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.

K.B. Davies Says Domestic Violence is No Excuse for Divorce Even in Case of Death

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-by Kathi

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K.B. Davies frequently comments on Lori Alexander’s Facebook page, The Transformed Wife. Lori allows his comments to stay and doesn’t challenge them. Why Lori leaves comments from men like K.B. and Trey unchallenged is mind boggling. Personally, I would distance myself as far away as possible from someone who uses the Bible to support domestic abuse. The fact that he comments on a women’s-only teaching page is for another day.

Digging a little deeper, he blogs and markets himself with the following: “Transformational Change Agent. Thought Leader. Spiritual Coach. Author & Speaker. Self Development. Personal Growth.”

K.B. Davies recently posted this on his Facebook page: Continue reading

Analysis: Paige Patterson’s Teachings on Domestic Violence Keep Victims in Harm’s Way

Paige Patterson, Domestic Violence, SBC, Divorce

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Over the weekend, an old recording of an interview from 2000 with Paige Patterson resurfaced, causing an uproar because of his response regarding domestic violence. Paige Patterson is a prominent Southern Baptist leader and president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

I have been familiar with this recording for several years, but numerous attempts to address this issue have been ignored. Until now – when the world is paying attention to sexual abuse, harassment, and violence against women especially. It’s about time! Patterson caught wind of the responses and felt he was misrepresented, so he issued a statement yesterday (April 29th). As of this writing, both The Washington Post and Christianity Today have picked up the story.

I have taken a close look at the transcription from the interview and the new statement. The old statement is shown in orange font, the new statement is in purple font and indented. My editorial comments are in black. While Paige Patterson has attempted to clarify his position on domestic violence and respond to the recent firestorm, his new statement in his press release leaves me even more confused. He contradicts his original statement. The new statement sounds more like a fairy tale, rather than a factual incident. Continue reading

God Loves Victims More Than Saving an Abusive Marriage

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A Personal Story and a Sad Conclusion When Pastors Failed to Respond Appropriately to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, Church response, Rob Porter


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Bethlehem Baptist Church Excommunicates Victim of Domestic Violence

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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

Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church for Action

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Action

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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.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2: 14 – 17)

Once the church becomes educated about domestic abuse, it should be compelled to step into action to help victims. Telling a victim that you will pray for her, and not offer any help, does her no good. Below are some ways that the church can actively help a victim of domestic violence. 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” – 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

“Taking marriage seriously” – what does that mean for a Christian?

Christian Marriage, divorce, domestic violence, abuse, marital counseling, extramarital affairs


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-Taking marriage seriously- means taking the vows seriously and having real consequences for breaking them. The idealists and perfectionists who are trying to turn -marriage- into a protected space for all man.png

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My friend, Valerie Jacobsen posted this statement on her Facebook page and I asked permission to share it. I found it powerful, and yet, so contrary to the way marriage is handled in the church – especially when abuse is involved. I’m sick and tired of women being forced by their pastors/elders to bear the brunt of evil in their marriages by staying in their evil and harmful marriages.

I do not believe for a second that it is godly advice for pastors tell abused wives to remain married to their chronically evil and reviling spouses. If marriage is supposed to be representative of Christ and the church, an abusive marriage is a mockery to Christ. It seems that pastors would want to help rid the church of the blot of evil when there is an abuser clinging to his marriage and refusing to change his evil ways.

Women who leave their chronically cheating and/or abusive husbands are saying NO to evil. It is their husbands who abandoned the marriage long ago when they started their evil ways.

We need to stand beside these women and tell them they are free to go when pastors tell them otherwise. Pastors who give this bad advice are not living with this evil. And I’ll bet that they would not say this kind of thing if it were their daughter living with an abuser. Let’s stop this crazy business!

 

 

 

h/t Hannah Smith for image (taken in Hawaii)

 

 

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

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Lori Has a Habit of Contradicting Herself

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


-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

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“Trey’s” review of The Power of a Transformed Wife on Amazon

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Chapter 4 – Allow Him to Lead

I have been warned about the poor editing job of this book. It is starting to show in this chapter. Lori jumps around from topic to topic which starts to make this book seem more like a mismatch of ideas. The reality is, there are no new ideas from Lori in this book. You can read either of her blogs, or Debi Pearl’s book, and find the same ideas. That being said, I’ll try to keep to the main points and not drag you through the rabbit trail. Continue reading

How Lori Alexander’s Teaching May Keep Women in Abusive Relationships

Lori Alexander, Emotional Abuse, Headship, Submission

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-by Kathi

I’ve been reading Lori Alexander’s blogs for quite a while now. Just when I think her writing is the same old boring rhetoric she always blathers on about, she ups her game. Her recent post, “How Not to Get Married” is one that actually should be titled, “Five Easy Steps to Ensure You Stay In an Abusive Relationship.” Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – It’s All About Who’s in Control

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


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

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Debi Pearl thinks Lori’s book gives “hope.” However, it seems that even she could not read through all of it.

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