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Question 38

Q: Although I was raised a Roman Catholic, I was saved and ended up joining a Baptist church which I later found out was a fundamentalist church.

I didn’t even understand what that meant at first, but eventually found myself walking on eggshells in the midst of the fundamentalists and in some ways, I worse off than when I was a Catholic.

I’m studying for the ministry and feel a strong call to it. But when I wanted to marry a divorced woman, this church objected. They advised me to find another woman. 

I’ve tried to rationalize my engagement because my fiancée has strong reasons to believe that when she was still married, her former husband was cheating, but there’s no real proof and she’s unwilling to find out. There certainly is no shortage of sin around, but Christ died that we might live despite our sins.

My fundamentalist church says that an elder or pastor should never have been divorced, or married to a divorced woman, based on 1 Timothy and Titus. But since I’ve never been divorced and she’ll be my only wife, don’t I meet the qualification to be “the husband of one wife” as the Scripture says?

Would I be sinning, and therefore an adulterer, if I marry her? And if I do marry her, should I not try to enter the ministry?

Asked by: Alex, Connecticut

A: You’ve asked many questions, Alex, some of them are difficult, so let’s start at the top.

I’d like to begin by saying there could be worse things than attending a fundamentalist church. You know, historically fundamentalism itself began as a movement to in defense of the Scripture. They’re usually churches that love God’s Word and preach the Gospel, but some of them, yes it’s true, become legalistic, and that’s a danger, isn’t it? Too bad that you were in a church in which your experience was so negative.

Now regarding your case. I’d like to suggest that marrying a woman who’s been divorced, doesn’t disqualify you, based on what the Bible says in Titus and in Timothy. It says that you should only be the husband of one wife, and since you haven’t been previously married, you are indeed the husband of one wife, whether or not she was divorced.

However, don’t interpret what I’ve said to mean that you should marry her. You say she’s not willing to investigate her former husband. That’s strikes me as a little strange because why wouldn’t she be willing to? This could be a red flag that needs to be considered prayerfully. I believe that if you marry her, and if her divorce wasn’t legitimate in God’s eyes, you may indeed be committing adultery. On the other hand, if he was an adulterer or if he has remarried, I believe her marriage bond with him would be broken she certainly would have a right to remarry, in which case you could marry her with freedom and joy. It seems to me that it would be worthwhile to investigate both the (1) reason for the original divorce and (2) the present lifestyle of her ex-husband.

As to whether or not you can enter the ministry, it depends, of course, on what denomination and what church. There are some denominations that have no rules at all and would indeed welcome you with open arms into the ministry; others would disqualify you. You would have to prayerfully investigate and find a Bible-loving church that would accept you, I’m sure that some exist.

Finally, tread carefully. It is really best if you were to receive some wise counsel from someone who knows you. You’ve shared your heart by letter but often there are relevant details that must also be taken into account.

I pray that God will give you both the grace and the strength to choose wisely. This is a huge decision, and it doesn’t have a simple answer.

Scripture references

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