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.
Wayne Grudem has changed his mind on divorce.
I’m glad Wayne Grudem has changed his mind but his change of mind doesn’t go far enough.
His new position still falls short because he
- implies victims can only divorce if church leaders permit it
- doesn’t take into account how easily church leaders are snowed by abusers
- doesn’t warn about the dangers of couple counseling
- gives no apology for his past teaching.
Wayne Grudem says: Clergy decide whether a victim of domestic abuse may divorce.
SBC’s ChurchCares curriculum says: Leave the choice to divorce to the victim.
From Christianity Today’s article Wayne Grudem Changes Mind About Divorce in Cases of Abuse:
Wayne Grudem, a leading Calvinist theologian and prominent complementarian, has changed his position to affirm a scriptural basis for divorce in cases of abuse and shared his new stance at a major gathering of evangelical scholars last week.
After hearing examples of real-life couples whose Christian beliefs led them to endure abuse rather than separate, Grudem said he looked closer at Scripture to conclude that abuse may be grounds for divorce, provided pastors and elders seek discernment from God in leading a couple to this outcome.
You can download Grudem’s paper here. He presented it on 21st Nov this year (2019) at the Evangelical Theological Society annual meeting.
I have written extensively on divorce for abuse
David Clyde Jones trained generations of pastors at Covenant Theological Seminary, where he taught for 40 years. He commended my book Not Under Bondage.
In Wayne Grudem’s ‘change of mind’ paper, he mentions David Clyde Jones work but he ignores my book/my work. I’m a woman. Does Wayne Grudem think my work is not worth reading because I’m a woman?
In his paper Wayne Grudem cites the Puritans who said that abuse is grounds for divorce. He cites the same Puritans that David Clyde Jones cited. (catching up late much?)
CLICK THIS LINK to dig more into the question of divorce for abuse.
If you are a CHURCH LEADER who wants to learn how better to respond to domestic abuse, click HERE.
I invite all twitter users to like/retweet my twitter thread about Wayne Grudem’s change of mind.
Wayne Grudem thinks the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. That is heresy: it goes against the Nicene Creed.
Listen to this sermon by Liam Goligher if you want to be sure that Wayne Grudem is wrong in his understanding of the Trinity.
I intend to publish another post at this blog where I will examine Wayne Grudem’s paper in detail.
I think Grudem is still in the Pharisaic mindset where clergy lord it over the sheep…and men lord it over women.
Don’t get too excited if a church apologises to abuse victims and runs an ‘awareness program’ about abuse.
This post is a head’s up to those who might be getting hopeful about the churches that are running ‘abuse awareness programs’ these days.
It is a re-working of an old post of mine. First I’m going to show how the rhetoric of church apologies to abuse victims has not changed. Then I’m giving a case study of a church ‘abuse awareness program’ that happened more than a decade ago… and how little good fruit it has brought.
A church apology to victims of domestic abuse, delivered from an Australian pulpit in 2008
As you read this church apology, you may notice how the words are virtually identical to the apologies delivered by today’s Churches / “churches”.
We have listened to and heard those who have been abused in family violence by members of their own households and we believe that it is the responsibility of the Church to respond to all victims of abuse with compassion and unconditional support.
We acknowledge that the experience of many women in the past is that they have not always been responded to with such compassion and support. Instead they have felt invalidated, disbelieved, pressured and unsupported.
We confess that this is not the spirit of Christ, and we express our deep sorrow that many women and children and some men and teenagers, who have desperately needed the understanding, love and protection of the Church, have instead felt rejected, neglected, disenfranchised and devalued.
We cannot promise that we will always get it right in the future, but today we commit ourselves to seeking to be well informed about and pro-active towards family violence; equipping ourselves so we can provide support, care and counseling; willing to access appropriate resources in the community, and to be continually engaged in building sensitive, safe, just and loving communities of faith.
We humbly look forward together to the time when all those who are wounded by family violence and who come to the Church for healing will find Christ as their healer and the Church as their safe, accepting and loving family.
Doesn’t that sound great?
It may have brought tears to some victims’ eyes when they heard it read out from the pulpit.
How many current “churches” spout off a similar (almost identical, word-for-word) apology, then throw everyone under the bus except the abuser and the upper echelons of the “church”? The recent media is LOADED with similar kinds of shenanigans.
How many current “churches” actually DO (back up) what they say in their apology?
How little the times / apology words / etc. have actually changed…
Background on the domestic abuse program run more than a decade ago by four churches in Australia.
It began with a pastors’ network in the municipality of Casey, an outer suburb of Melbourne, Australia. Together with their local council and community health centre they obtained a federal grant for a multi-congregation family violence education and prevention project. The pilot project then expanded to 16 congregations.
The project involved —
- training of leaders in the churches
- a 28 day focus on awareness and capacity building for the congregation
The churches obtained secular DV training for key leaders, developed policies, then ran a four week program on domestic abuse across each church. This involved weekly sermons and small group studies tailored to suit the age and sex of participants. Everyone was involved – small groups, Sunday school classes for kids, youth groups, women’s groups, etc. They also adapted the program to the ethnic backgrounds found in each church’s particular demographic.
Their ‘Apology to Victims of Family Violence’ which I quoted above was delivered at a combined service held by four churches in the City of Casey.
The final report of the project (which is no longer online) said that:
- The project reached about 4,500 people, 16 faith communities and 300 leaders.
- The project resulted in 84 disclosures by victims and 30 perpetrators came forward.
- The level of disclosures appeared to be a result of the leaders taking measures to ensure they provided a safe place for help to be provided.
- The project led to the formation of a recovery group for Christian victim/survivors which adapted a program from the secular health service by giving it a Christian component.
Here is a short excerpt which I copied from the project’s Model Package before it was scrubbed from the internet:
During the implementation of the four week campaign on family violence a woman reached out to a neighbour who was experiencing family violence and invited her to church. The neighbour attended the Sunday morning service, and while it was in progress her husband stormed into church yelling abuse, demanding his wife return home.
A few of the men of the church quietly rose, surrounded the man and ushered him outside while some of the congregational women gathered around the woman who was being abused. The men spoke to the husband about his inappropriate behaviour and inquired whether they could help by escorting him home and talking further.
A few of the men spoke with the husband for several hours offering referral information and follow up if required. Another woman from the community had a house, that was not rented, and offered this to the neighbour as a refuge in the interim if she wanted to leave the abusive situation. The neighbour took her up on the offer and was able to escape the abusive relationship.
Now for the Big Question —
Did the project make much difference in those churches in the long term?
I have been told by an insider who was part of the project that the vast majority of church leaders who were trained during the project are no longer championing the prevention of family violence in those churches. Their attitude is “We did that; now we can move on and focus on other things.”
The apology which I quoted above was delivered to the four churches in the pilot program. I’m now highlighting the words from the apology which referenced women, children, men and teenagers:
We acknowledge that the experience of many women in the past is that they have not always been responded to with such compassion and support. Instead they have felt invalidated, disbelieved, pressured and unsupported.
We confess that this is not the spirit of Christ, and we express our deep sorrow that many women and children and some men and teenagers, who have desperately needed the understanding, love and protection of the Church, have instead felt rejected, neglected, disenfranchised and devalued.
I attended the event where they presented the Final Evaluation Of The Project. The project had been run with government funding, so the government (bean counters that they are) required a formal evaluation of the project.
By the time the project had been run out to the whole 16 congregations and formally evaluated, this emphasis on women and children was very much watered down.
The training that the secular experts had provided to the church leaders would have focused on the most common type of family violence which is men abusing their female partners and children. (I can say this with confidence because I myself have attended training programs run by secular family violence experts in Melbourne, Australia.)
But the formal evaluation of the Casey Churches Project talked a whole lot about less common types of family violence — adolescent violence against parents, wife abuse of husbands, same-sex relationship abuse.
I got the impression that the issue of husbands abusing their wives and kids was faded out into the background in the cause of political correctness. I wondered how much abusive men in those 16 congregations had influenced this.
Anyone who has not been living under a rock will know that abuse by leaders in churches is not uncommon. And most pastors are male. So it stands to reason that some of the male leaders in those 16 congregations would have been abusers.
The guy who presented the Evaluation – with a fancy slide show and a long boring talk – was wishy washy. He seemed to have no Christian worldview, no Christian morality, and no indignation about the evil of abuse. It was clear that he ran or worked for a business which did private consultancy. He was a hired man. He had no skin in the game. He was just making money out of doing this evaluation. And I got the distinct impression this man was a homosexual.
I also got the impression that all the church leaders and civic leaders and social workers and counselors who attended the event only came because the organisation they worked for had told them to attend. That is necessary image management for organisations. It’s virtue signalling. They send their rep to an event to show that the organisation ‘cares’. No one seemed concerned about the lack of heart and substance, except me. I left that event feeling my loneliness acutely. Where are the real Christians?
The moral of this story. If your church runs an awareness program about domestic abuse (or sexual abuse) don’t get too excited.
The chances are, the church is running an awareness program about abuse because it is virtue signalling, or is doing preemptive damage control.
The abusers and their witting/unwitting allies will somehow manage to make it all wash away.
When rain falls on sandy soil, there is so little organic matter in the soil that the rain just runs straight through. Sandy soil cannot hold moisture. It must be built up gradually with regular additions of organic matter if it is to hold moisture so plants can thrive. Gardeners tell me it takes about five years to rejuvenate sandy, infertile soil. One has to give it regular applications of organic matter (e.g. aged manure) and mulch, and keep doing that at least once a year for five years, to get the soil healthy and productive. After that it still needs an annual thick application of mulch to keep it fertile and healthy.
I have created a second blog, The Mystery Of Iniquity.
Don’t worry, I will still keep writing at A Cry For Justice.
Both of my blogs bring a biblical perspective to abuse, but the types of abuse they cover are different.
A Cry For Justice is about domestic abuse.
The Mystery Of Iniquity is about extreme abuse.
At The Mystery of Iniquity I am doing my bit to expose the strong delusion which is mentioned in 2 Thessalonians 2.
I talk about systemic abuse by the deep state – the global crime cartel which is masterminded by Satan and which is causing much of the suffering and injustice in this world.
I felt it necessary to start a new blog to talk about that stuff because, in 2018, when I started to share info about extreme abuse and the deep state on my personal social media accounts, I was mocked and publicly stoned by many people who had been following the A Cry For Justice blog.
I recognise that many readers of the A Cry For Justice blog are not wanting to hear about extreme and systemic abuse that is being done in this world…and that’s okay. I don’t want to force people. But if people are interested to learn my perspective on the deep state and extreme abuse, they can go to The Mystery Of Iniquity.
Will this new blog be triggering? I am very aware that folks who have suffered abuse can be easily triggered. At The Mystery Of Iniquity I will do my best to limit my use of visual images that could trigger readers. So far I have not shared any images of extreme abuse at the blog, and I have only linked to one testimony by a survivor of satanic ritual abuse. That testimony has no emotive background music. It is simply the victim speaking her testimony and we don’t even see her face, we only see the face of the Christian man who is interviewing her.
Safety tip – at The Mystery of Iniquity I will not be modifying commenters’ screen names unless they email me specifically asking me to do so. Therefore, if you comment at The Mystery Of Iniquity it will be up to you to guard your own safety. If you are at risk from your abusers it is wise to use a pseudonym that won’t identify you to your abusers.
Go HERE to check out The Mystery Of Iniquity. When you get there, a pop-up window will invite you to sign up to be emailed new posts. You can sign up via that pop-up window. Or you can sign up via your WordPress account if you have one — that’s my preference as it may help me save money at MailChimp.
My personal facebook account is public so anyone can view it. But I’d much prefer people to comment at the blog itself than at my facebook account. As you know, I find Facebook an unsuitable platform for deep and meaningful discussion.
Upcoming posts at The Mystery Of Iniquity —
- Why is the church so slow at responding rightly to the epidemic of abuse?
- Evildoers catch/ seize/ snatch/ ravish
Check out The Mystery of Iniquity
2 Thessalonians 2:10b-12
They perish because they would not receive the love of the truth, so that they might have been saved. And therefore God will send them strong delusion, so that they will believe lies; so that all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
Now the two angels came to Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gate of Sodom. When Lot saw them, he rose to meet them, and he bowed himself with his face toward the ground. And he said, “Here now, my lords, please turn in to your servant’s house and spend the night, and wash your feet; then you may rise early and go on your way.”
And they said, “No, but we will spend the night in the open square.”
But he insisted strongly; so they turned in to him and entered his house. Then he made them a feast, and baked unleavened bread, and they ate.
Now before they lay down, the men of the city, the men of Sodom, both old and young, all the people from every quarter, surrounded the house. And they called to Lot and said to him, “Where are the men who came to you tonight? Bring them out to us that we may know them carnally.”
So Lot went out to them through the doorway, shut the door behind him, and said, “Please, my brethren, do not do so wickedly! See now, I have two daughters who have not known a man; please, let me bring them out to you, and you may do to them as you wish; only do nothing to these men, since this is the reason they have come under the shadow of my roof.”
And they said, “Stand back!” Then they said, “This one came in [to this city] to stay here, and he keeps acting as a judge; now we will deal worse with you than with them.” So they pressed hard against the man Lot, and came near to break down the door. But the men [the two angels] reached out their hands and pulled Lot into the house with them, and shut the door. And they struck the men who were at the doorway of the house with blindness, both small and great, so that they became weary trying to find the door.
Lot is not the hero in this story! He was willing to cast his daughters out to be raped by the mob. I only share the story because it is a good example of how God can blind evildoers. In this story, God uses His angels to blind the men of Sodom.
Now pay attention. The men of Sodom wanted to have sex with the two men who were staying in Lot’s house. Those two ‘men’ were in fact angels. That’s how evil human beings can become: they can carnally lust after angels. Think about that. Don’t dismiss it. It is something that may still be happening today.
More passages that speak about God making people blind
For whosoever has, to him will be given, and he will have abundance. But whosoever has not, from him shall be taken away even what he has.
The note in the New Matthew Bible on this ^ passage says:
“To him that has a good heart towards God’s word, to fulfil it, more grace will be given. And from him who does not have such a heart will be taken away even what knowledge he has, and his heart so hardened that he will not repent. [William Tyndale> Here is a covenant to those who love the word of God, to further it so that they progress in it, and another to those who do not love it, that they will lose it and grow blind.]”
Conceited arrogant people who think they have it all worked out are made blind by God:
Jesus said, I have come for judgment into this world, so that those who do not see may see, and those who see, may be made blind.
And some of the Pharisees who were with him heard these words and said to him, Are we then blind? Jesus said to them, If you were blind, you would have no sin. But now you say, We see. Therefore your sin remains.
God judges and blinds conceited religious leaders who think they can see. That leads us to Romans 11 which talks about God blinding Israel:
Romans 11:7-10, 25-26a
What then? Israel has not obtained what it sought. No, but yet the chosen ones have obtained it. The rest are blinded, as it is written: God has given them the spirit of unquietness: eyes so that they cannot see, and ears so that they cannot hear, until this day. And David says, Let their table be made a snare to take them with, and an occasion to fall, and a reward to them. Let their eyes be blinded so that they do not see, and ever bow down their backs. …
I would not that this mystery be hid from you my brethren (lest you be wise in your own estimations), that with respect to a part, blindness is upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in; and in this way all Israel will be saved.
[click here to read the whole chapter]
Note from Barb: all Israel will be saved – “all Israel” denotes all who by faith believe in God’s promises, no matter what their genetic lineage. Rom 2:28-29 and Rom 9 make it clear that not all who genetically descend from Abraham are Israelites.
Paul’s physical blindness immediately after his conversion signified and drove home to him how spiritually blind he had been, and therefore how much he needed to depend on God in order to see the truth:
And now behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and not see the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness, and he went about seeking someone to lead him by the hand.
The next scripture talks about how people make themselves blind, and how spiritual blindness is also a judgement from God:
8 It shall even be as when a hungry man dreams,
And look—he eats;
But he awakes, and his soul is still empty;
Or as when a thirsty man dreams,
And look—he drinks;
But he awakes, and indeed he is faint,
And his soul still craves:
So the multitude of all the nations shall be,
Who fight against Mount Zion.
9 Pause and wonder!
Blind yourselves and be blind!
They are drunk, but not with wine;
They stagger, but not with intoxicating drink.
10 For the Lord has poured out on you
The spirit of deep sleep,
And has closed your eyes, namely, the prophets;
And He has covered your heads, namely, the seers.
John reiterates what Isaiah had said:
Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah says again: He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, so that they will not see with their eyes and understand with their hearts and be reformed, and I would heal them.
To round this off, let’s go back to one of the the questions we are examining in this series— Are abusers spiritually blind? (Or psychologically blind, which is pretty much the same thing.)
‘Believer’, a commenter at this blog, summed it up when she said:
Abusers know when they are doing evil. They don’t care; they even like to do it.
The Bible does talk about people becoming blind as a judgment from God but I am thinking that it’s not that they’re blind to basic wrong and right (which is common sense, rules even the youngest children know). My thought is that due to their love and practice of sin they become blind to the reality of the impending judgment of God, and the gospel.
I think their common sense also does become perverted; but I don’t think they no longer know God’s decree of what is right and wrong. I think they are fully aware of the actual, right, true rules of justice and kindness. They just hate and oppose those rules. And I think they know very well they are standing in opposition to what God says. They just ardently, perversely hold to their self-sovereign “right” to define reality because they love their sin.
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: is this post