But If You Do Marry … Updated

Back in 2000, I wrote a book on divorce and remarriage, But If You Do Marry … . I have just gone through and updated it a bit. It’s not a major rewrite, but after 15 years, it was time to freshen it up a bit.

It’s a free download.

Profile photo of Jay Guin

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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11 Responses to But If You Do Marry … Updated

  1. Jay:
    Over the years, I’ve noticed that whenever we talk about marriage and divorce, or about polygamy, we start using the phrase, “…marriage which is recognized by God.” As far as I know, there is no discussion in the scriptures about whether God recognizes some marriages and not others, or whether there is such a thing as a marriage which is specifically recognized or not recognized by God.
    It seems to me that much of the discussion involves speculation over what constitutes a marriage which is recognized by God.
    Are you aware of any discussion in scriptures of how/whether God recognizes certain marriages, and not others?

  2. Dwight says:

    The order of events in the scriptures : two people (male and female) become betrothed (they are man and wife at this point) and in their betrothal they are bound (adultery and even divorce could happen) and then they are married (united as one). God made laws on what happens in the state of betrothal, but now how they became betrothed and God made marriage to be the completion of the betrothal of the betrothed.
    Betrothal and marriage in the scriptures meant one thing individually with the intent of tying them together. Man and wife was limited to, well a man and woman, and thus so was marriage.
    Now polygamy still intimated a man and woman relationship, although it was between one man and one woman, then the same man and another woman, etc. But the betrothal and marriage remained the same and always between a man and a woman, although in plural.
    As much as we like to force our Western ideology on the definition of marriage to encapsulate many states between a man and a woman, still their was not “certain marriages” as in different types, but rather one marriage of one type, between man and woman/women.

  3. Dwight, I wasn’t thinking of marriage between two men or two women when I wrote my comment, and that seems to be what you are responding to. I see how my question might have been interpreted that way.
    However, I was quite specifically referring to the language that is commonly used in discussions of divorce & remarriage, which we find on Page 80 of Jay’s book: “The second marriage is not recognized by God, and so the couple should be compelled either to divorce or to live together in a sexless relationship.” It’s that “recognized by God” language that I was asking about.
    This language implies that we know which marriages are “recognized by God,” and which marriages are not. My question was whether there is any scriptural reference to marriages which God does not recognize. In the example on page 80, the people with the point of view that Jay is describing would argue on some basis (I assume) that God doesn’t recognize the marriage with which they are dealing. I don’t recall ever finding a passage that tells us that God recognizes some marriages and not others.
    The language also implies that God has some sort of “marriage registry” in His own mind; that He says, in effect, “These people [who claim to be married] are really married, and these other people [who also claim to be married] are not.” Again, I’ve not found evidence of that in the scriptures, and was wondering whether anyone else knows of such a thing.
    Just to be clear, I’m not referring to adulterous relationships or homosexual relationships or fornication as marriage. The scriptures are quite clear that there are sinful sexual relationships, and just because you’re having sex, you can’t call it marriage (not in those terms, of course).
    When I was working among the Cree Indians, it was very common to find what we would call “common law” marriages, because the Cree don’t have any marriage ritual in their culture. The Cree did have a clear understanding that “shacking up” was something different than marriage, and they understood unfaithfulness and immorality. I believe that many of our brothers would have insisted that those people weren’t really married (i.e., that God doesn’t recognize their marriage) because those people didn’t have a piece of paper from the government.

  4. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ralph asked,

    Are you aware of any discussion in scriptures of how/whether God recognizes certain marriages, and not others?

    Well, actually, yes.

    In Ezra, Ezra made the Israelites divorce their foreign wives. It was an existential moment for the nation. If they intermarried, they would soon cease to exist as a distinct people (still true today).

    According the rabbis, “marriages” in violation of Lev 18 — incest, homosexuality — were not recognized and they were nullities. And that surely reflects God’s will — unless you want to kill people who engage in these practices, which was a frequently prescribed punishment.

    (Lev. 18:29 ESV) 29 For everyone who does any of these abominations, the persons who do them shall be cut off from among their people.

    “Cut off” is an interesting term —

    Shall be cut off from his people: although this formula is rather frequent in the Old Testament, its exact meaning is not known with certainty. Some scholars see in it a condemnation to death. But it is more likely that it involves the excommunication of the person from the social and religious community of Israel. Having all vital links to his former human fellowship severed, the guilty party is left to the justice of God himself (compare 20:6). Some languages may say “he will no longer be counted one of the people of God,” or “they will no longer consider him an Israelite,” or “he will be expelled from the community of God’s people.”

    René Péter-Contesse and John Ellington, A Handbook on Leviticus, UBS Handbook Series, (New York: United Bible Societies, 1992), 99.

    I would add that being expelled from the people while in the desert means near certain death — or having to find another tribe to take you in, such as the hated Amalekites or returning to Egypt. Being expelled was a truly awful prospect.

    I think this is exactly the image that Paul sees when he speaks of turning someone over to Satan or disfellowshipping them. They are required to live outside the camp — a lonely and dangerous place for sure.

  5. Profile photo of Jay Guin Jay Guin says:

    Ralph,

    I just realized that I failed to address your central question.

    The traditional teaching that “an unscriptural marriage” is a nullity in God’s eyes and so adulterous is utterly without scriptural support. Jesus and Paul both describe those who divorce and/or marry contrary to God’s will as “unmarried” or “married.” The fact that God doesn’t want it to happen doesn’t mean we pretend it didn’t happen. If you divorce your wife contrary to God’s will, you’ve still broken the marriage. You sinned in so doing, but the marriage is destroyed and there’s no sense in pretending otherwise.

    Now, does that mean that an incestuous marriage is honored by God even though sinful? Clearly not. For one thing, in fact, the sex act itself is sinful because you cannot, consistent with God’s will, engage in incestuous sex. The “marriage” does not cure the sin because it’s the sex act that is specifically prohibited. However, nothing in the Law or in the NT says you may not have sex with your wife if your marriage is “unscriptural.” Jesus and Paul refer to the relationship as a marriage, and so it is.

    It’s the difference between breaking an express command (Lev 18) and in breaking a human inference that is contrary to the text (not a sin).

  6. Jay,
    It seems to me that many of the arguments I’ve heard–and not necessarily very scholarly arguments, you understand–are based on some understanding of “marriage that is recognized by God.”
    I think that one might make the argument, as you have, that God doesn’t approve of or recognize certain thins that people are calling marriage (as in incestuous relationships). So it’s theoretically possible to create a class of things that people call marriage, but God does not. How would we go about creating such a list? By looking at the things that God has commanded people not to do, in the context of marriage/sexual relationships. In the case of incest, or adultery, or the Israelite married to people of other nations, there are clear commands which we can point to and say, “See, God told them not to do that.”
    However, many of the arguments I’ve heard beg the question of . You demonstrate an argument on page 80 of your book: “The second marriage is not recognized by God, and so the couple should be compelled either to divorce…” You have it as a hypothetical situation, but you and I have both heard it. And yet, I’ve never once heard anyone offer a reasonable proof that God actually recognizes or doesn’t recognize that marriage. They beg the question.
    And somehow, I think that there’s a valid point in challenging this language which we never find in scripture. Language means something.

  7. Looks like I need to edit my comment a bit. I used some characters to make a phrase stand out, and instead, I made the phrase disappear.

  8. Larry Cheek says:

    Ralph and others,
    My understanding as I have discussed this very heavily with believers/teachers of the separation theory, is that a divorce which has not identified a an action portrayed in scripture which validates a divorce as not sinful is not even a divorce. In other words the second marriage is in actuality is polygamy. But, they really do not say it that way. They actually deny the divorce. Yet, they would readily indicate the divorce would demand them to live separate, they could not date and have sexual activity. They tie this bond to sex rather than relationship of being one and in unison.

  9. Mike Seale says:

    Hey Jay,
    Thanks for the download of the updated version on marriage, and all the posts you continue to share with us. Just a note, Jerry Jones has finished his book on I Corinthians 7 (I think his step-son may have helped to co-write-PhD from University of Chicago and professor at Abilene—I’m hoping I remembered correctly his education and current teaching position). Just waiting to hear from him on release from publisher. If interested, I can let you know. He believes he has connected a lot of the missing “dots” that we have missed in the past.

  10. Dwight says:

    There is a gross misunderstanding between man and wife and marriage that we don’t recognize in the scriptures. One could be man and wife and not married and one could marry another as pointed out in Matt.19 and be cheating in their man and wife relationship. This is from the scriptures and how the Jews even today understand the concepts of man and wife and marriage, at least in the middle east. This distinction answers a lot of questions.
    In Matt.19 marrying another causes adultery.
    In the case of Mark 6 John said, “For Herod himself had sent and laid hold of John, and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife; for he had married her. Because John had said to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.”
    Herodias is still called Philip’s wife, even though married to Herod. This means that Herodias was committing married and committing adultery, but since Philip hadn’t divorced Herodias they were still man and wife. This is John’s perspective, despite the fact that Herodias had divorced Philip in the Roman courts.
    God through John did not recognized Herod and Herodias position as man and wife, even though they were married.

  11. Dwight says:

    Just a follow up. I have an unorthodox view of man and wife and marriage according to the Western view because I went back to the scriptures and began focusing not on marriage, but rather the relationship between man and woman and looking at the most often ignored point of betrothals, which was commented on by God in His Law. This has led me to change my premise, even though many of the things we do today and what they did and understood actually line up the same in many cases.
    If any one is interested in my study I will send it to them. It is called B,M,D&R (or Betrothal, Marriage, Divorce and Re-marriage). I expect anyone who is interested to actually critique it and find flaws if there are any. I have had a few preachers read it and they have become irate, even though they couldn’t produce a reason why it was wrong.
    I would appreciate a good and thorough examination of my study by anyone interested.
    my email: criticalchristianthinker@gmail.com
    Dwight

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