Divorce and Remarriage: Resources

This page provides a range of contemporary resources in relation to the ethics of divorce and marriage after divorce during the lifetime of a former spouse. They are best used alongside the resources on the theology and ethics of marriage. Most, but not all, of these are available online (some though requiring a subscription to be accessed).

There is an enormous amount of literature on this area and most books on marriage and sexual ethics generally will have a chapter or more discussing it.

Last Updated on 3 March, 2021 by Andrew Goddard

Dictionary Articles & Readers

A quick overview can be gained from dictionaries:

  • IVP New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology – “Divorce” (pp. 315-6) by Gordon Wenham.
  • SCM New Dictionary of Christian Ethics – “Divorce” (pp. 160-2) by Helen Oppenheimer.
  • Dictionary of Scripture and Ethics – “Marriage and Divorce” (pp.508-12) by Allen Verhey.

Scripture

In relation to the biblical texts (which need to read and considered carefully, especially Deut 24:1-4, Mt 19:1-12 and Mk 10:1-12, Mt 5.31-32, Lk 16.18, and 1 Cor 7), in addition to commentaries on these texts, the following are helpful guides:

Contemporary Christian Discussions on Divorce & Remarriage

The best overall guide to the debate (especially in relation to Scripture and the different evangelical views) is the discussion between Gordon J. Wenham, William A. Heth, and Craig S. Keener in Remarriage After Divorce in Today’s Church: 3 Views (Zondervan, 2006).  Other helpful contributions from these writers that give you an orientation to their views are:


Major contributions arguing for a more open position on remarriage after divorce have come from David Instone-Brewer in a number of works and on his website devoted to the subject:

  • Divorce and Remarriage: In the 1st and 21st Century. (Grove Books, 2001).
  • Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context. (Eerdmans, 2002) is the detailed scholarly studyof the texts in light of Jewish tradition and 1st century practice and including survey of later Christian writers and thinking.
  • Divorce and Remarriage in the Church: Biblical Solutions for Pastoral Realities.  (Paternoster Press, 2003) is more accessible and practical summary.
  • Shorter summaries from him can be found in “What God Has Joined Together” (Center for Christian Ethics, 2006) and “Divorce for ‘Any Cause’” (2003).
  • An earlier classic statement of a more accommodating stance is David Atkinson’s To Have and To Hold which has helpful summaries at end of each chapter and see in particular pp. 25-30 (the context of different views), 171-4 and 189-96.

The main works arguing (from an evangelical perspective) for a more restrictive position are:

  • Andrew Cornes, Divorce & Remarriage. His argument is popularised in Questions about Divorce & Remarriage where pp. 33-48, 92-102 are most relevant.
  • William E. Heth & Gordon Wenham, Jesus & Divorce
  • John Piper’s Divorce and Remarriage: A Position Paper

Although old, these guides to the ethical debates (especially among Anglicans) about the nature of the marriage and bond and marriage’s permanence are still helpful:

  • Oliver O’Donovan’s Grove booklet, Marriage and Permanence and also his chapter on “Marriage and the Family” in Bruce Kaye (ed), Obeying Christ in a Changing World Vol 3 (esp pp. 106-10).
  • Frustration and Forgiveness” by JR Lucas in Theology 1971 (needs SAGE access)
  • Articles by Lucas, Oppenheimer, MacQuarrie and Dunsant in Theology May 1975 (again needs SAGE access)

For the Church of England position:

  • “Marriage in Church After Divorce” report from 2000 which led to change in formal policy. An online web version of it (poorly presented) is available here. See especially chapters 1-3 and 8-9.  The report from the House of Bishops following it is here.
  • The earlier 1999 Marriage: A Teaching Document has an appendix answering “What does the Church have to say to someone whose marriage has broken down?”
  • The eight pages of formal guidance for clergy are here.
  • A helpful guide to the debates at this time is Greg Forster, “The Changing Face of Marriage and Divorce” in Anvil 17.3 (2000): 167-178.  See also, especially for pastoral outworking his Healing Love’s Wounds (Zondervan, 1995).
  • I have offered a short 6-page survey of main changes in CofE practice in terms of pastoral accommodation – “Divorce and Remarriage
  • For a broader discussion of the traditional Anglican approach to the broader question of formulating policy and stating principles see Stephen Holmgren, Ethics After Easter, pp. 127-47.

For Roman Catholic teaching:

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