The latest issue of JBMW was released yesterday, and I am going to highlight some of the articles in it over the next week or so. The first essay that I want to bring to your attention is by Heath Lambert, professor of biblical counseling at Boyce College.
The article is titled “Breaking the Marital Impasse: How Authority and Submission Work When Spouses Disagree.” This article is one of the most practical articles I’ve ever read on how headship works when husband and wife disagree. He opens the piece by describing a real life counseling situation that he faced on this very issue. He writes,
“Ted and Elizabeth had been members of a church I pastored for many years. Both lived committed Christian lives and were integrally involved in ministry for our congregation. One morning Elizabeth requested a meeting with me to discuss a “very difficult” issue in their marriage. I met with her and Ted that afternoon. As we talked it became clear that the problem concerned Elizabeth’s leadership of our church’s preschool ministry. Elizabeth loved the work, but life in their home was crazy. Ted was forced to work longer hours at work, their family was growing, and another ministry they shared in the church was quickly multiplying. Ted did not believe it was wise for Elizabeth to continue to supervise the preschoolers. They had been discussing this issue for weeks, but could not agree on a course of action. Finally, Ted “put his foot down” and made the final decision. Elizabeth would have to resign from the ministry. Elizabeth was stunned, angry, and hurt. In her anger she told him she would never quit. After 24 hours of conflict, Elizabeth called me for help.”
Lambert goes on to enumerate five guidelines that couples should observe when navigating this kind of conflict:
Guideline #1: A wife must submit to her husband in all areas except sinful ones.
Guideline #2: The distinction between “during the day,” and “the end of the day.”
Guideline #3: A wife is also a sister in Christ to her husband.
Guideline #4: A husband is not the only authority to whom his wife is accountable.
Guideline #5: Wise ministry engages both the husband and the wife in marriage.
This article is worth the time to read the whole thing. And you can do so here.
P.S. Dr. Lambert recently shared his testimony with the students of Boyce College. If you haven’t heard it already, I highly recommend your taking the time to listen. Download here or listen below.[audio:http://www.sbts.edu/media/audio/BoycePodcast/20101108-boyce-podcast-lambert.mp3]
I read the article.
As an egal, I see it as a great example of subtracting from the whole counsel of the word of God and where that leads, so thanks for publishing it.
I see 2 main areas where it subtracts from the whole counsel of God.
1. Paul teaches that ANYTHING that is not from faith is sin (Rom 14:23). This paper uses a too restricted (and therefore unbilical) definition of sin, after claiming that a wife can reject her husband’s requests asking her to sin. The truth is if she cannot do it in faith, then it is sin for her.
2. There is NO discussion in the 5 principles of what the husband is (emphatically) called upon to do, for example, in Eph 5. He is to agape-love his wife and from 1 Cor 13 we see that such agape-love “does not insist upon its own way” (ESV 1 Cor 13:5).
There is some discussion near the end of the article where the husband is asked to repent for “demanding his own way” but then we see that the wife is called to obey her husband’s decision by the (comp) church authority. So there is a shell game, a husband cannot insist upon his way without sin, instead the comp church authority insists upon it for him, so the husband DOES get his way.
I felt, on the contrary, that the pastor could be used against the husband. I saw this article as a way to turn every disagreement between two people into a moderated negotiation. In the case in point, it was in the pastor’s interests to keep the wife in her job. She was, after all, working for the pastor.
So, in this particular case, the wife had two bosses, her husband and her pastor. And in this case, the pastor represented the interests of the wife.
However, what if the wife worked elsewhere, for someone else?
Denny, 1 Peter 2: 18, 3: 1 read, “Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust. . . . Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives” (obviously I’ve added the emphasis). As complementarians, how do we justify saying that a wife should submit to her husband when it’s a matter of sin on his part?
I don’t like the implications of this, but I think that it’s the connection we need to make between submitting to an evil civil authority and the possibly evil marital authority of a husband.
I read the article and came to very different conclusions than you did. As to the first point you make, that anything not from faith is sin, you seem to be reading the article with significant restriction. For instance, in the case given in the article, both husband and wife seem to be complementarians. Therefore, the disagreement raised issues where there was lack of faithfulness for both of them. By the end of the article, the decision made was one which they both agreed was the right one, therefore they did act out of faith. So your statement that the article works with a restricted sense of sin is rejected in the example given, and not supported throughout the rest of the article.
Your second point seems to also ask the article to be about something it isn’t about. The article is not about simply a man’s role or a woman’s role in a marriage, it is about authority and submission. To quote from the article, “Instead, expect biblical
guidelines to help navigate our thinking, and provide a framework to help both members in the marriage relationship avoid sin by thinking carefully
about the issues of authority and submission.” Your point about what a husband is supposed to do is likely something that the author would consider to fall under his third and fifth points. That is, if a woman senses her husband is not agape loving her, she should point it out to him so he might be convicted of his sin (third point). If he continues then good ministry should address that, which would be point five.
Your conclusion also misreads the article as the author makes clear that in the example the husband was correct in that the issue at hand fell under his authority in the marriage. The likely difference seems to fall under how you are reading 1 Corinthians 13:5. For the author of the article, reading between the lines, 1 Cor 13:5 indicates that love cannot demand its own way without consideration of others, which it what the husband did. It does not mean that the one who has authority in any relationship cannot make decisions though. It was not the fact that the husband made a decision, but the manner in which it was made and insisted upon that was sinful.
Thus there is no shell game here. It is not an issue where the church does the insisting on behalf of the husband. Instead the church encourages the husband to repent of his attitude, to hear his wife, and honor her as his sister and his own flesh. Then, when a decision is made, the church encourages the woman to submit in all joy to what her husband has decided (assuming he is not commanding her to do something she cannot do in faithfulness to God). Such a church, in a complementarian view, is not engaged in a shell game, it is simply being obedient to the word of God as we understand it.
I find it interesting that the difference in our views leads to such opposite interactions with this article.
Your faith/sin concept is odd because Scripture is pretty consistent in commanding us to obey those who are in authority over us. As such, our priority is to honor and obey those in authority over us in government, the workplace, church and home. We don’t get to “opt out” unless they are asking us to directly disobey Scripture. Your paradigm strikes me as a distinctly American, “lone wolf” notion where “we are only accountable to God” and to the “leading of the Spirit”, where we have wide berth to choose to obey or disobey on the basis of our own judgment or whim.
Sidebar note: I Peter was written to Christians who were inclined to rebel or reject the authority of an evil tyrant, Nero. The same Peter who cut off a soldier’s ear told them to submit even to him.
If the husband is asserting himself in a domineering manner or for selfish purposes, he will be held to account by God, and possibly even the church or police.
It is bogus to assert that every instance and occasion upon which a husband makes a decision that his wife doesn’t agree is automatically sinful or even selfish. Sometimes those who have been charged with leadership have to make difficult decisions that outweigh the pain or difficulty or sin or hazards that accompany inaction or impasse.
I’m not an egal, but I also picked up on the slant that Donald mentioned. Love does not insist on its own way.
I was a member of a church for 10 plus years that misused this principle toward women regularly and don’t see any caveats in Dr. Lambert’s recommendations that would guard against manipulation.
While I do like and appreciate the idea of wise ministry involving both the husband and wife, as well as agreeing with the husband that it would not be wise for his wife to continue in the children’s ministry much longer, I believe you’ve got to nuance the process for getting there.
For him to come out blazing with guideline #1 as “A wife must submit to her husband in all areas except sinful ones” jumps past EVERYTHING else first, which is soooo wrong. What about love, idolatry, tone, self-sacrifice, empathy, the glory of God — things that are way, way bigger that kneejerk submission to the husband’s rule or the husband pulling out his trump card when things get a little bit tough.
That’s my .02 Thanks!
A believer is to honor everyone.
A believer is to obey God rather than a human, if this is in conflict.
A husband can be held accountable by his wife if he is in sin that affects her.
It is true that leaders sometimes need to make difficult decisions.
In the church a believer is to (from the Greek) allow themselves to be persuaded (that is listen to the arguments of an elder/elders and see if they agree, but if they do not agree, then they do not agree). To do otherwise leads to Jonestown; obey is a less preferred translation in this case.
So, assuming you are a pastor, I take it you would ask a wife who could not do some act decided by her husband to do it and sin?
So, assuming you are a pastor, I take it you would ask a wife who could not do some act decided by her husband to do it and sin?
Donald, in our past discussions, I’ve expressed my clear conviction that the husband has no grounds to run roughshod over his wife. He must treat her with respect and do everything in his power to be in harmony with her.
If I were counseling a couple and the husband had made no serious effort to forge a compromise that each could agree to and if he had not exhibited fruit of the Holy Spirit and Christian harmony, I would counsel him/charge him to do so before asserting decision making authority. I am convinced this is the Biblical model… not unfettered and unchallenged authority, but authority under the control of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God, as well as the elders of his church.
There are a whole array of parameters, expectations and limitations on the husband. All responsible and serious complementarians understand this. Donald, I notice that you consistently make it this exaggerated or twisted thing where complementarians advocate a Jim Jones scenario. Why is it necessary for you to employ a straw man argument? It has been stated over and over again that where a leader or husband orders a sinful thing – like telling someone to drink kool aid with poison – he is wrong and not to be obeyed. If you want to articulate why you interpret a passage one way or another, that is fine. But seriously, you should stop using instances or hypothetical examples of abuse in order to prove your points. It doesn’t really advance the discussion and furthermore it offends the readers’ innate sense of fairness, no matter which side of the debate they are on.
You earlier wrote: “Your faith/sin concept is odd because Scripture is pretty consistent in commanding us to obey those who are in authority over us. As such, our priority is to honor and obey those in authority over us in government, the workplace, church and home. We donâ€™t get to â€œopt outâ€ unless they are asking us to directly disobey Scripture.”
It was in my reply to you that I mentioned Jonestown because you did not qualify any of your claims “obey” commands except for the “directly disobey Scripture” idea.
I do not think comps advocate a Jonestown scenario, I was trying to show that even when (badly to my thinking) translated as “obey” in regards to church leaders, that obedience must have limits and not all of those limits may be found “directly” in Scripture. For example, one way Scripture teaches is via a specific example, ala case law, e.g., if an ox falls into a pit …. Now someone might take that too literally and think it does not apply if a sheep fell into a pit or if a dog got trapped, etc. To my mind, this would be misreading the Bible even tho a dog or a trap was not even mentioned “directly”.
I agree that the couple in the article are comp. and so the wife in the example was able to acquiece in faith and not sin. My point on the comp restriction on the Biblical definition of sin was hypothetical. If the wife was egal or if the wife was comp yet felt God was calling her and she must obey God and not man; then I think the comp pastor would be stuck.
We differ on whether the husband has the authority to request/demand this of his wife, in my egal world, he might request it, but he certainly cannot “final decide” it, that would be sin on his part. So my counsel to the husband would be to repent.
The reason I see it as a shell game is the husband KNOWS ahead of time that he will win when he goes to his (comp) pastor claiming “final decision” and the wife knows ahead of time that she will lose. To my (egal) mind, this threatens to distort the entire spousal discussion process from the get go; if one knows one is going to lose eventually, opposition is futile in changing the eventual outcome. This is not just hypothetical, I know some former comp women who went thru the wringer in this and they testify how crazymaking it was.
Donald, you say it very well with what you say here
The reason I see it as a shell game is the husband KNOWS ahead of time that he will win when he goes to his (comp) pastor claiming â€œfinal decisionâ€ and the wife knows ahead of time that she will lose. To my (egal) mind, this threatens to distort the entire spousal discussion process from the get go; if one knows one is going to lose eventually, opposition is futile in changing the eventual outcome. This is not just hypothetical, I know some former comp women who went thru the wringer in this and they testify how crazymaking it was.
Donald said “obedience must have limits” – Donald, we’ve been saying the same thing again and again. You’re beating a horse that has been beaten to death. One of the reasons I believe that the Church must have real authority is because Christians must have someone to appeal to when there is abuse or sin in the church. If a wife feels that her husband is mistreating her, the elders and pastors should take her concerns seriously. If a husband and wife is not able to trust each other or come to a harmonious decision, there are always deeper issues at the heart of it and it is important to peel back the layers until you discover the heart of the issue. Most of the time, it really has nothing to do with the comp/egal debate. You have an automatic and blanket assumption that if she brings her case before her church’s leadership, that she is in effect, bringing her case before a kangaroo court. This is a caricature, plain and simple. I don’t think it is either fair or accurate to assume that this is going to be the case.
And I know sometimes the pastor wades in on the side of the wife. But either way, unless a better way of making decisions – one that includes both participants as equals – is introduced; the marriage if over.
Running to the pastor is just a step before leaving altogether unless the basis of decision-making is altered.
Here’s a more detailed summary of Wright’s entire lecture:
I agree that the congregation has real authority, they can decide to disfellowship someone in the most extreme punishment. (God, of course, could do more ala Ananias.) I have seen a Matthew 18 process go before a congregation at least once. And the gov’t can get involved in serious cases.
I do not think comp church leaders would be a kangeroo court in cases of abuse. But in a question where the husband plays the “final decision” card, all else being equal, everyone KNOWS how a comp pastor will decide.
Here is one thing I want to know: If a comp wife disagreed with her comp husband when he made a “final decision” that she needed to do X and they went to a comp pastor and she said she could not do X in faith and therefore it was sin for her to do, would a comp pastor tell her to do X anyway or what?
I simply do not see a good answer to this in the comp model, but there is a good answer in the egal model, which is ask the husband to repent. Maybe I am missing something.
Donald, you said “If a comp wife disagreed with her comp husband when he made a â€œfinal decisionâ€ that she needed to do X and they went to a comp pastor and she said she could not do X in faith and therefore it was sin for her to do, would a comp pastor tell her to do X anyway or what? … Maybe I am missing something.”.
Donald, what you are missing is what I expressed in #11. Mediating a dispute like this isn’t as simple as paper, rock, scissors. A pastor or church leadership would need to get to the root of the issue behind the disagreement. I maintain that in a case like this, there is always a lot more underneath the surface that needs to be addressed. The dispute is symptomatic of a deeper problem in the marriage. A wise complementarian marriage counselor will not reduce this to a simple matter of “the husband is right” on debatable/practical matters such as this, but will work with the couple until the root cause(s) of their dispute are discovered. More than likely, there will need to be repentance on the part of both parties. It is my experience that genuine repentance will ultimately lead to a harmonious decision. Lack of repentance on the part of either party will never lead to a successful conclusion.
Derek: ” Mediating a dispute like this isnâ€™t as simple as paper, rock, scissors.”
True, if the church is set up with mediation capability and is inclined and disciplined enough to follow the harder, Biblical model.
However, my experience has been that many Comp-led churches in a subtle way see their Comp position as a very easy way of dispensing with this type of conflict. The church I was in for over 10 years always sided with the husband, even if he was wrong or sinning. They would take it as a mission to disciple him so that he would eventually come around, but the initial (knee-jerk) response, just like the guidelines listed in this article, was to state up front that the wife was bound to submit to him.
For many comp-led churches, the wife’s submission is the indisputable law of the land (except in cases of physical abuse).
That’s a pretty bold claim, Jay. Its easy for you to make a claim like that, pretty hard to back it up. Were you involved or aware of all of the details of church mediation in marital disputes for 10 years? Would all of the husbands even agree that they were not challenged or rebuked in any of those mediations? If so, your church may have been complementarian, but it must also not have been a very healthy church, for reasons that probably had little to do with this topic. But I suspect that you’re engaging in some speculation and that you don’t have a lot of first hand knowledge of all the marriage counseling that took place over a course of 10 years.
Derek: You think you know my experience better than I do? No.
Why do you make such assumptions? I was a deacon in the church and left for several major issues and this was one of them.
Just as this post begins with the first guideline that a wife must submit to her husband, the church held that view as well.
You ignored the part where I discussed how the handled the husband – beefing up the discipleship/mentoring relationship and praying that he comes around, but nonetheless, not permitting latitude to the wife to disobey his headship.
Perhaps this is rare in comp churches; however, I do not see ANY safeguard against it when the overriding guideline is that a wife must always submit to her husband. (And Derek, it would be nice for you to have better presumptions about people and to read all of their content before reacting to it.)
I doubted the credibility of your claim because not even a staff member would have intimate knowledge of every marriage problem in their church (unless we’re talking about a house church). Since you didn’t serve as either a staff member, pastor, counselor or elder, I’m even more doubtful that you are speaking from a position of much, if any, first hand knowledge of how marriage counseling was actually conducted. In the very first place, we don’t even draw our conclusions from documented and true anecdotes because you can find an anecdote or two to justify anything you want; but in the second place, when we’re relying on anecdotes drawn from second hand knowledge or guesswork, it should make us all even more suspicious.
This is a little off topic and I am a first year seminary student who has been reading as much as I can about the subject of gender roles this semester. I have a question though as I read through 1 Timothy 2 and have tried to read both sides of the debate. Any feedback would be appreciated.
What I don’t get is that if Paul really is just restricting women from teaching in this one context, isn’t this some of the worst leadership we have ever seen and counter to so much of the wisdom we see from Paul in other places? Let me explain. If I had 25 Chinese people at my church and two of them were being brash, speaking out of turn, and causing division, then the right thing for me to do would be to have those two stopped from teaching any further. It would be wrong and foolish to restrict the whole group from teaching just because a two of them were being trouble makers. Yet this is what the Egalitarian understanding is basically saying. That SOME women were being divisive so Paul banned ALL women from teaching, this makes no sense or fits with even the most elementary understanding of leadership, or treating people fairly.
Steven, I think your logic is flawless.
You’re pretty thoughtful for a first year seminary student. I also think you’re making an important connection of ideas with your comment in #3. I Peter really hits me pretty hard along the lines you describe as well. The same Peter who cut off a soldier’s ear tells his readers to obey a wicked tyrant like Nero? I agree, this has uncomfortable implications for all of us: if our automatic impulse is to reject and rebel against the authorities God has established, we are ultimately expressing our rebellion towards God (see also Romans 13).
Derek: Again, you are focusing on ad hominem response to my point, which is that you, the original post, and the article cited are guilty of the same issue: Emphasizing the wife’s submission over the huband’s obedience. That is wrong. Period.
And by the way, not that I owe you this explanation, but I speak from a position of knowledge nonetheless. I was a house church pastor and my wife the president of the women’s ministry. We are well aware of ppl were treated.
Also, our level of knowledge based on our positions in the church are not even germain to our understanding of these cases, because: 1- the pastor preached openly about these cases (without mentioning names) from Ephesians and 2 Peter and such. In addition, about a dozen of the cases went before the congregation to excommunicate the husband, up until which point the wife was still under counsel to submit.
I don’t owe you, Derek, any of these explanations, but I take issue with your uncharitable attacks upon me and felt the need to defend myself.
I wish to redirect you to the point at hand: What safeguards are in place to keep this from occuring in a Comp church??? That is the question you need to focus upon! Thank you.
The first thing to see is that these verses in 1 Tim are NOT clear, that the Bible does not have perspicuity in this pericope.
The next thing to see is that there are interpretation choices and depending on how one makes those choices, one ends up with a comp or egal interpretation.
Sorry Donald I just do not find that satisfying. In my reading thus far I have not come across scholars on either side that say that 1 Timothy 2 is not clear. Even at a practical level of asking anyone in my church they would find the phrase, “I do not permit a woman to teach…” to be quite clear. Therefore the only real question is what is the application.
The egalitarians I have read say it is a specific situation and the restriction is limited to Paul’s specific audience. If this is the case then I think the question from my previous comment bears answering.
From your comments Donald I assume you are on the egalitarian side, so maybe you could tell me how you square your understanding of 1 Timothy 2 being limited to a specific situation, and Paul practicing blanket discrimination of banning ALL women from teaching because of the actions of a few. This is really hard to swallow.
While your logic is true if the argument egalitarians make happens to be what you said, I think you are misunderstanding the egalitarians argument. As I understand it, egalitarians are saying that Paul forbid women from improperly seizing authority. He was not, in fact, forbidding women from teaching, only from improperly seizing authority to teach. (I think the question that has been asked remains valid here though: why did Paul forbid women from improperly seizing authority and not men? Or, why make a point about women and not men?)
Otherwise, some Egalitarians (apologies, it has been a while since I have read on this and quoting names is currently beyond me) do in fact make the argument you have laid out. And they conclude, like you do, that Paul simply used bad logic, and that therefore this command is not binding because it is Paul’s human judgment, and a poor judgment at that. Those egalitarians who want to maintain Scriptural authority reject this argument for obvious reasons. But, those who are not as committed to biblical authority (i.e. more liberal egalitarians) have no problem with rejecting this portion of Scripture as illogical. So it depends on where your commitments are to what argument you are willing to hold.
Looking back to what you said in comment three, I’m not sure that complementarians have to agree that a woman should submit to her husband in matters of sin. Just as a slave does not have to submit to his master in sinful matters, he only has to submit to the authority of his master.
What I mean is this: if a master orders his slave to kill a man, the slave is not bound to follow through on that order, but he is bound submit to his master’s authority, in that he will be punished, albeit unjustly, for refusing to sin. Likewise, if a master gets angry because his plans fail, and he takes out his anger on his slave, the slave is called to bear the punishment, submit to his master with grace, and pray for him. Submitting to authority does not mean submitting to sin, but it means submitting to the unjust punishments of authority if we refuse to sin.
So likewise for a woman, submitting to a sinful or unjust husband. She does not have to agree to sin, but she is called to submit to his authority in the house (as I read 1 Peter). She may be inconvenienced, and she may have to endure insults and mocking, but she still submits to him with grace so that he may be won “without a word.”
I think you can take this one step further, in line with what Derek laid out in his comment about Nero. If you assume a pre-millennial position, wherein Christians will be on earth during the reign of the anti-Christ, what does this imply about Christian submission to an inherently wicked and immoral world rule? How do Christians submit to immoral authorities in the world, while also endeavoring to live sinless lives before God? This principle must be observed on multiple levels, from wicked governments, to wicked masters, to wicked husbands and wicked parents. Proper application of the principle thus has great ramifications not just for women in abusive relationships, but for Christians under abusive regimes throughout the world.
I mistakenly attributed Pete’s comment for Steven’s, apologies to Pete.
I agree with what you said and also agree that there are limits to our obedience to human authorities, as Peter himself stated in Acts 5:29. The guiding principle I see in Scripture and especially in I Peter is that we always honor those in authority, even when they don’t “deserve” our honor, because we’re choosing to honor God and not the person, who established all authority. Our attitude and demeanor should mirror David’s when he refused to harm Saul because of his God ordained position, rather than Peter’s when he struck the soldier in fleshly anger and rebellion.
Obedience to human authorities is handled on a case-by-case basis and as I see it, we can appeal to other authorities or disobey when we are being mistreated or when obedience violates our conscience.
In short, we must always honor the authorities God has given us in the government, workplace, home and Church. Obedience is subject to more stipulations, but if my default position is to disobey or act as if I am a free agent and “nobody but God tells me what to do”, something is truly wrong in my heart.
I have no desire to argue with you. I did stipulate that it might be possible to know about the circumstances of every marital problem in your church if you were in a house church, but as I mentioned in #19, I don’t think anecdotes and second hand information is sufficient to draw solid or broad conclusions (I still maintain that unless you were literally in the actual counseling sessions, you’re dealing with second hand information).
It is my experience that people often leave a church or become disgruntled when they hear about a situation or conflict from one of the parties or because they have gathered partial information. They often trust the party they heard the information from, but they are often hearing only part of the story and because emotions are involved, it is commonly a biased judgment. Sadly, I’ve seen many relationships damaged or broken because of wrong conclusions drawn from imperfect knowledge. I’ve seen this play out often enough to make me pretty skeptical when someone makes broad indictments against a former church.
Regarding unrepentant and unbelieving husbands, I Peter 3 does speak to this issue, so if you have a problem with this line of counseling, I suggest that you might have a problem with Scripture just as much or more than you did your church’s leadership.
Regarding safeguards, I did describe the importance of these in post #11.
There are many ways to have an egal understanding of 1 Tim 2:12, as I wrote earlier, it depends on one’s interpretive choices.
1. The verb form is present tense, so one can validly choose to understand it as “I do not now permit …”
2. The gune/woman noun has no article, this give 3 choices:
1. It may still be definite, as if an article was there, in English “the woman”.
2. It may be indefinite, in English “a woman”.
3. It may refer to a group (of 1 or more) that meets criteria, so it might be the woman or the women that are not doing the things Paul has specified just before this.
It is simply not the case that one can take a noun without an article and assume it is indefinite, altho it might be.
3. In 1 Tim Paul tells Timothy to oppose false teaching, this is the reason for the letter. It is therefore possible that didaskein refers to this false teaching that Paul opposes. It is not true that didaskein ALWAYS has a positive connotation in the NT.
4. It is not clear whether it is one thing or 2 things that Paul is prohibiting. What is clear is that “a man” is the direct object of authentein and not didaskien, due to the Greek word forms. So if it is one thing then it is true that a man is the direct object, but if it is 2 things then didaskein has no direct object and is therefore unrestricted in scope, at least in the way often read by comps. That is, it cannot be a prohibition of “teach a man” as it looks in English sometimes.
5. Then we get to authentein where it is not even known for sure whether it has a positive or negative connotation, let alone what it means for sure. We do know it is not the normal word for authority at the time.
When one approaches the text as a comp, one can make interpretive choices that lead to a comp conclusion and when one approaches the text as an egal, one can make interpretive choices that lead to an egal conclusion.
Iâ€™ve been thinking about your comments (#27). However, before interacting and asking a few clarifying questions about your post Iâ€™d like to say I appreciate the tone of your comments to Steven. Youâ€™ve attempted to lay out your understanding of an egalitarian position and have done so without showing disdain. At the same time, youâ€™ve indicated you understand that there is a range within the â€˜egalitarian campâ€™ (as there is within the â€œcomp campâ€). As a person who is â€˜egalitarianâ€™ (I dislike labels but they seem necessary for shorthand conversations) thanks.
Our two camps talk past one another, especially on blogs. This leads to caricatures of both positions. So rather than me jumping to conclusions about what youâ€™ve written to Pete (#27), Iâ€™d like to outline how I tend to understand your words to Pete and ask for some clarification.
I found these two paragraphs somewhat troubling:
“What I mean is this: if a master orders his slave to kill a man, the slave is not bound to follow through on that order, but he is bound submit to his masterâ€™s authority, in that he will be punished, albeit unjustly, for refusing to sin. Likewise, if a master gets angry because his plans fail, and he takes out his anger on his slave, the slave is called to bear the punishment, submit to his master with grace, and pray for him. Submitting to authority does not mean submitting to sin, but it means submitting to the unjust punishments of authority if we refuse to sin.
So likewise for a woman, submitting to a sinful or unjust husband. She does not have to agree to sin, but she is called to submit to his authority in the house (as I read 1 Peter). She may be inconvenienced, and she may have to endure insults and mocking, but she still submits to him with grace so that he may be won â€œwithout a word.â€
First â€“ Although I believe a h/w do not relate to one another along the same authority lines as a comp does, as an egal I am not anti-authority (I wonâ€™t bore you with outlining my entire position â€“ Iâ€™m just anticipating someone pushing back).
Second â€“ (some of my background) in my professional life I supervise persons (mostly male) charged or convicted with domestic violence against their intimate partners. I also deal with the victims of domestic violence although the day-to-day work is with the offender. I also facilitate a court-ordered domestic violence offender program.
See if Iâ€™m trying to track your reasoning correctly here: a wife doesnâ€™t follow her husband into sin but remains under his authority and continues to submit to a sinful or unjust husband (in fact that theme of this Thread is that the wivesâ€™ default is to submit). This may mean that she is inconvenienced, insulted and mocked. From my perspective this sounds like you are advising a woman to submit to verbal abuse. Iâ€™m wondering about your application of the 1 Peter 3.1 text to a Christian woman being married to a Christian man. My take of 3.1 is that this refers to an unbelieving husband. I would tend to understand this to be written to a 1st Century Christian woman living within her patriarchal culture who is married to a â€˜paganâ€™ who rules the household like a dictator without the benefit of the mutual submission expected of both h/w in Ephesians 5 (Iâ€™m not willing to go to the wall for my view of 3.1 being a mixed marriage).
Your thesis is Christians must submit to authority. Could we extrapolate your advice to a Christian being inconvenienced or verbally abused by his or her pastor: donâ€™t follow the pastor in sin but submit? What would that submission look like? In the case of a Christian woman being inconvenienced or verbally abused by her Christian husband â€“ what does that submission look like? Is there a timeline? What of her personal boundaries? What modeling do the children of this union experience? When do all the â€œone to anotherâ€ commands of the epistles come into this model?
Most controlling men isolate their women. Typically the woman is forbidden by her husband to take her plight anywhere outside the relationship (i.e. to church leadership). If she is being subjected to verbal abuse is she â€˜sinningâ€™ by going for outside help contra her husbandâ€™s explicit command? Controlled, abused woman typically have very little sense of self, their personal boundaries are very porous. [I aknowledge that you do not countenance physical abuse but a woman can be very, very controlled and psychologically wounded by verbal abuse] Iâ€™m wondering how such an abused woman would â€˜hearâ€™ your advice to Peter. He canâ€™t hit me but as a Christian I am called to submit to inconvenience (whatever that would look like) and verbal abuse â€“ so my husband â€œcan be won without a word. â€œ I can tell you how an abusive man would hear or read your paragraph. Heâ€™d smile piously but heâ€™d have the paragraph memorized and would use it at home in private. Finally, from my perspective my questions to you have some credence since some Christian leaders have used the example of Jesus (1 Peter 2:21ff) to advise Christian wives to â€œsubmitâ€ to physical assaults.
Charlton, I look forward to your response. If Iâ€™ve misunderstood your post (#17) please forgive. As difficult as blog posts can be, I trust that this postâ€™s tone comes across as a peaceful request for clarification. Most times, I might just jump to some very negative conclusions.
Blessings on your Thanksgiving
You have asked an excellent question. I also would like to note your most gracious tone in response to me. Though I recognize that one could easily have taken my thoughts and responded very emotionally and (if you will) violently, your interaction with them is most gracious and kind. Thank you for that spirit and consideration.
To answer your question, I am going to focus on your paragraph wherein you note my thesis. First, I would like to note that you have understood my thesis correctly, Christians are called upon to submit to authority. However, I might nuance that thesis a little more in saying that Christians are called upon to submit to authority in a way that does not lead them to sin. But, for the case of your response that nuance is not really necessary.
With that being said, allow me to address your questions somewhat piecemeal. As to your question, “Could we extrapolate your advice to a Christian being inconvenienced or verbally abused by his or her pastor: donâ€™t follow the pastor in sin but submit?” My response would be that the Christian should still submit to the pastor in whatever way possible, absolutely not respond in the same way, and seek redress of their grievances. I think such a situation falls under the commands of church discipline, as any conflict between two Christians would. If the pastor has been insulting or demeaning, then the person should take that up with the pastor. If the pastor refuses to hear the person, and there is no other witness to the event, then the person has little redress but to take their complaint to the ultimate master of the church, God himself. (Assuming that the church attends to normal matters of church discipline, in which a complaint against any individual without witnesses would need to remain a private issue. Adding also the command of Paul, in 1 Tim 5:19, “Do not admit a charge against an elder except on the evidence of two or three witnesses.” )
However, that does not mean the person cannot insist that future interactions with the pastor take place in public arenas, or ask for other protections from the church. Though they cannot bring formal charges or seek formal redress, the church as a body still holds authority even over the pastor, and as such may be used as a protection against an overbearing pastor. (This, of course, assumes a certain ecclesiastical structure that may not always be present. For those who have more hierarchical structures they would, of course, have to appeal to those structures for assistance, but I do not believe this to be the most biblical model for a church.)
It is not a very internally satisfying answer, but ultimately this seems to be the method that Scripture leads us toward. We must acknowledge that an insult, even from a pastor, is a private offense (unless there are witnesses) and thus must be handled like other private offenses. However, once evidence is available of the offense of the pastor, his judgment ought to be more severe because of his position and the harm his transgressions do to both the body and the gospel. Even as James says, “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.” (Yes, he is looking at this in an eternal sense, but I think the principle at play can, and should, be applied to the temporal judgment of teachers as well.)
So then, how does that principle apply in the home of a woman who is being abused by an unbelieving husband, or a husband who claims to be a believer but is acting sinfully? In the same way. Private offenses, according to what we see in Matthew, are to remain private. So, if a woman’s husband claims to be a Christian, she can point him to Scripture (just as she would any other Christian caught in sin) so that he might stop sinning. But, if he refuses to repent, and she has no witnesses of his sinful behavior, she must seek redress from God.
However, just as the church has authority over the pastor, the church also has authority over the husband. That means that the wife can go to the pastor and seek counseling, advising him of the situation and that she has no proof, and ask him for assistance. In such a situation a pastor may take action to seek to counsel to couple simply on the fact that there is apparently sufficient marital distress that one of the partners is seeking help. The husband certainly does not have the right to tell his wife that she cannot seek redress from the church because that would be attempting to divorce himself from the authority God has placed over him. If the husband refuses to come to counseling after the pastor asks him, then there may be grounds for suspicion and further action on the part of the church.
If the husband simply lies though, denying the charges, there may be little the pastor can do, other than admonish the husband to seek to love his wife more, and then seek to spend more time discipling this couple. Unfortunately that is the difficulty in any case of church discipline where there is no evidence of wrong doing. One party may be aggrieved with no means of redress other than bearing the insult and turning to God. Ultimately, while we pray for such situations we must also trust that the God to whom we pray is a good judge, and will bring justice for the oppressed.
As far as what the children experience, they will experience (hopefully) hypocrisy. If the church teaches the full counsel of God then they (the children) will hear from the pulpit about how husbands should love their wives, how they should treat their wives like their own flesh, how they should care for their wives and seek to build up their wives in Christ. The children will see their father agree with this teaching in church, and then go home to see that the exact opposite is taking place. They, in their youth, will be bewildered, they may even join in on insulting their mother, but eventually (assuming the father continues the facade of faithfulness) they will grow to an age where they will grasp that what is going on at home is not what the church teaches. Likewise those children may become the very witnesses that prove the unfaithful behavior of their father, as children have a tendency to reveal what is going on at home in their words and actions. (Remember also that a church is not bound to dismiss a young witness if a charge of sinfulness is brought to the attention of an elder.)
Two sentences you mentioned in particular caught my attention, Larry, “Most controlling men isolate their women… If she is being subjected to verbal abuse is she â€˜sinningâ€™ by going for outside help contra her husbandâ€™s explicit command?” Though I have already addressed this, I wanted to address it more explicitly. In no way, whatsoever, is a woman ever sinning by appealing to an authority greater than her husband contra his command. That would be like an abusive commander in the military forbidding his subordinates from seeking help from further up the chain of command. For him to attempt to do so would be going beyond his authority, and thus is a command that does not need to be followed. No authority ever has the right to command us to sin, for that would be making that authority into an idol, placing them in the position of God.
One last point I think is very important, and that is the serious psychological harm that can come from a woman being told she must submit to verbal and psychological abuse at the hands of her husband. While I recognize this is true, I also find no grounds in Scripture for telling a woman she does not have to endure a mocking, insulting, or unbelieving husband. (Likewise if a believing husband had an unbelieving wife, I would not tell him he should treat her with less love because of her taunts or insults.) For this reason I think it is very important that churches offer abused women of all sorts a place of sanctuary, where they know they will be loved and encouraged, and where they will not be insulted, degraded, or mocked. Most often this will likely come from other believing women who will need to form a support group for a woman who has been so maligned. Unfortunately, many, if not most, of our churches in America fall short of this ideal, and do not offer the abused woman the love and hope she needs. This is definitely an area churches need to grow.
Charlton, thanks for your very quick response. I’ve had time to skim read your post. And am at the beginning of a very busy day with a weekend which, in part, will be spent assisting my very aged parents (this is very likely dad’s last Christmas).
Although the blogsphere tends to expect instant responses (and hence threads readily deteriorate) I’ll take a day or two to reflect and then respond.
Perhaps for the sake of clarity in this exchange it would be best to envision that both h/w are believers (leaving the question of the husbands ultimate salvation to the side).
What I’m going to be thinking about is the scenario I see laid out in your last post: given this model, it seems like a Christian wife may be called to endure years of emotional, verbal abuse to which her children are exposed. Her recourse is to ‘go to the church’ which given the manipulation of the husband may or may not be a satisfactory outcome. My hope would be that within the h/w relationship itself the wounded party (in this case the wife) has other options.
back to you later.
Even the Pharisees realized that the Tanakh (as they interpreted it) taught that a pattern of physical or emotional abuse was a reason for divorce; this can be discerned from the Mishnah. I find it very sad that some believers do not read the Bible with a Hebrew mindset and so do not realize this.
I look forward to hearing back from you. I’m hoping that your consideration may bring more light to additional resources a woman may utilize for biblical redress of a verbally or emotionally abusive husband. I certainly do not want women to have to live with such abuse, and do not want children to have to endure such either. Your interaction has been much appreciated.
And as well to Denny, who has given us this forum for thinking through these issues, thanks is owed.
Here you go Charlton my lunch and coffee break (spent writing this post):
Brief theological reflection: God is on the side of the innocent and powerless. His default mode, if you will, is to protect or at least mitigate the harm that may come to the innocent. Note: the OT concern for widows, orphans, Hebrew slaves and even animals. A similar concern is expressed within the NT for widows and orphans. From my perspective models must work in the real world. If a model does not reflect God concern for the innocent (in this case the wife and children) Iâ€™m inclined to look very critically at the model.
Backdrop comments: As a 50+ person my observation (this isnâ€™t scientific) is that pastoral leadership can be predisposed to take the self-report of husbands/fathers at face value or believe their repentant words/tears. At times this has put victims (both of domestic violence or sexual assault) at risk when they receive pastoral counsel to forgive and return or are advised to stay with the offender. From my perspective, at least historically, this paragraph about the evangelical subculture is a simple reality. The modern criminal justice system is predisposed to listen carefully and weigh the self-report of a victim of domestic or sexual assault. The church should certainly do no less. In my view, notwithstanding the laws which mandate this, pastoral leadership must be predisposed to err on the side of caution. They should have a healthy scepticism when listening to a maleâ€™s words/tears, report crimes (rather than becoming investigators – they are ill-equipped to do so) and try to ensure victimâ€™s safety is paramount.
The preceding paragraph is important to this thread (and to you Charlton, Iâ€™ve read your profile â€“ brilliant joke by the way about the word limit). Seminarians or recent seminary grads likely do not have the street smarts that comes from the harsh realities of life. My work in corrections has certainly flavoured the way I look at the world (I completely believe in the fallenness of humanity â€“ we screw up everything). Further, the evangelical community (church people) are often ill equipped to deal with the master manipulator aka the domestic violent offender. Here is a thesis statement: Verbal abuse is a form of domestic violence. That statement is straight out of the domestic violence program. I find it odd that â€œthe worldâ€ has more concern for victims than the model you are considering.
So with all that as preliminary Iâ€™ll try to directly respond to the matter at hand: within the comp model you are proposing that a Christian wife remains submissive by accepting â€œinconvenienceâ€ (this has not been defined; would it be something like obeying direction about when to have dinner on the table, etc?) and verbal/emotional abuse. Further, this situation may be long lasting (perhaps years). If children are in the relationship they would be witnessed to their fatherâ€™s behaviour and their motherâ€™s acceptance of same.
I think a key to my understanding your model is found in your outlining how a parishioner would deal with a verbally, abusive pastor (basically a decent model). You write: â€œMy response would be that the Christian should still submit to the pastor in whatever way possible, absolutely not respond in the same way, and seek redress of their grievances.â€ Iâ€™m wondering if you are confusing â€œsubmissionâ€ with â€œresponding in kind.â€ Flip this over to the h/w relationship. Iâ€™ve read comps whose advice to a wife whose husband wants to lead them into sin is to say something like: â€œI would love to submit to you in this, but I cannot follow you in this matter.â€
How would this work within your model? And Iâ€™m talking about real, ongoing verbal, emotional abuse. The Christian wife says to her Christian husband says something like this: I am in submission to you and love you. Your ongoing verbal abuse (here she should name exactly what she is talking about) must end. You must take steps to deal with whatever issues youâ€™ve got â€“ she gives a time frame. If you do not I will …. she outlines her steps â€“ I will remove myself/children from the family home (NOTE: this is separation not divorce). I want to be in a loving submissive relationship with you but cannot when you (name the behaviours). Essentially this would be the same steps a spouse might take when dealing with an adulterous partner. Theological rationale for this: the wife is an image bearer (child of God); the children can be severely damaged by being exposed to this kind of an environment. Males tend to replicate what they see. Females
may believe this behaviour is normal and fall into a similar relationship. God cares about the powerless – the innocent, our models must reflect this reality.
Now can this response be manipulated by a vindictive, unstable wife? Certainly, like I wrote earlier in this post â€“ everything we touch can get screwed up. There is no pristine model.
Finally, I think your model is too influenced by the 1 Peter text. 1 Peter written to the disporia â€“ Christians being persecuted. I truly believe the 3.1 has in view a mixed marriage and is set within a very patriarchal society where the woman has very few options. [Thatâ€™s what I remember from some of my commentary reading, years ago]
I have a few more thoughts â€“ that models can themselves become an offense to the gospel (rather then becoming some way of reflecting the relationship between Jesus/Church). But this will have to do for now.
Lesson to self â€“ quit making quick posts. The 6th paragraph has some errors, or is poorly written. The force of what Iâ€™m thinking somehow didnâ€™t magically translate into text.
It should read confusing LACK OF SUBMISSION with responding in kind. And the comp wife wants to submit but does not want to follow to submit IN THIS â€“ sorry for the confusion. Iâ€™ve tried to show the corrections below:
I think a key to my understanding your model is found in your outlining how a parishioner would deal with a verbally, abusive pastor (basically a decent model). You write: â€œMy response would be that the Christian should still submit to the pastor in whatever way possible, absolutely not respond in the same way, and seek redress of their grievances.â€ Iâ€™m wondering if you are confusing LACK OF â€œsubmissionâ€ with â€œresponding in kind.â€ Flip this over to the h/w relationship. Iâ€™ve read comps whose advice to a wife whose husband wants to lead them into sin is to say something like: â€œI would love to submit to you (in this) IN THIS Deleted, but I cannot follow you in this matter
I think you have outlined a wonderful method for a wife to deal with the situation, save only one point. The only additional point I would make is that the wife ought not to go at this alone. What I mean by that is that if the wife is being abused, emotionally or physically, and she is married to a believer, and she has listed her grievances with her husband, and he has refused to take the necessary steps to move forward (including: repentance, confession, and perhaps bringing in increased accountability to help him), then she must also involve the church. This is not saying she must involve the church simply so that the church’s power is respected, but so that the church as a community, and, more importantly, as a family, can minister to her needs and those of her husband and children. In other words, if she takes these steps entirely on her own she is opening herself up to additional dangers, such as alienating herself from the very church that should be helping her, and removing herself from the best means of dealing with spiritual rebellion, as outlined in Scripture.
You stated, “Iâ€™m wondering if you are confusing LACK OF ‘submission’ with ‘responding in kind.'” (Thank you for clarifying that statement, by the way.) I suppose I also need to take time to clarify what I mean. I did not mean to confuse the two, however, there is a connection between the two. A lack of submission would demonstrate itself through response in kind, but refusing to respond in kind is more than merely submitting to a human authority, it is doing what Christians are commanded to do in praying for those who persecute us and seeking to live at peace with all people. If those commands apply to how we deal with the world, which is our enemy, then how much more should we, as Christians, pray for other Christians when they wrong us or malign us in some form? How much more love should we show to our family if we are to love those who are our enemies? That is what I meant by not responding in the same way, basically trying to lead the person to repentance by demonstrating a Christ-like character in response to cruelty.
Submission, as I mean it, means doing whatever the person has asked the offended party to do. For instance, if a pastor says, “Oh, there is a widow who needs help. She’s a poor and dirty woman, like you. Take this basket to her before you go home.” The insulted person might point out to the pastor how insulting that statement is, or if they feel they cannot do that without anger and need time to calm down, they may confront the pastor later. But, in either situation, they should still do as the pastor “asked” them to (recognizing that part of the insult is the commanding arrogance of the pastor). This is submission, still doing as one is asked or required, or obeying instruction in as much as one is able to without sinning.
In responding to a second point you made, as to if 1 Peter is not taking a place of priority in my thinking of this, I will admit I am thinking of this in such a way, as my next paragraph will make more clear. However, even assuming a Christian husband, I think 1 Peter 3 still applies because of the “how much more” principle I referred to earlier. 1 Peter says (paraphrased) “even if some husbands do not obey the word,” which I agree with you is referring to unbelieving husbands. But, if a woman is to submit to an unbelieving husband, who would continuously be not obeying the word, how much more should she submit to a believing husband who steps out of line with the word on occasion? As I’ve already said, I do not mean that she should submit to him and sin, but that if he loses his temper, speaks in anger, insults instead of speaking words of love, or acts in some other way contrary to Scripture, should a different principle apply here, or simply the same principle with even more force, so that the husband might be brought to repentance? (Of course, along with submission to him she also has the additional responsibility of lovingly confronting him with the Word, albeit it may be necessary to wait until the situation has cooled off some so that he will listen.) I have seen this modeled in comp households, and I have experienced it in my own relationship with my wife.
I do have one question that I must ask in response to you though Larry, do you really think this hypothetical situation we have been discussing would occur? I mean, do you think a Christian husband would continuously abuse his wife, lie about it when asked, refuse counsel from his pastor, not listen to the tears of his wife, and not be broken by the Word of God in relation to his sin? And do you think he would continue to live like this for years? In such a situation, would we really still call him a Christian, or would it be better to say that 1 Peter 3 applies here directly because he would have to be an unbeliever to live in this way?
Charlton (thanks for your response)
To your last paragraph and whether such an abusive person can really be considered a follower of Jesus? For the sake of our posts I thought it would be easier to assume he is a believer, similar to a gossip or anyone else with a besetting sin(s). Following the direction of Jesus, I shy away from trying to separate the sheep from the goats.
My advice to a woman in a â€˜mixedâ€™ marriage to a verbally/emotionally abusive partner would be virtually the same as I outlined in my previous post. My overriding concern is the protection of the vulnerable and less powerful. I donâ€™t believe that 1 Peter 3.1 should be taken in such an all encompassing way as to say that a wife should do nothing or say nothing when being abused be that abuse physical or emotional/verbal in hopes the husband will become a Christian.
When I am writing about abuse I am referring to a pattern of abusive behaviour. The term â€œpattern of abusive behaviourâ€ is important (we use it when writing Court Reports and describing behaviour). Iâ€™m not writing about the kind of behaviour you describe in your second last paragraph. I can envision that kind of respectful give and take played out in either a complementarian or egalitarian marriage (likely with only slight nuances/modifications within each model).
The main point Iâ€™m trying to make in these posts is that the â€œsubmission cardâ€ (I hope my use of this phrase isnâ€™t too obnoxious) should not be played to force a woman in any type of marriage to take any form of abuse (spiritual, emotional, financial or physical). The paragraph I isolated from your advice to Pete triggered my engagement with you since I didnâ€™t know where or if there were any boundaries you envisioned in your model.
Case studies or scenarios (especially when we are restricted to on-line post exchanges) can appear one dimensional. Real life is much more multilayered and complex. In the case of verbal and/or emotional abuse behaviours tend to escalate. Controlling behaviour easily escalates into physical abuse. And the reality is that by the time an abused woman reaches out for help (to the church or phones the police) there has likely been a â€œpattern of abusive behaviour.â€ The male typically will focus on the event that triggered her reaching out for help. If she has in any way been assertive, heâ€™ll focus on that and minimize his own behaviour. He is an expert in spreading confusion. Charlton our little scenario would be far more complex in real life. [â€œI only pushed herâ€ while the police report describes a vicious assault. I read descriptions of the male chocking the woman until she blacks out.]
I agree to your comments about the wife reaching out for help within the church community. She should also access community resources with those who are fully trained in dealing with domestic violence. I hope the pastoral care she receives takes her concerns very seriously. I mentioned a male who is involved in domestic violence can be a master manipulator. Not least he can lie to himself about his behaviour. He can use â€œGod talkâ€ attempting to present himself favourably to his wife, children and the outside world.
Iâ€™m off to be with my parents. Most likely I havenâ€™t covered everything. If I need to clarify anything or you have any pushback Iâ€™ll try to respond.
Larry S said:
Neither do we (complementarians). A healthy comp church will help the woman separate for some period of time until the environment/husband is safe. By the way, we’re dealing with a situation at my church where the wife uses abusive language towards the husband and children. Separation is actually being contemplated in that situation and I think this is a good idea. Separation is sometimes necessary in order to save the marriage.
Derek or anyone,
What would a complementarian say is the Scriptural justification for separation?
My personal position is somewhere in between comp and egal. I know some of the reasons I would use but they are some of the same things that undermine a strong comp position in my mind. It’s an honest question for me, I’m curious to know from folks who self-identify as comps what would be the Scriptural mandate/defense of separation.
FWIW, I grew up under a rather extreme position that taught that just as 1 Peter tells slaves to submit even to physical abuse, just as Jesus submitted to physical abuse, so a wife should submit, even to physical abuse.
I think there are probably a number of ways to support separation. On this topic, my mind goes almost immediately to I Corinthians 5, which is ultimately about how unrepentant or habitual sin is handled in the Church. To me, abuse fits under that banner and the prescription is to disassociate with a person, ideally for a season of time, always with the end goal being restoration, reconciliation and repentance.
I’m not a complementarian (so perhaps shouldn’t ans your question).
I’d tend to agree w/Derek. In one of my posts i outline my thoughts on this under Theological Reflections – the notion that God is on the side of the powerless/vulnerable coupled with the notion of being an image bearer.
I’d tweak Derek’s sentence “ideally for a season of time, always with the end goal being restoration, reconciliation and repentance” to include that the 3 R’s he mentions includes changed behaviour and NO pressure on the abused person to return.
I’ve had one hierarchally inclined counsellor all concerned about the male’s need for sexual release and that, due to this sexual need, the seasons of time must be quite short. (extreme perhaps, but my first hand experience.)
I mean, do you think a Christian husband would continuously abuse his wife, lie about it when asked, refuse counsel from his pastor, not listen to the tears of his wife, and not be broken by the Word of God in relation to his sin? And do you think he would continue to live like this for years? In such a situation, would we really still call him a Christian, or would it be better to say that 1 Peter 3 applies here directly because he would have to be an unbeliever to live in this way?
Tragically, I know that this is all too common. I don’t doubt that the abusers I know are/were Christian, and in every way integrated into the Christian community.
Because of the dual teaching that abuse is generated by lack of submission on the part of the wife, and that abuse is a result of doormat behaviour on the part of the wife, There is an enormous burden of shame on the victim of abuse. It is simply easier to keep silent, and for some women this may continue for a lifetime, for 50 years or more. I would say that a certain percentage of women live out their lives like this. Just as many among Christians as anywhere else, maybe more because the social cost of divorce is higher. I have often tried to describe what this kind of life is like, but I don’t know any words that convey the feeling to those who can’t imagine it. It is deeply disturbing.
On justification for separation, since emotional or other abuse is a Biblical reason for divorce, it is a Biblical reason for anything less than divorce, including separation, which might wake up the erring party to the seriously of the abuse.
What I honestly believe is that complementarians are not in any way worse than anyone else. Some are kind honest people. However, I also believe that the teaching of female subordination will cause some women to endure violence and injury. I believe every single time that female subordination is mentioned the speaker must think about how violence from a husband feels. You must imagine the impact of being violated by the person who is given authority over you. And then you must think about how it feels to know that this violence will occur at least once a week for one’s entire life without any hope of reprieve. Imagine being a prisoner of war who must sleep with and be tortured by and interrogated by the same person week in and week out for 50 years. Imagine that you are told that you should joyfully submit to this because God wants it.
The only way out was a denial of male authority. Once I took that step I was able to see more clearly and take responsibility for my life. Of course, there was a lot of unusual trauma that pushed me out. For 27 years nobody knew anything at all. I was told that I would be punished if I told anyone. And then because I had never discussed abuse and violence, and it was not even once mentioned in church, or even by any of my non-Christian friends, I had no way of articulating this.
In the end, after my son ran away and joined the French Foreign Legion, I repented for staying with my husband. Even now, I think back and I know that divorce would have led to violence, if I had divorced earlier. So, in some ways, it was better to stay till the kids were 18. But it was only after I set up house again by myself that my son came back.
I have no doubt that my ex is a Christian. But he was not able to handle being with someone without having total control over them. Even when he was not violent, it was irrational, but always justified by what was taught in church.
When I finally worked up the courage to lie to my husband and go to a counsellor, I felt incredibly guilty. But slowly I came to realize that I had been deceived. Submission to any abuse at all, submission to the slightest bit of selfishness, is guaranteed to make that abuse increase. I had in some sense created a monster with my submission.
Wow, Sue. Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it goes a long way in taking this discussion out of the realm of intellectual debates between obscure theologians and puts it right on the ground, as it should be. I am grateful for your witness on this page, your willingness to be a dissenting voice, and you willingness to be a voice for abused women – and women in general.
Wow. I can hardly believe I wrote all that. Anyway, thanks for listening.