Exceptions and Loopholes (Part 2)

Here is part 2 of 2 of my comments on Douglas Wilson’s article, “Exceptions and Loopholes.”

Wilson had quoted this portion of the Wicked Westminster Confession:

“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 [sic] 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

Wilson then writes the following in response to WCF 24.6 (quoted above).

“There are three significant points to be made from this, and they each indicate that the Westminster Assembly contained a number of experienced pastors.

First, they noted that when it came to how people want to get out of unhappy marriages, they are apt to ‘study arguments.’ They are people with an acceptable conclusion who are on the hunt for useable premises. This tendency is assigned to the corruption of man. We must be careful of this because we live in corrupt time.”

Ironically, the Westminster Assembly contained such corrupt men who were apt to study “pastorally sensitive” arguments unduly for the purpose of strengthening the hands of adulterers. A corrupt and cavalier dip into the inkwell of eisegesis produced the following:

“In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to sue out a divorce and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead” (WCF, 24.5).

AS IF the offending party were dead.” A clever, yet damnable way of dissolving (in their own minds) the SOLE dissolution of the marriage bond, which is an actual and real — not an “as if” — death of the original spouse.

Presumably the WCF men believed that the innocent party was NOT guilty of “a matter of fornication” (Matthew 5:31-32). And yet Jesus said that the innocent party is caused to commit adultery, and whoever marries the innocent party commits adultery.

The phrase “apart from a matter of fornication” means that in the matter of fornication the spouse causes herself to be an adulteress.  But if it’s apart from this matter of fornication, then the husband who puts her away like this causes her to commit adultery IF she remarries while he remains living.

Wilson continues:

“Second, the two exceptions are stated. They say that there are no grounds for divorce except for these two situations. ‘Yet nothing but.’ Adultery is the first situation, and that would be defined as sexual intercourse contrary to the standard of fidelity set down in Scripture.”

The WCF’s focus is on what makes a divorce lawful. Their primary focus seems to be divorce and secondarily, remarriage. But of course, it is their doctrine of what constitutes a “lawful divorce” that determines whether or not remarriage, while the former spouse is living, is necessarily adultery.

Those apt to study weak arguments and break brittle promises sought faithfully a licentious loophole for “lawful remarriage” (i.e., “lawful adultery“) while their former spouse was living. The enervated makers of brittle promises found their pernicious pretext for committing adultery in that language-abusing phrase, “as if the offending party were dead.”

Let us grant for the sake of argument that the “innocent party” was absolutely innocent and that the “offending party” was the sole offender (and thus was the absolutely and completely guilty party).

The WCF men said that the innocent party may remarry “as if the offending party were dead.” So, logically, the guilty party may ALSO remarry while the previous spouse is living without committing adultery since fictionally dead men cannot commit adultery. For if the marriage bond is dissolved in one direction (for the “innocent party”) surely it is necessarily dissolved in the other direction also (for the “guilty or offending” party).

Cutting through this sticky pine sap of porneia is Jesus’ teaching that unless one spouse CAUSES themselves to be an adulterer first, the spouse who puts them away “apart from a matter of fornication,” CAUSES that innocent spouse to commit adultery upon remarriage. A petty, peevish, and fickle spouse divorces the innocent party and CAUSES the innocent party to commit adultery if he or she remarries while this peevish and previous spouse remains living (cf. Matthew 5:32). The certificate of divorce described in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 (and mentioned by the Pharisees in Matthew 19:7-8) was, among other things, meant to protect the divorced wife from the treacherous fickleness and peevishness of the husband (cf. Malachi 2:14-16).

Christ said that Moses permitted divorce with the accompanying certificate due to the hardness of the husband’s heart (Matthew 19:8). Christ then said that this certificate of divorce (“writing of divorcement”) did NOT protect against the commission of adultery upon remarriage (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:3-9). Those who marry a divorced woman while the former spouse is living “doth commit adultery” (Matthew 19:9).


“And note that the second condition is not simply ‘willful desertion.’ It is ‘willful desertion’ that can in ‘no way be remedied by the Church or by the civil magistrate.’ In other words, there might be a desertion, but we still need to see if the pastor and elders, or perhaps the sheriff, can fetch the straying spouse back.

The third pastoral note is that these determinations should be made by third parties, and not by the disputants themselves.”

To use the WCF’s reasoning, WHY must it be a real and actual desertion? Why cannot it be an “as if,” figurative desertion? Perhaps it’s because their reason will only allow for so much imagination and thus cannot go beyond the twisting of a real and actual death into an “as if” death.

Wilson on the case of separation:

“Now what happens when you have a situation that is obviously intolerable, but the two exceptions above do not seem to pertain? It is intolerable because the cops are getting called every third night or so, but there is no sexual infidelity, and the husband, who is the aforementioned king of the meatheads, says that he is not deserting his wife, but really wants to remain married to her. What then?

I think a biblical case for separation (not divorce) can be made, and the basis for it is here:

‘And unto the married I command, yet not I, but the Lord, Let not the wife depart from her husband: But and if she depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband: and let not the husband put away his wife’ (1 Cor. 7:10–11).

“This is talking about a situation where the wife who departs from her husband does not have a biblical basis for a divorce (which would give her the right to remarry).”

Whether or not a person has a biblical basis for divorce, it is clear that there is NO RIGHT to remarry unless the former spouse dies (Romans 7:1-3). Wilson continues:

“Paul expressly excludes that option. And so Paul says that she should stay right where she is. He is saying this in the light of his cryptic ‘not I, but the Lord’ phrasing.

I do not take this as Paul outlining the inspired parts of 1 Cor. 7, contrasting them with the mere Pauline opinion parts. Rather, I believe that Paul is referring to the Lord’s teaching on marriage in the course of His earthly ministry, where He was teaching in the context of Israel, where both husband and wife were members of the covenant. In that setting, the Lord gave us one legitimate basis for divorce, which was adultery.”

This legitimate divorce is the kind whereby one does not CAUSE the divorced spouse to commit adultery upon remarriage — this is the “apart from a matter of fornication” Jesus spoke of.

“Paul is referring to that first exception here, and it is the basis for him saying that the wife must remain single if she leaves. If she does not remain unmarried, she becomes an adulteress — committing adultery against the king of the meatheads.

Elsewhere in this chapter, Paul says ‘I, not the Lord’ and he is there talking about a new situation that had arisen. This is apostolic instruction, not dominical instruction. The gospel had by this point gone out into the Gentile world, and the new and relatively common situation of mixed marriages was presenting pastoral questions. One of the partners had been converted, and the other one had not been converted. So the Corinthians wrote Paul and asked if it was okay to be married to a pagan. Yes, Paul says. To have sex with him? Yes, Paul says. But what if there are kids? Won’t they be contaminated (1 Cor. 7:14)? No, Paul says. They will be holy.”

The reason provided for NOT divorcing is that the believer “sanctifies” the unbeliever (as well as the children). This “sanctifying” is about the unbeliever being in a situation where he or she would be exposed to the gospel in some way (“For what knowest thou, O wife, whether thou shalt save [thy] husband? or how knowest thou, O man, whether thou shalt save [thy] wife?”)

“Now in this setting, Paul is saying that he recommends against separating, but if she separates against this advice, what does he require? He requires that the woman who depart remain unmarried, or else to be reconciled to her husband. It is clear that he requires this because if she takes up with another man, she will be committing adultery. That means the first century church had the option of a married couple living apart, but where there were still marital obligations in place. In other words, what we would call a separation.”

Again, be not separated;  do not leave (cf. Matthew 19:3-6).  But WHAT IF there IS a separation?  What then?  Answer:  Remain unmarried or be reconciled.

An illustration about “remain unmarried.”  Did the bitter and resentful (now drunken, now adulterous) husband fulfill the obligation to “remain unmarried” just so long as his lack of sobriety kept him from staggering to the civil magistrate for a certificate with mistress what’s-her-name?  Did he “remain unmarried” just so long as he did not form a culturally or civilly-recognized marriage?

So, what does “remain unmarried” mean?  It does NOT mean that one may form a marriage with a harlot and then proceed to “reconcile” with separated spouse since, after all, they “remained unmarried.”  No — it doesn’t work that way.  Biblically understood, to “remain unmarried” means to remain celibate or be reconciled to the separated spouse.


“And here is where things can go off the rails. This is where exceptions can become loopholes.”

The Westminster Confession exceptions ARE licentious loopholes which form nooses around many credulous and undiscerning necks. The floodgates of adultery do bulge, swell, and ever-widen as different people begin piling up their different “exceptions” (loopholes) to Matthew 5:32 and Romans 7:3. Evidently it is according to one’s own individual caprice, whim, or heartfelt pastoral concern that “separating factors” become convenient tools with which to endorse and encourage continuance in the sin of adultery.

“In our pastoral ministry, there have been situations where it really was necessary for the wife to ‘move out of range.’ And our church has consistently sought to provide wives with the kind of protection that a church can give in that kind of situation. Men are sinners.”

The principles set forth in 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 applied to a hypothetical situation of a godly wife and an ungodly and physically abusive husband.

He has a perverse pleasure of dwelling with the believing woman because, if nothing else, he can use her as a means of “managing” his rage. The believing woman is in danger and MUST separate from this man (and place a call to the local authorities). And she MUST ALSO remain unmarried. The “bondage” spoken of is the bondage of reconciliation at the expense of peace (“but God hath called us to peace”). It is bondage for the godly woman to attempt to maintain this marriage in the midst of such terror and turbulence.

1 Corinthians 7:15-16 has been twisted and adulterated by multitudes who seek a pretext or excuse for remarriage while the previous spouse is living, thus promoting the continuation in the sin of adultery (the men who penned the Westminster Confession of Faith is one salient example of this). It is death — and nothing else — that dissolves the marriage bond to free one to marry another.

Wilson concluding on “The Hard Part.”

But, as should always be remembered, women are sinners also. A wife who is abused by her husband should obviously be protected by her church. But a wife who falsely accuses her husband of abuse should be disciplined by her church. Believe all women is the devil’s lie. This is just another way of saying that husbands, as members of the congregation, require the protection of the church as well. This protection must include things like due process, two and three witnesses, and judges who don’t come to the weighing of the evidence with minds already made up.

There, I said it. Under the cover of a waning no quarter November, I come out squarely in favor of justice and equity. Make of it what you will.”

All of this so-called “wokeness,” “intersectionality,” etc., etc., is completely antithetical to true equity and justice set forth in Scripture. It is just one of the many forms and manifestations of God-haters judging unrighteous judgment; judging by some other standard than that of Holy Writ.

“You shall do no unrighteousness in judgment. Thou shalt not respect the person of the poor, nor honor the person of the mighty. [But] in righteousness shalt thou judge thy neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15).

“Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; [but] ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment [is] God’s” (Deuteronomy 1:17).

“These [things] also [belong] to the wise. [It is] not good to have respect of persons in judgment” (Proverbs 24:23).

“Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person [to cause him] to die” (Numbers 35:30).

“At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; [but] at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death” (Deuteronomy 17:6).

“One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. If a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him [that which is] wrong; Then both the men, between whom the controversy [is,] shall stand before the LORD, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, [if] the witness [be] a false witness, [and] hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you” (Deuteronomy 19:15-20).