THE Biblical Grounds for Divorce

By Danni Moss
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In a recent dialog in the comments resulting from three posts (Rick Warren and Saddleback Church on Domestic Violence, Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Abuse, and Transcript of Saddleback Church Teaching on Divorce) I made a comment, which generated a question, the answer to which needs its own space. So here they are, with a little amplification.

Original comment: …Yet, when the subject is domestic abuse, which is far more egregious than adultery – and has the same spiritual root – there is no acceptance of the offending spouse’s decision and no acceptance of the offended spouse’s options.

Question: OK, I’m stumped. What is “the same spiritual root” that adultery, abandonment, and abuse have in common?


“Putting asunder” – violation of the marriage covenant by utterly severing the one-flesh/one-spirit bond.

This is one of the “illogics” I see in this piece. The speaker gives permission for a wife to proactively divorce her adulterous husband though he remains under the same roof with her and refuses to get a divorce. This is exactly the same as an abuser.

The violence to the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship is sexual with another person in a sexually adulterous relationship.

The violence to the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship is geographic with abandonment.

The violence to the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship uses a literal spirit of murder (expressed through rage, etc. – not necessarily inclusive of actual murderous actions) to kill the spirit and body of the spouse (in violation of multiple Scriptures) and also demands an idolatrous relationship, which is a direct violation of the Word.

The Word makes the very clear connection that the reason sexual adultery is grounds for divorce is because human marriage is a picture of our relationship with God, with the marital one-flesh relationship being a picture of our worship and one-ness with God. Adultery is equivalent to idolatry — that is why it is grounds for divorce. This is THE reason it matters.

When two are married they become ONE – this is not just a sexual thing. They are ONE unified whole. This is why abandonment has the same root as adultery. Two cannot be one if one has abandoned the other. The reason abandonment is grounds for a divorce is not because the Bible says “here is an exception to the rule.” It is because abandonment is the same sin as adultery.

This matters because of what Jesus said repeatedly about the spirit of the law being more important than the letter of the law. Abandonment and adultery are the same violation – because it is a violation of the spirit of the law; of the one-flesh marriage covenant. Further, it is a violation of fact; not just the opinion of a whining spouse who wants an excuse for a divorce.

And this is also true of abuse. It is the same root of “putting asunder” committed by the abusive spouse, who has utterly violated the one-flesh/one-spirit relationship, though s/he continues to reside under the same roof and professes a desire to remain married. The spouse of an abuser – even a verbal and emotional abuser – is literally in far more physical danger than the spouse of a sexual adulterer! And this danger, which extends to the levels of spiritual authority (principle outlined in I Cor. 6:15-20), persists even beyond the boundaries of a marital separation. But the church is oblivious to this fact.

I thought many times that I wish my husband would have an affair. That would have been far less painful, far less damaging to the children, far less ruinous to all of us for the rest of our lives! AND the church would have blessed the dissolution of our marriage. It is a conundrum.