Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Domestic Violence, Gender Roles, Marriage, Marriages Damaged-Destroyed by Sp. Ab., Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter 4: Doing Your Minimal Duty to God

Book Review Series, The Excellent Wife, Martha Peace, Christian Relationship


-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews if you’d like to catch up.

Chapter OneChapter TwoChapter Three

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Chapter Four – A Wife’s Understanding of Relationships: God’s Pattern

This chapter is an adaptation from a Sunday school study (1995) given by Dr. Stuart Scott, Associate Professor of Biblical Counseling at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Honestly, I would love to skip this chapter. It’s all about the theology of relationships. This theology states that the husband-wife relationship is similar to the Trinity, which reminds me of Eternal Subordination of the Son.

The Trinity is a relationship in which three eternal persons (each being perfect in character and totally equal in being, power, and glory) reveal, know, and love each other tenderly and perfectly for the other’s good within the context of an eternal commitment. When they decide to set an accomplish a goal, for the purpose of order and economy, God the Son and God the Spirit voluntarily subordinate themselves to God the Father in order to function according to their perfect plans. As they work together, they are totally unified in desire, thought and action until the goal’s completion. Thus, they are a plurality within a unity.

Taken from Robert Thomas, ed, New American Standard Exhaustive Concordance of the bible (Nashville: Holman Bible publishers, 1981), #3626, p. 1669

Peace admonishes husbands and wives to strive to have a relationship that follows God’s pattern described above. She notes that this relationship reflects godly love, humbleness, and perfect unity. How does this relate to a wife? Peace offers the following:

Wives are expected to suffer (even at the hand of cruelty) to reflect Jesus:

You may be thinking, “I’m willing to work at having a close relationship with my husband, but he is not.” If he is unwilling to communicate or is cruel and yet you respond in a godly manner, you will be suffering for righteousness sake and God will meet your needs.

What you do for your husband is nothing extraordinary:

You are just doing your minimal duty to God.

Giving of yourself to your husband is not going above and beyond the call of duty. It is only doing as you ought.

A wife is to help her husband become like Jesus:

In your relationship with your husband, God wants you to communicate in love and experience a righteous intimacy through sharing thoughts, present and future desires, aspirations, goals, struggles, and spiritual insights. He wants you to be open, honest, and transparent. Your words are to be edifying. Your tasks sacrificial. Your motive for the glory of God. Remember that your pattern for oneness is the Trinity.

I’m reading this last quote thinking about the wife who has a cruel husband. Think of how difficult it would be to follow this teaching when abuse is present. An abused wife is told she needs to help her husband become like Jesus. She does all she can to reflect Jesus, she is giving her all to her husband, and her husband does not reciprocate. She is told that she is enduring for “righteousness sake.”

Yet, if she is to have this perfect and unified relationship, can you see how she might have doubts in herself and consider that she is not doing good enough to reflect Jesus? An abused wife cannot win in this situation

26 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter 4: Doing Your Minimal Duty to God”

  1. The reason ESS is seen as a heresy is that they portray the Son as having a separate will from the Father. The human Jesus had two natures and two wills – a human will and a divine will. The human will was subordinate to the divine will, but Grudem tries to cast that onto the Trinity itself.

    So, when the ESS-ites try to cast the husband/wife relationship onto the Trinity, they are denying that God (Father, Son and Spirit) has one will. The problem is that, in taking human form, God condescended, so they can’t argue that Jesus the human’s submission to the Father is the pattern for husband and wife – submission, yet equality.

    I think, ultimately, ESS is just a way to repackage patriarchy in a way that might be palatable. Even without ESS, complementarians are going to argue that wifely submission is a role that women through things like the order of creation, the need for a “federal head” and so on.

    Here, though, it really bothers me that complementarian thought always sits on the knife-edge of idolatry. Again, I keep coming back to how Jesus treated people. The Pharisees – his church leaders – told him to rebuke his disciples for harvesting grain on the Sabbath. How did Jesus respond? Did he “suffer for the sake of righteousness” and obey his leaders? No! He told them they had no right to impose their flawed standards on the disciples!

    In Christian-speak, this is a matter of “Christian liberty” – not something they were commanded to do. Yet, Jesus told the Pharisees that they had no right to interfere with the disciples’ liberty. Peace here is saying the opposite, that wives have no Christian liberty in regards to their husbands.

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  2. If he is unwilling to communicate or is cruel and yet you respond in a godly manner, you will be suffering for righteousness sake

    Garbage take. How? How is staying with a cruel man in any way ‘for righteousness sake’??? Such nonsense.

    Also, it is maddening to see a bible verse that says men should love their wives to the point of giving up their lives (ie, sacrificially!) ignored continuously to tell women to do just that. Give up their very lives, not from love of husband but purely in service of his evil cruel behavior. It is so twisted.

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  3. For some of the newer blog readers who are wondering who is Stuart Scott that this chapter borrows from—-here’s some of his words:

    Stuart writes,

    “Remember you want to shepherd your wife.” (Exemplary Husband p. 135)

    “A shepherd doesn’t just let the sheep {wife} wander anywhere without any instruction….a shepherd will occasionally have to correct a wayward lamb.” (p. 127)

    “We must not sit back and let our wives do the evaluating and the decision making. We should certainly enlist their input but the evaluating and the decision making are our own responsibility.” (p. 122)

    “Sometimes a wife may need to be clearly corrected…..You need to ascertain whether she is weak, fainthearted or unruly and respond accordingly.” (p. 128)

    “Sometimes a {wife} lamb doesn’t learn from correction but continues to stray. A shepherd of literal sheep will do whatever is necessary to help the sheep learn what is best for them…..” (p.128)

    As your wife’s spiritual leader, you must help her with her sin.” (p. 206)

    Listen closely because the underlying philosophy Stuart is teaching is to “do whatever is necessary” to get their own way. And he’s trying to put one spouse into usurping the Holy Spirits place. Look at how many times the Bible tells women to be led by the Holy Spirit and we start to see how this philosophy needs to be taken captive to the obedience of Christ.

    “Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ.”

    “Examples of clear sin…..your wife screams at you in anger and says “Would you just get out of here and leave me alone? I’m tired and you are irritating me.”” (p. 209)

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  4. Avid Reader, thanks for that. I almost feel like I need to give my blog a shower after having that dirt posted here.

    Kathi – – maybe that would be a good book to review. yuck!

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  5. Thank you, Avid Reader, for sharing that. I haven’t had the chance to look up some of Stuart’s writings. Why does none of that surprise me?

    Julie Anne – “The Exemplary Husband” was co-written with John MacArthur. Now I see why you recommended I read it! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I posted a tweet to this article and here are a few responses:

    Neil Schori is a domestic violence expert and pastor:

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The Excellent Wife teachings are twisted and toxic. God the Father never abused His Son. While there are several occasions in the NT where people sought to kill Jesus, He escaped (Luke 4, John 5, 8). He laid down His life one time for the highest purpose and with a known outcome, not so that evil might triumph. Our faith should never be exploited to accommodate wickedness. I wrote a piece that addresses this nonsense for those who may be interested: http://www.hurtbylove.com/love-a-redemptive-force-or-an-enabling-one/ (and if it cannot be posted here, I understand).

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Cindy – I think your article is the best article I’ve ever read on the Biblical justification for an abused wife to leave/divorce her husband. Thank you!! I have bookmarked it and will certainly refer back to it.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. “in your relationship with your husband, God wants you to communicate in love and experience a righteous intimacy through sharing thoughts, present and future desires, aspirations, goals, struggles, and spiritual insights. He wants you to be open, honest, and transparent.”

    Even in a good marriage communication of the heart has to go both ways for there to be any kind of intimacy. In an abusive marriage, the husband takes that information shared by his wife and uses it against her as a weapon. He now knows where she is vulnerable and where he can strike and hurt her the worst. All those desires and aspirations will get trampled in the mud and she will be shown how foolish she was to ever dare to dream anything. And how can somebody totally worthless have any insights? And don’t even think about sharing any thoughts of feeling hurt… that just means she deserves his “correction’.

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  10. Thanks Cindy, I think it’s really brilliant. I hope you don’t mind me reposting this with a link back to your site – my former church has taken a stance that spousal abuse is not desertion, unless the wife “flees for her own physical safety”, and thus divorce should almost never be allowed.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. @Mark, I’m glad you found it insightful – and of course you may post a link to the article anywhere you think it might be helpful. Sadly, your former church’s stance is not uncommon. It represents a tragic misunderstanding of God’s heart for marriage, as well as a limited understanding of both Scripture and the culture during biblical times.

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  12. This is a false and dangerous doctrine. God does not call an abused woman to stay in such a relationship. She need not divorce her husband but she must find a place of safety for herself and most importantly if she is pregnant or there are children !

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  13. Mary, why do you say “she need not divorce her husband”? Legal marriage is a formal declaration of that relationship. If the relationship is over, why shouldn’t the church and state be informed that the relationship does not exist? As Boundaries says, God is not fooled by some legal document saying that you’re married. He sees the heart.

    I believe if there is no hope of restoration without the Holy Spirit intervening, the relationship should be dissolved and legally finalized. I think there are some cases where God intends that sort of work, but I believe he lays that on the heart of the wife or husband and not through the bullying of the local church.

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  14. I am walking through my divorce right now. This was my life. I am fighting to get myself back after being ground to dust by this. I have come so far, and still the grief is so strong. If any of you would pray for the outcome of my divorce I would appreciate it. Especially regarding custody and division of debt/property.

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  15. Shiningspark – I will pray for you. I’m glad to hear that you have made a positive step in getting free from harm. It sounds very difficult. So many women have gone before you and I’m sure they all would tell you: you can do this! Please keep us posted on how you are doing!

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  16. Shiningspark – It sounds like you have a long battle ahead, but you have already come so far! I hope that you have good support to help you deal with the grief and the struggles that will continue. You are doing what is best for you and your family and I hope that decisions are made in the best interest of you and your children. We are here for you!

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  17. Mark said,
    “Even without ESS, complementarians are going to argue that wifely submission is a role that women through things like the order of creation, the need for a “federal head” and so on.”
    — end Mark quotes —

    One thing I cannot figure out about complementarians is how any of this is relevant to un-married women. As far as I can see, it is not relevant to any woman who is not married

    As a single lady, I don’t have a husband to act as a mini-Messiah figure. I don’t have a man to “submit to.” I don’t need one.

    If I can get along fine without a “male head,” I have no idea why they assume married women “need” one.

    I don’t know how to articulate this, but, if your gender theology cannot map to women in all stages and situations in life, it doesn’t work, it’s flawed.

    Not that you should even have a gender theology in the first place.
    But if you’re going to invent one, it should be just as applicable or necessary for a never-married / widowed/ divorced lady as it is for a married one, but complementarianism does not work that way, and rates of single adults in the United States and around the world keep increasing.

    Marriage is no longer the norm in most cultures (which is not a bad thing, see 1 Corinthians chapter 7).

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  18. Regarding all this complementarian talk about the Trinity and trying to map it to marital roles.

    Who says it has to be Father and Son?

    How about if I marry, I arbitrarily choose to be the Holy Spirit while the spouse is the Son?
    Or, the spouse can be the Holy Spirit, while I can play the part of the Father?

    And every other Thursday, I can pretend to be Gabriel (one of the arch angels)?

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  19. Avid Reader quoted this from a book:
    “Sometimes a wife may need to be clearly corrected…..You need to ascertain whether she is weak, fainthearted or unruly and respond accordingly.” (p. 128)
    — end book quotes —

    That was from a marital advice book?

    It sounds like Parenting Advice from a book with a title like, “How to Deal With a Cranky Toddler.”

    “Is your wife cranky, gentlemen? Maybe your wife just needs a nap. Maybe give her a bottle, her blankie, and some animal cookies to calm her down. If all else fails, turn the television set to ‘Sesame Street.'”

    Complementarians always manage to view grown women as being little children and treat them accordingly.

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