Today conservative Christian radio host and author Michael Brown posted the following tweet:
If, as a married couple in the Lord, you have the attitude that divorce is not an option, with God's help, you can work through anything.
— Dr. Michael L. Brown (@DrMichaelLBrown) March 1, 2017
That’s fine advice for most couples. Our consumer culture is far too quick to divorce based on the myth that marriage is about self-fulfillment. (It isn’t.)
But what worries me is the lack of nuance in the advice, and the way it could be used as a tool of manipulation for spouses that are victims of systemic and potentially life-threatening abuse. So I posed a question in a tweeted response:
@DrMichaelLBrown Would you ever counsel divorce for reason other than porneia? E.g. if husband threatened to kill the wife?
— Randal Rauser (@RandalRauser) March 1, 2017
By the way, “porneia” (i.e. “marital unfaithfulness”) is the one ground Jesus gives for divorce.
So let’s fill out this picture a bit. Let’s say a husband has repeatedly beat his wife and threatened to kill her if she ever leaves him. The husband has since been diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder and most psychiatrists insist that he is untreatable.
Divorce is not an option for the husband, that’s for sure. So should we encourage the wife that if she also agrees to take divorce off the table, that God can help them work through anything?
Let’s acknowledge that God can help them work through anything. God can also heal a man of anti-social personality disorder if he so chooses. But that’s not really the issue. After all, God can also supernaturally protect you from the Ebola virus. But that doesn’t mean you’re going to forgo the newly developed vaccine if you’re headed into an Ebola hotspot. (And if that’s too exotic, just recall the flu shot you took last November, or the seatbelt you buckled this morning.)
The issue is not what God can do. The issue is what we should do based on the best evidence available to us.