Exposing The Sophistry Of Joel Gwin's Debate Charts:
by Bill Reeves and Tim Haile
August 15, 2003
This chart was prepared to give an analogy of the affirmation that “Neither can you put away once you’ve been put away.” It is the poorest example of analogy that has come to our attention in a long time. The affirmation is wrong, and the analogy isn’t analogous! Consider the chart:
Marriage involves two spouses who are on an equal footing. However, the boss and the employee are not on equal footing!
Look at the top half of the chart. Brother Gwin says, “You can’t quit once you’ve been fired. There is no job left for you to quit.” That’s right. Employers fire, not employees. And, employees can quit, but they can’t fire. Employers and employees are not on the same level. They, because of their different positions, don’t do the same thing. According to the Bible, married people are equal to each other. They can do the same thing!
Now consider the bottom half of the chart: “Neither can you put away once you’ve been put away. The marriage is already dissolved. There is nothing remaining to ‘put asunder’. (Matthew 19:6)”
1. Where did brother Gwin learn that “Neither can you put away once you’ve been put away?” This is merely his ipse dixit! He asserts this with absolutely no proof whatsoever. He is arguing on an unproved assumption. That’s like saying, “Once you’ve been hit, you can’t hit someone,” or, “once you've been denied something, you can’t deny anything.” Brother Gwin is actually teaching that one cannot reject his mate if that mate has already rejected him. Jesus did not teach this.
2. What he is aiming at is this: Once an ungodly spouse puts away his mate not for fornication, the put-away mate is hamstrung, stymied, incapacitated, and helpless to do anything. He wants the action of the ungodly spouse to negate the God-given right that an innocent mate has to repudiate a fornicator-spouse and to remarry. So, he puts all of the control into the hands of the ungodly. According to brother Gwin's argument, God loses control over the matter and his divine permission is nullified. Why? Because an ungodly spouse did an ungodly deed. What a doctrine, brethren!
3. To form a marriage two people, a man and a woman, make vows. One can’t vow for both of them. Can one force another to marry him by making the vows for both parties? Of course not! Both must make their own commitments, their own promises, their own vows. By the same token both have the power to disavow, to break their commitment and promises. One can’t do it for both; he can do it only for himself. Brother Gwin’s assumption is baseless! So, the conclusion drawn from his faulty premise is wrong.
4. He tells us: “The marriage is already dissolved. There’s nothing remaining to ‘put asunder’. (Matthew 19:6)” Let’s examine this claim:
a. One can certainly, by sinning, break his vows, his promises, his commitment, and then walk out on his mate. He is commanded not to do it (Mt. 19:6). But if he does it, not for the cause of fornication, he sins (1 Cor. 7:10,11). If he does it he dismisses his mate, or leaves him. He puts space between the two, it is true, but he does much more than that! He becomes a liar, breaking his promises. He disavows what he vowed. He repudiates, rejects, or denounces his mate. His physically leaving or departing, or his dismissing his mate, is the result of his rejection of his vows! “Put away” (or, put asunder) is much more than mere spatial separation.
b. Because the ungodly spouse rejects or denounces his mate, and separates himself from the mate, he breaks up the marriage union; he puts it asunder. (The Greek word that here is translated, “put asunder,” in 1 Cor. 7:10,11 is translated “depart.”). He breaks the marriage relationship, but he does not, with his ungodly action, affect in the least the marriage bond. He still remains bound by God to the vows which he now has denied and rejected. God holds him to his vows, for the simple reason that he took his ungodly action without the cause of fornication in evidence!
c. There’s nothing remaining to “put asunder?” Well, if “put asunder” is merely and solely spatial separation, it is true that the innocent, put-away person can’t initiate physical separation; that is already done. But something precedes that physical, spatial separation: that is the rejection of the vows to one’s mate. Both mates made their vows, and now both can disavow. It is that simple! Can the unlawfully put-away mate lawfully renounce or reject the spouse who put him away? Only if that spouse is guilty of fornication. When fornication occurs, that innocent spouse for the cause of fornication may repudiate (renounce his vows, promises and commitment) the fornicator-mate, and, being loosed by God from the marriage bond, may remarry.
5. Since the phrase, “the marriage is dissolved,” is not a Bible phrase, it has to be defined and shown to be a Bible principle. Brother Gwin is using it to mean only physical separation, and then concluding that once one of the two spouses puts physical separation between them, the other spouse has no physical separation left to put between them. Of course, with that definition, it makes sense. The marriage relationship, of living together as husband and wife, is certainly “dissolved” or broken, but preceding that dissolving of the marriage relationship was the rejection of the marriage vows! The spouse denounces his commitment to his marriage partner, and as a result, he breaks up the marriage relationship. In this sense the marriage is dissolved, but not one change has been wrought in the marriage bond! God controls that!
a. But obviously, spatial separation is only the physical outcome of the repudiation that preceded it. Otherwise, every time the husband went out the door, putting physical distance between himself and his wife, he would be “dissolving the marriage” (even if he went out into the yard merely to pick up the newspaper). A man doesn't "divorce" his wife merely by making a trip to the grocery store! More is involved.
b. Jesus was asked by the Pharisees: “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?” The “put asunder” of ver. 6 is the “put away” of ver. 3! Put away (apoluo) is defined by Mr. Thayer as “repudiate.” This is what a spouse does when he puts away, or puts asunder what God has bound. He repudiates (rejects, denounces, disavows) his mate and leaves, or physically separates himself from the mate.
c. If this ungodly spouse, who rejected his mate and left, later commits fornication, the innocent mate who was unjustly put away now has the cause for doing his own [approved] repudiation and by divine permission may remarry. Before the cause was in evidence, the faithful, unjustly-put-away-mate would not repudiate or reject his marriage partner. He had no divine “cause” to do so. He was still true to him in all that his vows and commitment demanded. He was not playing the “waiting game.” He would have forgiven the ungodly action of his partner. But once the cause of fornication is in evidence, he has the divine right to do his own rejection of his vows, just like he had the right to exercise his own vows and commitments in the formation of the marriage.
6. This chart of brother Gwin’s is flawed in analogy, in affirmation and in definition, and is based on assumption.
This completes part seven of our study. Please check the next article in the series.