A week or so ago, I directed your attention to David Instone-Brewer’s controversial cover story from the October issue of Christianity Today: “What God Has Joined: What does the Bible really teach about divorce?” In my original post, I noted the series of responses and rejoinders that resulted, chiefly from John Piper and Andreas KÃ¶stenberger.
Instone-Brewer’s article appeared to be broadening the grounds for legitimate divorce. Typically, evangelicals have understood divorce to be a sin, except in cases of adultery (Matthew 19:9) and abandonment (1 Corinthians 7:15). Instone-Brewer says that the Bible allows for divorce not only in cases of adultery and abandonment, but also in cases of emotional and/or physical neglect and in cases of abuse.
For obvious reasons, Instone-Brewer’s article was not well-received by more traditionalist evangelicals. What married person hasn’t felt that he or she has ever been “emotionally” neglected by his or her spouse? Almost every married person experiences that kind of alienation in some measure. Are we really going to say that it constitutes grounds for divorce?
In any case, TIME magazine picked up the ensuing controversy in an article written by David Van Biema: “An Evangelcial Rethink on Divorce?” Van Biema sums up the significance of the dispute this way:
“The controversy suggests that even the country’s most rule-bound Christians will search for a fresh understanding of scripture when it seems unjust to them. The implications? Flexibility on divorce may mean that evangelicals could also rethink their position on such things as gay marriage, as a generation of Christians far more accepting of homosexuality begins to move into power. . . It could also give heart to a certain twice-divorced former New York mayor who is running for President and seeking the conservative vote. But that may be pushing things a bit.”
Wow. Van Biema’s logic is this. If evangelicals are willing to back off of their opposition to divorce, they might be willing to back off from their opposition to homosexuality. The sad thing is that the willingness of evangelicals to call homosexuality sin is already waning. The diminished commitment to truth among “evangelicals” is not merely a future possibility; it is already a present reality.