In God hates divorce? Pastor Sam Powell worries that some readers may suspect he is soft on divorce:
This article is a little more technical than I usually write. There is a reason for it. I am fully aware that the views expressed here will leave me open to accusations of being “soft on divorce”. I assure you that is not the case. My only concern is to rightly discern God’s word and go where it leads.
But Powell should not worry that he will be accused of being soft on divorce, because this is clearly not the case. Powell is a hardliner on divorce, a true believer, a zealot. Powell believes so strongly in divorce that he says it is a sin to encourage unhappy wives to stay married with the hope that things will improve. He explains in The Secret Things of God (emphasis mine):
When she reports that she is filing for divorce, the answer of her elders is often something like this: “God can change hearts. Stay in the marriage. What will you do if he repents? What if he changes?”
It seems to me that this puts an unendurable burden on the heart of the wife (or husband, as the case may be). The church is asking her to make a life-altering decision based upon what God may or may not do in the future. But how can we ask our sheep to sin in this regard?
I encourage my readers to read his full post; Powell really is claiming that encouraging a wife to remain married is a sin. Powell’s biblical rationalization for his divorce zealotry is a bizarre comparison to Satan tempting Christ in the Gospels. In Powell’s rationalization:
- A wife who wants to divorce is like Christ.
- A pastor or elder who encourages a wife to remain married is like Satan tempting Christ.
- Remaining married is foolhardy and sinful, like jumping off of a tall building to test God.
- Divorcing is an act of obedience to God.
His reasoning is that staying married with the hope that things will improve is a form of witchcraft:
But our text in Deuteronomy forbids doing just that. We cannot make our decision based upon the “secret things of God”. We are required only to make wise decisions based upon what we know today.
If encouraging Christians to stay married with hope that it will change the spouse is a sin, clearly the Apostle Paul sinned in 1 Cor 7:16:
14 For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.
15 But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. 16 How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife?
Moreover, in 1 Pet 3 wives are told to submit to their husbands with the hope that they might win them over. Divorce is the polar opposite of submission:
3 Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they see your respectful and pure conduct.
Lastly, setting aside Powell’s abysmal theology, staying married really does tend to ultimately create happy marriages (emphasis mine).
Many currently happily married spouses have had extended periods of marital unhappiness, often for quite serious reasons, including alcoholism, infidelity, verbal abuse, emotional neglect, depression, illness, and work reversals. Why did these marriages survive where other marriages did not? The marital endurance ethic appears to play a big role. Many spouses said that their marriages got happier, not because they and their partner resolved problems but because they stubbornly outlasted them. With time, they told us, many sources of conflict and distress eased. Spouses in this group also generally had a low opinion of the benefits of divorce, as well as friends and family members who supported the importance of staying married.