GIVING & SHARING NEWSLETTER September, 1994 No. 29
Armstrong’s 1953 Article, “Divorce and Remarriage”
Giving & Sharing is pleased to reprint the classic doctrinal article, “Divorce and Remarriage,” by Herbert W. Armstrong, originally published in 1953. The article was withdrawn from publication several years before 1974, when the Worldwide Church of God drastically changed its teaching relative to marriage and divorce. Many people today who have become part of the Church of God since the early 1970s, have never read this important material. We are reprinting “Divorce and Remarriage,” so that this basic Bible truth will not be lost. Please read it with an open mind.
It is interesting to note that this article has been totally misinterpreted by some. Herbert W. Armstrong’s “Divorce and Remarriage” article does not justify setting up a church judicial system to decide on the validity of members’ or prospective members’ marriages. Yet during the 1950s and 1960s, that is exactly what the Radio (Worldwide) Church of God did. Prospective members were sometimes denied baptism if the ministry decided that their present marriage was adulterous, and they refused to separate. Members whose cases were taken up by the Church sometimes found that the process was less than uniform, and even arbitrary. Sometimes, a “liberal” WWC minister would undo a previous decision of a “conservative” minister. This demonstrates that there were divergent opinions of the simple divorce and remarriage teaching. There is nothing in the Bible, nor in Herbert Armstrong’s public writings, to justify a judicial system of administration of the doctrine of marriage. Actually, the ministry should strongly proclaim the Truth, and disfellowship members only in flagrant cases of sexual sin and rebellion. Thankfully, this kind of Church judicial system of the administration of the doctrine of divorce and remarriage is almost entirely extinct today.
In reaction to this ungodly administration of bondage, the Worldwide Church of God then went to the opposite extreme, but this was a second erroneous position. In 1974, the Church’s teaching on “Divorce and Remarriage” was drastically changed. If a member’s mate was, or became, a nonmember, the Church member was given full permission to divorce and remarry. The marital state of a new member, no matter how many previous marriages and no matter what the circumstances, was by Church fiat declared to be valid in God’s sight. Any kind of “fraud” was grounds for annulling a marriage with the right to remarry. This new doctrine was a total repudiation of the 1953 article, “Divorce and Remarriage.” Instead of correcting the faulty administration (Church-enforced judicial system, which included investigating and prying into people’s private lives), the Church threw out the baby with the bath water, and changed the doctrine itself! This modern view demotes marriage from a divine institution to merely a temporary agreement regulated by the state. In contradiction to Luke 16:15, 18, this view says that whatever “marriages” the state “legalizes,” are acceptable to God. The Worldwide Church of God, and almost all its offshoot groups, hold this diabolical view today.
Herbert Armstrong did not follow the teaching of his own 1953 article. In 1977, Armstrong married a divorcee, claiming her first marriage had been annulled. In 1982, the couple engaged in a bitter divorce suit. In 1984, the divorce was finalized. Yet regardless of Armstrong’s personal lifestyle, the Truth of the Almighty is not dependent on how he did, or did not, live up to it.
A third erroneous position is held by a couple of splinter groups from the Worldwide Church of God. They teach, with no scriptural support, that nonsexual “fraud” is grounds for annulling a marriage. For example, if a man insisted that his bride be German, and she deceived him, and they lived together as man and wife for years, and had several children, then he, according to this erroneous teaching, upon discovering that she had deceived him, could divorce her and remarry. Another example is drunkenness which does not surface until some time after marriage. The sober mate would not have married the other if he/she knew of the other’s problem with alcohol. Therefore, it is reasoned that when the truth comes out, the sober mate has the right to divorce and remarry. These groups also claim that they, and not us, are adhering to the teachings of the 1953 “Divorce and Remarriage” article. Herbert Armstrong’s 1953 article does not support their position.
In summary, we have discussed the following three erroneous D&R views:
Worldwide Church of
Correct Doctrine taught, but not consistently practiced, and enforced by an arbitrary Church government with conflicting interpretations.
Worldwide Church of
God, and Most Splinter Groups Since 1974
Wide-open permissiveness, almost anything goes.
A Couple of
Divorce and remarriage permitted for nonsexual fraud, which has no scriptural support.
Supported by the Bible, Herbert Armstrong’s 1953 article on Divorce and Remarriage is like a beacon in today’s sea of easy divorce and rampant remarriage. There are few, if any, Biblical topics more important, and essential to the gospel message, than a correct teaching, and loving application, of the doctrine of marriage and divorce. May the Eternal help us to live up to His precious Truth! Ω