A Cry For Justice

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

John Piper is Clueless, and Dangerous to Abuse Victims

This will probably not be news to many of you.  John Piper, well-known pastor and author, answers the following question in this manner:

Does the Bible allow for divorce in the case of adultery?

I don’t think so. I don’t think the Bible allows divorce and remarriage ever while the spouse is living. That’s my radical, crazy, conservative, narrow, hard-nosed, very needed view in our divorce-happy culture.  http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/ask-pastor-john/does-the-bible-allow-for-divorce-in-the-case-of-adultery

End Quote

He also answers a question about abuse in the following Youtube clip – indicating that an abuse victim should endure the abuse.  He does say she should come to the church and that the church should discipline the offender, but since his other comments demonstrate his ignorance about abuse, I pity any victim who would go to him for help!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3OkUPc2NLrM

As Barbara Roberts recently commented on this blog, we could go on for a long while listing well-known authors, pastors, and  theologians who refuse to acknowledge abuse as biblical grounds for divorce.  The thing is epidemic in our churches, especially our conservative, Bible-believing churches.

What are we doing?  Why have we exalted men such as this to such a level of prominence that whatever they say, it seems, is God’s Word?  Are they prophets?  No.  Why are we acting as if they are?  Their books sell by the thousands.  As in the above youtube clip, here are these men who sit in front of large audiences, being asked questions about what God says.  Why?  Should we not embrace the Apostle Paul’s attitude -

Galatians 2:6 And from those who seemed to be influential (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–those, I say, who seemed influential added nothing to me.

We have gotten ourselves into a really serious mess and I suggest that in large part we have done so because we have elevated mere men to the level of prophet or apostle of God.  This is not going to be an easy can of worms to get ourselves out of.  Men like Piper and others have so influenced Christians who are zealous about the Word of God (as we should be) that the delusion is far-reaching.

We may have to start over, whatever that entails.

23 Comments

  1. “Simply being hurt” … “endures being smacked one time” …. talk about minimization. This saddens me so much, as I know that John Piper is a loving husband and father. To many he is a respected academic and theologian, but he is completely ignorant when it comes to walking in the shoes of the woman who is being battered by her husband. Clueless. Dr. Piper, and others who don’t “get it” that the Church is NOT yet a safe place for the battered woman and her children, needs to refer his counseling assignments to those who understand, among other things, narcissism, war zones and trauma.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Morven – I am still trying to sort out why Bible-believing pastors in conservative churches (like mine) teach what Piper, MacArthur, and Sproul do when it comes to marriage, divorce and abuse. In part, I am concluding that it is because of the Bible-alone philosophy. That means that in seminary, there is almost no training in psychology and counseling. Very minimal stuff. Psychology is seen as the enemy of biblical truth. This means then that pastors have no training in abnormal psychology such as sociopathy or psychopathy, mentalities that are so often at the root of abuse. Yes, the Bible does say a lot about such things, but if you are totally ignorant of these in your experience in life (perhaps having been raised in a Christian home, Christian school, etc) you really never are able to connect the dots between Scripture and real life. The Bible is sufficient, but we are not. It took me 30years of being beaten up by abusers in the church before I started to figure out what was really happening and how to deal with them. And that awakening was greatly enhanced by reading secular authors such as Robert Hare, George Simon, and Lundy Bancroft. I also was a police officer for 13 years before becoming a pastor so at least I had some life experience. I have concluded (and we deal with this in a chapter in our upcoming book) that it is essential for pastors to study under or at least read from professionals in these fields. All that really is is studying the results of science – looking at the natural revelation and learning from it. In this case, the study of man himself. If I were 20 years younger, I would begin to pursue a degree in clinical psychology. Yes, a Christian has to sort out unbiblical data as we come across it. But that is part of life in this world.

  2. Reblogged this on Justification by Grace and commented:
    My dear brother and fellow-pastor, Jeff Crippen, is not going to be very popular with too many folks with articles like these; but I applaud his boldness and courage to speak the truth in this much needed area in our Christianity.

    Sometimes I wished that some of these men would just spend three months in some of the places that I have ministered; some of the mental, emotional, and verbal abuse that goes on (and that’s not to mention the physical or sexual abuse) is enough to one weep. Now that I minister here in the lower 48 states, I recognize what a prevailing issue it is down here… but worse, because it is done with such subtlety. Where I have seen it in the mission field it was rather out in the open; seeing it so blatantly has allowed me, by God’s grace, to recognize some of its subtleties and deceptions.

    Thank you for you service, Brother Jeff.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you very much for the encouragement, Jon. It is going to be very interesting to see the response we receive when our book is published later this year. I am really interested in the fact that you mentioned the subtlety that abusers exercise their evil with. They attack, then play the victim. Work to gain others as their allies, etc. And one of their favorite fields of play is the church.

      • I truly look forward to reading your book when it comes out, brother. May the Lord fill your worship this week with His truth, His love, and joy in His presence.

  3. Jeff, go for the counseling degree! Four years from now you could have it, and you’ll only be four years older ;-) I agree, completely, that every seminary student needs classes in counseling. In one class I taught on sexual abuse to Doctor of Ministry students, one of the students, a gentleman in his 50′s who was pastor of a large inner city church, was flabbergasted by what he was learning, and angrily denied that there was such a problem in ‘his’ church. That next Sunday, he mentioned briefly after his sermon that he had been learning some things at seminary and, if there were any women in the church who were victims of childhood sexual abuse that would like to meet with him after the church, to meet him in a certain room in the church. After the service, he was dumbfounded to find over 40 women waiting for him. He now has a reputation in his city for being a pastor who cares for the abused.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thanks Morven. I am not at all surprised that 1) the fellow initially was in denial, and 2) he got the results that he did from the women in his church. I also am convinced that many of our most troublesome people in our congregations (and troublesome is putting it mildly, some of them can cost a pastor his job) have seriously dysfunctional backgrounds but live in denial of it with a Christian facade as a substitute. One mark of such people, I think, is that you one day realize that even though you have “known” them for even years, you don’t really know them at all. They are a mystery. They can even set themselves up in the church as eminent saints, ready to disciple and help others – but they will never be ministered to themselves.

    • That reminds me of what a woman pastor in a largish church once said at a seminar I attended. She had led many women’s groups and Bible studies for the women in the church. Many of the women were divorced, but she had never thought of asking them WHY they became divorced. When she asked them directly, most of them said it was because of their ex-husband’s abuse. She was flabbergasted.

      Such a simple question. Such a tidal wave of answers. But so few ask the question!

  4. Yes, there is too little training in seminaries and Bible colleges about psychology and counselling. And those pastors who do avail themselves of training in counselling often choose the ‘nouthetic’ streams of counselling, which to my mind over-focus on providing pat Scriptural prescriptions as quick fixes to complex problems. The subject of trauma and its effects on the human psyche is mostly ignored in Christian circles. The BIBLE has heaps to say about trauma and its consequences, but Christians rarely hear because they aren’t taught to listen, and many just don’t WANT to hear.
    I agree Jeff: “many of our most troublesome people in our congregations have seriously dysfunctional backgrounds but live in denial of it, with a Christian facade as a substitute.” No wonder they don’t want to hear when we talk about abuse and trauma. Some people have cart-loads of dysfunctional baggage buried below the surface in their own hearts, It’s far easier to put on the whale-bone corset of pseudo-Christianity to suppress all the festering feelings. If the festering mess leaks out over others occasionally, or gets transformed into darts and grenades that blow other Christians out of the water, well too bad! At least we still have our Christian club to go to each Sunday where we can put on our masks and feel we are part of the community.
    Am I being too cynical?

    • Jeff Crippen

      Actually, Barbara, I should go back to Greek and get the real definition of cynicism. It may not be the bad thing we have made it. If it means being fundamentally suspicious until proven wrong, then I think that is where we need to be at today when it comes to evaluating our churches and preacher/teachers. I don’t want to become a person whose whole “thing” is to find dirt on someone just to make myself look good by putting them down. I hate that. But the grenade and dart-throwing that goes on among what is called Christianity today is quite typical in a church. We live in denial because we want low pressure on ourselves, we want the benefits of being in a happening place where crowds just love it and the money rolls in, and we sure don’t want any boat-rocking. The problem with all of that of course is that just below the surface there are people who are totally enslaved to sin, evil lurking behind masks, and innocent folks being just beat up when we aren’t looking. It is time for all of us to drop our masks. We all know we are messed up to one degree or another, so why not just call on one another to admit it and see how Christ can help us get well? But as long as our leaders are pretending, no one else is going to be transparent either. Christian clubs? The sad thing is that if we start preaching truth and living it and calling on others to do the same, most of these clubs that meet on Sunday would largely dissipate. We have to admit this or nothing is going to change. If that means we are cynics, then I guess we are.

    • Anonymous

      Barbara, I loved Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery (highly lauded by Lundy Bancroft) but always felt a bit wary about recommending it to Christian friends because there is that word “feministic” somewhere in the preface or introduction. Early on, anyway. At that time, I really didn’t care whether something drew upon the feminist perspective as I was just hungry for anything that would help and was really astounded by how good her treatment on the subject was. But alas, it is not written by a Christian author, so you can forget about passing it around the churches.

      • Yes, the word ‘feminist’ (or feministic) is like a rag to a bull to many Christians – they write off anything that smacks of feminism as coming from the camp of the Devil. But if Christians knew their history better they would know that many of the first feminists, the ones who fought for female suffrage, were Evangelical Christians. The word feminist has been dragged through the mud and its fine historical roots slandered and forgotten. (Jocelyn Andersen’s book “Women this is War” discusses some of this history, for those who are interested.)
        If we are to effect change, this is another area that needs to be tackled. There is so much to do! But if we keep talking we can encourage each other and not loose heart.

        And I agree, “Trauma and Recovery” is a marvellous book. It really resonated with my experience. Christians need to come out of their little cosy parlour and meet some of the impressive knowledge and experience that God in his Providence has been developing among the secular helping professions.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Barbara,

      Regarding Nouthetic counseling, I have encountered 2 people who have been trained in Nouthetic counseling and both of them had an adverse impact on me.

      One was a friend of my husband’s who went to seminary to become a pastor (I’m not sure where he went) and learned Nouthetic counseling there. He came out a very different man than he was when he went in and it was not an improvement. He was tense, harsh, dogmatic and almost hostile, and “riding” his children. His wife, too, had become somewhat neurotic. We were discussing psychiatric meds whom another friend’s husband had been put on and was being greatly helped by. I tried to explain that the meds had been very beneficial to this fellow but the Nouthetically trained pastor could not hear it. Psych meds are bad. Period. His problem is sin. Period. Actually, it did seem to be a chemical issue of some sort as he was an very different man on the meds than he was off them: soclally well adjusted and his family could live with him pretty well. Not perfect by any means but his wife and kids were much happier with him, and he with them as well as in general, when he was on them. No go, though, for the Nouthetic pastor, who only left off talking about the evils of psych meds to hound his child about some infraction or other.

      The other was the author of a book on being a good wife. She had gotten her Nouthetic counseling degree at Master’s Seminary (or maybe it was college, but it was Master’s one or the other). In her book she had a tone that was almost abusive in itself. She seemed to assign blame to her reader without warrant, rebuking them for sins she could only imagine them to be guilty of. At one point she made the excellent point that we have everything we need available to us in Christ. I took a few moments to have a little praise party about that because I had been forgetting that to be true and was very grateful I can just go to God with boldness and get what I need. I returned to her text where she continued for a few more sentences along these lines, and sort of built me up expecting her to land in the same place I landed (gratefully and joyfully going boldly to God for full supply). Nope. She zagged where I thought she would zig and said, “we have everything we need in Christ, therefore we are without excuse.” So instead of encouraging she chose to rebuke, assuming her reader to be guilty of making excuses not to obey. Later she did it again when addressing the issue of God’s sovereignty when she said God was in control whether we liked it or not. Once again choosing to rebuke without warrant instead of comfort and encourage.

      Throughout the book I kept wondering how her words would fall on the ears of an abused wife. It seemed to me like it would just add more abuse, with her sort of harsh tone, heaping on guilt with unwarranted accusations and unearned rebukes. I found it deeply troubling and it made me angry to think about. She did touch on abuse at the end of the book, but in a very minimizing way. I forget exactly what she said but it was on the order of when your husband’s being a jerk calmly tell him “that’s sin.” and don’t let it affect you. Or something like that.

      I managed to get through the whole book eventually, though it took a long time. I found that I could hardly tell whether or not I even agreed with her ideas because I couldn’t separate her teaching from the tone. If I decided to accept her ideas the ill effects in my own soul were immediately felt. Had I chosen to accept her teaching I would have become the Nazi wife from hell, harsh and austere, dogmatic and highly critica/judgmental of myself and others. In the end I decided the best possible thing I could do for my marriage was to throw the book away, so that’s what I did.

      I almost regret it now because I was thinking it might be a good book for one of the reviews Jeff wants to do.

      But that is my admittedly limited experience with Nouthetic counseling.

      • Jeff Crippen

        I have found the very same thing. Our efforts here in our church in dealing with an abuser were sabotaged when he and his wife went to a nouthetic counseling seminar. They talked to one of the leaders, told them their story, and the guy told them that our church was treating their case very poorly, which of course is exactly what the husband wanted to hear. That leader had NO idea of the years of history in our dealings in that case. It is simply wrong to pronounce every Christian holding a Bible as competent to counsel.

      • Thank you, BarnabasInTraining ! You put the defects of Nouthetic Counselling so accurately: it’s harsh, dogmatic and almost hostile; it rejects psychiatric medication too severely; it’s intent on sheeting every problem home to a sin in the person being counselled, so it assigns blame and pronounces rebuke without warrant; it is blind to the effects of trauma, especially trauma due to the sins of others who have hurt the person who’s come for counselling; and it gives excruciatingly pathetic advice to victims of domestic abuse.

      • Jeff Crippen

        If your blood pressure is running low and you want to raise it up a notch, read chapter 12 in Jay Adams’ book, From Forgiven to Forgiving. This is a classic example of nouthetic counseling bullying – in this case, the wife of a man who committed adultery and who gains his pastor as his ally in ganging up on her to force her to “forgive” him. Adams presents the whole scenario POSITIVELY, as a victory in counseling, when the wife is forced to take the guy back!! Horrible stuff.

      • Yikes. I haven’t read that one of Adams but it sounds like a good chapter to add to our list of stuff to critique! We need case studies of how these teachers have got it so wrong. Like Natalie did with Stormie Omartian, spelling it out line by line, how pernicious their teaching is.

      • Barnabasintraining

        So it’s not just me then. I feel better.

        I’m not in the mood to ruin that so I think I’ll pass on Jay Adams. ;)

  5. sandra delemare

    I’m reminded of Malachi 2:16 ‘”I hate divorce,” says the Lord God of Israel, “and I hate a man’s covering himself with violence as well as with his garment,” says the Lord Almighty.’ (the second clause varies depending on the translation).
    This has always seemed to me to say that we are not obliged to remain in an abusive relationship.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Hi Sandra – You might want to get yourself a copy of Barbara Roberts’ book Not Under Bondage. She goes into some depth looking at Malachi 2:16 and the translation issues there. If you look at the ESV you will see an example – “I hate divorce” is not in the verse in the ESV. Barbara explains it. What God hates is treacherous divorce. But there are also other Scriptures that we believe plainly support divorce for abuse. Barbara discusses those as well, such as 1 Cor 7. Thanks for visiting the blog. Hope you become a regular! Jeff

  6. Greetings Everyone!

    I was delighted with Jeff’s article and have enjoyed the comment interactions.

    Christians for Biblical Equality have many good articles on these various topics.
    Check out: http://www.cbeinternational.org.

    You might enjoy some of the articles on spiritual abuse and related topics on my website: ChurchExiters.com

    Keep at it!

    Barb

Trackbacks

  1. Conservative clergy’s responses to spousal abuse « Churchmouse Campanologist
  2. John Piper and the Church on Domestic Violence | Spiritual Sounding Board

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