Should Actions Speak Louder Than Words? Using the Past Deeds and Present Actions of Jesus to Unlock the Evangelical Debate on Divorce
This article is about evangelical divorce at the intersection of practical theology, ethics, and biblical hermeneutics. It aims to provide pastoral insights on a subject where scholarship has confused rather than informed ministry practice.
The article begins with current interpretations of Jesus’ words on divorce in the Synoptic Gospels, showing many relevant voices are marginalised, and the dominant ones cannot agree. Despite occasional position changes by prominent scholars, there is no progress towards a normative consensus.
John’s Gospel is then examined as a source of Jesus’ historical deeds. Practical theological readings of two passages highlight his radical compassion and restorative posture towards women with broken marriage covenants that challenge evangelicals to better imitate Christ towards the divorced.
Jesus’ ongoing actions after his ascension are explored as a vital aspect of evangelical ethics and practical theology. However, the practicalities of discerning Christ’s continuing salvific work amongst the divorced remain elusive.
Finally, a proposal is made to combine the words, historical deeds, and ongoing actions of Jesus into a normative symbiosis wherein each illuminates and moderates the others. Tentative implications for ministry to the divorced are offered after theological reflection on this basis.
Key Words: Normative Symbiosis, Imitation of Christ, Contemporary Actions of Jesus, Practical Theological Readings of Scripture, Evangelical Theology of Divorce.
Authors who publish with the Journal of Contemporary Ministry agree to the following terms:
- Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.
- Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).