By the grace of God I serve as the Chaplain of St. Francis Chapel, Makerere University. The heart of our ministry is to make disciples who make disciples for Jesus Christ. Our ministry is focused on the University community of students and staff (and their families), though it also serves others outside the University community.
It is common knowledge that Pastor Bugingo of House of Prayer Ministries has attempted to rewrite the plain teaching of Scripture about marriage. This became clear to me after a video clip of his renunciation of marriage vows circulated on social media a few days ago.
To all members of St. Francis Chapel Makerere University and the wider Body of Christ, I appeal to you: For the sake of your soul, flee from Pastor Bugingo’s teachings about marriage. They are heresy and a danger to your soul.
The Bible’s understanding of marriage is a core teaching of Scripture. It is grounded in creation (Gen 2.24; Mt 19.6; Eph 5.31); renewed after the fall (Mt 19.1-9; 1 Cor 7); and proclaimed through the rich Biblical teaching that marriage points to the mystery of the union between Christ and the Church (Rev 19.6-10; Rev 21.1-4; Eph 5.21-33).
“What is marriage?”, asks the book, To Be a Christian. “Marriage,” it answers, “is the exclusive, lifelong, covenantal union of love between one man and one woman, and a reflection of the faithful love that unites God and his people. Marriage is therefore holy and should “be held in honor among all.” (Hebrews 13:4; see also Genesis 2:18–24; Matthew 19:4–6; Ephesians 5:21–33)
The central teaching of the Bible on marriage is that it is an exclusive and sacred covenant between one man and one woman for life. It is based on God’s covenants with His people and, at the same time, points to God’s covenants. The covenant of marriage is binding. It is so binding that the Bible teaches that a man and woman become one-flesh (Gen 2.24; Mt 19.6; Eph 5.31).
God’s covenants include promises or vows. Since marriage is also a covenant, it includes vows – solemn vows to be faithful to one another in hard times as well as good times “until death do us part.” The vows are taken in the presence of witnesses, including a pastor or priest, and most importantly, in the presence of God. That’s why in our marriage service we say, “The vows you are about to make are to be made in the name of God, who is judge of all and who knows all the secrets of our hearts.”
It is true that the Bible is silent on how marriage rites should be conducted, including making vows. It cannot be argued, however, that just because the Bible does not explicitly command vows to be made in a marriage that marriage vows are, therefore, wrong.
To make such an argument is to fall into the logical fallacy of trying to make an argument from silence. It would be like saying, “I have read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and nowhere does it say the church should hang a clock inside the worship space. So, those churches that have clocks are disobeying the Bible. Did the Tent of Meeting have a clock? Did Solomon’s temple have a clock? Did Herod’s temple have a clock? Does the heavenly city of Jerusalem have a clock? I challenge anyone to produce evidence with a Bible verse supporting the presence of clocks in worship spaces. There are no clocks in the Bible. Therefore, clocks are wrong. Furthermore, if a clock is displayed at the front of the church, then it has become an idol. Churches that hang clocks at the front of a church are encouraging idolatry and idolatry is Satanic. Therefore, clocks are Satanic.”
When you make an argument from silence, you can easily make very wrong conclusions. Clocks are not Satanic and neither are marriage vows.
Vows do not cause killing; marriage vows do not cause couples to kill one another, as Pastor Bugingo has asserted. Sin is the cause of killing. Vows don’t kill; sinful human beings kill and it is wrong.
Marriage vows are, in fact, good. Vows are what make us “promise-keepers” in our marriage relationship.
God hates divorce (Mal 2.16) because to break the covenant is to tear the one-flesh and undermine God’s redemptive plan in the world.
Nevertheless, unlike God, human beings are not perfect. The Bible says the sinful heart is like a heart of stone (Ezekiel 36.26) or a “hard heart” that refuses to hear and do the will of God (Ex 4.21, Isa 6.10-11, Eph 4.18). For this reason, there are a few, but rare, occasions when divorce may be permitted. It is not compelled or required or encouraged, but it may be permitted.
The so-called “Matthean Exception” permits divorce in the case of adultery (Mt 19.9; Mt 5.31). The so-called “Pauline Privilege” permits divorce if someone becomes a Christian and the unbelieving spouse refuses to continue in the marriage (1 Cor 7.15, 39). Again, divorce is not encouraged. Our God is a God of redemption, reconciliation, healing, and forgiveness. These should be pursued at all times in a marriage. But, if “hardness of heart” persists in these situations, then the Bible permits divorce.
The question of whether the Bible permits re-marriage after a divorce is very controversial, but we should understand the teaching of 1 Corinthians 7.39 and Romans 7.2-3, “For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.”
If your marriage is struggling, reach out to someone for prayer and counselling. Do not let the sun go down on your anger (Eph 4.26). Do not let a root of bitterness grow in your heart (Heb 12.14-16). Do not allow your heart to grow hard from the escalation of sin in your life. Seek help now before it is too late.
The Bible teaches, “Marriage should be honoured by all.” (Heb 13.4). This includes me and you. It includes Pastor Bugingo. As a pastor, he, like I, is held to a higher standard. His teaching is not honouring marriage. For the sake of your soul, flee from Pastor Bugingo’s teaching.
Author: Rev. Onesimus Asiimwe, is
CHAPLAIN, St. Francis Chapel, Makerere University