Sunday, March 1, 2009

Justifying second marriages by spurious logic

Got to pondering the question of what God really requires concerning divorce and remarriage.

Jesus made a very clear statement prohibiting divorce, saying that unless it is on account of adultery it will lead to adultery, meaning of course that it would lead to remarriage. The statement is really pretty clear: remarriage after divorce IS adultery. Only the death of a spouse makes a second marriage permissible. (Divorce for the commission of adultery is often said to be permissible and remarriage afterward, but think about it, it's only "permissible" because adultery has already been committed; but remarriage will simply continue the adultery and for the innocent one of the divorced spouses it will actually cause adultery to be committed. How can that really be what Jesus had in mind?)

Heard a teaching recently that was pretty strict in an overall way about this prohibition, but did find some Biblical exceptions (or loopholes, depending on your point of view). The preacher is quite clear that remarriage IS adultery, as Jesus said, since marriage was ordained by God as the making of one flesh out of two at the very creation of humankind, but he believes there is scriptural support for second marriages after divorce that were already contracted before one or both of the spouses became Christian believers.

The basic idea is that becoming a Christian erases your past sins and clears the slate so to speak. Sometimes this argument focuses on baptism as the point of change, but this preacher argues simply that if you are a believer your past sins are forgiven and your guilt is gone. The idea is that when second marriages are already in existence at the point of coming to belief, when the people recognize the sin involved and confess and repent of it, the sin of divorce is forgiven and the sin of remarriage is forgiven, washed in the blood, wiped clean, and you start anew as a new creation with no guilt.

This makes logical sense up to a point, but as I kept pondering it the logic began to fall apart.

One thing that is questionable in this preaching is how you can "repent" of remarriage without actually leaving the marriage. Perhaps this preacher is accepting sorrow for the sin in this case as repentance. But this is just one aspect of the problem with this idea.

In a discussion at another message board, someone reported struggling with another argument, similar to this one: that baptism can wipe the slate clean and make a remarriage valid. He answered himself by pointing out that baptism doesn't break the previous marriage bond, the bond established by God and not merely by human law, and that if it did it would also break the bond of legitimately married couples who get baptised.

I have to add that neither does forgiveness of sins break the previous legitimate marriage bond, in reference to the argument I've been considering here. So the argument for the cleansing of baptism may really be the same as this pastor argues -- not that the bond is broken but that the sin of remarriage/adultery is forgiven through the blood of the Lamb. Your past sins are wiped clean, the sin of remarriage is wiped clean along with all the rest ...

...making it a valid marriage?

That's the logic, yes, that's the argument here.

This of course treats the sin as the one-time sin of the illegitimate marriage contract itself, rather than the ongoing sexual sin within the marriage, which you will find often debated when you follow this topic for a while.

I believe I've finally resolved this. I came to realize that this reasoning really does not hold up. There is no way to wipe out the ongoing sin of adultery in the remarriage by simply wiping out the PAST sins of the adultery. The sin isn't merely the marriage event, which by God's standards isn't even valid, it's the entire sexual relationship.

It has to be. Consider this: If a person committed fornication/adultery without marriage or remarriage, say a couple who were living together without marriage, we'd certainly expect THAT sin to stop cold upon belief, either by their getting married or splitting up. If either of them was previously married there's no way to justify a remarriage, however, based on the facts I've already given above, so splitting up would be the only possible option, simply ending the sin, a true repentance.

When we come to the Lord, we repent, that is, we STOP SINNING. Sometimes we even have to make restitution for our past sins, but at least we STOP sinning. Likewise, if later, at any point after we've become a Christian, we come to understand that something is sin although we were ignorant of this fact before, we also repent then.

The past sin is forgiven, yes, but if the adultery continues after the person becomes a Christian, or after the sin is recognized, this ongoing sin has to come under church discipline, and in the case of unmarried people there is no doubt in anyone's mind that their continuing in the sexual relationship is sin.

So why is the situation any different if the couple is in an illegitimate second marriage? If we compare such a remarriage with unmarried adultery, how can we think that a remarriage is NOT ongoing sin? Isn't it really the same thing?

What's the difference? Nothing!!! Only a man-made contract.

Again, the former adultery is forgiven, no problem, but the ongoing adultery HAS to stop, same as it would have to stop if the couple were not married. Again, we INSIST that it stop if the person is unmarried, but somehow we're confused into tolerating the case of the second marriage by the mere fact that there is a man-made contract involved. A man-made contract has no power over God's ordinance which made the original couples one flesh -- in fact the ordinance makes the man-made contract itself sin.

Later: I just thought of another way this argument doesn't hold water. Consider a couple, either one or both of whom was previously divorced, now in a relationship and planning to get married. But before the marriage occurs, one or both of them comes to Christ. If the remarriage is the sin then now that they are believers they CANNOT marry, while the other couple who is already remarried simply has to "repent" of their previous sin, now forgiven and washed clean, and are allowed to go on in their remarried adulterous state as if it were no longer adulterous. So one couple gets to stay married "legitimately" while the other couple, due to bad timing, can't marry at all, though their situations are identical otherwise.

Any way you look at it, if a second marriage was adultery before coming to Christ then it is adultery after coming to Christ.

Conclusion: There is NO way that remarriage after divorce is not adultery. That's certain. However, it might be possible that there are circumstances that make it permissible, For instance, remarriage could be the lesser of two sins which are a person's only options, and there are some arguments along these lines I might consider later. However, becoming a believer whose past sins are forgiven does not fit this circumstance.

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