A Cry For Justice

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

A open letter to John Piper about his view on divorce

We are publishing this open letter to John Piper as part of our advocacy for victims of domestic abuse and all Christians who have become divorced because of their spouse’s grievous violation of the marriage covenant. The author wishes to remain anonymous but we (Jeff Crippen and Barbara Roberts) are very confident that the author’s experience is genuine. This is not a contrived letter. It’s a letter written from the raw heart of pain that Piper’s position on divorce causes to victims of domestic abuse.

* * * * * *

Mr. Piper,

I want to address the effects of your “high view” of marriage. I believe your view is both unscriptural and not “high”. The former I believe has been fairly well explained by David Instone-Brewer, but it is the latter with which I am most concerned.

I will not claim that this is not a personal issue for me. I am divorced, and from that I can say that the “high view” of marriage is a low view of me. It is very difficult to sit here as a believer, someone with faith in Christ who has endeavored to follow and serve Him throughout my life, and know that influential teachers like yourself teach that my marriage was more important than my safety, health, and family (in which I include my son who had to feel the effects of my depressed, suicidal, and emotionally abusive wife). You should know the very real effects your public teaching on this subject has. You have been clear that you would support a continued marriage in which I found myself unable to function out of fear and and distress. Had I continued on that road, I have no doubt I’d have lost my job, my son, and probably even my life. I was at a point I could not continue to function – the person I loved and who knew me better than anyone else saw fit to control me through self-directed violence and I was helpless to stop it. You have no idea the toll that took on me, but what’s worse is that you don’t care. Your teaching very clearly states that I am to endure anyway, regardless of the circumstance and suffering.

In your response to David Instone-Brewer, you label his arguments for divorce for the reasons of extreme and unrepentant neglect a “tragedy”. Such a word choice belies understanding of what it is like to be in such a marriage. I understand your view that God offers no relief for a person in such a marriage (by “relief” I mean “divorce”, as any solution that involves a continued intimate marriage relationship to an abusing spouse I see as temporary at best, and therefore not real “relief”), but to label the idea that God would do so for an abused person a “tragedy” is truly disheartening. At the very least, a compassionate human being with the earnest belief that the Bible teaches no divorce in any circumstances should feel some amount of pain at denying divorce to an abused spouse. You are essentially condemning them to torture for the rest of their lives- at the least a compassionate human being would regret having to take such a stance.

I decided that I wanted to live and thrive, not remain abused and broken. The price has been high, as I have lost almost all of my friends, my church, and a huge chunk of my faith. I still believe in the Bible and that Jesus Christ is the only solution to my sin problem, however my ability to trust anyone in matters of faith is almost zero. It’s hard to trust people when there are those out there like yourself who teach such an un-compassionate view of marriage. Any Bible believing church I attend is going to have a high regard for your work, and that in turn leaves me feeling less than trusting, as when I think of you I think of all of the pain you were willing to call me to endure without any understanding at all of what it is like to be in my shoes. It’s hard for me to trust anyone who would hold you in high regard for that reason.

And yet, with all of the loss in my life, I am still FAR better off than I was in my marriage. I will take the loss of friends, church, and pieces of my faith if it means I get to live and not show my son a picture of marriage that approves of neglect and emotional abuse.

I disagree that your “high view” of marriage is “high” at all. In your view, marriage is boiled down to nothing more than commitment. Commitment is the only thing that defines a marriage. You can have marriage without love, affection, faithfulness, kindness, or any other positive quality. Not even our relationship with God measures up to this test – James is quite clear that true saving faith leads to more than just commitment – it is lived out in action. But a marriage, according to you, requires no action to BE a marriage: it only requires commitment. I reject this; a marriage in which one party sees fit to abuse and cause constant unrepentant harm to the other is not a marriage – it is dead.

You lament that divorce is the easy way out; in this you paint with a broad brush. I did everything I knew to save my marriage, I worked as hard as I knew, prayed relentlessly, and had faith that God would give me the strength to endure. He didn’t, and for my work and effort I received judgement and a second-class place in the body of Christ. Divorce is the second hardest thing I’ve ever gone through – the first being marriage to someone who neglected and abused me. It was NOT “easy” by any definition.

I hate divorce. I’ve never been able to enjoy movies about getting over divorce and the mere thought of divorce has always turned my stomach. When I found it necessary for my own survival, it tore me up inside. My solace comes in my steadfast belief that filing for divorce is not the same as causing one, and I was not the cause of my divorce, regardless of how my ex, the church, and you see it.

Your teaching has dangerous consequences: people like me read your words and take what you say very seriously. When you leave no room in your church for abused and broken divorcees, that has real world effects. I am such a broken person, and I do not know where I’ll end up. I am fighting the guilt and shame of divorcing my wife and I have to remind myself every day that my guilt and shame are not real – that there is no condemnation because I am in Christ. What I feel is based on how men like you view me, not how God views me. I hope that I can find believers with whom I can some day open up and have a trusting  relationship again. Right now I am scared to talk to any believers at all, for judgement is just a few words away. I know for certain I will never end up in your church and I will cringe every time you are quoted. It is difficult to respect a man who would call me to endure torture in a situation he does not understand.

Even with that I believe you love the Lord and are doing your best to serve Him. If I were a better, stronger man of faith I could filter your bad theology and un-compassionate views and focus in the places where God truly speaks through you. In my head I know that is how I should be, but I’m not there. It is too hard for my heart to yield when there is a major portion of your public ministry that I believe is hurtful and not of God. Hopefully I will overcome that some day. In the meantime, I pray that God will convict you of your mis-teaching of His Word and repent for the pain you have caused in lives like mine. Your public teaching DOES affect people in my situation very much, whether you see our pain or not.

74 Comments

  1. Jenn

    Amen and thank you for your words.

  2. Kay

    After reading this letter, I feel SAD!

  3. Just Me

    That was so raw and heartfelt. I will pray that you find peace and freedom in Christ. Thank you for writing that.

    I understand what you mean about having a hard time hearing any of Piper’s teachings. I started reading one of his books over a year ago. Then I saw his video on domestic violence. I have not picked up the book again since. I’m sure there is a lot of good in that book. I hope to be able to read it again some day.

  4. Laurie

    Amen!

  5. Deanna

    I wholeheartedly agree. I could have written much of this letter myself. John Piper’s teaching directly impacted my life when the pastor and elders of my church took his views into consideration when deciding how to deal with me when I separated from my husband. They did allow for separation due to adultery or abandonment and I was released when my husband moved in with his girlfriend. That later release, however, was not enough to undo the harm caused by the teaching that a person living in an abusive environment is exactly where God placed them and should submit to God’s will. That dark and ugly view of God led me to walk away from Christianity for a while, until I rediscovered grace.

    The scripture that helps me understand God’s heart the best is where He says that He hates divorce and those who cover themselves with violence. Those things are lined up as equals. He hates divorce and abuse equally, with the same passion. To say that He hates one and not the other is a gross mishandling of scripture.

    • Amen!

    • no name please

      Exactly!! So staying in a place of violence is the same as a divorce! So, which is safer, which can I follow the Lord and raise my kids to follow the Lord, not the former. That’s what I figured out in my own Bible study.

      • Laurie

        A spouse who abuses you is not pleased to dwell with you. No man ever hateth his own flesh but cherisheth and nourisheth it. It is a very sick mind that thinks abuse is cherishing and nourishing (had it said to me, this is for your good and God knows you need it). Marriage is a one flesh covenant, and if one spouse abuses the other, but not themselves; one spouse screams “Divorce!” as a way of keeping you bound, because of teaching like this which causes the offended spouse to say, “Please don’t do that to me! God hates divorce;” then the abusing spouse is not pleased to dwell with the other. It is not by your words that you prove your pleasure in your spouse, but by your actions.

  6. joepote01

    Very well stated!

    The so called “high view” of marriage elevates marriage to an object of worship. In this view, marriage becomes an institution to be, not only revered, but worshipped with the daily sacrifice of suffering, with no regard to the cost to the well-being of any of the individuals involved.

    The thing is, anytime we elevate anything other than God to a place of worship, we actually devalue it. It becomes something much less than what God intended it to be, and no longer reflects His glory.

    • The Pharisees took a high view of the Sabbath, but Christ put man above that.

      • joepote01

        Well stated, BIT, and an apt comparison!

      • Song

        Joe, Great observation.

        BT, Yes! This is the point I’ve seen. God made humankind for relationship with Him, with each other, and with the world we live in. When I experience someone operating outside of that dynamic, I now know they have missed God’s plan.

      • mlieder

        Yes! Marriage was made for man (humans) — not man made for marriage!

  7. mlieder

    Yes! Thank you so much for writing this! I HOPE John Piper reads this letter! You are not the only one who was harmed because of his theology. Many have been HARMED (HARMED!!!) by his “high view” of marriage, which, as someone else has stated, is nothing more than idolatry! John Piper has made marriage higher than the right to live! Living in an abusive marriage is DEATH to so many of us. And I was almost dead inside (and near physically!) by the time I left my abusive husband. I had almost lost sight of the protection my four little ones needed . . . . Does Mr. Piper realize that he is creating justification for heinous treatment of others in the entity where they are supposed to be most valued and protected? And THEN, on top of that, making the victim the condemned? Christ would NEVER DO SO! Mr. Piper — recant! Recant! You are causing those who are weak to stumble and be rejected by those who are CALLED to STAND BY the weak! Abuse victims are the very ones who should be defended! Praise Him for people like Jeff and Barbara who are doing JUST THAT!

  8. Well, said. What breaks the covenant is the abusive treatment, not a piece of paper. That just finalizes what the abuse did. What is a tradegy is that people read him and believe him. God hates divorce… “and a man who covers his wife in violence.” (Mal. 2:16) There is a reason God holds these two parts in tension. As a divorcee himself, God knows how painful it is. But He also knows that it is the violence (and I do not only mean physical violence. The tongue is a mighty sword) that breaks the covenant and causes it. The greatest hope after divorce is that God is still there! No matter what!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Kate – Yes, right on. And actually, as Barbara has made plain in her book, “God hates divorce” is not actually in the Bible. Check the ESV for example. What God hates is the treacherous covenant-breaking. God does not actually hate divorce itself in every sense because He cannot hate what He Himself does (divorce His covenant people Israel, Jer 3). Of course by this we mean by “divorce,” the actual acknowledgment (filing the paperwork/separating) that the marriage has been destroyed by the treacherous covenant-breaking of the guilty party. In that sense, Israel treacherously divorced God. I would go so far as to say that God blesses and endorses divorce if we are talking about a victim taking necessary action to divorce her abuser. Indeed, I would even say divorce in such cases is God’s will.

      • joepote01

        “Indeed, I would even say divorce in such cases is God’s will.”

        Jeff, this is a very important point, that we must not miss. Since we know God never acts outside His own perfect will, Jer 3 makes it very clear that divorce is sometimes God’s perfect will, for a given situation.

        For a devout Christian in an abusive marriage, there is a vast difference between understanding that divorce is sometimes “permissible,” and understanding that divorce is sometimes “God’s perfect will.”

        As Christians seeking to live godly lives and to glorify God in all things, we’re less interested in what is “permissible” than in what is godly.

      • yes, Jeff. That verse is often taken out of context when the whole context of the verse is talking to men who have mistreated their wives.

        People often do not believe me when I say that my marriages (2 abusive ones) were God’s will for me as were my divorces. Why do I belive this? Because out of how I was treated by the church and “Christians” was born the ministry I now lead… helping others realize God wants more for them. During my first divorce I was kicked out of my church and lost all my “Christian friends” who could not support my decision to seek safety for me and my 3 sons. The second divorce (from an ordained minsiter who was abusive) was met with a different view, and the new church and friends supported me and actually ASSISTED me. So I know what we need and what we do not need.

        So both marriages and divorces were God’s idea for such a time as this. (and now I have a loving supportive godly husband who works with me int he ministry). I am blessed.

      • mlieder

        Yes — Jeff! That is exactly why I use the ESV — just for that reason. But . . . . even if God HAD said “I hate divorce” — well, He is entitled to express sentiment. I hate it, too! It stinks! But that doesn’t make it sin — that does not mean it is NOT often necessary. I hate murder, too, and so does God. But, if someone broke into my house and threatened to murder one of my children . . . . . You can bet I will go for the jugular. And no one would blame me for it. The right to live. My children and I have a right to live. That right is God-given in every sense. It trumps divorce. Every time.

    • The research I did on Malachi 2:16 led me to the conclusion that “God hates divorce” (or ” ‘I hate divorce,’ says the Lord God of Israel”) is not the correct translation of Malachi 2:16. The ESV, the HCSB and the 2011 NIV are all in agreement that the person feeling hatred in that verse is not God, but the man who’s engaging in divorce.

      This raises a dilemma for me as an administrator and contributor to this blog.
      While I encourage and approve of robust debate, and I know we won’t have identical views on everything, I feel so strongly about this that I feel obliged to speak very clearly.

      Why do I feel so strongly? Because in my view, the slogan “God hates divorce” is unscriptural. It should be sent to the trash bin. We should stop quoting it, even to refute it. It is derived from a mistranslation; therefore, it’s wrong. And this wrong slogan has caused immense harm to victim of abuse.

      Now, we all agree about the immense harm that’s been caused. But we don’t agree about the best solution for undoing the harm. Various people come up with various solutions. Kate, you voiced a solution that I have heard from many sources:

      God hates divorce… “and a man who covers his wife in violence.” (Mal. 2:16) There is a reason God holds these two parts in tension. As a divorcee himself, God knows how painful it is. But He also knows that it is the violence (and I do not only mean physical violence –the tongue is a mighty sword) that breaks the covenant and causes it.

      I would like, as respectfully as I can, to disagree with that solution. I know the hearts of people who proffer that solution are compassionate for the victims of abuse. But to me, the argument is neither sound nor necessary.

      (A) It’s an unsound argument because it’s based on the 1984 version of the NIV which says:

      “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.

      Firstly, the NIV translators have now revised their version so the first part of the verse reads “The man who hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord, the God of Israel…
      Secondly, 1984 NIV gave the second part of the verse as: ‘a man covering himself with violence as well as with his garment’. This was an abberant rendering, very much a product of the translator’s paraphrase method of translation in which they sometimes allow their own interpretation to override the Hebrew grammar. From my study of the Hebrew scholars who have written on this verse, the Hebrew is quite clear: the garment is the thing that is covered, not the thing that covers something else: – …he covers his garment with violence (ESV).

      (B) It’s an unnecessary argument because there is a much better solution: discard the slogan “I hate divorce” because it is not in the Hebrew scriptures, and replace it with what Malachi really meant to convey:

      “For the man who does not love his wife but divorces her [who hates and divorces], says the Lord, the God of Israel, covers his garment with violence, says the Lord of hosts. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and do not be faithless.” (ESV)

      “If he hates and divorces his wife,” says the Lord God of Israel, “he covers his garment with injustice,” says the Lord of Hosts. Therefore, watch yourselves carefully, and do not act treacherously. (HCSB)

      And in my book I explain that the expression “he covers his garment with violence” is probably an idiom similar to our idiom “he has blood on his hands” meaning, he’s the guilty one!
      I feel like a stuck record, as I find myself explaining this over and over in many different forums. I sometimes wonder, have people read my book? Is my book too hard to understand? Will my argument ever make headway with people who think they’ve already found a solution to Malachi 2:16 so they don’t need to look any further?
      Sorry Kate, I really don’t want to be obnoxious :) it’s just that I care about this point so much.

      • Laurie

        My ex once asked me how long we would have to remind our then 5 year old daughter to turn off the light when leaving the bathroom. I told him that he better get used to saying it because it would probably take 9 years.

        There is so much in our Christian “understanding” that we take as truth, when actually it has no basis in the scriptures. Like this one: “Cleanliness is next to godliness.” or “The Lord helps those who help themselves.” We think these are real scriptures but they are the old wives fables Paul told Timothy about.

        I had not heard any of the things you have brought out here before, but I think what you are saying makes sense, and seems to hold better to the context of the whole chapter than the disjointed opinion that seems to be interposed in the midst of instruction and warning from God. We have to understand that the scriptures were hidden from mankind for about 1,000 years during the medieval ages (500-1500 A.D.). Just coming out of that into the glorious light of the Gospel, it was pretty difficult for the original translators to move from their culture to the truth. So, unscriptural teaching still abound for many the same reasons.

        Barbara, thank you for your time and effort here. :)

      • Thanks Laurie, I should factor in that fourteen years, shouldn’t I? silly duffer me :)

      • joepote01

        Barbara, I have read your book and I like your explanation of this passage in Malachi.

        However, how I might address the mistranslated and misquoted phrase “God hates divorce,” depends on who I am speaking to and how much time I have to explain.

        Many, many Christians still accept the King James Version of the Bible as the “authoritative” English translation. Many others, who have a clearer understanding of the translation process and do accept the validity of more modern translations, view the New American Standard as the most literal word-for-word English translation.

        For some of these people, if I start the discussion by trying to explain to them that they cannot trust their Bible’s text for the correct translation of this passage, I will have lost their attention before I even get to the main point.

        Sometimes, it is better to give an explanation within the context of the wording they accept as authoritative. And even within that context, it is still very, very clear that the sin being addressed in this passage is the sin of treachery, not divorce.

      • Thanks Joe and Kate. I need to be reminded of issues like that. I confess to having being on a rather one-eyed mission regarding Malachi 2:16, and I guess I’m too touchy about it sometimes. I appreciate you for moderating me. Printing out your comments to keep myself reminded!

      • Joepote, I am so used to having to explain this in front of uniformed audiences, it is second nature to explain it within the context of what they know. It is not that I do not want to educate them, but as you state so eloquently, sometimes if we focus on the trees they miss the forest. It is the same with Eph 5:21 and 22. That one is easier to get them to understnad, but nuances in translations are more difficult and often offend the very audience youa re trying to persuade.

        That being said, yes Barbara, you have done a good job in your book (which I have read) and my apologies if you thought your work was not taken seriously. It is and is valuable. Once I have your book, others can be referred to it for more explanation.

      • mlieder

        Buying the book tonight. :) I like the point that Laurie made. When I first left my ex, the lies were so entrenched in my mind that I had to hear the same things over and over and over . .. . . it was borderline ridiculous. Don’t stop telling us these truths, dear Barbara! It might take us awhile but it will eventually sink in!

      • joepote01

        I appreciate you, Barabara, for your heart of compassion, your dedicated searching of the scriptures, and your teachable spirit.

        Thank you, for all that you do! And, yes, please keep reminding all of us of God’s truths!

  9. “And I was almost dead inside (and near physically!) by the time I left my abusive husband. I had almost lost sight of the protection my four little ones needed . . . . ”

    This really speaks to me, and I think it is that part that Piper and folks who agree with his teaching don’t “get”. Their theology tells them that this kind of death doesn’t exist and so they don’t listen to those who have really experienced it. In fact I think many think this kind of death is a “death to self” and something to be exalted.

    I remember talking to a mich older friend of mine at the church before I left it (they had the same teaching as Piper) and he would continually tell me “what I don’t get is why they don’t try to understand and empathize- if they really understood your life- that HAS to be the first step”. But they didn’t empathize- they didn’t need to. They had it all figured out. And when you have correct doctrine, emotions and the realities of human messiness are a distraction. What a far cry from the attitude of Jesus who understood suffering and the oppressed.

    I really do wish Piper and folks like him would take a significant amount of time and spent it with refugees from abusive marriages, not to observe and judge, but to “know”. I think the problem is the fear of revising theology based on emotions, but we can’t just have head knowledge of scripture that doesn’t make sense to real Christian lives in this real and messy world.

    • no name please

      I really do wish Piper and folks like him would take a significant amount of time and spent it with refugees from abusive marriages, not to observe and judge, but to “know”. ”
      ( tried to put the above in quotes and my computer is being cranky)
      That’s just it, they spend the time judging not getting to know the real situation. they assume from the beginning the know the whole situation and have already passed judgement.

    • Song

      “Their theology tells them that this kind of death doesn’t exist and so they don’t listen to those who have really experienced it. In fact I think many think this kind of death is a “death to self” and something to be exalted.”
      Well said, Jeff S. I agree with this, and have heard the “death to self” statements. Bad theology destroys people.

    • Laurie

      ” What a far cry from the attitude of Jesus who understood suffering and the oppressed.”
      Shortest verse in the Bible speaks VOLUMES about the heart of Jesus: Jesus wept.

      • joepote01

        Yes, “Jesus wept”!

        And why did He weep? Certainly not for Himself or for Lazarus. Jesus knew Lazarus would soon be resurrected.

        He wept out of compassion for those around Him who were mourning the loss of their brother and friend.

        He saw their sorrow. He felt compassion for them. And He wept with them.

      • Exactly so, Laurie and Joe!

        (Wow. That rhymes. :) )

  10. Lynette D

    I can’t imagine a Jesus who, if standing in the same room while a spouse was being kicked, punched, etc, saying “I’m sorry, this is my will for you.” That is not the Jesus I know, or would want to know. That would be like Jesus being the first to pick up a rock when the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery.

    • That would be like Jesus being the first to pick up a rock when the Pharisees wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery.

      Ooo! Good point!

  11. Totally OT, but no where else to put it and I thought you all might want to know.

    Cindy Burrell is doing a series on the Scriptures that are most used to keep abuse victims in abusive marriages. Here’s the link to part 1.

    http://tinyurl.com/8tanya4

  12. I would like to suggest that our readers print out this open letter and send it to John Piper. The address is 2601 E Franklin Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55406
    Fax: 1.612.338.4372
    Your covering letter wouldn’t have to identify you if you wanted to keep your ID private. You could give a reply address as your screen name c/- Jeff Crippen’s email address, or mine. We can then publish the replies on this thread, if we feel that is suitable.

    A while ago I snail-mailed a print-out of the post I wrote which was a message to John Piper . I actually got an answer (by email) from one of his administrative staff. I emailed a response and have heard nothing since. I think if we keep peppering that ministry with our concerns, eventually they might have to pay attention.

  13. Bila

    So achingly familiar….
    “The price has been high, as I have lost almost all of my friends, my church, and a huge chunk of my faith. I still believe in the Bible and that Jesus Christ is the only solution to my sin problem, however my ability to trust anyone in matters of faith is almost zero. …..Right now I am scared to talk to any believers at all, for judgement is just a few words away.”

    I tell myself that the real miracle is that I still have faith…. And that I haven’t lost faith so much as called into question the teachings of a church that would abuse me and my children (and others) as they have. Sometimes I feel lost at sea as I try to figure out what I believe about things as seemingly simple as prayer. And the miracle is – I still have faith and I still pour out all my complaints to God.

  14. Teri Anne

    A close friend is about to file for a legal separation from her husband, due to his abandonment of their family. She asked me if it would be worthwhile to consult our pastor. I emphatically told her no, because he would have no compassion for her situation and would undermine her resolve to do what she knows is best for her children. She agreed with me that to consult our pastor would not be wise.

    The most recent Pew survey indicates that the fastest growing religion in this country is no religion. 20% or 1/5 of the people surveyed indicated that they have no religious affiliation. When I quit attending church this summer because of its callous treatment of women, I joined this rapidly growing non-religion even though my faith is still intact. I wonder how many people who quit church actually still believe like I do.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Teri Anne – Welcome! Great to have you here in our little but growing community. You know what? Most of the people who comment on this blog, and especially those who have been victims of abuse and who have been abused by their pastors and churches when they asked for help, are in the very same situation you are. They are believers, followers of Jesus, but with no church home. They are outside the camp. The advice you gave your friend was, sadly, excellent counsel. Because in most cases what you told her would happen is indeed what does happen. Good job, and please keep hangin’ here with us!

  15. Teri Anne

    Jeff, thank you for your kind words. Almost four months have passed since I have been to church. I miss going to church and as the holidays approach I find it hard not going to church, but I feel a lot better. When I am tempted to return to the same church, I have to remind myself that the situation there was not healthy.

    My friend who is about to file for legal separation is very concerned about her loss of status in our church. She pointed out that because I am a widow, I am “legitimately” single rather than divorced, separated or never married. But the problem is my youthful appearance, which causes most of the women at church to overlook me, and not bother to find out that I am a widow rather than a “bad” single woman. Another problem is that I have no children, and I have no intention of explaining that I am infertile and not a “selfish” career woman.

    Given the rigid adherence to gender roles in many if not most traditional churches, I am not ready to risk more abuse and look for another church. I have not done anything “wrong”, but through no fault of my own do not fit the traditional gender roles. I decided to make the best of my situation, and return to school to earn a PhD in the physical sciences. I will be defending in just a month.

    • Hi Teri Anne, welcome to our little group of misfits and odd-bods! We are so very glad to have you onboard. We will share our soggy sandwiches with you anytime as we crouch in the dirt outside the camp, and we won’t think of you as a ‘bad’ woman. You sound really cool, to me.

    • Lynette D

      For those who don’t have a church, Jeff Crippen’s sermons are available online. Its something to keep you going til you can find a church.

  16. Don Johnson

    Piper’s view on divorce is an outworking of his (wrong) theology of marriage which is turn is an outworking of his (wrong) theology of covenant. Marriage and divorce are 2 sides of the same coin, and are an example of a covenant.

    If you misunderstand what a covenant is (and Piper thoroughly misunderstands covenant), then this very naturally means you will be required by consistency to thoroughly misunderstand marriage and divorce. I would not mind his misunderstanding so much, except he propagates it thru his teaching ministry and thereby harms the body of Christ, so at that point I need to take a stand and call him a false teacher in this area and I call for him to repent.

    • Don, what an insightful and pithy critique of Piper. You nailed it.

  17. These false teachings on marriage and divorce that the Piper/Grudem group propagates do ruin many marriage and thereby many people, sometimes damaging for life. Mr. anonymous, your courage in writing this is to be applauded. Please do keep on talking. There are places where you will be graciously received as a brother in the Lord. There are groups on the net that believe as you do, mine included (click on my name). Do not give up fellowshipping with fellow believers.

  18. Mr. Anonymous: I do agree with what you said. Amen!

    Years back I wrote an article called John Piper’s Ignorance is Killing Children. I was asking people who are ‘out’, and if their children had enough courage to write him a letter to tell him about their lives. You see I had uploaded a video of him on youtube of his response to an abuse victim, and I figured if he can’t hear the cries of the abused spouse – maybe he could hear the cries of a child living within the same four walls. His ‘ministry’ of course took the video down, but it lives on via youtube to this day.

    The man couldn’t even define abuse within the realms of what she was referring to when she wrote him. He went on some weird jag about ‘group sex’, etc. Then ends it by telling them to come to the church – after a season of endurance, and even a smack one night. I figured if he couldn’t grasp the danger in the spouse’s life – maybe a child could chip away at his hardness of his heart.

    They wrote me on the blog, and privately as well – prior to taking it down – to tell me what a ‘godly’ man he was. No doubt trying to guilt me into shutting up.

    There was no explanation from his ministry as to WHY they removed the video from their site. There was no mention – no nothing. They completely ignored the uproar that happening all around them. No doubt the man can twist some scriptures to justify it. I think it was cowardly personally.

    Its been years since I aired that video, and still get responses via youtube and the blog. That little video had legs, and crawled all over the place. It still blows my mind. I have to admit when you said, ‘ If I were a better, stronger man of faith I could filter your bad theology and un-compassionate views and focus in the places where God truly speaks through you. In my head I know that is how I should be, but I’m not there.’ I can relate so much to those words. I’m afraid I’m still not there either. His partner in crime on the female side of things…Mary Kassian? They both really get to me, and YES I can see love for the Lord in some ways from them. I also see coldness within them that should not be. Its hard to wrestle with.

    I pray you find the journey that the Lord will lay down for you is filled with joy and happiness. That the Lord will fulfill you, and help you find your path to a new support system that everyone needs. Yes, I do believe God wishes we have that support here on earth as well. He made it so we yearn for it.

    • I am glad you uploaded that video on YouTube- it sure opened my eyes when I saw it. As long as he has not repented from saying those things, people need to know that he said them.

    • Dear Hannah, can give our readers the link to that video that you have on your site. Just write the URL in your reply here.
      Remember when the uproar over that video first happened and I was saying to you and others, ” Piper may have not meant it as badly as everyone is taking it.” And various folk told me NO, Barb, you’re wrong. And I gradually came to see how dreadful the video was. I was willing to give Piper the benefit of the doubt at first, because I thought of him as a good and godly teacher. But you (and others) helped me see it differently. Not that you twisted my arm, but you got me thinking. And here I am now, applauding what Mr Anon has written about Piper. And Yes, I now think that Piper’s answer to the question ‘How should a wife submit to her husband if he is abusing her?” was very bad indeed. And extremely dangerous for victims.

      • I would say the fact that they took it down probably means he did not meant to come across the way that he did. The fact that he has not recanted from what he said means that he does not believe it was a serious error, if an error at all. It’s quite possible for someone to not mean to say something harmful, and yet that harmful thing still be a true revelation of inner thoughts.

        I do think his main point was intending to be that a wife does not have to submit to sinful acts, but then when he turns around and says she must submit to verbal abuse for a season betrays his ignorance. He clearly does not think verbal abuse is that bad- no suprise because it is a mistake we’ve been taught our whole lives: “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”. The problem is that our physical bodies do a much better job of healing than our emotions ad spirits. A minister of the Gospel ought to know that- what business is he in except the one of tending to emotional and spiritual needs?

        I give Piper the benefit of the doubt that he speaks from ignorance about domestic violence, because anyone who really understood it and speaks the way he does would be a monster. The problem is, when you have a platform and speak from ignorance on a topic like this, your words have impact.

  19. Lynette D

    I find it ironic that we often hear this scripture “Life and death is in the power of the tongue.” But pastors say verbal abuse isn’t harmful…we just need to believe God’s word about ourselves blah blah blah…they hypocrisy is shocking.

    • Song

      Lynette,
      I agree. Hypocrisy from the pulpit…shocking and sickening.

    • My dad thinks that anyone who is hurt of offended or feels abused, it is enitirely their fault – anyone having this problem is just self centered, being hurt comes from a place of selfish selfcenteredness, we just have to get over it and once we forvgive we will realise there’s nothihng to be holding against then in the first place. -.- So in that sense, apology is a strategy, not a true admission of guilt nor a reconition that would have to change.

      • . . . once we forgive we will realise there’s nothing to be holding against then in the first place

        excellent summation of the cheap grace recipe.
        The same recipe is applied by abusers when they say the sinner’s prayer: ‘God, I asked you to forgive me, but now you’ve forgiven me you must realise there was nothing to hold against me in the first place. So I can carry on as I always have in my self-serving lifestyle, because there is nothing wrong with it.’ Smirk.

      • Wow, I apologise for the bad spelling and typos in that comment, I had taken my meds for the night and was a little out of it I think. Sorry about that!

  20. http://eaandfaith.blogspot.com/2009/09/john-pipers-ignorance-is-killing.html

    Here is the post Barbara. I don’t have the writing skills of everyone else here, but I’m sure you could tell I was mad at as hornet at the time.

    • Thanks Hannah. I put a link to your article into your previous comment too.
      To the rest of our readers: both links are the same, they take you to Hannah’s post where you can watch that video of John Piper.

  21. Jeff you mentioned: I give Piper the benefit of the doubt that he speaks from ignorance about domestic violence, because anyone who really understood it and speaks the way he does would be a monster. The problem is, when you have a platform and speak from ignorance on a topic like this, your words have impact.

    His ignorance was crystal clear. To me a true man of faith that claims they live by what the bible states SHOULD at least mention he was wrong in some fashion. If I were guessing he pretty much still believes much of what he said. The way he speaks of how women should approach men with issues makes me feel no doubt he blew me off completely. You see I didn’t do it right, and yet he never listened when people did it his way either. That is why this letter you have here is VERY important! It should show him that abuse is a ‘human issue’, and it can crush people’s souls very deeply. I mean in his eyes an ‘authority’ or ‘head’ is mentioning how it effected his family as well.

    This gentleman is very brave, and I’m very proud of him! If people don’t step out, and speak up? Errors that can the potential to kill will continue. To me is He (piper) is an enabler, and part monster. He refuses to step up, and be the man God would have him be. He refuses to show that ‘leadership’ quality he preaches to others to own. Your author on this article shows what a Godly man truly is, and is open enough to allow his feelings to be felt by others. He allowed himself to show his human side, and not have to play some silly role for the world.

    James 3 speaks of the power of the tongue, and the damage it does cause. What people seem to confuse – or choice to ignore – about emotional and verbal abuse if the habitual pattern of behavior. Once they ‘admit’ that part they take it too literally, and figure if it doesn’t happen everyday – all the time – you again are being to sensitive…its just verbal ‘unkindness’. People need to call them out on it. Like all of us! POWER in numbers I guess.

    In our world’s atmosphere today, we have news shows, documentaries, and commercials, etc on bullies and how we model behavior for our kids. The church is quick to agree, and yet in many cases act like Piper in response when its in front of them. The ‘world’ does that, and that is why there are the shows, etc. They are acting like the world, and throw in some spiritual abuse as the cherry on top. It breaks my heart. It makes churches unsafe, and like the author? I’m very cautious with the people and places of worship I attend due to this fact. This should not be. What happened to sanctuary? Ya know? That is what I was raised to believe, and I honestly feel betrayed by it now.

  22. Just Me

    FYI – I found this article being discussed in a positive light on an internet forum. I thought maybe ya’ll would like to know)!

    http://equalitycentral.com/forum/index.php?PHPSESSID=apu8m547g0hqn2n8scp1gkhb86&topic=3555.msg41144#msg41144

    • Thanks JM. That’s encouraging.
      And btw, I changed the link you gave so it goes straight to the comment in question :)

      • Just Me

        Well that’s clever, Barbara! I didn’t even know it was possible to do that! Thanks!!

      • Here’s the trick: hit the date showing at the exact comment you want to link to. That makes the URL change to the URL for that exact comment. (Well, that’s how it seems to work for me, not sure it’s so for every blog and every forum but that’s what I’ve discovered by trial and error.)

      • Just Me

        Aah, ok. I learned something new today. Thank you!

  23. TruthSeeker

    I’m currently separated from my husband due to a long history of abuse (previously, I was separated for a short time due to his adultery). I’m still praying for healing and restoration but, am growing less and less hopeful of my ability to trust him again.

    Right now my Church leaders are supportive of me but it hasn’t been easy to gain that support. There are still members that stand with Pipers teachings and I’m afraid that should this end in divorce there may be issues in the Church.

    It makes me feel like a Jonah, although in my conscience before God, I’m pretty sure that I’m NOT in the wrong. Pretty sure is still a scary place to be. I’m still not sure what is the truth. If I divorce do I really have to stay unmarried the rest of my life? I really want to do God’s will. I battle back and forth with asking myself am I using my husband’s sin as a way out of an ugly marriage? Am I supposed to be suffering for righteousness sake in the marriage? Is that really what these scriptures mean? And if I’m supposed to be suffering in this way, who is supposed to stand for the dependent children? Are they being called into this type of suffering too? My conscience is telling me that I’m sinning if I stay and allow them to be harmed.

    Knowing of the abuse in our marriage, someone actually said that each day I’m separated from my husband is one more day that God isn’t being glorified in our marriage! So, according to this person, God is glorified when me and our children are being abused! I can’t wrap my head around that!

    On the other hand….I do have to say that I’ve seen women divorce their husbands and ask for the Churches blessings because he yells at her! I’ve also known women to throw around the word “abuse” but, if you really drill her, the abuse is that he cusses when he is angry, or slams a door. Or the woman that says her husband committed adultery but, when investigating further the adultery was that of the heart, porn! My point? I understand Church leadership being very cautious in standing behind divorce or even separations for that matter.

    I’m pretty sure I don’t agree with Piper’s teachings but, I really don’t want to be deceived and miss the mark on this one! If anyone would like to pray for me… please pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal His truth in a very real and concise way to me and those around me.

    • Dear TruthSeeker
      I think you will find it helpful to read my book. It addresses many of the questions you are asking. Also, I know you read this blog as you’ve commented before, but I would like to encourage you to search our previously published posts for the topics that are most eating at you at the moment such as suffering, conscience, and divorce. You can search by tag or by key word.
      I shall pray for you.

      I would also like to make one more suggestion, if I may. You asked us to pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal His truth in a very real and concise way to me and those around me. This is a fine prayer to make, but you may need to prepare yourself for the possibility that the Holy Spirit will reveal His truth in a very real and concise way to you, but those around you will still remain unseeing. We wish it were not that way, but it often is. Victim-survivors comes to see and know the truth and find themselves standing alone because the people around them do not or will not see the truth.

      But you will not be entirely alone because we will stand with you, even if those in your church and immediate community will not.

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      Truth seeker, everything that Barbara said. And I just want to wrap you in my arms and give you a hug. This is a very hard , lonely road to walk. I too thought I was called to suffer in my marriage and then God freed me and now, imagining that he is telling me to go back to an abusive situation is ludicrous. That is like telling the Israelites, when Pharaoh is bearing down on them by the red sea to open up their arms, welcome them and go back. That is not what God did!! He opened up a way to escape and destroyed Pharaoh and his army. That is the God I serve, who calls me OUT of slavery.

    • Dear TruthseekerToday I am going to court for the first round to divorce my abusive and adulterous husband. I have earnestly asked the Holy Spirit to convict me if I was sinning, and yet my conscience does not convict me. Despite the pastor telling me how my conscience would bother me, still, it does not. My husband said that I would be financially ruined, and he did everything in his power to bring that about, but we are still afloat. In everything pertaining to this matter, the Lord has given me direction, spiritual support, (largely from the ACFJ family-NOT the church leadership), and the means to continue.
      If anyone should have a guilty conscience, it should be the pastors that focus on your submission, while they ignore their responsibility to protect you, and overlook their biblical duty to discipline your abuser. How much easier for them to place the blame on you while you try to protect your children? Do they care about the effects of the abuse on the children…have they taken the time to even think about it? If they are anything like the pastors that I dealt with, they are clueless. They would rather not deal with any of it and leave you to figure out a way to raise your children in the way they should go, while you and your children submit to continuous evil in your house. God abhors child sacrifice-this cannot be God’s will. God desires justice-this injustice cannot be from God. The pastors are not shepherding God’s people-DO NOT TRUST THEM. I speak from experience.
      The fact that you are struggling with this proves that you have a tender conscience towards following the Lord. If your conscience does not convict you, clearly there is no reason for it to. Because many churches have no policy or procedure for dealing with domestic violence, (I can speak firsthand about the PCA, to their shame), the pastors are reading John Piper books and using his theology to fill in the void. How much easier for them to follow it and say, “Woman submit,” than deal with the real spiritual issues of why such evil remains in the church and their cowardice to biblically discipline? They are letting John Piper books do the thinking for them-isn’t that a lot easier than having to think for themselves? Are they the kind of people that you want making decisions for your and your children’s wellbeing? How did John Piper’s doctrine creep into the church undetected usurping the authority of the Bible and confessions made by assemblies of learned men, much to the detriment of abuse victims? It is false teaching and the negative consequences that it has for God’s people proves it to be so-reject it!
      Truthseeker, you may have to leave that church if you follow your conscience. This is the Lord’s leading you out, as you will find that if the leaders are afraid to exercise their spiritual authority and be so dishonest, in this issue, there is a closet full of other issues that they grieve the Lord with, i.e. lack of empathy, legalism, hidden sins, lethargy, timidity, etc.
      “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” John 10:4-5
      The Lord has made you the strength for your family and will give you the means to do what is right. I am praying for you.

  24. Anonymous

    This is very good, Persistent. Instead of saying to ourselves, the above passage, and adding, “I am His sheep, I am hearing His voice and following Him”, the “c”hurch guilts us further by saying, “No, we are the leaders and unless you hear our voice and hear like we hear, you may not even belong to God”. Yet, there remains a remnant and in my humble opinion, a remnant is not the masses, if you get my meaning! We need to learn to trust again, the voice of God that leads us, even if we have to walk it alone. Thanks for sharing this.

  25. TruthSeeker

    Wow! Thank you all for the words of encouragement and truth. I also, often think of the fact that God abhors child sacrifice. And that is what I think I’m doing if I go back. I’m sacrificing our children for the sake of “marriage” and an ungodly one at that. I admit that I have made our marriage an idol and I believe that is what a large portion of the church is doing. Yes, marriage is supposed to be symbolic of the relationship between Christ and His bride, the Church, but to take it and place it above Christ is wrong. What is the heart of God? To heal the broken hearted and set the captives free. Yes, I’m prepared to stand alone and/or leave my church if necessary. Fortunately, God has provided friends that are willing to stand with me. Blessings!

    • I have been very VERY blessed in the PCA I’m attending. The pastors have a zero tolerance policy for abuse and they don’t qualify “abuse” either. There are a couple us survivors in this congregation. We’ve been loved, protected, supported, by the staff and the congregation. I feel very blessed.

      • Anna, I have too. I’ve found multiple PCA churches in the Atlanta area to be understanding about divorce in abuse cases.

        I’ve also heard horror stories about PCA churches and the way they’ve addressed abuse victims. I think so much depends on the Presbytery and individual church as to how they are going to deal with this issue.

        Technically, the PCA’s position is that divorce is allowed in physical abuse cases, but that position isn’t binding. Some churches don’t agree that it’s allowed, and others, like mine, understand that emotional abuse is still abuse.

  26. TruthSeeker

    I did want to clarify for my original post, that the “leaders” of my Church are supportive of me in my situation now. There are members of the congregation that hold to other teachings of divorce and separation (that it is never biblical). I’m afraid that this is going to cause division in the church and it’s so sad.

  27. Audri

    I happened upon this post and comment feed and have been thankful to hear and ponder this perspective. From this website I followed a link, which linked to Piper’s response to the critique of his video on submission and abuse. I didn’t see that link included in this feed, so here it is:

    http://www.desiringgod.org/blog/posts/clarifying-words-on-wife-abuse

    I’m curious to hear your thoughts on it.

    • twbtc

      Audri,

      We have a post that discusses Piper’s Clarifying Words. and the post also has 248 thoughts from our readers.

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