A Cry For Justice

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

True Woman 101: Divine Design — book review by Rachel Miller

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Rachel Miller has reviewed Nancy DeMoss and Nancy Kassian’s book, True Woman 101: Divine Design at her blog A Daughter of the Reformation.

Miller is concerned that the Kassian and DeMoss have an unorthodox understanding of the Trinity, and their unorthodox understanding affects their notion of biblical manhood and womanhood:

There are serious foundational problems with the teaching in this book. The most serious are discussions of the Trinity. The authors then use their understanding of the Trinity as the foundation for their teaching on biblical manhood and womanhood.

For many centuries the Athanasian Creed has been affirmed by Christians. When talking about the Trinity, the creed says: “in this Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.”

But DeMoss and Kassian — following suit with the ’eminent’ theologian Wayne Grudem no less! — teach a contrary doctrine. They say that in eternity, since before the beginning of time, the Father has authority and the Son is in submission to the Father.

Here are Wayne Grudem’s assertions when he was interviewed at DeMoss’s website Revive Our Hearts:

The idea of headship and submission never began; it has existed eternally in the relationship between the Father and the Son in the Trinity. It exists in the eternal nature of God Himself. …
The Father has an authority that the Son does not have. …
The idea of headship and submission began before creation in the relationship between the Father and Son in the Trinity.

And here is DeMoss, backing up and extending Grudem’s unorthodox assertion, in that same interview:

This [i.e. headship and submission ] is something that is rooted in the very nature of God. It’s rooted in the Trinity, and the relationship that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have with each other.

And in this most basic of all relationships, authority is not based on gifts or ability. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are equal in all attributes and perfections, but authority is just there. Authority belongs to the Father, not because He is wiser or a more skillful leader, but just because He is Father. Authority and submission is the fundamental difference between the persons of the Trinity. 

The doctrine which Grudem, Kassian and DeMoss articulate is known as ‘The Eternal Subordination of the Son’.  As should be obvious to any high school child, this doctrine is in contradiction to the crystal clarity of the Athanasian creed — “in the Trinity none is afore, nor after another; none is greater, or less than another.” Hence, it is not orthodox Christianity. In my considered opinion, the fact that Grudem (and other big names at CBMW) teach this doctrine and so few conservative evangelical Christians clamourously object to it shows how atrociously off track the ‘c’hurch has become.

Rachel Miller rightly points out that orthodox Christianity articulates a difference between the ontological Trinity and the economic Trinity:

When Reformed theologians speak about the Son’s submission to the Father in the work of redemption, they are generally speaking of the economic Trinity, i.e. the way the persons of the Trinity work together in the acts of creation, redemption, etc. This is distinct from the ontological Trinity which concerns the very nature of God. The problem with Grudem’s formulation here and its subsequent use in the True Woman 101 book is that by saying God the Father has supreme authority “just because He is Father,” he is making an ontological statement about the very nature of God.

… the book teaches that there is an inherent inequality in the nature of the Godhead. This is troubling. And it appears to be the result of a desire to ground the complementarian understanding of the relationship between husband and wife in a “deeper truth.”

We completely agree. I (Barb) have been watching this sickening saga for years — the spread of the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son — and I affirm Rachel’s perception. It appears to me that the doctrine of the eternal subordination of the Son has been concocted through the back door, so to speak.

Here is what I think has happened. Grudem and others at CBMW have been so obsessed with their notions of biblical manhood and womanhood that they have made it an idol.  They do not see they have fallen into idolatry, and they would resist the idea if you put it to them. They have justified their obsession by imagining their version of ‘biblical manhood and womanhood’ teaching is a cure-all to the ills of our morally decaying society. And in their passion they have sought to make their gender-roles teaching unassailable by cable-tying it to doctrine of the Trinity in eternity. It then becomes a circular argument: if you want to object to their hard-line legalistic take on manhood and womanhood or any of its paraphenomena like the Permanence View of Marriage, they can cut you off at the knees with their doctrine of eternal subordination of the Son.  They simply accuse you of not holding to the doctrine of the Trinity, and they’ve stymied you.  — Unless you are educated in theological nuances to understand the difference between the Father and Son’s relationship in Eternity, versus the Father and Son’s relationship in creation, incarnation, redemption, ascension, the second coming, and the Judgement, you will be easily bamboozled by Grudem and his followers, DeMoss and Kassian et al.

Rachel Miller is further concerned that DeMoss and Kassian apply this peculiar teaching not just to the relationship between husband and wife, but to all relationships between men and women; and they claim that anyone who disagrees with them is influenced by feminism. (What a handy thought stopper the F word is!)  Miller writes:

Probably the next most troubling thing is that the authors use the relationship between husband and wife as the model for all male/female interactions. And while they recognize that some Christians may disagree with them about what they teach, they consider any disagreement to be the result of the feminist movement’s influence on society.

Additionally, Miller exposes the false dichotomy that Kassian and DeMoss create when they claim that feminism in all forms is rebellion against God’s design for women and fail to acknowledge the part that patriarchy (the assumption of male privilege based not on merit but on simply being male) contributes to the distorted view and abuse of women.

Miller is also concerned about Kassian and DeMoss’s lack of biblical application of grace or gospel and the legalistic tenor of their teaching.

My final concern about the True Woman 101 book has to do with the practical applications. This has three basic parts: divorce, abuse, and a lack of grace/gospel. These are the ways in which the book’s teachings will impact and hurt women, families, and churches.

First, the True Woman manifesto, which all book study participants are encouraged to read and sign, teaches a permanence view of marriage. That means that divorce is not allowed in any way for any reason. The view would say there are no biblical grounds for divorce, not adultery, abandonment, or abuse. This teaching is dangerous. It’s contrary to the Bible, and it’s contrary to the teachings of my denomination.

Second, because of their belief in the permanence of marriage, their teachings on the nature of women to submit, and their dismissive attitude to the dangers of patriarchy and men who misuse their authority, the book creates a perfect environment for abuse to flourish. Instead of recognizing that men can and do abuse women even in the church, Kassian and DeMoss make a point of sin-leveling which makes abuse just another of the many sins in a relationship and we’re all sinners. …

The authors would do well to get to know the very real women and children who have been hurt and abused by men who have taken teachings like True Woman 101 and used them as support for their abuse.

When men are told they hold the authority and reflect the authority of God the Father in their relationships with women, there are bound to be men who see this as just the affirmation they need to treat their wives and children in abusive ways. Combine that with women being told they must be soft and amenable and deferential to all men and that divorce is never an option, and you have women who are conditioned not to speak up and not to get help. …

The whole of True Woman 101 is filled with commands, musts, shoulds, and questions designed to show women how far they are from the “biblical womanhood” ideal. The weight of the failure of marriages and society itself is placed on women acting in rebellion to the picture of femininity that Kassian and DeMoss hold up as the standard. And once a woman is feeling terrible over how far she has missed the mark, the solution the book gives is not to turn to Christ but to work harder.

Rachel Miller has done an excellent job of exposing some of True Woman 101‘s false teachings; we want to help spread the review as DeMoss and Kassian have a large following and many women — especially women in abusive relationships — have been subjected to these authors’ bad doctrines. We invite you to visit Rachel’s blog and read the review. And we encourage you to leave comments at her post, as we want to support her efforts.

25 Comments

  1. Thank you, Barbara, for this.

    • you’re most welcome, Rachel. We hope your post gets shared far and wide!

  2. shepherdguardian

    Excellent!
    S/G

  3. I’m no theologian, but to say that Jesus was “second” to God takes away His free choice of being savior, putting God in the position of commanding His Son be tortured to death. This makes Jesus to be a reluctant (who wouldnt be?!) scapegoat, with no choice, as opposed to a willing, choosing, sacrificial lamb. This false idea is clearly seen in the abusive relationship where the “headship” of the husband is used as an excuse to force his will on his wife, the “servant” or “second-place” person.

    In Genesis, God makes it clear that “man and woman” he sees equally. It is after the fall that God places a curse on Adam and along with the “you’re gonna have to work your tail off to get weeds out of the garden” part, He also adds that now that Adam has a sin nature at work, Adam will WANT to control his wife. He is warning Adam, as part of the CURSE, that Adam will WANT to do that, a thing which, if Adam cares about truly following God, he will want to fight against that tendency with everything that is in him.

    Unfortunately, we see fallen man using those words to subjugate and then justify that subjugation, instead of recognizing (or not choosing to recognize) that it is the opposite of God’s perfect plan.

    • 7stelle

      It is after the fall that God places a curse on Adam and along with the “you’re gonna have to work your tail off to get weeds out of the garden” part, He also adds that now that Adam has a sin nature at work, Adam will WANT to control his wife.

      ***********
      Genesis 3:16 “Unto the woman he said, I will greatly multiply thy sorrow and thy conception; in sorrow thou shalt bring forth children; and thy desire shall be to thy husband, and he shall rule over thee”

      Debi Pearl in her book, “Created to Be a Helpmeet”, interprets Genesis 3:16—“It was God’s design, before the fall, that the woman’s desire would be to her husband and that he would rule over her.” She wrongly assigns the curse of Genesis 3:16 as the operative relationship of husband and wife *before* the fall to backup her view of headship and submission.

      I use to own this book and read it several times; it puts all the responsibilities of a healthy marriage squarely on the shoulders of a wife. I always had the urge to sling it across the room when reading it, then one day I threw it in the garbage. (Sigh of relief).

      • Brenda R

        7stelle,
        I am so glad that you got rid of that awful book. I hope no one took it out of the trash to read. lol I have some books here that will either go into a fire or through the shredder. I don’t want any unsuspecting young woman getting ahold of these types of writings and think they are true. It took me long enough to come out of the fog, I’d hate to see someone else enter in.
        Brenda

      • 7stelle

        Hi Brenda,

        I may have torn some of it up. The reason I say that is because a neighbor became a Christian and GAVE! his books on palm reading, etc… to my Dad who got all caught up in that stuff😂 That always stuck with me and so I usually make anything I throw out unusable. But I can’t remember for sure so I hope it’s at the bottom of a landfill.

      • Debi Pearl in her book, “Created to Be a Helpmeet”, interprets Genesis 3:16—“It was God’s design, before the fall, that the woman’s desire would be to her husband and that he would rule over her.” She wrongly assigns the curse of Genesis 3:16 as the operative relationship of husband and wife *before* the fall to backup her view of headship and submission.

        That, right there, shows that Debi Pearl is totally unqualified to teach scripture.

        If she sees the post-fall curse narrative as pre-fall God-ordained very-good-ness, that proves she is unqualified. Such distortion of scripture! And all to promote her and her husband’s distorted view of gender roles which enables appaling abuse of women and abominable sin by husbands.

        Let us pray that one day, Debi Pearl may write a post like this one by Megan C which so touched me recently:

        I’m sorry, by Meg

      • And Meg, I hope you don’t mind me linking to your post in this way. I’m doing it not to point the finger at you for your former error (an error which I made too, in my early days of trying to advocate for victims), but in the hope that Debi Pearl may come out of the fog and repent. 🙂

  4. 7stelle

    A large number of women who will purchase this book are home schoolers. Lifestyle (perfection in: housekeeping, raising children, how one dresses, activities permitted or not) is mistaken for a relationship with God. Lists, lists, and more lists.

    The mantra that husband is prophet, priest, and king of the home and momma is to submit regardless if abuse is present is the engine driving this train wreck. And the children will then have these burdens saddled on them and eventually walk away from anything having to do with God.

  5. May

    Thank you for this excellent review. I was aware of this teaching before, but knowing how many young women will read this book and be influenced by it frightens me.

    • Hi May, thanks for your comment and welcome to the blog. 🙂

      You may like to check out our New Users Info page, as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting at this blog.

  6. Brenda R

    Why, why, why???? Do these people want to put women all into one little box?? When I saw the title I remember an old west movie, “True Women”, which I have seen a few times. The women in this movie did what they had to do for survival of themselves and their families. I do not feel the need to read their book even to find out what a “true” woman is in their opinion.

    I already am a “true woman”. That is how God created me. No legalistic crap attached to it. I have strengths and weaknesses, good days and bad, sometimes I succeed and other times I fail. Don’t we all?

    Their inaccurate way of using the Trinity to support their claims of submission is, in my opinion, really off base. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all one, equal in all things. It’s too bad that the folks writing these books, that I won’t be reading, would get with the program of who God really is. Can you imagine the Father and Son quarrelling or one wanting to be the head of the group. No, the 3 as 1 are one mind and one accord.

  7. Barnabasintraining

    What do these people do with the Holy Spirit?

  8. Karen

    Excellent article Barbara. Thank-you for taking the time to bring awareness to Rachel Miller’s book in addressing the false theology of Kassian and DeMoss. Unfortunately, DeMoss has been a favorite featured speaker for women’s conferences in our area for years. For me, it becomes more difficult to be around these pseudo educated religious women as they perceive themselves to have more authority and leadership over the rest of us. Attending conferences, buying their (the featured speakers’) books, Bible studies, cd’s and dvd’s entitles them to a more spiritually elite status in seeking dominion over those of us who choose not to attend such functions.

    I, personally, cringe when these women come back to the churches after such functions because the “I know it all and you don’t syndrome” kicks in and we are led to feel like proverbial nothings in the presence of their vast knowledge/spirituality. And I also, personally, am sick and tired of the religious sects blaming feminism for all of America’s problems without acknowledging the roots of our societal breakdown. If our LORD did not put His confidence in the hearts and minds of women as well as men, there would be a myriad of neglect going on in this world.

    Many thanks to Rachel Miller for her work as well!

  9. IamMyBeloved's

    Thank you for this, Barb. It is just time to “out” these people for who they are. False teachers. They change the Word to reflect their own erring interpretations and their own pharisaical teachings only then to make us all surrender or be labeled, as you called it, the “F” word. I wonder what the word for a man is, who does not submit to these teachings. Now there’s a thought.

    I am also sick to near death of hearing “we are all just a bunch of sinners”. That play on words could be argued about, all day long. However, taken in this context they portray it in, it also becomes a false teaching that is rendering the Church powerless and giving these sin-levelers power they ought not to have. Yes, we are sinners who have been redeemed and given a new birth and new life – new creations! According to Paul, our sin most certainly looks differently now, than it did before we were saved. The Word clearly teaches that no adulterer, idolater, reviler, etc., will enter the Kingdom of God, followed by “such WERE SOME of you”. So, if DeMoss and the rest believe that you can be an adulterer and abuser and all the rest and still be a part of the Kingdom of God, then they are clearly preaching something contrary to God’s teaching on the subject. As the Word says, let God be true and every man a liar. I hate how they change up the Word to suit their own agenda.

    According to Paul, there are certain sins that should not even be named among us as believers. I bet that would include the sins of domestic abuse and adultery and abandonment. I believe God is about the business of revealing a lot of false teachers these days.

  10. Persis

    “They have justified their obsession by imagining their version of ‘biblical manhood and womanhood’ teaching is a cure-all to the ills of our morally decaying society. And in their passion they have sought to make their gender-roles teaching unassailable by cable-tying it to doctrine of the Trinity in eternity.”

    Spot on assessment, Barbara. Hence strict hierarchy must be maintained at all costs under all circumstances because this is the means of “salvation.”

    Do you know which came first? Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 or ESS?

    • Do you know which came first? Susan Foh’s interpretation of Genesis 3:16 or ESS?

      Great question, Persis!

      I think that Susan Foh’s interpretation came first. Her paper was published in 1974/1975.

    • Link to Susan Foh’s paper:

      What is the Woman’s Desire? by Susan T Foh (Westminster Theological Journal, 37, 1974/1975, pp 376-83)

    • And the height of absurdity — showing how inconsistent these hard complementarians are — was that they, the men, the big shots like Piper, Grudem, et al, accepted and lauded and promoted Susan Foh’s proposal without questioning it for one moment. It suited their agenda, so they grabbed it and dissemminated it, so much so that it has become an unquestionable part of the comp canon. It is taken for granted by the complementarian community that Foh was right.

      Haha. The men followed a woman’s doctrine! They let themselves be taught by a woman!

      This is so ludicrous. But they don’t even see how much egg it leaves on their faces!

      That is the difficulty with pride. The proud person doesn’t even see when he is acting ridiculously.

    • More on Susan Foh and the idea that the woman’s desire (Gen. 3:16) is to usurp her husband’s authority.
      This is adapted from part of my post Critique of CBMW’s Statement on Abuse.

      Many complementarians, and particularly those at CBMW, claim that the woman’s desire for her husband is a desire to usurp authority over him, and they base this claim solely on one author, ironically a female author, Susan Foh, who in 1975 advanced a totally novel interpretation of Genesis 3:16.

      Foh noted syntactic and semantic parallels between Gen. 4:7 and Gen. 3:16 and concluded that the meaning of the two passages must be the same. Just as sin crouched on the threshold, desiring to destroy Cain, and Cain was told he must overrule this temptation, so the wife desires to control her husband (by usurping his divinely appointed authority) and the husband must master her if he can. This interpretation dovetails perfectly into the lying claim of the abusive husband (and his pastor ally) that the husband was harsh towards his wife because the wife wasn’t submissive. The perfect theological excuse for abuse!

      Only if you accept this aberrant interpretation, one that no commentator had conceived of for the first 1900 years of the Christian era, do you swallow the notion that a wife’s in-submission is, by definition, usurpation of her husband’s authority (i.e., abuse of the husband). There has been surprisingly little debate about Foh’s interpretation within complementarian circles; they have gladly accepted and promoted it, and I count this as reprehensible on their part.

      A more plausible interpretation of Genesis 3:16 is that as a consequence of the Fall, woman would desire to be cherished by her husband (Eve would want Adam’s forgiveness and abiding love, despite her mistake with the forbidden fruit), but that man would be inclined to rule harshly over woman.*

      That is that what we see all around the world: male abuse and violence against women — the elephant in the room that we have only recently begun to acknowledge.

      * Note: I am not the first to propose such a view; some others who have preceded are Les Galicinski; and Henri Blocher, In The Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, Leicester and Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984, p 181-2.

      • Thanks for the info, Barbara. Yes, it’s highly ironic that a woman’s teaching led to a movement where a woman needs to be careful in how she gives driving directions to a man for fear of impugning his manhood.

        Because the Trinity is tied to their interpretation of gender relations, it makes sense that they consider their view a gospel issue. So defense of their view = defense of the gospel.

        But for all the talk about the God-honoring role of women, etc,, who is usually blamed for marital problems? The woman, thanks to Foh’s labeling women as inherent usurpers. (Sounds a lot like Adam’s blame-shifting back in the garden to me.)

        Sometimes I get the impression that this places women in a class by themselves as sinners. So half the human race becomes an exception to Christ’s redemption because extra measures need to be taken to make sure we stay in line even after regeneration.

  11. standsfortruth

    This whole inventive twisting,- regarding the “inequality of the nature of the Godhead” is setting a false foundation for depraved men to subjugate their women, so they wont have to try so hard to maintain control over them.
    Their plan is to let their false gospel do it for them. Busted.

  12. Maria

    How about 1 Corinthians 11:3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ? Doesn’t this mean that God is the head of Christ (presently)?

    • John Calvin interprets that passage this way:
      God, then, occupies the first place: Christ holds the second place. How so? Inasmuch as he has in our flesh made himself subject to the Father, for, apart from this, being of one essence with the Father, he is his equal. Let us, therefore, bear it in mind, that this is spoken of Christ as mediator. He is, I say, inferior to the Father, inasmuch as he assumed our nature, that he might be the first-born among many brethren.

      Matthew Henry says:
      Christ, in his mediatorial character and glorified humanity, is at the head of mankind. He is not only first of the kind, but Lord and Sovereign. He has a name above every name: though in this high office and authority he has a superior, God being his head.

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