Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage – Part 1 – History

When government asserts itself into institutions created by God things, only go bad. As when California became the first state in the union to permit no-fault divorce in 1969, the divorce rate skyrocketed. According to the CDC, in 1867 only 3% of marriages in America ended in divorce, and this number slowly climbed until 1967 when 26% of marriages were ending in divorce. And after states started adopting no-fault divorce, where all one had to do was cite irreconcilable differences, the rate rose steadily to 50% in 1985. Now, modern trends tend to show the divorce rate is dropping. But, on the other hand, co-habitation rates are higher than ever. According to a survey by the National Center for Health Statistics. From 2006-2010, 1 in 4 women has co-habited with a man before 20. And that number jumps to 3 out of 4 women before they reach the age of 30. Of those who are living in adultery, 40% end up marrying within three years, 28% break up, and 32% are still living in sin. And these high numbers have led Pamela Smock the director and research professor of the Population Studies Center at the University of Michigan to say, “The question becomes not who cohabitates, but who doesn’t.”

There are other reasons divorce rates have dropped as well. History has proven that divorce forces people into poverty, which then restricts the educational, mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being of children. And because of these realities, some parents simply work harder to keep their marriages intact.

Within the churches of Christ, starting in the 1940’s and early 1950’s E.C. Fuqua was one who brought the Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage false teaching into the church. He started to advocate that non-Christians are not under the Law of Christ. At that time Brother Thomas Warren aptly debated him and destroyed Fuqua’s position. And because of that, the MDR issue died down for several years. Then in the 1960’s Pat Harrell began to write on these matters taking on a view that since there is no record of people living in adulterous marriages having to separate in the New Testament, then there was no need for us to do so today. But, again, his writings, as slanted and off as they were didn’t take root in the church. It was not until the no-fault divorce laws came into effect that the church was willing to start watering down the truth of Matthew 5, 19; Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 7. Again, culture started influencing the church, instead of the church influencing culture.

James D. Bales started answering the call to water down the laws on MDR by producing a false doctrine similar to Fuqua’s in the mid to late 1970’s. Teaching non-Christians were not under the Law of Christ, declaring that two non-believers could be married and divorced an infinite matter of times, and it didn’t matter. And it was just not him, Olan Hicks in the 1970’s, started teaching that God approves any marriage. And Dan Billingsly then started teaching that the Gospels are not for the church. And others have gone so far as to declare that 1 Corinthians 7:15 permits no-fault divorce and then subsequent remarriage for everyone. Also, others have gone so far as to dismiss anything written about marriage, divorce and remarriage in scripture and simply teach, “God just wants you to be happy.” Now, it is not that these false doctrines, and more, were left unattended. Brother Roy Deaver debated James Bales in 1988. Brother Andrew Connally debated Olan Hicks in 1977. And Mac Deaver debated Dan Billingsly in 1995 in Arlington.

The time has come that the Lord’s church stops allowing culture to determine or influence our doctrines. What Jesus taught in Matthew 5, 19; Romans 7 and in 1 Corinthians 7 was NOT to be the doctrine of the church until America adds no fault divorce. These were NOT words written to be suggestions to the Lord’s church. And God who is the author of marriage, is the one who determines who can scripturally marry, divorce and remarriage. And for us to think we have the right to change what is written on those topics is just as arrogant as our country who thinks they have the right to redefine marriage.