The Christian church has never reached agreement over the question of remarriage after divorce .
The Catholic church, taking a sacramental view of marriage, has held that a marriage is indissoluble, whereas the reformed churches rejected the concept of indissolubility.
Cranmer had proposed a revised Canon Law (1553), which would have provided for divorce on the grounds of adultery, malicious desertion, prolonged absence without news, attempts against the partner’s life and cruelty.
Some of the issues to be considered are:-
1. Exegetical issues. There is some uncertainty over the meaning of the key texts in Deut 24:1-4; Mt 19:3-12; Mk 10:2-12. See the commentaries for a discussion of these passages.
2. Hermeneutical issues. How did Jesus intend his teaching to be understood? Was he imposing a new and more rigorous law which would replace the law of Moses? Or is he reminding us of the demands of the kingdom, the ‘higher righteousness’ which characterises kingdom life? Some have suggested that the Deuteronomic implication of cruelty, the Matthean reference to sexual sin, and Paul’s words (1 Cor 7) about desertion point to the sorts of serious situations in which divorce might be contemplated.
3. Moral issues. Does Scripture allow divorce with right of remarriage at all, and if so, under which circumstances? The Protestant approach has tended to be that the breaking of the marriage covenant is not forbidden, even though it is less than ideal to do so. We can be so trapped by our own sin and shortcoming that no ways open to us are good, and then, recognising our need of forgiveness and mercy, we may decide to take the lesser-evil choice. Divorce is always the last, never the first, option. It can never take place without hurt and harm to those involved. What then of remarriage? We cannot put all divorce and possible remarriage situations into one category. Some marriages fail because of persistent cruelty and unfaithfulness, some because they should never have taken place at all, and some for other reasons. Obligations to children and others must be taken into account. Some Christians believe that there are circumstances in which a further marriage while a former partner is still alive may be a responsible choice, but only under the shadow of a broken covenant, and only by seeking the grace of God for a new start.
4. Pastoral issues. These are complex. Many marriages break down because of some inadequacy in one or both of the partners. It is not self-evident that a further marriage will be any more successful. A broken marriage raises the possibility of singleness. Some testify to God’s blessing on a second marriage, noting that the experience of grace in a new start declares something of the divine covenant.
5. Ecclesiastical issues. These concern matters of church discipline, and the permissibility of solemnising a further marriage in church. How can the church carry out its double task: to bear witness to the divine will for permanancy in marriage and also to the gospel of grace and forgiveness? Some support a further marriage in church under some crcumstances; others believe that the ‘service of blessing’ following civil marriage is more appropriate.
Based on art. ‘Remarriage’ in New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology (IVP)