Focus on the Family Keeps Changing their View of Biblical Divorce

—but Not for Abuse Victims

 

Did you know Focus on the Family has held 3 conflicting views of biblical divorce in the past two years?  It's so confusing.

  1. —Two reasons for divorce (but they don't condone divorce for physical or emotional abuse)
  2. —Three reasons for divorce (but they don't condone divorce for physical or emotional abuse)
  3. —The Permanence of Marriage view (which means NO acceptable reasons for divorce)

 

Three Contradictory Statements about Divorce on the Focus on the Family Website

 

1. Two reasons for divorce (July 2019)

Sexual Immorality and Abandonment Only (Not abuse)

Back on July 25, 2019, Focus condoned divorce only for sexual immorality and abandonment by an unbeliever. But later this changed. Did the Bible suddenly change?

 

Notice how they add their own view to the list. They claim sexual immorality is grounds for divorce, but only if the perpetrator is unwilling to repent and live faithfully with their marriage partner. That's not what Scripture says. They are adding to the Bible. Sexual immorality all by itself is grounds for divorce. That breaks the marriage covenant.  Focus claims that "abandonment" has to be "willful and permanent." But that's not what Scripture says either.  How would someone know that the abandonment was permanent until the end of their life?

Here's the screenshot:

This is a screen capture on July 25, 2019 of this webpage: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/marriage/divorce-and-infidelity/should-i-get-a-divorce/how-should-a-christian-view-marriage-and-divorce. However it was later changed.

2.  Three reasons for divorce (January 2021)

Sexual immorality, abandonment, and divorce/remarriage is okay if a person was not a Christian when they divorced. (Abuse is not an accepted reason for divorce.)

 

Sometime between July 25, 2019 and January 1, 2021, Focus on the Family changed their statement to condone divorce and remarriage for people who became Christians after their divorce, even though the Bible doesn't give that loophole.

Here's the exact quote: "There is a third instance in which we believe remarriage is acceptable in Scripture. That instance is when an individual’s divorce occurred prior to salvation."

Really?

Forgive my cynicism, but what board member or big donor got Focus on the Family to approve that change?

If Focus on the Family wants abused wives to sacrifice and suffer for Christ and never divorce (and then tell them if they do, they cannot remarry from a biblical standpoint), then perhaps Focus should demand the same loyalty and dedication from new converts to Christ.

Here's the screenshot:

Focus on the Family January 2021 Divorce Policy

 

So let's look at Focus on the Family's theological explanation

On this similar page, Focus explains its policy: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/focus-on-the-familys-position-on-marriage-and-divorce/.  Screenshot below dated 10/3/2021.

Bullet point 1: 

Focus on the Family argues that a person who divorced before they came to Christ can remarry, even if their divorce was for unacceptable reasons because he is "forgiven for all the wrong he did before accepting Christ." 

Wait a second! Isn't that the whole point of Christianity and Christ's death on the Cross? Aren't we are all forgiven, both for the things we did before our conversion and for the wrongs we did afterwards?

So Focus on the Family's explanation doesn't make sense.

 

Bullet point 2:

Notice how they add their own view to the list. They claim sexual immorality is grounds for divorce, but only if the perpetrator is unwilling to repent and live faithfully with their marriage partner. That's not what Scripture says. They are adding to the Bible. Sexual immorality all by itself is grounds for divorce. That breaks the marriage covenant.

 

Bullet point 3:

Focus claims that the "abandonment" has to be willful and permanent. But that's not what Scripture says either.  How would someone know that the abandonment was permanent until the end of their life?

 

Notice also that Focus continues to use the outdated "God hates divorce" interpretation of Malachi 2:16. Thanks to the publication of the Dead Sea scroll fragment (the oldest known copy of Malachi 2:16), no new major Bible translation since 1996 has interpreted the verse "God hates divorce."  Not the ESV, CSB, or NIV 2011 update. For more on this, click here: www.lifesavingdivorce.com/malachi

Full divorce policy can be found here: https://www.focusonthefamily.com/family-qa/focus-on-the-familys-position-on-marriage-and-divorce/    For a theological discussion of this, go to www.lifesavingdivorce.com/fotfdivorce
Focus on the Family Divorce policy (screen capture 10-3-21)

3. Zero Reasons for Divorce

In their official Foundational Values and Vision Page, Focus Claims to Hold to the Permanence of Marriage View

On the Focus on the Family Mission and Values page they claim they hold "The Permanence of Marriage." In Evangelicalism, this phrase has a particular meaning: that there is no divorce for any reason. And the description offers no exception.  https://www.focusonthefamily.com/about/foundational-values/

 

Focus on the Family Permanence View Statement on their "Foundational Values" and Vision Page.

Making up Words in the Bible: Making it harder for wives of abusers, cheaters, and pedophiles to divorce

Further, the president, Jim Daly, states in a major 2019 public video for people in desperate marriages that "God hates divorce in every case." This is truly tragic because a desperate marriage probably involves abuse or adultery or child molestation or family-crushing addictions. (See image below.) The Bible never says God hates divorce in every case. In fact, the Bible commands divorce three times, and only prohibits it once. Divorce is never mentioned in any list of sins in the Bible.  But here is the president of Focus on the Family telling abused Christians that God disapproves of all divorces. No wonder so many of their listeners are suicidal. They feel trapped for life with a cruel spouse.

In fact, in a 2021 broadcast, Jim Daly publicly said he wanted to make divorce legally harder to obtain, and gave no exception for abused wives or for the wives of serial cheaters or pedophiles.

What's wrong with these people?

Then, several months ago Focus re-posted on Facebook a 2018 article from a mega-church pastor suggesting there were no valid reasons for divorce. We readers and donors are getting whiplash.

Jim Daly fotf God hates divorce in every case copy

So Focus on the Family is really confused about their own position.

Thousands of abused wives (and husbands) look to Focus on the Family for reliable and godly information. What does Focus believe? What are we to believe? Focus seems to be confused.

 

According to their IRS filings, their phone counselors get calls from people who are "Potential suicides, cases of spouse abuse, and child molestation..."   In Aug 2021, they claimed to get about 50,000 phone calls in the prior 12 months. If your daughter were married to a child molester, would you want her to call an organization that say that God "hates divorce in every case"?

 

Focus on the Family's Bizarre Stance on Pedophiles

 

PEDOPHILIA: Focus on the Family discourages divorce if the husband is attracted to children and molests children. Here is a critique of their article on "Pedophilia in Marriage" where they say "God hates divorce, " but NEVER say "God hates child sexual abuse." And in that article, they never mention that sexual immorality is grounds for biblical divorce according to Jesus' words in Matthew 19:9), even though they mention it elsewhere on their site.

 

As I mentioned above, the president of Focus, Jim Daly publicly said he wanted to make divorce legally harder to obtain, and gave no exception for abused wives or for the wives of serial cheaters or pedophiles.

 

Ex-wives of pedophiles tell me they've called Focus on the Family with their story of a child-molesting husband. Some were not advised to leave, like this young mother of three who was married to a batterer and child rapist.  https://youtu.be/FBITqZRfETU Sometimes their phone counselors do tell physically abused wives to "leave," "get to safety," or "separate," but they say that it is temporary and that reconciliation is the goal.

 

Can We Count on Focus on the Family to Give Good Advice to Suicidal or Abused Spouses?

 

They claim to get many phone calls from suicidal spouses and those trapped in abusive marriages. Imagine the horror of telling a friend to call Focus on the Family, only to discover that Focus pressures them to stay married!

 

Focus on the Family explanation of their services on their IRS Form 990 for 2014, the last publicly available tax year.
Focus on the Family explanation of their services on their IRS Form 990 for 2014, the last publicly available tax year.

Note about taxes: After tax year 2014 (year-end 2015), Focus on the Family asked the IRS to change their classification to a "church," and the IRS doesn't require churches to show publicly much information, for example, they no longer list large donors, how much income they receive from their Hope Restored marriage intensives, or reveal salaries and/or compensation of employees, officers, board members, or others. 

 

Focus on the Family needs to get change their official policy and the way they discuss divorce because their stance endangers Christian parents and children. Thousands of people in desperately troubled marriages call them, but if they cannot ever suggest DIVORCE for physical or emotional abuse, they are trapping Christians in marriage (or separation) for the rest of their lives, driving them into danger, despair, depression, and suicide—and damaging their children as well. Their viewpoint kills people through homicide and suicide. Their message destroys parents and their children.

 

Research has found that when divorce is difficult to obtain, suicide rates, domestic violence rates, and homicide rates are higher.

 

Here are Bible passages that suggest you can divorce for physical abuse, financial abuse, life-altering addictions, and chronic emotional abuse. 

 

I hope that Focus on the Family finally condones divorce for physical and emotional abuse, as so many other Christian leaders do for these reasons. Until they do, they continue to throw abused Christian wives (and husbands) under the bus. Until the day they change their policy and rewrite their articles, they are UNSAFE for married Christian abuse victims.

 


About Me: If you're new to my blog, read this. I'm a committed Evangelical Christian. I attend church, tithe, serve, volunteer, and lead Bible studies. I started leading Christian divorce recovery groups in conservative churches in 1998. I do not wish to make this a criticism of Focus on the Family—other than their "children and divorce" and "divorce doctrine" articles. I have donated thousands of dollars to Focus, have recommended their books to friends, and have listened to hours of Focus radio broadcasts. I have visited their headquarters and have attended Christian conferences there. And I love their bookstore. My purpose is to encourage Focus to change the children-and-divorce articles and divorce doctrine articles on their website because they are misleading to abused parents.

I believe that God gave divorce as protection for women in the Bible. Here's my blog post and video on that.

 


Are you going through a life-saving divorce and need support and clarity? I’d like to invite you to my private Facebook group, "Life-Saving Divorce for Separated or Divorced Christians." Just click the link and ANSWER the 4 QUESTIONS. This is a group for women and men of faith who have walked this path, or are considering it. Supporters and people helpers are also welcome.  I’ve written a book about spiritual abuse and divorce for Christians, The Life-Saving Divorce: Paperback: https://amzn.to/3cF1j25  Or eBook: https://amzn.to/3CCBsnr

Also, sign up for my email list below or HERE www.lifesavingdivorce.com/courage

 

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