Farewell

Danni Mossman-Tucker

April 27, 1964 – June 13, 2010

From the siblings of Danni Moss:

On June 13, 2010, following a prolonged battle with cancer, Danni departed this life and stepped into the presence of the Lord.

Obviously, this creates a significant question as to the future of this blog. We are enormously proud of Danni and the work to which she had dedicated herself and we definitely want to preserve the wisdom God gave her to impart to others through her exceptional writing. In addition, due to Danni’s tireless efforts, this blog is now a reference resource for many others both online and off.

In light of that, we have made the decision to keep her blog online as long as possible.  However, as there will be no one present to moderate comments or respond to emails, we will be disabling those functions. We WILL allow comments on THIS post for a period of time for those who might want to leave remembrances. We are archiving those for Danni’s children so they will understand the extent of her ministry.

She will be greatly missed…

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Church Volunteer Angelo Serrano Charged with Child Sex Abuse

Church volunteer Angelo Serrano was arrested for suspected sexual abuse against a 10-year-old boy. He has been charged with one count of first degree sexual abuse.

It is my hope that if anyone affected by this case should find this blog, you can find some help and additional insight about dealing with the issue of alleged sexual abuse in the church in the articles in the right sidebar of this site and under the Church Abuse tab.

What Does the Bible Really Say? — God Hates Divorce

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Malachi 2:16 For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away…

This verse is frequently translated “God hates divorce” and this is probably the single most often-quoted snippet in Christianity on the subject of divorce. “Everyone” knows that phrase and will tell you it’s in the Bible. Usually, the phrase is understood to mean, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.”

First off, let me state the obvious. The Bible doesn’t say, “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” But could it possibly mean that? Since the Bible does not actually say this, it is a fair question to ask whether that is really what it means.

Again, stating the obvious, it is reasonable to assume that God “hates” divorce, in the sense that He doesn’t like it. He isn’t dumb and any thinking person hates divorce. It is painful and it is not the way God intended marriage to be. So, of course, He doesn’t like it.

But is it also correct to assume that “God hates divorce” means divorce is an abomination to Him and absolutely forbidden?

In Isaiah 50:1 and in Jeremiah 3:8 God specifically states that He divorced Israel. I have discussed this in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, III. It is important to remember that human marriage is symbolic of the spiritual reality, not the other way around. If anything, God’s example in marriage would carry more weight than the reverse.

Also, Ezra 10 tells of a time when God commanded the Israelite men to get divorces. I have discussed this passage in more detail in What the Bible Says About Divorce, IV. How could God possibly command the Israelite men to divorce their wives if, in fact, “God hates divorce” means that divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden?

Then in Matthew 5:32 and 19:9 Jesus gives a very specific exception clause when He answers the Pharisees’ questions regarding the allowance of divorce. Obviously, Jesus did not say that all divorce is an abomination to God and absolutely forbidden.

Let me ask another obvious question. Wouldn’t it have been easier for Jesus to just say, “God hates divorce” when probed by the Pharisees, if God meant that all divorce is an abomination and forbidden? But instead of quoting the definitive “God hates divorce” Jesus went into detail in an entirely different direction. Why did He do that if Malachi 2 establishes the primary precedent for God’s view of divorce?

In the church what we hear most of the time is “God hates divorce” – and yet, that statement is never reiterated in the New Testament – or anywhere else in the Bible for that matter. “God hates divorce” is the most repeated phrase in the church on the subject of divorce but appears only once in the Bible. Why is this true if this one phrase is of such profound significance?

Would it be logical to believe that the words of Jesus are probably the most accurate reflection of God’s heart on the subject of divorce, since He was directly asked for God’s perspective? So why did Jesus speak as He did? I have addressed Jesus’ teaching on marriage and divorce in response to the Pharisees in the article, What the Bible Really Says – Don’t Put Asunder. For the sake of not straying from the point of this article, I’m not going to go into it here. But what Jesus said was important – and He quite noticeably did not say “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian (or follower of God, since He was talking to the Pharisees) to be divorced.”

It is necessary for us, as believers, to understand this issue, since the phrase “God hates divorce” is commonly being used in the church in an unbiblical manner and the result is a great deal of harm. It may not seem like a big deal for those who have not been faced with divorce or with marriages in violation of the Word, but the inaccurate handling of the Word is being used to keep people in bondage and also to cause added condemnation and rejection to people whom God has neither condemned nor rejected. Additionally, there are many who say they aren’t condemning or rejecting – but the effect is virtually the same since it is putting a burden of “wrong” on the shoulders of people for whom God has not a single shred of approbation – even without condemnation or rejection.

So what is Malachi saying?

Let’s first take a look at how several translations handle Malachi 2:16. This is very revealing.

King James Version

For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

New King James Version
“For the LORD God of Israel says
That He hates divorce,
For it covers one’s garment with violence,”
Says the LORD of hosts.

“ Therefore take heed to your spirit,
That you do not deal treacherously.”

New International Version

“I hate divorce,” says the LORD God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the LORD Almighty.
So guard yourself in your spirit, and do not break faith.

American Standard Version

For I hate putting away, saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, and him that covereth his garment with violence, saith Jehovah of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously.

Holman Christian Standard Bible

“If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the LORD of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously.

English Standard Version

“For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the LORD of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.”

Now, let’s dig into this.

First of all, let me acknowledge that there are many people who believe the King James Version (1611 version specifically) is the only accurate translation. This version says God hates putting away. Without getting into any debate regarding the veracity of various translations, let me take this statement alone.

If, in fact, the King James Version is completely accurate, it is important to note that it does not say “God hates divorce.” It says God hates putting away. In the context of Malachi 2 it is clear God is directing His statements to men who have been unfaithful to their first wives and put them away in order to take heathen wives. God speaks repeatedly of their treachery. God’s focus is on their treachery – this is what He is condemning – not divorce.

This fact is the key to the entire passage. God’s eyes are not on the legal documents these men obtained. It is on their treacherous hearts. God condemns the treachery that led to the divorces – and this fact is plainly communicated in the context. These men “put away” their wives and divorced them. The putting away of their wives was a fact of their treacherous hearts, and it led to divorce. But the treachery of their hearts was the real problem.

Would God have said it was OK if they had mistreated their wives but had just taken second wives instead of divorcing their first ones? They were allowed to have multiple wives so taking additional wives would not have been a problem. However, the answer is still a resounding NO! In fact, this would still have left these men in the position of the men in Ezra, whom God commanded to divorce their heathen wives, thereby making it obvious His issue is not with divorce but with the heart condition of the people involved. In Malachi, His focus is on their treachery – not on the legal documents that resulted from the treachery.

Another substantive point to note about God’s viewpoint on the treachery of these men in Malachi 2 is that He treats the two treacherous acts as separate offenses. He condemns their treachery in taking heathen wives. Then He condemns their treachery in putting away their first wives. The two are both treacherous acts, separate and distinct from one another. This is an important detail because we need to remember that the second act was not treacherous because of the first, nor vice versa. Each was treacherous independently — two distinct violations.

In Malachi 2, the focus on these men’s treachery is directly reflected in what Jesus said when confronted by the Pharisees. The root problem in both places is the heart of putting asunder – not the legal document of divorce. Putting asunder is a direct violation of God’s original plan and instructions regarding marriage in Genesis. And putting asunder is something that happens in the heart long before a legal document is issued by a court.

With this understanding, we also see the Word is speaking a consistent message. The problem in Malachi 2 is the same as Jesus outlined in the New Testament. And we know God is consistent! He doesn’t change His mind here and there, being double-minded and condoning divorce in one place while condemning it in another.

All that said, there is more to be seen in these translations. Notice specifically the wording in the Holman Christian Standard Version and the English Standard Version.

Holman says, “If he hates and divorces [his wife],” says the LORD God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice…”

ESV says, “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her,says the LORD, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence…”

Why do these two translations use such significantly different verbiage here? This change makes a serious difference in the meaning of the passage – especially considering the frequency with which “God hates divorce” is quoted in the church.

Before getting into the particulars, I think it would bear noting the pedigree of these two translations. In looking into this issue I corresponded with Barbara Roberts, the author of the book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion. She has an entire chapter (Chapter 8 ) devoted to this phrase in Malachi 2.

In the course of our correspondence, Barbara said, “The ESV is heavily promoted by Crossway, which is a major publisher of complementarian material. The Holman Christian Standard version was produced by the Southern Baptist denomination. So would-be-objectors from the conservative ranks need to sit up and take note.” I found this point interesting, since these translations are supported by conservative Christianity, yet this pivotal passage has not been seriously visited by the church systems which promote the translations.

But, let’s get back to the variance demonstrated here. There is actually a specific reason for such a substantive disagreement. Barbara goes into it in detail in her book, with extensive footnote documentation. Without reprinting the entire chapter here (you really need to read the book; it is exceptional) let me quote one relevant part here:

In Malachi 2:16, the subject of the verb “hates” is not explicit: the Hebrew does not read “God hates” or “the husband hates.” All we know from the verb is that the person who hates is third person masculine singular (“he” or “one”), just like “covers.” It is certainly not the first person “I hate.”

Now we come to our main point. Most Bible translations have taken the subject of the first verb to be God (God hates) and thereby changed he hates to the first person I hate. This is unfaithful to the Hebrew text and it creates an awkward grammatical shift between I hate and he covers

Some translations try to overcome the grammatical disjunction between the different subjects of I hate…he covers by translating the passage as I hate divorce…it covers… We need not resort to such a solution. The subject of “hates” is third person, not first, and we should only depart from the plain sense of a text if compelled by something in the text. Nothing here compels such a departure.

It makes sense to maintain the same subject (the divorcing husband) for both verbs. Since 1868 at least eighteen scholars have said that “he hates…he covers” is the most faithful way to render the Hebrew, with “he” being the divorcing husband.

Just in the past couple days I heard a preacher whom I greatly respect say, “God doesn’t condemn divorcees; He condemns divorce.” This concept is quite common in the church. But in reality it is inaccurate. God got a divorce, He commanded people to get divorces, and Jesus gave a specific circumstance under which divorce was appropriate. So God cannot possibly be condemning divorce.

What God does condemn is treachery that results in divorce. God condemns putting away or putting asunder. There is a huge difference between the statement that “God condemns divorce” and “God condemns the treachery of putting asunder in marriage.”

While I do not have ill feelings toward the person who said this, knowing he is speaking out of a place where his paradigm of truth has never been challenged, this kind of teaching is causing a great deal of hurt in the body of Christ. It is necessary, I would even say vital, for this error to be corrected so that people in the church can be accepted and loved according to truth.

Here is the bottom line. No matter how you look at Malachi 2, it is critical to understand the passage neither states nor implies “since God hates divorce it is not, and cannot be, God’s will for any Christian to be divorced.” This understanding is important because this passage is a lynchpin in church teaching on divorce and it is being persistently misused. And this misuse is causing significant pain and even alienation of believers who are victims of treachery in marriage and who most need the love and support of the church.

[In this article I have not addressed the subject of if/when Christians are allowed to divorce. I have addressed this elsewhere in other articles (see What Does God Really Say? Series What the Bible Says About Divorce, Series, and THE Biblical Grounds for Divorce) and will continue to write on the subject, since I have not yet covered every Scripture about it. The purpose of this piece is not to make any commentary on the parameters of divorce for Christians. My goal here is solely to explore the phrase “God hates divorce” in Malachi 2.]

The Last Curse

One of the things I feel so compelled to communicate to people who are in abuse, and to the church which is supposed to stand for their protection, is the very real danger of death as a result of verbal abuse. God is not speaking figuratively when He says in the Word that death and life are in the power of the tongue.

I have written two more installments of my personal journey, directly related to this issue of death by verbal abuse.

The Last Curse

The Breastplate of Righteousness

They are intended to be read in the order given since the second is dependent on information in the first.

Respect and Equality in Marriage

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Are respect and equality in marriage a radical feminist idea of fairly recent origin? Are they against the plain teaching of the Word?

Ah, I hear the “buts” already. Why am I putting respect and equality on the same footing in that statement? Evangelical and fundamentalist Christians everywhere would say respect and equality are not intrinsically linked. “I can respect my wife in her position beneath me.” That’s what popular Christian marital role philosophy teaches.

True respect values another as being just as important as myself. Respect sees the other person as equal or greater in value. And respect doesn’t pick and choose, limiting respect to a theoretical concept, while still viewing the other as “less” in many ways. It isn’t respect if it isn’t respect.

The Word’s admonition for husbands to love their wives as their own bodies is a good example of this. Who among us is going to treat our own body abusively (deliberately – not through poor diet choices, etc.) Granted there are some people who do hurt themselves – but we can hardly say that is a good thing! We don’t like pain and we go out of our way to avoid it. That is respect for ourselves – I respect my own feelings enough not to deliberately violate them. We are fundamentally created to avoid hurting ourselves – that’s what nerve endings and pain receptors are for! I consider my leg to be just as important as the rest of me. Same with my eye or my foot. That is respect. There is NO element of choosing “less” or “greater.”

In a marriage relationship, respect cannot be one-sided. That will be a relationship destined for abuse on some level. The minute there is a heirarchy, there is some element of disrespect, because there is an expectation that some are “above” others. That means, by default, that those others are “less” or “lower” than those above them.

This is so simply logical, and yet, it is denied. You can put all the words on it you want like “equal but with different roles” – and it is still a higher-lower relationship – which is one of disrespect. Equal with different roles would be equal with different roles, not hierarchical with different roles.

It’s exactly like the prejudiced idea of racial “equality” popularly phrased “equal but separate” – that wasn’t equality of value or respect! I don’t care what words or fancy explanations you want to concoct – it is still disrespect. If one person is “lower” than the other in a heirarchy, that is disrespect at the most basic level – and therefore disrespectful throughout. You cannot have an uneven foundation and expect the building to be level – or secure.

This idea of disrespect in hierarchy is fundamentally in opposition of everything Jesus taught. He gave up His “rights” and put Himself in the lowest position – and instructed husbands to do the same. That doesn’t sound like the hierarchical system the church teaches at all. In fact, it would put husbands as EQUAL to their wives. What a novel concept.

We also have to remember the cultural paradigm of the time when Jesus spoke. In that culture men owned women – women had no rights. They were very little different than slaves – which makes it that much more interesting that the passages about wives and slaves are seen in close proximity in the Word.

Without attempting to directly attack the cultural reality of the day, Jesus effectively overturned it by telling husbands to put themselves in the position of servant to their wives. We interpret that through the lenses of our culture, which does not include slavery. So we think of “servant” as just someone who does nice things for someone else or helps out with the household tasks. We MUST understand it the way Jesus meant it when He said it.

Slaves had the least status of everyone. Jesus told men NOT to lord over their wives (that was His paradigm of leadership across the board, stated elsewhere) – but instead to be the servants in the relationship – to voluntarily take the lowest position in the culturally-expected hierarchical system of the time. That would make them equal to the women, slaves and children rather than being “over” them in a hierarchical system.

If we interpret the rest of the admonitions on marriage from this fundamental perspective, it changes everything.

On a side note — would that make Jesus the original radical feminist??? I think not. And it doesn’t make me one either. It just makes me a Biblical literalist – who believes that taking the Bible literally means taking the entire thing in context, rather than picking out bits and creating doctrines on verses here and there. Hmm – how strange and wicked – and radical – is that?

What If I Think My Spouse is Abusive? Question/Answer

What if you don’t know whether your spouse is abusive but you wonder? What about behaviors you don’t know quite how to understand or respond to – are they abusive? What if it was “just one time”?

Check out the entire piece at What If I Think My Spouse is Abusive? Question/Answer.

Is Dr. James Dobson’s Advice to Abuse Victims Dangerous?

By Danni Moss
Copyright protected, all rights reserved

Dr. Dobson is considered a leader in modern Christianity and his family advice is highly regarded.

However, I am very concerned about his advice regarding domestic violence. He makes some strides in the right direction, where other evangelical leaders have not. Unfortunately, regardless of good intentions, his advice still leaves abuse victims in life-threateningly dangerous territory.

I also want to carefully note that the Troubled With website by Focus on the Family, offers some of the most comprehensive acknowledgement and advice about the issue of domestic abuse that I have ever seen from a major, mainline Christian source. Unfortunately, this material copied below comes from the same website. And throughout, Dr. Dobson’s book Love Must Be Tough is referred to and recommended — which is where this advice I am addressing originates.

Here is the piece from one of Focus on the Family’s websites:

How should a wife deal with her husband’s abusive tendencies?

The principles of Love Must Be Tough offer the best response to an abusive husband. They begin with a recognition that behavior does not change when things are going smoothly. If change is to occur, it usually does so in a crisis situation. Thus, a crisis must be created and managed very carefully.

After moving out and making it clear that the woman has no intention of returning, the ball moves to her husband’s court. If he never responds, she never returns. If it takes a year, or five years, then so be it. He has to want her badly enough to face his problem and to reach out to her. When (and if) her husband acknowledges that he has an abusive behavior pattern and promises to deal with it, negotiations can begin. A plan can be agreed upon that involves intensive Christian counseling with a person of the wife’s choosing. She should not return home until the counselor concludes that she will be safe and that the husband is on the way to recovery. Gradually, they put their relationship back together.

It’s a long shot but one worth working to achieve.

Answered by James C. Dobson, Ph.D.
Excerpted from Complete Marriage and Family Home Reference Guide by James C. Dobson Ph.D., published by Tyndale House Publishers. Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.

I commented on this issue on another blog where it was brought up. I have compiled my comments, with some expansion and editing for clarification, as well as incorporation of some ideas mentioned by other commenters to the original post. My thanks to the other commenters for their contributions to the ideas included!

There were some points in here from which the church can learn. At the same time, however, Dr. Dobson leaves huge, and dangerous, holes which abandon an abuse victim in an extremely vulnerable position.

This original post ended up being extremely long, so I have divided it into twelve parts. To read them all, see Is Dr. James Dobson’s Advice to Abuse Victims Dangerous, Series. The first of these is a segment pointing out the things Focus on the Family is doing right regarding the issue of domestic violence – because their websites have some truly exceptional information and resources.

You can see the entire original exchange and related posts here:

Advice that Can Get a Woman Killed

Response from Dr. Bill