Thursday, April 19, 2012

No Innocent Affair: Making Right the Wrong of Adultery - Book Review

I would have to say that the topic of this book alone would make it very unpopular. Don't get me wrong, it's not that no one is doing it, or that most even consider it all that wrong, its just that no one likes to call it for what it is. Adultery just sounds so serious, so wrong. Who wants that kind of stigma attached to their actions? It makes love sound so dirty.

Well that is exactly what this book seeks to do, to call adultery by name and reacquaint it with its sinfulness and shame. No Innocent Affair is Edward F. Mrkvicka Jr.'s sobering look at the differences between God's view and society's view of adultery and the danger it poses to those who would follow its path.

God's view
Mrkvicka starts things off by first exploring God's view of adultery. Being a Fundamentalist, he holds to a literal interpretation of the Bible and believes that through it God best speaks for himself. He shares God's side by listing scripture pertaining to adultery and its related sins and failings. Forty-six pages of scripture detailing the Holiness of God and the wickedness of sin leaves no doubt in the reader's mind of the severity of this sin and the condemnation it brings.

Society's view
On the other side, we find that society's view is quite a bit different. Though most would say they feel adultery to be wrong, we find that their conviction seldom stops them from engaging in the practice. The overwhelming consensus of pop culture psychology is that we may have to cross some boundaries to ensure our happiness. In fact adulterous relationships may actually help us to experience fulfillment within a marriage. In short, if it feels good - do it.

The only truly negative aspect most consider, is the potential to hurt others if the affair is found out. To this they plead that in consideration to others we must be sure to take every precaution in concealing the affair, for it would unfair to our spouses and children to have to deal with such knowledge. I'm I the only one who finds this heart-felt compassion a bit overwhelming?

Slippery Slope
One of the most revealing things in this exploration, are the multitude of sins that the adulterer commits along with their namesake act. The lies they tell to cover their trail, the harm to their families, the covetousness and lust that first leads them down this path, are just some of the additional sins they find themselves committing. The sin of adultery seldom lives alone. The adulterer is never the only one hurt.

There are four circumstances usually cited that the Bible gives for the allowance of divorce and remarriage. They include the case of death, adultery, being unequally yoked with an unbeliever, and if the marriage and divorce occurs before the individuals were saved.

In the case of death
Here Mrkvicka takes his stand proclaiming that the bible only allows for remarriage in one event - the death of a spouse. Marriage is forever. Whether or not two people live together or have sought a secular divorce, the two are maritally bound in the eyes of the Lord until the death of one of its members. So what of the other reasons?

In the case of adultery, Mrkvicka uses an interpretation I hadn't heard before.
And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery. (Matthew 19:9)
He points out the words fornication and adultery and questions why they are different. He defines adultery as "Consensual sexual intercourse between a married man and someone other than his wife or between a married woman and someone other than her husband." Fornication is "Consensual sexual intercourse between two persons not married to each other."
The custom of the Jews at the time of Christ was to arrange marriages. The fathers of the couple to be married would agree on the price of the bride, and the marriage was considered complete except for the actual wedding ceremony itself, which usually took place a year later. During this waiting time, the couple was referred to as husband and wife because in the eyes of the community they were married, as such wedding contracts were a fait-accompli and a matter of honor. However, if on the wedding night it was found that the woman was not a virgin, the husband could divorce her for fornication. Not for adultery, but for fornication, as the offense would have taken place prior to her actually becoming a wife. This is why Jesus used the words he used in the way he used them. p148
The author then cites the instance of Joseph and Mary to illustrate his point.
Joseph could put Mary away because he thought she had fornicated. Adultery was not an issue, as they were not technically married. p149

The leaving of a non-believer
But to the rest speak I, not the Lord: If any brother hath a wife that believeth not, and she be pleased to dwell with him, let him not put her away.  
And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him.  
For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.  
But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases: but God hath called us to peace.
(1 Corinthians 7:12-15)
Here Mrkvicka argues that the passage speaks of the unbeliever departing and nothing of divorce and the permission to seek another spouse. He looks at the leaving as a separation, where the believer is not in the wrong, yet must live as though they were still married. They must seek reconciliation if possible, and if not successful, they must wait until the spouse's death before seeking another.

Again scholars debate this point. Some hold as Mrkvicka does, while others read this as an allowance for divorce. One thing to remember is that, neither side wants to see the marriage end in divorce, as scripture clearly states, that the believing spouse is to stay in the relationship and not seek to give reason to drive the other away.

The marriage of unbelievers
So what of the case where one marries while in unbelief? If the marriage ends in divorce, but one of them later comes to salvation, is remarriage permissible?

Mrkvicka uses an analogy to make his point.
Suppose that as a non-believer you stole a million dollars and never got caught. Years later you find God and accept Jesus. As a newly born Christian, can you keep the million dollars? Does being reborn negate the commandment not to steal? p152

1 Corinthians 6:9,10
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God.
This is one of the author's go to verses for this study. He uses it to show the seriousness of the sin and that unrepentant adulterers will be excluded from heaven. Mrkvicka is Arminian in his theology, believing that a person can, in certain cases, lose their salvation. Adultery being one of them.

As a Calvinist myself, I view things a little differently. In the case of unrepentant sin such as adultery, stealing, coveting, and the like, the implication would be the questioning of whether that particular person was saved to begin with. While those who have experienced salvation can certainly commit any of these sins, a lack of repentance would indicate the possibility of never having been born again in the first place.

One thing I would like to point out is that obviously adultery isn't the only sin listed in this verse and Jesus also stated that:
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:
But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart. Matthew 5:27,28
If someone looked with lust, thus being guilty of adultery and didn't repent, would he in fact lose his salvation? The verse also mentions coveting, stealing, and drunkenness, are these equally Hell condemning to a "former" believer?

Thankfully, God doesn't leave us without hope. The last chapter presents the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ and the forgiveness and peace that is offered to those who have fallen into even the worst of these sins. Mrkvicka speaks with the compassion and experience of someone who has worked as a lay minister and counselor, helping those who have been down this road. Praise God for those who minister to these who are most in need of God's love.

No Innocent Affair does an excellent job of exposing the seriousness of adultery, the havoc it wreaks on the soul of the perpetrator, and the lives of those who have been betrayed. There are no winners, and very few ever recover. The best advice is to never engage in it and if you are currently in an adulterous relationship, get out now!

While I completely agree with overall premise, I do hold some reservations with some of the argumentation and theology, though neither of these takes away from the book's call to regard marriage with the same dignity and respect with which God views it. Should you read this book? Though you may not agree with every point, the matter of divorce and remarriage is one of such importance today that we should not be afraid to re-examine and explore the issue afresh. Our goal should be to continually seek to ensure that our thoughts and actions are in accordance with God's will as revealed in his Word.

You can learn more by visiting Edward Mrkvicka's site and No Innocent Affair on Facebook.
I was able to ask the author a few questions about the book, read more here.

I'm thankful for the provision of this free review copy. 
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