A couple months ago a fellow blogger directed me to an article about Christian “patriarchy” and suggested I rebut it. Well, I’ve been tied up with a lot of thing happening since that time: new roof, new siding, a few weddings, several funerals, too many doctor appointments, etc.
SOOOO, now I’m going to show my readers just how badly those who dislike the complementarian position misrepresent our position and, by doing so, are able to claim that the Church is responsible for domestic violence.
First, I do want to point out that there is domestic violence in the Church just as there is outside of the Church. The difference is that the Church should exercise Church discipline to correct the problem. I also want to point out that there are indeed legalistic and cultic “churches” which abuse Scripture to condone domestic violence. However, none of this can be blamed on The Evil of “Biblical” Patriarchy because Biblical “patriarchy” isn’t evil. So let’s get started with an opening quote from the article:
Some will respond that complementarianism teaches that the genders are equal and that the ideology doesn’t always lead to abuse and that they’re separate from patriarchy. I’m sorry, but a gender hierarchy is inherently opposite to equality – the two are mutually exclusive. It is inherently patriarchal.
In any system of law or organization it is impossible for everyone to be equal in everything or else you’d have chaos with no one able to make the final decisions. Everyone can be equal as persons but not in leadership or else you’d have privates telling the generals what to do! Although there are those who will abuse such positions of authority, that abuse can’t be blamed on the system itself unless the system teaches authority is to be abused!
“Gender Hierarchy” is not “inherently opposite to equality.” Within the Church male and female are equal in every respect except for two issues, which are declared by God:
1) Women are not permitted to teach men within the Church (notice that doesn’t include outside the Church), which means they cannot be pastors or elders (a pastor IS an elder). God gives the reason in 1 Timothy 2:12-14 and If you care to look at this issue in depth, see my article, “Women to be Silent in the Church?” (Titus 1:5-9 also lays out the requirement for eldership to be male.)
2) In marriage the wife is to submit to the husband (Ephesians 5:22-29) as her head, i.e., the leader in the marriage. An example of this playing out is if the two cannot come to agreement on a necessary decision, then the wife submits to the husband’s authority and the husband is then responsible before God for the decision he makes.
Complementarianism – the soft form of patriarchy – doesn’t always lead to abuse, but religious wife abuse is always justified by – and often caused by – complementarian and/or patriarchal theology. Several prominent complementarian theologians such as John Piper have even declared that wives must submit to abuse.
Anytime someone is justifying wife abuse by complementarianism they are abusing the Bible to do so. John Piper (and his ilk) is 100% wrong saying a wife must submit to abuse (I’ve many times shown where John Piper’s theology is off-base.). Ephesians says the wife is to submit to the husband in the same way as the Church submits to Christ and Christ never abuses the Church; therefore a wife does not submit to abuse! Also, the husband is commanded to love his wife “just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Where did Christ abuse His church? The husband is also commanded to love his wife as he loves his own body, which means if he follows that command he will never abuse his wife. Proper complementarian/patriarchal theology outlaws abuse!
The blogger then essentially quotes the article to which he is referring as his support for his beliefs so my references will be from that article, which would necessarily also be the blogger’s ideology.
Research shows that the men most likely to abuse their wives are evangelical Christians who attend church sporadically*. Church leaders in Australia say they abhor abuse of any kind. But advocates say the church is not just failing to sufficiently address domestic violence, it is both enabling and concealing it.
This so-called “research” is painting the Church with a very broad brush. Or perhaps Australia has a lot of poor teaching in regards to marital submission. In my experience, wife abusers are rarely Christian, even though some may be members of cultic groups which the ignorant believe are Christian. I agree that there is ONE church denomination as a whole, which isn’t evangelical, which does indeed have a lot of abuse by clergy, which is enabled and covered up by their hierarchy and that is the Roman Catholic Church. BUT, the RCC priests certainly don’t commit marital abuse!
Who else could be blamed, Peter screamed at his wife in nightly tirades, for her alleged insubordination, for her stupidity, her lack of sexual pliability, her refusal to join him on the ‘Tornado’ ride at a Queensland waterpark, her annoying friendship with a woman he called “Ratface”? For her sheer, complete failure as a woman? … The night before Sally finally left her husband and the townhouse they lived in on Sydney’s northern beaches he told her she was also failing her spiritual duties. “Your problem is you won’t obey me. The Bible says you must obey me and you refuse,” he yelled. “You are a failure as a wife, as a Christian, as a mother. You are an insubordinate piece of s**t.”
The husband then cites Eph. 5:22-23 and 1 Tim.2:11-12 to his wife as evidence of her failures. This example immediately demonstrates that the Bible isn’t to blame, rather it is the fault of Peter refusing to obey the Lord’s commands about loving his wife as his own body. And his abuse of 1 Tim 1:11-12 which has nothing to do with marriage!
The article continues in this vein, blaming the Church and the Bible for the abuse of wives by their husbands (where women are told to be silent and submit to male authority). The media is well-know for being liberal/LEFTIST and not properly reporting issues, which is why they jump to the idea that it is the fault of the Bible and Christian teachings rather than it being an abuse of the Bible and failure to adhere to real Christian teachings which, in the first place, never says that women are to submit to “male authority.” Only wives are to submit to their own husbands; no woman is to submit to any other male (except when submitting to a male authority in the workplace, etc, where a man also submits to him in the same way the man would submit to a woman authority in the workplace, etc.)
The only Churches which would allow abuse for wives and/or children are those which are disobeying the Bible and God by not addressing the sin and not protecting the abused.
Sally found little comfort in her Pentecostal church, which she had turned to repeatedly. Counsellors there simply advised her to forgive him. She also told her pastor her story, but no one followed it up.
This is an example of a Church disobeying God and Scripture, not an example of how Biblical Christianity is supposed to work.
The fact that domestic violence occurs in church communities is well established. Queensland academic Dr Lynne Baker’s 2010 book, Counselling Christian Women on How to Deal with Domestic Violence, cites a study of Anglican, Catholic and Uniting churches in Brisbane that found 22 per cent of perpetrators of domestic violence and abuse go to church regularly.
But American research provides one important insight: men who attend church less often are most likely to abuse their wives. (Regular church attenders are less likely to commit acts of intimate partner violence.)
The fact that domestic violence occurs outside of church communities is also well established. So what? Sin is sin, in or out of the church. Just don’t blame church teachings for it; going to church doesn’t make one a Christian and is often used by unbelievers as a way to give them better appearances in the public sphere. With this citation it appears that the Australian Church is worse at their teaching and/or church discipline than is the American church — which doesn’t surprise me with the popularity of the apostate Hillsong church in Australia.
Some attribute these findings to the conservative denominations and churches that preach and model male control, with male-only priesthoods and inviolate teachings on male authority.
So some attribute this to biblical teachings of the roles of men and women in the church. Notice that operative word, some. To me some means less than the majority or they would have said “majority.” Be careful how the church-hating media frames things.
Adelaide’s Anglican Assistant Bishop Tim Harris says, “it is well recognised that males (usually) seeking to justify abuse will be drawn to misinterpretations [of the Bible] to attempt to legitimise abhorrent attitudes.”
AHA!! Just as I have stated above. It isn’t the Bible or Christian teachings, rather it is the abuse of them which abusers use to justify their behavior.
Stressing that his diocese “strongly rejected” any teachings on male superiority, he told ABC News: “This has been a particular concern for those coming out of evangelical and fundamentalist backgrounds.”
First, let me point out that as an Anglican priest, Mr. Harris is a member of an apostate, and often heretical, denomination which is in love with the world instead of Christ, so he will naturally place the blame on “fundamental” or “evangelical” church teachings. Anglican and Catholic Churches have their own abuse problems!
In Australia, it is widely accepted that gender inequality is a contributing factor to violence against women.
In Australia, as with the USA, whatever the media says becomes “widely accepted” within the indoctrinated populace. And yet no one actually demonstrates where there is “gender inequality” in society as a whole, let alone within the Church; they just assert it as such. There is much of that in this article, including claims of what research tells them.
Women in faith communities where divorce is shunned, and shameful, often feel trapped in abusive marriages.
I agree with this because I have witnessed it too often. Again, this is the fault of the particular legalistic church rather than the true teachings of the Bible. There are many viewpoints about what the Bible says is allowable for divorce and remarriage. My personal view is that divorce is permitted for marital unfaithfulness (adultery - either actual physical, or mental by indulgence in pornography, etc), abuse and abandonment. I also maintain that biblical divorce allows for remarriage. This article asks the question of whether there is biblical grounds for divorcing an abuser (and it is also written by an Australian!).
There are many examples given of a church/church leaders advising abused women to remain with their abuser, and I agree this is a problem. However, the title of the blog article, which cites the media article, is The Evil of “Biblical” Patriarchy and not “The evil of Churches who fail to follow Biblical teachings regarding patriarchy.” Churches which allow such sin to continue without church discipline, or which themselves abuse Scripture to uphold their anti-divorce, pro-abuse teachings, should rightly be exposed for failing to adhere to biblical teachings regarding the headship of the husband in a marriage.
Unlike the Koran, there are no verses in the Bible that may be read as overtly condoning domestic abuse. To the contrary, it is made clear that God hates violence and relationships must be driven by selflessness, grace and love.
Well, lookie here — actual truth about the Bible vs the evil Koran!
But church counsellors and survivors of family violence report that many abusive men, like Sally’s husband, rely on twisted — or literalist — interpretation of Bible verses to excuse their abuse.
And I agree, which is why the blogger’s title for this article is so problematic. The actual biblical teaching isn’t evil, the abuse of it is!
Abusive men commonly refer to several different parts of the Bible.
First are the verses — cited by Sally’s husband Peter, above — telling women to submit to their husbands and male authority, under the doctrine known as male headship.
Second are verses that say God hates divorce.
And third are those in 1 Peter that tell women to submit to husbands in a very particular way, as they follow instructions to slaves to submit to even “harsh masters”.
And this is exactly the problem — abuse of the Bible to support an ideology. Cults and false teachers do the same thing, as do many outside the Church in their efforts to attack biblical teachings.
The first one I’ve already address as to what proper headship is.
Second, yes God hates divorce but He also allows it to protect the partner who is a victim (not all marital victims are the wives).
Peter’s directions to wives may follow his directions to slaves, but these positions are not analogous since a slave is not in the same kind of relationship as a wife. The only similarity is that both are submit in their own way to glorify God. But the wife’s submission is “as to the Lord,” i.e. not submitting to something which the Lord would not condone.
The doctrine that is most commonly, and controversially cited by abusers is male headship, where a husband is to be the head of the wife in marriage and the wife is to submit, and men are to be head of the church
But when this doctrine is cited by an abuser it is taught falsely, as noted above. The teaching itself is biblical and proper; it’s the abuse of the teaching which is problematic.
In the 1970s and 1980s, literature coming out of the United States suggested it meant putting up with every possible harm.
But this is not what the Bible teaches.
According to Elizabeth Hanford Rice in her book Me? Obey Him?, this even included physical violence and child abuse.
She is wrong and has no biblical basis for her claim.
Three female authors — Dorothy McGuire, Carol Lewis and Alvena Blatchley — even praised a woman for staying with a man who tried to murder her.
The foolishness and ignorance of such teaching is astounding.
Today, it is clear proponents of headship intend to teach a form of self-sacrificial love — for a man to be head of his wife like Christ is head of the church, and to sacrifice himself to his wife in the same way.
Thank you for another truthful statement.
The article then cites some American teachers who are the sort which allow women to be abused: John Piper, James Dobson, and Stephen J. Cole. All these men suggest abuse should be tolerated to some degree. Also cited are some Australian teachers with the same problems. Again, the problem is the teachers, not the Bible.
Today, a growing number of counsellors, psychologists and welfare workers are reporting that abusers cite the idea of male headship to sanction violence.
Of course this can’t be the majority of abusers because the majority have no idea of the biblical teaching! Citing male headship as sanctioning violence is just an excuse and they really know better.
Well, the lengthy rest of the article continues in this same vein; complementarianism causes abuse, not the abuse of the teaching is the source of the abuse.
No, there is no “Evil” in biblical patriarchy; the evil is in the hearts of those who twist what the Bible says so as to justify their behavior.