Abuse and Divorce: The “No Divorce Allowed” Position of Debi Pryde
What to do When You are Abused by Your Husband (Iron Sharpeneth Iron Publications 2003) is co-authored by Debi Pryde and Robert Needham. In the “Questions Abused Wives Commonly Ask” section, this is a question posed and the answer the authors give:
Question: I often feel like I hate my husband when he berates me and pushes me around, but I don’t want to divorce him. Will scaring him by threatening to divorce him or separate from him help him know how I feel when he rejects me and make him more serious about changing?
Answer: If you expect God to bless your efforts, you must take every step in redemptive love. Never must the motive of revenge or retribution be allowed a moment’s lodging in your heart. Your only goal must be the restoration and biblical restructuring of the marriage. Although separation may be necessary, divorce is NOT [all-caps emphasis is Pryde/Needham’s] an option. You must be jealous to articulate that whenever the subject of separation is brought up. Only what is done in Christ-like love will last and bear fruit.
Pryde has quite a few other titles published under the Iron Sharpeneth Iron logo: Secrets of a Happy Heart; Happily Married; Why Am I so Angry?; Why Am I so Depressed?; What is Modesty? and others. I would be interested to know her prescription for anger and depression. If any of our readers are familiar with her writings, perhaps they could share in the comments here.
As to the no-divorce position she states: this is just really, really terrible. It sounds like the same old mantra we hear from “biblical counselors” and which, as nouthetic counseling does, places abuse victims in a hopeless and even dangerous position. Consider what the question/answer formula quoted above does:
- Denies the validity of the victim’s anger to being berated and “pushed around.” What is being “pushed around” anyway? Violence!
- Pryde stamps God’s authority on her position: “If you expect God to bless your efforts….”
- Lays the duty of “redemption” upon the victim! Aaaaarrrgh! Redemptive love? Please! We are hearing this “redemptive” business tossed around all over the place it seems. WE ARE NOT REDEEMERS! JESUS IS! Pryde communicates in these words that it is the mission of the victim to “redeem” (fix, repair, save) her abuser. Bad, bad, stuff.
- NEVER must the motive of revenge….! So when a victim finds herself wanting the Lord to bring judgment upon her abuser, is she sinning? Was David sinning when he wrote the imprecatory Psalms? I realize that Pryde seems to be talking here about the error of taking revenge into our own hands, but she also communicates pretty clearly that ANY desire for vengeance to be brought upon the wicked abuser is never right. And that is just wrong.
- The victim’s ONLY goal is to be restoration and biblical restructuring of the marriage! Second aaaaarrrrgh! How about the goal of saving her life and the lives of her children? And, Debi, just exactly how are you going to “restructure” a non-marriage with a wicked spouse into a “biblical” marriage? I suspect that Debi’s answer is that the victim will, by functioning as redeemer, save her abuser…and they all lived happily ever after.
- So nothing at all that the victim does will ever be consistent with Christ-like love unless Pryde’s formula is followed.
I don’t know Debi Pryde. She may be a genuine, fine, godly woman who truly desires to help. But sincerely wrong is still wrong, and what she says here is wrong, wrong, wrong.
P.S. – Here is the first part of Debi Pryde’s article What is Biblical Counseling? which can be found on her website at Debi Pryde What is Biblical Counseling?
Psychology approaches human behavior from a secular, humanistic perspective. Accordingly, Biblical revelation is irrelevant to understanding or changing human behavior. Psychology seeks to describe and explain human behavior apartfrom what God has clearly revealed. Its premises are derived from man-made theories, human wisdom and research conducted without a corresponding search for truth as God defines truth. The end result is a field of study that has yielded hundreds of conflicting theories, constantly changing hypotheses and a plethora of widely opposing “experts” who disagree from one school of thought to the next as to the cause and cure of man’s behavioral difficulties. Worse still, it is a field of study that produces endless therapy with little lasting help. It is satisfied to control rather than conquer destructive behavior and mitigate rather than eliminate its devastating effects.
By contrast, the emphasis in Biblical counseling is exactly opposite. Whereas secular psychology begins with a study of man’s ideas, Biblical counseling begins with a study of the Word of God as it relates to human behavior and human need. It is dependent upon the revealed mind of God rather than the easily deceived mind of man. Yet it does not just begin with God, it follows a path that is in constant harmony with the Word of God and addresses man’s problems in light of God’s answers. God’s truth is the focal point of Biblical counseling because it is God’s truth obeyed that enables believers to know the truth that sets them free, as Christ describes in John 8:31-32. The desired end of Biblical counseling is a life filled with God’s goodness and the good outcome of spiritual maturity, which includes not only wisdom and understanding, but the character qualities of genuine love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness (humility), temperance (self-control).
The fruit of God’s Spirit described in Galatians 5:22-23 is essentially what secular psychology strives to duplicate, but can only imitate– for one can learn to act loving, joyful, longsuffering or self-controlled without actually being any of these things. Because of our sinful nature, human beings cannot be truly transformed and changed into a person motivated by God’s love and characterized by His love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, humility or self-control apart from conformity to the Word of God and the work of the Holy Spirit. An accurate view of man cannot be attained apart from God’s Word, for the Bible is filled with instruction and enlightenment that addresses man’s true needs. These are the very same root issues psychologists attempt to explain and resolve without recourse to God and his principles.
What God reveals about Himself and His creation profoundly affects our understanding of human emotions and behavior. For instance, though psychologists are able to easily observe the devastating emotional and behavioral effects of unresolved guilt, the Bible alone provides man with the criteria necessary to reject false guilt and at the same time, resolve real guilt stemming from specific violations of God’s laws. There are not three hundred and fifty different ways to resolve genuine guilt. There are not even two ways to resolve guilt—God provides only one. Apart from repentance and faith in God’s promises to forgive, human beings are left to “manage” guilt, but have no means to actually remove it.
We cannot presume to think counseling can be “neutral” or can be separated from one’s world view, for even a silent counselor makes a statement as to what he or she believes will help those who come for assistance. Because God’s conclusions may not bear any resemblance to man’s conclusions, man cannot possibly hope to respond to life’s adversities, interpersonal relationship problems, human frailties, perplexities or injustices without the broader view of man’s purpose and eternal existence as designed by God. To think one can resolve his problems without the help or enlightenment of God’s Word is as foolish as believing one can learn to fix his car by consulting with a chef and reading a cookbook. The chef might know how to cook, and the cookbook might have some great information about food preparation, but they aren’t going to help someone learn the mechanical complexities of a car engine much less how to fix it. For that you need to consult an owner’s manual written by the car manufacturer or enlist the help of a good car mechanic who is experienced fixing cars.
This is the very kind of thing that we discussed in our recent blog post on nouthetic counseling. Pryde does not use the term nouthetic, but her approach is the same, and with the same damaging results.