Allan Quak, Faith and Life, issue 3, Oct 2009
In her introduction Barbara Roberts shares that she is the survivor of an abusive marriage and that “the concept for this book emerged when my marriage of 10 years finally ended” (pg 15). Barbara does not write merely on the basis of theory, research, exegesis, observation or anecdotal evidence, she writes as one who has personally experienced the trauma, shame, humiliation and institutional rejection that comes with being a physically abused Christian divorcee.
The result is a book that presents a persuasive case for divorce in situation of abuse, adultery and desertion. The reader is compelled to agree as they feel Barbara´s anguished wrestle with issues that are exegetically complex, emotionally tense and immensely relevant for the church. That is the strength of this book, but also a potential weakness; for a compelling does not necessarily mean biblically accurate. Three specific questions come to mind.
Does Roberts present a biblically accurate definition of abuse?
What is abuse? Chapter 1 lists various definitions, forms, examples, anecdotes and experiences. There is no doubt that some of the behaviours listed are ungodly; are all of them? It is difficult to discern as the definitions are not backed by biblical references. Readers will need to make a judgment here.
Has Roberts present a biblically accurate exposition of 1 Corinthians 7:10-16?
Roberts contends that 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 applies to treacherous divorce as well as disciplinary divorce. Treacherous divorce is condemned as biblical requirements for divorce have not been met. Disciplinary divorce is permitted and applies to situations of abuse, adultery, desertion and serious mistreatment by a seriously offending spouse. This significant shift in interpretation requires discerning evaluation.
If an abuser professes to be a Christian, but persists in their behaviour, can they justifiably be labeled as an unbeliever?
Robert´s interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7:10-16 only applies if serious abusers are always defined as unbelievers. The reader will need to discern if this connection is biblically justifiable and exegetically defendable, or if it is assumed in an uncoupling way.
Any book on the subject of divorce in situations of abuse, adultery and desertion should be welcomed; Roberts has produced a worthy volume. Any book which speaks against abuse ought to be commended; Roberts is commended.
(Faith and Life is published by The Evangelical Alliance, Australia)