Empath and Cane have written some criticisms of my stance on marriage and divorce, in response to me specifically asking for a scriptural argument to support Empath’s claim that cohabitation is a sin. Now, the fact that both of them are willing to have this conversation shows that they care far more than most in this perverse generation about the sanctity of marriage. While I find both of them to be soft on divorce, I recognize that they are not soft on the divorces that they are willing to recognize are divorces. In fact, at least for Empath, the softness on divorce seems to come from a desire not to be soft on divorce.
What I dislike is the inconsistency the women of the church are able to exploit when this distinction between state marriage and “spiritual marriage” is raised. They use it in frivorce….”the marriage was over long ago, the legal part is formality”. Then, if he reconcile, they go straight back to sexual relations with the husband never seeing the contradiction. Truly they operate under a -whatever-it-takes- set of rules. —Empath
Empath is afraid that recognizing that the state is not the arbiter of who is and is not married will lead to more divorces, as women will feel freer to obtain a government document formalizing a divorce if they believe a divorce has already occurred. However, this logic is simply closing the gate after the horse has bolted. In his scenario, the government document formalizing divorce would never have been obtained were it not for the original condition of divorce. By preventing this condition of divorce, we also prevent the government document. High standards lead to high performance. Low standards lead to low performance. If you want more people to achieve the relatively low bar of not getting a divorce decree from the government, hold them to the high standard of “what God has joined let no man put asunder.”
Now, on to Cane’s points. Per usual, he is more verbose than Empath. Originally, I responded to his points in the order he wrote them, but then I saw this:
I did respond holistically to you; that is to the aggregate of your recent comments and post. They’re related.
And I’m very earnest in my advice to you. I hope when you compose your reply that first you try to understand what I’m saying; imagine I’m right, and see where that leads you. Argue my case to yourself, and then you’ll know better if, how, and where I’m wrong.
What Cane likely did not guess is that not long ago I held a position quite different than the one I now hold. I won’t say I held the same position as Cane does, because I don’t know all the nuances of his position, but I believed that Biblical and government marriage were synonymous, rather than two parallel but separate institutions. To that extent, I believe the old me would have agreed with him. It was a process of about five years of studying my Bible (in general, not just this particular topic), and adjusting my opinions based on things I found, that brought me to my current understanding, which continues to be adjusted. Thus I cannot quite do what Cane asked without risking setting up my own already-invalidated beliefs as a straw man for Cane’s position.
Therefore, what I will do instead is first address the passage that in my previous debates with myself was my strongest argument against the understanding that I have adopted, and then work through the arguments that Cane presented by first trying to find the points of agreement.
The verse to which I refer is, of course, John 4:18:
For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.
Clearly, in this verse Jesus says that it is possible for a woman to live with a man and that man not be her husband. How then was I to understand this verse in the light of other verses that seemed to make it clear that God joined a male and female together in marriage through the sex act? More study was necessary. It was the story of John the Baptist’s death that gave me understanding.
For Herod himself had sent and had John arrested and bound in prison on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip, because he had married her. —Mark 6:17
Herod had married Herodias, yet she was not his wife, but rather his brother’s wife. In other words, Herod (the one she now had) was not her husband, but Philip was. God had joined her to Philip, and that joining can only be severed by death. Sex outside that marriage is adultery.
So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man. —Romans 7:3
On to Cane’s points.
Or is it merely our feelings which so many have made into personal gods? Don’t fall for the foolishness that you have access to some insight or knowledge that you did not get from another. God speaks to individuals EXTRAORDINARILY rarely, and when He does it is audible (according to the reports we have been given in the Bible), and shortly after followed by visibly miraculous signs that other witness and can testify to their super-nature. It is the way of charlatans to say that “God spoke to them” with emotional nudgings. He speaks to us through the Bible; which He in His divine wisdom and mystery chose the words and voices of mere men; testified and acknowledged by other mere men. Amen.
Where I agree: Many have made their thoughts, feelings, and emotions out to be God. This is wrong. You are correct to call such people charlatans. One of the primary ways that God speaks to us is scripture, and this is our bedrock. There is a reason that the majority of my posts are filled with green links–the vast majority of those links are to Bible verses. Many of my posts can only be understood superficially without the verses to which I link.
Where I disagree: God speaks to individuals regularly. Paul writes that the entire church can and should have the gift of prophecy. He instructs us to be eager to prophecy and to strive especially for it. Joel writes that the spirit of prophecy will be poured out on all flesh. Amos asks rhetorically “Who can but prophecy?” right after saying that God does nothing without revealing it to the prophets. Besides the Bible and speaking audibly, God also speaks to individuals through visions and dreams. To deny these things is to despise the gift of God.
These things are not the understanding of the Church; nor do they even pass a test of simple reason. Question, but don’t disregard Christian tradition as worthless, when our Bibles tell us that the Holy Spirit resides in the Christian community–not in individual Christians alone, but in the Christian community. Tradition and history are how we tell ourselves about ourselves, and how to know the movement of the Holy Spirit; specifically as prescribed in the Bible. Did you write the Bible yourself? Did you teach yourself Greek, Hebrew, or even English? You are too quick to dismiss what greater men than everyone on this blog, my blog, and your blog combined have said on the subject.
You are right: I quickly dismiss what far greater men than I have said. There is no way that I can claim to have the intelligence and knowledge of many of the people whose ideas I dismiss. I will openly disregard the claims of science, as well as philosophy and tradition. However, I only do this when what they say conflicts with what the almighty Creator God of the universe says. When it’s Moose Norseman vs Cane Caldo, I’ll gladly put my money on Cane Caldo. But if it is Cane Caldo vs the Almighty God, well, no offense but I’m not putting my money on you. “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
Just as when the Israelites demanded a king–and Samuel rebuked them–God let them have their king, and the king’s authority was real. While God has allowed our formation of marriage to change, government itself has no less authority. In New Testament times government presided over marriage, and there is not word spoken against it. In fact, we are called multiple times and in strict terms to obey the government in all things. It may be a shame that government presides over marriage in the place of community, but that does not make it un-Scriptural, or idolatrous.”
I agree. We are to obey the government. You are correct. But the government does not require us to get a marriage certificate in order to engage in Biblical marriage. If it did, I would be telling people to get marriage certificates, just as I tell people to get a CCW permit in states that require one. But the government does not require the certificate to engage in the activity. In fact, nine states in the US will recognize your marriage the same as if you did get a certificate. I am not against getting a certificate from the government. I am against lowering God’s standards to match the governments. Idolatry lies not in choosing to participate in a government institution as well as God’s institution, but in pretending that the government has authority over God’s institution.
Yes, we must be diligent to test the spirits. Yes, there are numerous churches today who do not have a spirit from God. Yes, churches can be wrong about things for a very long time. Part of what we should learn from that is that if so many Christians can get it wrong for so long, then what confidence should we have that our own interpretation are correct? Do we have different Bibles than they did/do?
We can have confidence that the Spirit of Truth will guide us into all truth. I don’t claim to be better or smarter than those who went before us. I only claim to read the Bible and attempt to live by it.
It’s beyond arrogant to say that over 2,000 years later you’ve figured out what the Apostles themselves did not teach. There is a world of difference between saying adultery is like divorce, or is a divorcing act, from saying it is divorce.
I’ve figured out nothing. I simply re-iterate the words of Christ. What God has joined shall not be separated.
If adultery alone makes divorce, then why are both God and Jesus so clearly “mistaken” to “allow” divorce in the case of adultery?
Perhaps I haven’t been clear. The word divorce comes from the same root as divert and diversion, and literally means “to turn aside.” I don’t believe that this turning aside ends a marriage–God joins with a stronger bond than that. I believe that divorce is a sinful condition that exists within a marriage, and which should be rectified where it exists. I believe that only death and adultery can end a marriage. It is only when the marriage is over that the condition of divorce is acceptable.
If sex alone makes a marriage, then why does God make the “mistake” of requiring the father’s approval needed for marriage even after sex?
The passage to which you refer specifically stipulates that this is the case if the woman is not betrothed. Interestingly, the second instance of this law omits the bit about the father’s ability to refuse. However, it is not a mistake. The woman belongs to her father until he gives her in betrothal to her husband. In this situation, the man has taken what was not given to him, but what could be given to him. Therefore he must pay the brideprice even if her father utterly refuses to give her to him. There is no penalty whatsoever for the woman. If the woman has already been given to another in betrothal, then his penalty is death and the penalty for the woman is also death, unless it happened where her cries for help could not have been heard. God joins through sex, but that does not mean that a man can join himself to another man’s daughter without that other man’s permission, just as a woman cannot join herself to another man when she is already married. I have no more right to take a man’s daughter without his permission than I do to take his boat or car without permission.
One more thing: Government has replaced a role in marriage, but it is not God’s. They have replaced the community. Rather, communities chose to hand over their sovereignty and responsibility to government in this matter; as in so many others. Like church, marriages are matters personal, communal, and divine. There is no such thing as church alone or marriage alone.
What role did “the community” play in Adam and Eve’s marriage, the original model that God designed? Look as hard as I might, I see only three parties: God, husband, and wife.
I’ve tried to work from agreement, and I’ve tried to avoid assuming anything other than what was written about Empath and Cane’s positions. But here’s what scares me about their positions as I see them:
I can tell the divorcee that she is still married and must return to her husband or remain celibate her entire life. I don’t think they can.
I can tell the young man living with his “girlfriend” and child that he is subject to the exact same responsibilities as he would be with a marriage certificate, and that he has no right to abandon his family. I don’t think they can.
I can tell the young woman living with her “boyfriend” and child that she is married and has no right to “go find herself.” I don’t think they can.
I can explain why the Bible never actually condemns “pre-marital sex” (because it is an oxymoron). I don’t know how they would explain that.
I can call out a couple for living in a condition of divorce, even if the government says they are married. Can they?
I can coherently explain to my sister why who she loses her virginity to is a decision that that will impact the remainder of her life. Could they?
How do they deal with the states where common-law marriage can be contracted?
Cane asked me to try to imagine he was right. I have. If I imagine Cane is right, if I imagine that the government can set the requirements for God’s institution of marriage rather than just for its own separate institution, then I can see no harm to anyone from me holding them to the higher scriptural standard–a standard that would eliminate serial monogamy. If, however, I am right and the higher standards found in scripture still apply, then I can see a harm that would come from telling people that those old standards are obsolete and have been replaced by newer, easier standards.
You shall not add to the word which I am commanding you, nor take away from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you —Deuteronomy 4:2