174 thoughts on “Porn Use as Grounds for Divorce: How My Opinion Changed

  1. Wow. This is the most fair and balanced representation that I’ve seen on this matter. I admit, before reading the full article, I immediately had an immense amount of fear in my heart that this article was going to provide fuel to all of the angry wives out there to immediately file for divorce, including my own wife. I’ve been on the left side of that ranking for a husband’s repentance scale, maybe a 3 or a 4, where I was relapsing into long periods of behavior. I genuinely wanted repentance, but was too scared to ask for it, and somewhat uncaring enough to override my fears and do what it took to defeat this beast and change my heart. I am working very hard to be on the 10 side of that spectrum now, though I admit that I still struggle with some elements of lust and masturbation (no, no excuses, it is sin and I need to defeat it).

    I also am not working as hard as I should to be the father and husband I should be when I am visiting my family. I’m practicing listening skills with my wife at times, and I’m trying to serve them in many other ways around the household, but there is so much more that I need to be doing, when the small windows open for opportunity. My heart breaks when I see the depravity in our home, and I need to do a better job of putting aside all of the old fears, reactions, avoidance, and emotions and trying to respect people where they are at. So easy to say while I’m here in the quiet of isolation, but much more difficult when you’re in the midst of chaos and emotion and difficulties.

    • I think this issue gets divisive for the very reasons you’re citing. So sorry to hear about your situation, Jeremiah.

      I really do think we do a great disservice to people when we treat the matter of grounds for divorce like a line some people cross and others don’t. If hardheartedness is the linchpin of Jesus’ whole mentality, then it isn’t a line that is cross as much as it is a downward spiral.

    • You have heard it said to them of old
      Thou shall not commit Adultery
      But I say to you that Whosoever look on a Woman to lust after her
      Has ALREADY Commited Adultery with her in his Heart

      Now how more Simply and to the point can GOD ALMIGHTY put it for you Learnerd People God does not deal in gray he does not speak in Riddles it is what he says it is FULL STOP
      Stop trying to water the Statment down
      If weak minded men are not Prepared to take responsibility for their mindless Actions then it’s About time they did
      With all this modern Technology every child with a Mobile Phone Has Satan in his / Her Pocket , take a look at the Statistics
      So what chance have our children got if their Fathers can’t / Won’t behave themselves

    • Trauma? Trauma is getting punched in the face. What you are describing is hurt pride and feelings.

      Yes agreed porn is evil. Yes agreed women are degraded by it, the ones who are actually in the said porn, not women at large. Yes to most of this in fact. But to act like the wives are to be coddled here is just another brand of feminism and making excuses for the role that they might be playing in this. Marriage is a two person contract. You are wicked to blame the man for all the problems.

    • Very weak presentation of the Biblical grounds for divorce. The Tiede “levels” are NOWHWERE in the bible! Sounds like thetypical argument that “God wants me to be happy and you don’t make me happy.” The Bible clearly meant physical sexual intercourse. And if a pastor recommends to a wife that the Bible supports it, that broken marriage and the fatherless kids will be on his conscience.

    • Unfortunately, a lot of men know how to walk right inside that line of “physical sexual intercourse” while they continue to violate their marriage vows with multiple instances of verbal, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. Those are the things God will judge. Not a woman who finally recognizes reality and calls it for what it is. As for pastors who are able to see the truth of the range of abuses, and who step in to assure women of their value and worth, may God bless and protect them–they are far too few.

    • DJ, your summary of my article demonstrates you didn’t really read it. Nowhere do I appeal to the lack of happiness of the wife as a grounds for divorce. I base it on the meaning of Jesus’ term porneia.

    • Relapsing? Is that what you call your sin? If you don’t grasp the weight of your sin, I am not sure you have a full understanding of the God you’re offending. Like Paul Washer has said many times, if you don’t have a new relationship with sin, you don’t have a new relationship with God. Maybe you need to examine yourself and rather you were saved to begin with. Pornography and masterbate on aren’t something you “fall into”. These are sins of commission, not a simple failing in the moment of a tempting thought or glance. You have to really go out of your way to commit these sins. Remember the rich man? He thought he loved Jesus, but not enough to give up his riches. If you can’t give up your idol and lay down your life for Christ, you need to examine your walk. One of the first changes a man should see when God draws him in and changes his heart is sexual immorality. Even if one is saved and committing these kind of sins, there’s no doubt that there won’t be spiritual growth until you give up these fleshly desires to seek Christ.

      Whatever you do, stop downplaying it. Label it exactly what it is. Sin and direct disobedience against a Holy God as well as sin against your wife and marriage. Instead of having anger toward your wife, you should be offering her all the love and patience you can since you caused this pain. It’s past time to man up and stop victimizing yourself in your “struggle”. Jesus didn’t give the rich man a moment to struggle. He saw his idol and his heart and he told him so. If you’re a Christian, put on your suit of armor and instead of seeing this as struggle, look at it as a battlefield. You wouldn’t go out expecting to die, so get out there and fight and don’t accept anything less than defeat. You don’t have to give way to these sins, you choose to, but at what cost? I wish you the best.

    • I really feel like just as alcoholism and other addictions revolve around the addict… almost all articles do the same… the wife has to concentrate on how to forgive, how to work through her husbands slips… it’s completely backward. The entire lives of everyone involved revolves around the addict/porn/lustful/adulterer…. let’s reverse the roles… in one or two ways… a wife who is constantly looking for emotional connection through other men… she just can’t get control of herself taking off her clothes for other men to see… would you go through these steps for her??? No. A resounding no.

    • Luke,

      I was wondering if you could email me your full thesis directly? Also, in doing so, I was wondering if I could get your opinion on a dear friend’s marital situation. We have a complex church culture and her ability to proceed with the reconciliation effects that you suggest is very limited, if not impossible. If you would be willing to email me directly about both a full copy of your thesis and her situation, I would greatly appreciate it. She is in a marriage as dystopian as I have seen, yet she remains because she has not come to a conclusion as to whether she has biblical grounds.

      In Christ,
      Andrew

    • Hello, Andrew, Luke is no longer with CE, but I have sent your comment to him directly. It sounds like a horrible situation for your friend.

      Chris

    • I agree completely here. There will be negative opinions of course, but they will most likely be coming from men who suffer from porn themselves. Pride is not a good thing and causes one to neglect truth when confronted with it. Certain responses may also demonstrate lack of wisdom and spiritual maturity. This is a situation that damages most marriages and is not talked about as much as us should be in the church. I appreciate your article and am glad to hear someone talking openly about it!

  2. After listening to thousands of stories of broken people, hearing their agony, pain and humiliation, and still not convinced that the partner on the receiving end should walk away or divorce and only after a Masters degree you were convinced…. well, it hits hard to hear it. My voice is one of the 1 200 voices that reached you and it was not enough to change your mind. I find it hard to hear. I am glad though that you have changed your mind after you did your Masters Degree and thank you for sharing it. It is a good article.

    • Thanks, Ani.

      I’m just very leery of changing my position on what I think the Bible says unless it is driven by research about the Bible. That’s not a cold or heartless response. Quite the opposite, actually. Believing in a loving God means I believe his law is loving—even the laws that don’t make sense on the surface are commanded for our good. To make the law say something it doesn’t twists his law of love, thus only causing more harm to people in the long-run.

      Nonetheless, I have official changed my opinion on this and I hope this discussion will benefit churches as they counsel others on this matter.

    • Ani, ya know, when there’s been so many years of a Christain married man, who has been involved with porn and self gradifacation, and possibly affairs. AKA ( Double Life). I have found that with going to counseling, support group, and spiritual healing. Has opened my eyes to the oppression that my husband brought me under with spiritual abuse, control, manipulation, diprivity. The spirit of lust, the idolatry, narrsaciss. I was never cherished or valued. I was told to go back, pray harder, try harder and have more sex. It only fueled his fire for more porn, more self gradifacation.
      When I left this last time, I only wanted him to get help for himself. Don’t do it for me, he needed to get his relationship with God RIGHT. Truly repent, and turn away and sin no more. So many people tell us the interpetation of Gods word. But I have had to pray, repent for not keeping My Heavenly Father first for myself. I’ve ask God to reveal His will for me. Help me to understand His word for my self. God can reveal Himself to you too. Receive His peace for you.
      Theres more involved in a marriage than just a sex addict. There’s the control,manipulation, spiritual abuse, emotional abuse. There’s the generational curse too. Deliverance. Whether the couple is of one mind and in agreement of the word and the counseling, and wisdom of those who are licensed sex therapist. In my case my soon to be ex has been hearing things diffent and we are not in agreement of the broken bows, broken covenant, generational curse of his father and uncle. The wives that are still in bondage over keeping the secret sin life. If you can’t receive it and be delivered. Then it is still a bondage. The chains that had be bound have been broken off, and I am being restored and renewed in my Heavenly Father. I am so excited for what God has for me. He has blessed me and He loves me. Create in me a clean heart and renew a right spirit within me. Amen!

    • My first reaction to the first part of your story was to want to shake you and wake you up and my second reaction was to think about all the broken women you counseled who were left in the mess their husband’s created and who were told that they could not leave. What an awful prison they were banished to!

      As the wife of a porn addicted, hard-hearted husband, I sought the Lord about whether or not I should/could divorce him. I searched the scripture and prayed and the Lord told me that if I wanted to, I could leave. I am glad I did not seek the counsel or men but rather laid my heart out to God. And thankful also that I truly hear the voice of God. (I am sure there are many who feel I should have spoken to my pastor and brought this into church discipline, but we believed differently.)

      That said, I put my husband out of the house after 20 some years of his hard heart and unwillingness to change, his lies, his betrayal, and his hiding of the porn. And guess what? Nine hours of that and he began to seek the Lord and repent. Nothing I could do could make him repent (because I and my emotions had only become objects to him), but when he started to lose everything HE had (I had already lost so much), his heart began to change.

      That was two years ago. We are doing very well now although there are still things that are hard, but we are honestly happy. This is the work of God. This is how God changes hearts, heals broken hearts, and it really is only through prayer that we found the strength to go on, change, repent (I had some of my own to do) and begin a new life. There are programs, yes. And they are helpful, yes. But the fixing of the heart is God’s job.

      The first part of your post seriously broke my heart and reminds me how each of us must seek God for ourselves and not rely on the opinions of men. There are many good books out there with greek and latin interpretations, commentaries, etc. It’s not so hard to learn what a word means or what a scripture means.If you really want to know, rather than want to have an opinion about it, it’s easily found out with some searching and the Holy Spriit to guide you into all truth.

    • Thanks for sharing your story, Judy. I guess I’m not exactly clear on what you’re saying exactly.

      1. Are you saying that God talks to you, and if so, how does He talk to you? I don’t ask because I think He wouldn’t or couldn’t talk to you, but since I’ve has precious few (if any) experiences where I thought God was actually talking to me (in the way He spoke to the prophets of old), I am more than content to dive into the inspired Word of God for my answers to these questions.

      2. I’m not exactly sure what you’re contrasting: the opinions of man vs. God’s will? Even the commentaries you said I should read (I have about 90 sources for my thesis) contain man’s opinions about God’s Word. The very process I went through to arrive at my new opinion was a process of seeking God’s heart on these matters, but it is one that naturally involved learning what God’s Word means through the research provided by human beings.

    • Luke, your work here is very well researched and thought through. One thing I haven’t seen you respond to in your research or comments is as follows.

      It seems to me more that your work here is an excellent argument for biblical grounds for divorce on the basis of willful desertion by an unbelieving spouse (I Cor 7:15). Isn’t there already a foundation in the bible to defend grounds for divorce in the type of situation you describe at the end of your article? If there’s already an argument to be made on the basis of desertion for a lack of willingness to repent or submit to a church discipline process, why isn’t that an easier argument to defend from I Cor 7:15 than to place the definition of porneia into so much grey area, having to rely more on the extrabiblical literature to form your definition than from scripture interpreting scripture?

      I’m in agreement with you that the type of situation you describe is grounds for divorce, but there’s less hoops and hermeneutical hoops to jump through, and an easier position to defend from I Cor 7:15 than Matthew 19, which is probably why I Cor 7:15 was given to us in the first place. Let porneia be porneia as historically interpreted from the majority opinion and let willful desertion be willful desertion; that would make it a lot easier for pastors and grieving spouses to sort through than to have to work through so many interpretive exercises to land where you’re landing.

    • Hi G,

      Great comment. Let me see if I can address it.

      The relevance of Paul’s counsel in 1 Corinthians 7 to questions about divorce cannot be overstated. Space does not permit a full treatment of this chapter or even the most pertinent verses, but a few observations are relevant as far as the question of pornography use is concerned.

      Commentators are divided on exactly what Paul is talking about verses 10-16, but it is agreed Paul is positing two scenarios of marital strain. In the first scenario, married believers facing difficulties commanded to work towards reconciliation. In the second scenario, a believer married to an unbeliever is also told to work towards reconciliation but is given the option to separate if the unbelieving partner insists on the separation. The exact meaning, extent, and implications of this separation are hotly debated.

      As far as pornography is concerned, could a partner’s use of pornography become so extreme that he or she can be seen as having “abandoned” the marriage? On one hand, if porneia is understood as hard-hearted sexual rebellion (as I argue in my thesis) and can include habitual pornography use, determining whether such a scenario also qualifies as a kind of “abandonment” is a moot point. (One does not need more than one legitimate ground for divorce to get divorced.) On the other hand, could Paul’s words abound abandonment in 1 Corinthians 7 provide another litmus test for elders to consider such cases of hardheartedness? The matter is not easy to decide.
      Just how far can we take Paul’s statements about abandonment? Various position statements, for instance, have considered the question of whether spousal abuse is type of abandonment.

      A position paper of the Presbyterian Church in America states…

      “We are struck by the fact that, taking Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 together, it appears that the Lord concedes the necessity of the abolition of marriage in certain cases precisely so as to protect a blameless spouse from intolerable conditions. Further, taking into account both the general principles of Biblical ethics and the Scripture’s characteristic manner of ethical instruction, viz. the statement of commandments in a general form to which is added case law sufficient to indicate the manner of application, it seems to us that those Reformed authorities are correct who have argued that sins which are tantamount in extremity and consequence to actual desertion should be understood to produce similar eventualities.”

      The PCA is quick to qualify, however, the list of offenses tantamount to desertion cannot be very long. Potentially divorceable offenses must be as objective and covenant-breaking in nature as porneia or physical abandonment, and we must never open the floodgates so wide as to allow for the kind of any-fault divorces Jesus and Paul spoke against.

      In some scenarios of pornography addiction, signs of sexual or emotional abandonment will certainly be present in the marriage. On the basis of Exodus 21:10-11 and possibly 1 Corinthians 7:12-16, some elders might determine a spouse has been habitually denied conjugal love and affection, eventually advising divorce to protect the offended spouse from further trauma. However, this litmus test may not be the best way to determine hardheartedness. By way of analogy, going back to the examples of Israel and Judah in Jeremiah 3, some men might have a relationship with pornography akin to Israel’s relationship with its idols: totally abandoning the true God in favor of false images. Sucked into a world of fantasy, the affection and devotion of these men shrivel until their marriage is not even a shell of what it once was. Other men, however, are more like Judah: they still have the outward trappings of faithfulness. Judah still had the temple cult, the Levitical priesthood, and the rightful Davidic king on the throne, but as a nation they were still guilty of spiritual porniea. Men entrenched in porn still might be good providers and desire frequent physical intimacy with their wives, but nonetheless refuse to give up their sexual idolatry. Like Judah, they can be guilty of porniea and live a duplicitous life.

      In the application of 1 Corinthians 7:12-16 to cases of pornography use and the question of divorce, elders must (1) be fully convinced in their own minds Paul is allowing for a full severing of the marriage bond (not merely a separation), (2) be convinced sexual and relational abandonment is a faithful application of the text, (3) be dealing with a professed unbeliever or have followed a process of church discipline that has ended in excommunication because of unrepentant sin, and (4) be convinced relational abandonment has taken place in the marriage. In many cases, not all four prerequisites will be in place but elders could still judge that the offending spouse is guilty of porniea.

      Hope that touches some on your question.

    • You’ve got a lot of Pharisees on this site who apparently love to blame and challenge and condemn, (all in the name of the Lord, of course.) Smacking how few things change over the years.

      And of course, the Pharisee LOVES us Phariseeism, is blinded by it, and would rather judge another than forsake sin himself. (For you can be sure, a heart that’s filled with judgment is filled with hypocrisy.)

      Very sad, and likewise, the author wad not sufficient in his scope to adequately address the bounds on immorality and sin.

      Did you know that many wives drive their men into sin? God would have a woman to be the FOLLOWER of the man in the marriage relation. “The head of every woman is man.”

      But she will not have this man to rule over her! And she will agitate, and oppose, and vilify, and SIN, all in the name of doing what she thinks is best, (rather than submit to the will of her God in his word.)

      Cursed children. Quick to sin. Slow to forgive.

      And which of you confronts and throws off THIS? (Precious few, I assure you.) For once a woman has gained the ascendancy via the LAWS OF THIS LAND, she will in no wise humble herself and become subject to the will of her God, (who took her from her singleness and HAVE HER her head and leader,) who will accept his resources and his sperm really enough, but will consistently refuse to do his will as his wife. SOLELY.

      Yes, by all means, let’s neglect to submit this to the will of the Lord, and discern His will I this regard.

      I have such a woman who is my wife, ego displays such an attitude all the time; who mocks and RIDICULES the word of God, never for a second allowing that to be Sarah’s daughter is to regard her husband as “her lord.”

      Sorry. If I turn to porn occasionally because my wife has cut me off with her attitude and spiritual ugliness, I do not receive your rebuke; neither consider it grounds for divorce. I have sexual desires I cannot turn of, and rather than actually lie with anther woman, I relieve myself of my sexual burden and am finished with it for awhile.

      Would to God my life had turned ought different, but this is my burden, and if you choose to judge me fue it, look first tho yourself, for you have not walked in my shoes nor born my cross. I’ll prefer you to ask the Lord for grace for my healing, that your ministry might be acceptable before God and might actually accomplish something useful.

      Your judgment can go to hell.

  3. As I read the article, I went from agreement to disagreement to agreement. The goal MUST be reconciliation. I know a couple that has been separated for several years and they are still working to raise the family and restore the relationship. I believe that divorce should only be done for legal protection. Divorce burns too many bridges to be taken lightly. Excellent post!
    Several sidenotes:
    I lean towards the “porniea” being premarital sex before the betrothal as referenced in your footnote (mostly because that clause only occurs in Matthew). Do you agree or disagree, and if you disagree, could I see some sources?
    Also, Septuagint might be more accessible that LXX.
    God bless your ministry and thanks for writing.

    • Agreed: reconciliation should always be the goal.

      Great question about the betrothal view, Kenneth. If I understand you, the translation of Matthew 19:9 could be, “whoever divorces—except in cases of fornication before or during betrothal—and marries another, commits adultery.”

      I agree the clause only occurs in Matthew, which has long puzzled commentators, but I don’t think we need to limit the definition of porneia in order to reconcile them. Take Mark 8:12, for instance. It removes another exception included by Matthew: “Truly, I say to you, no sign will be given to this generation”; Matthew adds, “except the sign of the prophet Jonah” (Matt. 12:39), speaking of His coming resurrection. Taken at face value, we might assume the absolute statement in Mark contradicts Matthew’s exception, but conservative interpreters don’t do this. They merely assume the more complete statement is the most accurate to what Jesus actually said. Mark wants the exceptionless absolute to weigh upon the reader, whereas Matthew wants to use Jesus’ exception to contrast the greatness of Jonah with the greatness of Christ. Applying this same line of reasoning to the divorce passages, we don’t need to try to reconcile Mark and Matthew by giving porneia a nuanced meaning, but by understanding Mark has good reasons for not including it.

      I would refer you to the work of David Instone-Brewer who has argued most strongly in this regard. Matthew, he says, is merely making explicit what is implicit in the parallel story in Mark. Take, for instance, the Pharisee’s initial question in Mark: “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?” (10:2). Taken by itself, the question makes little sense. Of course divorce is lawful: Moses, the lawgiver, allowed it. Instone-Brewer argues that the first century reader would mentally add the phrase “for any reason” at the end of the question, because that was the pertinent debate of the day: any-cause divorce. He likens this to modern questions such as, “Is it lawful for a 18-year-old to drink?”—we mentally add “alcoholic beverages.” Without these mental additions, the questions make no sense, but stating the additions outright can sound pedantic. In other words, Matthew makes explicit in the Pharisees’ question what Mark’s readers would have mentally added anyway. The assumed question in Mark is about any-cause divorce, and Jesus is denying that position specifically—he’s not denying any other position. Mark simply isn’t bringing up the possibility of exceptions, but this doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t have any.

      For me, there are two main problems with the betrothal view. First, it isn’t clear why Mark would exclude the exception clause if breaking betrothal contracts was the concern, because the Greeks and Romans who read Mark also had betrothal customs to which the exception clause would apply. Second, the immediate context does not support the notion that premarital fornication is in view. The Pharisees were not discussing the breaking of betrothals. None the passages cited by Jesus or the Pharisees are about betrothal—rather Jesus assumes they are one flesh already, not just legally bound to become one flesh.

      Does this make sense?

    • Kenneth,
      I have thought about this one a lot.
      It is almost a mute point because most porn addicts have been doing their acting out habitually since childhood or teen years, long before any “betrothal” or the modern equivalent of legal marriage. The impact of discovering a spouses lifelong addiction to porn/masturbation is as vow destroying as this biblical context of sex bdefore betrothal.

    • I am so disgusted by my husband’s porn use that I have developed a staunch aversion to his touch. I feel like vomiting if he tries to touch me. He also is an alcoholic and lies about so many things. I have forgiven him so many times, but now I don’t even cry anymore. Am I to be nlamed for sexual abandonment since I cannot go there at all anymore? I just can’t and don’t want to….all I can see are the images I know he sees.

  4. Great, great, great! I was with you all along the way. I guess my question stems around the Christian man who is repentant yet struggling…forever struggling…forever…struggling. He’s confessed, he’s repentant, he’s sought forgiveness again and again, year after year…decade after decade. At what point do we decide if he’s just using these true beliefs as an excuse to use, knowing that we are called to forgive 70×7? What is the toll that’s taken on the wife who attempts to trust one more time…who desires to forgive because she has been forgiven…to smile for her children so that they will hold their daddy in high regard? What is the toll she must pay to love like Christ, but not be able to partake or enjoy any of the deepness that marriage is supposed to bring? When she looks into the eyes of her husband, those of her children and more importantly to the cross, divorce is not an option for her. As much as I appreciate your thesis, I must confess that there has to be a third option…something other than divorce and other than her husband ceasing to struggle…there must be a third option…pray that I’ll find it. xo

    • You’re asking a great question, April.

      First, I would strongly urge a couple to be involved in some kind of redemptive discipleship/counseling process through a local church, involving experienced and loving individuals. Like the last part of the article talks about, when it comes to discerning hardness of heart, God has given us the body of Christ to come alongside us and use his means of grace. I would ask the husband to be involved in a redemptive community of elder/counselors who can walk with him through his struggle and help him unearth the sins that are driving his addiction. I would want the wife to also be in counseling for herself so she could process her own emotions.

      Second, out of that environment of help, I think it is best that those involved use discernment to see if this man is really hardhearted—just using grace as a license to sin. No woman should have to stand alone in figuring this kind of stuff out. She needs wise and compassionate counselors around her.

      I agree with you (as I said in the article) grounds for divorce does not mean necessary divorce. If a woman honestly can’t bring herself to get a divorce because of her own convictions, that’s another matter for another article—one this article doesn’t address in depth.

      As for a “third option,” there are some who would advocate for a kind of mediated separation, but this is an unnatural state, and if it is done at all, it should be done to get the couple to another state—either toward reunion and reconciliation, or to divorce.

      Also, bear in mind, even “divorce” is not a finality. If you feel you have legitimate grounds for divorce, this does not mean you can’t get remarried to the same man. Some good friends of mine did that. Divorce ended up being, for them, the catalyst that drove them to the end of themselves and brought about real change in the heart.

      I know those are easy or clear-cut answers.

    • Hearse a Couple for Twenty years 4 Children
      The Maeeiage started to Change for the worst some 9 years ago the wife had no answer as to why she just noticed something was Very off in their Relationship.
      No Intmasey , no expressions of a loving husband only when he wanted something , Done nothing with the children
      Totally self Centred
      Any way after been found out to have had a lifelong Addiction to Pornography , well the running started and the Blaming Started and is still going . This chap has and always had a very active roll in his church always in the presence of His Pastors , yet never once did he seek help
      His wife became ill some years ago with a Muscular debilitating Decease to which her Husband has done Absolutely nothing in anyway shape or form to help just left her on her own this loving Husband came home from work one day ,, His wife is sick he wants to know why there’s no dinner Rings his Paster to ask him what the Duties of his wife are
      I could do a 33,000 word on the life story of this young Woman and the Affects that Pornography has inflected on her

      But all I’m reading and reading and sick to my stomach of reading is wife’s women having to Forgive these’s weak minded men
      That don’t have the Strength to get off their Backsides and walk away from the Crap ((( DONT PRESS ENTER ))
      To all you wives out there Struggling with these Weak minded.men
      You are to be Comended May God Grant you all the Strength and wisdom to deal with what you have too

    • April, I’m in this exact position! Your response opened up the flood gates, I’m bawling. I’m at a cross roads in my marriage, what do i do? I’m so sick of this yoyo ride. What are my options? God help me please!

    • I came across this article recently, and it might be helpful to you as well: A High View of Marriage Includes Divorce.

      You know, we are not slaves to sin. We are not required to submit to sin or live under its control. If our husbands choose that, it’s sad and terrible, but their choice to be slaves to sin doesn’t have to be our choice.

      We are free to live as valuable, beloved children of God.

      Peace,
      Kay

    • I am in this same situation April! Since it has been 2 years since you posted this do you have any new insights? I am disgusted at the thought of my husband even touching me now and sex feels gross, not special anymore. Sex has become less and less meaningful every time I hear of a relapse over the last 16 years. I feel like I am stuck in this marriage because I am a Christian.

    • You are FREE because you are a Christian! You are not required to be a slave to anybody’s sin, including your husband’s. Here’s an article that might be useful to you. Peace and freedom, Kay

    • I am praying for you, and understand completely. Thanks for your comment. In my isolation, comments like yours are like a tiny shaft of light in the darkness.

    • Marianne, KD, Rena, April and all the other women who are (have been) in the same boat, my heart breaks with yours.

      It is truly gut wrenching to feel day after day that you are not enough. To watch the man you exchanged “for better or worse…until death” vows with; the man you were hopeful would cherish, love and protect your heart above all else, end up being the one to crush you. To experience the cycle countless times, begging and holding out hope that was the last time.

      I have found marriage can be the lonliest you’ve ever felt. Faking a smile to the outside and keeping your husband’s addiction/your hurt a secret. While the rest of your friends argue about their husband not helping with the kids or not being clean enough, your heart is quietly breaking wishing that was the
      most of your worries.

      Time after time I’ve wrestled with divorce. I wrestle with the bible’s clear directions regarding divorce. Slip up after slip up, my heart continued to hurt until I BECAME NUMB. Until my heart became hard. I know God can make the impossible possible, and I know he can restore all things new. I know that regardless of God telling you not to marry a specific person, that once you are married that is his plan for your life. Not following God’s directions can result in consequences he never wanted you to experience in the first place… but what happens when your heart is hard, your body is numb, your fight is gone? When you are dragged in circles time after time? (Rhetorical) It is just so hard to comprehend and not long for something else, a do-over.

  5. Luke,

    I live in Moscow Idaho, the home of Doug Wilson. I have a family acquaintance that attended Doug Wilson’s church for a number of years. His wife divorced him with the full blessing of Doug Wilson. The justification was porn use. You know what he did that was considered “porn use justifying divorce”? Top Gun. The man watched Top Gun and Doug Wilson recommended his wife divorce him for it. The man’s former (and good looking) bride just a few weeks ago remarried another man within the church.
    I am a big fan of covenant eyes and what you guys do, but do realize that your article is promoting ideas that are already being used to justify the unjustifiable. The ideas you are articulating (moving away from the traditional requirement of physical adultery for divorce) can, will and are being abused.

    • Thanks for the heads up about Doug Wilson. I have no working knowledge of that specific situation, so I won’t comment about it specifically. That said, will people abuse this information? Yes. I have no doubt they will. All we can do is do our best to articulate the position as it is meant to be followed.

    • Actually, I would say that Doug Wilson is in the same ilk with Doug Phillips and RC Sproul Jr. All a bit on the extreme side of the Patriarchal Movement and Covenant Theology, and many in that movement are being found to be guilty of affairs and other gross sin. I personally steer clear of those guys and choose to stay a bit more mainstream these days. I would actually say that my rights as a man to have his sex with his wife no matter what, and consequently my porn habits when sex wasn’t enough, thrived under these gentlemen’s teachings when I was in the Vision Forum movement. Not all preachers associated with that movement are the same on this matter, but I find in general that they are very unfair toward women in troubled marriages.

  6. Luke, just wondered if you know of a book for my grown adult Son who is really in depression, grieving over our divorcing. His Dad was born and raised in the church, and has been a sex addict since he was 14. 46 years. His dad was very much living a double life. We were married 41 years. My Son just can’t believe this. All I can do is pray for him and love him love him love him. I can forgive, as I always have, but I don’t have to go back.
    But anyway, any good book to send his way?

    • Great question. I cannot think of a book that is written to people in your son’s exact situation. Your son ought to be grieving over your divorce because it is a sad thing. That said, he should not stay in a state of toxic grief. I would encourage him to really delve into any good resources about the fatherhood of God. More than anything, he needs to look to his heavenly Father now that he has seen the face of his earthly father’s sins.

    • That is a sad situation and heartbreaking for a Mom. Yes, there is a book written by a respected Christian author, Dr Doug Weiss, specifically for Adult Children of Sex Addicts. It’s available at B&N or his website.

  7. Dear Luke,
    I am both heartened and disheartened by your post. I have an M.A. in Teaching — but one of my undergraduate degrees was in Media Studies. After working many years as an actress in musical theater and then turning 40 (oops — too old to be valuable) I began a long journey into seeing the arts for the exploitation industry it is. Reading an early 1960s speech to the FCC by Newton Minnow, he referred to television as a “vast wasteland”. Google the speech. You will be shocked at what a true prophet he was. Interestingly, Philo T. Fransworth, the inventor of the cathode ray tube and father of television, would not even have one in his house once he saw how it was being used. I did intense studies of the portrayal of women in the arts and the only consistent measurable data found was they had to be young, thin, and beautiful — and willing to flaunt their assets to move ahead in the industry. It hit closer to home when my own formerly Emmy nominated daughter appeared as a guest ‘star’ on the cable porn series, Californication, because her agent insisted she would go no where if she kept her modesty. Guess what, her career tanked from there.

    Enter my research into the Internet, with another degree in Multimedia and Design. I saw what was happening to women in the ad industry: lift her boobs, trim the waist, tone the legs — I photoshopped myself to prove a point in class. I was 45, they we 20. Visual sex sells even if it is phony. I won’t even describe the “positive” feedback I got. Suffice to say the point was lost on the young males of the species.

    The point of this being that men arrogantly will mentally use the visual image to initially fantasize the encounter and place themselves into the sex scene with another woman. They physically ejaculate imagining themselves physically one with the other woman. If that simple scenario isn’t enough to convince someone they are committing adultary in the mind, heart, and in their hands, I don’t know what is. Is it divorce worthy? Yes. You don’t need a degree in theology to understand this breaks two commandments, fulfills the warning that you have now gone beyond “lusting” after a woman in your heart and brought the scope of desire and sexual fulfillment full circle — and cheated with another woman other than your wife. Hence, this is grounds for divorce. When will we take this seriously? Everyone wants to add the caveat — “Well if he only does it a couple of times, you want that to be grounds for divorce?” It NEVER happens a couple of times, boys! It is crack! Because statistics (and, unfortunately my personal experience) show that eventually it isn’t enough. Strip clubs are next, followed by teasing with the idea of a prostitute and eventually the encounter takes place. Or an affair. Or both. If men took this seriously — like losing their house and half of the 401k seriosly, maybe they would stop cheating with “barely legals” and discover how to cherish the wife of their youth! Whaaat? She isn’t the hot babe you married? Well, neither are you the hunk of burning love from your 20s!

    Can reconciliation happen? Is it preferable? The answer is only sometimes yes. On discovery day the man is relieved of the dead rotting corpse he is dragging around — but he puts that burden on his wife and now she has to carry around the insecurity of not being young, pretty or skinny enough, not being chosen, and not being able to tell when her husband is lying to her because he spent years developing a talent for deception and fraud.

    • Thanks, Annie.

      I suppose my research and yours has led both of us to similar conclusions, but the point of my thesis was to refute the notion that mere physical adultery was all Jesus’ could have been referring to when he said porneia. It would seem you agree.

      That said, Jesus also sees hardness of heart to be another key in the whole matter. Did God divorce Israel after single instances of lust for other gods? No. We should not see grounds for divorce as lone acts of indiscretion after which repentance is heartily pursued. We do this not because we think these sins are unharmful. We do this because we desire to emulate God in his fidelity to His people.

    • I just discovered my husband’s 15-year addiction by looking at the symptoms online and confronting him. Your last paragraph sums up where I am right now so well that I am crying as I write this. All the PhDs, Scholars, and Professionals in the world, with their oh-so-savvy biblical interpretations, have no right to declare that a woman has no grounds for divorce to a porn addict for even the first offence. The damage to me is permanent, regardless of whether I stay or not. I forever know I am unable to measure up to the real and fake beauty of porn images which my husband is surely thinking about with every kiss and touch. He risked his marriage, his reputation among family on both sides, his relationships with his friends, and most importantly the love of his wife, all for self-gratification of sex by proxy. That is extremely selfish and hard-hearted, and shows where his priorities are. My relationship is forever changed, whether I stay married or not. I may never fully trust him and I question his love, probably always will feel insecure in trust and love for any man the rest of my life. I question his sincerity. Is he crying because he got caught, or because he is repentant? My heart is broken, and I long for the days of old when a husband thought his wife beautiful because of her lovely chocolate eyes, her sparkling personality, her brilliant smile, her deep love for him, and he didn’t have images of all those provocative and beautiful women by the thousands to compare her to, and become dissatisfied. Is it adultery? Absolutely. He has turned to other women for sexual satisfaction. What I am feeling now is on the same scale as being cheated on physically.

    • Hey there. I am so, so sorry for the pain you’re experiencing right now. A discovery like this is devastating. Many, many women who go through this will meet the criteria for PTSD. And, I find that often there is so much emphasis placed upon changing the man’s habits and behaviors (which do need to change!) that wives are frequently left without the support and help that they desperately need to heal. So, whatever your husband chooses to do with this discovery, whether he chooses to take responsibility for himself and enter recovery or not, please immediately seek help for yourself to process the pain and grief you’re feeling, and to explore what healthy boundaries will look like for you going forward.

      Personal counseling is a great place to start–counseling JUST FOR YOU. (I don’t think this is an issue appropriate for couples’ counseling, until he is well into his recovery. He needs a CSAT certified therapist.) Groups can help too: Celebrate Recovery, Pure Desire, xxxChurch, S Anon.

      As terrible as this is right now, I do want to let you know that men CAN change. It takes time and commitment and a whole lot of personal responsibility, but it can happen. It happened in my marriage. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about the different kinds of situations I’ve seen–from guys who love their addiction more than their own lives, to guys who really want to get well and will do the work that it takes. And here’s another one about boundaries, and one about the restoration of trust.

      Stay smart about what you’re seeing, but know that change is real, healing is possible. My own story is that our marriage is exponentially better today than it ever was before my husband got into porn. When we choose to turn toward Home, God redeems. I hope your husband makes that choice! Meanwhile, get the support that you need to be healthy as you go forward.

      Blessings, Kay

    • Way to go, Annie!! Beautifully expressed! Actually, I think that a husband who masturbates imagining himself having sex with any woman other than his wife breaks, not just two commandments, but four: “You shall not commit adultery”; “You shall not covet”; “You shall have no other gods before Me” (The masturbation and the young hotties he fantasizes about are, indisputably, idols in his heart and mind.); and “You shall not lie” (A man addicted to lust and masturbation ALWAYS lies about it in order to protect his cherished sin.)

    • Oh my gosh Annie! It’s like you’ve been reading the thoughts that have passed back and forth through my mind for all these years and then put some of them down “on paper”. That last paragraph; some would see those as the words of an angry woman, but I don’t I know those words and I know your pain. I am so very sorry my dear sister.

      For those of us who went into marriage truly wanting a one-flesh relationship with our husbands (and believing God’s promise that it is possible), our husband’s choice in pursuing pornography, masturbation and adultery cuts deeply. First, we start out weeping and asking why. After all, we plead, “don’t you see how much this hurts us and it changes how we perceive you? We don’t understand how a Christian man would choose this over a Christ led marriage. I so wanted this blessing for us. I remember writing in my Bible something that I had read shortly after I found out about the affair and echoed my feelings at the time. It reads, “The unfaithfulness of your mate marks the passing of two innocent beliefs; that your marriage is exceptional and that you are unique or prized. Whatever you loathed about yourself, now defines you. The loss of your basic sense of self is an injury that cuts much deeper than the infidelity itself.” Yes, if we could see each other we would see a bunch of wounded, bandaged up bodies in varying stages of healing. Then we get angry at the person that is causing all this pain because we feel like an animal caught in a trap, writhing in agony and our husband, like a bystander, looks on with only emptiness in his eyes.

      I loved my husband but there was nothing that I could say that would change him. I remember my then 11 year old son, wanting to call his Dad one last time, hoping that there was something else to say to change his Dad’s heart. I too thought, that through all the struggle, there must have been something I didn’t say that could have illuminated the truth and help him see the devastation he was creating. But he was already gone; already given over to his sin. Hope keeps you coming back for that next “slap in the face” realization that it is what it is; a heart problem on his part and nothing was going to change. But we so want it to change Lord.

      How many hours spent crying and praying? You out there know the answer. When you thought that your heart could take not one little bit more of pain, you reminded yourself that the Lord will give you the strength you need. That promise is the only thing that kept you going. I was so grateful for that promise fulfilled. I was so grateful for all the promises I read. “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” That was one of the verses that I prayed softly into my hands, into my bed sheets; into anything nearby that I could lean into for that moment of releasing the sorrow that welled up uncontrollably. To be like Job with faith that makes you an inspiration to thousands upon thousands and generation upon generations. But Job, like us, was only human. He had questions to ask that God did not answer. WE know the reason he suffered as he did. And even when his questions went unanswered, and God chastised him, he walked away from all that humbled and praising God.

      You grieve because you have lost someone you loved. You say goodbye to the hope of having a loving relationship with this man. You know that neither of you are perfect. Your head was not in the clouds; it just believed in the possibility that you both could/would love each other the way God intended.

      But you know what hurt more than any one other thing? It was the lies. “You didn’t see what you think you saw.” “You’re imagining things that aren’t true.” No, he didn’t lust after that person 3 times right in front of you, only later to confess he did. Or what about this one…”It’s not lust, I just like looking at God’s creation.” “I didn’t tell you about my addiction or fornication before we were married because it happened before I knew you”…even though you poured your heart out to him before your marriage about your abortion when you were an unbelieving 14 year old because a 27 year old man knew how to groom you and paid to hide it from your parents. Wasn’t it only fair that we both knew who we were marrying so that it was our choice to accept each others past and present failures freely?

      The lies create such a reality from Hell. All you want to do is run to remove yourself from the chaos. Truth cries out, but am I the only one who hears her? My emotions are raw and I struggle to push the pain down further, just so I can function for the day; just so I can bring some normalcy to the two children I love so much. But one little brush with physical pain releases all that sorrow. It must be heard. But there are no words that pour forth; only groaning because there are no words. My Father in heaven understands what those sounds are saying and He is holding me.

      The trust that was/is so foundational in a relationship has died. And it seems like the mourning of it’s loss goes on and on. We long for someone on earth that we can trust and it should be the greatest example of trust with the one we are married to. Someone who knows us and we know them. To be like Adam and Eve, unashamed before the one you love. So, don’t think that I am a man basher. I am so grateful for all the characteristics that God formed in men. I believe that a man compliments me; that we are meant to be together. I have faith in God’s design. But I would be less than honest if I didn’t say that I don’t think that I will be able to trust another man to the point of marrying again. When a man looks you in the eye (after he tells you how much he loves you) and lies when you know he is lying, there is something that takes flight and you wonder if there will ever be a time when you will be able to see trust returning on the horizon. And it is that inability to trust that makes you feel the most dead. Those lies have wrapped themselves around you like the death bandages of Lazarus in the tomb and to this day I am waiting for the call of Christ, “Becky come forth.” Come forth from all the ugliness, all the hurt and false promises of a fallen world. Because that is what we live in and I have to remind myself of that all the time. I must run this race with endurance with my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith.

      Help me Jesus to accept what I cannot change and be a witness for You. May I never do anything to bring Your name shame. Give me the strength to trust again; to love as You love. Help me to accept that the only true joy will not be found here apart from being in Your company. Help me to heal. Help all those women out there to heal. May what they have suffered and the words of comfort on their lips be the cool drink they can offer another in pain. Thank you for your Son, Jesus Christ who will one day dress us in beauty and present us spotless to His Father. May the Holy Spirit comfort you as only He can. So, all my sisters in Christ, may the Lord bless thee. May He make His face to shine upon thee and give you peace. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all :-)

    • Hi l read your article and was interested in the women who have been hurt by their husbands addiction.What these women expressed in words rang true in my experience.l have been married for 33 years and intamacy stopped within 5 years or less.I always blamed myself as l’d put on weight after having my children.He did n’t find me attractive any more. I had endless rejection,he spent more and more time away from me on his computer.l eventually found out he was into porn heavily.l confronted him,he said he was sorry but continues to this day.We’ve had Christian and secular counselling but he never admitted to his habit as he felt ashamed. He’s had deliverence ministry,prayer and pastoral advice.Before we got married he said he’d been into porn but had been delivered of this. I walked into marriage naively, believeing in my marriage vows before God never to quit on my marriage.The thing that changed this was his continuing addiction,each time l felt slapped in the face.Intimately in the past l would want to push him out of me but didn’t know why in my spirit until his addiction came to light.I forever hoped in restoration.l yearned for our first love in those early years not realising the unbelievable hurt his habit would cause me.Have l forgiven him, many times.Now l feel emotionally detached from him l don’t want him to touch me as l know he doesn’t really want me.He wants the she conservative exterior of a marriage,but it’s now a sham.I have Fibromyalgia and am registered disabled this is stress induced l wonder what caused this! I have had bariatric surgery and have lost over 9 stone so my weight insn’t an issue anymore but no moves towards me.He lives his life in one room and me the other.Apart from shopping, and sharing the same bed we don’t really share our lives together.I am now contemplating divorce as l’ve remained the faithful wife but now totally broken.

  8. Luke,
    Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think the interpretation I was thinking of was “whoever divorces—except in cases where one is not a virgin on the wedding night—and marries another, commits adultery.” I first heard this specific explanation in the print version of this: https://heartholiness.wordpress.com/2010/05/09/what-god%E2%80%99s-word-teaches-about-divorce-and-remarriage-by-missionary-ma-daoud/ (section “FORNICATION: WHAT IS IT and WHEN IS IT COMMITTED?”) which also cites the example of Mary and Joseph’s almost divorce. I was not familiar with the Greek/Roman requirements for virginity, but I know Deuteronomy 22:13-21 provides a fairly detailed discussion on the pre-wedding virginity for the Jews.One last question: Were the Greek/Roman betrothal customs similar enough to the Jewish betrothal customs to imply the “except in cases where one is not a virgin on the wedding night” reading in the other Gospels? Citations are always great :-) God bless your ministry.

    Chris,
    I agree that with a porn/lust/masturbation addiction on the table, any betrothal/engagement customs become moot points. I’m more concerned with the reasoning surrounding divorce. I believe Phyllis Tickle said that normalizing widespread divorce in the church discredits the church’s stance against homosexual marriage. But, I digress.

    • Thanks Kenneth,

      Yes, that’s another way of saying the same thing: fornication before or during betrothal would mean a loss of virginity (probably discovered on the wedding night, or in Joseph’s case well before that night). And yes, the Mary and Joseph story is often used to argue for that position.

      The betrothal view has picked up some very intelligent and vocal advocates in recent years, namely John Piper, Abel Isaksson, Mark Geldard, and David Jones, so I’m not saying the view is way out in left field. That said, I think the context helps us see Jesus isn’t talking about betrothal. None the passages cited by Jesus or the Pharisees are about betrothal. Jesus assumes the married couple in question is one flesh already, not just betrothed or just newly married and hurt by a discovery of non-virginity. The very question the Pharisees are asking is the “any cause” divorce position—which Jesus is completely refuting—but betrothal customs don’t seem to be the subject of discussion.

      In my previous comment, I was not saying the Greeks and Romans had the same sexual standards as the Jews regarding virginity. I was saying that IF we are saying Mark didn’t include the exception clause because (1) he was writing to a Gentile audience, and (2) he was writing about betrothal customs, THEN this doesn’t make much sense since Jesus’ exception clause would have been applicable to them because they also had betrothal customs.

      However, as for the Roman premium on virginity, some good resources you could read are Judith Hallett’s Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society: Women and the Elite Family, and Christian Laes and Johan Strubbe’s Youth in the Roman Empire: The Young and the Restless Years?

  9. Luke a really excellent and informative article. I am truly blessed by the way you highlight the issue of hardness of heart and the immorality it drives and sustains. Sadly yes, some people, whose hearts aren’t focused on restoration will seek to abuse the truth expressed here. If they’re honest though, I suspect they’ll have a hard time…hardness of heart is evidenced over time and in the context of a purposeful loving church family. This further highlights the need and high value of healthy loving church communities that can take on ANY TYPE of issue.

    • Thanks, Vince.

      My hope is that people will take the totality of Christ’s words to heart. Rather than seeing the exception clause as a line their spouse might cross—something they wait to see so they can eagerly jump to divorce—they will understand that reconciliation is the goal, that marriage is meant to be lifelong. I think Vicki Tiede’s words and diagrams above offer some great counsel in this.

  10. I am really truly blessed by the way you highlight the issue of hardness of heart and the immorality it breeds, drives and sustains. I urge my sisters out there, to bring this into their focus as they wrestle with the porn-masturbation issue in their spouses’ lives. The issue is not just the porn use…but the hardness of heart that sustains it!!!….Sisters can therefore find common cause in approaching this very difficult subject and helping their spouse to address it.

    Sisters, you too suffer from hardness of heart…it afflicts you in many other areas as well such as unhealthy relationships with food and weight, body image issues, insecurity, retail therapy etc…

    I encourage you to tap into the depths of your own struggles with any habitual sins present in your own life and process forgiveness and grace from that place. I believe you’ll find that when you do, you’ll be in a better place to assist the men (husband, son, father, son in-law, church leaders) in your life with this particular global universal goliath all men of all stripes battle with.

    It’s time to start showing more grace, forgiveness, understanding and compassion towards men who have fallen and or regularly fall/fail in this area. The anger, frustration, finger pointing, divorce threats etc do not help. Men and women can really really help each other by clearly recognising that we have a common enemy BUT he focuses on our particular weaknesses to attack us.

    Sisters we NEED your love, understanding, prayers, confidence, affirmation to help us stand strong and win these battles.

    • Done and Done. Ten years now, still unrepentant and the heart is even more hardened than before. Unbelievable what grace and forgiveness will do – at some point it begins to ENABLE.

    • We do often have the broken idea that grace and forgiveness means we can’t have boundaries. When we neglect healthy boundaries, yes, then “grace and forgiveness” become enabling. We’ve written about boundaries lots of times, here and here are a couple of favorites. Also, our free download Hope After Porn addresses the issue of boundaries in the stories of several women who had to face that idea as well. Blessings Kay

    • I am not sure what the relevance of bringing up a wife’s possible sins of food, weight, retail therapy, etc. have to do with this at all. If you are equating these to a husband’s porn addiction then you are way off base. Of course women have sin issues and I am sure the porn addict has more sin issues than just porn. Maybe he also has food, weight and retail therapy sins too! Non of those are even remotely reasons for divorce and that is what we are talking about here.

    • Vince, how dare you equate over-eating with betrayal of love and trust? Your grossly stupid analogy shows the callousness of your views of the quality of a woman, and only serves men to justify their turning their attentions to porn. You put the onus on us “sisters” perhaps not giving enough support, and relieving the man of his 100% responsibility. This sin is totally different than others in that it betrays the wife. If a man murdered others in secret, again and again, would you place that in the same category of a repeating sin that needs strength from us “sisters”? Well, this is murdering a relationship. Again and again. Shame on you.

    • Hey Vince. I think you could benefit from reading up a bit on partner trauma… it explains a lot of the unhealthy coping mechanisms in women’s lives when they are dealing with a husband with porn/sex addiction. Another thing to consider: porn has been shown to shut down empathy centers in the brain. I’m hearing a bit of a lack of empathy here for the woman you’ve betrayed (and other betrayed women). It’s not over the top, but there’s a hint of it. Might be worth exploring with God if it’s an issue for you. Finally, men need to be careful about comparing “her over-eating” with my breaking our wedding vows. Yes it’s ubiquitous right now, but it’s not on the same level. Over-eating is pain-masking, not sin. When God wants to give us an example of “the worst possible betrayal” he gives the example of rampant adultery (Ezekiel 16). Paul also warns about sexual sins being uniquely destructive (1 Cor. 6).
      I love to see those struggling supported: but for the most part it needs to be brothers coming together and supporting each other. Their traumatized wives also need support from sisters… and ideally from the man who has failed her, but is now looking to make restitution for this.
      Blessings on your journey to becoming that man.

  11. Just want to ask a question. Why do you assume that when Jesus says “your hardness of heart” he is talking about the person guilty of “porneia”? In context would it not make more sense that it’s the person seeking the divorce who has the “hardness of heart”? The question was “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife” and Jesus’ reply is “Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives… whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery”. It seems like it’s the wife who is guilty of “sexual immorality (porneia)” but it’s because of the husbands “hard heart” that Moses allowed divorce.

    • Fantastic question, Roger. That’s exactly how I read the text for most of my life.

      The primary reason I think it relates to the offending party is because of the connection to Jeremiah 3-4. If this text (which is the only clear Old Testament allusion to Moses’ Deuteronomy 24 divorce law) is the background of Jesus’ comment to the Pharisees (and there are many reasons to think it is), then the hardness of heart is a reference to the one guilty of porneia just as Israel was the one guilty of spiritual porneia.

      Additionally, if we think it is the offended party (in this case, the husband) who has the hard heart, then this means the Law of Moses presents a sub-Christian ethic—that under Moses, God tolerated a hard-hearted dismissal of a spouse. This not only seems to fly in the face of everything Jesus says in Matthew 19, but also many other things said about marriage and divorce in the Bible. (This issue, of course, raises a lot of law-vs-gospel questions, which is a much broader issue.)

      Also, if Jesus means the husband has the hard heart, this doesn’t fit with Deuteronomy 24. In that text, the assumption is that the wife is guilty of indecency and the husband has divorced her because of it. There is no commentary made on the wrongness of the divorce at all (only on what is to be avoided following the divorce). Moses is merely mentioning the scenario without commentary, meaning it was completely ethical under the civil law of Moses. It seems more likely, therefore, that Jesus is commenting on the hard-hearted indecency of the wife.

    • I believe Jesus said that “If a man look at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart” was Jesus warning men to control their behavior towards women. Jesus knew this would be the fall of man. He was not making an excuse because men are visual sexual beingsI Jesus himself was giving wisdom for men to heed. I have been married for many years to a Christian man who hid his sin from me for many years. Our marriage & family became disfunctional. Everything that was wrong was put on me. I prayed for wisdom and the Lord revealed it to me. I confronted him over & over. Finally partial truth was revealed. I did not know truth until I stumbled upon it. You believe that being addicted to pornograpfhy and acting out in that moment is not adultery? I was really surprised to read your opinion. Jesus, himself, states the case for Adultery.

  12. Thank you, Luke. I hope many pastors will read what you have offered here and make it part of their toolbox when it come to dealing with these situations in the churches they serve. I appreciate the careful exegesis and pastoral approach. Blessings to you.
    Tim Brown, Pastor
    Calvary Chapel Fremont

    • Tim, it’s great to see a Pastor say this. This issue is ramped. Most churches aren’t using tools like this to help the couples in the trauma. And they especially don’t know how to support the spouse of the sex addict, whether male or female. I want to be a support for those that have been betrayed. But most of all I want to see them regain their identity in Christ, and to know who their Heavenly Father truly is to them. Preach it at the pulpit. Teach it. Preach it. The truth will set them free. God is truth. Awesome.

  13. Only men use porn? Who knew? Where do romance novels, 50 Shades of Grey, and magazines like Cosmopolitan fit into the picture? Asking for a friend.

    • Nope. Not at all. We have many articles on our website for women who struggle with porn as well (and not just the soft-core or erotica variety). The article can be applied to female porn users as much as male users (in fact, the example given by Jesus himself in Matthew 19 assumes the woman is the sexual sinner, not the man).

    • Great question. As it wasn’t really in the scope of my thesis, I didn’t really address that subject specifically, so my thoughts here will be only preliminary.

      1. Keep in mind, it isn’t just porneia in some general sense that is the grounds for divorce but the hardened heart—or what I call in my thesis “hardhearted sexual rebellion.”

      2. If there’s a scenario where a woman’s relationship to romance novels displays that kind of unrepentant, hardhearted rebellion against her husband, it would certainly be a viable question to ask (provided all the steps of church discipline were followed as outlined in my article).

      3. That said, I’ve personally not met anyone who actually meets this description. This could be because my experiences are limited, but this also could be because the escalation of pornography use and erotic novel use are qualitatively different.

  14. Some challenges I have with this:
    1. Jesus was speaking to a Jewish, Old Covenant audience…not a Christian, New Covenant audience.
    2. Adultery/Porniea in the Old Testament resulted in the death of the offending party. Therefore remarriage was allowed because the contract/covenant was over at death.
    3. Perhaps they are wrong, but numerous Hebrew and Christian scholars point out that the offense adultery/porniea referenced to, was something that took place during the betrothal period and prior to consummation. Meaning, if the man discovered prior to or at consummation that the women was/had been unclean, then and only then was he allowed to “send her away”…not months are years later or at some later offense.
    4. Jesus says the certificate of divorce was allowed to be given because of the hardness of the offended parties heart…not the heart of the offender. Therefore, if the offended party had a soft heart towards the offender, then no need for divorce.
    5. A divorce certificate under the Old Covenant was only issued by the man…not the woman.
    6. Jesus said “from the beginning it wasn’t so.” Meaning, it was never God’s intent for marriage to end in divorce. It could end by the death of one of the parties and that’s it.
    7. It’s a very difficult subject and taking the most conservative approach is safest way to insure no future sin. Assuming that it’s not sin or that is is O.K. for a Christian to divorce because of “porniea” does not mean you are not sinning and violating God’s commands if you do.

    • Thanks, Chris. Let me see if I can tackle your questions.

      1. To answer your question, let me ask another: Did Jesus intend his followers (whom heard the conversation with the Pharisees and whom He taught to apply this conversation in the verses following) to use His teachings about marriage and divorce for the church later on? Would the apostles, after Jesus’ death and resurrection, have said to themselves, “I know Jesus told us all that business about porneia and hardheartedness when he was here with us, but that only applied up to the point of Pentecost. Now we live by totally different standards. His teachings about this stuff aren’t applicable to use”? I find this interpretation to be a bit strange. In fact, we have evidence that is precisely what they didn’t do when we look at how Paul referred to Jesus’ teachings on marriage and divorce in 1 Corinthians 7.

      2. I agree that adultery was punishable by death according to the Law of Moses, but how are you applying that truth to this circumstance? Are you saying that porneia must only mean adultery because in a New Covenant context, the death penalty isn’t allowed? Can you clarify the significance of this fact in your mind?

      3. The “betrothal view,” as its sometimes called, is popular in certain circles, yes. I have two comments above (comment 1, comment 2) that address this question.

      4. As to who is the one with the hard heart, I answered this above to Roger’s question.

      5. Yes, divorces were only enacted by men, but I’m not sure what significance of this is to the issue. In the parallel text in Mark, Jesus certainly applied this teaching about divorce to women as well as men (Mark 10:12).

      6. Yes, Jesus said, “from the beginning it was not so,” but then he gives the rationale why God allowed for divorce under Moses (and why He Himself wrote a bill of divorce to Israel in Jeremiah 3-4): because of hardheartedness (a condition that didn’t exist in Eden). In other words, the intended contrast is not, “Never ever divorce because divorce wasn’t part of the original design of marriage.” Rather, the contrast is, “Divorce is not part of the original design, so when it happens it is a sign of the presence of hear-hardening sin and should not be done in a manner that compounds it with more sin. It should only be done according to pattern given to us by God who alone responds to sin in a correct manner.” The point of this statement is to shift the debate the Pharisees were having over this issue. They were debating the precise meanings of Deuteronomy 24 as the starting place for the discussion. Jesus said the starting place should be in the original design of marriage in Genesis 1 and 2, that marriage is meant to be lifelong, not something we terminate on a whim.

      7. As I stated in the beginning of the article, grounds for divorce is not the same as actually getting divorced. That is a whole other matter. Just because someone gets divorced because they believe they have biblical grounds (a) does not mean they actually have proper grounds, and (b) does not mean they are doing so with godly motives.

  15. Yes, I completely agree. Why? My dad always had a ” struggle ” with porn. He supposedly got over it after I was an adult. But 2 years ago it was found out he was downloading child porn and sexually abusing his granddaughters. It had been going on for 12 years. He abused 7 of his 13 granddaughters!!!! He is now working on a 58 year prison sentence federal and state…

    So tell me there aren’t consequences!? My mom did the godly woman thing for all those years. Praying for him, forgiving etc… And he kept begging for forgiveness and supposedly repenting.. This stuff is deadly!!! It’s destroyed a huge extended family.
    And oh yeah, he was big in the patriarchal stuff too!

    • I am so, so sorry for the devastation your family has suffered. Too often the church has promoted that idea of “pray and forgive” without boundaries, with terrible, terrible results. Patriarchy all too often leads to these kinds of abuses, as we see demonstrated in the news over and over and over. We need to do better. We need to value women, encourage their voices, and support their healthy boundaries. We need to stand for healthy boundaries, personal responsibility, and consequences to those who make abusive choices, rather than “easy forgiveism.” Thanks for speaking up here about the deadly consequences of bad theology. Blessings, Kay

    • I actually think that the church fails to recognize how deadly porn is and so treats a cancer like its just a bad flu.Call it the trivializing of the truth. Scientific studies show that porn actually changes the human brain.

      If I had children in the house and my husband brought porn in, I would be asking him to a) be willing to get help that included knowledgable treatment and accountablity or b) move out NOW. To allow that vile stuff in your home is to endanger your kids physically, sexually and spiritually. Porn is not harmless. It is dangerous. It is not normal sexuality. It is a perversion of sexuality.

      I grew up in a home in which porn was being consumed. I am not talking from a fuddy duddy position of religious prudery and ignorance. I watched the slow destruction of my father via this stuff until females were so objectified that all he saw was a potential vagina or object for pleasuring himself. I loved my dad and it was very hard for me to accept that he had become the kind of man he did. Esp since I knew it was all so unecessary and such a tragic loss of a man who was very talented and started out good hearted and gentle.

      I caught him in the act of behaving lustfully and abusively towards a child who was crying and terrified. Her distress did not throw cold water on his overall lustfull demeanor at all nor cause him to back off in horror at the fear he was causing her. He was reading a pornographic novel at the time that depicted a teacher having sex with his female students including an eleven year old, which is about how old we both were.

      Grace was never meant to provide cover for or support for evil or foster stupidity though if you listen to many churches you’d never know that. One poster here referred to not relying on man. I get what she meant. It is dangerous to talk to your average christian, and sadly this includes pastors quite often, because they have their heads in the sand about sin and evil and often practice a nice, respectable cultural christianity that is clueless about the reality of evil and abuse. They whitewash serious problems and practice a cheap and shallow grace. The church today is quite fat, increased with goods and thinks its in need of nothing, when it is more true that it is poor blind and naked and knows it not.

      That’s why one should really be careful to determine that you are dealing with someone who really does walk with God when you get advice on life altering issues. In my rather strong opinion, the church has no right to direct a woman and her children to share quarters with vile sewage from hell. Either the garbage goes or the husband goes. Marriage is not morme important than the souls of those in it.

      I read a story once about a little one who found her father’s stash of porn and after being exposed to it, needed deliverance from an unclean spirit that took advantage of her through it. Thankfully her grandmother had some knowledge of spiritual things and was able to figure out what was going on and deliver the little one of it. Then she confronted her son in law. I myself experienced having an unclean spirit accost me whilst listening to a lewd conversation my father was having with his friends when i was a tiny tot. This stuff is real, demonic and dangerous. I am not saying we ought to just turn our backs on anyone caught in the stuff, without trying to see them get free and restored, just that we should take seriously what we are actually dealing with and get it that this is not just “an issue” its a multi dimensional sin war and a battle for the minds and hearts of people that has eternal consequences. And I don’t think reconcialiation always has to be the goal. No one has the right to pressure/force a woman to reconcile with a perverted husband who may be doing okay now but might wind up dragging her through more years of hell if he relapses. That has to be the choice of the people in the situation.

      Sorry for the long comment. I came here searching for a more nuanced understanding of the word pornea, because I suspected that it might contain the meaning of objectification. The article was very good and enlightening. Look forward to you posting your whole thesis.

  16. I like the focus of your article. In a spiritual sense the hardness of heart factor is very important. But the Covenant of marriage is broken with pornography use – it is no longer a marriage. Whether or not their can be remarriage remains to be seen – even if the heart softens and repents, the damage to the porn users brain is extensive and may not allow for remarriage. Those images are burned in their mind…but perhaps that’s a topic for another thesis – can a renewed mind completely be restored to porn users. All things are possible with God – may he have mercy on this generation. And may we all be equipped for the battle of our souls and that of the next generation!

    • Thanks for the thoughts, AD, but I’m not quite sure what you mean by “it is no longer a marriage.” Does this mean a single act of looking at something pornographic makes one’s marriage vows null and void? At what point does any form of lust cancel a marriage covenant?

    • What if the renewed mind of a recovering sex-addict, doesn’t believe in generational sin, curse or iniquity, what ever you want to call it? Says he’s not a sex addict after only 8 months of counseling , of a 45 year addiction. I have had to pray and bind and loose for my own kids and grandkids, cuz of the family name. And the so called Godly heritage. Known all over the world. I have learned through my Heavenly Father that He is not a respect or of persons and He loves us all the same. Precious! God is TRUTH, and the truth will set you free. Those that deny or don’t want to look at the truth, sit in judgement. Just my opinion. That’s what I’ve found in my situation anyway.

    • Hey Jean. There are lots of different ways to think about habitual porn use, and lots of ways to go about recovery. What really matters is that the person who has the problem takes responsibility for that problem and works on the problem. I think you are wise to be cautious about “complete healing” after a 45 year addiction. I’ve seen writers talk about 5 years as a good benchmark for recovery, and that’s when the person is taking responsibility and doing their work. There’s a lot more to recovery than “not looking at porn right now.” There’s a whole bunch of other healing that needs to take place, and often addicts are unaware of the true depth of the issues.

      Make sure you’re getting the support you need in the recovery process as well. I often see men getting help but their wives being left behind. After 45 years in an addicted marriage, I’m sure a personal counselor could be a great help to you, as well as a group like Celebrate Recovery or S Anon.

      Blessings, Kay

    • Hey Martha. I’m curious what is “good” in the article if my “religion” was left out. Since the entire article is based on a Master’s thesis about a passage in the Bible, it would seem there’s not much left in the article you would call good. Can you clarify what you mean?

  17. I separted from my hubby after 12 years of his relapsing back into porn. We were separated in the home. He’s had four or five relapses even when we were separated. Long story short, it ain’t worth staying. I don’t care what anybody says. My son gave up his room so “dad could stay” and I thought it would wake him up.

    So I come home after a rough day of getting lost on the way to the doctor and I come home and find him with a phone plugged in next to our bed that our son doesn’t use anymore and lo and behold, guess what I find on there?

    Do you know how many holidays and birthdays he’s ruined after me finding porn? I’ve got CE on one puter and his work phone and he finds other ways for his drug.

    Now, I’ve got a suicidal 18 yo with a deadly severe eating disorder b/c of his addiction. Ladies, just get out. I wish I would have at Christmas time did 2006 when I first caught him. If you stay, it’ll mess up your kids. It’s NOT worth it. YOU”RE worth more than a man who prefers other women.

    I’m going to file for divorce soon. It’s not worth staying. I’m 43 and I want a live outside of his drug of choice. If it was alcohol or drugs, would you stay? What’s the difference when it’s porn? It’s adultery. Period. He broke his marriage vows and “is not content in the marriage.” God might hate divorce, but he allows it for adultery.

    IN the OT adulterers were stoned. Most women I’ve talked to at Celebrate Recovery say the odds aren’t in my favor. And most of them are divorced. I know two other women whose children have the same problems mine do: suicidal thoughts/attempts, cutting themselves and/or other addiction problems like drug use.

    Porn allows Satan to have a foothold in your home. Once he destroys the marriage (and mine is), he’ll start in on your children. I wish I NEVER stayed. So…again, we’re sleeping separately. Even my children wish we’d just get it over with and divorce so there will be no more fighting.

    He can have his drug. I’m getting a life w/o him as soon as I can.

    • So…will this comment be approved or not, Luke?

      I found out today that my H used the belt on my kids. I told him to NEVER ever use it like his father did and he did it anyway. His porn use has damaged my kids so much and me too.

    • hey Anne. I’m so sorry this is coming to divorce in your situation. It’s always heart breaking to see all the pain that brings a marriage to that point. It’s certainly not what anyone hopes for, is it? At the same time, I’m really glad you’re able to make decisions that are healthy for you. I hope you’re finding help for yourself and for your kids in all this. Divorce Care can be a big help, both for you and for the kids. And of course personal counseling can make a big difference. Blessings to you and your family as you heal, Kay

    • Anne, I hear ya. I think we are made to treat these men like they are sad sausages who need lots of pity and help. If that is so, why did God stone them to death in the old testament? He had NO tolerance for adulterers. It’s simple. STOP THE SIN. If these men can control themselves enough to not masturbate to a co worker in the middle of the lunch room, then they can control themselves to not masturbate/look at pornography/lust after other women, out of respect the their wives who they made the most serious of vows to.

      These men get a plethora of excuses in ‘christian’ circles and the poor wife is left in an endless cycle of forgiving, working through all the junk, having hopes built up, only to be betrayed again and again. These men are reprobates and will not change. I’m 40 and getting out now before I wake up 50 having endured another 10 years of this nightmare.

  18. Sorry Luke, I couldn’t finish your article b/c it pissed me off. I wonder how you’d feel if your wife cheated on you for over a decade? It’s SO easy for the unoffended to have this view. You don’t understand what it does to a women. It changes us into someone we’re not. I used to be a fun loving, outgoing person and Now I can barely get out of bed.

    Each woman has the right to decide for herself if she wants out. You should really have a forum on here too and let women and men to have a place to share about specific things in their lives.

    Your comment box is also too small.

    • Hi Anne,

      I don’t know your situation in full, but from the details you gave, your husband certainly sounds like he’s quite far gone. So sorry hear what you’ve gone through.

      I’m not exactly sure what in my article you disagree with. We seem to both agree that porn can be grounds for divorce, so was there something specific you didn’t like. Was it my treatment of a specific passage of concept?

  19. Hi Luke,
    If reconciliation is always the goal, is this still true for a couple who are unequally yoked?
    My situation is simple, we were married while not being true believers. I became saved, my husband completely rejects Jesus and the church and has an extreme porn addiction that he believes he is entitled to and does not plan on changing. What am I left to do?

    • Yes. Paul makes as much clear in 1 Corinthians 7:13, “If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him.” Reconciliation is definitely the best scenario. That said, this does not mean you don’t have grounds for divorce. Reconciliation is a good goal, but it takes two people to make this happen.

      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation. Have you been able to confide in anyone at your church about this?

  20. Luke, thank you for your article. I have experienced a very strange twist of the story you wrote. Basically, I am considering divorcing my wife because of her unforgiving heart and desertion. I am the offending spouse and have made efforts to restore/reconcile our marriage but my wife wants nothing to do with me. Let me know if you would want to hear the story. It also involves the church poorly handling church discipline.

  21. I would be interested in your thoughts about a man who has many porn relapses, but is always very repentant and sorry (seemingly genuine) each time. Has even confessed when his wife doesn’t catch him. But he is a serial porn user. He can’t seem to permanently stop. Does his wife have a right to say “This is the end. You fit Matt 19:9 and I’m divorcing you” or does his (seeming) genuine repentance after each offense prevent that?

    • Great question, Mark. Obviously, this question is a generality, and specific details matter a great deal.

      First, I would want to know what this previous “repentance” looked like. What was the fruit of that repentance? Did it involve distancing oneself from porn and the temptation to look at it? Or was it merely in words only? If distancing happened, in what way? What barricades were put in place? How did this man get through those barricades? Did his repentance involve restitution with the spouse? Did it involve confession to spiritual mentors in the church who can assist?

      Second, I would want to know how the church has been involved in this process. Ideally, trusted church members would be involved in this situation, offering counsel, advice, discipleship, and, at times, rebuke and discipline. I would ask those people their assessment of the situation. As the end of my article indicates, the God-given means of discerning hardness of heart is process of church discipline outlined by Jesus, so that would matter a great deal in how we assess the situation.

  22. Hi. Do you think that Jesus meant that a person who marries a divorced woman commits adultery? Ie. Can a woman who was divorced by her husband and is the innocent party remarry? Jesus said that if they divorce their wives unfairly they cause them to commit adultery. This has restrained me from seeking to remarry.

    • Hey Rachael.

      I think very few people these days would consider remarriage after divorce to be adultery.

      Jesus was speaking at a time in history when women had absolutely no power. Women were property. They did not marry by their own choice, but rather at the will of their family patriarch. Men could divorce women for any reason whatsover, and then the woman would be without any kind of support unless her family gave her to another man. You can imagine the potential scenario: men throwing their wives away, and women being passed around at will.

      So I think Jesus’ point was saying to the men, you’re being unjust in your treatment of your wives, and that sin will be on your soul. Don’t think you can throw another person away without consequences to yourself. Jesus was calling society forward, toward more justice, toward more mercy.

      Our current model of marriage is quite different, of course, but women (and men) still find themselves being victimized in different ways.

      I think if Jesus spoke today, he would still be interested in treating victims with mercy and justice, rather than as throw-away people.

      I hope that helps as you consider the way ahead.

      Peace to you, Kay

  23. My husband turned from Christianity eight years ago when he realized that God wasn’t a genie there to grant all his wishes (his words, not mine). This by the way was one month after our marriage and claims to hate God if he is real. He doesn’t demand that I give up God or not teach the children but he is constantly “joking” around about our beliefs and harassing us for them. His porn is everyday all day long, even while at school. He doesn’t try to hide it but claims to hate it due to the fact that it has a hold on him and not at all because it hurts me. He believes that because I’m not perfect that I deserve what I get (again, his words, not mine). His porn has escalated to some seriously disturbing stuff and uses it to attempt to control and abuse me. He claims that if I had more sex with him that it would stop, I tried, it doesn’t. The way he abuses me with it is that he says that I have absolutely no right to complain about it and if I don’t deal with it, me and the kids can leave. Which at the moment we are at least 1000 miles away from my family, because of our relationship I have no friends and my education has been placed on hold to serve him. I feel totally stuck which I can do something about but first I need to know whether I may have grounds for a guilt/sin free divorce because all this marriage has brought me is hate, bitterness, jealousy, and at one point away from God. Other than a godly love and desire to see him saved I have no love left for him and know that unless God calls him, removes his blinders and softens his heart (I know it can be done) this will be my whole life… any advice would be greatly appreciated?!

    • Hi there. I am so, so sorry for the pain you’re experiencing in your marriage. It’s so heart breaking that your husband hates porn and yet can’t seem to take responsibility for himself.

      I would say that at this point, you’ve got to consider what healthy boundaries will look like for you in this situation. Let me give you a couple of links to articles on boundaries, here and here.

      I hope Luke’s article was helpful to you in thinking about your own situation, and whether porn is grounds for divorce in your case. I’m a counselor, and my own opinion is that extensive pornography use like you’re describing will often lead to the same kinds of trauma symptoms as physical abuse in wives. Many many wives in situations like yours will meet the clinical criteria for PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). Most churches today would consider unrepentant physical abuse to be grounds for divorce, and when I see the same PTSD symptoms in women who have been abused by porn, I don’t know why we’re hesitating to say that this kind of porn use is also abuse.

      I think a separation doesn’t necessarily mean a divorce. A separation can be a step toward healing, actually, if your husband were to take the opportunity to get into recovery. If you haven’t read our free download, Hope After Porn, you might appreciate the stories of several women who decided to separate for that very reason, and found it to be helpful in recovery. Sometimes guys do take the opportunity that a separation offers, and start to deal with their problems. Sometimes not. It’s really up to the individual and the choices they make.

      From a professional perspective, I would like to see you separated from the kind of traumatic abuse you’re describing, for a period of healing and so that you can consider your boundaries from a place of safety. I would recommend finding a therapist who can help you process your emotions and think about those healthy boundaries. You might want to look for someone who has experience in counseling survivors of domestic abuse. Because I do think that’s what you’re talking about here.

      Peace to you, Kay

  24. I realise this is an old thread. Just wondering if the thesis has been uploaded to this site or if an email copy is still possible?

    • Hello Mrs. T – I have asked the author if this is still available and I will let you know.

      -Chris
      Covenant Eyes

  25. In the context in which Matthew’s Gospel was written, porneia is fornication during the betrothal marriage. To define it ANY other way is a lie and subverting from the truth that marriage is a one-flesh covenant which can only end in death. (Ro 7:2,3 The law of marriage today is as it was in the beginning-Not my words, the Lord’s words Mt 19:4-6; Mk 20:6-9) In the context of understanding when a person will come to repentance is not determined by the dissolution of the marriage through a civil right handed over by the congregations of men, but rather by the proper administration of church discipline in concordance of remaining in a covenant vow. Also, it is very important to understand the covenant vow as it pertains to the life of those who are in Christ and how this person loves the unrepentant sinner. A website called “CoveanantEyes” should understand the significance of a vow, who oversees the vow, who determines the purpose of the vow , and who provides the remedy of those who remain in or break the vow. Also, whenever one makes a direct assumption of scripture, it must corroborate with other scripture on topic. The Adultery View, which make the exception clause uses a multitude of reasons as these reasons pertain to “sexual immorality” does NOT corroborate with Gen 2:24;Matthew 1:18,19; Mt 5:27,28, and the whole preceding chapter 18; Mk 10:11,12; Luke 16:18; Ro 7:2-4; 1 Cor 7:10,11,39, nor does it corroborate with loving your enemies, in particular 1 Thess 5:14-22.

    It is important to note that the Westminster Confession of Faith would have us believe that we have full knowledge of when a person will repent of his or her sins, or that we have omniscience to foresee the outcome of s person’s willingness to repent or spend eternity in hell. It would be a greater witness to the body of Christ, and the witness to a fallen and wicked world to remain in a one-flesh covenant until the death or repentance of a prodigal spouse. The true representation of marriage is Christ’s love for His church. This Gospel rendition views a sposue as loving a sinner while they are yet a sinner, and as the kindness of God leads to repentance, so too will the love of a spouse be a witness to a fallen spouse who desperately needs the Lord. Eph 5:32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

    In Christ’s love,

    Neil

  26. Dear Luke,
    I started to read your “opinion” of the “exception clause”, and ran into some very confusing exegete of text as it applies to understanding of the Gospel.

    You wrote: “After a marriage is severed, remarriage to another is not adulterous in the case of πορνείᾳ (porneia)—sexual immorality.”

    AH, but what of Matthew 5:32? I will even use the popular, but less than accurate NIV

    “Mt 5:31 “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’[f] 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”

    If it is permitted of a man to divorce his wife for the broad term of sexual immorality, why is it “adultery” if someone married her? Now if it was for the reason of “fornication”, “except for fornication” replacing the popular “sexual immorality clause”, a man did not commit “adultery” for the reason the marriage was not consummated. One commits adultery if the marriage was divorced after the marriage was a consummated one-flesh covenant. You can marry a woman divorced from “fornication” because she was not longer betrothed to her husband…she is free to marry and it is not adultery to marry her. However, it does corroborate with Deut 24 OT laws…an “uncleanness” is applicable to the Deut 22 laws. This is why the Lord came down during “Betrothal”, and the Holy Spirit did not impregnate Mary when the marriage was consummated with her husband!

    You may counter with, one may marry a divorced woman which was divorced because she committed sexual immorality, but that conflicts with marrying someone who did not show fruits of repentance. Would you honestly marry a woman who was in unrepentant sexual immorality? I didn’t think so…

    You could come back with, ‘It is permitted to marry a divorced woman of sexual immorality once she repents of her sin.”
    Ok, but would not repentance from her sin reconciliation to to her husband? Well, that is unless he did not “remarry” another since we are led to believe that he would know that his sexually immoral wife would NEVER repent, right?

    I ALSO would argue that marrying a “divorced’ woman in this context does not necessarily take into consideration that she was divorced because of her sexual immorality. If it did, why is it adultery to marry her? It is adultery to marry a “divorced” woman “period”. This corroborates with Roman 7:2,3 doesn’t it? Also, Mark 10:11,12 and Luke 16:18…

    Also, Mark’s account says: Mark 10:12 And if a woman shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery.

    There is no mention of the woman allowing to divorce her husband in Matthew’s account. If Matthew’s account is specific to understanding Jewish customs which did not permit a woman to divorce, we would understand that the exception clause is specific to fornication during the one year of betrothal, and not the popular majority position of the Protestants.

    “The majority Protestant position understands porneia to include any illicit sexual intercourse outside of marriage.*”

    The majority also crucified the Lord. Not sure what this has to do with your understanding of “porneia” if the majority are dead wrong about this word used as an all-encompassing word of sexual immorality. It just basically means the majority is wrong…

    I am not a Protestant nor am I a Roman Catholic either…. I love you enough to tell you the truth. God loves you too and wants you to believe that marriage is a representation of Christ’s love for us. The church needs to preach, teach, live and represent marriage permanence, one man and one woman for life. I also believe no sinner is without hope if the Lord Jesus Christ is alive. Do you agree?

    In Christ’s love,

    Neil

    • Hello Neil,

      Thanks for the lengthy comments. I’ll see if I can address everything you said, but if I miss something, let me know.

      You seem to believe a one-flesh union can never (or should never) be broken. Only death severs this bond. Thus, anything understood as an “exception clause” that allows for divorce is contrary to God’s revealed will.

      Let me state my opinion about the so-called “betrothal view” and then dig into it in more detail.

      My opinion is based largely on what the word porneia actually means. In the Septuagint, porneia and its verbal counterpart porneuo are consistently used to translate a Hebrew term referring to sexual intercourse, often with reference to prostitution. Most Greek lexicons treat it as a broad term for any kind of extra-marital sexual intercourse, incestuous marriages, prostitution, unchastity, or fornication.

      The definition of the word can be narrowed by the context, of course, but should we narrow the definition of the word in this instance (Matthew 19) to a specific kind of sexual sin? Does the context demand this? No, I see no reason to do this. First, there is no reason to assume Jesus cannot take a strong, conservative stance on marriage and still allow for divorce in certain limited instances. Second, and most importantly, the immediate context does not support the notion that premarital fornication is in view. The Pharisees were not discussing the breaking of betrothal contracts, and none of the passages cited by Jesus or the Pharisees are about betrothal.

      As I state above, I think the best way to understand the text is to see Jesus’ statements as a commentary not just on Mosaic divorce law but on Jeremiah 3-4, where God Himself divorces Israel. Jesus’ point is that if we divorce at all, it should only be in following the example of God who only divorced Israel after hardhearted infidelity.

      You cite a number of passages here, and I’m not exactly sure how some of them pertain to the topic, but I’ll do my best…

      Genesis 2:24 – This famous passage speaks of two people becoming one flesh. But nothing rules out divorce here. If we made this statement absolute, then not even death could sever a marriage bond. All this is saying is that marriage unites two people in whole-life oneness. Divorce is not discussed at all.

      Matthew 1:18-19 – You don’t mention why this passage is relevant, but I assume you mention it because you believe it offers context to Jesus’ statements in Matthew 19. I agree if Mary’s pregnancy had been a result of sexual activity, Joseph’s divorce of Mary (ending their legal betrothal) would have been acceptable. I agree that premarital sex or sex during betrothal is an example of porneia, but I hardly see why this specific story restricts the meaning of the word in Matthew 19. Certainly Joseph was within his legal (and moral) rights to call off his wedding, but I have a hard time seeing why this should force a narrow definition on a word that has a much broader meaning in the Greek language many chapters later. It is much more natural to say Mary’s presumed sexual sin during betrothal is one example of a divorcible offense, not the ONLY example of it.

      Mark 10:11-12 and Luke 16:18 – I assume you’re mentioning these passages because they are parallel statements to Matthew 19, only in these instances no exception clause is mentioned. I address this issue in an above comment: http://www.covenanteyes.com/2015/10/08/porn-use-as-grounds-for-divorce-how-my-opinion-changed/#comment-2530424

      Matthew 18 – I’m not sure what in this chapter you specifically think contradicts my interpretation of chapter 19, but I’m willing to listen.

      Matthew 5:27-28 – This passage is about adultery in the heart. I’m not sure what it has to do with the topic at hand, but I’m willing to listen.

      Matthew 5:32 – Jesus says that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of porneia, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Here I believe the exception clause means that in the case where a woman commits porneia, she is already an adulterer, thus the divorce does not make her one—she is one already.

      Romans 7:2-4 – In this text Paul is not talking directly about marriage as his main point but uses marriage law to make a point about Christ and our relationship to the law of Moses. For a Jewish woman who was desperately unhappy with her marriage, the death of her husband was the only hope she had. In Jewish law, she could not initiate a divorce (unless her husband neglected one of the obligations of Exodus 21:10), and she had no means to just walk out. She couldn’t just shack up with another man expecting to force her husband into a divorce because rabbinic law forbade a divorced woman from marrying anyone with whom she had committed adultery. Her only hope was that her husband would die.

      So, Romans 7 is an illustration by which Paul described how Christ has released us from the Law. The only way we could be released from our marriage to the law is through death, but the law couldn’t die. So, instead Christ releases us by his death, which we share in if we are united to Him. Our marriage to the Law ends when we die in Christ—and when we are raised with Him, we are free to be wed to him.

      Therefore, the passage isn’t denying the possibility of divorce universally—that would be denying what the Law of Moses actually says. Paul using his own Jewish cultural context, telling a story about a woman who longs to be free from her husband but can’t, and using that as a springboard to talk about our relationship to the law has changed.

      1 Corinthians 7:10,11,39 – Yes, Paul takes a very conservative view of marriage here, but in this same chapter he talks about scenarios where divorce is allowed (v.15).

      Ephesians 5:32 – I agree we need to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other as God has forgiven us, but this does not rule out divorce. One can forgive an erring, unrepentant spouse and still not be married to them.

      1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 – You say my view doesn’t corroborate with the command to love our enemies, in particular the commands of this text. First, there’s nothing in this text about marriage, but second, I don’t see how my view contradicts this text at all. One can admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, do good to others, and be patient with all…and not be married to them.

  27. Thank you for publishing this. As a newly baptized follower at 47 I am really struggling with my Husband’s addiction. It used to be alcohol, drugs, gambling and porn or various combinations of those and now we are down to porn. I found out two weeks after we were married two and a half years ago (been together for seven). If I’d known he was an addict I would never chosen to marry him and can’t help but feel that I married a fraud. His vows were lies, he knew who we was and chose to cover it up. Now I am trying to come from a place of forgiveness, trying to understand the ‘addiction’ part of this and trying to decide whether or not to leave him. I’ve been married before and put through the wringer with narcissism, verbal and physical abuse. There is a wonderful side to my Husband but when my trust and respect for him are gone, as they are now, I feel horribly alone. This is the most painful thing I’ve had to deal with in my life. It was easier to be verbally and physically abused. I KNEW what to expect. This jumps out after or before what has been or should be our most happiest moments as a couple. I am unable to gain satisfaction intimately with him anymore. I don’t feel like we are even building anything, even with God’s word as our cornerstone. I feel even THAT is one sided. We were baptized the same day just a month ago and since then have discovered he is keeping money from me, lying about how it is spent and found him with porn 3 times. Just the week before last, after being unable to speak with him for three days in an effort to refrain from saying damaging things, he was full of heartfelt apologies and wished for therapy for himself. We had to take a business trip which delayed that process and the very FIRST DAY he was able to be alone for 5 minutes, I caught him again. A huge part of me just wants to kick him out and be done with it but I want so badly to follow the Word because I DO believe that is the single most important thing I can do. I’m seeking counseling for myself today. I can’t bear this pain. I wish I could have instant clarity on this. I pray for it, search the bible, research the internet for information and can’t find consolation. I can forgive easily as I know the things I’ve been forgiven of in my life but it feels very gray to me on whether to stay a wife when my Husband’s title is only that…a title…and one I don’t feel he deserves.

    • Hi Carole.

      My heart just breaks for you. I am so, so sorry for the pain you’re experiencing.

      First of all, let me say that as a counselor, I do conceptualize pornography use as a form of abuse. It has the exact same impact on women as verbal and physical abuse–as you’ve noted, it may even be worse! Many, many women in this situation will meet the criteria for PTSD. When we treat PTSD, our very first clinical concern is getting the victim to safety so that they are not being retraumatized and so that healing can begin. That to me often means separation to see if the husband will recover AND to give the wife time to heal and create healthy boundaries, followed by reconciliation if possible, divorce if necessary.

      And this is the problem I find in the approach that so many religious approaches take. In the concern for “following the Bible,” in the concern for “forgiveness and reconciliation”, SO MANY TIMES, the needs of the victim are completely ignored. I just hear the voice of Jesus saying, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.” Matthew 23:23

      You can forgive–in fact, I think for your own spiritual and emotional health that you MUST forgive. But forgiveness does not mean automatic reconciliation! Forgiveness does not mean that you’re required to be abused! Forgiveness does not mean you ignore reality and stick your head in the ground! Forgiveness sometimes means releasing that person who refuses to take the opportunity of forgiveness to repent and work toward reconciliation. Forgiveness does not control the other person, and it is not a magic wand.

      Reconciliation is only possible when the other person repents of their sin and CHANGES so that a restored relationship is possible. I’ve written a short ebook about forgiveness that you might find helpful.

      I do think a counselor could be a help to you, but only if you feel safe and supported. If you feel forced–by any counselor or church–into staying in a situation that feels WORSE than your previously abusive marriage, then I think that counselor or church is out of line, no matter what kind of Bible verse they trot out.

      I hope that helps. Healing and Peace to you, Kay

    • Carole, get out. Your husband sounds very wicked and unwilling to repent. Trust me, it doesn’t get better with these men, only worse.

  28. Dear Luke,

    Thank you for replying. It seems you are not defending one-flesh covenant marriage.

    ///“You seem to believe a one-flesh union can never (or should never) be broken. Only death severs this bond. Thus, anything understood as an “exception clause” that allows for divorce is contrary to God’s revealed will.”///
    You have written it. Death severs the bond. The “exception clause” is specific to the context of Matthew’s Gospel in the understanding of betrothal marriage.
    ///My opinion is based largely on what the word porneia actually means. In the Septuagint, porneia and its verbal counterpart porneuo are consistently used to translate a Hebrew term referring to sexual intercourse, often with reference to prostitution. Most Greek lexicons treat it as a broad term for any kind of extra-marital sexual intercourse, incestuous marriages, prostitution, unchastity, or fornication.///
    Your opinion and my opinion mean nothing if it does not corroborate with the word of God.

    //“The definition of the word can be narrowed by the context, of course,”///
    So, you agree then? Why argue if the obvious if the the word IS narrowed to fornication during betrothal? Would this interpretation cause a problem for you? I know it has for me. I am called a Pharisee (Ironically, it was both sects of Pharisees which validated divorce and remarriage), I am told that I have zero compassion, and that this “view” would leave ALL current “remarriages” after a divorce of a living spouse in states of adultery.
    The correct definition of marriage is not what the world wants to hear.

    /// …”but should we narrow the definition of the word in this instance (Matthew 19) to a specific kind of sexual sin?” Does the context demand this? No, I see no reason to do this. First, there is no reason to assume Jesus cannot take a strong, conservative stance on marriage and still allow for divorce in certain limited instances. Second, and most importantly, the immediate context does not support the notion that premarital fornication is in view. The Pharisees were not discussing the breaking of betrothal contracts, and none of the passages cited by Jesus or the Pharisees are about betrothal.///
    Luke, the Pharisees only understood marriage customs as “betrothal”. This is how marriage was done under the Mosaic law. A man took a wife and if she was found not to be a virgin on the consummation of the marriage, it was applied that she committed “fornication”. In Luke’s account, the author mentions Joseph as a “man” (Luke 1:27), not a “husband” (Matthew 1:19). Why would Luke need to mention that Joseph was already her husband if the Greeks knew nothing or cared little for Jewish betrothal customs? There was no need to include the exception clause in Luke’s account since it was specific to understanding betrothal marriage.
    ///As I state above, I think the best way to understand the text is to see Jesus’ statements as a commentary not just on Mosaic divorce law but on Jeremiah 3-4, where God Himself divorces Israel. Jesus’ point is that if we divorce at all, it should only be in following the example of God who only divorced Israel after hardhearted infidelity.///
    Did God divorce Israel? Why then did He make a new covenant with His wife, Israel? Read the entire book of Jeremiah, in particular chapter 33. Do not apply God’s divorce from Israel as a way to validate divorce and adultery remarriage for one-flesh covenant marriage. That is a poor exegete of the text. The Lord was using divorce allegorically with Israel.
    ///Genesis 2:24 – This famous passage speaks of two people becoming one flesh. But nothing rules out divorce here. If we made this statement absolute, then not even death could sever a marriage bond. All this is saying is that marriage unites two people in whole-life oneness. Divorce is not discussed at all.///
    The Lord Jesus Christ rules out divorce by referring to the very same passage (Gen 2:24) to the Pharisees. (Mt 19:4-6 and Mk 10:6-9) Death does not sever the marriage bond of Christ to His church. Earthly marriage is the representation in the flesh of eternal marriage in the spirit.
    ///Matthew 1:18-19 – You don’t mention why this passage is relevant, but I assume you mention it because you believe it offers context to Jesus’ statements in Matthew 19. I agree if Mary’s pregnancy had been a result of sexual activity, Joseph’s divorce of Mary (ending their legal betrothal) would have been acceptable. I agree that premarital sex or sex during betrothal is an example of porneia, but I hardly see why this specific story restricts the meaning of the word in Matthew 19. ///
    Read the above example on Luke’s account. This is how people reading Matthew would understand that “except for fornication” is referring to betrothal. Matthew’s Gospel was written to Jewish Christians, Luke! We cannot take Matthew’s account and apply it today unless we view “fornication” during “engagement” as a lawful reason to break off the marriage. The jews during Jesus’ time could not simply break off the marriage, the husband had to write a certificate of divorce in case of fornication.
    ///“It is much more natural to say Mary’s presumed sexual sin during betrothal is one example of a divorcible offense, not the ONLY example of it.”///
    Believe me, you’re not the only one who thinks this way So too did the protestant reformers when they handed marriage over to civil authorities…aka “Westminster Confession of faith”
    ///Matthew 18 – I’m not sure what in this chapter you specifically think contradicts my interpretation of chapter 19, but I’m willing to listen.///
    There are specific ways to handle sin in these chapters, and if we apply what we know the Lord says about church discipline, it is very easy to understand that “sin” in a marriage can be resolved without divorce. In fact, all the Lord teaches on marriage is specific to understanding the Gospel.
    //Matthew 5:27-28 – This passage is about adultery in the heart. I’m not sure what it has to do with the topic at hand, but I’m willing to listen.///
    A person commits “adultery” by lustful thoughts. Notice the Lord did not use “porneia”. Why did He not use porneia? Well, the commandment is thou shall not commit adultery. If one can commit adultery by one’s thoughts, what more is it if one divorces to remarry another? Divorce changes the definition of marriage from a covenant, to a contract. Believing that a divorce can end a covenant and a that remarriage to another is acceptable, is basically sanctifying adultery.
    ///Matthew 5:32 – Jesus says that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of porneia, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. Here I believe the exception clause means that in the case where a woman commits porneia, she is already an adulterer, thus the divorce does not make her one—she is one already.///
    You would be incorrect. If she committed “adultery”, why would the Lord use porniea? The word would have been moichea (adultery). Except on the ground of moicheia? Also, the text reads that a man who “remarries” a “divorced” woman commits “adultery”. Can’t you see that a “divorce” does not end a covenant marriage? It is just a worthless piece of paper.
    On your comments to Roman 7: And what is the marriage law? As it was in the beginning (pre-sin), or as it was at the time of Moses (after the fall during the time of a hardhearted nation)? If marriage TODAY, is as it was in the beginning, then you can understand why Paul used marriage as the example to illustrate the Gospel and the law.
    ///1 Corinthians 7:10,11,39 – Yes, Paul takes a very conservative view of marriage here, but in this same chapter he talks about scenarios where divorce is allowed (v.15).
    No he doesn’t. Verse 15 does not free a spouse to divorce and remarry. You are adding to the text. Verse 15 gives a spouse peace to know that they are no longer unequally-yoked to an unbeliever. It also gives a spouse peace to know that they are not guilty of sin. No where will you find that we are to disregard an unbeliever as having no hope of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. Since an abandoning spouse is unrepentant, he or she cannot even divorce and remarry. (However, many congregations and the wolves of these congregations(Pastors) will “remarry” anyone. Regardless of their background) Thus, you would have us believe that a believing spouse would no longer be required to love his or her prodigal spouse, or that the vow to love them is no longer necessary? Do you understand the Gospel?
    ///Ephesians 5:32 – I agree we need to be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other as God has forgiven us, but this does not rule out divorce. One can forgive an erring, unrepentant spouse and still not be married to them.///
    Divorce is hardheartedness, not an example of forgiveness. Divorce is telling a spouse you will never forgive him or her. Divorce is “murdering” the other spouse without killing him or her. The point the Lord makes about marriage is this: If you choose to divorce, proving that your hearts are hard, then remain unmarried until one or both of you die.
    Did you know that kindness leads to repentance? Remaining in marriage is the only way that glorifies God. God hates divorce, and so should we. Instead, the false church has provided all kinds of loopholes to live for the gratification of the flesh and not to remain in the spirit of Christ.
    ///1 Thessalonians 5:14-22 – You say my view doesn’t corroborate with the command to love our enemies, in particular the commands of this text. First, there’s nothing in this text about marriage, but second, I don’t see how my view contradicts this text at all. One can admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, do good to others, and be patient with all…and not be married to them.///
    Your comments make me sad. In marriage, a husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church. What greater witness is the love of the Gospel then through a husbands’ love for his wife? You would have us believe that marriage is separate from understanding the mystery of the Gospel, yet that is exactly how Paul views marriage. (Eph 5:31-33)
    I can see you have made up your mind to follow the ways of men and seek to view marriage as a contract to gratify the flesh. It does not surprise me that you have quoted Instone-Brewer, as he has twisted the word of God to validate divorce and remarriage for any reason. It is clear to me your “understanding” not only contradicts itself, it certainly does not corroborate with the Gospel. I pray that the Holy Spirit would convict you to see the clear picture of one-flesh covenant marriage. The world will divorce and remarry, those who are truly in Christ will believe that a vow before God is far more eternally important than any man can tell, and that marriage, and remaining in marriage, can only ever be a true witness to the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.
    In Christ’s love,
    Neil

    • Hi Neil,

      It seems we’re at a bit of an impasse here.

      1. You and I both agree that Jesus held a very conservative view of marriage—far more conservative than his contemporaries and far more conservative than most hold today. We disagree about the exception clause, of course, but we seem to agree that Jesus was trying to combat the liberal understanding of the “one flesh” bond that was prevalent in his day.

      2. You and I both agree that church discipline is very important when considering troubles in marriage (I say as much in my article). I don’t think Matthew 18 specifically mentions divorce, but it certainly has a bearing on how the church community plays a roll.

      3. You don’t seem to think the lexical definition of porniea has any weight in considering how the term is used in Matthew 19. The term has a very broad definition throughout the New Testament. We both agree the term can have a narrower definition if the context demands it. You clearly think the context demands it in Matthew 19, and I do not (see more on that below).

      4. We disagree about the relevance of the Joseph and Mary account. I understand how Jewish people saw betrothal, but you’ve not yet convinced me that this should force a narrow meaning on the term in Matthew 19. Clearly Joseph was within his right to break his betrothal contract, but why do you think Joseph’s culture would think this is the ONLY way to break a marriage. As you yourself admit, the Pharisees actually held a very liberal view of marriage and divorce—the Rabbi Hillel school believed in “any fault” divorce. The competitive school of thought (by Rabbi Shammai) believed divorce was only permissible after some kind of sexual indecency (such as like adultery). The Pharisees specifically ask Jesus in Matthew 19 if he agrees with dominant Hillel position, to which he replies that he does not. In the context of the rabbinic debate, it would have been the most natural thing in the world to assume Jesus was using a broad definition of porneia.

      5. We disagree about the reason why Luke (or Mark) did not include the exception clause. You think it is because the Greek cared little about Jewish betrothal customs, whereas Matthew (writing to a Jewish audience) would care a great deal. I disagree because the Greeks and Romans had betrothal customs of their own that would have made a statement about breaking betrothal contract very appropriate.

      6. We disagree about the message of Jeremiah 3-4. I do believe God divorced Israel—as he said he did. The northern 10 tribes were largely diseased and underwent incredible judgment. I’m not saying he didn’t reengage a remnant with a new covenant—he clearly prophesies the new covenant in chapter 33—but this new covenant does not the negate the fact of God writing her a bill of divorce.

      7. We disagree about the significance of Jeremiah 3-4. The argument I make is that this prophetic text was clearly anchor in which Jesus’ opinion about divorce rests (see my arguments in the article above). I’m not sure what you make of these arguments because you don’t say.

      8. We disagree about Genesis 2:24 and its relevance to divorce. You really haven’t made it clear how this text actually forbids divorce. Yes, Jesus quotes it to the Pharisees, but the question is why. Not because it talks about divorce, but because he wants the Pharisees to know that it is God who joins to people together in marriage.

      9. You and I disagree about the relevance of Matthew 5:27-28. I clearly state in my article that “lust in the heart” is not grounds for divorce (which you would agree with), so I’m not sure why it has a bearing on the question.

      10. You and I disagree about the relationship between porneia and moichea. You seem to think they are mutually exclusive terms, but that’s simply not how the terms are used in Greek. They clearly aren’t synonyms either, but as I state in my article, porneia focuses on the violating attitude and act, where as adultery focuses on a common effect of this act (see my explanation in the article).

      11. You and I disagree about 1 Corinthians 7:15. I believe “free” means “free to remarry.” I’m not sure what else it could mean. That person is as free as the single person.

      12. You and I disagree about divorce and hardheartedness. Getting a divorce does not mean one is hardhearted. In fact, I specifically state the guidance in my article warning against this.

      I understand I won’t persuade you with any of these arguments. I thank you for the discussion, however.

  29. Luke,
    As a pastor, I deal with this issue on a regular basis. I would greatly appreciate finding out where I can obtain a copy of your thesis. Thank you.

    • Hi Brian – I’ve shared your comment with Luke. If he is still distributing copies of the thesis, he will get back to you.

      Peace, Chris
      Covenant Eyes

  30. Luke, it is very clear that your position defends divorce and remarriage just like the Pharisees defended divorce and remarriage. You will have to answer one day to all the people you deceived. I pray you repent before that day comes. You have been warned.

    In Christ’s love,

    Neil

  31. 1. Agreed
    2. Divorce “happens” when sin is not accounted for.
    3. The real choice as you understand is to use the word adultery..except for adultery. The Lord uses ‘fortification” specific to Matthew’s context.
    4. Fornication during betrothal makes the wife not a virgin on the consummation day of the marriage. A man could write a divorce decree if she lied about being a virgin. This is the point. The Lord is instructing the Pharisees during their time period, and this is not applicable today.
    5. If Matthew’s account was written primarily to Jewish Christians, why do scholars ALWAYS use Matthew’s account, and disregard Luke and Mark? I will tell you why. Because there are loopholes one can twist and turn to make marriage anything but a one-flesh covenant for life. Read early work on marriage by pre-Constitine Christians. Nearly every single one believes that it is adultery to remarry after divorce!
    6. Jer 31:31 Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:
    33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
    7. It is a spiritual allegory and to use this to validate your position is deceptive.
    8. Gen 2:24 IS THE LAW OF MARRIAGE. This is what the Lord is telling us. The law of marriage is as it was in the beginning, not as it was at the time of Mosaic law.
    9. According to your understanding of porniea, that is the word that the LORD should have used in these verses. If He used adultery in these verses, why did He not say, “Except for adultery”?
    10. You can sugar-coat the Greek all you want, you can tell me you are a GREEK expert, but the truth is scripture is ONLY understood by the power of the Holy Spirit, and the words used as you use them do not corroborate with other passages, let alone does your understanding of marriage corroborate with the Gospel.
    11. That contradicts verses 10-14 and 39 of the same chapter. It also contradicts the Gospel. Using the word “peace” to grant a spouse to divorce and remarry is not an example of Christ’s love for us…
    12. Then you deny the Lord becasue He said Moses allowed divorced for the hardhearted. Divorce is NOT applicable today for the New Testament believer and teach otherwise is eternally damning! Divorce takes all credibility away from what God made good! And so do you!

    Repent! There is still time!

  32. Hi Neil,

    I’m not sure more words here will help either of us budge—this forum is not proving to be the most fruitful place for discussion. We’re both fairly passionate about our positions on the matter, so I doubt either of us is willing to let the other have “the last word” on things. So I suppose I’ll leave it at this: since I address all of these matters your talking about in my thesis at length, if you or anyone reading our discussion wants a copy of it, I’ll be happy to send it along.

    I’ve appreciated our discussion, Neil. Thank you for sharpening my thinking and my ability to articulate my thoughts. Blessings to you, brother.

    • Hi Luke, Icommented earlier on what i think of porn. I noticed your ongoing discussion wtih Neil in which he keeps saying that he believes remarriage is always adultery. One thing I find interesting about those hold this view and who refer to God’s “unconditional convenant” as evidinced by his committment to the church, the Bride, is that even in that scenario, unrepentant sinners are put out of the church! They fail to notice the obvious, that this has implications towards the marriage covenant, if God ordains that one be ejected from the bride for ongoing sin, and not just sexual sin but also idolatry, divisiveness, reviling/abusive behavour, etc.

      I am wondering if in your theses you cover what to do in situations where one may hve wrongfully remarried? Perhaps one thought they had grounds to do so and then later arrives at a more nuanced understanding that leads them to conclude that they failed to really grasp their own contribution to the problem or deal with it and in fact, shouldn’t have remarried at all. Folks like Neil also tend to believe that if the new marriage is on questionable grounds it must be broken up. I have to admit I wonder that too. If one is an a wrong remarriage and you sincerely repent, how does it stop being adultery? i don’t know what to think as far as that goes and would be intereseted in your comments. Thank you.

    • I take Jesus Word as he said it! “ if a man even looks at another woman he has already committed adultery in his heart .”
      You have to consider what this does to the spouse . Pornography can never be and should never be considered. It sounds like there’s a lot of people that just want to have an excuse ! There is no excuse for sin . Marriage is a higher standard ,Than just committing a sin, it affects generation after generation .
      I believe if a woman feels a man has betrayed her . And he’s trying to make excuses . I believe that a woman should divorce .

  33. Read your article on Pornography and the power of “Coram Deo”. After repentance my husband is actively living out of the knowledge of God’s love for him, who he is in Christ and my love for him along with battle armor and accountability – I am grateful for what the Lord grace has done in his heart and mine thru forgiveness. The struggle I still have after our love as friends, brother/sister in Christ and compassion for a fellow human being has been restored and flourishing is the loss of feeling special in sexual intimacy, exclusivity and the self consciousness of nakedness in leu of the fact I’m one in a sea of thousands he’s experienced with his heart, mind – memory, and hands both virtual and literal. Believed the lie I was special to him for 20 years and now I don’t know how to be special with knowing I don’t measure up to his preference for facial beauty and knowing I’m one of his many. Want the Lord’s victory in this area of my heart and mind. This doesn’t hinder me from expressing the love the Lord’s given me for my husband and I’ve chosen to live out but it does hinder me feeling loved sexually and experiencing the pleasure from love making.

  34. (I just corected my first post… sorry !)

    Hi

    What you wrote is interesting, but one thing is needed to be thought about…

    When a man makes love with his wife they become one flesh the first time when they go to bed together…

    If that man or woman, goes with another, then …

    1 Corinthians 6:16 : Know ye not that he which is joined to an harlot is one body? for two, saith he, shall be one flesh.

    But when someone practice porneo, he don’t make love ( sorry but I want to say he don’t penetrate physically a woman) so he don’t become one flesh with that woman, so he is still one flesh with his wife and God said not to separate what God put together because they are still one flesh…

    So I think he can separate because if there is no repentance she, or he, is unclean because he, or she had committed probably masturbation “on line “ together with the other but they didn’t become one flesh yet because they did made love “normally” together

    You see what I mean…

    What you think about

    Sorry I am French and my English is not that good…

    What you think about

  35. Hi Luke. First, I want to thank you for your article. It seems to be one of the fairest treatments of the topic I’ve read so far. I have one troubling question but first, I need to provide some background. I’ll be as brief as possible, but you need all the information in order to give an accurate answer.

    I was guilty of porn use during my first marriage. The day my wife and I were married, I knew she was truly in love with me. Sadly, it was not mutual. Although I cared for her deeply, I was not in love with her, but that would change as time went on. At no time was porn ever an addiction and it wasn’t even an issue until the final year or so of our marriage. I had been a committed Christian for almost 20 years prior to meeting my wife so pornography was never even on my radar. So how did it make its ingress? Due to fundamental incompatibility issues, our marriage was tumultuous from its inception. Any married couple will tell you that the first few years are the rockiest, as adjustments are being made on both sides. But for us, things never really improved. The numerous problems we experienced during our engagement should have alerted us to the fact that we were making a big mistake. Truth is, we did realize it, but we went through with it anyway. Several years into the marriage she admitted quite candidly that she didn’t respect me, citing my failure to show her love. My response was that my failure to show her love was the result of her not respecting me, but it was more than that. She wasn’t my ideal mate. She was lazy, irresponsible, immature (as any of our marriage councilors would have told you), and because her parents coddled her all her life, she had no sense of independence; a quality, very attractive to me. So my usual attitude toward her was one of marginalization. I knew that I needed to be more understanding and nurturing, but those mental and emotional resources were just not available to me during those early years because I was dealing with my own internal struggle, and I need to stress that it was no small issue. I want to make it clear at this point that at no time in our marriage did I ever hit her, call her names, or belittle her in any way. There was just this fundamental disconnect between us, and my failure to be the loving Christian husband God called me to be. I need to be honest about that.

    Although sex was more frequent in the beginning, its frequency gradually decreased as the years went on. As ironic as it might sound, the truth is, I was intensely attracted to her sexually. But in the context of perpetual conflict and discord, there seemed to be this prodigious wall between the intimacy I wanted with her, and my ability to approach her for it. This wall was erected pretty early on in the marriage, and with no other way to gratify my desire for her, I would usually resort to masturbating (without porn). And yet even when doing so, my thoughts where almost always centered around her. As best as I know my heart, I believe I can say that had our marriage provided the grounds in which sexual activity could have flourished, pornography could not have possibly occurred. There simply would have been no context for it. The frustration of wanting intimacy, and yet feeling as though it was inaccessible, eventually took its toll, and that finally lead to the porn. I need to reiterate that although I resorted to it periodically in moments of abject frustration, it never consumed me. Regular sexual activity with my wife would have been far more preferable. The times my wife and I were intimate were exceedingly more stimulating, pleasurable, and fulfilling than porn could ever be or ever was. If porn was a candle, intimacy with my wife, when it occurred, was a bonfire. I should probably also mention that I myself am an above average looking guy. I had numerous opportunities to engage in extramarital affairs, and despite our problems, they were never even considered. One time I was propositioned by a very attractive woman at work. She was being coy about it, and so in an effort to not offend her unnecessarily, I just played dumb. I mention these things only highlife the fact that as a Christian, I took marital fidelity with the utmost seriousness.

    After 10 years of constant tension and strife, we were both getting tired. And the “D” word finally entered into our conversation. A failed marriage wasn’t what either of us wanted, but we had both had enough. Then one day, something happened. One afternoon, we both resolved to sit down and decide once and for all, exactly where the marriage was going and what our intensions were. As it turned out, we actually achieved what I thought at the time, was a miraculous breakthrough. I experienced a change that day which inspired a heart-felt commitment to making whatever changes were necessary in order to make our marriage what God had intended it to be. That day, I felt a connection to her I rarely if ever felt before. And I thought that we had finally won the battle for our marriage. Of course there was still work to be done, but I truly believed the war itself had been won. And although I’m sure that the transition from caring deeply for my wife, to actually being in love with her, occurred much earlier, that was the day it became a realization to me. But…

    Then things got very bad, very quickly. That day was coincidentally the same day she found the porn sites on the computer. But she never confronted me about it. Instead, we went out together for a day of shopping and were actually having a good time. So when did I learn that she had found out about the porn? When my father called me that day to question me about it. Yes, you read that correctly. Instead of coming to me, she went and told my father. My unsaved father who I’ve been trying to witness to for 30 years! So much for my version of Christianity, right? Talk about a breach of trust! Words cannot express the disgust I felt at that moment. I was literally dumbfounded; in complete shock at what she had done. I wasn’t able to speak to her for days afterwards. And it was a month or so before I was able to even feel anything for her other than anger. Yet as devastated as I was, I eventually found myself forgiving her for the inexcusable laps in judgement. I’ll just note in passing that it was exactly that kind of untoward thinking that I found myself having to deal with on a regular basis. Earlier, I took responsibility for most of our problems, but trust me, she wasn’t innocent.

    For the next several months, we lived together in the same house, but were legally separated. During that time, I had not actively pursued a divorce because in my heart, I really didn’t want one, but apparently she did. One day, I received a letter from her attorney in which she was seeking to get me for everything she could possibly get her hands on, and I mean everything. I always thought that if and when we decided to pursue the divorce, we would just seek for mediation and part amicably. After all, we were Christians, were we not? Does scripture not forbid two Christians to go to court against each other? I again found myself in utter bewilderment. I felt like I didn’t even know her anymore. In retrospect, I should have just walked away and returned to it when I was in a better frame of mind. Instead, I immediately reacted. I told her I was moving out, possibly to stay with my brother. I left the house for several hours and she left as well. Upon returning, I discovered that she had taken one of our cats to an undisclosed location, fearing that I was going to “take it to my bothers”; my brother who hates cats. She retuned several hours later, cooked something for dinner and then went upstairs. After a short time, I followed her upstairs and began asking her where she took the cat. When she refused to disclose its whereabouts, I became furious, and actually tore our bedroom door off of the hinges. She then packed her bags, said “I can’t stay here anymore” and that was the last I ever saw of her.

    For the next couple of months, I was actually glad she was gone. I felt liberated. Like my prison sentence was finally over. But those feelings of freedom were slowly replaced by an ever increasing sense of remorse over what had happened to us. I still loved her. And I knew that God’s grace was still bigger than the mess we created. We were Christians. We said our vows before God, family and friends. The fact that we both hurt each other deeply in the course of the marriage cannot be denied. Yet the truth is, there was no marital infidelity on the part of either of us. And if the marriage ultimately failed, what kind of pathetic testimony would we be to the world, to what God *CAN’T* do in the lives of two professing believers? The only means of contact I had with her was through email, and so I spent approximately the next 5 months imploring her to reconcile. Every attempt was ignored until one day I finally heard back from her. She basically said that she had been receiving my emails, but she wanted the divorce, and would not be dissuaded.

    Having endeavored to be as honest as possible, my question is this; were there any biblical grounds for our divorce? The answer is expedient because until recently, I was not aware that pornography could serve as legitimate grounds for divorce. I was always under the impression that only the physical act of adultery could provide those grounds. My justification for entering into a second marriage was my wife’s refusal to reconcile. Now I’m concerned that this marriage may not have been entered into legitimately after all, and I am actually guilty of adultery. She has since remarried as well.

    Thank you Luke. I await your reply.

    • It would probably be foolish of me to give some kind of definitive judgment about the rightness or wrongness of divorce from your comment. There are a lot of details to your story.

      My thesis was written primarily to address how pornography could be grounds for divorce. The way I see Jesus using the term in Matthew 19, I think porneia could be defined “hardhearted sexual rebellion.” Given what you’ve told me, I’m not sure what you did qualifies, but that’s only based on your brief explanation.

      First Corinthians 7 is another matter to consider, however. That deals more with abandonment of a marriage (of a non-believer). Do you think that would apply more to your situation?

  36. My husband viewed porn for months while I was pregnant. Supposedly that was the only time, all I have is his word to go on which means little to me anymore. Also he had pics of my nude pre-pregnancy body and videos of us on his phone, yet he chose porn. Before I found out about this I put him on a pedestal. I even felt happier overall in church and during my worship because of the love I thought I had found in him. When I found out my heart broke. I wanted to leave him, but I didn’t because I loved him so deeply. Now I wish I had of left him. I went through so many emotional ups and downs at first. Now, I feel so very very cold. I don’t feel like I love him like I used to. I don’t want intercouse like I used to. Just “I love you” doesn’t make me feel sexy and no compliment from him can hold value. I don’t want sex just because he loves me. Sometimes I do it just to feel close, but complete gratification sexually doesn’t come from just that reason. And I can’t love him like I’m supposed to as my man, my husband, and lover while I feel this way. I feel like last pick in every way to the porn stars except for the fact that I’m his “best friend” and he loves me. I don’t feel attractive or happy in our relationship when it comes time to making love. Sometimes I want closeness, but that’s not often like it used to be. I’ve lost my sex drive and my love for myself. I hate the thought of anyone being with this after pregnancy body. How can I stay with him when I feel so hard hearted? It’s me who has a hard heart now, not him. He’s trying everything to make things better, including allowing restrictions on his phone and our home internet, and it’s helped a lot with us getting to be closer friends, but i still don’t want intimacy like I used to before the porn. I trust him very little, I don’t respect him like I used to, and I love him so deeply more than I’ve ever loved anyone, but I don’t love him as a lover anymore. What do I do about my hard heart? Worshipping God isn’t the same.Nothing is. Also to be added he is so sweet to me now. Which makes me feel guilty. I hate myself. I truly do. And I’m so angry with him. I want to leave but I don’t want to leave. I don’t know what to do. I feel like staying ruined what progress was taking place in my heart before I found out. I feel rage, pain, and almost hate, but I still know I have love in my heart. But the person I was in love with doesn’t exist anymore. I loved and respected him so highly because I thought he was different from “worldly” men. Now that he opened up old wounds I can’t see him the same. He lied to me, before I was getting into church again, I thought something was wrong sexually. I mentioned porn. He said that he hated porn. That porn ruins the love two people make in the bedroom. When he said that I was so impressed. My heart soared. I respected him so deeply for that and I felt so much more comfortable in my relationship with him. And more comfortable with my body. I’m not fat, but I’ve had children previously. Which I’ve had past experiences that has already ripped my heart to pieces. I was so thankful to God that I had a love like this. I was so dedicated, still I’m dedicated, but not for the same reasons anymore. I feel like I still love him so much, but a part of me is so angry for the betrayal. He lied and created a false security for me emotionally and mentally. I’m not in love, I just love him and hate him. What do I do? Please help me.

    • Hey there. It sounds like you’ve got some really important work to do.

      First of all, I think it’s really important that you’ve got good evidence that he is working on his own choices to be honest and healthy. I would never tell a woman to continue investing in a relationship unless the husband is equally invested. What you’ve described here sounds good; I would say that trust is restored over time by trustworthy behavior. He has to keep doing these good things and displaying this sincerity over the long haul. Here’s an article I wrote a while back about the two kinds of trust: behavioral and emotional. He needs to be investing in both. I mention John Gottman in that article, and his book The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work is just excellent. If you and your husband are able to work through that book together, I think that’s a really good sign that you’ve got a good chance of making it.

      Secondly, I would say that you need some support and healing for yourself. It is very, very common for women in this situation to meet the criteria for PTSD. Find a counselor who can help you process your emotions and work on healthy boundaries, someone who can help you consider healthy body image and help you repair your own sense of value as a person. You also might like to join the online resource, Bloom, which has forums, classes, and all sorts of support options for you.

      Peace to you, Kay

  37. Thanks, Luke. It was also my understanding from your thesis that my particular case didn’t rise to the level of ‘porneia.’ Yet as I detailed, dabbling in porn wasn’t my only offence and I was wondering if perhaps the combination of that plus my unloving attitude provided sufficient (biblical) grounds for my wife’s ending the marriage. If it did, then I am unbiblically remarried. If it didn’t, then yes, it’s my understanding that 1 Corinthians 7 would perhaps apply in my situation on some level. My take on why Paul specifically addresses abandonment by a non-believer has always been simply that Paul’s expectation was that this shouldn’t even be an issue among believers. And yet if anomalously, abandonment by a believer did occur, the same principle would still apply.

    The reason I said “on some level” is because after pondering the question these past few weeks, I’ve come to believe that regardless of who abandoned who, we’re both guilty of unbiblically divorcing and remarrying and we will both be held accountable.

    Thanks again.

    • Hey again, Robert.

      First, I think it’s important to remember that, as far as Jesus is concerned in Matthew 19, divorce is a last resort in cases of hardhearted sexual rebellion. There’s probably no one individual act that makes a situation “rise to the level” of a divorcable offense. The point is use the means of grace given to the church (discipleship and discipline) to discern the state of a person’s heart (see my comments at the end of the article from Vicki Tiede’s book).

      Given that we understand that, certainly an unloving attitude towards your spouse can be an indicator of a hardening heart, but it would be important to understand what efforts were made to confront you in your sin and reconcile matters in your marriage.

      As for whether you are unbiblically remarried, I can offer only the following advice. IF (and that is IF) you believe it is true your wife did not have grounds for divorce, then…
      – Acknowledge that your choice to enter a second marriage was not according to God’s design and seek his grace.
      – Don’t attempt to return to your first wife on these grounds. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 prohibits a wife returning to her first husband even after her second husband dies, suggesting that today no second marriage should be broken up in order to restore a first one.
      – Don’t separate from your current wife and live as single. While the Bible doesn’t give in advice in this case, you ought to honor the promises made to your second wife and the union that is formed there. Whatever false grounds may have allowed you to seek remarriage does not nullify the marriage you now have.

  38. After our first year of marriage my husband told me of his pornography use. I was so naive, completely shocked and stunned. Although crush, hurt, embarrassed and alone, I did reach out to counselors both individually and couple. Honestly, nothing has helped. He relapses all the time. We have now been married 7.5 years and we have a 2 year old daughter. I just can’t buy his repentance when his actions are so dismissal. Therefore, there is no/little trust in our marriage and little respect. In my mind, when I fast forward and look at another 7.5 years down the road and say, “Ok, if NOTHING has changed and you are now 15 years into your marriage, will you be glad you stayed or wished you had gotten out now?” I tend to believe I will be grieving the years I have played the role of a “happy wife” toward him and also putting on an act for my daughter to believe that we have a good marriage. This frightens me and disgusts me. I find so little on the internet about Christian women and divorce over pornography. If there are any women who are wanting someone to communicate with, I would love to. It is very lonely being in this position because I don’t want my friends to think negatively of my husband and therefore do not open up to them. Counselors are great but incredibly expensive and it’s hard to schedule them since I work full time.
    So I am posting for two reasons:
    1.) Women who are struggling similar to I am, I would love to hear from you. I had to give my email to leave this comment so maybe someone could connect us via email?
    2.) Would be so interesting to hear advice for the wife who deals with a husband who continuously relapses (because I get the Amazon receipts and see what he’s been watching) and yet when I confront him he says I “always throw his sin in his face.” He is a Christian who does want to be free from this sick sin, but I’m not sure he has the self-discipline or maturity to do so, honestly. It takes A LOT of work and although he is enrolled in a year long program at church, I am not too optimistic about him overcoming this.

    • Hey there Sarah,

      You might like to check out the online community, Bloom, where you’ll find forums, classes, and numerous resources. I think you’ll find the connections there that you’re looking for!

      You’ll also need to continue to consider your boundaries. Here and here are a couple of articles. He’s making choices all the time, and you’ve got to consider what’s healthy for you.

      And you might like to think about the state of the emotional trust in your marriage. I think it’s so important to consider whether your spouse has the capacity or desire to turn toward you in the relationship or not. Does he care about how you feel? Is he able to listen to you and respond with love and concern? That to me is the absolutely critical building block of a real relationship.

      Peace to you, Kay

  39. Watching porn might or might not classify as ‘porneia’. I think it does not, but it can certainly classify as looking at other woman with lust.

    However, I do not agree with the interpretation of Mt 19:9 as an exception clause, which gives license to divorce.
    The late Dr.Leslie McFall has proven that the ‘exception clause’ is an invention by Erasmus, the compiler of the Textus Receptus, where by all evidence Erasmus has forged this so-called exception by introducing a greek word not in the original texts.

    And even if you doubt that, and consider it might give an exception to divorce, all other NT texts clearly prohibit
    marriage after divorce. People who say otherwise are forced to excessive exegetical and hermeneutical acrobatics to deliver such “proof”.

    • Hey Paul.

      There are several reasons why textual critics favor the text as I have it here in this article. First, there are many uncial and cursive manuscripts in favor this reading. Second, from the standpoint of transcription, it is easier to understand why the variant reading would have crept into Codex Vaticanus over time—to harmonize the text with Mark and Luke and assimilate it with Matthew 5:32—but it is difficult to understand why the now-accepted text would have crept in. In other words, the uniqueness of the phrase argues for its genuineness. Third, in Codex Vaticanus there is further evidence of attempts to assimilate Matthew 19 with Matthew 5, thus showing proof or more tampering. Because of these observations, hardly anyone disputes the textual evidence for the accepted reading (except for men like McFall, whom you cited).

      I would disagree with the idea that folks like myself are forced to do exegetical acrobatics. If you’d like a copy of my thesis, I would be happy to share more with you on the matter. You seem very capable of engaging on a deeper level regarding this topic.

    • Paul you say ‘porn’ it’s looking at another woman with lust… the Bible calls that ‘adultery’.. I wonder how many men that watch porn just watch it without involving any other form of self gratification? If you are honest you know you can’t because by watching any form of porn will awake your beast in you and want more… if you study what actually happens in the brain when you watch porn you will realise that same chemicals are released during an actual act so practically your body will stimulate same nerves and release same hormones during both acts… so it is in fact ‘adultery’

  40. Ok beloved, what about a Brother who falls into porn 5-6 times a year, obviously mastabates, and that 6 times he looked at porn happens only 6 times a year, 6 times to many cos sin is evil i agree. The Brother is greived in tears at offening God and His Wife at what he’s dun those 5 to 6 times a year. He battles like most Christian men and 359 days of the year he get’s the victory in Christ. He battles everyday in not looking at women wiv their boobs, bums etc as he’s about his daily buisiness, if he’s seen let’s say for “example” 250 women go past him that day on the street, 246 of them he aint lloked at em twice, but he’s had that 2nd look at them 4 times, 4 times to many mind and he say’s sorry to God and he keeps fighting in the holy ghost. Just a general description of what this guy goes through daily week in week out every year. However this Brother I know in my church 1). Is not a porn addict cos he’s only looked at it 6 times and he doesn’t think about it day in day out, hour in hour out and spend thoughts consumed by it, time consumed by it on i pad, mobile etc. 2).. So obviously wiv this Christian man I’m working with, with him and His Wife, she no grounds for divorce cos he aint an addict, but stumbles 6 times a year, and may stumble 3 to 4 times a week in that 2nd look at a woman’s bum for example. I’m not condoning his fall from Grace 5-6 times a year either, or 3-4 looks a week of lust at women in the street. Just giving u a feel where this guy and nhis wife are at. What u think holy dudes????? Pastor Alex.

    • Sounds like you are making excuses for him/ for you! Nobody is holly so don’t patronise people that have a different view from yours.

      Truly repent and sin no more. The God you worship who created the universe and gave his own son for you can cleanse you and deliver you and with every temptation he’s made a way you can escape from it you just need to see it and have faith. There’s consequences for your sins you won’t be blessed in your marriage or your ministry if you keep sinning. 6 times a year it’s like every two months! Depriving yourself from being blessed and be a blessing to your wife

  41. What approach then do I take? My husband seems to be falling on the unrepentant, hardened heart side of the spectrum AND he’s not saved.

    • There are no easy answers; there’s not one right answer. You just have to take the information, process it, and decide what’s right for you going forward. You might want to find a counselor who can help you process your emotions, and decide what healthy boundaries will look like for you. A support group would be great, too. And you might appreciate the online resources at Bloom. Whatever your husband chooses, you can choose to be healthy and well! Peace to you, Kay

    • Hi Gabrielle,

      I am in the same exact situation. My husband is not repentend AND not saved :(

      do you want to exchange emails

  42. i received a very good bit of advice from a rabbi a long time ago. and that was that i was more interested in trying to have the right answer than trying to get the right answer. sounds like a distinction without a difference but it’s not. it really pains me to see people go to such an effort to create a legal case for justifying divorce because of pornography. all because you think you have the answer when you should be having your ears open still, trying to get it. you don’t know what Jesus is talking about because you don’t understand the culture and times. in Jesus’s time, adultery would have ended the marriage with the death of the adulterer. so to discuss the topic from the standpoint of adultery being grounds for divorce is pointless. and when he said that a man commits adultery when he looks at another woman, he wasn’t referring to just ANY woman. God created man to look at woman’s beauty and be drawn to it. it is the lusting after ANOTHER man’s wife… someone who is OFF LIMITS… that creates the adulterous heart. to look at someone eligible for marriage with desire is perfectly acceptable. also, there is nothing in the bible which states that a man cannot have more than one wife. so to look at with desire, pursue, and acquire eligible bachelorets is lawful. what was common practice of the day was to marry a woman for the sole purpose of bedding her, and then divorcing her the next day or relatively soon after the sex. in effect turned marriage into fornication. Jesus was combating frivolous divorce, not polygamy. a wife had not grounds or power whatsoever to divorce her husband, so if she had any type of sexual immorality after marriage, it would be adulterous, and she would be stoned. Jesus was specifically justifying divorce in the case where a woman was found to not be a virgin upon consummating the marriage. in that case, a man could divorce her and marry another guilt free. but if she were a virgin and he married her, he was stuck with her. that does not mean though that he could not lawfully marry other women at the same time and have more than one wife. in no case does any of that imply that masturbation or looking at dirty pictures or videos is grounds for a wife to divorce her husband. in fact, the only place where masturbation may even be referenced, and only maybe, is in Deuteronomy concerning the law governing the army, where if there is “some occurrence in the middle of the night” the man shall be placed outside the camp and be unclean until night and then he must bathe. so masturbation MIGHT be unclean, but otherwise the bible is silent on the issue altogether.

  43. I think there are many more things to consider when looking at leaving a spouse who is addicted to porn. I am in this exact position myself and have realized that it is more harmful for us to stay than to go. And here is why. Along with 11 years of deceit, lies, and manipulation, my children and I have been the target of my soon to be ex-husbands ever growing rage and chaos. His addiction has affected our family in EVERY aspect of our lives, from the way he chooses to spend our money, to the way he spends his time and emotional energy and everything in between. Porn literally rewires your brain. (See article link to “Fight the New Drug” below.) My husband abandoned me spirituality, mentally and physically many years ago. In his addiction he has rationalized what I have now come to find out are behaviors and crazy making games that people with PHD’s have put names to. They call it Emotional Abuse and it is the most covert form of Domestic Violence. This is done out of his shame, fear of being found out and his need to feed his addiction. Emotional Abuse and Narcissistic Abuse are VERY common in men who are addicted to pornography. Unless you have lived this nightmare, I can guarantee you that you do not understand the devastation that we wives have suffered at the hands of these men. It is absolute crazy making to have a husband who is living two lives. Serving on the church board and pretending to everyone that your lives are perfect when behind closed doors it is a VERY different story. Men who are addicted to porn start to see people as objects not humans with needs and feelings. I have felt like a domestic servent for years. He is unable to even give me small amounts of affection like cuddling at this point because the porn has so desensitized him from real human interaction. He is literally not capable of having a real healthy relationship. The statistics on this and the population at large are astounding. He has porn induced E.D. and he is no where near being an “old man.” We have been traded for trash and that is an understatement. I have stayed for years forgiving and trying to be the perfect wife for him. But the more I give the more he takes. Boundaries are non existent in his world. This too is typical of porn addicted men. Ladies, do yourself a favor and ask yourself, “What is my worth?” God says you are more precious that diamonds and rubies. He also says that your husband is to love you like Christ loved the church. Sacrifically. Putting your needs and desires and that of your families before his own. A man who continues in his addiction is not obeying God’s word on how to LEAD his family. God also doesn’t expect you to stay in a relationship that is harming you and your children. (See article below on “Leaving Your Spouse Because of Abuse.”) There is a dramatic difference in being submissive to your husband and being controlled and manipulated. Go look up the “Domestic Violence Power and Control Wheel.” The look up the “Wheel of Equality.” Which represents your marriage? God loves you, and he can fulfill your EVERY need better than any human will ever be able to. And, he desires to do so!!
    http://fightthenewdrug.org/get-the-facts/
    https://www.google.com/amp/s/marriagemissions.com/leaving-abusive-spouse/amp/?client=safari

    • Your husband probably has a medical condition related to sleep deficiency. The signs are quite clear, and once that is treated, from my own and many others’ experience, 90-95% of his listed symptoms will evaporate COMPLETELY. Long term sleep deficiency literally peals away layers of consciousness until virtually all that is left is the most primitive and primal reasoning: hence rage and lust. Nuanced pleasure, the ability to connect in intimacy, to notice anything other than danger (real or imaginary) overtakes you. Unfortunately, American sleep medicine is utterly incompetent in all but the most clear cut OSA cases. Since it is generally accepted that this side of Heaven there is little separation between spirit and flesh (including the brain), I have tried warning many leaders of the Church at large about this, as well as “sleep doctors,” but the message continues to fall on deaf ears.

  44. How does dishonesty fit in this situation where I want to believe him but I keep catching him in lies? Just read Jeremiah chapters 8 and 9 this morning and it speaks a lot about unfaithfulness combined with deceit. I’m not sure it applies but thinking it over. I sincerely don’t want a divorce but not sure what exactly to do yet,

    • Though I know of no personal examples, I suppose someone’s lust might become so marked by hard-hearted sexual rebellion that it would qualify, but that goes beyond the scope of what my thesis is about.

  45. Which of the Ten Commandments does using pornography break? Certainly, “in heart” it is adultery, but your article appropriately discards this argument as a grounds for divorce, and as you have implied, is a wider fence that Jesus draws to show that ALL people (including the Pharisaical) stand within the prison and guilt of sin. It is absolutely NOT loving God with everything you have, and NOT worshiping Him alone in word, thought and deed. But again, everyone is guilty of that!

    So then, as your article points out, it MIGHT be a matter of UNREPENTANT porn use. But what constitutes repentance, contrition and humility? Given that the article appears on a website known as the go-to escape point for ‘repentant’ porn ‘addicts’ within the Church, I’m surprised you don’t go into more detail as to what ‘unrepentant’ and ‘addiction’ are.

    If a person continually confesses and denounces their sin, but continues to become ensnared in it, they need help, esp. the help of ‘church discipline,’ which is God’s prescribed path for unrepentant sin. Unfortunately, spouses go from denying, to contempt, to divorce without ever following this path in which Christ’s wisdom, grace and co-bearing allows the greatest opportunity for Truth and Repentance for the one ensnared.

    Whether porn is grounds for divorce or not, it is folly to not first direct offended spouses to the Word and the Body of Christ, rather than declaring porn as one-flesh-breaking or not.

    • I don’t say that porn use breaks one of the Ten Commandments (though it certainly does break the moral core behind the Ten Commandments—God’s intentions for our sexuality).

      As for repentance and addiction, I didn’t want to bite off more than I could chew in one article and get off topic. There are plenty of other articles here I’ve written on those topics.

  46. I guess in my previous post, the point is that God provides for us the right process and attitude within the Body of Christ, rather than feeble theological pronouncements based on logical/textual/historical fallacy and unknowns.

  47. I really appreciate your time Mr. Luke in studying the Word and using it to determine Gods will in this situation of divorce because of sexual sin/pornography, etc. Of course every situation is case by case because God knows the heart of the addicts and what’s best. I’m currently praying over my situation with my husband and what to do. We’ve been married for almost 7 years and dated for 7 years before that. I had no idea he was addicted to porn since grade school and didn’t find out until after we married. I was so naive and innocent to this problem existing. In the 7 years we have been married he has gone up and down as far as his outward struggle And with his efforts to be sober from it. He’s taken study after study, and tried to find other men in the church to walk with him through this. Last year We paid for him to go to some expensive retreat several states away. My current dilemma is that he seems to be filled with knowledge of what to do to deal with this issue, but has these moments almost 1-2 a month where he just binges on all things sexually immoral watching and looking on the internet for hours (staying up all night) and then the next day comes and says I’m so sorry I relapsed. Previously as I sought God in previous years as to what his will for me to do with him, I felt he would give me peace and strength to stay committed to him in this process. But here lately (over the last year) I’m beginning to feel differently. Before I even read this article I began to recognize I felt his heart was not broken by his sin anymore, and his behavior isn’t repentative because his allnighters aren’t a small Fall into temptiaon. He desires and craves sexual immorality more than resisting or fighting temptation and has seemed to lose all sense of consequences as I don’t believe he truly thinks I will ever leave him or God will severely alter his life because of this habitual sin. We have a young daughter now and
    His lifestyle is affecting our whole family severely. I’m past making any emotional decisions to leave him as I’ve been praying about this for the last several recent relapses now. Pleas pray for me to know Gods will and be strong enough to walk it out. I think he seems to think he’s doing better than he really is as he isn’t watching porn multiple times a week. I think he is in deception by this sin and doesn’t see himself clearly anymore. Thank you for showing me the rights that Jesus outlined for us in this matter. It’s so tough, but yet so destructive for the whole family. I wish I had guidance counselors for free nearby. It doesn’t seem to be that local churches really know what to do or how to counsel struggling families in this area.

  48. First off….most women do not understand or want to understand male sexuality. Everything in this society is geared towards a womans needs and desires.

    Men are treated like trash in this society. Women read romance novels and mommy porn (50 shades of grey) but society says hey that’s ok.

    I married a woman from church. I am an attractive man. She was very cold sexually and I felt very unsatisfied and hurt by her lack of desire or willingness to please me as much as I am eager to please and make Her happy. I spend 60 plus hours a week working, working at home, doing all the things she desires. A man doesn’t need much, if women would drop the goody tooshoos act and rock his world he wouldn’t need porn. Men who use porn don’t want porn…. it’s a bandaid because deep down inside they feel like they are not loved and have to jump through hoops and do all kinds of honey Do’s just to get dull, boring, unfulfilled sex from a wife who’s overweight, uninterested and just plain ungrateful. Men feel satisfied and complete through the sexual act and desire for his wife and when she puts him down and makes him fell ashamed for desiring her body and wanting her to desire his body. Then she is to blame.

    I’ve noticed that women seem to always want someone to blame or to be a victim when they feel rejected. Men watch porn because their wife rejected them along time ago.

    With Porn a man doesn’t have to jump through hoops. The pornstar is always ready and willing and actually enjoys sex.

    I tried everything talking to her, going to counseling with her (she would never go).
    Then after all that guess what she ends up having a physical relationship with another man whom I’ve k me since I was 11. What does she do when I find out….of course she blames me for watching porn.

    I watch porn and she has an actual affair then it’s my fault. Men are to blame for everything I’m so tired of this life. “Where have all the good men gone” If I hear that one more time I think I’ll puke.
    “Men are dogs”. Everything in this society is to scold or teach men to be better to be more this and more that or you need to do this to make your wife happy. “Happy wife a happy life crap”

    No wonder men commit so much suicide and have so many heart attacks and die.

    Women you should have worked on your marriage along time ago stop complaining when you find out. You left him In the dust along time ago when he gave you those children you wanted so bad. You spent all your time focusing o. Your children and not focusing on the man who gave them to you. Men get tired of always initiating sex how about you do it once in a while.

    I’m sure I’ll here that I’m just a bitter man. Well yes I am bitter. I prayed till I was blue in the face for a good wife and a good marriage after being raised by a single mother who emotionally and physically abused me. I wasted 20 yrs of my life on a person who stabs you in the back along with someone who’s supposed to be your brother in Christ.

    Women have pretty much destroyed my entire life and destroyed alot of men’s lives and marriages more than Porn.

    • Hello, Matthew– I’m very sorry to hear both about the state of your marriage and the abuse you suffered growing up, and I’m proud of you for leaving your comment on the blog because it is very difficult to talk about our struggles.

      Having an affair is not okay, and neither is consuming porn (and I agree with you that some romance novels, including “50 Shades of Grey,” are a type of porn). But regardless of what our spouse does, we each get to choose how we respond, and I hope that you’ll take steps to quit porn.

      I’m deeply concerned about your comments about suicide – here’s the truth… all men, including you, have unmeasurable value! Your life is a precious gift and a blessing to this planet. Unique. Unrepeatable. Please find someone you can talk to about your struggles. If you don’t have anyone you can talk to, and you start to have suicidal feelings, promise me you’ll call this number: 1-800-273-8255, if you are in the United States. They also have a chat feature that always has someone there to respond.

      God is for you! Matthew, you can get through this, and it will be hard work, but it’s worth it. Remember the strength you have in Christ – Romans 8 can remind you. The cross of Jesus Christ IS strong enough to overcome everything. Even this.

      Peace to you, Abby

  49. What if from day one the husband’s heart has been at a 10 and he is in programs for recovery with a sponsor such as SA and is a repentant Bible believing man and his wife’s heart is at 1 the entire time? She divorced me faster that you could read this sentence.

    • I struggled through this article. It was definitely a scholarly work and not just randomly generated opinion. Much of it was not easy to get through. That is probably how it should be.

      On reading the article and many of the bitter comments aimed at male hating where is the opportunity for renewal and restoration. I find myself fending off new waves of condemnation. I’m also frustrated by the author’s one sided take on hardness of heart. Why is the application not universal? IHardness can take place in both offender and offended as an attitude that hinders fellowship with God can’t it?

      How does a genuinely repentant man find a chance for renewal and restoration in the body of Christ when such vicious condemnation is found in the comments of professing Christians even here on a sight supposedly geared towards helping us to stay victorious in Christ. What hope is there for any restoration or reconciliation?

      The article seems to offer a window of justification for someone offended who has allowed his or her heart to harden to seek divorce, and then gives the offended’ hardened heart a pass.

      What hope for restoration and reconciliation is there for an offender who has truly repented in light of this article and the many bitter comments?

    • The offender chose to break the relationship. This the choice that he made when he broke his marriage vows.

      The victim is not required to enter again into relationship with the offender. The victim may fully forgive the offender, and never want to see him again.

      Again, this the choice that the offender made when he chose to break the relationship.

      The hope for restoration and reconciliation is within the offender himself, to be reconciled and restored to wholeness within himself. And to be reconciled and restored to wholeness with God.

      Continuing to expect the victim to “owe” the offender something? I would say that means the offender needs to keep working on understanding the fact that he chose to break the relationship, and it is irretrievably broken. This is not the victim’s fault, and not the victim’s job to fix.

    • You are right that porneia refers to the PORN industry. Every time we say the word, PORN or Porno-graphy we speak GREEK. The porn that Israel was involved in was not looking at another “god” or “goddess” but it was idolatry. The nation of Israel committed idolatry, and PORN was a term to shame her into repentance. To use an allegory for literal marriage and literal words is dangerous because it is easy to go off course, as many do when spiritualizing a text. Israel was in a betrothal “marriage” with God, not a consummated marriage which means that God dwells together as we see in Revelation 21:2″And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God..” There is divorce or putting away of a non-virgin bride during the betrothal, before the wedding (one-flesh), but not afterwards. I would like to send you my PDF on the Exception Clause, Jewish Marriage, Biblical Divorce, and Remarriage: Discovering “a Word of Fornication” in the Old and New Testament.

  50. Sexual addiction… Sexless marriage… Barren womb… I’ve tried to please him. I’m almost 50 years old and look 35, my doctor gave me a good report on my fertility, but what are the chances if the only sex my husband has is with porn? I pray for him daily, but I want to die and be with Jesus. My dream of a God glorifying family has died. I moved far away from my vibrant, loving church family to be with a man who won’t touch me.

    • I am so, so sorry for the pain you are suffering, and it concerns me deeply to hear you say that you want to die. This sounds like serious depression to me, and I want to urge you to find help for yourself immediately!

      First of all, go to your doctor and describe these feelings; there is medication that can help you cope with this pain.

      Second, find a therapist who can help you process these emotions and work on healthy boundaries for yourself. You might also appreciate the online resources at Bloom for Women.

      Third, here is an article on various types of abuse that may be helpful to you. Being isolated from your social group in addition to the suicidal thoughts–these are red flags to me for abuse that has perhaps not yet been identified.

      Fourth, you are not required to submit to your husband’s sin. If he wants to live this way, that is his choice. You are NOT required to live in any way that is unhealthy to you. Here’s an article exploring the idea that a high view of marriage includes divorce.

      You are not trapped or helpless in this situation. You do have options. Make sure you are taking care of yourself and accessing all the resources available to you. You can’t control his choices, but regardless of what he chooses, you can choose to be healthy and whole.

      Peace to you,
      Kay

  51. I am a licensed psychotherapist, a Christian Counselor, and a marriage counselor who works extensively with addictions (alcohol, drugs, sex/pornography, gambling, etc…). While it is true that the victim of adultery (including when spouses view pornography) have scriptural grounds for divorce, the victim does not necessarily need to divorce. (For brevity in my comment, I am speaking to general circumstances situations.)

    I have had the pleasure to help many couples, who have had “scriptural ours for divorce, reconcile, heal, and have awesome Christ-centered marriages. When the offending spouse has truly repented, put in accountability measures, and received individual and marital counseling, the offended spouse has then been able to forgive. The offending spouse would then gradually earn back the offended spouse’s trust; the offended spouse would gradually give his/her trust back.

    We are all sinners. We are all commanded to confess and repent of our sins, and also commanded to forgive those who sin against us.

    The cross proves two undeniable truths:
    1. Every person, no matter what they haved done, is redeemable, and
    2. Every relationship, no matter how broken, is reconcilable.
    Granted, the dinner must want to be redeemed and all parties must want to reconcile. Christ will not force the power of His cross upon us.

    If we do not believe that everyone can be redeemed and that all relationships can be reconciled, then we do not believe in the sufficiency of the cross.

    God bless, everyone. I pray for all of us to be willing to confess, repent, and forgive.

  52. Luke,
    You said this was a summary of the Thesis, so now I’m compelled to read the full version. Maybe your reference to Vicki Tieda’s work COMPELS me to print, read and study her ideas as well. I like the Tieda info for this issue, because (1) a woman speaks mostly to the question that women will have, and (2) it’s very level-headed wisdom in an issue that is otherwise _SO_ easily a decision to divorce based on today’s emotional experience. Vicki speaks some CALMING thoughts about a volitile emotional battle raging inside a betrayed wife. I think secret porn, when exposed would be a deep emotional wound, MOST of the time. So the “open sore, bleeding wound” is confusing a Christian lady’s choices for self protection, in an emotionally charged decision, potentially THE WRONG decision – sometimes.

    I value the Greek, Roman perspective, since it helps us see that twisted values today are really a different, and yet a similar world as today’s world.
    Maybe your Thesis covers my question. We read many references to hedge worship in the OT, and the word is usually not given as ASTERETH or asterah. However, I’m lead to believe ( maybe erroneously ? ? ) that the goddess was worshipped with pictures and commonly with erotically carved wooden statues. This was a kind of PORN available at the time of David, and had invaded Israel during Jezebel’s height of power grab.
    From a recent National Geographic, I see the details of the statues aroused “magical” powers for hormone charged “worshippers “. They think the goddess has power, but logic tells us that it’s simply a pornographic lust. I observe that David’s keeping of so many wives could have met some pornographic lust, similar to a guy who has seen intimate details of 500 porn “prostitutes.” Sin in 1000 BC can’t be THAT much different than it is today.
    At the time Jesus spoke to the Jewish leaders, was Asterah worshipped in Israel? Was there a pornographic component to the Baal temple prostitution? You seemed to go that direction, regarding some whores being artistic performers, regarding Greek public nudity.

  53. One interesting comment was about the church as the bride. Before the wedding, at the betrothal negotiations, the groom gave jewels and a beautiful garment to the bride, which she may wear at the wedding. The wedding guest were given wedding (gamos) garments. The Bridegroom supplied His bride robes of righteousness. Now does this apply to earthly Jewish marriage. What earthly bridegroom could supply righteousness to his bride? None. Only Jesus Christ has that ability. A Jewish man that paid the dowry of virgins expected a virgin on the wedding night. This is where the allegory and literal part. A Jewish man would put away his lying bride who claimed to be a virgin on this one night and for this one cause, fornication, acting like a whore before the wedding. This is the meaning of the exception clause. Except for fornication. After one flesh joining by God, there is not severance of what GOD HATH JOINED TOGETHER. Let no man put asunder. It is not a suggestion, but in the imperative mood.

  54. So what is repentance? A husband that keeps falling and repents over and over again for years but he’s genuinely sorry (he got caught) and in the process destroying his beautiful marriage and his beautiful wife…? Repentance should be ‘go and sin no more’ when you truly repent of your sin you ‘cut it off’… for those men out there that think it’s ok to fail from time to time and nobody is perfect I’m telling you there are men out there that can do it and don’t struggle with the question ‘what should I put first my marriage or my own gratification’. And these men are not less men than you are or have less ‘testosterone’ they just decided to love and respect their wives and appreciate their marriage. So grow up take full responsibility for your actions and expect there will be consequences for your sins and your wife might loose her patience after a few years and actually leave you and you will loose your ministry and reputation… but don’t worry too much as after a few years you can go back on Christian dating service as a divorcee and tell everyone it was not on ‘biblical grounds’ so really it was not your fault ((ever)) and you will find another church that will be happy to send you as a missionary somewhere… after all you are a MAN… and times haven’t changed that much since (only) the adulterous woman was brought to Jesus to be stoned to death and not the man

    • And what did Jesus do with the adulterous woman? He rebuked the accusers of that woman, not the woman herself at all, and the woman went free.

  55. Hi Luke,

    Thank so much for sharing your research on this. I would love to be able to read your full thesis at some point if that is a possibility because I have some remaining questions/concerns about this proposal. For the moment, I was wondering if you would be willing to interact with me on a few points. My primary “sticking point” so to speak is that it seems to me that the term porneia seems almost always be a physical contact term. Before there is physical contact, the biblical category would seem to me to be epithumia (lust, desire). For example–and this is a genuine question since I am not as familiar with the primary source material on this yet–was the word porneia ever applied in the Greco-Roman world to the Roman nobility who were watching the “dancing pornai”? By being present and watching such entertainment, where they personally considered to have committed porneia? My impression is no. But if that is the case, then we would be hard pressed to apply this term to pornography use.

    Some of the Greek literature you cited supports this distinction between porneia and epithumia. In Hermas, the sin that the woman accuses him of is not porneia, but epithumia. The noun or verb form of this word occurs three times in the passage–1.1.4; 1.1.8 (2x). As far as I can see, the Greek word porneia does not occur in this text. The word poneria (evil) does. That may have been the confusion.

    Likewise, in the case of the biblical references in this section of the article, none of them actually supports the meaning of porneia being “lasciviousness” (i.e. “unbridled lust” Thayer’s). The word porneia does not occur in Romans 1:29 (there may have been a confusion here again with the noun poneria “evil” which does occur in this verse). In Galatians 5:19, Colossians 3:5, and Revelation 2:21 porneia is frequently translated with the standard expression “sexual immorality.” And in fact, different Greek words are used to describe the lustful aspect in some of these verses. For example, in Galatians 5:19 it is the Greek word “aslegesia” that the KJV renders “lasciviousness” rather than the Greek word “porneia.” In Colossians 3:5 pathos (passion) and epithumian kaken (evil desire) describe the lustful aspects of the flesh rather than the word porneia. Perhaps you meant to suggest that because porneia appears on lists with these kinds of words, it can be taken in a similar sense? But I think that if finding porneia next to moicheia (adultery) in verses like Matthew 15:19 proves that they are different sins (as you rightly argued in your article), then the same logic would seem to apply to finding porneia along with epithumia in Colossians 3:5 or along with aslegesia (“lasciviousness”) in Galatians 5:19. From the verses you cited, lasciviousness appears to be a different sin than porneia. Do you have other examples that I might be able to consider?

    Sirach 23:23 does not necessarily support the idea that porneia can describe “the disposition and behavior that leads to adultery.” That verse says that the woman “en porneia emoicheuthe” (“in sexual immorality committed adultery” [my translation]). This does not have to mean that first she committed sexual immorality and then she committed adultery; it could also be that in this case the porneia describes the adultery itself. This is reflected in many translations of this verse: “she hath played the whore in adultery” (KJV); “she has made a whore of herself by committing adultery” (GNT); “she’s committed adultery by her illicit sexual behavior” (CEB); “through her fornication she has committed adultery” (NRSV). It would be a natural understanding of this verse to say that the porneia constituted adultery in this case rather than that the porneia led up to the adultery in some way.

    Tobit 8:7 is an interesting case because it does use the word porneia in a context that suggests the idea of lust. Every English translation of the verse that I looked at translates porneia as “lust” in Tobit 8:7. The question I had is whether you knew of other examples in Greek literature where porneia would have this shade of meaning. Otherwise we may have to treat this text as an exceptional usage. Words do have a range of meaning and sometimes overlap with other words that are not technically synonyms. So in this case, if we picture this in terms of a Venn Diagram, epithumia and porneia would be separate circles that overlap just a small amount on one edge.

    To sum up, as I looked carefully at the evidence you presented, with the possible exception of Tobit 8:7 and a certain spin on Sirach 23:23, I did not feel that it strongly warranted including pornography usage under the term porneia. But I am open to other evidence if is is available!

  56. Hi Luke,
    Thank you for your well-researched article. I appreciate all the hard work put into this. I am sure it required countless hours of your time as well as much energy and emotion. I appreciated the read.
    I am currently in a situation that is very difficult. My husband of seven years (who has been lust addicted for more than 20 years) is always seemingly repentant when his sin comes to light. However, his behavior does not change. He seems genuine in his desire to do the right thing, but I am beginning to believe that the decades of porn addiction and narcissism have rendered him incabable of anything but lust, selfishness, and submission to impulse. I, meanwhile, am beginning to lose health, both mental and physical. I am becoming concerned for my own survival, as the last episode we walked through caused significant physical issues for me, which made it extremely difficult to care for our children. I have always been loyal, and forgiving, and have continued to hold out hope. However, I am seeing my life now as a long, dark tunnel that will not end. I am finding it next to impossible to discern whether his seemingly sincere repentance is something I should trust. I am asking you, because I am not looking for someone to tell me only what they think I want to hear. I have never shied away from following the Lord’s will, suffering included, but something has shifted inside me this year, and I am concerned that I will not make it through this marriage in a state of mental, emotional or physical wholeness. I’m sure you are busy, but any advice would be appreciated.
    P.S. I also feel I should mention that we have gone to church leaders with this issue, and as he always seems genuinely repentant, they have advised to “keep soldiering on”.

  57. Excellent article and well researched ! I could not find a thing wrong with it. It was balanced and fairly marked out the arguments we make to prove are indignity is biblical and our bibilical logic is sound. After reading this article 3 times I better objectively understand God’s position of hard heart and sexual immorality.

    This combination seems to be happening in my relationship with my husband. I was not offended by the straw arguments. I did not feel thrown under the bus when asked to remain married even though my husband has horribly defiled me. You really want to pursue what the bible verses for divorce really imply and I do too! Besides, truth be told, I have already been dealing with long term rejection due to porn and heavy alcohol use by the person whose opinion means the most to me. In fairness to my husband, he has physical pain and stiffness related to psoriactic arthritis but this became the point of deception.

    I naively believed our issues were from his arthritis, but instead he was maladaptively coping. Sadly, our marriage has been destroyed in this four year process. God told me to ask him if he was doing porn? The reason God put this on my heart derived from a series of podcasts I had been listening to on being set free. Yes, I do believe God speaks to me and it always coincides with the bible. My husband admitted the truth and we have been separated for 2 months. He is dragging his feet to get help and I have become an erratic person going through the grief cycle.

    My question for you is how do I get others to talk with him when he no longer goes to church and believes that reading his bible everyday is how he will meet with God? I have given him ultimatums of quit drinking and go to church or we won’t make it. Nothing has changed. At this point I’ve had enough rejection and passing of responsibility to the point I don’t want to work on my marriage. I want to be without all this pain and drama.

    Your article gave me biblical grounds for divorce and that is what I want. Am I wrong to think like this?

    • Hey Susan,

      The tough thing in a situation like this is that you can’t control another person. Your husband has to make healthy choices for himself, while you make healthy choices for yourself. Here, here and here are some articles that might be helpful as you think this through.

      You are God’s child, and you deserve to be treated with value and respect. If your husband isn’t able to do that, let him have the consequences of his choices.

      Peace to you,
      Kay

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