Exceptions and Loopholes (Part One)

On Saturday, November 30, 2019 Douglas Wilson wrote an article entitled “Exceptions and Loopholes” (my quotations of Wilson or Poole or any other writers, does not imply they are true Christians).

“The downward spiral we are now riding when it comes to sexual ethics did not begin with Obergefell. It did not begin in the homosexual enclaves and bath houses. Homosexuals did not want to participate in the great marriage joke until after heterosexuals had turned it into the great marriage joke. But once the center had given way, and the widening gyre began, and easy divorce was first tolerated, then accepted, and then in some quarters celebrated, all the rest of this sexual clown car parade was inevitable.”

God the Holy Spirit through Paul wrote that to avoid fornication “let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband” (1 Corinthians 7:1-2). And:

“Let the husband render unto the wife due benevolence: and likewise also the wife unto the husband. The wife hath not power of her own body, but the husband: and likewise also the husband hath not power of his own body, but the wife” (1 Corinthians 7:3-4).

Matthew Poole comments:

“The word translated due benevolence, signifieth due goodwill or kindness, but from [1Corinthians 7:5], it appeareth what the apostle meaneth: Moses, [Exodus 21:10], calleth it, the duty of marriage; both of them using a modest term in expressing the conjugal act, as we shall observe the Scripture always doing, when there is occasion to mention what men of profane hearts are ready to make a scoff at. The apostle maketh this the mutual duty both of husband and wife, under due circumstances, therefore useth the word render, which implieth the thing required to be an act of justice.”

God the Holy Spirit carrying along holy men to express the conjugal act in modest and chaste terms. Men of profane hearts giggle like sensual school boys at the back of the classroom. To slightly paraphrase 1 Corinthians 7:2, Paul said that to avoid fornication, get married; he did not say “go out on a date” — such worldly compromise many professing Christians do tolerate. What has been customarily called “dating” is yet another sexual clown in the circus of venery.

Wilson continues:

“And the pressures and realities connected to all of this are by no means absent in the conservative sectors of the church. For example, Wayne Grudem recently stated that he had reworked his views on whether abuse was grounds for divorce, and he had gone back to the text in response to a few horrendous situations he had encountered. Now this is an entirely appropriate thing to do, and I am not here disputing his textual work, one way or the other.

What I [sic] doing is pointing out that when there have been two scripturally legitimate grounds for divorce that have been slowly expanded into loopholes, then what makes us think this process will stop if we find that there are three scripturally legitimate grounds for divorce? If there is legitimacy here at all, then there is a border between legitimacy and illegitimacy, and that border will have to be articulated and defended by pastors and counselors with backbone.”

1 Corinthians 7:10-13 says that if there is a divorce, then there is to be NO REMARRIAGE. If an unbelieving, fickle, peevish man deals treacherously with the wife of his youth there is to be NO REMARRIAGE while either spouse is living (cf. Malachi 2:14-16; 1 Corinthians 7:39). Whether it be the “offending party” or the “offended party,” neither one is to remarry while the (former) spouses are living (cf. Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39). If they do remarry then they are being CAUSED TO COMMIT ADULTERY (Matthew 5:32; emphasis mine).

Wilson on what he is “not talking about” in his article:

“When it comes to the question of the permanence of marriage, I hold to what I believe to be the standard Reformed position. Even though this is the last day of November, this is less a qualification than it is a circumscription—I am not attempting to prove anything one way or the other about this position. I am simply noting it as the place I am reasoning from.

And to be specific, I believe that marriage is created by God, not man, and that what God has joined together, let no man put asunder. Marriages are not simply contracts which can be voided when the parties to the contract feel like it. Marriage is a covenant, and God is one of the parties to the covenant. This means that a marriage cannot be dissolved except under the two basic conditions that are set forth in Scripture. Those two conditions I believe to be the infidelity of adultery, and willful desertion. When one of those two conditions pertain, I believe the party sinned against may obtain a lawful divorce, and in principle, is free to remarry.”

The party sinned against is NOT free to remarry. Marriage is dissolved only by the death of the spouse. No loopholes. No exceptions (Matthew 5:32; Romans 7:1-3; 1 Corinthians 7:39). If this be the Biblical case between a husband and his wife (and it is in fact the case), then some may conclude that it is better not to marry.

The standard Reformed position on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage is to (in principle) counsel the innocent or sinned-against-party to commit adultery upon remarriage. The sinned-against or deserted party is CAUSED TO COMMIT ADULTERY. Therein lies the treachery mentioned in Malachi 2:14-16.

Wilson on what he IS talking about:

“A great deal depends on whether these two exceptions are treated as exceptions, or whether they get treated as increasingly elastic loopholes.”

Viewed through the exegetical lens of Scripture, this loop and hole form a hangman’s noose (Romans 7:1-3). If death only dissolves the marriage then eisegetical exceptions vanish and the elasticity of loopholes cease. 

“And so what do I mean by exceptions becoming loopholes? I mean that all adultery is infidelity, but not all infidelity, particularly in seed form, is the kind of adultery that grants the liberty of a divorce. If a husband ogles a magazine cover in the checkout line at the supermarket, then that is infidelity and Jesus warns us about it. But it is not the kind of adultery that triggers an acceptable divorce.”

In a hypothetical case of divorce for unfaithful ogling, I suppose the standard Reformed position would be that BOTH spouses would be committing adultery upon remarriage since NEITHER the ogler or the initiator of the unacceptable divorce are among the “completely innocent party.” Yes? No?

“If abuse is shown to be a separate third category that allows for divorce, or if it is included under one of the existing two categories (as being tantamount to willful desertion), the opportunity is immediately created to do the same thing. And that is to say that abuse is grounds for divorce, and then proceed to significantly expand the definition of abuse.”

And then “expand” on the definition of death — “AS IF the offending party were dead.” Further, ironically cite as your prooftext a passage that accentuates the eisegetical shoehorning and the Matterhorn-sized mangling of the wicked Westminster men.

“True abuse is something that cops can tell you about, as well as pastors. Say a man beats his wife up several times a week—that is abuse, and that would be what Grudem is talking about. But suppose the definition of abuse is expanded to include those instances when a husband wasn’t ‘there for her, when she needed him most.’ What if it now includes a husband who won’t agree to something his wife really wants to do? And suppose that he puts his foot down in a rhetorical manner that indicated he wanted to be crowned as king of the meatheads?”

And duly consider this overt and eisegetical gloss “as if the offending party were dead,” whereby the Westminster Assembly (wittingly or unwittingly) admitted that only death dissolves the marriage bond. And to get around this plain truth, they used “as if” — a pretend, imaginary, make-believe, fake, fabricated “death” to justify remarriage of the “innocent party” while the original spouse was still alive. They had to equate it somehow with some kind of “death” of a spouse, because they knew that the Bible says that the death of a spouse was the only way that a marriage bond is dissolved (The Bible, of course, was not talking about an imaginary or hypothetical death; it was talking about a real death.) What a clever yet damnable way to justify adultery and to call adulterers their brothers and sisters in Christ!

More from Wilson:

“Here is a statement of the two exceptions as articulated by theologians who were not participating in what might be called our modern ‘exception inflation.’”

“Although the corruption of man be such as is apt to study arguments, unduly to put asunder those whom God hath joined together in marriage; yet nothing but adultery, or such wilful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage; wherein a public and orderly course of proceeding is to be observed; and the persons concerned in it, not left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.”
WCF 24.6

Is it not cavalier and corrupt to unduly study arguments that assert by force a fictional, “as if,” make-believe “death” as cause sufficient for dissolving the bond of marriage? Indeed it is.