Re-addressing “What God Hath Joined”

readers respond

Last month, I wrote a post about the bad teaching that says that God brings two people together and joins them. A brief synopsis of the article is that

  • Marriage is intentional, without an ontological essence
  • God should not be blamed for our choices
  • “What God hath joined” is accomplished by our I do’s, not His fiat.

A reader made a response that had several good points, and he has given me permission to use his ‘post’ at length in order for me to address them.

Idioms and Points Of Agreement

I’m going to address the latter half of his thinking because it pretty much falls in line what I’ve been saying since I started CL.

OOC’s (to use the initials of his screen name) first point was that, if Jesus was telling us, in Mark and Matthew, that Moses’ inclusion of divorce in the Law was merely God’s ceding His will to Jewish intransigence, we’ve got a serious problem. After all, Moses said that this was the Law of God, not the “Law of God Except….” OOC is absolutely right, and I know that I’ve made that point before, in comments on TMB. He also adds the point that Jesus says He didn’t come to  destroy the Law, but in Matt. 19, He says that Moses’ divorce proviso was merely a concession to Hebrew hard-headedness.

There’s a very simple answer to the idea that Jesus’ statement is “destroying the Law”; “destroy the Law” and “fulfill the Law” were Hebrew idioms that were common debate/teaching phrases. In our culture/time, someone might say, “Boy, do I have egg on my face” or “I’m just killing time.” At no point do we assume the speaker needs a napkin or is beating up a clock, right? They are just colorful phrases that, through custom, have developed a shared meaning.

The same is true for the phrase, “destroy the Law” and “fulfill the Law.” Information about this is found in a long internet article entitled Hidden Hebrew Idioms. In essence, in Jesus’ time, if you didn’t agree with a teacher’s interpretation of scripture, you would say “You’re destroying the Law”, to which he would respond, “No, my interpretation is fulfilling the Law.”

(Think how many sermons, tracts, books, doctrines, and anathemas have been formulated over the meaning of this phrase, trying to explain how Jesus’ death was the fulfillment of the Law, how it freed us from having to keep OT Law, etc.)

OOC’s second point is another that I have used in the past, namely, that if God hates divorce so much, then why did Ezra order a mass divorce? (Ezra 10) Yes, Levites had married women of Palestine, non-Hebrews, but if marriage is permanent and the marriage covenant unbreakable, then how could Ezra order a mass divorce with impunity, much less God’s blessing?

Lastly, OOC mentions that God is a divorcee, having divorced the Northern Kingdom, in Jer. 3:8. I don’t know if OOC has been reading David Inkstone-Brewer, but that is one of the points that he makes in his two books, Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible and Divorce and Remarriage in the Church. Which leads me into addressing the first part of OOC’s comment.

Overcoming Bad Teaching

To make things simpler, let me quote OOC’s paragraph that is spot-on:

The idea that not all marriages have been joined by God is a new one on me. I think it’s worth thinking about. The incorrect assumptions and conclusions that surround that verse need to addressed.

Unfortunately, (I suspect you agree) there is little likelihood that correcting this perspective will provide direct help to anyone facing this dilemma personally. How can they be certain that God did not join *them* together? And, what is the impact either way? If a couple agrees that God didn’t join them, this doesn’t mean they should necessarily get divorced.

Fisking is an internet term that means to break up someone’s writing and rebut their arguments, point by point. In this case, I’m only going to be semi-fisking, as I am not rebutting anything that OOC says, but just responding. Here goes:

  1. The idea that not all marriages have been joined by God is a new one on me. I think it’s worth thinking about. The incorrect assumptions and conclusions that surround that verse need to addressed.

It was new to me, as well. Making the connection between Pinnock’s views on foreknowledge and God’s “joining together” was an “Aha!” moment for me. I’ve been familiar with Pinnock for many years, but understanding that we are active and free to make choices, that God does not predestine one to Heaven or Hell makes it easy to understand that He doesn’t predestine our marriages, as well.

  1. Unfortunately, (I suspect you agree) there is little likelihood that correcting this perspective will provide direct help to anyone facing this dilemma personally. How can they be certain that God did not join *them* together?

How can they be certain that God didn’t bring them together? By understanding who God is and how He interacts with mankind. In a wonderfully written book entitled Why?: Making Sense Of God’s Will, Adam Hamilton presents us with the idea that God and man work together in creating our lives. He tells about how he and another writer work together to create his books. Hamilton will rough out a book, with chapters, ideas, concepts, paragraphs, verses, etc., and then will send his material to his co-author. This man then takes what he has written and edits it, fills out concepts, adds new materials and suggestions, and returns his work to Hamilton, who then goes through the same process. Back and forth, each write and make suggestions and decisions, until the book is completed and ready for publishing.

In much the same way, we work with God and write our lives. We seek His guidance, we learn His ways, we make our decisions based on what He has presented us with. How does this help the couple facing this dilemma? By helping them to realize that their misery, their dysfunction, was not ordained, and that they can work on it. They aren’t predestined to misery, they make their misery; they can change their misery in just the same way. After all, “if you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” SO DON’T KEEPING DOING IT! (That felt good. 🙂 )

  1. And, what is the impact either way?

Well, now, that’s up to them, isn’t it? 🙂

They can either accept the fact that they had a choice in the matter, and that they have a choice, at this moment, on how to proceed into the future, — or they can continue believing that God has ordained what has happened, and that whatever will happen, they have no part in it and it’s all on God.

  1. If a couple agrees that God didn’t join them, this doesn’t mean they should necessarily get divorced.

Exactly. But let’s not forget that the “what God has joined” was their decision, and accomplished by their action. Yes, they are joined by God, but the fact that it was their decision-making before and after their wedding does not mean that divorce is the natural outcome. After all, the concomitant false teaching of “God’s Perfect Soulmate” is also just so much hogwash. Divorcing to find one’s soulmate just means that all that has happened is that you’ve jettisoned one bad teaching, for convenience’s sake, in order to justify holding onto a second bad teaching.

You are correct, they don’t need to assume that divorce is the next step. They will just need to sit down and study and discus how to go forward into their future(s) with God as co-author.

OOC, thank you for sharing your comments with us. Know that I and the other readers of this blog will be praying for you, and holding you up to God.

CSL

3 Comments

Filed under Marriage & Sexuality

3 responses to “Re-addressing “What God Hath Joined”

  1. Pingback: Divorce: Scarlet Letter or Valid Option? | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  2. Pingback: Update/Apology (sort of) | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

  3. Pingback: Bad Teaching: “What God Has Joined…” | The Curmudgeonly Librarian

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