NOTE: Subsequent to writing this post, a commenter (LB, see her comment below) tipped us off to the fact that Professor Gritter’s denomination, the Protestant Reformed Churches in America, has a doctrine of divorce, marriage, and remarriage, that does not accord with Professor Gritter’s article summarized here in this post. I asked him for comment but essentially he replied, “no comment.” Here is the denomination’s statement on their own website (prca.org) –
Among the practical implications of this covenant view, in the thinking of the PRC, is the calling of the church to promote and defend marriage, the earthly symbol of the covenant between Christ and the Church (cf. Ephesians 5:22ff.), as a life-long unbreakable bond – broken and dissolved only by God in death. On this basis, the church should, and can, oppose the evil of divorce and remarriage in her communion — an evil that devastates Protestant churches today, angers God, and disgusts godly men and women. Thus also, the family is safeguarded for the sake of the godly rearing of the children, who are included in the covenant (Malachi 2:14-16; Matthew 19:3-15).–
If professor Gritters or anyone else in the PRCA can point me to other statements which show the denomination allows divorce for abuse, I will be glad to add such information here. In the meantime we are left wondering how Gritters’ articles on it being a sin to forgive someone who is unrepentant squares with insisting that a spouse remain married to an abuser who is unrepentant.
(The Standard Bearer is a publication of the Reformed Free Publishing Association which you can find at rfpa.org)
In the September and December (2022) issues of the Standard Bearer, Professor Barrett Gritters of the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary wrote parts 1 & 2 (a 3rd to follow) of an article entitled The Sin of Forgiveness. This is how part 2 begins:
Forgiving an impenitent sinner is a sin. Offensive as that may sound – even blasphemous – this is Scripture’s teaching and that of the Reformed Church Order, as we saw last time (Nov. 1, 2022 issue). The automatic and immediate declaration of forgiveness to someone who is not sorry for gross sin is ‘the sin of forgiveness.’
When a 15 year old boy with a rifle murders three of his classmates, it is a sin for the victims’ parents and friends immediately and publicly to say, ‘We forgive you.’ If a father raped his daughter, it would be a sin for the daughter to forgive him immediately and unconditionally, and a worse sin for the rapist father to require her to do so. ‘I forgive you, daddy, even though you aren’t sorry. And since you taught me that to forgive is to forget, I will try to forget what you did, and I promise not to tell anyone else.’ It is not offensive to withhold forgiveness here. It is offensive to grant it.
Yet there are those who believe that anything less than immediate and automatic forgiveness is contrary to biblical principles and violates the essence of grace. For them, those who have been forgiven graciously must also forgive others graciously. Is this not Jesus’ teaching? It seems to make biblical sense until we look at it more carefully.
The key to understanding this is the biblical teaching that forgiveness is not a feeling I have in myself toward a sinner, is not releasing bitterness toward a sinner, is not even a decision not to be angry and to let the sin go. Rather, forgiveness is an audible declaration from the offended one to the offender: ‘I put away your sin; I release you from your debt; I will not deal with you based on your sin or think of you in light of it. I am finished.’ In the case of the impenitent sinner, God does not permit this. Why not?
Indeed, why not? The first reason that comes to my mind is simply this: God Himself never forgives, indeed He cannot forgive, when the sinner is impenitent (unrepentant). As Gritters will go on to say, “God forgives us only when we repent and He withholds it until we do.”
NOTE: Again, I do not understand how these very good teachings about forgiveness by Professor Gritters can be squared with teaching that divorce is never permissible, nor is remarriage after divorce. Even if the denomination teaches divorce is permissible for adultery (which I do not know if they teach or not), this still does not address the cases of abuse as grounds for divorce.