Book Review (Part I):
One More Try: What to do when your marriage is falling apart
by Gary Chapman
My blood started to boil as I read this book from a major evangelical leader trying to “help” spouses dealing with infidelity in their marriages. It was like reading a playbook as to what exactly NOT to do in response to a cheater.
However, before getting into those details, I need to correct some false theological statements he makes on divorce.
Chapman shows his hand early by making it clear that he views divorce as always wrong. In his own words:
“According to the Old and New Testament, divorce always represents the wrong way….
Moses permitted divorce, but it was never condoned or encouraged….
God did not create divorce any more than He created polygamy. Those were human innovations. In God’s sight, those innovations are always clearly wrong” (17).
These sort of statements serve to reinforce unbiblical divorce prejudice. They teach in effect that adultery and other forms of abuse are less problematic than choosing divorce. That is not how God views adultery and divorce (click here).
Let’s take these theological claims point-by-point to check their veracity with the Bible:
“According to the Old and New Testament, divorce always represents the wrong way…” (17).
The implications of this statement is that God is characterized in the Old Testament as having gone “the wrong way.” That is to suggest that God sinned for God divorced Israel (see Jeremiah 3:8).
Furthermore, in the New Testament, we have a major character–Joseph–described as “a just and righteous man” for choosing to divorce Mary upon discovering her pregnant (see Matthew 1:19, AMP).
So, I would have to say from those Scriptures that this statement is false. It is not always “the wrong way.”
“Moses permitted divorce, but it was never condoned or encouraged…” (17).
Correct. However, this is also a partial picture.
Moses may never have encouraged divorce but he did encourage–in fact, commanded–enforcing the death penalty on adulterous spouses (see Deuteronomy 22:22, Leviticus 20:10).
Divorce is more merciful than killing adulterous spouses. In both cases, though, the faithful spouse is free to remarry. One just is less bloody.
“God did not create divorce any more than He created polygamy. Those were human innovations. In God’s sight, those innovations are always clearly wrong” (17).
This misses the point of divorce. It is a mercy given to humans in light of sin breaking our world.
God did not create humans to experience amputation of limbs, yet we do not condemn doctors for performing such surgeries as “always clearly wrong” when it becomes necessary to save life.
Since God was characterized as having divorced Israel (Jeremiah 3:8), it is theologically incorrect to say that divorce is “always clearly wrong.”
God cannot sin or be characterized as having sin. Divorce must not always be sin, then.
An author penning a book that starts with such a distorted theology of divorce is doomed to make more pastoral mistakes. And he does.
Stay tuned for Part II to my book review…