Biblical Counseling, Book Review Series, Christian Marriage, Doctrine as Idol, Heath Lambert, Marriage, Martha Peace, Spiritual Abuse

Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Eighteen – Only Gentle Responses Allowed

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 ElevenChapter TwelveChapter ThirteenChapter Fourteen Chapter FifteenChapter SixteenChapter Seventeen

Chapter Eighteen is titled, “The Wife’s Anger: Overcoming Impatience.” Otherwise titled, “Impatience and Anger: Kathi’s Feelings About this Book.”

I took a guess at what would be covered in this chapter and I don’t mean to brag, but I think I’ve got Martha Peace pretty much nailed down. As with other chapters, there are lists for how to biblically correct your sinful anger. To spare you, I’ll summarize the chapter: Anger is sinful. Repent of your sinful ways. Be gentle with your husband, not angry.

Throughout this chapter Peace talks about how “many women” use anger as a way to manipulate their husbands to get what they want. Anger is also described as the catalyst of ruined marriages. I agree that anger used in a manipulative or abusive way is not healthy. The problem with Peace’s teaching is that it’s an all-or-nothing attitude, and there are no exceptions:

Righteous anger is a rare occurrence. It is only right that other’s heinous crimes make us angry. Certainly, it is only right that murdering unborn babies makes us angry. However, most of the time our anger is not righteous, it is sinful. Even biblically justifiable anger is often sinful coming from us. You can know your anger is righteous if in spite of provocation, you continue to think “true… honorable… right… pure… lovely… good… repute… excellent… and worthy of praise (to God)” thoughts (Philippians 4:8). In addition, you must also “not take into account a wrong suffered” and “not be provoked” (I Corinthians 13:5). Otherwise, your anger is not honoring to God. It is sinful.

I’m not quite sure how Martha Peace became the all-knowing expert on determining if someone’s anger is righteous or not, but she makes it clear that anger is not acceptable. On this I have to disagree. There are times where anger is appropriate. Anger on its own is not a bad emotion; it’s simply a part of the human experience. Anger becomes a problem when harm is inflicted.

Since Peace’s teachings are based upon biblical counseling, I thought it would be interesting to read what Heath Lambert, Executive Director of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors, says about evaluating our anger:

Well I think that first of all we should be very suspicious of ourselves. So, when we are asking the question, ‘how do I know if my anger is sinful or righteous?’ we ought to be suspicious of ourselves. It is very easy for people to assume the best about our emotions and our experience. The Bible does not give us any warrant for that assumption; the Bible teaches us that our hearts are desperately wicked and beyond cure. So we ought to wonder when we have an experience whether it is right, we should not jump to the conclusion that it is. So, it could be that our experience of anger is righteous, but it is very likely that it is not righteous.

Is there any wonder that Peace states that righteous anger is a “rare occurrence?” The entire thought in the biblical counseling movement is that people are not capable of assessing their own feelings and that we cannot trust ourselves. It’s the perpetuating lie that people are never good enough in God’s eyes that is bothering. Honestly, it makes me angry. And I think God is okay with me feeling this way.

14 thoughts on “Book Review Series – “The Excellent Wife” by Martha Peace – Chapter Eighteen – Only Gentle Responses Allowed”

  1. This was the last straw at my last church. Paul Tripp (also a BC proponent) taught the same horrible theology. The basic point was that anger was idolatry. We have an idolatrous self-image, so when someone does something that does not stroke our ego, we get angry, and that is sinful. He didn’t even hint at the idea that our anger could be reasonable or even godly.

    When I brought up the issue, the elders jumped in and backed it up completely. Only JESUS has the right to be angry. Our anger accomplishes nothing and is sinful, especially if it is anger at being personally wronged. [It is, of course okay for the ELDERS! to get angry because they are fulfilling a God-given role to be righteously angry (smh)]

    The problem is that we are made in the image of God. We have “rights” which are based in characteristics we have as humans. When someone abuses me or hurts me or tries to manipulate me, they are saying that our image doesn’t matter, and our rights don’t matter. At that point, we can be righteously angry that they are not respecting us.

    I find it frustrating when “he who is without sin cast the first stone” and the quotes above are used to silence victims, when the leaders of the church do exactly the opposite (and often they should) – they watch the flock and discipline wrongs.

    Cloud and Townsend nail it on this one. Anger is an emotion that gives us the energy and drive to deal with wrongs. Sometimes the anger is unrighteous – like being angry that my wife won’t clean up my trash – and sometimes it is righteous – like when I have to clean up my neighbor’s trash that has blown onto my yard. We shouldn’t take a “my anger is never righteous” approach, but instead, as they say, we invite God into our anger, which I think helps us get the right perspective about whether it is truly righteous or unrighteous.

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  2. Even biblically justifiable anger is often sinful coming from us.

    I’m sorry what? Coming from ‘us’ as in wives? Women? People?

    we ought to be suspicious of ourselves.

    That is exhausting.

    Also, all that stuff about womens emotions being manipulation is straight out of the mra/misogynist playbook. It is stuff we have to consciously unlearn. Needs are ok. Emotions are ok. There is nothing wrong with them. The bible says be angry and don’t sin, not that emotions are sin. This stuff is so harmful and it goes far wider than Peace.

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  3. What I find is that when anger is altogether proscribed, the general trend is that it enables people causing offense and silences their victims, and I’ve yet to hear a good explanation from the “anger is sinful” crowd about how they interpret Jesus and the moneychangers at the Temple–or for that matter the many times where Jesus really uses “fighting words” like mocking “their” law, calling them “whitewashed tombs”, and the like. Ugly reality is that Jesus was not our comfortable suburban neighbor.

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  4. Mark – “he who is without sin cast the first stone”.

    Having just come across this in a different context those using it ought to do so with the same caveats as apply to the longer ending of Mark. It is more than likely (some would go further) that this story was not originally in John’s gospel. Popular as it is, it needs to be treated with some caution.

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  5. What I find is that when anger is altogether proscribed, the general trend is that it enables people causing offense and silences their victims…

    FEATURE, NOT BUG.
    Notice just WHO is declaring Anger the Unpardonable Sin in these situations.

    (Tone Policing et al is just the secular form of this. The dynamic is identical.)

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  6. Ugly reality is that Jesus was not our comfortable suburban neighbor.

    And that his “fighting words” were almost always targeted against the Godly and Corrupt.

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  7. ” how they interpret Jesus and the moneychangers at the Temple”

    There are different approaches to this. The first approach is that this is “Jesus being God” – that we mere humans never have the authority to do this sort of thing. The second approach is the “authority” approach. Jesus set an example for what church leaders ought to do, but for the rest of us, we don’t have the right to speak out against other church leaders. The third approach is the stone casting – Jesus is without sin, therefore he can oppose the church leaders, but we could never do so with completely pure motives.

    All three of the approaches strip us of our humanity and give church leaders unwarranted power to judge our actions, while setting themselves up as those who can wisely discern. I’ve had multiple discussions with leaders (including the one above) where there was no explanation, no rationale, just “you have to accept this” – on their authority.

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  8. KAS, that is just one of the prooftexts – the same argument gets made from “remove the beam from your own eye so that you can see clearly to remove the speck” – the point being that there are many verses in scripture that are taken out of context and used to silence the person who is complaining.

    When I see all of these verses used to silence victims and allow evil to grow unabated, it tells me they are being misused. When I see verses that flip the tables on the powerless and uphold the powerful, they’re being misused.

    When people like Peace perpetuate a culture where everyone’s self-image is full of shame and skepticism about themselves whereas they are told that they should essentially blindly trust the motives and actions of others. To put it bluntly, they are creating a sheepfold where the sheep are more fearful of crying out in pain when being devoured by wolves than just quietly allowing themselves to be consumed.

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  9. HUG, one minor correction; Jesus’ words were almost always targeted at those who thought they were Godly, but were in fact corrupt. I’m pretty sure that’s what you meant in the first place, but just to make things so obvious that even an engineer like myself could figure it out….

    :^)

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  10. Interesting comment thread. So when the complementarian church board Baptist husband gets angry because his lunch is not delivered to him on time in the field, he has the “RIGHT” to be angry with his wife who is 7 months pregnant with their first child, to violently shove her around in the car, causing pain to her shoulders and arms as she struggles to protect her tummy from the assault??????????

    Many within the 501c.3 c’hurch system are led to believe that anger is only prescribed for the “leadership paradigm,” not for the lower laity dogs who must “submit” to such religious manure of the wicked authority figures who love the first seats in the synagogues/c’hurches. I have heard many a p’astor m’an, get angry over the fact that “his” congregation is not “giving enough” money to support his religious agenda/paradigm, so he can attend his upper echelon synod meetings and receive all glory, praise, laud and honor, and wonderful applause from his peer p’astor m’en for the great “giving” of “his” congregation………..meanwhile the “guilt sermons” over the years far surpass the sermons on spiritual abuse.

    And the sermons on physical, emotional/verbal, and spiritual abuse are but a void within the walls of the expensive/expansive c’hristian industrial complex.

    Oh, how Jesus must be weeping over the condition of His Sheep under wicked “leadership.”

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  11. Just wanted to share this – after reading a handful of your chapter reviews of this book, here is what I found. Since Martha is a biblical counselor, I figured she’d have written more that I could find on the internet … and I did. Here’s what she says about counseling women who are in abusive relationships. Do with it what you will.

    https://s3-us-west-2.amazonaws.com/acbcdigitalresources/resources/2018+Annual+Confrence/Breakout+Sessions/Session+3/Martha+Peace+-+2.0+Counseling+Women+in+Abuse+Relationships+Handout.pdf

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  12. Hi Megan –

    Thanks for sharing. It’s interesting because while she does offer some good points (don’t do couples counseling, how an abuser can manipulate others, the safety concerns for victims, etc.) she still holds on to her unbiblical/biblical ways of thinking. I find this to be confusing to a victim of abuse. There’s already so much going and victims need to be told that their experiences and feelings are valid and they should learn to trust those feelings.

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  13. Thanks Megan! Will take a look. I think Martha Peace says a lot of nonsense, but an occasional kernel of reality slips through (don’t do couples counseling, she actually cites Lundy Bancroft!).

    I think that makes her more frustrating not less. Because she clearly has a brain somewhere to understand, and she ignores it in favor of bad advice too often.

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  14. Although this comment is sending me:

    Vernick has some good points but her scripture emphasis is on the wifes value and worth and mutuality in marriage so it comes across to me as too man-centered instead of god centered.

    ugh.

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