(Disclaimer: This is an honest question, I'm not trying to be inflammatory. Also I confess to not having done a great deal of research on this one)

I'm not familiar with the positions of all denominations on the matter, but generally it seems that those who allow remarriage after divorce treat the "clear word of the Lord" with some measure of 'contextualisation/reinterpretation'.

I don't know all of the arguments involved, but I wonder if they aren't the same, or similar, to the ones advanced in defence of skirting the 'plain meaning' of texts condemning homosexuality.

Obviously, the for/against arguments in both cases are extensive, so I'm not asking for a comprehensive review of them: I just want to know if there is a substantive difference in the 'techniques' used to justify both.

  • 3
    FWIW (and to the attention of those thinking to VTC this as opinion based) my take is that this is a rare instance of a subjective question that this site could handle. See What are guidelines for "Good Subjective" answers on this site?
    – Caleb
    May 23, 2014 at 12:57
  • 3
    I think this question is making a category error, by comparing re-marriage after divorce to homosexuality. The Bible says (dependent upon interpretation) that divorce is wrong, and that homosexuality is wrong--thus a correct comparison would be between divorce and homosexuality. The analog to re-marriage after divorce would be marriage after having been homosexual. But that's not the question being asked.
    – Flimzy
    May 23, 2014 at 19:09
  • 2
    @Flimzy, except that Jesus specifically said (my paraphrase) that divorce was 'tolerated' because of our 'hardness of heart': an exemption which he didn't extend to remarriage.
    – Benjol
    May 26, 2014 at 4:38
  • up arrow from me. i would answer the question in the subject line with "no" and simply point out that not all Christians are intellectually honest. (but that nothing different from every other fallen human being.) May 29, 2014 at 5:28
  • @Benjol: I think you'll need to provide some more context for me to understand your point.
    – Flimzy
    May 29, 2014 at 18:04

4 Answers 4


In short, I don't believe there is a plausible way to reinterpret divorce regulations without opening the gate to reinterpreting homosexuality in similar fashion. This point is not lost on all prominent evangelical leaders (e.g., Albert Mohler, John Piper, Tim Keller, John Frame, etc.), even if it seems lost on some (the old school Moral Majority, perhaps). There's not total hypocrisy on this front, though it sometimes seems that way.

Divorce (and hence remarriage after divorce) and homosexuality, according to the evangelicals I have in mind, are both outside of God's desired plan, though not out of his sovereign will. The difference is that the law regulates divorce, permitting it due to our hardness of heart, but not approving of it. The same cannot be said of homosexuality, according to any historico-grammatical exegesis that I am aware of. It is always and everywhere forbidden. There's at least a little more wiggle room in divorce regulation.

Incidentally, I asked a related question that, alas, got deleted: Have any denominations modeled their positions on gay marriage after OT regulatory structures? That is, have any denominations applied the hermeneutic they apply to slavery, polygamy, and divorce -- each of which we could characterize as suboptimal but regulatable rather than being proscribed outright -- to homosexuality. I don't have an answer to that question, which is why I asked it, but I thought it would be a potentially interesting approach to consider.

  • Nice commentary... I don't disagree with any of it... but it doesn't answer the question.
    – Flimzy
    May 29, 2014 at 18:06
  • @Flimzy, I have made the implicit explicit, hoping to earn your not-a-downvote.
    – metal
    May 31, 2014 at 1:31

Jesus gave us 4 things in the following passage.

  1. How God deemed marriage to be.
  2. Why -Moses- not God allowed divorce to begin with.
  3. What God considered to be sin in regards to divorce.
  4. What should be done if a person can't help but seek divorce.

The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?”

4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.”

7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?”

8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9 And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”

10 His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

11 But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” - Matthew 19:3-12 (emphasis my own)

Therefore according to God it's a sin to remarry after divorce unless one of the spouses has committed adultery prior to the divorce. Because whoever marries a divorced person who being divorced for a reason other than adultery commits adultery in doing so. Homosexuality is very similar.

"22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman. It is an abomination" -Leviticus 18:22

Considering what Jesus announced in Matthew 19. God doesn't consider a marriage to be anything other than One man to One woman for life. Anything else is a defiling of what He ordained in creation. This however does not condemn a person for being divorced and remarried nor does it condemn a person who is homosexual. The same grace that flowed on a heterosexual person who died only have one spouse their whole life is just as forgiven of his past sin as a person who was once homosexual or was divorced and remarried. If they have been born again through Christ.

I hope this helped. God bless.

  • 1
    Can you address the question of intellectual honesty re: contextualizing passages on divorce vs not on homosexuality directly? The argument you're making holds water, but needs to address the question head on. Mostly, I think you've got to come at this from the angle of "why is divorce permitted/condoned in the church when homosexuality is not, even though there are seemingly clear prohibitions on both". You've established that clear prohibition isn't a valid assessment, but I feel like a bit more meat is warranted here.
    – wax eagle
    May 23, 2014 at 15:53
  • To be completely honest anything else as far a that is concerned would take someone with more biblical knowledge then I have. I've always tried to take the scriptures at face value so it's hard for me to see the way one can re:contextualize scripture. To me it would seem more opinion based after that point than really scripture based. I probably misunderstand that concept. But I appreciate the comment!
    – Tyler
    May 23, 2014 at 16:35
  • Sorry, this is a good answer in and of itself, but to a different question...
    – Benjol
    May 26, 2014 at 4:40

Is it possible (intellectually honest) to 'contextualise' the 'anti-divorce' passages, but not the 'anti-homosexual' ones? The definition to contextualise is: "To place or study in context." My opinion is that all interpretations should have a clearly defined "base conceptualization" drawn from scripture in context. So indeed every passage should be 'contextualised'

I'm not familiar with the positions of all denominations on the matter, but generally it seems that those who allow remarriage after divorce treat the "clear word of the Lord" with some measure of 'contextualisation/reinterpretation'. The reason that an interpretation of contextualisation occurs is because the purpose behind the contextualisation was never realized.

Obviously, the for/against arguments in both cases are extensive, so I'm not asking for a comprehensive review of them: I just want to know if there is a substantive difference in the 'techniques' used to justify both. The differences are the sins that are punishable by death. For divorce the sin is adultery, yet not all cases of divorce is accounted to adultery. So remarriage after divorce caused by the act of "the significant other" in adultery, or the "the significant other" leaving for non-specific reasons. Both in context are allowable for remarriage, and even in some cases suggested.

Homosexuality however is its own punishment. [Romans 1:18-32]

Homosexuality is the punishment for Idolatry.

"who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen." (Romans 1:25 NKJV)

The Death Penalty for Adultery and Homosexuality is still active. Just not by human hands, but by God who is among us.

So when they continued asking Him, He raised Himself up and said to them, “He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” (John 8:7 NKJV)

"Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord." (Romans 12:19 NKJV)

Another example of Sexual Immorality

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. 3 For I indeed, as absent in body but present in spirit, have already judged (as though I were present) him who has so done this deed. 4 In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, when you are gathered together, along with my spirit, with the power of our Lord Jesus Christ, 5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." (1 Corinthians 5:1-5 NKJV)

To those in Christ

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24)

The End of the Law of Sin and Death are for those in Christ Only

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)

"I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours." (John 17:9 NKJV)

Each person is accountable to their own actions

Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7-8 NKJV)

Thank God for Forgiveness and Righteousness!

"so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Romans 5:21 NKJV)


I think it all comes down to one's understanding of sin, and one's relationship to God through Christ. Having been married before for 7 years, and in my second marriage for 23 years, I went through all those verses about divorce and remarriage. To be honest I don't think they helped me very much! Especially as Christians have a relationship with God through Christ, (Grace) rather than a rule book (the Law.) So my view is a subjective one, rather than a scripturally evidenced one. Although I do believe in scripture, I think one has one has to take account of who is speaking to whom and in what context.

My second wife and I were married in a Registry Office in the UK, and as a "messed up" born again Christian, I spent twenty years in the spiritual wilderness until about three years ago when I made the decision to seek the Lord again and we joined a church, and have gone on from there. Our vicar knows our background, and I have felt no need to have our union blessed in church because my deep conviction is that God knows our hearts ~ end of.

I base that on 1 John 3:21-22 (KJV)

21 Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God.22 And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.

Also if the Holy Spirit dwells within us He will bring forth fruit.. John 15:2 (KJV)

2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

So are we contextualising or reinterpreting Scripture? Possibly, but ultimately it is God who will examine the intents of our heart, not man.

Re homosexuality, again a very difficult subject. The condemnation of homosexual practices are really quite clear from the Bible, but what about a Christian homosexual?
I came to the conclusion years ago that some people are born homosexual. Some knew from a very early age that they were "different" and attracted to their own sex rather than the opposite sex. Did God make them gay?

Well if you believe that each person is born as God wants them, then one would have to say yes.
I don't believe that. I believe that God created everything and it was all corrupted by Adam's sin. Genetic and gender abnormalities are a part of our fallen world. I don't think we can condemn a Christian man or woman because they are gay, but it goes back to the "fruit of the Spirit" thing: if we are truly followers of Jesus Christ, there will be repentance, there will be fruit ~ 2 Corinthians 5:17

"Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new."

The church universal should welcome and love anyone who professes faith in our Lord Jesus.

What about the need for a loving, lasting relationship?
My belief is that any single Christian person should stay celibate; but what if the homosexual Christian single finds another Christian homosexuaL? Perhaps they should bring it to the church leaders and seek their guidance.

Perhaps it is a matter for the Body of Christ to decide on. Perhaps the fellowship might say that providing there is no promiscuity, no resorting to male to male sex (which definitely is condemned) no attempts to corrupt others, then before the God we all have to answer to, as the Body of Christ we might sanction such a relationship.
My thoughts are based on my belief in a Holy and Compassionate God, who providing we truly repent of our sins, grants us salvation through the precious blood of Christ Jesus. Whatever the Scriptures say, how can we condemn a man or woman born homosexual? That doesn't make sense. Or if we believe God created them homosexual, then how can He condemn them?

John 3:16

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. But I don't see that a heterosexual or a homosexual has the liberty to indulge in fleshly lusts (and some heterosexuals can be pretty depraved!) as a Christian.


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