Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Can a divorcee get remarried? Divorce and Remarriage in the Church, by David Instone-Brewer

Divorce And Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities

Can a divorcee get remarried? David Instone-Brewer says "yes," so long as the divorce is valid. He argues for four biblical grounds of divorce: adultery, abandonment, abuse, and neglect.

I grew up in a community in which there was only one ground for divorce: "sexual immorality," or adultery. How does Instone-Brewer get from one ground to four? The answer is relatively simple, he rigorously applies principles of biblical exegesis to the relevant passages of Scripture, and along with a few new insights into the ancient Near-East, weaves a powerful and convincing story of the four biblical grounds for divorce.

Here are some interesting tidbits. Did you know that we've found divorce certificates from the ancient Near-East? These are the divorce certificates allowed by Moses in Deuteronomy. Surprisingly, they all say (for hundreds and hundreds of years right up to ones we've found at Masada that date to after Jesus' ministry) that the divorcee has the legal right to remarry anyone she (or he) wishes. There was this problem in the ancient world that Moses solved by allowing women to have certificates of divorce. The problem was that before Moses, men could abandon their wives and still have the legal right to return years later to reclaim their wives and their children. Needless to say, this made it difficult for an abandoned woman to get remarried! Who in their right mind would marry a woman who at any point could be picked up by the absentee husband!?

Enter the certificate of divorce, which finalizes the end of the marriage and gives the woman the right to remarry anyone she wishes. According to this, divorcees could get remarried. In fact, remarriage was the point of divorce. Instone-Brewer goes on to show that this understanding of divorce is overturned neither by Jesus nor Paul.

Other interesting points:
  1. Marriage was considered compulsory in first century Judaism. Even the crazy ascetic Jews who lived in the dessert married for five years or so in order to fulfill the command to "Be fruitful and multiply." Jesus, by his teaching in the Gospels, shows that marriage is no longer compulsory when one gives up marriage for the cause of the Kingdom of God.
  2. Exodus 21:10-11 is a piece of case law that allows a wife to exit a marriage if her husband denies her "food, clothing, or conjugal love."
  3. A Jewish rabbi named Hillel came up with a novel interpretation of the divorce passage in Deuteronomy 24:1, claiming that divorce had two grounds: sexual immorality and "Any Cause." He and his students were opposed by the rabbi Shammai and his students, who claimed that Deuteronomy 24:1 only had sexual immorality in mind.
  4. Both the Hillelites and the Shammaites believed in the Exodus 21:10-11 provisions for divorce because of abuse and neglect. They just argued about how much sex a husband owed his wife in order to keep his vow!
  5. In the passages in the Gospels, Jesus is being asked to comment on the fight between the students of Hillel and the students of Shammai. "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for 'Any Cause'?" Not only does Jesus side with Shammai on the interpretation of Deut. 24:1, he also argues that "Any Cause" divorces are not valid and anyone who has entered into an "Any Cause" divorce and remarried is technically committing adultery. So, it is not any divorcee who remarries that is committing adultery. It is the divorcee who has divorced without biblical grounds.
These are just some highlights, and I certainly cannot summarize the whole of his argument with its nuances and caveats here. I hope I have interested you enough to purchase the book for yourself (use the link on my website!) and give it a thorough reading. Not only does it make sense of the various passages on divorce in the Bible, it also helps us understand both God's relationship to Israel and our relationship to the Church better. I hope you'll read it soon.

Conversations with Barth on Preaching

As I mentioned in earlier posts, I've read this book, Conversations with Barth on Preaching by William Willimon, and have written a review of it for Princeton Seminary Library's Center for Barth Studies website. I hope you'll go take a look at the full review here, and take some time to look at the redesigned site (which is quite beautiful). Hurray! Jason is a "published" author twice over!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Student Profile: Chris Pino

1. Tell us about your life. Are you married? Where did you grow up?

I was born in 1980 in Buffalo, NY. My father was the head of the
mental health division of Catholic Charities in the Buffalo area, and
a professor in Psychology at D'Youville, SUNY Buffalo and St
Bonaventure at various points. Now he has retired to part time
private practice. My mother is a nursery school teacher.
As a child I loved to play sports, and I spent almost all my time
outdoors. I used bike everywhere, and I especially liked to
fish. Anytime I was inside I was either playing Nintendo, sleeping
or eating. I have an older sister who is married, and has a child,
my nephew Sean. My younger sister, who is two years younger than me,
lives in Miami Beach, Fl. I have a much younger brother, Nick, who
is now only 16. I am especially close to him because I helped to raise him.
On August 16th 2003, I was married to Tricia Joy Eddy. We have been
married for three and a half years. She is a music teacher at Currey
Ingram Academy in Brentwood, TN.

2. Tell us about your education. Where, when, and in what have you
done coursework?

In 1998, I started my undergraduate education at SUNY Buffalo in
Chemical Engineering. In the middle of my sophomore year I
transferred to Cornell University, where I completed my B.S. in
Engineering as a Bioengineer.

I started graduate work at Vanderbilt University in
2002, and finished my Ph.D. in Biomedical engineering in December of 2006.

3. Tell us about your faith journey. How did you come to faith in
Christ, and how has your faith been strengthened/challenged by your
academic calling?

I grew up in the Catholic Church, and have believed that Christ was
my personal savior since I was a child. However, in the past few
years, I have learned to see faith in different ways with the help of
my wife Trish. I now see works as fruit of Christ's life in us,
rather than personal sacrifices, and I see everyday and mundane
activities as opportunities for worship.

Academia is a harsh and competitive atmosphere, which requires me to
lean heavily on faith. I am bombarded by atheist messages each day
working in the sciences. I know that I am being called to persevere
in this environment, to show non-Christians love, and to serve as a
voice for Christian morals in bioethics.

4. Tell us about your involvement with GCF. How has GCF encouraged
you in both your faith and your academic calling?

I have been involved with the Vanderbilt Graduate Christian
Fellowship since fall of 2002. When I first arrived at Vanderbilt in
2001, I was unaware that the group existed, until Mark Bray recruited
me. Since then, I became part of the leadership team, and have been
the communications coordinator, Webmaster, and small group leader for GCF.
GCF has had an incredible impact on me. The community of believers
around me has been a great support during a difficult time in my
graduate career. I have been enriched by serving the group, and have
grown in faith because of the relationships God has blessed me
with. Both my wife and I have enjoyed the many opportunities for fun
and fellowship over these years!

5. If, based on your journey in faith and academia, you could tell
the Church one thing, what would it be?

I would encourage the church to lead the world to faith
by showing Christ's love through serving orphans, widows and the
poor. Those without faith are unlikely to be convinced to believe
through arguments, but, if you involve them in service, and they get
a glimpse of what Christ's love looks like, they will listen with an
open heart.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Myth of a Christian Nation Review

A while ago I mentioned I was writing a book review of Gregory Boyd's Myth of a Christian Nation. Let it be known that the full review is now posted at the Princeton Theological Review website. I hope you get a chance to read over my first published review!

Simply Christian, by N. T. Wright

An excellent introduction to historical Christianity, Bishop N. T. Wright delivers a non-apologetic apologetic. Starting with the echoes of a voice that we can hear in the world, he moves into the story of YHWH's interaction w/ Israel & ultimately with the story of Jesus' life death & resurrection-the story of creation, fall & new creation told in the New Testament.

The most helpful part of this book for me was his discussion of three "options" for the way that God could interact with the world. In Option 1, God and the world aren't different from one another. Every event is an expression of God, and God is in every event. This is commonly called "pantheism" and is not a Christian option.

Option 2 is commonly called "deism," the idea that God, though creator, is so far removed from the world that he set it in motion and then let it go. Based on the story of God's constant interaction with Israel and ultimately the Incarnation, this too is not a consistent option.

Bishop Wright puts forward Option 3 as the distinctively Christian option. In this view, heaven and earth aren't the same (as in Option 1) nor are they utterly separated from one another (as in Option 2). Instead, the come together by God's grace at specific places and times. At this juncture, Wright points to the 1st century belief that the Temple was the "belly-button" of the world at which heaven and earth touched. The Gospel of John takes up this theme and moves the point of contact from the Temple to Jesus, the incarnate Word.

Of course, Bishop Wright is more nuanced and interesting than this brief description, so go find yourself the book and take a while to sit with it. I would highly recommend it to anyone curious about Christianity; it's tone is welcoming and inviting to anyone who hasn't yet woken up to the reality of God's grace in Christ. In my opinion, Simply Christian should replace Lewis' Mere Christianity for its precision and skill.