The biblical literalist's point of view is clear: If it is a part of the biblical revelation then it is true and accurate. What we know from the text concerning marriage is that "God hates divorce" (Mal 2:16) . It is true (as I understand it) that God (for the hardness of men's hearts) has allowed for divorce in instances of irreconcilable adultery or abandonment (1 Cor 7; Matt 5:31 - 32). And yes, it is true that in the structure of the family, the wife is to be submissive to her husband (Eph 5:22), with a biblical view of submission. But that is not all the Scripture has to say to the family. Both the wife and husband are given the command to "submit to one another" (Eph 5:21). The husband is told in fact to "love thy wife as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for her" (Eph 5: 25). A pretty high mark of commitment!
I would take all that I gather from Scripture and say this: God hates divorce but He loves both members of the marriage. He has given both commands that are intended to strengthen a marriage and relationship of mutual trust and love. If either of the spouses violates the Word of God in reference to their relationship with the other, then a different part of the text takes over. Submission on her part is not the preeminent and end-all command. What about his "love" part.
My response to the article was first anger and embarrassment, that someone (claiming to be a man of God, etc.) could take his particular pet Bible verses and accept the texts he likes (ala carte) and make it say that a wife is to submit to an abusive husband. In an instance of abuse, the wife should have the husband arrested for breaking the law (the text calls us to honor the code of law also - Rom 13:1-7; 1 Pet 2:13-15). If the abuser can be helped, the wife can be slowly reintroduced to the marriage (there are a number of very good ministries specializing in this). If the pattern shows its head again, the wife should separate immediately. Her safety cannot be compromised because her husband is an abuser.
Bottom line: God hates divorce and has set VERY limited grounds for biblical divorce. God has called us to peace (1 Cor 7:15). Divorce should never be a hastily entered decision by anyone - even if that person is a victim of abuse. Divorce is not her only option. The abused wife should, however, separate from an abusive husband to insure the safety of her and her children - and hopefully facilitate needed rehabilitation, repentance, and counseling for the man she once loved as her husband. But the husband who has abused his wife and demanded such an unbiblical brand of "submission" that he can ignore biblical commands for his life, has forfeited his right to expect the wife to submit to his leadership. If the woman does assume this role, and separates from her abusive husband - and he refuses the needed change, she should assume that her separation is permanent. If the husband then divorces his wife, he has fully abandoned the marriage and the believing wife should move forward - as the Word would tell her: "a sister is not in bondage in such cases" (1 Cor 7:15).
I believe this view takes ALL the Bible literally and not just a few verses.
Wednesday, February 11, 2009
Dem Bones Dialogue Series: Marriage and Domestic Violence II
Kent H is a conservative evangelical and biblical literalist. He has a M.A. in Religion and is currently completing his M.Div degree at Liberty University. He is also an ordained minister.