Book Review: Marriage, Divorce, and Remmariage, Jay Adams

ImageThis work is over 30 years old but is still among the clearest, most concise treatments of the marriage/divorce debate. It is biblical and readable for the layperson. The book has three sections. Part 1 address marriage, seeking to define it and debunk some common misunderstanding. Part 2 addresses divorce, with important chapters on definition, attitude, and the key OT and NT passages. Part 3 addresses remarriage and when it is and is not permissible after marriage.

What I like and a couple concerns

I like that Adams deals with the exception clause at the end. Let’s understand God’s basic intention for marriage before we get to the exceptions. I also thought his two greatest contributions were his strong stance against modern separation (ch. 6) and arguments against the betrothal view (ch. 10). I had a couple concerns as well. First, Adams did not give a very thorough definition of marriage and left me with questions. He strongly denies that marriage is to be equated with the sexual union, for then the pastor could not call the couple “married” at the alter and adultery would automatically create a new marriage. Rather, marriage is fundamentally “a contractual arrangement” (13). This was somewhat ambiguous. Is this contract oral or written? Must there be parental consent or a bride price? Does culture define these questions? Second, Adams’ tone—as in many of his books—is very dogmatic. Other positions have “no biblical evidence.”

Conclusion

I’ve never read a book under a hundred pages so packed with information. Adams is concise, confident (abrasive?), biblical, and thorough. This is among the best works I’ve read on the issue. Overall, I agreed with Adam’s core positions: (1) Divorce is “heinous” and is always the result of sin. (2) The only two grounds for divorce is unrepentant porneia (adultery and other sexual sins) and desertion by an unbeliever. (3) The spouse is bound to forgive and remain with a repentant spouse who has fornicated. (4) Divorce breaks the marriage bond, not adultery. (5) Remarriage is morally permissible whenever divorce is morally permissible. (6) Separation (living for substantial time away from the spouse but short of formal divorce) is not a biblical option.

Bibliography

Jay Adams. Marriage, Divorce, & Remarriage. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980. 99 pp.

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