A Cry For Justice

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

Barbara Roberts responds to Wayne Grudem’s paper on divorce for abuse

Wayne Grudem used to say there were only two biblically-sanctioned grounds for divorce: adultery and desertion by an unbeliever (based on Matt. 19:9 and 1 Cor. 7:15). His counsel for abuse was to provide protection, church discipline, possible separation, but not divorce.¹

He has now had changed his mind. Let me quote from his paper presented at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, Nov 2019:

During 2018-2019, I had an increasing conviction of need for re-examination of divorce for self-protection from abuse.

My awareness of several horrible real-life situations, and thinking, “This cannot be the kind of life that God intends for his children when there is an alternative available.”

In an interview with Christianity Today, he explained a bit more about what led him to change his mind.

“My wife Margaret and I became aware of some heartbreaking examples of such things as severe sexual humiliation and degradation that had continued for decades, and another case of physical battering that had gone on for decades,” he told CT. “In all these situations the abused spouse had kept silent, believing that a Christian’s duty was to preserve the marriage unless there was adultery or desertion, which had not happened.” (archived link to CT article)

Now back to his paper:

examples of  horrible real life situations

– arguments, disagreement →repeated rape
– battered – no help when abused spouse went to pastor
– repeated threats of physical harm or even murder

Still, I was never quite persuaded by the “abuse is a kind of desertion” argument.

I did not think it right to say that “abuse is another kind of desertion” because I could not see it as something Paul intended to mean in 1 Corinthians 7:15:

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so [literally, “let him separate”]. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

Grudem grappled with 1 Corinthians 7:15  by investigating the phrase “in such cases” —

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In such cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace. (ESV)

He asked himself whether it meant only in this case (only the case of desertion by the unbeliever) or whether it meant any cases that have similarly destroyed a marriage.

He looked at extra-biblical literature and found several examples where the Greek phrase ἐν τοῖς τοιούτοις (“in such cases”) includes more kinds of situations than the original example.

He noted that if Paul had meant to refer only to desertion he could have used the singular phrase “in this case”. But Paul chose to use the plural phrase “in such cases”.

Grudem then adduced further reasons why abuse should be included in “such cases” in 1 Cor. 7:15 and considered a legitimate ground for divorce. NB: Grudem is not the first to put forward these reasons. In the next quote I give from Grudem’s paper, he is reiterating arguments that others have put forward. I made these arguments in my book. Grudem did not refer to my book in his paper.

Additional reasons why abuse should be included in “such cases” in 1 Cor. 7:15 and considered a legitimate ground for divorce

1. If abuse by an unbelieving spouse forces the abused spouse to flee the home for self protection, the abuser has caused the separation just as much as if he or she had deserted the marriage

The result would be the same as desertion (no longer living together)
“in such cases” would seem certainly to apply to this situation (very similar!)

2. “is not enslaved” (ou dedoulōtai) = not enslaved to a spouse who has destroyed the marriage relationship

Paul is saying the deserted (or abused) spouse is not under such an “enslavement” requirement. This verb suggests that attempting to maintain the marriage with the unbeliever who wants a divorce (or carries out a divorce) would mean being trapped in a life of hardship, mistreatment, and debasement. Staying in a marriage with ongoing, destructive abuse would similarly be an “enslavement”.

3. God has called you to “peace”: with sense of “harmony in personal relationships”. This “peace” is like OT sense of shālôm, “a state of well-being.” Ongoing, destructive abuse is not this kind of “peace.” Paul contrasts the life God has called us to with the continually unsettled situation of being married to a spouse who has left the marriage. This would also apply to an abusive spouse (continual battleground, not “peace”).

He concludes that “in such cases” should be understood to include any cases that similarly destroy a marriage:

We could paraphrase:

But if the unbelieving partner separates, let it be so. In this and other similarly destructive cases the brother or sister is not enslaved. God has called you to peace.

This reasoning also explains why Paul felt freedom to add desertion as another ground for divorce in addition to adultery, which Jesus had specified. In both cases, the marriage has been very substantially, or even fatally, harmed.

Abuse is in some ways more harmful than desertion, because abuse includes repeated demonstrations of actual malice, not simply indifference. Abuse is actively and repeatedly malevolent.

I have to give him credit for listing examples of conduct that destroys a marriage. He does not confine his examples to physical/sexual assault. He seems to recognise that abuse is a pattern of conduct. He might even concur with my definition of abuse. Here are the examples he gives:

Other specific kinds of behavior that in some cases might be so severe that they would belong in the category of “in such cases” (1 Cor. 7:15), because they have similarly destructive effects in the marriage:

a. Extreme, prolonged, verbal and relational cruelty that is destroying the spouse’s mental and emotional stability
in cases of mental/emotional abuse, the determination of “substantial harm” is more difficult and more subjective, but not impossible
b. Credible threats of physical harm or murder of spouse or children
c. Incorrigible (or recalcitrant, or inveterate, or incurable) drug or alcohol addiction accompanied by regular lies, deceptions, thefts, and/or violence
d. Incorrigible gambling addiction that has led to massive, overwhelming indebtedness
e. Pornography addiction would also fit here, but it would also be included under meaning of “sexual immorality” (Gk. porneia) in Matthew 19:9

Grudem’s suggested guideline on grounds for divorce:

Divorce for self-protection is morally permissible in situations where one spouse is repeatedly inflicting substantial harm on the other spouse, such that the abused spouse must leave the home for self protection, and also in other situations that are similarly destructive to a marriage.

This “substantial harm” could be physical or mental/emotional (from verbal and relational cruelty).

Situations that are not legitimate reasons for divorce:

Not: because marriage is hard, or husband and wife are not getting along
Not: because one spouse wants to marry someone else

Grudem articulated why (in the past) he had been unable to see 1 Cor 7:15  as covering abuse. His explanation struck me as rather wooden. For well over a decade it has been self evident to me that abuse is a form of desertion, or, to put that another way, abuse destroys marriage in a similar way to adultery or desertion destroying marriage. And I agree with Grudem that abuse is often worse (more hurtful, more damaging) for the mistreated spouse than adultery or desertion.

Prior to reading Grudem’s paper, I had never heard anyone say that the phrase “in such cases” was a tangle in the knot… or a key to untangling the knot. Nevertheless, it has been the key for Grudem. And now he has untangled that knot to his own satisfaction.

Grudem’s work on the phrase “in such cases” is a new contribution to the debate. A useful contribution. Useful because it will help those who (like Grudem) are using a hermeneutic (an interpretive method) that hyper-focuses on Greek word studies.²

Grudem’s work seems to be bearing good fruit:

The response from the ETS audience was “overwhelmingly positive and appreciative,” Grudem said, and he received few objections. “One woman afterward told me she counsels abused women, and she wept with tears when she read my outline. More than one person said to me afterward, ‘I came prepared to disagree with you, but you persuaded me.’” (CT article)

Where I think Grudem still falls short

1. Grudem says pastors and elders can (and should?) be the ones to decide whether a particular victim of abuse is allowed to divorce

From his paper:

Pastor and elders, if asked for counsel, need wisdom to assess the degree of actual harm in each case. [They] must first hear both sides: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him” (Prov. 18:17).

Hearing both sides – Does he mean doing couple counseling? Putting the victim and the abuser in the same room and asking them to each give their side of the story? That is unwise for multiple reasons. Click here to learn why couple counseling is dangerous.

Grudem has failed in his duty of care to victims. He didn’t say that couple counseling is NOT recommended when there are allegations of abuse. His failure to say that indicates how little he seems to yet understand the dynamics of abuse.

2. Grudem says restoration of marriage must always be the first goal

In pastoral counseling, restoration of marriage must always be first goal: 1 Cor. 7:11-14

1. Pastors (or counselors, or friends) should first try to restore the marriage through counseling, temporary separation, and, if the abusing spouse is a professing Christian, church discipline.
2. If the abusing spouse is a professing Christian, then sometimes the abuse will stop as a result of counseling and church discipline. If the abuse does not stop, then the church may treat the abuser as a non-Christian (see Matt. 18:17).

Grudem says “sometimes the abuse will stop as a result of counseling and church discipline”.  He gives no evidence to back up his assertion. Permit me to be cynical. Click HERE to learn more about abusers pretending to reform.

3. For church discipline Grudem cites Matthew 18 but not 1 Corinthians 5

Like the vast majority of church leaders, Grudem points to Matthew 18 but does not point to the church discipline prescribed by 1 Corinthians 5:11-13.  This is another shortfall in his position. The commandment in 1 Corinthians 5 is Put the abuser out of the church: hand the abuser over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh. Click HERE to read more on the application of 1 Corinthians 5 to cases of domestic abuse.

4.  Why did it take Grudem so long to wake up?

I give him credit where it is due. Grudem heard the testimony of victims, their lived experience, saw the contradictions in his doctrine, and grappled with scripture to find answers to the ethical dilemma.

But I am dismayed it took Wayne Grudem this long to become aware of heartbreaking examples of spousal abuse.  I am dismayed it took him this long to see the ethical contradictions of his former view.

I suggest that Grudem has been living in the evangelical bubble where the coal-face reality of domestic abuse is often covered up or disbelieved, especially by those in leadership. A bubble where victims of spousal abuse were hesitant to seek help from people like Wayne Grudem.

If victims did seek help from him, his ears were closed to their cries for many years. Read here and here for reasons why I believe this is so.

Was Wayne Grudem filtering their cries for help through his authority/submission ideology?

We know this for a fact: Wayne Grudem believes that within the eternal Godhead (Father/Son/Holy Spirit) there is submission and authority.

Grudem’s view of the Trinity is oddball/unorthodox/heretical. Want proof? Click here & here.

In 2005, when being interviewed at the Revive our Hearts podcast, Wayne Grudem said:

The idea of headship and submission never began. It has existed eternally in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity….

And in this most basic of all relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in all attributes and perfections, but authority is just there. Authority belongs to the Father, not because He is wiser or a more skillful leader, but just because He is Father. Authority and submission is the fundamental difference between the persons of the Trinity. (link / archived link)

If you want to read my thoughts on what Grudem said in that ^ podcast, click here and scroll down to where I discuss the Revive our Hearts podcast.

Was Wayne Grudem’s hyper-focus on authority/submission making him impervious to the cries of the victims of spousal abuse?

I believe that Wayne Grudem is aware of both the A Cry For Justice blog and my book on the biblical grounds for divorce for abuse. I believe that because:

  • In 2010 I had an email conversation with CBMW regarding their Statement on Abuse.
  • Wayne Grudem, as co-founder of CBMW, was one of the people I was emailing in 2010.
  • About three years later, a fellow who wrote a few guest posts for the ACFJ blog told us that he had heard directly from Wayne Grudem (by email) that Grudem was reading the ACFJ blog.
    (c
    lick here to read all this documented in more detail)

Abuse sufferers have a sixth sense for the people who would be unlikely to believe them. They develop this ‘sixth sense’ by much painful experience of being misunderstood, patronised, disbelieved, poorly counseled, dismissed, falsely judged, ordered around, and down-right bullied. They are reluctant to seek help from people like Wayne Grudem because they know they will be urged into counseling that prioritises authority/submission and marital restoration.

5. Counseling which prioritises authority/submission and marital restoration puts undue pressure on the victim

When the abuser knows that the counselor prioritises authority/submission and marital restoration, the abuser is happy. The abuser is happy because the counselor’s priorities serve the abuser’s agenda.

  • The abuser can claim that the person who is being abused is bad/ sinful/ not properly submissive.
  • The abuser can claim that the person who is being abused is sinfully resisting the counselor’s marital restoration agenda.

6. Grudem needs to apologise to Christian victims of domestic abuse

He needs to apologise and ask forgiveness for the harm he did to many victims by his former doctrine which forbade divorce for abuse.

7. Grudem needs to retract or update all the publications he has written where he forbade divorce for abuse

If he does not do that, if he does not withdraw those things from publication or add crystal clear updates to them, his former doctrine will continue to do much harm.

~

Footnotes

¹ In Grudem’s book Christian Ethics (2018) he taught that adultery and desertion were the only two grounds for divorce. Prior to 2018 Grudem had stated that view many times: see this article at his website; the article is undated but we know it was on his website in 2012.

² I agree with Glenn Butner who pointed out a problem with Grudem’s correction.

Glenn Butner’s thread at Twitter:
One problem here is that this correction remains based on flawed hermeneutics – biblical ethics cannot be reduced to a single word study, but requires complex hermeneutic discussions about which texts to apply, when, and how.

Surely biblical doctrines like the image of God or the Ephesians 5 conception of marriage as a mystery depicting the love of Christ challenge prohibitions of divorce in circumstances of abuse, too. Surely, the purpose/intent behind the explicit rules would point the same way.

Yet, it’s a single word study that makes the difference. It’s the same as his recent affirmation of eternal generation based on a word study of monogenes – the conclusion is right, but this should have been clear from the larger scope of Scripture well before the word study.

Theology and ethics cannot be reduced to the presentation of word studies, or else theology and ethics are not genuine disciplines; only philology [word study] is. One of the things evangelicalism needs most is a clearer vision for theological method.

If you read closely you’ll see that I agree with his conclusions. However, he had the wrong view for years partly because he had the wrong method, and he still has that method, which means in other areas he’s likely to still hurt people.

***

Further reading 

Wayne Grudem’s change of mind on divorce for abuse falls short – Barbara Roberts, 28 Nov, 2019

 

 

33 Comments

  1. TS00

    Fabulous post. In my opinion, Grudem, and other evangelical leaders are feeling the heat produced by your and similar blogs over the last decade, which have brought awareness to the issues of DV and the great harm the traditional church teaching on divorce does to many.

    I heartily second your suggestion that it is the authority/submission model that is in error, and, IMO, not only perpetuates but potentially creates abusers.

    It is also extremely narrow sighted to view restoration of the marriage as always the main goal in marriage counseling. This is to completely ignore or remain oblivious to the realities of narcissists, sociopaths and all sorts of chronic, destructive abusers. Such people will rarely be capable of healthy relationships, and the vital task is to rescue those who have been victimized by them and by the church which has too often supported the abusers.

    We all get the value of marriage. It is absurd to assert that divorce among believers is due to taking marriage too lightly. I reject the implicit belief of so many church leaders that women who seek divorce are sinful, raging feminists who just don’t want to submit to their proper authorities. Until they get the authority issue right, the church is never going to handle abuse issues well.

    • James

      I like your summary, TS00’s and especially the naming up the personality disorders which are unable to change.

      Christian pastors, more than anyone, should know that there are wolves amongst us. So why don’t they preach and apply that knowledge and wisdom? Isn’t that what shepherds are supposed to do – protect the sheep from the wolves?
      Oh, wait . . . .

    • HeLovesMe

      Wow I loved your summary TS00!

      The sum up of the heretical submission narrative of the Trinity, dangerously applying that to Biblical marriage, echoes Barb’s writings wonderfully.

      It’s the last paragraph that I especially wish could be shouted from the rooftops. There are few greater insults than casually and cruelly implying a victim of abuse isn’t serious about her commitment to the marriage.

      It is about as insulting as it gets for a few reasons:

      First of all, it can take a long time before a victim even realizes she’s being abused. The fog that abuse creates, my friends, may not be tangible but it’s very real.

      Knowing something doesn’t necessarily mean you are ready to act on it. Or, you know it but haven’t accepted it. You can’t. It’s so hard to believe, that well—you just don’t. The shock hasn’t worn off yet.

      It’s the abuser that did not take or ever intend to take the marriage seriously, so why would anyone pick on the victim as the so called flaky one looking for a so called frivolous reason to divorce? And is anti submission to boot?

      At first I intended to write that is so obvious that how can anyone think otherwise?

      My abuser was my father. Then I remembered how easily I was blamed, or I blamed myself. I should not minimize that fog. It can choke the sanity out of you. Shame, as well, has that effect.

      Abuse is not about a lack of, or having a dismissive attitude towards authority in general, or a disdain for submission.

      Abuse is inflicted upon you without your consent. I think abuse can be falsely presented as if it’s anything but abuse, which is how that fog of deception is as powerful as it is.

      I don’t believe any sincere born again believer gets married with the idea in mind that it will ever, or could or should ever end in divorce, not to mention having a clue that she will ever be abused by the very person she has chosen to love and trust for her entire life.

      The insistent but dangerous aim for restoration aspect Barb and yourself touched upon is so easy to fall for. A victim likely wants some hope to hang onto, even a false one. It’s like shining a man made flashlight into the spiritual darkness that is abuse and assuring the victim that it’s actually God’s light. But it’s not. It’s a false, man made, battery operated device that is not going to penetrate any of that darkness, not to mention overcome it.

      No doctor in his or her right mind will tell a person who has cancer that they are guaranteed to beat the disease. They’ll tell you that they’ll do what they can to help you, improve your quality of life, give you the best options possible. But they can’t and won’t make any false promises.

      A pastor urging restoration from the very start is not only not being realistic, he’s not caring about helping and assessing the needs of those that come to him. That’s the most important thing to focus on, yet so many victims find out that being helped is not the priority they were hoping for.

  2. Finding Answers

    From the original post “Abuse sufferers have a sixth sense for the people who would be unlikely to believe them. They develop this ‘sixth sense’ by much painful experience of being misunderstood, patronised, disbelieved, poorly counseled, dismissed, falsely judged, ordered around, and down-right bullied……”

    ^That.

    From the original post “Hearing both sides…..”

    ^That is difficult (impossible?) if the abused cannot remember the incident(s) and / or lacks the words to accurately describe the abuse.

    I agree with Barb’s analysis of Wayne Grudem’s paper on divorce for abuse.

    ^That (my agreement with Barb) would NOT have been possible prior to my coming out of the “fog” of abuse, remembering the incidents, and finding the words to accurately describe my abuse.

  3. James

    Barb,
    This is such a well reasoned, well researched and well presented article. You give credit where is is due and appreciate Grudem’s new position but point out that his reasoning is lacking and will most likely still prove problematical going into the future because of that – entitlement and poor theology.

    The quote from Glenn Butner is telling, especially this part –
    “Theology and ethics cannot be reduced to the presentation of word studies, or else theology and ethics are not genuine disciplines; only philology [word study] is. One of the things evangelicalism needs most is a clearer vision for theological method.”

    Word study is not going to give consistency. Only a theology applying well established base principles can do that. God is consistent. Inconsistency is not of God.

  4. Kind of Anonymous

    Good for him to go public with such a change of understanding. I was impressed that he didn’t just stick to severe physical abuse like many do. Barb your post is very well articulated.

    I wouldn’t have a problem leaving it up to elders and pastors if in fact, one could trust their spiritual maturity and wisdom and depth of knowledge of both scripture and Christ, not to mention their integrity and spiritual health. That’s the problem. I remember going to my pastor about my first marriage/divorce situation. I was in turmoil, not sure if I was in the right to think I had the right to end a relationship I’d been frightened and coerced into.

    The fact that I had severe PTSD certainly helped that along, as a manipulative fit of outrage with an implied suicide threat triggered [in me] a break with reality and resulted in my being unable three days later to clearly recall why I was still going out with him and why I felt so ambivalent about it. Throughout the relationship he used the threat of anger to bully me into backing down any time I tried to assert myself or confront anything. I figured the solution was to trust my leadership and have them sit down with me and explain why or why not my decision was right or wrong.

    I didn’t reckon on the fact that at the time I went to see him, my pastor was involved in committing adultery with one of his elder’s wives. I expected him to spend some time going through scripture with me and asking questions, taking time to prayerfully discuss and consider the situation. Instead he said something about not wanting to beat on me about my life as his life certainly wasn’t perfect, then prayed for me that I would enjoy my life and sent me on my way. I walked out of his office thinking “What just happened”? It was later that the news broke that he and the woman he’d been committing adultery with had left their spouses for each other and married one another. Now it all made sense.

    Is this an isolated incident, this issue of spiritually compromised lives? Hardly. If it’s not adultery, it’s people pleasing, if it’s not that, it’s unbelief, and so forth. So trusting one’s leadership can only be done once one has determined that they do indeed walk with God. Even Paul said that savage wolves would come in among the sheep. And he spoke of people among the brethren that were like clouds without rain. I don’t see any biblical or common sense reason to assume that just because there is a church, a steeple, a guy with a bible college certificate that this equals trustworthy leadership.

    • Kind of Anonymous said –

      Good for him to go public with such a change of understanding.

      I agree. Grudem will no doubt cop flack from the ultra-hard crew.

      It is a black mark against R.C. Sproul that he didn’t go public when he changed his mind on divorce for abuse. R.C. Sproul Changed His View on Abuse as Grounds for Divorce – but to our knowledge he never publicly announced that change

      R.C. Sproul was very old when the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements began to get traction. I doubt he was aware of the groundswell of survivors beginning to speak up about abuse.

      I wonder how much Wayne Grudem’s going public with his change of mind is related to the ever increasing exposure and disclosure of abuse within churchianity.

      I wonder how much Grudem’s willingness to listen to victims’ stories was brought about by the ever increasing discussion of abuse in churches.

      Victims of abuse are more confident to come forward since #MeToo & #ChurchToo got traction. Victims often feel inspired and empowered to come forward when they hear and see other victims coming forward.

      The scales are teetering. I wouldn’t say the scales are tipping yet, but thanks to #MeToo and #ChurchToo they are no longer rust-locked and immovable.

      • Kind of Anonymous

        I agree, I hope Grudem’s change of heart is more than just avoiding disapproval by jumping on a politically correct bandwagon or worse, reluctantly admitting something he had been trying to get away with not dealing with. But at least he did practice integrity and say his mind had been changed through deeper investigation and that it was more than just a flip flop.

        I am glad he openly stated what he concluded. I don’t think he is the sort to say something just because of social and political pressure. I hope because he has such a deep commitment to scripture, he will be able to hold his own when challenged by those who don’t like his change of heart.

        As much as social pressure can produce change that is good, like anti slavery, anti apartheid, etc it’s limited in its scope if it’s just agreed with in order to go with the flow. I am sure that there were slave owners who outwardly went along with the whole free the slaves thing in order to seem like decent and honorable people, since it was no longer decent to practice slave ownership.

        But their hearts weren’t changed from “I am entitled to own you because you are a lesser being” to “How could I have treated my fellow man so evilly, God forgive me”. If such could have continued to benefit from owning their fellow men and women, they would have if no opposition were present. Probably what you were getting at when you wrote about wariness towards church abuse programs. Houses built on sand because they are not founded on real knowledge of Him? Seems so.

    • Helovesme

      There were wonderful nuggets of wisdom and insight in your comments, Kind of Anonymous and Barb’s response as well.

      I thought you presented a dang good and balanced mindset in approaching church leaders. Depending on what is going on—-a victim may be looking for help, guidance and/or simply a fresh but compassionate pair of ears.

      Sometimes a victim just needs to know that someone cares. She may not even be close to being ready to handle anything else. That can make all the difference; just looking into her face and listening as she desperately looks for the words to describe the indescribable.

      Victims often feel ignored, invisible, insignificant—-just letting her talk is a BIG step to reminding her that she is a human being with intrinsic worth and value—-not only to the Lord Himself, but to a fellow human being as well.

      If a victim comes in to ask for wisdom, I would leave words like “restoration” and “divorce” and even “separation” until it is determined that those words need to be used. Those are very intense words, with a lot of consequences within them. Use words like “your safety, protection” because those are words that (IMO) she needs to hear. She needs to know that she is worth being protected, cared for, and that her life matters.

      Barb wrote an excellent post about church “apologies” falling short. It’s of no help to treat abuse as a bandwagon to jump on and off in order to either boost a public image or a desire to to give the appearance of caring for the abused.

      Grudem’s “apology” really did fall short. There was much to be desired, so much that was lacking. Barb pointed out where he needs to fill in those gaps, so I won’t reiterate them.

      (She also did an excellent job pointing out where his theology still falls short, even though he did make some important first steps.)

      It’s not as if a full and thorough apology would change the past. Perhaps that is why some key aspects were left out. He may have been trying to focus on the present, aiming to change the future versus trying to remedy the past, which would be impossible to do.

      But it WOULD make a difference to look at Barb’s suggestions and fill in where the apology was lacking. No, it would not change anything; the damage has been done. But we don’t repent of past sins in order to change the past. We repent of our past sins because God is moving on our hearts to do so.

      When I read his words (that Barb quoted) that explained his change of heart, I did pick up sincerity from him. He really hadn’t meant to hurt anyone with his previous yet incorrect theology. His intentions were God-fearing and God-loving. He really did believe what he previously believed and set out to specifically correct (at least some of) his errors in judgment.

      That is still not enough to dodge the necessity of full repentance. I can describe personal examples where I mirrored his sentiments and make no mistake—-I was mandated to fully repent. Innocent sincerity towards lies does not erase the deception that lies always represent. It also does not excuse the fact that we believed in anything less than the absolute Biblical truth.

      And the truth sets us free. If the truth is that you were sincerely deceived, confess that and you will be set free indeed.

      In fact, I would ague that IF one was sincerely deceived, it is even more necessary to repent, not use that sincerity to dodge it. This is why, and this is just my personal thought:

      The parable of the four soils is one of my favorites. I think most of us can claim that we’ve experienced most of those “soil” types at one point or another. It’s easy to see that if your soil is too hard or too shallow, you won’t see much of a crop.

      But your soil can also be too fertile, too soft—thorns grow as well as a crop. The useless thorns choke out the useful crop. You cannot be fed by thorns, but you can be fed by a crop. So if thorns are being consumed, or if thorns are choking out what you need to consume, you’re not going to be fed. And you must be fed in order to grow, and you also need to be fed the right foods in order to grow.

      Thorns are nonspiritual and have no place within a spiritual crop. They do not belong there. I used to think that “the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches” (Mathew 13) were mainly about materialism, or just focusing too much attention on worldly comforts or pursuits. It DOES, but I think it’s more now.

      Barb has talked about church leaders and/or abuse advocates whose priorities and/or mindsets might not be 100% focused on where they need to be—-glorifying the Lord by caring for the abused and kicking out the abusers. Whatever is holding them back is an indication that their soil may not be quite right. It’s soft all right, but too soft. Too fertile. There are too many distractions that are causing thorns to grow, choking out the grain.

      Back to my original argument: if you aim to sincerely to grow in Him, sincerely desire to bear His fruit—-you must aim to be thorn free. And all of those aims will require you to sincerely repent if you sincerely believed in things that caused thorns to sprout, not grain.

      If you claim that you are softhearted, and that leads you to not only want to save the victim but also save the marriage, not to mention the abuser—-you’re encouraging thorns, not fruit. In general, I do not think it should be the mission of the church to save or restore marriages, or give “permission” on when it is or is not okay to divorce or even separate.

      The mission statement of the Lord was to preach His Word, His kingdom. Care for the broken and brokenhearted. Serve the orphans and widows. Nowhere in there is it our job to “save” marriages.” You care for those within those marriages, who need to be cared for. You protect them from the spouses who were supposed to be protecting them but instead are preying on them. It is not your job to “reason” with the wolves and “save” them, supposedly thinking you can stop them with your softhearted attitude, but will only lead to disastrous results.

      The only way you can stop a predatory wolf is to remove them from the innocent sheep. That doesn’t sound super softhearted, does it? Sounds harsh and hard and heartless even. Is it really the wolf’s fault that he is a wolf—-was he born a wolf or or did something cause him to become one?

      Your job is to protect the sheep. Stay with the flock. Don’t leave them to chase after the wolves—thinking that if you just pulled a thorn out of their paw, they’d stop being a wolf and they will go back to being a sheep, or will magically become one.

      I remember being told, over and over again to the point of nausea, that you can’t change anyone but yourself. You can’t control other people and their choices. Your choices are all you have control over, and that is where your focus must remain. The harder you try, and more you insist on trying to do the impossible—- the more frustrated you will become, and nothing can be or ever will be accomplished.

      So I don’t quite understand Grudem’s “modified” approach (see Barb’s post starting with: “Where I think Grudem still falls short”) It smacks of trying to control what you do not have the power to control—-the choices of an abuser, restoration of a marriage based on causing the abuser to choose to no longer abuse, and the choices of the victim as well. She may decide to stay with the abuser against counsel, she may decide to NOT to stay with the abuser, against counsel.

      The best approach is to seek the One who knows all and sees all. Get rid of your wisdom and ask for His to take over and lead. Can you imagine the disastrous outcome if Solomon had not been blessed with His wisdom, thereby forsaking his own wisdom, when the two ladies came to him claiming to be the baby’s mother?

      • Such nuggets in your comment, Heloveme! — Allow me to repeat them with a bit of rephrasing:

        If one was sincerely deceived, it is even more necessary to repent, not use that sincerity to dodge full repentance.

        Some Church leaders and/or abuse advocates have priorities and/or mindsets that are not 100% focused on where they need to be – glorifying the Lord by caring for the abused and kicking out the abusers. Whatever is holding them back is an indication that their soil may not be quite right. It’s soft all right, but too soft. Too fertile. There are too many distractions that are causing thorns to grow, choking out the grain.

        If you aim to sincerely to grow in Him, sincerely desire to bear His fruit, you must aim to be thorn free. And all of those aims will require you to sincerely repent if you sincerely believed in things that caused thorns to sprout, not grain.

  5. Seeing Clearly

    Thank you, Barbara, for combing through his revisions and guiding us through his rhetoric. The Wayne Grudems of (c)hristianianity will account to God for facilitating ongoing abuse while victims were, for decades, crawling into their professional offices pleading for many, many things. Most of all, to be believed and helped to stand on the feet, once again.

    Perhaps if these leaders were superimposed with the mind and body of victims for a long period of time, they would choose to understand scripture the way God intended.

  6. Seeing Clearly

    My previous comment seems quite harsh and I questioned myself why I was having such a strong reaction. What I realized is that the other half of Grudem’s belief system is not mentioned in his writing. The other half is the residual life that victims live if they indeed get away from their spouse. Is Grudem willing to own any of the aftermath of the rest of the victim’s life? Will he vow to create a network of means for her needs to then be met? She will have probably lost her career, her health will require a lot of medical attention. Her social structure will need to be restored, her children will need physical and emotional strengthening. This does not begin to address the journey out of the abuse, PTSD, struggling to get out of bed in the morning, making decisions about finances, vehicle repairs, housing, etc that she was never allowed to make while in the marriage.

    The Grudems of our (c)hristian world have been playing god with the lives of victims and continue to dangle a slow timeframe of powerful teachings that as yet, do not set the victims free. Abuser still hold the power as well. I am speaking from ongoing personal experience.

    • Well said, Seeing Clearly!

    • Helovesme

      Wow Seeing Clearly there was so much passion and power in your words—-no one BUT someone with firsthand and/or ongoing experience (as you stated) could have put it so succinctly, with so much sorrow and suffering packed in there as well.

      Depending on my own personal situations, both past and present—-I too have felt the pain in your words: if only certain persons were “superimposed with the mind and body of victims for a long period of time”.

      I’ve scaled it back to—just stand in my shoes or walk around in my skin for just a few moments. Or, for those that inflicted the pain on me—-just get a taste of your own medicine and maybe you’ll see what you obviously cannot or refuse to see. Or, just a GLIMPSE of my pain, because I don’t want anyone else to experience the fullness of my pain.

      I like your answer just as much, if not more so—-because a few moments or a glimpse or a taste will likely not accomplish the desired purpose.

      “What I realized is that the other half of Grudem’s belief system is not mentioned in his writing. The other half is the residual life that victims live if they indeed get away from their spouse. Is Grudem willing to own any of the aftermath of the rest of the victim’s life? Will he vow to create a network of means for her needs to then be met?”

      Excellent points. I’ll be honest; my mind didn’t traverse that far ahead, but those are worthy questions for him to answer—-and they are valid ones as well.

      I don’t like to speculate on how HIS mind may or may not be working, so this is a separate thought apart from Grudem.

      In aiming for restoration of an abusive marriage, you are also, in essence, aiming to avoid a LOT of “residuals” that Seeing Clearly brought up. There will be no need to contemplate the aftermath of abuse, if you are aiming to avoid such an aftermath by insisting the marriage must find a way to continue.

      You bypass the need for an entire ministry of helping victims separate and/or divorce and/or get back on their feet as single persons or as single parents. Seeing Clearly brought up a whole host of legitimate needs that is likely only a partial list—-we could keep going and going.

      The other week I was making a list of the absolute necessary toiletries—and the list was longer than I had imagined. We might debate a bit on what is or isn’t considered absolute, but I think we’d all agree that the cost will add up even if we temporarily leave off a few.

      I need to make sure I’m not coming as self-righteous. I don’t have the exact answers as to how to help victims navigate or even contemplate an aftermath of abuse, and how to meet those needs. I just want to point out that for those that are prominent, public and powerful as Grudem—-it would behoove such persons to wield their authority with more caution, and certainly with far more thoroughness—-consider the consequences, the value of human life, the fragility of the human body and soul—-and most of all—-sound Biblical doctrine isn’t just about what is written down, it is how it is lived out.

  7. many years

    Wow…this is quite a lot to assimilate. It is interesting that I was ruminating upon this very subject this morning. My main goal was to be led by the Holy Spirit to unravel some of this jargon of so-called Biblical proportions which keep women ‘stuck’ in abusive marriages, and why there aren’t more examples in scripture. Well, God showed me today that there are at least four such examples where the husbands did abandon their wives, in a matter of speaking, and a kingly person delivered each one of those women. And I have spiritual chills just thinking of these hidden gems which will add more fuel to the fire, so-to-speak, and more earnest intent for women who were used in the old testament (so-called) times.

    So, we have Queen Esther; Sarah who was Abraham’s wife; Rebekkah who was Issac’s wife, and Abigail who was Nabal’s wife. There are similar circumstances in all of these godly women’s situations. Please read the entire account in the Book of Esther.

    Let’s begin with Queen Esther who was chosen by King Ahasuerus as his wife after he had banished Queen Vashti for not appearing before the royal court. (And yes, I would like to go to the Hebrew or Latin version to see that record of the account, as I have not done that yet.). Enter, Mordecai, Esther’s uncle who thwarts a plan by two of the king’s chamberlains to slay the king. Mordecai tells Queen Esther of the plot and she tells the king, who immediately inquires into the matter, and the two chamberlains are hung on a tree. It is entered into the king’s chronicles in the sight of the king

    Enter, Haman who is promoted by the king and has a seat above all the other princes. It is the custom to bow before that high position which Haman now holds. Mordecai, Queen Esther’s uncle, sits by the king’s gate and refuses to bow before Haman, (because Mordecai is a Jew and was taught not to bow down to anyone but the Lord) which infuriates Haman, and he seeks to destroy the Jews when he finds out who the people of Mordecai are. Haman goes to the king to cause a decree for all Jews to be killed. When Esther finds out about the decree from her uncle, she goes into mourning for her people. Mordecai tells her that she must go before the king to save her people. (There is more to the story but I am making it short.) She approaches the king and he accepts her person holding out his golden sceptre. She tells of her plight, and the king realizes he cannot change his decree, but he realizes the evil intent of Haman, and the story speaks for itself. The reason I am pointing out this story is the fact that a godly woman, in a king’s court was being given an alternative to go to the king because evil was being planned against her and her people. An evil authority, in the form of Haman, was seeking her life, and Esther had the courage to go before the king. This is what we, as women are to do, is to go to ‘good’ authority for our protection against evil men. That is the example of this story.
    The king is an authority figure, and he stood up for Queen Esther against the evil Haman.

    As women, we can go to authorities to seek protection, as this story points out. The king is a type of Christ who redeems his beautiful bride and we, his daughters of the king, when we are in desperate need of being helped. We aren’t to just sit around and ‘take’ the abuse. We are to do something about it. And yes, never do it on your own, but have people who are backing you up and helping you.

    In the case of Abigail who was married to a ‘churlish, rich man named Nabal’, was in a situation where her husband was endangering his entire household for not showing kindness to David (the anointed one to be king when Saul died). David was wroth with Nabal and was going to kill all of Nabal’s household. Abigail intervened and went to David bearing food, and supplies for David and his men. She told David about Nabal, that he was a son of Belill, and that no man could reason with him. So, Abigail pled with David for the lives of her family. David perceived that Abigail was a wise woman, and her bold courage kept her entire household from being destroyed. When Abigail told Nabal about what she had done, it says that ‘his heart died within him and became as stone, not functioning’ and he died ten days later. Here is a story of a godly woman, knowing how to deliver her household with wisdom, which she had to go to the ruling authority to ask for her life, and God was with her. She went above her husband’s rule, because God’s authority and the ruling authority was greater than the husband’s. This is another reason why women can and should go to the authorities when a husband no longer protects and cherishes his wife. I might add that Abigail had people in her household who knew what type of a man Nabal was. So to have back-up in abusive marriage situations, it is best to have a plan before attempting to confront or leave an abusive spouse.

    Now we have the two stories of both Abraham and also of Issac, who were in similar situations, at separate times in their lives, traveling through a strange kingdom. Both men are fearful for their own lives because they both have beautiful wives, so both men do basically the same thing, telling the kings of each province that their wives are their sisters. On the one hand, with Abraham, he is jeopardizing Sarah’s sanctity. He is caring more for his own life over that of his wife’s. (Isaac does the same thing later on in his life). The king, who takes Sarah, is given a dream by God, who actually comes to King Abimelech in a dream by night and tells him that he is a dead man if he takes the woman which he has taken, for ‘she is a man’s wife.’ Abimelech asks God, “Will you slay a righteous nation?” And he tells God that “in the innocency of my own hands I have done this.” Because Abraham had said ‘she is my sister’ and Sarah had obeyed Abraham and had said “He is my brother.” God actually then told Abimelech that he knew he had done it in the integrity of his own heart. God had intervened again, for a godly woman who was obeying God. And he also intervened for King Abimelech who was a righteous king.

    And because of the original post where it is talking about men abandoning their wives, the thought struck me that both Abraham and Isaac ‘abandoned’ their own wives, in a foreign land, knowing full well what could have transpired with the men of the land, and the kings, to do with Sarah and Rebekkah; the men of the land could have done as they pleased. And it would have been upon Abraham’s head because of his own unrighteousness, and his sin. But GOD intervened on behalf of His daughters. HE was the one who protected them because of ‘bad’ authority on the part of Abraham and Isaac. So, yes, women can and should go to GOOD authority and right the wrongs of a bad marriage where the husband is not fulfilling his god-given authority which is his duty to protect his own wife. Yes, a husband abandons his wife when he is not fulfilling the verse ‘submit to one another’ not just the wife submitting to the husband, especially to ‘bad’ authority which God does not honor.

    So, this is MORE evidence that God wants justice done, in wrong and abusive marriage circumstances. In the circumstances of Abigail and Queen Esther, both of them went above and beyond the wrong authority because in the case of Abigail, the sins of Nabal, and in the case of Queen Esther, an evil man in the king’s court (Hey? Sounds like some ministers doesn’t it?) in order for Abigail and Esther not to just save themselves, but to save other’s lives in the process. And so, not only are women to get out of bad circumstances, but they are to help other women to see that it is approved by God in his own Word to do so, and they will be blessed by Him.

    • Thank you many years for this excellent comment. You drew together the commonalities in those stories and applied the principles to domestic abuse. I take my hat off to you. 🙂

      • many years

        Barbara, I am so grateful to God for you. Your site has blessed me many times over, how you, with scripture, and other people’s insight, guest speakers, which prove and analyze the structure of the church, and the patriarchal dogma’s which need to be questioned concerning marriage. Bringing to light how women can overcome obstacles in their lives to stand up for the truth written in the scriptures, given by God, and the Holy Spirit to free us from the bondage of church rhetoric which has trapped women for ages. Amen!

  8. many years

    I meant to say that Mordecai was taught NOT to bow down to anyone but the Lord. The account of Abraham and Sarah is in Genesis chapter 20, and the account of Isaac and Rebekah is in Genesis chapter 26. The account of Abigail is in First Samuel chapter 24.

    [Many Years longer comment altered to include the word “not” in reference to Mordecai. Editors.]

  9. Very helpful. Thank you.

  10. Hello Sunshine

    I winced when I read “in cases of mental/emotional abuse, the determination of “substantial harm” is more difficult…” I’m imagining he meant elders would “hear the case” and determine if a woman had been officially harmed enough yet to be granted a get out of jail free card. I don’t have words for the humiliation and injustice this process would be likely to cause. How about if she gets to be the judge of whether she’s suffered enough cruelty at the hands of the man who vowed to love her that it counts as substantial harm to her stability?

    Similarly, I can only imagine the dangers and difficulties that would ensue when the elders took it upon themselves to judge if the murder threats were “credible” or that the addiction was truly “incorrigible.” If a husband is making murder threats…enough said!

  11. Hello Sunshine

    My heart also sinks at “in pastoral counseling, restoration of marriage must always be first goal.” Please, church leaders, care for eternal souls must take precedence over an institution that is by nature temporary and subject to dissolution. Biblical marriage includes Biblical outs in order to protect the individuals. It appears to me that God’s priority is the people above the marriage.

  12. Hello Sunshine

    I don’t think the majority vote of any elder board ought to be the ultimate authority on whether a woman is allowed to divorce, and aside from the ridiculous conversations about whether the debt is actually massive and overwhelming enough or not, etc. that I can imagine taking place, I’d like to just add that even if such matters belong in the hands of elders, the elders I have known are woefully unprepared to make such determinations.

    The elders I have known were elected because they were “nice guys,” their dads were pastors or their wives are smart and outgoing, they are successful businessmen, they’re willing to lead prayer aloud, they’re free on Tuesday nights… Hopefully, they are truly Christians of good character and wisdom, but there’s no guarantee they are that, much less that they know the first thing about domestic abuse, addiction recovery, or assessing crime threats.

    • Hello Sunshine

      And worse yet, I’m pretty sure the ones I’ve known think that because they’ve seen a few R rated movies, been in a couple of Sunday School marriage how-to classes based on popular Christian books, and been elected elder that they are all set to make those determinations. They plan to count on the pastor to guide them with relevant Bible verses…if any…they don’t know and won’t go looking. Beyond that, they’ll pray together, and voila! whatever they think must be from the Holy Spirit and enforceable upon a church member’s life.

      • Helovesme

        Hi Hello Sunshine I really liked your comments. I don’t have any experience with elder boards so I can’t share any experiences in that realm in return.

        Bit of humor to inject into this comment: it’s great to write my own comment, but then when I read already posted comments—they have either echoed my own thoughts already, likely said it better than I could, OR I feel compelled to just add onto theirs. 🙂

        Hello Sunshine brought up things that complimented my own thoughts:

        I don’t believe untrained persons (male or female, Christian or non-Christian) should be authorized to decide when a person is or is not in danger, should or should not separate and/or divorce, and most of all—-take it upon themselves to make choices for anyone else, involving a covenant that has nothing to do with them.

        When I say “untrained,” I don’t mean that a trained person should be allowed to make those decisions for another. But a trained person’s insights would be more discerning and therefore more useful to a person who is attempting to make very hard life choices. Untrained persons can speculate, but in reality they should not be taken too seriously.

        They have no right to demand, command, threaten, intimidate, insult, accuse, assume and most of all—-her freedom is not yours to give permission to use or take away by coercion.

        When I was much younger, we were warned about “missionary dating.” It was recommended that a believer not date an unbeliever in order bring that person to Christ. Don’t use romance as an attempt to lead them to repentance. 🙂 It was not wise to use an intimate relationship to convince or control a person’s state of salvation.

        I stepped back a bit from Grudem’s VERY unwise admonishments to aim to restore a marriage, to let leaders decide if and when a marriage is too broken to survive, and I dug into some very strong and personal struggles of my own:

        There were times when I wanted to help particular persons so badly, it was a real temptation to NOT “order” them to accept my help, let me call the shots, and do it all in name of His love, of course. Remember that persons in need are often in some state of weakness. If you are in the stronger position, it’s easy to look at them as too weak to think straight—-they NEED you to take charge, right?

        And you might be fearful for them as well. What if you DON’T take control and take over? What if something terrible happens, or things go from bad to worse, and you could have stopped it or at least attempted to step in?

        This isn’t ALL bad. If someone is hungry, offer them food and urge them to eat. Right? Well, where does urging begin and force-feeding take over?

        I call this the “savior” complex—-with a lower case “s” for good reason. You are not a savior in any way, shape or form. There is only one Savior and He not only saves, He saves to the utmost. You are His servant, so you serve. He is the Savior, so He saves. You’re not His “sidekick” (think of Robin from “Batman and Robin”).

        (I’m excluding certain situations where authorities DO have to step in and override very unwise, dangerous choices being made that are say, putting minors at risk or some other extreme situations.)

        Flip side of the coin: I recall times where I needed to BE helped just as badly, It was also a real temptation to let someone else give me the orders, call the shots, command and control and they are doing it all in the name of His love, of course. I was in some state of weakness, they were in the stronger position. It was easy to look at myself as too weak to think straight—I needed them to take charge, right?

        Beware of this as well. I don’t know exactly how it should all work or not work, but no matter how weak or scared or insecure you feel—-never let anyone make a high impact decision FOR you. It is you who will bear the consequences of whatever choice is made, not them.

        In the scenario of an abused spouse, if you “order” them to leave their abuser, then it’s also on you to make all the subsequent decisions for them: where they run away to, how they get fed and clothed, how they live their lives. You want to take over? Well, it doesn’t just start and finish with ONE decision. Now you have to take responsibility for ALL the consequential decisions that are the result of that choice that YOU made for them. In essence, you must now live their lives for them.

        If you “order” that abused spouse to stay with him, the abuse will likely continue. So, if you command her to stay, I would suggest that YOU bear the consequences of that ongoing abuse. You decided for her that she should stay, so it follows that you should be the one that bears the consequences of that decision. You endure the abuse, not her—-she didn’t decide to stay. YOU decided for her.

        Just a note here—this is ALL deductive thinking and reasoning—no one should ever be abused, ever. This hypothetical was meant to illustrate the dangers of making decisions for others.

        If anyone feels that they have the right to make such life altering decisions for others, it is not much different than the mindset of slave owners. They took away all the freedoms and rights of black humanity and subjected them to their sole authority. They were not free to think or make choices for themselves. Slave owners fed and clothed and worked their slaves because (at the time) it was said that black people were so inferior that not only could they not take care of themselves, they were only useful for their labors. So, let’s dehumanize them “for their own good, not to mention ours?”

        White persons could easily be seen as their “saviors.” The “trade off” is that if you let them exploit your life and labor for their personal gains, you will be fed and clothed and cared for in return. And by the way, you “need” white people because you’re so inferior and of such little intelligence that you’d be “lost” without their intervention.

        And what’s wrong with that? Your much smaller brains would never serve you well in life (compared to the soaring intelligence of the larger, white brains). And that limited mind of yours need not hinder you as long as you listen to us and do as we say.

        In a way, you should be thanking us. Where would you be if we hadn’t stepped in, subjugated and enslaved you in order to “save” you from your limited minds?

        I want to end on a positive note. Most abused persons are told that they are indeed inferior in every way possible. However, in reading testimonies, insights and commentaries from former victims, I’ve been blown away by their talents. There is such wisdom, discernment and power in their words, not to mention their stories. In essence, they represent Christ like no others can or do—-they have seen human misery up close and personal, as He did (and still does), and through Him, they respond in the same ways that He did (and still does).

        Inferiority, my foot.

        “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.

        But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things–and the things that are not–to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.” (1 Corinthians 1:25)

    • Hello Sunshine, your experience of elders is similar to mine, not so much now, but certainly in years gone past. Thank you for putting it in words so neatly. 🙂

  13. Karen

    For some reason here, Barb, I still feel that still small voice speaking, not to trust Grudem, for religious leaders will do anything, and say anything in order to maintain their places of authority over people.

    I do not believe Grudem is sincere, nor genuine in his assessment of marital abuse, regarding the Body of Christ.

    • Thank you Karen for sharing your thoughts and feelings here. 🙂

  14. Kind of Anonymous

    Had a meeting with a pastor this morning, who I had spoken previously to about my abusive previous marriages. He handed me a paper by Gary Thomas that his wife had sent along for me entitled “Enough is Enough”. I don’t know if it’s been discussed on the blog, looked for it but didn’t find it.

    In the article, he mentioned among other examples, a woman coming to him with her baby in her arms, describing how her husband had forced her to get out of the car on the highway with the baby, a couple of times because he was angry with her. He was horrified at the husband’s casual disregard for the safety of his wife and child.

    Something about his reaction to this was very comforting to me and reminds me of Jesus’ reaction to the sellers in the temple, John 2:15, where He is outraged at His Father’s house being made into a place of merchandise, and also Paul’s reaction and question to the 1 Corinthians 5:2 when the man who was committing gross immorality was tolerated: “And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have been stricken with grief and removed from your fellowship the man who did this?”

    • Hi Kind of Anonymous, we don’t have a stand-alone post about Gary Thomas’s article “Enough is Enough” but we do have a lot of discussion about it in this comments thread. The thread is on the review of GT’s book “Sacred Influence” which Avid Reader wrote for this blog.

      Happy reading!

    • Gary Thomas has a track record of ignoring the feedback I have given him about where his teaching on domestic abuse still falls short and still does harm to some victims. Click here to read my comment about this which I posted in 2018. For your convenience, I am pasting what I wrote in 2018 below.

      I had a bit of interaction with Gary Thomas on someone else’s FB page recently [April 2018]. It was disappointing. I gave Gary the links to two comments on this post — one by Lisa (Gary’s wife), and the other which was my reply to Lisa.

      Rather than reading the links I’d given him, he refused to engage with me any more.

      I wholly agree with what one of my FB friends (a fellow survivor) has privately said to me:

      I have seen absolutely nothing from Gary Thomas that indicates an interest in actually doing good works for victims of abuse. Maybe I’m wrong, but thus far all I’ve seen is him say “Abuse is bad. It’s not OK to hit women.” This is an easy thing to say. Almost everyone says this. It is NOT revolutionary. He (seemingly reluctantly) allows for divorce, but emphasizes “hitting” and physical violence.

      I don’t find the things he’s saying now to be empowering, revolutionary, or helpful.

      • Helovesme

        A few weeks ago, on a public Facebook post responding to Pastor Sam, the word “misandry” was used. I had to Google its definition—it means man-hater. It is misogyny but directed at males, not females.

        By the way, in Googling the right spelling for certain words, I came across the word “misogamy,” which is a hatred of marriage. The two words are so closely spelled the same, that I had to make sure I used the right one in the right way!

        Misandry is a convenient assumption or accusation to use as a weapon, when issues about abuse come up. One can deflate an entire argument or discussion about the dire need for professing, male believers (and males in general) to treat the opposite sex as God intended (applicable to the secular world as well, just don’t make it a “God” thing)

        For the most part, it is females who will respond and share their testimonies about being abused when the topic comes up. Males certainly have their stories to tell, but sadly the balance tips unfavorably towards females in this arena.

        Whether anyone likes it or not, females have been and still are at a huge disadvantage both historically and presently—-the balance of power is unfavorably shifted towards males not only in the arena of abuse, but in ALL arenas in general.

        It is also likely that these females will share the normalized but non-Biblical views they were told or taught that were used to justify the evils done to them. And most of those views are either held by males or perpetuated by them.

        Now, various males come forward, claiming they’ve changed or want to make changes, When and if (likely “when”) flaws or inconsistencies are pointed out in their supposed “revolutionary” mindsets—-it’s easy for them or those supporting them to throw up their hands in frustration and suggest things like:

        Victims don’t want to see change; they hate males and that will never change. Or, whatever is said and done is never good enough for them—they want revenge, not restoration.

        They don’t want to be helped, they want all the power. They want to “switch” places with the males and now they get to be in power—-and males will finally experience what it’s like to be the on the receiving end. They want to emasculate us. This is why the church should hate “feminism.” It’s all about a grab for power and more power.

        Victims, male or female, taking back what was stolen from them is not a “power grab.” When we are abused, something was taken away from us that never belonged to them in the first place, and therefore they have no right to hold onto. Give it back, because as long as you hold onto that, you are condoning the sense of entitlement that emboldened you to take it away in the first place. That sense of entitlement needs to die, because it never should have been alive at all, ever.

        I personally have no interest in being the “dominant” gender in order to give males a taste of their own medicine. I would simply like to be treated as I should have always been treated in the first place. And give me back anything that denied me that right—-including my sense of intrinsic worth in Him, and the power to assert that worth.

        I’ve always said that if I ever find out that a female is abusing a male, I will take his side, not hers. That’s not revolutionary to me, but it may be to others who prize siding with your gender versus siding with the Lord. There absolutely are males who would agree with me. They have no interest in “male-bonding” in a way that demeans females. Abuse is wrong no matter who is doing the abusing.

        So, NO—it has nothing to do with man-hating when strong, intelligent females like Barb (and others) point out holes or flaws or non-Biblical teachings regarding abuse. If you truly want to engage and emulate His righteousness, it better dang well reflect the fullness of His righteousness. If one takes personal offense at that notion, then you have a problem with the Lord, not with the person delivering the message.

        If it had been a female who espoused flawed or false theology, the same rules would apply. It has to do with sin-hating, no matter which gender is doing the sinning.

        The first commandment in the Word is to love Him. Well, if you’ve ever had close friends or romantic relationships, this will make sense:

        Not only do you want to find out what the person you aim to love is pleased by, you also want to find out what does NOT please them. You want to engage in the ones that please them, avoid the ones that do not. Apply this understanding to loving the Lord, who lays out what does and does not please Him in the Word.

        Sin in general, but more specifically, sinning against not only Him, but against one another, is high up on the list of what makes God “tick.” The strongest, most passionate Bible verses (IMO) usually revolve around oppression, injustice, affliction—-basically how humanity treats one another. And when it’s as bad as abuse, you can imagine how much that moves His heart.

        One of the worst things about abuse is the short and long term consequences. To put it simplistically, a huge glass of milk is spilled, and there is a lot of crying over the huge mess it makes. And more than likely, the one who spilled that milk is either not held accountable for doing the spilling, or he or she has no interest in helping to clean up the mess they made.

        In the RARE cases where there is real sorrow for what they did, they can’t really do much to help clean it up. You can’t put all that liquid back in its glass, aka change what has been done. Maybe they can throw in a few paper towels to at least try to alleviate your workload, but it can only do so much.

        When I have spilled liquids, what drives me nuts is how FAR the mess goes. You have to check all the little corners that the liquid may have spread to. I usually think—-how did it get all the way here, or how did it spread this far? I didn’t even spill a huge amount! So clean up is more laborious than I first imagined. And you better dang well do the job right, or don’t do it at all. You can’t shrug and say I did the job halfway and the rest of the liquid will disappear on its own. More than likely, whatever is left behind will leave a stain, or a smell or something that will indicate that the job was not done to completion.

        So when abuse advocates or highly influential persons try to claim that they’re trying to help, trying to change, trying to set an example, trying to do things right, trying to move forward—–that is nice but only when it’s done to the fullest extent, and with the fullness of His intentions—–AND done with the aim of emulating 100% of His righteousness, which means deliberately eliminating anything that “stinks” of your own righteousness.

        I’m in this boat as well. I have no exact ideas on how to not aim to undo the past, but aim to not repeat it for sure. That doesn’t mean I give up and say there’s nothing to be done if I don’t know WHAT needs to be done—-but I feel better admitting a lack of answers versus falsely claiming to be full of them.

      • Thank you He loves me. I like the example of the spilled milk. We all know the smell of sour spilled milk that has not been thoroughgly cleaned up. And take another analogy, one even less pleasant: the smell of animal urine in the carpet of the house or car, which has not been cleaned up.

        BTW, a solution of bicarb soda is good to take away the smell of animal urine. Or sprinkle bicarb soda on the carpet then just dribble a bit of water on it, rub in the powder, leave it for a day, then vacuum it.

      • HeLovesMe

        Oh my goodness! My fur angel baby brought tons of sunshine and strange smells into my life 😍. And beagle urine was absolutely one of them. One of the strongest, most potent! I tried all sorts of things to clean up the mess as well as the lingering smell, but as in life and loss, I could never get rid of the memories of what he left behind.

        As in my testimony about my abuse, very few people understand my testimony about my beagle. I would do anything to make the memories of the former go away, and I would do anything to make the latter come back.

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