For people who suffer marital abuse, divorce is a significant and important way for them to escape harm (or at least reduce it) and rebuild their lives.
Despite this, the church has long held that divorce is moral only when a spouse has committed adultery or desertion. Remarriage after divorce has also been widely prohibited. These teachings have been largely based on the gospel passages where Jesus discusses divorce, as well as one of Paul’s letters.
Views have certainly diversified amongst Christians, but even today, I read statements like ‘the marriage bond cannot be dissolved.’ Or that while divorce is ‘sometimes necessary due to abuse, it is neither required nor encouraged.’ (Which seems a bit contradictory.) Or, ‘in pastoral counseling, restoration of marriage must always be first [sic] goal.’
My personal view would largely align with Sheila Gregoire (emphasis mine):
I’m having to delete a lot of comments on the blog today from people saying that divorce is never a biblical option. I find that sad. I know God hates divorce–but He hates people being wounded and abused and betrayed, too. And Jesus gave us some reasons for divorce. Anyone who reads my blog knows that I am very pro-marriage and anti-divorce, but more importantly I’m pro-truth and pro-healing.
In that post, which she wrote in 2015, Sheila observed that the Bible appears to be silent about whether abuse is a reason for divorce—because it’s not explicitly mentioned in Jesus’s teachings or 1 Corinthians 7:12–15. However, she argued that we can still deduce that spousal abuse is a legitimate reason, given what the rest of the Bible reveals about God.
Fast-forward to March 2020, Sheila wrote another post commenting on conservative theological heavyweight Wayne Grudem. In late 2019, Grudem made a public u-turn, saying that the 1 Corinthians 7 verses were applicable to more than just adultery and desertion.
Grudem now believes that the biblical text supports the idea that abuse, even in its non-physical forms, is legitimate grounds for divorce. He bases his argument on an analysis of how other ancient Greek sources used the phrase ‘in such cases’. He found that the phrase ‘referred to more kinds of situations than the original example that was being discussed.’
Then we get to today and why I’m writing this post.Continue reading ￼Gregoire, Grudem and grounds for divorce: why didn’t Jesus mention abuse?