CHURCH HISTORY ON DIVORCE AND REMARRIAGE
Augustine believed and taught that marriage was indissolvable until death and this was the earthly picture given of the heavenly reality of Christ’s relationship to the church, therefore no remarriage was allowed if one did suffer a divorce.
Thomas Aquinas taught that the mystery of marriage was one of seven sacraments, a means by which God transmitted grace into a believer’s life. Luther and Erasmus both reacted to this teaching because of Luther’s strong understanding of justification by faith. They wanted to rid the church of the sacramental system. In so doing, they over-reacted to changing the existing marriage laws and teachings.
Erasmus publishes the first Greek New Testament.
Erasmus writes a new interpretation on marriage, divorce and remarriage in his Annotations on I Corinthians 7. It was a theological, homiletical interpretation, not exegetical (inviting human reasoning instead of letting the text speak for itself)! It contained humanistic overtones (putting man’s need for happiness in front of obedience to God). Erasmus taught that love should come before any law on marriage and held that it was not loving of the church to insist that couples be made to continue in unhappy relationships. The church should deliver those who suffer in bad marriages.
The two new revolutionary propositions were:
1. It should be permissible to dissolve certain marriages.
2. The ‘innocent party’ should be allowed to remarry.
These two views were considered heretical by the theologians of the day.
King Henry VIII wanted to divorce his wife Catherine and marry Ann Boleyn. He popularized Erasmus’s new views on divorce and remarriage and eventually broke away from the Catholic Church due to his desire to divorce and remarry. He started the Church of England, now known as the Episcopal Church.
Council of Trent. Catholic Church meets to renounce the exegetical results of Erasmus’s studies and of the reformers as well. The Catholic Church held to two types of divorce:
1. Separation of bed and board (still one flesh till death).
2. Annulment - insisting that the marriage had been unlawfully contracted to begin with.
Westminister Confession: official Protestant Reformation statement of new doctrines.
The Protestant Reformers latched onto Erasmus’s interepretation of the marriage and divorce tests. Luther added the thinking that since in the Old Testament adulterers were stoned, he reasoned that the modern adulterer could be considered as “dead” which would free the other party to remarry.
From this point on, we have our modern-day teaching that adultery (and now “desertion” and even “irreconcilable differences”) can break one-flesh and all parties are free to remarry. This teaching has destroyed the family as God designed and planned it to be. For 1650 years, there was no remarriage, now look at the state of marriage in modern times after only 350 years of a false teaching! The church is responsible for this lie in the earth. May God remove the blindness and bring a deep repentance.
An early church father, taught that marriage was indissolvable till death, therefore remarriage, in the event of a divorce, was out of the question.
For the first 500 years, this was the early church position and essentially was an undisputed teaching.
1250 Thomas Aquinas
Incorporated marriage as one of the seven sacraments in the Catholic Church. Catholics believe that sacraments are a means by which God transmits His grace into a believer’s life.
Protestants believe that God transmits His grace to us primarily through faith, therefore during the Reformation, Luther and Erasmus reacted to marriage as a sacrament as they taught justification by faith, not by sacraments.
However, in their zeal to dismantle the sacramental system, Luther and Erasmus went too far in dismantling what had been essentially taught in the church for 1500 years: that marriage was for life and remarriage, apart from the death of a spouse, was considered as adultery.
1516 Erasmus publishes first Greek New Testament
Raised in the monasteries and the universities, he was an early friend of the Reformation and of Martin Luther, whom later was denounced as a heretic because he mixed humanistic philosophies in his New Testatment teachings. He was respected because he published the first Greek New Testament which the Reformers all used in their study of scripture. Because they respected his ability to translate Greek, they bought into some of his expositions on scripture as well, one of which was his new teaching on marriage and divorce.
1519 Erasmus introduces teachings on divorce and remarriage
Three years later, Erasmus introduces his understanding of the divorce and remarriage texts in his writings called, “Annotation on I Corinthians 7". He taught that love should come before any law on marriage and that it was not loving for the church to insist that people stay in bad marriages. In fact, he believed it was the Church’s responsibility to deliver people from unhappy marriages.
He promoted two revolutionary propositions:
1. Certain marriages should be given permission to be dissolved.
2. Those involved should be able to remarry.
Both of these ideas were considered heretical to the theologians of that day.
1500's Luther’s teachings.
Luther introduced the idea that since O.T. adulterers were stoned, then adulterers under the NT were to be considered as good as dead. All the reformers were influenced by Erasmus (The Father of Humanism). They respected him for his work on the Greek text and in coming against the Catholic Church.
1532 King Henry VII
Supported and popularized Erasmus’s teaching because he wanted to divorce his wife Catherine and marry Ann Bolyn.
1550 Council of Trent
Catholic church officially rejects the reformers new views on marriage and divorce.
1648 Westminister Confession
Protestant church officially adopts new teaching that adultery and desertion dissolves one flesh (not death) and that the innocent parties can remarry.
1650 years of no remarriage.
Last 350 years, new teaching as a result of Erasmus and Luther. Now 60% of marriages end in divorce and second and third marriages are common in society. The breakdown of the family is greater than ever and the shocking truth is this: the evangelical church of the reformation that made an interpretation mistake and is responsible for the erroneous teaching we now have in the church on marriage and divorce. Marriage and family has become a disaster in modern-day society. The world no longer has any standard to measure it’s behavior by. We are truly salt that has lost its flavor.....God must and will judge this!
Submitted by: Carol Nendel
Author of Divorce, Remarriage, & the Falling Away