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John Piper on Abused Women

2011 January 29
by Mike

I’m dumbfounded.

118 Responses leave one →
  1. February 11, 2011

    Hello, friends. I’m swamped right now (Heartbeat, ACU class, preaching, high school basketball), but I’ve followed. I just noticed there are 99 comments, so let me use the 100th one for this: obviously there are big issues that have surfaced. I’ve spoken to many of these issues before on this blog since it began in 2003. But never in a continuous thread. So I’ve mapped out about 15-20 posts that I hope to write. We can continue the discussion there.

    I’m sure these posts won’t convince everyone. But they might give a better understanding of how people who are committed to scripture have come to such a different understanding. The easiest thing to say is that they’ve caved to society’s pressure. What’s hard to believe—though true—is that the change comes from a return to scripture and from an observation of what God is doing among us.

  2. February 11, 2011

    @Erin – Huh? If your eyes aren’t split please note C is stating that qb statements were strong and spot on. C also notes that Geezer statements seem to put into question “qb’s” views and that C thinks qb shares views of many (including C’s). Finally, C thinks the whole patriarchal system (wherever percieved and wherever real) needs to go through a sea change. A change like that can certainly be helped by those who have a forum that reach multitudes. And as C notes, Piper has that forum but is blowing it!

    Any clearer for you, Erin? Guess I should have stated it like this the first time but didn’t realize I was that confusing – my apologies. You were correct however on the demographics!


  3. Erin permalink
    February 11, 2011

    I’m so sorry, C. I did completely misunderstand. And that’s my fault. Thank you for this clarification.

  4. H.B. permalink
    February 12, 2011

    Anna, you are correct – there is a connection between those two.

    You are also right to observe that I’m probably beating a dead horse with the ‘submission’ thing. But in my defense, please allow me to explain why I think it’s so important:

    I believe that we cannot change anyone but ourselves. We can rant and rave and be angry at others, and we can sometimes coerce them with a carrot or stick, but we can’t change them. Most of the responders to this post seem to be ‘followers’ and not ‘leaders,’ and yet are wasting energy being angry at the leaders, who they cannot change.

    Again: we can only change ourselves and our own groups. I can’t change un-submissive (non-listening, argumentative, adversarial) Catholics or women or elders … because I am none of those things. But I can and (according to the bible), SHOULD have an impact on other members of my own fellowship – and anyone who is willing to learn and grow and be open.

    I also believe that Satan provides incentive to disobey.
    And the greatest incentive to prevent submission is bad leadership. Or, in the case of a marriage, the more flawed the husband is, the easier it is to refuse to follow his lead … and the easier it is to excuse ourselves when we are defiant and/or selfish. Shoot, how many selfish people do you know who are aware of their own selfishness?

    Bad leaders are a fact of life.
    We can all agree to change “the patriarchical system” some are upset with here – into a matriarchy or a democracy or whatever you want … but it’ll still bring us bad leaders, so long as the leaders are human beings. Leadership is too hard for us – even when our intentions are good (as most parents would testify). So for many years the bad leaders have worn the faces of men … so now men are the problem? That would be like saying that for the past 2,000 years most bad families have been parented by a mom and a dad, and therefore the system of marriage needs to change. (then again, maybe Mike would like the syllogism!)

    No, I don’t doubt the people here love God.
    But I do suspect that all of us have fallen prey to Satan’s use of culture to stain the lenses of our viewfinders. And, I think it’s our weak faith that makes us so vulnerable to this kind of attack. If one truly believes that God rewards those who seek Him, then you’ll even be willing to obey Him and trust HIM, even when you cannot trust human leadership (of any gender or race or culture).

    There’s no reason, in my opinion, to refuse to submit – just becuase it’s hard. In fact, it’s the hard-ness of it that makes it ever more rewarding and faith building.

    And it is not helpful to rail against a “system,” when the only thing we can fix is ourselves.

  5. February 12, 2011

    H. B., you concluded your latest with this gem: “And it is not helpful to rail against a ‘system,’ when the only thing we can fix is ourselves.”

    Excuse me?

    Did we just excise massive portions of Amos, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Hosea, and Micah from our Hebrew scriptures? Were those extended prophecies against corrupt “systems” also “not helpful?”

    Was Elijah not railing against the accepted, YHWH-less “system” of Ahab and Jezebel, including their sycophantic priests?

    In fact, as many writers have shown us, the function of prophecy itself is frequently PRECISELY to “rail against systems.” We now know from system dynamics that however beneficial or harmless individual processes may appear to us, the STRUCTURES of those systems are often the greatest determinants of system behavior, outcomes, etc.

    astonished qb

  6. H.B. permalink
    February 12, 2011

    You make my point well, qb. Which of the prophets you mention … succeeded at changing the system? Zero. One of the few prophets who DID make a change was Nathan, and the reason he was able to make that change was because David listened and changed (i.e., was submissive). Prophets were right – and they were pleasing to God … but systemic changes could only come from within the system itself.

    Most of us are neither prophets nor kings. The real question is … what do WE do in the middle of a foul system (or marriage)? The sad answer (I believe) is found in stories like those of Daniel, Shadraq, Meshaq and Abednego (sp?). Another might be Joseph … but in each case these guys were submissive so long as they weren’t asked to violate God’s principles. Even David refused to rebel against Saul … and that was after he had been anointed, and knew for a fact that Saul was hurtful to others (including himself). There are many more examples, but you know that.

    My personal favorite example is Jesus. Observe that He also had (in my view) the equivalent of the Churches of Christ … only they were called Pharisees. Notice that He spent little time involved with them, but rather he went to the ‘regular folks’ and taught them (and showed them) how to live. In fact, Jesus spent so much time away from the religious folks, they were upset with Him for hanging out with ‘sinners.’ Only when the Pharisees tracked Him down did He respond, and even then He wasn’t rebellious! Jesus had two issues with them: their hypocrisy and their failures of priorities. He even taught the people (victims) of that system to do what the Pharisees said to do (just don’t ACT like them) – which again, is submission.

    btw, I love the list of prophets you gave … because I believe (as you seem to) that they speak to our times clearly. But I have found (as they did) that their methods were and are – ineffective. Just ask Jeremiah.

    Or better yet … how successful have YOU been at changing the system? (you’ve certainly done your fair share of prophetic rants against it) How good are you at changing your wife – or is she at changing you? The answer is … one can only help change another when the other is listening and submissive. I doubt anyone would say that our current “system” is dominated by great listeners, let alone men who are willing to repent.

    So maybe it’s time to shake off the dust of that village and move on.

  7. February 12, 2011

    *shaking head in utter disbelief*

    Your favorite example, Jesus, never railed against the system?




  8. February 12, 2011

    “Failures of priorities,” is that what you call “mint, dill, and cumin” in Matthew 23? That’s IT? A “failure of priorities?”

    This chuckle within threatens to become a full-throated guffaw. Alas, the kids are asleep.

    What you have just accomplished, dear H. B., is to geld the entire stable of Israel’s prophets. You concede their messages were correct, but their methods were wrong. How sophisticated of you!

    Brueggemann: “Hope is the refusal to accept the reading of reality which is the majority opinion; and one does that only at great political and existential risk. On the other hand, hope is subversive [one thinks of the great Christian choruses of the 1850s cotton patch -qb], for it limits the grandiose pretension of the present, daring to announce that the present to which we have all made commitments is now called into question…it is the business of the poet [Isaiah -qb] to drive the exiles to a decision about sovereignty because EXILES DO NOT WANT TO CHOOSE; DEPRESSED PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO ACT; AND DESPAIRING PEOPLE THINK IT DOES NOT MATTER.” _The Prophetic Imagination_, pp. 65, 72 (emphasis qb’s)

    H. B. interprets the failure of the great prophets to unsophisticated, unduly bombastic methods. Presumably Ezekiel was too weird, Isaiah too strident, Amos too simple-minded, Hosea too naive. But it is clear that the inefficacy of the prophets is easily traceable to the very nature of psychological oppression itself: it robs the victims of their souls, their worth, their will to stand and be heard. Oppression breaks the will, banking on the soul’s fragility to ensure that the oppressed cannot find the requisite solidarity among themselves to speak truth to hegemonic power. Any Jehovah who would call apprehensive Isaiah, reluctant Moses, and odd Ezekiel to the task of prophecy is surely responsible for the way their personalities and methods shape the divine message and the efficacy, or lack of it, that results. Your embarrassment over the prophetic means, H. B., is tantamount to saying YHWH had no idea what he was doing!

    Wow. Still wow.


  9. H.B. permalink
    February 13, 2011

    qb, you have read things into my comments that aren’t there, or at least you’re not reading them with an open mind.

    Either way, you’ve made it clear that you refuse to try to see any viewpoint but your own – in fact, you are provoked to laugh at me (and tell me so). I suppose it’s a good way to win a debate … but it doesn’t lead to peace.

    I knew Mike years ago, but have been away from the mainstream CofC bickering for a while. when I found this blog, I thought it would be a place for free exchange of ideas. Clearly it’s not. any ideas here that differ from the norm are to be angrily shouted down.

    Y’all seem to have a knack for projecting your suspicions onto another’s character and suppositions – without the need to know the truth. I simply don’t understand that mentality, so I’ll leave before my presence here stirs up things more.
    sorry for the intrusion

    God bless you all

  10. February 13, 2011

    Well, for what it’s worth, qb may be guilty of many, many things…but “refusing to see any other viewpiont than my own” ain’t one of them. Any evangelical Christian, especially one who is as politically right-wing as qb, would have to be insane to embrace someone like Brueggemann – especially to the extent qb has immersed himself in WB’s writings – if such a Christian were interested only in staying safely ensconced in his tidy, convenient little world view. Moreover, for example, in the past two years or so qb has decisively and publicly ( repudiated his lifelong support for capital punishment. Does that sound like a doctrinaire personage to you, H. B.?

    Let me answer for you: no, it doesn’t. Whatever you may think of qb’s BORROWED argument – and the floor is yours to show where it fails – the option of foreclosing qb for theological closed-mindedness is not among those that are available to you. In fact, if there is a criticism to be leveled at qb along this particular continuum, it would certainly be that of “being blown here and there by every wind of doctrine!”


  11. February 13, 2011

    I can attest to qb’s openness to other views. He probably doesn’t remember, but we were part of a c of C branded e-mail list for several years, when I was a young, upstart, politically conservative female Bible/Biblical Languages major. There are times we’ve agreed. There are times we’ve argued. There are times we’ve simply silently shaken our head — agreeing or not — and let the statement be. But all of that is to say that qb’s vantage point on this actually startled me in light of past conversations on broadly similar topics.

    I guess this is just to say that whatever qb is, it’s not closed-minded with blinders firmly applied. If anything, qb is another voice of one longing for God’s kingdom come and struggling about as we work together, differences and similarities, to be the light and life of Christ to a very dark and dying world.

  12. Carmel permalink
    February 13, 2011

    “Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.” ~ There is no love at the back of a hand. ~ Mel

  13. Jaime permalink
    February 14, 2011

    As I skimmed through all of these comments, I thought I might contribute something different than has been mentioned, the facts about intimate partner violence. The fact is that more women in the US are killed or significantly injured by their husbands or significant others than through stranger rapes, muggings and other assaults, and car accidents COMBINED. And there are no significant demographic variations. This means that abuse of women is equally likely in all races, cultures, socioeconomic classes, and religious groups. The picture is even more grim worldwide, and the large majority of abuse is justified through religious or moral reasoning. If you have doubts about this, read Half the Sky by Nicholas Kristoff. In addition, research conducted by the most prolific relationship researcher in the US, John Gottman at the University of Washington, indicates that there are two types of abusers. The first type is driven by a fear of abandonment that he comes to the relationship with (abuse has nothing to do with something being wrong in the relationship). These men are most likely to kill their wives when they try to leave or get help. The second type is driven by a fear of being controlled, again a characteristic they bring to the relationship. And control doesn’t mean that the wife tries to take over the leadership of the relationship. It’s typically very benign, such as suggesting where they should eat dinner or what shirt he should wear. The scary thing about these men is that when they start hitting, kicking, punching, or playing Russian roulette with their wives (which is actually highly likely with these men), they CALM DOWN physiologically. There is also clearly a lack of understanding regarding the cycle of abuse. It is a predictable sequence of events in which a man physically harms his wife, expresses regret and begs for her forgiveness. This is the point at which churches typically become involved if the woman has the courage to seek help. Church leaders often convince her at this point that she should go back to him, because after all, he is repentant. What typically happens next is that he ups the ante next time, using even more force and aggression. And the cycle starts over. Suggesting that a woman go to her church for help in dealing with her abusive husband does not recognize the depth of pathology present in abusive men, and very few church leaders possess the knowledge and training to deal with this issue in an effective way and many times bring about more harm than good.

  14. Kathy permalink
    February 15, 2011

    I’m speechless, if you can believe it. To even hint that a woman under any circumstances should be ‘submissive’ to abuse is beyond my understanding. I like what California has taken as legal stance, thanks to a forward looking San Diego law enforcement man. When the police receive a ‘domestic abuse’ call, the abuser is removed from the home and jailed. If after the trial, the abuser is found guilty, off to a state penitentiary where the offender must undergo deep psychological treatment. Temporary parole is given back to the same area but with an order not to go near the one abused. If the abuser cannot comply, back into the penitentiary until the next parole hearing. During the wait period, it’s back to psyche treatment. The state of California and about 26+ others, have taken this treatment for abusers. It has lowered the incidence of repeat abuse and has helped abusers face their problem, recognize they have a problem and work for the solution to their problem. The abused are protected, period. The treatment is the same be the abuser man or woman, they equally go to prison and undergo psychological treatment.

    Somewhere within this secular format there should be found a solution for the church as well. You don’t ‘understand’ the abuser, you treat him/her. AND the abused are protected, sometimes even hidden for their protection.

    The most/best Christ-like treatment we can offer the abuser is psychological treatment. And, the best we can offer the abused, is safety.

  15. Desley permalink
    February 22, 2011

    Abusive acts are engendered in abuse; therefore submitting to abuse, in whatever form, *is* engaging in the abusive act and is going outside of the bounds of the Lord’s will.

    And what about when a husband is “simply hurting” a child? Does she then endure the verbal abuse of her child for a season, or her child getting knocked around one night?

    The way I am beginning to see it is Love trumps the so-called law. In Luke 11:42 & Mathew 23:23 Jesus condemns the pharisees for putting the law before mercy and love – before people. That is the trademark of the pharisee, and Jesus didn’t look too fondly upon these people. I believe He referred to them as swallowing a camel to strain out a gnat. The very expectation to stay in an abusive situation that is placed on women is by far more outrageously sinful than a woman protecting herslef and her children.

    I really do fear the church of Jesus Christ is putting so many people in danger and we are becoming a stumbling block to others because of our harsh legalism.

  16. April 13, 2011

    Clearly John Piper is just really misguided in his belief about the cycle of abuse and it’s deep psychological impact on persons and relationships. What is the wife teaching her kids by submitting to a husband who is too insecure and sick to do anything but hand slap and verbally abusing her? Oh, and by the way, if the daughter did witness, and most likely she did sense kids are way more aware that acknowledge, then a crime of child abuse has also been committed. And I concur with the insight from the lady who said that most likely the church will simply exhort (they like those words) her to go back to his repentant (56th time saying sorry) coward of a man.

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