Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Divorce and Remarriage

With respect to marriage and divorce, the majority of evangelicals hold to what is called the “Erasmian” view—namely, that remarriage is permitted after divorce that was caused by adultery (Matt. 5:32; 19:9) or abandonment (1 Cor. 7:15). In 1985, Gordon Wenham and William Heth published the first edition of their book, Jesus and Divorce. Wenham, an OT scholar, and Heth, an NT scholar, combined to argue against “the evangelical consensus.” They argued that while divorce may be permitted in some cases, remarriage while the partner is living is never allowed, for it would be a violation of the seventh commandment, not to commit adultery. John Piper holds to a similar view of disallowing any remarriage (in distinction from the official position of Bethlehem Baptist Church).

Heth, however, has since changed his mind. He credits Gordon Hugenberger’s scholarly tome Marriage as a Covenant as the key cause of his shift.

For an excellent overview of the two positions and the best exegetical arguments on either side, see Heth’s article,
Jesus on Divorce: How My Mind Has Changed and Wenham’s Does the New Testament Approve Remarriage after Divorce? Both published a few years ago in the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.