Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Part 2: Must Infidelity be Confessed to a Spouse? A Rebuttal to Questionable Counsel from Russell Moore

Part 1, here
Part 3, here
Part 4, here
  
Second Section of Moore’s Advice

Secondly though, you have brought to the marriage a breakdown in intimacy. You are keeping a secret from her about something that is at the core of your marriage. She deserves to know this, and I don’t think you have finished repenting until you confess it to her and until you ask for her forgiveness. I also don’t think that you are going to be free from the weight of conviction that you feel from that sense of guilt that you either feel.

Secrets and using your spouse as a personal priest

Here, Russell Moore proposes the idea that because sexual information exists in one’s head which is not possessed by the spouse, that person is obligated to disclose it to the uninformed spouse. Now, in all fairness Moore does qualify his demand of disclosure in this case as essential because it is “at the core of your marriage”.  


My question to Dr. Moore is simply this, if we are going to argue as dogma such necessities and do so as a Biblical argument, where may we find in Scripture that core of your marriage issues have to be confessed, never mind the claim that this is the core of your marriage in the first place (though I do agree that it is an important element at times but it is far from core else many a vibrant marriage where sexuality is scant is in trouble)?

The answer is that it cannot be found in the Bible. Fundamentally, this is Russell Moore’s own rational or logical conclusion. Now, that does not mean he is disingenuous or does not have something virtuous in his mind behind the issuance of this edict since the Scriptures do speak of going from the good to the better and to the best, values of which are determined through Scriptural derivatives (doctrinal conclusions) and are not plainly stated. 


However, he offers no such Biblical blueprint as to how he determined this is the “core of your marriage”, that this information is essential to be confessed or that the individual hasn’t finished repenting (again, I point you to our Lord’s instruction, “go and sin no more” as well as James 5 and the context of why and when we confess our sins, one to another). While it is true that effective and honest communication is necessary for a marriage or any relationship, it is naïve to propose that our spouse is to function as our personal priest for our sexual indiscretions of thought, word or deed hence, they must be divulged otherwise we have not truly repented and been appropriately forgiven. 

Further, I am not sure where this threshold of “secrets” Moore suggests lies which marks when we are Biblically compelled to reveal marital indiscretions to our spouse or when we are emancipated from such, but allow me to ask a reasonable question which is consequential to Moore’s no sexual secrets in marriage formula. Should we confess when we lust in our heart? That certainly is a sexual secret. Can you imagine the health of a marriage by such a standard?

If we are to take his principle to heart, that we cannot keep sexual secrets in marriage, then please draw me a Biblical line, not one that is personally determined by Dr. Moore and then labeling it as Biblical dogma and universally prescribed. Of course no such Scriptural demarcation exists in any codified form which is why I am cautioning against Moore’s heterogeneous counsel requiring infidelity to always be disclosed.

Guilt and more priestly demands for the spouse

Moore does identify something with which I can happily agree and that is the matter of guilt. However, his remedy is ailing, in my view. He states, concerning someone carrying around the guilt of infidelity, “I also don’t think that you are going to be free from the weight of conviction that you feel from that sense of guilt that you either feel.”

In my view he is correct on one point and delinquent on another. Russell Moore’s suggestion is that one is going to be “free from the weight of conviction” if they admit their infidelity to their spouse. Really? This seems to be a significantly idealistic approach and a great deal is assumed here. 


First, I would state rather emphatically that guilt is part of what comes with private betrayal. However, the remedy isn't furthering that betrayal by bringing it to the attention of the innocent party and then placing the burden of amelioration on them. It is the offender's guilt to deal with, not not the innocent party's. Receive your forgiveness from God and keep your spouse free from such a weight and distraction if at all possible, that is, if you care for her or him.

Secondly, often what a person is experiencing when they are not “free from the weight of conviction” in this matter is the erroneous concept that they are always required to reveal their indiscretions to their spouse and receive his or her priestly forgiveness. In other words, the innocent spouse is, in effect, the marital priest to whom such sins must be confessed in order for true reconciliation in the marriage to occur and the offending party be forgiven and guilt assuaged. I'm not quite ready for this novel idea as a Bible doctrine, hopefully you are not either.


Practically speaking in the case Moore deals with, there is no reconciliation by the offending spouse to be pursued with the innocent spouse since the uninformed spouse does not share the perspective that something needs repaired. In any such case similar to the one Moore addresses, until the innocent spouse is informed of the infraction, he or she remains connected or reconciled as they were before and after the offense. The break on the end of the innocent party only occurs then the innocent spouse is informed! 

Your spouse is not personally offended when you are unfaithful and is unaware of it, they cannot be, it requires them knowing of it to be personally offended or injured. They only become offended when this information is learned. You, however, have offended yourself and sinned against your body (I point back to 1 Corinthians 6) and the person to whom you need to confess and receive forgiveness is God. Now, if you wish to introduce this information to your spouse so that he or she may be personally offended/injured and therefore be placed in the position of them having to forgive you, have at it, that is, if you have masochistic tendencies.

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