A Cry For Justice

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

John Piper’s Divorce Doctrine: Opinion Turned Into God’s Law

John Piper, prominent teacher of marriage permanency in the Reformed churches promotes his doctrine as “radical”. He teaches that divorce for any reason whatsoever is “marital sin” despite one being subject to abuse, adultery, or abandonment. He teaches that a divorced person must remain single and not remarry as long as their former spouse is still living even if the former spouse has since remarried.

Uncertain Beginnings

Piper lays the groundwork for his doctrine in chapter 15 of This Momentary Marriage and in Chapter 40 of What Jesus Demands from the World. Both chapters have a similar disclaimer paragraph.

“I want to say clearly from the beginning that I am aware that men more godly than I have taken different views than the one I will give here. I do not claim to have seen or said the last word on this issue, nor am I, I pray, above correction should I prove wrong.” (What Jesus Demands from the World, page 304).

In each book, he struggles through the chapter that explains his doctrine with what appears to be great personal uncertainty. In What Jesus Demands from the World he uses these irresolute phrases within only nine pages:

I believe, we will try, I suspect, It may well be, suggests, I would say, here Jesus seems to call, evidently (used twice), presumably, apparently, seemingly, seems to be, imply, seems to be based, seems to express, In my understanding, what I think, I don’t think.

In his book This Momentary Marriage, Piper presents the same divorce doctrine with these qualifiers and all in the space of only three pages (p170-173).

My answer is,
But I do not think,
I think (used four times),
I don’t want to make,
I do not believe,
I don’t think (used five times),
I am not inclined to think,
So it seems to me (used twice),
my conclusion,
It seems to me…

Uncertain Doctrine Evolves Into a Demand of Jesus

After the tentatively phrased chapters 40-41 of What Jesus Demands from the World, comes chapter 42. Entitled “What God Has joined Together Let No Man Separate-One Man, One Woman, By Grace, Till Death,” it contains bold, authoritative enforcement of the doctrine meekly suggested from Piper’s musings of the previous chapter. With uncertain phrases blown away, Piper’s doctrine blazes forth as truth. This chapter makes presumptuous claims. We are made to understand that to assent to Piper’s teaching is to assent to Jesus:

“Not everyone can receive this saying (the saying that marriage is permanent), but only those to whom it is given.” (Matt. 19.11). The point is that some are given the grace and some are not. (p 318)

That is, whether you have ears to hear — or whether you have grace to receive this call to radical respect for marriage  — is the mark of being a follower of Jesus. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27).

Again, lest no one misunderstand that following his no-remarriage-after-divorce celibacy doctrine is the mark of a Christian…

The point is that this grace (or faithfulness in singleness and marriage) is the mark of a disciple. (page 318)

What happened between the wary disclaimer of chapter 40, and the elevation of his doctrine to the level of Gospel truth, even equating his teaching to the voice of Christ in chapter 42?

Rejecting Piper’s Doctrine is Unpardonable

In a previous post, I showed that Piper’s teaching of the Unpardonable Sin is unorthodox among Protestants, but is nearly identical to that of the Catholic mystic tradition. It was necessary for him to redefine the Unpardonable Sin, in order to make the audacious claim in chapter 42 that not following and repenting of transgressing Piper’s doctrine is the Unpardonable Sin.

Three ways Piper fuses his doctrine with the Unpardonable Sin

1) He redefines the Unpardonable Sin from blasphemy against the Holy Spirit to his doctrine, “the sin that we refuse to confess and forsake” (page 320).

2) He unbiblically creates a type of sin he titles ‘marital sin’ — divorce and remarriage — as heinous sin: “Marital Sin is in the same category as lying and killing and stealing. If someone has lied, killed, stolen, or illegitimately left a marriage, the issue is not, can they be forgiven?” page 320.  He also categorizes divorce along with murder, coveting, adultery and homosexual behavior on the same page.

3) He requires that “marital sin” be confessed. “It should not keep anyone out of fellowship with the followers of Jesus any more than a past life of robbery. But there should be a heartfelt confession of the sin committed and a renouncing of it and an affirming of what is right, just as with all other sins of the past.” (page 320-321)

In other words for one to avoid the Unpardonable Sin, “the issue is, do they admit what they did was sin? Do they renounce it” (page 320).

So the result of Piper’s ambiguous, unscholarly, and unbiblical doctrine based on personal opinion, is that he forces his own doctrine upon Christ’s people as a non-negotiable law that if not revered, will make the already downtrodden believe that they will be cast into hell for leaving an abusive marriage. How devilish for a supposed preacher of the Gospel to trouble the consciences of those already suffering with uncertainty concerning their salvation if they don’t agree with his so called “radical” doctrine.

An ambassador of Christ would not treat hurting people in this way, but would rather:

“Behold, my servant whom I have chosen,
my beloved with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
He will not quarrel or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory;
and in his name the Gentiles will hope.”

(Matthew 12:18-21)

Piper forges a weapon from his doctrine to beat the abuse victim into submission. Typical of an abuser, he rallies his fans around his doctrine and regardless of the abuse, instructs them to “… articulate a hatred of divorce, and why it is against the will of God, and do all we can biblically to keep it from happening.” (This Momentary Marriage, page 159)

All the while the ‘evangelical’ leadership not only ignores, but promotes Piper’s horrific teachings. With my church following his doctrine, I was put into a dangerous situation and subjected to another round of crazy-making and scorn from the church — the church which I trusted would protect my family. Where is the concern that Piper twists and reinterprets Scripture to the hurt of abuse victims? How is this tolerated all in plain sight of the professing church? The church must accept that they are complicit in the abuse.

* * *

For further reading

The book Not Under Bondage is packed with scriptural arguments for why the Bible gives three grounds for divorce: abuse, adultery and desertion.

Online articles that give scriptural reasons why Piper’s divorce doctrine is wrong:

The Bible DOES allow divorce for domestic abuse

God hates divorce? Not always.

Remarriage after divorcing an abuser — in a nutshell 

Abusive Marriages Portray God’s Covenant With His People? – Really?

How Diligent, Detailed Bible Study Can Sometimes Lead to Madness

John Piper’s Works Righteousness “Gospel” (Part 2) — He Misuses the Law of God

John Piper’s Works Righteousness “Gospel” (Part 5) — Working Your Way Through the Gate

John Piper’s Erroneous Teaching on the Unpardonable Sin

The compulsory pursuit of joy in Christian Hedonism = compounded mind control for victims of abuse

John Piper: Love your neighbour as yourself

Whitewashed Tombs

How John Piper’s theology allows domestic violence

A open letter to John Piper about his view on divorce

One Star Review of Piper’s book “This Momentary Marriage”

Good men: please denounce the Permanence View of Marriage that denies any reason for divorce.

John Piper’s “Clarifying Words on Wife Abuse” – are they helpful?

Two posts which show how Piper’s doctrine has had horrific effects on victims of domestic abuse:

A open letter to John Piper about his view on divorce

Open letter of thanks to Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts

116 Comments

  1. granonine

    It seems to me that when a man and his doctrine rise to a place almost of adulation and worship in the Christian community, it isn’t too long before his feet of clay become obvious. There is only One Whom we should believe and follow without question, It is never a man of flesh and blood, no matter how godly he may be.

    • Fred Stevens

      amen.

  2. So how would he handle someone who divorced and remarried before they learned Piper’s theology? I’ve met couples who married and divorced young, got saved, remarried and have 30+ yrs, young families, and are now godly members of a close church community. Would these people have to divorce their spouse of 30 yrs, hurt children of a happy remarriage, seek out the original spouse and seek reconciliation with them? Would Piper destroy godly families just to maintain his “no divorce for any reason” doctrine?

    • Piper does not say you should break up an existing second marriage. He says that if you have divorced and remarried you just need to recognise and confess your divorce as sinful and then remain in the second marriage because two wrongs don’t make a right and you would be creating a second wrong (according to Piper) if you divorced from the second marriage.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Piper’s doctrine lays a burden of guilt on the remarried even if the divorce occurred due to abandonment or if the spouse has since remarried.

      From This Momentary Marriage, page 170:

      My answer is that remarriage, while a divorced spouse is still living, is an act of unfaithfulness to the marriage covenant. In that sense, to remarry is adultery. We promised, “Til death do us part” because that is what God says marriage is, and even if our spouse breaks his or her covenant vows, we will not break ours. But I do not think that a person who remarries against God’s will, and thus commits adultery in this way, should later break the second marriage. The marriage should not have been done, but now that it is done, it should not be undone by man.

      He issues a curse rather than blessing for those who remarry. No wonder the divorced and remarried are facing discrimination from their churches that idolize Piper.

      • Anonymous

        There are two problems I have with that. Firstly, Piper insists that a marriage covenant can never be broken, even though the Jewish understanding of covenants is that they can if they are violated. Secondly, a person who remarries commits adultery. Yet he says that the second marriage should not be undone. Is the second marriage a marriage covenant that cannot be broken as well? Can an act of sin also be an act of holiness before God? If it is an act of sin, why should there not be repentance and the marriage annulled? It is just confusing.

      • Good questions, Anonymous.

  3. Wow! I’ve never read any of Piper’s books, but I love how you’re exposing false doctrines with the truth of God’s word.

    Great job, Persistent Widow!

  4. Thank you for so thoroughly reading Piper’s twisty writings and exposing these things! I cannot imagine what untold suffering has occurred due to people reading his books and applying his opinions to the lives of themselves & others.
    The modern church needs to reject these errors or God will do it for them!

  5. “… articulate a hatred of divorce, and why it is against the will of God, and do all we can biblically to keep it from happening.”

    So…I guess Piper is demanding that Christians everywhere articulate a hatred of God’s behavior expressly stated in Jeremiah 3:8?

    This is very, very dangerous doctrine…this equating divorce with unpardonable sin. It is very dangerous to victims of marital abuse. But, even more, it strikes at the very heart of the gospel. If there is no redemption from covenants of abusive bondage, then there is no hope for our escape from the kingdom of darkness.

    “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (Colossians 1:13-14)

    “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
    A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
    He who believes in it will not be disturbed.
    I will make justice the measuring line
    And righteousness the level;
    Then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies
    And the waters will overflow the secret place.
    Your covenant with death will be canceled,
    And your pact with Sheol will not stand…” (Isaiah 28:16-18)

    If covenants cannot be cancelled…if there is no redemption from covenants of abusive bondage…then Christ died for no purpose and we are eternally bound in covenant with sin and death.

    Thank God, for His wonderful redemption and deliverance!

    Our Redeemer lives!

    • So…I guess Piper is demanding that Christians everywhere articulate a hatred of God’s behavior expressly stated in Jeremiah 3:8?

      I guess God committed the unpardonable sin. Against Himself.

      • Or…rather…God committed Piper’s unpardonable sin. Somehow I don’t expect to see God asking Piper’s pardon for it, either.

      • Still Scared( but getting angry)

        Joe, perfect!! Love it!! Needed a laugh.

      • joepote01

        SS – 🙂

  6. After the tentatively phrased chapters 40-41 of What Jesus Demands from the World, comes chapter 42. Entitled “What God Has joined Together Let No Man Separate-One Man, One Woman, By Grace, Till Death,” it contains bold, authoritative enforcement of the doctrine meekly suggested from Piper’s musings of the previous chapter. With uncertain phrases blown away, Piper’s doctrine blazes forth as truth.

    I wonder what this is about. Why all of a sudden do the gloves come off on the issue of marriage?

    “Not everyone can receive this saying (the saying that marriage is permanent), but only those to whom it is given.” (Matt. 19.11). The point is that some are given the grace and some are not. (p 318)

    That is, whether you have ears to hear — or whether you have grace to receive this call to radical respect for marriage — is the mark of being a follower of Jesus. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27).

    And how does he reconcile this with “men more Godly than [him] have taken different views than the one [he will give] here.”?

    And honest to goodness, the mark???? Seriously??? We are now to judge a person’s salvation (ahem, “future justification”) status on whether they “have the grace to receive this call to radical respect for marriage” as it is THE mark of being a follower of Jesus????? But men more Godly than him have come to different conclusions????

    Who can say cognitive dissonance with me?

    Yes, I am being snarky. That is what I do when I am negatively amazed beyond belief. (Thankfully not being snarky isn’t THE mark of being a follower of Jesus!) And this is pretty dang amazing.

    • BIT – yes, I picked up on “the mark” as well. Where does that leave a Christian who has never married? They carry no mark of being a true believer?

      And what about the words of Christ, “By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, thet you have love for one another”? Isn’t this the mark of a true disciple? Jesus said it was. Why does Pipe contradict Christ in this matter?

      • I suspect never marrieds still have to hold his view. You just have to have a “radical respect for marriage” — as defined by Piper, apparently. You don’t necessarily have to be married, just hold that view.

        I think that’s where the repentance for divorce comes in too, because lack of repentance for divorce shows you don’t have Piper’s definition of “radical respect for marriage.” That’s my take, anyway. I mean, from this quote it sounds like the main thing is your doctrine of marriage irrespective of whether you have divorced or not — which is why I find it remarkable that he can say those who disagree with him are not only Christian brethren but are even “more Godly.”

      • BIT – yeah…clearly Piper is displaying false humility in saying “more godly” men than himself see it otherwise. He makes it pretty clear he doesn’t really believe that.

      • Ok, stretching the metaphor here, but considering it is Piper, it is almost the mark of the beast…

      • joepote01

        Wendell G – I had a similar thought.

        God always uses covenant to enrich and bless…whereas Satan always uses covenant to enslave and abuse…

        SO…who would be most likely to seek to forbid the dissolution of covenants of abusive bondage? Who would benefit from seeing this declared the unpardonable sin?

        Certainly God, who has Himself redeemed us from our covenant of abusive bondage to the kingdom of darkness would be in disagreement with Piper’s position.

        Satan, on the other hand, would love nothing more than for dissolution of covenants of abusive bindage to be declared unlawful. You know he hates redemption!

    • BIT and Joe, you’ve nailed it here. I say “Cognitive Dissonance” with you!

      And I don’t think you are being unduly snarky, BIT. What Piper teaches on ‘marital sin’ is a such a ludicrous tangle of false logic and screwy hermeneutics that it needs to be pelted with rotten tomatoes.

      • fiftyandfree

        “What Piper teaches on ‘marital sin’ is a such a ludicrous tangle of false logic and screwy hermeneutics that it needs to be pelted with rotten tomatoes.”

        LOL. Barbara, I may use this quote one day if you don’t mind!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Is there an app that we can hook to the blog to allow the pelting with rotten tomatoes?

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      My son is following God’s direction in his life to minister to mormons, so we are learning a lot about the LDS church in our house. This elevation of marriage sounds a lot like mormon doctrine.

  7. fiftyandfree

    Yes, opinion has been turned into God’s law. Unfortunately the belief that divorce is always sin is so entrenched in the church that people like me who divorced for perfectly biblically valid grounds (fraud, abuse, abandonment) are too frequently regarded with skepticism, or disdain.

    Just recently I had a very, very dear friend of mine who I “thought” understood that my divorce was biblically acceptable, say something that hurt me deeply. I brought up that a leader in the church (a worship leader) should have been asked to step down because he is living in sin (having a child out of wedlock) and I am concerned about the message this sends to my children, and this friend of mine made the following comment, “Well, we all sin. You’re divorced and you’re in the church.”

    I felt sick when she said this. First, I truly believed that she understood that my divorce was not sin, but evidently she does not. So all of these years that I thought she understood, she has really thought that I am a perpetual sinner in the church. (Divorced persons are viewed as perpetual sinners because their status never changes, they are divorced, and as long as their ex spouse is alive, they are living in sin).

    Next, I was deeply shocked because in my mind there is a big difference between being in the church and serving in ministry. This is a very, small church. The worship leader is the pastor’s son, and the wife is my dear friend who made the comment about me being divorced. I had confided in them that I was concerned that allowing their son to continue as worship leader when he is fornicating and bringing a child into this world outside of marriage was sending my children the wrong message and that I thought that the son should be asked to step down until he is repentant.

    I was so shocked by the, “Well, you’re divorced” comment. There is no comparison in my opinion.

    • F&F – That comment must have hurt. I’m so sorry…people can be so thoughtless sometimes. And, yes, the false perspective that “divorce is sin” runs very deep in many areas of modern ‘church’ culture. It crops up at rather unexpected times.

      • fiftyandfree

        Thanks Joe. I appreciate your compassion very much. I posted that experience because I really don’t have anyone to talk to about it. I feel that if I discuss it with others I would be gossiping, and even if it’s not gossip, I don’t want to hurt these friends of mine. I love them, and I know they love me. I’m sure my friend has no idea that she hurt me, and she didn’t intend to. But that doesn’t take the sting away. I hate that people see me as a perpetual sinner because I am divorced.

        This idea that divorce is always sin, and that a divorced person is always living in sin is so pervasive and so hurtful.

      • I don’t recall ever hearing a specific teaching re divorce is sin in the churches I attended but…I stayed in my marriage for a long long time because I believed divorce was the unforgivable sin, so even where there is no specific teaching the belief is strong. Thankfully I have discovered that post-divorce God still loves me and has wonderful plans for my life.

      • “This idea that divorce is always sin, and that a divorced person is always living in sin is so pervasive and so hurtful.”

        Yes, it is.

        Thankfully, God does not see it that way. And His perspective is the only one that really counts.

        Jesus, our Redeemer and Deliverer, enters into our place of bondage and walks with us thru the deliverance.

      • Laurie

        “This idea that divorce is always sin, and that a divorced person is always living in sin is so pervasive and so hurtful.”

        F&F — divorced person living in sin, in my experience, it has been the one sinned against while the criminal claims “christianity” and gets away with it.

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      So sorry for you FiftyandFree. So hard to have to re-evaluate relationships that you have been in. We just got a new pastor and whereas my original pastor was so supportive and understanding, this new one disagrees that I should pray for wrath and judgement to fall on the ex-idiot. He entreats me to be “forgiving ” and not”hold grudges” .

      • fiftyandfree

        Thanks SS. I’m sorry you are going through this too. My pastor definitely would agree with your new pastor and I struggle with knowing for sure what’s right in that area.

    • Fiftyandfree, I felt shocked in empathy with you when I read this. A person you thought was your supporter suddenly shows their true colours (what they really believe about divorce) and it takes your breath away. I know that feeling!

      Maybe your friend needs to read my book? Or at least chapter 8 in it, the one about Malachi 2:16. Or alternatively, maybe you could give her a printout of this post: https://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/god-hates-divorce-not-always/

      • fiftyandfree

        Thanks Barbara. I really wish she and her husband would read your book. I did give it to a mutual friend of ours who is a Christian family counselor and it changed his mind. Thanks for that link. I’ll print it and maybe give it to them. I still know that these friends love and care for me, but I’m not sure anymore that they condone what I did in divorcing the anti-husband. It shouldn’t bother me because what matters is that it was right before God, but it does hurt nonetheless.

  8. Don Johnson

    John Piper delivers what I call the triple whammy in this area of marriage; (1) comp doctrine, which does not even recognize some forms of abuse as abuse, (2) denial of abuse as grounds for divorce, (3) denial of divorce as allowing remarriage. These three false doctrines in combination can produce a living hell for anyone that accepts them when married to an abuser.

    John Piper needs to repent from teaching such horrific teachings.

    • Danna

      I agree.

    • Well said, Don. The triple whammy. One false doctrine dovetailed with another false doctrine, propped up by another false doctrine. . . the house of cards.

      But we little piggies will huff and puff and blow the house down!

  9. MeganC

    This is EXCELLENT. Well-thought out . . . skillfully written. Thank you!!

    I came from a background where many simply worship John Piper’s words. I am positive that this is why they reacted so strongly to my divorce and why they were so highly condemning. I pray that John Piper has the humility to see what he has done (and continues to do) to many of God’s people.

  10. As I See It Only

    Let this be a warning to all of us: Good people, who elevate their opinions to divine law, become increasingly blind to the harm they are doing. They cannot see that they are being used by the enemy to wound the most vulnerable of the flock while failing to call out the wolves among us. Over time, this scatters the sheep. Oh for true under-shepherds rather than sheep-herders!

  11. Jeff Crippen

    I think a very good question for every Christian to ask in light of this kind of teaching is, “Who is John Piper?” What I mean by that is, who is any human being? Here is how Paul put it:

    1Co 3:4-5 For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each.

    And again

    Gal 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality) — those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

    John Piper has no authority over anyone. He can decree his no-divorce no-remarriage teachings all he wants and even announce that those who choose not to abide by his teachings are not Christians – so what? Who, I ask again, is John Piper? What authority does he possess? And yet we have pastors and well-known Christian leaders flocking after him as if he were infallible — a veritable Pope. If that sounds like an over-statement, just start talking to Christians and pointing out Piper’s errors and see how they respond. They don’t like it. They are offended. Yet curiously, many of them don’t know anything about what he teaches on divorce and marriage, nor do they know the specifics of much of the rest of his teaching. This is a dangerous position for Christ’s people to place themselves in.

    • One of the issues Paul was addressing there was the division such teacher-adherence caused. And how could teaching such as Piper’s not be divisive, when you have a man declaring that THE mark of a Christ follower is adherence to his doctrine on marriage and divorce (which he says is Christ’s doctrine, and does so after saying “more Godly” men than he have held differing views).

    • Pope Piper picked a peck of paltry pardons… 😉

      • fiftyandfree

        LOL!

  12. Carmen S.

    The indissolubility of the marriage bond and the sacramental character of matrimony is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church. John Piper isn’t the Pope, but in this matter he is representing the Roman Catholic Church quite well.

  13. This is so sad. Piper’s stand on divorce reminds me of James 2:15-16 “Go in peace, be warmed and filled.” Only it’s “Go in peace, stay bound to someone who wants to destroy you or forever bound to singleness through no fault of your own while I go home to my safe and happy marriage.”

    It seems like a form of denial. We see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. We can pretend that everything is well because we’ve romanticized the suffering of fellow believers as a form of martyrdom rather than seeing this as an issue of justice.

    • we’ve romanticized the suffering of fellow believers as a form of martyrdom rather than seeing this as an issue of justice.

      Oh my gosh yes!

    • thepersistentwidow

      Persis,
      Here is a prime example of that taken directly from Piper’s book, This Momentary Marriage. I will quote it directly, but be warned that it is extremely offensive and crude:

      You don’t have to be an ascetic, and you don’t have to be afraid of the goodness of physical pleasure, to say that sexual intimacy and sexual climax get their final meaning from what they point to. They point to the ecstasies that are unattainable and inconceivable in this life. Just as the heavens are telling the glory of God’s power and beauty, so sexual climax is telling the glory of immeasurable delights that we will have in the age to come. (Page 128)

      This is the lusty tone of the entire chapter. He mentions pornography several times and he also gives quite a bit of marital advice.

      To those who are divorced and now must abide by his forced celibacy regulation or suffer the unpardonable sin he writes:

      ..if gratification of that desire is denied through singleness, then that denial will be compensated for by an abundant portion of God’s help and fellowship through faith. In Phillipians 4:11-13 Paul said, “Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content . . . I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” If Paul could learn to be content in hunger, then we can learn to be content if God chooses not to give us sexual gratification. (Page 131)

      You can read it for free here: http://www.desiringgod.org/books/this-momentary-marriage

      • TPW,

        I actually read This Momentary Marriage early in my separation. As the divorce approached, I thought I would be this noble woman who would stay faithful until death blah, blah, blah. But when the divorce finally came, it was such a relief to be delivered by God’s hand. And yes, He did it!

        Also re: remarriage, there’s a big difference between choosing to remain single and being forced to remain single because of commandments of men. But by painting forced celibacy as this mystical, pie-in-the sky higher call, it cheapens our suffering as though we’re in a cheesy heartwarming TV movie where we ride out into the sunset brave and alone as martyrs for this glorious cause.

        Will you be addressing the “Jesus never divorces His Bride” slogan? It seems to have appeal to people on the outside because it sweeps the ugliness of adultery/abandonment/abuse under the rug of sentimentality.

        Thanks again for writing these posts.

      • Hi Persis, I addressed that slogan a bit in my book, but can’t quote the paragraph now as I’m at a coffee shop.

    • fiftyandfree

      Exactly. Where does scripture ever say that the purpose of marriage is for Jesus’ followers to suffer for His sake? NOWHERE! But how often do suffering abuse victims hear that they are to rejoice and suffer for Jesus rather than divorce their abusers. All. The. Time.

  14. Carmen S.

    John Calvin held a high view of marriage, seeing it as ” a good and holy ordinance from God.” It was not, however, a sacrament any more than farming, building, or barbering, which were also ordinances, “for it is required that a sacrament be not only a work of God but an outward ceremony appointed by God to confirm a promise. Even children can discern that there is no such thing in marriage.”

    Calvin scorned the Roman Catholic basis for sacramentalizing marriage by translating “mystery” as “sacrament”, concluding the Catholics were either deceived by the meaning of the Latin word or else ignorant of the Greek language. [Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians ( trans. William Pringle, Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1955) 325

    John Calvin’s “Ecclesiastical Ordinances”, adopted by the Little and Large Councils in 1561, allowed three grounds for divorce and remarriage other than adultery: impotence, extreme religious incompatibility, and abandonment.

    Thanks, Jeff for mentioning the Pope. It was a lightbulb going off moment. I didn’t include what Martin Luther thought about divorce and remarriage, because Piper claims to be a Calvinist, but Martin Luther was in agreement with Calvin.

    • Thanks, Carmen. I appreciate the way you research stuff and bring it to the attention of our readers. 🙂

      Calvin said: “for it is required that a sacrament be not only a work of God but an outward ceremony appointed by God to confirm a promise. Even children can discern that there is no such thing in marriage.”

      I just realised something. Piper teaches that the primary purpose of marriage is its ‘display’ value where by marriage displays the covenant-keeping love of God. Piper does not say that marriage is a sacrament — he probably wouldn’t dare say that because he knows it would be a red flag for Protestants — but he could easily argue for his “display purpose of marriage” by saying that the marriage ceremony is appointed by God to confirm the promise of God’s covenantal love for believers. That is only a hair’s breadth away from calling marriage a sacrament.

      Calvin is right: even children can discern that there is no such thing in marriage. But Piper seemingly can’t.

      • In our Interview with David Instone-Brewer, we touched on the ‘display purpose of marriage’ in question 13.
        Note: ‘illustrative purpose of marriage’ and ‘display purpose of marriage’ are expressions that are used by Piper interchangeably.

  15. In each book, he struggles through the chapter that explains his doctrine with what appears to be great personal uncertainty.

    In my experience this is pretty much standard Piper. He writes in a long-winded, wishy-washy sort of way for pages and pages, then shoots zingers at you out of left field, like saying it’s a waste of your life to watch a movie with your family in the evening after dinner. Then when you critique him in front of his followers, the pages and pages of “good Piper” give them an out when you point out the things “bad Piper” said, claiming that he didn’t really mean it.

    Also, I’d never heard of What Jesus Demands from the World before ACFJ started covering Piper, but how did he get 40+ chapters out of that subject when Jesus Himself boiled it down to love God and love your neighbor?

    • thepersistentwidow

      Hester, The book can be read for free here:
      http://www.desiringgod.org/books/what-jesus-demands-from-the-world
      The chapters pertinent to my post are 40-42.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Hester – What he did in that book is make 50 chapters, each one being a Demand of Jesus upon us. Three of those chapters are devoted to the marriage, divorce, remarriage issue. But there are 47 other laws he lays out too. In future posts we will be showing how he turns Christ into another Lawgiver, teaching us that the good works Christians do are NECESSARY for salvation. That is a position that was rejected by the Reformers consistently, as the reformed and Lutheran confessions plainly show (we will quote them). And did you know that Piper says it is necessary to enter through the narrow gate now, but you had better be sure you enter through the narrow gate in the future or you won’t make heaven. This is a Roman Catholic view of justification.

    • As I See It Only

      Hester, you are describing Piper’s fans behaving in a similar manner to abusers: as soon as you point out the ‘bad guy’ you are bombarded with ‘good guy’ chaff. Interesting. Is it possible that anti-love/abuse is so pervasive in church circles that it clutches the throat of the leadership and chokes the love-life out of it?

  16. Abigail

    The only one for whom divorce is sin is the one who is the abuser, who then also commits adultery.

    (Per WHO studies domestic abuse and adultery are highly correlated – makes sense: Why be nice to your spouse, when you can get your sexual needs met by someone outside your marriage. Most abusers also hold their sexual needs up on a high entitlement pedestal – they abuse their spouses and then expect their spouses to have sex with them, as if nothing hurtful had just been inflicted on them.)

    It is not a sin for the target of abuse to file for divorce. It is a sin for the abuser to enact yet another hostile act of control and file first.

    God says to husbands: Do not be treacherous to the wives of your youth.

    God also commands husbands in Eph. 5:25 to agape love (in the original Greek, meaning to love her unconditionally, even when he thinks she doesn’t deserve it) their wives. Wives are commanded only to phileo love their husbands – a much lower standard.

    When a husband goes first in initiating love and cherish, most of the time, a wife will respond in kind…so well, that she will naturally respond by agape loving him back. End result: Total mutuality. (Responsiveness is a natural quality of most women, due to her estrogen based biochemistry and neurophysiology – if a woman didn’t respond to the baby’s cries, species died. Initiation is a natural quality of testosterone.)

    But, when the wife is forced to go first too much (on net), she’s really in the mommy position, to him in the son position. (Children of both genders are responders. Makes sense: Boys have not yet gone through puberty to become fully testosterone based yet.) Over time, this is not sustainable, thus husbands must go first (on net) in extending unconditional and undeserved love to their wives, to which she will, over time, respond in kind.

    (Of the instructions to either husbands or wives in Eph 5, 80% of the text is instruction to the husbands, only 20% is to wives. THAT is the weight of responsibility God places on husbands to lead in love and cherish.)

    Now, if a wife lies, steals, and cheats….and then continues to lie, steal, and cheat without repenting, then she is in the wrong.

    Even though testosterone based humans (men) have greater power over whether or not healing takes place in a marriage, there are cases in which the woman will not repent and respond in kind….but they are not as common as the bad husbands proclaim.

  17. thepersistentwidow

    This doctrine is truly frightening. He is putting himself in the place of God as lawgiver. He says that the sheep must follow Piper’s voice (teachings) thus putting himself in the place of Christ. And he is binding the consciences of believers stating that to be a Christian you must be convicted by his doctrine and act upon it or you are going to hell. It is the Spirit’s job to convict — not his.

    Consider that many abused people feel that they followed the Spirit’s leading to get their children and themselves to safety by divorcing the abuser. I am one of them. The Spirit has never convicted me for the divorce. But Piper says that I need to repent. If you carefully think about this, he is the one who is calling the leading/work of the Holy Spirit sin. That is the unpardonable sin. He is committing it.

    • Good point!

    • Jeff Crippen

      As we will see in future posts, Piper is simply teaching his legalistic “gospel” here, applying it to marriage. But he also applies it to finances, and all other areas of life. Galatians, Galatians, Galatians. Stand firm and do not ever again be subject to a yoke of slavery. Christ has set His people free. Mr. Piper, we will not follow you back to Egypt or Mt. Sinai.

    • Not Too Late

      ThePersistentWidow, you said “The Spirit has never convicted me for the divorce.” Not only does that apply to me, I am certain it was the Spirit who convicted me of staying in the marriage! I had a very clear warning about not leaving. It took me a while to obey, because I thought it couldn’t have been God. It was only when I carefully searched the Scriptures that the puzzling urge from God to leave the marriage was seen for what it was – an urgent call to save our lives. He was and still is in the business of saving lives.

      • Not Too Late

        Oops, the way I worded that is confusing. What I meant is that God warned me of the consequences of not leaving.

      • fiftyandfree

        This is very similar to what happened to me. I had very clear leading from God to leave, but I kept hearing and reading that divorce was not permitted in my situation. I was so torn but as soon as I fully surrendered myself to His will (which unbelievably took 12 years) I started finding the truth in the form of Barbara’s book, and David Instone-Brewer’s book. So, God lead me, I surrendered, and then He confirmed what the Holy Spirit was telling me! Praise the Lord!!!

        And yes, I also see it as an urgent call to save our lives. As soon as the divorce was final all I could think was, “My God, I’ve been rescued! I’ve been rescued!!!!” I don’t think of the divorce as a divorce. I think of it as act of deliverance and the whole process leading up to it (prayer, surrender, finding truth) as a “Rescue Operation.”

  18. Carmen S.

    My divorce was in 2006. I was told that since I haven’t remarried, I can now legally state I am “single” on all papers. Should I ask John Piper for his thoughts?

    • Should I ask John Piper for his thoughts?

      How many of them do you want and what flavors?

      Oh gosh, there I go being snarky again…. 😦

    • fiftyandfree

      LOL!!! Laughter is such good medicine. Thanks for giving me a good chuckle today!!

  19. Carmen S.

    I could have lived without that excerpt, but its pure Piper. In Desiring God, in a footnote on page 124, Piper writes,

    Historically, ethicists have tended to distinguish these two terms of love [which he mentions in the text] as agape and eros, or benevolence and complacency. Not only is there no such linguistic basis for such a distinction, but conceptually both resolve into one kind of love at the root. God’s agape does not ‘transcend’ His eros, but expresses it. God’s redeeming, sacrificial love for His sinful people is described by Hosea in the most erotic terms.

    This is just another example of Piper ignoring language. The word eros ( English ‘erotic’) is never used in Scripture. The word eros has a history…it speaks of the Greeks’ physical and sensual Dionysiac approach to life and feelings. But tell that to Piper…

    There are other straightforward commands besides, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved.” Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not “Believe on the Lord” but “Delight yourself in the Lord”? And might not many slumbering hearts be stabbed awake by the words, “Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonism, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

    Why is this man not confronted?

    • And might not many slumbering hearts be stabbed awake by the words, “Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonism, he cannot see the Kingdom of God.”

      What the bleep?!!!

    • God’s agape does not ‘transcend’ His eros, but expresses it. God’s redeeming, sacrificial love for His sinful people is described by Hosea in the most erotic terms.

      It doesn’t necessarily bother me that Piper talked about sex, but his sexualizing of God (or apotheosizing of sex? – can’t tell which) is disturbing – here and also upthread in the place where he made orgasm out to be a foreshadowing of heaven or something. That’s just creepy. I’ve seen other Neo-Calvinists do this too, in different ways. One of them even constructed a series of parallels between the husband-wife relationship, Father-Son relationship, and the pastor-parishioner relationship, if I’m remembering correctly.

      Also I seem to recall that when I looked into the details of Christian Hedonism once, it had a lot of suspicious parallels to Ayn Rand’s Objectivism, just dressed up in Bible terms.

      • fiftyandfree

        I find it creepy and disturbing as well. God and the word “erotic” should never be in the same sentence in my most humble opinion.

    • fiftyandfree

      This guy is warped.

  20. Jeff Crippen

    Let’s not forget that Voddie Baucham also enslaves his congregation to this very same teaching of no divorce for any reason and no remarriage as long as an ex is still alive. And the people seem to love it so! They flock to Baucham’s seminars and scarf up his books. Then there is Jim Elliff who teaches it as well. See his book, Marriage, A Permanence View. Remember now, these guys are pastors of their churches and they WILL exercise church discipline against one of their people if they do not bow to this horrid doctrine. Think of it. They are willing to ex-communicate someone, pronouncing them handed over to Satan, if a person is in a horrible abusive marriage and divorces for that abuse. Or they will do the same to anyone to is abandoned and divorced by their spouse and then the person remarries. They will be pronounced an adulterer and put out of the church. Yes. Really.

    • I didn’t know Baucham taught that too. Maybe I had heard it a while ago and forgotten.
      Not surprised, though, as he’s also one of the big advocates for “first-time obedience” parenting, in which even momentary delayed obedience by a child is seen as being not real obedience, contra the explicit words of Jesus in Matthew 21:28-32. So I guess Baucham is into burdensome, legalistic expectations for adults as well as children…though at least he can’t excommunicate the kids (I assume – Doug Wilson does practice paedocommunion after all, so I suppose it could happen).

  21. Jeff Crippen

    Might I suggest this thought for all of us to consider: Is John Piper guilty of forbidding marriage? Now, I ask that in light of this Scripture:

    1Tim 4:1-3 Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth.

    Yes, I understand that he isn’t teaching that no one should get married. But is he not forbidding marriage for innocent divorced people, sentencing them to a life of aloneness and celibacy? I think this is an honest and reasonable question. And the sobering thing is that Paul tells us here what the source of such doctrines is.

  22. He teaches that a divorced person must remain single and not remarry as long as their former spouse is still living even if the former spouse has since remarried.

    The above sentence describes my old church belief. I was under this for nearly 30 years been out of it for nearly 2 years. I have never heard of John Piper. I know many single parents that are young. …mainly woman.. a few men that spouses left them. The church does not support remarriage in anyway whatsoever. These people mainly in their 30’s and 40’s destined to live a life single as long as they are in this church. I know of a few that have fallen in love and have called the relationship off because it wasn’t right.

  23. fiftyandfree

    Well, wouldn’t Piper’s theory be that if the ex-spouse remarries then he/she is committing adultery and that then the former spouse is free to remarry? It’s all a bunch of nonsense. I used to pray that my anti-husband would commit adultery or drop dead because I thought that was the only way I could be free of his abuse.

    • thepersistentwidow

      No Fifty and Free, that is not Piper’s theory. He does not believe that adultery is a valid excuse for divorce. See demand #41 in What Jesus Demands From the World where he teaches that Christ’s exception clause in Matthew 19:9 refers to infidelity during the betrothal period only — not during the marriage.

      • this made me laugh. “the betrothal period only” – hahahhahaa the reason Piper is as popular as he is is because MOST of his fans probably haven’t read all of his books, or if they have it’s because they don’t read anything else.

  24. Carmen S.

    John Piper’s doctrine on marriage comes from the Roman Catholic Church. The “theology” of the popular books he has written comes directly from C. S. Lewis. The 2013 Desiring God National Conference ( Sept.) What God Made Is Good—And Must Be Sanctified: C. S. Lewis and St. Paul On The Uses Of Creation. All 24 conference messages honored Lewis.

    Piper’s message: “C.S. Lewis giving insights”, “this enjoyment comes like a stab of longing that Lewis called Joy or Romanticism”, “I am not sure all Lewis means by this”, “I’m suggesting along with Lewis”, “Remember Lewis’ words”, “What Lewis wants to say is”, “May God take all the messages of this conference, and all the wisdom of C. S. Lewis”, “And with the help of C. S. Lewis may you communicate it with a joy and skill as never before to a world of unsatisfied longing”

    John Piper is a hedonist. His popular books are not filled with theology, but instead the man-made philosophy of C. S. Lewis.

  25. thepersistentwidow

    This is lunacy. Piper’s theology makes no sense but likely the bulk of us here who suffered at the hands of the church are here because of it. I think that many pastors lack discernment and for simplicity grab Piper’s book when counseling divorce situations. They must surely reason somthing like this, “This is the most learned and highly acclaimed teacher in the Reformed Church. I really don’t understand his theology, but I will read his conclusions and follow those. That seems like a safe bet, after all, This Momentary Marriage has been around since 2009 and they sell it in my seminary bookstore, so it must be approved. And we do want a radically spiritual church, so let’s show how holy we are by enforcing this tough love doctrine on those who really can’t fight back (probably suffering from PTSD)-the abuse victims. ”

    Personally, I have reasons to believe that the church that led me round and round, dangled me like a carrot before my abuser, told me my conscience would condemn me, etc., followed Piper. Had I not finally disengaged from their ‘process’ I would have been bankrupt and should threats materalized, killed. They like Piper never showed concern for the children involved at all. They are just loading people with burdens that are hard to bear and it is due to this legalistic man-made theology.

    • They like Piper never showed concern for the children involved at all. They are just loading people with burdens that are hard to bear and it is due to this legalistic man-made theology.

      I agree. And there’s even more cognitive dissonance going on here. I read some of Piper’s What Jesus Demands of the World last night and in the chapter entitled ‘Demand #26 Your Righteousness Must Exceed that of the Pharisees — Clean the Outside of the Cup,’ Piper says (p. 197-8):

      The Hellish Condition of Being Mercilessly Demanding
      Nor did [the scribes and Pharisees] care. As regularly the case with self-righteous hypocrites, their attitute to others is mercilessly demanding. “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger” (Matt. 23:4). In other words, their use of the law is merciless. Unlike Jesus, whose yolk is easy and burden is light (Matt. 11:28-30) because he grants what he demands, they only demand and do not life a finger to help. In this way they not only perish themselves but drag people down with them. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves not allow thoose twho would enter to go in” (Matt. 23:13).
      Strictly speaking, this is hellish. Hell-bound hypocrites labour to take others with them. . . .

      Piper turns his opinions on divorce and remarriage into God’s Law, backs up this so called “law” with unorthodox teaching about the unpardonable sin and teaches wrongly about justification and the place of the law in the believer’s life (which we will demonstrate in future posts). He presents himself as very humble and full of the joy of God, but in fact he is tying up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and laying them on people’s shoulders, but he is not willing to move these burdens with his finger. His use of the law is merciless. Strictly speaking, this is hellish.

      Why should we not believe that Piper is a Hell-bound hypocrite labouring to take others with him? Is he not hoist by his own petard?

      • IamMyBeloved's

        Sometimes when you read these hot dogs’ books, you can truly see that their counsel changes with each day and each topic and each mood they have. In other words, they cannot make their theologies and counsel line up with the Word consistently, because they are ever changing to either fit their onlookers and peers, or because they just don’t really know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. When one asks for Scripture to support their theology and doctrines, they are never given any.

        Don’t you just hate it, when you put an entire puzzle completely together, only to find two or three pieces missing? That’s the way it is with a lot of these book authors. Always a missing piece. Makes me wonder if they know pieces are missing and they just sell us the puzzle anyway. If you don’t put the puzzle completely together, you will never know there are pieces missing and you will just always think, what a great puzzle – looks good, doesn’t it?

  26. Carmen S.

    Mark 7:6
    “This people honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men”.

    How does man honor God with his lips while his heart is far from God? By teaching their own invented philosophies ( precepts) as if they were real doctrines from Scripture.

    • Martin

      Carmen; Your last two posts on this topic are right on target. Thank you!

      How on earth can a people claim to love God while at the same time following blindly the doctrines of men? The answer, unfortunately, is that many of the followers are just as blind as their guide.

      Yes, the problem is more than those writing the doctrines. The problem lies with those willing to follow them as well… the blind leading the blind always leads to trouble (Matt. 15:14). True followers of Jesus are repelled by the teachings of men while seeking always to fellowship with the Word. True followers of Jesus discard readily books by men in favor of plain readings of Scripture.

      The answer? Throw away Piper’s books. In fact, throw away everyone’s books. Read Scripture plainly with prayer and God will provide the answers you need.

      • thepersistentwidow

        Martin, You are so right. The problem is that even if a person has never read Piper’s books, some denominations are so saturated with Piper followers in the seminaries, leadership, and in the pews that one is bound to be confronted with this doctrine the minute an abuse victim goes to the leadership for help. It hit me like a ton of bricks because I had no idea such doctrine even existed. The response from the church was totally unexpected and I would say it was the worst experience of my life.

  27. Carmen S.

    It’s time to start wearing “Be A Berean” t-shirts, and with a popular book and the Bible in hand, ask your congregation and pastor alike to review the book. When the response is “I agree with Piper on that”…ask “Where’s the scripture for what he’s written”?” One of the great foundational cries of the Reformers was “Scripture Alone”. May it also be our cry today.

    The books will be continue to be published and distributed at conferences. Discernment is needed today, as it always has been needed. Jesus came to set the captives free. Father, may we have ears to hear, minds to understand, and hearts to receive Your Word.

  28. Anonymous

    Presently 86 comments … thank you ACFJ; let the Truth be declared!

    Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Many of them therefore believed, ACTS 17:11,12a

  29. Emily

    What do you think is the correct view of Matt. 19:11(as you referenced above)? Today my pastor was criticizing second marriages during the sermon, using them as an example of sin… I already came forward about abuse in my marriage, but they seem to believe that my ultimate goal should be reconciliation, and I’m feeling confused (will separate for a few months starting in March). :/

    • Emily – Here is a link to a post I did on the topic of Matthew 19:3-9: http://josephjpote.com/2012/04/asking-the-right-questions/

      Your ultimate goal should be pursuing godliness while seeking God’s protection and provision. If you seek His wisdom, the Holy Spirit will be faithful in showing you whether that means separation, divorce, or reconciliation. However, you need to understand that there is nothing ungodly about just and necessary divorce, and sometimes divorce is the most godly course of action for the circumstances.

      Praying for you, this evening, that the Holy Spirit will grant you an extra measure of discernment and wisdom as He guides, protects, and comforts you.

      • Emily

        Thank you, Joe!

    • Hi Emily, here is what I say about Matthew 19:11 in my book Not Under Bondage.

      Should a divorcee live as a eunuch?

      Matthew 19:10-12 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.”

      Some divorcees think this passage means divorcees should remain as eunuchs for the rest of their lives, or at least until the ex-spouse dies. Victims of abuse may be particularly inclined to read this interpretation into the text. Being used to submitting to their husbands, no matter how much self-abnegation or renunciation of self this entails, they have a parallel readiness to submit to what they believe is God’s will.

      The eunuch passage is another follow-up conversation between Jesus and the disciples, different to the one recorded by Mark. This conversation follows through on the theme of Jesus’ criticism of Hillelite divorce which was the focus in Matthew’s record of the Pharisaic conversation. The eunuch passage opens with the reaction of the disciples: If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry. The disciples seem to have thought: “If a man’s right to divorce for ‘any matter’ ­is removed, and if after divorce for aversion remarriage is adultery, then a man would be better off never marrying!” This off the cuff response showed just how radical was Jesus’ teaching on divorce compared to the popular assumptions based on the male prerogative. A Hillelite divorce allowed a husband to divorce for “any matter” that he might find objectionable in his wife. Jesus had just disallowed every excuse for divorce embraced by this Hillelite system except for the matter of porneia. And it was unheard of for a rabbi to say that remarriage was adultery! Even the Shammaites recognized remarriage made after “any matter” divorce as legitimate marriage, because the Shammaites and the Hillelites had a policy of mutual recognition of each other’s rulings. Jesus’ divorce and remarriage teaching was different from anything the disciples had ever encountered.

      Jesus responded All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus [innate physical deformity] and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men [castration or accidental injury] and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs [voluntarily renounced marriage] for the kingdom of heaven’s sake.

      Some theologians have taught that All cannot accept this saying refers to the “saying” of verse nine where Jesus pronounced on divorce and remarriage. They conclude that divorcees should make themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake in an act of obedient discipleship, as long as their former spouse remains alive. Gundry has even made this obedience a criterion for salvation: “out of obedience to Christ’s law concerning divorce, [his true disciples] do not remarry, but live as eunuchs, lest their righteousness fail to surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees and entrance into the kingdom be denied them (cf. verse 12 with 5:20).”

      This line of interpretation has to be questioned. The most natural referent for “this saying” is not verse nine but the saying uttered by the disciples in verse ten “it is better not to marry”. Firstly, this is the saying most immediately preceding Jesus’ answer. Secondly, Jesus’ answer (about eunuchs, those who do not marry) corresponds to the disciples’ statement (it is better not to marry). Both the disciples’ question and Jesus’ answer were primarily about first marriages, not remarriages. And when Jesus says there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake there is nothing to tell us he refers to divorced people only. He finishes his statement with He who is able to accept it, let him accept it, not “let all those who are divorced accept it”. Thus, there is no indication that he is referring back to his teaching in verse nine.
      Jesus does not agree with the disciples’ generalization that it is better for a man not to marry. He says All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given. In other words, the saying “it is better not to marry” is not true for everyone. Some people simply don’t have a choice about whether it is better or worse to marry — for them, consummated marriage is not physically possible. Others choose to renounce marriage; but voluntary renunciation of marriage is not for all.

      The disciples’ remark gave a negative reason for remaining single: “If you rule out a man’s general right to divorce for ‘any matter’, and if remarriage after most of those Hillelite-style divorces is adultery, then it would be better never to marry in the first place!” This was said unthinkingly, more an expression of their dismay over Jesus’ teaching than a well thought out comment on singleness versus marriage. Jesus indicated their comment was rhetorical overstatement and did not apply to everyone. He then directed them to think about a positive reason for singleness: working for the kingdom. This would have been another surprising teaching to the disciples, for most Jews believed every man ought to marry because “go forth and multiply” (Gen. 1:28) required them to marry and procreate children.

      While Jesus said that singleness was a valid lifestyle and was not displeasing to God, he also said that voluntary celibacy is good only for those who are able to accept it. This implies that some of the never married, some divorcees, and some widows and widowers will live as voluntary celibates in kingdom service, while some will not. This in turn implies that some divorcees will remarry.

      The idea of voluntary celibacy being “given” could mean a variety of things. It obviously refers to God’s providence but it may also refer to such things as the strength of one’s sexual drive, one’s role of service in the kingdom, and whether it is difficult to find a compatible spouse who shares the intensity of one’s Christian calling. For example, a man who feels called to a difficult mission field and wants to take a wife with him would be seeking a wife who was prepared to undergo many trials and hardships.

      [Note: the text in the printed book has many endnotes to back up what I am saying and cite my sources.]

      • Hah! I just realized I responded in regard to the wrong verses from Matthew 19. I should have read the question closer. Sorry about that Emily!

        Barbara, thank you for giving a thorough response to Emily’s question.

      • Emily

        Thank you for sharing that, Barbara! I’m looking forward to reading your book.

    • Emily,

      One of the sermons by David Dykstra in this link deals with Matthew 19. It’s the one on permanence.

      https://cryingoutforjustice.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/pastor-david-dykstra-on-marriage-and-divorce-he-gets-it/

      • Emily

        Found it..thanks for sharing!

    • As I See It Only

      Well, Emily, you already know not to follow this pastor’s advice! He let the cat out of the bag when he insisted that your ultimate goal should be reconciliation. If we are dealing with an abuser married to a follower of Christ, the only thing we can safely say is that light and dark have nothing to do with one another. There can be no compromise or negotiation. Your heart knows this; it is the pastor that is confused.

  30. Forrest

    Reblogged this on Tùr Làidir.

  31. Carmen S.

    May we recover proper biblical interpretation. Do we notice to see if the verse is being quoted completely? The most common form of taking a passage “out of context” is quoting, or apparently quoting, only a fragment of the entire verse. Look for the use of ellipses…
    Did the author hide the evidence of having abridged his apparent quote? This is known as a “camouflaged apparent quote”. Look up the entire passage of what is written in Scripture before and after the verse that is quoted. Once you are aware of this, notice the author doing this more than once. Now read 1 Timothy 1:3-7.

    “We ought to have a deeper reverence for Scripture than to reckon ourselves at liberty to disguise its natural meaning.” John Calvin

    “Thus you see how David keeps praying in Psalm 119, “Teach me, Lord, instruct me, lead me, show me,” and many more words like these. Although he well knew and daily heard and read the text of Moses and other books besides, still he wants to lay hold of the real teacher of the Scriptures himself, so that he may not seize upon them pell-mell with his reason and become his own teacher. For such practices give rise to factious spirits who allow themselves to nurture the delusion that the Scriptures are subject to them and can be easily grasped with their own reason”. Martin Luther

  32. IamMyBeloved's

    They spend so much time beating this divorce and remarriage issue to death, all to say it can be forgiven; because as much as they would like to convince us that it is unforgiveable to divorce your abuser or sexually immoral or abandoning spouse, they just cannot bring themselves to really say it.

    Oh, if only they would spend a small fraction of the time, dealing with the spouses committing adultery in the Church; the abusers abusing their wives and children; the pastors/elders who wrongfully abuse the sheep and lord it over them; the youth pastors sleeping with the students; the child molesters in their midst; and the host of other sins alive and well among the Church (which should not even be named among us) – that they choose to leave in place and never really deal with – then perhaps we would get somewhere beyond divorce and remarriage. Why is there so much time devoted to this topic, when they always end up saying, “well, I guess it is forgivable”? I think it is because they fear if they really focus on the truth about divorce and remarriage, and really come to the true conclusion that “no divorce for any cause” is just not biblical, that divorce will run rampant in the Church, starting with their own wives first. They do not want to deal with the sins that lead to divorce – just the divorce. That says it all, right there. They give permission for the abuser, adulterer and molester to go on with his ways and say we will just overlook inflicting any God-given punishment to them — but woe to the spouse and children who refuse, biblically by the way, to put up with those sins being committed against them anymore. Woe to the wife, who fears God enough to say to her abusive, sexually immoral, child abusing spouse, “you cannot do this to any of us, anymore”. Woe to her. Really?

    They are so concerned that God is going to ask them on that last day, “Why did you tell that woman to leave/divorce her spouse and flee to safety?” when in fact, they should fear what will probably really be asked of them, “Why did you ever tell that woman to stay???”

    • As I See It Only

      Hit the nail on the head, IAMB! Men in positions of authority might be embarrassed if we insist they deal with the sin driving the divorce. In today’s ‘steeple-house’ culture, embarrassing a leader by asking these nitty-gritty questions is the unpardonable sin. WWJD? Throw the *#$_%(#)s out of the Temple courts, chasing them with bullwhips.

    • Just Me

      Amen! IAMB, that was said perfectly!

  33. As I See It Only

    At the end of the day, Mr. Piper is entitled to his opinion. Shame on us if we fail to weigh–or be too intellectually lazy to bother weighing–the truth of his teachings, or anyone else’s. Is the teaching in line with Scripture? Does it witness to our spirit? Does it glorify Jesus as Lord? Do other spirit-filled Christ-followers acknowledge it? Does following it bring forth good fruit? Does it help me love God and my neighbour? If even one answer is ‘No’, set that human teaching aside and do not follow it. In this case, I am hearing far too many resounding ‘No’s.

  34. Jesus was a great liberator of women. He always stood on the side of the down and out, and the unwanted. Jesus was always FOR them.

    When I read things like what Piper has written, it reminds me of how the Jews put “hedges” around the Law, to make sure that no one even got “close” to sinning.

    Jesus, of course, tore down that ridiculous and harmful system. He took the heavy burdens off the people and chastised the Pharisees.

    I think he’d do the same thing with Piper in this case.

    I’d love to introduce Piper to some of the abuse victims I’ve assisted. I think his heart would change quickly…at least I hope it would.

  35. Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 1615:

    This unequivocal insistence on the indissolubility of the marriage bond may have left some perplexed and could seem to be a demand impossible to realize. However, Jesus has not placed on spouses a burden impossible to bear, or too heavy — heavier than the Law of Moses. By coming to restore the original order of creation, disturbed by sin, he himself gives the strength and grace to live marriage in the new dimension of the Reign of God. It is by following Christ, renouncing themselves, and taking up their crosses that spouses will be able to “receive” the original meaning of marriage and live it with the help of Christ. This grace of Christian marriage is a fruit of Christ’s cross, the source of all Christian life.

    It strikes me that there is not a lot of difference between Piper and Rome in the above statement.
    But Rome is better than Piper on this:

    What is an annulment?
    A Catholic annulment, also known as a declaration of nullity or invalidity, is a statement of fact by the Catholic Church. After carefully examining the couple’s broken relationship, the Church states that a valid marriage, as the Church defines marriage, never existed. It is not “Catholic divorce,” as some have called it, since divorce looks at the moment the relationship broke down and says, “A marriage existed, and now we are ending it.” The annulment process says, on the other hand, “From the very beginning, something was lacking that was necessary for this relationship to be called a marriage.”

    Quite often, what is lacking at the time of the civil contract is one of the essential elements or properties of marriage we have noted. The mature consent of the spouses in undertaking the marriage covenant may also be lacking.

    Of course, the Church recognizes the couple’s initial love for one another. It also realizes that this love led to some form of relationship. In addition, the Church acknowledges that there was a valid civil contract and recognizes that the spouses were lawfully married in the eyes of the state. Therefore, all children born of this valid civil contract are legitimate, according to the Catholic Church. In keeping with canon 1137, they are known as the legitimate children of a “putative marriage.”

    All these civil and legal realities the Church recognizes. But the annulment process looks at an entirely different realm — the spiritual — which falls within the Catholic Church’s domain of competence to judge.
    Why is an annulment necessary?
    The Church teaches that marriage is permanent. If a sacramental marriage is created, no human power can separate what God has joined together (see Mt 19:6). According to the Church, not even a civil government with the power to end the civil contract (which the state calls “marriage”) can terminate a sacramental marriage.
    For this reason, once two people stand in front of God and contract a marriage, if they enter into a marriage covenant as defined by the Catholic Church, this covenant cannot be dissolved so long as both parties remain alive. The marriage bond is in place until death. As a result, no new marriage covenant can be created with someone else.

    Any person who has entered a genuine marriage remains bound to that spouse. The spiritual bonds of marriage, if formed, cannot be ended by civil divorce. In the eyes of the Church, divorce ends the various civil, financial, and legal bonds previously contracted between spouses, but not the spiritual bonds.

    For this reason, the Catholic Church investigates, through the annulment process, whether an actual marriage, as defined by the Church, came into being. In carrying out this investigation, the Church examines various facts presented to the marriage tribunal by those seeking the annulment and their witnesses. If the Church then determines that no genuine marriage came into being, these individuals are free to marry someone else if that person is also free to marry.

    • I was thinking the same thing the other day Barbara after reading this post.

  36. Valerie

    I have a growing disturbance as I see the continued influence Piper has in religious circles. I’ve watched a few of his sermons and read some things of his as a way of forcing myself to see how I would perceive him had I not heard any of this disturbing information about him.

    I noticed a striking resemblance between Piper and my ex and some other abusers I have known, regarding the way they present information. Piper speaks with authority and at times what I would consider word salad. If someone speaks word salad with no authority, they may be deemed intellectually challenged. But when someone speaks word salad with authority they are often seen as having profound wisdom. Sometimes his train of thought resembles hopping lily pads to me. I also have noticed a subtle way in which he may introduce something and in doing so add truisms or other widely held convictions tacked on at the end or the beginning of his profound thought. So subconsciously you think that to disagree with his thought is to defy logic or other deeply held convictions (the ones he tacked on). For instance, he might say Jesus calls us to make disciples (we can agree this is true) and then add his own opinion of what making a disciple is (but not expressing it as an opinion but fact).

    On that note, it just makes me wonder how many are being caught up in his presentation style and can’t see beyond this? How many women have sheepishly commented, “but he said…?!” in referring to their abuser’s words, showing their reluctance to accept a truth contrary to their charismatic abuser who speaks with authority.

    For those who support Piper and find him biblical, I would challenge them to say out loud some of Piper’s statements as though it was their own thought. Could a follower of Christ, while considering Holy God honestly, not have trouble essentially saying, “Could it be that scripture is not totally accurate or not giving us the whole picture but that God spoke to me to clarify what He meant in scripture?” (referring to his quote: Could it be that today the most straightforward biblical command for conversion is not, ‘Believe in the Lord’, but, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord’? And might not slumbering hearts be stabbed broad awake by the words, ‘Unless a man be born again into a Christian Hedonist he cannot see the Kingdom of God’?”)

    I feel shame for him when I hear him add to scripture with his own thoughts and twist it as though it were a newly introduced verse. I just can not imagine saying such a thing.

    • joepote01

      Yes, he’s very slick in how he presents a potentially controversial concept. He wraps it in language sounding very similar to traditional orthodox belief then hedges it fore and aft with qualifiers seeming to say that if you take his (clearly unorthodox) position as being unorthodox then you must have misunderstood him.

  37. Only the truth please

    I see so much disagreement of what he says in this paper, but little scripture to back up an opposing view. I’m not sure I believe what he says 100%, but until I can refute it with scripture I can’t disagree. Just because I don’t like something or it may be offensive to some or hard for others doesn’t make it heresy. I was searching the comments for a good rebuttal, but only found a bunch of name calling and put downs.

Trackbacks

  1. No posts this Mon, Tues or Wed | A Cry For Justice
  2. Wednesday Link List | Thinking Out Loud
  3. Boz Tchividjian: Shining a Spotlight on the Shameful Responses of Churches to Domestic Violence | The Wartburg Watch 2014

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