong. Because the man had let her go in the first place it is thought that the marriage must be over. The rule could be designed to ensure that everybody thinks twice about divorcing. It could be that the rule was deployed to force people not to separate.

Polygamy was allowed so what would a man need to divorce a wife for? The wife had no rights especially if she was accused of a serious crime. Still, the men could have been stubborn enough to expect the privilege of divorce.

It is said that the passage is not about divorce as such but is about the hypothetical case of a man who sends away his wife and takes her back in such a way that he has virtually lent her to another man (page 17, Hard Sayings, Derek Kidner, Intervarsity Press, 1972). If so, the passage neither sanctions or repudiates divorce for a good reason but just condemns men who whimsically send their wives away and then look for them when they have already met other men. There is nothing in the passage about lending. The fact that the woman is the one who leaves the house after being divorced and gets herself another man disproves the lending theory. Her husband does not get the man for her.

Bible scholars feel that Deuteronomy does not sanction divorce at all (page 151, Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties).

Malachi 2 enjoins oneness between husband and wife and asks them to have godly children. He said God said he hated divorce. Some say that this does not rule out divorce as a necessary evil. But there is always something that can be done to keep the couple together. A hard man could stand outside the door while a violent husband and his poor wife act married for a few hours a week. If marriage is for children and is valid even if no children can be conceived it implies that divorce over adultery is wrong. To divorce over adultery would be to say that marriage is primarily for love and fidelity.

In Mark 10, Jesus forbids all divorce. Jews come along and ask Jesus if Jews may divorce their wives for any reason. Jesus says no for God meant man and woman to be one in marriage until death. Then he repeated his revelation, “What therefore God has united (joined together), let not man separate or divide” (Mark 10:9). Then he told his disciples in private that anybody who divorces their wife or husband and marries another commits adultery against his first wife for she is still the only real wife and he cannot divorce her before God. He did not say some but anybody meaning all.

Some theologians say that Mark’s Jesus is not being that strict but is reminding all that life-long marriage is the ideal which does not mean that divorce is wrong. Jesus was answering Jews who asked him if divorce was ever lawful. He didn’t say that some divorcees who remarry are committing adultery but that all are. If it had been an ideal he would have said, “Try to keep married until death but if you fail and things cannot be mended then it is not adultery when you divorce and remarry.” He did give an iron law when his words can be taken that way. He said that a man must leave his father and mother and be one flesh with his wife meaning that a man must consider her to be closer to him than his parents bodily and spiritually even though he was made of his parents. You can’t really make your mother not your mother so how can you make your wife no longer your wife?

Perhaps Jesus took it for granted that since we knew his main law was love we would know to allow divorce when it is the lesser evil?

The love argument overlooks the fact that what Jesus called love is sometimes evil at least to our mind. Jesus preached rules that were hard or impossible to rationally defend. He would have said they are rational but since our minds have been knocked off balance like Adam and Eve’s were when they believed that the crime of eating the forbidden fruit was the lesser evil and we inherited their irrational state.

In Luke, we read that everybody who gets a divorce and gets married again to somebody else is committing adultery (16:18). There is no context that affects the meaning so Luke can only be taken literally. Yet some say his Jesus meant divorce only for insufficient causes. But that is twisting the text.

Paul deals with divorce in 1 Corinthians 7. He told the married not to get a divorce. If the wife leaves her husband she must remain single or go back to him. The context says nothing about conditions so there are none. Jesus may have made sweeping condemnations of things that some think were not meant to be taken too rigidly. For example, he said not to swear at all and if you want to be holy let the man that steals your coat steal your cloak as well. But Paul’s teachings cannot be softened that way for he spoke plainly. And besides Jesus could have meant the two rules literally. Just because we don’t like them or consider them dangerous doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t mean to be taken too literally. And there is no doubt that when Jesus was confronted by his disciples for his teaching on divorce and when they said it was too hard he didn’t back down or soften what he said at all. In Matthew he responded by those who made themselves eunuchs or celibates for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven with praise. The eunuch is castrated and should have no sexual desires so Jesus is commanding that those men whose marriages break down must eradicate sexual desire. This reminds us of Paul’s teaching that marriage is only to be encouraged to those who burn with sexual desire (1 Corinthians 7:8, 9). Logically then if it breaks down the sexual drive must be destroyed by staying away from women and by being devoted to prayer.
 
Paul permitted a couple to part by mutual consent if they were married as pagans and one or both of them converted to Jesus. He said nothing about them having the right to remarry.

Conclusion
 
The Bible forbids divorce. Many people don't care and still call themselves Christians!
 
WORKS CONSULTED

A Catechism of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Truth Society, Westminster, 1985
Believing in God, PJ McGrath, Wolfhound Press, Dublin, 1995
Biblical Dictionary and Concordance of the New American Bible, Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington DC, 1971
Catholicism, Richard P McBrien, HarperSanFrancisco, New York, 1994
Divorce, John R Rice, Sword of the Lord, Murfreesboro, 1946
Encyclopaedia of Bible Difficulties, Gleason W Archer, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1982
Eunuchs for the Kingdom of Heaven, Uta Ranke Heinmann, Penguin, London, 1991
Hard Sayings, Derek Kidner, Intervarsity Press, 1972
Hard Sayings, FF Bruce, Hodder and Stoughton, London, 1984
Moral Philosophy, Joseph Rickaby SJ, Longmans, Green and Co, London, 1912
Moral Questions, Bishops Conference, Catholic Truth Society, London, 1971
New Catholic Encyclopedia, The Catholic University of America and the McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., Washington, District of Columbia, 1967
Preparing for a Mixed Marriage, Irish Episcopal Conference, Veritas, Dublin, 1984
Radio Replies Volume 3, Dr Leslie Rumble MSC, Rev Charles Carty, Radio Replies Press, St Paul Minnesota, 1942
Rome has Spoken, A Guide to Forgotten Papal Statements and How They Have Changed Through the Centuries, Maureen Fiedler and Linda Rabben (Editors), Crossroad Publishing, New York, 1998
Shattered Vows, Exodus From the Priesthood, David Rice, Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 1990
Sex & Marriage A Catholic Perspective, John M Hamrogue C SS R, Liguori, Illinois, 1987
The Catholic Church has the Answer, Paul Whitcomb, TAN Publishers, Illinois, 1986
The Emancipation of a Freethinker, Herbert Ellsworth Cory, The Bruce Publishing Company, Milwaukee, 1947
“The Lord Hateth Putting Away!” and Reflections on Marriage and Divorce The Committee of the Christadelphian, Birmingham, 1985
When Critics Ask, Norman Geisler and Thomas Howe, Victor Books, Illinois ,1992
 
 
The WWW
 
How to Fight the Religious Right, Brian Elroy McKinley
http://elroy.net/ehr/fighttheright.html