Is Domestic Abuse an Acceptable Reason for Divorce

Orginally published on Monday, January 12, 2009 at 7:33 AM
by Todd Rhoades

According to the Christian Post: "Physical abuse by one’s spouse is not a biblical reason for divorce, says a pastor at Saddleback Church in southern California.

Tom Holladay, teaching pastor at the megachurch founded by best-selling author Rick Warren, says the Bible only gives two cases where divorce is acceptable: abandonment and a physical affair.

“I wish there were a third in Scripture having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse," Holladay said in an audio clip posted on Saddleback Church’s Web site. "There is something in me that wishes there were a Bible verse that says, 'If they abuse you in this-and-such kind of way, then you have a right to leave them.'"

Physical abuse, he defined, is someone “literally” beating another person up regularly...

Holliday does believe that couples involved with domestic abuse should separate; and find counseling.

You can read the whole article here.

So… what do you think?  Is Domestic abuse grounds for a Biblical divorce?  What’s your take?


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  There are 36 Comments:

  • Posted by

    D ear David,

    I will pray that no one you ever truly love must suffer the agony of an abusive relationship; because brother, yours is exactly the attitude which causes vicitims to leave the Body of Christ.

    As a social worker before ministry, I had the horrifying task of going with a woman to see her pastor. She had just finished spending approx. 2 weeks in the hospital--four days were in the ICU--after being beaten by her husband. Her pastor informed her that as the head of the household he had a right to discipline her & that she needed to be submissive and if he beat her again, she should pray for strength to endure.

    Considering the fact that our Lord Jesus reached out to those who were marginalized; turned the legal code of Moses upside down and ministered to those who were not married in the understanding of the temple (the woman at the well); I have faith that the Lord’s ideal for marriage is not bound in legalism but in the Divine, biblical and Christ like model of servant leadership as explained in the original languages--not the distorted translation given to the people by King James. I prefer the original languages of scripture as given to us by the King of Kings,

  • Posted by

    Dear Thea,
    There appears to be a vast group of people who can’t seem to read. First, cant seem to read my comments. I said MOVING AWAY. As in, “get away from the abuser.” Second, look to the original text and context.  Not figurative meanings. Hermeneutics, Hebrew & Greek. It is either the Word of God or it is not.  This is one of those hard things about choosing a faith that is not dictated by the individual’s desires. Sometimes we would rather the Word say something other than it says.  I pray that you never experience being abused. And if you are in that circumstance, I pray that you follow the Will of God.  The Will of God is not that you subject yourself to abuse.  Although you did not read my post carefully, I appreciate your prayers.

  • Posted by

    Dear David,

    I ask for your prayers as well.

    I believe that scripture is indeed the Word of God; moreover, I do indeed look at the original languages and context, as shown in my first post.

    I do not think that quoting the original language and understanding the nuances therein as I quoted them are figurative. Indeed, I would commend to all who are reading this post the book, “What Paul Really Said About Women,” by Rev. John Temple Bristow. Bristow offers an indepth study which employs the original languages & contexts.

    And yes, I have been in an abusive marriage. One I remained in for over twelve years because I believed that as a good Christian I should not get divorced. That marriage was demoralizing and degrading and did not emulate the model of marriage as mandated in scripture, Abusive relationships are a form of abandonment--perhaps not physically/literally--but abondonment nonetheless.

    Christ was not a literalist, yet when we try to be literal with the Word of God, even though Christ himself was not, we do more harm than good to the furthering of the Gospel.

    Let us just agree to disagree brother, because we will not change one another’s minds. But we can hold one another in prayer--that is a literal model given to us by Christ--one I will follow and obey.


  • Posted by

    Ok. I completely understand now.
    Forgive me for misunderstanding you.  Your statement, “Christ (God) is not a literalist,” explains where you are coming from.  I personally find it hard to believe God would say, “I really don’t mean what I commanded & instructed literally,” but there are those who don’t find that a stretch. To each his/her own.

    God bless. smile

  • Posted by

    No one is saying that, at least I am not. When it gets right down to it, God does hate divorce, We look for to many loop holes to escape our vows, there I agree with you 100% we should be working on preserving what “God has put together” Some times I wonder if God is the one who put some of these Marriages together. “Be not unequally yolked with an unbeliever” He expects us to take our vows seriously.
    Another study in Scripture is of the Character of God.
    “God has called us to peace” “Love thinks no evil”
    God delivers His children ...many passages in the psalms. God gives us common sense and wisdom, We are responsible for the safety of our children, if their lives are in danger don’t you think that the way God may deliver them might just be to get out of that situation? God is a God of reconciliation, We should try to be reconciled, it may take repentance and Godly council along with accountability. if the abuser doesn’t agree with these or refuses, Its just my way of thinking but I would write him off as a unbeliever, Look at 1 John 3:14,15 &1;John 4:7,8,&20;. I think the principle here is a “Real” Christian doesn’t act in Hate and beat Their spouse and children. And therefore 1 Cor. 7 tells us if the unbeliever depart, let them go. Are not acts of violence and hatred a departure from your vows to love and to cherish? also revealing your true nature? maybe I am wrong, I’ll change my view when God convicts me that I am wrong.

  • Posted by


    I must agree with you. We can not pick and choose what parts of scripture we obey. Yet, we all have a tendency to point out the parts of scripture we think others should adhere to, while we neglect others.

    Blessings to both you & David.

  • Posted by Ken Sutton

    I am a pastor with Calvary Chapel and we tend to try to be pretty Biblical in our approach, like the rest of you folks in here. Having said that, I have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to domestic physical abuse. So, if a woman gets hit or is in danger then the man moves out...That is common sense and good counsel. Seperation over these matters is a must to protect the genuine victim.
    Secondly, if a man is harming his wife physically and it is a legitimate issue which will not be stopped after confrontation and hopeful restoration...I would definitely consider abuse as abandonment from a Biblical perspective. If a wife cannot live with her husband due to abuse then He has abandoned the marriage quite clearly…

  • Posted by

    Ex 21:26,27

    “If a man hits a manservant or maidservant in the eye and destroys it, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the eye. And if he knocks out the tooth of a manservant of maidservnat, he must let the servant go free to compensate for the tooth”.

    God is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. This is clear. He does not tolerate violence. Even though this is not referring to a marriage, but the same principle of justice is defined.

  • Posted by jammer

    great thank u
    love it

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