Are Complementarians Tough on Abuse?

Complementarianism, Desiring God, Domestic Abuse

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-by Kathi

Desiring God featured a guest article by Rebecca McLaughlin titled, “Complementarians Should Be Toughest on Abuse.” I appreciate Dr. McLaughlin’s words and I think her intent is honorable. She addresses pastors and men to call out abuse, warns Christians to not be naive about abusers, and emphasizes that abused women need support and assistance.

Because this article is posted by Desiring God, I want to address the author’s thoughts according to how John Piper addresses marriage and focus on dynamics within domestic abuse. Why John Piper? Because Desiring God was founded by Piper and he is considered the lead teacher for the site. Any guest posts should be compared to what Piper has set as precedent for the site.

1. God calls husbands to sacrificial love:

McLaughlin says:

Some summarize complementarian theology as “husbands lead, wives submit,” but this is not what the Bible says. God calls wives to submit (Ephesians 5:22; Colossians 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1). But the primary command to husbands is not lead. It is love (Ephesians 5:25, 28, 33; Colossians 3:19).

Her point does not fit the Desiring God narrative on complementarian relationships. John Piper defines headship and submission as:

Headship is the divine calling of a husband to take primary responsibility for Christ-like, servant leadership, protection, and provision in the home.

Submission is the divine calling of a wife to honor and affirm her husband’s leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.

Let’s not forget Piper’s, “Should Women Be Police Officers?” :

On the other hand, husband and wife, very personal and, hence, the clear teaching of the New Testament that the man should give, give leadership in the home and she give glad partnership in supporting and helping that leadership uh come, come into its own.

There is no way to work around complementarian’s view of the husband as the leader, especially when the wife’s role is to honor, affirm, and support her husband’s leadership. The “primary command” may be to love, but he is definitely the leader.

2. Strength is for honoring, not control:

Why is McLaughlin solely focusing on physical strength?

From a biblical perspective, the relative physical strength of men is not a tool for power play, but a motivation for empathy and honor.

Physical strength is not the only tool used in abuse.  She neglects addressing how words and manipulation are used in verbal and emotional abuse. A man may never use physical strength against his wife, but is still able to show power and convey his strength through his words, intimidation, and manipulation.

Strength is important in the complementarian view of man. Piper’s definition of headship includes protection. He used the following illustration as a definition of manhood:

Suppose, I said, a couple of you students, Jason and Sarah, were walking to McDonald’s after dark. And suppose a man with a knife jumped out of the bushes and threatened you. And suppose Jason knows that Sarah has a black belt in karate and could probably disarm the assailant better than he could. Should he step back and tell her to do it? No. He should step in front of her and be ready to lay down his life to protect her, irrespective of competency. It is written on his soul. That is what manhood does.

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The article where Piper states this addresses women in combat roles. He opines how men are naturally not able to follow a woman’s direct orders. Why did he even need to address this? Is a complementarian man that afraid that his manhood is being compromised if he has a woman with some type of authority over him?

The driving force behind abuse is power and control. While abuse may happen in any type of marriage, complementarianism provides structure to a marriage which allows power and control to exist. As long as men and women are different in roles and responsibility, there will always be a power differential.

3. Spousal abuse is gospel-denying sin:

For the most part I like what McLaughlin is saying here. I think she could do without the “gospel-denying” bit. The gospel is about the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. Sin is sin. She does call pastors to hold abusers accountable and support victims.

**Side note: Is she teaching men here? Does McLaughlin writing  this article go against complementarian doctrine of the role of women in the church?

But what about the victim? How should she respond to her abuser? Let’s not forget John Piper’s words in 2009 (from video below):

If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.

 

**I will never stop referencing this video. I hope he is held accountable one day for his callous remarks about women affected by abuse.

Piper followed up with a post four years later to “clarify” his statement. His clarification only added bringing in civil authorities:

This legitimate recourse to civil protection may be done in a spirit that does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband, for a wife may take this recourse with a heavy and humble heart that longs for her husband’s repentance and the restoration of his nurturing leadership.

While he did state in this clarification post that abuse is wrong, he neglected to state that what he said was wrong. He continued to reiterate the view that women must submit, whether it be to civil or church authorities or to her husband. At what point do complementarians think that it is dangerous for a woman to submit? How many women continued to endure abuse because John Piper says that a wife’s role is to submit to her husband?

4. Jesus teaches vulnerability and protection:

From McLaughlin:

Due to its distortions and misuses, some believe complementarian theology must be abandoned to keep women safe. But imagine Paul and Peter had said nothing about wives. An unthoughtful pastor might use Jesus’s own words to justify sending a woman back into a dangerous situation. “Do not resist the one who is evil,” says our Lord. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:39). In Christ, we all enter the world with a posture of vulnerability.

With this I reference back to unthougthful Piper and his words: “she endures perhaps being smacked one night.” Remember, he never said that he provided wrong advice.

5. You’re twice as safe with a Christian man:

In McLaughlin’s final thought she says:

No woman wants to acknowledge spousal abuse. Many will suffer in silence, while their husbands maintain a godly pretense. We need you to work with your wives and sisters in Christ to ensure that no one in your sphere is issuing scars or hiding them. We need you to be like Christ to your wives, and to be like Christ in your church, speaking up with courage, standing up for women, and hating abuse in all its forms. Twice as safe is not enough — let’s make women a hundred times safer with Christian men.

What I struggle with most about this article is that even though I think the author’s intent is to bring awareness about domestic abuse and accountability toward abusers, she holds on to the premise that a complementarian marriage should be the answer for abuse. The words are good, but the fact remains that there is a hierarchy in marriage and the church. Remember Piper’s definition of submission for a wife. The wife’s role is to “honor and affirm her husband’s leadership.” Why does she not have any autonomy on her own? The husband’s headship is to be the leader of the home. Why does the weight of this fall solely on the husband’s shoulders? Why can’t the two work as one?

Are there good, non-abusive complementarian marriages out there? Of course there are. And for those people I say, “I wish you well.” Even though the good exists doesn’t mean the bad marriages do not. It is for this reason that I have a problem with a non-essential gospel doctrine that enables power and control to an abusive spouse.

Pastor Tim Bayly Pities Senator Tammy Duckworth’s Newborn Child

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-by Kathi

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Tim Bayly is the pastor at Clearnote Church in Bloomington, Indiana, and president of Clearnote Pastors College. He received his M.Div. from Gordon-Cornwell Theological Seminary and is the author of the book, “Daddy Tried: Overcoming the Failures of Fatherhood.” Tim writes with Joe Bayly at Warhorn – Out of Our Minds. They formerly wrote at Balyblog.

Tim Bayly has a lot of opinions, but this recent Facebook post stood out:

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Pastor Bayly’s text reads:

Not sure whom to pity more, the citizens Sen. Duckworth represents or the baby she gave birth to? But surely the baby. Duckworth’s constituents voted 4 her but the poor baby had no choice. The mother of a newborn choosing the Senate over nursing her baby is shameful, yet we celebrate it.

 

According to the CNN article in Bayly’s post:

Duckworth is a retired Army lieutenant colonel who was a helicopter pilot in the Iraq War. She was the first female double amputee from the war after suffering severe combat wounds when her Black Hawk helicopter was shot down.

Senator Duckworth (D-IL) is the first active U.S. Senator to give birth while in office. Due to stringent Senate rules, she proposed a resolution to allow children under the age of one on the Senate floor. This proposal was passed unanimously and on April 19th she was wheeled on to the Senate floor with her baby daughter to cast a vote.

Senator Duckworth has opened the path for senators who are parents of infant children to continue their duties while caring for their child.

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What would cause a Christian such as Tim Bayly to shame working mothers and those who support them? There is nothing new with mothers working. Mothers work for various reasons, including the need to take care of their family. Did Tim have a conversation with Senator Duckworth where she confirmed she was choosing the Senate over her baby?

Perhaps Tim Bayly has an all-around problem with Tammy Duckworth. Let’s review her credentials: high-ranking military official, which means she ordered men. Democrat. She creates and votes on rules for our country. She is a married, working mother.

Perhaps Tim doesn’t believe that a woman should serve her country in a government position. Or, perhaps a woman can serve in a government role, but only as a single woman. But, I could see how that could cause problems too. I’m guessing she doesn’t fit Tim’s idea of a good, submissive wife and mother.

Does Tim Bayly think it is important for fathers of newborn infants to bond with their child? Why not hold new fathers to the same standard and pity these children?

For whatever reason, this Christian man decided to provide disrespectful commentary on a decorated veteran who continues to serve her country as an elected official. Not only did he disrespect her, but he disrespected millions of working women whose daily lives depend upon their jobs. I don’t think Senator Duckworth’s constituents or infant child are the ones to be pitied.

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Tim Bayly, Senator Tammy Duckworth, Working Mothers

Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Ken Alexander has the Final Word

The Power of a Transformed Wife: Lori Alexander, Submission, Control, Godly Marriage

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Comment and response on The Transformed Wife, 2/13/18

-by Kathi

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

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6  Chapter 7   Chapter 8 – Part 1   Chapter 8 – Part 2    Chapter 9  Chapter 10   Chapter 11  Chapter 12   Chapter 13   Chapter 14   Chapter 15   Chapter 16   Chapter 17

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Chapter 18 – A Way to a Man’s Heart… Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – “Healthy,” One of Lori’s Favorite Buzz Words

The Power of a Transformed Wife: Lori Alexander, Healthy Living

 

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Owen, the Watch Dog, does not approve of this book.

-by Kathi

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

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6  Chapter 7   Chapter 8 – Part 1   Chapter 8 – Part 2    Chapter 9  Chapter 10   Chapter 11  Chapter 12   Chapter 13   Chapter 14   Chapter 15   Chapter 16

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Chapter 17 – Serving Healthy Foods Means Healthy Families

We’re getting to the point in the book where I’m wondering why some of these chapters are even in here. I’m beginning to feel like they’re merely pages to fill up a book. The last chapter was about decluttering your home, and this one is about healthy food and DIY household cleaners. Which leads me to question:

What does this have to do with being a “transformed wife?” Continue reading

Lori Alexander Refuses to Talk About Abuse

Lori Alexander, Domestic Violence, Biblical Submission

Lori Alexander, domestic violence, abuse

Images used on The Transformed Wife blog posts. Left: “Married to Angry Men” on 9/9/17. Right: “Too Many Angry Wives” on 7/20/17

-by Kathi

There is nothing new under Lori Alexander’s sun. She still writes about submission, and I’m sure she always will. Every once in a while she will write a post that gives us an extra glimpse about how her teachings may keep women in abusive relationships. In “Sweating Bullets While Teaching Submission,” Lori tells us why she does not write about abuse.

Lori will write about submission and never mentions abuse because:

If you read other biblical marriage blogs, you will see that most of them have warnings all over them about abuse and what submission doesn’t mean. If you notice, my blog doesn’t have this. I have written many posts about submission and never even mentioned the word abuse on most of them. I do this purposefully because abuse and submission don’t go together as many today try to do by twisting and perverting the beauty of submission. (Yes,  I have a post on my side bar for those who are in marital crisis but it has nothing whatsoever to do with submission since even wives who aren’t submissive are physically abused.)

On purpose, Lori will not discuss abuse because she believes that “biblical submission” is not abusive. Continue reading

Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Repeat Five Times: Yoga Pants Are Not Modest!

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Modesty

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The only thing anyone should be lusting over is being able to do that fantastic yoga pose. Oh, how I would love to be that flexible!

-by Kathi

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

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6  Chapter 7   Chapter 8 – Part 1   Chapter 8 – Part 2    Chapter 9  Chapter 10   Chapter 11  Chapter 12


Chapter 13 – How are You Dressing?

We have finally come to the chapter in which women are temptresses in their yoga pants and swimsuits. Yes, I admit to having read some of this chapter whilst wearing tight-fitting exercise pants. In order to not offend some readers, I shall wear loose-fitted pajama pants while writing this out.

Let’s start with the very first paragraph: Continue reading

Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church – Reevaluate Your Beliefs

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Beliefs

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-by Kathi


I am pausing our Sunday Gatherings for the rest of October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and I would like to take this time to talk about how the church can effectively respond to domestic violence.

 

The church can be incredibly helpful to victims of domestic violence, or, it can be incredibly damaging to victims. The way in which a church responds to a victim depends upon the beliefs that the church has about domestic violence. This is an open challenge to the church to re-evaluate a few beliefs which may keep victims within abusive relationships. Continue reading

Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Birth Control and a “Funny Story”

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Birth Control, Submission

Continue reading

Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Parents Rule, Children Drool

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Child Training, Submission

Continue reading

Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Shhhh…Be Very, Very Quiet

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Submission


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-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6  Chapter 7


Chapter 8 – Part 1 – Win Him Without a Word

Due to the length and so much wrong happening, this chapter will be broken into two parts. Remember how the last chapter ended questioning whether or not wives didn’t have any words because they were too busy having sex? Oh, there’s so much more to winning over your husband.

Lori (ever so humbly) reminds readers again that she helps women who come to her complaining about their husbands. Lori’s “prescription” to winning over a husband is:

You can win him without a word by your grace-filled, godly behavior because a woman’s most potent voice is not the words that she speaks but the life she lives in front of her husband and children. This approach is reminiscent of the saying, ‘Preach the gospel at all times, and, if necessary, use words.’

Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Wives Give Sex. All the Time.

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Sex in Marriage, Submission


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Screenshot from The Transformed Wife Facebook Page – 6/15/17

-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6

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Chapter 7 – This Thing Called Sex

Oh, goody…the sex chapter! Before I started reading this chapter I thought to myself: “Self, I wonder what wise words Lori will give women about sex? Let me guess…It will be about how husbands want sex all the time, and how wives are to give it to them anytime.”

Lori’s opening sentence:

Men like sex…a lot.

Oh, self, I am not disappointed in you. P.S. Lori, women like sex…a lot…too! Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Don’t Argue. It’s That Easy.

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Marriage, Submission


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-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5

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Chapter 6 – Easy Conflict Resolution Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Lori’s All About Submission and Ken’s All About Control

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Control, Submission


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-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4

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Chapter 5 – What Submission Looks Like Continue reading