A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

John MacArthur’s Instruction to Abuse Victims – Aaaaargh!!!

UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


Ok, I am just going to let these paragraphs by John MacArthur, Jr (pastor, Grace Community Church, California), speak for themselves and then I am going to sit back and watch your comments come! REMEMBER, THESE ARE NOT MY WORDS!! We are in NO WAY endorsing them but in fact quite the opposite. They come from the article at Grace to You Answering the key questions about the family .

Question:  How should a wife respond to a physically abusive husband?

Answer: Once I was taking questions from the audience in a meeting in Boston , and a young woman stood and asked how a Christian wife should deal with a husband who beats her. Immediately, a little eighty-nine-year-old, white-haired woman in the second row stood and shouted to her, “Hit him back, honey!”

Remembering the scene still makes me smile (I noticed after the meeting that the little old lady was wearing black boots). As funny as it was, however, I don’t think she had the proper remedy.

Divorce is not always an option, either–Scripture does not automatically permit divorce in the case of a physically abusive husband.

Still, while Scripture does not specifically instruct the battered wife, it gives principles that certainly apply to her. Proverbs 14:16 says, “A wise man is cautious and turns away from evil” (NASB). God gives us wisdom to be defensive and cautious. We duck when something flies through the air at our heads. Common sense tells us to avoid situations where we’re placed in physical danger. And I believe that is what God expects of us.

A woman whose husband brutalizes her is not only justified if she protects herself — she would be wrong not to. There is no virtue in a wife’s willingly submitting to beatings and physical abuse from a cruel or drunken husband. And certainly there is no biblical warrant for a woman knowingly to allow herself to be beaten and even injured in the name of submission to her husband, especially if there are legitimate steps she can take to avoid it.

By way of comparison, the apostle Paul says in Romans 13 that we are to submit to civil government as a God-ordained authority. Yet that “submission” does not necessarily include voluntarily suffering at the hands of an abusive government. Our Lord said, “Whenever they persecute you in this city, flee to the next” (Matthew 10:23) — certainly giving the persecuted warrant to flee the persecution of wicked governments if a way of escape is open. So the “submission” God calls us to does not include automatic acquiescence to sheer physical brutality.

My advice to women who are in danger of physical injury from their husbands is first of all to try to defuse the situation. Be careful not to provoke any circumstances that will make your husband become violent. Proverbs 15:1 says, “A soft answer turns away wrath.”

This is certainly not to suggest women are to blame when their husbands become violent. There is no excuse whatsoever for a man to use physical violence against his wife; in fact, that is the most blatant kind of disobedience to the command given husbands in Ephesians 5:25. Men who physically abuse their wives cannot legitimately claim that any action on the wife’s part justifies their use of brute force. To physically attack one’s wife is an inexcusable and unconscionable sin against her and against Christ. And to try to defend such violence — as some men do — by claiming on biblical grounds that the husband is the “head” of the wife is to corrupt the very idea of “headship.” Remember that God is the “head” of Christ and Christ is also the “head” of the church (1 Corinthians 11:3). So the expression involves not only leadership and authority, but also loving nurture and protection. “The husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). The husband who thinks his “headship” justifies a domineering, tyrannical, or brutal leadership has no grasp of the biblical concept of headship.

If a violence-prone husband becomes agitated and abusive, the wife should remove herself from danger, by leaving the home if necessary. God has promised that He will not test us beyond our ability to endure, but will always make a way of escape (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sometimes escape is the only way. If you have children and they are in danger, take them someplace where you will be secure until you feel you may safely come back.

If you are not truly in any physical danger, but are merely a weary wife who is fed up with a cantankerous or disagreeable husband — even if he is an unbeliever who is hostile to the things of God — God’s desire is that you stay and pray and sanctify that husband by your presence as a beloved child of God (1 Corinthians 7:10-16). The Lord will protect you and teach you in the midst of the difficult time.

Of course, pray for your husband, submit to him in every way you can, encourage him to seek advice and counsel from other biblically-knowledgeable men — and do everything you can to heal the problems that cause him to be angry or abusive.


As soon as your blood pressure lowers a bit, think carefully through this article.  What do you think that his repeated use of the adjective “physical/physically” tells us about his understanding of abuse?  Do you think that MacArthur believes verbal/emotional abuse is really as damaging?   What statements here might indicate that MacArthur believes the victim has some control over her abuser’s ragings?


Update added June 2017: GTY’s website now gives the date August 18 2016 for their article Answering the key questions about the family, but that  was not the original publication date. The article was at GTY’s when we first published this post on March 2, 2012, but it had a different URL. GTY have reconfigured their website but not changed the text of the article. And in case they ever scrub the article from their site, we have saved it here at the webarchive where it cannot be scrubbed.

Related post

Let’s Put This “But he hasn’t physically abused you” Nonsense to Rest Once and For All


  1. Well. . . that pretty much sums up what I use to believe. Until I had to live through it myself. Three decades later I know better and someone like John MacArther ought to know better than to teach something that can potentially get people killed.

  2. There’s so many big things to get annoyed about here but when I got quiet for a minute, this lovely line came to mind–

    “Remembering the scene still makes me smile (I noticed after the meeting that the little old lady was wearing black boots).”

    Meaning what? He judged this lady based on her choice of footwear? Why put this in the article unless he thought it was significant. But for what reason? Would he have agreed with her if she had on orthopedic shoes? Maybe a nice granny dress and a bun on the back of her head. But black boots. . . sure sign of radical feminist agenda lurking deep within granny’s psyche.

    “If a violence-prone husband becomes agitated and abusive, the wife should remove herself from danger, by leaving the home if necessary.” So some husbands are just ‘violence-prone’– well, that explains everything, doesn’t it? Poor things, can’t control themselves, especially with those agitating women around. And should the wives wear black boots— Heaven Forbid!

    “If you have children and they are in danger, take them someplace where you will be secure until you feel you may safely come back.” If you have children and they are in danger. . . words fail. Lets trot them right back so they can be in danger– again. And again. And again. Oh wait, he qualified that didn’t he? Until you feel you may safely come back. Well now, that makes everything better. We get to repeat the cycle indefinitely.

    I know! Instead of having wives leave, howsabout we just have safe-rooms inside the homes of violence-prone men? That way, the wife and kiddies don’t ever have to leave. When she sees him becoming ‘agitated and abusive,’ she can just lock her family away until the coast is clear. She can scream at him through the door to get ‘advice and counsel from other biblically knowledgeable men.’ Better stock up on supplies though– I know one fellow who could carry on a full six months without taking a breath.

    His entire article just reeks of anti-female sentiment. I’m sorry, it does. Has to be the woman’s fault– she’s probably provoking the attack with her boot wearing ways.

    (Merely a weary wife. . . oh my, oh my, oh my. I’m on the ceiling with Morven.)

    • annawood

      Sadly it isn’t only MacArthur who spreads such teachings. These types of teachings…and worse…are spread through many “Christian marriage” and “Christian womanhood” books. Let’s see “Me? Obey Him?” and “Woman the Completer” and almost anything by the Pearls. There are many other places where this tragic teaching is spread: other books, many blogs, sermons, etc., that basically teach that, no matter what a husband does, the wife has to obey and endure. She can run for a while (but only if absolutely necessary and she must always come back). The worst ones even state that she needs to understand that, if her hubby is having issues, it’s most likely her fault for not being submissive and obedient enough.

      “submit to him in every way you can”
      : I swallowed this teaching for years and it brought me endless heartache. I’d cry out to God trying to understand what else there was for me to do, say, endure; I was as submissive as I knew how to be but no matter how submissive I was, it wasn’t enough. I was convinced that I had to do anything and everything my husband demanded in order to be pleasing to God. When he’d rage, I’d apologize (he loved that). I’d endure humiliation, endure punishments, endure his rages, etc., all designed to “teach you submission” (my husband’s words). I dealt with “a cantankerous or disagreeable husband” daily all in an effort to be pleasing to God. The abuse only got worse.

      What MacArthur said here is dangerous and, at times, can be deadly. Biblical submission to a godly man who loves his wife as Christ loves the church is a beautiful thing but this isn’t it. More submission to this type of abuse–or any type of abuse– only makes it escalate.

    • Natalie Collins

      Dear dear Ida! Blessings to you! Love your comment!

    • Anonymous100

      Ida Mae what you wrote is brillant! Thank you!

  3. Oh my, peel me off the ceiling. This makes me so mad. Any wife that reads this little ditty will be royally confused by the time she is done. I can leave if it gets bad, but then I have to come home. And I need to diffuse the situation when HE gets mad. If she confronts her abusive husband, or merely tries to have a civil conversation, is this “provoking him?”

    “Merely a weary wife” …. weary from being verbally and emotionally battered? Of being blamed, shamed and discarded? No, John MacArthur is clueless as to what abuse is. He doesn’t get it. I just wish he could get to know some of the wonderful women who could give him an education. I bet they’d all be a lot more gracious than me.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Morven. I could have quoted even more from him saying the same kinds of things. They are on his Grace to You website. I believe the Bible is God’s inerrant Word and sufficient for our salvation and life in Christ. But MacArthur’s approach to Scripture is a wooden, literal hermeneutic that I believe is similar to how the Pharisees must have handled the OT and thereby left out mercy and justice. Also known as common sense. This approach makes Scriptures absolutes that supposedly apply in all cases in the very same way, something Christ never intended. MacArthur’s approach also rejects all psychology as “human wisdom” that distorts and compromises Scripture. So he knows NOTHING about the abuser’s mentality or tactics. That is why he thinks abuse is only physical assault. This is ignorance paired with arrogance, and he has spread it far and wide throughout our Bible-believing churches. Many, many poor women have suffered far more than they need to have.

  4. Anonymous

    I am wondering why more people don’t write to or about such authors in an effort to raise the awareness about what abuse is and how such teachings are dangerous. I know Natalie Collins wrote an open letter about Stormie Omartian’s Praying Wife book. I think if many of us do it, and obviously, avoid slander or hostility, it should have an effect.

    MacArthur’s line is exactly the one most evangelicals take, and it was the one given to me by my counselors. It was also what a pastor once told a friend of mine – to go back when it was safe, and start marriage counselling together – and it ended with a tragic death, which I will not go into here. Just because it doesn’t always end that way doesn’t mean that it is not dangerous advice. Psychological harm is equally dangerous and grossly underestimated, particularly by the Christian world, that somehow believes that Christ’s blood heals all emotional wounds and that we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us, including put up with abuse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      The thing is a scourge in the church. Terrible. It is an infection. Unbiblical tradition has been embraced as Scripture, and has therefore voided God’s Word. We need to call pastors and writers and theologians who write and teach these things to task. I am not sure how to do it – I don’t know how to start a social revolution! But Christ is quite able to turn His church upside down when necessary. Maybe we all need to gather into one mighty church that gets it right and become known for speaking out on this subject!! Well, that probably sounds too cultish. But others have done it in order to spread BAD doctrine!

      • Anonymous

        I think many of the victims scour the internet looking for answers, and many of them try to get help from Christian marriage websites, so there’s a good place to start challenging the usual advice given. If enough people do it, and back up their positions with scripture, reasoning and logic, I can’t see why we can’t make a dent in the current thinking.

        Gather into one mighty church – yeah, we would probably be labelled a cult! It is rather flattering to have a pastor validate us victim/survivors, as it is not what we have come to expect. But I guess I should burst your bubble and ‘fess up – we are only human and are probably just as annoying and full of flaws as the next person, as our abusers constantly reminded us!

      • Natalie Collins

        Hi Jeff!

        Natalie Collins here. I wrote the letter to Stormie Omartian mentioned above (An Open Letter to Stormie Omartian [Internet Archive link]). I have been in some conversations recently about this whole issue. I think the thing we need to work out is how do we bring people to an understanding about domestic abuse when as soon as we mention domestic abuse people assume it isn’t relevant to them and all their misconceptions cloud their ability to see that this is relevant to them? One of the things I’ve been having some conversations about is writing a book showing a different model for marriage than the one promoted by these types of authors. One which talks of mutuality and each person taking responsibility for themselves. But also a book that would be attractive to those who buy the types of books written by authors like Stormie Omartian. The problem is that these books feed into existing paradigms and so resonate very strongly with those reading them, whereas the stuff that needs to be said, often makes people so uncomfortable they don’t want to engage with it.

        Anyway, I still don’t have a solution, but hey, thanks for your blog 🙂



      • Jeff Crippen

        Dear Natalie- Great to hear from you. Thanks for contacting me and visiting the blog. We definitely need to connect – by “we,” I mean people like you, me, Barbara, Anna and all the others – most of whom are abuse survivors – who have seen the nonsense that is going on in the evangelical, conservative churches (of which I am a part) when it comes to abuse. I know the “wall” of prejudice and loyalty to a pre-conceived notion of “biblical” marriage so many Christians have that automatically evidences itself whenever we start to speak on the subject of abuse and all of the associated issues, like divorce. I don’t know yet how to break through. I do know that the people in my own church who “had ears to hear” my sermon series on abuse for the most part had either experienced divorce and/or abuse themselves, directly or indirectly. The people who are the most resistant are those who have been raised as conservative Christians, who perhaps are self-employed, and who went to Christian schools or were home-schooled and homeschool their own children now. (Most of our church home schools). These people have been taught and taught the headship/submission motif, but in what I believe to be a distorted manner. I also am beginning to conclude that there is simply far more anti-women mentality in us than we realize (and some women have bought into this too). It is VERY subtle. I am sure I have been guilty of it in the past to one degree or another, yet totally oblivious to it.

        I am not prepared to drop the biblical doctrine of headship and submission in Scripture. That doctrine is clearly taught. But the question is, what does it really look like as God intended? How does it work itself out in “one-flesh”? Men are men and women are women – there is no way I am going to go down the genderless road that others are choosing. I also am still convinced that men are to be pastors and elders, not women. BUT I think that our sin infects our roles far more than we realize. The end effect is that I do believe, as I said, that in our conservative churches, women ARE so often treated as second-class beings without the intelligence nor rights that men have. It is a very, very deceptive and cunning thing and I think it has similarities to the theology and practice of the Pharisees in the NT. You can probably tell that I don’t have it all sorted out yet.

        I also do not think it is wise for us who are trying to address the injustice being given to abuse victims by the church, to let ourselves get all caught up and divided by the complementarian/egalitarian debate. That has its place, but I don’t think it is here and it will only divide us. The real issue is, victims of abuse are being disregarded by their pastors and churches, and are being given the horrible “biblical” instructions that MacArthur and Piper and Sproul and so many others are giving them. That is the fundamental issue that I want to attack.

        Write, write, write. Speak the truth and if we do nothing else but validate and help the victims, we will be doing well. Thanks again, very much. Jeff

      • Your “Stormie” letter was amazing. It put into words everything I have felt for a long time. I forwarded it to Christians for Biblical Equality, an amazing group that promotes justice and partnership in marriage. They were very interested in contacting you, and possibly printing the letter. I hope they have been in touch with you.

        The book sounds like a terrific idea. Obviously, you write well, so go for it girl!

      • Natalie Collins

        Hi Jeff,

        Thanks for your reply! We do most definitely need to get together! It is only as we work together that we will see abuse ended! 🙂

        It is very true that the anti-women mentality runs very deep. From the minute we find out the gender of a child there are issues in terms of how we respond and the messages we promote.

        Privilege and power are invisible to those who hold it and I think this is key. How can someone be open hearted to the issue of domestic abuse when they must so tightly cling to the misconception that abuse happens to “those women”. The minute they let go of that it causes them to have to acknowledge:

        a) abuse can happen to anyone (even them!)
        b) abusive men are choosing to be abusive, it is not those women’s fault
        c) this requires every person to do something
        d) it means walking into a new paradigm. Something Jesus constantly enabled people to do, but is a very uncomfortable place to be

        I think perhaps now will be the point where we may have to work out how egalitarians and complementarians can work together on this, because I am totally committed to egalitarian theology and would say that some of my understandings of gender may fit into somewhere close to what you express as “genderless”. My husband and I do not practice “headship” in terms of authority or spiritual stuff. In fact at present he is a full time house husband while I work full time. I passionately believe that women should be able to lead in any position that a man can lead in, both inside and outside of the Church and believe in a gifts based rather than gender based approach. I do not say any of this to cause disagreement, but because I think this may be the opportunity where those of us on different sides of the egalitarian/complementarian theology can work out if and how it is possible for us to speak out in unity over the issue of abuse. I personally do struggle with how we will end abuse without granting women full equality, but I do understand that regardless of our theological understandings of gender, we can all speak out against abuse.

        Perhaps we could continue this conversation via email with all interested people, including Barbara Roberts, Ida and any others?

        Let the unity begin!!!


      • I’d be up for that. Count me in 🙂 I believe the Body of Christ has been divided for way too long over nonessentials when the wolves are tearing the flock to shreds.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Thanks Natalie. I am going to be busy today and most of tomorrow (Wednesday), but as soon as I have an opportunity I will see about setting up another page on this blog dedicated to discussing the comp/egal issue. I can start off the conversation and then we can go from there. The nice thing about a blog is that we can blog any real whackos who go totally ballistic on us and get mean. I have no problem at all working with genuine Christians who hold firmly to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture. We all have to unite in Christ if we are to face what is happening to women in the church who are being abused by their abuser and then given injustice by their fellow Christians on top of it.

      • Anonymous

        Natalie, I enjoyed reading your comments. I haven’t really ever publicly “gone there” in the debate simply because of the great divide, but I must admit that I have drawn the same conclusions as you, in spite of being heavily into headship (of the Pearls’ type). The paradigm is such an entrenched one that I know instinctively that if I broach that first, I am going to hit barriers and get nowhere.

        Not long before I separated, I happened to be reading on this very issue on an Australian pastor’s blog and felt quite indignant that he and his wife seemed to be taking the egal position (without naming it). What heresy! The pastor’s wife was given quite a hard time by some male readers but stood her ground. However, it only made her sound stubborn, defensive, feministic, difficult, etc. His stance made him sound weak, postmodern, humanistic, etc. I think I might have reacted a bit differently if their arguments were more based on scripture rather than rationale (entrenched positions are not logical), but I guess it would have delved into the original meanings of words, like headship. The pastor-blogger included many references for reading, but being bogged down with escalating abuse, I didn’t bother buying or borrowing the books.

        I guess there are so many different complexities in the male who abuses his wife that it may not be as simple as blaming it on the one doctrine. That’s not to say that those who are fighting hard to expose the creation of domestic bullies by church teaching are wasting their time. They have their role. But on ground level, where the rubber hits the road, I find that bringing up that topic always clouds the issue and diverts from domestic abuse. It’s probably the case that as a person hones in and understands the dynamics and issues of domestic abuse in the church that the egal/comp issue will also be unpacked.

        In case I’m not making any sense there, I’ll change the topic and try to answer Barbara Roberts’ question about book titles! Apart from marriage books, family and parenting books were also in my radar. I couldn’t find a SINGLE book on parenting that addressed what to do if the husband abused the kids. All seemed to point toward working together in unity. My psychologist insisted that the reason why we had problems was because we didn’t present a united front to the kids, which was something their father had told him and unfortunately wasn’t true – I hardly ever stood up to him. Even now, when I browse through the Christian bookshops, I look at the parenting books to see if they are any different and alas, no change. I recently picked up one on troubled teens that told parents who wanted to divorce to postpone it for the sake of the kids as it always had a negative impact on teens. Nothing on safety for the kids.

  5. Cindy Burrell

    This mindset is typical of most churches: “If he’s not hitting you, it’s not really abuse.” I bought all of that stuff for years – too many years. None of the “just be more submissive” and “pray for your husband” changed anything. In fact, I think it made it worse. My husband came to realize that the more he abused me, the harder I tried. What could be better for an abuser? We have to stand against this on every front. I pray that my new book, “God Is My Witness: Making a Case for Biblical Divorce” contributes to this dialogue. It will be out very soon.

    Thank you, Jeff, for your contribution to the education of the church body.


    • Jeff Crippen

      Good to hear from you Cindy. Yes, the more of us who step up and speak out in any way we can, perhaps the sooner change will occur. I’m not holding my breath for a sweeping reformation, but even if we can reach some pastors and churches that will be something. It seems to me that Christian women are probably the best group to reach, but I am just speculating. Victims/survivors will be the most attentive audience and activists of course. I wish I had a church full of them! I will be watching for your book. Maybe you can let me know when it comes out.

  6. Cindy, it’s nice to see you here! And thanks also to ‘anonymous’ above.

    How to effect change? I think that if people like us keep writing, talking, spreading the word on every media we can think of, and through all our networks, there will be a groundswell that these Big Shot Teachers will no longer be able to ignore. So far they’ve pretty much ignored us, but they can’t forever, if more and more voices join the chorus. It seems to me that since January when I connected with this blog and others like it, my own thinking has been sparked and stimulated and my zeal has intensified because I’m feeling less alone in this mighty battle. That’s the dynamic that becomes a snowball rolling down the hill, growing bigger all the time.

    I’m busy with lots of writing and editing projects already, but I’m sure there are others who can write critiques of the various Horrendous Teachings which are so diabolically bad for abuse victims. Pick the book, article or video-teaching that riled you most, and go for it! If you want suggestions about articles and things to critique, I’m happy to provide some as I have quite a few ideas in my “would love to critique that” basket that I won’t be able to get to for ages.

    • annawood


      Yes, please, a great idea! Your suggestions as to what needs to be critiqued would be welcomed here. Bring ’em on!

    • Anonymous

      I make it a point to write whenever I can, either on marriage websites where comments are possible, or to authors of websites and books. Or I write to big victim-advocate organisations to ask them to use their clout to write to authors/experts who are disseminating unhelpful/dangerous advice. I agree with Barbara that they can’t ignore the collectively growing voice that refuses to shut up. The secular world couldn’t ignore the demands of DV advocates – look how policies have changed.

      Although my (secular) counselor tried telling me that I was probably wasting my time, she now agrees that in some instances, it has proven fruitful. I have recommended Not Under Bondage to selected friends and pastors, and a few have bought them. My X’s best friend and ally turned around after being educated by his wife, who is my friend. She herself has made that paradigm shift in her perspective of domestic abuse. Hardly a landslide I know, but it is encouraging to know that some people do change their positions.

      Ps Jeff, I agree with you that debates on the egalitarian/complementarian issue tend to divert attention and can become a smokescreen for the abusers. It’s not that I didn’t have to visit that issue – it’s very much tied up with a Christian woman’s DV – but I think every woman will go through that journey and adding that to the agenda when it comes to the campaign of church education may not be a helpful thing.

      I think the Big Shots will have to change their tune when the money-paying clientele demand that shift. Reaching the women does seem to the key. And women connect. They talk. Now that we are able to refer them to the growing list of websites and materials that explain things Biblically and rationally, we can surely start!

      • Anonymous

        Oh, and I forgot to mention that I agree with Natalie that we have to be strategic in use of language. Domestic Violence or Abuse just doesn’t register with many. Even after I had connected with domestic violence advocates I didn’t realize that I was I experiencing domestic violence! The social worker thought I wasn’t interested and probably thought I was a lost cause, being a committed Christian, so she didn’t give me any of the materials they give out, with resources and references. It’s just as well I persisted in my quest for answers, and it was many months before I found the right materials and websites. I just didn’t think to look up domestic abuse, either online or in the library or at Christian bookshops!

        We need to title the materials in such a way as to attract the average victim who needs it but doesn’t know anything about it. A book cover that shows a woman cowering, bruised and battered, with the word “violence” across it, wouldn’t have caught my attention. A book on marriage troubles would have. I have read over 50 books on marriage! They’re the reason everything got worse and the whole affair lasted a lot longer than it should have.

      • “We need to title the materials in such a way as to attract the average victim who needs it but doesn’t know anything about it. A book cover that shows a woman cowering, bruised and battered, with the word “violence” across it, wouldn’t have caught my attention. A book on marriage troubles would have. I have read over 50 books on marriage! They’re the reason everything got worse and the whole affair lasted a lot longer than it should have.”

        What she said.

        In fact, that’s the reason Lundy Bancroft’s book caught my attention– the title. “Why Does He Do That? Inside the mind of angry and controlling men.” Exactly.

      • annawood

        Dear Anon, You’re absolutely right. I, too, read them all. The more I tried to be a great wife, the more he abused. I didn’t realize it was abuse so I didn’t go looking for help there. I went looking to the Christian womanhood and Christian marriage sections. Time and time and time again. And I did exactly what they said would work time and time and time again. My husband loved it. I think he thought I was giving him permission to abuse me. And I was left wondering why those methods worked (or so the authors told me) for everyone else but never for me. More garbage dumped on my head and more pain in my heart.

      • Jeff Crippen

        I like that! Women connect. I was just reading a great book on child sexual molesters (Carla van Dam) and she noted that it is often the mothers of victims who finally connect the dots as they talk to other mothers and the all start to realize that their kids’ soccer coach or youth worker has been doing the same things to the other kids as well. In the end, I suspect that it will be connecting like this among Christian women that is the medium by which the word is spread. Then as they can, they can go back to their churches and, well, pressure the leadership if those leaders are teaching the nonsense MacArthur and others are.

  7. Multiple thoughts in regards to all that’s been said. (this is a great conversation!)

    1) I agree that the egalitarian / complementarian controversy is not the main game here. While that issue often has some bearing on a victim’s struggle to find her way thru the doctrinal maze, it is not the full answer to solving abuse in Christian circles by any means. Domestic abuse goes on under the noses of both comps and egals. (While domestic abuse may be less common in egal circles, that’s only supposition at this point as there hasn’t been any research to prove either way.)
    It’s my observation that the egal / comp controversy is one of the ways Satan is hindering the Church from properly addressing domestic abuse. Satan loves to pit groups against each other, and the egal / comp controversy is a giant debate that folk get totally wrapped up in. I’ve observed that many people from both camps seem pretty unenlightened when it comes to domestic abuse. Both camps seem to think they have the answer to domestic abuse – by applying their formulaic gender role recipe – but IMO they both fall short of having real answers, answers that will work when the rubber grips the road. There are a few exceptions, but I’m speaking in generalities here.

    Before leaving the topic of egal and comp views, I’d like to suggest one thing. If we are to avoid raising too many hackles or loosing potential readers, I suggest we don’t use the word “headship”. As egalitarians have pointed out, the word “headship” never occurs in the Bible. (Scripture says the husband is head of the wife, but it never uses the term “headship”. And besides, there is much controversy about what the word “head” meant in First Century Greek and what Paul meant when he used the word “head” in the NT – See Phiiip B Payne for an excellent discussion of that issue.)

    2) Anon said “We need to title the materials in such a way as to attract the average victim who needs it but doesn’t know anything about it. A book cover that shows a woman cowering, bruised and battered, with the word “violence” across it, wouldn’t have caught my attention. A book on marriage troubles would have.”
    This is such a VITAL point!
    While we need to be bold and call a spade a spade, we also need to take care that we are not just singing to the choir.
    Lundy’s title “Why Does He DO That?” is exactly the question that is in every abused woman’s mind, long before she realises “I am being abused.”

    Here’s a question for all survivors: WHAT TITLE(s) WOULD HAVE GRIPPED YOUR ATTENTION WHEN YOU WERE IN THE FOG SEARCHING FOR ANSWERS? (Prizes for best answer! LOL!)

    3) “go back to their churches and pressure the leadership” Sorry Jeff, but I’m not sure that’s going to be much of a way forward. Many survivors have probably already tried talking to their church leaders, dropping hints, offering resources, etc., and got nowhere. Most victims / survivors find themselves pretty isolated in their own local churches. If it’s a big church a survivor may find a few other survivors who are willing to open up, share experiences, offer mutual support, and help lobby the leadership. But such situations may be the exception rather than the rule. (?) Many survivors who would like to be activists in their local churches have found themselves frozen out. Even if there are other survivors in the congregation, not many of them will want to stick their necks out and lobby for change. I think that our strategy may better be focused on world-wide internet support and encouragement and stimulation – as we are already giving each other. This may lead to actions that target the wider church: para-church groups like Focus on the Family; big name ministries like Grace to You; large Christian publishers; popular “Christian Answers” type websites; petitions to national committees of denominations… Of course, this doesn’t rule out taking baby steps of progress in local churches, but my impression so far is that this is not a very fruitful way to effect lasting change. For example, I know of one group of 15 churches in the City of Casey, Victoria, Australia (all belonging to the same pastor’s network, and composed of several evangelical denominations) where, with a grant of Federal money, they ran a lengthy program of congregational education and awareness-raising on the issue of domestic abuse, and I get the impression that it’s pretty much been water on sand… all the hard work has not borne that much fruit. “We did domestic abuse last year: now we’re moving on and doing a different topic!”

    • annawood

      Barbara, here’s a title I would have responded to: When Marriage Hurts.

  8. I’m sending you a list of suggestions for what could be critiqued. Maybe Jeff and Anna you can post it as a new topic.

  9. Anna, “When Marriage Hurts” is a fantastic title! You’ve given me food for thought!
    And Anon, you are so right, about there being no parenting books for when Dad abuses the kids. Plenty of books for victims of childhood sexual abuse, but nothing about all the other kinds of abuse an abuser can be doing to the kids while he’s also abusing his wife.

    And Jeff, I think that a separate blog (or a subsection of this blog) may be just the thing for the ‘marital roles’ aspect of all this. Ida Mae is right: for many victims / survivors, their belief about submission is one of the things that locks them into the abuse, and at some point they want to understand it in order to get free. So it’s part of the healing journey for many. A blog and links to helpful resources on the doctrine (submission, male-female roles in marriage) would be a great help. I have a few good links on my site to do with submission – go to the “articles I recommend” section of my Links page
    Not Under Bondage: Links [Internet Archive link]. [Many of the articles that were on this Links page are now on ACFJ. Editors.]

    And yes, Natalie, I agree that we can all be engaged in fighting against domestic abuse, no matter what position we occupy (or even if we don’t HAVE a conscious position) in the egalitarian / complementarian controversy. Hip Hip Hooray! The important thing is to keep the fight against abuse paramount, and to never let the gender-roles issue take precedence over the fight against abuse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks, Barbara. I just about have the separate page set up for discussions on the egal/comp issue. I will start it off with an opening statement and then people can take it from there.

  10. Dalia

    I can’t help but think that many, many women knew the personalities of their husbands while dating. They either ignored the signs or believed they could change their man.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Dalia – from my discussions with many victims, it appears that many were “swept off their feet” by a sociopathic, manipulative man who could appear as an angel of light. Others did in fact see some warning signs but rationalized that “no one is perfect” including themselves, so they proceeded with the marriage. I would say that in most if not all cases, these victims did not know the real personality of their husband-to-be prior to marrying them. The fog and chaos of abuse prevents seeing things in a clear light. Only after many years and after receiving some help and truthful counsel do these victims actually see what is really going on and what their spouse is. We must take care not to blame them. We could have been drawn into such an abusive relationship ourselves.

      • Anonymous

        Dalia – Someone like me was very vulnerable when I met my husband. Had left home at 16 because of a violent father. I had promised myself to not have anything to do with men until well established in a career but … along comes Mr Mild-mannered. He really seemed different. Jeff Crippen stated it well.
        Chameleons, like my husband are very difficult to detect. Believe me, I have and continue to blame myself for the suffering. Most importantly, I grieve the destruction it has produced in others lives. Sin has no mercy and is very blinding.
        Even as an unbeliever I had wanted to say my wedding vows in a church. The very liberal reverend performed a “friendly” pre-marriage counsel. He knew my husband believed in “a higher power” but did not deal with the issue.
        I have had years of so-called shepherds and fellow believers “pray” for me BUT NOT really make my husband accountable. I have also had year of many not wanting to believe my story or shunning me now that I am honest. I now fear ever becoming involved with a church. I believe a true shepherd will eventually find me wandering and nurse me back to health. The Lord is truly my Shepherd.

    • Bethany

      Dalia- I was raised in a wonderful Christian home with two parents who have been (and still are in) a happy marriage for 32years. I if anyone should “have known better” yet I married a sociopath and gave him 7 years of my life. Jeff is right when he said that most abuse victims don’t know the real personality of their husband-to-be prior to marrying them. I may never know why it was that I fell for his trap, but I can tell you the brain washing started the day I FIRST day I met him and he was so skilled that he had me turning on family and friends in order to defend him within only 2 months of meeting him! It is scary how powerful the mind games of an abuser are.

    • Jeff S

      What a person did not or did not know does not make abuse OK or tolerable. To condemn someone to torture based on a decision he or she made years ago (many times at a very early age as encouraged by many churches) is heartless.

      Please do not blame the victim. Believe me, each victim has blamed him or herself enough.

  11. Sally

    We have laws in this country. Why doesn’t JM uphold the law against physical assault and encourage these wives to call the police who according to 1 Peter 2:13-14 are there for the punishment of evildoers? Also see Romans 13:1-4. If JM saw someone beating his wife, would he just remove her from the danger or remove the danger from her by punching the guy out and calling the police? Wake up.

    • Hi Sally. I think you are new to our site. Welcome! And thanks for your comment, it’s right on.

    • Barnabasintraining

      I think those are excellent questions. I’d love to hear MacArthur’s answers. I’d also like to hear them plainly stated. Dr. MacArthur, if a woman is being assaulted by her husband, who should she call first?

      A) Her pastor/church leaders
      B) The police (911)

      Nothing in between please. Either A or B.

      • Sally

        That’s right. Assault, battery, and murder are against the laws of our land, and submitting to criminal activity is not only a bad testimony, but contradicts the instructions in 1 Peter 2:13-14, dismissing the provision of God for the punishment of criminals. Even Paul did not willingly submit to scourging by the Romans, pointing out to them that it was against the law in his case because of his Roman citizenship, Acts 22:25.

  12. Dick

    Old John does not seem to understand verbal, psychological, and spiritual abuse as he perpetrator of all there under the guise of being “Biblical”.

  13. Rick T

    Craig Keener has a biblical response to the interpretational rigidity of the divorce only for adultery Scriptures. Jesus was speaking in hyperbole.THe book is called And Marries Another.

  14. B. Connolly

    My husband beat me severely, nearly killed me, and threatened to hunt me down, make my life miserable and then kill me with piano wire around my neck or snap my neck. This was after us getting baptized together and him being in the church choir. Judges in four states told me I would be dead if I did not become anonymous and disappear. I spent a year in a battered woman’s shelter to stay alive–and, after much prayer became convinced that God wanted me to stay alive–that meant divorce was the “way out” He provided. A few years later he nearly killed another woman–same scenario: stalked a wealthy woman and stole from her then beat her nearly to death. The Atorney General for a southern state located me after several attempts to become anonymous in order to testify when he went to trial–sentenced to 16 yrs. in prison–10 for her and 6 for me. He’s got about 1 1/2 to go. But as all of us battered women, we always fear for our lives so long as these abusers are on the loose. My ONLY hope is in God! I respect John Macarthur a lot–I wish he would research domestic violence and discover how MANY WOMEN get murdered brutally by their husbands–actually FEW of us survive–so RETHINK DIVORCE IN LIGHT OF REALITY AND WHAT GOD WOULD HAVE CHRISTIAN WIVES TO DO BIBLICALLY.

    • Thank you so much, B Connolly; stories like yours are really important to have on this blog.
      If you feel safe to do so, I’d love you to please email me (barbara@notunderbondage.com) as I would like to ask you some questions about your journey of going anonymous and then coming out of anonymity. Maybe the things you learned on that journey can help other victim/survivors.

    • Peg

      I have listened to a Paul Washer sermon and he states that if any man did anything to hurt his daughter, that man would have to answer to Paul Washer and God as well. As daughters of God, we are to be honored and cherished. No other possibilities exist. I would imagine that if John MacArthur has a daughter and she ended up in a marriage with a verbally and emotionally abusive man, that man would have to answer to Mr. MacArthur for sure!

      • Jeff Crippen

        Peg – Unfortunately we cannot recommend Paul Washer as a champion of abuse victims. He may have said that in a sermon you listened to, but his associations with Vision Forum and company (known for rank patriarchy and denial of abuse as grounds for divorce) have put him on our list of unfriendlies.

      • IamMyBeloved's

        I would like to hear him say that if any man did anything to hurt his “wife”, or children, via any form of unrepentant abuse, that he would support divorce in that case. I would also like to hear his definition of abuse and repentance.

  15. Anonymous100

    “–and do everything you can to heal the problems that cause him to be angry or abusive.”

    MacArthur’s above statement = DELUSIONAL

  16. Barnabasintraining

    It’s been a long time since I’ve read this thread. Thanks to Anonymous100 for bringing it up again.

    I notice something about MacArthur’s speech patterns here that I find disturbing. He is clear when he wants to be, and rightly says there is no excuse for a man abusing his wife and that is on the man, etc. So clarity is well within MacArthur’s purview.

    However, he is NOT clear on what an abuse victim’s biblical options actually are. He says rather mushily that divorce is “not always” an option, and Scripture doesn’t “automatically permit divorce” for abuse — which he limits to physical assault. He then goes on to suggest stop gap measures such as leaving with a view to returning when “you feel you may safely come back.” (That it is never truly safe and that abusers can and do manipulate those feelings with false apologies and false promises, I think, escapes him.)

    He plucks the rather low hanging ripe fruit in clearly opposing a man’s act of physical aggression against his wife, as any decent person would do. I am not impressed with this because it is the least that is expected in a civilized society. Even the world (for the most part) is going to say a man should never beat his wife. Only the boldest and most extreme sorts would even be soft on that let alone state outright that they think it is acceptable. So, well, thanks but…duh.

    Since clarity is not a problem for MacArthur when he wants to use it, I wonder why it is he was not clear on the matter of divorce? Why soften that? Why qualifiers like “not always an option” and ” does not automatically permit”? If he believes abuse is not grounds for divorce, why does he not say so in so many words? Or if he does believe it is grounds, why can he not say that in so many words? He can readily do that with the low hanging obvious fruit that it is wrong for a man to lay hands on his wife in violence. Why the mushy politicizing language?

    Who is he really protecting here by talking this way?

    • Not Too Late

      Firstly, to Anonymous100, too right! The statement is not only delusional, it goes against what is standard knowledge in the field. Abuse is not caused by the actions of the victim and cannot be healed by the victim. Absolutely basic.
      B.i.t., you asked, why it is he was not clear on the matter of divorce? My own thinking is that Christian teachers are afraid to soften that because of Malachi 2:16. If they only knew that it did not condemn divorce per se, they would not take such a strong stance against divorce.

      • Barnabasintraining

        But my point is, he didn’t take a strong stand against divorce. He took an appropriately strong stand against abuse, but with divorce he took a mushy stand, not quite yes or no. If he believes God does not allow divorce for abuse, then why did he not say so plainly? Why say “does not automatically” and “not always an option”? These qualifiers leave room. What does he need room for?

        And if he believes God does allow divorce for abuse, then why did he not say that?

      • Not Too Late

        Well, I think he has to take a stance against abuse, but he can’t soften the divorce position because of Mal 2:16. He sounds like the average evangelical pastor who believes that abuse is not of God, but stops short of saying that divorce for abuse is permissible. If he says categorically that he doesn’t support divorce, he is inviting a lot of objections based on abuse, and since he says abuse is not acceptable, he has to admit that periodically, just once in a blue moon, divorce for “severe” abuse can’t be opposed. These pastors have probably seen horrible cases where divorce seemed the only practical solution, even to those who don’t support divorce for abuse. They know they could not deny that these victims did what was best in their circumstances, so they know that in the real world at least, you have to concede that SOME victims have no option but to divorce. What they can’t seem to reconcile is where you draw the line, since they believe (wrongly) that Malachi 2:16 is the bottom line.

      • Barnabasintraining

        (Not Too Late, I am not arguing with you here but your comments give me the opportunity to get to the heart of my main issue. The criticism is directed at MacArthur, not you, in case there would be a question on that.)

        If he says categorically that he doesn’t support divorce, he is inviting a lot of objections based on abuse, and since he says abuse is not acceptable, he has to admit that periodically, just once in a blue moon, divorce for “severe” abuse can’t be opposed.

        Right. There is a cost to either position for or against divorce for abuse that he is going to have to pay, and he’s going to have to pay for one or the other because not quite no is not an acceptable or morally correct position, or way to express his position. Nor it is God’s position because God is not yes and no. He asks, “How long halt ye between two positions?” And then demands a side be picked. He despises lukewarm neither hot nor coldness. In speaking as he did, MacArthur chose the imaginary and completely unacceptable middle ground. Or more precisely non ground of a not quite position.

        What they can’t seem to reconcile is where you draw the line, since they believe (wrongly) that Malachi 2:16 is the bottom line.

        Which wrong belief makes God the author of this confusion.

        I am certain MacArthur does not actually believe God is the author of confusion, and I’m sure he realizes that is not limited to order in the worship service.

        There are at least 2 possible reasons he did not speak clearly on this matter: 1) he does not want to pay the cost of looking like a monster for denying divorce to an abuse victim; 2) he does not want to pay the cost of being branded a heretic for supporting divorce for abuse and thereby going “soft” on divorce.

        A third reason could be he does not really feel settled in his heart on which is the correct position, which is fair enough up to a point. However, were this the case (and I don’t believe it is), then he should have said so. He could easily and rightly say the matter of divorce for abuse is controversial among believers. He could follow that with saying he has not come to a conclusion on the matter himself to support or oppose it, if that is indeed the case (again, I don’t believe it is), and therefore cannot morally counsel on the matter. But he does not do this at all. On the contrary, he seems to be assured of what he is talking about — assured but uncomfortable or he would not need qualifiers, as he did not need qualifiers in talking about abuse. And he did counsel on the matter, but delicately circumvented the issue of divorce in his words while leaving no practical room for conclusion or application of divorce as an option, though his words suggest such should be the case.

        In other words, he gets all the credit of saying divorce for abuse is forbidden without having to pay the cost of looking like a monster because he never did actually say that, exactly. All the benefits, none of the cost — except to victims, who are softly and delicately denied freedom.

        If these qualifiers serve a legitimate purpose, I have yet to figure out what it is.

        What I see as his legitimate1 options are:

        –Divorce for abuse is unbiblical and you may not do it. I might like to say otherwise but Malachi 2:16 seems to forbid me doing so.

        –Divorce for abuse is certainly a biblical option per the understanding of 1 Cor 7 as not limited to physical desertion, plus a number of other passages that suggest this is an acceptable remedy in God’s sight. You may feel free to pursue it according to the Spirit’s leading.

        –I am not settled in my position on the matter of divorce for abuse and therefore by moral necessity must limit my comments to the areas I am certain of: God hates abuse and you are free to seek safety. Beyond that I cannot go at this time.

        He does none of these. Instead he uses qualifiers.

        Qualifiers which discourage without actually voicing denial that he may or may not intend — from a man who knows perfectly well how to be clear when he wants to — just reek of lukewarm neither yes nor no middle / non groundism for the purpose of political expediency. In short, compromise. This is my major concern. And frankly, it is what I believe he is doing. To convince me otherwise would require him to explain without qualifiers what his reasons were for using qualifiers in this way, and part of that explanation would have to include a clear and unqualified statement of whether divorce for abuse is or is not a biblical option.

        As it is, what I see is from a leader among Christians we have neither good counsel nor good example on handling a controversial issue. Or stated more plainly, we have both bad counsel and a bad example of handling a controversial issue. And this is a man whose example, good or bad, is followed by a great many people, especially men, many of them pastors and leaders in their own communities. Are they going to pick up the “qualify your answer” lesson by example?

        It would not be correct to say I don’t care what MacArthur’s position on divorce for abuse is. I would rather he sided with us on this and did so openly. But he should at least own his own position and speak it clearly, and a man of his stature in the Christian community has no excuse to do otherwise. He is held to a higher judgment than most because of his celebrity status.

        He needs to do better than this. He knows how to do better than this. But he does not do it here.

        1Legitimate in the sense that they are honest, not necessarily correct.

      • Not Too Late

        I am certain MacArthur does not actually believe God is the author of confusion, and I’m sure he realizes that is not limited to order in the worship service.

        Here’s where I think cognitive dissonance would come in. They say it happens to victims who justify staying with violent intimate partners, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t be a factor in Christian counselors who can’t bring together two opposing beliefs. On the one hand, you witness abuse and insist that the victim should not be subjected to that kind of treatment, but on the other, you feel obliged to propagate the “no-divorce-for-abuse” advice.

        There are at least 2 possible reasons he did not speak clearly on this matter: 1) he does not want to pay the cost of looking like a monster for denying divorce to an abuse victim; 2) he does not want to pay the cost of being branded a heretic for supporting divorce for abuse and thereby going “soft” on divorce.

        The 2 reasons certainly seem to be the primary reasons for most counselors and pastors I know of. Does that remind you of the Pharisees when Jesus asked them if the baptism of John was from God or man? They did not want to pay the cost of unpopularity with the Jews, yet they didn’t want to acknowledge that John the Baptist could have been from God.

        A third reason could be he does not really feel settled in his heart on which is the correct position, which is fair enough up to a point. However, were this the case (and I don’t believe it is), then he should have said so.

        But saying so would be committing himself to finding a conclusion at some point in time. As a teacher, you can’t be unsure of something indefinitely. However, the reasons above would stop him from trying to resolve the issue any time soon.

        In other words, he gets all the credit of saying divorce for abuse is forbidden without having to pay the cost of looking like a monster because he never did actually say that, exactly. All the benefits, none of the cost — except to victims, who are softly and delicately denied freedom.

        And that, I think, is why most evangelical pastors, teachers and counselors sound fuzzy on the issue. Some take the stance of no divorce at all, and are prepared to face the objections that come with it. But most don’t want to appear the “monster” and lose their popularity. Straddling the fence is what they end up doing, hoping to minimize the loss of followers. If only they knew there was an easier way to resolve this – study the Scriptures! Malachi 2:16 is NOT a blanket condemnation of divorce!

  17. Shane

    I see I’m way late to this party and I’m certain I would be on this sites “black list” of pastors/teachers. That said, I’ve read several of the comments above and in the sea of points and counter points I am left at the end of the day with the scripture. Of which does not instruct anywhere from Gen to Rev that abuse be it physical or emotional makes provision for divorce. Scripture is clear wherever it speaks. Certainly it speaks to this issue.

    • Annie

      That Scripture speaks to this issue in the way you believe it does is precisely the point being contended here. You obviously don’t agree that Scripture does make provision for divorce. We do. The counter points you have cannot simply be “the scripture” as the Scripture is precisely what we use to counter the traditional position that divorce is unbiblical. I am not sure what specific problems you have with the position put forward by Not Under Bondage, or A Cry for Justice, since that position seems exegetically sound. Unless you can show clearly how it’s not, you don’t seem to be adding to the conversation.

    • Shane, I add my voice to the Annie and PW’s. I suggest that you read my book Not Under Bondage to see if you interpretation of the scriptural passages on divorce needs to be recalibrated.

    • Shane, the second (much longer) comment you submitted will not be published. The arguments you put forward in that comment are all rebutted in my book.

    • UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      Shane, you may like to read this post which Jeff Crippen published today.
      Nope! You Can’t “Have Your Say” Here at ACFJ if Your Words Traumatize Others

  18. thepersistentwidow

    Shane, You are viewing Scripture in a legalistic and simplistic manner. If you had been present when Jesus and his disciples picked grain, or on any of the many occasions that Jesus healed on the Sabbath, your hermeneutics would have put you soundly in the Pharisee’s camp. Please order a copy of Barb’s book, Not Under Bondage, or ask your public library to do so for you. You need more information on this subject.

  19. Sarah

    I think the biggest problem is the belief abusive spouses have an ‘anger management problem.’ Abuse is systematic, cruel, habitually and continual sin.

    Also, John MacArthur fails to understand abuse and victim-hood are taught in families, on a daily basis. If we want abuse to end for our children and grandchildren, we need to end it for today’s victims – and perpetrators. The victims need our support to become survivors and the perpetrators need us to stand up to them and call them out.

    Discipline the perpetrators and protect the victims.

    • And let’s also remember that while abuse is modelled in families where an abuser is weilding power and control, not all children who grow up in such households will go on to become perps or victims. As far as I can remember from my reasonably wide reading in the statistics of domestic abuse, here’s how it tends to work:

      Boys who grow up seeing their father figure abuse their mother figure, will have a somewhat greater likelihood of becoming abusers themselves. But many boys in such households do NOT become abusers in adulthood.
      Boys who grew up in houses where they did not witness abuse can still become perpetrators of abuse in adulthood; this seems to be at least partly due to the fact that our overall culture gives so many messages of male superiority and female objectification that any male who chooses to harden his heart can get lots of supportive messages from the culture that feed and confirm his sense of entitlement.

      Girls who grow up witnessing their mother being abused by a man will have a somewhat greater likelihood of becoming victims of domestic abuse in adulthood. That same increased risk is seen in girls who were sexually abused in childhood.
      But quite a few girls grew up in houses where there was no abuse, yet still become victims of domestic abuse in adulthood. That speaks to how cunning and charming abusers can be in hiding most of their true colors from their targets during the early stages of the relationship. And it also speaks to the way our culture (and many sections of the church) teach females to defer, self-deprecate, submit to men, etc etc, much more than boys are taught to defer, self-deprecate and submit.

      So culture plays quite a big role in this. Family modelling is not everything. And the biggest factor of all, I believe, when it comes to who ends up being a perpetrator, is that individual’s choice — the choice to harden their heart and the decision to resist taking personal responsibility for living in a pro-social manner that is respectful of the needs and wishes and rights of others.

      • Anonymous

        Research from international organisations such as World Health Organization and European Commission, as well as peak bodies for domestic violence, indicate that domestic violence is more likely to occur where cultures condone and justify attitudes of entitlement of a husband over his wife. That is why Lundy Bancroft insists that a perpetrator of abuse in the US does not need to have come from an abusive family of origin, he only needs to have been exposed to Hollywood movies!

        According to most experts, then, violence against women is strongly correlated with institutional factors. That’s not in any way saying that domestic violence against males does not happen, but different factors are at work there [ie. when the perpetrator is female -Eds], e.g. dysfunctional family of origin and upbringing, personality disorders and mental illnesses. Violence against women, however, is predicted to be more prevalent in communities that let perpetrators off the hook and hold victim-blaming attitudes. In fact, from the following statements, by the Foundation to Prevent Violence against Women and Children, we can infer that churches with strong patriarchal attitudes may be breeding places for domestic violence.

        “Levels of domestic violence are measurably higher across the whole population in societies where laws, institutions and cultural beliefs promote or support stereotypical or rigid roles for men and women, and where women have less access to power and resources than men.
        –Individuals (men and women) who do not believe men and women are equal, and/or see them as having specific roles or characteristics, are more likely to condone, tolerate or excuse domestic violence.
        –Within intimate relationships, male dominance and control of wealth is a significant predictor of higher levels of violence.
        –At the individual level, the most consistent predictor for support of violence by men is their agreement with sexist, patriarchal and/or sexually hostile attitudes.”

  20. Better Equipped

    There is no debate here … JM is not a Good Samaritan! Amazing how he comes to the ‘defense of the gospel’ yet the entire image (Christ on the cross) and message of the gospel (it is for freedom that Christ has set you free – Galatians) is about redeeming the oppressed.

    Perhaps ‘over-education’ blinds people to the simplicity of obvious love and truth that an intimate relationship with the Lord gives. For even a child would flee abuse and not feel guilt for doing so! JM’s portrait of God at heart-level is legalistic. He, as did the Pharisees, points to the scriptures as though they give eternal life, when the scriptures point to Christ who actually is Life. The letter kills the Spirit gives life – JM’s words in the quote kill.

    • Perhaps ‘over-education’ blinds people to the simplicity of obvious love and truth that an intimate relationship with the Lord gives.

      I believe that the curriculum in the vast majority of seminaries is woefully deficient when it comes to teaching about evil and the mindset of of evil-doers who maquerade in the church as Christians. But I don’t think that ‘over-education’ always or necessarily blinds people to the simplicity of obvious love and truth that an intimate relationship with the Lord gives. If a person is truly regenate and knows Christ personally, and that person gets a lot of education, they still will discern and sense what parts of the education they are getting are false and what parts are true. It may take some time to sort the truth from the falsehoods, but the Spirit will always lead them into truth in the end.

      The people in academia who are teaching Pharisaism under the guise of Christianity must, I believe, be doubted to really know Christ. If they knew Christ, they would not be so enamoured with the pride of Pharisaism.

  21. Debbie

    Where do I start with John MacArthur? His tie to Growing Kids Gods Way? His horrific advice to parents of gay children? Strange fire? And now this?

  22. Dan

    I guess I don’t see what ya’alls problem is with this. I thought it was pretty helpful. Thank you Jeff for posting this on here.

    • Hello Dan,
      What ‘problem’ were you referring to?

  23. Bj

    Verbal abuse is just as dangerous. A woman must physically leave the home with her children. When you wonder how a woman could stay, remember this is ungodly control. If the church looks the other way, there is always a shelter or someone online renting a room. Help them! How about the woman taken, in the act, to be stoned? Jesus didn’t say, just be kind, use a soft voice, you deserve this, after a few blows you’ll be disassociated and it won’t hurt anymore – He did say you could divorce due to a hardened heart or infidelity and I did. Perhaps if the church taught husband’s to love their wives as Jesus loved the church, future generations of women and children will not needlessly suffer.

  24. Celine

    Amen. This teaching is the most Biblical. Sufferings remind us that our life here is temporary.

    • Hi Celine — Welcome to the blog! 🙂 We always like to encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  25. AnotherKim

    I agree with him. He is not in anyway advising the victim to stay. I was sexually assaulted, physically and emotionally abused from 3 (memories start at 6) to 13. Some instances so traumatic my mind has blocked. But have many memories unfortunately. They are wicked. I am 48 and I serve God. Prayer for the wicked is what we are called to do. We are also called to FLEE the wicked. I’m not sure what was so offensive about what he said. Could you further explain?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Kim – MacArthur does indeed advise abuse victims to remain married to the abuser. He teaches that God does not permit divorce for abuse. While MacArthur says that he allows for a woman to flee to safety the fact is that he will ultimately be telling her that God wants her to suffer, to stay married to the abuser, and thereby be more “godly.”

    • Hi, I changed your screen name to AnotherKim, as we already have one Kim who comments regularly on this blog.

      I encourage you to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might want to look at our FAQ page.

  26. Anon32

    [April 7, 2022: We found — and added the link to — the Dialogue on Divorce transcript from which Anon32 quoted. We have replaced the text Anon32 quoted from the transcript with the exact text from the transcript. The only real change to the text of the transcript that Anon32 quoted was to the formatting of the text, as well as the correction of typos. Editors.]

    I was reading a transcript today of a Q & A MacArthur did in 1979 called “Dialogue for [on] Divorce” and now am reading this from 2012. Did MacArthur change his views from 1979 to 2012?

    MacArthur quote:

    Q: ….What do you recommend in your counseling where there is child molestation or wife beating or extreme alcoholism or some of those situations that – that become not just marginal but really intolerable for a wife, we’ll say?

    A: I think that 1 Corinthians 7:10 says, very simply, I’ll read it to you, that there is an answer to that, and I think perhaps that’s what is in view in this text. It says, “If she divorces” – and it doesn’t give you any reason here, just says if she divorces – “let her remain unmarried or be reconciled to her husband, but don’t let the husband divorce his wife.” What it’s saying there is there may be a situation without adultery where you divorce, and it may be – and in my mind, it’s one of those kind of situations. You know, I can’t counsel a mother who says, you know, “What am I going to do? This man has committed incest with my child and he beats me up and et cetera, beats up the children and so forth and so on. Do I just sit there and take it? And the chairs on my head, and the stuff he throws at me, and the cigarette burns on my arm” – battered wives and all this stuff. What do I do? Well, certainly there is nothing in the Bible that says you just stand around until you’re beaten to a pulp. You know, God has built into the human being a certain sense of self-preservation, right? And it’s normal to separate yourself in that kind of a situation. And maybe that’s what Paul is thinking about. There may come circumstances where divorce occurs, but if it isn’t on biblical grounds, that’s it. I mean, you can remain unmarried or be reunited….

    • [April 7, 2022: We added the link to the Answering the Key Questions About the Family [Internet Archive link] article from which Barb quoted. Editors.]

      Hi Anon32, I gather this quote you gave from MacArthur is from his 1979 talk “Dialogue on Divorce”.

      It doesn’t sound to me like MacArthur changed his mind.

      In “Dialogue on Divorce” MacArthur said:

      ….there may be a situation without adultery where you divorce…. There may come circumstances where divorce occurs, but if it isn’t on biblical grounds, that’s it. I mean, you can remain unmarried or be reunited….

      In “Answering the Key Questions About the Family” he said:

      Divorce is not always an option, either – Scripture does not automatically permit divorce in the case of a physically abusive husband.

      So in both instances he says that divorce may be an option, but he makes it pretty clear that it’s only permissible in very extreme cases of abuse. And in “Dialogue on Divorce” he maintained that remarriage is not permitted after such a divorce.

      I strongly disagree with MacArthur’s take on this, as you probably know.

      • Anon32

        Thank you. I did get that from Dialogue for [on] Divorce and I appreciate your feedback. I even printed it and wrote next to it “he’s talking out of two sides of his mouth it seems” because it doesn’t make sense – at first it sounds like he is saying it can be allowed in severe cases and in the next he’s saying divorce isn’t allowed. Based on his other works, which I’ve been searching like crazy this week, I think he believes it isn’t allowed. That’s really quite wrong. Loving the institution over the individuals just doesn’t square with the God I know.

      • Talking out of two sides of his mouth

        —that is a characteristic of John MacArthur and many other big shots in the visible church.

        They walk the line. They dance on the fence. They know they will lose followers if they take a strong stand. R. C. Sproul was a case in point, in our view. As are many others, including Leslie Vernick and Chris Moles.

      • Liz

        Wait, Leslie Vernick? Noooooo….

      • Yes. If you want to understand why we think Leslie Vernick dances on the fence, read the links we give at the start of this post.

  27. Lori Harvey

    I see nothing wrong with what MacArthur said and it’s common sense he’s speaking to a Christian audience. He makes it clear a woman is not expected to just submit to a dangerous situation and take it. I’m a woman and my father was abusive to my mother and nothing in MacArthurs words have offended me and made my blood boil because I’m smart enough to realize there is a context here and listening to MacArthur teach for nearly twenty years now I know his heart on this topic. Cherry pick if you so choose though for an agenda.

    • Hello Lori Harvey, you wrote: “I’m smart enough to realize there is a context here and listening to MacArthur teach for nearly twenty years now I know his heart on this topic.”

      Do you mean that victims of abuse are not as smart as you are?

      Do you mean you can read John MacArthur’s heart and thoughts? Are you a mind reader?

      I strongly deny that our post is cherry picking for an agenda. I reject that claim you made and I ask you to reconsider and apologise to us.

      Just because there is nothing in MacArthur’s words that has offended you or made your blood boil, that does not mean his words are not offensive to me and to many of the other readers of this blog.

      Yes, it is common sense to not submit to an abusive situation, but MacArthur does not talk about all the non-physical kinds of abuse which are done by the domestic abusers.

      I have observed over many years that followers of John MacArthur vociferously defend him to the hilt, even when well people give well reasoned critiques of MacArthur’s published works. Their defence of J Mac reminds me of celebrity worship on steroids.


  1. Quick Update « Thoroughly Christian Divorce

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