A few thoughts on a couple of books I’ve read recently.
Tell the Truth: The Whole Gospel to the Whole Person by Whole People. By Will Metzger. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press. 3rd ed. 2002.
This book really should be standard reading when it comes to the topic of evangelism. Metzger takes a rather different, yet biblically sound, approach in this work by not rooting his argument in methodology, manipulating readers by pouring on the guilt, or making his case for evangelism on social or cultural studies. As the subtitle suggests, Metzger begins with Scripture! By beginning with a serious study of the Gospel and a biblical understanding of the human condition and salvation, our motivation and our methods are biblically guided and evaluated.
The model Metzger sets forth is the “Come Home” presentation of the Gospel. It begins and ends with God, not man. It communicates man’s real need, salvation. It holds forth man’s only hope, Christ. All in all, both in terms of doctrinal study and practical application, Metzger has provided an excellent tool for evangelism.
A secondary positive result of Metzger’s work is that it demonstrates evangelism and reformed theology are not at odds. In fact, evangelism is a natural outgrowth of biblically-balanced reformed theology.
It’s not your typical work on evangelism, short and light. So when you read it, prepare to settle in for an engaging study, which I believe will prove to be rewarding as well.
Divorce & Remarriage: A Permanence View. By Wingerd, Elliff, Chrisman, and Burchett. Kansas City, Christian Communicators Worldwide, 2009.
If you adhere to the majority opinion on divorce and remarriage and do not want your position to be rattled and dismantled, don’t read this book!
Seriously. Exegesis and background study have always forced me to maintain the minority view of divorce and remarriage. However, until now, all I could find in terms of quality resources were a few sermons and articles. As you can imagine, being the minority view means not many resources are produced that affirm it. On the other hand, the majority view has more than its share of books, sermons, and articles abounding. That’s why I was so pleased to get a copy of Divorce & Remarriage. Finally, a book-length, serious, exegetical treatment arguing for the minority view.
Simply stated, the minority view is that there are no biblical grounds for divorce and that remarriage is only acceptable after the death of a spouse. The majority view believes that Matthew allows for divorce and remarriage in cases of adultery and 1 Cor 7 allows for divorce and remarriage in cases where an unbeliever has abandoned a believer.
So why does the minority view argue against what seems to be such a clear teaching in Matthew and 1 Corinthians? First, there are exegetical, hermenuetical reasons. “The NT contains 5 statements that amount to unqualified prohibitions of divorce (Matt 19:6 and Mark 10:9, 1 Cor 7:10, 1 Cor 7:11, 1 Cor 7:12, 1 Cor 7:13) and 5 statements that amount to unqualified prohibitions of remarriage after divorce if a former spouse is living (Matt 5:32b, Mark 10:11-12, Luke 16:18, Rom 7:3, 1 Cor 7:10-11a).
Second, there are the background reasons. Why does Matthew provide a “loophole” to the unqualified prohibition of Mark and Luke? And why does Matthew make sure to do this both times he addresses the issue in chs 5 and 19? The minority view answer has always made more sense to me. That is, Matthew was writing to a Jewish audience and his use of greek words demonstrates that he has Jewish engagement in mind when speaking of divorce, not divorce after consummation of marriage. The Joseph narrative in Matthew reinforces this argument, but the use of greek terms is the main point. The majority view argues that the exception was so clear for Mark and Luke’s audience that they did not have to mention it. Really? So the exception was clear but the prohibition was not!?! How could the exception be clear if the prohibition had to be stated so clear, so emphatic, and so unqualified? Makes no sense.
Third, there are the contextual reasons. Holding the majority view fails to explain the reaction of the Pharisees and the disciples when Jesus sets forth his teaching on divorce and remarriage.
A couple of other reasons I really like this book. First, I like the term “permanence view” much, much better than “minority view.” Minority doesn’t communicate the position; it just states the popularity of it! “Permanence” better communicates that we believe the Bible teaches that marriage, as a covenant representing the New Covenant relationship between Christ and the church, is “till death do us part!”
Second, this book is written by the elders of a local church who studied the relevant texts together, wrestled through the issues, arrived at this position, taught it patiently to the church, and worked on how to make good application. It’s not easy to hold the minority position (Believe me!!). That’s why I was so encouraged to discover how the Lord led these men to embrace and apply this understanding together in the context of a local church.
The only weakness I found, and this is admittedly strictly a matter of my opinion, is that I don’t see these men being charitable in their policies to those who would adamantly affirm the majority position. I agree the permanence view is the biblical view. I agree that the local church has to take a position and work out policies as such. However, it is also clear that many well-educated, faithful teachers of Scripture have affirmed and taught the majority view of divorce and remarriage. There must be a way to teach the minority view while respecting members’ decision to personally hold to the majority view as a matter of conscience, in the same way some may disagree over the matter of infant baptism or reformed theology. Every member does not have to agree to every single point of doctrine and application that the church affirms. Somewhere we need to make room for charitable disagreement for the sake of unity even within the local church context. Some points of doctrine should not result in withholding membership. Again, this is only a disagreement of methodology. In terms of biblical reasoning and faithful application, this is THE resource for the permanence view of marriage.
A great help when studying this issue, seeking to teach this issue, or seeking to make application in the local church and counseling context.