Abuse and Divorce: Wayne Grudem and the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Still Say “No!”
Mary Kassian (www.girlsgonewise.com) wrote about the U.N. Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on her blog, November 25th. She is to be commended for this. However, in her article, she said that she had emailed Wayne Grudem (editor of the ESV Study Bible; Member of the board of directors for the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood; Professor at Phoenix Seminary) and asked him what he would like to say in regard to this U.N. day. This is what he replied with (and Kassian agrees with it):
I strongly deplore any abuse of wives by their husbands and I believe the Bible teaches clearly against it. When pastors learn about abuse occurring in a home in their congregation, they have an obligation before God to seek to bring an immediate end to it, through direct personal conversation with the abuser, support of the abused, professional counselling, through means such as church discipline, protective personal intervention in dangerous situations, using law enforcement and other legal pressures, extensive prayer, and, if necessary, legal separation. Pastors also need to encourage their church members and attenders to tell someone in church leadership if abuse is occurring, so that appropriate means can be brought to bring an immediate end to it. Nobody in a leadership role in CBMW thinks that abuse within a marriage is justified by the biblical teachings about husbands and wives. [Wayne Grudem, Ph.D., Research Professor, Phoenix Seminary, and co-founder and past president of CBMW].
The bold-faced words are mine. I bolded them because they tell us that Grudem still denies that abuse is grounds for divorce. You see the very same position in the following statement on abuse that Kassian quotes from the CBMW:
Statement on Abuse
Adopted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at its meeting in Lisle, Illinois in November, 1994.
- We understand abuse to mean the cruel use of power or authority to harm another person emotionally, physically, or sexually.
- We are against all forms of physical, sexual and /or verbal abuse.
- We believe that the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women does not support, but condemns abuse (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 5:25-29; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 5:3).
- We believe that abuse is sin. It is destructive and evil. Abuse is the hallmark of the devil and is in direct opposition to the purpose of God. Abuse ought not to be tolerated in the Christian community.
- We believe that the Christian community is responsible for the well-being of its members. It has a responsibility to lovingly confront abusers and to protect the abused.
- We believe that both abusers and the abused are in need of emotional and spiritual healing.
- We believe that God extends healing to those who earnestly seek him.
- We are confident of the power of God’s healing love to restore relationships fractured by abuse, but we realize that repentance, forgiveness, wholeness, and reconciliation is a process. Both abusers and abused are in need of on-going counseling, support and accountability.
- In instances where abusers are unrepentant and/or unwilling to make significant steps toward change, we believe that the Christian community must respond with firm discipline of the abuser and advocacy, support and protection of the abused.
- We believe that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Christian community can be an instrument of God’s love and healing for those involved in abusive relationships and an example of wholeness in a fractured, broken world.
Notice once again the glaring absence of any affirmation that divorce is a biblical means of dealing with abuse. Abuse victims/survivors will quickly understand that this statement dooms victims to a lifetime of working to “restore relationships”, to “involvement in a process of reconciliation,” of “ongoing counsel and support,” but divorce? Forget it. Remarriage? Forget it. Abusers love this sort of talk. If the victim will just believe God and trust Him and keep doing all she can, God can bring her abuser to repentance and they can live happily ever after. That is a fairy tale. [Also notice that they tell the victims that they need counseling too. For what? PTSD? That would be fine. But I suspect this “counseling” is going to me more of the ilk of “you aren’t perfect either, you know.”]
As long as any theologian, author, or organization refuses to tell victims that they can divorce their abuser because the abuser has already treacherously divorced them by ongoing, hard-hearted violation of the marriage covenant, then my ears are deaf to everything else they have to say. That is too bad, because I do think that Grudem and CBMW have done some good and have published some excellent books. I just cannot hear them though as long as they continue to sentence abuse victims to ongoing bondage. [I refuse to use the ESV Study Bible for this reason. Grudem’s notes in the back forbid divorce for abuse].
And by the way, what is this business of “legal separation”? Where is the biblical case for that? Is it not a limbo state of married but not married? Doesn’t it sound a whole lot like one of those Pharisaical half-measures that inevitably are required when our interpretation of Scripture makes no sense?