Wayne Grudem’s Position on Divorce for Abuse
Looking over Wayne Grudem’s web page, I found the following question and answer which explains what his position is on abuse as biblical grounds for divorce: (see it yourself at https://web.archive.org/web/20131026084640/http://www.waynegrudem.com/remarriage-and-divorce) –
I see that you endorsed John Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage. Does this mean that you agree with Piper’s view that remarriage is never justified after a divorce?
No, I do not agree with my friend John Piper on that matter. But I thought I could endorse the book anyway because there is so much excellent material in it.
My own view of divorce and remarriage is expressed well in the article on marriage, divorce, and remarriage in the ESV Study Bible (pp. 2545 – 2547), and also in the ESV Study Bible notes on Matthew 5:31-32; Matthew 19:3-9; Mark 10:2-12; Luke 16:18; and 1 Corinthians 7:15.
In brief, my own view is the mainstream evangelical Protestant view since the Reformation, the position which is also represented in the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). In brief, that position is that marriage is a life-long commitment, but that divorce is morally justified, and is not sin in God’s sight, if the other spouse (a) has committed adultery, or (b) has abandoned the marriage and all attempts at reconciliation have failed.
In such cases where divorce is morally justified, it is allowed by God but not necessary, and, if possible, reconciliation and attempting to preserve the marriage should be the first choice. But when a divorce has occurred for one of these reasons, then the marriage no longer exists, and the spouse who obtained a divorce because of such a reason is viewed as a single person in God’s sight and is free to marry someone else. (See the ESV Study Bible notes referenced above for further explanation).
So the earlier post on this blog in which I quoted from the ESV study Bible notes does in fact represent Grudem’s teaching on this matter – no divorce for abuse. Prove me wrong if I am, but I conclude that in Grudem’s thinking, “abandoning the marriage” means actually hitting the road, or some nuance of that. Notice that the phrase “…and all attempts at reconciliation have failed” puts the onus back onto the victim. Am I seeing that correctly? We all know that in abuse cases, especially when the victim is a Christian and her abuser is a professing Christian, it is almost always the victim who actually, physically leaves. The abuser then cries “foul!” to his church and is believed. That rotten woman whom I love so dearly and with whom I have tried and tried to reconcile just hardened her heart and left me!
I would love to be able to put more specific questions to Grudem. Maybe he would prove me wrong and it would turn out that I am interpreting his words wrongly. I would love to find that out! I am ready to eat a pie of crow and would gladly do so if Grudem could tell me clearly – I believe that habitual, unrepentant, verbal, emotional, and/or physical abuse is a biblical ground for divorce. I hesitate to use the word habitual, as I think that if a husband smashes his wife in the face with his fist, that is enough right there for wisdom to dictate that she is out of there for good. Abusers abuse habitually. (This may not be worded very well. Verbal/emotional abuse blows are just as wicked as physical ones. I just don’t want the critics going off and saying “that Crippen guy says that a woman can divorce her husband if he calls her a bad name even one time”).
So, what would Grudem tell a woman who came to him with black eyes and a split lip? I am granting that he would surely pick up the phone right there and then and call the police and see that the brute was thrown in jail. Piper would, Sproul would, MacArthur would – I have to believe that. But then what? Would they tell her that she has the right to divorce? From everything I am reading from these men, the answer is “no.” They would tell her she can separate, but only for a time and during that separation she needs to keep working toward reconciliation.
Wayne Grudem is not my enemy. He is a brother in Christ. I am not setting out in naming names in these blog posts to simply attack these men because it makes me look and feel like the self-righteous big-shot. I am simply sounding out A Cry for Justice – and I am saying that such men’s teaching in the church that, in God’s name, forbids beaten, terrorized victims to divorce their abuser (who has already destroyed the marriage covenant) is wrong. It is injustice. It is cruel. And God is not pleased with us for teaching it.
P.S. – John Piper’s book The Momentary Marriage is BAD news. It will enslave the sincere Christian abuse victim in a torment of false guilt. Grudem is wrong to endorse it.