Should Actions Speak Louder Than Words? Using the Past Deeds and Present Actions of Jesus to Unlock the Evangelical Debate on Divorce


  • Rob Hornby


This article is about evangelical divorce at the intersection of practical theology, ethics, and biblical hermeneutics. It aims to provide pastoral insights on a subject where scholarship has confused rather than informed ministry practice.

The article begins with current interpretations of Jesus’ words on divorce in the Synoptic Gospels, showing many relevant voices are marginalised, and the dominant ones cannot agree. Despite occasional position changes by prominent scholars, there is no progress towards a normative consensus.

John’s Gospel is then examined as a source of Jesus’ historical deeds. Practical theological readings of two passages highlight his radical compassion and restorative posture towards women with broken marriage covenants that challenge evangelicals to better imitate Christ towards the divorced.

Jesus’ ongoing actions after his ascension are explored as a vital aspect of evangelical ethics and practical theology. However, the practicalities of discerning Christ’s continuing salvific work amongst the divorced remain elusive.

Finally, a proposal is made to combine the words, historical deeds, and ongoing actions of Jesus into a normative symbiosis wherein each illuminates and moderates the others. Tentative implications for ministry to the divorced are offered after theological reflection on this basis.

Key Words: Normative Symbiosis, Imitation of Christ, Contemporary Actions of Jesus, Practical Theological Readings of Scripture, Evangelical Theology of Divorce.

Author Biography

Rob Hornby

Rob has a diverse denominational background in Pentecostal and Charismatic churches and is now a Licensed Lay Minister in the Church of England. He is part of the Centre for Practical Philosophy, Theology and Religion at Roehampton University where he is researching the lived experiences of divorced evangelicals. Rob is a pastoral volunteer on the Restored Lives course for people who have experienced relationship breakdown.






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