Wayne Grudem, a leading Calvinist theologian and prominent complementarian, has changed his position to affirm a scriptural basis for divorce in cases of abuse and shared his new stance at a major gathering of evangelical scholars last week.
After hearing examples of real-life couples whose Christian beliefs led them to endure abuse rather than separate, Grudem said he looked closer at Scripture to conclude that abuse may be grounds for divorce, provided pastors and elders seek discernment from God in leading a couple to this outcome.
This revises his long-held view, published as recently as 2018 in his textbook Christian Ethics: An Introduction to Biblical Moral Reasoning. The historical view of most evangelicals provides two reasons for divorce: adultery (Matt. 19:9) or desertion by an unbeliever (1 Cor. 7:15).
“My wife Margaret and I became aware of some heartbreaking examples of such things as severe sexual humiliation and degradation that had continued for decades, and another case of physical battering that had gone on for decades,” he told CT. “In all these situations the abused spouse had kept silent, believing that a Christian’s duty was to preserve the marriage unless there was adultery or desertion, which had not happened.”
Grudem, a co-founder of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, presented his new work on the topic at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting last week, in a talk entitled “Grounds for Divorce: Why I Now Believe There Are More than Two.”
Earlier proponents of accepting abuse as grounds for divorce have pointed to Paul’s use of the verb “separate” in 1 Corinthians 7:15, arguing that the verse applies to a spouse fleeing the home for protection. But Grudem previously was not convinced.
The verse reads: “But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace” (1 Cor. 7:15 ESV, italics added).
“Most commentaries assume that ‘in such cases’ refers only to cases of desertion by an unbeliever,” said Grudem. But upon further examination, he realized that the phrase appears nowhere else in the Bible. Grudem looked at 52 uses of the phrase in ancient Greek literature and found that “in such cases” usually does not just refer to the one scenario the writer already mentioned (i.e. an unbelieving partner) but to scenarios similar to that one.
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Source: Christianity Today