Sunday, February 25, 2007

How to Survive Discipline -- Plead to a lesser charge and repent (part 5)

Again this is similar to utter denial but likely to work better. Because the church investigators aren't professional investigators they are likely to do a bad job. They are also going to be satisfied with a full confession to a lesser charge and repentance. Often the problem is that the repentance means a public confession, and the specific things that needs to be confessed would be damaging. By pleading to a lesser charge you can go through the processes without taking the hit. To avoid making it sound like you are justifying your sin make sure to condemn it in even harsher terms.

Sam is going through a very rough patch in his marriage. He doesn't want to get divorced. He's been visiting a prostitute regularly and gets seen by several people leaving her place. They start the confrontation process. Regardless of what he does in terms of discipline this is getting back to his wife. The church (and his wife) consider adultery grounds for divorce and she'll divorce him. So what Sam does it make it seem like he was there for something that is perverse and his wife wouldn't do. Sam immediately confesses and repents for immorality and indecency but strongly denies adultery. If further questions are asked he demands to talk to one of the elders in private. He then admits to that elder something very embarrassing but that falls short of adultery (like maybe he was having her pee on him while he jerked off, or she paraded around in a variety of very high heels and then let him suck her toes....). The elder believes him (I mean after all who make up that stuff), his wife gets told he is struggling with lust issues but has not committed adultery, they get the counseling they need and life gets better for both of them.

To see a historical example of this defense Anne Le Fert.

20 comments:

Bill K said...

CD Host -

I applaud the goal of your website to help people who have been through church discipline.

However, like Heretic's comments on some other pages I think this guide (How to survive discipline) may do more harm than good.

Is it really better for Sam's wife to not know that he has had sexual relations with a prostitue? And as you mentioned in one of the earlier parts of the guide, whatever a person does they are going to have to live with for the rest of their life. How great would it be for Sam to know for certain whether his wife wanted to be with him or not for who he is and what he had done rather than a fake persona he has created.

The God of the Bible does not give laws for the purpose of restricting people's fun; but instead they are given out as a parent trying to prevent harm to his children. Sam has irrevocably harmed himself, his wife, this prostitute, his church and Christ's witness to the world. But still God's grace covers over such a sin. For him to EXPERIENCE this he will need humility before God - which should overflow into his interactions with others; especially his wife.

CD-Host said...

Bill K --

Welcome to the board! How great would it be for Sam to know for certain whether his wife wanted to be with him or not for who he is and what he had done rather than a fake persona he has created. Sam does know, not for certain obviously, that his wife would dump the real him for what he has done and would only accept and reconcile with the fake persona. Overtime the fake and the real persona can come closer together but not at first. I think in your response you are trying to have it both ways, in your response Sam gets to come clean and nothing really bad happens. The reality is, quite often, coming clean results in disastrous consequences. Plead to a less charge aims to avoid these consequences because they would be so negative. And you are absolutely correct that using this technique will be harmful to Sam's relationship with God and church. He's going to have to lie and be evasive during the very restoration process that would otherwise heal him. Its an ugly solution to an ugly problem.

At the time we are writing this the lead article covers the case of Anne le Fert who very well might have been executed had she pled guilty to adultery, and unquestionably would have suffered horrible consequences.

Bill K said...

CD Host

You are of course entitled to your opinions - as I am of mine. Sam's wife is getting a really short stick in this situation. Her husband has comitted adultery and is hiding it. The only chance possible that this trust could be restored is that he come clean and she forgive him. Otherwise, both he and his wife are living in a lie. Should Sam's wife get tested for STD's? Has she been infected by her husbands infidelity?

Sam has done something extremely selfish - and to be a real man he should face up to what he has done. I wasn't trying to paint a rosy picture - just that the only way Sam and his wife are going to have a healthy relationship is through honesty and forgiveness; not deception.

CD-Host said...

Bill you are failing to deal with the picture. Your simply unwilling to accept the terms of the hypothetical. Sam coming clean does not result in a healthy relationship, it results in no relationship. You are arguing a question of fact with me, about my own hypothetical. That is you are essentially arguing that you know the imaginary people I created better than I do. Yes, you can stand on the assertion that there is a path to forgiveness through honesty, here and I can't really stop you but I think it violates the whole idea of working within a framework.

And no, this is an unreasonable situation at all. I cover the case of Irene Elizabeth Stroud, Methodist Minister, who forthrightly told the truth and was forthrightly removed from office. Karen Dammann also a Methodist Minister faced with basically the same charge at basically the same time. She used a method from this blog (force a more specific charge) and she's still in office. This is almost a controlled experiment.

Within the bounds of the hypothetical if Sam wants to save his marriage and work on it, he lies. If he wants to get a divorce he comes clean. If he chooses to come clean he is choosing to terminate his marriage. Sam may be an adulterer but he is not a moral coward he takes responsibility for the consequences of his actions that he can control as being caused by him. The way he gets to rebuild his marriage if he so chooses it take advantage of the time the lie buys him and use that time to strengthen the marriage.

I can understand why you find that hypothetical disturbing. This is not a simple issue where doing good causes good and doing bad causes bad. This is real life, where doing anything causes mixtures of good and bad and people have struggle to find the act that causes the least bad out of a whole lot of bad options.

What you want is a hypothetical where Sam gets to come clean and have a bad year at home followed by a great restoration. I'll do you one better Earl Wilson writes an uplifting book about exactly this process. Sandy Wilson really thought about going but she decided to give him one more chance and you know worked out great. OK now you have your hypothetical. Are you really arguing that Sandy Wilson is the only possible way a wife can react?

Finally on the STD. He's seeing a regular hooker, not a party girl. He's likely OK. And he can get himself checked out to verify.

Finally this sentence made no sense, "Her husband has comitted adultery and is hiding it. The only chance possible that this trust could be restored is that he come clean and she forgive him" What trust are you talking about here? His trust for her or her trust for him or some third party trust. We've already addressed him, he doesn't trust her to stand by him and he's right, his trust doesn't get restored when he is proven right. Her trust for him isn't damaged adultery because in her mental universe it never happened; for her, her husband is a jerk but so far she hasn't had cause to leave.

Bill K said...

CD Host

Your people are very hypothetical -unrealistically so. They seem to live in a world where emotional damage and trust don't exist.

Sam can't know the future. He doesn't know what his wife will do. He has ideas, but he doesn't know. The Bible says that people shouldn't get divorced, except the one reason you may get divorced is in the case of adultery. But it doesn't say you must get divorced.

Sam's actions to cover up what he did is a manipulative way to trick his wife into staying with him. You can't have a good relationship with your wife if you are actively tricking her to get her to stay.

Living this kind of lie creates a dissonance that aboslutely disrupts a persons life [and this case his wife life also]. There is no way for Sam to "work on" his marriage without admitting the truth.

Sam doesn't get to experience the grace of God in this situation. If he is a believer he has been given grace already covering this sin; but he only experiences that grace as he has humility before God [see Hebrews 4:16 "Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need."].

This way of dealing with the problem also doesn't get to the reason of why Sam cheated in the first place. Sam is too busy trying to cover things up and minimize to see the greatness of God's grace to forgive all [even murderers like Paul], and he is likely to commit the same sin again and again because Sam isn't working with God and his wife to figure out why he desires what his lust would have [or various other reasons he might have done it] than by the great promises and things God has given him - grace and a wife!

On trust - Sam already has no trust. If he continues in a lie there isn't a chance that things will improve because he is working under the scrutiny of someone he believes will dump him in a second. The only chance for trust to be improved for Sam is to be truthful and then be surprised by the forgiveness of his wife [this is not guaranteed, but there is a possibility]. Sam's wife has trust in her husband. By Sam telling this lie her true trust has become fake - and these things always have a way of coming out in the long run. When it does the fake trust will be shown for what it was, but added to the adultery will be all the lying and hiding. If Sam is truthful his wife's trust will be damaged - because Sam has sinned against her. It doesn't matter when she finds it out; the trust damage has been done. She can take comfort that her husband is someone who admits faults and comes clean quickly. To simplify - the most destructive thing to trust is lying, because its acts in opposition to trust. Trust is earned and it is difficult for a liar to earn trust. It is easier for an honest sinner.

To your earlier comment about Anne le Fert - I haven't read it yet. But what comes to mind is that we do live in a fallen world where may situations are a choice between two or more bad things. Clearly this is so with the specifics I can gather about this woman le Fert - she has comitted a sin, but the punishment for the sin is also unrighteous. However, your hypothetical situation doesn't have this sort of quandry! Sam has sinned. The Bible clearly says that if Sam is UNREPENTANT that he should be disciplined; and it also gives Sam's wife the opportunity to remove herself from a relationship that has already had the trust destroyed.

This will probably be my last post on this topic because I think I am beating a dead horse. Thanks for your thoughts on the topic.

James 5:16 "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

1 John 1 and 2 also speak to this:

1:8-2:2 "If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; an He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world."

I don't know if you are married CD Host but I suggest you tell your wife your original suggestion in part 5 [to minimize what a person has done] and see what she thinks about the example of Sam and his wife. Tell her in all seriousness that this is what you believe is good - because you have presented it as such on this website. Then find out; What would she think if it happened to her? That would be a good test for reality as a counterpoint to the hypothetical.

CD-Host said...

Well you indicated you don't want to keep responding but for later readers I think your points should be addressed. You can feel free to respond or let it drop here.

Your people are very hypothetical -unrealistically so. They seem to live in a world where emotional damage and trust don't exist. Sam can't know the future. He doesn't know what his wife will do. He has ideas, but he doesn't know.

Its funny these two sentences as contradictory. And it comes from how we define trust. If I can't accurately predict someone's actions on an important issue, I don't trust them on that issue, and on related issues. I can trust someone if I understand their motivations and actions. I can trust my old cat to kill squirrels. I can't trust my cat to do my taxes right.

So my read on it, is that if Sam were to be wrong about his wife's actions he might be flattered by her love, he might be disgusted by her weakness but his trust would be undermined not enhanced. But what I really think you mean is not trust in some generic sense but rather a particular type of trust, something like "trust her to stand by him no matter what", or "trust in her absolute loyalty". And yes obviously if he didn't have that and then she did something which showed it was present he would then have trust. So what? People can have healthy marriages without really believing their partner is a doormat. I most certainly never envisioned Sam as needing to trust that his wife's love wasn't conditional. That might be Bill K's need, in which case you probably shouldn't marry Sam's wife. And that I think explains this comment:

On trust - Sam already has no trust. If he continues in a lie there isn't a chance that things will improve because he is working under the scrutiny of someone he believes will dump him in a second.

You are casually conflating a woman who will dump him for something specific and one who would dump him "in a second". Sam never asserted that and I never asserted that. I think you may want to consider where this came from in your own analysis.

As for plead to a lesser charge possibly denying grace for the original act and most certainly denying grace for the cover up. Agreed. This was asserted in the original article.

I don't know if you are married CD Host but I suggest you tell your wife your original suggestion in part 5 [to minimize what a person has done] and see what she thinks about the example of Sam and his wife. Tell her in all seriousness that this is what you believe is good - because you have presented it as such on this website. Then find out; What would she think if it happened to her? That would be a good test for reality as a counterpoint to the hypothetical.

I'll answer this though I think its a bit out of line. I'd also comment here that you now are not only asserting that you know my fictional people's attitudes better than I but my wife's attitudes better than I. Me thinks perhaps you should broaden your horizon's a bit.

I'm very happily married. I adore my wife, and the feeling is mutual. I do not have the kind of trust, you describe above, that is trust her being a doormat. I have no doubt there are things she would leave me over, and I applaud her and respect her for that. This is the woman I expect to take care of my children if I were to die. And that means I have to trust her decision making ability, above an beyond her loyalty. She's my wife not my dog, and the roles and expectations are different. A key component of that trust, is that she is the sort of woman not to throw her hands up but rather to fight and circumstance and play the cards she's dealt as best as possible.

Finally, my wife doesn't share your view of sexuality and leaving over a hooker would be ridiculous in her mind. So while the specific case isn't applicable at all, yeah I have a pretty good idea from conversations I've already had with the woman in question that you are dead wrong in your belief that everyone's marriage works the same as you would like yours to work.
We both consider divorce to be incredibly destructive to the people involved and especially the children. We both would be highly reluctant to take that step. And we both would take that step to avoid an even worse outcome if circumstances demanded it.

The Bible says that people shouldn't get divorced, except the one reason you may get divorced is in the case of adultery. But it doesn't say you must get divorced.

Understood. Sam's wife intends to exercise the option once presented to her.

Bill K said...

I didn't understand how your responses related to mine - then I had my wife read what we both said and she suggested I wasn't clear.

The "dump in a second comment" is specific to after Sam has hidden his true actions and is living a lie. He is constantly under pressure to keep that lie up or "know" that he will be divorced by his life. Maybe some people would like to live in a deficient marriage until the point that their lie is uncovered; but I not only think this is a wrong approach but also antithetical to preserving the best situation for Sam.

On trust - doormats are not what I desrcibed nor advocate. I agree completely with your situation of trust you describe with your wife. I would only hope that Sam would have that kind of trust with his wife. Unfortunately he has taken away her ability to choose by deceiving her. Clearly, he does not respect her sound decision making, her right to the truth nor any desires she has for spiritual growth personally or with her husband, etc. - my diagnosis is that he does not trust her. In fact - why would he stay with a woman he despises so much? To punish her? Because it requires the least effort?

All people desire to be truly known. Thus all people desire God, and all people desire true relating with people. Sam would be best served by living in the light - in truth. Jesus says this sets men free.

Oh - from two posts ago; this didn't make any sense, "Sam may be an adulterer but he is not a moral coward he takes responsibility for the consequences of his actions that he can control as being caused by him." Maybe you could clarify what responsibility Sam is taking for hic actions? By lying - he is attempting to dogge the responsibility and consequences of his actions.

I apologize for any presuppositions about you or your wife's thoughts. I brought this up only to act as a reality check for you or anyone reading that what we can conclude as sensical - may become a non-starter when we encounter the human element - especially how it hurts and damages people we love. Specifically, what is the impact on the people closest to you [anyone reading] when they hear that your personal philosophy is that you would be willing to deceive them to avoid personal pain at their expense?

Finally, it is difficult to argue that it is weak to forgive an adulterous husband and at the same time say that in your context you would be willing to take any step to prevent divorce, including overlooking it. How is this different from forgiveness?

Bill K said...

Too wordy! Everything I have said is that way:

Simplified:
It is wrong for a church to abuse, manipulate and coerce its members in order to keep membership keep power of them. It is also wrong to do the same thing to your husband or wife.

It is wrong to force a woman to have sex with you - that is rape. It is also wrong to force a woman to stay married with you and have sex with you by tricking them, especially when you know this is against her will. Sam is effectively raping his wife. He is forcing her to stay in a situation she doesn't want to be in and share her husband and more importantly her own body with a prostitute.

Sam is operating on the me-first hypothesis. He has selectively applied right and wrong to his life where doesn't want to get hurt or punished by his church or wife but feels free to hurt his own wife at will.

CD-Host said...

Bill --

Oh - from two posts ago; this didn't make any sense, "Sam may be an adulterer but he is not a moral coward he takes responsibility for the consequences of his actions that he can control as being caused by him." Maybe you could clarify what responsibility Sam is taking for hic actions? By lying - he is attempting to dogge the responsibility and consequences of his actions.

I'm separating out the crime from the cause of the punishment. Remember this is s legal blog. Essentially I'm saying you don't go to jail for robbing a bank, you go to jail for getting convicted in a court of law of robbing a bank. Whether you did or did not rob a bank is irrelevant to whether you go to jail, though it may be relevant to the probability of conviction.

In Sam's case consider for a moment two alternate histories to the ones presented (and again for the purpose of argument assume Sam's wife will divorce for adultery)

A) Sam doesn't commit the adultery at all. But lies and tells his wife he did so that he can get a divorce.

B) Sam decides he wants to stop undermining his marriage, gets into counseling with her and fixes things. 2 years later they have a happy marriage. He also continues to see the hooker through most of that time, but is never discovered.

Both of those scenarios are alternate histories based on the given scenario. Sam adultery in and of itself doesn't break up the marriage, Sam's wife's discovery of it does.

In the scenario Sam wants to salvage his marriage. Sam is willing to make a serious effort to do so. While not indicated most likely Sam is a religious guy going to a right wing church, who through a series of minor sins of negligence has allowed his marriage to fall into a level of disrepair that it can't survive a crisis. I can easily imagine Sam being be genuinely repentant about that, and genuinely wanting to fix the situation.

At the same time Sam's wife doesn't have access to the truth. If he goes with the telling her scenario she has to make her choices on the information she has. She has no way of knowing that Sam has decided to turn over a new leaf. There hasn't been time for him to demonstrate that to her. So she can make a perfectly reasonable decision based on partial information to divorce him.

Consider a blackjack hand. I'm holding 19, dealer shows a 10. The next card in the deck is a 2, and dealers hidden card is a queen. The correct play based on my partial information is to stand and the correct play based on total information is to hit. I'm not making a poor choice when I choose to stand; I am making a correct choice based on partial information.

In human relationships all choices are based on partial information generally much less than the blackjack scenario. Sam sees cards his wife doesn't, the fact he actually intends to change and start to fix his marriage. Its entirely possible that were she in possession of total information she would make a different choice than the one she would make based on partial information even if her choices are perfect. Sam is in possession of the total information by choosing to reveal or not reveal various aspects of partial information can influence her to make the choice she would have made if she were in possession of total information. That is if Sam's wife believed her husband were serious about changing she would stay with him, but he won't have time to prove it if he just blurts out a confession as part of the Church discipline process.

I would only hope that Sam would have that kind of trust with his wife. Unfortunately he has taken away her ability to choose by deceiving her. Clearly, he does not respect her sound decision making, her right to the truth nor any desires she has for spiritual growth personally or with her husband, etc. - my diagnosis is that he does not trust her. In fact - why would he stay with a woman he despises so much? To punish her? Because it requires the least effort?

And the above is why I'm going to disagree with just about all of this paragraph. He can respect her for decision making and trust her decision making without believing she is going to make the right decision based on the partial information she is in possession of. To pick another partial information game, poker, there is an expression "a hand you can't avoid going broke on" that is a hand good enough that you are going to end up putting all your chips in against a better hand. That is considered a situation which arises not an accusation. That is poker players understand that quite frequently someone can play perfectly based on only partial knowledge even though making the "wrong" choice based on total knowledge.

There is no reason to suspect that Sam despises his wife. I'd argue the original posts indicates the opposite. Sam wants to save his marriage and once he genuinely confronts the possibility of losing it starts making substantial changes so as to save it. That's not indicative of a person who simply doesn't love his wife. If Sam didn't love his wife and was indifferent or perhaps even enthusiastic about the divorce then he could just tell his wife the truth and get the divorce. It's only because he does love her that he is willing to make all the effort in counseling to save the marriage.

I hope this clarifies the distinction I would make between trusting someone decision making ability and believing that giving them more but incomplete information can lead them to make the wrong choice.

CD-Host said...

Bill K --

On the rape situation again you are conflating the discipline process and the follow up with the underlying act. Nobody questioned whether the underlying act was bad. So comments like "forcing his wife to share her body with a prostitute" while dramatic don't even address the question at hand. Nobody is defending the rightness of adultery.

bill k said...

To make sure I understand your thoughts:

Your position illustrated in this story is that it is okay for person A to make decisions for person B as long as person A knows more information, knows what is right, or knows better than them? This includes decisions that deliberately keep person B from encountering facts.

I didn't understand your comment about rape. The action of Sam has already been done. He "knows" that his wife would divorce him for adultery, so he manipulates her through selective or false information in order to engineer a situation where he suffers the least. This situation is directly against the known wishes of his wife.

CD-Host said...

Bill K --

I'd actually answer more generally than that.
An evil act is one that increases suffering in the world. Sam here is faced with a choice between two evils: divorce and lying. The one that creates the least suffering is lying not divorce. I think it perfectly fine to reduce evil by committing a lesser evil.

Now there is an implied assumption you keep making that the divorce is a consequence of adultery. Again lets look at the counter proof, there are 4 cases.

Sam commits adultery and confesses to adultery -> sam gets divorced
Sam commits adultery and does not confess to adultery -> sam stays married
Sam does not commit adultery and confesses to adultery -> sam gets divorced
Sam does not commit adultery and does not confesses to adultery -> sam stays married

We see by examining the cases above that it is not adultery but the confession which induces the divorce. That is whether sam does or does not commit adultery has no impact on whether he gets divorced while whether he does or does not tell his wife he did does induce divorce. You have repeatedly asserted that the consequence of the adultery is the divorce which is simply untrue, its the consequence of the confession not the sex.

As for Sam suffering the least, yes probably that's true. On the other hand Sam's wife suffers the least under Sam's solution as well. Again lets look at the options given Sam's adultery from her perspective:

Sam tells: Sam's wife is heart broken, goes through a divorce with all the problems that entails and then has to put her life back together.

Sam does not tell: Sam's wife is upset. She goes through counseling and her marriage is repaired.

Lets look at the difference

heart broken vs. upset
trauma of a divorce and all the subsequent trauma vs. trauma of counseling.

Her suffering is substantially reduced as well as his.

In general in situations with highly asymmetric information I do think its OK for one party to decide for another. I make decisions for my employees all the time, because I have access to better and more complete information than they do. I make decisions for my children and in this case often my sole argument is that I have better decision making skills than they do. I don't feel any moral compunction in either case. And in general both groups approve of me doing so.

bill k said...

I reject your utilitarian view of suffering and evil. I reject it on the basis that humans have very limited access to future events/effects, so choosing now based on the perceived likelihood of future events is a gamble.

Your scenario doesn't address the reason Sam's wife has communicated that if there is adultery, she would divorce Sam. Since I didn't create your hypothetical characters it is difficult to speak for them - but I would assume that Sam's wife said this because she does not want to be married to an adulterer. The confession doesn't really matter - whether she found out from him or from someone else or sensed it - she would want the divorce.

CD-Host said...

So what you are telling me is that:

Sam has no way of being able to accurately gauge his wife's feelings and reactions, and thus the utilitarian argument completely fails. But Sam's wife's gauge is so good that he can't possibly successfully lie to her about a private incident. Am I understanding your position correctly?

bill k said...

No. I reject utilitarianism in general. I also reject it in this situation because you assume that Sam can know what will (future tense) make his wife happy/limit pain.

The wife's knowledge about the situation was not brought in to suggest that she has any better grasp on the future than Sam. The point is that any way Sam's wife finds out or senses the adultery she will want a divorce, so it isn't the confession which causes the pain.

Whether his wife senses something different, hears rumors and investigates, talks to the prostitute or the prostitute speaks to her or a prophetic dream from God OR Sam confesses - in your scenario Sam's wife will want a divorced because her desire is not to be married to an adulterous husband (per your original post).

bill k said...

I'll modify further -

The pain is coming once the adultery has been done. Their is spiritual rift between Sam and his wife. The full damage may take time to manifest itself but even without knowledge of the adultery, Sam's wife has been damaged. Once she knows, that damage has been brought to a head. Her own expressed choice in this scenario to limit pain is divorce. Her choice should be respected.

CD-Host said...

The point is that any way Sam's wife finds out or senses the adultery she will want a divorce, so it isn't the confession which causes the pain.

Actually that is what's saying reread what you wrote. It is discovering the adultery that causes her to want a divorce.

Their is spiritual rift between Sam and his wife. The full damage may take time to manifest itself but even without knowledge of the adultery, Sam's wife has been damaged.

What is the mechanism for this spiritual rift to form? Is it just adultery or do other things do it? How do I detect the degree of these sorts of rifts? How does one verify if it is been closed or not? How do we know that Sam and his wife can equally detect spiritual rifts?

If spiritual rifts exist and they have material effect and her readon for divorce is the existence of this rift, then Sam's wife doesn't need the confession she can simply choose to divorce based on the existence of the rift. If "spiritual rifts" are real and valid reasons for divorce then divorce for "spiritual rift". Otherwise save a marriage that can be saved.

Honestly this whole spiritual rift things sounds like nonsense. Sam's wife doesn't like him because he has been a jerk Once they get therapy they address the underlying problem and its solved. That was what was in the scenario. I never indicated any kind of ESP for either one of them. They have a troubled marriage, that is fixable with moderate effort.

If you fundamentally believe that divorce is of so little consequence that the moral evil of lying outweighs the moral evil of divorce then where we differ is not utilitarianism but on how important we view preserving marriages.

bill k said...

Hopefully I have gone no further than the Bible - that what God has joined together man should not separate - but that divorce is permitted in the case of adultery. It is permitted but not championed.

In your example Sam's wife wants to get divorced in the case of adultery. Who is anyone but God to command her otherwise? - and yet even God has not in His word.

Do you think no one should be allowed to get divorced? Or that the law should read that divorce is illegal?


Your comments about sensing spiritual rifts is perceptive - it can be sensed because there is a real spiritual connection between husbands and wives whether or not they believe in the God of the Bible. However, divorce is allowed for adultery, not for a sensed spiritual rift. The sensation commonly prompts people to act; whether righteously or unrighteously; to investigate, to blow up in anger, to leave, to pray for insight from God, or multiple things.

Sam's wife will know that something is terribly wrong; and if Sam lies about what it is it will be like they are beating their heads upon the wall. All the counseling in the world isn't going to fix the absence of truth.

CD-Host said...

Bill K --

Since you are asking my opinion...

No I don't think divorce should be illegal. I think its a tragedy and people in a couple should work hard to avoid it. I think if one member of a couple has done wrong to the other one he/she should try and repair the damage. That may not always be easy. I think damaged marriages are worth saving if both people would like to save them. I think often a marriage can be saved if just one person starts trying to turn things around, because the other person reciprocates.

I think honesty is really really important in a marriage; especially about big things. That being said, I don't think its more important than the marriage itself or even close to equal. If the truth about something is highly likely to destroy a savable marriage, overboard it goes. I think people know how their spouses are going to react to things quite well. Not perfectly but often they have a pretty good idea.

I don't believe there are non material things we can detect, that is a "spiritual rift" is either a behavior and thus changeable or it doesn't exist at all.

I think you've been trying to find some way to discredit this argument since we started because of a theological assumption that active evils (sins you actively commit) are far worse than passive evils (bad things you let happen through inaction that you could stop). What's bothering you is the construction of a scenario where doing "the right thing" causes more harm than doing the "the wrong thing". So you've been trying to invent harms like
* Unhealable spiritual rifts
* Sam despising his wife
* Sam not being able to take being under judgment
* STDs
* Sam needing his wife's help to figure out why he cheated
* Sam not being able to tell if his wife is close to hitting the door

I don't have to come up with fake harms the harm of divorce is documented:
+ Tens if not hundreds of thousands in cost
+ Tremendous emotional pain and stress for both people
+ Serious and irreparable psychological damage to children

Looking down the barrel of that, I think this absolute no brainier. Now lets assume I'm wrong, and you are right, the counseling doesn't work because of spiritual rift problems. So they lose say 6 months, then Sam knows he can't fix the situation and he throws in the towel. Tells his wife, chats with a divorce attorney, hands a letter of disaffiliation to their church and does his best to try and repair the damage after the divorce tsunami finishes breaking everything in whole family's life. I still think he's better off, because when he gets divorced he knows he gave it a real shot to save his marriage. And frankly I think the wife may be too. Because a year or two later, she'll know that he really did give it a fair shot and it turned out their were irreconcilable differences.

Now lets assume you are even right about Sam's wife not wanting to divorce him. Once she finds out that he just spent the last 6 months trying to save the marriage, that he really does love her and really did want to salvage things I think there is a better chance she would want to save the marriage. Now she's not looking at a husband who has been a jerk but rather one who cleaned up his act and tried really hard to fix things. Now they don't have asymmetrical she knows Sam really is willing to work to save the marriage. If after that she still doesn't want to save it, then she's made her choice. And again she's only out the 6 months or so.

So there is my opinion.

Bill K said...

CD Host,

Thanks for your opinion. It is articulate and polite. On this issue we will have to agree to disagree in terms of the advice to save a marriage. From my end it comes down to this:

You advise pragmatism.

I advise being comepletely honest. This is pragmatic based on spiritual truths in the Bible.

Your pragmatism is based is based on the manipulation of others for a desired effect, and is limited the fact that humans can't "know" the future without special revelation.

The pragmatism I offered here is based on passages of scripture that explain how dealing with marriage and sin should be. Consider Ephesians 4 about loving your wife as a higher priority than yourself and treating her with the same care and deference Christ does the church; and James 5 that says we are healed from sins when we confess them. These passages will only seem pragmatic if a person has entered a relationship with Jesus.

Your position is the coherent one if God does NOT exist, which you explained in your last post as your own position; i.e. "I don't believe there are non material things we can detect". I assume God would be included here in your mind.

This is all said not to pick a fight but for the sake of someone in this situation, reading this post, to know that there is a better way to resolve a situation like this: one that is not based in the pragmatism of the world's thought but in the wisdom of God from the Bible. That person will have to choose which path they will go.

-Bill