Author Topic: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question  (Read 29543 times)

Steven W Bohler

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New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« on: December 06, 2017, 11:51:15 AM »
I just received the new LCMS catechism and was leafing through it.  On page 101, under the discussion of the Sixth Commandment and divorce, it says this:

"Note: Sadly, divorce cannot be avoided in many circumstances of domestic abuse, which constitutes a form of malicious desertion."

I know that view has been argued for a while, but my question is: when/how did this become the official position of our synod (so that it gets enshrined in the catechism explanation)? 

aletheist

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #1 on: December 06, 2017, 01:07:20 PM »
I have not been able to find a convention resolution making this the official doctrinal position of the LCMS; just a document prepared by the Domestic Violence and Abuse Task Force, "When Homes Are Heartless:  An LCMS Perspective on Domestic Violence," which characterizes itself as a "theological statement" and quotes the 2011 CTCR report, The Creator's Tapestry:  "Some divorces are unavoidable--for instance, where a spouse abandons the marriage, or persists in stubborn infidelity, or physically drives away the other spouse through abuse."  The Task Force document goes on to state, "Christians can and should make use of protections against sinís dangers by accepting the sin-driven fact that divorce cannot be avoided in many circumstances of adultery, abandonment and abuse."
Jon Alan Schmidt, LCMS Layman

"We believe, teach and confess that by conserving the distinction between Law and Gospel as an especially glorious light
with great diligence in the Church, the Word of God is rightly divided according to the admonition of St. Paul." (FC Ep V.2)

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #2 on: December 06, 2017, 01:15:05 PM »
https://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=3120

https://www.lcms.org/Document.fdoc?src=lcm&id=310

Also, the 1987 CTCR "Divorce and Remarriage" seemed to be heading in that direction in its discussion of divorce due to abandonment.

file:///C:/Users/donal/Downloads/LCMS-Divorce-and-Remarriage.pdf
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Steven W Bohler

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #3 on: December 06, 2017, 03:15:50 PM »
So, I guess my next question is: what exactly is "domestic abuse"?  Physical abuse?  If so, how much is cause for a "Scriptural" divorce?  A beating that sends one to the hospital?  A slap across the face?  A touch that one deems too strong?  Does "domestic abuse" include emotional abuse?  Is name-calling grounds for divorce?  How about "he's become so distant lately"?  Does "domestic abuse" include abusing the relationship: "she wants more and more from me all the time"?  Is one incident sufficient, or does there need to be a pattern?

I am very wary of this path.  "Domestic abuse" is a relative, elastic thing.  Where does it end?  Soon, ANY reason is enough.  This undermines our teaching on marriage, I fear.

The CTCR document quoted above does NOT equate "domestic abuse" with "malicious desertion"; it speaks of such abuse DRIVING the other away (desertion).  That is, the divorce is still for desertion, not abuse, even though the abuse is the cause for the desertion.  What the new catechism does is now make a third category by identifying abuse with desertion.  That, I think, is new for us.  At least in such "official" things as CPH published catechisms.

Dave Likeness

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #4 on: December 06, 2017, 05:03:59 PM »
In the 1950's divorces were not a common event in our nation.  Our daily newspaper in a city of 100,000
printed the reason for each divorce in their local news section.  Some divorces were the result of mental
cruelty and other divorces were for irreconcilable differences.  Those were the only two reasons ever listed.

Then I went to our LCMS parish for  youth confirmation classes during that decade.  As a 7th grader I was
taught the only two Biblical reasons for divorce are adultery and desertion.  Both of these reasons acknowledge
that either the husband or the wife has broken their vows to remain faithful to each other.
 

jebutler

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2017, 05:13:10 PM »
So, I guess my next question is: what exactly is "domestic abuse"?  Physical abuse?  If so, how much is cause for a "Scriptural" divorce?  A beating that sends one to the hospital?  A slap across the face?  A touch that one deems too strong?  Does "domestic abuse" include emotional abuse?  Is name-calling grounds for divorce?  How about "he's become so distant lately"?  Does "domestic abuse" include abusing the relationship: "she wants more and more from me all the time"?  Is one incident sufficient, or does there need to be a pattern?

I am very wary of this path.  "Domestic abuse" is a relative, elastic thing.  Where does it end?  Soon, ANY reason is enough.  This undermines our teaching on marriage, I fear.

The CTCR document quoted above does NOT equate "domestic abuse" with "malicious desertion"; it speaks of such abuse DRIVING the other away (desertion).  That is, the divorce is still for desertion, not abuse, even though the abuse is the cause for the desertion.  What the new catechism does is now make a third category by identifying abuse with desertion.  That, I think, is new for us.  At least in such "official" things as CPH published catechisms.

One could argue that lots of things are "relative" and "elastic". What constitutes "adultery"? Does kissing someone not your spouse? Heavy petting with that person? Full intercourse? What about finding notes and texts but no proof of physical contact? What about the use of pornography?

What is "malicious desertion"? How does one define "malicious"? Are there degrees of maliciousness?

FWIW, I've always argued that abuse is just cause for divorce. I've always thought that the Scriptural categories of adultery and desertion were more representative than comprehensive.

The truth we preach is not an abstract thing. The truth is a Person. The goodness we preach is not an ideal quality. The goodness is Someone who is good. The love we preach is God himself in Christ. --H. Grady Davis

Steven W Bohler

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #6 on: December 06, 2017, 05:56:43 PM »
jebutler,

All the things you list (kissing, heavy petting, intercourse, notes/texts to one who is not the spouse, pornography) would certainly seem to fall under the prohibitions of the Sixth Commandment's meaning.  They would not be "leading a chaste and decent life" nor "loving and honoring his spouse".  That seems very clear.  How can one argue that intercourse with another, or writing love notes to someone else, or leering at pornography, is "chaste and decent"?  Or that it shows "love and honor to his spouse"?

But how exactly is "domestic abuse" desertion?  And if it is, what else could be leveraged under that rubric?  Or, more to the point, what could NOT?  You say you have always argued that abuse is just cause for divorce.  On what basis?  That is a form of desertion?  Or that it is another category altogether (which your last sentence seems to suggest)?   And if adultery and desertion are "more representative than comprehensive", what other reasons do you add?  On what basis? 

Rob Morris

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #7 on: December 06, 2017, 10:02:19 PM »
I could quibble with the idea of domestic abuse being desertion. I think there's a straighter line from point A to point B.

Just as adultery is a de facto breaking of the marriage vows, with the de iure reality of divorce following in the wake when repentance and reconciliation are not obtained, so too any form of abuse is a de facto breaking of the marriage vows, with the de iure reality of divorce following if repentance and reconciliation are not obtained.

There is clearly no way that physical, sexual, or psychological abuse would count as "loving and honoring one's spouse" (nor do I know of anyone who would argue that they do). They likewise do not count either as submitting to a husband as to Christ (who, obviously, would never abuse) or as loving a wife as Christ has loved the church to the point of laying down one's life.

Honestly, I think calling abuse desertion downgrades abuse. I think desertion is kinder than abuse. I'd rather you left me alone than that you systematically attacked my body, mind, or spirit. And Luther pulled no punches (literally) on his views of the deserting husband in his commentary on the Sermon on the Mount, offering his help to physically beat such a man and drive him from the town in shame. Not hard to imagine what his proclamations would be about a husband who is habitually abusive to his wife.

And remember, the current CDC data places the estimate at around 1 in 3 women who will suffer domestic physical abuse at some point in their lives. As I pastor, I am far less likely to encounter a woman exaggerating "abuse" to wiggle out of marriage vows than I am to encounter a woman suffering abuse rather than leaving an abusive spouse. Worth thinking about...

peter_speckhard

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #8 on: December 06, 2017, 10:31:18 PM »
I think it makes more sense to talk about these things as legitimate grounds for separation rather then divorce. In other words, the rights and duties the spouses have from and toward each other can be suspended because the marriage is impaired by abandonment or abuse, and the separation deals with that fact. But it doesn't change the fact of the marriage.

People can be abandoned or abused by their grown children, and this can necessitate other legal arrangements. But those arrangements don't change the fact of the parental relationship. Brothers can fail to be brotherly, but even if they kill one another they are still brothers.  One's terrible children are still one's children, terrible siblings are still siblings, and terrible spouses are still spouses even if for the sake of sanity and safety they can't be in the same house. It is important to recognize that the two becoming one in marriage form a bond different but every bit as strong as the genetic bonds of blood. But it is true that in our context it is almost impossible to insist on this.

jebutler

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #9 on: December 07, 2017, 08:47:28 AM »
jebutler,

All the things you list (kissing, heavy petting, intercourse, notes/texts to one who is not the spouse, pornography) would certainly seem to fall under the prohibitions of the Sixth Commandment's meaning.  They would not be "leading a chaste and decent life" nor "loving and honoring his spouse".  That seems very clear.  How can one argue that intercourse with another, or writing love notes to someone else, or leering at pornography, is "chaste and decent"?  Or that it shows "love and honor to his spouse"?

But how exactly is "domestic abuse" desertion?  And if it is, what else could be leveraged under that rubric?  Or, more to the point, what could NOT?  You say you have always argued that abuse is just cause for divorce.  On what basis?  That is a form of desertion?  Or that it is another category altogether (which your last sentence seems to suggest)?   And if adultery and desertion are "more representative than comprehensive", what other reasons do you add?  On what basis?

I want to thank my New England colleague, Rob Morris, for his arguments. I think he does a fine job of laying out where I'm coming from.

It seems to me that sexual faithfulness is only one part of the marriage vow. There are others, among them the promises to uphold and care for the other person. That, I think, is what Paul is getting at when he tells wives to obey their husbands as the church does Christ and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ does the church. In 1 Timothy, he even goes so far as to say "But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever." (5:8). Those are pretty harsh words!

But addictions and abuse do just the opposite. Abuse is all about control. Addiction is all about taking care of me and what I want right now. We've all seen how an addict can ruin a family's finances and lose everything.

The issue of divorce and remarriage, like much of life, is messy. I'm not sure we can always draw neat lines. But we can only seek to deal with the situation pastorally applying both Law and Gospel to a person's life.
The truth we preach is not an abstract thing. The truth is a Person. The goodness we preach is not an ideal quality. The goodness is Someone who is good. The love we preach is God himself in Christ. --H. Grady Davis

Steven W Bohler

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #10 on: December 07, 2017, 09:32:06 AM »
I think it makes more sense to talk about these things as legitimate grounds for separation rather then divorce. In other words, the rights and duties the spouses have from and toward each other can be suspended because the marriage is impaired by abandonment or abuse, and the separation deals with that fact. But it doesn't change the fact of the marriage.

People can be abandoned or abused by their grown children, and this can necessitate other legal arrangements. But those arrangements don't change the fact of the parental relationship. Brothers can fail to be brotherly, but even if they kill one another they are still brothers.  One's terrible children are still one's children, terrible siblings are still siblings, and terrible spouses are still spouses even if for the sake of sanity and safety they can't be in the same house. It is important to recognize that the two becoming one in marriage form a bond different but every bit as strong as the genetic bonds of blood. But it is true that in our context it is almost impossible to insist on this.

This is pretty much what I was taught and have followed.  My fear is simply that by broadening "desertion" to include things like abuse, it weakens marriage. 

If we want to speak of abuse as abandoning the marriage vow, or of not honoring/loving the spouse, then what of other things?  A husband who gambles away the family income.  A wife who decides to pursue a career to the detriment of her family.  A spouse who nags incessantly.  And so on.  What husband has never had adulterous thoughts/desires?  Is that now enough to divorce?  What wife hasn't "been there" at some time or another for her husband?  Is that sufficient "desertion"?  A very slippery slope....

mariemeyer

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #11 on: December 07, 2017, 10:52:43 AM »
Pr. Butler writes....

"It seems to me that sexual faithfulness is only one part of the marriage vow. There are others, among them the promises to uphold and care for the other person. That, I think, is what Paul is getting at when he tells wives to obey their husbands as the church does Christ and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ does the church."

Note that the LCMS marriage vows no longer refer to a biblical mandate that wives are to "obey" their husbands. Our 1962 marriage vows included "obey" in my pledge to Bill.  At the time his dad also pronounced us man and wife. Today Bill chuckles at that as if he was not a man before we married.

 I do not know when LCMS exegetes concluded that the biblical reference to the submission of wife to husband is not a reference to "obedience," but the vows have been changed and CTCR reports on the marriage relationship no longer claim there is a biblical mandate that wives are to obey their husbands.   

Past physical abuse of Christian wives by their Christian husbands was often associated with the claim that God commands that a wife be obedient to her husband.  For some reason the mutual giving of husband and wife to each other as recorded in I Cor. 7: 1-5 was seldom quoted to wives or husbands in abusive marriage relationships.       

Steven W Bohler

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #12 on: December 07, 2017, 11:31:36 AM »
Pr. Butler writes....

"It seems to me that sexual faithfulness is only one part of the marriage vow. There are others, among them the promises to uphold and care for the other person. That, I think, is what Paul is getting at when he tells wives to obey their husbands as the church does Christ and that husbands are to love their wives as Christ does the church."

Note that the LCMS marriage vows no longer refer to a biblical mandate that wives are to "obey" their husbands. Our 1962 marriage vows included "obey" in my pledge to Bill.  At the time his dad also pronounced us man and wife. Today Bill chuckles at that as if he was not a man before we married.

 I do not know when LCMS exegetes concluded that the biblical reference to the submission of wife to husband is not a reference to "obedience," but the vows have been changed and CTCR reports on the marriage relationship no longer claim there is a biblical mandate that wives are to obey their husbands.   

Past physical abuse of Christian wives by their Christian husbands was often associated with the claim that God commands that a wife be obedient to her husband.  For some reason the mutual giving of husband and wife to each other as recorded in I Cor. 7: 1-5 was seldom quoted to wives or husbands in abusive marriage relationships.     

Pronouncing a couple to be "man and wife" does not mean that the husband was not a man before.  It recognizes the new, one flesh of the couple.  They are now a unit (or unity).  That new reality is what the pastor is pronouncing.  That is, it really IS the creation of something that has happened at marriage: God takes two and makes them one.  It reflects the union between Christ and the Church (and, by extension, each believer).  A miracle, really.  You can kind of see why the Roman Catholic Church wants to elevate marriage to sacramental status (though it is not).

Rob Morris

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #13 on: December 07, 2017, 12:36:47 PM »
I think it makes more sense to talk about these things as legitimate grounds for separation rather then divorce. In other words, the rights and duties the spouses have from and toward each other can be suspended because the marriage is impaired by abandonment or abuse, and the separation deals with that fact. But it doesn't change the fact of the marriage.

People can be abandoned or abused by their grown children, and this can necessitate other legal arrangements. But those arrangements don't change the fact of the parental relationship. Brothers can fail to be brotherly, but even if they kill one another they are still brothers.  One's terrible children are still one's children, terrible siblings are still siblings, and terrible spouses are still spouses even if for the sake of sanity and safety they can't be in the same house. It is important to recognize that the two becoming one in marriage form a bond different but every bit as strong as the genetic bonds of blood. But it is true that in our context it is almost impossible to insist on this.

I agree with the intent of what you're saying, but the analogy is not apt. No child took a vow in order to be engendered - there was no volitional act lying behind that fact. Same with siblings.  Same with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, et al. And while there was volition involved in almost all cases of becoming a parent, who that child would be was also (leaving the genetic engineering and abortion debates aside) not a volitional act. No one chose their parent, sibling, or child (except in the unique beauty of an adoptive relationship).

Contrary to these blood relationships, and unique in any family relationship, marriage is a volitional act, and this was true even before the fall. Exactly how this plays out in our heavenly reality is not easy to fully grasp, as Jesus' tone indicates in response to the Sadducees' inquiry about "whose wife will she be?" But on earth the long-standing existence of the term "______-in-law" indicates that we understand this difference on a basic level. Blood is thicker than wedding champagne.

This volitional nature of marital union is part of what makes it such a unique and beautiful relationship.

There never was (or will be) a Biblical means to dissolve a parent-child or sibling relationship. And there will always be a vocational duty to these relatives. There is, however, a Biblical means to dissolve a marital relationship, even if that means is only an allowance for our sinful reality.

The existence of this means does not mean that the dissolving of a marriage is neat or should be undertaken lightly. It is always deeply costly in both practical and spiritual ways. Separating one flesh back into two is not a neat incision, but a messy tear, no matter how much a "no-fault divorce/intentional de-coupling" society may wish to look away from that reality. Part of that one-flesh union will always remain a part, long after the divorce paperwork is complete and the storage units emptied out.

Upholding the marriage covenant is a vital and Godly pursuit. But let's not do it at the expense of taking abuse seriously or undermining the unique beauty that is a one-flesh marriage of man and wife.

peter_speckhard

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Re: New LCMS Catechism -- A Question
« Reply #14 on: December 07, 2017, 12:58:11 PM »
I think it makes more sense to talk about these things as legitimate grounds for separation rather then divorce. In other words, the rights and duties the spouses have from and toward each other can be suspended because the marriage is impaired by abandonment or abuse, and the separation deals with that fact. But it doesn't change the fact of the marriage.

People can be abandoned or abused by their grown children, and this can necessitate other legal arrangements. But those arrangements don't change the fact of the parental relationship. Brothers can fail to be brotherly, but even if they kill one another they are still brothers.  One's terrible children are still one's children, terrible siblings are still siblings, and terrible spouses are still spouses even if for the sake of sanity and safety they can't be in the same house. It is important to recognize that the two becoming one in marriage form a bond different but every bit as strong as the genetic bonds of blood. But it is true that in our context it is almost impossible to insist on this.

I agree with the intent of what you're saying, but the analogy is not apt. No child took a vow in order to be engendered - there was no volitional act lying behind that fact. Same with siblings.  Same with grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, et al. And while there was volition involved in almost all cases of becoming a parent, who that child would be was also (leaving the genetic engineering and abortion debates aside) not a volitional act. No one chose their parent, sibling, or child (except in the unique beauty of an adoptive relationship).

Contrary to these blood relationships, and unique in any family relationship, marriage is a volitional act, and this was true even before the fall. Exactly how this plays out in our heavenly reality is not easy to fully grasp, as Jesus' tone indicates in response to the Sadducees' inquiry about "whose wife will she be?" But on earth the long-standing existence of the term "______-in-law" indicates that we understand this difference on a basic level. Blood is thicker than wedding champagne.

This volitional nature of marital union is part of what makes it such a unique and beautiful relationship.

There never was (or will be) a Biblical means to dissolve a parent-child or sibling relationship. And there will always be a vocational duty to these relatives. There is, however, a Biblical means to dissolve a marital relationship, even if that means is only an allowance for our sinful reality.

The existence of this means does not mean that the dissolving of a marriage is neat or should be undertaken lightly. It is always deeply costly in both practical and spiritual ways. Separating one flesh back into two is not a neat incision, but a messy tear, no matter how much a "no-fault divorce/intentional de-coupling" society may wish to look away from that reality. Part of that one-flesh union will always remain a part, long after the divorce paperwork is complete and the storage units emptied out.

Upholding the marriage covenant is a vital and Godly pursuit. But let's not do it at the expense of taking abuse seriously or undermining the unique beauty that is a one-flesh marriage of man and wife.
I get what your saying, and I did note that the relationship is different; the point was that, though different, it is just as strong and indissoluable, and in that sense I still think the comparison apt. To limit it more to your point, yes, it is volitional to get married, but not to stay married. There is not (or should not be) an ongoing volitional nature to the thing. In the same way, it is in a way volitional to have a child, but once you have one, you are a father or mother permanently. You can separate from your child, but you can't cease to have one no matter how badly that child breaks your heart.

I think treating divorce as a solution to abuse is what refuses to take abuse seriously. It is an "out" that fails to absolutely necessitate the condemnation of the law and amendment of the abuser's life. If we know that divorce is not an option, then we MUST deal with this abuse issue. If divorce is an option, it becomes the way we deal the abuse issue.