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1 Peter 3.7 and Wife Abuse

A friend wrote to me recently, asking why I haven’t written anything about wife abuse on Parchment & Pen. She urged me to do it because, according to her, complementarianism is rich soil in which to grow this kind of wickedness (she’s an egalitarian). Now, I could dispute the merits of that viewpoint, but I’ll pass. Instead, I want to take a pro-active position on what the Bible says about how a husband should treat his wife. I’ll talk about the do’s and don’t’s.

But to begin with, I should mention a curiosity in the history of English Bibles. In 1537, John Rogers published, under the pen name, Thomas Matthew, the Matthew’s Bible. He essentially combined the Old Testament of Miles Coverdale with the New Testament of William Tyndale. Besides blatant plagiarism, Rogers also added about 2000 notes to his Bible, many of which were controversial. Far and away, the most controversial note was found at 1 Peter 3.7: “If [the wife] be not obedient and healpfull unto [her husband, he should] endeavoureth to beate the feare of God into her…”! This Bible soon earned the moniker, “The Wife-Beater’s Bible.” I suppose a silver lining in this story is that the fact that this label was so quickly given to the Matthew’s Bible shows us that our ancestors also thought that this little comment was inappropriate. Thank God that note didn’t make it into the King James Bible!

Now if someone could read 1 Peter 3.7 five hundred years ago to mean that he had the right and the obligation to beat his wife if she disobeyed, then certainly some corrective instruction needs to be given.

The first thing to note is that 1 Peter 3.7 ruins the flow of the argument. Beginning in 2.13, Peter had been discussing the person who functioned in the subordinate role in relation to a non-Christian superior. He speaks about obedience to the government—both the king and those he commissions, submission (of slaves) to one’s master, and submission of wives to their husbands. In each instance, non-Christian superiors are in view. But then, at the end of the discourse, Peter turns to Christian husbands. Why does he do this? He didn’t address Christian governors or Christian slave-owners. Why now address Christian husbands? There were Christian slave-owners and even some in government. Why not address them?

As I said, addressing the husbands ruins the argument flow. The reason that Peter does this, it seems, is because Christian husbands especially were not grasping what it meant to be a Christian husband. They needed his advice more than others in superior roles. So he wrecked the literary flow to address a serious problem in the church.

And what does Peter tell them? To beat them into submission? NO!! He says that husbands must treat their wives with profound consideration, with the recognition that in God’s eyes both were equal recipients of his grace. I take it that this means that husbands will be held accountable before God for how they have treated their wives in this life. Matthew’s Bible is as far from the mark of the meaning of this text as anything could be.

OK, some specifics. What does it look like for a complementarian husband to treat his wife properly? (I’m speaking of complementarian husbands here because I don’t want to get into debates over whether egalitarianism or complementarianism is biblical. For sake of argument, let’s just assume that complementarianism is biblical. The reason that this should not be hard to do is that, as my egalitarian friend said, complementarianism is a breeding ground for wife abuse. So, if that’s so, no complementarian husband can look at this blog post and say, ‘Well, he’s an egalitarian, so I don’t need to listen to him.’ Fair enough? Good. Let’s go.)

  • It does NOT mean that he EVER has the right to physically hurt her in any way. Anyone who reads 1 Peter 3.7 that way has got serious issues and needs to get counseling. And my advice to wives who are caught in a marriage like that is this: RUN! Get out before it gets worse. The first time your husband strikes you, take the kids and leave. I’m not saying get a divorce. That may be necessary. But I am saying show some self-dignity. If your husband won’t treat you with the respect you deserve, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t! And the longer you wait, the harder it will get.
  • It does NOT mean that he has the right to bully his wife, verbally abuse her, bark orders at her like he’s Archie Bunker, belittle her, or treat her with any less respect than he would his most-respected friend. Husbands, your wife is not your doormat. She is not your slave. She is not there to serve your every whim. She is there to partner with you in the gospel so that the sum of the two of you working together is greater than what either of you could do apart. Peter gives a profound warning in this verse: Husbands who treat their wives right will not have their prayers hindered. In other words, if you mistreat your wives, you have no guarantee that God will answer your prayers. Husbands, if you’re having a multitude of difficulties in life—difficulties at work, difficulties with your children, difficulties with your relationships, difficulties with finances, difficulties with health, difficulties with sexual temptation (the list is endless)—maybe you should look at how you are treating your wife. Maybe God’s not answering your prayers because you’re not honoring her.
  • It does NOT mean that he has the right to ask his wife to do anything that is illegal or immoral. And when husbands do this under the guise that their wives have to obey them, the wives need to stand up against such nonsense and challenge their husbands to be more godly. Wives, a complementarian viewpoint on the role of husbands and wives does NOT mean that you should obey your husband when he asks you to do anything illegal or immoral.
  • It DOES mean that you are to treat your wives with the same respect that you treat yourself—assuming you do treat yourself with respect.
  • It DOES mean that you are to love your wife as Christ loved the church. How did he do it? With self-sacrifice, with placing her needs above your own, with gently guiding her and your family in the ways of peace and righteousness.
  • It DOES mean that before your children you two present a united front. The worst kind of parenting is that which the children can easily manipulate by pitting parent against parent. These little monsters are smart; you have to be smarter! Husbands, support your wife’s call in front of the children. NEVER contradict her when she lays down the law for the kids. You do that and you’ve just robbed your wife of any respect and honor that she could have before the kids. This goes for the wife, too. My wife and I have four boys. And they would always try to appeal to one parent after the other one already said no. They’d get smart and wait for a few hours, then spring the request on the second parent (usually me) who did not know that they already got turned down by the first parent (usually Pati). But we got smart too: We asked if they already talked to the other parent. Of course, we didn’t just take their word for it. (Children are totally depraved sinners, too.) We’d call the other parent. And never ever did the second parent say yes when the first one said no. I can’t stress how vital this is. You cross that line and you’ve just damaged the authority that your spouse MUST have with the kids.
  • It DOES mean that you trust your wife. Read Proverbs 31 sometime (soon!), and see if your wife is living up to her potential. Ask her what she wants to get out of life. Ask her if she feels unfulfilled. Ask her if she feels threatened by you, or if she is scared by you. Ask her if she feels that you love her, if she feels that you put her needs before your own. Ask her if she thinks you’re a good husband and, if not, what you can do about it. I’m serious. But if you ask her, do NOT then turn the tables and tell her what you think of her as a wife. And don’t use her honesty with you as a weapon against her. If you’re really a complementarian husband, then you should also believe that men are designed to be initiators and wives are designed to be responders. (Not in everything and not in every way, my egalitarian friends; please, let this one go! See caution below.) If you’ve got a list of complaints about your wife, then guess what? You can do something about it by being a better husband, by taking the initiative to truly love your wife. You may be surprised by what you discover.

I’ve only touched the surface of some issues. I haven’t touched on alcohol (but here’s an obvious tip: If drinking tends to make you violent, abstain. Period.) I haven’t touched on pornography or unfaithfulness or a host of other issues. There are many reasons why husbands beat their wives. All of them are bad reasons, wrong reasons, utterly sinful reasons.

OK, enough for now. I’m interested to see where this dialog will go. But please don’t make it your own soapbox on why this view or that view is right. A couple of blog posts ago, that happened and now we’ve got a runaway blog on our hands. 150 comments and still counting! Let’s deal with what constitutes wife abuse and what does not, what a good marriage looks like and what it does not look like. If you get too far off course, either Michael or I will comment. This is too important an issue to get sidetracked.

Your turn.

No Responses to “1 Peter 3.7 and Wife Abuse”

  1. Thank you for writing about this. I hope that by quoting from Lundy Bancroft’s book “Why does he do that?” I can make a peaceful contribution. I have heard that this book has wide acceptance.

    In writing about the former legal system that did not enforce consequences, he says,

    “This legal history plays an important role in shaping today’s cultural views among males – and females – about the abuse of women. It is likely to take a number of generations to overcome the accumulated impact of hundreds of years of destructive social attitudes. The culture that shaped these laws, and was in turn shaped by them, is reflected in people’s continued willingness to blame women for “provoking” abuse, to feel sorry for men who face legal consequences for intimate violence, and to be highly skeptical of women’s reports of abuse.” page 321

    About religious beliefs he writes,

    “I have had numerous clients over the years who explicitly rely on religious quotations from scripture to justify their abuse of their partners. Similarly, religious prohibitions against divorce have entrapped women in abusive relationships. The book When Love Goes Wrong published in 1985, describes a study of conservative Protestant clergy that reported that 21 percent said that no amount of abuse would justify a woman’s leaving aher husband … ” page 322

    So a key points are:

    – talking about women as those who are “rebellious” or who “provoke”, is a key component of abuse.

    – religious quotations are used to keep women in obedience to their husband’s personal whims

    – a rigid non-acceptance of divorce is a great difficulty since women often do not want to publicize the role of abuse in their divorce

    Bancroft advises that a man cannot give up his abusive behavior unless he surrenders his sense of entitlement and accepts that his partner has rights that are equal to his. This comes from long experience.

    I highly recommend Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Bancroft.

    Thank you for writing about this. I hope that some time soon your blog may also feature a post by a woman who has survived this experience, as an encouragement to many readers here.

  2. As I mentioned recently, it is very important to realise that commands to a person to come under (any) authority are not commands to that authority. This is just basic logic.

    A command to obey my employee is not a command to an employer to enforce compliance. Even if it were right for an employer to enforce compliance, that do not get that knowledge from commands given to employees, they must get that from other commands.

  3. How anyone can think wife beating is biblical is beyond me. How anyone who follows the teachings of Jesus can think wife beating is even imagined in all His teaching is beyond me.

    I read Paul and I see that I am to die for my wife if necessary and I would . If I would give her my life, why would i ever give her the back of my hand?

  4. Bethyada, I agree with you about authority and I think the misunderstanding and the misuse of the word wields a weapons for abuse. Authority equates to responsibility. If the man has authority over his wife, he is responsible for his obligation to her. That to me translates into service. So a man’s authority is really to serve his wife.

    The passage in Eph 5 to me paints such a beautiful picture of the outflow of authority and that is a man loving his wife sacrificially. Consider how Christ loves the church, His bride. As Dr. Wallace mentioned, its putting her needs before his own. It is a picture of nurturing and protection.

    Abuse is just the antithesis. Its the mark of extreme selfishness that wants control.

  5. Only a man who is not answering to the Lord would justify beating his wife.

    Luk 12:45 But and if that servant say in his heart, My lord delayeth his coming; and shall begin to beat the menservants and maidens, and to eat and drink, and to be drunken;
    Luk 12:46 The lord of that servant will come in a day when he looketh not for him, and at an hour when he is not aware, and will cut him in sunder, and will appoint him his portion with the unbelievers.

  6. I agree with Dr. Wallace, and will go farther and say that I don’t believe any man, believer or otherwise, who beats his wife loves her in the least.

    We had a neighbor who suffered this way for years. We called the police when they would get started, and I confronted him myself several times, just to get him to stop in each case. (he wasn’t as tough with men) However, she would not press charges, or even admit what had happened.

    It took a long time before she finally got the courage to have him arrested and get a divorce. Then she hooked up with another clown just like the first… it took that to finally make her realize her criteria for a husband was flawed.

    I don’t mean to cast any guilt on the woman, she was careless, but that in no way excuses any level of physical or emotional abuse. The point is, neither of these men loved her.

  7. I was eager to learn more and to re-think the complementarian position until I got to the part where children were referred to as “little monsters.” That alone speaks volumes…

    Now I am having a hard time staying open to what you have to say on the topic of loving leadership. Do you suppose God refers to us as “the little monsters”? It is true that we are all depraved sinners, but I find it surprising that a loving leader would refer to his (or her) children with such a disparaging tone.

    This has been a stumbling block for me since I was a child. So many Christian men “lord” their so-called authority over their wives. When they finally believe that perhaps they have misunderstood the call to leadership and decide to treat their wives with some measure of respect, the domineering attitude is not tranformed into one of compassion; it is merely transferred toward children or employees.

    I have a hard time swallowing the idea that God designed families or churches (or even working environments) with a pecking order…but I’ll try to stay open to the dialogue here despite the “little monsters” image.

  8. Here is another perspective:

    Misguided notions about submission in marriage abound. Some consider it a return to the Ozzie and Harriet homes of the ‘50s and ‘60s. Others picture a wife who allows her husband to order her around and force her to do whatever he demands. These ideas do not reflect the biblical understanding of wives submitting to their husbands.

    In scripture, marriage is viewed as a one-flesh relationship based on mutual self-giving love. It is a covenant of companionship between two spiritually equal human beings. Yet this doesn’t mean that the relationship is without roles. Nor do roles in marraige diminish equality and the call for mutual respect.

    According to scripture, the husband bears the primary responsibility to lead the home in a God-glorifying manner. His leadership clearly involves authority and should be honored by his wife and family. This authority, however, should be based on love (see: I Corinthians 13:4-8a) and thoughtful consideration (see: Philippians 2:3-5).

    Scripture issues strong warnings against husbands who treat their wives with with insensativity (see I Peter 3:7). Husbands must never forget that they are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Cultural limitations should not be placed on this command any more than on the command for wives to submit to their husbands. Biblical requirements for male leadership in the home were not conditioned on cultural factors.

    In a similar way, scripture reserves the office of elder (spiritual overseer) in the church to men (see: I Timothy 2:11-14). This requirement was based on the order of creation not on cultural attitudes about women during earlier times. Those who try to limit this instruction to cultural issues during New Testament times are twisting scripture to make it more desirable to current attitudes.

    When considering male leadership in the home or the church, it is essential to understand seven distinctions about submission:

    1. Submission does not mean putting a husband in the place of Christ.

    2. Submission does not mean giving up independent thought.

    3. Submission does not mean a wife should give up efforts to influence and guide her husband.

    4. Submission does not mean a wife should give in to every demand of her husband.

    5. Submission is not based on lesser intelligence or competence.

    6. Submission does not mean being fearful or timid.

    7. Submission is not inconsistent with equality in Christ

    (Seven points from: “Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood: A Response to Evangelical Feminism” ed. John Piper and Wayne Grudem).

    Steve Cornell
    http://www.thinkpoint.wordpress.com

  9. I don’t think anyone anywhere believes that beating is biblical. However, It is surprising how many people believe that a woman enduring this is biblical.

    It is also surprising how many otherwise well intentioned people are not aware that making sexist comments or labeling some women as rebellious, is a powerful weapon that can be used to make a woman believe that she is in some way responsible.

    It is not enough to deplore this behavior. It is vital to understand how this behavior is enabled by placing blame on a wife or by placing the onus of obedience on her. The vow to obey is a strong weapon against a wife. Usually in this kind of situation the requests for obedience are random, arbitrary and and made simply to trap the wife into a situation where she is vulnerable and deserving of bizarre punishment.

    The rhetoric of the church feeds abusers, who may, in fact, be otherwise believing Christians, but damaged themselves by early abuse. They may use the teaching of authority for control.

    Any teaching that the wife has less rights, less authority, and is only to respond, empowers the husband and debilitates the wife.

    How sad that this crime is equally present among Christians as non-Christians. My sense is that the Christian community is unaware that the teaching of male authority is a key component of abuse among Christians. Among non-Christians there are those who believe in the superior rights of the male for other reasons.

    I appreciate this topic being raised, especially in view of the previous post about whether some people have married the wrong person. Perhaps this gives some insight into why a person may need to leave a marriage abruptly. It is an extremely difficult decision for any woman, and she may be reluctant to take on the new identity of a divorced person.

  10. I think that people value enduring through suffering whether it is a woman or a man.

  11. ttm, it’s not always easy to see tone in a written document, but what you read into mine was clearly not what I intended. I called our children ‘little monsters’, as did my wife. Now I call them big monsters. They call me schmuck. It’s all in jest and we love each other deeply. Perhaps there are some good families out there who don’t know how to have fun or how to joke, but if so, dinner conversation must be a yawn.

  12. The first time your husband strikes you, take the kids and leave. I’m not saying get a divorce. That may be necessary. But I am saying show some self-dignity. If your husband won’t treat you with the respect you deserve, this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t! And the longer you wait, the harder it will get.

    Dan,

    I really appreciate your writing this. I think it is clear that every woman needs to be equipped financially and emotionally to live on her own and support her family. The church needs to make sure it does not discriminate against those who are divorced.

  13. “Perhaps there are some good families out there who don’t know how to have fun or how to joke, but if so, dinner conversation must be a yawn.”

    Dan,

    I don’t think this really needed to be added. It came across to me as unnecessarilty provocative.

  14. Dan Wallace, Thanks for the clarification. It is hard to read “tone” in a written document without knowing the author.

    I really struggle with issues such as roles of men and women in marriage and in the church, male headship, female submission, authority, etc. While I am sincerely interested in what Scripture has to say about such things, it is difficult to do so without letting hurts from the past permeate the filter around my heart.

    When you have been bludgeoned with these concepts, you don’t see black and white, you just see red. I’m sorry if my previous comment was out of line. It’s nice that your family can “joke.” Some families don’t yawn through dinner; they scream. It really isn’t fun…

  15. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 4:13 pm

    My family screams. They never eat. A good gust of wind would take them all away.

    Sue, do you think that every wife should learn Karate? (Just to be further prepared!)

  16. The thought of joking around and teasing and playing is very lovely. Unfortunately some people have been so damaged by an intimate partner who believes that they are the leader not just in caring, but in making decisions, that they can no longer bear joking. It appears to be name-calling.

    I think we need to be more aware that some women have been cuffed and whacked for their so called “rebellion” and this word and others intended to deride and put in one’s place, are simply not appropriate.

    I think the notion that women are provokers and rebels, feminists and lousy drivers, mishandlers of Latin and Greek verbs, by virtue of being female, needs to be addressed. This kind of rhetoric displays what men really think and it is not pretty.

    As well as Lundy Bancroft, Evan Stark has written about coercive control, what happens when a woman loses her right to make fundamental decisions for herself.

    These two authors should be on the bookshelf of every pastor. We need to make Christianity a safe place for women.

  17. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 4:21 pm

    “I think the notion that women are provokers and rebels, feminists and lousy drivers, mishandlers of Latin and Greek verbs, by virtue of being female, needs to be addressed. This kind of rhetoric displays what men really think and it is not pretty.”

    Lousy driver, maybe, but provokers and rebels? Not able to handle Greek and Latin words? Is this what you get by virtue of being a women? I have, frankly, never heard of such a thing. I have seen this based on personality, not gender.

  18. I have rarely seen someone write about rebellious men in the family setting. It seems that women uniquely are called rebellious, because they are the ones who are supposed to under authority.

    I don’t think you have to look far. What is happening is that a number of women, clearly resentful, comment and participate in Christian dialogue. Are they rebellious women, or are they resentful of the way they have been mistreated? Who sets themselves up as judges? And why would anyone be called rebellious, just because they believe that authentein means “compel” “dominate” “commit violence” and “control.” If women can read as well as men, and this is the firmly established range, then why are women who hold to this rebellious? Why is this question even raised or suggested? Why is the image of the rebellious woman so common in Christian writing and sermons?

    Michael,

    What do you think of this sermon?

    “And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged–or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches,”

    Women, once again, are a threat to the authority of their husbands. Who says that a man has “authority?” I read here that he is supposed to provide. But even then women do a lot of providing and they have ever since the first woman planted a garden and kept chickens.

    I just don’t see how people feel good about this kind of talk, when they know that 25% of women, at least, suffer under belittlement, control, deprivation or normal rights, etc. Clearly there are some extremely unhappy women and I don’t think labeling them is good enough.

  19. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 4:45 pm

    I would say that it is about responsibility and leadership which allots authority in the respective areas. I would not put is so negatively.

    I understand the reality of abuse. But I don’t see it though your eyes. You seem to have a very subjective perspective that sees only one thing. Myself . . . I have been in the church for a long time (very conservative church) and around a lot of scumbags, but I have never seen any abuse of leadership the way that you describe. In fact, I have seen most males fear leadership and therefore keep their families from excelling in a balanced direction. From where I stand, this is just as big a problem.

  20. Michael,

    I appreciate your perspective. I certainly speak out of my own perspective.

    I have attended a conservative church where three of the wives of men who are in a leading (but not in pastoral positions), now attend other churches. They have been distressed that women used to preach occasionally from the pulpit, but now they don’t. Women have been brought down. The leadership of men has ensured that women perform less well than they used to. Women are dimished by conservative male leadership.

    So, I have seen strong male leadership suppress the gifts of women. This is just my perspective, of course.

    I do want to add that the pastor’s wife, when asked for a reading list on spousal abuse, just shook her head and said that the church did not have this problem. With 1000 members that seems rather unlikely. It is the invisible nature of this problem that makes it so difficult. The other difficulty is that leadership is almost uniquely from the perspective of men.

    When men label other men as scumbags, it does not really help anyone, that I can see. Labeling women doesn’t help either. The issue is, what is the problem?

    How can women excel when they are restricted from doing so many things and cannot do anything at all without the permission of their husbands. Clearly many many women are prevented from performing to their own potential in many different domains, including their own home, by this.

  21. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 5:40 pm

    Sue, thanks for the comments.

    I am a complementarian. What you are fighting against is what I would call “Radical Patriarchalists,” not complementarianism. As I said before, I am sure they are out there. To the degree that abuse is present, I am most certainly on your side.

    I would promote a complementarianism that elevates the role of women, showing equal importance. There is nothing but an honoring and protection of women in my theology of the subject. The same should be said about women honoring the role of men. Until there is a respect for humanity in God’s image, there cannot be a respect for the honoring of the sexes. This is the case whether you are a complementarian or egalitarian.

    As an aside, if a husband has the aggressive personality to such a degree where they beat those who are weaker, I suspect that it is not really the theology that is the problem, but a personality issue. In other words, if a man blows up and uses his strength to hurt his spouse, it probably does not matter whether he professes to be a complementarian or an egalitarian. He simply needs to be in prison.

    My view is simply a mutual honoring respect for roles (which includes leadership). All people should honor each other enough not to beat them up. In other words, I think you may be fighting the wrong battle by pointing your guns at complementarianism.

  22. Sue,

    I hope you don’t mind me saying this but I’ve listened to your comments for awhile now and have come to the conclusion that you seem to have a huge problem with the concept of authority. And perhaps even a distorted and unhealthy view about it. I can only surmise that if I’m correct, it’s probably due in large part to your experiences. If that’s the case, it is unfortunate. But it should not be the colander through which we sift biblical truth.

    There is nothing inherently evil about the authority. Authority creates order not self-serving abuse. Sure that what some folks do with it but we should let that taint what it is for. Without it, there would be chaos and I hate break this to you, you submit to somebody’s authority everyday. Do you work for someone? You are under that person’s authority. Would you consider your boss demeaning, abusive or derailing your rights simply because he or she is your boss? Who is the pastor of your church? You submit to that’s person’s authority. There is nothing demeaning about submitting to authority. There is nothing demeaning about headship.

    Jesus submitted to the authority of the Father, when he willing humbled himself, laid aside his rights to save us. That is the highest form of submission, for a man to lay down his life for His friends. It is a sacrificing ones rights for the sake of another. In fact, look at what precedes our problem passage, in I Peter 2:21-25 and Jesus’ submission, laying aside his rights for us. Then look at Eph 5:25-29 that is a man laying down his life for the sake of a woman. There is nothing at all derogatory or abusive about that. And yet, vs. 23 indicates that he is head. Again, headship is about responsibility not control.

    I don’t know what kind of examples you’ve been around but all men do not take their responsibility as head a license to abuse. I have witnessed some godly men take their responsibility to love, nourish and protect their wives quite serious and it shows in the great respect, appreciation and tenderness that is demonstrated towards her. Personally, I have never experienced this. But it does give me hope that there are men out there who look to Christ as head over him and take their roles serious as the highest form of love.

    I would really urge you to let go of the agenda of trying prove ascribing to authority is tantamount to abuse.

  23. I would promote a complementarianism that elevates the role of women, showing equal importance.

    Thanks Michael,

    I hear you. I am trying to mention particular features such as labeling that are present among all groups and do contribute to abuse. So, it is the particular behaviors that contribute, not necessarily the belief system. I am trying to dissasociate the two.

    I can say that in the church I attended, older single women missionaries and parachurch workers, used to be invited to preach. Some of them were very qualified. However, they were then relegated to the lounge at some other time.

    What I actually saw was not the elevation of women, or treating them as equals. Women with equal training to the men, sometimes preached at other churches but not ours.

    So, it is the behaviour, that I think all of us, everyone, has to confront within ourselves. Do we empower others or tear them down. Do we judge and label. These are real issues and abuse happens in all communities. But, the question is how does the labeling affect women?

  24. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    I was speaking to the physical abuse issue, not necessarily what you seem to think of as ministerial abuse.

    Equal training, from the complementarian perspective, does not necessarily mean qualification to cross gender roles for either men or women. So I am not surprised that a complementarian church would not let a trained woman preach.

    I, personally, have no problem with women teaching men so long as they are not the primary teachers or pastors.

    You must understand that these people, like me, are just following their convictions on what they believe the Bible teaches. I am not sure that your persistent insistence that they are committing abuse is not a form of abuse itself?

    Argue on, but be kind in your understanding that these are difficult issues and people have good reason for believing the way they do.

  25. I think Sue’s guns are pointed accurately. A belief system which “ranks the roles” in a militaristic way is bound to encourage abuses of domination. Any time someone is “under” another in terms of rights or responsibility, there is a greater likelihood that the higher ranked one will be tempted to succumb to pride, arrogance, and heavy-handed lordship while the lower ranked one will be tempted to succumb to anxiety, fear, and increasing dependence.

    While I agree with C. Michael Patton that personality traits are definitely determining factors in who will become an abuser or an abused one, we must go beyond the behavior and consider the traditions and beliefs allowing the behavior to flourish. On the surface, complementarianism seems to provide a more fertile ground for these abuses than does egalitarianism.

  26. I have a few questions–How is your view of what true complementarianism is enforced within the Church? How are the women who are abused by their husbands who claim only to be following the dictates of their doctrine protected within the Church? It is all well and good to wax eloquent about what should be, but how and when does the Church ever deal with what actually is?

  27. ‘Jesus submitted to the authority of the Father, when he willing humbled
    himself, laid aside his rights to save us. That is the highest form of
    submission, for a man to lay down his life for His friends.’

    That didn’t come out right…

  28. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    I will give it a try Minnow:

    “I have a few questions–How is your view of what true complementarianism is enforced within the Church”

    I think it takes place more naturally rather than being “enforced.” But, generally speaking, men are the leaders of any positions which require teaching and authority over other men. The same is encouraged in the family. Men need to be the leaders over the family as a whole, while the women lead in their respective areas. Setting examples is a leadership position for both, but when ultimate decisions are at stake (direction of the family, spiritual leadership, and provision), the husbands are in a position of first responsibility toward God and therefore will be held accountable in a different manner.

    “How are the women who are abused by their husbands who claim only to be following the dictates of their doctrine protected within the Church?”

    First, abuse is not protected…ever! But it will also depend on what you mean by “abused.” But if there is abuse on either side, it is dealt with. If it is physical abuse of a husband, the wife is encouraged to seek shelter while the husband would be removed from fellowship (relatively speaking) and the two should seek counseling.

  29. Jesus willingly gave up himself and claimed no rights. Husbands claim to
    have authority over their wives, and it is their right to have this authority
    by virtue of being a man. If people knew that husbands do not have this
    right then scripture could not twisted to try and justifiy abuse.

    Did Jesus claim to have ANY rights when he gave himself up?

  30. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 7:46 pm

    Kathy, what you have said is important and wise. Husbands cannot abuse authority that they don’t have! Wives have to willingly submit. But if the husband does not love, does he really expect a wife to submit to his leadership?

  31. Friends, I’m heading out to Rhode Island in the morning for a week of conferences, and I won’t be able to respond to the comments again. But I wanted to leave a few thoughts before leaving. (BTW, I would appreciate continued prayer for my recovery from neck fusion surgery and for full recovery of feeling in my left arm; I won’t know for several months if I have done some permanent nerve damage.)

    I think we’re all agreed that abusing one’s wife is absolutely prohibited by scripture. So far, so good. But a thread that runs through the comments is that the complementarian view is the only one that enables a man to think that he has rights to abuse his wife. I disagree. It’s not just a psychological view of things, it’s also physiological. The fact is that wife abuse is far more prevalent than husband abuse. As long as men are men and women are women, it will be a constant struggle. The church must do its job to speak out against this evil, and we need to support shelters for battered women, have homes where such women can go for safety, etc. I frankly don’t see the church addressing this problem very much. Our silence is deafening.

    But there’s another side that I don’t know has been addressed. (I must confess, I’ve only scanned the comments because of time.) In egalitarian marriages, if no one person is ultimately responsible before God for the family, if the husband does not sense his deep responsibility to protect and provide for the family, then what does that produce? Is it not possible that families that have been abandoned by the fathers come from this kind of mixed message? Certainly, we can’t say that those who neglect child support are in any way thinking of marriage along complementarian lines! I think that this is a terrible evil in our society as well, and I have the sense that about 80% of marriages that break up are largely because of the fault of the husband. To be sure, that fault may be that he’s abusive. Or it may be that he’s passive-aggressive (the worst of complementarian and egalitarian mentalities combined in one!) or that he feels no sense of responsibility for his family.

    So, we have the situation of men falling out on either side of what is right and good and loving: either they abuse their authority and abuse their wives, or they neglect their responsibility and do not protect or provide for their families.

    I’d like to know what you all think of what the Promise Keepers are doing about these things. But from where I sit, it is a false connection to assume that just because a man is called the head of the wife that this lends itself to wife abuse. If his primary task is to protect and provide, than if he abuses his wife he has betrayed his prime objective and is way, way outside the bounds of his duties. He will answer to God for such actions some day. And if a husband’s primary task is to protect and provide, then to neglect this duty is also sinful. But the neglect cannot be charged to a complementarian mindset.

  32. They don’t have authority OVER their wives yet it IS be abusive when
    husbands treat wives as if they do have this kind of authority. This is what
    many are taught. I consider it abusive to even TEACH that husbands have
    authority OVER their wives.

    Husbands do NOT have authority that their wivews do not have.

    Yes, abusive husbands who do not love their wives REALLY DO expect them
    to submit to it. (I can’t even call it leadership rightfully)

  33. Dr. Wallace, I just moved from the tiny state of RI (East Providence), which was my home for 7 years. Enjoy the ETS conference and get some Italian or Portuguese food there. Its the best.

  34. ‘But from where I sit, it is a false connection to assume that just because
    a man is called the head of the wife that this lends itself to wife abuse.’

    It depends on how kephale is thought to have been used by Paul.

  35. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 8:31 pm

    Or, Kathy, better…it depends on your definition of “abuse.”

    In your opinion, is it inherently abusive for me to say and believe that I am the head (leader) of my wife if I treat her with love and admiration, seeking her interests above my own?

  36. I couldn’t resist. One last comment in three parts (besides a hearty amen to Michael’s):

    I think it’s axiomatic that responsibility without authority only leads to frustration and inefficiency. What hasn’t been addressed yet (I think) is whether the egalitarians think that the husband has any final responsibilities for the welfare of the family?

    Second, if a husband can err on the side of abuse (which could come from a rather twisted idea of complementarianism) or neglect (which finds a more fertile soil in egalitarianism), are not both of these sins? I would say that in today’s society abuse is the worse sin, but both are inexcusable. But what I don’t see in complementarianism is any kind of model that requires of the husband/father that he be the protector and provider for the family.

    Third, some on this post are so decidedly egalitarian that any argument, it seems, on the other side is categorically rejected. I would respectfully submit that that’s not a particularly open or honest approach to scripture. You have already made up your mind that the Bible can’t possibly affirm a complementarian viewpoint, so no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise. That kind of closed-mindedness, even if born out of abuse, is not conducive to spiritual growth or healthy dialogue with other, godly Christians who may be of a different persuasion.

    I’ve already mentioned my tensions with complementarianism in another blog post, and I am trying to listen to egalitarian arguments. But I have to admit that those who come with a dogmatic position are the hardest to listen to (regardless of the topic). Why is it so hard to be open to complementarianism if even Sue has admitted that even a complementarian reading of the Bible does not allow for wife abuse?

  37. ‘In your opinion, is it inherently abusive for me to say and believe that I am
    the head (leader) of my wife if I treat her with love and admiration, seeking
    her interests above my own?’

    No, not if she accepts that belief too.

    BUT for you to SAY or teach that the husband is the head (leaders) of his wife
    can be.

  38. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 8:54 pm

    Sure it can be. But complementarianism does not teach in a way that can be abusive. If they do, then they are not complementarians.

    That is the point that Dan was trying to make and needs to be understood. The complementarian view does not allow for abuse but protection and love, through a Christ exemplified leadership.

  39. The only problem with complementarianism is when it is programmed into
    people’s minds because it has been taught as if it were the only way to
    arrange a marriage.

    There are Many kinds of ‘biblical’ marriages that we can read about in the
    bible, the question is which of them all is God’s ideal. In Genesis at creation
    we can see God’s ideal.

    When choices are taken away, that’s when the door to abuse opens.

  40. Michael,

    Let me clarify a couple of things. I did not say that to restrict women from ministry was abuse. (Although maybe it is to some women. I don’t know.)

    However, I meant, and clearly indicated, that I do not consider restricting women from certain ministries, or putting them under the authority of another human being 24 – 7 to be “elevating.” This is diametrically opposed to “elevating.” I am not saying it is abuse but it is disempowering. Women are not built up in the sense that Paul meant. They are not mentored into leadership roles by men as one male does for another man. They are kept in, or moved down to, a lower position. This is simple fact.

    Dan has so eloquently spoken to the need for some women to pack their bags and get out. But they also need to be empowered to do this. Then they will have to take on ultimate responsibility for their family. Widows likewise. Now half of all families have a single parent by the age of 50.

    If women just sat back and did not take primary responsibility, either on their own or alongside men, I dread to think of what the world would by like.

    The sad truth is that the rate of divorce and domestic abuse is similar across demographic groups. The conservative churches do not have a better track record than non-Christians. So, my take is that women submit and sacrifice many life goals, and live lives committed to their husband’s goal, and then may find themselves single and without a good pension, because they themselves were not the primary decision-makers.

    The problem is why should women accept the submissive role if statistically there is absolutely no payoff. I am also asking, how is God glorified by this situation?

    The only thing left to say by those who wish to convince, is that egals won’t go to heaven. And that is why this is being said by some. Because there is no other payoff.

    The rate of happy and fulfilling marriages is at least as good outside Christianity as it is within. This is an inconvenient truth if I understand the numbers correctly.

    So, perhaps the problem is not about shifting the belief system, although I would like that, but rather identifying components of abuse and dealing with that.

    In Lundy Bancroft and Evan Stark, I read

    – blaming of women
    – isolation
    – sense of male entitlement
    – non-acceptance of divorce
    – strict gender roles
    – silence and secrecy

    Actually, I wish that women not be called rebellious etc. “for their personality” since no one knows what they are rebelling against. And I wish that men not be called wimps, amoebas, ( as I read somewhere else recently) and scumbags. I don’t think that is necessary. If there were properly understood marriage frameworks taught, which did not give men so much power, then it would not be necessary to call men these kinds of names.

  41. I think it’s axiomatic that responsibility without authority only leads to frustration and inefficiency.

    The best thing said yet! How on earth are women to bring up their children, if they do not have equal authority to their husbands. And half of all women do provide for their families. If providing is all it takes, then we should take out our paychecks and compare them and allot authority to the one with the biggest paycheck. That seems to be the implication.

    No, there must be some form of authority that shares and respects others. To put someone under is simply that. One over and one under.

    I admit that complementarianism is not necessarily wife abuse. But authority OVER is a terrible evil and I ask someone, an adult white male, to live 24 – 7 with someone else who has all the rights, and to then tell about how wonderful it is. I challenge a man to accept such utter and total and incredibly dehumanizing humilitiation in his life. Why not? Christ did. But, no, men protect themselves from 24 – 7 underling status.

    And some day, there should be time for complementarians to do some research and find just one occurrence of authentein that refers to the normal activity of church leadership, near the time of the NT.

    And there should also be an opportunity to discuss why Chrysostom praised Junia as an apostle, but modern day non- Greek speakers will not.

    There should be an opportunity for the engagement of the mind. I would like to see that here.

  42. Because complementarianism gives the husband Unilateral authority, and
    abuse thrives in such an arrangement, it does not sit well with me. Ofcourse,
    I see God’s ideal as egal.

    Partners are free to arrange their marriage however they see fit. It’s their
    marriage, and no one else’s.

  43. C Michael Patton November 17, 2008 at 9:48 pm

    “The only thing left to say by those who wish to convince, is that egals won’t go to heaven.”

    With that, I will have to bail. This conversation is becoming a little to exteme for it to be profitable. I have tried to make some clarifications, but if this is what is going to come out of it, it is obvious that one side or the other has only their agenda, and this is not to understand and build up.

  44. “The only thing left to say by those who wish to convince, is that egals won’t go to heaven.”

    This has been argued. And women – I don’t know about men – but women are told to their face that they are going to hell if they reject their husbands authority.

    I am sorry. Really, I had no intention of provoking anyone here. I couldn’t help but think of this because it happened to me. To be told you are going to hell is something that I have observed happen to others, and have experienced myself. It is not that I believe it but it is very painful to realize that someone else wants to say these things. I did not know that this would be seen as provocative. It is a typical part of what happens and just comes to mind as a common part of the overall experience for women in this situation.

    I have been trying very hard to focus on the discrete elements of abuse. I don’t see why a complementarian Christianity could not really offer something here. Dan has several good suggestions that I have not seen enough of.

  45. It fairly obvious to point towards physical abuse because it’s easily identifiable. But I think verbal abuse is just the same, just not quite as obvious. My mother had to deal with verbal abuse for a long time throughout my parents’ marriage and I almost think she stayed with him just for me and my brother’s sake, which, in my opinion, is a rather poor reason because we were exposed to the abuse sometimes. My mother finally left my dad high and dry in 2001 and filed for divorce. However, to this day, she still has issues doing certain things on her own. It took a violent shove from God to get her to live on her own and not with my grandparents. I can easily say that seeing it first hand at times and seeing the after effects of verbal abuse, I can’t even imagine that this piece of scripture would be construed to mean something that is completely opposite to the message of Christ and to a smaller degree, the context that Peter writes in his letter that Mr. Wallace has pointed out.

    Thank you very much for writing this, Mr. Wallace, and I look forward to more writings like this one here.

  46. Truth Unites... and Divides November 18, 2008 at 1:38 am

    Sue:: “I admit that complementarianism is not necessarily wife abuse. But authority OVER is a terrible evil and I ask someone, an adult white male, to live 24 – 7 with someone else who has all the rights, and to then tell about how wonderful it is.”

    White guys in the military live under authority.

    Lisa R.: “I would really urge you to let go of the agenda of trying [to] prove ascribing to authority is tantamount to abuse.”

    I second the motion.

    Dan Wallace: “[S]ome on this post are so decidedly egalitarian that any argument, it seems, on the other side is categorically rejected. I would respectfully submit that that’s not a particularly open or honest approach to scripture. You have already made up your mind that the Bible can’t possibly affirm a complementarian viewpoint, so no amount of evidence will convince you otherwise. That kind of closed-mindedness, even if born out of abuse, is not conducive to spiritual growth or healthy dialogue with other, godly Christians who may be of a different persuasion.”

    An interesting observation.

  47. White guys in the military live under authority.

    My point exactly!

  48. Truth Unites... and Divides November 18, 2008 at 2:03 am

    Sue: “My point exactly!”

    No, not at all. Quite the contrary, in fact.

    White guys in the military DO NOT, as a general rule, say that the fact there is an institutional system of authority OVER them is a “terrible evil.”

    Lisa R’s exhortation bears repeating again: “I would really urge you to let go of the agenda of trying [to] prove ascribing to authority is tantamount to abuse.”

  49. They don’t have to share sleeping quarters with their commanding officer.

    They have comrades in misery.

    They are protected by bylaws and safely regulations.

    They get leave.

    They get to retire.

  50. correction to comment #36:

    I wrote “But what I don’t see in complementarianism is any kind of model that requires of the husband/father that he be the protector and provider for the family.”

    What I meant was “But what I don’t see in egalitarianism is any kind of model that requires of the husband/father that he be the protector and provider for the family.”

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