The Accelerating Divorce Mill

First, an acknowledgement. I am indebted to David Bendin (Newspaper Enterprise Assn.)—not for a solution to the problem, but rather for statistics on today’s runaway rate of divorce. Obviously, Mr. Bendin is still at a loss concerning the solution as the concluding sentence of his article suggests; “Until a real solution can be found the best advice any person can offer is Caveat Amator—let the lover beware.” That’s good; but, of course, anyone who is caught in the meshes of this sticky problem needs more than that.

Let’s first take a look at the statistics as Columnist Bendin presents them. Writing in The Ames Daily Tribune (July 8, ‘72), he reports the following facts gleaned from a release by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCBS), a branch of the U. S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare:

–now at an all-time high. the national figure has mounted to 455 divorces for every 1,000 marriages;

–in 14 states the figure is more than 500 divorces for every 1,000 marriages;

–government statistics for the first four months of 1972 reveal today’s 455 out of 1,000 national ratio compared to 428 out of 1,000 last year;

–statistics from seven of the 50 states (including Nevada!) were not available; which means that the report could be even worse;

–the situation then is this: during the 6rst four months of 1972, there were 528,117 marriages in the U. S. and 240,409 divorces;

–Montana with a divorce-marriage ratio of 803 heads the list, Oregon with 768 is next, while California with 755 is third;

–with its liberal “no fault” divorce law, California is granting more than three divorces for every four marriages.

Well said then: “Caveat Amator—let the lover beware.”

Now it is by no means superfluous or amiss, in the face of this alarming trend, to remind ourselves of what our stand must he with respect to divorce in the light of what Scripture teaches.

Bedrock for the position that adultery is the only Scriptural ground for divorce is found in the teaching of our Lord Himself:

“And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery; and he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery” (Matt. 19:9).

Now, in view of misunderstanding about the position of the Christian Reformed Church as this has recently come to my attention, it may be well to refresh our memories about this. Let there be no misunderstanding about it that the CRC recognizes nothing except adultery as a Scriptural ground for divorce. The idea, as it was reported to me, that this is a matter to be determined by each consistory is simply not according to fact.

The misunderstanding alluded to probably stems from the fact that the CRC Synod in 1968 decided the following:

“That Synod declare that admitting or readmitting to membership in the church persons who have been divorced on unbiblical grounds, and have remarried, or who are divorced as the result of their own adultery and have remarried, is the task of the consistory and is the responsibility of Classis only in case of appeal” (italics added).

Prior to 1968, such action could be taken only with the advice of Classis. It should be noted that, in making this change in 1968, Synod added the following:

“This change in procedure does not diminish the force of the synodical admonition: ‘The Consistories are advised that people who are guilty of unbiblical divorce, or who are divorced as a result of their own adultery and having remarried, seek entrance into the Church, shall be expected to show their sorrow and genuine repentance during an adequate period of probation. . .” (Acts, 1956, p. 118, Art. 2).

California’s “no fault” divorce law, as Mr. Bendin reports, accepts “irreconcilable differences” as grounds for divorce. But altogether too often there is nothing Scripturally normative in the consideration of whether a divorce is to be or not to be. The happiness of the individual rather than the sacredness of marriage as a divine institution becomes the controlling factor. Of course, the mistaken assumption back of this switch in priorities is that happiness can ever exist or be found whenever God’s regulations are disregarded or held in contempt.

The calling of Christian parents and of the Christian pulpit to stress the sacredness of marriage in season and out of season cannot be stressed too much. Love, loyalty, forgiveness, self-denial, long-suffering, Christian faith, the family altar with Bible reading and prayer, the fear of God—these are the ingredients to be taught by precept and by example as the stuff it takes to keep marriage off the rocks, and to make it a source of great happiness with the blessing of the Lord.

One look at today’s accelerating divorce mill should be enough to make us see the handwriting on the wall. Marriage and the home are the foundation of society; when these go everything goes.