A Cry For Justice

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

“John Piper is Living in a Parallel Universe” — Ruth Tucker

As she discusses the error of couples counseling in her new book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife, [affiliate link*] Ruth Tucker addresses John Piper’s faulty teaching regarding domestic violence and abuse. She nails it (him), although she is kinder to him than we (Jeff C and Barb) would be. She has debated him personally in an academic setting.

Ruth Tucker writes:

But if I managed to survive without a lot of doctoring, I often wonder how women manage to survive the doctoring [i.e., counseling] accompanied by bad advice. I truly do not believe this happens intentionally. Rather such doctoring is given by those who truly believe it is the best medicine. I put John Piper’s counsel in this category. He writes:

Several years ago, I was asked in an online Q&A, ‘What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?’

One of the criticisms of my answer has been that I did not mention the recourse that a wife has to law enforcement for protection. So let me clarify with seven biblical considerations.

As others have pointed out, Piper’s confession ominously suggests that for several years, any wife following his advice would not have sought out law enforcement. In his lengthy clarification, he does not apologize to any woman who may have been gravely harmed by that oversight. Here is a representative piece of his clarification:

A wife’s submission to the authority of civil law, for Christ’s sake, may, therefore, overrule her submission to a husband’s demand that she endure his injuries. This legitimate recourse to civil protection may be done in a spirit that does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband, for a wife may take this recourse with a heavy and humble heart that longs for her husband’s repentance and the restoration of his nurturing leadership.

I often wish that John Piper, author of the bestselling book Desiring God [NOTE: ACFJ does not recomment that book], would not share so much online. I like him. He’s actually a very kind individual. [NOTE: Once again, we would not call a person who brings victims into this kind of bondage, “kind”]. But it seems he almost sets himself up for criticism. [NOTE: One more interjection here. Yes, Piper DOES “set himself up,” but he does so intentionally for attention]. Indeed, there is something terribly wrong in even his clarification. He is asserting that a husband who demands that his wife ‘endure his injuries’ is still the rightful head in the marriage. She must be submissive to him unless the authority of civil [not criminal] law overrules. How does civil law overrule without a court case? How does a wife seek civil protection and at the same time make sure ‘it does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband.’?

It’s almost as though Piper is living in a parallel universe. He just doesn’t seem to get it. Does he have any understanding at all of the law or of tyrannical husbands? The only civil protection a wife can obtain in such circumstances is a restraining order, and until the matter goes to court, she would be expected to flee the dangerous home. There is no such thing as ‘civil protection’ that arrives at the beck and call of a beaten wife and hangs around her home to protect her. And let’s not be naive. Is the abusive husband really going to give her permission to leave him and perhaps take the children with her? The scenario has no relevance to the real world and carries dangerous implications.

* * * * *

NOTE from Jeff C and Barb
Piper and people like him who give advice, thinking it is the best medicine, are still accountable — just as a physician is held accountable for malpractice. 

*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.

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39 Comments

  1. joepote01

    I see Piper, in his arrogance, as being much more concerned about protecting his own ego and the specific brand of ‘theology’ (termed Christian Hedonism) he has developed, than he is about protecting anyone from harm…or learning to see a clearer view of God’s heart of love and redemption.

    • Better Equipped

      Joepote01, I agree with your comment. I’d go further to inquire if such a man could actually claim to really know the Lord?? His theology(ies) bears bad fruit. I’ve never seen a “Christian” man more in love with himself, with his own theatrically displayed voice when publically speaking, or with his own words! Makes my stomach turn to have been seduced by Desiring God when I first read it. It took a re-read and others to cause me to see the false theology.

      • joepote01

        Excellent point…excellent questions, Better_Equipped!

        It sounds like your sense of Piper is similar to my own.

        Someone having a different theological perspective from my own is not particularly disturbing, even when I see serious potential dangers in their perspective. It may be a very real concern with very real issues, but not necessarily sufficient cause to question their sincerity or their salvation.

        Christendom is filled with varying perspectives on a multitude of topics. In a very real sense, there are as many different perspectives as there are unique Christian individuals. My current perspective is not the same as it was several years ago…so why would I expect anyone else to see things exactly as I currently do?

        But with Piper, there seems to be something inherently intentionally deceptive and seductive in his writing. He uses common Christian terminology while seeming to assign new definitions to terms…using terms in ways clearly outside conventionally accepted meanings. Yet, he remains just vague enough to give the appearance of conformance…and to maintain plausible deniability if called out for teaching heresy.

  2. Stronger Now

    Piper clearly does not recognize the evil in the heart of an abusive husband. Nor does he consider the right of every human being to flee from someone who intends to harm them. Even Jesus and Paul set the example for this! Until it was the appointed time for Him to pay the price for our sins on the cross, Jesus eluded those who would have arrested him.

    Piper’s black and white view of submission fails to take into account Paul’s command in I Corinthians 5:11 to not keep company with such a person. I often read this passage when I was still under the bondage of my church’s false teaching, and wondered why this applied to the church in general, but the wife of such a man was exempt from the instruction? She is not only required to eat with this monster, but to sleep with him?

    Piper and his ilk are indeed responsible for those whose lives have been irreparably damaged by their false doctrine. I cringe whenever I hear otherwise good teachers quote anything written by Piper. To me, everything he says is tainted.

    • I cringe whenever I hear otherwise good teachers quote anything written by Piper. To me, everything he says is tainted.

      Me too.

      • MaxGrace

        Me too. I have never liked him, and I didn’t know why. I thought perhaps there was something wrong with me because my son just loves him. I bought his book on marriage, (okay it was really cheap at a garage sale), I cant remember the name of it. I think I mentally blocked it. When I read of the permanence thing, and saw what my daughter and grandchildren were going through, I wasn’t sure what to do with it, or even what to think. It felt dark, and was heavy. I had a wrestling in my conscience, examining my own heart (of course), I expressed my concerns to the Lord. A while later I found myself throwing it in the trash with the recyclables. I thought maybe the recycled paper could be appropriated for something that wouldn’t put someone under so much condemnation. I never told anybody about that, but I hadn’t read your blog yet, so I didn’t know I had discernment. HOLLAH!!!

  3. But He Didn't Hit Me

    I am of the opinion that Piper is a wolf in sheeps clothing. And an aside note, he creeps me out as well.

    • Better Equipped

      Yes!!!

    • AEL

      I’d agree except that John Piper is worse than a wolf in sheep’s clothing. John Piper is a wolf in shepherd’s clothing which makes him far more dangerous. And yes, he creeps me out as well.

      • Hi AEL,
        I changed your screen name for your safety. Welcome to the blog 🙂
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      • AEL — “a wolf in shepherd’s clothing” — an excellent way of referencing the danger.

      • joepote01

        “…a wolf in shepherds clothing…”

        Nicely phrased! I agree! And yes…he creeps me out, too. Reading one of his books is literally exhausting for me, because I feel I must maintain constant vigilance against deceptive wording to cover false teaching.

  4. healinginhim

    Thank you for posting this. Praying for opportunities to share this.

  5. H

    Is it too simplistic to think that his somewhat weird focus on the wife’s attitude towards her abusive husband is just meaning that she should take action to protect herself without desire for revenge, humiliation, or usurping her husband? If that is the case, I would agree with that. My husband’s abuse is not some kind of welcome excuse for my long-held secret desire to overthrow my husband to suddenly come out. (Sarcasm — the point is that I have never had a secret desire to overthrow my husband — just to not be abused.) I’m seeking reconciliation, although I am aware it is a long-shot. In fact, my pastor has counseled me that I should have nothing more to do with my husband, as in his experience, abusers don’t change. I agree with him to a point, but I am not there yet. I am able to give my husband more time for repentance. He is going to spend eternity suffering in hell for what he has done, if he doesn’t turn aside. I can give him more time. Therefore my motivations remain love-seeking and not rebellious.

    However, your point still stands about the damage he has potentially done before his “clarification,” insisting an abused wife is still under her abuser’s headship, in not calling it a criminal offense, and more. Even if he meant what I am saying, why didn’t he just say it forthrightly, “Christians should never seek or delight in consequences/legal justice/punishment, etc., for the sake of revenge, humiliation, or hate. Instead they lovingly erect boundaries to protect the innocent and to lead enemies back to the right path,” etc. This really doesn’t have anything to do with complementarianism or submissive femininity. This is just basic Christianity. So cloaking it in unique wifely submissiveness is not only pointless but seems like an incorrect and unhealthy obsession with complementarianism.

    On a similar note, I recently sent a letter to Piper questioning some theological points of his permanence view of marriage in light of abusive situations. These are challenges I’ve never heard anyone else raise, so I’m curious on his thoughts. If I don’t hear back, I’m going to send it again. I want some answers from this man. I have benefitted from his teaching for years and I don’t think he just hates or ignores abused women. I could be wrong. If I get a reply, I will share it with you all.

  6. M&M

    “Restoration” implies restoring the past which implies that the theoretical husband was a good guy in the past. It doesn’t acknowledge those who were never good guys to begin with. His words extra don’t make sense in light of the fact that he preaches finding joy in God. How does he really expect women to find joy in his view of God? I suppose if she were able to mentally block her husband from her mind she could find joy in God, but normal people can’t fully do that because God created us to be affected by our enviroment.

  7. IamMyBeloved's

    It seems Piper believes that everyone is a Christian and negates any Bible passages that reflect how we would know one in fact is or is not Christian. It seems he is unable to carry the teachings of Christ through from the beginning of the Bible to its end. A simple explanation for an abuser is that they have not ever encountered God’s saving grace. They are lost and therefore belong to and work from for their father, the devil! But Piper appears to want to insist without ever meeting these abusers that they are and should be treated as believers and also say it’s not that they are lost but rather that it is a personality or temperament problem.

    The bottom line here is that Piper has stiffened his neck against any teaching that would help him discern good from evil – or abuser from a husband having a bad day – and desires to maintain that he knows everything because he puts himself and/or has allowed himself to be put in that elevated position.

    This is nothing more than another reason why God is “upset” with the Church. When leaders make themselves the sole authorities and become unteachable, refusing to listen to those God or those they consider beneath them, you’ve got the false Church in the making because they follow man’s doctrines and teachings, not God’s. If someone is unable to understand truth or even humble himself to listen, then one has to question if the Spirit is in operation.

    • keeningforthedawn

      IAmMyBeloved’s — A resounding “Amen!” As the Bible says, we will know them by their fruits. (It doesn’t say we’ll know them by their promises and platitudes.)

  8. mindakms

    At the time of his arrest, confession and incarceration in prison for his crimes against all three of his daughters, my ex husband was a staff member of a child related ministry at Piper’s church. Although Piper had stepped down as pastor a year or so previous, this man was in ministry at the church for years during Piper’s time as head pastor. I mention this here because my ex husband was also a wife abuser, but we did not pursue justice for those crimes, focusing instead on his sexual crimes against his daughters. I firmly believe the culture of Piper’s church is what drew this man to it, and I for a time was furious with the attitude that the church had toward victims.

    I want to state that I am pleased with the efforts that church has made to correct and apologize for that attitude. They have publicly preached a Bible based apology. They have held a congregational meeting to explain the new direction and they have rapidly put together a ministry specifically designed by experts to help those still trapped in abusive relationships. Although I do not think all is perfect now, I appreciate and want to shout out to this church a public thanks for their efforts to repair a broken place. Would this have happened if Piper was still at the helm? I do not know, but I doubt it.

    I would love to hear him [Piper] speak on this situation, which he certainly is aware of, and see if it has changed his heart in the matter at all. If I had been supported instead of cast out when my own abuse was taking place, it is highly likely that the church could have helped prevent him from the damage he then went on to cause to three beautiful young ladies. I am horror struck by my own complicity in their harm by the way I had allowed my mind to be warped into believing I would be his only victim because I was the problem, a position reinforced by a church that told me there are NO reasons to leave a marriage, no matter what the cost.

    • joepote01

      Mindakms –

      What a horrible thing to have endured in the name of ‘c’hristianity. My heart goes out to you and your daughters.

      Thank you, for taking a stand for justice and for speaking out.

  9. Thank you for alerting us to biblical pastors and authors who do not uphold the safety of women and persist in erroneous thinking about keeping women living in the abuse within the home. I like what Warren Wiersbe said – any man who abuses his wife forfeits the headship in the home.
    He forces the wife to rejected harm he intends for her and makes it necessary that she look out for her and her children’s safety, from harm that the abusive husband perpetrates on the family and the chaos he brings into the home.
    He says can you imagine giving birth to a baby and then bringing that beautiful gift from God, that baby home and putting her into the arms of a drunken, swearing, cheating man?
    Yes, I can, it is hard to accept that the father of my child is so deliberately and intentionally destructive and evil and that I was tricked by him about who he was and what his intentions were.

  10. kim

    “…This legitimate recourse to civil protection may be done in a spirit that does not contradict the spirit of love and submission to her husband, for a wife may take this recourse with a heavy and humble heart that longs for her husband’s repentance and the restoration of his nurturing leadership.”

    The thing that jumped out to me about this quote was the phrase “restoration of his nurturing leadership”. It is impossible to restore what never existed. I doubt that most of the abused women on this site could give any testimony of their abusers ever having been nurturing leaders of the family. .

    • Yes that idea of “restoration of his nurturing leadership” really makes me feel ill. I’m so, so tired of the foolish assumption that the “Christian” abuser actually cares for their victims. No, they don’t, and they never did. Victims know it and abusers know it too. What abusers also know is that in “Christian” circles they will get away with everything.

      • healinginhim

        KayE — You and others have stated it very well.
        What has me in a wrangle now is after all these years my abuser(s) don’t profess to be Christians, however, others scold me and insist I’m believing false doctrine because after all, “Once saved; Always saved.” This is true but were they ever truly saved?
        I covered up for them – No they were not truly saved and the abusers don’t care … the abusers know that their outward appearances of successful careers, etc makes them acceptable to all.

  11. Misti

    Notice that the advice he (and others) assumes that “testimony” and “evidence” is necessarily words that are spoken, while ignoring a person’s fruits. Whether they intend that or not, such people are violating Matthew 7:15–20 and allowing wolves to flourish and gobble the sheep.

    One thing that concerns me is how that context—of us being ordered to know folks by their fruits—is followed by the parable of the sheep and the goats. I fear that means some of those referenced in v. 22, who are bewildered by their placement on the Day of Judgment, will be those who ignored fruits and heeded words.

    Fruits matter. Words, less so.

    Someone can respond with anger and defensiveness yet ultimately heed a justified rebuke; someone can respond to a rebuke with all the “right” words and yet not actually do anything. Which of the two embodies a right heart?

    • the parable of the sheep and the goats. I fear that means some of those referenced in v. 22, who are bewildered by their placement on the Day of Judgment, will be those who ignored fruits and heeded words.

      Fruits matter. Words, less so.

      Someone can respond with anger and defensiveness yet ultimately heed a justified rebuke; someone can respond to a rebuke with all the “right” words and yet not actually do anything. Which of the two embodies a right heart?

      Well said!

      • Lost

        Yes! I agree. Well said, Misti.

        Everyone seemed so incredibly offended by what I had to say and I’m not the abuser. Yet they love XH, even speak FOR him. He’s so believable and fun and he says everything so perfectly. Not how he was at home. Not who he is in secret. Not at all.

      • Misti

        Thank you, but y’all know God gets the credit. 🙂

        And someone saying “everything so perfectly” is a huge red flag. The only way to say things perfectly is by “reading” others and feeding them what they want and/or expect to see. The tactic isn’t only used by abusers—it’s also used by some victims as a protection mechanism, and by some monarch butterfly types who play viceroy to get in position to yank victims out from under abusers’ noses—but the way it’s used and the context in which it’s used will differ amongst the types of people.

    • Yes indeed, testimony and evidence is not confined to spoken words.
      God’s Rules of Evidence are Often Misapplied, to the Harm of Abuse Victims.

    • Stands with a Fist

      I so agree. Interesting to note that in this parable Jesus does not tell the goats to “go and sin no more”. No! There are no do-overs here. Perhaps the eternal punishment is precisely b/c there is no do-over, there is no going back. What’s done is done. How do you unscramble an egg?
      Also, as opposed to the sheep who acknowledge their own good deeds (“when did we feed you?”) the goats respond with no good deeds, but basically say “we didn’t know; we didn’t see you”. Isn’t that typical? The abuser claims the same ignorance, trying to escape accountability.
      Jesus clearly says here, “No deal”. The eternal punishment is the natural consequences of abusive behavior, of ignoring the need, of neglecting the duty of empathy & compassion. Jesus does not demand we “endure his injuries”. Quite the opposite: Jesus condemns the injuries, and declares eternal punishment.
      What planet is John Piper on?

      • Misti

        I’m unconvinced that the “Go and sin no more” is applicable in the goat parable, because it’s about the Day of Judgement, not life here on earth. So there is no more life for a person to “go and sin no more” in.

        But yes, very true about the distinction between, “Huh? When did I do that?” and “But—but—but how were we supposed to know it was you?!” (And note how that latter response indicates an attitude of favoritism and keeping up appearances for those in authority over them.)

        > What planet is John Piper on?
        Oh, he’s quite firmly planted on Earth. That’s why his view is so consistent with pagan culture.

        I’m not saying he necessarily is unsaved, mind you. Just pointing out that the entire “Woman as man’s property” thing is common in history and throughout the world. Considering how different and distinct Christians are to be from the world, you’d think that cultural biases that are prevalent or fairly consistent across pagan cultures would warrant the side-eye and a close examination.

        I suspect that the narrow gate/wide way applies to presuppositions and beliefs in general, in life, not just to salvation.

  12. Robin

    The thing is, if a husband has hit his wife, why would her thoughts in the aftermath be about submission and continuing to preserve her husband’s headship? Wouldn’t your first thought be that you’re stunned when it happens the first time? And then, self-preservation? I have known wives who have been abused — I would say the biggest emotion I saw in them was fear and if there was any thought of submission it would be to protect themselves from more abuse. Mr. Piper’s advice seems cruel to me and I don’t think he likes women at all only he doesn’t realize it.

    • Misti

      Her thoughts would be towards submission if she was trained “well” enough, to take the blame and responsibility to “submit” to her husband the way certain circles define it. In those same circles, a failure for her to respond “submissively” to whatever behavior would be seen as a failure on her part for being “hardhearted” and her husband’s part for being a shoddy “head” or steward.

      Just pointing that out.

  13. Charlene

    I’m not sure when the statements by John Piper were made in the above article. But I remember back in April the church he planted had a sermon acknowledging how domestic abuse needs to be revealed and addressed and that it is very present. I also recall (but may be mistaken) that the elders apologized for their neglect and oversight in this area.

    I’m not trying to defend John Pipers lack of knowledge or words in this area but hoping that between the time his statements were made and his church acknowledging abuse, that he has grown in his knowledge of it.

    • Hi Charlene,

      Yes, we are aware of Bethlehem Baptist’s acknowledgment. We did a post about their admission that you may like to read “John Piper’s old church is admitting to fault in how it has addressed domestic abuse, and making changes”

      We are hopeful that the church is now exposing the evil of abuse and one would like to be hopeful that Piper has “grown”. But more importantly one would like to be hopeful that Piper has repented, yet there has been no indication of that.

      • Stronger Now

        Repentance of something like this would require public confession and attempt at restitution. Lacking either – or really both – of those, there is no reason to believe Piper himself has repented, On the contrary, I imagine him tied to a chair with duct tape over his mouth, stomping his feet and trying vainly to tell those currently working to change the culture in “his” church that they have got it all wrong.

        Maybe that’s just me. Honestly, if he has not come out publicly and shouted from the rooftops that he was wrong, pulling his books from circulation wherever possible, and trying to undo the damage his teaching has done, then there is absolutely no reason to believe he himself has seen the light. No “fruits worthy of repentance.”

        Repentance would require humility, something not evident in him at any time I have seen a video of him preaching.

  14. Heads up:

    Valerie Hobbs has written a good review of Ruth Tucker’s book:

    Book note: Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife

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