Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Complementarianism, Doctrine as Idol, Domestic Violence, Gender Roles, Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Twelve – Setting the Stage for Submission

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 ThreeChapter FourChapter FiveChapter SixChapter SevenChapter EightChapter NineChapter TenChapter Eleven

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month and again, I’m viewing this chapter through the lens of domestic violence. For this chapter, I would like to focus on spiritual abuse in intimate partner relationships.

The intended audience of this book (Christian wives) may encounter spiritual abuse in the following ways: theology-based on gender roles which places the husband as the authority over the home, use of scripture to guilt into obedience, use of scripture to meet the husband’s sexual “needs,” not being allowed to work outside the home due to gender roles, life-threatening pregnancies, lack of decision-making abilities due to husband’s authority, isolation from threats of the world, or humiliation in front of faith peers.

Following are quotes from the chapter in which the author uses spiritual abuse to keep Christian wives in their intended, God-ordained role of being in submissive to their husbands.

The wife must focus on her THREE MAIN GOD-GIVEN BASIC RESPONSIBILITIES towards her husband: to love him, to respect him, and to submit to him. Her ‘good works’ are not dependent on what her husband does, but on her obedience to God in these areas.

It could be that a wife’s understanding true biblical submission has been greatly distorted. Distrust and hostility towards biblical submission in our society is rampant.

For the Christian wife, biblical submission to her husband is one of God’s testimonies and should therefore be a joy for her.

So, we are commanded to ‘consider it joy.’ You do that in the midst of a trial by thinking, ‘This is good for me and God has purpose in it or He would not permit it. This is not fun, but I do have joy in knowing that God is working in my life to accomplish His purpose.’

In understanding the biblical relationship between submission and joy, remember that submitting will not always be fun, but there is always joy in glorifying the Lord Jesus Christ. You should therefore commit yourself to learning submission, not with a dread of what is to come but with an anticipation of how you can best glorify your Lord. This is God’s ordained purpose for you.

This book has already focused so much on submission, but for some reason Peace has at least two more chapters left on this topic. It makes me wonder if she is trying to convince herself that her theology is that good by saying it over and over and over. I’m afraid all she is doing is providing ammunition for abusers and making women second guess themselves.

21 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Twelve – Setting the Stage for Submission”

  1. The verses are addressed to the wife not the husband. It would be wrong to quote the submission verses to her. It doesn’t work that way. Faith is always voluntary not legal. We have to find the truth ourselves although people can help us sometimes in a spirit of love. The husband might be a bit biased.

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  2. “Her ‘good works’ are not dependent on what her husband does, but on her obedience to God in these areas.”

    I think this is categorically false. Slaves and wives had similar instruction. When Joseph was a slave and Potiphar’s wife tried to have sex with him, Joseph’s response was very much dependent on what his master’s wife did.

    Also, this is very legalistic. Put this in perspective of Christ and his bride. Does Christ want nothing more from us than mechanistic obedience? Does he not want us to love him and believe he wants the best for us first and foremost? So it’s one thing for a wife to respect and submit in a loving relationship where trust has been demonstrated. It’s completely another to tell a wife to “love, respect and submit” in a relationship where the husband is not loving, cannot be trusted and has even made requests that the wife do something that is immoral, illegal, or definitely not in the best interests of the family.

    There is so much equivocation between husband and God. Our submission to GOD will always bring joy, because that is his purpose. Our submission to husband/authority will not always bring joy, because their desire may be self-gratification, manipulation and control.

    Just a minor case. I “submitted” to a manager who told me to buy hundreds of dollars worth of equipment for a work project on my company credit card. It did not bring me joy when my company refused to reimburse the expenses and I had to pay out of pocket. My manager did not “love” me in this instance.

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  3. Submission is “God’s ordained purpose for you”. Um, no, I don’t think so. God created man AND woman for the purpose of having fellowship with HIM. That fellowship was broken by sin, but God took the initiative to restore it through the sacrifice of Christ. Our purpose as believers: “For me to live is Christ”.

     She also makes joy sound like a “duty”. The Bible presents it as a “fruit of the Spirit”. In other words, joy is a result of fellowship with the God who loves us. It is not something we command abused women to fake as needed to be considered spiritual.
    
     The overall implication is that no matter how bad the abuse is in a marriage, your only response should be submission and joy. What about all the verses in the Bible about justice, and freeing the oppressed, not to mention the times God led people to flee their persecutors?
    

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  4. Okay, I’m jinxed. Here is my 2nd try to post a comment:

    Submission is “God’s ordained purpose for you”. Um, no, I don’t think so. God created man AND woman for the purpose of having fellowship with HIM. That fellowship was broken by sin, but God took the initiative to restore it through the sacrifice of Christ. Our purpose as believers: “For me to live is Christ”.

    She also makes joy sound like a “duty”. The Bible presents it as a “fruit of the Spirit”. In other words, joy is a result of fellowship with the God who loves us. It is not something we command abused women to fake as needed to be considered spiritual.

    The overall implication is that no matter how bad the abuse is in a marriage, your only response should be submission and joy. What about all the verses in the Bible about justice, and freeing the oppressed, not to mention the times God led people to flee their persecutors?

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  5. 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

    This verse is being so misused here. Just because you faced a trial doesn’t mean you are duty bound to STAY IN THAT TRIAL. Sheesh. They are just trying to keep people beaten and downtrodden with no hope at all and it’s so gross.

    Then she tries to say submission = joy, which is not a thing. GRRR.

    It could be that a wife’s understanding true biblical submission has been greatly distorted. Distrust and hostility towards biblical submission in our society is rampant.

    I would say ‘distrust and hostility’ is not a result of a distortion of submission, but of a true perusal of all the implications and bad outcomes that have resulted from blind obedience to a fallible human being.

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  6. And… to highlight how the church deals with these matters. I had a C’hristian manager who belonged to an affiliated church. When I was a student, I worked for him for free on a summer internship, with the expectation that he was going to cover my housing and pay for a couple of classes during the next year in exchange for working on his project.

    At the end of the summer, he informed me that I was going to have to move to a different apartment and pay for my housing when I returned. In fact, from what my fellow interns said, at the very beginning of my internship, he had found out that he couldn’t offer free housing, but that he chose not to inform anyone.

    So, I went to his elders and they completely blew me off. “Just normal business practices. Nothing wrong with that. He’s pretty sharp isn’t he!” – He was fired about three months later.

    This is the same sort of authoritarian garbage we see everyday. The “authority” has no responsibilities towards the subordinates, but the subordinates owe love, respect and submission.

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  7. What did Paul do? ‘But when they stretched him out with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it lawful for you to scourge a man who is a Roman and uncondemned?”’

    Paul did not “submit” to “authority” in “joy”. He did not accept the Trial. He stood up for his rights as a Roman citizen. In the same way, why is it a Biblical crisis when the wife stands up for her rights as a human being?

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  8. It’s completely another to tell a wife to “love, respect and submit” in a relationship where the husband is not loving, cannot be trusted

    This seems so basic to me that I cannot fathom the people who would teach otherwise. I know they exist and I see them all over the internet and sometimes in real life being terrible, or somehow worse just so earnestly, blindly pro marriage at all costs that they refuse to see the costs. It’s sad.

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  9. She also makes joy sound like a “duty”. The Bible presents it as a “fruit of the Spirit”.

    Indeed, Mary. There is no space for sorrow or bitterness or anger or justice as valid emotions. We are not pod people and are basically incapable of this. So people ‘fail’, even absent trauma and abuse people will fail, and are made to feel guilty instead of simply human.

    In the midst of abuse, these kind of instructions are immeasurably cruel.

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  10. “This is good for me and God has purpose in it or He would not permit it.”

    Beware of these subtle lines of reasonings that blame God for other people’s choices. Freedom comes in embracing God’s command to control ourselves. The fruit of the spirit is self control—not being controlled by others.

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  11. The fruit of the spirit is self control—not being controlled by others.

    I feel like a lot of people need to hear that, Avid Reader!

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  12. Kathi – does Peace ever define what the word submission means when it or related verbs are used in the NT? If you don’t do that, it is difficult to discuss what is actually required, let alone attempt a sensible idea of how to put it into practice.

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  13. KAS – Peace doesn’t flat out and give a definition for submission. She said in Chapter 6 “the wife’s role is to glorify and submit to her husband. She was created to fulfill her role as helper for her husband.” Other than that she talks more of attitudes and actions in which the husband is the authority of the home and the wife is to follow his authority.

    1 Corinthians 11:3 – But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
    Ephesians 5: 22 – Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord.
    Colossians 3: 18 – Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.
    1 Timothy 2: 11-12 – Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.

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  14. Kathi – if she doesn’t define what she means by her terms, and I’m not saying on this particular topic this is necessarily that easy, she is liable to be misunderstood and it’s difficult to make a fair critique of her. There is a vast difference between thinking ‘your husband has responsibility towards you and the family and you need to respect that’ and ‘unconditional obedience’.

    That’s not a criticism of you making a critique of her book, but it does leave her open to the critiism that she could contribute to this doctrine being misunderstood and misapplied, because she cannot take it as a given that anyone reading the verses you cite already has a good understanding of what they mean.

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  15. ‘unconditional obedience’

    This is what they almost all mean, though. It’s clear from the way they talk and from the context. People like piper say things like the only time you can’t submit (which clearly means obey!) is when they tell you to sin and then you’re supposed to be all nicey nice in saying no.

    What a mess.

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  16. KAS – I understand what you’re saying, but I have to disagree. Yes, she doesn’t have a finite definition of submission. She does lay the ground work that a husband has the authority of the home and the wife and children are to allow it and follow that authority. In one chapter that I already covered she likens the relationship of wife to her husband as a soldier to her superior officer.

    Throughout the book she has verses which she uses to support her ideas, and has made the following assertations: that wives have no autonomy outside of their husbands, that wives have to go along with their husband’s decisions as long as he is not making her sin, that wives cannot speak badly about their husbands, that wives need to watch their emotions and tone of voice around their husbands, and that wives should not hold their husband’s sin against them because she is a sinner too.

    I think she’s pretty clear on her definition of submission.

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  17. KAS: “if she doesn’t define what she means by her terms, and I’m not saying on this particular topic this is necessarily that easy, she is liable to be misunderstood and it’s difficult to make a fair critique of her.”

    This is, in and of itself, a problem. It sets Peace and other spiritual leaders up to be the authorities on what submission means. They can say, “I know submission when I see it” – which they can wield as a sword against wives. And, as Lea said, the only solid line that can be drawn is “unconditional obedience unless commanded to sin”. That’s why Piper hems and haws about a wife being told she must ask permission of her husband to use the bathroom.

    That’s why, similarly, elders can tell me that I have the responsibility to submit to my boss, meaning, “be a faithful and good obedient worker”, but he does not have the like responsibility to be forthright about our financial agreement. It’s the same thing Peace is saying, the husband could be skipping work and draining the family savings, but that does not diminish her “obedience to God in these areas”.

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  18. @Kathi:

    I think she’s pretty clear on her definition of submission.

    Summarized as “Wives are an Extension of their Husbands, NOTHING More”.

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  19. ‘unconditional obedience’.

    German (especially from 1933 to 1945) has a more descriptive word:
    KADAVERGEHORSHAM — “Corpse Obedience”.
    (Though a better translation would be “Zombie Obedience”.)

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  20. @Mark

    You highlighted how the c’hurch promotes this false teaching of total submission in which I say “Amen!” The false teaching of authority/power over/dominance still today, is the bread and butter staple of the c’hurch, for nothing has changed since Jesus’s day. He even said that after His departure, ravenous wolves would come in, teaching lies from their own depraved souls. For these liars love the “high places” in desiring to brainwash folks to be followers of them, instead of truly pointing people to our Risen LORD, Jesus Christ.

    In sitting under that former, and now active again, immoral Assembly of god p’astor man, he sermonized the importance of hierarchy, God first, Jesus second, then man, then woman, and at the bottom of his pyramid, children. This was his distorted content of the Scriptures and not one single pew sitter disagreed with him…….it is no wonder this p’astor pursued married women as his c’ounseling “side gig.” 😦 What a farce of a p’astor, but the blind sheep loved him so.

    Not me, though. I knew he was a power hungry, lying fool in teaching that women were, and still are to be second class citizens in the Kingdom of God. How disturbing. And it is a common fact, that when women sheep do not follow the p’astor man or his legion of minions, then all of his “Jezebel sermons” strategically proclaimed the pulpit which is used as a battlefield in making prisoners of the “dissenters.”

    Also, I want to clarify that Martha Peace’s interpretation leaves the woman replacing the authority of Jesus Christ in her life, having her to listen and obey her husband in all things, thus rendering the power of the Holy Spirit in her life, speechless, powerless, and ineffective. Would this not be blaspheming the Holy Spirit of which there is no forgiveness from our LORD?

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