An open letter to Dr Wayne Grudem (ESS part 5)
Dear Dr Grudem, do you allow me the right to ask you a question? And if so, could you kindly answer? Please?
Here is my question:– If I wonder whether you are failing to value women’s equality in the image of God, am I evincing a hostile desire to compete with you for leadership?
Am I using a sufficiently submissive tone?
Let’s see, maybe I should check what John Piper said. Didn’t he give some good advice to a woman about how to talk to a man who she believes is mistreating her and asking her to commit sin? Oh I know Piper’s advice was scrubbed from Desiring God, but the transcript can still be found here. Let me model my words on Piper’s suggested script for oppressed women. Surely that can’t offend you? Surely that will be the way to your heart and mind?
Dr Grudem, I want so much to follow you as my leader. God calls me to respect leaders in the church and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership. But if you ask me to agree that God told Eve that she would desire to usurp her husband’s authority, then I can’t go there. Can I please ask you to reconsider that doctrine of yours?
I’m quite happy to accept that Ephesians 5 says “wives submit to your own husbands. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.” And I’m quite happy to accept that “the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor 11:3). I’m happy to keep trying to understand and apply those texts with the help of the Holy Spirit. I don’t want to cut bits out of God’s Word. I don’t dislike what God’s Word says.
But I’m not prepared to accept Susan Foh’s interpretation of the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16 — an interpretation which you promulgate. Let me remind you what you said at Revive Our Hearts [Read the full transcript here.], a program aimed at women:
… “Your desire shall be for your husband.” The word desire here, which God gave as a punishment, is not sexual desire, but is an aggressive and hostile desire to compete for leadership and to resist Adam’s leadership.
Then it says, “And he shall rule over you.” Now, that word rule is the word that is never used to affirm a godly, holy, fair, and just leadership by a husband over the wife in the Bible. That word rule is the Hebrew word, mashal, and it is used most frequently of someone ruling by virtue of greater power or strength. Yes, it’s used of God ruling over the universe and ruling over the nations, but it is also used of the Philistines ruling over Israel and oppressing them. So mashal, I think here, is saying there is going to be conflict between Adam and Eve.
Eve is going to have this urge to resist her husband’s leadership, this hostile desire against him. And Adam is going to rule over Eve, but to rule by virtue that he is stronger. …
Before the fall, Adam and Eve had a relationship that was beautiful, harmonious, loving and kind, and yet there was a leadership role that Adam had that Eve did not have. Eve was supporting and helping that leadership role. After the fall God says, “I am going to introduce conflict here as a punishment. And the conflict is: Eve, you are going to resist the authority that Adam has, and Adam, you are going to rule over her by virtue of the fact that you are stronger.” There is conflict.
For that reason, Genesis 3:16, “. . . he shall rule over you” should never be used to affirm male headship in marriage because it’s part of the curse. From Genesis 3:16 on for the rest of the Bible, the story of the whole Bible was God undoing the pain and suffering that we have in various areas of life and bringing redemption and healing through Christ. [emphasis mine]
Dr Grudem, have you just adopted Susan Foh’s interpretation because it conveniently suited your agenda? How can you be so sure that Genesis 3:16 is saying the woman’s desire would be sinful ? Could it not be true that God was telling the woman that she was going to desire her husband’s love, forgiveness, protection, cherishing and respect — but that her desire would (typically) not be met because her husband would have a tendency to lord it over her, disrespect her, put himself first, be insensitive to her needs and wishes, etc.
Dr Grudem, your interpretation of the woman’s desire slanders all women. And it does immense harm to victims of abuse. See my rebuttal of Susan Foh’s interpretation here.
As an aside, Susan Foh was a woman so why were you so keen to adopt her exotic interpretation? Eh? Couldn’t Susan Foh have been deceived, like Eve was deceived? Oh sorry, I was getting a bit uppity there, please forgive me.
I’m happy that Ephesians 5 tells husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church. I wish more men who profess to be Christians would receive that charge like the Great Shepherd received the charge from His Father to lay down his life for the sheep (John 10:11-18). But Ephesians 5 tells husbands to lay down their lives for their wives, it doesn’t tell husbands to exercise authority over their wives.
Why are you so preoccupied with authority?
Am I asking you too many questions? Is too many questions a sign of not being submissive?
Since you emphasise husbandly authority and wifely submission so much, how easy will it be for an abusive husband to con you with a fake confession-cum-excuse? “My wife wasn’t submitting. I was only trying to exercise my rightful authority. She’s exaggerating what happened.” I suggest the gate is wide open for an abusive husband to do a snow job on a man like you, Dr Grudem, because your emphasis on authority/submission makes you a sitting duck to be conned. Sorry if that sounds disparaging; you are a Seminary Professor, and no doubt pretty sharp, but does that mean you know how to recognise and resist the attempts abusive men make to enlist you as their allies?
Does your lens of authority submission make you uninterested in listening to feedback from people like me? How else can we explain your failure to attend to the feedback of domestic abuse victims more carefully? How else can we explain your apparent condonation of the deficiencies and dangers in CBMW’s Statement on Abuse?
You and CBMW keep saying that your teaching does not lead to abuse but guards against it, because both men and women are equal in value before God. But how can you be sure that your teaching guards against abuse, when your are shutting your ears to feedback and discounting the reports that women (and men of integrity) are making about how comp teaching has done little to protect women from men who are using complementarian doctrines to justify oppressing women? How can you ever heed women’s voices when you work from the assumption that any woman who is levelling a complaint against complementarianism is ‘usurping male authority’?
Now may I bring up another topic?
As I said, it would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership. But if you ask me to agree with your doctrine of Eternal Relations of Authority and Submission in the Trinity, then I can’t go there either. Can I please ask you to reconsider that doctrine of yours? Can I please ask you to consider dropping it?
I will help you stand against the cultural forces that are advocating for paganism, plasticity in gender, same-sex marriage, abortion, sexual immorality, etc. But I can’t help you if you continue to push this ERAS doctrine. I can’t go there with you. So will you come back to the Biblical middle which you say you want to hold? Why not re-join the body of orthodox believers?
You have put so much energy into ERAS, thinking that it was a way of rebutting egalitarianism. But you’ve put so little energy into reviewing CBMW’s Statement on Abuse.
You might be reluctant to listen to me because I’m a woman and have no theological degrees, but as Pastor Todd Pruitt points out here:
The weight of scholarship has spoken on the issue. Even those who stepped into the debate to dismiss as cranks (and worse) the critics of the theology of Ware and Grudem were nevertheless careful to make clear that they did not agree with EFS. One wonders why they don’t agree. Obviously it must be because they find EFS to be unbiblical.
Now it’s one thing to find a pre-tribulation rapture of the church to be unbiblical. It is quite another to conclude that professors in evangelical seminaries hold an unbiblical view of the Trinity!
Why are you resisting the feedback from highly respected theologians that your doctrine of ERAS is heresy, that it’s arrant nonsense and blasphemy and it particularly diminishes women. Those hard words were first put to you by a man not a woman, so please let me kindly remind you that you can’t just toss them aside as the words of a woman who is trying to usurp authority.
In you own marriage, you have clearly grown in willingness to listen to your wife. You speak about this here. I won’t quote from that link, but I will remind of what you said about it in two other places:
Speaking personally, I do not think I listened very well to my wife Margaret early in our marriage. I did not value her different gifts and preferences as much as my own, or her wisdom that was arrived at or expressed differently. Later we made much progress in this area, but looking back, Margaret told me that early in our marriage she felt as though her voice was taken away, and as though my ears were closed. I wonder if there are other couples in many churches where God needs to open the husband’s ears to listen and needs to restore the wife’s voice to speak.
Wayne Grudem, Biblical Foundations for Manhood and Womanhood, p22 (link)
Margaret and I have been married for 34 years. Probably, I would have to say looking back early in our marriage, I don’t think I listened very well to Margaret. Margaret told me that early in our marriage it felt as though her voice was taken away because she would give her opinion, and I wouldn’t listen. She would give it again, and I wouldn’t listen. She would give it again, and I wouldn’t listen. Finally, she thought why do I have a voice?
It felt to her as if my ears were closed. I wonder if that is true in many marriages and in many relationships where there is a failure to value our equality in the image of God. (link)
Perhaps because you never felt like your voice was taken away, you don’t have enough understanding of what it’s like to be married to an abuser. But since you’ve grown in willingness to listen to your wife, is it too much to ask you to consider that maybe you need to grow in willingness to listen to women like me who are telling you about the harmful effects of your heavy emphasis on authority and submission in marriage?
You believe that you see what the Bible is saying about gender roles, and roles within the Persons of the Trinity. But could you be like the Pharisees?
Some of the Pharisees near him overheard this and said, “So we’re blind, too, are we?”
“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)
If you decided you had to accord full respect to women (all women, not just your wife and the women in the CBMW coterie), wouldn’t you surely have to listen to people like me and consider what we have to say? And hey Wayne, we are not only women! There are men on A Cry For Justice too, so you won’t be totally smothered in girl germs! — joke. Bear in mind I’m an Aussie, so please forgive my touch of larrikinism. Oh cripes, I’ve done it again! Maybe larrikins are only male! I keep putting my foot in it, but I hope you can smile and forgive me.
Are you doing what the Bible calls believers to do?
Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit [help, support, assist, which implies listen to] orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:27)
Dr R Scott Clark says:
The church is to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27). An abuser has essentially orphaned his children and abandoned his wife. He has turned his vocation as a caregiver and protector on its head and corrupted it. Where the husband is meant to be a source of strength and safety, he has become weak and a source of fear and violence. (link)
Widows are women who are bereft of husbands. And the wife who is a victim of abuse from her ‘husband’ is married to an anti-husband. She is bereft of anything even faintly resembling a true husband.
Have you and others at CBMW have just dismissed people like me as egalitarians because we criticise some of what you say? Have you assumed we are feminists and thus justified shutting your ears to people like us? Where is the respect and honour you supposedly give to women? Where is the protection you supposedly give to women?
I will continue to cry into the hurricane. And Christian survivors of domestic abuse are flocking to sites like A Cry For Justice and are supporting each other valiantly amidst the storm. We wish more men would help with the work!
Would it be too rude if I ended with this quote from Dr Liam Goligher?
To be a man is to stand up for the women in our church who are being beaten over the head with this evil nonsense.
Yours sincerely, on behalf of all the canaries in the coal mine
Posts in this ESS series
Part 5: Is this post.
UPDATE 12 Oct 2016— Grudem recently lied that he only just found out about Donald Trump’s immorality with women. Here is the evidence: Is Wayne Grudem lying about not knowing Donald Trump’s past? Watch the video This confirms that Grudem is a double-minded man.
If you want a summary of this latest news, click on this comment of mine.