Chapter 26, “The Case of Desertion and Divorce” (pp. 177-184)
Walther talks about the instance of an unbelieving spouse departing from a marriage. In such a case of abandonment without repentance, the civil authorities should grant a divorce. Walther reads 1 Corinthians 7:15 and Romans 7:1-3 as giving permission for the innocent party to marry again. Though there is only one reason to procure a divorce, infidelity, the person abandoned has in effect been divorced by the other party (pp. 177-178). On the other hand, “Malicious desertion does not occur if the one leaving is absent because of his profession or with the consent of the other” (p. 178).
How long of a desertion constitutes a genuine release from marriage? On p. 180 we read that this should be left to the civil judge who will dissolve the marriage. Walther also advises on p. 180 that in cases of anger or abuse a separation may be warranted to protect both parties and allow for reconciliation rather than an immediate divorce.
Walther adds clearly on p. 181 that imprisonment is not desertion.
Divorce due to adultery requires that the adultery be proven. Suspicion is inadequate. Walther also is consistent with other historical interpreter in refusing divorce due to adultery if the couple has been reconciled for a time after the adultery is made known.
On p. 182 Walther asserts that illness does not negate a marriage, rather creating an opportunity for loving service.
In instances where people have entered into marriages which are not approved by the Bible but are not incestuous Walther says the church should allow the marriage to continue rather than try to dissolve it (p. 184).