MacArthur on Divorce Statistics

I agree with John MacArthur:

Question: Is it true that Christians and non-Christians have the same rate of divorce?


Some reporter called me a few months ago and said,

Reporter: There is a new study, a new survey that indicates that divorce among Christians is the same as divorce among non-Christians.  This survey has been done, this poll has been taken and it has been determined that Christians are divorced at the same rate that non-Christians are divorced in America.  What do you think of that?

John MacArthur: I don’t believe it–I do not believe that.

Reporter: But this is what the survey says!

John MacArthur: I don’t care what the survey says–I don’t believe that.

I don’t believe it, and in fact, I believe that is to dishonor the Lord, to say that the power of Christ is zero in a marriage–the power of the Holy Spirit in a marriage.  I don’t believe that.  I do not believe that true Christians get divorced at the same rate that non-Christians do.

Well, it showed up in a newspaper and the guy who took the poll wasn’t happy, because he thought I was questioning his integrity, so he wrote me a very, very strong letter.  I have a large “strong letter” file–this is one, “How dare you question me!  How dare you question the integrity of this poll!”  Well, I said, “I’ll question it on this basis: Who did you ask that question too?  If you just surveyed the people who ‘claimed’ to be Christians–that doesn’t count, and I might suggest to you that you don’t know who the true Christians are.”

So I didn’t buy it at all.  And what irritated me about it is that this is a dishonor to God!  Because it denigrates the power of God in the life of a believer, with regard to the marriage!  It wasn’t a question whether you get your statistics right, it’s a question of dishonoring God!  You can’t say that the power of God has no effect on marriages!  I said, “You don’t do that.”  Well, now it has become an evangelical urban legend–every time I turn around–I heard a secular news reporter say on the television the other day, “Well, now it has been proven that divorce among evangelical Christians or among Christians is the same as non-Christians.”  Now we are just another statistic.  This is to say that God has no power in a marriage?

When divorces occur in our church [approximately 10,000 members] and they occur occasionally here–very often it is because somebody in the marriage who professed Christ–didn’t know Him.  If you go out and survey people in “churches” across the spectrum from Catholic to Protestant, and denominations, etc., etc., etc, who knows what you are going to get?

The same company that does the surveys is the company that surveyed the people who said, “We don’t want Bible teaching anymore in the pulpit.”  Now what does that tell you about that crowd–if they don’t love the Word of God?

It might be true that the divorce rate among nominal, cultural, so-called “Christians” is the same as those who don’t claim to be Christians. But to assert that the divorce rate among true believers is the same as unbelievers–well, that’s just preposterous.


Paul and Barnabas and Mark (Driscoll)

36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.  (Acts 15:36-41 ESV)

At the beginning of what was to be their second missionary journey together, two of the greatest leaders of the ancient church reached an impasse.  It was a disagreement over the fitness for ministry of a coworker.

One of these great leaders, Paul, who would eventually write half of the New Testament insisted that the young coworker, John, also called Mark, would not come with them.  Few would argue that Paul’s impact for the cause of Christ was second only to Christ Himself.  However, Paul’s partner, Barnabas, who was called the son of encouragement, did not agree, and insisted that Mark be taken with them.

It’s hard to say who was right in the argument, and I’m not sure that it is really important for the purpose of this post.  But I can’t help but see a parallel with the current controversy surrounding Mark Driscoll, John Piper, and John MacArthur.  MacArthur has argued that Driscoll is unfit for ministry and should step down from his ministry.  Piper, however, has taken a different approach choosing to confront Driscoll on areas where Piper felt that Driscoll has crossed the line.  (listen to Piper’s recent comments on the situation here).

I’ve been listening to Driscoll for quite a few years now.  And I’ll admit, sometimes, Mark says something that makes me cringe.  But less and less as time goes by.  Like most of us, I think, Mark is maturing.  Not as fast as some would like, but he is growing all the same.  I’m not saying that Mark doesn’t need to change.  He does.  So do I.  So does John Piper.  So does John MacArthur.  But let’s give him a chance.  He is being used by God in great ways.

A friend of mine said that in some ways MacArthur and Driscoll are a lot alike.  Both are willing to take a stand for truth, and are willing to call out error (by name) when they see it.  Maybe there is hope for them to someday find some common ground.

But we’ve digressed from the story that we started at the beginning of this post.  And the story has a somewhat surprising ending.  As we know, Paul goes on to be the most influential voice in the early church, and has a staggeringly important ministry.  We don’t know as much about Barnabas.  Some attribute that writing of Hebrews to him.  And Mark, who was dismissed by Paul early in his career goes on to write the first of the four canonical accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus.  Near the end of his life, Paul writes to his disciple, Timothy the following:

9 Do your best to come to me soon. 10 For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. 11 Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. (2 Tim 4:9-11 ESV)

The young man he once dismissed as unfit is the person he most wants near him and aiding him in his ministry.  There are truly no wounds that God cannot heal.