Fourth of a Thousand Responses …

My pal Steve continues:

Just to review, in discussing the possibility that domestic violence might be grounds for divorce, one argument I used was an a minore ad maius argument.

An a minore ad maius argument is a special type of a fortiori argument, which is, in turn, a special type of argument from (or by) analogy.
There are two types of a fortiori arguments:
a minore [sic for minori] ad maius (lesser-to-greater)
a maiore ad minus (greater-to-lesser)
Arguments from analogy are very common in ethics, law, and science. And they are common in Scripture.
For instance, the Mosaic law contains a great number of case laws. A Jewish judge was often required to reason by analogy from a case law to a comparable situation.

a) Was his argument that it “might be” or that “it is”?  I had the distinct idea that his argument was that it is, not just that it might be.  I am encouraged by this soft-pedaling from Steve.  Perhaps he’s not as dogmatic as I thought he was, or perhaps I’ve even helped him see another side of the issue.

b) Nearly all the laws in the Torah are not “case laws,” notwithstanding Bahnsen’s popularization of that description.  Nevertheless, they are not laws in the same form that either modern Americans or modern Europeans are used to seeing.  One might describe their approach as something like “central legislating.”  There is a discussion of what to do if an ox gores someone.  There’s no discussion of what to do if your domesticated rhino gores someone.  Well, you generalize a principle from the ox goring case, and you have a law applicable to the rhino goring case.

c) Most of those applications are not instances of either “lesser to greater” or “greater to lesser” arguments.  A rhino is not a greater ox, nor is getting gored by one horn instead of two really a lesser injury.  So, the laws of the Torah are not a “for instance” of either lesser-to-greater or greater-to-lesser.

d) Nevertheless, there might be cases where lesser-to-greater or greater-to-lesser reasoning would be an appropriate way to generalize a principle. I’m not sure what cases Steve has in mind, though (other than the disputed case of generalizing from slavery to marriage).

Steve continued:

In his various responses to me, TF has stated what he considered to be conditions for a valid a fortiori argument. For instance:

But slavery isn’t a greater degree of the same kinds of obligations as marriage, so I assume Steve wouldn’t use that defense. Both apples and oranges are fruit, but that doesn’t really address the objection.
The objection could be briefly expressed this way: the argument you are using requires comparing two things that lie at different points on a single spectrum, with the second thing on the same side but farther from the dividing line that divides the spectrum; however, you haven’t established either that the two things are on the same spectrum or that the second thing is farther away from the dividing line that divides the spectrum.
Now let’s compare his criteria to the following statement:
But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many (Rom 5:15).
That’s a classic a minore [sic for minori] ad maius argument. If x, then how much more y.

a) That is not a classic a minori (from the lesser) ad maius (to the greater) argument.  It’s a contrast between lesser and greater, but it is not an argument from the lesser to the greater.

b) Rather, a classic a minori ad majus is this:

John 10:33-36
The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus answered them, Is it not written in your law, I said, Ye are gods? If he called them gods, unto whom the word of God came, and the scripture cannot be broken; say ye of him, whom the Father hath sanctified, and sent into the world, Thou blasphemest; because I said, I am the Son of God?

The lesser here is mere mortals being justly called “gods” by virtue of receiving the authority to judge based on the word of God, how much more justly is the very Word of God called the Son of God?

Notice, though, that sin and grace differ in kind. They don’t occupy the same spectrum. Paul’s a fortiori argument involves a negative comparison. So TFan’s criteria would invalidate Paul’s argument.

Paul wasn’t using an a fortiori argument there.  Paul was explaining a contrast between sin and grace.

In his latest reply, TFan begins by saying:
But it seems that Steve’s major argument for his position is this one:
    c) There is also an argument from analogy. A battered slave could be manumitted (Exod 21:26-27). A fortiori, a battered wife can divorce her husband. What’s true in the lesser case of a slave is true in the greater case of a wife, for a wife has greater rights than a slave.
This argument is invalid.  Just because something leads to the release of slavery does not imply that it leads to the release of a marriage.
i) Of course, that’s a caricature of my actual argument. I never said or suggested that just because something leads to the release of slavery, this entails that also it leads to the release of a marriage. So TFan is misrepresenting the actual argument.

a) But an actual a fortiori argument is a deductive argument whose premises entail their conclusion.  Calling his argument “a fortiori” may be a caricature of Steve’s argument, but with respect it’s not my caricature.

b) More to the point, since Steve is not contending that his argument entails his conclusion, why are we even continuing to discuss this point.  Effectively, Steve has conceded the argument.

Yet Steve continued:

ii) In addition, this wasn’t my “major argument.” It’s one of several. I don’t think one is more important than another. It’s more of a cumulative case argument.

a) I anticipated this kind of response and addressed his other two arguments.
b) Yes, “major” is my characterization.  I thought it was the best of three bad arguments.
c) Three fallacious arguments don’t really mount a cumulative case, from where I sit.

A Hebrew slave was released from bondage upon reaching a seventh year of service.  But no serious person would suggest that a Hebrew spouse was released from marriage upon reaching a seventh year.  Thus, the fact that something led to the release of a slave does not imply that the something should lead to the release of a spouse.
Likewise, it’s worth noting that the provisions that warrant a divorce (adultery/fornication and actual desertion by an unbelieving spouse) are not things that warrant the release of a slave.  Indeed, it is absurd to suppose that if a slave’s master commits adultery, the slave is free to leave.  Likewise, in the law Hebrews were not commanded to let unbelieving slaves go free if they wished to go free. Furthermore, while death of a spouse liberate the other from the marriage, the death of a master does not liberate a slave.
Here TFan tries to invalidate my argument by coming up with disanalogies. And, indeed, one way of trying to invalidate an argument from analogy is to bring up counteranalogies. However, that only works if the counteranalogies are relevant.

a) The relevance of the counter-analogies is hardly disputable.  Steve is arguing that a condition existing in the case of slaves should lead to a similar result in the case of wives.  But that’s not a general rule – in fact the general rule is the opposite.  The “counter-analogies” are actually illustrations of the general rule.

b) Of course, Steve has to give us a reason to accept his argument from analogy.  While I think my illustrations show that his analogy runs contrary to the general rule, the burden is on Steve to establish the ground for his assertion, not on me to provide proof of Steve’s error.

Take the following comparison:
15 Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? 16 And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” (Lk 13:15-16).
That’s an a minore [sic for minori] ad maius argument. Jesus is reasoning from the lesser case of thirsty livestock to the greater case of a handicapped Jewess. If we show that much concern for livestock, shouldn’t we show at least as much (indeed, far more) concern for a disabled woman–indeed, a woman who’s a member of the covenant community?
(See Lk 14:1-6 for a similar a fortiori argument.)

a) In fact, Steve is right that these are examples of an argument from the lesser to the greater (the Luke 14 passage refers to the fact that if preservation of life of livestock justifies sabbath breaking, even more so healing a man justifies sabbath breaking).

b) In both cases (Luke 13 and Luke 14) small acts of mercy justifying sabbath breaking are used to prove that large acts of mercy also justify sabbath breaking.

Now imagine if TFan were to take the same dismissive approach to this argument that he does to mine:
The inference from the ox to the woman is invalid! For instance, the law says “If the ox has been accustomed to gore in the past, and its owner has been warned but has not kept it in, and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death” (Exod 21:29).
But if you compare a woman to an ox, then if a husband knows his wife is accustomed to assaulting people, but doesn’t keep her under lock-and-key, and she kills somebody, then the husband should be executed. For the woman is to the ox as the husband is to the owner. Jesus’ argument is absurd!
Likewise, the law says “If a man steals an ox or a sheep, and kills it or sells it, he shall repay five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep” (Exod 22:1).
But if you compare a woman to an ox, then if a man steals (i.e. commits adultery with) another man’s wife, then the adulterer shall repay the cuckolded husband by giving him five wives. No serious person can accept Jesus’ reasoning!
Using TFan’s tactics, it would be easy to make a mockery of our Lord’s a fortiori argument. But the dissimilarities are incidental to Jesus’ argument.

a) Oy vey!  Obviously, Steve’s blockquote is his own very creative imagination, not anything I wrote.
b) And, of course, Jesus’ argument is a legitimate argument.
c) But just because Jesus makes a legitimate argument in this valid deductive form, doesn’t mean that Steve can call his argument a “from the lesser to the greater” argument and get whatever conclusion he likes.
d) That’s particularly the case when Jesus’ argument entails the conclusion whereas Steve has already disclaimed that his own argument entails the conclusion.

i) Now let’s compare Jesus’ argument with my argument.
If it’s permissible or even obligatory to water an ox on the Sabbath, then how much better should we treat a handicapped Jewess?
If it’s obligatory for a master to release a slave whom he’s wounded (even if it’s a minor, albeit irreparable injury, like a broken tooth), then how much greater is the obligation of a wife-beater to release his battered wife?
ii) Keep in mind, too, that a wife and a slave have far more in common than an ox and a woman. Using TFan’s spectral argument, a wife and a slave are closer to each on the spectrum than an ox and a woman.

a) Again, what a mess!  He’s now comparing Jesus’ argument to his own.  But he doesn’t see the difference!
b) For example, Jesus is making a comparison between a work to achieve a minor mercy to a work to achieve a major mercy, and alleging that if the former justifies breaking the sabbath, so does the latter.
c) A broken tooth is not only a permanent injury but can create pain that lasts a long time.  I’m not sure that “minor” is really an accurate characterization of it, except as compared to losing an eye.
d) Steve seems to be identifying the tooth as a minor injury in comparison to the battery of a wife.  But, of course, battery does not necessarily cause enduring physical pain or permanent injury.  So, this is a confused comparison at best.
e) But let’s try to help Steve out.  Suppose that the injury to the wife is greater.  That would clearly justify releasing the wife from slavery, if it were a greater injury.  But the wife is not in slavery.  She’s in a different kind of relationship to the injurer, the relationship of marriage.  Moreover, marriage is not simply a lesser form of slavery.  Rather marriage is something God actively promotes and protects.  By contrast, slavery is given the back of the hand – regulated but not really advocated.
f) So (as noted above) Steve’s argument doesn’t follow.  Just because a smaller injury than wife-beating (we’ll assume wife beating is a bigger injury) justifies release of a relatively unimportant bond, does not mean that a larger injury justifies the release of a highly important bond.  We’re back in the “two dimensions” land I mentioned originally in trying to explain Steve’s mistake to him.

iii) Take another argument from analogy. If a sundial is a timepiece, and a digital watch is a timepiece, then if I can tell the time by my digital watch, I can also tell the time by a sundial.
Is that valid? Well, in one respect a sundial and a digital watch are the same kind of thing. They both are timepieces. At that level of abstraction, they are the same kind of thing.
Yet in most ways they are very unalike. The basis of the analogy is functional or teleological. Both devices were designed to do the same thing, although one is more accurate than another.
Same thing if you compared an abacus to an electronic calculator. Are they the same kind of thing? Same in what respect? In most ways they differ in kind.

a) This tangent by Steve has very little to do with the discussion.
b) Steve’s “another argument” plainly is not an a fortiori argument.
c) Steve’s argument seems counter-intuitive, in that children who can read a digital clock can have trouble reading analog clocks, like a sun dial.
d) The same is true of an abacus.  Lot of people who can use a calculator have no idea how to use an abacus.

iv) One problem is that TF doesn’t seem to appreciate the difference between deductive and inductive logic. Arguments from analogy can either be inductive or deductive. In the case of inductive arguments, the conclusion doesn’t follow by strict implication. We’re dealing with probabilities. But that doesn’t mean you can discount an a fortiori argument out of hand simply because it won’t yield a necessary conclusion. That’s to misunderstand the nature of analogical arguments in this respect.

The a fortiori is essentially a deductive argument (citation)(see the discussion here for more precision, with Hebrews 10:28 given as an example), and Steve claimed his argument was a fortiori.  Steve now denies that his argument is deductive, but instead seems to suggest it is inductive.

Moreover, even if the conclusion were supposed to come in a non-strict way from the premises Steve offered, the problem is that they don’t.  In other words, Steve has not only not demonstrated his conclusion he hasn’t given a us a good reason to think his conclusion probable and/or reasonable.  All he has offered (in this argument) is a strained comparison to slavery.

Thus, there is no good reason to suppose that this argument from analogy is valid.  The two things are non-analogous precisely on the point that the analogy aims to press.
That’s just an assertion.

No, Steve.  That’s the conclusion to the argument that went before.

There are also further problems with this argument.  First, the use of the “rights” framework is anachronistic.  The Scriptures don’t speak of “rights” and specifically in this instance the release of the slave was retributive justice against the master, not a “right” of the slave.
This is another case of TFan rehashing an objection I already dealt with. He’s needs to stop arguing in bad faith. If he raises an objection, and I engage his objection, he ought to take that into account the next time around.

a) It’s a lose-lose for me.  If I engage Steve’s argument in the form he presents it, I’m arguing in bad faith.  If I don’t, I’m arguing in bad faith.

b) If Steve acknowledges that I’m correct in assessing his “rights” based framework as anachronistic, why not just acknowledge it?

c) And, of course, the need to avoid this anachronism would still be a point worth raising, even if Steve thinks he can demonstrate his point without appeal to an anachronistic framework.

It’s easy to recast my argument without reference to “rights.” Indeed, I’ve shown him how that’s done.

a) I’m not sure Steve has shown me how to recast his argument without using a “rights” analysis.  I could be mistaken, of course.  I have imperfect knowledge.

b) And, what happened to it?  Steve goes back to the comment box to dig up discarded positions of mine, but this gem recast argument seems to be unworthy of posting from the comment box (or wherever it is) into the post to answer my point.

Second, it is not clear that a wife had “greater rights” than every slave in Hebrew law.  In this case, for example, if we call what the slave has a “right,” the law does not provide for similar or greater rights for wives.
Steve tried to argue that wives did have greater rights because they had higher social status.  But actually, social status is something of a fluid concept.  For example, in second temple Judaism, the temple apparently included a “court of the women,” between the court of the Gentiles and the court of the men.  Thus, at least in the temple, a male Hebrew slave would have higher social status – he could get closer to the symbol of the presence of God than she could.  Of course, I recognize that in other aspects the social status of a wife was higher – in the home, the slaves would be expected to generally obey the wife.
One problem is that TFan’s argument is a moving target. He will deny something. When I present counterevidence, he sometimes makes a grudging admission. So his argument keeps evolving. If you compare what he’s saying now with what he said before, you’ll notice new concessions.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but if you have to keep retrofitting your original argument, then there comes a point when you should ask yourself if your original argument was shortsighted and ill-conceived. If the reasons you end up with aren’t the reasons you began with, then it seems as if you start with your belief, then look for supporting evidence, rather than starting with the evidence. Shouldn’t evidence lead belief, rather than the other way around?

a) Obviously, I agree that evidence should lead belief.
b) And my refinement of my position demonstrates my commitment to that point.
c) Perhaps Steve will join me.  There’s no merit in simply doggedly holding on to one’s original position in the face of sound argument to the contrary, as Steve seems to acknowledge.
d) Moreover, of course, even if I were a scoundrel with an a priori commitment to a conclusion, that’s not an argument against my position, it’s a personal criticism.

Moreover, higher social status is not convertible into greater “rights.”  Whether one characterizes the mechanisms of Hebrew law in terms of “rights,” “legal protections,” “privileges,” or “prerogatives,” there was not some kind of general pattern of providing those with higher social status greater rights, protections, privileges, etc.  Indeed, the law called for a general principle of equality despite social status differences [Lev 19:15Deut 1:17].
i) That confuses equal justice with other kinds of equality. Unequal justice is unjust. Everyone is entitled to equal justice under the law. But not all forms of inequity are unjust. Does TFan really not understand that basic distinction?
ii) Equality…all things being equal. For instance, the rich and powerful were generally in a better position to protect themselves than widows and orphans. In that respect, widows and orphans needed special protection.
But here we’re discussing the issue of domestic violence. Both rich wives and poor wives can be battered wives. Being uppercrust doesn’t automatically shield a woman from domestic violence. That’s a different type of vulnerability than poverty. (Likewise, a rich woman can shoot her husband. His wealth doesn’t shield him from that hazard.)

a) I agree that not all forms of inequality are unjust.  Moreover, my argument in no way suggested such a thing.  This just looks like a straw man.

b) I agree that widows and orphans needed special protection.

c) But guess who else needed special protection: slaves.  Steve has identified a good principle, but it is a principle that undermines his “from the lesser to the greater” argument.  If a small injury to a highly protected person results in a particular outcome, the same injury to a less protected person would not necessarily result in the same outcome.

d) I agree with Steve’s points that domestic violence itself has no relation at all to social status.  But, of course, Steve’s the one who raised the social status point.  I’m glad he agrees with me, but this only reinforces my objections.

There’s another problem with Steve’s analogy, which we could call the “two dimensional” problem.
Let’s remember that TFan originally used the spatial metaphor of a spectrum to evaluate a fortiori arguments. Well, that’s a 2D metaphor. A linear continuum in which two things can be ranged along the same continuum, either closer or farther apart.
So if there’s a “two dimensional” problem, that’s a problem, not with my a fortiori argument, but with TFan’s original criteria for assessing a fortiori arguments. He’s now revising his criteria.

a) I’m free to revise my criteria.  Steve’s argument doesn’t get a pass just because I was less astute in my first set of objections than I am now.

b) And “two dimensional” has more than one meaning.  Steve’s confusion should have ceased when he read my comment in context, but sadly it did not.  To clarify, of course, if one takes a line as “2D” then Steve’s analogy is “3D.” But to keep my original expression, the point is that Steve has introduced an extra dimension.  Instead of a one-dimensional line, Steve’s on a two-dimensional plane.

Let’s suppose that married women were of higher social rank than male slaves.  That’s one dimension.  At the same time, though, marriage is a more binding bond than slavery.  “They twain shall be one flesh” is a bond that is greater than the highest degree of binding in slavery, the ear bored slave who wishes to serve his master perpetually (Exodus 21:6).
How is that a more “binding bond”? In both cases, the party in question makes a lifelong commitment. A legally binding commitment for life, barring dissolution by the actions of the other party.
No doubt marriage is a deeper bond, but not a more binding bond.

a) Why isn’t a deeper bond a more binding bond?  Why is duration the measure of binding instead of depth?  Steve seems to admit the reason for accepting my conclusion but inexplicably does not grant the conclusion.

b) And it is more binding as well because the marriage union is described as “what God hath joined,” whereas the binding of the perpetual servant is derivative of that (“I love my master, my wife, and my children”).

Husbands have a duty to sacrifice themselves for their wives in a way that no master is called upon to act toward a slave.  That’s another dimension.
But that plays into my argument. A husband has higher duties to a wife than to a slave. So what if he’s derelict in his duty? What’s the remedy?

a) The preliminary question is, “is there a remedy?”
b) After all, the woman is flesh of his flesh.  If he injures his own flesh, is there a remedy?
c) Even if there is a remedy, the remedy cannot be the same as the remedy for the slave, because the woman is not in slavery.

So, even if wives have greater rights than male slaves, the bonds of marriage are stronger.
Stronger in what sense? Legally stronger? I don’t see the basis for that claim.
Emotionally stronger? I’d hope so. Does a husband have stronger obligations to a wife than a slave? Yes. But how does that undermine my argument?

a) The fact that the bonds of marriage are stronger can be seen from the fact that:
i) A woman cannot be redeemed from marriage, like a slave can from slavery.
ii) Hebrew slavery was terminated on the mere passage of time, marriage is not.
iii) Moreover, dealing with the explicit text of the law, the very provision Steve is relying on finds no counterpart for wives.
iv) And as noted above, the divine putting together is the strongest possible union of two humans.
b) The way in which it undermines Steve’s argument is that it shows that his conclusion does not follow from his premise, as already explained above and seemingly acknowledged by Steve.

And the problems don’t stop there.  It is not mere battery of a slave that gives the slave freedom. The slave gets freedom in the case of significant permanent physical injury.  Specifically, the slave gets his freedom for the loss of an eye or a tooth (Exod 21:26-27).
But Steve’s move in his argument is from permanent physical injury to mere battery.  That’s a move from greater injury to lesser injury.  Even if permanent physical injury could justify breaking the marriage bond, Steve would still need to find some justification for something less than permanent physical injury breaking the marriage bond.
Well, that’s a bait-n-switch. The a minore [sic for minori] ad maius argument doesn’t operate at the level of the injury, but the level of the obligation to the injured party.

a) I’m pretty sure bait and switch is when you promise one thing and deliver another.
b) This looks like an evolution of Steve’ argument within the post.  Recall that above he was pointing out that a broken tooth is a minor injury.  Was that a red herring?
c) And what does Steve’s evolved argument look like?  It still has the same fundamental problem we discussed above.  The wife can’t be released from slavery, because she’s not in slavery.  So even if we agree (and why wouldn’t we) that an equivalent injury to one’s wife is more heinous (greater in that sense) as a violation of one’s obligations, we can’t conclude from that whether this more heinous violation deserves a penalty that is a certain amount more severe than the loss of a slave.

There’s an even more fundamental framing problem with Steve’s argument.  Why focus on a wife?  If a wife has high social status, surely in Hebrew law a husband has even higher social status.  And surely a free husband would have higher social status than a female slave.
But, of course, a “battered husband” isn’t nearly sympathetic enough for Steve’s argument. Moreover, if “social status” were a determiner of degree of divorce rights, Steve’s argument would imply that men in general should have more divorce rights than women, and that rich men should have more divorce rights than poor men.  But one cannot imagine Steve seriously advocating such an absurd position.  Therefore, Steve’s argument should be rejected, to avoid the reduction to absurdity.
i) I focused on the wife because I was responding to a YouTube clip of something Piper said which went viral on the Internet. I think Piper’s response was inadequate, and damaging to the complementarian cause.
I also pointed out that the question was unfair to the degree that it skewed the issue by its one-sidedness. Has TFan forgotten that already?
ii) In addition, TFan is attacking my position from an essentially egalitarian perspective. He acts as if it’s inconsistent or hypocritical of me to focus on battered wives rather than battered husbands.
But as a complementarian, I don’t think men and women should be treated alike in every respect, for men and women are unalike in some important respects.
Take a woman slapping a man in the face. There’s a long tradition of women doing that. You have that in classic Hollywood films, where a movie star like Joan Crawford slaps the leading man. He’s expected to stand there and take it, whereas he’d never take it from another man, precisely because he’s a man and she’s a woman. Back then, Hollywood films were more chivalric.
If a woman slaps a man, that doesn’t harm him. Rather, that dishonors him. It’s a symbolic gesture.
By contrast, if a man hits a woman, he can do real damage. Do I really need to explain that to TFan?

a) Chivalry is also an anachronistic framework.  Chivalry was not the operating framework of the OT.  And Chivalry is only example of complementarianism.
b) I appreciate Steve’s clarification about his topic selection.
c) There is additional hermeneutical danger to Steve because he’s treating some passages as if they apply equally to men and women, but then recognizing (like a good complementarian) that not all things apply equally to men and women.  The danger is that his commitment to chivalry is going to guide his selection, rather than the text itself in its original cultural context.

iii) Now, it is possible for a wife to inflict grave physical harm on her spouse. But that generally involves more than using her bare hands. Take the infamous case of Lorena Bobbitt. So, no, I don’t think a husband should put up with serious physical abuse from his wife–unless he provoked it (if it’s retaliation for his own abuse, that’s a different matter.)

I think a husband is permitted to demonstrate Christ to his wife by enduring persecution for the sake of the gospel at her hands, even to the point of laying down his life.  I think a wife is also permitted to do that, although I think that the Scriptures provide a greater encouragement and exhortation to men to sacrifice themselves for their wives.  We are all permitted to turn the other cheek, although we’re not required to do so in all cases (to be clear).

Let’s take for granted that “domestic violence is a travesty of what marriage represents,” as to the two aspects identified.  Let’s even assume that it is the “antithesis of how marriage is supposed to function.”
It’s striking that TFan merely grants that for the sake of argument, as if those are questionable assumptions.
However, even if those statements are true, they fall short of justifying “domestic violence” as a ground of divorce.  These would just be legitimate complaints about sin, or arguments that this sin is severe (“travesty” has that connotation).  So, this is the weakest of Steve’s three arguments.  He doesn’t even include a step in the argument that leads to a conclusion in the form of “and thus divorce is justified based on domestic violence.”
i) I said at the outset that I wasn’t presenting a full-blown argument for domestic violence as a legitimate ground for divorce. Remember the context. I was responding to Piper’s answer. And I was outlining arguments to the contrary.
ii) But notice how TFan minimizes and trivializes domestic violence by saying “These would just be legitimate complaints about sin.”
Really? If a husband hospitalizes his wife, she “just has a legitimate complaint about sin”?

Yes, appealing to the shocking nature of a horribly sinful act is an appeal to emotion, particularly when it is not part of an argument leading to a conclusion.  I don’t fault people for getting emotionally involved in these arguments, but pointing out that something is a weak argument only trivializes its argumentative value, not its emotional value or its heinousness.

“Steve’s second argument also has problems.  One problem is the idea that marriage is a covenant. While it is popular these days to speak of marriage covenants or “covenantal marriage,” these are not Biblical descriptions of the marriage between a man and a woman.   Nevertheless, Malachi and Jeremiah both intermix covenantal language with the description of marriage.”
Let’s assume, for the sake of argument that Scripture doesn’t formally classify marriage as a covenant. Still, TFan is committing the word-concept fallacy. In Scripture, marriage has contractual elements. It’s the terms of marriage that make it covenantal or contractual, not the label.

a) That’s Steve’s assertion.  It’s waiting for an argument in support of the assertion.
b) There is a difference between a covenant and a contract, not just as to the spelling of the words, but as to the concept.
c) And where does Steve think that marriage is treated as a contract?

Steve’s argument refers to the “terms of the covenant.”  That would be fine if Steve could point us to terms of the covenant that support his position.  The problem is that there aren’t any such terms of the covenant for Steve to point to.

In a sense any violation of any of the duties is “breaking the covenant.”
That oversimplifies the issue. Generally speaking, nonperformance can nullify a contract. If you don’t do what you agreed to do, if you fail to uphold your end of the bargain, then the other party is no longer bound to what he agreed to do, for his agreement was predicated on reciprocity.
If, say, someone agrees to paint your house on condition of a deposit upfront, with the balance due after the job is done, and you don’t make the deposit, then your nonperformance nullifies the agreement. He doesn’t have to paint your house.
On the other hand, the terms of a contract can be drawn up to specify fines or damages in case of nonperformance. In that event, nonperformance doesn’t nullify the contract. Rather, nonperformance (by one designated party) triggers one or more penalties. The contract is still in force to sanction the noncompliant party.
Both the OT and the NT spell out a number of marital duties for husband and wife. What if one spouse has no intention of discharging his or her marital duties? Is there still a viable contract?

a) Whether it simplifies it or oversimplifies it may be a matter of taste.
b) Given that marriage was able to be involuntarily entered into by women, how is a contract a good model? Steve has not given us a reason to think it is.
c) Not every non-performance nullifies a contract.
d) To pick on Steve’s example, if you miss a postage stamp sized portion of the house you were painting, the person can’t claim that he’s excused from paying.
e) As to the alternative remedies points Steve raises, these don’t seem to be relevant.
f) I suppose Steve means to say that one spouse has no intention of fully discharging his or her marital duties. If they had no intention to discharge any of the duties at all, it would look something like desertion.
g) But when only partial compliance is in play, there may be viability or not … it’s hard to say from such a generalized statement.

The muddy sheets is not severe enough but “domestic violence” is severe enough.
Why does TFan keep putting domestic violence in scare quotes? Does he think that’s not a real phenomenon?

a) The concept of “domestic violence” carries with it a bunch of modern baggage.  For example, many consider spanking children “domestic violence.”  I realize it is the term given to Steve, and Steve is answering the question posed.

b) But yes, I don’t like the term.

c) I’m well aware that there are husbands and wives who injure one another.  Is that even a serious question?

But why does Steve get to decide what is severe enough?
Well, that’s a peevish way of putting it. But if we take Biblical ethics seriously, that means we must extrapolate from sample cases or Scriptural principles to analogous situations. That’s Protestant casuistry (e.g. Williams Ames). That’s what pastors have to do. Likewise, entire denominations must formulate policies on topical social issues.

a) I’m not sure how well Steve has positioned himself to be peeved at the point.
b) But the point stands: Steve is advocating that some breach or other is severe enough, and unless he can support that from Scripture, there’s no particular reason to accept his case.
c) Steve’s response misses the follow-up punch to my line.  The follow-up punch is that Jesus tells us what is severe enough.  We don’t need to extrapolate, we can just obey.

Indeed, Jesus’ way of describing the grounds of divorce is exclusive, not illustrative.  Jesus doesn’t say “unless it be for something like adultery” but rather limits it to sexual sin (“except it be for adultery”).
Which, if you press the language, would exclude the Pauline Privilege. Yet, in his latest response to me, TFan accepts that. So TFan makes allowance for another exception despite the very wording of the dominical statement he quotes. If desertion is grounds for divorce, then that doesn’t limit the grounds for divorce to sexual sin. Once again, TFan has tied himself in knots.

I’m afraid it may be Steve, not myself, that I’ve tied in knots.  But I can untangle him.  As I mentioned in my previous post, Jesus identifies the one basis for procuring a divorce.  Paul identifies the one reason for permitting an otherwise unlawful divorce.  The difference is the difference between seeking and accepting, regardless of the mechanism of the divorce (i.e. regardless of whether formally it is a man who divorces his wife).

And at last I’m at the end of part 2 of Steve’s response.  Although, apparently, I’ve missed his explanation that does not rely on a rights-based analysis.


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