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Protected: Is Sex an Obligation in Christian Marriage? What Are the Sexual Grounds for Divorce?

by Carson T. Clark on March 18, 2014

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  • Andrea

    Great read! If you are interested in more on the adultery issue Mark and Debra Lasser have many resources dealing with this issue. THey run Faithful and True Ministries and have survived adultery and sexual addictions by the grace of God.

    • carsontclark

      Thanks, Andrea! For both the encouragement and the resources.

  • Brendan Payne

    Carson, thanks for the heartfelt and carefully thought-through post.
    On such a weighty matter as Christian marriage and divorce, I find it helpful to view interpretations such as yours as part of a conversation with others in the Christian tradition, rather than as a one-off comment. An excellent way to help your readers work through this issue clearly, rather than resorting to individual interpretation or groupthink, is to lay out how thoughtful and godly people throughout church history have processed this potent topic.

    So, in particular, could you please provide a few leading Christian voices of the past and present that speak to your five grounds for divorce? (e.g., the early church Fathers, Martin Luther, etc.)

    • carsontclark

      Here’s Martin Luther on abdication:

      “…The third case for divorce is that in which one of the parties deprives and avoids the other, refusing to fulfill the conjugal duty or to live with the other person. For example, one finds many a stubborn wife like that who will not give in, and who cares not a whit whether her husband falls into the sin of unchastity ten times over. Here it is time for the husband to say, ‘If you will not, another will; the maid will come if the wife will not.’ Only first the husband should admonish and warn his wife two or three times, and let the situation be known to others so that her stubbornness becomes a matter of common knowledge and is rebuked before the congregation…

      Here you should be guided by the words of St. Paul, I Corinthians 7 [:4-5], ‘The husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does; likewise the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does. Do not deprive each other, except by agreement,’ etc. Notice that St. Paul forbids either party to deprive the other, for by the marriage vow each submits his body to the other in conjugal duty. When one resists the other and refuses the conjugal duty she is robbing the other of the body she had bestowed upon him. This is really contrary to marriage, and dissolves the marriage…”


    • carsontclark

      I will note that the majority of my research has focused on the two-way exegesis (HT, Richard Mouw) of the biblical text and our present cultural-historical context. Also, what I’m seeing in my inadequate research seems to confirm my hunch. Namely, the position of these historical figures tends to reflect their…

      a) disposition toward grace/principles/discernment or condemnation/rules/uniformity,
      b) understanding of the relationship between Scripture and tradition, and
      c) scriptural hermeneutics.

    • carsontclark

      One more comment for now. I think it interesting (and telling?) that the positions these figures seem to be taking reflect the circumstances of their own cultural-historical context. For example, in Geneva the Calvinists created a provision for divorce in cases of profound religious disagreement. Presumably, and I could be wrong, this means one is Catholic and the other is Protestant. Exactly what one might expect in 16th century Western Europe. This causes me to wonder what provision the Reformers may or may not have made for internet pornography, ya know? Likewise, to the best of my knowledge, people weren’t really talking about the problem of marital rape until the women’s rights movement of the 19th and 20th centuries. What would a person like Irenaeus have thought about that if he had been alive now instead of the second century?

    • PercyDovetonsils

      I notice that the quote ends in ellipses. How does it continue?

    • carsontclark

      See the link.

    • PercyDovetonsils

      I did. The link, the quote ends this way:

      “dissolves the marriage…”FN3

      It doesn’t give the next part of the paragraph.

    • carsontclark

      Gotcha. You’d probably have to look it up in a website of primary sources.