I am a student at Moody Bible Institute at the Spokane Campus, Spokane, Washington, and am studying Biblical Exposition. My mother got herself and us kids away from our abusive father two years ago. My mother has emailed you before and she reads many of the ACFJ blogs, many of which she shares with her divorce support group that meets at the church. The blogs and articles have given her so much clarity with dealing with abusive people. The blogs have also greatly encouraged her especially when the church counselors have been no help, because they still push for “reconciliation.”
The church eventually did put my mom under church discipline for not going back. They did take her off that, but the shaming continues. She has had to leave the church I grew up in, the same church that my father had a leadership position in.
Today I came from a class. In it, the professor invited a local pastor in to speak on marriage. This pastor said at the beginning of the lecture that he wanted us to think for ourselves about divorce and remarriage. He then proceeded to go through the betrothal view of marriage, the same view that John Piper holds, without going through what any other views would say.
In the lecture, the pastor stated that if people filed for divorce, that did not mean that God would recognize the divorce. He then said that remarrying would be committing adultery. However, I figured following his logic that if divorce is not recognized by God, then remarrying would be polygamy, not adultery, wouldn’t it? Furthermore, why would God include passages in the Bible about divorce if divorce is not a thing in God’s mind and if God does not recognize divorce for any reason?
In one part of the lecture, the pastor read Luke’s and Mark’s description of Jesus talking about divorce and remarriage and said that there was no reason that allowed for divorce. He then went to Matthew and covered the clause for divorce. His explanation of the clause was that Matthew was written to a Jewish audience, and therefore, there must be something in the Jewish tradition that Jesus was speaking and Matthew was writing to. Then he proceeded to use Matthew 1 describing the birth of Jesus to say what the clause was addressing. He explained the passage saying that the clause was only relevant to divorce of the married, only the divorce of the betrothed, and that because the Jews saw betrothal as a solemn covenant between the parties,divorce was necessary to dissolve a betrothal. He said this applied to the situation where Joseph was looking to divorce Mary — they were betrothed but not yet married. The clause, he said, only allowed for divorce for people who found out that the finance(e) had sex with someone else before marriage.
In the question and answer portion that followed his lecture, he then proceeded to defend the betrothal view. One question that he answered was “In a marriage, if the husband starts committing homosexual acts, what should the wife do?” His answer was, “She should pray for him and stay with him through it.” Another question that came up was if a man leaves his wife on no fault of hers, and he remarries, then what should she do? He answered that he would encourage her to stay single and gather a group of supporters around her. Thankfully, someone asked, “it seems like the wife is being punished for something she did not do while the husband is getting away scot-free.” He basically repeated that the wife should stay single, implying that to remarry would be adultery. My thought was if the church encouraged the wife to stay with the husband in an abusive marriage, but the husband killed the wife, then the blood of the wife would also be on the church’s hands.
I was very shocked and triggered through this class. I had anxiety and nausea set in and didn’t want to finish the class period. We have been dealing with a church that has been pushing for my parents to stay together, to go through couples counselling, and to work for reconciliation. I was also horrified that this view of marriage would be pushed at Moody Bible Institute! I was sickened that they were teaching future pastors and ministry people that the abused (most of the time women) are to be good Christian doormats for everyone to wipe their feet on and not give a second glance. What would you suggest I would say to people who hold to the view that divorce on all grounds is not permissible? Do you have any general advice?
Thank you for reading this email. I thought you would like to know what was being taught at Moody Bible Institute, considering Moody is considered to be one of the top colleges for Christian education. There is one professor, however, that did believe that divorce was allowed under certain circumstances.
I am not surprised you were triggered!
In you email you mentioned:
… That pastor stated that people filing for divorce did not mean that God would recognize the divorce. He then said that remarrying would be to commit adultery. However, I figured following his logic that divorce is not recognized by God, then remarrying would be polygamy, not adultery, wouldn’t it? Therefore, why would God include passages in the Bible about divorce if divorce is not a thing in God’s mind if God does not recognize divorce for any reason?
You are quite right in your thinking here. If divorce did not ‘work’ (did not actually end the marriage) any future marriage by either party would be polygamy (for the man) or polyandry (for the woman). And of course God includes passages in the Bible that refer to divorce as having ENDED a marriage. E.N.D.E.D.
Have you and your mother read my book? http://notunderbondage.com/ It exposes and nails into the coffin almost all the wrong doctrines about divorce. But I chose not to rebut the betrothal view in my book, because so many people had ably rebutted it before me!
I did, however, touch on the ‘indissolubility’ argument which is close bedfellows with the betrothal view. Here is some of what I said:
The total indissolubility argument is manifestly absurd.
Consider the following proposition.
God’s design for marriage is that it be a lifelong commitment. Therefore, even if one of the parties persistently and grievously hurts the other party so the covenant is broken beyond repair, the marriage still exists in the sight of God.
This argument is as nonsensical as to say: “God’s design for Adam and Eve was for them to live eternally in the Garden of Eden, in unfettered communion with him and without shame. Even though Adam and Eve broke God’s law and rebelled against him, they still live in the Garden in God’s sight.” This is absurd. God recognized the reality that Adam and Eve had sinned. He gave legal remedies for that sin: Jesus’ death upon the cross (the spiritual remedy) and the sword of the state to punish and restrain sinners (the temporal remedy). God recognizes reality when a sinning spouse has utterly broken the covenant of marriage. He permits a legal remedy for the betrayal of the covenant — that remedy is divorce with full freedom to remarry.
(p. 59, Not Under Bondage)
The betrothal view is the one argued in Jesus and Divorce (1985) by Gordon Wenham and William Heth. Many people who have been persuaded by that book, but most of them are not aware that William Heth later changed his mind. Twice.
The student responds:
One part of that whole presentation that still gets me is that we were told that the pastor wanted us to think for ourselves, but he never presented any of the other views. If he wanted us to decide for ourselves, why would he not tell us what the other options are? Also, he kept repeating that the Bible stated that God did not allow divorce for any reason, which now that I think about it implies that all of the other views are wrong because they are contradicting the Bible according to him.
My mom and I have not read your book, although she has read your article summarizing the book. She said that the article was the first that stuck with her and really provided clarity. Thank you for the work you do! I’m just astounded again that pastors would push this view at Moody, and then not give any of the other views! I did read your review on Jesus and Divorce. I just wonder how many people have read that book and suffered because of it.
Also, even though the pastor stated that the betrothal view was a minority view, so far from our family’s interaction with our church back home and just the general unwritten rule of how churches handle domestic abuse, it makes me think that “God hates divorce” is a very popular view.
Another thought I had: Why is it that the people who push the view that divorce is wrong in any context, are people who are in a solid (or so it would seem) marriage and unlikely to get divorced any time soon? I would think that if you are going to have people comment on divorce, then people who have gone through it should be the ones talking about divorce, not those who have stood on the sidelines, unaffected.
Barbara Roberts’ one star review of Jesus and Divorce (2010) (the edition in which Gordon Wenham is named as the sole author)
(This is probably the better of my two reviews)
Barbara Roberts’ one star review of Jesus and Divorce (1985, Heth and Wenham)
42 thoughts on “What is Moody Bible Institute teaching about divorce?”
Very perceptive observations! First he states that he wants the students to think for themselves on the topic…then he only presents one view…then he insists his view is the only biblical view…although admitting his view is a minority view within the Christian community
So, what he really meant by “I want you to think for yourselves” was “I want you to be persuaded to accept my perspective as the only legitimate perspective, even though most Christians would disagree with my position.” In other words, he was being manipulative and coercive while poorly attempting to disguise it as open-minded and scholarly.
How can we respond to people who express a viewpoint similar to this pastors? For my part, it depends largely on the circumstances. If they do not appear open to hearing a differing perspective, then I probably will not bother to debate it with them, and will simply say, “I strongly disagree with your position,” and walk away. It is seldom beneficial debating with someone who has already made up their mind and is not open to trying to understand a differing perspective.
If, however, they appear interested in hearing a different perspective, I might try a couple of tactics. One approach would be to point out the obvious logic errors in their perspective. You’ve pointed out some, yourself, such as adultery versus polygamy…especially in a society whose revered ancestors were largely polygamous. Also, how can divorce be sin if God doesn’t even recognize it? If it is impossible to divorce, then it is impossible to sin by divorcing. Furthermore, how could God hate divorce if He doesn’t even recognize it as existing?
Another approach is to address the issue from a scriptural perspective. Although this is my preferred approach in writing and blogging, it is not necessarily my preferred approach in conversation, simply because it requires substantial time and a substantial attention span to discuss such topics in-depth enough to help someone see a differing perspective.
In addition to what Barbara has given you to read, here are a couple of posts on my blog that you might find helpful:
God of Divorce [Internet Archive link]
Relational Idolatry [Internet Archive link]
Take a Stand! [Internet Archive link]
Condemned or Redeemed? [Internet Archive link]
Blessings to you as you continue to explore God’s heart!
So then God sinned when He gave Israel a certificate of divorce? (Jeremiah 3:8) Or was He only betrothed to Israel during the time period from Abraham thru the Exodus, Judges & Kings? (What a long engagement period!). 🙂
Bingo! I vote we give Sister a standing ovation!
I’d never thought of that way of ridiculing the ludicrousness of the ‘betrothal period’ theory, but it is spot on.
This is ridiculous. Why do Christians forget that all these things are passing away and in the new heaven and earth there won’t even BE marriage? Why on earth would God make marriage this unbreakable contract that people are expected to suffer through and even be murdered in when it will all be GONE like a vapor the moment we each die and the moment that Jesus comes back? In eternity past there was no marriage, and in eternity future there will be no marriage. How could something of such small eternal significance be permanent and above the importance of the wellbeing of people who Jesus labored to died for?
I still don’t know what I personally believe about God’s will for my specific abusive marriage and whether he is leading me to divorce or to stay forever and suffer. But it is CRYSTAL clear that even if staying married and suffering from afar (or remaining unmarried after a forced divorce) was commendable if a person chose it or felt God led them to it, how do people leap to the conclusion that it is a command that all people everywhere in all situations do it? That is not in the Bible! Read your Bible people!
My first thought for that student is that people in seminaries or Bible schools each have the privilege of having contact with and a floor to debate the theological influencers of the day. Do you write critical theological papers or essays at school? What a great chance to argue for the Bible over man-made teachings. Even if you don’t have a chance to write theological arguments, asking questions and challenging positions confidently with the Bible can have the same effect. (Not that this is a requirement or that anyone who is emotionally distraught by the arguments should feel guilty if they feel they can’t do this. I just see an opportunity for those across the country who God will raise up. A theological teacher is not above his students.)
God’s Word accomplishes what it was sent for and does not return void. It may seem like a small thing to raise a question or write yet another letter to a leader who has ignored dissent in the past, but as long as we are faithful to God’s Word, the results are in God’s hands and the power behind the words can do more than we imagine.
Additionally, I forgot to add that the student is really perceptive to see connections to polygamy. As I mentioned, marriage is passing away and means nothing to eternity. It is Mormons who believe that marriage will last forever (even after death) and has a binding and permanent status. Why are these great theological thinkers unable to see that they are puffing up the importance of marriage to close to Mormon-like proportions? (And thank God that this is untrue. I shudder to think of women being married to their abuser for eternity. If even God mercifully ends abusive marriages at death, then why is it such a leap that they can be ended in life?)
There is something completely messed up when victims have to pay for the consequences of their spouse’s sin, instead of the perpetrator. Why is this so difficult to understand?
I understand that the Moody Bible Commentary also holds the same lines about no divorce and the wife’s submission regardless of what happens to her, especially at the end of Ephesians 5.
Thanks MoodyMom 🙂
Can you give us the exact quote and page number? Not that we disbelieve you, but it would add weight to this post.
Highly disturbing. ACFJ please consider a formal public letter to Moody Bible College!!
Marriage was made for man, not man for marriage. it seems like we’re forgetting the bigger issues. Jesus’ heart for women, and divorce as a way OUT of mistreatment.
She should stay single forever…wow…..This is not a minor issue, least of all for triggering and shaming the courageous author here, but missing God’s heart completely. His HEART. FOR JUSTICE, MERCY, LOVE. This type of teaching is truly tithing 10% on herbs…and I’m not calling the teacher a Pharisee but it’s a very law based interpretation that misses the big picture.
Marriage is unity. In abuse there is none
Marriage is support. In abuse there is none.
Abuse and marriage can not co-exist. The abuser has already divorced his wife and family.
He has abandoned them, orphaned his children, not provided, not protected, not loved, not sacrificed for. He has stolen their identity, their safety, their view of God. Abuse is murder, it’s lying and its theft.
I know I’m preaching to the choir here. But as the survivor of a 20 year abusive marriage, this point can not be overstated.
Moody, you are so off.
Any thoughts on this? Barbara? Jeff? TWBTC?
I have a child who may attend in the years to come and I sure do hope they change their stance and / or position of persuasion on this subject…
Anewanon. We are so so busy already and we’re trying to cut down our workload not add to it.
If you want to write a letter to Moody Bible College, please go ahead. If you want to email them, phone them, keep lobbying them in any and every way, please do so. We can’t do everything ourselves!
Ugh. This no divorce theory had a pulse in the seminary classroom, but once I became the pastor of a church–it died. I know the theory is still held by many, but I’ve found many of my fellow pastors who have seen the pain and damage and continued abuse it has inflicted on families, children, etc. have refused to cave to the theory any longer. And the “this was spoken to/for a Jewish audience, so we Christians can disregard its plain meaning” argument is laughable, given the strong emphasis that many who hold the no-divorce theory put on the importance of “the (OT-Jewish) Law” in the practice of the Christian faith.
My hope is that pastors like you become activists to call the ‘no-divorce’ theorists to change. My hope is that you hold them to account for the harm they are causing to victims of grievous violation of marriage vows by character disordered people who claim to be Christians.
At this blog, we are seeking to educate the evangelical church, to awaken it to the evil of domestic abuse in its midst. Most of our audience are victims / survivors of domestic abuse. We long to see more pastors following our blog and not just quietly following it, but commenting on it, and sharing our material with other pastors and church leaders.
So much of the church is blindly entrenched in teachings and practices that harm victims of abuse. There needs to be a groundswell of activism from pastors who are not only willing to teach the truth in their own churches, but are willing to publicly take a stand in Christendom against Pharisees like those who teach the ‘no-divorce’ theory and all the other theories which prolong the suffering of Christian victims of abuse.
Have I inspired you to some activism? I hope so. 🙂
ahhhhhh. Does this school in Spokane have any connection to the Moody in Chicago??!!!! James 2:13 and healing on the Sabbath are what come to mind as what they should be doing……apparently verses about justice and mercy don’t apply to wives according to them?? In that case, why don’t they make it hard to get married in the first place?? They make marriage as irrevocable as a college degree so why don’t they require 4 years of proving that you can handle it? I don’t personally tell people how long to wait before marriage but I’m also not as strict on divorce. The point is consistency!!
Not to mention that some of the proponents are abusers and making what they do acceptable to the church (so they can maintain their positions of pharisaical power) and leaving the victim trapped works to their advantage perfectly.
As “Sister” wrote above, the only actual “divorce” found in Scripture is in Jeremiah 3 where God “divorced” Israel, giving her a writ of divorce and sending her away. God does not sin, does He? Additionally, God sees marriage partners as individuals, as we see in Malachi 2:14 where the prophet writes, “…the Lord has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth, against whom you have dealt treacherously, though she is your companion and your wife by covenant.” He supports the one while condemning the other.
I love how you pointed this out, Cindy! Thanks!
I have emailed the following message to Moody Institute firstname.lastname@example.org
I commend this young student for bringing attention to Moody’s lack of Biblical discernment and you have shown that you can ‘think for yourself’ by asking questions and not swallowing everything that is pushed at you.
Thank you ACFJ for posting this and I am very curious as to how Moody will reply to Barbara’s question.
This young lady is thinking! She will find truth for her own healing, but she will be a strength for other’s who come across her path. How I wish I didn’t swallow all the disdain for divorce that the church culture has. I would have escaped my abuser in the first year of marriage if I knew then what I know now. Divorce is not God’s best but for those of us who were deceived into marrying “godly” spouses or to those who spouses changed, it is a way of escape. God is a great Deliverer–yesterday, today and tomorrow.
Thank you for sharing.
They say whatever to keep the particular audience that supplies their money.
It doesn’t matter what these people say. They have not had to walk where you or I walk. They get a paycheck for intimidating people with words. Know your legal rights and live your own life. I wish I could speak these words to my younger self and live my whole life over accordingly.
Sheryl– your words are so very wise. Why go by the teachings of human beings when we have access to God through Christ?
Seminaries, and churches, are systems. And they are all headed by human beings. And they are prone to err just as we are as human individuals– but we have God in Christ. Lest we forget and mistake these systems for gods.
My former abuser was from this school. I wondered what was being taught.
Oh, and I am not worried about this information. He is long gone, so I feel safe stating that.
As someone who works at Moody, I’d like to share some of my own thoughts on the post. First, thank you for sharing your story. Marital and family situations in which abuse is involved are more than unfortunate…they are tragic. Christian marriage is meant to be sacred. I should not be taken lightly. While I see the Bible making allowances for divorce in certain instances, it is also clear that divorce is not a desired option. That said, spousal abuse, adultery, and separation due to unbelief are not desirable either. Regrettably, they are realities.
The church must demonstrate itself to be a community capable of sustaining and restoring marriages in which the offending party (or parties) exhibits genuine repentance resulting in a turn from sinful behavior. The church must show itself capable of giving grace and support to those for who divorce has become a reality. Understanding God’s word on the topic of divorce is certainly important. Even as we seek to interact with men and women going through difficult, complex situations in their marriages and their lives.
Your instructors, guest speakers, and other students may hold a variety of view. As you continue your studies at Moody, it is my hope that you will have the opportunity in your classes to probe this matter more deeply and to evaluate a variety of perspectives on the topic as you seek to understand and live out the Scriptures to the glory of God.
Moody’s desire is to help students think theologically and critically using the text of Scripture as the final authority for life and ministry. At times, we will miss that mark. Having not heard the lecture, I can only say that I am sorry it was not a beneficial experience for you. As a student, you certainly have the capacity and responsibility to question the views presented in the classroom and I am glad this posting has provided a forum for this issue to be probed. It is important to be able to express your concerns and I would encourage you to do so both in your online interactions and in the classroom. Your perspective, particularly given the experience you describe, would have added to the classroom. If, for any reason, you don’t feel free to speak up in the classroom, I would encourage you to reach out to other faculty and / or staff outside of class to express your concerns and to talk through these matters.
God bless. James
At the request of the student at Moody who authored this guest post, I am posting this comment under my own gravatar. This is the response (sent to me by email) from the student to James —
I do believe that divorce is not something to be taken lightly; however, I also believe that divorce is an option for abuse, desertion, and adultery.
Yes, the church should be a place where people can come for healing and comfort. That is what the church should do, but many times it fails. Often, the church comforts the abuser and shuns the victims. The church often falls for the abuser’s mask of false repentance and strongly condemns the hurting for not trusting (and rightly so) in the abuser’s false repentance. In this issue, there is no meeting in the middle. There is no place in the middle where both sides can reach an agreement. Lundy Bancroft calls this the myth of neutrality. Either the church sides with the hurting victims of abuse, or the church sides with the abuser and forces those who need comfort out of God’s church. God cares for the hurting, the poor, and the destitute, and when the shepherds of God’s people treat those He cares about poorly, God does not take kindly to that.
You say that “Christian marriage is meant to be sacred.” Yes, marriage is something important and not to be taken lightly. However, we must beware of sacrificing victims to the idol of marriage. God does ordain marriage, but He values people more than marriage. Case in point: David being offered the holy showbread by the priest Ahimelech when David was on the run from Saul. As a priest, Ahimelech got it right when he knew that the people starving in front of him were more important than the rules of keeping things sacred.
You say that
However, in an abusive marriage, both parties are not in the wrong. In an abusive marriage, one party does the abusing and one party is the victim; both are not offenders. Because of the abuser’s core belief of his entitlement, he may justify blaming the other person for sinful behavior when she defends herself or her children, but that doesn’t mean she actually is sinning by defending herself or her children. Also, in an abusive relationship, in nine cases out of ten the abuser does not want to change. True change takes a miracle. And more to your point, the church has proven itself over and over and over again that it is NOT a “community capable of sustaining and restoring marriages in which the offending party (or parties) exhibits genuine repentance resulting in a turn from sinful behavior.” That is not even the church’s job! I have never read in the Bible that the church is responsible for sustaining and restoring the marriages of its congregants. The church may help. They may encourage growth in areas that would lead to good marriages in mutually respecting conditions. But the people in a marriage are not married to the church as well. Marriage is between those people. Like the blogger in Visionary Womanhood has said, the church is responsible TO others (to help, to aid, to be the brothers or sisters in times of need), but it is not responsible FOR others (like parents would be for small children: “straightening these people out”, “fixing” the sinner).
In your sentence, you are saying that the church figures out the wicked person has now shown genuine repentance and has turned from sinful behavior. So then the church restores the marriage. Again, NOT the church’s job. The Holy Spirit must first convict the wicked of sin. The church should confront an abuser, but that doesn’t mean he’ll repent. Far from it. But I have seen and read about many cases where the church gives the wicked a little pep talk, a book to read (oh the ‘c’hristian way to fix everything: “throw a book at it”), give him a little Bible study to fill in the blanks on a page, and voila! He’s repented! In as little as a few weeks! Like magic! Then the church wheels on the victim and tells her she’s being stubborn, prideful, recalcitrant, and sinful for not rushing right back into the hell that took months and years to escape from. It is the absolute ARROGANCE of the church over the years that has left so many women and children beaten and left for dead on the side of the road of life. In situations like mine and countless others, the scribe and Levite don’t just pass by on the other side of the road any more. They come over and beat the robbed traveler more, all the while telling (her) that (s)he must have sinned, too, to deserve this situation, that we must be understanding of the robbers’s sad plight that drove them to have to do this crime against (her), and that (s)he should get up, go after the robbers, go home with them, and surrender to being beaten more. All in the name of God.
I say it is the ARROGANCE of the church because they so willingly tell the victim that they have this whole situation figured out, they know what to do in situations like this, and the victim CERTAINLY doesn’t need to go to or involve any (said in a hushed, whispered tone) … secular … agencies. So the victim does not receive any of the help she really needs, any aid or comfort. She is told that the church IS loving her and IS being kind to her and her kids by telling her she isn’t praying enough. They tell her they ARE being sensitive to her needs by telling her to just get a job and get over it. They tell her that they ARE being loving by reminding her of what a sinner she is, and her abuser is just a wounded, little puppy at heart, and that she must see him in that light. They insist they ARE being loving by telling her to stay married when the abuser – after a fight with her – he doesn’t hit her. Instead he goes in to their child’s room and starts “disciplining” their child so that the child’s screams will fill her ears. He knows that mother will do anything to keep that from happening to her child again, more than if he had done something directly to her. He knows for sure that she will be far more passive and servile from now on and he has just increased his leverage. The church wants to “lovingly” remind her that his actions are just a cry for help from someone with a wounded inner spirit, and this is not cruelty she is witnessing. They agree with the abuser that she can’t trust her own eyes and ears, that she is all wrong in her perceptions.
It is ARROGANCE for the church to tell her they’ve got this right. It is ARROGANCE for the church to say they don’t need any help in this area – even though they freely and repeatedly admit they never really had any real training in Domestic Violence. And it is the ARROGANCE of the church that tells her “love stays,” without living one day in her shoes, so they say she should let herself and her babies continue to be subjected to this.
You also say that “The church must show itself capable of giving grace and support to those for who divorce has become a reality.” However, you never state that divorce is allowed. The closest you come is saying that “[…] I see the Bible making allowances for divorce in certain instances […]” Am I right in believing that you do allow divorce in certain circumstances, or just that you can see how the Bible can be made to say that divorce is allowed?
You say that “Your perspective, particularly given the experience you describe, would have added to the classroom.” I do agree that different perspectives do add to learning. However, many people in the class did question the betrothal view, but that view was defended for two hours. If almost two hundred people could not present another perspective, how could one more person do any better? Also, it is not my job to correct the teacher; rather the teacher should be teaching us the many viewpoints he proposed at the beginning of his lecture.
Yes, I do believe that Scripture should be the authority on issues that arise. However, during the lecture the pastor constantly repeated that no divorce was what Scripture taught. Scripture is the authority, but the words can be twisted. Also, verses are taken out of context which twists the meaning. For example, I can say that the Bible says “There is no God.” This can be found in Psalms 14:1. However, the entire verse is “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.”
People’s take on Scripture also twists the authority of Scripture to meet their needs. Jim Jones’ take on Scripture led do to the voluntary (mostly) suicide death of a whole town of people. That doesn’t make him right, just because Jones quoted Scripture. The Spanish Inquisition used Scripture to justify boiling people in oil, tying weights to them and throwing them in seas and rivers, burning them at the stake, and all sorts of horrible things. People quoted Scripture to justify slavery in colonial times. And people quoted scripture to justify the abolition of slavery, too. But God is not a God of confusion, but of order and peace. And God is not divided against Himself, because He would not stand. So I think that the issue is not whether we can agree or not on what it says. I think that the issue is that people get it wrong because they cherry pick a few pieces and say this is what the whole orchard is like. And they’re wrong. God through the whole of Scripture says to defend the down-trodden, help the weak, support the widows and the orphans, strengthen the knees that are buckling, give aid to those who have lost everything.
“That which you have done for the least of these, you have done it for Me.” Jesus declared His mission by quoting Isaiah 42. He said He came “to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.” I don’t see anywhere that He said that He came “only to the men – the women and children have to stay in prison or the dungeon and take it, because I really only like males, and they can do whatever they want to the women and children. That is until the male children get older. Then they can start doing whatever they want – or have been raised to do – to women and the next generation of children.” I have never seen that in Scripture. But this lecturer says he sees stuff like that. They have to stay captive and in their personal dungeon. Huh! He must have bought a different version that than ones I’ve read.
[Boldface added by Barb Roberts]
Moody Student, BRAVO!
Very well said! I hope you become a pastor. You will shepherd the sheep well. 🙂
Thanks for your response. I think that what you’ve noted about the church being “responsible to” rather than “responsible for” is quite helpful. My intention (though evidently not my communication) was to suggest that the church needs to repent of its own failures in these matters and to refocus its energies on helping and supporting those being wronged. I had not intended to affirm any status quo in which abuse, adultery, or other matters that would damage persons in a marriage would be condoned or swept under a rug. I was certainly not suggesting that the church should side automatically with the male party in any way shape or form.
In suggesting that the church needs to demonstrate itself to be a community capable of sustaining and restoring marriages in which an offending party is repentant and changes his / her behavior and that the church needs to be a community that shows grace and support to those for whom divorce has become a reality, my desire was to suggest that the church, regardless of the views held regarding divorce, be a place or restoration, love, and grace…to be the body of Christ in all that entails. At least, I would suggest that being the body of Christ does mean caring for, as you have noted, the widow, orphan, and downtrodden, as well as caring for the “least of these” (again, as you have noted). The church is the body of Christ and is called to witness. I don’t take this simply as an evangelistic proclamation of the gospel (though that is certainly part of it), but as the holistic living out of God’s way even as situations become complex.
In the end, no view on divorce (either that divorce is allowable for any reason, never allowed, or any view in between) should be used to justify the oppression or abuse of a spouse or child within a marriage. The church’s role as a community of men and women who profess Christ as Lord, is not to simply get right a theological position (though this is an essential task)…it is to do right by wading into hard situations and loving God’s people using the full counsel of God’s word. Saying “divorce is allowed in this instance” to a spouse who is in an abusive relationship is not a sufficient practice for the community of faith. The community of faith needs to rally around those in need and help them find refuge. It need to move beyond the affirmation of a position to enacting the full counsel of God’s word.
I think (hope) this way of putting things aligns with what you’ve noted above about “cherry picking” verses. I understand your concern here and would tend to agree that an incomplete hearing of God’s word, or a manipulation of that word to underwrite our own sinful behaviors, requires believers (both individually and collectively) to constantly challenge one another to hear God speak rightly. No theological position or view should justify abusive, oppressive, or inappropriate treatment of any sort…unfortunately, I think that often our views and positions are used in this way.
Thanks again for your response. I appreciate the discussion.
James, I’ve read through your comment carefully several times, and each time I just come away with the sense that it is full of ‘motherhood’ statements (i.e., statements that are so universally agreed upon that they are barely worth stating). Your comment comes across to me as mostly or entirely hot air. The problem may be that you may only have read this one post on our blog, and therefore might be thinking that you could give us some words of wisdom that we haven’t already thought of and articulated here at this blog.
Here is an example from your comment of what I think is a motherhood statement:
While I can agree with that statement, it signifies very little at the coal face. What matters at the coal face are the things we itemize on our post Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry.
Barbara did a good job of describing my overall perception of your response to Moody Student. While I appreciate your willingness to engage in conversation and to encourage [Moody] Student to explore various views of scripture, your discussion of what the church should be doing comes across as just so many platitudes with no real substance…so broad and vague as to have no real meaning in any given set of circumstances.
For example, you stated:
The problem with this statement is that it brushes past the issue of biblical perspective of divorce to charge right on to standing against oppression and abuse. Certainly standing against oppression and abuse is a noble cause in which the church should be actively engaged on a daily basis. However, in the all-too-common instance of domestic abuse, the stance of “no divorce allowed for any reason” is not only biblically unsubstantiated, but is also completely incompatible with standing against oppression and abuse. One cannot tell an abused wife, or the mother of abused children, “You must remain married to the abuser,” while also taking a stand against oppression and abuse or while defending and helping the oppressed. It is an impossibility. The two positions are mutually exclusive.
In the case of domestic abuse, helping the oppressed means whole-heartedly assisting and supporting them in their decision to divorce their abuser…if that is their choice.
Anything less than whole-hearted support is aiding and abetting the abuser…adding to the oppression of the downtrodden and enslaved.
Joe, thanks for saying this:
That’s it exactly! And I’d never seen it so clearly until I read your comment.
I love it when we are able to help each other see things more clearly! I like to think that is The Holy Spirit working in and through each of us.
Blessings to you, dear Sister!
And James, I would like to ask you:
What is your role at Moody Institute? Did Moody instruct you to respond to this thread on their behalf? Or are you responding simply as an individual? If you are responding as an individual and not on behalf of Moody Institute, why did you mention that you work at Moody?
I was posting as an individual and of my own volition. I referenced my connection at Moody simply because so many others seemed to have noted their perception of Moody in their comments. I also thought it appropriate given the nature of the initial post about the Moody student’s experience.
Thanks for your engagement with my posts.
Dear Moody Student,
It would be very helpful to me if you could shed some light on a divorce situation… my son is a young teen. His father hit him and hit me and had many temper tantrums. That is why I divorced his father who is not only unrepentant, but denies the abuse happened. I did not report him because he said he would never be able to work if he was reported and he would take the kids away from me if I reported him. However… the kids were very small then.
Now as a teenager his Dad shares custody and is always saying that mom is wrong to have divorced him. My teenage son is mad at me, says I ruined his life, abandoned his family and abandoned his father. I do not know how to help my son with these feelings. The court system says I am not allowed to talk badly about his father. My teenage son is constantly goading me about why did I get the divorce. His father believes that we are still married forever because there was no adultery. I think his father may be influencing him, but I am not sure to what degree. It may just be his church. His father has done a lot of wrong things to me regarding financial matters as well, assets that were mine before marriage that he took, etc.
My son loves his Dad and that is okay, but part of the problem is a trauma bond [Eds. pls see link in comment below qbout the term ‘trauma bond’] … my son desperately is seeking the approval of his father who is a very moody guy and uneven with approval. Since you are much closer in age to my teenager than I am, perhaps you can share something that may help my teen not really need to find fault with me or with his Dad… but feel like he in his own right has a valuable life that cannot be “ruined” by divorce… I am hoping to inspire a sense of agency and a future instead or a sense of being stuck in a ruined life. I am not sure why he clings to this.
The abuse towards me is ongoing, even though we live in separate households. I am trying to not react to the weekly cry for me to get back together with his father. I could never sleep in a home with his father I remember the death threats clearly. But I do not want to burden my children with this… I really just want them to begin to feel they have their own choices in life and that they can choose happiness.
Dear Mom, welcome to the blog and Thank You for this heart-felt comment and request. I will email Moody Student so that the student knows about your request.
Re the term ‘trauma bond,’ you might be interested to know that we think it is a term which needs to be gotten rid of. Why? The term is founded on a misunderstanding of the responses of victims to abuse and oppression. We explain this in our post
The Myth of “Stockholm Syndrome” and other labels which are used to discredit and pathologize victims of abuse
Again, welcome to the blog. And we always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.
Also, Mom, here are some of our posts which you might find helpful. They are all from our Children and Extended Family category.
The agony of handing your kids over to an abuser
Poem by a survivor’s daughter
Parenting after Separating from Your Abusive Ex — by Dr George Simon Jr
Defiant Boys: one mother’s story of the problems of parenting after domestic abuse
When the kids blame the victim too
Restoring Relationships With Estranged Children
How I Teach My Children to Honor Their Abusive Parent
Child custody battles — links that might be helpful for protective parents
First, remember that you are strong and that leaving takes courage. Do not let his constant threats deter you or his lies persuade you. You did what you had to (and still have to) because you love your son. Always remember that. I just want to encourage you that you are strong and (from a child from an abusive home’s perspective) you did the right thing. I can see that now, even though I couldn’t when my mom left my dad.
Also please know that these are helpful suggestions. I don’t want to lecture you. This is just what has helped me.
One thing that helped me was seeing the truth that my father was abusive. When we first left, I did not see why we had to leave. However, as time passed, my eyes were opened to the truth and I found freedom in that truth.
My eyes were opened when I connected the dots. When I was outright told the truth, I wouldn’t believe it or even consider it.
When my parents first separated, I somewhat saw the abuse that happened but I closed my eyes to it. However, one thing that helped was being away from my abusive father. Being separated helped me to start thinking clearly. While I was with him, I believed the lies that he told me (because that had become my natural response). Being separated allowed me time to step back and (with the help of my mother pointing me to the truth) find the truth. She would talk about what methods abusers use, which would remind me of what my father did. I would start making the connections that my father is an abuser.
Before we left my mother talked with us children about having to leave. She never said that my father was abusive, but she did imply and say that something was wrong with him.
Another thing that helped me was talking through the reason we left. Rather than my mother just up and leaving one day without any explanation ever, she talked it through with us why we were leaving. She didn’t tell us all of the details all at once, but she gave us enough information to explain why we separated.
A third thing that helped was seeing my father’s reaction after the separation. Seeing how he reacted in comparison to what a normal reaction would be helped me to see more clearly that all was not right with him.
For me, I had to see the truth that my father was and is abusive. Until I had seen the truth, I believed his lies that my mother was the reason that there were problems.
My suggestions to you (again I do not want to preach to you or act like a know-it-all; this is just what has worked for me) is to talk with your son about the tactics that abusers use. Without using his father’s name, you could mention in a non-accusatory way how abusers do _____ (whatever his father did that your son remembers). One great tool that my mother used to show me abuser’s methods is Lundy Bancroft’s Why Does He Do That? This book defines terms, gives clarity, and gives examples of what abusers do in a general way. That way, your son won’t think that you are accusing his father of being abusive. In a different conversation, you could ask him “remember when ____ happened?” My mom would read a passage out of Bancroft’s book about how abusers break promises. Then she would ask “remember when x, y, and z were promised to you but it never happened? What do you think about that? Do you remember any other times promises were broken?” Something like that. For me, I was helped by my mother not accusing my father, so I would suggest being careful to avoid coming across as accusatory towards his father.
Another way you could introduce your son to the tactics of abusers is by saying something like “I’m doing a lot of research on abusive relationships. I find this fascinating because of what I’ve been through. I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned. This is what abusers say. This is what abusers do. These are the patterns that abusive people fall into. These are the common things that abusers share. I’ve seen this and that before with me. What do you think?” He may react defensively, but truth seeds will be planted. You could phrase what you tell him as this is about what you’re learning, or how you feel, since he can’t argue with that.
Another thing that helped me was seeing the patterns after we had separated. When I had to visit my father, I would start to see the patterns that were described by my mother. I would also start remembering the patterns that I had seen before we separated. For instance, I remembered when we used to hang out with friends when I was younger. Whenever we spent time with them, I had the nagging feeling that something was different between us and them. It had seemed like our friend’s children had a better relationship with their parents than we did with our parents. Looking back I can realize that I was noticing the abuse without fully realizing what it was.
Also, when I started to see the truth (and my siblings with me) my father accused my mother of tainting our thoughts.
Another thing that helped me was not being forced to deal with the separation. Rather than my mother trying to make us see everything at once, she let us discover things in our own time. She still did present new things for me to learn, but she did not try to force it all upon us at once. Along with that, my mother was always willing to talk about the separation or abuse that had happened (and was still happening). Whenever something new would crop up with my father, my mother wanted to talk with us about it and to help us process what happened. Again, she did not want to force us to conclusions, but she helped us see the truth.
I was helped when the “idol” of my father came down. I thought I knew my father, but I realized I was devoted to an imaginary figure of sorts. The person I thought was my father was in reality not my father. When I realized that I was believing a lie, I saw the truth. I realized I was believing in a lie through reaching my own conclusions (with the help of my mother), and through interactions with my father post-separation that I realized reeked of abuse.
I hoped this helped. I again want to encourage you.
Thank You SO much, Moody Student. This so helpful I would like for us to also post it as a stand-alone post.
I really appreciate the work you put into carefully answering Mom’s question. 🙂 🙂 🙂