A Cry For Justice

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

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:

1.  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.

2.  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.

3.  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

4.  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!

5.  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:

  • adultery
  • abandonment
  • 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.

6.  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.
  • Neglect
  • 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
  • Blasphemy
  • 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.

7.  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
He NEVER supports or proves these points.  He assumes them and then uses them to argue for his permanence view!  He reads these 3 points with a horrible, authoritative tone, giving the impression to the poor souls listening that this is unquestionably God’s Word that they dare not violate.

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.

To Resume-

8.  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.

9.  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.

10.  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.

11.  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???

12.  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 -

13.  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.”

14.   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.

15.  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

16.  Makes Mark 10 and the parallel in Luke 16 absolute. Whoever.  Every situation.  Adultery.

“Whoever marries a divorced woman” makes her commit adultery (Baucham)

17.  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?

18.  Now he repeats his (Eliff’s) 3 points…..   as if they were Scripture.

19.  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?

18.  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)
My comment:  This just makes me ill.  How wicked.  Picture the poor abuse victim sitting out there listening to this “sermon.”  “Get lost, woman!  Don’t even talk to us.  Go home and keep your vows!”   Also, Pastor Baucham:  “would you please define ‘encourage’ for us?”  What do they do when a woman says, “forget it!  My husband horribly abuses me.  I am not going to work to reconcile with him.”  Are they going to “encourage her” to stay married?  What if she won’t?  What is their policy then?
  • 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.
My Comment:  Baucham has STILL not seriously engaged with one single text of Scripture.  He reads this one, then that one, proclaims what it means, and moves off.
  • 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.
My Comment:  Baucham is mocking the person who would come to him and not want to be reconciled.  He mocks to the point of getting the congregation to laugh.  But I bet some sitting out there aren’t laughing.
  • 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.
My Comment:  Baucham is using words here like “encourage” and “advise.”  I wonder.  In real life when abuse victims come to Baucham and his elders, what does this “advice” look like?  Is it not, in the end, more of “we order you to”?
  • Remarriage after divorce is not ongoing adultery or polygamy.  Confess your sin and commit to the permanence view now.
“HOMICIDE, MAYBE, DIVORCE, NEVER!”  (Exact quote from Baucham, followed by laughter in the congregation)  I wonder how funny that joke would be in Ohio right now after the terrible and tragic shooting of Katherina Allen and her two daughters by her evil, wicked “husband”?   
5.  This does not mean that divorced and remarried people are second class citizens in the kingdom of God.
My Comment:  That is correct.  But they are second class citizens in a church that teaches this stuff!  You can’t help but treat them as second class, inferior if you teach and believe these things.
Baucham:  “I tell my wife all the time, ‘If you leave me, I’m going with you.’”   My Comment:  I will give Baucham the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he means this in a kind, way, committed to his marriage vows.  BUT, what he is oblivious to is how words like this, and his previous little phrase about homicide ring in the abuse victim’s ears.  They are NOT funny.  They are like daggers of fear and torment because she can hear her abuser mimic these same words for evil.
Baucham”  “You are the problem.  You are the problem.”  “But pastor, you don’t know my spouse.”  “That’s irrelevant. You are the problem.  If you leave this marriage and go and get into another one, guess who you take with you?  You!”    
My Comment:  No need to comment on this one.  Pathetic in an abuse situation. Horrible.
Closing emotional appeal to hang in there by the power of Christ.
My Comment:  Oh man, finally I’m done with this sermon.
 
****
In Laughing at Homicide Jeff Crippen  further discusses this Permanence View sermon by Voddie Baucham.
In that sermon, Voddie actually uttered these words: “Homicide Maybe – Divorce Never!” – and some people in the congregation laughed.
 

72 Comments

  1. Now Free After 42 Years

    I didn’t hear the sermon…I might not eat all day. This is the reason why I stopped attending Divorce Care. It appears their fundamental belief is that abuse is not a valid reason for divorce. One of their videos showed a pastor (who looked a lot like Baucham), preaching about divorce and I was highly offended. The expressions on some of the women were heart-breaking. The pastor was gloating and smug. He was applauded whenever he said the right thing to some of the people.

    Jeff, I think one reason for all these “camps” is so that Baucham will not offend the people who pay their membership dues to the church…he doesn’t want to lose the high rollers.

    • I have to take a pass also, I feel I would absolutely step out line in my response *s. I already gave the shout outs to the churches that refuse to accept responsibility for the wrongful council of their members. I agree, the financial loss, the meltdown of their personal “control” would not weigh heavily on any “opening”” of minds and hearts regarding the destruction abuse has had in family, the survivors and those still left struggling for proper sufficient support like they deserve!

  2. I’m like Now Free, I don’t think I can stomach that sermon. I read cold porridge teaching like that for three years when researching for my book. The varieties of slipshod argumentation never cease to amaze me.
    But Now Free, I’m interested in what you say about Divorce Care. Can you tell me more about what their program was like?
    As far as I can remember I emailed one of their staff a while ago,passing on some feedback one of my readers had given me about how the leaders of her Divorce Care group had been quite judgemental of her, suggesting they check out my work. She wrote back saying thanks, and that they had been improving their program and training their leaders to make them more sensitive to the issues of abuse. But I remained sceptical. So I’m interested in your experience, and how long ago it was.

    • Now Free After 42 Years

      Barbara, my experience with Divorce Care started about 2 months ago. I had read about DivorceCare and became especially interested after reading Joseph Warren Kniskern’s Book “When the Vow Breaks”. I know I should have been suspicious when he sort of blew off abuse as a reason for divorce; however I decided to investigate if there were any meetings here in my small Canadian city. Sure enough I found one starting soon. I attended 2-3 meetings, and at my last one I watched a video with a short sound bite of Kniskern reversing his previous stand on abuse and divorce. Right after that, another sound bit of the founder, Steve Grissom, diluting Kniskern’s message with a veiled reference to his thoughts that abuse is NOT a reason for divorce!

      Movren, it cold well be that DivorceCare might be very helpful, providing that the leader of the group makes it clear that abuse is a valid reason for divorce. The lady who conducted this meeting really did not make this clear at all. She actually seemed to try and confuse me!

      The Biblical references are very relevant. . She conducted 2 meetings…one in her home (where I was the only one attending), and another at her Seventh Day Adventist church, where there was a mixed group and she had complained no-one attended. Could the reason for that be that she held it on Sundays?

      I “recycled” “When the Vow Breaks”. It was actually written about 20 years ago. If the author has changed his stance regarding abuse and divorce in the revised edition, (2008), it could be a helpful book. In the first edition, I didn’t care for his superior attitude.

      I suggest anyone considering attending DivorceCare to ask a lot of questions beforehand, the main one being “What is your stand and teachings on abuse and divorce!”

      • I’ll get right on it! I’ve been wanting to ask her to lunch anyway, so this is the fire underneath me to get that call made. Bless you, sweet sister. ;-)

      • Thanks Now Free. Very informative. And excellent advice.

  3. Jeff, you are a gem for plodding through this stuff. I think my blood pressure would have gone through the roof long before you stopped for your first pill. Okay, I know it is not right to judge, but every bone in my body is screaming that this preacher (and from what you have quoted already, he is a dreadful one) is a raving narcissist and, if that is the case, nothing anyone says or does will change his opinion because, of course, he IS right. Always. Yes, I’d like to hear more on Divorce Care too. We have one in my town and that gal that leads the all women’s group is a wonderful woman. I think they might gloss over some of the teachings and focus on what is helpful.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Morven. I am afraid that there are indeed many narcissists standing in pulpits. As I have mentioned before, there are many reasons for seeking to be a pastor – very few of them are good ones. This stuff scares me. It scares me because I hear it and I think – “how have we fallen this far? How long have we been teaching and endorsing this horrid stuff and abusing people? It is looking like many of the websites springing up that are focusing on spiritual abuse in churches do indeed have a real case.” Preachers like Baucham somehow reach an “escape velocity” point in their ministries at which they becomes so famous, so “successful,” that people cease to ever question them. When that happens, anyone who does challenge them just gets blasted and blown off. It is time for all of us to truly start embracing the spirit of the Bereans who heard Paul, then went to Scripture to see if what he was saying was true. In his case, he passed the test. Today very few of these big names would.

  4. Jim

    It seems to me Baucham is having the same discussion about divorce the Pharisees had- they had all kinds of “case law”. I don’t think the Sermon on the Mount is a new law, or an update to the law, but it is about people’s relationship with the law. God is perfect; his law is perfect; but people are not perfect. The Pharisees were looking for ways to do what they felt like while still appearing to be in compliance with the law and righteous. Jesus was not interested in doing that and every time people asked him to, he told them no. I think the point he was making here was that divorce couldn’t be for some trivial reason, but should only be for a serious breach of the covenant.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jim – you are right on! Good job. Absolutely. And Baucham either in ignorance or willful disregard for the plain context of Matt 5 blows right by everything you said. There is no excuse for it. He would have received an F on this sermon in any decent seminary preaching course. And the really horrid thing is that the poor people in his church are being enslaved by the traditions he is passing off as God’s Word.

  5. Well, I listened to the whole thing, imagining myself as a battered wife sitting in the pew, listening to the person who is supposed to represent God to me, desperate, hurting. Listening as the mother of a young girl who has been molested by her father, my husband, who is a “Christian” and who is sitting next to me in the pew. Listening as a woman who knows her husband has been unfaithful, again. I wanted to throw up. This man is preaching as if his words are Jesus’ words. Who does he think he is? No exceptions …. marriage is forever, no matter what???

    An amazing thing happened today, another indication of how God’s timing is perfect (as in these blogs!) A client came in to see me who had just attended the “only women” Divorce Care this past week. Up until now she has loved the support and education of this ministry. Then came the video of, guess who, preaching that “initiating divorce is never lawful”, and that there can be “NO divorce no matter what”. She was traumatized by this, and by the time she got to my office, she was angry. She is heading back this week to speak her mind. I promptly made a lunch date with the gal who is leading the Divorce Care group locally, who I know by reputation to be a wonderful person. She apparently said, after the film, that “they” (I guess meaning her church) believe that you can divorce for adultery or abuse. If this is the case, why on earth would they show this video?
    Please pray for me as I approach her, asking her and her church to consider eliminating this portion of the video series.

    • Now Free After 42 Years

      Morven, Yes, this is God’s perfect timing. I had been wanting to tell others of my experience with DivorceCare for the past while, and the Lord surely let me know that this blog of Jeff’s was the one.
      I have to say that ever since I left this horror of a marriage, the Lord has been guiding me in miraculous ways, and I’m left in awe of His wisdom, power and love. My prayers are with you, dear sister.

      • You prayers are appreciated Now Free after 42 years, as I have a tendency to jump in where angels fear to tread, and not always with good results. Breathe, breathe ….
        I’ll keep you all posted It’s not for a couple of weeks yet, but seeing am meeting with several women in her group, she may not quite be prepared for the response at the next meeting. God empowers women when they hear the truth! Yippee!

  6. Now Free After 42 Years

    “God empowers women when they hear the truth! Yippee!”

    That is so true Morven! Abused women don’t realize what is or isn’t true so many times because the “truth” presented to them by their abuser is so often twisted and manipulated. Sometimes the victim goes along with whatever is represented for the sake of harmony and, well, self preservation. Your message is really encouraging and uplifting! :)

  7. Morven, do tell us all when you have talked with your local Divorce Care lady.
    I think it merits a new post, on your site, as well as a comment here.
    Divorce Care is a ministry that many victims of abuse go to. I would guess that in some cases, people go there when they doesn’t even realise they’ve been abused by their spouse. I wonder how the leaders help such people? As well as your question about how thy approach divorce for abuse, that would be another question you could ask her.

    And if she says “Well in MY divorce care group, we do such and such” that’s really not enough. A ministry that uses the same name all over its ‘franchises’ should be taking a consistent approach to this stuff.

    • Yes, I do want to go in as unbiased and objective as possible, and am hoping that she will let me borrow all the tapes so I can hear them for myself. I covet your prayers. These are good people, with big kind giving hearts …. just need to hear things a little differently.

  8. I’m going to listen to the message again (http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=11309913170) in terms of your exegetical critisim. When I first listened to it a couple of weeks ago, I came away convinced of the permanence view.

    But I do think he could have been more clear about what an appropriate response to things like abuse should be. I don’t think he would advocate staying in same physical location and enduring ongoing abuse. But you can make a physical separation, without abandoning your convenient. And while you’re away, pray continuously for repentance and reconciliation.

    BTW Jeff, I couldn’t find anything on the site giving your personal background.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Brad- One time I listened to a presentation of the permanence view, thought it sounded good, and nearly tried to implement it in our church. Fortunately we decided to think about it some more. Now, years later, I cringe at the thought. The permanence view, as well as numbers of other views on divorce and remarriage common today create chaos in the lives of suffering people. I maintain one of the most important exegetical rules there is: If my conclusions, no matter how meticulous and careful, lead to ridiculous and unjust applications that are obviously contrary to the very character of God, then I have gone wrong. The reason Baucham’s sermon and teaching on this subject makes me so angry is that it is a lording it over people and it is extending the suffering of innocent, tormented people. We need to be angry over such injustices. Jesus spoke to and confronted the guilty who were treacherously divorcing their wives. Today, people like Baucham and so many other pastors and theologians and Christians talk to the victims as if they were the guilty. They take Jesus’ words that he spoke to rebuke the evil man and apply those words to the oppressed, sending them back to their tormentors. Baucham, his church board, and other church leaders of the same kind of thinking are indeed lording it over their people, forcing the oppressed and innocent to suffer and denying them the freedom Christ gives each one of us as believer-priests. The church has a right to judge sin and to enact church discipline when it is grievous and unrepentant. But the church does not have a right to enforce matters of conscience upon people, behaving like some kind of court to determine if an innocent person can divorce their abuser. Jesus did not do that.

      Incidentally, notice carefully that Baucham, in that sermon and in a very authoritative manner, as if he were quoting Scripture, read verbatim right out of another author’s book and never mentioned that he was doing it! He gave the impression that he was announcing God’s own Word when in fact he was reading from a permanence view book. I have documented this. I recognized it because I have the book and I had just read it a few days before hearing Baucham.

      Telling people to separate when they are victims of abuse, but not allowing them to divorce, only to “pray continuously for repentance and reconciliation” is very, very bad advice. You seriously need to come to an understanding of the abuser’s mentality and tactics. You may as well tell people to pray continuously for the repentance of the devil and reconciliation with him.

    • Brad, you can read Jeff’s background at the About Us/Contact Us page on this site. Look in the right hand column under Pages.
      I think your response to Baucham’s teaching is fairly typical of someone who has not had a close relative go thru domestic abuse, or suffered it themselves. The teachin all seems so plausible, and only that niggle of doubt pokes into the mind (“what about abuse?”). But when you read more in the divorce doctrine controversy, you realise that Baucham’s view is quite rare among evangelicals, and it’s virtually blind to the realities of abuse within marriage.
      As for the idea that you can separate but not divorce, and that still maintains the covenant, I suggest you read my book Not Under Bondage and then reconsider your take on that. When people advise a victim of abuse she may separarte temporarily, but never divorce, and that she should probably go back to her spouse when the danger is passed, they clearly have NO IDEA what abuse is like, and how pervasive and pernicious the pattern of coercive control is: how it eats away the very soul of the victim until they have almost no strength left to flee. People need to listen to and believe the accounts of victims, rather than pontificating about what they know nothing about.

  9. Jeff S

    “But you can make a physical separation, without abandoning your convenient. And while you’re away, pray continuously for repentance and reconciliation.”

    Can you? Are you sure this is a healthy way to approach the problem?

    Is keeping a marriage that is on paper only and not displaying any of the other attributes of how husband and wives are encouraged to behave toward one another really honoring to God? Is that really keeping the covenant? Is this a God ordained solution, or something people have worked out themselves?

    How is repentance judged? How is a person whose boundaries and personhood have been repeatedly threatened to make the decision when it is correct to return to a potentially life threatening situation, especially when their church preaches reconciliation at all costs?

    There are very real threats when you ask a person to remain the the most intimate of relationships with someone who is willing to see her destroyed in pursuit of his own desires. We are not talking about make-believe text book situations here, but real lives that can be destroyed or forever damaged when people try to follow solutions like this.

    If we are really interested in what the Bible has to say on the subject of divorce, David Instone-Brewer’s work is the kind of in depth look we want. Not a cursory view of a handful of verses, but a comprehensive look that dives in as far as we can go with our current knowledge and resources.

  10. Jeff

    Brother Jeff,

    I appreciate your concerns about Dr Baucham’s message. For sake of clarity, however, you say above, “But Baucham never cites the title of the book nor the authors.” He does give the title of the book at about 2:38-39 into the message.

    Thanks for your notes.

    Jeff

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you very much for pointing that out. I wonder, did he specifically say there that the points he was citing were direct quotes from that book, i.e. that the “meat” of his message was taken as direct quotes from Ellif’s book? Thanks again.

      • Jeff

        Hi, Jeff.

        He begins by quoting from the book (after naming it) regarding the forgiveness that there is in Christ for those who sin by divorce/remarriage and that God has blessed many second marriages. However, after this he does not mention that his main points have come from that book.

        Jeff

  11. Heather

    I just wonder how many innocent women and children have died because of this disgusting doctrine ? I know that we almost did many times . I wonder what Mr. Bauchmann would say if he was the one getting his nose broken , getting choked and punched on a regular basis , getting screamed at and called every filthy name in the book for years , not being allowed to have friends , being cheated on over 500 times and having your spouse hold a landed shotgun to your head and threaten to kill you and your children that very instant ? This is some f what my mother and all of us girls (3) had to endure for years because when she did go to her pastor for help he told her some of this very stuff .. Makes me want to punch him in the face!! I know that is not very loving of me but sometimes I just cannot deal with this garbage anymore ..

    • Heather, you’re right to be angry. The teaching against divorce for abuse cause immense harm. Thanks for giving our readers the inside story.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Heather – as i listened to that “sermon,” i got angry really early on. Anyone who really knows abuse will be boiling over this guy’s manner and message of bondage. I can always tell the readers who comment on this post and are angry at me for being so critical of a fellow Christian are also totally oblivious to the nature and tactics of abuse. No person has a right to make these authoritative, binding decrees and lay them upon others. I call it bullying and abuse of the pastoral office.

  12. no name please

    And separating with no legal relief like divorce means he legally still has control and he USES it! Sigh, I had a friend that just did not get it because “a couple in my church have been separated for years because of his drug use”, okay, well obviously he is not an abuser ( other than of drugs) and that guy respects boundaries.

  13. Heather

    Personally , ii think if my mother had not gotten out when she did she would have been murdered . It was that bad . Or , she would have committed suicide . She has told me this many times . The only reason she endured was to make sure her children were ok .

  14. Heather

    I am so great full that you all are standing up for the truth .

    • and we are so grateful that others like you are standing beside us.

  15. Rebecca

    AMEN! Thank you Jeff, Barbara…all of this discussion, truth and clarity. Glad this post has newer comments as I’ve just come across it. After being exasperated this week by my both my parents, whom have been supportive but are coming back to some wildly irrational and hurtful conversations….I really needed this affirmation and reassurance that while I am not perfect, I am not crazy.

    • Ouch! hurting for you! Knowing that your parents have been supportive, but now ‘reverting’ to some of their former views that would judge against divorce for abuse – it must have hurt more, being such a surprise.

      • Rebecca

        The conversations are not that they are now judging against divorce for abuse. I’m sorry for not making this clear. What’s happening is that dad especially is hung up on the notion that ‘maybe he’s changed’ and no longer practices the fetish behaviors or is abusive- after all, how could I possibly know since I haven’t lived with him for 4 yrs.

        So, mom and dad believe that my observations, interactions, and the lying in court by ex (in July) are not enough to substantiate that while he may still have ‘anger issues’, he could ‘have changed’ in these other area’s. Therefore I shouldn’t set myself out to ‘destroy him’. I am going to Appeal the Courts ruling for unsupervised visits, and my parents can’t understand why because ‘maybe he’s changed.’ It is a circular discussion that they refuse to let go. I used the example to them that what if I dated someone again, and after a couple dates, was then raped. How would they feel if I continued to date him, because the fellow said he was really sorry, and said he’d changed, even though he continued bouts of anger and hostility toward me? Mom said, well- if he didn’t do it again, then maybe he did change and that would be ok…..

        I was so shocked at this statement. I asked mom if she would tell my oldest daughter the same thing if this happened to her when she was 17, which mom said..’absolutely not! But you’re an adult and she wouldn’t be so it’s different.” How do you respond to this? They are totally caught up in ‘how can you prove he’ll do it again’? Denial, lack of understanding? Why is the burden on the children, or me, to prove he may ‘practice the fetishes again’ to determine if he’s safe to be around. I tried to reason out different scenario’s….ie: long term consequences for behaviors ‘even if’ one does stop, etc… These types of sexually deviant fetishes are rarely ‘cured’, according to research. But that carries no weight with my parents. When I ask dad if he would consider the opposite…what if ex hadn’t changed, and the girls become victimized, again. His response was ‘I’m not made up that way. I want to hope that people change.”

        I’m sorry, I’m not sure if this is the appropriate place to post this, but I feel all the wounds have been reopened by my parents, who seemed supportive but continue this type of judgement, guilt, or how to describe it, I don’t know. Apparently I don’t really know what they think after all.

    • Anonymous

      Rebecca, It must be so disappointing for you to hear those words from your parents, who obviously are the type of people who want to believe the best in others. When people present the same argument to me, ie “what if he has changed?”, my stance is that while nobody knows if he has truly changed, the signs that he has not are there. A truly changed person does not parade himself as a victim or try to show that he has changed. If he stops doing that, my stance would then be, “He might have changed, but the change process involves mistakes and backsliding. In my case, I can’t risk it.” To me, that’s like being warned by authorities that there is a bomb in a plane you’re about to board with your children, and then hearing a rumor that the bomb has been defused. I would not take the risk.

      • Song

        Anonymous,
        This is a really powerful stance and response. Thanks for sharing it.
        “He might have changed, but the change process involves mistakes and backsliding. In my case, I can’t risk it.”

      • Rebecca

        Thank you Anonymous. This is a great response, and will take this approach. I have shared something similar, in that his actions don’t match his claim to change, so why would I blindly trust that the most serious behaviors have changed. The caveat also enters in that my parents couple forgiveness with trust. I talked about this w/my dad last night, that while I have forgiven ex, I do not trust him with the girls or with me again….because actions do not match words. Dad tries to discredit the forgiveness/trust discussion…believing they are one in the same. At least that’s what I perceive.

      • Hi Rebecca, if you can persuade him, your Dad might benefit from reading Steve Tracy’s chapter on Forgiveness in his book “Mending the Soul”.

      • Anonymous

        Rebecca, A resource that I found immensely helpful is an interview with David Augsburger (author of Caring Enough to Confront and Freedom of Forgiveness), entitled The F Word: Forgiveness and its Imitations. I am not sure if it is appropriate to insert links in these comments, so I suggest you google it. [Note from Barb: I've put the link in; and yes, it is okay to add links to comments.] It’s a very insightful and intelligent piece on some of the confusing issues surrounding forgiveness.

        Some quotable quotes from that article:

        “…forgiveness does not mean returning to business as usual but crafting a new relationship with a level of intimacy appropriate to our level of trust…”

        “In this cycle [of abuse], forgiveness is the heart of the pathology. The same kind of cycle is common in any relationship which is affected by addiction. So forgiveness can be aiding, abetting and enabling. Forgiveness is the central function of the enabler. So, it’s understandable that people would reject this kind of forgiveness – it is part of the problem.”

        “It’s important to distinguish between a true apology and either an appeasement or what I call an account. An appeasement is when I suck up to you and put myself down…I grovel at your feet until you say “you’ve groveled enough now, you can stand up again, it’s OK.” In this process of appeasement I suck you into forgiving me because my talking so badly about myself makes you feel badly about the relationship or badly for me…An account is an explanation of why I did what I did. It is a story that is designed to minimize my responsibility by explaining all the reasons for my behavior…”

        “I think that when the person responsible for the injury is completely detached, emotionally dead, or physically dead, to talk about forgiveness is a kind of nonsense. There is no emotional transaction possible, no authentic recognition or repentance, so the only transformation possible is a kind of internal release – not a transformation in the relationship. I think what we really do in circumstances like this is to grieve. I call it for-grieving…”

  16. Heather

    A changed person would be humbly persuing ways to make it right whether it benefitted them or not . A person who has not changed might say they have as long as it benefits them in some way .

  17. Rebecca, I get it now. When you’ve tried to present all sorts of logic to people who “want to believe the best in people” and they still don’t get it, I think the problem is primarily in their emotions. Their optimism about the human spirit, and their unwillingness to look evil in the eye, so to speak, leads to some pretty unconscious pre-suppositional doctrines that are very hard to discuss, let alone shift. They just have rose-colored glasses. It must make you feel very lonely. You hoped for their support and thought you had it, and now you find you don’t really have it.

    I think your experience with your parents illustrates why so many victims say, “The way the church treated me hurt more than the way my abuser treated me.” We hope for support from Christian bystanders, and we expect support from our blood relatives who are not themselves abusers. And when that support is not forthcoming, when they get snagged up on some (to us) petty concern like “maybe he’s changed,” then we feel very let down. It hurts BAD.

  18. Rebecca

    Anonymous, thank you for sharing that resource! I remember reading that a number of years ago, but for the life of me could not remember the author and so wasn’t able to find it. This discusses forgiveness very well. And yes Barb, exactly. The mentality that God can do anything and if we forgive and keep hoping and actually believing someone has changed because they say so, isn’t logical or Biblical.

    It’s a double whammy with my parents, as they are Christians, and dad is a retired pastor. It’s ironic that the ‘hell, fire, and brimstone’ type of preaching refuses to look evil in the eye when it’s faced with it first hand. It makes me feel angry, hurt, and untrusting of their spiritual guidance or any advice. Because if they, or anyone, refuses to confront evil when really faced with it, then what’s the purpose of preaching salvation if we don’t confront habitual, unrepentant sin such as abuse, if it’s so easily dismissed with forgiveness and hope for the goodness in a person? It’s as though Biblical understanding and truth have been taken out of the equation altogether, when pastors and Christians compartmentalize individual verses and use it to further batter the victim .

    • Jeff Crippen

      Rebecca – you’ve got some real insight here and there is no need to apologize for it at all, even though when we wake up to these kinds of realities is sounds soooo radical. What you are seeing here is a true, valid, objective reason for not trusting your parents in regard to spiritual and even some practical advice. That can sound paranoid, but it isn’t. The fact is that unless a person is willing to face up to, examine, and admit the real nature of evil, then all of their theology comes into question. I am not saying your parents aren’t real Christians, but their thinking is seriously flawed. I meet up with this same brick wall of denial all the time in talking to Christians about abuse. My sermon series on the subject was originally entitled The Psychology of Sin because when we study abuse, we study the abuse of power and control and that is at the very heart of sin. “I will be like the Most High.” So the denial of the full evil of evil is ultimately a denial of many other fundamental truths of the gospel. Does man really need a Savior? What did Christ really have to do on the cross? Is the devil really all that bad? Is God truly just in sending people to hell for all eternity? To this latter question many people today who think that no human being is really “all that bad” would have to answer “no, God is not just in condemning people to hell.”

      So though unpleasant, you are awakening to the seriously flawed thinking in your parents and you are right not to trust their counsel.

  19. charles

    Voddie is a good man and great pastor. I do not agree with his views in this area but his messages have changed my life.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Charles – Let me help you think this through just a bit. Voddie Baucham may be a good man as you say. But good men are quite capable of doing bad things. And when Baucham teaches in an authoritative and dictatorial manner from his pulpit that divorce is never permissible, I assure you that he is doing a very, very bad thing and causing untold grief to victims of abuse. Either he is ignorant of the nature and tactics of abuse, which I suspect, or he simply doesn’t think it is that big of a deal for a husband, for example, to terrorize his wife, effect ongoing psychological and emotional damage to her, and even ultimately kill her if she stays. In addition, he is guilty of misusing authority as a pastor by making such dictatorial decrees, binding people’s conscience, the authority for which Christ has never given him. Now, whether a “good” man is capable of doing such things, I leave that for you to decide. But I can assure you of this — if you truly and thoroughly ever come to an understanding of the mentality of an abuser, of his tactics, of his lust for power and control over a victim, you will not merely be content to say that you don’t agree with Baucham’s views in this area. You will be, in fact, incensed and angry that any pastor would lay such an unbiblical burden upon the weak and oppressed.

      Finally, as you do not agree with Baucham on this subject, let me ask you this: who are you going to obey? Your conscience as dictated by Scripture, or a man – in this case, Baucham? What are you going to tell a terrorized victim of years of abuse when she asks you for your opinion about what she should do? Will you tell her to submit to Baucham because he is her pastor? Or will you tell her that she has the freedom to conclude, as you do, that God never commands the oppressed to remain in that bondage?

    • Charles, I’ve recently gone through a phase of finding out that a lot of preachers who I’ve listened to and trusted have taught or done things that I found really shocking. At first this kind of rocked my world at made me wonder who can I really trust. It seemed that I started to think that finding out something bad negated the truth I’d learned from that person. Well, that isn’t true, and the only teacher really worthy of our trust is Jesus. The rest of men will fall short in our eyes. Even Paul was clear on this, admitted in his fallibility and said not to trust him if he started preaching a false Gospel (thankfully we can be confident that whatever Paul fell short in was not recorded in holy scripture!)

      I’ve recently come to the conviction that when we listen to or read famous preachers, we need to realize that to us in this capacity they are cardboard cutouts of teachers, not three dimensional pastors. How are we to be judges as Christians? By our love for one another– yet I cannot tell you if any preacher I listen to or read is loving or just puffing up with words. Thankfully I don’t need to– I can surely listen to someone teach with a discerning spirit measured by the scripture. Regardless of whether he is a good man, what is true remains true and what is false remains false.

      Right now I really enjoy and get a lot out of Time Keller and RC Sproul. They are my favorite men to learn from, but neither would I approach for pastoral care if given the option: they are not my pastors. If I find either one is guilty of some great sin or mis teaching, that doesn’t mean that all I’ve learned from them is invalidated. If I need pastoral care, I’m going to pastors I have a relationship with, who’ve demonstrated personally their faith through their love for their Christian brothers and sisters. And for the teachers that I only know through the pages of books and the speakers in my car, all I can do is judge what they teach if it is in error or truth as I understand scripture.

      My point in all of this is that we should be careful how much we trust any man. When the teach truth we must embrace truth, even if preached from wrong motives (Paul rejoices when the Gospel is preached from wrong motives) and when falsehood is preached we must reject it, even if it comes from a normally reliable source. If you have been taught good things by Bacham, wonderful! And you have a discerning spirit to see that this is incorrect teaching, great! As Paul said, we are followers not of Paul or Peter, but of Jesus Christ.

  20. Jeff, this is one of the authors of the book, Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View. I cannot speak for Voddie. I’ve not met him, but I did hear his message and found that he used our outline. WE believe it was an oversight not to reference the book, but he did buy copies for a while to give out along with his audio.

    We spent over two years studying the subject of divorce and remarriage. We even interacted some personally with Instone-Brewer, though we do not agree with him on significant conclusions. We also submitted our conclusions to other scholars and pastors for their reactions. As you know from reading our book, we try to be magnanimous about a difficult interpretative subject. Where we landed is at least an honest search for the truth and an attempt on our part to live out the truth of Scripture. We try also to be very sensitive to the tremendous pain in some marriages, as you know.

    As pastors we did not have the luxury of having no view. Our study led us to a position that we fought against for much of our study. But I’m not wanting to defend that view now. We’ve happily worked out this view in the local church and God has saved at least one marriage within our church because of it–and we’ve heard of others outside who say the same. We’re grateful for that.

    Just one clarification, however, concerning abuse. Even though we think Scripture does not approve of divorce and remarriage, we do permit temporary separation in cases of abuse. Perhaps Voddie does also, but I cannot answer for sure for him. We try to be very sensitive to such needs. In fact, I talked with someone tonight about just such a case in another city.

    I won’t be interacting on our view on your site because we feel emotional responses in such a forum may not allow for a meaningful discussion. We do invite people to purchase the book if they desire to do so, in which we try to careful deal with the Bible texts and with current views. If an interested person has no money for the book, we will help them. We’re not in this for the money, but to help people. I thought you might appreciate a word from me on abuse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Note to ACFJ Readers: The above comment is by Jim Elliff, one of the authors of the book Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View. We do not endorse this book and do not want to encourage anyone to read it other than for critique purposes, because the book will prove to be full of triggers and traumatic for abuse victims, especially those of you who have suffered injustice at the hands of church leaders when you divorced your abuser. This permanence view presented by Elliff says: 1) The one-flesh union created in marriage is permanent until death; 2) Initiating a divorce is never lawful; and 3) Remarrying after divorce is an act of adultery if a former spouse is living.

      We can add a 4th so that our readers understand how this theology works itself out: 4) Members of a church that holds this permanence view are subject to church discipline, up to and including ex-communication, if they divorce for any reason or re-marry after divorce if their former spouse is still alive.

      I will make a few comments here and then invite our readers to do the same. First, I cannot believe that anyone who holds to this permanence view understands the mentality, nature, and tactics of abuse. To have an understanding of and experience with the entitled, power-control seeking, absolutely justified, narcissistic and sociopathic mindset of the abuser, and to understand the devastation wrought upon such a wicked person’s victims, and yet forbid a victim to divorce is inconceivable. Such a position simply cannot be reconciled with the character of God. Without a thorough and experiential understanding of abuse, one can study Scripture for 2 years or 200 years and never come to a truthful conclusion regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage. Did Mr. Elliff and his church board members do a thorough study of abuse before they came to this conclusion? Did they read Lundy Bancroft for example? Did they interview Christians who were abuse victims/survivors and hear their voice?

      Second, let me recommend that pastors not only do have, but must have the “luxury” of having no view on some things. No, I don’t mean that we are to have no opinion – surely we must. But what I do mean by this is that pastors do not need to come to a position on difficult issues that there is widespread disagreement on among genuine Christians, be so sure of their position that they know it is the right one, and then enforce that decision upon their church members even to the point of church discipline for those who practice otherwise. That is to say, there are many issues that we must leave to the conscience of our people. We can educate them, we show them the pertinent Scriptures, we provide them with the conclusions of others, and we leave them free in their conscience before the Lord. And then we are willing to support their decision. This is not a “cop-out.” It is grace.

      Third, it is problematical for a pastor or church leadership team to view themselves as having the authority to permit or not to permit separation in cases of abuse. Mr. Elliff wants us to know that he and his fellow elders “permit temporary separation in case of abuse.” This is not a commendable statement. It announces that church leaders have the authority to render a decision on whether or not a victim of abuse can separate from their abuser or not. It says that the church will be the agency to tell victims when they must reconcile with their abuser. It says that it will be the church that at least has a say in the determination of whether or not the abuser is repentant. And it is our position here at ACFJ that no pastor, no church leader, no church has such authority over the conscience of the individual believer. Furthermore we can recount story after story, documented, of the IN-ability of pastors and church leaders to make these determinations wisely and accurately.

      Finally, in regard to Mr. Elliff’s statement that he “won’t be interacting on our view on your site because we feel emotional responses in such a forum may not allow for a meaningful discussion.” What does that mean? We have, on this site, pastors, scholars, authors and researchers, and Christians who have lived through the hell of abuse, including the abuse dealt them by their pastors and churches. Are we not the very people who are competent to interact with Mr. Elliff and his book? As to emotional responses to this subject: part of the whole problem with abuse victims and their mistreatment by their churches is the lack of emotion evidenced by the church. This subject cannot be handled in a purely non-emotional, academically-detached manner. Our Lord did not deal with it in such a manner. He pronounced His judgments in the strongest of terms and in, yes, strong emotion. People like the readers of this blog are the very people who have the most say in response to the “permanence view,” because to one degree or another they are the ones whose lives have been so negatively affected by teachings like these. In regard to the one marriage Mr. Elliff knows of (perhaps a few others) that was preserved by his position, we can provide scores of examples in which fine, sincere Christians have had their sufferings unnecessarily increased by these very kinds of teachings as their abuser’s entitlement was reinforced by the very churches that should have come to the victim’s aid.

      • @Jeff, You said, “Without a thorough and experiential understanding of abuse, one can study Scripture for 2 years or 200 years and never come to a truthful conclusion regarding marriage, divorce, and remarriage.”

        I’m still very much struggling with this general topic. But I think there’s a larger, more general issue in the statement I just quoted.

        Is it personal experience supposed to be part of exegesis? Does it follow from your statement that unless someone has “experiential understanding” of ______________ (fill in the blank) that they cannot come to a “truthful conclusion” about the issue?

      • Jeff Crippen

        Brad- good question. Consider 2Cor 1:3-4. God uses events, people, hardships in our lives to bring us into a deeper knowledge of Himself and His ways. Yes, His Word is sufficient, but our ability (wisdom) to grasp it is limited. Christ is at work in us to repair these limitations. So when we study Scripture for example on marriage, divorce, and remarriage it is easy for us to examine the letter of Scripture and conclude that we “got it.” But then later, through life experience of some kind, we discover a whole new facet of the issue that totally escaped us before. And often in those tomes we find we must hone our understanding of God’s Word. And that is what I mean about 2 years or 200 years. No one can come to an accurate conclusion of what Scripture teaches on this topic without first grasping the mentality, nature, and tactics of abuse. I can be a hotshot seminary valedictorian with every Greek word properly parsed, but then I must enter the real world. I am going to find that some of my positions are deficient and that they end up effecting great injustice and mercilessness upon people. Christ does not do that.

      • Brad, I agree with Jeff C’s answer to you, but I want to add this.
        If the church had been preaching and teaching from Scripture about the nature mentality and tactics of abuse (which is a deliberate pattern of sinful conduct against the person the abuser has chosen to victimize) then people in the pews would be more aware of this issue. The scriptures are literally bursting with stuff on abuse in relationships, but preachers and teachers have been missing it. (I won’t go into the reasons for that here; there are many.)

        That’s why it is necessary to have experience in this thing called abuse before the scriptures come to life and show us what they have to tell us about it. Without preaching from the pulpit to help the scriptures jump out at us, we just slide over it all. When experience (painful) drives a person to see it, so they can’t slide over it any longer – then the person literally has to swim against the tide of all the lukewarm namby-pamby teaching they’ve been taught, to get a grasp of how this beast called abuse IS ACTUALLY DEALT WITH with in Scripture.

        For example, only when you are faced with an impossible dilemma, like “Should I go forgive and reconcile with my abuser for the seven hundredth time, only to be abused again?” do you need to penetrate and untangle the simplistic teaching that forgiveness = reconciliation which has sent many victims of abuse back into the hands of their abusers.

        If preachers had been preaching accurate doctrine (forgiveness ≠ reconciliation in many circumstances) then we would not need to rely so much on painful experience to get a grip on this stuff.
        Does this make sense?

      • I think it’s also helpful to look at other issues where the church has gotten it really wrong in the past and it was experience that helped us understand things better. For instance, slavery. There was a time when Christians, even ones well regarded and read today, supported and engaged in the terrible practice of chattle slavery, which is NOT at all the kind of slavery that was dealt with in scripture.

        Now it wasn’t someone just waking up and reading scripture who finally figured out that this practice was evil; it took our collective experience as a nation working this out to understand just what we were dealing with. Even today we can all say that it is wrong, but how many of us truly “get it”? Not very many. I certainly don’t. I know it is wrong on an intellectual level, but ive never felt the personal offense of being owned as property and controlled that way. What I imagine of that experience is probably extremely limited to how it actually was. Fortunately, today we don’t need people to have that experience to understand its wrong, but at one point we did. At one point the church did need to be awakened about how to properly apply scripture to the issue of chattle slavery- and God used experience to do it, not intellectual debate alone.

    • “As pastors we did not have the luxury of having no view. Our study led us to a position that we fought against for much of our study. But I’m not wanting to defend that view now. We’ve happily worked out this view in the local church and God has saved at least one marriage within our church because of it–and we’ve heard of others outside who say the same. We’re grateful for that.”

      Mr Ellif, I was not willing to be a sacrifice for my own marriage; I’m not going to take joy in being a sacrifice for someone else’s either. Marriage is important, but it is not more important than people, and you have just told me that this marriage that was saved is more important than the safety and well being of not only myself, but every person that I’ve read on this blog who was suffering at the hands of an abuser. Such a disregard for our pain does not sway me toward your view; rather it causes me to see you as someone who has a low view of me as a person and who exalts the marriages of others above me.

      I humbly ask that you find other ways to save other people’s marriages than being “happy” with a view that some people ought to be destroyed in abusive marriages.

    • Still scared

      Climbing walls!! Mr. Elliff, you obviously have no clue what living with abuse is like. If you really did you could not hold the view you hold.Temporary separation just continues the abuse. It ties one forever under bondage to Egypt…to a nation of idolatry, that is not God’s heart for His people. And where do you get the right to tell me what I can and can’t do?!?! Been there, not going back to Egypt! I am not scared, the Red sea is parting and I don’t care if there are “giants in the land” I am going in to take possession as my Lord has called me to do!! ( whew…wee bit of anger coming out lately)

    • Martin

      Lest any readers of this blog be confused, when Elliff says

      “Where we landed is at least an honest search for the truth and an attempt on our part to live out the truth of Scripture”

      the reader must also be warned. The “truth” spoken of by Elliff contradicts the plain truths offered in Scripture as well as hundreds of Biblical interpretations from church leaders including Origen, Chrysostom, Luther, Calvin, and even the more conservative contemporary views of John MacArthur and Wayne Grudem. Their conclusions contradict a host of Protestant doctrinal positions including the Westminster Confession and the London Baptist Confession. No emotion there, just plain truth.

    • Jim, you spent over two years studying the subject of divorce and remarriage. I spent over three years studying the topic when writing my book. You interacted with Instone-Brewer. So did I, and he wrote an endorsement for the back cover of my book. You also submitted your conclusions to other scholars and pastors for their reactions. So did I.
      It feels unnatural for me to be virtually boasting about my work like this. I only do it to show you that it isn’t unusual to spend years writing a book, to submit the MS to others for their opinions, and to interact with authors who have published in the field. That should be, I hope, normal behaviour for writing a book on doctrine. So why did you need to tell us what you did when writing your book? What you did was no big deal.

      …we try to be magnanimous about a difficult interpretative subject. … Even though we think Scripture does not approve of divorce and remarriage, we do permit temporary separation in cases of abuse…. We try to be very sensitive to such needs. In fact, I talked with someone tonight about just such a case in another city.

      You have said that you don’t like emotional reactions, so I won’t disclose the emotions I feel about what you wrote there. (Readers of this blog will easily be able to guess what they are.)

      For all your talk of magnanimity and sensitivity, I suggest to you that you might be insensitive and lacking in magnanimity. You say you ‘permit’ temporary separation. Isn’t that a little patronizing of you? Doesn’t a victim of abuse have freedom to separate without your permission? Does she (or he) not have sufficient judgement of her own safety to make up her own mind? Do you live in her house? Do you know what goes on behind closed doors? Do you know what happens in the marital bed? Do you know the double-meanings of her spouse’s messages? Have you even listened to her long enough, without judgement or advice-giving, to know any of those things? If not, how can you say you are sensitive?

      You say you talked with someone tonight about just such a case in another city. Is that such a big deal? Talking about it doesn’t mean you are sensitive or magnanimous about it.
      Jim, we believe domestic abuse is epidemic (secular statistics say one in four women in countries like yours and mine suffer physical violence at the hands of an intimate partner at some point in their lives… and that’s only the physical, the emotional and other kinds of abuse can be worse). There are cases going on in every city, every small town, every remote community, all around the world. If you and your fellow pastors are talking about such cases, what’s the big deal? So you should be. It’s rampant. I hope next time you are talking about a case, you mention about A Cry For Justice. The person you’re talking to might find something helpful here.

      I am disappointed in you not wanting to engage in discussion with our readers on this blog. I would like you to consider whether your final paragraph might not be derogatory to victims and survivors of abuse. Do you really think that emotional responses from our readers (should they occur) would be irrelevant to a meaningful discussion? If your views on divorce have contributed to producing injustice for victims of abuse (which we submit they have), surely a “meaningful discussion” about your views needs to acknowledge and be open to emotions people might feel about having suffered such injustice? Why are emotions not permissible in such a discussion?

      We moderate this blog and filter out any abusive comments. We Invite you to trust us to do that in this case too. We have found that as a community we seem to moderate each other: if some of us are getting a little ‘over the top’, others usually come in and bring a cautionary correction, and it is always done with courtesy and respect.

      • Just Me

        Thank you, Barbara. You have no idea how much I needed to read what you just wrote. There are tears streaming down my face right now. I am so thankful for you.

      • :)
        Now I know why I woke up at 2 am and knew I had to get on my computer!

    • “As pastors we did not have the luxury of having no view.”

      Actually, one more comment from me.

      The people who truly do not have the luxury of having no view are those who have to live with the consequences of their decisions every day. If you had no view, the consequences are not merely as devistating as you having the wrong view.

  21. Barnabasintraining

    Is a marriage that’s saved because they were not allowed to divorce really saved? I have no way of knowing the actual condition of this saved marriage, but marriages that are “saved” only because the people involved are forced to stay together doesn’t sound much like marriage to me. I mean, I certainly hope they are together because their relationship has internal integrity like love for one another, not because of an external constraint like thou shalt not divorce. I’m not sure how you would know that with the permanence view, though, no matter the apparent condition of the marriage.

    • Just Me

      Yup. Exactly this. My marriage hasn’t been “saved” even though we are still married and in the same house. My marriage isn’t godly. My marriage isn’t good. My marriage is awful. I suffer daily. The only reason I’m still married is because I haven’t yet found the strength that many of the others on this blog have found to leave.

      But I’m sure the authors of this book would be “happy” to know that I’m still married. What a joyous reason to celebrate, right? A marriage isn’t saved just because a person is willing to suffer indefinitely. My marriage doesn’t display anything godly to my children or to anyone else.

      It makes me so angry to read things like this. Especially when the person claims to be “sensitive” to the needs of an abused person. It’s like saying “I’m so sorry you’re going through this. I can’t imagine what it must be like. I see that you’re destroyed and broken. What can you do about it? Nothing. Too bad, so sad.” Actually, he probably would offer up advice on things an abused spouse could do. None of them would actually be effective in stopping the abuse.

  22. Laura M Shola

    Can anyone explain what the “one-flesh covenant” the permenance people hold is? When I sought help from my previous church, this seemed to be the reason that I was bound to the marriage despite abuse. They seemed excessively sentimental about the one-flesh covenant. Ephesians 5:29 says that no man hated his own flesh. If a man hates his wife in his actions, and even tells her so regularly, how can this be a one-flesh covenant? What do they mean by this term? I appreciate any insight into this.

    • Martin

      Laura –

      The one-flesh covenant language develops from an argument in Ephesians. Though he is in contradiction to many of his own peers and church members, John Piper has been a huge proponent of applying this concept to marriage. The argument, as taken from a 2007 sermon by Piper, looks something like this:

      “The ultimate meaning of marriage is the representation of the covenant keeping love between Christ and his church. To live this truth and to show this truth is what it means, most deeply, to be married. This is the ultimate reason why marriage exists. There are other reasons, but this is the main one. Therefore, if Christ ever abandons and discards his church, then a man may divorce his wife. And if the blood-bought church, under the new covenant, ever ceases to be the bride of Christ, then a wife may legitimately divorce her husband. But as long as Christ keeps his covenant with his bride, the church, and as long as the church, by the sustaining grace of God, remains the chosen people of Jesus Christ, then the very meaning of marriage will include: What God has joined, only God can separate, not man.” http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/what-god-has-joined-together-let-not-man-separate-part-1

      While this truth may be a beautiful model of what God intended, it is also indisputable that the Bible attests that man will fall short of this ideal and (in certain cases) divorce and even remarriage are Scriptural. We should all have in mind the one-flesh ideal for marriage described in Scripture, but that does not mean we should deny other Scriptural realities in the process.

      Elliff and Piper, along with a small handful of others, take this very narrow view of Scripture and marriage and end up making rules for marriage that deny the whole counsel of Scripture. As a result, they limit the work of God’s love and mercy in the lives of His children. That is indeed tragic.

      • Barnabasintraining

        See, this is what I don’t get. I would think a view like that would necessitate divorce for those marriages where the dynamic is in perpetual opposition to this testimony because of the perpetual unrepentance of one or both spouses. I would think it was precisely because of such a picture that divorce for abuse would not only be tolerated but even sought because in the abusive marriage we have a blasphemous distortion of the character of Christ. We have married Satan, for all intents and purposes, and cannot escape. And as for such a marriage demonstrating the covenant keeping nature of Christ, that doesn’t work either because you cannot separate His faithfulness from His goodness, so you cannot have a faithful yet abusive Christ.

        What we see in Israel, and what Instone-Brewer pointed out, is that God will never be the one who will break the vows because His nature is intrinsically faithful. Therefore, if vows are broken it must be on the end of sinful man. This is why the Mosaic Covenant failed and the New Covenant in His blood works. He is the faithful One. It is bilateral, but He is the one who does the fulfilling for both sides. Or provides for the fulfilling on our end with the new sinless nature, but the end is the same: all necessary covenant keeping comes from Him. So all the rules are still in play but this time without the need to apply divorce ever being realized.

        The Christian marriage is supposed to be like this. Of course it will not be perfect because we are not perfect, but the overall character of it should be faithfulness and loving kindness on the part of both parties. But when one party is characteristically unfaithful and unkind, as an abuser is, yet the marriage is unendable, what is that but a blasphemous misrepresentation of Christ?

        And yes I realize the word blasphemous is potentially inflammatory. Sorry about that. I can’t think of a better one though.

        But anyway, you see what I mean?

      • Martin

        BIT –

        You and I are reading the same Bible. Well said.

    • Hi Laura, on page 58 of my book there is a short discussion of the one flesh idea. The subheading reads ‘The one flesh covenant: mutual commitment, or indissoluble union?’.
      The notion of the indissolubility of marriage was first developed by Roman Catholicism (see page 139-40 of my book).

  23. Does Baucham Embrace Marriage as a Sacrament, or is it Just Another Rhetorical Trick?, is a post by Cindy Kunsman as her blog UnderMuchGrace. Well worth a read.

    And here is another post by Cindy Kunsman about Voddie Baucham: What Was All That Stuff About Voddie? At the bottom of that post you will find links to all the items on Cindy’s blog that mention Baucham.
    Reply

  24. Jared

    I hold a pretty strict position on divorce and remarriage, but I’m not quite at the permanence view since I haven’t thought about it or studied it enough.

    My question is, what is the minimal amount of abuse one can take before the church can in good conscience recommend divorce? Verbal abuse? Mental abuse? Neglect? I’m not taking about physical beating.

    When does divorce become permitted, dare I say, necessitated in your view, Jeff?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jared – I hope that your learn more about the nature and mentality and tactics of abuse. Until you do, you won’t realize the thing for what it is — horrific evil. As to your question: abuse is not quantitative, but qualitative. That is to say, abuse IS an evil, so that wherever it is it destroys a marriage, violating the marriage covenant, and the guilt thus resting on the abuser. Abuse is a mindset. A mentality of entitlement. An abuser sees himself as entitled. To what? To power and control over his targeted victim. He is entitled to be obeyed. He is the center of his universe. And therefore he is absolutely justified, in his thinking, in using any tactic necessary to gain and maintain that power and control. So we are not talking about “well, he hit her one time.” (One time is one time too many, by the way). No. In a marriage where there is this kind of person, this person we call an abuser, the church can always in good conscience conclude that God permits divorce.

      I notice something in your question that is so common to people before they come to really “get it” about abuse. You said “I’m not talking about physical beating.” That statement demonstrates that you put physical abuse in a more serious category than verbal, mental, emotional, and so on. But such is not the case. Some of the most devastating and evil abuse is not physical.

      Therefore, divorce is permitted and yes, even necessitated, when one spouse is an abuser. The abuser IS an abuser. It is their nature. There will not be, then, just a few isolated instances of a lost temper or selfishness and neglect. No. There will be an ongoing, habitual, demand for power and control and ongoing tactics to gain it and keep it.

      Abuse, you see, is evil. No, I don’t mean it is an evil thing. I mean it IS evil. And that is why I keep telling pastors and Christians and anyone I can, “if you want to truly understand what the Bible means when it talks about the very essence of evil, study abuse.”

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Well answered Jeff, well said!

Trackbacks

  1. Quoting Quiverfull: Adulterer Always?
  2. Divorce, remarriage, and abuse | A Daughter of the Reformation
  3. Divorce, remarriage, and abuse

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