Someone can hear the story of the gospel, fashion in their own strength their imagination of the story, remember the story, and think: “I believe — I have faith”.
That person has believed in a story faith but their heart and nature has not changed. Their spirit is not reborn. That person will always be striving to masquerade or perform Christianity in their own strength.
I learned the phrase “story faith” from William Tyndale. He writes about it in several places. Here is an excerpt from his prologue to Romans (link) —
Faith is not man’s opinion and dream, as some imagine, and form their own ideas when they hear the story of the gospel. The cause is that when they hear the gospel or glad tidings, they fashion by their own strength certain imaginations and thoughts in their hearts, saying, I have heard the gospel; I remember the story; lo I believe! And this they count true faith – which nevertheless, since it is but man’s imagination and assumption, does not profit. Neither do good works or lasting amendment of life follow.
But true faith is a thing wrought by the Holy Spirit in us, which changes us, transforms our nature, begets us anew in God, and makes us the children of God [John 1:12]. A faith that is genuine kills the old Adam, and makes us altogether new in the heart, mind, will, desire, and in all our affections and powers of the soul, and brings the Holy Spirit with her.
Faith is a living and steadfast trust in the favour of God, whereby we commit ourselves altogether unto God. And that trust is so surely grounded and sticks so fast in our hearts that a man would not once doubt of it, though he should die a thousand times for it. And such trust wrought by the Holy Spirit through faith makes a person glad, joyful, cheerful, and true-hearted, toward God and toward all creatures.
Therefore take heed to yourself. Beware of your own suppositions and imaginations, which to judge of faith and good works will seem wise, but are blind, and of all things most unwise. Pray God that he will assent to work faith in your heart, or you will remain evermore faithless, however much you surmise, imagine, strengthen your resolve, wrestle with yourself or do what you will or can.
Having a story faith ≈ blindness
Story faith assents to and remembers the historical story of record of Christ’s life, death and resurrection. It mentally assents to the proposition that he died for all sin on our behalf. But believing a story faith does not change the heart; it does not transform the natural man’s birth poison — original sin. Nor does it lead to assurance of forgiveness.
The heart that wants to ‘do life’ without regard for God’s loving and good design — the heart that is spiritually dead despite the fact that it is physically pumping blood around lung-breathing flesh — that heart will never be transformed from spiritual death to spiritual life by believing in a story faith.
Story faith is cold. True faith is a feeling faith.
Emotions, feelings, affections, heartfelt responses of compassion for the oppressed — and heartfelt dislike of falsehood and wrongdoing — are intrinsic to true faith.
Tyndale contrasts story faith with true faith:
For the reasons and similitudes of man’s wisdom make no faith, but wavering and uncertainty opinions only. One draws in this way his argument, another draws that. And of whatever principle you prove black, another proves white, and so am I ever uncertain, as if you tell me of a thing done in a far land and another tell me the contrary, I know not what to believe.
But faith is wrought by the power of God, that is, when God’s word is preached, the Spirit enters thine heart and maketh thy soul feel it and maketh thee so sure of it, that neither adversity, nor persecution, nor death, neither yet all the pains of hell could yet once prevail against thee or move thee from the sure rock of God’s word, that thou shoulds’t not believe that which God hath sworn.
– William Tyndale “The Obedience of the Christian Man” p 165 (Penguin Classics 2000.) [Punctuation in quotes from Tyndale has been altered to make it easier for modern readers]
Tyndale denounced the Roman church’s insistence on auricular confession: the doctrine that a person must confess their sins into the ear of a priest. Here is Tyndale speaking of the role of feeling (emotion) in confession:
When a man feels that his heart consents unto the law of God, and feels himself meek, patient, courteous and merciful to his neighbour, altered and fashioned like unto Christ, why should he doubt that God forgive him, though he never cram his sin into the priest’s ear?
(ibid p 118)
Tyndale talks about how the natural man can be taught to behave ‘morally’ but that only intensifies the vice of self-glory. The natural man can be motivated by fear, praise or profit. But when people in their own strength try to conform to or impersonate morality, they become more prideful.
That you may perceive and feel the thing in thine heart and not be a vain sophister disputing about words without perceiving, mark this:
The root of all evil the greatest damnation and most terrible wrath and vengeance of God that we are in is natural blindness.
We are all out of the right way, every man his ways: one judges this best, another that to be best. Now is worldly wit [cleverness] nothing else but craft and subtlety to obtain that which we judge falsely to be best. As I err in my wit, so err I in my will. When I judge that to be evil which in deed is good, then I hate that which is good.
Now; when we say every man has free will, to what him lusteth [what he desires], I say verily that men do what they lust. Notwithstanding, to follow lusts is not freedom, but captivity and bondage. If God opens any man’s wits to make him feel in his heart that lusts and appetites are damnable, and gives him power to hate and resist them, then is he free even with the freedom wherewith Christ makes free, and has power to do the will of God.
You may hereby perceive that all that is done in the world (before the spirit of God come and gives us light) is damnable sin, and the more glorious the more damnable: so that that which the world counts most glorious is more damnable, in the sight of God, than that which the whore, the thief and the murderer do.
With blind reasons of worldly wisdom may you change the minds of youth and make them give themselves to what you will either for fear, for praise or for profit: and yet you do but change them from one vice to another, as the persuasions of her friends made Lucrece chaste. (In Roman legend, Lucrece gloried in her chastity. Having suffered rape by Tarquin she took her own life.)
Lucrece believed if she were a good housewife and chaste, that she should be most glorious, and that all the world would give her honour and praise her. She sought her own glory in her chastity and not God’s. When she had lost her chastity, then she counted herself abominable in the sight of all men, and for very pain and thought which she had, not that she had displeased God, but that she had lost her honour, slew herself.
Look how great her pain and sorrow was for the loss of her chastity, so great was her glory and rejoicing therein and so much despised she them that were otherwise and pitied them not. Which pride God more abhors than the whoredom of any whore.
Of like pride are all the moral virtues of Aristotle, Plato and Socrates, and all the doctrines of the philosophers the very gods of our school men.
[school men = legalists/ false teachers/ false christians/ scholars who debated about topics like how many angels could fit on the head of a pin]
(ibid, p 44-5, minimally updated)
The apostle Peter talks about the blindness of those who think they are following Christ but are not fleeing the corruption of worldly lust. It is a blindness they bring on themselves, by their own hypocrisy.
Grace be with you, and peace be multiplied in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.
His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who has called us by virtue and glory, by the means whereof are given to us excellent and most great promises, so that by the help of them you may be partakers of the divine nature, in that you flee the corruption of worldly lust.
And give all diligence to this. To your faith add virtue, and to virtue knowledge, and to knowledge temperance, and to temperance patience, to patience godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, to brotherly kindness love. For if these things be among you and abound, they will make you so that you will neither be idle nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
(v9) But he who lacks these things is blind, and gropes for the way with his hands, and has forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
Therefore, brethren, give the more diligence to make your calling and election sure. For if you do such things, you shall never err.
He is sifting out the hearts of men before His judgment-seat
Oh, be swift, my soul, to answer Him! be jubilant, my feet!
(from the hymn “Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord”)
Bible versions used in this series
New Testament: NMB (New Matthew Bible); notes from the NMB are in grey italicised text.
Psalms: Myles Coverdale’s translation as per the 1662 Book of Common Prayer
Old Testament other than Psalms: NKJ (New King James).
Other parts in this series
Part 2: Blindness from original sin
Part 6: Blindness as a judgment from God
Part 7: is this post
Interview of Barbara Roberts, by Out Of The Gate.
If you want to only watch the part where I talk about my work on domestic abuse — i.e. my book Not Under Bondage and the A Cry For Justice blog — go to 24:37 in the video.
Who runs Out Of The Gate?
Spencer and Tye do not get paid for what they do at Out Of The Gate. They do it to help people understand the deceptions that are making this world so dark and dangerous. They do it for the Lord Jesus Christ. They do it for the body of Christ – all who believe or will come to believe in Jesus as their Saviour.
You can follow Out Of The Gate at —
Quick links to my work for newbies at A Cry For Justice
New Users Info at A Cry For Justice – If you intend to comment at this blog, I suggest you read the New Users Info before submitting a comment, especially if you’re a victim of abuse who is still in danger from your abuser and his allies.
Follow me on Twitter: @NotUnderBondage
My book Not Under Bondage
Mystery of Iniquity – my other blog
Tye initiated this interview. I’m saying this so that people who derided, mocked and badmouthed me in the past will not jump to the conclusion that I requested OutOfTheGate to produce this video.
I am very grateful to Tye for how she used music, other video clips and written-word overlays in the video.
Lundy Bancroft’s Peak Living Network has many principles that run counter to God’s Word.
By now it’s no secret that there are warnings on the Internet – including on our blog dating back to 2017 (here) – about attending Lundy Bancroft’s healing retreats. If any reader has any firsthand knowledge of behavior by him that is unethical, abusive or criminal, please email us a brief description of your allegation and your contact information. This will be held in the strictest confidence and will not be disseminated publicly. This information is being requested for the sole purpose of protecting vulnerable women and making sure that they aren’t exploited and abused any more than they already have been. Our email addresses are at the bottom of this post.
To participate in Lundy’s Peak Living Network, you have to agree to 22 Principles.
You might like to use this as an exercise in discernment. Click this link to read the 22 Principles and assess whether each principle lines up with or differs from God’s Word. I invite you to do that for yourself before you read the rest of this post.
I will now show you the eleven principles I am concerned about.
Lundy Bancroft’s principles which contradict God’s Word
I will quote each principle of the Peak Living Network (PLN) which I am concerned about and explain why I think it is false and dangerous by showing how God’s Word contradicts that principle. All NT quotes are from the New Matthew Bible version; OT quotes are from the NKJ.
PLN principle 1
People have a profound and apparently limitless capacity for emotional healing and well-being. Therefore, we take an orientation toward ourselves and each other that assumes that we can all find ways to make our lives work better and that we will succeed in doing so. We are all healing and growing.
The Bible says that some people grow worse, not better.
2 Tim 3:13
But the evil men and deceivers will grow worse and worse, while they deceive and are deceived themselves.
PLN principle 4
Crying and laughter are the single most potent healing processes that we have access to. We strive to stop interfering with other people’s attempts to cry or laugh, and with our own.
The Bible says that the most important healing comes through repentance and faith in God’s promises, knowing and following the Lord Jesus Christ as your personal saviour, and listening to God’s guidance though the Holy Spirit and the Word of God (the Bible).
PLN principle 5
Anything that anyone shares at a Peak Living gathering is to be kept confidential by everyone.
What if someone has shared their personal experience of having been abused – their pain, hopes, struggles and aspirations – at a Peak Living gathering … and someone else at that Peak Living gathering (or an organiser of a Peak Living gathering) is more focused on their own flesh than the well-being of other people in the Peak Living gathering. The selfishly-centred person can easily take advantage of the more vulnerable person.
A person with a sensitive conscience who has signed up for principle 5 will be be afraid of voicing any grievance about what another person in the PLN network has said or done to them. This makes the PLN network a lovely place for covert sexual predators to select targets, get their kicks, slake their lusts, discard, and find new targets as and when they wish.
PLN principle 6
All human beings are of equal value. Therefore, we choose to treat each other with respect at all times, even (or perhaps especially) when we are angry or when we have disagreements or conflicts.
This gives leeway to a covert abuser within the PLN network to falsely accuse and slander his or her victims of treating him / her (the abuser) with disrespect.
In my view, there ought to be an explicit statement in PLN that if someone is discovered to be using the PLN network to take advantage of or mistreat others, that person will be expelled and the rest of the network will be informed. That would be in accord with the biblical principle for dealing with abusers who are passing themselves off as Christians in the church – put them out of fellowship: expel them from all church meetings and treat them like unbelievers.
1 Cor 5:11-13
But now I write to you not to keep company together with anyone called a brother who is a fornicator, or covetous, or a worshipper of images, or a railer, or a drunkard, or a swindler. With such a one, see that you do not eat. For what have I to do with judging those who are outside? Do you not judge those who are within? Those who are without, God will judge. Put away from among you that evil person.
PLN principles 8 & 9
People are naturally loving and caring. Our healing processes carry us back toward the people we truly are.
Destructive behavior patterns are signs of things that have gone wrong in a person’s life, and signs of a lack of opportunities to heal. As far as we know, no one is inherently bad, lazy, unintelligent, or selfish.
Here is what the Bible says about principles 8 & 9
We are all born spiritually dead because we all inherit the sin nature of Adam. All of us, excepting the man Christ Jesus, inherit the sin nature from Adam. (read more about this here)
We all come into this world with a bias to be selfish and to not love our neighbour as ourselves. With our sin nature we disregard God. We go our own way without recognising or respecting or honouring God our maker, whose loving kindness towards us is so vast that it cannot be expressed in human words or grasped with our human minds.
The sin nature comes to its fore when challenged. When rightly and justly reproved for selfishness or wrongdoing, the knee-jerk response of the wrongdoer (you, me, whoever) is rebellion, blame-shifting, fighting against truth. The sin nature rears its head and hisses and spits. That is the nature of sin. That is the sin-nature we all are born with.
the imagination [intent or thought] of man’s heart is evil from his youth
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way
What happens to the sin nature when someone becomes a Christian?
When a person is born again / regenerated / trusts in God’s promises / knows and follows Jesus as their Lord and Saviour, does that person still have a sin nature? Putting this another way, is it right to call a Christian a sinner?
God has given each of us a conscience. The conscience is inbuilt in our human nature: it tells us right from wrong. Those who have never heard of God’s law nevertheless know the law in their hearts: in their conscience.
The culture we grow up in and the teachings and examples we are exposed to can deform and invert our conscience. Here is an example: many churches teach that God doesn’t allow divorce for domestic abuse; as a result many victims of abuse remain married to their abusers. The victims and their kids, in trying to obey this false teaching, suffer untold harm …and nobody benefits from this except the abusers. Another example: Islamic suicide bombers have been taught that it is good to murder crowds of people and they will be rewarded by Allah for doing so. Another example: Luciferian families train their children from a very early age to believe that good is evil, and evil is good. (You can read more about how false teaching distorts the conscience here.)
To whatever extent my conscience is recognising right and wrong the way God defines those things, I will be correctly pricked by my conscience when I do wrong or when I cultivate wrong thoughts, wrong desires. In Romans chapter 7, the Apostle Paul wrote about his own experience of this.
I delight in the law of God as far as the inner man is concerned, but I see another law in my members, rebelling against the law of my mind, and subduing me to the law of sin that is in my members. O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from this body of death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, I myself in my mind serve the law of God, and in my flesh the law of sin.
The Apostle John confirmed the precept that Paul articulated:
1 John 1:5-10
And this is the tidings that we have heard from him and declare to you: that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
If we say that we have fellowship with him, and yet walk in darkness, we lie, and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in light, even as he is in light, then we have fellowship with him, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.
If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
What if my conscience has been somewhat mis-taught? What if I have been trained to think that right is wrong and good is evil? Is my responsibility for doing wrong erased? Not entirely, and especially not when I have reached the age of accountability. I don’t want to define when the age of accountability begins, but by adulthood it ought to apply. Other factors come in here too: how deep, how brainwashing, was the training that inverted my conscience? Was I tortured so that I dissociated and my mind was split into different parts?¹ How much was I intimidated and coerced and terrified into obeying evil or complying with evil? How much was I entrapped by the leaders of the corrupt system that mis-taught me?
God is merciful. He calls all people to come to him in repentance, and he offers complete forgiveness to those who repent and follow him.
Truly truly I say to you, He who does not enter into the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber. He who goes in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep; to him the porter opens, and the sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. And when he has sent forth his own sheep, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but will flee from him. For they know not the voice of strangers.
This similitude Jesus spoke to them, but they did not understand the things that he was saying to them.
Then Jesus spoke to them again: Truly truly I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All, even as many as came before me, are thieves and robbers; but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters in by me, he will be safe, and will go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes not but to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come so that they may have life, and have it more abundantly.
PLN principle 10
Most of what we are all struggling with emotionally, and in how we treat ourselves, has its roots in trauma.
The Bible does not say that all of us are ‘struggling emotionally”. See the bible texts I have quoted above.
Nor does it say that all emotional struggle has its roots in trauma. The Bible says that some emotional struggle has most – if not all – of its roots in the choices of the individual. (You can read more about this here.)
People who do evil who don’t repent and don’t make genuine and long-lasting efforts to repair the harm they have done to others may indeed end up ’struggling emotionally’. But they brought that upon themselves by their own sinful / wrong / unrighteous / self-serving choices and their stubbornness in resisting and suppressing the pangs of their conscience.
For the wrath of God appears from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, seeing that what may be known of God is manifest among them. For God did show it unto them. For his invisible things – that is to say, his eternal power and Godhead – are understood and seen from the works of the creation of the world. So they are without excuse, inasmuch as when they knew God, they did not glorify him as God, neither were thankful, but increased full of vain imaginations, and their foolish hearts were blinded. When they counted themselves wise, they became fools, and turned the glory of the immortal God into the similitude of the image of mortal man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and serpents. When they counted themselves wise, they became fools, and turned the glory of the immortal God into the similitude of the image of mortal man, and of birds, and four-footed animals, and serpents.
For this God likewise gave them up to their heart’s lusts, unto uncleanness, to defile their own bodies between themselves – those who turned his truth to a lie, and venerated and served created things more than the Maker, who is blessed forever. Amen.
Notes from Barb on Romans 1:18-25
— suppress the truth in unrighteousness. This speaks about the choice and intent to suppress the truth.
— increased full of vain imaginations…they counted themselves wise, they became fools. This points to human choice: self-deception.
PLN principle 12
We assume that people are telling the truth about what has happened to them. Our world is rife with mistreatment, so there is no reason to jump to the conclusion that people are exaggerating the wrongs that have they have endured.
What foolishness! Sociopaths / psychopaths / covert-malignant-narcissists do NOT tell the truth about what has happened to them. If and when they do utter truths about what has happened to them, they select certain facts, airbrush those facts, and omit other facts in order to manipulate their listeners. They are very cunning and crafty.
Here is one of the many verses in the Bible where Jesus is confronting and confuting the Jewish religious leaders who were lying, evil-minded hypocrites:
You are of your father, the devil, and your will is to follow the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and did not abide in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own nature. For he is a liar, and the father of lies.
PLN principle 13
People are their own ultimate authorities on what will best help them to heal and move forward at any given time in life. There are many paths to healing, and what works well for one person may not work for another.
Yes, victims of trauma and abuse are to be accorded liberty to make their own choices on what they want to do to heal and move forward with their lives. But to say a person is their own ultimate authority is opposed to what it says in the Bible. God is the ultimate authority. He is the Wonderful Counselor; he knows best what will assist healing in people who are genuinely seeking healing and life.
There are not many paths to life and truth. To mortal human beings, many ways or paths may seem (for a while) to give life, but those who follow any way other than Jesus are going to have a great shock when they die.
Jesus said to him, I am the way, the truth, and the life. And no one comes to the Father except by me.
For God so loves the world, that he has given his only Son, so that none who believe in him should perish, but should have everlasting life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but so that the world through him could be saved. Whoever believes on him shall not be condemned. But whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he does not believe in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the condemnation: that light has come into the world, and men loved darkness more than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But whoever does truth comes to the light, so that his deeds may be known, that they are wrought in God.
PLN principle 20
We gather for the purpose of supporting each other’s healing. It is not acceptable to attend PLN activities toward a goal of finding a dating or sexual partner, networking for your business, or any purpose other than the stated one.
The problem with this is that when someone in the PLN network contravenes principle twenty, anyone who blows the whistle on the contravener is likely to be falsely accused of disobeying principle five.
Furthermore, the people who are most attracted to the Peak Living Network are women who have read Lundy’s books because they have suffered abuse from male intimate partners. They are likely to be now single, they may be longing to find a boyfriend / partner / husband who will treat them well. They are likely to be struggling financially. They are likely to be vulnerable to covert predators. What if an organiser of the PLN network is a covert predator? Who will dare to blow the whistle on the organiser?
Tip: If you have been falsely accused of something, I encourage you to read this post which gives excellent teaching on self defence.
PLN principle 22
Each of us has the capacity to live at a higher level of satisfaction, energy, and connection than we are currently experiencing. To reach for peak living makes sense.
That principle is not always true! Try telling it to the elderly and the disabled whose energy, enjoyment in life and connection to other people is diminishing — and it will never improve because of their health situation. See how they feel about that principle. They may rightly feel hurt and lied to.
It is far better to tell people the wisdom given in the last chapter of Ecclesiastes.
Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth,
Before the difficult days come,
And the years draw near when you say,
“I have no pleasure in them”:
While the sun and the light,
The moon and the stars,
Are not darkened,
And the clouds do not return after the rain;
In the day when the keepers of the house tremble,
And the strong men bow down;
When the grinders cease because they are few,
And those that look through the windows grow dim;
When the doors are shut in the streets,
And the sound of grinding is low;
When one rises up at the sound of a bird,
And all the daughters of music are brought low.
Also they are afraid of height,
And of terrors in the way;
When the almond tree blossoms,
The grasshopper is a burden,
And desire fails.
For man goes to his eternal home,
And the mourners go about the streets.
Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed,
Or the golden bowl is broken,
Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain,
Or the wheel broken at the well.
Then the dust will return to the earth as it was,
And the spirit will return to God who gave it.
If you tell this^ to people whose poor health will continue to irremediably decline, they may feel comforted by being able to identify with the evocative description of the experience of aging and disability.
¹ Some people have been so traumatised in childhood and/or subjected to systematic Torture Based Mind Control that they have parts (parts of their mind) that are adult, other parts that are children, and other parts that could be described as ‘mind-controlled slaves’. By the way, that’s very much an oversimplification of what can happen to people who are subjected to Torture Based Mind Control.
Email addresses of the ACFJ team
Tomorrow, 7 Jan 2020, will be the eighth anniversary of this blog. It is two years and four months since Jeff Crippen resigned leaving me as the sole leader of this site.
I couldn’t do it without the help of my assistant, Reaching Out. She works behind the scenes: moderating comments, giving me suggestions, clearing the spam, paying attention to so many small details that make the site easier for readers to use.
You may be wondering why I haven’t posted a new post for a while. For the last couple of months I have been putting lots of attention into my family — my siblings, their partners/spouses, in-laws, neices and nephews, Christmas. Plus my daughter is back in Australia for several weeks which makes me very happy. I value my family network.
I am fortunate to have a family that I want to keep in touch with. Some of the readers at this blog have no family that they want to keep in touch with because all their family is so toxic that it’s not safe to maintain even the smallest connection.
I have two members of my extended family who (in my view) are toxic. I have chosen to continue having contact with them because if I went “No Contact” with them it would hurt the rest of the family. I have put a lot of thought into how I will deal with the ones I find toxic. One of the things that helped me do that was James’s post Jesus on Violence which talked about Self Defence against dangerous people. I applied that concept of self defence to my personal situation.
I’ve been sending out books to survivors of domestic abuse who request them because they can’t afford them. (See our Gift Books Offer) Every penny that ACFJ gets from being in the Amazon Associates program is spent on gift books for survivors. It gives me great joy to send out books to impoverished victims, especially those who have just escaped their abusers. I make the Amazon Associates funds go as far as I can. I have spent many hours figuring out how to most economically purchase and ship books to readers in countries around the world. (Techno gripe: Amazon does NOT make it easy for Aussies!)
I have been busy at Twitter. Click here to follow me on Twitter.
I have moved my email accounts to a fully encrypted email platform (Runbox.com). You may or may not see email@example.com when I send out an email, but you can be assured that my main address <firstname.lastname@example.org> is now at the encrypted platform. I did this for my safety as well as the safety of people who communicate with me by email.
In the last year I also started the Mystery Of Iniquity blog which deals with extreme abuse such as satanic ritual abuse, child trafficking, and trauma based mind control.
My next post on A Cry For Justice will analyse the principles of Lundy Bancroft’s Peak Living Network from a biblical point of view.
Many are puzzled by Jesus’ different approaches to the subject of violence.
- ‘turn the other cheek’
- ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’
- whipping the bankers and merchants out of the Temple
- telling the apostles to get swords for themselves before going into the Garden of Gethsemane
- rebuking Peter for slicing off the ear of a man who came to arrest Jesus.
There is, in fact, a consistent philosophy or principle that unites all these sayings and events and eliminates the seeming contradictions. This is the principle of Self Defence and is part of Natural Law.
Natural Law describes the workings of this world. These are the Design Rules, if you like, of this creation and this creation includes mankind, both physical and psychological.
Design Rules imply and indeed require a Designer. Natural Law is God’s Law and is evident before our eyes in our world all around us every day.
When Jesus said and did all those things, he was talking to and demonstrating his (God’s) Law of Self Defence in specific situations. Through these illustrations, he was giving us a very valuable principle to live by — a Law ignored (and even preached against) by our religious leaders down through the centuries.
But first, let us define our terms. What are the definitions of Violence and Self Defence that will be used in this essay?
Violence is either an unprovoked attack using physical force to harm or dominate another human being, or an over reaction to an unprovoked attack.
Self Defence is the application of the minimum force necessary to protect oneself (or those one is responsible for) from physical harm from another.
Force necessary for preservation is Self Defence. Force used over and above this standard of preservation becomes Violence.
Passiveness, in terms of this article, is failing to defend oneself, or those one is responsible for, to the extent that one has the ability and the opportunity to do so.
“Ability” might be compromised through physical constraints or an induced state of confusion or prior psychological conditioning.
“Opportunity” might be compromised through through literally having a ‘gun put to your head’ or something else in that vein.
Implicit in these definitions is the right to defend ourselves which is based on our right to sovereignty over ourselves. That we each have free will is proof that we have this sovereignty.
Self defence in nature and in human relationships
The Gospel of John begins by telling us that Jesus created the world and everything in it. Jesus designed every living thing with a means of self defence – a way to survive. Every species that has survived to this day has, by definition, successfully employed self defence.
Plants have toxins, especially around their seeds. Animals are equipped to fight or run. But we are not taught to think in terms of self defence when it comes to the subject of violence. We are most often taught to either react passively or to return violence with more violence. Both of these reactions attract more violence in return.
Violence returned for violence only escalates the destruction of life. Passivity invites more violence because it removes any restraint to the violent and stands by while life is destroyed. These two responses — passivity and violence — are promoted in our culture through media, literature and films and are typically the only two options employed in analysing Jesus’ sayings and actions regarding violence.
We all have an innate sense of justice and we intuitively know the difference between force used as self defence and force used as violence against others. We all react with an emotional ‘yes!’ when we see someone respond finally with force to end violence being perpetrated against them. We automatically respond with an emotional ‘no!’ when the self defence turns into violence itself — for instance, if someone subdues an attacker but then proceeds to strangle the attacker when restraint is all that is necessary for their protection (perhaps the police are on their way, for instance).
The third option, self defence, is the only option that decreases violence. Self defence is primarily concerned with preserving life; not in destroying life. This is the message that restraint conveys to the attacker – the defender is also interested in preserving the life of the attacker not just the defender.
Strict self defence conveys a message of mutuality and is the option that I believe Jesus was teaching – love your enemies.
‘Love your enemies’ does not mean tolerating violent behaviour. What it does is it helps to counter the impulse to anger and thus poor thinking leading to more violence rather than self defence.
Jesus’ wisdom on self defence
1. Turn the Other Cheek
‘Turning the other cheek’ has been portrayed as a passive and even submissive practice or strategy against violence. This is a complete misunderstanding.
You have heard how it is said, An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, do not resist wrong. But whosoever gives you a blow on your right cheek, turn to him the other. (Mt 5:38-39)
‘An eye for an eye’ sounds like an equivalence but it is not. How is ‘an eye for an eye’ actually achieved? How do you go about removing the culprit’s eye? With overwhelming force in the form of many accomplices, or the overwhelming force of the secular state or the prevailing theocracy — and much cold premeditation and calculation to boot! There is no way this is an equal response to the initial act of harm. There is no equivalency. This is an escalation of the violence and is the deeply flawed basis of our destructive legal system even today. But, perhaps this is an issue for another day.
Jesus also said “do not resist wrong”. The word ‘resist’ in this instance is the word that means to ‘go toe to toe’ with someone – to butt heads, in other words. Hard against hard is not very smart.
So let us look at Jesus’ proposed alternative.
It is curious, is it not, that Jesus would specify the right cheek? It must have had significance for him to mention it. Most people then, as now, are right-handed and, unless you have been trained in the gentle art of Western Boxing, it is usual to strike someone with your right hand. So to strike someone on their right cheek with your right hand, requires giving them a ‘backhander’ to the soft flesh of the cheek. A backhander is the strike of choice for superiors when dealing with insubordinate people they consider to be inferior to them especially when in front of an audience.
Jesus was teaching on how to deal with abusive people in power. When you turn the other cheek they cannot repeat the backhander because they would strike the hard bridge of your nose or your even harder chin with the back of their hand. The back of the hand is quite sensitive (try hitting the edge of a table with the back of your hand). To avoid undue pain to themselves, they have to punch you with their fist if they want to continue. The trouble for the ‘authority figure’ in doing so is that they lose their superior position in the eyes of the audience. They lose their perceived legitimacy and are reduced to brawling like a common thug. Which is what many who abuse their positions of power are, of course; thugs in fine clothes.
This perceived legitimacy is crucial because any despot knows that the people en masse ultimately have the power and not him. Hence the need for pomp and pageantry and all the police and displays of military clout to impress this idea of superior status and power onto the general populace. Power exercised over others is always an exercise in deceit.
Turning the other cheek is an act at once defiant and yet non-aggressive. It is in no way submissive. This action refuses to acknowledge the authority of the abusive power. It does not accept the legitimacy of the attack. It does not submit.
Alternatively, reacting passively may invite more violence as it tells the attacker it is safe to continue the violence. Or reacting with violence yourself in this position will invite evermore violence in return from someone in a position to inflict much more violence on you.
Jesus’ advice is very practical and preserves one from more violence and therefore is a form of self defence. It preserves dignity as much as is possible in an otherwise ‘no-win’ situation. It is an example of defending (as much as is possible) against physical violence without using physical force in return.
2. Jesus Clears the Temple
The situation where Jesus used a whip to chase the merchants and bankers out of the temple is, on the face of it, difficult to see as ‘self defence’ at first. But remember, he called the temple his Father’s House (Jn 2:13-17). If you went to visit your father and found his house occupied with party-goers having a great time and trashing the place at your father’s expense, would you not feel you have the authority to physically throw the intruders out?
Self defence extends to force used to preserve the lives and property of yourself and those you are responsible for. Jesus did not injure the merchants defiling his Father’s House, it was not necessary. He upended their tables and used enough force to drive them out through the Temple doors and no more.
Jesus was in a position to physically intervene to defend his Father’s House and he did so.
3. Blessed Are The Meek
The Beatitudes have the curious line, Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth. (Matt 5:5)
It doesn’t sound right, does it? But Jesus, as always, knew what he was talking about. After all, he created the world and mankind and he designed us for survival. (John 1)
The meaning of the line hinges on the word ‘meek’. Another word for meek is ‘gentle’. To experience gentleness is to experience restraint and control of strength – otherwise what you feel is weakness. To be truly gentle, you need to be truly strong and capable. Gentleness means using only the strength that is necessary for any situation and not an ounce more.
The reward for gentleness is trust. That is what trust is about – willingness to make oneself vulnerable in the belief that strength, though present, will not be used against you. There is no point in trusting weakness. Weakness does not engender safety.
Strength can engender safety but only if it is used to preserve life. Otherwise it engenders fear because it can destroy life. So strength is necessary but only if it is under control. This is the original meaning of ‘meekness’. Unfortunately, the original meaning is not conveyed adequately today (if ever) in either of the words “meek” or “gentle”.
To many, “meekness” suggests the idea of passivity, someone who is easily imposed upon, spinelessness, weakness. Since Jesus declared Himself to be meek (Matthew 11:29), some perceive Him as a sissy-type character.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In the Greek New Testament, “meek” is from the Greek term praus. It does not suggest weakness; rather, it denotes strength brought under control. The ancient Greeks employed the term to describe a wild horse tamed to the bridle.
In the biblical sense, therefore, being meek describes one who has channeled his strengths into the service of God.
Now we can see how gentleness relates to meekness and meekness relates to strength under control which leads to self defence of oneself and those you love and are responsible for. It is both sad and telling that our culture does not have a better word than ‘meek’ to encapsulate this simple but profoundly important attribute of wisdom, love and preservation.
Our species’ survival depends on procreation. So, given enough information, which of these three types of men would most women choose to mate with?
- The passive man who will not defend her or her children?
- The violent man who will attack her and her children?
- The ‘meek’ man who will not attack her or her children but will defend her and her children from others and sacrifice himself in the process if needs be?
The answer is obvious once the question is laid out correctly. This is Jesus’ Natural Design inherent in our psychology in action. Only one option is geared towards survival. This is the ‘meek’ whom Jesus was talking about. The meek will inherit the earth because they are the only ones who can.
An act of protection is an act of love. An act of violence is an act of exploitation. Exploitation is destructive and will not lead to long term survival of a relationship or the long term survival of our species. So if we are to survive, it will be through meekness which is true strength, as Jesus said.
When he said the meek shall inherit the earth Jesus was making a prediction based on the certainty of his Design Laws. The violent and the passive will be destroyed by violence. Only those with the ability and determination to defend themselves and those they are responsible for will survive, because they are the only ones with the wisdom and ability to stop the violence with the minimum of force and thus preserving life. The Meek will most assuredly inherit the earth. And you can be part of that by learning to defend thee and thine in the best way that suits your particular circumstances.
4. Living By The Sword
Jesus tells Peter in the Garden of Gethsemane: Put your sword back in its sheath. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. (Mt 25:42-54)
To ‘take the sword’ means to ‘live by the sword’. To ‘live by the sword’ means to live by means of using violence to exploit others and, in the end, perish yourself. This violence, although initially successful, has a limited life. It is not true strength. We see this continually in politics and organised crime. These people use exploitation to rise to the top only to get ‘bumped off’ the peak one way or another. Clearly, this is not the way Jesus designed us to live generation after generation.
So why do we find Jesus instructing the apostles to beg, borrow or buy themselves swords prior to them all going to the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus’ arrest? The apostles return with two swords and Jesus says ‘It is enough.’ (Luke 22:38)
Bible commentators have puzzled over this for generations and seem to have completely missed the point. Amazingly, Pope Boniface VIII in 1302 managed to fashion a whole theology rationalising his (and all subsequent popes’) complete authority over every body and every thing on earth from this passage regarding two swords!
But, back in the world of reality, the explanation is far simpler and easily comprehensible.
Jesus knew that the temple guards were coming to arrest Him. He also knew that they would be accompanied by an armed mob. Armed mobs are not known for their rational thinking and behaviour. They tend to be rather cowardly and lack restraint when it comes to violence. The two swords were to convey the non-verbal message to the armed crowd that should they take it into their heads to attack the apostles, they might suffer injury themselves. The wearing of the swords is a simple example of how men communicate with each other through body language. A ‘Mexican stand off’ is far preferable to a ‘blood bath’. This is self defence.
Everything was going fine until Peter, not understanding the precautionary role of the sheathed swords, pre-emptively decided to draw his sword and attack the high priest’s servant. This was no longer self defence but violence. Peter struck first. Jesus rebuked Peter (Matt 26:52). And Jesus healed the high priest’s servant of his injury (Luke 22:51).
In another account of this confrontation, Jesus said to His Father during this confrontation, “I have not lost any of those you gave me.” Jesus accepted responsibility for the apostles’ safety.
John 18:1-12 New Matthew Bible
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went forth with his disciples over the brook Kidron, where there was a garden into which he entered with his disciples. Judas who betrayed him also knew the place, for Jesus often resorted there with his disciples. Judas then, after he had received a band of men, and officers of the high priests and Pharisees, went there with lanterns and firebrands and weapons.
Then Jesus, knowing all things that would come on him, went forth and said to them, Whom do you seek? They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus said to them, I am he.
Judas who betrayed him also stood with them. But as soon as Jesus had said to them, I am he, they went backwards and fell to the ground. And he asked them again, Whom do you seek? They said, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus answered, I said to you, I am he. If you seek me, let these go their way. This was to fulfil the saying that he had spoken: Of those whom you gave me, I have not lost one.
Simon Peter had a sword, and drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant’s name was Malchus. Then Jesus said to Peter, Put up your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink of the cup which my Father has given me?
Then the company of men and the captain and the officers of the Jews took Jesus and bound him
Jesus clearly had the apostles carry swords for their protection and to keep them sheathed for the mob’s protection (the ‘mutuality’ in preserving life).
Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Some bible commentaries have the meaning of ‘meek’ in this instance as those who carry swords, who know how to use them yet keep them sheathed. This is fair enough as far as it goes, but if a sword is always kept sheathed no matter what, it tends to lose its significance.
An indispensable part of ‘meekness’ is the willingness and capacity to act when necessary — to draw your sword when attacked and not before.
Most senior practitioners of martial arts, particularly the Oriental arts, will tell you that they learn to fight so they don’t have to fight. If you know how to fight and are prepared to fight, then you do not exhibit fear and you stand your ground when faced with exploitation. Exploiters sense this and, typically being cowards, back down and violence is avoided. Fear attracts violence. This is exactly the situation in the Garden of Gethsemane that Jesus faced with the apostles. By arming them, they were able to face down the mob and thus avoid violence — Peter’s impulsiveness notwithstanding.
Peter’s behaviour shows us that it is not only strength that is important but control of one’s emotions, too. Masking fear with anger is self defeating because anger, like fear, also attracts violence.
So how do we deal with the violent amongst us and not be subject to fear or anger? By learning to defend ourselves and learning to love our enemies and thus demonstrating that we will not be dominated nor will we seek to dominate others.
We learn how to physically control others when needed, but, more importantly, to psychologically control ourselves at all times. This creates an environment for life to flourish and is the essence of ‘meekness’.
Psychopaths will use anger to further violence. Either anger at others or anger at the psychopaths themselves. Beware of people who repeatedly make you angry. Anger makes it hard to think clearly and that is the point. Love your enemies. Stay in control of yourself and you have the best chance of staying in control of the situation and stopping it from escalating into violence or more violence.
Be swift to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. (James 1:19)
Jesus designed us to defend ourselves and he gave us some examples through word and deed in the Gospels on how to do it. Self defence, done correctly, lowers violence. Passiveness and retaliatory violence increase the level of violence. Violence is destructive and therefore not conducive to survival in the long term for anybody. Controlling both your anger and your fear assists in reducing violence. Hence, the meek shall inherit the earth.
Jesus was not uttering a feel-good prescription for how to be nice to each other or moralising about behaviour; he was making a simple logical prediction based on his laws of our psychological design and existence.
Written by James. James has suffered and survived many types of abuse.
Also by James: Logic and Authority in the Church
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.
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.
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.
(click 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.
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.