Barratt and Pethrus on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage

T.B.Barratt

T.B.Barratt

In 1938, the founder of European Pentecostalism, T. B. Barratt, wrote a book in Norwegian which was entitled “Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage”. The foreword was written by Lewi Pethrus, the founder of Sweden’s Pentecostal movement, who expressed unreserved support of Barratt’s viewpoints and discussion of these controversial issues. But the book was stopped* before it was published, and it wasn’t published until 1991, when Filadelfiaforlaget (i.e. the Pentecostal publishing house) and its executive Knut Rambøl finally released it.

*The book was stopped by the elders of Barratt’s church, Filadelfia Oslo. Barratt was deeply saddened by this.

Lewi Pethrus

Lewi Pethrus

During the past winter months I have read this book, and let me say immediately that there is much food for thought here!

It is strange that the unambiguous teaching of both founders of Scandinavian Pentecostalism has not received more support in the Norwegian and Swedish Pentecostal movements!

The book is only available from public libraries in Norway.

What was Barratt’s view?

Barratt took sharp issue with the Catholic view of marriage as a sacrament. He wrote: “It seems like several have been infected with Catholic views in our land!” He supported missionary priest L. Dahle’s assessment of the Catholic view. Dahle wrote: “Therefore, only the one who has caused the divorce, shall lose the right to enter a new marriage, but not the innocent party. When the Roman-Catholic church lets this hit them both, then she acts as if a person who was attacked on the country road and had to defend himself as well as possible, would both –  him and the assaulter – be sentenced for fighting. No righteous judge would do that.” Barratt writes strongly: “The battle which in the past years has emerged in many people’s thoughts, is then really about whether they in this regard want to be Catholic or Protestant!”

1920 Pethrus Barratt

Lewi Pethrus and T. B. Barratt in 1920

Here is Barratt’s own summary:

1. God has instituted marriage, and Jesus honored it in Cana in Galilee. 2. God’s intention was that it should last for life. 3. Sin and sinful matters have corrupted God’s plan. 4. Moses permitted divorce certificate because of the hard hearts. 5. But people who were caught in adultery were stoned to death. 6. Jesus poermitted divorce when one party had fallen in adultery. This should not be perceived as a commandment, but as the right of the innocent party. Legally, the guilty party should be regarded as dead. However, mercy could be given, and the guilty party could be given grace by the injured party. However, a continued life together in this way is not advisable. 7. Paul permitted divorce when the unbeliever (the heathen) absolutely demanded it. The Christian party should, however, not seek divorce. Such a divorce dissolved the marriage completely, in the same way as through adultery. 8. Jesus’ words and Paul’s epistles on divorce were not valid for those who were not acquainted with the Law or Christian teaching. The unbeliever – regardless of how often they had fallen in the sin of divorce during their unbelieving state – could be saved when they heard the preaching of the gospel. That did not imply that they should divorce their present wife or husband. If the unbeliever wanted to keep the marriage, then the Christian spouse should not seek to dissolve it, nor the Christian church. The saved brother or sister should nevertheless be regarded as a liberated and honorable member. 9. It is different when a Christian divorces, if it is not because of adultery of the other spouse, or if one is forced to divorce. Someone who divorces for other reasons than these that Jesus and Paul permitted, must not be allowed to remain in the Christian church, unless full and total repentance takes place, which satisfies ethical and Christian demands.

Barratt writes in a specific chapter on remarriage: “Apparently the Christian may live in a kind of widow state, or if you may call it, as a kind of widower, but Scripture does not demand it. It permits remarriage for the innocent party”.
The little book (72 pages) is brimming with thought-provoking scriptures and perspectives which Barratt presents with grace and wisdom, knowing well that the book could be so controversial that it wouldn’t even be published by the publishing house that he had founded. It took 53 years until it was finally published…
Happy Pentecost, dear friends of Pentecost!

About Jan-Aage Torp

Jan-Aage Torp - married to Aina; born in Japan; raised in Thailand; educated in USA; Director of European Apostolic Leaders (EAL); pastors Restoration Oslochurch with Aina.
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