Maxey - Thomas Debate
An Examination of a Proposition
Relating to Divorce and Remarriage

Friday, March 23, 2001

Al Maxey Presents
Nine Points of Clarification
& His Summation

After reading and reflecting upon Ron's last post, considering carefully its tone and content, I am convicted of the fact that we have reached that point where Ron and I are no longer truly communicating. I don't believe he has perceived much of anything I have written of late, and there is no doubt he feels the same frustration with me. I detect increasing amounts of sarcasm and evasion, and decreasing attempts at substance. I have presented some rather in-depth analysis of certain points of concern, only to have it summarily dismissed with "one liners" and quips. In short, I believe we have arrived at that dreaded moment in a debate where any hope of a scholarly exchange has deteriorated into little more than "school yard" antics, shouts of "Did too" .... "Did not" .... "Did too" .... "Did not," and a series of cute/caustic rejoinders.

Marriage, divorce and remarriage is a difficult topic to debate graciously. It can be done, but it is a challenge. The problem is: it touches our emotions; it impacts us where we live; there are "faces" on these theological debating points .... faces of our own loved ones, perhaps. Objectivity is hard to come by, and we each bring a cart-full of personal "baggage" to our quest for ultimate Truth. We are products of our environment, our heritage (both religious and cultural), and our genes.

Ron and I are opposites in many ways, although I believe we share a fervor for and commitment to God and His Word. We share a common Lord and a common foe, but we do not always share a common perspective. MDR is in many ways a difficult and complex topic, and yet in other ways it is simplicity itself. After intensive study by both of us over the years, my brother Ron has arrived at one point of view and I have honestly arrived at another. Our views are as diverse as night and day!! So also is our approach to biblical interpretation (our hermeneutic). And even though we both are leaders in one wing of the American Restoration Movement (the churches of Christ), we are still probably at opposite ends of the spectrum from one another even there. Thus, barring some miraculous intervention, it was pretty much a foregone conclusion that neither of us would "convert" the other via the arguments of this debate.

This was simply an opportunity for both of us to publicly present "our case" for the personal perspectives we each hold on MDR, and more specifically which we embrace on a particular aspect of that monumental issue (as stated in the form of a proposition). I believe each aspect of that proposition has now been discussed by both of us. We do not agree, nor will we, in our conclusions. I presented my evidence and he presented his. Neither of us was much impressed by the other's effort! Both of us feel the other has totally missed the point of our Lord's teaching, and both of us probably feel the other has dodged and side-stepped a bit. I would hope, however, that neither of us questions the other's love for the Lord, devotion to the study of His Word, and loyalty to the faith. I abhor Ron's theology; it is loathsome, and I truly feel it will cost people their souls if not turned from; it distresses me that Ron embraces this deadly teaching .... but I accept him as a valued fellow member of the family of God.

We could obviously continue to debate forever the finer points of who said what and why, and what the other meant by some particular statement, but the essence of our views has been fully laid out for public inspection and scrutiny .... we've presented our case before witnesses. I would like to propose we take the "high road" at this point and conclude this discussion with some semblance of dignity and honor. I view Ron Thomas as a faithful brother in Christ, a leader in the church, with whom I happen to differ on MDR. Again, I detest his teaching, but I regard him as a brother --- a brother in error (the only kind of brother or sister any of us has!!).

I would like to leave our readers with the assurance that many of God's people, and especially His spiritual leaders, can differ over vital issues without being overly difficult, and that they can contend for what they believe to be "the faith," without being contentious or vicious in the process (although, with a matter this important, I believe we need to be brutally frank in our opposition, and I have been). I will freely admit there is much I would like to "argue about" with Ron; much about which I feel he is pathetically confused!! But, I will suppress that desire within me and listen to my lovely wife of 28 years (the only one I've had, in case some are curious!!), and I'll take the "high road" home!! She's rarely wrong .... she chose ME, didn't she?!!!

Therefore, I will take some time in the first part of this post to clarify a few final points from Ron's most recent post which I feel need to be addressed with some frankness, and then I will present my very brief summation. It will be a short presentation of what I believe God's Word teaches with respect to the proposition under consideration, and why I believe Ron's teaching is horribly flawed, and thus false.

If Ron agrees with this "tactic for termination," then I would urge him to do the same in his next post. We can then leave the matter before our readers, both current and future. The information has been provided which hopefully will serve as a catalyst to greater personal examination of the Scriptures by each disciple. Should any reader have a question or comment about anything stated in this debate, I have no objection if they write me personally. I would be more than happy to discuss at greater length any aspect of this topic with any one of you. I will let Ron declare for himself if he feels the same, and is open to being contacted.

Point of Clarification --- #1

With regard to my interpretation of the Romans 7:1-6 passage, Ron stated: "Al, one thing you'll note that I didn't do (as you did), I didn't try to offer a novel interpretation to the context for a pet theory." Frankly, I don't think I have proposed some "novel" interpretation. I simply observed, "Ron, the ONLY 'release' which will make Paul's spiritual application and lesson valid here is for that release to be by virtue of a DEATH. A divorce destroys the analogy completely. The context, therefore, demands that death, not divorce, be the focal point of the passage."

Ron responded to my above analysis with this statement: "This is correct. Death is the point. If a divorce occurs the analogy fails because a divorce does not necessarily make one free. You are exactly right."

I suppose, therefore, that the so-called "novel" aspect of my interpretation (which he seems to think no other person in the universe ever thought of except ME), must have something to do with the conditional clause pertaining to the wife. "IF, while her husband is living, she is JOINED TO another man, she shall be called an adulteress" (vs. 3). My contention is that Paul, led by the Holy Spirit, chose words other than the common words depicting a marriage. And I believe he did so to characterize something different about this relationship she had with this other man. If it had been a genuine "marriage" that Paul had in mind, he certainly knew the words to use to convey that concept (after all, he himself used them more frequently than just about any other NT writer).

There are three major interpretations (with a host of additional "sub plots") of this scenario from Romans 7. They are:

  1. She is divorced, and thus she marries this other man. She is unbound from the first marriage by virtue of this divorce, and thus free to remarry.

  2. She is still married to her living first husband, and thus is not free to be married to another. Therefore, this "consorting with" this other man is not a "marriage," but rather an adulterous affair of some kind.

    • This may be a sexual relationship, in which case the common interpretation of "adultery" would certainly apply, or it may be a non-sexual, though emotionally intimate, association with one other than one's living spouse, which was considered by those of that culture to be no less "adulterous" (and they would not hesitate to so label her), although it would be an interpretation and application of the term in keeping with its broader, though no less legitimate, semantic range.

  3. She is still married to her living first husband, and thus is not free to be married to another (as in #2 above), however she marries another man anyway regardless of what law or culture dictate. Thus, in the eyes of many, she would now have two husbands.

Exactly where Ron stands is not entirely clear to me, due to his waffling back and forth on some of these points. I guess he considers her still married to the first husband, but also married to the other man, and yet I'm not sure he would agree that she had two husbands. Is she divorced, is she not divorced; is divorce implied, is divorce denied? I'm not sure Ron has clearly declared his stand and then reconciled that stand with the text. He seemed far more intent upon merely denouncing my view as wrong, than in declaring which view he himself perceives to be right.

The most logical scenario, it seems to me, and the one which best fits the application Paul later makes in this passage, is that she is still BOUND in marriage to her first husband, and thus is not free to be joined to another in any kind of relationship (and certainly not in a marriage). Unless the husband releases her through the customary issuing of a certificate of divorce (and there is no indication in this text that he ever did so, and no hint that he would), then any "joining" of herself to another man that might happen would be adulterous. However, the death of this woman's husband would free her, and thus any subsequent union would not be regarded as adulterous.

How this constitutes some "novel" interpretation, I don't know!! Ron argues in his last post that the "joining" of this woman with the other man is to clearly be regarded as nothing less than a remarriage. Ron writes, "Paul does indeed have a second marriage in view." And yet, Ron also states that no divorce has occurred between this woman and her first husband. He writes that Paul "does not talk about divorce certificates, he does not even mention divorce." Ron has also acknowledged (as pointed out above) that "if a divorce occurs the analogy fails." Indeed, Ron somewhat scolds me for even mentioning a "certificate of divorce" in my background discussion. He wrote: "Al, have you inserted words into the text? I don't recall reading anything about a divorce certificate." But, Ron continues, "as long as it serves your purpose by being part of the 'background' you can insert it into the analysis." He again scolds me for even raising the possibility of divorce in the background of the text.

I guess this leaves me scratching my head!! The woman is not divorced, according to Ron, but she marries the other man, even though she is not free to do so because her "husband" is still alive. And yet when she has sex with this other man in this remarriage, who is her "husband" also (since Ron says she is married to him), she is adulterous. However, Ron defines "adultery" as sex with one who is NOT your husband. So, who is this person "other than her husband" with whom she is having sex? According to Ron, they are BOTH husbands of this woman ..... unless he is saying both are married to her, but only one is her husband. Whew!! I need an aspirin!!! And he calls MY interpretation a "novel" one?!! Ron's obsession with placing sex & remarriage in every single passage pertaining to this topic, and the manipulative lengths to which he will go to try and accomplish this troubling task, is absolutely mind-blowing!! But, his theology demands it, and he has certainly proven a loyal disciple of his dogma!

Point of Clarification --- #2

I stated in a previous post that "I do not find any evidence in Scripture which suggests remarriage is to be withheld from anyone." Ron quipped back: "Well, of course you don't, Al. As long as you can manipulate words, you would not see any prohibition."

I would simply observe that, cute little quips notwithstanding, we still have no evidence from Scripture laid before us by Ron Thomas which would suggest remarriage is to be withheld from anyone. This is a common tactic in a debate, by the way ---- if one's argument is weak, divert attention by casting aspersions upon the opponent. An offer of Scriptural proof would have been a nobler response, it seems to me.

Point of Clarification --- #3

Ron asked: "Let me ask you, the last clause in 2 Samuel 11:27 modifies what?"

David had done something "evil in the sight of the Lord," and Ron asks me what that evil thing was which David had done. David had seen a woman bathing, and, because he found her very attractive, had inquired as to who she was (2 Sam. 11:2-3). David then sent some men to bring her to him, at which point "he lay with her" and then let her go back to her house (vs. 4). In other words, to state the obvious rather bluntly, he had sex with another man's wife. Why? Because he thought she was pretty, and because he wanted to!! He wasn't thinking about anyone else, or about right or wrong, he was only thinking about himself.

To complicate the matter, she became pregnant (vs. 5). He then plotted to get her husband back home so Uriah would sleep with Bathsheba and he would thus be deceived into thinking it was his own child. This was pure deception of the highest order, but it was foiled because of Uriah's pure devotion of the highest order to King David. As a last resort, David ordered this faithful warrior to be murdered on the battlefield ..... and this was done!

When the time of mourning was over, David married this dead man's pregnant wife. I would say this ALL, collectively, constitutes the "evil" done in the sight of God, the One from whom NO devious sin committed is ever hidden. In 2 Sam. 12:10 the Lord again expressed His displeasure: "You have despised Me and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife." Ron, did you notice that Bathsheba is called the WIFE of Uriah (even though Uriah is DEAD and GONE, and even though she is now David's WIFE)? Does this mean the Holy Spirit of God thought she was still married to Uriah, and not to David? Didn't the Holy Spirit know that Uriah was dead? Had someone forgotten to tell the Spirit? Did He not get the memo?! Did the Holy Spirit maybe think she was married to both; to the living and the dead? After all, in the very same sentence in which she is called Uriah's "wife," she is also called David's "wife."

God did not approve of this whole sordid affair. That is obvious, Ron. Uriah and Bathsheba should have lived out their days together happily as husband and wife. That would have been the IDEAL. But, David's evil deeds changed all that. He not only took her sexually, he later took her as his wife (after having her husband murdered). God was NOT pleased with any of this wicked chain of events. God did NOT approve. And 2 Samuel 12 tells us what the punishment was to be. Let me also tell you what it wasn't --- it wasn't going to be: put away Bathsheba. God did not approve of this mess, but God accepted & recognized this as a REAL marriage, even though it was begotten of evil. And from that union (yes, they were joined together in the sight of God, and by God) came not only King Solomon, but King Christ!! Did David repent of his sins? Yes, he did (read Psalm 51). Was a "fruit or evidence of that repentance" a required putting away of Bathsheba? No, it wasn't. Will David be in heaven one day? Is he saved? Only God can answer that, but I firmly believe that we will likely commune forever on that eternal day with this "man after God's own heart."

Point of Clarification --- #4

Ron asked: "Will you argue on the basis of David's circumstances that a man can have many wives? .... I want to know on what basis will you not argue for many wives today. David had them and it appears that God recognized and blessed them as well. On a similar basis, can a man have many wives today? If we can use the David/Bathsheba illustration for a particular situation, then why not the multiplicity of wives?"

I have wondered this many times myself, Ron. I have studied this matter with quite a few scholars, and there is no real consensus of opinion on this. The fact is, one would be hard-pressed to find a direct condemnation by God of multiple wives. Some of the giants of faith in the Bible had numerous wives. Dare you and I condemn the likes of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?!! God apparently didn't. Neither will I.

Ron, before you have heart failure, let me assure you that I do NOT advocate the practice of multiple wives (or husbands). ONE is challenge enough for me!! In my book I discuss what I believe is God's IDEAL for marriage, and I perceive that IDEAL to be one man for one woman for life. I think there is ample evidence that this is how God would like for it to be IDEALLY. Let's also not discount our own particular cultural and societal norms here in America. Multiple wives is a practice greatly frowned upon!! That's just a fact of law in our society. And I think we do have an obligation before God to obey the reasonable laws of the land.

My strategy here would be to teach FOR one man married to one woman for life as the IDEAL of our Maker, rather than teaching AGAINST multiple spouses. It would really be rather difficult, it seems to me, to put much "book, chapter and verse" behind the latter, but one can certainly promote the former IDEAL from the Word. I would also approach it from the perspective of compliance with the laws of our land, if I were doing the teaching in this society and culture.

However, this leaves open the issue of how to deal with this situation in OTHER cultures. Here is what I personally would do, Ron .... and you can agree or disagree as you like. If I were doing mission work among primitive peoples in some isolated region, and their custom happened to be multiple wives for men, then I would not preach against it. I would focus on converting people to Jesus Christ Himself and to bringing them into the Father's extended family. I would continue to teach and nurture them to develop within themselves the mind and heart of Jesus, and help them mature in that spiritual growth process. In time, as part of the nurturing and growth process, I would try to explain to them my perspective of God's IDEAL for marriage. I would try and show the beauty of two people committed to one another for life, and the practical pitfalls of multiple wives (Solomon would be a good one to use as an example of this!!). But, if this was more than they were capable of perceiving or embracing, then I would not try to force the norms of 21st century America upon this culture, nor would I impose my perception of the Maker's IDEAL as some law to which they must comply or die!!! I would leave them in the hands of the Father!! If God accepts Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, multiple wives and all .... and God HAS accepted them .... then just maybe we have a Father far more accepting than some of His legalistic, nitpicking children!!! In short, Ron, and to put it quite frankly, I would not make this an issue on the mission field, given the above scenario!!

Point of Clarification --- #5

Ron wrote: "If one were to repent of murder the action must stop. If one were to repent of adultery the action must stop. If one were to repent of divorce the action must stop. This is the only way that one can be approved of by God --- when the action has stopped. None of this, I suppose, you will deny."

You are correct, Ron. I agree with your statement fully. Murder, sexual unfaithfulness with one other than one's spouse, divorce (and countless other sins) must STOP. Yes, they all can be repented of, turned away from, and the penitent sinner can vow to refrain from all such sin in the future. Where you and I are going to have a problem, Ron, is with your theory of what constitutes adultery. To your way of thinking, adultery = remarriage --- and more specifically, as you have clarified, the sex which occurs within this remarriage. The "solution," therefore, as proposed by those who embrace such a "novel" idea, is DIVORCE!! The remarried couple (whether they have children or not) must get a divorce (although you would try and ease your conscience, so that you could live with yourself and sleep at night, by declaring that this couple was never really married to begin with, at least not in GOD'S eyes, and that they were therefore never really divorced from their original mate, at least not in GOD'S eyes). This, of course, denies the reality of divorce and remarriage, and destroys the common meaning of those words. It means divorce is not really divorce, and marriage is not really marriage .... but what's a little twisting of Scripture when one's theory is at stake?!! This perverted theory also proffers divorce as the divine remedy for remarriage!!! Now there is a "novel" idea!!!

In short, when you come right down to it, the remedy for "adultery" (sex in a remarriage) is actually "adultery" (breaking wedlock; destroying yet another covenant of marriage). You are in actuality forcing a couple to commit adultery as an act of repentance for committing adultery (although this is a truth you would DIE before admitting). In promoting this devious doctrine of demonic origin, you literally become an "accessory to adultery," and you stand equally condemned before God. This is serious, Ron!!! Your doctrine has the potential not only to destroy additional covenants of marriage, and rob people of a joyful life, but also to destroy the souls of those who embrace it, and thus to rob them of eternal life. You are ignorantly promoting adultery, Ron. I'd step back and do some major rethinking here, brother!!! You are on extremely thin ice!!!

Ron, I realize that you will undoubtedly reject all of this, and will probably be incensed that I even mentioned it. But, I feel somewhat like Ezekiel here --- you have been warned; I did my duty to you before God. When you stand before the Lord one day to answer for the destroyed lives and lost souls which your teaching brought about, you cannot plead ignorance. I urge you, brother, give this SERIOUS thought ..... you will be faced with it again one great day!!! Your teaching is diabolical and it is deadly. It will cost people their souls, not to mention untold misery here in this life. I have sounded the trumpet of warning, brother .... whether you listen or not is up to you. But you can never declare you weren't warned.

Point of Clarification --- #6

On numerous occasions Ron has misrepresented the facts with regard to my view of the term "adultery." He claims I reject the definition provided in the many reference works he has cited. Notice the many remarks which Ron made just in his last post alone:

  1. "Why do you make use of a dictionary when you haven't accepted what was said, by the dictionaries, about the meaning of the word adultery in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9?"

  2. "Another one of your humorous comments, and that from a man that does not accept the lexicons and their definition of the word adultery."

  3. "And your refusal to accept the lexicons leaves the mind of the readers clear on your competence?"

  4. "Al, we know you are mighty in Greek. You have made sure that all of us know this. You not only use a wave of the hand with respect to word definitions and your refusal to use what is in the lexicons, but you also ...."

  5. "The first account on which your position fails is that you have to redefine words (or make extended applications of a word that the context does not warrant)."

  6. "Al, there is such a thing as word meanings. If adultery is defined as sexual intercourse with one not a spouse or illicit sexual intercourse, then why do you desire so much to change it? That is exactly what you are attempting to do."

  7. "All your redefining will not make it go away."

  8. "Al has had to redefine, reapply and broaden the word 'adultery' to get it to fit his perspective on the passages under discussion ..... his view is suspect at best. At worst it is damnable because it gives people a false hope!" "You manipulate words to give people a false hope."

  9. "Why is this so difficult for you? It's not difficult at all. You just do not want to accept scholarship on the matter."

  10. "Al, you can say what you like, but I'm the one that has accepted the lexicons and their definitions. Is your hermeneutical approach honorable when you won't even accept the definition of the word?"

  11. "What I don't have to do is redefine the word as you've done."

  12. "He has to misuse words (fornication and adultery) in the context of Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 to make his theory fit. He has refused to accept lexical definitions of the words."

  13. "How can you say anything about 'common sense' when you don't even accept the meaning of words as they come from reputable sources?"

Ron, what is truly sad about all of this is that these statements are absolute falsehoods, and, frankly, I think you know it!! Which makes it all the more offensive and reprehensible!! I expected better than this from you, and am greatly disappointed in what I am seeing. I have repeatedly declared in my posts that I do NOT reject the literal meaning of the terms in question. I fully accept those definitions from the many reference sources you have cited. And I have so stated on many, many occasions in this debate. Go check the record. I did. They are there in black and white for all to read.

What I have tried to emphasize is that these specific words (moicheia and porneia) clearly have a wider semantic range (as do most words), and that this wider semantic range, which is attested to in these reference works, should not be discounted out of hand in any examination of a passage of Scripture. If one definition of a word doesn't seem to fit well in a passage, then consider another (don't manipulate the passage to make one's preferred definition fit, as Ron has blatantly done in Matthew 5:32a).

On February 22nd, for example, I wrote in my post: "I do not find fault with you for accepting the definition you do. It is a valid definition, and a biblical one." Does that sound anything like the kind of denial of which Ron has accused me? Hardly!! I have simply refused to deny the legitimate wider semantic range of these words, and this irritates Ron to no end, although on occasion he has been cornered and forced, reluctantly, to admit the validity of this wider range of possible meaning and application.

In my post of February 13th I wrote: "When I pointed out that the word moicheia does indeed have the meaning 'breach of covenant; breaking wedlock,' Ron observed: 'Your comment above is true, but not in the text of Matthew 5 or 19.'" I continued, "I cited Greek authorities simply to demonstrate that the word DOES have such a wide semantic range, something they all acknowledge, by the way. Something even YOU acknowledge, Ron!!" Ron refuses to USE any of these other meanings and applications, but he has at least acknowledged their existence. Thus, it troubles me greatly that he has resorted to the tactics he has; declaring I deny the meaning and application he himself has chosen. Let me again state for the record: I do NOT deny that as a legitimate meaning and application. What I deny is that all the passages in question in the Bible DEMAND that this is the ONLY meaning which can EVER be applied. Ron has misrepresented the facts here, and I find it very hard not to believe it was done willfully.

I could go on and on with the citations, but I won't shame you further, Ron. The point is, your statements about me are FALSE. I DO accept the definitions provided in the reference works. That is not our problem, Ron .... although you are attempting to get the readers to believe that it is. Our problem is that I realize that the reference works provide a wide semantic range of meaning and application for these two words (and for most words). Very few words are limited to just ONE meaning and application. When pressed to do so, you have even reluctantly admitted this. The problem is, Ron, you have selected a SINGLE meaning of these terms (a SEXUAL meaning), and God help the poor soul who stands in the way of your MAKING this single meaning and application FIT every single passage pertaining to MDR in the Bible. You don't DARE acknowledge that any other meaning or application MIGHT fit a particular passage, because that would totally destroy your whole theory. Porneia and Moicheia HAVE to be interpreted sexually, or your doctrine goes down the drain. Thus, you will add people and events to passages, and shove the whole scenario decades into the future, wrecking both context and grammatical integrity, simply to FORCE your SEXUAL definition into every single passage. It is no wonder that you have attacked me for this one thing more viciously than anything else; you CAN'T concede this point, not even in one single passage!!! Thus, you use the old debating tactic --- when your point is weak, attack the opponent. Whenever I see someone irrationally attacking something like this over and over and over and over, I realize I have exposed a glaring weakness .... and I also realize that my opponent KNOWS it!!! I think our readers are intelligent enough to spot it as well.

I felt it was important to expose your tactics behind this deceptive smoke screen. I have NOT denied or rejected the definitions given by these Greek resources. Not at all. I accept them fully. I also accept something else these reference works point out, a fact which I'm sure you wish was not there: I accept that these terms have a wide semantic range. Thus, I am willing to approach a passage of Scripture with ALL of a term's meanings and applications in my arsenal of exegetical tools. If one meaning or application is not a good fit, then I will bring out the others and look at them. It is not a sin, nor is it dishonest, to do so. Indeed, one wonders at the motivation of those who refuse such a methodology!

Point of Clarification --- #7

With regard to the "deponent" issue, Ron wrote: "All mighty Al and his sweep of the hand once again. Since it does not correspond with Al's view it must be wrong." You yourself referred me to certain specific pages in Wallace's work, Ron. I read them and pointed out to you that they did not support your view that the word in question is deponent. I notice that you have conveniently tried to ignore this!!! Wallace listed the conditions which must be met for a word to be considered as a true deponent. I pointed out to you what those conditions are, Ron, and then showed you how the word in question does NOT pass muster on any of those conditions.

You have again conveniently chosen to ignore these scholarly conditions (in the very reference work to which you directed me). Look at those conditions, Ron, and then tell us if the word in question passes or fails to meet those conditions. It's that simple, brother!! Don't give me the names of other scholars who have been equally misled (simply because 6000 flies swarm a pile of excrement does not make it a delicacy!). Instead, examine the evidence presented by Wallace, and then be honest: does this term qualify or not? Isn't that the logical thing to do? Is pride standing in your way here? It is OK to admit you are wrong once in a while, Ron!!! The missionary in Europe did, with regard to this very matter, and the earth didn't open up and swallow him.

Point of Clarification --- #8

Ron wrote: "The PAI certainly speaks of what is happening in the now, but it does not exclude what might follow the now." Ron, if an action is BEGUN in the NOW, and is seen as actually happening right NOW (although not yet concluded), this mood does allow for a reasonable assumption that what has BEGUN may well continue for a time, possibly even unto its logical or desired completion or result (although that logical or desired completion or result is not truly a part of the present indicative, nor is it guaranteed by the PAI). This is far from the open-ended, from now on, carte blanche type of assumption you desire to make, however. The action in view in the present indicative must be real/actual in the sense that it is already occurring (just not yet completed).

If I were to yell out: "That man is driving his car toward a washed out bridge!!!" .... this would be a statement of present reality with respect to the verbal action of the driver. It obviously assumes that the present action will continue to some degree, but for how long and with what result is NOT certain. The future removes us from the REALITY and ACTUALITY of the present. Flying off the bridge, crashing and being killed are possible scenarios for that driver, but they are certainly not the only ones! Actuality and reality CEASE when we move beyond the present. That is the nature of the present indicative (and the limitations of it). The best one can do is make projected assumptions based on present reality, but those assumptions can never be elevated to the level of actual reality itself. This the leap you are seeking to make, Ron, and it is unwarranted by the grammatical construction of the Greek. One who truly had the level of competency in Greek which you would have us to believe you possess should know this.

Ron gave the example: "He who runs and jumps into a mud puddle will be dirty." This is an assumption, and is not a true present indicative anyway, Ron. More correct would be to say, "That person is running and jumping into the mud puddle and is getting dirty." You phrased your consequence as FUTURE probability, not as PRESENT reality. This is just what you are trying to do with your theory and Matt. 5:32, as well. The "committing adultery" is actually happening NOW, but you want it to be FUTURE. That really is beyond the scope of the present indicative. Even your own example reflects the same flawed thinking.

The present indicative most definitely WON'T apply to any future action if said action has NOT already BEGUN in the present. That's just plain old common sense!! Something which occurs exclusively in the FUTURE, and has no reality or actuality in the present, is NOT under the umbrella of the present indicative. It is absurd to try and make it so. This was my whole point in trying to get you to focus on Matt. 5:32a. That particular passage speaks of adultery happening (present indicative). The adultery, whatever one thinks it is, IS HAPPENING in real time; in the here and now; in reality; in actuality. We may argue about WHAT it is, but the WHEN of it and the REALITY of it is not up for grabs in the passage; it is real, and it is now!! And it happens to the wife when the man divorces her. That's what the passage SAYS. It is a simple statement of historical fact; it is an absolute statement, not a conditional one. It is a present statement, not a future statement. Whatever adultery is, it IS OCCURRING right then, and it occurs as a result of the husband putting away his wife. That is all the information given, and it is sufficient. I asked Ron to simply tell us what that adultery is.

Naturally, he says it is sex in the remarriage. There is only one problem with that ---- none of what Ron says is mentioned in the text. Neither sex nor remarriage is mentioned in the passage. Other people aren't even mentioned. All of this has to be ADDED to the inspired text. Ron claims his interpretation is "understood" from the meaning of the word "adultery," but even that is not true. It might be "understood" if one applies only ONE of the meanings of this word. However, what Ron seems reluctant to acknowledge, and what I was trying to get him to see by this passage, is that OTHER meanings and applications of this word may actually be the better "fit" here, and these are no less legitimate in light of the wide semantic range of this term. Ron makes huge assumptions about the text and then makes huge additions to the text, all to prove his pet theory.

Even the act of sex in a remarriage itself has to be assumed by Ron in this passage (after all, not all married couples CAN have sex, Ron. You are again piling assumptions on top of assumptions, on top of additions, just to make your narrow view the ONLY view). My point is: For Ron's theory to FIT in this passage, he has to REWRITE the passage. He must ADD to God's Word here a man for this divorced woman (or even a woman for the divorcing man); he must ADD a remarriage for one or both of them; and he must ADD sex to that remarriage. Then, and only then, can he assume his narrow, limited, exclusive view of "adultery" to be valid for this passage. And even then he must assume that his chosen meaning and application is the ONLY one which can ever be used. None of this is being exegetically honest.

Consider this: If SEX doesn't fit a passage, then why not consider the wider semantic range of a word and see if one of the other applications or meanings fits?!!! "Ohhhhhhh, my goodness NO!!! Al, have you lost your mind?!! We can't do THAT!!! We have to MAKE it fit!!!! We'll add people, we'll add marriage, and we'll add sex .... we'll add whatever it takes, but it HAS to fit. We'll even change the Greek grammatical structure. We'll mess with the moods; we'll move the present to the future; we'll make the potential into the actual. But, it WILL fit!!!!! Our little pet doctrine depends on it!!!"

The other problem is, as I alluded to above, when Ron ADDS all of these things to the passage to make his view fit, he then must project this all into the future for fulfillment. The divorced woman eventually meets a man, she later decides to marry him, then at some point they get married and, of course, they have SEX (everybody has sex, right?!) --- and then BINGO!!! ADULTERY at long last!!!!! That's all well and good, Ron (although totally fabricated), but it doesn't explain the PRESENT INDICATIVE which speaks of the adultery as being a real event of the NOW; of being REALITY in the present situation.

Ron is hoping we'll agree that the PAI can strrrrreeeeeeeettttch into the future. But, Ron, wouldn't you have to acknowledge that it must at the very least have BEGUN in the present? Of course, if he says Yes, then Ron must now make yet another assumption --- he must now ASSUME that it DID begin in the present, and that Jesus simply decided not to make any mention of that fact!! Therefore, to cover our Lord's troubling omission, Ron must find some creative way to PUT IT THERE!!!

Ron thinks he has found a way to "legally" impose his assumptions upon the text (because he knows, just as we know, that his assumptions are NOT actually in the text; they are not even hinted at). Ron wants us to further assume that Matt. 5:32 and Matt. 19:9 are true parallel passages; that Jesus is saying the exact same thing in BOTH. He insists that "remarriage is written all over the text!!" Well, he would certainly LIKE for it to be. Since it is mentioned in one of these two passages, if he can just get us to acknowledge a perfect parallel here, then maybe he can zap it all over into the other passage and then pound his pet theory home. The only problem is, they are NOT parallel passages. Not even close. There are some major, glaring differences!!

These events, for one thing, occurred on two distinct and separate occasions in the ministry of Jesus Christ, and before two entirely different audiences, in the context of two entirely different discussions, for two radically different purposes. There are certainly some basic similarities (Jesus IS talking about divorce, after all). But there are some glaring dissimilarities that make it obvious these two are not even remotely parallel. The three most important, in addition to the above, are:

  1. In 19:9 it is the man who is actively guilty of "committing adultery." The grammatical construction in that passage shows HIM to be the one engaged in the committing of this adultery. However, in 5:32a it is the put away wife who is the focus of the phrase "commits adultery." The focus has thus shifted; in one it is the man, in the other it is the woman. Hardly a parallel there.

  2. In 5:32a the phrase "commits adultery" is actually in the passive voice. In 19:9 it is NOT. A major, and extremely significant, difference in voice. Thus, not only are two different genders in view in these two passages, but two different Greek voices are used. That hardly declares this a parallel passage.

  3. In 19:9 there is mention made of the man remarrying. In 5:32a neither the man nor the woman is said to remarry. Indeed, no other person is even in view. Other people, remarriage, sex are all entirely missing from the statement of our Lord in 5:32a. Again, hardly conducive to making this a parallel passage!!

These three alone make it very obvious that these are NOT parallel passages. Not even close. However, the one thing that IS CLEAR is that Ron desperately NEEDS for them to be!!! It is clear that Ron will ADD to God's Word anything and everything NEEDED to make his theory of "adultery = sex in remarriage" fit!!! He will invent marriage partners, marriages, and even transform the Greek grammar, if that is what it takes. What he won't do is acknowledge he just might be wrong!!!

Point of Clarification --- #9

Ron desperately wants to project the significance and impact of the present indicative into the future (to impose potentiality upon the mood of actuality and reality), and thus has asked me to consider the meaning of a couple of passages which he thinks might allow for this desperate circumvention or manipulation (do the words "desperate" and "pathetic" come to mind here?!!). I'm sure he is convinced this will prove his point, and force us all to allow him to change Greek grammar and rewrite our Lord's statements to better suit his pet theory. Ron wrote: "Deal with 1 Corinthians 13:5. If it occurs exclusively in the present time without what is to follow, then explain the passage in Corinthians." He contends that if we do not allow him to stretch out the present into the distant future, "then the PAI in 1 Corinthians 13:5 means that a person can not think past the 'now.'"

Well, let's see ..... I am sitting here in my computer room (on the evening of Thursday, March 22, 2001) --- that is my present reality. BUT, my thinking is actually occurring on July 16th, 2016. Hmmmmmm. Is anyone buying this?!!!

Ron, I can speculate on the future; I can wonder what it will be like; I can even make contingency plans for it; I can even dare to feel confident about some aspect of what it might hold for me. But MY THINKING occurs RIGHT NOW. My thinking isn't actually happening three days from now. Yes, the present indicative applies to the actual process of thought, a process which is happening RIGHT NOW as I think. It isn't happening 16 months from now. That would be accomplished by using the future indicative, if one were disposed to picturing the potential reality of future thought processes.

Let's look at 1 Cor. 13:5. Paul tells us that "Love .... thinketh no evil" (KJV). Let's see .... let me examine my current, present, actual thoughts ..... excuse while I go do that. Okay, I'm back. No, I wasn't thinking evil of Ron!! I'll admit to some frustration, but no evil!! Will I be thinking evil of Ron in 27 days? I hope not. It won't be my intention to. But I won't be able to inform you of that reality until 27 days from now. Check back with me, Ron! Reality is NOW, not the future. If I am alive 27 days from now, and if I am conscious, there is some reason to believe I will probably be thinking something. Good? Evil? I honestly don't know. If I love a person, then I can state with some degree of personal confidence that 27 days from now, assuming that love is still there, I will probably, though not certainly, resist the temptation to think evil of some person. But at best all I'm doing is making a confident projection of what I might feel or hope to feel, so I'm not stating any actual reality with regard to what I may or may not THINK on that day, because no such reality yet exists. I don't know what my thoughts will be then, or if I will even be thinking .... and I can't know that until the moment arrives and I analyze that present reality.

Other translations here render this phrase: "Love ... does not take into account a wrong suffered" (NASB). The NIV says, "Love .... keeps no record of wrongs." Will I take such wrongs into account in the future? Will I keep a record of them? I hope not. I don't plan to. But there is no way for me to declare such as my reality. It hasn't happened, so all I can do is project what I might do (but that is NOT a present indicative .... that would be a future subjunctive). What I CAN declare as my reality (present indicative) is what I am doing NOW with respect to those who wrong me. Am I currently keeping a record of wrongs? No! THAT is present indicative. Am I currently thinking evil of another? No! THAT is present indicative. There is no problem here, Ron. You are grasping at straws, and for no reason other than this mad, desperate attempt to find anything which will allow you to impose your untenable theory upon God's Word. Now THAT is scary, Ron!!!

Ron wrote: "How about 2 Corinthians 5:14? The verb in this verse is PAI. Should we understand the word 'constraineth' as something that happens 'now,' exclusively, without any reference to what follows? The very context makes clear the application of the verb 'compels' (NASV)."

It seems Ron would transform the word "compels" to PROPELS, since he wants to propel compel into the future!!! And, by the way, it is the NIV which uses "compels." The NASB reads, "For the love of Christ controls us." Paul is clearly stating his present reality; what it is that compels him to act as he does; what it is that controls his behavior. "Paul, why are you doing what you're doing?" Because, the love of Christ controls me, dear brother!! My present reality is the result of the controlling force of His love, and love for Him, in my life. "Paul, will that love control you in the future, as well?" I think Paul would say confidently that it would. But that would be nothing more than a confident expectation or assumption, it could not be stated as actual reality!!! It could be stated in the form of a future indicative (I could confidently look to the future and imagine my life equally controlled, as it is now, by love for the Lord and His love for me .... but such can NOT be stated as a present indicative; it is beyond the scope of that form).

Again, we see Ron desperate to take the present and propel it into the future, and make that future event fall under the umbrella of the present indicative. It will never happen. But, we can all certainly see WHY Ron NEEDS it to happen. In the statement of our Lord in Matt. 5:32a (which is a very simple statement of fact about an event), Jesus declares that when a man divorces his wife, then adultery is committed. Something (adultery) ACTUALLY happens when he divorces her. It is REAL; right then. It is actual, factual, in the here and now. Ron REFUSES to accept this statement by Jesus AS JESUS STATED IT. Ron will NEVER accept this statement AS JESUS STATED IT. Instead, he will ADD people and events to this simple factual statement, and he will twist the grammatical structure of the sentence so that it says what RON wants it to say rather than what JESUS actually said. You see, Ron and Jesus are not in agreement here, so what JESUS said has to be amended. Ron will "correct" the statement of the Lord so that it fits better with RON'S theory of truth. "Adultery means sex in a remarriage, and by George there is going to be a future remarriage in this statement, and there is going to be some sex in it, whether Jesus ever mentioned it in the text or not. And when Jesus said it was happening NOW, well He really meant it would happen LATER. Now leave me alone, can't you see I've got some serious rewriting of the Bible to do here?!!!"

Well, I think we all have had quite enough of Ron's perversions of God's holy Word in order to promote his novel doctrine and pet theories. His falsehoods have been exposed. The trumpet of warning has been sounded. Those who embrace his deadly, divisive doctrine do so at their peril.


I would like to close my part in this debate by restating our proposition, and then commenting very briefly upon each aspect of it in light of the two perspectives presented in this discussion.


A married person who divorces his or her spouse
for any reason other than fornication, and marries another,
is a person who keeps on committing adultery

The teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ with regard to MDR is really simplicity itself, although it has been made unnecessarily complex and tangled by the manipulations of generations of rigid religionists more interested in law than grace; in herding the flock into their doctrinal pens, than in healing them of their pains.

God established marriage as a blessed union to be enjoyed by the men and women He created. Each man was designed to have that special woman he could love and cherish, and each woman that special man in her life. Then mankind got selfish and greedy, and to make a long story short, they messed up. God has been trying to heal them ever since, and to restore the vision of the IDEAL to their hearts and minds. It's a hard job ..... especially when the divorce police and the remarriage FBI come along and take over the show. Now, instead of the hurting being healed, they are further traumatized; and instead of the IDEAL being uplifted, volumes of burdensome law are heaped upon the backs of those already bowed in despair. It is a tragic scene, made more tragic by the actions and attitudes of those who should be easing the pain and lifting the burdens of the afflicted ..... but who instead are only adding to them.

Yes, marriages end. Divorces happen. Covenants are torn apart. It distresses everyone, not the least of whom is God who created marriage to be enjoyed by His people. But, when a marriage ends, a marriage ends. It is a reality even God acknowledges. But, life doesn't end .... it goes on. There is hope .... even for the divorced; even for those who caused it. It is not the unforgivable sin. The consequence of a failed marriage is NOT that one can never, ever try again. Rather, hopefully, one learns from one's mistakes, repents, and seeks the IDEAL the next time.

There are many things which a couple can allow to come between them, and which will effectively destroy their union if allowed to. Sexually immoral acts are perhaps some of the more dramatic and traumatic, but they are by no means the only actions and attitudes which rend a marriage apart. Whatever the cause ultimately proves to be, a destroyed marriage is a destroyed marriage.

Some see Jesus declaring that there is only ONE thing which truly destroys a marriage in the eyes of God; only ONE cause which He will accept. He will acknowledge a marriage as genuinely ended in HIS sight ONLY if one or both parties were guilty of porneia. ANY other cause which might destroy a marriage (daily beating one's wife, for example) is NOT recognized by God as a legitimate reason to end a marriage, and He will thus NOT recognize one's divorce, but will instead regard that couple as still married. Thus, any future union with any other person on the part of either spouse (although some "grace oriented legalists" will allow remarriage to the "innocent" spouse) will be immediately declared "adultery," and it will be "continuous adultery" (living in sin) for as long as you are having sex with this new partner (again, some "grace oriented legalists" will allow the two to stay "married" as long as they vow never again to have sex with one another ..... how kind of them!!!). For most legalists and traditionalists the only acceptable solution to this situation is for the couple to end their union. They must divorce.

This is the traditional teaching in a nutshell. It is a very common theory ..... and it is also dead wrong!! Infant baptism and baptism by sprinkling are also very common teachings in the religious world ..... and also dead wrong. The approval of the masses is a poor way to determine Truth!!! Ron likes to list all the books which agree with his twisted theology on MDR ..... many of these same authors would also agree with the other two items I just mentioned. Sometimes bold disciples must dare to return to the Word, and dare to stand alone against those who have been led astray by the popular theology of the spiritually blind. No spiritual renewal, or restoration, or reform was ever begun by the masses, but rather by a few devoted disciples who dared to think independently and uphold God's Truth.

When a marriage fails, whatever the cause, a covenant is broken between a man and woman. A marriage has ended. Jesus did not fall into the trap of the schools of thought of His day; He did not side with one theory against the other. Instead, He charted an independent course. He declared ALL causes which led to a destruction of marriage wrong. Anything that caused the IDEAL to go unrealized in a couple's life was a missing of the mark. Jesus didn't pick and choose among the Jews' list of causes, and select one which would be acceptable and approved by God, with all others being cast into the "rejected" pile. There was only one acceptable outcome in God's sight: Marriages should be maintained, regardless of the challenge. That is the IDEAL. That is the GOAL.

However, when a marriage does fail (as they do daily), Jesus pointed out in His teaching that someone was to blame; someone was culpable; someone was responsible. That someone had sinned. Sometimes it might be both parties, and often it probably was to varying degrees. But sometimes one party was clearly responsible for the divorce. The so-called exception clause addresses this matter of responsibility. If a man divorces his wife, and she has done nothing to warrant such an action against her, but he casts her off so he can have someone who appeals to him more (or for some other selfish and self-serving cause), then this man is the party responsible for the breaking of wedlock. However, if the woman is cast off because it was SHE who engaged in selfish, self-willed activities which ultimately destroyed the union (porneia, for example), then the culpability lies with her rather than the man who was forced to put her away.

Whether either spouse ever remarries or not is not the primary concern of Jesus here. They might, they might not! If they do, they have "not sinned" (1 Cor. 7:27-28). The issue which concerned Jesus was DIVORCE, the breaking of the covenant of marriage ..... remarriage later down the road was not the central concern; it was peripheral, even in some ways incidental, to the real problem: Divorce. True, the longing of one spouse for someone other than their spouse might well have been the cause for the breakdown of the marriage, and that guilty spouse may indeed marry that other person at some point in the future, but the SIN addressed by Jesus was the DIVORCE, not the nature of what may have caused it. The focus of Christ's teaching is not on remarriage, it is on divorce. Satan, however, would like nothing better than to get religious leaders to take the spotlight OFF of the divorce, and to focus all their attention instead on either the cause, or the later remarriage. Nothing could serve his purposes any better ..... and the traditionalists, Ron among them, have done his bidding to perfection.

And just imagine the demonic delight which would result if Satan could convince these same rigid religionists that the "fruit of repentance" for one's remarriage is another divorce!!! Oh what irony .... Oh what hellish joy this must generate!! And, again, the traditionalists have fallen for it. It must have been more than Satan could have hoped for!! But the traditionalists didn't disappoint him. In fact, they're even willing to rewrite the statements of Jesus and add just about anything to the text to help the Devil out. What great servants they have proven to be!!!

Ron promotes a graceless, law-centered theology. In contrast, I present a God of love who lifts the fallen and heals the wounded. For those who are down, but not out, I offer for your consideration a God who longs to extend forgiveness, healing and hope for a brighter tomorrow. A perspective where failure does not have to be forever fatal. A place where new beginnings are a reality. It is not a "false hope," as Ron would have you believe, but a certain hope, because it rests upon the foundation of our God Himself, and His love, mercy and grace.

For those who would rather be flogged for their failings, further belittled and burdened throughout the remainder of their lives for past indiscretions, and totally deprived of any reasonable hope for their future happiness, may I recommend the traditional teaching on MDR proclaimed by Ron Thomas. If that is your "taste," servants like my opponent will be more than happy to dish it up for you, with a nice side order of religious arrogance to go along with it. When you have had your fill of this fare, however, just remember: The Lord has something better to offer!!

Concluding Thought

As I bring my part in this debate to a conclusion, I would like to express my appreciation to Ron Thomas for his willingness to engage in this discussion of several vital issues pertaining to a most important subject matter. It is forums like this which help get the good news out to the world that we have a marvelous God who offers healing to a people traumatized by divorce and afflicted by disciples.

I was not easy on Ron, I admit it; I spoke very bluntly at times .... and frankly, it was needed. The traditionalists have oppressed and misled the people for too long. It is time for a new reformation; for the few to rise up and speak out against the abuses of the masses. The Truth demands no less of those who love it, especially when false teaching with regard to this matter has the power to destroy the lives of so many around us .... and is doing so daily.

I do appreciate Ron as a person, and also as one I think genuinely wants to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. He has a zeal for the Lord and the Bible, but not in accordance with knowledge. He has embraced, and sadly is teaching, a doctrine which is deadly and divisive. I have nothing but the greatest contempt and loathing for this doctrine of demons. It is not of God. My sincere prayer for Ron, and those like him, is that he will one day perceive his error and forever turn from it, and I pray it will come sooner rather than later. Much is at stake, and we could surely use this man on the side of Truth!!

May God richly bless each of you, our readers. I pray your eyes have been opened to the grace of God Almighty, and that if you are down, but not yet out, I pray that you will turn to Him for the healing He so freely offers. If I can ever assist you in receiving that hope for a better day, feel free to call.

Home Index