Puritan John Milton, author of the universally praised work “Paradise Lost”, and one of the world’s greatest minds authored a book titled, “The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce”. His introduction simply reads: “Restored to the good of both sexes, from the bondage of cannon law, and other mistakes, to the true meaning of Scripture in the Law and gospel compared. Wherein also are set down the bad consequences of abolishing or condemning of sin, that which the Law of God allows, and Christ abolished not.”
A major tenet of Milton’s argument allowing marital divorce was that God’s original intent or purpose for marriage was to cure man’s loneliness. Milton states very clearly that if physical infidelity is a legitimate ground for divorce, then a man and a woman who cannot have happy conversation with one another should be an even stronger ground for divorce because the mental and conversational relationship is greater cure of loneliness than is the mere physical relationship. And of course an unequally yoked union should be the strongest of all grounds for marital dissolution. It is not so much man’s body as it is his mind and spirit that set him above the rest of the animal kingdom, so they are the more important aspects to be considered.
For reasons too complicated for this article, Christians have taken a mystical approach on the doctrine of divorce. The word mystical (not in use until after Milton’s lifetime) is defined as something being given or having a spiritual meaning or reality that is neither apparent to the senses nor obvious to the intelligence. Mysticism is the belief that direct knowledge of God, spiritual truth, or ultimate reality can be attained through subjective experience such as intuition or insight, which is in diametric opposition to the traditional Christian belief that holy writ is the primary source of knowledge of God, spiritual truth, and ultimate reality.
The expected outcome of this sinful approach to the biblical teaching on marriage and divorce has been the creation and continual use of unbiblical and harsh platitudes which have been used to prohibit needful divorces for which God made gracious allowance. These awful platitudes have been based upon a precious few passages of scripture, which themselves have been misinterpreted through the mystic lens in order to gain acceptance for an otherwise entirely unbiblical view of marriage and its dissolution (In the following paragraphs a couple of these passages of scripture and the corresponding platitude will be shown).
A critical component of the mystification of marriage saw the Romanists lift marriage to “holy matrimony” by making it one of the seven sacraments that afford priests the power to grant the grace of God to sinners. Yet the truth of God would clearly teach men that marriage is no more holy than cows, crap, smokes or moly…all of which have also been paired with holiness. Only God is holy! And by extension His word is holy. The Holy Spirit is holy because he is God. But marriage is definitively not holy and never has it been so. Marriage is one of God’s institutions to lesson sins’ power over man, but viewing marriage as holy is unscriptural, and the only reason anybody views the institution of marriage as holy is because of the mystical view of marriage taken by the church throughout its long history. A sinful stubbornness (rebellion) exists within the church to maintain this false teaching. By the grace of God, it is the aim of this author to do any part in bringing the true body of Christ to repentance on this corporate sin.
Platitudes, which are used in place of serious bible study, were mentioned in the previous paragraph. The first platitude is “God hates divorce”. This platitude is so powerful that little else is needed to steer any student of God’s word toward the anti divorce bias. When a single doctrine of God’s word is studied in order to obtain God’s perspective on that particular doctrine imagine if the first biblical statement on the subject was that God hates it? Any persons’ entire study on the subject would be bathed in the thought that a perfect and holy God hates this thing, which is precisely how believers begin any biblical study on God’s teaching regarding marital divorce and remarriage.
Malachi chapter 2 seen through the mystics lens comes away with the single thought that God hates divorce. This is not at all the impression that an honest study of Malachi arrives upon, but nevertheless churchmen happily use this platitude to continue the lie with which they are so comfortable until it affects them personally. Once faced with the reality of a failed marriage, and only then, they are forced to truly study the God honest truth on the subject of divorce at which time they realize the horribly unbiblical position the church has held these many long centuries. [See article “Does God Actually Hate Divorce?” to read an honest commentary on God’s Malachi 2 passage]
Regrettably, the next realization they will discover after doing an honest and thorough biblical study of the doctrine of divorce is that the church now considers their biblical discoveries on the subject as nothing more than twisting the scriptures in order to justify their own sin. Christians who feel no need for God’s gracious gift of release from a disastrous marriage will look upon those with ruined marriages and exclaim, “I am glad that I am not like that worthless fellow”. And they will be dismissive of those who have need of God’s gracious gift of marital dissolution as though they are incapable of objectively seeing what God’s word has to say regarding divorce and remarriage.
The second, third and forth platitudes all come from the same text (Matthew 19:6-9) and they are even direct quotes of that text not just poor translations as is the case in Malachi 2. Having been routinely taken out of context these quotes have been useful platitudes prohibiting what Jesus did not intend to prohibit. They are as follows: “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate”, “…From the beginning it has not been this way”, and finally, “…Whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality, and marries another woman commits adultery”.
Most Christians do not care enough about the subject of marital divorce to take the extensive time required to understand all that God’s word has to say about what would have been a relatively simple doctrine had it not been for the mystical abuse the doctrine has been subject to for centuries, which has greatly darkened the clarity with which God’s word speaks upon it.
Dear reader: begin the process of demystifying the doctrines of marriage, divorce and remarriage in your mind so that the church will one day repent of the corporate sin of missing the mark on divorce. Reading as many of the articles herein will go a long way in doing this for the reader. Contacting the author would be nice as well. Christ’s continued blessings.
August 31st, 2017 at 9:35 AM
Though I do not disagree at all with the crux of this article, I do not agree with Milton that marriage was a solution to man’s loneliness. I do not think Adam was lonely. He had God. I think marriage was to unite Man with a woman to image the Trinity— God- Son ( Adam) Spirit ( woman) . Just as the Holy Spirit applies Jesus work and Jesus only what He sees the Father do, so does woman help man to do what God has shown him in creating the cosmos. Human kind would subdue and exercise dominion as God’s vice regents. So marriage was not first an antidote to loneliness but to fulfill man by creating a helper to help him do his creation mandate.
August 31st, 2017 at 2:02 PM
Fred, Thanks for your very thought provoking comment. Your concept has never been brought to my attention before, which tells me that I have either been negligent in reading God’s word deeply enough to have discovered this Trinitarian shadowing or that your concept is extra-biblical and therefore born from a theological construct (can be very good, but must first be supported by scripture itself). I am open to either possibility. Perhaps we are discussing a both/and situation rather than an either/or issue. I suspect this is indeed the case here, so you need not so much persuade me of your view (especially regarding the creation mandate) as I need to pull you over to Milton’s understanding.
You doubt Adam was lonely because he had God, yet it is God who said, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him” (Genesis 2:18). From verse 20 we learn that Adam did not have anyone “corresponding” to him…that would include God. I agree that God’s children should be able to turn to God when they feel alone and they can expect divine help, yet we know that we need each other too. We have soul-mates, believing spouses and the members of the body of Christ all of whom correspond to us in ways that the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient God does not. Milton states that Adam before the fall was in an “original and sinless penury or loneliness of the soul”, and that curing this condition was “the most native and human end of marriage”.
I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to comment and would love to hear more from you. Christ’s continued blessings!