I had two articles emailed to me a few months back and have been meaning to put a blog together about them since. Both were articles that have since been widely read and debated. The first appeared in Christianity Today and was by David Instone-Brewer. Give it a read. It’s a look at the passages in the bible that talk about divorce, drawing parallels between the old testament and new testament as well as drawing some relatively new hermeneutic conclusions about Jesus’s words in Matthew 9:19. (for those who don’t know, hermeneutics is the study of how we interpret the bible) He comes to some interesting conclusions and says that the bible is much broader in it’s allowance for divorce than we have often read it to be.
It’s no surprise that some people disagree with that, and prominent theologian John Piper was one to respond quickly. His article is here. Give this a read next.
I find both to be fairly well written articles from a writing standpoint. It is obvious that both are articles and don’t include a full argument and explanation, but they’re meant to help people start thinking about the issues.
After some thought, I tend to agree theologically with Piper more than Instone-Brewer. Here’s where my problem lies – I really have a hard time swallowing the attitude that comes across in Piper’s writings. This isn’t the first time I’ve come across this problem with Piper (or “Piperettes” – those who strongly follow Piper). Truth be told, I think Piper is probably more theologically astute and more widely respected. I worry about broadening the grounds for divorce too much as Piper does, but I would be slow to make such harsh assumptions and criticisms about Instone-Brewer’s position. Maybe Piper’s right in everything he writes, but the tone just doesn’t come across in a very gracious manner.
I’ve always struggled with writing where the attitude of the writer come through too strongly. Maybe I’m off base – I know Paul came across strongly and at times arrogantly to his audience. I do struggle with it at times though – I don’t think that making fast conclusions about someone’s beliefs and then tearing them down because of those conclusions is helpful to the body of Christ as a whole. Maybe I’m crazy – does anyone else get a bad vibe from Piper’s tone?
Putting aside tone and perceived attitude, at the heart of this issue seems to be hermeneutic approach. If you’ve never thought about it, give some thought to how you interpret the bible and how the teachers and leaders around you can influence how you read your bible.
What do you think? What does God really think about divorce, and how do we understand him through a book that was written to a different group of people in a different culture in a different language – but was also written to speak through time?