Divorce is worse than death. When a spouse dies, a wife or husband has left the other unwillingly. Perhaps the death was preceded by tearful good-byes on a sickbed. In divorce, a spouse leaves willingly. Pain of loss is hard enough, but the anguish that comes from betrayal and rejection is gut-wrenching. It took me years to recover and I still have days that I’m not sure if I’m completely healed. I heard talk about ‘the gift of singleness’ but for me, singleness was more of a trial. While deep loneliness prevailed I wondered, does God allow remarriage after divorce? Were there truly Biblical grounds for my divorce? Will I commit a more heinous sin by seeking a new mate? I googled for answers. To my dismay, I discovered John Piper’s view that forbids remarriage after divorce no matter what the circumstance. Here is his position paper on the subject:
Shock, rage and despair filled my confused brain as I read. Yes, I had to pay the piper after the sin of divorce. But did I have to listen to this Piper? I’d heard of John Piper and thought he was pretty solid in the Reformed camp. I myself was a mere babe in that camp. I didn’t even attend a Reformed church yet. Let me backtrack a bit:
I was brought up in a Pentecostal church. As a teenager, I began to question Pentecostal obsession with tongues, emotionalism and whether the sign gifts had ceased. At age 23, I thought I married a believer. We were both professing Christians. He had left the Roman Catholic Church and began attending a mega non-denominational church with me. There is no such thing as non-denominational. These churches hide behind that title but are still largely practicing Pentecostalism or ‘charismania’. Digging through church history in search of a true church, I read about the Reformation. Like Charlie Brown in a light-bulb moment, I said, ‘that’s it! Martin Luther got it right!’ The Lutheran Church close to home was our choice and we attended there with our three children for about ten years. Sadly, mainstream Lutheranism is a far cry from what Martin Luther intended. My husband and I later realized its liberalism, and we did some church-hopping toward the end of the marriage but never agreed on a church. Hungry for truth, I supplemented my spiritual diet with Christian radio. There I heard James Montgomery Boice and Alistair Begg. This preaching fed me for some years. It was the meat of the Gospel that I longed for. I began studying election and other tenets of the Reformed faith. It was a gradual awakening. I considered myself ‘saved’ as a child, but who can actually tell when they’ve been quickened by the Holy Spirit? I was learning about the sovereignty of God and realized that He himself had plucked me out of places I shouldn’t have been. No one forced me. He compelled me. Meanwhile, my husband sounded more and more like the world. He no longer had an interest in attending any church. When he left me, I discovered an ongoing infidelity of ten years. Was God now allowing me to be released from this marriage? I gave my husband time, told him I was willing to forgive him, and filed for a legal separation for financial protection. He never repented, decided he wanted a divorce, and never came back.
According to John Piper, I was a branded woman. Must I now wear a red D for divorced embroidered across my chest? Or perhaps a scarlet A if I remarried? Must I remain faithful to a husband who broke a covenant? Like a leper, I was untouchable. These questions remained unanswered until I became a member of an Orthodox Presbyterian Church. Finally in a confessional congregation, I was shown that part of the Westminster Confession of Faith concerning marriage and divorce. Scripture references are given but not included here. Please use link to view Bible verses these points expound upon.
Chapter 24 states [emphases mine]:
5. Adultery or fornication committed after a contract, being detected before marriage, giveth just occasion to the innocent party to dissolve that contract.k In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce:l and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead.m
6. Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage: yet, nothing but adultery, or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the church, or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage:n wherein, a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it not left to their own wills, and discretion, in their own case.o
I mulled this over and of course, I liked it. It validated my divorce as well as my desire to eventually be married again. Still other questions persisted. Was this just tickling my ears? I don’t think so. These words were penned by Westminster divines of the seventeenth century. Divorce is like death and these godly men chose these words: as if the offending party were dead. After my divorce, according to the Westminster Confession, I was a widow. I wish I could hear a live debate: Piper vs. Westminster Divines on Divorce and Remarriage.
John Piper’s theology remains an enigma to me. Over the years, he has been soft on charismatic gifts and related issues. I am no theologian and I have no authority or right to dissect these matters. I’ve read and heard much from Piper that I entirely agree with and consider him my brother in Christ. But I do not agree with him about remarriage after divorce.
Besides John Piper, other Protestant denominations forbid remarriage after divorce as well. In fact,the church Mike and I were attending while seeking marriage was one of them. We could not be married by my own pastor, nor were we allowed to use the building. I felt shunned. I had been attending there for five years. How can a church that uses the Westminster Confession of Faith not abide by it?
After much stress, anguish and anxiety, we were married at last. Mike and I believe in grace. The Lord was gracious to forgive our divorces. More than that, God providentially and most lovingly, caused us to find each other. That is grace and providence as I know it personally. We are thankful to Him and thankful for our marriage. I will close this post with another question:
Can two walk together, except they be agreed? -Amos 3:3
That verse is the one used on sovereigngracesingles.com where Mike and I met. And that’s a hint about the content of my next post!