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 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: 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)
Part 4: Why I think Wayne Grudem is unwilling to accord full respect to women
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.
25 thoughts on “An open letter to Dr Wayne Grudem (ESS part 5)”
BRAVO. We’ll keep crying out with you. One thought I had while reading was that you originally tried to communicate with these people like adults. No sarcasm or even satire. Just open, honest communication. You asked real questions – hoping for real answers. But that didn’t work. Now you satirically cow-tow to them (him), knowing nothing will work, but you have to go through the motions anyway and hope others will see the ludicrousness of the whole situation. Some of us see it. I doubt these guys will ever even TRY to see it. This will give them a narcissist injury, and they’ll either give you more of the silent treatment or they’ll cut you down so they can feel better about themselves again.
Pretty sure this will happen because I’ve only seen it a bazillion trillion times in the last 20 years. I wish so bad, SO BAD someone would prove me wrong. But alas and alack, they won’t. They’re so predictable, stuck in their black and white tombs of law. I recently read that love is BEING PRESENT. It is fully entering into another person’s experience and being with them, empathizing with them, communicating with them right where they are at. These people are not about love in the least. They will let the canaries die, but there will be justice one day.
I once heard a pastor say, “You live out your theology more fully than you realize.” These men’s actions are driven by their theology. Despite protestations that women are equal in value, their actions remain true to the heart of their doctrine. They are driven by a belief that God considers men superior. It makes them unable to hear their wives. It makes them unable to interact with women on a level with men. It makes them unable to accept that a woman doesn’t deserve to be abused.
In baseball it’s “watch the ball. Keep your eye on the ball.” In life and in the church it is “watch their actions. Keep your eyes on their actions.” Mouths lie. Actions reveal.
Hi Natalie, you said my open letter has a satirical tone and that I’m cow-towing to Grudem.
I have been pondering that.
If it IS true that I used a satirical tone (which I think could be debated) let us remember that the apostles and prophets sometimes used a satirical tone when describing or confronting false teachers. So there is nothing intrinsically ‘sinful’ in using a satirical tone. It all depends on who you use it about, and the context and backstory — the pattern of behaviour over time which the false teachers have been displaying.
But let’s pull back a moment and think about this. If this open letter had been written by an anonymous ‘any woman’ who did not have a history of having publicly confronted Grudem’s teaching… if that woman was simply trying to express her questions to Grudem in a suitably submissive demeanour, and if she had used John Piper’s suggested wording because she took Piper at his word, if she thought (logically) that surely Grudem would be more likely to listen to her if she used the script that Piper (Grudems’s friend and co-founder of CBMW) had recommended, would the letter be perceived as satiricial and cow-towing?
How can a woman put questions like this to Grudem in a way that he would NOT dismiss?
How can a woman get Dr Grudem to heed her concerns without him and his buddies dismissing her for her ‘tone’?
Her tone of humble questioning will be criticised as satirical or mocking or sarcastic. And Grudem and his buddies will thus justify not answering her.
But if she uses a tone of direct critique, or challenge, or admonishment, she will be dismissed too. She said it ‘the wrong way’. She was too harsh. Too unfeminine. Too confrontational.
Is there any way to put these ideas to Grudem in a way that he will listen?
Natalie: are you able to find the source for this? I think it is spot on.
I have tried in vain to explain this very concept to no avail. But then again, who am I kidding?
Abusers are not troubled by such things.
What little empathy abusers have is spent on themselves.
The church always blames Eve for sin entering the world because “she was deceived.” That means that she was lied to, manipulated, or tricked. Adam, on the other hand, was instructed by God Himself and he was deliberately disobedient. If a person is going to blame Eve for being deceiving, he ought to blame Adam for being disobedient. In fact, Romans 5:12 (NLT) says: “When ADAM sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.”
Also, it seems to me that when God confronted Eve, she actually spoke the truth: “The serpent tricked me, so I ate.” Meanwhile Adam shifted blame to both God and woman: “The woman YOU gave to be with me — SHE gave me fruit from the tree, and I ate.”
Finally, Jesus said in Matthew 20:25-28: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Phil. 2 says: “In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant…”
If a person wants to be “great” he doesn’t seize control, he humbly serves. If a person focuses on who has authority, power, and control, and insists that the OTHER person (or gender) submits, he is NOT Christlike, he is NOT righteous.
Galatians 3:28 says “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus…” It always amazes me that when this verse is taught, the meaning is simple and obvious for the first two parts: neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free. However, when they come to the third part of the verse–male and female–suddenly it’s complicated and it doesn’t at all mean that they are equals, but that the female is in submission to the male. You can’t treat the first two components of the verse one way and the third another.
Just as Christ said, this is THE WAY THE PAGAN WORLD ALWAYS OPERATES! A departure from this thinking is what makes Christianity different from the pagan world. If you think in terms of authority-submission, your thinking is pagan!
That’s good stuff Kay. Thank you.
Sam Powell’s post [Internet Archive link] today shows he’s really on fire about the way Genesis 3:16 is being used.
Here are some quotes from his post:
And let us not forget that Wayne Grudem is the General Editor of the ESV Study Bible [Internet Archive link] – and the ESV has just issued its Permanent Text [Internet Archive link] which has changed Genesis 3:16 from ‘Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you’ to ‘Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.’
Yes, Kay, perfectly stated – THAT’S THE WAY THE PAGAN WORLD ALWAYS OPERATES – it’s always about me, mine, who’s on top, who’s first, who has the power. Gimme gimme gimme.
One thing that has always been so attractive about the Church is our love for one another, the self-sacrifice, the humility we show, in putting others ahead of ourselves.
The CBMW crowd has lost sight of this Christian distinctive. They are the modern day Pharisees.
Love everything you said. To pick out any particular points I especially loved – I’d be quoting your whole post.
Excellent, just excellent stuff.
I think your sarcasm has probably guaranteed that Wayne Grudem won’t answer you.
Are you really hoping to catch Dr. Grudem’s ear or are you just hoping to whip up more anger against him?
Hello James, I AM really hoping to catch Dr Grudem’s ear.
The problem is, no matter what tone I use, it seems he is determined to ignore me.
Please read the other comment I’ve just put into this thread, where I discuss the whole question of satire, sarcasm and mockery, and the difficulty women have in trying to get people like Dr Grudem to listen to their concerns about his teaching.
And if you want to see how else I have tried to challenge Dr Grudem, look at our tag for Wayne Grudem and you will see the other posts I’ve written about his teaching. I believe that if you read the posts under that tag you will see that I have tried every which way to get him to heed my concerns.
Furthermore, James, each time I have published a post about Wayne Grudem recently, I have tweeted numerous leaders of CBMW (Grudem himself is not on Twitter so I can’t tweet him). And I have also emailed Grudem at his seminary. His assistant at his seminary replied to my email saying he would pass my message on to Dr Grudem. That is all I have heard back. I have also been emailing other people / leaders at CBMW, some of whom are on twitter some of whom are not.
I haven’t yet emailed Dr Grudem about this Open Letter — but will do so right now. 🙂 I’ve just been so busy.
In other words, I don’t just hope these people will read my posts because they follow our blog. I have been pretty dedicated in trying to get their attention in other ways. But they continue to give the silent treatment.
The best I ever get is an email reply from one or their ‘minders’ (lowly assistants) saying they will pass my message on to the person I addressed it to. And even that kind of reply is rare. Most times I hear NOTHING back.
Maybe, James, you could kindly point Dr Grudem to this post? Maybe you could take me seriously and suggest that Dr Grudem take me seriously. That would be most appreciated.
God loves each canary in a coal mine.
Far too many people are snowed by the outward profession of “good Christian man” and simply cannot wrap their minds around the idea that a professing “Christian” (of either gender) can be a complete con. Whited sepulchers full of dead men’s bones, as somebody far smarter than me once said.
And how many people take “repentance” at face value… somebody SAYS they’ve repented, so why bother looking for that pesky fruit that must be present for it to be real? Oh, sorry. I’m getting uppity. Having experienced not one but two abusive marriages makes me in no way qualified to comment on the topic. Because I’m a woman. /snark
The idea that this ERAS teaching guards against abuse is completely false. It isn’t going to stop a man who chooses to abuse his wife any more than a knowledge of the law is going to stop a rapist or a serial killer. What a ridiculous idea.
Thanks KayE. Yep. And in fact it is already increasing abuse in the church.
Excellent article and spot on. I have a few questions for Wayne and others within his ERAS camp, consisting of both genders who teach these heresies of dominion, power and control over others by twisting God’s Word for their own little kingdoms here on earth.
1) Do you Wayne and others, delight in your wife’s successes, achievements, and accomplishments, whether small or great?
2) Do you support and respect your wife’s choices, special interests, and God given talents apart from yourself (that do not require your input, control, or manipulation into doing things your way, instead of hers)?
3) Do you honor the fact that she is a believer and follower of Jesus Christ, which means she has the Holy Spirit living inside of her and making her a part of the holy priesthood of the saints, thus allowing her to share the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ with men, women and children, apart from you, her husband here on earth?
4) Do you, Wayne, see and treat women as Jesus did in the Word of God, or do you allow the vain philosophies of men rule your heart and mind in dictating what is a man’s work or woman’s work? Where exactly in our Holy Scriptures, does Jesus define who is to do which laborious work?
5) Is it possible ERAS folks, that if Jesus were walking and ministering on earth today, in the flesh, would He call you “hypocrites, brood of vipers, white washed tombs, or wolves in sheep’s clothing,” for the wicked and evil doctrines that you are documenting in the form of “statements,” or conducting conferences for pay in indoctrinating God’s people with your lies, or look at you with deep sorrow for He knows your hearts, minds, and your motives in binding up his sheep with religious oppressions disguised as Christianity?
It seems to me these men and women of ‘complementarianism’ are afraid of the true freedom Jesus offers and are offended by the Scriptures regarding the early assemblies / congregations and how they operated / functioned by the leading of God, the Holy Spirit. What are these self professed religious leaders afraid of…..perhaps losing their power, control, influence?
Excellent questions, Karen. The real challenge of course is getting straight answers to them. Even if you can corner these people and they were forced to give you a hearing, I suspect they would answer in the affirmative to all of these. That is the danger of self-deception. The person actually believes they are doing God’s will and teaching His truth. Pharisees are an example in point.
Barbara: This. Was. masterful…inspired….stellar….poignant….astute…unimpeachable…..stunning. Just stunning.
God bless you.
Thanks SWAF. 🙂
Just for the record, I am not making this statement with any malice, or sarcasm, but truly just something to think about. As I read all of this, I have given both sides a lot of consideration, as well as thought about how it all relates to my experience.
Question: On the first occasion that my husband was abusive to me how was I, in any way usurping his authority?
Scenario: [Eds have removed the details as they would have easily identified the commenter to her abuser.]
At this point in our relationship, never once had he mentioned anything about me not being submissive. I was very intent on being so, and constantly worked to guard against taking any sort of leadership role.
This is the first time he has sworn at me and yelled at me so I’m taken aback. But I quickly forgive and feel that maybe he has just had a bad day so I don’t address it….
This was just the beginning of long, painful, confusing, severely damaging abuse to both me and most unfortunately my son who was in high school at the time and whom it turned out that he hated and was extremely jealous of. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to help him recover….
So back to the question. Please help me to see where my “lack of” submission led to his abuse? Where was my sin???