A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

R.C. Sproul on Biblical Grounds for Divorce – Another Aaaaargh!

Let me say that R.C. Sproul has helped me probably more than any other theologian to come to a proper understanding of the gospel.  I still highly recommend his teaching DVD’s, Renewing Your Mind broadcast, and books.  I disagree with him of course on his view of baptism, as he is a Presbyterian and I am a reformed Baptist.  But I can live with that.

However, unless someone can correct me on this conclusion, I do not believe Sproul understands abuse. His teaching on the reasons for divorce reveal that this is the case. I have heard him speak of abuse as “physical” abuse, a common indicator that a person does not “get it” when it comes to the nature, mentality, and tactics of abuse. The following is an example which he wrote in 2009.  You can read it yourself at Are there any biblical grounds for divorce, and if so, what are they?. Sproul says:

To me it seems clear that Jesus does allow divorce in the case of adultery. On the one hand, he said that if a man divorces his wife for any other reason than sexual immorality, then of course he is guilty of sin. So Jesus, at that point, says that there ought not to be divorce for grounds other than sexual impurity or immorality. Then he goes on to say that because of the hardness of our hearts, the law was given to Moses that did make a provision for divorce in the Old Testament. He then quotes the law from Deuteronomy in which the so-called unclean thing is cited as the legitimate grounds for divorce in the Old Testament. But Jesus hastens to add this statement: “But from the beginning it was not so” (Matt. 19:8). His reference back to Creation reminds us of the sanctity of marriage. It’s certainly true that the provision for divorce is given to us because of the hardness of hearts, because of sin. Because adultery is a sin, when somebody violates marriage through adultery and breaks that trust, then the sacred vow, and the innocent party in the divorce, is so violated that the provision is given to them in that context of fallenness to be engaged lawfully in divorce.

It’s obvious that Jesus is rebuking the liberal view of divorce that was prevalent in his own day. I think that Jesus does remind us that the original intention of marriage did not include divorce. He acknowledges that there is a ground, and he is not criticizing God for making this allowance in the Old Testament. People are fallen, and God does condescend to the fact that people commit sins against marriage that are serious enough to be grounds for dissolving the marriage. That sin is sexual infidelity.

I think one other ground for divorce given by the apostle Paul in the Corinthian correspondence is the case of the willful and irreparable separation of the unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15). Those are the only two grounds I find in Scripture.

That last sentence indicates that Sproul does not believe that abuse is a valid ground for divorce.  If he does, he certainly leaves that to our guesswork.  “Willful and irreparable separation of the unbeliever.”  What does that mean?  Does it have to be “I refuse to live under the same roof as this woman. I’m leaving.” Or perhaps it is the unbeliever’s decision to file for divorce? But abuse victims will tell us over and over again that their abuser often, if not most commonly, will not actually file for divorce. Nor will he leave. The victim is his property. He must win. She will do his bidding.

This next quote from Sproul also comes from the Ligonier website, at The Sanctity of Marriage (the article has no date).  It demonstrates that Sproul does indeed NOT see abuse as a grounds for divorce.  Here, as you can see, he teaches that even if an abuser were to actually separate from the victim, the victim CANNOT divorce him.  She must wait, remain married to him, unless he divorces her.

Citing Genesis 2:24, Jesus shows God’s plan for marriage did not include divorce (Matt. 19:4–6). When asked then why Moses commanded divorce, Jesus corrects the Pharisees, saying he only allowed it because of sin. God’s people, He teaches, may not end a marriage unless sexual immorality severs the one-flesh bond. In this case, a divorce is permitted but not required (vv. 7–9). The offending spouse must be forgiven, but the offended party does not have to stay married.

Immorality is a broad term and can include things like physical abuse when the abuser is unrepentant and refuses to get help. The only other ground for divorce in Scripture is desertion. When an unbelieving spouse wants to leave a believer, divorce is usually the outcome, but the believer cannot initiate the proceedings (1 Cor. 7:10–16).

Even more clearly, if you will go to page 404ff of Sproul’s book Now That’s a Good Question (1996) he answers the question Why isn’t physical abuse legitimate grounds for divorce? Here is his answer; I have added paragraph breaks for ease of reading.

I don’t know why God has not included wife abuse or husband abuse as grounds for divorce.  I only know that he hasn’t. I also have to say very candidly that if I were God, I would make that a grounds for divorce because abuse within marriage is a dreadful reality.  If anything, it is a violation of human dignity and of the sacred vows of marriage, it is physical abuse of another person….

I do know that we have options short of divorce in these situations.  Obviously, if we’re talking about a Christian family (and this is something that does take place in Christian homes), this is a situation in which the discipline of the church needs to be applied fully in order to protect the person who is being abused…

If that fails or if people don’t even have that available to them because they are outside the church, there are other avenues of safety and protection. Many people use the legal system. I’ve counseled women in the past to call the police. If worse comes to worse, throw the abuser in jail because assault and battery just can’t be tolerated in the home or on the streets, in the school or in the church.

There are grounds in a Christian community for at least temporary separation if the abusing partner refuses to mend their ways. Maybe there is no provision for divorce in these cases because God sees that this problem, as serious and severe as it is, can be overcome. In many cases, we have seen marriages redeemed after people have repented and overcome destructive patterns of behavior.

Dr. Sproul, I am grieved to have to say it, but you speak out of serious ignorance on this subject. You do not know the abuser. You do not know the nature of this evil. If you did, you would never write and teach what you do, as quoted above. You are endangering many and enabling evil men in their evil.

So there it is. Sproul doesn’t get it. I wish he would.


Further Reading

When a church becomes a man’s world it has strayed from Christ’s model, and from His blessing – by Jeff Crippen, Dec 22, 2017

R.C. Sproul Changed His View on Abuse as Grounds for Divorce — but to our knowledge he never publicly announced that change.

R.C. Sproul on Biblical Grounds for Divorce – by Jeff Crippen, March 2, 2012

Keeping the Spotlight on Prominent Teachers Who Forbid Divorce for Abuse – by Jeff Crippen, March 30, 2012


  1. Anonymous

    I’m so glad you wrote this. When you mentioned Sproul in your earlier posts, I was squirming because I recall reading his thoughts about divorce. However, I deferred to your judgement of the man and gave the benefit of the doubt, in those issues at least.

    Isn’t sad that this is probably the case with many of the leading pastors, authors, commentators in the evangelical world? They may be great expositors or have valuable insights into many truths, they may be fantastic pastors, incredible teachers, just wonderful role models, but too many don’t get it when it comes to abuse, towing the usual line of physical abuse being out of the question, but still enabling abusers to hide in the pews.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, thank you. I have known this for some time but I didn’t know he was so outspoken on his position until I found his book “Now That’s a Good Question” and I was able to really nail it down. It is very sad, particularly since these kinds of very gifted and well known pastors and writers affect a huge number of people. Many of the great reformers and early reformed writers and theologians DID allow for divorce for abuse. Sproul simply has never been educated in this area and he is blind to his ignorance on the subject. I hate to have to say that, but it needs to be said.

  2. Jeff, welcome to my world! Sorry to sound like it’s old hat to me, but I’ve been into the topic of divorce for years and I can tell you that Sproul is just one of many. I could list others: you already know that John MacArthur doesn’t allow divorce for abuse; neither does John Piper. I could name many others of similar standing in theological circles, but I’d have to go to my bookshelves and folders to find all the names and it’s late at night here!

    I keep coming back to what you wrote some time ago: Domestic Abuse is a test case for your theology. Eminent people may have great theology in many areas, but if they don’t get it about domestic abuse and divorce, they are gravely in error (in my humble opinion) and need to sit down and seriously examine their doctrine. Until they do, victims of abuse will continue to be unbelievably hurt by the church.
    God is not happy about this! I suspect he would like to spit them all out of his mouth for their lukewarmness when it comes to protecting the vulnerable (who are mostly women and children).

    Personally, I find it very hard reading many eminent teachers. I may like some of what they teach, but because they teach diabolical stuff about domestic abuse, I cannot fully respect them, it affects all the way I think about them. It contaminates even my appreciation of what they do well. And none of them seem to read my book or interact with it seriously. I have answers for all of their wrong thinking on divorce and domestic abuse, but I feel like a voice crying in the wilderness, no, make that the Antarctic! My words seem to be ripped off by the biting polar winds, scarcely to be heard by any other person who writes on doctrine. Only the survivors and counsellors read my book, by and large. But then, what more should I expect: I’m a woman! .And women don’t write about doctrine!

    Little smile to finish off this comment: Martin Luther said that the question of divorce plagued him incessantly, he wished he knew the answers to it all, and was constantly being confronted by tricky situations in which he was being asked to make a ruling, but was often feeling unsatisfied with what he could say that satisfied both the scripture and the need for justice and humanity with the parties concerned. [I’m paraphrasing here; but that’s what I gathered from his words.] At least Luther admitted his perplexity! I wish some of today’s theologians would admit the same! Then we might start to get somewhere…

    • Jeff Crippen

      Barbara – actually I have little hope that the primary benefactors of your book and our book will be pastors, and especially the “eminent” ones. We are just little bugs buzzing around out here – a minor annoyance. But you know who WILL listen? ALL Christian women (a few men) who have been abused. And MANY Christian women. I think that what needs to happen in the evangelical church is that the women need to get educated and then start turning up the heat on their churches and pastors – and the big guys too. The vote was sought by the women’s suffrage movement. What would we call this movement? Hang in there Barbara – you never know when the Lord is going to start a reformation. And it also seems to me that we need to start planting churches where truth is sounded out about this evil – and thus the theology will be right.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Barbara – by the way, I am very GLAD to be part of your world!! Let’s take the fight to the enemy on this.

  3. Cecelia

    Jeff, would you mind listing some of the reformers and theologians that had a differing opinion other than what is commonly known today? It would be of great interest to me to study.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Cecelia – let me get Anna on this. She has some quotes of some of them. I believe Luther was one, and John Owen, and that is by no means all of them. Interesting, isn’t it? Thanks. Keep an eye out for Annas comment.

    • Hi, this is Anna. Jeff asked me to answer you since I have some of the research at hand. Here is what I’ve found:

      Martin Luther:

      In addition to this cause of divorce there is still another: if one of a married couple forsakes the other, as when through sheer petu­lance deserts the other. So, if a heathen woman were married to a Christian, or, as now sometimes happens, that one of the parties is evangelical and the other not (concerning which Paul speaks in I Cor. vii. 13), whether in such a case divorce would be right? There Paul concludes: If the one party is willing to remain, the other should not break the engagement; although they are not of one faith, the faith should not dissolve the marriage tie. But if it happens that the other party absolutely will not remain, then let him or her depart; and thou art not under any obligation to fol­low. But if a fellow deserts his wife without her knowledge or con­sent, forsakes house, home, wife and child, stays away two or three years, or as long as he pleases (as now often happens), and when he has run his riotous course and squandered his substance and wants to come home again and take his old place, that the other party must be under obligation to wait for him as long as he chooses, and then take up with him again: such a fellow ought not only to be forbidden house and home, but should be banished from the country, and the other party, if the renegade has been summoned and long enough waited for, should be heartily pro­nounced free. Commentary on Sermon on the Mount, pp. 169-174

      When Jesus taught on divorce, Luther believed He was not legislating the issue but rather preaching against capricious use of divorce laws.

      “In his own preaching on divorce, Luther was quite flexible as to what constitutes just cause. He cited adultery as the only cause given by Jesus. Through the Mosaic Law, adultery was punishable by death. Therefore, an adulterer “has already been divorced, not by man but by God Himself, and separated not only from his wife but from this very life.”33 In such an instance, the other partner is completely free of any obligation to the former spouse. Adultery for Luther, however, was not the only possible ground. Desertion of spouse and family, he felt, was equally legitimate.” quote–reference Luther’s work on The Sermon on the Mount

      “In his interpretation of the teachings of Paul, Luther believed that if a Christian hinders a believing spouse from following Christ, divorce is in order, with remarriage a viable option. On the other hand, should the Christian divorce the unbeliever for other causes, there must be reconciliation or the maintenance of a celibate state.” quote–reference Luther’s Work on 1 Corinthians

      ” Anger was also a just cause. If a husband and wife could not live together harmoniously, but only in hatred and continual conflict, let them be divorced. Once more, however, reconciliation or celibacy were preferred. Nonetheless, in such cases, if a spouse did not desire reconciliation and the other was unable to remain chaste, the latter should remarry, for “God will not demand the impossible.”” -quote, reference Lutheres work on 1 Corinthians

      John Calvin: if an unbeliever wishes to divorce a spouse on account of religion, the believer is no longer under marital obligation. In such a case, “the unbelieving party makes a divorce with God rather than with her partner.” Reference: Commentary on the Epistles of Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

      Calvin’s “Ecclesiastical Ordinances,” allowed three grounds for divorce and remarriage other than adultery: impotence, extreme religious incompatibility, and abandonment. He also provided for annulment where a spouse could not, because of some physical infirmity, perform the conjugal act. “Ordonnances,” Corpus Reformatorum, x.10-14, cited by Olsen, New Testament Logia, 99.

      Origen (185-255) – Jesus did not change OT Law on divorce. Has the same opinion I espouse in this article (which allows divorce and remarriage in certain cases). More as a permissive thing that is allowed or tolerated. In the case of God being married to Israel, he states that God divorced her and had a second marriage to the church. And said, on account of fornication (Israel cheating on God), God is allowed to remarry. So, we can conclude the same is the case for people, if God is allowed to divorce and remarry
      Desiderius Erasmus (1466-1536) – Held the same views as Thomas More. Criticized church for having a narrow view on Christ’s viewpoint on marriage. And pointed out the hypocritical nature of interpreting the rest of the Sermon on the Mount more freely, while the marriage section was very narrow and restricted. He allowed for divorce in cases of cruelty and hatred (on top of adultery)
      Martin Luther (1483-1546) – Decried the Roman Catholic hierarchy’s methods of luring people into celibacy. Believed that Jesus was not dispising divorce, but speaking against capricious use of divorce laws (divorce for any reason). Luther was flexible on what “just cause” for divorce entailed. Continual conflict, hatred, etc were also grounds for divorce. Yet, remarriage is acceptable, if one’s ex-spouse did not change. articles/divorce.htm

  4. In my book “Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion” I have an appendix quoting what three men from the Reformation and Puritan periods said about abuse as grounds for divorce. Theodore Beza, William Perkins and William Ames each said that abuse was equivalent to desertion in that the abuser (by fierceness, cruelty, or obstinately neglecting their spouse) effectively drove the wounded spouse away. They believed that 1 Corinthians 7:15 allowed divorce not just when an unbeliever simply deserted a believing spouse by walking out on the marriage, but also allowed it when an unbeliever treated his spouse with cruelty or obstinate neglect.
    They are quite long quotes, so I’ll only reproduce the shortest one, by William Ames (1576-1633): “For if one party drive away the other with great fierceness and cruelty, there is cause of desertion, and he is to be reputed the deserter. But if he obstinately neglect, that necessary departure of the other avoiding the eminent danger, he himself in that playeth the deserter.”

    In my book I use the term “constructive desertion” for this kind of desertion. An abuser’s conduct causes his victim to separate from the marriage, but it is the ABUSER who is to be construed as the deserter, not the victim. The word “construed” gives rise to the term “constructive desertion”. Constructive Desertion was a legal term in UK divorce law before no-fault divorce came in; you can find it if you look up any good legal dictionary.

    The understanding of divorce for abuse as a type of the “desertion by an unbeliever” in 1 Corinthians 7:15 gained reasonably wide acceptance in the Puritan era. But it appears to have got lost (or deliberately buried?) as the light of the Puritans faded and the eighteenth century Enlightenment took over.
    [I could go on and posit all sorts of conspiracy theories here, but I imagine the reader can do that without my help…]

  5. Ewin

    Hello, I’m not divorced but I do know of some- (females) who have, in the process of; and one in particular of whose burden I feel – married for some twenty odd years and the husband recently told her that he dose not love her, does not show any affection but is willing to pay her medical expensives . Her profession requires that she travels extensively.
    His ideal is that she stays at home-no young children. One son in university. What are your thoughts, is this grounds for divorce? They have gone to conselling but to no avail.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Well, just from the data you have provided, it does not sound like it involves a truly abusing personality. It is possible that could be the case. It depends upon whether or not one of them has an entitlement mentality for the possession of power and control. If he wants her to stay home, that could be a very reasonable desire. Or it could be the control of an abuser. We just cannot say without knowing more about the case.

      On the other hand, could it be that the wife is guilty of neglecting her husband in her extensive travels for her job? The real criteria here are the covenant vows that promise to love very practically through the provision of food, clothing/shelter, and conjugal love. Is either one of these people failing in respect to conjugal love for their spouse? Are they withholding affection. Ongoing, hard-hearted, unrepentant withholding of affection is indeed grounds for divorce. From the few details you have mentioned here, either one of them could possibly be guilty of that.

  6. Joel

    I’m wondering how you’d respond to this article I found online. I’m engaged to a woman who divorced a abusive husband who also committed adultery and this article scares mehttp://www.lifehouse.org/tracts/of/chapter2.htm

    • Jeff Crippen

      Joel – I would respond by saying that whoever wrote this is a strainer of gnats and swallower of camels. I would then completely disregard every single thing the author said.

    • Joel, be not afraid!

      The arguments put forward in that article are mostly wrong, and the author’s conclusion is most certainly wrong. The arguments that author uses have all be refuted in my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion.

      Also, the author of that article approvingly cites Heth And Wenham (i.e. the book they co-authored, Jesus and Divorce). You will be encouraged to hear that William Heth has changed his mind since co-authoring that book with Gordon Wenham. Heth now believes that divorce (and liberty to remarry) is allowed for adultery and desertion including abuse as a form of desertion.

      See these two pieces by William Heth:
      “Jesus on divorce: How my mind has changed” (SBTJ 2002)
      and his review of my book where he said “This book removed the scales from my eyes.” (2008)

      I think it is very unethical of the publishers of Heth and Wenhams’s Jesus and Divorce to keep it in print even though Heth no longer believes what he said in that book. At the very least the publisher ought to put a caveat on the cover: William Heth no longer believes what he said in this book.

    • Hi again Joel, I think you submitted an almost identical comment to your one above, so we are not publishing it because it pretty much restates your request. Blessings to you.

      • Joel

        So sorry for the double poSt and then the email Barbara! I totally posted the original and then when I went to see if there was a response, I must’ve clicked on the wrong article. I truly do appreciate the response. It’s been scary coming across so much of the anti remarriage doctrine out there. I understand where some are coming from but wow.

  7. Jason Jones

    I think it’s interesting that on Ligoneir’s website this article appears: http://www.ligonier.org/learn/articles/what-god-has-joined-together/

    In that article the author says that abuse IS a just cause for divorce. He doesn’t make the Biblical link, but he does state it as a reason.

    • Jason Jones, I thank you for telling us about that article. I see that the article was written by John Sartell and first published on 1st November 2015, in Tabletalk magazine which is produced by Ligonier Ministries.

      This post by Jeff Crippen was published in March 2012. Jeff accurately quoted several things RC Sproul had written about divorce.

      So the questions that arise in my mind are:

      1. Has RC Sproul changed his mind about divorce for abuse?
      2. If RC Sproul has changed his mind, why hasn’t he publicly said so? And why hasn’t he publicly apologized for his previous teachings which would undoubtedly have hurt victims of abuse.

      3. Has Ligonier Ministries published John Sartell’s view — that divorce is allowed for not only severe unrepentant physical abuse but also for emotional and psychological abuse — with full awareness that Sartell’s view is at odds with RC Sproul’s published views?

      4. If the answer to Qn 3 is Yes, does Ligonier care? Does RC Sproul care? And who is watching the ship to make sure that it doesn’t hit icebergs? ( = crush victims of abuse with bad doctrine)

      5. Why are only sites like ours blowing the trumpet on the divorce teachings that do so much harm to victims?

      6. When will the so-called good theologians wake up and join us? When will they heed the cries of the victims? When will they apologise for their wrong teaching and neglect of this subject?

      Jason, I encourage you to urge others to wake up to this issue. And I invite you to read our post Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry.

  8. Jason Jones

    I’m afraid I can’t give you satisfactory answers to your questions. My honest opinion is that men such as Sproul and Grudem suspect that their positions are wrong, but they aren’t going to say that publicly. Reason being is that they would have a hard time justifying it with Scripture. In fact though I do believe there is a Biblical case to be made, but it’s very different than the current consensus on divorce, and any well known Bible teacher that took such a position would come under a lot of heavy fire.

    The author of the article I linked to has a similar understanding of Matthew 19 as I do. Jesus is not setting forth an over-arching principle on the grounds of divorce. He’s simply addressing a direct question from the Pharisees which is in fact a loaded question meant to try and get Jesus to agree that they can divorce their wives for any reason. The content of Jesus’s answer suggests to me that he is addressing their true motive which is to justify getting a divorce for simply wanting to have sex with someone else. So they divorce their current wife, marry the new girl, and are in bed with her before sunset. I think Jesus is addressing the true intent of their heart and saying that if they do this then it is adultery whether they have a piece of paper justifying it or not.

    I think many people agree that Exodus 21:10, 11 set forth the principles that divorce can take place due to abuse and neglect. I see very plain teaching in 1 Corinthians 7 that remarriage is allowed for reasons other than adultery. And if that is the case then it means that Jesus is not addressing divorce as a whole in Matthew 19 because if he was then he would be saying that remarriage after divorce is a sin unless adultery was involved. If Jesus did in fact mean that then it would put him at odds with Paul in 1 Corinthians 7 where desertion is clearly a grounds for remarriage. Since I believe the Bible to be inerrant then I do not believe Jesus is at odds with Paul.

    In fact if you look at the following verses I think you will see that Paul teaches that remarriage is ok beyond adultery and desertion.

    1 Corinthians 7:27-28 ALT
    27 Have you been bound to a wife? Stop seeking to be loosed [or, divorced]. Have you been loosed from a wife? Stop seeking a wife.
    28 But even if you do marry, you did not sin; and if the virgin marries, she did not sin. But such will have tribulation in the flesh, and I [am trying to] spare you.

    A straightforward reading of these verses would indicate that Paul is saying in verse 28 that if you do find yourself being divorced and you remarry then you did not sin. So why isn’t this taught? Because they will say that it CAN’T mean what it seems to be saying because it would be at odds with what Paul teaches earlier in the chapter and it would put it at odds with what Jesus taught. But those ideas are based on preconceived ideas that I don’t believe are true. So what they’ve tried to do is detach verse 28 from verse 27 and say that verse 28 is referring back to verses 25 & 26. That argument would make sense if you switched the places of verse 27 and 28, but that’s not how the text reads. And furthermore verse 28 begins with “But” (de in Greek) which in my opinion clearly links it to the previous verse and thought.

    I have more thoughts on this subject, but it’s my opinion that we’ve done the modern day equivalent on marriage that the Pharisees did with the Sabbath. I’m in total agreement that divorce should be a last resort, and everything possible should be done to keep marriages and families together, but when we do the equivalent of leaving our animals in the ditch just because it’s the sabbath by suggesting that women (or men) stay in marriages that are harmful then I think we’ve greatly erred.

    If Jesus saw what we’ve done to marriage I think he would say to us. “What are you doing. You’re treating marriage like it’s a prison sentence. Marriage was made for man and not man for marriage.” (Man meaning the generic term for human beings as a whole)

    • Thank you Jason. I like your approach to 1 Cor. 7:27-28. It’s a breath of fresh air!

      And at this blog, we heartily agree with your view here:

      … we’ve done the modern day equivalent on marriage that the Pharisees did with the Sabbath. … when we do the equivalent of leaving our animals in the ditch just because it’s the sabbath by suggesting that women (or men) stay in marriages that are harmful then I think we’ve greatly erred.

      If Jesus saw what we’ve done to marriage I think he would say to us. “What are you doing. You’re treating marriage like it’s a prison sentence. Marriage was made for man and not man for marriage.” (Man meaning the generic term for human beings as a whole)

      I also agree with you that Ex. 21:10-11 shows that when one spouse seriously neglects and mistreats the other spouse, the mistreated spouse is at liberty to divorce and would not be sinning by getting a divorce.

      I learned about the divorce provision in Exodus 21 from David Instone-Brewer, and I used his argument in my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion.

    • My honest opinion is that men such as Sproul and Grudem suspect that their positions are wrong, but they aren’t going to say that publicly. Reason being is that they would have a hard time justifying it with Scripture.

      I agree with you that probably men like Sproul suspect that their positions are wrong but aren’t going to say so publicly.

      If that is the case, I deplore their lack of courage. While they are afraid to speak out and admit they might have been wrong, they are protecting themselves — but they are not protecting the victims of domestic abuse who every day, every year, every decade go on suffering under this heavy doctrine that abuse is not grounds for divorce.

      And I believe that in my book I have given comprehensive, biblical, scripturally based reasons why abuse is grounds for divorce.

      I suspect the likes of Sproul and Grudem have not even read my book, even though it came out in 2008 and has had many good reviews and endorsements from theologians and pastors. (See here for the reviews.)

  9. Anonymous

    Checking out the “recent comments” and came upon this post.

    So, Barbara and Jeff–have you guys heard from R. C. Sproul or have you sent him copies of your books and asked for his thoughts on them? The reason that I ask is because you’ve both been faithfully and doggedly digging here in the rich dirt of the “Christian Walk for Victims of Abuse” for the past four years now, and you’ve both become stronger biblically and the Holy Spirit is alive and well and working through you.

    I’d be curious to read his response to them.

    The quote from his book, “Now That’s a Good Question,” seems like he was really struggling with the whole “abuse is not grounds for divorce” debate that has enslaved many of us here to humans who belong to their father the devil.

    I know that when I first started waking up to God’s truth through his word, I really didn’t think that God would allow it (divorce) for the non-physical abuse that I’d endured my entire life. But even believing that there was no hope for me, I STILL wanted to know God’s truth, so I searched his word. And as you both know, the TRUTH is that God not only ALLOWS for divorce for emotional abuse from a person who belongs to their father the devil–he recommends it!

    So what I’m thinking is that if this man, who appears to love God’s truth as much as those of us here, has been desiring to know the real truth about this–if your books wouldn’t be balm to his soul and a refreshing glass of water after trudging through the desert? I know that’s what they were to me and it would be such a sweet blessing if he could finally have a chance to see that biblically, he can truly help the abused.

    If he doesn’t agree or isn’t able to biblically see it, well, that would be sad but we can take solace in God’s word and Jeff’s other post on what to do if a pastor you love is in error….

    • In 2012 I sent a copy of my book to RC Sproul at Ligonier ministries.

      V A Voorhis, who was at that time Assistant to the Chairman of Ligonier Ministries responded by email as follows:

      Dear Ms Roberts
      Your letter to Dr Sproul arrived in his absence from this office. Unfortunately his schedule precludes his writing an article on his present view of divorce at this time.

      I do know he has given his copy of your book to a woman suffering mental abuse by her husband. So he is please to have it to direct people to.

      Dr Sproul doesn’t have a computer and therefor is unable to read the article you referenced.

      Thank you for writing and for your book.


    • And btw, the response —”I’ve recommended your book to a woman whose husband is very abusive” — is the response I’ve had from quite a few other eminent men who I had hoped might publicly recommend my book, or might at least advise fellow pastors and students at their seminaries to read it.

      When men in leadership are happy to recommend my book to victims of abuse, but are not recommending it to pastors and elders and seminary students, I have to question whether they are sitting on the fence and playing politics. It makes me ask whether they are keeping quiet about their real beliefs on divorce so as not to catch flack from their peers.

      • Anonymous

        “When men in leadership are happy to recommend my book to victims of abuse, but are not recommending it to pastors and elders and seminary students, I have to question whether they are sitting on the fence and playing politics. It makes me ask whether they are keeping quiet about their real beliefs on divorce so as not to catch flack from their peers.”

        Or if they are giving it out simply as a way to “shut the little lady up.” Almost as a way to placate them. “Oh, here you go–it’s a book written by a woman and we’ve heard that it’s biblically based so maybe it will help you. But we men and women ‘leaders’ don’t have time for such things. We did our seminary time and have learned the correct things to say and if you don’t agree, well, take it up with those in charge of our respective denominations cuz we have bought into these very beliefs so that those in charge can do all the digging and battling with you few individuals who have a problem with it.” Maybe a little harsh but if I were signing my name to something and speaking about God’s word publically I would be ever mindful that I will be standing before Him and as such, I would so badly want to be speaking His truth.

        Barb, I’m SO PROUD OF YOU! That you’ve sent your book to many. I’m saddened to hear the common reply, but I appreciate you sharing it with us. I am also not surprised.

        This part, “Your letter to Dr Sproul arrived in his absence from this office. Unfortunately his schedule precludes his writing an article on his present view of divorce at this time.” Yeah. Sorry V A Voorhis, but this is a non-answer.

        And this part, “Dr Sproul doesn’t have a computer and therefor is unable to read the article you referenced.” is a bunch of baloney. The fellow who wrote the reply to you could have easily printed out a copy of the article(s) you were referring to and handed it to Sproul. Excuse after excuse after excuse. But God doesn’t play these silly games and R. C. as well as every other pastor who has supposedly studied God’s word and prays for His truth should be looking for answers.

        Anyway–thank you again Barb–I’m so grateful for you!

    • Jeff Crippen

      I wrote to him and told him about our books. He wrote back and told me that he had done more study on the subject and that I would find his present views on divorce for abuse close to my own now. I announced this on our blog and wrote back to him about how encouraging this news was to our readers.

      His reaction? He was upset with me for announcing what he said. I took the post down and asked him to publicly announce his change of teaching on this point.

      I never heard from him again.

      • Anonymous

        Jeff, I don’t know why but I felt like weeping when I read what you just wrote. I guess it was the HOPE that was at the beginning (“He wrote back and told me that he had done more study on the subject and that I would find his present views on divorce for abuse close to my own now”) and then the immediate drop that always seems to happen just when you think that others get it.

        Thank you for posting this information because it helps me discern.

      • Jeff, I believe it is right you have said this on the blog. I wanted you to make the decision, as it was you that Sproul had directly interacted with. As you know, you informed me of the interchange between Sproul and yourself at the time it happened (about ? 2years ago). And of course as an Admin on this blog, I was aware we had published and then pulled that post you wrote about how RC Sproul had told you that his views were now close to ours.

        I believe you were right to pull the post then, to show goodwill and respect towards Sproul, but I believe it’s right to publicly talk about what happened now. The biblical principle of showing goodwill and a generous spirit towards leaders like Sproul has to be balanced with the crying need for more leaders to know and PUBLICLY teach that abuse is grounds for divorce.

  10. Sister

    No surprise about R.C. Sproul. His son, R.C. Junior is an abuser. He was into wife spanking.


    R.C. Junior was defrocked, but Dad hired him at Ligonier.


    Oops, but they had to suspend him for awhile when he was caught with an Ashley Madison account.

    And let’s not forget how R.C. Sproul had no problem sharing the stage with C.J. Mahaney at the Together for the Gospel Conference in Louisville. (C.J. Mahaney who enabled pedophiles at Sovereign Grace, at least 4 of the 15 accused, having served jail time.)

    • Anonymous

      Thank you for this information! Again, when God’s children all start sharing with each other, many truths come out as well the hidden deceptions, so that we are better able to discern right from wrong and truth from lies. The internet has enabled us to have quicker access but it still takes time to read and pray about it. I’m so grateful for Jeff and Barb’s responses as well because we are able to see what they are dealing with “behind the scenes,” so to speak.

      It is initially heartbreaking to learn that some of the most well-known preachers allow such sin and even invite it into their lives but I always prefer to know the truth so that I can mourn the loss and move on, not wasting precious time and brain cells on people who play fast and loose with God’s anointing. Thank you all so much for lovingly sharing your lives!

      • Sister

        You’re welcome Anonymous. And thank you for sharing your life as well. I agree with you about knowing the truth. It’s hard to explain, but it makes me feel both very angry and also liberated at the same time. “Once I was blind, now I see” came to mind.

        I couldn’t remember if that was just the line of a hymn or if it was also a Bible verse so I just googled/looked it up. I wanted to know the context of the verse if it was in the Bible.

        It’s John 9:25. I want to be careful not to be loose with Scripture, but John 9:25-41 seems like a good analogy.

        The blogs and recommended authors/books and my sister opened my eyes not only about abuse, but also what the Bible really says/means rather than what we were taught it says/means. The Bible did not change and we must always compare what we hear from anyone with the Bible, but I just did not realize that many passages are preached way out of context and how other passages’ that expose how the interpretations cannot be correct are completely ignored. “Once I was blind, now I see.”

        Then we have the celebrity big name pastors who disdain the blogs and also the non celebrity everyday pastors that buy their books/attend their conferences perpetuate their bondage/myths/love to quote them in their sermons and won’t listen to women or victims and have no interest in the books that challenge their teaching. They are no different than the Pharisees. I think the passage is indicative of the judgement that is coming.

        John 9:25-41New American Standard Bible (NASB)

        25 He then answered, “Whether He is a sinner, I do not know; one thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” 26 So they said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” 27 He answered them, “I told you already and you did not listen; why do you want to hear it again? You do not want to become His disciples too, do you?” 28 They reviled him and said, “You are His disciple, but we are disciples of Moses. 29 We know that God has spoken to Moses, but as for this man, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Well, here is an amazing thing, that you do not know where He is from, and yet He opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is God-fearing and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the beginning of time it has never been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, He could do nothing.” 34 They answered him, “You were born entirely in sins, and are you teaching us?” So they put him out.

        35 Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” 36 He answered, “Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?” 37 Jesus said to him, “You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you.” 38 And he said, “Lord, I believe.” And he worshiped Him. 39 And Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may become blind.” 40 Those of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these things and said to Him, “We are not blind too, are we?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no sin; but since you say, ‘We see,’ your sin remains.

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