Monica, who goes on Twitter as @Monicks, has thousands of followers. Why? Her arguments are even more vacuous than most. I think I got hooked into this for the same reason I follow @antitheistangie (Angie Jackson)–not for intellectual arguments or deep thinking, but because she’s really, really hot.
That said, let’s examine one of the remaining two commands of the Bible that no one follows. It’s interesting that I mentioned I’m following Angie because she’s super hot, since divorce (Mk 10:8-12) is today’s topic.
I agree that divorce is forbidden; so what? The people that God declares righteous in the Bible: were they perfect and without sin? No! Abraham lied numerous times. Jacob deceived his brother and his father to be the heir of promise. David slept with another man’s wife, then conspired to have the husband killed. Peter denied Jesus three times. Paul killed and tortured Christians to get them to renounce their faith in Jesus.
If we had to come before God with our works, we’d all be screwed. Especially me! I just admitted to a sin in the introduction of this post–looking at a woman besides my wife with lust! The righteous live by faith.
So, at the end of the day, the truth of Christianity doesn’t rise or fall on the actions of its practitioners. If it did, this religion would never have gotten off the ground.
But that’s getting away from the central issue of ignoring divorce. We’ll come back to the idea that the actions of Christians isn’t the arbiter of the truth of Christianity in a moment. First, let’s look at the parallel passage in Matthew 19:9, which reads, “And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery” (emphasis added). This is a twist on our story.
The translation “sexual immorality” really isn’t the best way to capture the Greek word that Matthew used. The NET Bible translates it simply “immorality.” The word is properly understood as separating parts from the whole or destroying the union or fellowship of [something]. I take this to mean that anything that destroys the fellowship of marriage (beating your wife, gazing with lust upon Angie Jackson, creating an unsafe home environment, physically or emotionally abusing your children) should be grounds for divorce. Sexual immorality is only the tip of the iceberg.
So, divorce is permissible if one of the partners destroys the solidarity of the marriage. Other passages confirm this (check 1 Cor 7:10-16).
Do I think that all Christian divorces are taking place because someone broke up the solidarity of the marriage? No! I’m not naive. I know that some Christian divorces occur for the same frivolous reasons as the unbelievers’ divorces: “We’re not compatible anymore;” “I didn’t know he snored that loud!” “She nags me everyday.”
That brings us full circle: the truth of Christianity doesn’t rely on the actions of its practitioners. If it did, this religion wouldn’t have survived for very long, because all of us are sinners–whether we lie about our marital status to save our own skin, deceive our closest family to wrongfully obtain an inheritance, or secretly wish Angie was wearing something skimpier in the latest video.
Tomorrow, we shall show that atheists truly don’t think very deeply about possible meanings of biblical texts. They read what is there and that’s it.
Guest Post by Tom Scanlon
So we understand each other, atheism itself didn’t cost me my marriage. That would be ridiculous. But the methodology I used to embrace atheism did cost me my marriage!
As a Christian, I believed in the Resurrection. But I realized that the Resurrection left no evidence, except for numerous stories from eyewitnesses. We all know that eyewitness testimony is extremely unreliable. I can’t rely on eyewitness testimony, even the staggering number of people that claimed to see Jesus after his death (Paul said it was north of 500), because you just can’t rely on eyewitnesses! It’s too subjective.
Realizing the subjectivity of eyewitness accounts, and realizing that there was nothing I could forensically touch or taste that would lead me to the truth, I have to side with the fact that never have I seen a body three-days dead get up and walk. It should take more than inherently unreliable eyewitness testimony for anyone to believe that.
Eyewitness testimony is bad!
So, to be consistent, I started applying that to my everyday life. When Laura, my wife, told me that it was raining outside, unless she was drenched when she walked in the door, I’d go check for myself. She’s an eyewitness, after all. She could be biased towards rain that day since the weatherman had predicted it, and thus be mistaken. She could have just wanted it to rain and believed she saw rain. Or, she could be lying to me to further an unseen agenda.
Either way, the only way to ascertain the truth would be to see it with my own eyes. If Laura announced dinner was ready, I wouldn’t believe her until I smelled the food or saw it on the table. If she told me a story about her past, I would try to empirically verify it, either from her old yearbooks or by looking at her scrapbooks. Not her journals (that’s still eyewitness testimony); only pictures would do!
I started doing that at work, too. I never believed what I was told, only what I could see with my own eyes. There were lots of whispers, and no one wanted to work with me. But I continued to verify every story someone told me, regardless of how mundane. If I couldn’t forensically verify it, I didn’t believe it.
When Laura, or someone acting on her behalf, told me that she was staying late at work or visiting my in-laws, I never believed that outright. If Laura were having an affair, that is exactly the sort of thing they’d tell me to keep it a secret. So I always drove by her office or my in-laws on the way home to see if her car was there.
Laura started to get this crazy idea that I didn’t trust her. “Honey,” I’d reassure her, “it’s not you. I trust you. I just don’t trust any eyewitness testimony. Period. Unless I can get forensic evidence to back it up, then I just won’t accept it on someone’s word!”
I thought she’d understand, but she filed for divorce only six months after I started this. She also filed for an order of protection. Since I was constantly driving by her alleged whereabouts, she got this crazy idea that I was stalking her.
What ticked me off most is that she had no forensic evidence to back up her claim: no tire tracks, no paint chips from my car, nor any surveillance tapes showing my car checking up on her. Nothing like that. Just three eyewitnesses. The judge accepted the eyewitness testimony and granted the order! Can you believe that? How insulting. Not to mention a bit ironic.
On a recent Dividing Line podcast, James White reviewed a Christian’s reply to an atheist from the Unbelievable radio program. The Christian told the atheist to earnestly pray to Jesus something to the effect of, “Jesus, I don’t believe in you, but I know that you’ll do something to change my mind.” He then told the atheist that Jesus would provide all the evidence needed to believe.
That may be the crappiest presentation of the gospel ever heard.
James White was, of course, outraged. But should he really be surprised that someone would speak this way of the gospel?
Commitment to Christ in the New Testament is repeatedly likened to marriage. Marriage isn’t viewed the same way now as it once was. The colloquialism “starter marriage,” a marriage that ends within five years before the couple has children, is now common parlance thanks to a book of the same name.
Given that marriage is a lifelong commitment, it should be entered with that in mind. It should entail a total change–or at least the willingness to change–in personality, behavior, and attitudes. It should be a willingness for both parties to leave themselves behind for the betterment of both. In other words, the two should become one flesh. But that isn’t how people enter marriage. They get married for a variety of weak reasons. They get married because it’s the socially acceptable thing to do. They get married because they want an extra income to move out of mom and dad’s house. They get married because they’ve been dating so long that it’s easier than breaking up.
Many atheists argue that marriage should only be viewed as a contract, demeaning its origin as a divine covenant. And why shouldn’t they feel that way? Look at all the celebrity divorces and cheating scandals. Adultery used to be viewed a serious issue, maybe even a crime in some jurisdictions; now it’s regarded a mere trivia. It’s socially acceptable to be divorced, and adultery isn’t a crime anymore.
The book I referenced earlier, The Starter Marriage and the Future of Matrimony, concluded that the divorce of a starter marriage is actually a good thing. Which leads back to the question I just asked: Why shouldn’t a secularist argue that marriage has only the level and enforcability of a man-made contract?
Now let’s connect this discussion to the issue raised at the beginning of this post. Since marriage is marginalized, and marriage is the metaphor for embracing Jesus, why is that pragmatic approach to the gospel a surprise to James White? White, after all, has been blogging about attacks on traditional marriage for as long as I’ve been reading his blog. Culture has adopted a pragmatic approach to marriage, so why wouldn’t the gospel be next?
The issue is, as White correctly states on The Dividing Line, is that becoming a Christian requires a complete and utter surrender of self to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. The apostle John wrote, “If anyone says, ‘I love God,’ and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen” (1 Jn 4:20). If we can’t submit ourselves to a person that we can see and touch, there is no hope for us to submit to someone that we can’t see or touch.