Back in July Pastor Doug Wilson published a post titled: On a Wife Deciding to Leave Her Husband. In this post Wilson referred to 1 Cor 7:10 (NIV):
10 To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband.
Wilson explained that the verse meant the opposite of what the Apostle Paul wrote:
It is interesting here that Paul advises a woman not to leave if she can help it—“the wife should not separate from her husband.” That is his apostolic counsel, but it is clear from the context that it is merely advice. If she sees that his generally good advice is not pertinent to her situation, she is left free to leave without being hassled about it by the apostle. So if he would leave you alone in this decision, then so should the elders of your church.
While I agree with Doug that there comes a time when a wife is justified in leaving her husband, I don’t believe he describes that time in this article. In fact, this piece straightforwardly reverses what God actually says. Doug’s counsel here is false teaching, because the very scriptures he appeals to say precisely the opposite of what he claims. This is brazen enough that it really gobsmacks me.
The verse literally starts with an explicit statement that this is not Paul’s opinion, but the Lord’s. That is the immediate context of the words Doug quotes—words whose context, he says, make it clear this is “merely advice.”
Pastor Wilson responded to Bnonn’s thoughtful post, doubling down on the same absurd claim (emphasis mine):
When I say that Paul is giving advice here, I am not referring to the restriction placed on any other relationship. That is not advice. The advice part is the where he says not to separate, but in the same breath does not require church discipline if she does separate. When Paul says “don’t do x, but if you do x, then you absolutely must not do y,” we are free to assume that the church would not intervene with discipline at point x, but would intervene at point y.
Wilson then tries to sneak this by:
This is why we would allow a woman in our congregation, if married to (an extraordinarily) difficult man, to separate from him.
Wilson’s whole point in the original post was that the elders of a church are prohibited from questioning a wife who decides to leave her husband. According to Wilson, the choice is hers alone, and the elders can’t tell her she is wrong for doing so. Yet Wilson asserts that in his church they only allow women to leave their husbands if the woman is leaving an extraordinarily difficult man. From Wilson’s original post:
But let me include something else here that really needs to be emphasized. Because I am saying that a wife in your position can simply “go,” then it follows that all any woman needs to do is just say she is in your position (whether she is or not), and there she has her automatic “get out jail free card.” What is to prevent a woman from applying this principle in a way that grotesquely wrongs an innocent husband?
This is a fallen world, which means we must take risks. This is one of them.
…It is far better to let one lying wife go free without penalty than to keep an innocent wife in the penalty of living in a terrible situation. In the worst case scenario, an innocent man loses a wife, but keep in mind it was a lying wife.
Wilson is pretending in his follow up post that he didn’t claim in the original that elders need to mind their own business when wives separate from their husbands! As I already quoted in the beginning (emphasis mine):
If she sees that his generally good advice is not pertinent to her situation, she is left free to leave without being hassled about it by the apostle. So if he would leave you alone in this decision, then so should the elders of your church.
Bnonn also asked why Wilson avoided 1 Pet 3 altogether in his discussion of how a wife should respond to a sinning husband:
What is especially puzzling is that Doug goes only to 1 Corinthians 7, but studiously avoids 1 Peter 3, which explicitly covers this kind of situation, down to the bad behavior of the husband. Indeed, it even deals with examples of sexually degrading behavior, and of treating the wife like a slave; surely these apply to Sarah also, yet Scripture commends her for trusting God and remaining with Abraham through such trials.
Doug’s failure to even mention this more relevant passage makes me think he is not dealing forthrightly and boldly with a difficult situation for which Scripture has hard advice. He is trying to straddle two horses: the word of God, and the feelings of women. And when that gets too hard, he seems to prefer leading the former from the saddle of the latter.
Wilson quoted from the second paragraph in his response to Bnonn, but shrewdly continued to studiously avoid any reference to 1 Pet 3.
H/ T Hmm.