Unbiblical Divorce and Remarriage

We will, first of all, analyze and criticize the different propositions about divorce and remarriage adopted by the synod of the Christian Reformed Church last summer.

The first two propositions are the original ones, the others were added later. We quote them here once more:

"1. No substantial and conclusive evidence has been produced to establish the thesis that parties remarried after being divorced on the ground of their own adultery, or divorced on non-biblical grounds are living in continual adultery."

"2. No substantial and conclusive Scriptural evidence has been produced to warrant the demand that a person remarried after being divorced on the ground of his own adultery, or divorced on non-biblical grounds, must, in order to prove the sincerity of his repentance, cease living in ordinary marriage relationship with his present spouse."

These are, in my opinion, very strange propositions, wholly unworthy of a synod. I say this without regard to the truth or falsity of these propositions themselves.

The reason for this my opinion is that these propositions are entirely and only negative. And besides, they are negative only with regard to the attempted proof, attempted by other synods, perhaps, and by committees of synod that labored with this question before and came to the conclusion that persons, that were divorced on the ground of their own adultery or on non-biblical grounds and that remarried, lived in continual adultery and, in order to prove their true repentance, must separate from their present spouse and thus cease to live in adultery.

The result is that, in these two propositions, the synod declared absolutely nothing, at least, nothing positive.

They only declared what thus far others had not done. Did the synod declare, in these propositions, that, on the basis of Scriptural evidence, persons that remarried after such non-biblical divorce lived in legal and proper inter-course with their present spouse? It did not declare anything of the kind.

Did the synod declare that such a remarriage, after a divorce on the ground of their own adultery or on non-biblical grounds, made the former marriage null and void ? Again we say, it did nothing of the kind.

Did the synod even declare that those that had expressed themselves on the question before this had not furnished any Scriptural proof for their position that persons, thus married, after a divorce on the ground of their own adultery or on other non-biblical grounds, lived in continual adultery and, in order to prove the sincerity of their repentance? They did not even do this. Synod merely expressed that the evidence produced was not ôsubstantial and conclusive.

Such negative propositions declare absolutely nothing. They are unworthy of any ecclesiastical assembly. No church can live by them.

Moreover, they are very dangerous.

For, although they declare exactly nothing, they, nevertheless leave the impression that they express something definite and positive: that Scripture justifies such non-biblical remarriages.

This impression was left even open and by the very synod that adopted these negative propositions. For, one of the later propositions that were added to the above two, the consistories are advised as follows:

"4. The consistories are advised that people who are guilty of unbiblical divorce or who are divorced as the result of their own adultery and, having remarried, seek entrance or re-entrance into the church shall showy their sorrow and genuine repentance during an adequate period of probation. Such cases shall not be settled without the advice of Classis."

Is this fourth proposition based on the two propositions quoted above? Of course not. For the latter are negative and the former is quite positive, and you cannot possibly base a positive advice on a merely negative declaration. But the trouble is that synod either knowingly played hocus spocus or was itself not aware that the first two propositions were negative and that, therefore, they could not base positive advice upon them.

The only proper advice synod could have given to the consistories on the basis of the first two propositions is the following, negative advice:

"The consistories are advised that people who are guilty of unbiblical divorce or who are divorced as the result of their own adultery and, having remarried, seek entrance or re-entrance into to the church, cannot be admitted as long as no Scriptural proof is furnished that such a remarriage is, on the basis of Scripture, justifiable." It is evident, however, that, in this fourth proposition, synod merely proceeds from the presupposition that such proof has been furnished and such entrance or re-entrance into the church is justifiable.

Such is the danger of mere negative propositions. They declare nothing but they leave the impression that they, nevertheless, announce Scriptural principles on the basis of which the church may act: a positive action on a purely negative basis!

Let us ask a moment: how often may this principle (for a principle it is after all, though its basis is negative) be applied? How often may a person commit the sin of unbiblical divorce and the further sin of unbiblical remarriage, commit this sin, confess, and be maintained as a member of the church, or be admitted as a member? Only once? But then there is something wrong with the principle. A principle must be capable of application whenever the circumstances or conditions call for its application. Besides, this is surely contrary to Scripture. For the Word of God plainly teaches that a sinner may commit a certain sin an unlimited number of times, seventy times seven, and if he repents and confesses his sin he must be forgiven and received again into the communion of saints. Hence, a person may be divorced on unbiblical grounds or on the basis of his own adultery, not only once or even twice, but an unlimited number of times, and just as often remarry, and if he repents and confesses he must be accepted, for, mark you well, he never lives in continual adultery no matter how often he is divorced and remarried. That would throw the church wide open for all kinds of adultery and even for "free love."

And all this follows from the fact that the synod based its positive advice and principle on two negative propositions.

I would, therefore, advise the Christian Reformed Church to come to its next Synod with the following positive proposition:

"The Synod declares that the Word of God, in the Scriptures, clearly teaches that the remarriage of persons that are divorced on the ground of their own adultery or on unbiblical grounds is perfectly proper and legal in the sight of God, rendering all previous marriages nul and void, so that their sexual intercourse is perfectly holy in the sight of God. Hence, synod declares that, if such persons only confess the sin of their former adultery and divorce they must he admitted or re-admitted into the church."

You understand, of course, that I do not agree with this advice. But it is a positive proposition, and I wonder whether the synod would adopt such a proposition.

H.H.
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