A Cry For Justice

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

Bruce Ware teaches that a wife’s lack of submission threatens her husband’s authority, and he responds to this threat by abusing her (ESS part 3)

Here is what Bruce Ware teaches — When women challenge their husband’s authority by wanting to have their own way rather than submitting to their husbands, one of the ways husbands respond to that ‘threat to their authority’ is by becoming abusive.

Ware explains male-on-female domestic abuse as follows: Wives threaten their husbands’ authority by not submitting to them, and husbands respond to that threat either by becoming abusive, or by acquiescing and sinfully abrogating their authority.

We know this because of what Ware said in his talk A Complementarian Vision of Creation which he gave at Denton Bible Church on June 22, 2008. Why am I writing about this now, eight years later? Because Ware has never retracted that teaching, and it is appropriate to spotlight what he thinks about domestic abuse because Ware has been in the headlines recently due to his doctrine that there are Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission within the Trinity (ERAS).

Ware maintains that

The Father is supreme over all, and in particular, he is supreme within the Godhead as the highest in authority and the one deserving of ultimate praise. (link)

The authority-obedience relation of Father and Son in the immanent [eternal] trinity is mandatory if we are to account for God the Father’s eternal purpose to elect and save his people through his beloved Son. (link)

Ware has been displaying a determined resistance against changing his doctrine of ERAS, despite the sound arguments which many respected scholars, pastors and teachers have made against it, and despite the grave concerns many people have about ERAS.

Bruce Ware’s notion of male authority in marriage is bulwarked by his belief that the Son is eternally submitted to the Father. His doctrine of ERAS is dangerous.

One reason ERAS is dangerous is that it is used to coerce women into submission to abusive husbands. Here is a quote from Bruce Ware’s book for children, Big Truths for Young Hearts: Teaching and Learning the Greatness of God:

The Father is highest in authority, the Son is under the Father, and the Spirit is under the Father and the Son. But there is not the slightest hint of discontent in this order. Rather, there is joy and fulfillment both in each being fully God and in each working in the proper lines of authority that exist forever in God. A lesson we can learn from this is that lines of authority and submission are true in our human relationships because they are a reflection of what is true in God (see 1 Corinthians 11:3). The Father, Son, and Spirit are fully equal as God, yet they live gladly within lines of authority. So, too, we humans should live both as equals of each other, yet gladly in God-given lines of authority. (link)

Did you notice how Bruce Ware used the S word? (should)  He says that in our human relationships we ‘should’ live gladly, without any discontent, in God-given lines of authority. Need I spell out how this becomes coercive to the wife who is being abused by her husband, or the child who is being abused by his or her parent(s)?  — (trigger warning“You seem to be discontent with God-given lines of authority. You should be respecting the authority of your husband / your parent(s).  You should be glad to submit to their authority. If you love God you will gladly submit to their authority, just as the Son has always been in submission to the Father.”

As I mentioned above, Bruce Ware delivered an address on A Complementarian Vision of Creation at Denton Bible Church on June 22, 2008. Later in this post I’ll give a partial transcript of his address, but first I want to give you a time line of articles related to Bruce Ware’s address.

In 2008, Denny Burk was the editor of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. (He is now President of CBMW). On June 24 (two days after Ware’s talk at Denton Bible Church), Burk wrote an article highly praising Ware’s talk — Bruce Ware’s Complementarian Reading of Genesis.

On June 27, Bob Allen, managing editor of EthicsDaily.com, reported on Ware’s address — Southern Baptist Scholar Links Spouse Abuse to Wives’ Refusal to Submit to Their Husbands.  In his opening sentence, Bob Allen noted that Bruce Ware made a causal link between wives’ behavior and their husband’s responses—

One reason that men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband’s God-given authority, a Southern Baptist scholar said Sunday in a Texas church.

After Bob Allen’s June 27 report was published, Denny Burk added an update to his article, labelling the Ethics Daily June 27 report as a “scurrilous, patently false” account of what Bruce Ware had said. Burk also called on Ethics Daily to retract and apologize for their story which he claimed had ‘borne false witness’.

Was the Ethics Daily report scurrilous and patently false? Did it bear false witness? Let’s examine the evidence for ourselves.

Here is my partial transcript of Ware’s talk at Denton Bible Church

The transcript starts from 8:35 in the audio. See for yourself whether Ethics Daily misinterpreted what Bruce Ware said:

The complementarian view holds that God created us as men and women with a design in which, yes, we are equal in essence, we both are fully human, male and female, equally image of God. And yet, God designed that there be an authority and submission relationship in that male/female structure.  So that God intended in creation for there to be male headship in the relationship between Adam and woman in the garden, and he [Adam] had authority, he had ultimate responsibility.

What happens in sin is that that very wise and good plan of God, of male headship, is sought to be overturned — as women now (as sinners) want instead to have their way, instead of submitting to their husbands to do what they would like to do — and [women] seek to work to have their husbands fulfill their will, rather than serving them.

And the husbands on their part (because they’re sinners) now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive —which is, of course, one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged — or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescing and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches.

Later in the talk, Ware used very much the same phraseology when discussing Genesis 3:16. He interpreted the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 exactly as Susan Foh* interpreted it — a desire to usurp her husband’s authority. And then he said this explains why a husband abuses his wife.  Let’s pick up the audio from 46:47 —

Go back to [Genesis] 3:16. Here is what God is saying. The curse is this: that the woman, though she is created to be helper to her husband, assist her husband, submit to her husband, though that’s her created design, what will she want to do because of sin? Her desire will be to usurp her husband’s authority. Her desire will be to have her way rather than his way — because she’s a sinner.

Now what will he do because he’s a sinner? He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen through ruling that is abusive and oppressive (and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that). But here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened: he can acquiesce, he can become passive, he can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to be the leader in the relationship.

I think it is clear. Bruce Ware definitely taught that a wife’s lack of submission threatens her husband’s authority, and he responds to this threat by abusing her.

Can anyone honestly deny that Ware wasn’t talking about cause and effect? No! He was implying a causal link. He was saying that A is the reason for B. In fact, he was inferring that a husband almost can’t help himself because “he will have to rule”.

Trigger warning… this is a paraphrase of Ware’s formulation —

Wives want to have their own way, and husbands respond. Wives sinfully desire to USURP their husbands’ authority, and husbands RESPOND.  The problem starts with the wife. The wife’s attitude explains the husband’s conduct. Her behavior explains his behavior. A gives rise to B — if she were properly submissive to him, he wouldn’t feel threatened. He felt threatened because of how she interacted with him. (She started it!) And if he becomes abusive, well…it’s because she threatened him. She was not being submissive. She was usurping his authority. She was falling short of her duty, her creation-ordained role of being his helper and assistant and following his lead.

v.i.c.t.i.m   b.l.a.m.i.n.g

Did Ethics Daily retract and apologize? Not at all. On July 9 they published another article by Bob Allen, Texas Church Says ‘Egalitarian’ View Not an Option for Evangelicals, which reported again on Ware’s talk and noted how favorably it had been received by Denny Burk from CBWM. Here is an extract from that article —

Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Seminary, suggested women wouldn’t have to worry as much about spousal abuse if they were more obedient to their husbands.

In marital relationships marred by sin, Ware said, wives are tempted to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands. The man’s natural response, he said in remarks reported previously by EthicsDaily.com, is either to become abusive or to acquiesce.

Critics said that blames women for their own abuse and gives men an excuse for battering their wives. Defenders said Ware wasn’t condoning domestic violence but merely explaining it is a fact of life.

Denny Burk, editor for the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, called Ware’s sermon “one of the finest, most succinct presentations of the Complementarian point of view that I have ever heard” in a June 24 blog posting that prompted more than 1,500 responses.

Then, on July 18, Ethics Daily published An Open Letter to Dr. Bruce Ware by Kate Johnson, president of the Christian Coalition Against Domestic Abuse. Kate’s letter was very courteous; she only very lightly questioned a couple of scriptural interpretations Ware had made. Her primary aim was to enlighten Bruce Ware as to how sermons are heard (a) by wives who are being abused and (b) by husbands who are doing the abusing.

Kate pointed out that an abusive husband in the congregation would hear Ware’s phrases “rightful jurisdiction” and “rule over” and come away believing that Ware had endorsed his tactics of bullying and coercive control over his wife. And his wife, sitting next to him in the pew, would hear Ware admonishing her for “not submitting” and for “threatening her husband’s authority” — so whenever she got abused, it was her own fault. Kate put the outcome in a nutshell:

He leaves church telling her, “See, even the pastor says I have a right to take control in my house and that it is your fault I have to be so tough.”
She leaves church thinking, “I will never be good enough to please God.”
He leaves the church very happy. She leaves the church in despair.

Have either of these men changed?

Bruce Ware has never retracted or apologized for what he said at Denton Bible Church. He has denied that his teaching blames women who are victims of spousal abuse. Denny Burk has not retracted his praise of Ware’s talk. Furthermore Denny Burk recently said that while he doesn’t hold exactly the same view of the Trinity as Bruce Ware, he believes that Ware’s concept of the Trinity is not heretical, and that anyone who affirms the Danvers Statement (as Ware does) is welcome in CBMW.

Anything that can be perceived to promulgate domestic abuse is unacceptable

Ware’s teaching can be perceived to promulgate domestic abuse. Kate Johnson’s Open Letter to Bruce Ware made this clear. She was trying to enlighten Ware. Good for her! But as we have so often observed, men like Ware seem to be resistant to being enlightened on this stuff.

Abusive husbands can use Ware’s teaching to excuse the sinful ways they treat their wives. Abusive men can use it to justify their belief that they are entitled to disrespect and hurt women, and to coerce or pressure women into submission.

The ideas held by Ware are often used by pastors to coerce women into submitting to their abusive husbands and keeping silent about their suffering.

The concept of domestic abuse taught by Ware can be perceived and used by ‘biblical counselors’ to minimize male abuse of women, and to lay the blame on the women.

Ware’s teaching on domestic abuse can be used by any Christian to pathologize and blame women who are victims of abuse.  It can be used by any Christian to compound the suffering and entrapment of victims of abuse.

And perhaps most importantly of all, how are Christian women likely to perceive Ware’s teaching? A woman can think Ware’s teaching means that God so firmly endorses husbandly authority that she must submit to her husband’s authority no matter how much he may be controlling her. An abused woman will hear Ware’s teaching as meaning that if she doesn’t submit, she will be defying not only her husband but God — she’ll be flouting the proper lines of authority for human relationships which reflect the lines of authority that exist forever in God. Ware’s teaching is certainly perceived by the abused Christian woman to endorse the claims to authority which her husband and her pastor and all those pink women authors are making when they tell her she must submit.

Anything that can be perceived to promulgate domestic abuse is unacceptable. Bruce Ware’s teaching can be perceived to promulgate domestic abuse; therefore it is unacceptable.


*Here is my post that rebuts Susan Foh’s interpretation of the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16

And here are a couple more articles about Bruce Ware’s talk at Denton Bible church —

Trinity Debate Trickles Down to Gender Roles Bob Allen, Baptist News Global (Nov 5, 2008)

SBC Professor blames wives for husbands’ abuse Danni Moss (June 30, 2008)
Danni was a survivor of domestic abuse; she died of breast cancer some years after escaping her abuser. After Danni’s introduction and comments, the rest of the post reproduces Bob Allen’s June 27 article.  (Note: because Danni has passed on, no-one is moderating or approving comments at her blog, so comments are effectively closed there. Since commenting on her post back in 2008, I have changed my interpretation of the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16, and I would no longer approvingly quote to CBMW’s statement as I did back then.)

Posts in this ESS series

Part 1: It’s vital to talk about motivation in the debate about ‘Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission’ 

Part 2: The ceiling came down, so it’s time to inspect the whole building

Part 3: Is this post.

Part 4: Why I think Wayne Grudem is motivated by an unwillingness to accord full respect to women

Part 5: An open letter to Dr Wayne Grudem

UPDATE: Wendy Alsup has published a post about the talk Bruce Ware gave at Denton Bible Church —  Dr. Bruce Ware Defines the Complementarian Position 

UPDATE: [3 Aug 2017] Authority: Is It Really the Biblical Counterpart to Marital Submission? by Rachel Shubin.  THIS ARTICLE IS BRILLIANT.



  1. Lea

    And the husbands on their part (because they’re sinners) now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive —which is, of course, one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged

    This is such a crazy statement. Does this apply it to any other situations?

    –The Pastor beat his parishioner, because this is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged.
    –The boss murdered his employee, because this is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged.
    –Does Ware apply this to children as well? Men beat their children, because of course this is one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged.

    • Kay

      I like your response, Lea!

  2. Avid Reader

    Wow! That’s really shocking. Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

    The term “lines of authority” mentioned in this article is a concept floating around in the church that came from the teachings of Bill Gothard. He taught that you’re supposed to hear God through the “chain of command” thus putting a mediator between you and God.

    According to 1 Timothy 2:5 there is NO MEDIATOR between us and God because “There is one God, and ONE MEDIATOR between God and men, the man CHRIST JESUS.”

    So whenever you hear the term “lines of authority” remember who the Bible specifically commands us to receive guidance from—the HOLY SPIRIT.

    The true children of God are those who LET God’s Spirit LEAD THEM. Romans 8:14 (ERV)

    Even Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1)—since Jesus is our example it must be really important for the Bible to keep repeating this concept.

  3. Anonymous


    Whenever I see a statement or comment that is teaching on the “levels” of authority, or the hierarchy that we are supposed to follow in the church or in society, I pay attention.

    Hierarchy in the animal kingdom is instinctual / programed. Predator and prey. And the Bible forewarns us that there are people who operate on this same instinctual level–and that these people ARE NOT like people who belong to Jesus (nor do they BELONG to Jesus).

    2 Peter 2:12
    But these, like irrational animals, creatures of instinct, born to be caught and destroyed, blaspheming about matters of which they are ignorant, will also be destroyed in their destruction.

    These people are perpetually jockeying for position. Once we understand the truth of this–that some people ONLY care about rank / position / having authority over those they consider to be inferior to themselves (i.e. people with a conscience and who belong to the Lord), we can learn to stay away from them. Notice what the bible says about them, that they “…will also be destroyed in their destruction.” This is no joke. God HATES these people because they have CHOSEN to hate Him and everyone else.

    (The hierarchy is ALL IMPORTANT to satan and his demons. It comes in second to destroying God’s true children–maybe not though–maybe rank is MORE important than destroying us–good to know if we are doing battle with them…)

    2 Peter 2:10-11 says, “Bold and willful, they do not tremble as they blaspheme the glorious ones, whereas angels, though greater in might and power, do not pronounce a blasphemous judgment against them before the Lord.” The word for “bold and willful” is used only ONCE in the Bible and here’s what it means: “tolmétés: a bold, daring man…. presumptuous man…literally, darers, very bold people who foolishly ignore what should make them afraid, i.e. as they blatantly (boldly) practice their vile, disrespectful acts…. audacious.” (I had to look up the meaning for the word “audacious” and the dictionary defines it this way, “…showing a willingness to take surprisingly bold risks…. showing an impudent lack of respect.”)

    Big yawn. Why do I seem bored by all this evil? Because by now — nearly a decade after God started to deconstruct my life so that He could rebuild it with the truth — I see what Jeff and Barb and all of us hardcore seekers of God’s truth have seen — that we are in the end times and the reason 2 Tim 3 tells us THAT IT’S SUPER-DUPER HARD is because there are SO VERY MANY of these evil-souled creatures, and they are found in the church in positions of authority. Am I actually bored by their evil? No. The “big yawn” is simply that these non-conscienced people are just what they are (what they’ve CHOSEN to be) and I accept this about them and I do not willingly engage them nor do I listen to them.

    BUT, I also know that others have not been allowed to acknowledge the existence of these evil people (who are only masquerading as God’s Elect) due to DELIBERATE and erroneous bible teaching that is rampant in today’s, “I’m okay, you’re okay” feel good theological / psychopath-infested churches.

    Oh my! Was that a little too harsh? Did I offend anyone? Well, let me just make myself even MORE clear… people like Bruce Ware who appears to be obsessed about rank and position and putting women in their place and forcing them to serve men at the expense of their walk with the Lord and denying the Holy Spirit inside of themselves, should be examined by an expert like Dr. Robert Hare or his protégé Kent Kiehl to first ensure we are dealing with someone who can actually care about others because they have a functioning conscience.

    If it’s shown that Dr. Ware DOESN’T have a conscience, there’s nothing he has to say that a Christian should listen to. He is what Jude 1:4 shows us, “For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ.” The word for “have crept in unnoticed” is another word used only ONCE in the Bible and means this, “pareisduó: to settle in alongside… I enter secretly, come in by stealth… i.e. secretly or under pretense…. refers to people who appear to be true Christians, but in reality oppose the faith. 3921 (pareisdýnō) is only used in Jude 4 of those “posing to give help…. [3921 (pareisdýnō) means “to get in by the side, to slip in a side-door.”

    I want to ask the question, “Are we getting it yet?” but I KNOW those of us here DO get it but we are unable to do anything about it in the larger sense — such as showing entire congregations the truth and then doing what Pastor Jeff and his congregation have done which is to call evil ones what they are (evil) and giving them no place to hide by not maintaining an environment where they can perpetuate their evil — thus creating a safe place for God’s true children to grow and thrive in.

    I’ve thought of this many times in the past year or so but I wonder how many of us will actually meet each other during our beheading? If Revelation 20:4 is correct and some of us are to be beheaded for our faith because we live in these end times, how will that look? With our necks stretched out on our very own guillotine, and all of us lined up, side by side each in our own restraint, will we look at each other and say, “Hi! Were you one who commented on ‘A Cry for Justice’ website?” “Yes! I was ‘Anonymous’ with the pink avatar.” “Oh right! I was Un-Tangled, or Standsfortruth….” and we would all be so blessed to finally meet each other in person that our impending death would seem like a coming home celebration. Hey, if I have to be beheaded for my faith — that would be a tolerable way to go.

    • Thanks Anonymous, we held your comment in moderation for a while, because we thought it needed more paragraph breaks to make it easier to read… and we are always trying to make the comments easy to read for our exhausted-by-abuse readers. But I’ve now formatted it with paragraph breaks and some italics on the scripture quotes.

      And I appreciate your prophetic voice. The possibility that we may be beheaded for our faith… but in the lineup before the guillotine we may exchange a few words, words that greatly hearten us…
      thank you!

  4. IamMyBeloved's

    So basically, Ware advocates the sin of abuse by the husband against the wife. By his own words he denies the Scriptures that say a man should love his wife and lay his life down for her. He likewise advocates that a man has infinite wisdom within the marriage and does not need to consider his wife’s opinion or what may be her needs. He also does not see her as a helpmate but as a hindrance to him having his own way within the marriage. In doing this he advocates that the man hold all the power in the marriage. Hence, he advocates the man setting himself up as a god in the home.

    In a nutshell, Ware should be considered a dangerous wolf seated by Satan among the flock. Period.

    Set the red flags a flying. It is our command to do so as lovers of God Almighty and the truth of His Word.

    • Ware advocates the sin of abuse by the husband against the wife.

      Ware would deny this. He says he deplores and condemns the sin of abuse by the husband against the wife.

      And he denies that his teaching gives men an excuse or a justification to abuse their wives.

      …. go figure…. but no matter how much you try, I bet you can’t figure out how he can make sense! So don’t blame yourself if you can’t figure out how he lines up all his beliefs and thinks they are A-Okay.

    • Robert Simpson

      An apt nickname for the professor could be, “B-ware”, as in, “of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.”

      • haha, I’d never seen that! I don’t have a mind that sees puns, but when others find them, I appreciate them.

  5. Anewanon

    Well, Ware got one thing right …. a sinful man WILL respond to his wife, rather than ‘initiate’ seeking the Lord and doing His will as Jesus exemplified when He gave up his rights led His bride to salvation. Jesus did this for husbands, and yet husbands are unwilling to do this for a bride who desires and loves them and would respond likewise. Very sad.

  6. twbtc

    Dear Sister,

    Good spot on noticing the use of Grudem’s name. I have fixed it. Thanks!!

  7. Stronger Now

    I have one question: Does Mr. Ware, elsewhere in this discourse, or anywhere else, consider the concept that an overbearing, controlling, abusive man may “cause” behavior on the part of his wife by that would be less than 100% submissive?

    Does he ever put the shoe on the other foot? Or does the blame only go one way?

    • 3blossommom

      I would like to know this too.

    • Does Mr. Ware, elsewhere in this discourse, or anywhere else, consider the concept that an overbearing, controlling, abusive man may “cause” behavior on the part of his wife by that would be less than 100% submissive?

      So far I have never read anything from Ware in that vein.

  8. 3blossommom

    Disgusting. I have dealt with my husband’s dominance since before we consummated our vows. As we were feeding each other wedding cake, he whispered in my ear that we should be gentle with each other. He then proceeded to forcefully shove the cake up my nose and cause the entire party of guests to laugh. I laughed too, but went to the kitchen to blow cake out of my nose and apply a bit of ice to ease the pain. I played along as happy. After all, hadn’t I just sworn to this man before God and witnesses.

    On our honeymoon he developed the reptilian stare so common among pathological personalities. I actually have him in pictures with the evil blank look on his face. He forcefully announced on our honeymoon that he would not tolerate my nagging. The emotional abuse and manipulation began immediately.

    I spent my entire marriage following the pattern promoted by CBMW. I challenged him perhaps five times in 21 years (only over things upsetting to the kids and never publically or in front of the children) and he used my not perfectly submitting to him as reason for all of his affairs, manipulation, and finally leaving. Mr. Ware and others like him will answer to God even if they do not chose to answer to men and women here on earth.

    I am not likely to jump into the egalitarian camp, but the CBMW becomes more and more offensive and useless to me all the time.

    • G.o.l.l.y.
      He shoved wedding cake up your nose! How awful. 😦 😦 😦

  9. Starlight

    My ex often became abusive when I discovered evidence of his cheating and mentioned it to him.

  10. MarkQ

    Yes, Ware is victim blaming, but beyond that, he is JUSTIFYING ABUSE. Ware falsely dichotomizes the response of the “authority” into either abrogation or abuse. That is, either the authority gets off his supposed throne, or he beats the subordinate with his scepter.

    If you then come full circle back to the Trinity, you see that Ware’s conception of God the Father is that of an abuser. God, when we respond to Him in rebellion has only two choices – abrogate his authority, which he cannot do, or abuse us. So, Ware’s God is abusive.

    Instead, the picture of God’s response to rebellion is that of the father in the parable of the prodigal son. He allows us to experience the fruits of that rebellion and, when we come to our senses (through the work of the Holy Spirit) he runs to meet us and welcome us back with open arms and a feast. This is neither abusive nor stepping down from his throne.

    • Lea

      Ware falsely dichotomizes the response of the “authority” into either abrogation or abuse.

      None of the authoritarian types seem to be able to understand that adults can make decisions as equals, by conversation, compromise, etc…It’s downright bizarre.

      • Kay

        Yes, it is bizarre! Christ is the liberator of the Church. The message of the cross is that we shall be free. This is the example that He sets for husbands. Any doctrine that seeks to enslave, and what was is described in this article is slavery, is a false doctrine.

        “And [women] seek to work to have their husbands fulfill their will, RATHER THAN SERVING THEM.” Service should be voluntary and from the heart, but apparently, these men believe that they are entitled to it. It doesn’t seem to occur to them that there might be some other paradigm such as mutual service and giving preference to one another.

        I spent a lifetime serving my husband. The more I served, the more he disrespected and humiliated me. I was little more than a servant and a prostitute in my husband’s house. And I PAID to do it. I had a full-time job that paid the bills. His money was supposed to go back into the business, but he also had plenty of money to spend and take trips with his buddies. I am ashamed that I ever let myself get to the point where my husband ordered me around like a slave. When I served a civil protective order on my husband, he spent four hours being interviewed by a psychiatrist. His counselor called me and told me to get out of the house and the relationship now. Then I received a call from the foremost expert on domestic violence in Idaho. He told me that things were going 100% my husband’s way, and that he wasn’t go to give that up if he could help it. That somehow, coming from a man, impacted my thinking more than anything else. Up to that point, I thought by serving my husband, I was serving Christ. I realize now that I was enabling monstrous sin.

      • Stronger Now

        You’re so right, Lea! Mutual respect seems to be a foreign concept to these guys.

        I know my husband saw the whole idea of listening to my point of view and considering it to be of equal value to his own as being a “wimp.” Therefore, I learned that if I explained my point of view to him like an adult and respectfully requested that he give it a fair hearing, the outcome would certainly be that he would do the opposite of whatever I had carefully and respectfully explained. Just to prove he was “in charge,” I guess. And the more it hurt me, the better he seemed to like it.

    • 3blossommom

      I was thinking something similar. Such danger in that.

    • If you then come full circle back to the Trinity, you see that Ware’s conception of God the Father is that of an abuser. God, when we respond to Him in rebellion has only two choices – abrogate his authority, which he cannot do, or abuse us. So, Ware’s God is abusive.

      MarkQ, thank you for that! I hadn’t quite seen that, but I believe it’s right now you’ve spelled it out.

      And it shows how ludicrous and blasphemous Ware’s idea of ERAS is. But he refuses to budge.

      “If you were blind,” returned Jesus, “nobody could blame you, but, as you insist ‘We can see’, your guilt remains.”
      (John 9:40-41, Phillips)

      That’s Bruce Ware. He insists he can see. But he is blind. And because he insists he can see, his guilt remains.

    • Charis

      And as such (seeing God the Father as the authoritative abusive personality) Ware would have many OT stories to pick from. Indeed, many Christians struggle with the nuance of God’s holiness and justice when it was acted out in the OT in ways that – to our understanding – do not always make sense: touching the ark of the covenant and instantly dying, killing off thousands of soldiers because David took a census (which left orphans and widows), asking a man to prove his faith / love / trust / obedience by sacrificing his one and only promised heir (Abraham), sending a prophet to non-Jews to share God’s love / truth / forgiveness (Jonah), the list is endless.

  11. cindy burrell

    So, according to Ware, as soon as a wife calls attention to her husband’s inappropriate treatment or neglect, he is justified in abusing her. I don’t see that anywhere in Scripture, and I can’t see Jesus validating such insanity.

    My former, abusive husband LOVED the notion of his unquestioned authority and my blanket obligation to submit. It was a weapon, his trump card. There was nothing godly about our relationship. It was toxic and terrifying, although my husband insisted that that is the way all men are.

    Doug (my husband) and I have never had such a conversation, whether with regard to his authority or my submission. If a man has to demand submission, he is failing to lead in a manner that honors God and his bride. Love and respect should form the bedrock of the relationship – not power. There is never any excuse to abuse.

    Ware absolutely misrepresents God and His word and enables and blesses abuse in “Christian” marriages. It’s horrendous. The man completely missed the boat – and the blessing.

    • I am sure Ware would deny that he is giving husbands justification to abuse their wives. Ware says that he condemns wife abuse by husbands. He claims that all he was doing was noting / describing that it happens, but not endorsing it, not condoning it, not justifying it.
      And if you read the Denny Burk post praising Ware’s talk (trigger warning), you’ll see that there are many people on that thread who are adamant that Ware did not justify the abuse of wives by their husbands. Ware and all those other people who supported him are adamant that his talk did not enable men to abuse their wives.

      Ware maintains that he simply said — Domestic abuse happens, because women are sinners and men are sinners and one of the ways men respond sinfully to their wives usurpation is by becoming abusive. And he claims that this is not a victim-blaming statement.

  12. Aimee Byrd has just reminded me that Bruce Ware contacted her by email about this topic.
    I’m pasting here what she wrote at about this at her post Black and White Reviews, Black and Blue Complementarianism [Internet Archive link]

    I am not indenting it, but the rest of this comment is exactly what Aimee wrote:

    Bruce Ware has contacted me, upset that the quote Tucker has provided is misleading. It is from a blog article [Internet Archive link] describing a session Ware gave at a “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” conference in Denton, TX, 2008. The words were the blogger, Kathryn Joyce’s, summation. It is fair to point that out. Joyce does provide these two quotes from Ware’s talk that are just as disturbing:

    “And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged – or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches.”

    “He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive – and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that – but here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,’ – Whatever you say dear,’ – Fine dear’ and become a passive husband, because of sin.”

    I did ask Ware if he would repudiate those statements, as the inference is clearly one that a man’s abuse is the result or effect of the woman challenging his authority by not submitting. He denies that is the inference. He also said that men bear full responsibility for the sin of abuse.
    Unfortunately, the link [Internet Archive link] provided on CBMW for the talks is now broken. But I did find another article (there are many) that covered this talk. Here [Internet Archive link] is another one that summarizes more of Ware’s argument.

    —Another link has been brought to my attention, from an interview Ware did on Revive Our Hearts, where he basically says the same thing.

  13. healinginhim

    Thank you for this post and others like it which dissect the teachings others which hold others in bondage. I continue to be saddened at the apathy of ‘the churched’. Many are glowing about their Vacation Bible School or Church Camp programs; reaching the little ones for Christ, however reaching out to those in abusive relationships is not on their summer agenda.

  14. donaldbyronjohnson

    I see Ware as an example of someone who tries to take comp. ideas to their logical conclusion. The problem, of course, is that comp. ideas are flawed and far from the Father’s heart. As his initial premise is flawed, even if all his other premises and logic are correct, the result is flawed. But it is exactly this that makes his teaching so dangerous. It is true that God wants humans to flourish. It is true that with increased power and authority comes increased responsibility.

  15. jesusfollowingishard

    Plus he’s (Bruce Ware) mind reading acting like we’re a bunch of jealous insecure usurpers. So you can add mind reading, and accusing to the list of victim blaming etcetera

  16. Joe Godal

    Thank you for keeping Ware & Grudem on the hot seat concerning their heretical view of the Trinity regarding the alleged eternal subordination of the Son. This is a hot topic of conversation among many pastors & counselors and in my circle of Reformed Baptists, we see it as a departure from the historic creeds in an attempt to justify patriarchy. Whatever position one takes on the complementarian / equalitarianism debate, the abuser, in my experience, is often a strong patriarchalist. Power is a tough thing to handle when it is all in your hands.
    Keep the good articles coming. Thank you for your ministry on behalf of the oppressed.

  17. Song of Joy

    B. Ware. His name says it all.

    Luke 20:46-47 (NIV)
    “Beware of the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and love to be greeted with respect….They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

    • Kay


  18. Kay

    My husband’s abuse had nothing to do with a lack of submission. It started before we got married. The first time I met him, he showed up on the sidewalk in front of my house like he was God’s gift to me. He demanded that I come over and talk to him. I didn’t know him, but I suggested that if he wanted to talk to me, he could come sit on the porch with me. He refused; in order to get rid of him, I had to concede to his demand. He pursued me relentlessly after that. He pressured me constantly for sex before marriage. I had sex with him three times, realized what I had done, and moved fifty miles away. He came after me. He made a big pretense of asking my dad for my hand in marriage. He told my dad that he had never “screwed” me, that he respected me too much. Later, when I ask him why he said that, he said, “What did you want me to say? That his daughter is a whore?”

    Men in the church seem to think that they have to protect women from their wicked selves. My Christian dad used to say that when women went out into the workforce, they inevitably ended up in an affair. He also used to say that women were like horses. You had to know when to use the reigns.

    How ridiculous is that? What women really need is for men to protect them from other men.

    • healinginhim

      Kay – Although my abuser is considered a quiet man, he pursued me and pre-marital sex and an insistence on co-habituating is what cheapened me into feeling that I had already given so much to him that I was hoping marriage would follow??
      Yes, it eventually did but I now realize it was only so he could feel that his sexual desires and other expectations would then be considered ‘legal’. 😦

  19. Liam Goligher has emailed me this comment and given me permission to publish it here:

    Utterly incomprehensible how a Christian teacher can even repeat this kind of trash without embarrassment far less true and real repentance.

    I’m afraid the “you don’t understand me; you took me out of context; I didn’t mean what you say I mean” argument is totally disingenuous – he knows exactly what he means and how he is being interpreted out there.

  20. Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

    I married my first husband nearly fifty years ago, when I was a very young teenager. I was head over heels in love and as thrilled as a kid at Christmas to have a tiny efficiency apartment to sweep and scrub and polish. My grandmother gave me a cookbook as a wedding present. I did not know how to cook, because my mother had always assigned me the job of looking after my little brothers and sisters while she did the cooking. But with the help of my new cookbook, I was determined to learn.

    We had been married less than two months when my husband beat me for overcooking the breakfast sausage that he had “worked his fingers to the bone” to pay for. He beat me a few days later for undercooking the beans. Then I was beaten for accidentally ironing a double crease in his welding uniform pants. Soon after that, I was shoved out of a moving car for unwittingly sitting on the pack of cigarettes that he had left on the passenger side of the front seat. It made no difference to him that I also smoked those cigarettes, and therefore had no reason to crush them on purpose. (This was back when doctors were featured in cigarette ads, telling you how good they were for you.)

    On my birthday, my husband beat me for simply asking if we could celebrate the day by going to a movie and then getting a hamburger and a milkshake, like we had done while we were dating. He had just gotten paid, it was his day off, and I thought he would enjoy doing that as much as I would. But he beat me because paying for the food I ate and the roof over my head was more than enough. Never mind the fact that I had used my wedding gift money to buy him the fishing equipment he wanted for his birthday just a few weeks before.

    When I became depressed and stayed in bed too much, and let the dishes and laundry pile up, he beat me for being lazy. But before he had ever hit me, I had joyfully kept our tiny place shining and sweet smelling and spotless. In no way had I ever rebelled against his authority. In no way had I ever disobeyed him. I simply made a few mistakes, because I was still legally a child and I did not yet know how to cook or how to iron the way his mother did, which was the golden standard he kept screaming at me that I had to live up to. That, plus I failed to see a pack of smokes that HE had put on MY side of the car seat, before I sat down. And then there was my terribly selfish suggestion of a hamburger-milkshake-movie date for my birthday.

    I miscarried my first pregnancy because of his beatings. I nearly miscarried my first child because of his beatings.

    Although these horrors happened to me almost half a century ago, I still carry the scars, both physically and emotionally. And I very much resent the thinly veiled “blame the victim” message of Bruce Ware.

    My WordPress name is a pen name, however you are free to change it if you wish. I just read your information for new users, and I understand and appreciate your policy of protecting the anonymity of those who comment. You have put a lot of thought, time, wisdom, and compassion in this blog, and I applaud you.

    You don’t need to be concerned about the details I have shared. That toxic marriage ended in divorce more than four decades ago, and my ex is in no way a threat to me anymore. As for any of my offspring ever reading this and becoming upset, I am certain that no one would recognize me from what I have written here. I sheltered my kids from these things, both while it was happening and long after.

    Thank you for being a light in the darkness. God bless.

    • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

      Oh no…. I wrote all of that, and then I remembered: I wasn’t quite as saintly as I just made myself out to be. While it’s true that I was madly in love with him, and as happy as a little girl playing house as I cleaned, cooked, and ironed… I did slap him one time. After so many years I almost forgot that. It was stupid and very uncalled for. He said something that hit me wrong, and before I even thought, I had slapped him! I remember at the time having a mental image of myself as being like one of those sexy actresses in a movie, who takes offense at something the guy says and SLAP! It seemed like all the romance movies had a scene like that back in those days. Still, that is no excuse. I slapped my husband. And it was wrong. So obviously I wasn’t as perfectly loving and subservient as I remember, was I?

      Now I am wondering… did that single stupid sinful slap cause all the many hard beatings that followed for the next several years? I guess B. Ware would say that it did.

      I remember telling him I was sorry, immediately after the slap. I remember feeling horrified at myself. And I never did anything like that again. But… is that what caused all of my beatings? The broken ribs, the concussions? Is that what caused me to lose my first baby? Oh dear Lord, have mercy.

      • Oh my Dear Lord!

        I think Hollywood was right in showing those women giving men slaps when men seriously violate a woman’s dignity.

        It’s rare that I praise Hollywood, but that modelling of women standing up for their right to basic human respect is right on. Spot on, as we say in Australia.

        Dear LadyQuixote, your one slap of your husband did not justify him abusing you so many many times before, and after, that slap.

        Your abusive ex, and Bruce Ware, may say that it did. But their arguments are garbage. Their arguments grow in festoons of complex stupidity from their assumption of unearned male privilege being the GIVEN that we — all human beings — must accept. That’s what THEY say. But it’s not what I say. And it’s not what we say at this blog.

        That one slap you gave him did not ’cause’ all those beatings.
        He chose to beat you. Each and every time he beat you, he chose to beat you. You did not and could not ’cause’ him to chose to behave that way. Good grief, if you had the power to cause someone to behave in such and such as way, you would be pretty powerful eh? — like some kind of sorcerer or magician — or like some kind of god.

        Your husband chose to behave in the way that he did. And he chose to excuse himself for his bad behaviour.

        Some chance he will have when he trots that excuse out before the Lord of Glory on the Day of Judgement!

        An excuse which will stand the rough and tumble of churchianity.
        Until that Day.

      • Linda Lee/@LadyQuixote

        Thank you. I had a dream last night. It has faded a bit now, but if I remember correctly, in my dream the Lord Himself was telling me that my one stupid slap in no way caused, nor justified, my ex’s countless physical and emotional abuses.

        He cheated on me too, of course. I discovered this when my doctor told me I had a sexually transmitted disease. The doctor acted as though I were the one with loose morals, when he hatefully said “You don’t catch this from a toilet seat!” But I had only been with my husband, so then I knew he was cheating.

        Later, this fact was doubly confirmed when women — plural — began calling to inform me that they had slept with my husband, and I should “let him go” so they could have the great prize I was married to.

        He had an excuse for cheating, too. Rather than say he was sorry, he said “You ain’t woman enough to satisfy me!” I felt so ashamed, although I had no idea what he meant. I had never said no to him sexually, I am certain of that. Did these other women know some great sexual “secret” that I did not?

        I still regret that single slap, though. But you are right, one stupid sinful slap does not equal broken bones, multiple bruises, concussions, deep soft tissue injuries, permanent spinal disk injuries, and a miscarriage.

        He kicked me in my pregnant belly with his steel-toe work boots. My single stupid slap, which I had done the year before, had nothing to do with that.

        I stayed in the marriage until my husband did the one thing he had promised he would never do: he beat me in front of our child, knocking me unconscious. I had left a steak out to thaw too long, and it had spoiled. He had worked his fingers to the bone to buy that steak, and he was looking forward to it.

        I woke up on the floor to my 2-year-old kneeling beside me, crying “Mommy!” I could not bear to have my child traumatized like that again, so I was gone within just a few days.

        Whew… I still shake inside, remembering these things, even though my oldest child is now close to fifty. But I thank God I am safe, loved, and protected today. I thank God I did survive!!!

    • Dear Linda Lee / @LadyQuixote

      Thank you.

      Thank you so much for sharing.

      Thank you so much for having read the new users info page and reassuring me that it’s okay to publish your comment with emendation.

      Thank you for surviving.

      Thank you for your valiance.

      Thank you for speaking the truth so eloquently.

  21. fiveonly

    Barbara, Hollywood is not right and neither are you for glorifying a woman slapping anyone for something that offends them, anymore than they would be right for showing a man mistreating his wife and dragging her across the countryside like they did with John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara in The Quiet Man.

    I think you know better than to suggest that two wrongs make a right. This is exactly the problem you have with men like Ware (and rightly so) for blaming the wife for the husband’s abusive behavior.

    We’re not talking about self defense against a physical attack here, and I think you know that. Please don’t make statements like this, I don’t want to see you become like those you rightly criticize.

    • Okay, I’ll think about what you said fiveonly. And I’ll probably reply more later. I’m just starting the day here in Oz.

      • fiveonly

        I agree with so much of what you have to say, Barbara, and I hope that you stay above the level of those who promote this unbiblical version of gender roles. They’ve distorted the definition of complimentarian roles of men and women to such a degree that I cringe at the thought of calling myself a complimentarian.
        I also need to apologize because the way that I worded my disagreement came off as extremely condescending and that wasn’t my intent, but it certainly sounds that way, so there must have been something hiding in the recesses of my heart that caused me to not see the condescending tone. I intended it to be an exhortation and it was a rebuke, I hate it when I don’t see what should be so obvious.

      • Hi Fiveonly,
        First of all I apologise for taking longer than I thought I would to reply to you. I’ve been recuperating after a heavy round of post writing.

        And I don’t think you came across as condescending! Not in the least! I don’t mind if I am exhorted or rebuked. It makes me think. It makes me sharpen and be better able to articulate what I do and do not believe. And if I’m wrong, I want to be rebuked or admonished!

        Also, I think you are a pretty new commenter on the blog, and I wanted to publish the comment in which you admonished me, to make it clear to you that we as blog leaders are not superior, not above anyone else, and are not protecting our image just for the sake of our image, like false shepherds so often do. I want you and all our readers here to feel free to express when they may differ in opinion from others. The only comments we do not publish are those from abusers; and sometimes we edit comments from our readers if we think they may be too ‘shoulding’ on other readers. But your comment wasn’t in those categories at all, so no need to apologise. 🙂

        Now to the matter of whether or not a woman may do something like slap a man on the cheek if he has seriously violated her dignity and her right to basic respect as a human being.

        There are several issues here, and I’m going to try to separate them out so we can think about them clearly.

        The Bible teaches that it is not a sin to defend oneself. And it is not a sin to defend the people one loves and has a duty to protect. The Mosaic Law makes it clear that using violence in self-defence is not a crime and not a sin, so long as the violence used is not out of proportional to the violating offence and is necessary or appropriate to effect defence / protect the endangered.

        And the Bible also makes it clear that wounding words are just as wicked and sometimes more harmful than physical violence. Wounding words = things like psychological abuse, emotional abuse, coercive control. (What is coercive control?)

        Let’s imagine a good husband. If a wicked man abused the wife of this good husband with belittling, slanderous, malicious words and insinuations, would the good husband be in sin if he gave this wicked man a single punch, to pull him up short? If the wife is the one giving a single slap instead of single punch, is that similar? Is it sinful?

        There is a difference between Reactive Aggression and Predatory Aggression.

        Abuse is not limited to just physical stuff. Predatory aggression is quite often non-physical. Covert aggression, which is what domestic abusers specialise in, is never physical (though physical may start once covert aggression has been going on for a while….).

        Is it right to say that we can ONLY use physical violence in self defence against physical violence? Personally, I don’t think so. But you are free to have a different opinion from me. 🙂

        I didn’t think I was ‘glorifying’ a women for slapping a man who offends her. I was simply saying that if she does that, she is demonstrating one way of standing up against serious mistreatment.

        But although something may not be a sin to do, that doesn’t mean it is always wise to do it. One reason it may not be wise for a woman to (e.g.) slap a man for seriously offending her, is that our legal system deems her actions as an assault (a crime) whereas the legal system generally doesn’t deem a pattern of psychological abuse and coercive control as a crime. So for a woman who is being abused by her husband, there is a risk that if she slaps him on the cheek, he will report it to the cops and she might be fined, sent to jail, and lose her career if she is a professional. So the risk is probably too great.

        And if a victim of abuse expresses reactive aggression by being physically violent with (say) a slap, there is another risk. What she has done will probably then mess with her head. She will wonder, ‘Maybe I AM the abuser, like he says I am?!”

  22. fiveonly

    I would like to go into a detailed analysis on Scriptural instruction on behavior, but I just don’t have time. For the sake of brevity, I’ll just state that I think it’s important to stick to Scriptural instruction on proper behavior and I am unable to find any such instruction, direct or implied, that encourages physical response to verbal attack or abuse.

    To answer your question about a good husband physically assaulting another man for saying malicious things about his wife, yes, that man would be in sin. In addition, we are instructed to obey the governing authority and our governing authority, as you correctly point out, would consider a physical response a crime in this circumstance, so it is most certainly a sinful act. I don’t see any other way around it, no matter how much we may not like the answer.

    As I suggested in my earlier comment, this is the same argument that men use to justify hitting their wife. If it’s not acceptable for the man to use such justification (she was nagging me…she called me a loser because I lost my job…she said I’m a lazy blankety blank…), it’s not acceptable for the woman to use such justification.

  23. Valerie Hobbs wrote a comment over at Wendy Alsup’s post
    Dr. Bruce Ware Defines the Complementarian Position [Internet Archive link]

    I’m reprinting Valerie’s comment here because I think it is really good.

    How many times have I heard, ‘That’s not what we meant’! And each time it boggles my mind. How is it that ‘what we mean’ has become all that matters to some people when it comes to language?

    First of all, even the Bible tells us, ‘For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.’ Words are a window to the heart. If Bruce Ware does not correct his language, what else can we assume but that his beliefs and his words match?

    Second, Bruce Ware does not have his own system of grammar and his own unique meaning for words that we all must learn and keep in mind whenever he speaks. When someone says ‘respond’, the audience recognizes that to mean an action that has been effected by a prior one. This is currently how this word functions! It is a reaction, as you point out. If Bruce Ware spoke about abuse in that way by accident or without thinking, if indeed he does not believe his own words, then I agree with you 100%. He should correct his language.

    ‘What he meant’ is invisible. His words are visible. Such things matter, particularly when it comes to abuse – must we keep saying it so many times?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, if what a person “means” supercedes what the words they use “mean” in a language, then words become meaningless. And that is exactly what has happened – consider the slick-tongued politicians for instance. “Oh, that’s not what I meant.” “But that is what you said.” “Yes, but that wasn’t my meaning.” Communication would become impossible. I have seen this same business with the writings of John Piper for instance. What his words lead you to conclude is that he is teaching justification by works. But then either he or his loyal fans will respond to such a charge that “oh no, you don’t understand him. Look deeper.” And so we are left with the need to possess some kind of Vulcan mind-meld so we can actually read the person’s thoughts.

      But I think the thing is much simpler than all that. These guys wrote the words they wrote because those words convey the message they intend to teach. They said what they said because what they said is what they do believe. And if any of them are so pathetically inept at communication that they are unable to accurately express what they mean in words, then they need to just…..well….shut up, sit down, and let others teach God’s Word who are called by the Lord to do so.

  24. Encourager

    One of the things I repeatedly told my children was, “The sin of another person does not justify your sinning.” _IF_ a woman is sinning by not submitting, this does not justify sin (abuse) on the part of the husband. C’mon, men…grow up and be mature in your faith. Stop using your wives’ sin as an excuse to lord it over them. Love them like Christ loves the church, which means patience, kindness, gentleness, self-control.

    • twbtc


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