The Reformers, Erasmus,
the Trojan Horse
The historical definition of humanism, as applied to Erasmus’ day, was the pursuit of a classical education, which included study of the literature and languages of the classical world, Latin and Greek.
Humanism’s core conviction is that man’s happiness is most important. This conviction led Erasmus to reinterpret some Scriptures in an unprecedented way. For the first time “porniea,” from Matthew, chapters 5 and 19, was interpreted as general moral uncleanness or adultery, and therefore constituted legal grounds for divorce. His position says when divorce is allowed, it automatically breaks the union between the two partners and, therefore, reasonably allows for remarriage to another partner. He then concluded (reasoned) that if these were legal grounds, then the innocent party should be free to remarry; otherwise, one could not say that it was a legal divorce. Through this teaching Erasmus presented his insidious Trojan horse to the Reformers. As they drew it in, they began inventing even more excuses for divorce.
When Luther and the other reformers left the Roman Church for what they perceived to be new light and a greater truth, they also, being grateful of Erasmus’ gift to them of the Greek translation, quickly accepted Erasmus’ teachings concerning marriage and divorce. This unwise choice resulted in their abandonment of clear theology for humanistic “reasoning” concerning any teachings on marriage, divorce and remarriage. Consequently, they were influenced by Erasmus’ new theory of “reasonableness” which opened a doctrinal Pandora’s Box, resulting in the inclusion of many other unscriptural and forbidden excuses for granting a divorce.
The following are some of their conclusions:
Martin Luther (1483 -1546)
Was a German monk, theologian, and church reformer. A highly educated man, Luther enrolled in law school before entering the Augustinian monastery. He later taught theology at the University of Wittenberg. Luther introduced new, unprecedented Grounds for Divorce:
• If a woman is married to an impotent man.
• Ignorance of a former contracted marriage.
• Desertion: 2-10 yrs. I Corinthians 7:15; “innocent remarry.”
Desertion was now perceived as legal grounds for divorce with the deserted party free to remarry.
The only decision the reformers were in conflict over was the length of time needed to declare that one had been deserted. Their conflicting conclusions varied from two to ten years.
Wife’s objection to render the conjugal duty. I Corinthians 7:3-5.
Failure of a wife to perform normal conjugal responsibilities.
This suddenly constituted grounds for divorce and remarriage, especially if she had been previously warned. The title given to this false teaching today is “reverse fornication.”
Adultery; Luther, using only Matthew & I Corinthians Texts: Said, “the innocent party can remarry.”
Adultery is grounds for divorce with the innocent party free to remarry.
Luther and the other Reformers, influenced by Erasmus, reasoned if one partner committed adultery in the Old Testament, God commanded them to be stoned. Thus, in God’s sight, the guilty party was dead and the innocent party could remarry.
Isn’t it strange how these men bypassed Jesus’ treatment of the woman caught in the act of adultery? Did He tell them to stone her, or tell her she was forgiven and to “go and sin no more” John 8:3-11? They also bypassed Paul’s treatise in Corinthians where he writes;
“Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers…shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you…” I Corinthians 6: 9-11
If these teachings were scripturally true then Paul would have to be speaking to people who were already stoned or dead. “…but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.” v. 11b. Strangely enough, there is no mention of these people being dead or stoned.
Eventually Martin Luther concluded that all divorce matters should be decided by civil judges and magistrates, and not by the Church.xvii
Decisions about divorce now became the responsibility of secular power.
“The government has to demand obedience, and it has to decide what is a rightful marriage. In Luther’s discussion of divorce and remarriage, it was noticed that remarriage was justified by the fact that the adulterer was the same as dead in the eyes of God and in his relationship to the innocent party. Luther even felt that the adulterer deserved capital punishment.”xviii
John Milton (1608–1674)
By the seventeenth century, John Milton; 1608-1674, a Protestant Puritan and author of “Paradise Lost and Paradise Found,” enlarged upon another of Luther’s conclusions, impotence being grounds for divorce and remarriage; by declaring a new exception where he contended; “If divorce was permissible for impotence, then it was equally well justified for incompatibility of mind and temperament.”xix This reasoning process represented man’s thinking and logic of that century. Here is a clear example of how our present day teaching evolved; one false conclusion was used to affirm another false conclusion.
Many pastors today have adopted this “reasoning” and are using it to justify divorce in their marriage, divorce, and remarriage counseling.
This unscriptural premise, introduced by a man who had a negative experience in his marriage, has become one of the main pillars for “no fault” divorces.
Phillip Melanchthon (1497-1560)
Reformer, Phillip Melanchthon, a German professor, theologian and associate of Martin Luther, added these following reasons to the list of legitimate grounds for divorce and remarriage. He said, “The marriage tie is severed by the adulterer himself, and not by the innocent party, who is free. Therefore, when the judge declares the innocent party free, he should expressly state that he or she may enter another marriage with a clear conscience. When that declaration is made, the innocent party can marry at any time.” Melanchthon does not, as does Luther, give any exegetical reasons why the innocent party may marry again. He only lays down the proposition: “if the innocent party was not allowed to marry again, it would be a divorce only in name and not in reality.”xx
Huldreich Zwingli (1484-1531)
Zwingli was the leader of the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland and another humanist scholar.
“When Christ granted divorce on account of adultery, He did not exclude other reasons for divorce or prescribe this only but mentions this as one among many…it did not mean that adultery was the sole reason for divorce. There are other evils, which are even worse than adultery, as for example, treachery, sorcery, and parricide (murder). Only the secular authorities could make a divorce valid since they alone could make the marriage legal…therefore God marries, when the contracting parties are joined together in accordance with the ordinance and will of God, and the rites of the nation and the civil code. Hence they follow human, not divine tradition who say that mutual agreement is the only thing necessary for marriage. The magistrate is the minister of God. Hence those who abide by those laws, God marries them. Those who go against those laws, or whatever those laws condemn, God does not sanction their marriage.”xxi
Martin Bucer (1491-1551)
-Quote by De Regno Christi in 1557
“The narratives of the Evangelist should be taken together when they are treating the same subject or incident, and the briefer narratives of other Gospels should be harmonized with the fuller accounts and interpreted with reference to other passages of Scripture relating to the same matter…thus, when the Lord in two places in Matthew most clearly allowed a concession about divorce, namely, in the case of adultery, then the same should be added to the words and replies of the Lord as recorded in Mark and Luke.”xxii
These previously rejected reasonings now permitted couples to divorce and remarry with Protestant Church approval.
This view, called the Matthew/Pauline Exception Theory is taught dogmatically and exclusively by nearly all churches today. These same teachings ignore the fact that Matthew was written to the Jews to prove Jesus was the promised Messiah. In Matthew Christ was addressing the Jewish tradition called “betrothal.” This tradition is illustrated between Joseph and Mary. Joseph thought Mary had committed fornication and was going to divorce her quietly. In Matthew, and only in Matthew, Jesus used this word carefully to show it was still legal for a Jewish man or woman to get divorced “legally” from a betrothal, “not a marriage.” To divorce and remarry after becoming married constituted adultery so long as your first partner lived. Christ did not give permission for a husband and wife to divorce and remarry, but applied that phrase; “except for fornication” to apply only to a betrothed couple.
We only need to observe what is happening to our families to see the kind of fruit Erasmus’ teaching is producing. Jesus taught us, any tree with bad roots can only produce bad fruit. By following this teaching from Erasmus, thinking it is scripturally, and historically authoritative, millions of believers are having their families destroyed and suffering the terrible pain and agony of divorce and broken homes, with shattered family relationships, while being told by church leaders, “It is God’s will, get on with your life.”
The answer to our present day social disintegration is not divorce and remarriage, but a renewed emphasis of the necessity of all believers to manifest Christ likeness and deep humility, considering others better than ourselves, when facing marital difficulties. Paul said, in Romans 12:10; “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”
I pray that after researching this historic information for yourself, the Spirit of God will help you see the urgency of restoring biblical truth to the Church concerning marriage and divorce before it is eternally too late. Together we must pray the Church awakens to this erroneous, corrupt teaching destroying our marriages. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge.” Hosea 4:6. The Church must return to uncompromising New Testament truth for the healing of our nation’s homes.
Whom will you and I believe? Will we believe Erasmus, who is historically described by his peers as a humanistic heretic? Will we believe his teachings on marriage and divorce despite their obvious contradiction of all the teachings of the earliest Christian fathers? Will we believe Erasmus when his teaching flies in the face of what Jesus Christ and Paul clearly taught?
In reviewing what we have learned, we must historically and doctrinally recognize the Erasmian view as false teaching, introduced by a man accused by his peers of having a distorted paradigm, with no sound exegetical foundation from Scripture; a man who totally ignored what every early Church Father before him taught on this subject, and who declared Jesus’ and Paul’s teachings about marriage, divorce, and remarriage to be “Monstrous!” His only solution went on to declare, “We need to reinterpret scripture and not depend on the past.”xxiii Until we recognize this as a fallout, we will not be ready to go back to the Word of God, which is the only eternal authoritative source of all truth and is consistent with all the earliest Church Fathers’ teachings on this subject.
The Erasmian view, and all of the spurious arguments that have been added to it by the Reformers, have produced the corrupted teachings presently polluting our churches with the vilest form of family-destroying, immoral humanism possible! The Apostle Paul warned believers against such teachings in Timothy, “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils.” I Timothy 4:1
Remember, any doctrine built upon a false premise is a false doctrine that will cause anyone who receives it to move from a scriptural answer to his or her “own misguided ideas.”
Here, Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gave each of us our marching orders:
Preach the Word, be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine but after their own lusts shall they heap to them-selves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth…. II Timothy 4:2-4a, TLB
Erasmus and the reformers taught all Scripture verses about marriage and divorce must be interpreted in the light of Matthew, chapters 5 & 19.
Proper hermeneutic rules for interpreting Scripture however, declare the opposite.
We cannot disregard the necessity for comparing Scripture with Scripture, while always remembering that the plain verses are the main verses. “All obscure and seemingly contradictory verses must submit to those portions which are clear and concise. In most instances the unclear will be cleared up by the clear, and a sound verdict can be rendered.”xxiv What we believe means nothing unless all of Scripture agrees.
All the verses which seem to contradict the concise verses come into total agreement when interpreted in a true hermeneutic progression.
Neither the Ten Commandments nor the teachings of Jesus were spoken by a God of judgment and anger. They came from the heart of a loving Heavenly Father who gave them so we may experience an abundant life of constant provision and blessing:
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalms 1:3
This same God accompanied His laws and commandments with a sacrificial system that provided forgiveness, reconciliation and renewed blessings to anyone who was willing to confess their sins to God and allow the Holy Spirit to lovingly lead them out of their life of disobedience. God’s heart and attitude toward mankind has never been to judge or destroy. His desire is to let us know His way is perfect and all other ways lead to self destruction.
God did not demand the permanence of the marriage covenant to injure or torment us. Instead, His heart of love and mercy required its permanence to avoid the horrible destruction that disobedience to His standards brings. Today, much of our society and a growing number of churches have chosen to abandon God’s clear commandments to accommodate man’s selfish desires. The accompanying destruction from this abandonment is now being declared not only by the Church, but by an alarmed secular society as well. God’s loving heart wants all of mankind to enjoy Him and life itself because His knowledge is perfect, complete, and founded in pure love. God gave us His inerrant Word as the only sure way to abundant life. It is neither God’s goal nor His desire to punish or separate Himself from us. Rather, God’s goal and desire is to bless us and make us to be a blessing; both light and salt, to this generation.
Jesus lovingly warned in Matthew:
Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men. Matthew 5:13
Could it be that we are almost there as a Church? Are we changing the world with God’s loving message of purity, or has the world changed us? The following statistics may provide a clue.