A Cry For Justice

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

Cool, Objective Academia Has its Place — But not Always

I have been thinking a lot lately about how we are often pressured, especially in the world of theology and writing and blogging, to maintain a cool professionalism that never gets torqued.  A polite respectability if you will that leaves room for honest debate on an issue without attacking the other person personally (ad hominem as they say – “against the man”).  And certainly this is proper and right in many situations.  For example, if we are debating whether the Son has eternally been subordinate to the Father (not in being, but in role), or whether this subordination began only when the Son became incarnate, then all respect is due one party to the other.  What is the precise nature of the Lord’s Supper?  Is biblical eschatology pre-, post-, or a- millennial? Those sorts of things.

But there are other debates in which I reject the charge of being “too emotional” about. In fact, I maintain that anyone debating these kinds of issues had good and well better be emotional. Angry if you will. And even that we have the right and duty to charge the opponent with, well, sin.

Abuse is an arena that needs to be emotionally charged.  This is something that we need to be angry about, as the recently-posted article by Lundy Bancroft said.  Oh, not angry all the time and in every discussion – some people just need to hear the facts about abuse and how victims are being dealt great injustice in our churches.  But I am talking about people who actively, stubbornly, and often arrogantly push injustice and oppression onto victims through their Pharisaical and “lording it over” attitude.

Yes, I have an example.  The “permanence view” of marriage.

When I read a book or hear a church leader or someone like that teaching and writing and insisting that the Bible teaches that marriage cannot be broken for any reason, that even if a spouse leaves and marries another, the wronged party cannot remarry as long as that spouse is still alive, and that if they do file the divorce papers, for example, for ANY reason, or if they remarry while the ex-spouse is still alive (even thought that ex is the one who departed the marriage), then they are subject to church discipline – I get angry. And if I ever get into a debate with one of these types and they are hard-headed and arrogant, then I am going to right out tell them that what they are teaching is wicked and that it is oppressing the weak and they are lording it over Jesus’ people.  This is no mere cool, objective, academic debate issue.

Think about it.  Church leaders who embrace this permanence business exalt themselves above many, many other godly men and women in the history of the church and in the present church who reject that position.  Yet the permanence guys insist they are right.  In fact, they are so confident that they are right that they are willing to label any member of their church who divorces or remarries as an unrepentant sinner who must be ex-communicated from their church. If that is not lording it over the flock, then I don’t know what is.  Think it through carefully. What must go on in a church leader’s mind for him to be willing to enforce this on people? And to teach it from their pulpit as being the only true interpretation of the difficult issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage?  I conclude that it takes tremendous arrogance mixed with at least a sprinkling of the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John).

“Oh, but that is too harsh, Jeff. You need to be more like Christ here and not be so emotional or angry. That’s not very scholarly.”  Really? I simply give this as my answer:

Matthew 23:1-7
(1) Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,
(2) “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat,
(3) so practice and observe whatever they tell you — but not what they do. For they preach, but do not practice.
(4) They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger.
(5) They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long,
(6) and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues
(7) and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others.

Matthew 23:23-24
(23) “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.
(24) You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

Cool? Non-emotional? Respectful of the opponent? No way. What, are we going to say? That Christ wasn’t very Christian here?

Now, you might be thinking – “boy, but are these fellows who teach the permanence view of marriage really to be labeled by us as being of the same ilk as those Pharisees Jesus blasted? Are we saying that they preach, but do not practice? That they tie up heavy burdens and lay them on people all the while refusing to carry that burden themselves? Are we claiming that they love to be….first?”

Well, just think it through again. What kind of person does it take to preach and teach that the Bible forbids divorce for ANY reason, and that re-marriage is adultery (if an ex-spouse is still living), and THEN to make those teachings binding, upon pain of ex-communication? What kind of person does it take to elevate oneself to that kind of position?

Think about it long enough and you will have your answer. And you will be ticked off.

Note: Pastor David Dykstra of Grace Covenant Baptist Church in Willis, Texas recently gave a lecture at his church on this very topic.  You can listen to it at Thoughts on the Permanence View of Marriage    Many thanks to Pastor Dykstra.

20 Comments

  1. It is interesting that as I read comments on the Internet about flashpoint issues such as same sex marriage, angry Christians trot out the example of Jesus with a whip to justify their behavior and attitude. However, what they miss is that Jesus displayed anger, not at the worldly folks, but at the religious leaders who were in positions to represent God’s truth and misused it. If we ever wanted an example of where it is right to be angry, scripture give us far more cases of the religious leadership oppressing and misleading his people than worldly people for being worldly.

    So I absolutely agree when there are religious leaders who will place people into bondage like this, the anger is a healthy response and a call to repentance is warranted.

    • I totally agree. The same people who will give infinite tongue lashings to the world on the subject of homosexuality will immediately shut their mouths when it regards someone like CJ Mahaney.
      And there you have it.
      JeffC – I’m so glad that you never back down. 🙂

    • I agree with you, Jeff S. I actually just read that passage the other day and wondered how long it took Jesus to put that whip together. I don’t know if He had to take the time to do it . . . it seems like something that would take time (I could be wrong). The Bible says that He made it. I imagine Him standing off to the side, making that whip, growing angrier and angrier at the religious leaders who were exploiting His House and His People. It was calculated . . . it wasn’t something where He flew off the handle, allofasudden. He had to *make the whip*. Jeff C, you are doing just that. And so many others on this blog. We are angry at the injustice . . . so we figure out what to do . . . but are still angry.

      This here . . . is SO GOOD:

      “What must go on in a church leader’s mind for him to be willing to enforce this on people? And to teach it from their pulpit as being the only true interpretation of the difficult issue of marriage, divorce, and remarriage? I conclude that it takes tremendous arrogance mixed with at least a sprinkling of the spirit of Diotrephes (3 John).”

      All I can imagine when I thinking about what must go through a man’s mind is just . . . condemnation, and arrogance, and superiority.

      • Katy

        Meg I never thought about that before…he had to *make the whip*. He was not “flying off the handle in an emotional fit”
        Interesting. I will have to ponder this 😛

      • I love when you ponder, Katy. 🙂

      • Anonymous

        He drove them out, because they were making it practically impossible for the people to get to God. They drove up the prices, so that people could not afford to pay the price to get their sacrifice. So, Jesus drove them out, so the people could come to God. Interesting. Looks like we got us some driving out to do…

      • Jeff Crippen

        Indeed we do!

  2. Barnabasintraining

    That was a really good sermon but I have a question. Does Pastor Dykstra hold to divorce for abuse? I know he mentioned Jeff C favorably, but I am not quite clear where he draws the line on issues that fall outside sexual sin. [Editors’ note added August, 2019: Dykstra is to be abhorred for defending convicted child abuser Tom Chantry.]

    • Jeff Crippen

      Barnabas- yes he does absolutely. He affirms divorce for abuse as we define abuse. He “gets it.”

      • Barnabasintraining

        Oh excellent! Glad to hear that!

        The whole thing does get the blood boiling, doesn’t it? I also appreciated Dykstra’s quote from Owen, who seemed to realize there is a just God in heaven. [Editors’ note added August, 2019: Dykstra is to be abhorred for defending convicted child abuser Tom Chantry.]

        I cannot for the life of me understand what these other people are thinking.

  3. Now Free

    Can you imagine Jesus never getting angry? It would be like trying to identify with a paper cut out!
    Jesus’ anger was a pure anger that honoured God. It burned pure and bright and holy,

  4. Anon

    This is a really important sticky issue. The number of times nice Christian people would look at me and react to the level of emotion rather than listen to the words. I remember once trying to explain to a “nice Christian” woman that abused Christian wives do not typically turn into hateful, bitter women as she insisted, and that maybe she was mistaking anger for vengeful hate. Her response was to say that all anger had to be left at the Cross and not expressed!

    What a lot of bystanders don’t realize as well is that rage is a natural reaction of the body to fearful, traumatic injuries. It is part of God’s wiring of our bodies to cope. If we allow that rage to be expressed appropriately, with without being overwhelmed, and supported by an empathetic person, it helps decrease future development of post-traumatic symptoms. What people are doing by suppressing the rage is ensuring the future occurrence of PTSD. So much for wanting to be agents of God’s wholeness and healing to the Body of Christ.

  5. “Yet the permanence guys insist they are right. In fact, they are so confident that they are right that they are willing to label any member of their church who divorces or remarries as an unrepentant sinner who must be ex-communicated from their church. If that is not lording it over the flock, then I don’t know what is.”

    Jeff, frankly, I don’t believe this is an accurate statement. The permanence folks may INSIST they are right, but I am not convinced they truly BELIEVE they are right. I don’t see how any true student of the Bible could believe that.

    Neither Jesus, Moses, nor Paul taught the doctrine being expounded by the permanence folks. To hold to such a view and insist one is right, to the point of being willing to ex-communicate an abuse survivor over questions of divorce and remarriage is to set one’s self up as higher than Paul, Moses, and Jesus…all while neglecting the admonishment of Christ to display love and compassion. I am not convinced they can truly believe what they teach…but I am convinced it requires extreme pride to teach such things.

    Even the tone of their sermons drips with pride and self-righteousness.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Joe- yes, very good point. So it may be more about “you will do what we say” than anything else. Thanks Joe

      • It almost seems to be a position of, “since Jesus equated unjust treacherous divorce and remarriage with adultery, we’re going to one-up Jesus and say that marriage is permanent and divorce is not recognized under any circumstances…and anyone who disagrees with our self-exalting position will be required to leave our church and find another place to worship.”

        Even their oft-held position of “if you disagree with us, you’re free to worship elsewhere” is SO prideful! Essentially, they are saying, “yes we recognize that you can disagree with our position and still be a part of the body of Christ…a part of Christ’s church. However, you cannot disagree with our position and be a part of OUR church…because OUR church is so much holier than Christ’s church…”

        Truly bizarre! True blindness!

  6. Dave Dykstra

    I think my sermon entitled The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Anger ( sermon audio ) might be of help on this subject. [Editors’ note added August, 2019: Dykstra is to be abhorred for defending convicted child abuser Tom Chantry.]

    • Thanks David. I put the link into your comment so readers can easily find that sermon.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Excellent!

  7. Finding Answers

    (Airbrushing…..bouncing up and down in my chair…)

    MeganC commented: All I can imagine when I thinking about what must go through a man’s mind is just . . . condemnation, and arrogance, and superiority.

    This attitude was so prevalent in the field in which I last worked. (It was not within the Christian community.) There were so many “tin pot gods”, wielding the combined weapons of academia and fear.

    I would get so angry! Not foot-stomping, spit-in-your-face angry. Passionate, yes. Factual, yes. Saying, “you must…”, no. Providing information, providing possible contacts, providing launching off points based on what they were able to cope with in the moment.

    Some wanted the decision made for them. Nope. Couldn’t legally, nor would I take their power away by deciding for them. In some cases, where they were being pressured by the “authorities”, I suggested they review other equally skilled / knowledgeable experts who advocated taking time to work through all the options prior to reaching a decision.

    In this particular field, the abuse of power is widespread.

    Pastor Jeff wrote: But there are other debates in which I reject the charge of being “too emotional” about. In fact, I maintain that anyone debating these kinds of issues had good and well better be emotional. Angry if you will. And even that we have the right and duty to charge the opponent with, well, sin.

    and also But I am talking about people who actively, stubbornly, and often arrogantly push injustice and oppression onto victims through their Pharisaical and “lording it over” attitude.

    Amen and Amen.

    Different field….same statements apply.

    • Finding Answers

      Adding on to my own comment…..

      Now I can actually FEEL the anger, not just sense-feel it.

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