Saddleback Says Domestic Violence Does Not Justify Divorce

I don’t know about you, but it sure seems to me that the Associated Baptist Press is trying to cause some trouble for Rick Warren by highlighting audio clips from the Saddleback Family website stating that those suffering from domestic violence are still not justified in seeking divorce – though they can seek separation – and that getting smacked around just once doesn’t count as abuse:

Rick Warren, the Southern Baptist megachurch pastor chosen to offer the invocation at President-elect Barack Obama’s Jan. 20 inauguration, says the Bible does not permit a woman to divorce a spouse who is abusing her.

In audio clips on his Saddleback Church website, the Purpose Driven Life author says the Bible condones divorce for only two reasons — adultery and abandonment.

“I wish there were a third in Scripture, having been involved as a pastor with situations of abuse,” Warren said. “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.'”

Warren said his church’s counseling ministry advises separation and counseling instead of divorce in abusive marriages, because it’s the only path toward healing. “There’s an abusive cycle that’s been set up,” he said. “Separation combined with counseling has been proven to provide healing in people’s lives.”

Warren said there’s nothing in the Bible that says a spouse must tolerate abuse. “There’s nowhere in the Bible that says it’s an attitude of submission to let somebody abuse you,” he said. “That is not submission. So we recommend very strongly separation.”

He defined what he meant by physical abuse.

“When I say physical abuse, I mean literally somebody is beating you regularly,” he said. “I don’t mean they grab you once. I mean they’ve made a habit of beating you regularly. You need to separate in that situation, because that’s the only thing that’s going to solve that.”

You can listen to the audio clips here (the divorce clips are #30-32) and I have to say that, having done so, I am not sure that it is actually Warren speaking.  The ABP article asserts that it is and it may very well be right – but having heard him speak on several occasions, I am not convinced that the person speaking in these audio clips is Warren himself.

Nonetheless, these answers are posted on Saddleback’s website and, as such, presumably represent the official position of both Warren and his church.

UPDATE 1/9: ABP has now corrected its article to reflect that it was not, in fact, Warren speaking but rather associate pastor Tom Holladay.