Not Long Ago…


What continues to astound me is how blind some pastors are/were to using the example of Hosea in dealing with adultery. Application moves that they would never do in other places of Scripture, they do in applying this book to  every Christian marriage ravaged by adultery. It is sickening.

An example of this short-sighted and destructive application is found in a book entitled The Divorce Myth: A Biblical Examination of Divorce and Remarriage by J. Carl Laney with a forward from Dr. Charles C. Ryrie*:

The key principle we may glean from the Lord’s dealings with Hosea is that God’s will for divorced or separated couples is always reconciliation. Under no circumstances–no matter how gross–would it be God’s will for divorce to take place (134).

He draws this conclusion following citing Hosea chapter 3 where God instructs Hosea to take back Gomer. I find this application ridiculous and sinful (against brother/sisters who have already been sinned against by adultery).

Laney does not come out and say it in this quote. However, he implies that anyone who has divorced has sinned irregardless of circumstances. I say such as painting such actions as out of “God’s will” is shorthand for calling it sin.

This is unbiblical.

And it is absolutely crazy to use the example of Hosea to proof-text this position. You might as well have used the book of Hosea as a pre-marital guide to choosing your mate–i.e. go and find a mate who lives as a prostitute. It is the same idea.

Hosea had a special call upon his life. The fact that God had to tell him to take Gomer back suggests that was not the norm for a prophet of God. And while God is in the business of reconciliation, He requires repentance as well. That is clear in the book of Hosea and even in chapter three when Hosea tells Gomer that she must not be with other men after buying her back (Hosea 3:3).

I call Laney’s interpretation sinful as it makes divorce a sin where God has not called it a sin. If God permits people to divorce, then it cannot be a sin. And Laney’s interpretation fosters an unbiblical divorce prejudice in the evangelical world that I still hear and encounter to this day (thirty some years later).

And it assumes everyone has a choice in the matter of divorce. The reality is that we do not. Many a spouse–myself included–found ourselves served with divorce papers and presented with a reality that I would be divorced whether or not I wanted it. I know I am not alone in such circumstances.

Laney’s interpretation condemns people like myself plus others who have Biblically chosen divorce when faced with their spouses’ contemptuous adultery (see Deut 22:22, Jer 3:8, Mt 5:32, and Mt 19:9).

God’s will is to seek holiness and wholeness. Sometimes people choose sin over God. We do not control the choices of others–and that includes the choices of our spouses. It is unjust and ungodly to blame a faithful spouse for a divorce forced upon him/her or to censure the faithful spouse for choosing a divorce in light of adultery.

It was God’s will explicitly in the Old Testament for the adulterous spouse to die (e.g. Deut. 22:22). Thankfully, God is more merciful in this day where divorce is the alternative.

Too bad folks like Laney missed this piece when teaching on the matters of divorce and remarriage. It might have helped them avoid such blanket statements as the one I quoted above as well as mishandling the example of Hosea.

Such madness must stop!




*Laney, J. Carl. The Divorce Myth: A Biblical Examination of Divorce and Remarriage. Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House Publishers, 1981.


6 thoughts on “Not Long Ago…”

  1. I wonder at what point ( if any?) Laney ever concludes a spouse by remaking in a marriage is condoning their partner’s ongoing adultery.

    My ex wife tried so hard to normalise her friendship with Andy her EA partner she regularly demanded that I run her to see him as if she was asking me to get her groceries. On other occasions she demanded I lied to our minister and elders to cover up what she was doing. She told me I was to say I was ” happy ” with the friendship.

    Despite all this I really struggled as a Christian with divorce and she made me pay dearly by making sure I haven’t had a relationship with my two of my children since.

    I find DM an incalculable help in helping my pain. Although Laney is a brother in Christ I find his words incredibly painful.It struck me he hasn’t been through the pain of adultery and divorce for if he had he wouldn’t have written them. Come to think of it most but not all of the ministers who admonished me about my divorce directly or indirect,y were married.

    Perhaps it ought to be a requirement that only ministers who have been through the pain of divorce can counsel others going through or about to embark on divorce.

    1. Ex UK Chump,

      From what I gather in his book, I think Laney is of the opinion that divorce disqualifies a pastor from being a pastor, elder, or deacon. It is truly sad but the saddest part is the impact of this view point. Calling it Biblical while further abusing faithful spouses by calling them sinful as I see such statements.

      Glad the blog is a balm. And my heart goes out to you! I agree that pastors who have survived adultery and divorce from their unfaithful spouses are much needed voices in the church. Too bad that many are scrubbed out the pastorate because of unbiblical viewpoints held by people like Laney.


  2. In the UK it is possible for someone to be divorced against their will after 5 years separation with absolutely no “fault”, and even doing it sooner on the grounds of unreasonable behaviour, the behaviour does not have to be that unreasonable, if someone is determined, so I was told by my solicitor, disqualifying someone from the ministry for something they cannot do anything about would be like divorcing a wife who had been raped on the grounds that she committed adultery, fortunately the law recognizes that that only consensual intercourse is adultery, if the law can tell the difference then surely the church can also see the difference and be merciful. Even when it is the betrayed spouse who files this again is forced on them by their spouse, most times you have to so you can gain a fair settlement, build a new future for self and children and live a life where you are not worried about catching anything from your adulterous spouse. It is a forced hand choice not a deliberate choice

  3. In a sense the unfaithful spouse does die. They lose marriage, prestige, dignity, sometimes children, friends, and even siblings and relatives in the process. They also suffer, in my mind, much much longer than most faithful spouses. I’ve fallen back on the fact that I didn’t cheat, didn’t give into temptation despite having it available, didn’t give up myself for a momentary thrill. And now, over two years later and 18 months after the divorce, my XW is on anti-depressants, hates her job (second one after divorce) and her AP has moved on. Her children judge her, despite me saying very little about her, and they struggle to understand how someone they thought was one way, is now a totally different person, and one they often do not like very much. Her actions have resulted in consequences I’m not sure she would have anticipated. And now that she’s paying the price, I look at the old testament and I think, “God really does take care of justice on his own!”

    Moving forward, freeing myself from the bondage of that past hurt, reconfiguring my life, has not been easy. But this is a gift, not a curse. She lives every day with her self inflicted curse. By choice. I’ll take my situation over hers, for sure.

  4. This is a topic that has come up again and again with several of my Christian divorced friends. One was cheated on and abandoned, as in, “Hey I’m having an affair and I’m leaving you for her” and she was told by someone that, “If you ever date or remarry, you’ll be committing adultery.” Another found about her husband’s affair and filed for divorce (he married the AP a month after divorce was final) and was told, “You should pray for your sin of divorce.” Another was kicked out of the house by their spouse and told the marriage was over, and has heard similar things, that “God hates divorce.” And they take those things said to heart.

    To those friends, I’ve always said that I don’t believe God thinks that way. Someone cheats or abandons you, how are you held responsible for that? And saying, “God’s will for divorced or separated couples is always reconciliation. Under no circumstances–no matter how gross–would it be God’s will for divorce to take place” is frankly, scary. So God wants you to stay in a situation in which you are physically or mentally abused? Somehow I doubt that.

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