A Cry For Justice

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

Calvinism And Domestic Violence: there’s a correlation but we can’t say Calvinism *causes* domestic violence

…there is a correlation between Calvinism and domestic violence. .. It is not Calvinism per se but mostly males who use Calvinism’s hierarchical theories and sovereignty theories to perform and justify behaviors.
– Scot McKnight, reporting the findings of recent research into Domestic Violence Myth Acceptance (DVMA) and how that correlates with religiousness and particular types of religious adherence.

Scot McKnight is not a Calvinist but he is a lot more fair to Calvinism that many Christians in the non-Calvinist streams are. In his recent post Calvinism And Domestic Violence, McKnight has relayed the essential points of the academic research article Religious Beliefs and Domestic Violence.

Scott McKnight didn’t do the research; he’s simply conveyed to the broader public what the research found. The researchers found that:

1. Religiousness has a long-standing presence in the research literature on intolerance. However, religiousness is minimally represented in the interpersonal violence myth (IPVM) literature. IPVMs comprise an aspect of the broader construct of intolerance.

2. We heeded the call to address research on tradition-specific religious beliefs and IPVMs. As such, we examined select Christian beliefs about Divine–human relating, hierarchical relational expectations, complementarian gender ideology, and existential defensiveness as predictors of Domestic Violence Myth Acceptance (DVMA) using a sample of 238 students from a Protestant evangelical seminary (Mage 34.06, SD 9.33; range 22 – 62 years; 41.6% female; 80.7% White).

3. We observed positive associations among Calvinist tradition-specific religious beliefs and the 3 indicators of the latent construct of hierarchical relationality (i.e., hierarchical relational expecta- tions, gender complementarianism, and existential defensiveness).

4. We also observed (a) a positive indirect association between Calvinist beliefs and DVMA through the latent construct of hierarchical relationality, and (b) a negative indirect association between Calvinist beliefs and social justice advocacy through hierarchical relationality.

5. Last, we observed evidence of suppression as the significant positive bivariate association between Calvinist beliefs and DVMA became significant and negative.

6. Findings supported the conceptualization of domestic violence myths as comprised by nonacceptance of out-group members, hierarchical relationships, and gender inequality, and that an aspect of Calvinist ideology is similarly defined.

7. Implications included designing training programs for religious leaders and construct- ing prevention and intervention strategies that foster self-reflection on religious beliefs associated with DVMA.

The researchers’ conclusion:

We examined select tradition-specific religious beliefs (i.e., beliefs, informed by and consistent with the Calvinist tradition within Christianity) and beliefs about hierarchical relating, complementarian gender ideology, and specialness and certainty, and their association with DVMA [Domestic Violence Myth Acceptance].

Findings suggested that DVMs [Domestic Violence Myths] are defined by nonacceptance of out-group members, hierarchical relationships, and gender inequality.

Furthermore, given construct validation evidence for the DVMA scale, the scale may be used as a measure of the extent to which an individual holds stereotypes and prejudicial attitudes that blame the female victims of male perpetrated family violence. As such, the DVMA scale may be used to assess intolerant beliefs, which could then permit practitioners to tailor prevention and intervention strategies to target specific religious beliefs that support violence myth adherence.

Now some remarks by me (Barbara Roberts)

I am a longstanding advocate for domestic violence victims in the Christian community. And I’m in agreement with Calvinist ideas about salvation and God’s sovereignty.

I’ve heard from hundreds if not thousands of Christian victims of domestic abuse from all streams of Christianity. Most of them are women, a few of the victims are men who were abused by their wives.

Many of the female victims I have heard from come from Calvinist churches, and many of those women report being GREATLY abused by the church when they disclosed the abuse and sought help from the church leaders. Many of these women have been shunned, stigmatized, spiritually abused, shuffled out, or excommunicated by the church for leaving or divorcing the abusive husband. This is disgraceful.

I have observed a tendency for male domestic abusers to gravitate to conservative religions because the “leadership role” of the husband and father is more generally supported by the conservative, literal interpretation of the religion’s texts. In my observation, women who abuse their husbands rarely abuse as a result of religious tradition.

Although I am Calvinist in my understanding of salvation and divine sovereignty, I oppose the type of complementarianism which CBMW and other such organisations promote. We have published a post about How complementarianism can magnify the entitlement mentality of men, making them worse. And we know that CBMW’s teaching has done immense harm to the female victims of abuse.

I wish that churches which call themselves Calvinist would face up to the epidemic of domestic abuse in their midst.

 

 

19 Comments

  1. Hello Sunshine

    A few more ways Calvinism (or twisted Calvinism) might contribute to domestic abuse:

    Emphasis on the total depravity of man can lead to mistrust of one’s intuition, preferences, feelings, and even rational conclusions. When a target has such mistrust and a desire to be obedient to the Word of God, she can be much more easily manipulated to “follow a verse” even if it’s killing her.

    There is a lot of emphasis on logic in Calvinist thought and Greek logic can be too stark and reductionist for reality (including reality as presented by the Bible). A too-tidy logic can overpower mercy, compassion (of a target for herself and of the church for targets), and wisdom.

    Also, the emphasis on the sovereignty of God often leads Calvinists to be accepting of what I think the Bible calls them to actively oppose. Many will say that whatever happens is the will of God so one’s best policy is to be more trusting, self-sacrificing, prayerful, and content. This is obviously not good advice for targets or for communities who should be protecting targets.

    • “Twisted Calvinism” is certainly a good term for the things you have pointed out.

      To what extent they are true of what John Calvin taught, is perhaps a moot point. But I do know that Calvin’s Consistory at Geneva wrote a very harsh letter to a French Noblewoman who had written to them asking for them to give her refuge in Geneva from her highly abusive French husband. In one of the appendices in my book Not Under Bondage.

    • Anonymous

      “Many will say that whatever happens is the will of God so one’s best policy is to be more trusting, self-sacrificing, prayerful, and content. This is obviously not good advice for targets or for communities who should be protecting targets.”

      Oh my goodness, is this ever true. This is so dangerous. It is shameful how some of the very best persons, those with purest of innocence/intentions, most desiring to serve God, get preyed upon with impunity by an abuser or other predators.

      I’ll just leave it at that. It’s terrible how the wicked prey upon the vulnerable with impunity and twisted teachings in various conservative, Christian circles, become the basis for really horrific circumstances as the wicked have no problem twisting Scripture, etc. and hurling it at their prey.

  2. Heidi

    I completely agree with this. I came out of a Neo-Calvinist church (Acts 29 network) and I found the complementarian doctrine created high dysfunction in the young couples there. I link A Cry for Justice to women in my Christian groups all the time.

  3. Thalea

    Interesting article – thanks for sharing 🙂

    I’ve noticed that, while certain Christian beliefs (and I think this is wider than Calvinism) help to enforce the belief system behind abuse, I would agree with you that Christian beliefs in and of themselves don’t cause the abuse. It’s a fine line to walk, to point out the injustices within the church without actually making an overarching statement. I happen to think this problem is more widespread than most realize.

    • Hi Thalea
      thanks for your comment. Since this looks like your first comment on our blog, I invite you to check out our our New Users’ Info page and our FAQ page.

      • Thalea

        (Sorry, I meant to post that “no worries” reply HERE. I’m fairly new to this and don’t often comment on others’ posts)

  4. Thalea

    Sure, no worries 🙂

  5. Gany T.

    I hold to Reformed teaching on salvation and God’s sovereignty. I have a lot more to learn about it, and I’m not as smart or well-read on it as some critics of ALL-things-Calvinistic, some of whom also happen to be compassionate, articulate, courageous victim advocates in the church.

    However, after being raised in (non-Reformed) evangelicalism my whole life, I spent several years noting the recurrent theme in Scripture of “GOD saved me; I couldn’t and didn’t choose Him.” Then, in the past year or two, I’ve been schooled in EVIL – in the world and in the church- much thanks to ACJF & Ps Jeff Crippen’s teachings on it. Here and at other blogs, evil is regularly being exposed.

    To me, Reformed teaching on God’s election is fleshed out in the fact that Abusers virtually never change…because they don’t WANT to. That, plus how they so clearly exhibit their spiritual father’s DNA of being a liar, thief, and murderer. (I’d include celebrity False Teachers in that lot, many of whom are being exposed as wolves in sheepskin.)

  6. Gany T.

    Two points:
    1. Regarding complementarianism (to reiterate others’ point) :
    The type of complementarianism represented by John MacArthur and many others like him MUST be strongly opposed by those who believe in complementarianism.

    I’m specifically thinking of the expose of the abominable treatment of “Jane,“ a student at The Master’s College who was horrifically raped in 2006, and likewise with another woman who was repeatedly raped by a man who was later employed by TMC.
    http://www.marcipreheim.com/2017/11/26/do-you-hear-me/?utm_content=buffer101f4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    “Male leadership,” show thyself HERE! (I’m currently re-evaluating my stance on complementarianism, leaning towards tossing it out entirely as a manmade doctrine which distorts genuine Biblical teaching on marriage and as a tactic to prevent women from fully functioning in the Body of Christ.)

    2. Regarding being victim advocates and whistleblowers:
    Reformed scholars, leaders, believers: Step up! If just a few of you (besides ACFJ and maybe a couple of others) who ALSO have Christ’s compassion and courage, would stand up against wolves in sheepskins and systems which enable abuse, maybe the only victim advocates and whistleblowers out there wouldn’t be those who are hostile to (true) Reformed teaching or who cross the line in some of their theology.

    • I second this:

      Reformed scholars, leaders, believers: Step up! If just a few of you (besides ACFJ and maybe a couple of others) who ALSO have Christ’s compassion and courage, would stand up against wolves in sheepskins and systems which enable abuse, maybe the only victim advocates and whistleblowers out there wouldn’t be those who are hostile to (true) Reformed teaching or who cross the line in some of their theology.

  7. MarkQ

    Hmmm. Just saw this and thought it was worthy to dig deeper.

    I believe Calvin grew up within the “divine right” tradition. At that time, the Roman Catholic church was deep into the authority of the Priest, Bishop and Pope. So deep that Calvin was somewhat revolutionary for saying that we are not under obligation to obey when our authority commands us to sin. That was the debate – whether we individually were responsible for our sin, or whether the responsibility could be passed up the chain where we simply obey whatever we’re commanded and the sin falls on the shoulders of the authority.

    This thinking has remained in the Calvinist/Reformed tradition, but it has somewhat stagnated. Calvin really never talked about the bounds of authority with respect to obedience – whether the Priest or the King could command a man to move his family, for example. By the time Westminster came around, there were some hints – in their directory for family worship, they stated that a pastor could not usurp the father’s right to lead family worship.

    However, since the Westminster Assembly [1643-1655], it seems that the Reformed tradition is trying to return to the past. Many denominations require agreement or even subscription to the Westminster standards. The problem is that the Westminster standards leave a gaping hole in the discussion of authority and abuse. One might try to wiggle around their wording, but a plain reading of the WCF, WLC and WSC states that we must obey all superiors, unless they are commanding us to sin. So, then the family worship guidance, read within this lens is not saying that the family has the right to disobey a pastor who wants to lead family worship, but that the pastor should not attempt to lead.

    And… not surprisingly, this is pretty much how the Reformed tradition operates. John Piper, when talking to a husband who refuses to let his wife use the bathroom without permission, says “You’re not well. You have an unbelievably distorted view of this fellow heir of the grace of life. You don’t understand the Bible. You’re taking a word like ‘authority’ or ‘leadership’ or ‘submission,’ and then you’re stepping away from the Bible and filling those words up with stuff you want to do. You’re not getting this from the Bible.” Yet, he does not correspondingly tell the wife that she is under no obligation to obey her husband here.

    In the same way, the Presbyterian church may reprimand an elder board for trying to command something extra-Biblical towards the congregation, but I have yet to see the same church praise a congregation for refusing to obey extra-Biblical commands. In fact, I have letters from 3rd party elders to congregants not only acknowledging that a command is extra-Biblical, but telling the congregant to “obey them anyway to set a good example”. What is that good example?

    I think this exemplifies why churches that follow Calvinistic doctrine can still promote a culture of abuse. Calvin and Westminster promoted a theology where this sort of abuse is completely within the role of an elder. The Reformed church needs a new confession in order to truly take a stand against this abuse, and, until then, one can be both Reformed and a CBMW Complementarian.

    • Thank you very much MarkQ for your thoughtful and helpful comment. 🙂

      By the way, for anyone who wants to dig deep into studying the Westminster Assembly and the documents it produced, this is a good website: westminsterassembly.org

    • One more small point. You cited John Piper.

      Quite a few people in the Reformed camp would say that Piper does not have proper Reformed theology. He might agree with some of it, and he’s been lauded by the “Young Restless and Reformed” crowd (YRR) as being a guy who is championing and representing Reformed theology. So Piper passes himself off as ‘Reformed’ among the people who don’t really have a good understanding of Reformed theology. But he’s a slippery chameleon with a gift of the gab.

      IMO, Piper’s theology is much more like Roman Catholicism than anything else. He has a whacky notion of two-stage salvation: initial justification and final justification. The final justification being contingent on whether one has done good works. That’s why I say he is like the Roman Catholics.

      The damage he has done has been enormous and far reaching. He’s deceived the YRR types into thinking that they really understand reformed theology because they learned it from Piper and Piper’s acolytes. He’s taught a pernicious and unbiblical doctrine of marriage, divorce and remarriage. He’s bewitched people with his flowery language so they have no idea they are going astray. And he and Grudem and the other heavyweights have done so much damage with CBMW-style complementarianism.

      • MarkQ

        Only quoted Piper because he holds a CBMW-like view, but I could probably find the same sorts of quotes from people like Doug Wilson, Paul Tripp and Joel Beeke who would be better at carrying the Reformed banner.

        I personally think that Westminster’s silence on abuse has become a thorn-in-the-flesh for most of those denominations. They do not have the understanding, nor the tools to recognize and remove abusers from their ranks. Instead, they are much more susceptible to give the “superior” a pass on clearly abusive behavior and instead focus on what Westminster does call out – mandatory obedience to all ‘lawful’ commands. I’ve had more than my share of run-ins with abusive Westminster-ites.

      • Thanks so much, MarkQ. I think you’ve nailed something very important here:

        …Westminster’s silence on abuse has become a thorn-in-the-flesh for most of those denominations. They do not have the understanding, nor the tools to recognize and remove abusers from their ranks. Instead, they are much more susceptible to give the “superior” a pass on clearly abusive behavior and instead focus on what Westminster does call out – mandatory obedience to all ‘lawful’ commands.

        bless you mate!
        (that’s a friendly greeting from an Aussie Christian)

  8. Finding Answers

    Hhhhmmmm……more to think about…..

    While I am drawn to reformed theology, I am afraid of being placed in a box. I suspect, like many other areas, I will forever be a “misfit”.

    I am not cherry picking options, nor fitting Scripture to a personal worldview. I am searching for a way to keep God my Authority, not some arbitrary interpretations or extra-Biblical traditions of man.

    If I am not found in any expert’s book on complex trauma and / or abuse, why would it be different with any theologian (etc.)?

    Yet these experts on complex trauma and abuse have been incredibly helpful and valuable resources. The theologians (etc.) are the same.

    Discernment. Critical thinking. Experience. Following the lead of the Holy Spirit.

    Perhaps I have found a constant in my world of ongoing change.

Trackbacks

  1. Calvinism And Domestic Violence: there’s a correlation but we can’t say Calvinism *causes* domestic violence — A Cry For Justice – GBFSV SPIRITUAL ABUSE VICTIMS' RECOVERY
  2. Paige Patterson on Domestic Violence: Audiofile Transcript and Resource Links | Spiritual Sounding Board

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