Divorce and the Guilty Party
Every now and then it pops up again. I speak of the notion that when a marriage has been dissolved by a biblically sanctioned divorce, i.e., on the basis of fornication – Matthew 19:9, the “guilty party” has as much right to remarry as the innocent victim. After all, it is alleged, if the innocent party is released from the guilty culprit, it stands to reason that the guilty is also severed from the innocent. Sound reasonable?
Superficially it may; actually, it isn’t. In this brief article, let me provide some reasons as to why this theory is without merit.
The notion that the “guilty party” may remarry contemplates a union that is without scriptural authority. The New Testament grants the right of marriage to: (1) the never-married-before person (1 Cor. 7:2); (2) the widowed (Romans 7:3; 1 Corinthians 7:39); (3) the innocent victim in marriage breached by adultery (Matthew 5:32; 19:9).
Where is the authorization for the guilty fornicator to remarry? There is none.
Some are asking: “But where does the New Testament explicitly forbid the guilty party to remarry?” That’s like asking: “Where does the New Testament explicitly forbid two homosexuals to marry?” Nowhere – in those precise words.
The issue is: Where is the divine authority for such a union? It does not exist. What is authorized excludes what is not! To act outside the bounds of Christ’s authority (Colossians 3:17), is to act presumptively.
Furthermore, the idea that the “guilty party” is free to remarry is illogical. There is a principle in logic that suggests that any proposition implying an absurdity is itself false. The guilty-party-may-remarry view falls into this category.
For example, Matthew 19:9 clearly reveals that the person, in a divorce action, who is granted the right of remarriage, is the same individual who is granted the right of initiating the divorce. If it is the case that the guilty person is free to remarry, then it is equally clear that this unfaithful person is likewise granted the right to file for the divorce.
Here is the consequence of that reasoning. A man might desire to be rid of his wife. But she has been loyal to him, hence, he has no “cause” for divorce. Never mind; according to the theory under review, he may commit adultery, then, on the basis of his own transgression, file for divorce. Subsequently, then, he could – if he so chose – find a new companion. Has there been a more fanciful position? This view actually rewards fornication!
Too, consider this point. Jesus made it clear that any divorce for a non-biblical cause, i.e., no fornication is involved, prohibits either party from entering a new union. A man who grows weary of his faithful wife, and divorces her, cannot remarry; if he does, he commits adultery.
On the other hand, according to the “guilty-party” theory, if the gentleman who desires his freedom will just commit fornication, he will have the necessary justification for obtaining a divorce and entering a new marriage. Does this make any sense? None at all.
Divorce and remarriage are allowed only within the scope of divine authorization. All other sexual unions are prohibited. While this generally is viewed as a “hard saying,” it is a necessary restriction for the ultimate benefit of society as a whole.
About the Author
Wayne Jackson has written for and edited the Christian Courier since its inception in 1965. He has also written several books on a variety of biblical topics including The Bible and Science, Creation, Evolution, and the Age of the Earth, The Bible on Trial, and a number of commentaries. He lives in Stockton, California with his dear wife, and life-long partner, Betty.