A Cry For Justice

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

The Devil is in the Details: To Reveal Abusers and Their Allies You Must ask the Right Questions

Quite a long time ago I wrote a review of Voddie Baucham’s “sermon” on the permanence doctrine (i.e., divorce is never ever permitted by God. Period. No discussion.) Baucham thinks that remarriage is only permitted when a former spouse has died. If any member of his church comes to him or his elders and says they want to divorce or that they have serious marriage problems of ANY kind, Baucham tells everyone his reply will be “YOU are the problem. Go back to your marriage.”

Baucham, incidentally, was actually “preaching” straight out of a book by Jim Elliff called Divorce and Remarriage: A Permanence View (terrible, terrible book). But Baucham gave the plain impression he was preaching Scripture and thus speaking by the Lord’s authority. I think the prophet Jeremiah has some words for such people who would presume to speak for the Lord when in fact the Lord has not sent them.

Many of Baucham’s followers have vehemently protested that we would be so critical of him. Recently a reader submitted the following comment in response to my critique of Baucham’s teaching. Here is what she said (and I have not edited her comment even though it appears a little confusing, probably just an auto-correct typo thingy):

I had the privilege of speaking to Voddie Baucham in February when he was just outside of Atlanta. I asked him about a specific issue since of my family members are going through. A divorce occurred in order to keep the wife safe because her life was in danger and because of marital unfaithfullness on the unbelieving husbands part. Mr Voddie gave me great advice to pass along to her. He also said that unfortunately, sometimes there are severe situations where divorce is unavoidable.

Our commenter sounds satisfied with Baucham’s response, does she not? Perhaps implying that we have been too hard on the man or at least have misunderstood him. Nope. We haven’t. But what HAS happened is that she made a common mistake we have all made when dealing with such people — she failed to ask him the right questions.

What should she have asked him?

  • In these “severe situations” should a divorce take place?  Are both parties guilty of sin before God? That is to say, is any divorce a sin? I am not asking if the Lord will forgive a person who files for divorce, but specifically I want to know if you are saying that it is always a sin to file for divorce?
  • In these “severe situations,” does God allow for remarriage?
  • And incidentally, just what are some examples of these “severe situations” you speak of?

It takes these kind of pointed questions, asked very pointedly so that there is no room for shifting, to get down to the heart of the matter. In this case, Baucham would have to answer (if he were being straightforward and honest) that he believes every divorce is a sin, that filing divorce papers is always a sin, that God never allows any divorced person to remarry if their ex is still alive, and that these “severe situations” are limited to severe physical abuse.

Mr Baucham’s advice on this subject is never “great advice.” This lady may think it was, but we say once more, she failed to ask the right questions — and Baucham, like so many of these kinds of people who lord their private opinions over Christ’s people, conveniently avoided the details.

As is often said and is always true, the devil is in the details.

***

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11 Comments

  1. Avid Reader

    Thank you Pastor Jeff!

    It always amazes me how people seem so quick to give understanding, mercy and forgiveness to the church leaders and so slow to give it to the sheep.

    • lady

      Great quote I love it. “It always amazes me how people seem so quick to give understanding, mercy and forgiveness to the church leaders and so slow to give it to the sheep.” I felt no forgiveness from the abusers allies but they had nothing but understanding, love and acceptance for my abuser.

  2. me

    i was wondering if you have any posts you could direct me to that give a Biblical view of divorce and remarriage, and how do you understand Jesus’ teachings that seem to support remarriage being adultery.

  3. Avid Reader

    Barbara Robert’s book Not Under Bondage has the full Scriptural study that examines all the key verses and a whole bunch of other verses that apply to divorce that typically are ignored by most sermons we’ve heard on the subject. If you’re looking for answers that’s one of the best places to start.

  4. Still Reforming

    I agree that asking the right questions is valuable, if only for either heaping coals on the heads of church leaders who are amiss in their exegesis or adding to the judgment of those who profess Him but are not truly His. As I am learning, it’s important to take a stand, even if those in power are unwilling to be just and and true. It’s not an easy road, but I’d rather be on Christ’s narrow path than anywhere else.

  5. IamMyBeloved's

    Excellent questions to ask!

    I think sometimes people will give the nod of approval to either avoid an argument and looking bad or to refute negative things others have said about them.

    One of the questions I would have asked him would be what he would have done had he been the one having to give his counsel and his opinion. Something like, “so what would you have counseled my sister/friend to do?” After answering, if he did, I would then ask, “Are you okay with me sharing you’re response with my pastor?” Yeah right.

    Perhaps we should ask him if he has had a change of heart and if he says no, then ask him about this woman’s comment!

  6. MarkQ

    I (fortunately or unfortunately) have a knack for asking the right question at the wrong time. It’s been a great way to get people to trip up, and reveal their true colors.

    For example, during a congregational report on a discipline issue, the chairman said “We rebuked an elder.” Meaning, they did their job. I said, “the Bible says, the elder who is sinning rebuke in the presence of all. Why haven’t you done that.” After turning red with anger, he said, “do you really want us to drag this person through the mud after all he’s been through?” It’s a pretty revealing statement.

    The first time I ever attended that church, they had invited a well-known theologian to teach a conference. The topic of Rahab came up during the Sabbath school hour. The general consensus, led by the theologian, was that Rahab was sinning by lying to the leaders of Jericho. I said, “we have convincing evidence that Rahab was converted at this point. The Bible say that God always provides a way for Christians to not sin, so what should she have done to remain sinless?” He said, “she should have lied and repented.” Again, revealing.

  7. Anonymous

    Sometimes these types of men use double speak. Sometimes they are cowards when put on the spot with a real life person in a public situation in a private conversation. It’s easier for them to try to look human with some compassion so the person will just go away.

    If he did indeed say this, then he needs to publically declare what he believes and why he believes it, because just listening to that sermon alone does not convey that he gives any allowances at all.

  8. braveandstandingstrong

    After separating from my husband and reading Barb’s book, Not Under Bondage, as well as Pastor Jeff’s book, A Cry For Justice, my children and I began to look for a new church home.

    The pastor seemed to be less ignorant when it came to domestic abuse than my old church pastors. He gave some good advice. He said get a protective order. He said give him a year to get himself straightened out. He encouraged no contact.

    At first, I was cautiously breathing a sigh of relief and then, I felt that something was off. He seemed very arrogant and was telling me what to do. I had this feeling in my gut and I needed to know how he stood. I wasn’t willing to be partially supported. I did not want to be in a church where everyone looked down on me because I divorced my abusive husband.

    After church one day I said, “What if I don’t want to do this anymore? “(I have been married close to 30 years)
    He said, “It is only one sin. If you remain married to him, you will commit multiple sins.
    You will be resentful and withholding and bitter and angry, so it would be better for you just to have one sin.”

    At that point, my daughter, who had been watching me from aways off became concerned and came to stand beside me as I started to refute his claim.
    She said to me later, just her standing next to me caused him to become visibly rigid.

    She said, angrily and loudly, “God allows divorce. God divorced Israel. They broke their covenant with God.”

    We were outside and I had already gotten the answer I needed. I turned and put my arm around my daughter as I said calmly and quietly, “we aren’t going to do this today.” As I did that, the Pastor with a big huff, stated, “I’m done here!”and stomped off.

    I am so incredibly proud of my daughter for standing up to him. He definitely showed his true opinions and in fact, I was done there at that church as well. Did I mention he has a doctoral degree in theology?

    We talked on the way home that we could have stayed there for months not knowing where he stood. God graciously gave me a nudge.

    As you have said before Barb, as we become more discerning, sometimes God allows more abusive people in our path.

    So thankful for this ministry! You have helped not only me, but my children to see truth. To know that God allows us to be free from abuse. I don’t want my children thinking I am sinning by getting a divorce. Your books and this website and Pastor Jeff’s sermons have given us hope. You gave us hope when we felt as if there was none. May God bless you and your ministry!

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