Abuse and Divorce: A Disagreement with the Westminster Confession of Faith
The following paragraphs are taken from the 24th chapter of the Westminster Confession of Faith entitled Of Marriage and Divorce. The WCF is the doctrinal standard for most Presbyterian churches and a very mildly edited version of it, the London Confession of Faith, is the doctrinal standard for most Reformed Baptist churches, like the one I pastor. Here is the first paragraph I wanted to call to your attention:
III. It is lawful for all sorts of people to marry, who are able with judgment to give their consent. Yet it is the duty of Christians to marry only in the Lord. And therefore such as profess the true reformed religion should not marry with infidels, papists, or other idolaters: neither should such as are godly be unequally yoked, by marrying with such as are notoriously wicked in their life, or maintain damnable heresies.
Consider that this section says that a Christian is to only marry a Christian. That is obviously biblical. In keeping with this principle, a Christian should not marry “such as are notoriously wicked in their life or [who] maintain damnable heresies.” Agreed once again. Here then is my question — if a Christian is married to a person (who may well have claimed to have been a Christian when the marriage was joined), who is indeed notoriously wicked in his life, then why would anyone object to the Christian divorcing that wicked man? Just an observation for consideration.
And here is the second paragraph. This is the one I disagree with in part:
VI. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God has joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage: wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.
Where in Scripture are we told that people cannot decide for themselves to divorce or not? The WCF here says that they are not allowed to do so — the decision is “not left to their own wills,” but instead the matter must be decided by “a public and orderly course of proceeding.” Now, if this wording means that the divorce must be processed by the civil authorities, then I have no problem with it. If you want a divorce, you have to go to the divorce court.
But it would seem to me that the church has often stepped in at this point and deemed itself to be the agency of this “public and orderly course of proceedings” and thereby overriding the individual Christian’s own right to determine before God, by Scripture and conscience, whether they have the right to divorce.
What do you think about these things?