From a Christian perspective, what are the grounds for divorce?
(completely unrelated to my marriage)
What do you mean by “grounds”?
What are the circumstances in which divorce is “allowed”.
In terms of responsibility?
What are the circumstances in which divorce is “allowed”?
In terms of right and wrong. When is it that you can divorce someone and it not be a sin?
What exactly is a”sin”?
That’s what I was looking for Derek.
Since I posted a non-serious comment, I feel obliged to post a serious one.
My belief on the subject of Biblical grounds for divorce is as follows: In the case of adultery after marriage, it is lawful for the innocent party to seek out a divorce: and, after the divorce, to marry another, as if the offending party were dead. I would also concede that a willful desertion, that cannot be remedied, is also sufficient cause for dissolving the bond of marriage.
How about simply falling out of love? Is it a sin to have your feelings for someone change? Would God truly want someone to remain in a loveless relationship for the next 35 years because 10 years ago 2 people made the mistake of believing they were soulmates? When that commitment was perhaps preventing them from finding a more loving and satisfying relationship – and therefore a more loving and satisfying life here on earth?
And if i do get a divorce, can i just be born again and wipe away the sin like we apparently can when it comes to drinking problems, killing cats, coke habits, and DWI convictions?
True love is a choice. Honoring the sanctity of marrage ordained by God honors God–the goal of a believer.
Satisfaction in self or in anothers will always be flawed because we are flawed. Our satisfaction (as believers) should be in God. When that happens, a “satisfying life on earth” is measured only by God’s glory. God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.
One of the fruits of being born again is indeed forgiveness of sin (which was purchased with a perfect sacrifice). But, it is not merely for our sake. It is ultimately for God’s glory. When that is understood, living for God is the goal, not getting away with sin.
Frankie, I appreciate your post. However, I cannot help but wonder how God feel about you deciding what He does and does not want. I suppose my question is, what evidence do you have to thinking God thinks that way?
As someone who would not label themselves as a believer I can’t really participate in this discussion on the same playing field. However, as a divorcee I have put quite a bit of thought into the matter and into relationships in general.
One thing that I’ve mulled over quite a bit is the platitude that “love is a choice.” If I had a nickel for every time I heard that phrase during my 25+ years as a Christian…
This may be tangential, but I’m very curious to get well thought out explanations of this idea. It gets bandied about quite a bit and I’m not sure that it’s thought about much more than we think about how “Virginia is for lovers” or “the early bird gets the worm.”
Now, I realize fully that there are different types of love: agape, phileo, etc. But I’d contend that there are as many shades of romantic love as there are lovers. One person’s love is totally lust. Another’s is respect and admiration. Another’s is camaraderie. And most of us describe love as some combination of a lot of different emotions. Romantic love is one of those umbrella emotions that make such great themes for art precisely because of their ambiguity. We don’t typically write poems about calculus equations, but love is grist for the mill.
The point is that romantic love is an emotion. We are not the engineers of our emotions because emotions are reactions to things, thus we can’t choose to feel certain ways. They may be reactions to thoughts or the result of biological conditioning or they may be clever ruses that we instinctually use as defense mechanisms to shield ourselves from the more threatening emotions we’re feeling. But, they are not choices.
We can certainly choose to behave in ways that may engender desired emotional reactions, but saying that we can choose to feel a certain way is putting the cart before the horse.
It seems more correct to me to say that “being lovable is a choice.” If your partner refuses to be lovable themselves how can you be expected to feel love unless you choose to deceive yourself? You may feel other things: loyalty, pity, determination, piety, conviction. But if you don’t find someone else lovable then you’re probably not going to feel love.
The questions, from my secular humanist perspective, are: how much are you willing to compromise your desires to make yourself lovable for someone else and how much of them not being lovable are you willing to put up with before you seek out someone more lovable? For a Christian I would think the question would be how much stronger their devotion is and/or their piety is than their desire to feel romantic love for someone that they no longer consider lovable. If the answer is “infinitely” then I guess you have your answer. But in that case romantic love is not the goal in your marriage, fulfillment of obligation and demonstration of your piety is the object. Those don’t sound horrible romantic to me, but who am I to judge.
All of this may sound like I’m arguing for the “falling out of love” then leaving scenario, but that’s an idea that I find ridiculous. Adult relationships are, in my opinion, much more nuanced and complex than the emotions that we feel in any given moment and persistence is a virtue in my book. And I think that we often confuse initial idealization and lust, which are great but temporary, for the emotions that fuel long term satisfaction. Of course, sometimes we have to learn these lessons the hard way, but what’s life for if not for learnin’?
Though I am on occasion an “horrible romantic” I meant horribly romantic. Thanks.
There are different types of ‘love,’ and some are appropriate for different relationships. However, marriage is a relationship that models Christ and the Church. ‘We the people’ were and are anything but loveable in God’s eyes because of sin. Thank goodness He didn’t use these standards on choosing to love us or not. Christ’s sacrifice was surrounded with physical and mental pain that was a far cry from a ‘romantic flutter of the heart.’ And greater love had no one than He. Surely this act of love was not based on emotion. In fact, He asked that the burden be removed from Him, yet He chose to follow God’s will.
Notice I said ‘true love’ is a choice. I don’t think lust is true love. I don’t think admiration is true love. I don’t think mere camaraderie is true love. In the context of marriage, there is a mutual commitment to love each other ‘for better or worse.’ Up front both are admitting that love must last through circumstances and isn’t subject to them. If a marriage is based on ’emotional love,’ there’s no way it will or can last.
Loving someone else doesn’t require that they love back. Again, thank goodness. Also, Christians fulfilling a commitment to save face or demonstrating piety for self sake isn’t the point either. God is the point. God’s glory is a higher calling than chasing good feelings. God’s glory a higher calling that self-satisfaction. Fortunately though, we are most satisfied when He is most glorified. The reason is because he made us that way. He created us. He created emotions. He created love. He ordained marriage.
Although it doesn’t sound romantic, being romantic isn’t the point of love; it’s a fruit of it. Don’t miss the forest for the trees. Perfect love is only complete in God, because we alone are not capable of it. Only He can satisfy. And only in Him can we be satisfied.
I do think there are Biblically moral justifications for divorce, but I think most would do well to first understand marriage.
I have quite a bit to say about the dangers of using the glory of God as a pretext for establishing a moral framework, but that’s outside the scope of this conversation.
What I would like to discuss is the idea of “emotional love” versus “love” that you choose. All I’m saying is that love, by its definition, is an emotion and you can’t command someone to feel a certain way. We’re not in total control of what emotions spring to us. I just think it would be more helpful to admonish couples to take action, rather than to feel a certain way. But maybe no one’s arguing that; I’d just like a little more clarity from those whose teachers use this kind of language.
It seems like from the ways Christians describe “true love” they’re talking more about a way one acts than a way one feels. Would this be correct?
But if you do act a certain way out of obligation it seems like you’re really doing it out of love for the institution and for God, not for the individual. It makes your spouse seem kindof’ interchangeable.
I’d be more comfortable with developing a healthy respect for your spouse as an individual through communication.
I’d just like to add that I find it ironic that I’ve never known a Christian who has gotten married solely for the purpose of glorifying God. If that were the motivation then dudes would be all about seeking out “holy”, fat chicks, but them’s ain’t the shakes.
It seems like Christians, and for that matter most people, get into relationships for far different reasons than they choose to stay in them. I can’t believe that most Christians enter into marriage without romantic love or even that it isn’t the chief motivator. Romantic love is a wonderful thing that brings us together to mate and have children. But marriage is about much more than that, I’d say.
I agree that a relationship must weather the ups and downs of emotion in order to survive, obviously, and I think that a fulfilling life awaits those who embrace the freedom of true individuality that’s supported by a long term relationship where we’re accepted and supported. I think that long term relationships based on respect and hopefully a little attraction are catalysts for personal growth like nothing else.
I do take some exception to the idea that Christians are to compare their marriages to the suffering of Christ. If that’s the standard then why in the world would you ever get married?
New Testament writers made it very clear that celibacy is an acceptable, if not preferable, choice. Masochistic expressions of piety have long been a tradition in the Church, but come on! It doesn’t seem like a very smart way to try to bolster the institution of marriage to compare it to crucifixion, especially when you get to choose whether or not to do it.
Can I jump in? It’s late but I’ll make one comment and come back tomorrow. I couldn’t afford the nickel but bottom line is that love IS a choice. An excellent working definition of love is given in 1 Corinthians 13 which describes 13-14 specific actions which involve making a choice. All of them involve feelings, but those feelings find their fulfillment when the right choice is made. Feelings follow choices, sometimes. God demonstrates this by loving us when we do not love him in return.
I have quite a bit to say about not using the glory of God as a pretext for establishing a moral framework, and the question of epistemology cannot be ignored.
The concept of “emotional love” is far too abstract to be confined to formal discussions and absolute terminology. It does indeed seem ” like Christians, and for that matter most people, get into relationships for far different reasons than they choose to stay in them.” and I would not ask anyone to believe that, “most Christians enter into marriage without romantic love or even that it isn’t the chief motivator.” Motivation towards an end and actualization of that end may, I think, be discussed as separate elements. Yet, even from within the framework of a secular humanist, the utopian ideas of the freedom of true individuality seem assinine.
It would be correct to say that most Christians define “true love ” in terms of volition rather than action. Perhaps I’m showing my bias, but I’ve had trouble finding issue with that, and would propose that developing a healthy respect for your spouse through communication is a fantastic illustration of that. Should the question of “lovable vs. unlovable” be allowed into the discussion? I think it’s proper, but not as a means of justifying whether or not I act in such a way that is loving.
” do take some exception to the idea that Christians are to compare their marriages to the suffering of Christ. If that’s the standard then why in the world would you ever get married?” There’s a slight point I might bring up about Paul’s statement about husbands loving their wives as Christ loved the church, and gave himself up for her. It’s the wonderful existence of the word “as”. Paul is not saying that Christian marriages (or any marriage for that matter) should be a time of suffering, rather, our willingness to commit to the covenant bond of marriage should show the selflessness of Christ in his devotion to his people. Similes are great. Additionally, the New Testament writers’ (Primarily Paul) discussion of celibacy vs. marriage should be taken on a case by case analysis. (I’ll even allow the higher critical discussion of authorship to really open a can of worms) Certainly, early centuries of the church record events of self-castration for the ensuring of celibacy. However, we must not concede that such is a viable interpretation of the text. If we desire to discuss exegesis, let us do so.
Hi Jon, I guess i would answer your question by respectfully suggesting that i’m probably the last person in here, or anywhere else for that matter, who would suggest he knows what God does or doesn’t want. It’s not like i suggested 9/11 or hurricane Katrina were God’s answers to America’s liberal debauchery or anything.
To that end, I have no evidence. I didn’t claim to. I was simply posing a question to provide some food for thought relative to the question at hand. Without getting into who speaks for God and who doesn’t, do you think God would want someone to spend 30 years of their life in an unhappy marriage? And if so, i’d be curious to know what you would base that on.
I’m agnostic at heart, but the part of me that believes, holds to the belief that God is a loving God. And to me, a loving God is one who would want his people to be happy. If my sister were in an unhappy marriage, my hope would be that she would get out of it, because my hope for my sister (and everyone else in my family) is that they be as happy as they can be. And i would suggest i’m not the only one here who would feel that way.
I guess i just don’t understand how punishing yourself by staying in an unhappy marriage should be a part of the equation in attempting to prove a love for God.
Hi Frankie: I would go back to the core issue at hand before discussing an individual’s right to personal happiness, i.e. not continuing in an unhappy marriage. When is divorce permitted from a Christian’s perspective? If one does not accept the Bible as our final authority then this discussion is mute and we must each draw a line in the sand based on pragmatism or a personal sense of what is best for our own good. If however, you are going to ask a Christian then the answer is: in the case of adultery, or if a spouse who is not a Christian initiates and follows through on divorce. It could be said that a person enduring physical, mental or emotional abuse was being deserted by a spouse, but that is up for debate. These teachings are in Matthew 19:4-6 and 1 Corinthians 7:15. But it must be remembered that God hates divorce. Malachi 2:16.
If you take the rest of scripture the prefered, even commanded solution is reconciliation, not divorce. Whether it is with a brother, a friend, a co-worker, a boss, or a spouse, conflict, disagreement and “irreconcible differences” are to be resolved. No they aren’t easy. No they aren’t always pretty. But that is the task.
So if God hates divorce, and adultery and abandonment are the only Biblical grounds for divorce, then is there room for “falling out of love”? No. Not for the Christian.
Does that mean that God does not want our happiness? That God would want us to live for 30 years in a adversarial relationship? I won’t get into the fine nuances of whether God’s primary goal is for us to be happy, that is for another discussion. But the simple answer would be no. God would not want us to continue like that. God would not want your sister to live in an unhappy marriage for the rest of her life. If she were a Christian, then the charge for her and her husband would be to reconcile.
To the husband the charge would be to love his wife. The wife would be charged to love and respect her husband. Both choices.
to respond to Jeremy’s post:
God also created attraction and emotion. I dont think that the different types of love are mutually exclusive. Just as you say no Christian gets married to a fat chick for Gods glory, I hope none gets married just because shes hot. (Attraction by the way is different than lust). The way one acts doesnt have to be separate from the way one feels. I can act out of love easily when I feel love for someone. Loving those who love you is easy. Loving your enemies is much harder, yet ultimately more glorious to God. My point is that both are possible, and in marriage probably necessary. Being able to feel love and act in it is a blessing. Acting in love despite emotion is glorifying. Loving someone who isnt loveable requires God, not a divorce. This love can also be expressed in prayer to God about your desire to be loved from your spouse. God is bigger than any relationship. God is in control.
Gods glory doesnt necessitate intentional suffering. God loves His children. Suffering is inevitable because of the consequences of sin. It will be most evident when trying to strive for God. We dont have to worry about inflicting it on ourselves. However, our goal isnt to minimize suffering.
If you can honor God through being single, celibate, and dedicated to ministry it is best, in Pauls words. However, marriage is acceptable for accomplishing Gods will. We were never commanded to marrymuch less the holy fat chick. We are told to not burn with lust. We are told to marry if it is ultimately better for our ministry. Attraction and feeling love are Gods gifts in a relationship. They need to be cherished as such. They were put in place by God and are wonderful in the right context. They are evidence of a loving God. It is a gross misunderstanding though to cherish the gifts more-so than the Giver.
You didn’t think I wouldn’t weigh in on this one did you?
As a non-beliver with much respect (envy?) for believers, I think I can offer an opinion that in some ways satisfies both.
If either spouse engages in behavior or makes choices that clearly show a willingness to risk the trust that is necessary in a marriage…grounds for divorce.
As for falling out of love…you may very well fall out of love with someone that has done things that reveal they are not committed to the marriage, but in this case you are the now the spouse with grounds for divorce.
If you fall out of love with a spouse that has gotten boring , with grounds for divorce. (it IS boring sometimes to do all the things necessary to maintain a marriage and family), or fat, say, THEY are the offended spouse with grounds for divorce. It is impossible for me to imagine that a boring spouse who has the best interests of the marriage at heart, can’t be coaxed to be a bit more spontaneous, or that a fat spouse wouldn’t lose weight if they were lovingly coaxed to.
Grounds for divorce? Abuse (true verbal and ocviously physical), addiction, adultery, deliberately creating distance with outside activities that exclude your spouse.
Not grounds to divorce your spouse… they are: sloppy, liberal/conservative, not assertive enough, too pushy/opionated, forgetful of anniversaries, too close to their parents, not as smart as you think you are.
That said, I’d probably divorce someone that didn’t get the Simpsons.
The original question was, ” From a Christian perspective”…
I think it’s important to first define a couple things. What do you mean by Christian to begin with and who has the authority to interpret doctrine?
From a conservative Evangelical’s perspective grounds for divorce are pretty much limited to adulty, abuse and abandonment.
But from a traditional Catholic perspective there are no grounds for divorce. It doesn’t exist. Only declarations of nullity, a statement that a spiritual union never existed and it only LOOKED like a marraige, allow a person legally married to enter into a Church blessed union.
Many moderate/liberal, mainline Protestant denominations have a view on divorce comparable to the cultural norms.
And so on and so on.
It seems like from a Christian perspective answering a question like this comes down to who has the authority to interpret scripture.
It’s not enough to say, “scripture very clearly says,” or something like that. No it doesn’t. Sure, to you and your friends it does, but what about those other guys over there who are reading the same book?
More to say on that later, but for the time being, here are my short thoughts:
1. Catholics have long taken the word of their church over Scripture
2. I would challenge those members of non-orthodox congregations to explain to me how their adherence to the “cultural norms” (which I agree they do, just don’t approve of) is scriptural. I’d like to know where they pull the idea of divorce being allowed for grounds other than adultery or abandonment out of the Bible. If they can’t, fine…admit it. If they can, I’m definitely interested (part of the reason I posted this question).
Before we comment on what scripture says, I think its a good idea to put the scripture itself on the table:
1 Corinthians 7:10-15:
10To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband 11(but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.
12To the rest I say (I, not the Lord) that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. 13If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. 14For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. 15But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not bound. God has called you[b] to peace.
32But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery.
These passages, in clear terms, lay out specific directions for Christians on divorce: As a general rule, divorce is bad (i.e. sinful). A Christian should not divorce – Mt 5:32 and 1 Cor 7:10-11. The exceptions are: spouse commits sexual sin (fornication) [Mt. 5:32] and an UNBELIEVING spouse abandons a believing husband [1 Cor. 7:12-15]..
The issues Jeremy addresses involve not interpretation but what view of scriptural authority a person has. If you believe that scripture is authoritative and inerrant, the direction is clear – don’t divorce unless your spouse commits sexual sin or–if he/she is not a believer–your spouse abandons you.
If you do not believe that scripture is authoritative, then you get to make up your own rules. In that case there is NO right answer to the original question Derek posed, because there is no such thing as a clear directive from God on the issue–You get to make up your own standard, and at least to a large degree, your own god. That has its own problems-ones with eternal consequences, I believe, but that’s beyond the scope of the question. Maybe the question should have been phrased, “From a biblical perspective…”
For those of you who are not Christians, I am thankful that you feel free to weigh in on the topic. As a person who lived most of his life as an unbeliever and who often perceived Christians to be judgmental and arrogant about certain issues (sometimes rightly so), I often chose not to engage in conversations like this.
Part of being a Christian is committing your life to the joy that comes from living life not to satisfy yourself but to glorify Godnot out of bondage but out of freedom. There is no way I could possibly describe what that freedom is like – to serve him not out of rules and laws but out of an abundance of joy that comes from knowing Him. He’s not some cosmic finger stirring up rules to ruin us. He’s loves us and wants what’s best for us.
God is redemptive, and in my life I have seen him take disaster and make it something His (although I am certainly far from perfector sinless). In my life, I have seen Him take a drug addict, cleanse me of that addiction, and give me a compassion for those struggling with addiction. Ive seen Him take a self-righteous, arrogant egotist and grant me humility. Ive seen Him take a person with a selfish and self-indulgent view toward sex and relationships and given me the capacity to love my wife selflesslynot because she treats me exactly the way she should or because Im attracted to her body or personality, but because she is Gods gracious gift to me, and that it awesome. Its a gift I dont deserve, and I am so thankful for her.
I dont mean to minimize the pain that many experience and endure in broken marriages- and they are around every corner. Its a sorrowful consequence of a world full of peopleChristians among themscarred by sin. It is when people, in the midst of those circumstances, turn their desires and their hopes on God that the situation becomes ripe for Him to show His redemptive power. It is awesome, awesome thing when God takes a marriage that is in absolute shambles, where all reason dictates that one or both spouses should turn and run, and He redeems it. Ive seen it happen-a lot. It is awesome. For those who see it, for those who are in it, and for God, it is truly an amazing thing.
I know we Christians often do a crappy job of living out our lives in front of people – we too are ALL sinners after all. Our homes are often no less broken that anyone elses. But there is a redemptive God who loves us enough to change us and who teaches us how to love others and to become more like Him day by day. I would encourage everyone in this conversation to read all of Matthew to put some context on what Jesus has to say here. Its powerful stuff.
Just to clarify. When I said “sometimes rightly so” I meant that at times I rightly percieved Christians as being arrogant and judgmental – not that it is sometimes right for Christians to be arrogant and judgmental.
How is it not a matter of interpretation? Take the cliched example of I Cor. 11:6 – For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. Obviously, Evangelicals don’t take this literally, but many Christians do.
Now, I know the standard answer that this is a cultural based imperative, while a ban on divorce is universal. Nevertheless, my point is that this kind of thing must be sussed out.
Evangelicals don’t take a literal interpretation of scripture; it wouldn’t make any sense. Therefore, they decide what applies and what doesn’t – interpretation. And of course for churches with a strong emphasis on the individual priesthood this breeds exponential division.
As for Sola Scriptura, one must at least admit that despite however comfortable the doctrine is to our overwhelmingly literate society it’s not a doctrine to be taken for granted. The majority of adherents to the Christian faith don’t believe in it and historically speaking it’s a relatively new doctrine. Plus, there are some pretty good arguments against it in favor of considering scripture to be a part of, not arbiter of, the Tradition of the Church. That point for me, however, is academic.
I’m certainly not suggesting that we should disregard context when we look at scripture. 1 Cor 11:6 was written at a time in Jewish culture when women in places of worship traditionally covered their heads. Paul was addressing whether people in that culture should continue the practice.
Scripture is “open to interpretation” in that one needs to consider the context in which the verse is stated – of course. That as well as, for example, the meaning of the text as written in its original language. But a person can’t believe that scripture is authoritative and at the same time “interpret away” verses merely because don’t fit with his or her own personal philisophy – “evangelical” or not. That’s the situation I was addressing above.
The scriptures quoted above from 1 Cor are clearly stated. They are not culturally derived – they were in actuality completely contrary to the culture of the people to whom Paul was writing.
Paul was writing to a people who lived in a place (Corinth) where sex was a pervasive commodity. Bathhouses, orgies, prostitution were rampant in Corinth. When people came to faith in Corinth they were often leaving their spouses because they felt they had to do so in order to fully “give themselves to God.” In that context, Paul reinforced Jesus’ teachings in Matthew that marriage is good and that God desires for people unified in marraige to stay that way. Were Paul merely reinforcing cultural norms here, he would have had the opposite to say.
I agree that the best approach to Paul’s example in 1 Cor. 11 is rooted in cultural imperatives. The question is, why is that a valid interpretation?
There are serious questions that must be answered as to how we approach a text, and more so if the text we are approaching is God’s revealed truth. This philosophy and methodology of interpretation will flavor any approach, and there exists, in current trends, a plethora of “lenses” by which someone might interpret scripture. I would propose that the “best” method of determining how scripture is to be rightly interpreted would be to see how scripture interprets itself and then to follow that method. (e.g. How should we interpret the OT? By looking at how the NT did it.)
“Evangelicals don’t take a literal interpretation of scripture; it wouldn’t make any sense. Therefore, they decide what applies and what doesn’t – interpretation. And of course for churches with a strong emphasis on the individual priesthood this breeds exponential division.” I like the reasoning behind this thought. I’d be a little hesitant with classifying ALL evangelicals as reading scripture “non-literally”, as there are many who, by ignoring the question of genre, will accept no other reading than their literal”istic” interpretation. However, we must be objective in our assessment and not imply that all “evangelicals” haphazardly toss around scripture to make it mean what they want (by a non-literal meaning). Capitalistic Christianity has provided a deep wound to the realm of scriptural study. Yet, it still remains to be noted that, in a discussion of the philosophy and methodology of interpretation, for a true student, much labor is to be expected. I’ll argue all day for an academic study of scripture, yet I encounter individuals daily (within Evangelicalism) who couldn’t disagree more, and approach Truth as merely an emotional fix. I once read an article that was a review of Scot McKnight’s “Rome Sweet Home” (Dr. McKnight’s autobiographical work detailing his journey from presbyterianism to the RCC). The article pinpointed four primary reasons why protestants who have “converted” to the RCC did so, and one of the strongest elements of the reasoning was because of the exponential division that has increased in local congregations since the reformation. (footnote: This is not to say that sects and offshoots did not exist prior to Martin Luther’s 95 Theses. There is an abundance of record related to small groups, throughout history, that split off from the headship of the pope to form their own “papacy”. Some break-offs still exist quite strongly (viz. Eastern Orthodox Church)) 1300 years of church history can be a very persuasive argument, for not only a consideration of conversion to that ideal, but also, as a polemic against those who sit outside that ideal, but claim the same origin. However, responsible intellectual process will see the error in such thinking.
Sola Scriptura (alongside Soli Deo Gloria, Soli Christo, Sola Gratia and Sola Fide) is not a historically new doctrine. It is a historically repressed doctrine. The principle that God’s revelation alone as the standard is expressed throughout the entirety of scripture. Quoting Luther on the idea: “Unless I am overcome with testimonies from Scripture or with evident reasons — for I believe neither the Pope nor the Councils, since they have often erred and contradicted one another — I am overcome by the Scripture texts which I have adduced, and my conscience is bound by God’s Word.” Sola Scriptura affirms that the holy Scriptures fully contain the will of God, and that whatsoever man ought to believe unto salvation is sufficiently taught therein…Neither may we consider any writings of men, however holy these men may have been, of equal value with those divine Scriptures nor ought we to consider custom or the great multitude, or antiquity, or succession of times and persons, or councils, decrees or statutes, as of equal value with the truth of God… We must be cautious that we do not make Sola Scriptura say more than it intends.
It is beneficial to consider the arguments against Sola Scriptura that support the idea that scripture is a part of the Tradition of the Church, yet, it also beneficial to consider rebuttals to those arguments. For a short example, let us consider the four-fold nature of the Gospels. Why four? Why not three? 2? We see some problems that can be logically posed by the idea of a four-fold gospel. Apparent disagreements seem inevitable. The church fathers were aware of this, as is evident in Marcion’s proposal of only including 1 gospel in the canon.(c. 140) He picked Luke, and then truncated it. (That obviously didn’t work out) Additionally, there is substantial overlap in the Gospel accounts. On top of that, two of the stated authors aren’t even Apostles. Mark and Luke aren’t exactly the top pick for canon candidacy. The Gospels also exhibit a literary precedent that might pose enough difficulty to warrant a consideration of leaving them out altogether. There honestly seems to be no obvious reason to pick “4” gospels. So why did the Church pick 4? Because they didn’t. Simple because a council affirmed what was handed down, does not make that council the arbiter. In this, I find that the problem of the four-fold gospel poses itself as tremendous evidence not only for their genuineness, but also towards the idea that it is scripture that is the arbiter of the church, not the other way around.
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