My Notes on Voddie Baucham’s Permanence View No Divorce Sermon
I decided that as I listened to Baucham’s sermon on Mathew 5:31-32, I might as well record my notes in this post so our readers can more readily see his main points (the audio sermon is 65 minutes long). If you would like to hear (endure) an example of a pastor preaching his own opinions as the Word of God, this sermon is a prime example. Baucham would have received terrible marks on this sermon in any good, conservative Christian seminary homiletics class. Preach the Word! is the Apostle’s cry to Timothy. Sermons like this one so confuse the listener, that often the sincere Christian just gives up, says he is just not smart enough to understand all this, but the preacher must know, so I have to obey what he says. Terrible. Absolutely terrible what this sermon does.
Ok, here we go:
- He refers to and reads from the early pages of –
Divorce & Remarriage: A Permanence View
By Daryl Wingerd, Jim Elliff, Jim Chrisman and Steve Burchett
Elliff and his elders (Kansas City), enforce the permanence view in their church with church discipline.
But Baucham never cites the title of the book nor the authors. And he will use it as the substance of his sermon later on! This sermon is actually an exposition of Eliff’s book! Not of Scripture.
- His discussion of what he calls OT “case law” which he says Deut 24 is, is not clear. He says case law deals with the application of God’s Law to particular situations. At least the first 10 minutes of this sermon are somewhat rambling, although I understand he is reviewing some earlier material in the series in which this sermon appears. But as a listener, I am confused in this section.
Three major evangelical views on divorce (according to Baucham):
- The Permanence View – no divorce for any reason, no remarriage after divorce
- The Semi-Permanence View – allows for divorce, but no remarriage
- The Permissive View – allows for divorce and allows for remarriage
- Quote: “If you think that this is clear-cut, look at this list of individuals. On the permissive side you have guys like John MacArthur, John Frame, Kostenberger, D.A. Carson. How about on the permanence view? Well, Dwight Pentecost, James Montomery Boice, Abel Isaacson, John Piper. So again, can we stand here and argue that there are certain people who just don’t handle the Scriptures well, and therefore they have this view; there’s other people who just….no. No, not at all. So we are not arguing that we have a corner on the market here. We are not arguing that we break fellowship with individuals who don’t hold to the permanence view. That’s not our position at all…. There are members of this church who have experienced divorce and remarriage. So our position is not, ‘our way or the highway; our way or you are not right with God.’ That’s not our position. Our understanding of the permanence view — we will share with you how it is derived and why it is the position to which we hold — but we don’t argue that everyone else is out in the weeds. But we have to have a position.” End Quote
My comment: ??? Why? Why do we “have to have a position” in our own church that is uniformly taught and believed by everyone in the church? Why? If Baucham as he says can have fellowship with any in these 3 camps, then why enforce one upon his whole church? Furthermore, is it really true that teaching the permanence view as the position of your church does not communicate to divorced/remarried people that they are not right with God? How could it help but communicate that to them!
- He lumps any and all who believe in divorce for abuse together with what he calls the liberal view which, he says, holds that divorce and remarriage are permissible for:
- and for just about anything else
Baucham is VERY unfair here. He categorizes all who hold to abuse being a ground for divorce as liberals who believe you can divorce for just about any reason at all.
- Baucham is grossly narrow and wooden in his application of the desertion taught in 1 Cor 7. He goes on to specifically say that divorce is not permissible for the following reasons (and he does this in the course of showing that people who hold to divorce for adultery and/or desertion also deny divorce in the following cases, as does Baucham):
- If the desertion was by a believer. Only if it is an unbeliever deserting a believing spouse. (Note: Why would we assume that a spouse who abandons and deserts their husband/wife is a Christian??)
- Abuse. There is a person who is in an abusive marriage. That is not biblical grounds for divorce and remarriage.
- Fiscal irresponsibility – he loses our money gambling it away and we have nothing. Not a reason for divorce
- Idolatry is not biblical grounds for divorce
- Lying and deceit
- Refusing to have children
- Drunkenness or drug use
- Lengthy incarceration. 50 years. That’s not biblical grounds for divorce. Ever.
- A Christian who was an unbeliever when they were divorced and have now come to Christ still cannot remarry.
- By 20 minutes into the sermon, Baucham has still not directly engaged with his Scripture text, Matthew 5:31-32. He is rambling in his own thoughts using an authoritative tone in the pulpit. He sounds to the average person like he must know what he is talking about. But he is only presenting his own opinions to this point. He has not yet given the listener a single reason to believe he is speaking for the Lord, except in a deceptive way. Having read Elliff’s book myself, this “sermon” is sounding to me a whole lot like the presentation of that book, and not the Word of God.
NOTE: I am holding my copy of Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View (mentioned above). At this point in his sermon, Baucham begins to present the permanence view that he and his church hold to. HE IS QUOTING THE FOLLOWING 3 POINTS OF THE PERMANENCE VIEW DIRECTLY FROM ELLIF’S BOOK and he does not say that he is! In other words, the average listener is assuming what? That these points have been derived from Scripture by their pastor, not taken from a book!
Here are the 3 points he presents (remember, his sermon text is Matthew 5:31-32, but he is preaching from a book written by a man)!
- The one-flesh union created in marriage is permanent until death.
- Initiating a divorce is never lawful
- Remarrying after divorce is an act of adultery if a former spouse is living
This brings us to the mid-point of his sermon. I will add to these notes as I progress through it. Right now after just 30 minutes of it, I have to go take a blood pressure pill.
- Baucham finally reads the text, 5:31-32. Listen to his distortion of “for any reason at all.” He says that these questioners are asking Jesus if there is EVER a reason for divorce. Ever. Under any circumstances. Then He reads Jesus answer and says that it is “No, never.” This is a gross distortion of “for any reason at all.” David Instone-Brewer makes this very plain in his book Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities by David Instone-Brewer (Oct 5, 2006), and even if you don’t agree with Brewer, it is plain just from the context of 31-32 that these questioners are NOT asking Jesus if divorce is ever under any circumstances permissible. These guys are looking to justify their practice of wife-swapping, or at least that is what some of them were practicing. Just do the paper work and it is ok. They distorted Deu 24 and focused in on the certificate of divorce when in fact the real point is in verse 4 – she cannot become the wife of the first man again. JESUS IS ADDRESSING THESE HYPOCRITES, NOT MAKING AN ABSOLUTE AND GENERAL PRONOUNCEMENT THAT COVERS EVERY SITUATION OF DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE. He interprets vss 31-32 in light of his 3 points that he merely just declared as God’s Word.
He is incredibly simplistic in his handling of 5:31-32. Honest question asked, comprehensive answer given. Is it lawful to divorce? Is there any reason for divorce? No! That’s it. Nothing else to say. Baucham claims this proves the first of his (actually, Eliff’s) 3 premises. Baucham claims that Jesus is teaching that since God has joined them together, it can never be undone except by death. He even claims that the “exception clause” for adultery does not apply because that is given in response to another question. His claim is that it is impossible for man to “unjoin” what God has united.
Baucham declares that wedding vows – “until death do us part” – are permanence view vows. That people declare in them the permanence position. For better or worse = so when there is adultery, that is “worse” but since you vowed for better or worse, you can’t divorce. BAUCHAM SIMPLY KEEPS MAKING THESE DECLARATIONS BUT WITH NO BIBLICAL SUPPORT AT ALL. This is one of the worst sermons I have ever, ever heard.
Since Jesus deals with oaths and vows right after this (Matt 5:33-37), He is relating this to not breaking the wedding vows, thus He is teaching the permanence view. [This is a horrible perverting of the context and intent of Jesus’ words. He isn’t addressing marriage. He is addressing the shenanigans of the Pharisees in getting out of keeping their business deals]. According to Baucham then, all vows are permanence vows in nature???
Now he attempts to show that initiating a divorce is never permitted.
NOTE: More to follow as I progress in this sermon. I can only handle listening for so long and have to take a break from it!
Ok, I’m back for another shot at this –
- Initiating a divorce is never lawful. Now he lands over in Matthew 19 and then gives his take on Deut 24:1-4.
Matthew 19:7-9 They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce and to send her away?” (8) He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. (9) And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.”
Baucham claims that Deut 24 teaches that the first husband who gave her a certificate of divorce caused his ex-wife to commit adultery when she remarried. My Note: While in some cases that may have been true, Deu 24 certainly does not teach that. Baucham reads it into the text. Quote: “Not one place in the OT or NT does the Bible say it is lawful for you to divorce your wife.”
- Now he jumps ship and heads for 1 Cor 7 and claims that it prohibits all divorce. Stay unmarried or be reconciled are your only choices if you leave your spouse, he claims. The Bible says “don’t get divorced. It is never lawful.”
What about 1 Cor 7:15? He TOTALLY blows this verse off! He reads it, and then moves on – insisting that 1 Cor 7 prohibits all divorce for any reason.
- His 3rd point – STILL BEING TAKEN FROM ELIFF’S BOOK, BUT NOT IDENTIFIED AS SUCH. Remarriage after divorce is an act of adultery. He tries to support this from Romans 7:1ff. NOTE: Baucham consistently ignores the context of these passages and turns them into absolute teachings that apply to every marriage in every situation. They were not given for that purpose. Romans 7 here is an example. Paul is using marriage and the death of a spouse to illustrate how we have died to the Law in Christ!! Baucham ignores that and pulls this text out to support his position.
“If there is remarriage under any circumstances while the previous spouse is still alive, it is an act of adultery.” Baucham
- Makes Mark 10 and the parallel in Luke 16 absolute. Whoever. Every situation. Adultery.
“Whoever marries a divorced woman” makes her commit adultery (Baucham)
- Now we are back to Matthew 5 and 19. Exception clauses “except for sexual immorality.” Baucham admits this is the most difficult clause on this subject to interpret. My Comment: WHY then is he so certain about it – so certain that he is willing to pronounce his position from his pulpit and lay it onto everyone in his church? He admits “there are 7 different interpretations offered by commentators and scholars.”
He now parrots the permanence view of others in the discussion of 2 Greek words and leads into the complicated argument that what this “exception clause” is really referring to is not adultery but rather some indecency found in the woman during the betrothal period. Baucham has NOT studied these Greek words in depth himself as a Greek scholar. He is parroting what he has heard others say. He says that porneia is the word for an indecency found during the Jewish betrothal period and is a broader term than the specific word for adultery, which is not used here in Matthew. Therefore he dismisses the exception clause for adultery today because it had to do with Jewish betrothal in Jesus’ day.
Then he goes back to the early chapters of Matthew and says that this betrothal thing makes sense because Matthew is the one who includes the account of Joseph intending to put Mary away when she was found to be pregnant. My Comment: Interesting argument, but are you REALLY willing to bind people absolutely with the no-divorce for any reason view, based upon theories like this?
- Now he repeats his (Eliff’s) 3 points….. as if they were Scripture.
Now he launches into presenting still another rationalizing of his own making, announcing that marriage’s 3-fold purpose is – procreation, sanctification, illustration (of Christ and his church)
He hits the “God hates divorce” mantra allegedly from Malachi 2:16 here.
“Divorce and remarriage is a perversion of the picture of the relationship between Jesus and His Bride. Our marriages are living, breathing illustrations of Christ and His Church. It is unthinkable that God would allow for divorce.” (Baucham)
My Comment: Yes, it is a perversion of the picture. But what “picture” do you have worth preserving in an abusive marriage? God divorced his bride, Israel (Jer 3). The abuser is the perverter of the picture, not the victim who merely files the paperwork! How can anyone stand up and say that every single marriage in the church is a picture of Christ’s love for His church?
- Pastoral Implications:
- We (Baucham and his church leaders) will always encourage you to stay married. “WHEN PEOPLE COME TO US AND WANT TO GIVE US ALL THE REASONS WHY THEY WANT TO LEAVE THEIR MARRIAGE…. YOU MIGHT AS WELL JUST KEEP THEM TO YOURSELF. BECAUSE THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN SAY THAT WOULD MAKE US ENCOURAGE YOU TO GET A DIVORCE.. NOTHING. NOTHING. WE WILL ALWAYS ENCOURAGE YOU TO STAY MARRIED. TO KEEP YOUR VOWS.” (Baucham)
- We will always walk with you through difficult situations with a view toward repentance and reconciliation. Always with a view toward repentance and reconciliation. My comment: No they won’t. Not unless the victim submits to their permanence view. They aren’t going to walk with her. They are going to force her to stay with her tormentor.
- We will not perform wedding ceremonies for those seeking a second marriage while the former spouse is still living. We can’t do it. Go be reconciled.
- Does this mean that we will tell people to stay in a situation where they are beaten and brutalized and have their money spent recklessly…no. Not at all. We will protect a person who is being abused, but we still couldn’t advise them to get a divorce.
- Remarriage after divorce is not ongoing adultery or polygamy. Confess your sin and commit to the permanence view now.
In that sermon, Voddie actually uttered these words: “Homicide Maybe – Divorce Never!” – and some people in the congregation laughed.