A Real Defense of Marriage

It’s true that we have to fight where the battle is, and right now the battle is over gay marriage. But as Donald Sensing points out, we lost this battle forty years ago. With that in mind, here are the elements we’d need to have in a bill or amendment for it to really be a defense of marriage:

* Elimination of no-fault divorce laws.
* Provide for divorce in a very few cases – adultery, abandonment, physical abuse, etc.
* If a divorce was justified, the offending party gets precisely nothing. No money, no custody, no visitation, nothing at all.
* The offending party pays alimony / child support based on the size of the family. Each member of the family gets one part of the offender’s income. So if you had a family of 4 (husband, wife, 2 kids) and abandoned them, you get 3/4th of your income taken for child support and alimony.
* The offending party would be legally unable to remarry, except to the original spouse.
* Violating your marriage vows seriously enough to warrant a divorce would also become part of the public record and would legally have to affect your credit rating, etc.
* Pre- and extra-marital sex would be a crime at least as serious as DWI.
* Forbid any distinction between a husband and wife when it comes to credit rating, finances, medical information, and so on.
* Defines marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.

_That_ would be a DOMA I would get fired up about. My “Defense of Family Act” is even better.

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9 Responses to A Real Defense of Marriage

  1. grad student says:

    Hi!
    Quick question for you…I am a graduate student completing a paper on “blogging.” The title of your blog intrigued me…

    I have two questions, which I would greatly appreciate if you could respond to:

    1) Why do you blog?
    2) What do you get from blogging?

    Thanks!

  2. Larry says:

    Well, I don’t know…. I believe all your points have a foundation in Godly righteousness, yet my hesitation arises from Cromwell’s England or Calvin’s Geneva. An imposed and enforced righteousness on any particular society does not seem to produce the desired results. What does seem to work however is the Spirit of God, as exampled by the Welsh revival.

    However, all three of these mentions break down over a short span of time due to the heart of man. America can make all the laws it wants. Yet if the peoples heart is bent towards lawlessness then the laws become worse than useless. They then become instruments in invalidate the legitimacy of the government.

    About five years ago I was in Kentucky for 4 months. While there I was told, sneeringly, that the #1 cash crop in agriculture was marijuana. Man likes to resort to rules and laws when they should be turning to God for their deliverance.

    How many saints do you think are willing to spend 3-4 hours a day (for one year) in personal and private prayer? I doubt you could yourself find 10 in your small circle of friends. This is a nation of 300,000,000+…

    BECAUSE THIS IS NOT BEING DONE:
    I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, which shall never hold their peace day nor night: ye that make mention of the LORD, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and till he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isa 62:6-7)

    THIS BECOMES A CERTAINTY:
    Behold, the days come, saith the Lord GOD, that I will send a famine in the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD: And they shall wander from sea to sea, and from the north even to the east, they shall run to and fro to seek the word of the LORD, and shall not find it. (Amo 8:11-12)

  3. Phil in CA says:

    Let me comment on a few of these…

    “If a divorce was justified, the offending party gets precisely nothing. No money, no custody, no visitation, nothing at all.”

    This means that if a wife/husband commits adultery, no matter how much he or she repents the children should be denied all benefit of knowing that parent? In your “Real defense of marriage” world, a young child would be left saying, “Oh,um, I don’t know my daddy… he committed adultery when I was 4 and the law won’t allow me to see him…. I sure miss him.”

    “The offending party would be legally unable to remarry, except to the original spouse.” and “Defines marriage as the lifelong union of one man and one woman.”

    This, I presume, is part of an unbiblical view that divorce doesn’t actually end marriage. This is a long topic and a complete explanation would take a book (of which there are many good ones) but suffice to say that a *Biblically justified* divorce assumes the right of remarriage. Divorce, when Biblically justified, ends the marriage covenant. Besides, if divorce doesn’t end the covenant then divorce is pointless for God to institute in the first place. For your theology to be correct (which it isn’t), God would be saying, “OK, you may get a divorce in the case of adultery, but if you do… well, it doesn’t matter because you’re still married for life anyway.” God instituted divorce, and even initiated one Himself (ref. Jer. 3:8), a fact conveniently omitted by many in the divorce debates.

    “Provide for divorce in a very few cases – adultery, abandonment, physical abuse, etc. “

    Now, Robert, if you’re going to be a Pharisee on this, I simply MUST insist that you hold to the merciless letter of the law here. The fact is, the only to explicit just causes for divorce are “sexual immorality” (Gr. “porneia” in Matthew 5:32) or an unbelieving spouse who does not “content to live” with a believing spouse (1 Cor 7:14-15). Spousal physical abuse is NOT mentioned as a just cause. So, your theocratic proposal here again departs from not only the Spirit of the Word of God, but now the letter as well.

    The bottom line is that, like your general theology, under your proposed laws here repentance or grace matter not. “Mercy triumphs judgment”? HA! Not under the Robert Williams legal system. Gosh darn it, when a sin is committed the consequences are meted out no-matter-what, repentance be damned (pun intended there).

    Posts like this, Robert, reveal a lot about where you are with God and the heart you ascribe to Him. Fortunately, for all our sakes, His is a heart that desire repentance, and when we repent, He removes our sin as far as the east is from the west. You might want to learn a little something about that concept.

    I also noticed that you conveniently left out a little clause that would make it a crime for a spouse to deny another spouse sex (ref 1 Cor. 7). I shudder to ponder the ideas you might have for committing what would surely be a crime under this little theocratic fantasy system you’ve conjured up.

    Phil

  4. Phil in CA says:

    Just a follow-up, Robert. Just from me to you, man to man, I’m concerned. This post had a tone and theme to it. Speaking from my own personal walk with God (some 15 years now) I find myself drifting to these extremes when there is something going on in my life wherein I am yearning to see God’s justice in something. When something is going on, and I feel (or even can prove) that I’ve been wronged, or I think I’ve seen unanswered evil done, I demand just action! Well, this is, of course, only MY demand and MY view — not necessarily what God has in mind. It’s not long before my mindset (screaming “justice! judgment! action!!!”) begins to affect many issues as I see them at the time. “As a man thinketh, so is he.” Robert, you “thinketh” justice with no possibility of redemption, grace, mercy or restoration. That’s not the Heart of God…. that *HAS* to concern you, does it not?

    Robert, I don’t know what’s going on in your life, heart or mind. I’ve read here and elsewhere that you’ve been involve with, um, heated discussions in Christian blogosphere. Perhaps that’s it. Perhaps it’s something else. But whatever the case, I, as your brother in Christ, am pleading with you to take step back, a deep breath, and a long look at your mindset and heart right now. I, too, am a blogger. Take my advice: take a break from blogosphere. It’s amazing what God can show you about your heart and yourself, if you’re willing to put down the sword and shield, stop bashing in heads for God, and just listen to what he might have to show/tell you. If you can’t do that much, them I’m afraid you might be hardened an unteachable, in which case you won’t be of good use to anyone — God, your family, or the blogosphere in general.

    Phil

  5. Hi Phil.

    My general position is that the church is being hypocritical by opposing homosexual marriage with far more vigor than we oppose unbiblical divorce with. Some studies show the divorce rate inside the church is a tiny bit higher than the divorce rate outside the church. Why aren’t we fighting this with as much energy as we devote to fighting gay marriage?

    A recurring theme throughout the Old and New Testaments is that God’s people ought to look after the helpless, particularly widows and orphans. It’s not exactly the same, but I think a family that has been abandoned by the father is pretty close to widows and orphans, and we must take this very seriously. The effects of divorce on women and children have been well documented. This is serious business.

    I’m sure you’ll also realize that I am not a politician or lawyer, or even a great theologian, so I’m sure my proposed DOMA could use some improvements. But my basic point is that we can’t claim to be “defending” marriage if we don’t also go after divorce. I think divorce is a bigger challenge to the sanctity of marriage than homosexual marriage is.

    As far as your specific criticisms of my position:

    Our civil laws don’t generally make a lot of room for repentance. We don’t release convicted criminals if they say – or even genuinely demonstrate – that they are sorry. Paul says that the civil authority exists to reward good and punish evil. This is justice, and our laws must be just.

    I never said that we should _forbid_ a man or woman who abandons their family from ever seeing their children again. I’m just saying that they should not be _legally entitled_ to anything.

    Actions have consequences. When I take a wife and start a family, I’ve made an irreversible commitment to take care of them and be faithful to them. If I break that commitment, there should be consequences.

    an unbiblical view that divorce doesn?t actually end marriage.

    It’s possible that you misunderstood me here. A Biblical divorce does indeed end the marriage covenant, but that does not translate into freedom for the _offending_ party.

    It was Jesus Himself who said that divorcing your wife unlawfully and then remarrying another was adultery. That is why I think we ought to forbid it. It does seem to be His view.

    I don’t have a good understanding of the Biblical teaching on the remarriage of the one who was wrongfully divorced, so I would not think we should prohibit them from remarrying. Only the one who caused the divorce.

    if you?re going to be a Pharisee on this

    Was Jesus being Pharisaical when He forbade divorce except on grounds of immorality?

    You’re right that my list of Biblical reasons for divorce is probably not perfect.

    Posts like this, Robert, reveal a lot about where you are with God

    It may be gratifying for you to speculate about my spiritual condition and my comprehension of God’s heart, but it’s not particularly helpful. You come across as EXTREMELY judgmental and condescending.

    Law and grace are not enemies, nor are justice and mercy. There is gospel in the Law, and law in the Gospel. Calling for just civil and criminal laws is not the antithesis of grace and mercy. There is always mercy and forgiveness with God. But there is also justice and judgment. Our laws must be just. An unjust law is no law at all, and laws that do not defend the weak and defenseless are not just. Laws that forbid gay marriage but treat heterosexual marriage as trivial are similarly unjust.

  6. Jared says:

    You come across as EXTREMELY judgmental and condescending.

    I’m not sure what this will be worth given my own recent dustup with Robert, but I actually agree with this statement. “Condescending” is the word I thought of.

    I didn’t know if you had a previous relationship with Phil beyond what I’m aware of, but I feel like perhaps he has not earned the right to speak to you the way he did. He may be right in his points — heck, he may be right in his speculation — but I don’t think that’s evident from what you’ve written. (And again, if anyone deserves to have a beef with Robert, it’s me! ;-)

    Anyways, Phil, I think you could have expressed your criticism of Robert’s view better, and I think you perhaps shouldn’t have expressed your criticism of his spiritual “state” at all. Despite our frequent disagreements, I have found Robert to be a mature, intelligent, and reasonable believer and a solid follower of Jesus.

    Maybe you owe him an apology for your misguided rebuke?
    (Or maybe I’ve just earned one myself!)

  7. Jema says:

    I didn’t see this as judgemental at all, but as a type of satire or maybe hyperbole would be a better word. I do agree that homosexual marriage is wrong according to the Word of God. But if we expect the law of the land to mirror God’s written Word in one area, are we prepared to adjust it to mirror it in all areas? The reaction to this blog says not. I am not advocating such a change. I just wonder if everyone who is calling for our country to follow the Law of God is really ready for such a change.

  8. Phil in CA says:

    My general position is that the church is being hypocritical by opposing homosexual marriage with far more vigor than we oppose unbiblical divorce with.

    Consider, though, that we can oppose gay marriage because it’s so clearly always wrong… whereas divorce and remarriage depends highly on one’s own prejudices and Biblical understanding of that complex issue. Yes, we should be adamantly opposing unbiblical divorce, but first we’d have to agree to what constitutes “unbiblical divorce.” Opinions range from the “no divorce ever” position, to the Amy Grant (“God made marriage for people. He didn’t make people for marriage”) easy-believism position, to somewhere in between. In your defense of marriage proposal, you list “abuse,” which many fundamentalists are quick to note is absent from the Scripture’s explicit statements on divorce. If the fundamentalists were to re-write the divorce laws, they would set up a world in which a 20 year old girl could foolishly marry a man who beats her into the Intensive Care Unit several times a year, and her only options are more beatings with no hope of release. This is, of course, unbiblical, but you have to look beyond the explicit statements on divorce to understand the concept, conditions and protections offered by the marriage covenant.

    A recurring theme throughout the Old and New Testaments is that God’s people ought to look after the helpless, particularly widows and orphans. It’s not exactly the same, but I think a family that has been abandoned by the father is pretty close to widows and orphans, and we must take this very seriously. The effects of divorce on women and children have been well documented. This is serious business.

    Bravo! This is true. A man who “abandons” his family (e.g., sleaze bag who runs off with another woman and leave his family desolate) should actually be subject to prison time and repayment. Actual abandonment is very much a crime against both the family and society, for which there out to be a penalty for sure. But, Robert, as you probably know, full-fledged abandonment is not the situation in the vast majority of cases. I don’t know how many adultery cases you’ve dealt with, but I’m sure it’s the same sad percentage I see around here. In many of these case the man or woman is still in the marriage, still contributing to the family, etc., yet carrying on an adulterous affair. This is not the same as abandonment, nor should it be punished as such. By the way: women now initiate 73% of U.S. divorces. I’m not saying they’re doing 73% of the abandoning, just that the figures show their name as “petitioner” on 73% of the dockets. One could claim that the men leave the women with no choice, but I don’t think that argument comes close to explaining the 3:1 ratio.

    I’m sure you’ll also realize that I am not a politician or lawyer, or even a great theologian, so I’m sure my proposed DOMA could use some improvements. But my basic point is that we can’t claim to be “defending” marriage if we don’t also go after divorce. I think divorce is a bigger challenge to the sanctity of marriage than homosexual marriage is.

    Yes, this is true. Of course, for us as a body of faith to open that can of worms, we’d have to re-open issues of WHY the marriages are failing, which would mean we’d have to stop this fluff-bunny, feel-good, felt-needs-based Christianity and go back to preaching Christ crucified and mortification of the flesh. We’d have to go back to teaching the concept of “marital duty” (sexuality) and stop with jokes about men sleeping on the couch after an argument.

    Of course, we’d also have to realize that only about 8% of the population is Bible-believing, Christ-followers who hold to the tenets of the Christian faith.

    Our civil laws don’t generally make a lot of room for repentance. We don’t release convicted criminals if they say – or even genuinely demonstrate – that they are sorry. Paul says that the civil authority exists to reward good and punish evil. This is justice, and our laws must be just.

    Agreed. You are, however, trying to institute a Bible-based theocratic penal system, in accordance with your particular readings of the Scripture. Twenty centuries of Christian practice in this area teaches that this is a bad idea. For that matter, no theocracy has worked for the betterment of society — from well-meaning Christian oppression in Europe, to the Taliban, to Hindu extremism, etc.

    Ask a lawyer and they’ll tell you that the law does provide for leniency in many case. In fact, so much so that judges often protest against mandatory sentencing guidelines (such as the ones you’ve proffered regarding divorce) because it doesn’t allow them to judge and sentence with the freedom they should have to, well, judge!

    I never said that we should forbid a man or woman who abandons their family from ever seeing their children again. I’m just saying that they should not be legally entitled to anything.

    Generally speaking, a parent that has “no visitation rights” is a parent who is not allowed to see his/her children. Even still, to say that a man who commits adultery should not only lose his marriage (which is an option, not a mandate, under Biblical guidelines) you are in fact going beyond the Word with your “get tough” application. Your proposed application here is sending the message, “OK, the adulterer already cost himself the marriage…. mwuhaahaahaa… now what additional penalties can we inflict upon this soul for life? Ah, now THAT’s the kind of harshness that sends a message of defending righteousness!!!” Simply put, Robert, I have a problem with Christian who plead for immeasurable and undeserved forgiveness in Christ every night, and then spend the following day screaming for punishment and judgment as the first order of business.

    Actions have consequences. When I take a wife and start a family, I’ve made an irreversible commitment to take care of them and be faithful to them. If I break that commitment, there should be consequences.

    I’ve heard this too many times to count, and nearly always for the same reasons you’re using it. Simply put, when a hardliner wants to propose beyond-the-Bible ramifications for divorce/remarriage, they almost always play the “consequences” card. They believe they are doing the right thing in imposing consequences beyond what the Bible allows: divorce. It just feels so good to heap condemnation and consequences on the adulterer, and the adulterer is so disdained, that only the Biblically-committed dare oppose the extra-biblical sanctions. Then, of course, the “get tough” crowd nearly always plays their follow-up card: accuse people who hold my position of “defending adultery.” I know you’re not saying that, but many are thinking it and chomping at the bit to say it. But I’m not defending adultery in asking for people to put down their stones, any more than Our Lord was defending adultery in John 8 when he let the woman get off so easily. Think on that model. I’m left asking, “Sheesh, you stone throwers, isn’t losing the marriage enough? How much punishment do you want to hurl?”

    It’s possible that you misunderstood me here. A Biblical divorce does indeed end the marriage covenant, but that does not translate into freedom for the offending party. It was Jesus Himself who said that divorcing your wife unlawfully and then remarrying another was adultery. That is why I think we ought to forbid it. It does seem to be His view. I don’t have a good understanding of the Biblical teaching on the remarriage of the one who was wrongfully divorced, so I would not think we should prohibit them from remarrying. Only the one who caused the divorce.

    First, I agree that an unbiblical divorce is not justified and does not translate into remarriage. However, a couple divorces for unbiblical reasons, and one remarries (adultery), then the remaining spouse would be free to remarry under the adultery exception.

    Second, we need to talk about the business if remarriage of the offending party. Again, the if a Biblically justified does in fact terminate the marriage covenant, then it terminates it for both parties. Both the innocent party, as well as the adulterer, are freed from the marriage covenant in divorce. They are effectually single again, as you can’t have one spouse in “still-married” condition yet have the other free to remarry. So if both are single (through Biblically justified “certificate of divorce” under Matt 5:28), then why can’t either single person enter into a marriage? Again, the “get tough” crowd nearly comes back with, “Because there just HAVE to be consequences!! You can just commit adultery, ruin a marriage, get to go free and expect to be so totally forgiven and resorted that you can actually be reconciled to the point of remarriage!” Yes, yes, for the “Scarlet Letter” theology to be rightly debunked, one must assent to the idea of complete repentance bringing complete forgiveness.

    As for Matthew 5 and 19 specifically, it only forbids remarriage for both parties after unbiblical divorce. The passages are statements in the negative, but do not address the converse. They don’t need to; the converse is implied textually. Unbiblical divorce = adulterous remarriage for both… so converse reads: Biblical divorce = free to remarry for both. Again, the consequences of adultery are divorce. Life-long prohibition against remarriage after Biblical divorce occurs nowhere in the Bible.

    Was Jesus being Pharisaical when He forbade divorce except on grounds of immorality?

    No, he was clarifying (actually reiterating) God’s teaching in Duet 24 in which divorce is permitted if a man finds something “indecent” about her. The Rabbinical schools of thought of the day (Hillel and Shamai) had opposing views, with Shammai holding to the idea that “indecent” meant sexual impurity, whereas the liberal Hillel held that “indecent” could mean anything that man didn’t like about her. Jesus was not being a Pharisee because Our Lord was not creating additional “customs” or burdens like the Pharisees (cup washing and gnat straining), nor was He advocating self-righteous through the Law like the Pharisees, nor was He misapplying the Law by ignoring the spirit of the Law like the Pharisees did (e.g., healing on the Sabbath in Luke 13). When I wrote, “if you’re going to be a Pharisee on this,” it’s because I felt that your *application* of your interpretations showed a mindset of legalistic enforcement of extra-Biblical burden, such as denying a children the right parental visitation (a non-Biblical concept).

    You’re right that my list of Biblical reasons for divorce is probably not perfect.

    This is a topic I’ve spent about the last three years researching, the last two year pretty intensely. I’ve come across more books, articles, email flames, discussion thread and doctrinal position papers than I care to recount. After all that, do you want by book recommendation? Good, I though so [grin]. Read “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage in the Bible” by Jay Edward Adams. It’s solid, concise (100 pages) and well-written. What I like about it is that no only does Adams proffer his view with whole-Bible support (context anyone?) but also address/debunks the common misunderstandings and false teachings about divorce. It’ll be the best 9 bucks you’ve spent in a while, trust me.

    It may be gratifying for you to speculate about my spiritual condition and my comprehension of God’s heart, but it’s not particularly helpful. You come across as EXTREMELY judgmental and condescending.

    I hope you can see my intent beyond my words. Here are some clips: “Speaking from my own personal walk with God”… “I find myself “…”in my life”… “I feel…” etc. What I was at least attempting to say (but didn’t say it right) was that this goes beyond theological jousting and proffering ideas about theocratic enforcements. When the topic of judgment and punishment comes up, especially when someone raises it, there is at least cause for concern with in each man. As Christian men, appalled at the ungodliness we see today, we must guard against jumping too quickly to pick up torches, stakes and kindling… so to speak.

    Where I went wrong was my second paragraph. Because you’d expressed frustration at some blogosphere-related incident (and it’s so easy to feel unjustly treated online), I merely guessed that might have been an influence — as it is for me sometimes. I was wrong to outright assert that you should “take a break” or that you aren’t where you should be with God, or whatever. I apologize for that.

  9. john wise says:

    Your blog though thoughtful and sincere concerning marriage is really full of good ideas and fantasy.

    Modern governments and lawmakers OWN the marriage concept and those who preform the rite lock stock and barrel. It is a class C felony to perform a marriage ceremony without a state marriage license. As well as punishable by jail time and having your minister ordination credentials revoked.

    “where the two agree” is what all of your arguments rest on, of course, that will only work in only the most ideal of situations.

    I do not care if the “State” ackowledges same sex marriages or not. I do not ackowledge the State certificate for ANYONE.
    Virtually ALL protestant religions I know of, accept divorce as a fact of life, if not accepted in their doctrine.

    It is as hopeless as it gets. Marriage ended years ago. This is the de facto situation. Marriage ends when the State says so…no difference in the USA or Red China.

    “Congress shall make no law…..”ha ha Congress has made ALL the relevant laws concerning marriage and the church is not even a player.

    Sincerely,, J WIse

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