H. Wayne HouseH. Wayne House is an author, speaker, and a regional director of Mount Carmel Outreach, an apologetics ministry. He is also the editor of Divorce and Remarriage (InterVarsity) and resides in Salem, Oregon.
The church has debated the question for centuries: Are Christians ever justified in getting a divorce? Some believe it is never an option, regardless of circumstances. Others hold that divorce can be permissible.
What about Scripture? Scholars usually turn to nine major Scripture texts when discussing divorce: Genesis 2:24; Deuteronomy 24:1–4; Malachi 2:6–16; Matthew 5:31–32; Matthew 19:3–12; Mark 10:2–12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:1–6, and 1 Corinthians 7:10–15. Here are the four texts used most often in the debate, and arguments each side marshals to support its position.
Genesis 2:24: Adam And Eve’S One Flesh
The case against permitting divorce: If, as this verse tells us, man and woman have become “one flesh” in marriage, how can they cease to be one? God designed the marriage bond to be permanent; human acts cannot sever it. Moreover, marriage is a covenant (Mal. 2:14; Prov. 2:17), and God expects a covenant or vow to be kept (Num. 30:2).
The case for permitting divorce: Despite marriage’s intended permanence, the ideal is not always achieved. Sin sometimes spoils God’s design. This is shown by various biblical passages that permit or require divorce (e.g., Ezra 10). Moreover, the one flesh in Genesis 2:24 is not some mystical union; we still have two people with two separate spirits. The one flesh refers simply to the sexual union and metaphorically to the union of man and woman through common commitment and goals.
Deuteronomy 24:1–4: The Mosaic Law
Against: In ancient Near-Eastern culture, all that a man needed ...1
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