Is ‘mental’ divorce scriptural?
First of all, if I understand the concept of “mental divorce” then the following scenario should establish the background for our question and answer: Jack divorces Jill for a reason other than fornication. Then, Jack marries another woman, and now is guilty of adultery. So, he can now be “mentally put away” by Jill. Now, Jill is free to remarry under the exception given by Jesus.
The scriptures indicate that though such divorces are not acceptable to God, nor the remarriages that follow, they do indeed exist. In other words, when Jack divorces Jill, an actual divorce has occurred. In Matthew 19:9, when Jesus said, “whoever divorces his wife… and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery,” there is no indication that the divorce is not truly a divorce. It is, but it is not pleasing to God.
In such cases the apostle Paul gave instruction which Jesus did not. 1 Corinthians 7:10-11 Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband. 11But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband. And a husband is not to divorce his wife.
For those who have divorced for unscriptural reasons there are only two marital possibilities, celibacy or reconciliation. We have to remember that these are the only choices. The mental divorce advocates champion a third position, the “waiting game”, which is unsubstantiated from scripture. That is, if I divorce without cause, I can wait for my former spouse to remarry or commit fornication, divorce her mentally, and then remarry.
With the exception of a case that matches what Jesus described in Matthew 19:9, there is no authority in scripture for one who is divorced to remarry. Jesus allows only for the party innocent of fornication to remarry. For divorcees, regardless of whether or not they are guilty of fornication, the verse indicates that remarriage brings about adultery: “Whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.”
It is dangerous to seek “logic” and “common sense” as an adjunct to what the scriptures teach. Rather than making deductions that seem reasonable, but are not necessarily derived from scripture, we should be willing to speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent. As there is nothing said in scripture of the put away person remarrying, we must not advocate it in our teaching and practice. This position does harm to the basic principle of God’s law on marriage, one man, one woman, for a lifetime. May we all respect God’s word on the matter.