Drinking Deeply

Saturday, August 19, 2006 at 4:57 PM

A wife's submission to an unjust husband

The following was put together for a homework assignment. Comments appreciated. (Modified 8/24/06)

May a believing wife divorce a husband that physically hits her?

Whenever the issue of biblical submission is raise from such text as 1 Peter 3 and Ephesians 5, the question always seems to arise, “but what if the husband is physically abusive?”

The purpose of this essay will be to lay down a biblical reason why I would encourage such a person to stay. There are four parts to it. The first part will deal with a popular cultural assumption that is commonly made, the second part will be my biblical response to the original question, the third part will be an attempt at answering some challenges and questions, the last part will be an examination of why this question comes up all the time.

I. On physical discipline

One assumption that is always brought to the table in these discussions is that when a man hits his wife he is always abusing her. I wish to challenge that assumption as I don't think it's biblical. I can concede that many of the times that it happens it is in fact abuse, but I can conceive of one possibility where it would not necessarily be wrong.

If the wife is willfully disobedient, determined to subvert his authority to the point that she interferes with the sanctification of the family, and she's unresponsive to private and public rebuke, then it may be appropriate for him to physically discipline her.

I am not arguing that a man ought to hit his wife, but I am simply arguing that I can conceive of a reasonable situation where it would be appropriate and within his authority to physically discipline his wife. I am not currently convinced that there is a biblical prohibition against such discipline, but I certainly am open to that possibility.

So we can acknowledge that the husband, as the head of the household, may have the authority to physically discipline the wife in response to disobedience. I'm not saying that he's commanded to (like he is with children), but that the Bible (as I see it) doesn't forbid it, and from my understanding, there are some cultures that see it as normal. In this case, the biblical call for the wife would be submission to just punishment.

Of course, if the human law forbade a husband physically disciplining his wife, then the law forbids it and it is the delight of the husband to obey the authorities. Note that if the law forbade the disciplining of children, it would be necessary to break the law in cases of disciplining children and endure the punishments because to obey the law would be to disobey God.

Once again, I am not arguing that a husband should hit his wife, but only arguing that it is unclear there is a prohibition against physical disciplining her. I'm still open on this view though, and some people have put forth arguments which I'm thinking about.

II. An abusive husband

But what if the husband is abusive? This may be the case (if physical discipline is wrong always) the first instance of physical contact, or it may be the case (if physical discipline is not necessarily wrong) when physical discipline becomes excessive. What is the wife to do then? I would still say that the general principle is to stay married and submit. This may have different applications in different circumstances (to come at the end), but as a general rule it's submission as to the Lord.

I point to 1 Peter to establish my point.

To establish the context a little bit of 1 Peter, Peter is addressing the persecuted church. After laying down a theological foundation of their election and salvation in Christ Jesus, he encourages them to to be witnesses for Christ, especially in a culture that accuses them of being rebellious.

1 Peter 2

11Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 12Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation.

This starts Peter's discussion on submission. He encourages believers to submit to those in authority (2:13-14), slaves to masters (2:18), and finally, wives to husbands (3:1-6), that by their conduct those who oppose the Gospel would be silenced.

1 Peter 3:1-6

1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

What is submission? Submission is certainly not less than obedience, but it's more. It is a submission that sees the Lord's laws behind human institutions, and thus a joyous obedience rendered to the Lord. It is not a sullen, “I'll do what you say, but I don't like it” attitude. Sarah “obeyed Abraham, calling him lord.” It was an obedience clothed with imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, and this is pleasing to the Lord. Notice as well that it's a submission not conditioned upon the state of the husband. The husband could be a perfect model of 1 Peter 3:7, or the husband could be an unbeliever. The call for submission is the same.

Returning to the original question, what should a wife do with a husband whose physical discipline seems excessive?

Well, I would encourage a person to stay with the same arguments that Peter makes for slaves. He says to them “2:18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.” Notice the phrase, “not only... but also.” Not only the good and gentle masters, but also to the unjust ones, the ones who weren't good or gentled. Presumably, some masters would beat their slaves. What does Peter say to the slaves?

19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly. 20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

He doesn't encourage the slaves to flee the unjust masters, but rather to endure while being mindful of God. This was a gracious thing in the sight of God. From this, Peter transitions to looking at Christ's example. Christ endured unjust suffering at the hands of the authorities, and is the example for slaves and everyone else.

21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

This is the example that Peter gives for believing slaves, and this would be the example I would give to those who ask about abusive husbands as Peter immediately transitions from Christ's example to a wife's submission to her husband.

3:1Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives-- 2when they see your respectful and pure conduct. 3Do not let your adorning be external--the braiding of hair, the wearing of gold, or the putting on of clothing-- 4but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious. 5For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their husbands, 6as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.

Notice a few things:

  1. The wife's call for submission is even to those husbands who are non-believers - “even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.”

  2. There is not exception clause, “but if your husband beats you...”

It is necessary to take Peter's words at face value, simply because that's how Peter presents them. He does not envision an exception in submission (are we to assume that Peter was so unaware of the culture that he didn't know that husbands beat their wives? Or that first century husbands never beat their wives?). He sees submission for the wife to be similar to that of the slave or the citizen. Not that there isn't a distinction, but Peter doesn't make one here.

The biblical call is simply submission. Peter isn't alone in these words. Paul encourages believers to stay in a marriage with a non-believer if the non-believer is willing (1 Cor. 7:12-14). Jesus says that the only exception is adultery when the Pharisees ask if they can divorce for any reason (Matthew 19:1-9).

Thus instead of divorcing an abusive husband, if the believing wife stays and submits, knowing God, even in the midst of abuse, we know that is pleasing to the Lord. She is imitating Christ, who was abused unjustly, even to the death, and obeying God, which is what matters more than life, death, and physical pain.

In the same way that Peter encourages slaves to serve unjust masters and to hold up under unjust suffering, we can encourage wives who are called to the difficult role of submitting to an unjust and abusive husband. Their submission, even in the midst of physical abuse, is something that is pleasing to God, that they are following Christ. This is beautiful to the Lord and a true sign of their conversion.

Of course, if the husband wishes to leave, she should let him, per Paul's commands in 1 Cor. 7:15, but if he is willing to stay, the wife should continue to submit, clothing herself in good works by the grace of God. I'm not saying this is easy, but sometimes glorifying God is hard.

This is what Christ came to do, and this is what Christ did. He was abused, reviled, slandered, and beaten, all unjustly. But Christ, who had all the rights in the world to avoid this kind of treatment bore it, and bore it for God. He's our great and beautiful example and as we look forward to the great reward in heaven, we're able to endure everything for Christ.

So in conclusion, my advice to such a woman would be to stay and submit. This would be pleasing to God and imitating Christ. While she stays and submits, she should preach the Word, let the husband know why she is staying, that he's sinning that God will judge him for it, and if he doesn't repent there will be hell to pay. After that, she should joyfully submit. Not a begrudging submission, but a joyful one, as to the Lord. The Lord has made special promises to those who stay in unbelieving households, that their husbands and children are made holy (1 Cor. 7:14). So have faith, trust the Lord, and your rewards will be in heaven.

Now, as to direct applications, I'm not saying that the wife is to be silent through the whole ordeal. She should be clear why she's staying (for the Gospel's sake, in order that she might serve him, in hopes that one day he might become a model of 1 Peter 3:7), she can also be just as clear that he's sinning (if indeed he is). But after saying such, I'm not too sure continual complaints is appropriate (after all, isn't that what 1 Peter 3 is talking about?). The wife can ask the church to make an appeal to the (presumably) unbelieving husband with her. In all of this, it must be recognized that the husband is the head of the household and the wife is called to submit to such a fallible authority.

If the husband does become so physically violent that she feels her life is in danger, it does seem appropriate to flee temporarily, until he calms down, but there is to be no divorce, submission and reconciliation is the call. I say temporarily to prevent the idea of being “divorced in all but name” where the wife prevents the husband from carrying out his own duty of providing for the family.

III. Answering possible questions

What follows are some possible questions and answers. Some of them are better than others (I would still say that all of them are wrong), but for the sake of completeness, I will address all the ones I've come across and some I'm making up.

Question) With that interpretation of 1 Peter 2 and 3, you're encouraging husbands to beat their wives, masters to beat their slaves. What about human rights?

Answer) I think it's necessary to make a distinction between what Christian slaves are to do and what slave masters are to do. Even though I would agree that physical abuse in many cases is wrong, submitting to it does not imply that we support it. In fact, biblically speaking, such submission only increases their condemnation.

Question) Peter was dealing with a different culture. We apply his words differently.

Answer) For one, it is hard to conceive of a time and culture when all husbands did not beat their wives. If that truly is an exception, you'd think that Peter would address it. Instead, we see his encouragement to slaves to submit under unjust masters, with Christ as the example. In the same way, a wife is called to submit to even an unjust husband, with Christ as an example. Yes, submission can look different in a different context, but I'm unconvinced how something that is not an exception to Peter can now be an exception today.

Question) Doesn't the wife have rights as well? Rights to health. Rights to free living.

Answer) If those rights are strong enough to encourage a wife to divorce an abusive husband, then why aren't they strong enough for Peter to encourage slaves to flee? And if those rights existed, you'd think Peter would make mention of them, especially if they were such an exception? The call is always to use your rights to serve others. Now that you're free from the law, don't use it as an excuse to live licentiously, but rather love. Now that you're really under only God's authority, use that freedom to serve the king.

Question) When can we disobey our authorities then?

Answer) The biblical answer is that we disobey when to obey involves a disobedience of God. This is not what we think God is saying but rather what God has explicitly commanded. We aren't called to follow them into sin, but sometimes we follow them even when they are sinning (so long as that does not cause us to sin ourselves).

Question) This is too simple. There are other factors. Isn't the husband breaking the covenant? The relationship between a slave and his master is very different than the relationship between a husband and wife.

Answer) The reason why I present it so simply is because that's how Peter presents it. While we can agree that the relationship is different, that doesn't mean that our response to abuse is necessarily different. Peter treats them the same and he asks them all to submit, even to an unjust authority. Christ is the example for all of them.

Question) What about the husband? Isn't he supposed to love the wife just like Christ loved the church? Why are they supposed to submit to a husband that doesn't do that?

Answer) Well, the short answer is, “because God said so.” Peter encourages submission for slaves to unjust masters, and for wives to husbands who don't believe the word. While we can agree that the husband is called to love the wife just as Christ loved the church, laying down their life for her sanctification, his behavior is independent of her call. And if you really think about it, a conditional submission (I'll submit to you only if you love me completely and sacrificially) isn't really a submission at all. It's a demand.

IV. Why does this issue come up?

As for the question of “what about when...?” itself, there seem to be a number of reasons that it is always asked when the subject of submission comes up.

First off would be because the feminist movement has placed the blame upon the Christian model of marriage for all the wrongs that women suffer. Of course, the issue isn't with the Christian model of marriage, the issue is with sinners who've taken a biblical model and twisted it.

Another reason would be that we know of someone who was hurt/abused and we want to know how to encourage them. But to tell them that they should flee would simply be telling them what they want to hear when God says the very opposite. Rather, we should encourage them with the promises of God, that to stay would glorify God, remind them of Christ and point them to eternity and God's nature. Christ reminds us that the road is hard.

The third big reason is that we've become humanists. We're more concerned with the rights of the individual than the glory of God. God calls us to submit and we're more concerned with our own rights than God's glory. We ask first “but what if...?” and we wonder about our own rights and we forget God's call. His call for us is to submit in a humble and God-glorifying manner. Of course, this submission does come with one exception – submit unless it contradicts God's commands. And instead of finding that God commands us to leave in the face of unjust abuse, we find God encouraging people to stay and submit, that this is pleasing to God. That's what Jesus did, that's what the Apostles did, that's what martyrs did.

The underlying reason is simply that we're rebellious. We hear authority and we immediately want the exceptions. This is the same trap that Adam and Eve fell into, “Did God really say?” Rather than joyfully submitting in faith to the commands God gives us, we immediately ask for all the times when we can disobey such commands. The solution to that is simply repentance. We're sinners and we need Christ.

In summary, while we lament the condition of today's world that necessitates such advice and long for the day when all those who abuse their authority will get what they deserve, we can also encourage those under abusive authorities to stay and submit, thus living lives pleasing to God. Looking to glorifying the Lord, following His lead, for His glory. It is in His Name we trust and place our hopes in.

Hebrews 12:1-3

1Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
3Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted.


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

First off, I am a believer as is my mother. My mother's first marriage was to an abusive man. She thought he was a believer when they got married but she later found he was not. Physical discipline is one thing(I think spanking and the like is right and necessary), but it is completely different to beat someone. It may not be the case, but you almost sound like you support a husband beating his wife in the name of discipline. In the Bible we are also taught to submit to the government, and since it is illegal to assault or batter someone, you really can't justify beating a woman in the name of discipline. This man physically beat my mother constantly; sometimes with objects and other times with his fists. On numerous occasions he threatened to kill her and her unborn child. When she called the police they did nothing because this man was a police officer himself. You would encourage a woman to stay married to a man who beat her and threatened to kill her because she made spaghetti for dinner on a day when he had already had if for lunch? Surely such an act as this by the woman doesn't merit any form of physical discipline. I am no Biblical scholar, but I do believe that it says a divorce is permitted if the unbeliever doesn't want to stay in the marriage. Maybe it's just me, but I would interpret a man beating his wife close to the point of death and threatening to kill her and her children as a sign that he really didn't want to be married to her. My mother recieved counseling from a strong, Biblically sound church who supported her decision to leave with her child. Should she have stayed so the man could kill her and her child? A woman after all does have a Biblical responsibility to nurture and take care of her children; keeping her children in a home where these children would be beaten and possibly killed really doesn't seem like the way a mother is supposed to rear her children does it. If you really think that a woman should stay in this kind of situation then I think-- no, scratch that, I know you are an idiot.  

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Blogger mxu said...

anonymous -

The world weeps when injustices are perpetrated and we await eagerly for the day of revealing, when people will get their due, the wrongs will be put to right, and the Son of God will judge the nations. Rest assured that your father will get his due.

Let me clarify a few points. I am not encouraging the husband to beat his wife in the name of discipline (but I cannot come up with a prohibition against physical discipline for a wife), and I agree if the government forbids it (so far as it agrees with Scriptural terms), one should not assult or batter someone.

That said, I would encourage such a woman in such a situation to stay married, for the simple reason that Peter encourages it. Yes, if he threatens to kill her, it may be more advisable to flee temporarily, but divorce is not an option, submission and reconciliation is what we're called to do.

Here's the question. Do we think these things did not happen in Peter's time? Even with slaves? If they did happen, why does Peter not mention them? Why does Peter even encourage the slaves to stay, pointing to Christ as the example? Could it not be that we are modeling Christ in humble and joyful submission, even under persecution and physical abuse? Isn't that what Peter himself says?

Regarding 1 Corinthians 7, it seems that you are stretching the argument. The encouragement is "stay if at all possible" not "flee if it's tough." If the husband is willing to stay married, the wife should stay married.

Jesus says in Matthew 19 that anyone who divorces and remarries, except in the case of adultery (do we think that physical abuse was unheard of in Christ's times?), is guilty of adultery herself.

Matthew 19:6 - So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate."  

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Blogger Eric said...

"I am no Biblical scholar, but I do believe that it says a divorce is permitted if the unbeliever doesn't want to stay in the marriage."

Well, sort of. Scripture says that if the unbelieving spouse initiates divorce, there's nothing wrong with getting divorced. It doesn't really come out and say that if the unbelieving spouse wants to initiate divorce (but hasn't) that the believing spouse can do it for them.

Mickey, about your post, I agree that I see no Biblical prohibition on a husband physically disciplining his wife. But let's take it out of the cultureless void you were posting in and put these principles into 21st century American culture, which confers upon the husband no right to discipline his wife. Let us now suppose that a husband is beating his wife in anger. He may or may not be a believer; he may or may not truly want to divorce her (perhaps he has a serious anger management problem, or a neurochemical disorder, which causes him to behave in ways that do not necessarily reflect his true desires). Now, I don't think American culture would say that the first time a spouse hits another is grounds for divorce, but let us suppose that this beating does rise to the level that, culturally, would be grounds for divorce. Let us further suppose that the beating never rises to the level of being life-threatening, medically speaking.

Now, Biblically, I agree that that is not grounds for divorce. My own view of that subject (post of July 25) is that in such cases a believing wife (or husband) would be perfectly justified in physically separating herself from the abusive spouse, though she would continue to seek healing for and reconciliation to him in whatever ways she safely could. Your post implies a subtly different position: as I read your thoughts on this subject, you would say that a wife in this situation should continue to live with her husband, but if her life is threatened she could separate "temporarily" (how temporarily? For as long as his behavior remained life-threatening?). I have two questions for you:

1. Is this in fact your position? Would you say that a spouse in the hypothetical I laid out (non-life threatening spousal abuse) should stay with the abusive spouse rather than separating without divorce and seeking healing and reconciliation?
2. If your answer is yes, how do you justify drawing a line between accepting non-life threatening physical abuse and accepting life-threatening physical abuse?  

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Blogger Frank Martens said...

Dude,

What studying have you done on writtings by other people? Is there anybody who supports this? I feel like your paper is built off of YOUR interpretation, instead off of a well studied interpretation.

Meaning, have you consulted the men of old and their writings to see if your interpretation is wrong...


For the rest of you who are reading... I AM NOT SUPPORTING Mickey's view. I'm just trying to challenge a think through it process.  

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Blogger mxu said...

Eric-

I am in general agreement regarding women and submission in cases of abuse in the family with your post. The call is submission and reconciliation first. Regarding where the line is drawn, I think one could argue that murder is prohibited by Scripture, but beatings are not necessarily prohibited, so that might be at least more justifiable than others. The line could also be drawn where the government draws the line (though I am unsure of where that is), because they would be doing something illegal, but in all these cases, submission and reconciliation should be the emphasis.

My emphasis on "temporary" is the same emphasis you put, namely that submission and reconciliation come first and there is to be no divorce. What I am trying to do with the term "temporary" is to prevent the idea of being "divorced in all but name." I don't see that position as biblically justifiable. And yes, I would say "temporary" as being until his anger wears off. I think if the husband asks the wife to come back when she contacts him, as long as it's clear that he's not just going to resume beating her, she should return.

Even in the case of physical beating, fleeing would not be something that I would encourage as a general rule, simply because Peter does not encourage it at all. I am hesitant to encourage someone to go with God's blessing when I am unconvinced that it would necessarily be with God's blessing. Of course, I cannot keep someone against their conscience, but I think that line is pulled far too early sometimes, especially in this case when our overriding principle is evident.

Regarding specific instances, I think different instructions can be given depending upon the circumstances. The wife could go to the church and ask it to plead her case to the husband. She could go to the authorities and ask them to warn the husband and protect her. But underneath all of thus, the biblical call is submission. There is to be no divorce, and even in the case of adultery, reconciliation is preferable. I am in general agreement with you, and I am comfortable leaving it up to individual consciences who are under the counsel of their church, but I still don't see divorce as an option.

As a random side note, I keep forgetting you keep a blog too. =p thanks for the link!

Frank - This is my interpretation, and it is what I've arrived at from reading through 1 Peter. I read through it, noticed the references to slaves submitting to even unjust (and abusive) masters, and the immediate transitions to wives and husbands, with Christ being the example for both. The call for biblical submission and reconciliation to unjust husbands seems to follow clearly (as difficult as it seems to be to swallow). I have not checked against church fathers, but if you have some specific references I'd be glad to look at them. Of course, ultimately we appeal to Scripture right?

All-

It seems that the underlying assumption that we bring to this discussion is (roughly) "physical danger overrides everything, including God's commands." I don't see that as supportable from Scripture, especially in light of the commands to slaves and the example of Christ. It certainly is the "American" way, but it's not in the text, so is it necessarily the "Christian" way?

Once again, if that (the idea that physical harm trumps other commands) was such a clear exception, why doesn't Peter bring it up, especially in the case where it would be worst, between slaves and masters? And why does he call them to follow Christ, who clearly didn't follow that exception (he endured to the death)? How can Christ be an example if he breaks the exception? Or is Christ just an example up until a certain point, and then he's no longer an example for us to follow?

I would say the same I've said here for people under persecution from the government and for children under their parents. The call is first submission. Details can be worked out on a case by case basis.  

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Blogger lj said...

honestly...right now...i'm really disturbed by what you wrote. i know you're a reasonable guy, mickey. i know that if you're proved wrong (through Scripture), you will concede because Scripture has the highest authority over us. with that, i'm going to look at the passages that you talked about right now. maybe i'll pose some questions later, maybe i'll come back with a post that refutes you...maybe i'll support you? i highly doubt the latter. in any case..we'll see how it goes since i'm usually too lazy to refute people i disagree with.  

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Anonymous theocentric522 said...

i believe lj's has the right attitude in Christian debate/disagreements. We need to deal with the text--not just "your scholars verses mine" attitude.

Secondly, since Mickey acknowledges that this is a difficult conclusion to swallow, I don't think he likes his conclusions as much as the next person. Yet our conscience need to be gripped by Scripture. So I commend Mickey for that spirit. As for myself, I have to ask, What kind of biblical advice would I give to my daughter if she's being beat by her husband? As much as it would pain me, I would much rather have her obey God. Christ being exalted in our bodies whether by life or by death should be our passion.

Another thing...let's keep in mind that Mickey is not justifying husbands beating wives. Whether beating a wife is ever "just" is a separate issue. We need to remember that a godly wife staying with an unjust husband does not condone her husband's actions. That might be the psychological implication, but it's not a logical/biblical/theological one. If fact, theologically, a godly wife submitting to her unjust husband may condemn him all the more. It may also save him... (But I would much rather that God condemn him to hell. But that's my unmerciful side talking)  

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Blogger lj said...

sorry for the double post earlier.
some things to consider:
-read Malachi 2.

-i believe you're simplifying the issue a bit much. you need to explore a few things...
-the nature of a covenant
-the nature of the relationship between a husband and wife (not just the headship/submission part, but their oneness and the fact that they reflect the union of the trinity)
-the nature of the relationship between master and slave
-the nature of the relationship between child and parent
-the effects of spousal abuse. that is...can the husband's abuse toward the wife cause her to grow resentful, bitter towards her husband? you say that the woman ought to "joyfully submit" as if it were an easy thing. bear in mind that a master and slave are not one. a child and parent are not one either. there are some different relational dynamics going on.
-i would look at some more OT passages too (you mostly stuck around the NT)
-i would also be wary of your statement that it pleases God when she sticks around for her husband's beatings. if the marriage is to reflect the glorious trinity, i'm not sure how great of a reflection it is when the suitable helper is getting beat to a pulp.
-your essay is packed with assumptions and simplifications.
-if the beatings she receives tempts her to sin (yeah like planning a murder--it's really not beyond women), should she remain in that household?

let me know if you've considered any of the above issues...  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

MXU-
To be honest, your words shock and disgust me. Like I said before, I completely believe that it is ok to spank your kid and that kind of thing. But you really think that it is Biblically acceptable to beat your wife and/or child to the point where they have serious injuries in the name of discipline. Do you think it is ok to throw them accross the room and bludgeon them with frying pans and the like? If you ever actually find a woman stupid enough to be willing to marry you I hope that you will tell her beforehand that you see no problem with a husband beating the crap out of his wife if she needs to be disciplined. A woman should be able to choose whether or not she marries a man like that... a man like you. You are exactly the kind of guy that may end up doing this kind of thing. I think you will have a hard time finding Biblical support for hitting your wife in the face with an iron. If you can find a reference, please let me know.  

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Blogger Jessica said...

Anonymous - I understand your sentiments. but to your last comment, please do see theocentric's comment earlier. I think he's right on the dot here. Mickey's post on whether a wife can stay with an unjust husband is not condoning the behavior of the unjust husband. (I'm not necessarily speaking for Mickey here, but..) I don't think that he would say that excessive beating of a child (with an iron, throwing them across the room, etc) is just. The limits of 'the rod' in disciplining children should probably be discussed in a different post.



This is one of many personal attempts to understand this topic:
The wife is a believer, so in biblical terminology that makes her righteous in God's eyes (by faith, through Grace). The husband in this situation is an unbeliever, which makes him wicked in God's sight. His rejection of God condemns him. Put in this terminology, you have the general case of the beating of the righteous by the wicked.
Is this not Christ's suffering? Was this not the injustice upon injustices? Beaten and flogged almost to death, forced to wear thorns on his head, to carry his own cross, and then crucified upon a cross. But Peter says in 1 Peter 4 that we are to rejoice in the sharing of Christ' sufferings. (such a theme is also present in Philippians 1) Well, you can say that this situation is different because it's not necessarily suffering for one's faith. But my reading of 1 Peter 4:12-19 is that God is glorified when we suffer for doing good in general. He says, v16, "Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name." and v19, "Therefore let those who suffer according to God's will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good." Like Christ, we are to commit our spirits to God, sharing in Paul's sentiments that "to live is Christ and to die is gain.", and knowing that we ultimately look forward to another life, where "He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away." (Rev 21:4)  

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Blogger Frank Martens said...

Frank - This is my interpretation, and it is what I've arrived at from reading through 1 Peter. I read through it, noticed the references to slaves submitting to even unjust (and abusive) masters, and the immediate transitions to wives and husbands, with Christ being the example for both. The call for biblical submission and reconciliation to unjust husbands seems to follow clearly (as difficult as it seems to be to swallow). I have not checked against church fathers, but if you have some specific references I'd be glad to look at them. Of course, ultimately we appeal to Scripture right?

You are right, scripture does hold the highest appeal. BUT! How do you know how you've interpreted that passage is correct?

If you say... "well it makes logical sense, because the passage flows like such and such." That tells me nothing. Even the Church of Christ have said... "well the scripture says you MUST BE baptized, so therefore it must make logical sense you must be or else you won't go to heaven."

I know that's not the best example. But the point is, it's from a lack of studying from ALL viewpoints and writings.

I believe it's foolish to come up with an interpretation without first studying to see if something has been written about this prior and checking against the sources.

Now I agree with theocentric on every point he's said. And I'm not saying... "your scholars verses mine." What I am saying is that at the same time I feel there is only your interpretation of scripture based off of what makes sense to YOU, rather then checking your interpretation against other sources.

Remember... the heart is deceitful above all things. SO the thing is, HOW DO YOU KNOW it's right?

Again, I want to acknowledge ultimately it's the Spirits inner working that convicts us (and opens our eyes) of what scripture says.

However, I don't think that's the issue here.  

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Blogger mxu said...

Theocentric -

Thank you.

Anonymous -

Could you please read what I'm writing at least?

Jessica -

Thank you as well for your comment. You've put into words a pastoral care that my original essay was trying to convey but lacked.

lj - I've responded to parts of your comment in my next post simply because all the comments here got really long and I wanted to summarize my main point again.

Frank -

As to how I know, well, I'm captivated by the Word of God. My conscience is bound by what Scripture has said. I have not checked with other authorities simply because I assumed this view was the mainstream view since it seemed clear to me. I guess I was very naive about that.

"Even the Church of Christ have said... "well the scripture says you MUST BE baptized, so therefore it must make logical sense you must be or else you won't go to heaven."

I know that's not the best example. But the point is, it's from a lack of studying from ALL viewpoints and writings.


But we don't reject it because other viewpoints reject it, we reject it by appealing to Scripture. It's not because we haven't read other theologians that we get things wrong, it's because we haven't read Scripture properly that we get things wrong.

I agree that I'm a sinner just like everyone else, and my interpretation is just as fallible as everyone else's, and God has gifted some to be teachers so their interpretations may be more correct more often.

But the reason I believe what I've written is because it seems very clear to me, and that's where my final appeal is. I'm sorry, I can't satisfy your demands for other theologians, I haven't bothered to check. Do you have any specific references to resources online that I should read and consider?

It does make sense to me, it does look faithful to Scripture, that's why I believe it. I can't appeal to anyone or anywhere else.  

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Blogger Frank Martens said...

Right :) And to those who were looking at salvation based on works said that people needing circumcision made sense too :).

However, here's a challenge for you and this is why I asked what I asked...

Have not people like Dr. MacArthur, Piper, Spurgeon, Sproul, Edwards, Tozer, The Puritans, etc... shaped how you look at scripture? Has God not used them in your life to reconsider things about scripture or reshape what you have been previously taught about scripture? :)

Just a thought.

Cheers!  

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Blogger mxu said...

Of course other theologians have influenced me a great deal, but that doesn't mean I necessarily double-check everything I believe against their beliefs. I'm sure you don't as well. I believe what I have written here simply because it's clear in Scripture. It follows logically from Peter's commands to slaves, his commands to wives, and the example of Christ.

As much as it would pain me to tell someone this, I hope that they are able to be encouraged by the fact that they are sharing in Christ's sufferings, that they are, in faith, obeying God's commands, and that by their submission they are heaping coals upon their husband's head. That's where the hope is. It isn't in how many people agree with them. It isn't in how many people disagree with them. It's simply in God, the shepherd and overseer of souls, who has placed them in a circumstance so that they can display Christ's submission, even in the face of abuse.  

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Blogger Frank Martens said...

Here's a couple verses as to why I think seeking counsel on the subject is wise...

Proverbs 11:14, "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety."

Proverbs 15:22, "Without counsel plans fail,but with many advisers they succeed."

Proverbs 21:30, "No wisdom, no understanding, no counselcan avail against the LORD."

Proberbs 24:6, "for by wise guidance you can wage your war,and in abundance of counselors there is victory."  

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Blogger mxu said...

not too sure what exactly you want me to do, but I checked against resources that were readily availible.

Grace to You points out that the only exceptions are adultery and an unbeliever leaving.

Third Millenium Ministries says the same thing.

Desiring God includes brutality as acceptable (point 5.2), but since his paper deals with something else, doesn't explain why.

Calvin's and Matthew Henry's commentaries on this passage of 1 Peter are silent.

With all of this, I am in agreement with GTY and 3MM, simply because those are the exceptions I see in Scripture.  

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Blogger Benjamin Oetken said...

MXU, I think the point that Frank is trying to make is that you are being liberal with your interpretation of some things. Also as many people have pointed out in this section of comments and on the second post this is an issue that must be handled with all sensitivity and care, which was not entirely, done in your writing. I would encourage you to heed the advice of some of those who have commented as many are emphasizing the same issues repeatedly. I would be interested in dialoging on this issue if you are so interested.

Your Brother In Christ,
Benjamin A. Oetken  

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Blogger Jax said...

There is one small thought I wanted to share, without picking any side in this debate. If the Scriptures say wives submit to your husbands "as to the Lord," and the Lord himself would never beat us or do anything sinful that we would have to submit to, how does that reflect on this discussion?  

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Blogger Frank Martens said...

Jax... does that mean if a husband lies to his wife just once, she should divorce him?  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have to be more sensitive, Mxu.
Are you married? Do you know anything about the "weaker vessel"?
Sometimes a woman has to flee her husband. Just to get him to reconsider what he's doing. Sometimes a woman needs strong elders of the church to confront her husband instead of telling her to go back to the hell of a life he's giving her.

I agree with most of your points. I agree that God doesn't want divorce. But God is merciful too.

I disagree with it ever being ok for a husband to discipline his wife. It's clear in scripture that husbands are to LOVE their wives as their own bodies. Who disciplines his own body?
Men are commanded to not be harsh with their wives. They are to live with them in understanding.
Paul's and Peter's writings both emphasize the love, understanding and, if you like it, grace that a husband is supposed to show towards his wife. They don't emphasize leadership, correction or discipline. The only place you might find an excuse for a husband correcting his wife is in Eph 5.25,26 the "washing with the water of the word", but wouldn't this mean more that he lead her to the word to understand why she is sinning?
And don't you think that God would have said something about husbands disciplining their wives if it were in any case acceptable? He mentions masters, authorities and parents disciplining, but never husbands. Isn't that strange?
And who would decide when physical discipline (or any other discipline) is warranted?
Nowhere in scripture do we find that disciplining a husband is wrong. Would you have something to say if an unbelieving wife were disciplining her husband by beating him?
I think a husband who feels it's ok to beat his wife or even spank her, is probably sinning and knows it. He's probably sexually perverted or in the case of beating her, a very angry person, out of control.
If he is a Christian, he should be confronted.
Personally, I'd like to see more Bible study done on the husband's love for his wife. There seem to be too many men out there concerned with the submission of wives. Why not write a paper on how the elders can support a woman in such circumstances? Not necessarily from the comfort of their own homes, but out in the battle field, the battered woman's home.

Our responsibility towards our children is different. We must discipline them to teach them right from wrong, but even there, God has set limits.  

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also don't agree with breaking the law concerning disciplining children.
Do you really believe that smacking is the only way to correct your children?
Do you think that it would be better for your children to be taken away?
The verses about the rod are few, in the old testament, and not repeated as commands in the new testament.  

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Blogger mxu said...

Anonymous-

Please read the post and the following ones. I lay out my argument biblically (and am in general agreement with what you say regarding what a church can/ought to do).

A few things I would address, your statement in italics, mine in plaintext.


I agree that God doesn't want divorce. But God is merciful too.

I'm not sure what you mean by the "but" there. It seems like you're saying, "God hates divorce, but it's ok if you do because God is merciful," which sounds like "shall we sin so that grace may abound?" See Paul's response in the book of Romans.

I disagree with it ever being ok for a husband to discipline his wife. It's clear in scripture that husbands are to LOVE their wives as their own bodies. Who disciplines his own body?

Umm, God did, in teaching obedience to Jesus through suffering. Paul does, in beating his body to make it his slave.


Paul's and Peter's writings both emphasize the love, understanding and, if you like it, grace that a husband is supposed to show towards his wife. They don't emphasize leadership, correction or discipline. The only place you might find an excuse for a husband correcting his wife is in Eph 5.25,26 the "washing with the water of the word", but wouldn't this mean more that he lead her to the word to understand why she is sinning?

I think I agree to an extent. I wouldn't say it's an "either/or" option, as I see both in Scripture. Husband head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church comes to mind.

I think a husband who feels it's ok to beat his wife or even spank her, is probably sinning and knows it. He's probably sexually perverted or in the case of beating her, a very angry person, out of control.

Ummm, great argument.


Personally, I'd like to see more Bible study done on the husband's love for his wife. There seem to be too many men out there concerned with the submission of wives. Why not write a paper on how the elders can support a woman in such circumstances? Not necessarily from the comfort of their own homes, but out in the battle field, the battered woman's home.


Umm, I did later on, if you read my other post here

I also don't agree with breaking the law concerning disciplining children.
Do you really believe that smacking is the only way to correct your children?
Do you think that it would be better for your children to be taken away?
The verses about the rod are few, in the old testament, and not repeated as commands in the new testament.


Well, I believe we ought to discipline our children because the Bible commands it to be done. End of problem.  

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Anonymous RoSeZ said...

How do you reconcile the verse in the Bible about it being better for a man to have a rock tied around his neck and be thrown into the ocean than to hurt a child and the old testament ones about spanking...?  

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