Divorce

Feature Image

TruthTalks: Three Questions

Top Image

In this TruthTalks audio podcast, Dr Christopher Peppler addresses three questions recently asked of him.

In reality, he answered about twenty-two questions but here he looks at three of the “deeper” questions many Christians have concerning their and their loved ones’ lives. Topics such as promiscuity, divorce, church friendships and baby baptisms were some of the concerns brought up when he spoke at a ladies’ meeting recently.

If you listen to this podcast or read this post and have your own burning questions, please don’t hesitate in asking by leaving a comment here, on the Truth is The Word Facebook page or even on Dr Christopher Peppler’s page – we would love to hear from you.

As always I would like to say that this podcast and the whole TruthIsTheWord Repository is a ‘labour of love for the Lord’, so please help share it with the world by passing it on.

Press play below to listen to this message online now.

 

TruthTalks: Three Questions Read More »

Feature Image

Three Questions

Top Image

A couple of days ago I joined our local church Ladies Fellowship for a Q&A and I have selected the first three questions asked for this article.

These are just some of the life-related theological/biblical questions that many people wrestle with and so they may be of particular interest to you.

 

Question One: “My children are both divorced and living with other partners out of wedlock, and, in one instance, expecting a baby. Will the Church accept this baby and how would I deal with the situation?”

For Roman Catholics, there is only one church with one set of established doctrines and protocols, but for Protestants, there are many denominations and independent churches all with their own dogmas and practices. Some churches will bless any child irrespective of the parent’s church affiliations. Others will insist that both parents are Christians. Some will simply pray a blessing over the child while others will ask the church members present to agree to assist the parents in bringing up the child to be a disciple of the Lord Jesus. In this later  case, it makes sense that the parents must be committed to the local church otherwise how can the members help them to spiritually nurture the child?

My yardstick for all matters of doctrine and practice is Jesus Christ, so the question is ‘how did he deal with this sort of situation?

Matthew 19:13-15 records that ‘little children were brought to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them, but the disciples rebuked those who brought them.  Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” When he had placed his hands on them, he went on from there’. So for me, that matter is clear and during the three decades that I was a local church pastor I always accepted any child brought to me at a Sunday service for blessing and prayer.

However, some church leaders will not allow baby blessing/christening/baptism unless the parents are members of their church. For some, this flows from a belief that babies born to Christian parents are automatically ‘saved’ and therefore part of the church but only by virtue of the parent’s spiritual standing. For others, it comes from a belief that there is sacramental spiritual power in ‘Christenings’ provided they are conducted in terms of the denomination’s ordinances and protocols. In these cases, grandparents would perhaps fret if they felt that the child was being deprived of Christian validation. I don’t think that this is the case at all because God is merciful to all irrespective of whether they have been religiously ‘processed’.

However,  a child growing up in a home where the parents are not born-again believers is disadvantaged whether or not they have been Christened.

 

Question Two: “If a friend is banned from the Church because he was divorcing his wife after years of misery, as a Church member, am I expected to ignore him? He has a girlfriend now and looks after his children magnificently in every way.”

Church leaders sometimes have to make tough decisions and the hardest of all is when there is a conflict between a relationship with an individual and the good of other church members or indeed the whole church. A divorce is always a traumatic event with long term consequences. When both parties are members of the same church then it is even more difficult for them and their church leaders.

Some scriptures that have relevance to this sort of situation are 1 Corinthians 5:11-12, Titus 3:9-11 and Matthew 18:15-17. In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul was dealing with a case where a church member was sleeping with his stepmother and this was being condoned by the local church. However, it does instruct us that in some extreme circumstances church leaders may need to ‘excommunicate’ an unrepentant member. In Titus 3:10-11 Paul put it this way: ‘Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him. You may be sure that such a man is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Of course, the Lord Jesus established the basis for church practice in cases like this when he said:  “If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over. But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’  If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector” (Matthew 18:15-17). To treat someone like a ‘pagan’ is not to deal with them without compassion, respect and human dignity. However, it does mean that they cannot be regarded as spiritual ‘family’. In fact, from a personal relationship perspective, 1 Corinthians 5:9-10 and 12 would then apply.

My  opinion is that before taking offence on someone else’s behalf or deciding how to respond to them, go and discuss the matter with a church elder/pastor. Explain that you are affected by the apparent rejection of your friend and need help to understand so that you can have peace and act appropriately.

 

Question Three:Where does the Church’s view regarding abortion come from? Does the idea come from ‘Thou shalt not kill?’ If one has an abortion, is that person a sinner? How does the Church view it?”

This a complex and emotionally charged issue. The 6th commandment is ‘You shall not murder’ not ‘you shall not kill.’ Over the centuries theologians and judges have debated the validity of the taking of life that may not necessarily be understood as murder; such things as capital punishment, self-defense, and acts of war. In the USA politicians are currently using the abortion issue as a means of gaining election support. I was interested to watch a debate between two ladies on American TV, one a Democrat and the other a Republican. The Democrat was arguing passionately for a woman’s right over her own body while the Republican was presenting the pro-life case. The Republican lady made the point that she and her group were not opposed to ‘abortion’, but only to abortion on demand.   Both arguments are difficult to sustain consistently. On the one hand, woman’s rights assume that the developing baby is part of her body and not a separate life. On the other hand, the difficulty comes in determining when abortion is acceptable and when it is not.

Almost all theologians hold to one of two theories of the origin of the human soul.

  1. Those who believe that God individually creates the human soul upon conception normally argue that abortion is a form of murder and therefore ‘unbiblical’  and wrong.
  2. Those who believe that the human soul is passed down from generation to generation in the same way as other constituents of the human being would be more inclined to accept abortion as acceptable in certain specific circumstances.
My view is that abortion is sometimes justifiable in selective cases such as where there is evidence that the fetus is grossly compromised or where the mother’s life is at stake (there are other circumstances that I would also consider as valid). I am definitely opposed to abortion as a form of birth control or simply because the woman decides that she just does not want the baby.

Whatever the circumstances, I do not consider abortion as any less forgivable than other serious offences.  A woman who aborts a baby after agonising  consideration and as an inescapable last resort should not be made to experience the additional pain of our condemnation.

God freely forgives us all our transgressions but does not absolve us from the consequences of our decisions – should we do less?

As always Jesus sets the example for us. In dealing with another of the Ten Commandments, you shall not commit adultery, he ended his practical example with the words: “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?“. “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin”  (John 8:3-11).

Principles

There are three great underlying principles we need to consider when dealing with these life issues; let me express them here in the form of questions:

  1. What did Jesus say or do concerning this or something similar?
  2. What light does the bible in all its parts shed on this?
  3. Do Jesus’ words, “If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent” (Matthew 12:7) apply here?

The ladies of the Friday fellowship asked nineteen other questions and so I will perhaps pick up on some of these in future articles … so stay tuned.

If you have any questions you would like me to explore, please let me know by posting a comment here or on my Facebook page. and I will add them to the list.

Three Questions Read More »

TruthTalks: Divorce

Divorce TruthTalk

In this TruthTalks audio Dr. Christopher Peppler talks about divorce from the biblical perspective of what Jesus taught.

The verses referenced are in:

A must-listen for any Christians struggling with divorce. I do hope this helps. Click on the player below or subscribe to all of the TruthTalks HERE.

Until next time

 

 

TruthTalks: Divorce Read More »

Looking at divorce through Jesus-tinted spectacles

 

Divorce through Jesus spectacles

Any way we look at it, divorce is a problem.

It is a problem for the vast number of Christians who experience divorce, it is a problem for the pastors to attempt to heal the wounds caused, and it is a problem for theologians who cannot agree on how to deal with it. In three decades as a local church pastor, I never encountered even one divorce that was not painful and destructive at some level.

What makes it even more painful for those experiencing divorce is that often their theologians and teachers judge them harshly and condemn them to a future life of celibacy and loneliness.
The only parties who get a free pass in these circles are those who’s spouses have committed adultery; the rest are told to suck it up and persevere, or divorce and incur God’s judgement and the churches censure.

I have written a 2,600-word article on the subject of divorce, which you can find HERE, but for those who just want the high-level points, here they are:

  • Matthew 5:31-32 records Jesus’ statement concerning divorce within the context of the Sermon on the Mount, and more particularly, within the context of the true nature of the Law concerning adultery. The subject matter is adultery, not divorce, and Jesus’ objective was to show the Pharisees that their righteousness was fake because when they divorced their wives they were guilty of breaking the 7th Commandment.
  • Matthew 19:3-12 presents the account of how the Pharisees tried to draw Jesus into taking sides with one or other of the prominent teachers of the time. One taught that only adultery provided grounds for divorce while the other held that a man might divorce his wife for any reason. Jesus responded by defining marriage as God-given and inviolate. When questioned about Moses’ sanction of divorce, Jesus informed them that this had only been allowed because of the hardness of their hearts, but that this did not make it acceptable.
  • Those who present divorce almost as an unpardonable sin often cite Malachi 2:13-16. However, this passage does not constitute an absolute ban on divorce, and how could it when Moses later sanctioned Certificates of Divorce and prohibited only one particular practice concerning divorce.
  • In 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 Paul only approves of divorce when a non-Christian spouse initiates it.
  • It is clear to me that God does not approve of divorce. However, divorce is not the 11th Commandment and does not constitute an unpardonable sin. It appears from Moses’ reference to a certificate of divorce that although God finds it very displeasing, He does provide for it in order to protect His people, and particularly the women. Jesus made it clear that this concession was only because of the hardness of heart and not because He or His Father approved of it.
  • The Lord Jesus dealt with a woman caught in adultery in a very compassionate and forgiving manner (John 8:10-11). From this, and other passages that deal with repentance and forgiveness, we cannot argue that adultery constitutes a sin that God will not forgive, or that He will not fully restore a repentant adulterer.
  • Jesus does teach that sexual union between either one or both parties in a post-divorce re-marriage constitutes an initial act of adultery, but there is no indication in His teaching that re-marriage creates a condition of ongoing adultery.
  • 1 John 1:9 has, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”. This is a well-established biblical principle and must apply to every class of sin except for attributing the supernatural works of Jesus to the devil (Mark 3:29).
  • May a divorced person remarry? My answer is ‘yes’, provided the parties concerned realise that they have broken covenant and that God is not at all pleased with this. Additionally, they need to repent and seek to correct the attitudes and circumstances that lead to the divorce. Their pastor should be involved in preparing them properly for the new marriage covenant and pray with them for forgiveness and restoration.
  • When is it acceptable to initiate divorce? In my opinion, physical or severe emotional abuse or rape are reasons to initiate a divorce. This would certainly also be the case if children were being harmed or in real danger of harm. Unrepentant and repeated adultery would also give grounds for divorce. But, in all these cases I would strongly suggest counselling or professional intervention before a divorce is finalised. Severing a marriage covenant is greatly displeasing to God and very harmful to all involved, and so divorce should always be a last resort.

Divorce is usually painful, destructive, and a negative influence on children, family and friends.

People who have experienced divorce, other than the callously self-seeking, should be treated more with compassion than with legalistic censure.
If you would like to read the full article then you will find it HERE, next week I will publish a TruthTalk dealing with this controversial subject.

Looking at divorce through Jesus-tinted spectacles Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.