“in the same way” – a hard question for us all

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This blog post should be read in conjunction with “some closing thoughts

edit (7 March 2015):

Thank you for the many helpful comments over the past few days. I’m particularly grateful for the sustained and direct engagement in the comments on my handling of “in the same way”, particularly with working out what the referent was. I would encourage everyone reading the post to read those comments too. This is precisely why I wrote the piece – to raise this thorny question in an environment where we are all vehemently opposed to DV and yet have this difficult passage in front of us. It is a post of questions, grappling with a difficult passage, putting forward a particular reading and asking for others to add their thoughts and comments. I am immensely grateful that people have done that.

I still think that Peter’s words are challenging to each and every one of us no matter what form of unjust situation we suffer under and so Peter’s consistent pointing to Jesus’ own submission to suffering is good for us to be constantly reminded of. The world does not understand it, and even those of us who know and love the Cross of Jesus struggle to comprehend all the implications too.

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I’m really encouraged by most of the conversations we’re having right now here in Sydney (and those joining in) about the church’s response to domestic violence. I have, of course, set out my own thoughts about it here.

But I have a thought, or perhaps more accurately a niggling concern. Even as I voice it I fear that I will be misunderstood. I will certainly be leaped upon by those who (and let’s face it, it’s part of what’s going on) take pleasure in attacking Sydney Anglicanism and conservative (ie orthodox) Christianity in general. But I think it needs to be said.

So, before I say it, for the record (and, frankly, because there are those who are uncharitable enough to read the wrong thing into things that we write):

  1. I am implaccably opposed to domestic violence and abuse of all forms.
  2. I am incredibly disgusted by men who abuse women.
  3. I am particularly outraged when a man who calls himself a Christian acts in this way, since it is in direct violation of Jesus’ own instruction through His Apostle (Eph. 5:25-29 etc.). Few things, in fact, anger me as much as people who twist the word of God to justify evil behaviour.

Perhaps critics should also know (and I write this relunctantly because I genuinely don’t want others to think that I’m somehow seeking to justify or promote myself) that

  1. I am seeing DV of one form or another many times a week through our church’s charity.
  2. I have on multiple occasions intervened directly to remove a woman from violence or the threat of violence. I have faced off violent men (who almost always turn out to be cowardly bullies) and I have sat with women who have just fled from an abusive partner. I have done this many times and I expect to be doing it many times in the future.
  3. Whenever I preach on the “headship” of a husband I am at pains to stress the sacrificial love of Jesus as the only model. I spend my time on headship telling men how they need to act in service of women.
  4. I am responsible for an organisation where we not only help victims of DV but we also work with men to help them understand their own behaviour and motivations with a view to genuine change.

So when I write what you’re about to read I do so (I trust) as someone who’s credentials in this area, while certainly not enormous, are not utterly negligible either.

So now here is my dilemma.

I want to rescue as many women as possible from DV, but I think the Scriptures have something directly to say to a woman who stays (I presume for a while) in an abusive situation. Note very carefully what I am stating here. The Scriptures speak to the Christian woman and she should therefore consider this for herself and make her own decision about it. I am not telling her what to do, and nor should you. But I am telling all of us (including her) what I think the Bible is saying. And I think it says something incredibly shocking to all of us.

1Pet. 3:1 Wives, in the same way…

There is a call to wives to behave in the same way as … well as who? Reading a little before soon shows us:

1Pet. 2:18-25    Slaves, in reverent fear of God submit yourselves to your masters, not only to those who are good and considerate, but also to those who are harsh. 19 For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. 20 But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God. 21 To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.

22  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

23    When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. 24 “He himself bore our sins” in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; “by his wounds you have been healed.” 25 For “you were like sheep going astray,” but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

So the Apostolic instruction appears to be that wives ought to act just like the slaves who Peter is referring to who, in turn, act just like the Lord Jesus Christ who suffered on behalf of every Christian.

Do please note that Peter is under no illusions as to what is going on; the abuser is harsh (v25), the suffering is unjust (v19), the experience is physical (v20). But the call is to submit in reverent fear of God. This is the example set for us and, incredibly, our calling as Christians (v21).

And then, shockingly and confrontingly for us, he writes,

1Pet. 3:1    Wives, in the same way submit yourselves to your own husbands…

What is most challenging here is the “in the same way”. Peter appears to have in mind submission to treatment that includes that which he has been writing about previously; harshness, unjust suffering, some form of physical abuse.

Again, please note, there is no ounce of justification here for any of this behaviour. As stated before it is quite clear that Peter considers all this abuse to be utterly wrong. That is not in question here. He also writes to Christian husbands to command them

1Pet. 3:7    Husbands, in the same way be considerate as you live with your wives, and treat them with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life, so that nothing will hinder your prayers.

He recognises the power imbalance and calls all husbands to never abuse it. On the contrary, to go out of their way to look after and respect their wives.

But nevertheless Jesus’ Apostle calls each and every one of us to submission. “To this you were called”, he writes.

I find this incredibly challenging. What do those of us who want ourselves to submit to the Scriptures make of it? Perhaps some observations and questions to push our thinking on a little:

  1. Are we convinced this Apostolic word is authoritative? I think that needs to be asked because it will frame our response and also protect us (hopefully) from the temptation to rapidly dismiss what we read here. If we think the Scriptures are the word of God then we will want to humbly work out what it means for us to sit under it. Of course, for some simply reading this will lead to the conclusion that it cannot possibly be God’s word. But that has never been the position of the Christian church. For that Church, for us, we must grapple further.
  2. When Peter writes “in the same way” does he refer to (not least) submission to unfair, physical abuse or is he simply instructing us to submit as Jesus submitted, albeit in different circumstances? I find the latter less persuasive. I sense that I’m tempted to go for the latter not because it’s the more linguistically and contextually sensible, but because I’m embarassed by the implications of the former.
  3. An observation: once again the call to submit is made to the person who will submit, in this case the abused wife. She is not to be forced to submit, but may choose to do so herself, out of reverence to and in trust of Christ. This is her choice and no-one else’s.
  4. What does this mean for pastoral advice for a woman in this situation? I wonder if it makes it a little more complicated than we may at first think. Again, nobody is in any position to tell her what to do, let alone make her do. But what if she chooses to stay and “endure verbal abuse for a season” (to deliberately quote John Piper in his much-criticised statement) or even choose to suffer physical abuse for a short period of time, citing 1Peter 3:1 as her rationale? What then? Is this not her seeking to obey the word of God?
  5. None of this means we ought not seek to empower and help her if she chooses to remove herself from an abusive situation. But is it so wrong, was Piper so wrong, to suggest that her choice to submit might have a flavour of “in the same way” and that this might actually be a Godly wise choice?

I realise some reading this will have already written me off. I also know that we’re in a season when we’re (quite rightly) taking seriously the need to protect and help women who are abused. All of this is good and important. But perhaps as we think these things through a little more we need to just stop and consider exactly what we’re saying and who we are seeking to please when we say it. Because the world around us has jolted us into thinking hard about these things (and we must be grateful for this) doesn’t mean we need to listen to them in all things. Because a measure of common grace has been at play, doesn’t mean that God’s special revelation in His word is no longer our prime rule.

As we revitalise our insistence that men ought to model themselves on Jesus’ sacrificial love for His bride, is it perhaps also necessary for us to begin to consider what it means for us to also think through what it looks like to model ourselves on Christ’s submission to unjust and unfair cruelty?

If you’re prepared to read this all again carefully, take seriously my opening caveats and then answer I’d be very grateful for considered response. What do you all think?

This Post Has 32 Comments

  1. MichaelA

    Hi David, thank you for an honest and courageous post, but I differ significantly from you on exegesis:

    “What is most challenging here is the “in the same way”. Peter appears to have in mind submission to treatment that includes that which he has been writing about previously; harshness, unjust suffering, some form of physical abuse.”

    He does? I didn’t see that connection at all in the passage, and I read it through several times. By “the passage” I mean as a minimum starting at 1 Peter 2:13, since it also commands submission – I am not sure why you have started at 1 Peter 2:18. Let’s look at the passage in detail:

    Peter tells four groups to submit, and in each case gives detail of what that means. I suggest that the practical manifestation of submissions differs markedly in each case, and that is essentially because of the different legal situations:

    Firstly, in 2:13-17 he commands the body of believers to submit to the emperor and governors, and tells them how to do this: as free men but not using their freedom as an excuse for evil. They are to fear God but to honour the emperor. [An example of this would be Paul – he submitted when he had to but he took advantage of every privilege and defence made available to him by the law. For instance he invoked his right as a Roman citizen to be spared physical punishment without trial – e.g. Acts 22:23-29. A Roman governor’s legal powers were pretty much unrestricted against non-citizens, but subject to significant restraint vs citizens]

    Secondly, in 2:18-25 he commands those believers who are slaves to submit to their masters, the harsh as well as the good, and to endure whatever physical suffering they dish out. [The obvious observation about this teaching is its practicality, since slaves didn’t have the same legal rights as free men did, particularly in the area of physical punishment]

    Thirdly, in 3:1-6 he commands wives “similarly” (homoiws) to submit to their own husbands, in particular by purity and reverence of life, as contrasted with outward adornment and clothing. There is no reference at all to physical violence (I will deal with the issue of “homoiws” below), which again is not surprising because women probably at this time had strong legal protection against domestic violence – by the 5th century AD the Theodosian Code provided that a woman whose husband beat her was entitled to divorce him, or to sue him for compensation, but this is believed to reflect earlier laws and customs.

    Fourthly, in 3:7, he commands husbands “similarly” (homoiws) to treat their wives with respect and reverence (the word is sometimes used of reverence shown to the Gods). Now, if we are going to treat the word homoiws (“similarly”, or “in the same way”) in 3:1 as meaning a reference back to the physical violence aspect of the command to slave, then shouldn’t we treat it the same in 3:7? And that’s where the absurdity becomes apparent – how is the command to the husband in 3:7 to be construed as a reference to enduring physical violence? A far better reading is that homoiws refers to the common thread through all four passages, i.e. of godly submission, even though the way in which the submission manifests itself differs significantly.

    I don’t see any biblical command in this passage for a woman to stay with a violent husband who has not repented.

  2. MichaelA

    “But what if she chooses to stay and “endure verbal abuse for a season” (to deliberately quote John Piper in his much-criticised statement) or even choose to suffer physical abuse for a short period of time, citing 1Peter 3:1 as her rationale?”

    As noted above, I would say to her that 1 Peter 3:1 is not a command for her to stay with him.

    I would also suggest careful consideration of Matthew 18:15-17:

    “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.”

    Note the words “won them over” (gr. kerdaino) in verse 15. That is the same word used in 1 Peter 3:1. Bringing these two passages together, I would suggest that if a woman has not been able to win over a violent husband by her godly behaviour, then it may be time to call in one or two other Christians as witnesses to remonstrate with the husband, and if he won’t listen to them, then to call in the church elders. And if he still won’t listen, then she can treat him as a pagan.

    That in turn has interesting implications. A wife with an unbelieving husband is required to live with him if he is “willing” or “in agreement” (syneudokein). I read that word as meaning much more than just that he has a desire to stay. He has to work together with her. If not, she can let him go. So the violent husband who won’t listen to other witnesses or the church can be turfed.

  3. Mark Williamson

    Hi David. I’m wondering whether the focus that you put on the phrase “in the same way” can be held up, given that Peter uses the same phrase for husbands – they are to “in the same way” live in an understanding way, which doesn’t seem to carry any of the implications of suffering and injustice that are laid out in the example of the slaves. ie – why should “in the same way” imply physical suffering for the wife, when “in the same way” doesn’t imply it for the husband? Or have I misunderstood something?

  4. Nick Clarey

    I’m not sure I agree with your suggestion that “in the same way” in 3:1 refers to 2:18-25. I think it goes back to 2:12. My thoughts on Peter’s argument:

    2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

    Peter is explaining to his readers how their behaviour will cause others to “glorify God”. He starts in general societal terms (how to deal with earthly authorities) and then goes through some common household relationships and explains how you should behave to that end. So:

    vv13-17 – Submit to earthly authorities, who are in charge. As you do good deeds (v12), you silence critics (i.e. your critics and society will glorify God)
    vv18-20 – For slaves, submit to your masters, even ones that are harsh with you – suffer for doing good (v12) not for doing the wrong thing (i.e. to cause your master to glorify God)
    vv21-25 – Endure (unjust) suffering, just as Jesus did on the way to the cross.
    3v1-6 – “In the same way/likewise” (i.e. to cause your husband to glorify God) wives, submit to your husbands so that in seeing your purity and reverence those that don’t believe may turn to the Lord. Don’t give in to fear – the fear of ceding household authority to someone just as sinful as you (or possibly an unbeliever!)
    3v7 – “In the same way/likewise” (i.e. to cause your wife to glorify God) husbands be considerate towards your wives, treat them with respect as sisters in the faith – if you don’t it will inhibit your prayer life.

    My point is that I don’t think that the use of the words “in the same way” (or “likewise” in ESV) refers to enduring physical abuse, but refers to the mechanism by which God is glorified. And even if it did refer to 2vv21-25 I think that because it’s applied to both wives and husbands there’s no implication that it involves physical abuse.

  5. Nick Clarey

    Three different blokes with largely the same exegesis on a passage – I feel a movement of the Spirit 😉

  6. David Pettett

    Two problems with your argument. 1. What do you do with "in the same way" in verse 7. I agree with Nick which, if right, means I think your argument falls over. 2. When does an abused person have a choice? Too often the psychological state of an abused person means they have lost all sense of choice.

  7. David Ould

    Thanks everyone for your comments. I agree, the “in the same way” in 3:7 necessarily broadens the referent of Peter back to the more general instruction to behave in a godly manner to win the pagans over. I think it also allows a more natural reading of 3:1-6 to encompass general relational difficulties in marriage (which is how I’ve always been naturally inclined to read it).

    Thanks, also, David for your 2nd comment – very helpful for us to remember.

    I guess that then leaves me with a few more questions.

    1. Does 3:1-6 still encompass (amongst the potential situations envisaged) some form of abuse?
    2. If an abused person can lose their “sense of choice” (as David helpfully points out) then does that not also apply to the abused slave?

    Hoping the brains trust can keep pushing us forward on this. Thanks for the really helpful way we’ve had the conversation so far.

  8. Martin Kemp

    Thanks David for raising this. 1 Peter is certainly the ‘problem’ text for this issue.

    A thought which has occured to me over the last few weeks is that maybe this is a good place to apply the analogy of Scripture – which as I understand it – is the reading of difficult parts of the Bible in light of other parts in order to gain some clarity.

    Note Peter’s insistence that we submit to earthly authorities in 2.13, yet Peter himself in Acts 4 says that he’d sooner obey God over human commands. Perhaps this indicates that Peter’s instructions in the epistle are not means to be absolute? And if we are affirming the parrallel between instructions to slaves and spouses, then it would mean that his advice to wives is in the same category, ie not immune to certain caveats. Just a thought, albeit an untested one.

    1. David Ould

      Thanks Martin. Yes, I assume that the instruction is not an absolute and that there are caveats and more to be said. In some ways is it perhaps like the question we have with divorce? Jesus and His Apostle allow divorce in certain circumstances, but there is also another way forward in the same circumstance which is hard and sacrificial and made consciously under those assumptions?

      All of this notwithstanding David P.’s important observation about losing a sense of choice.

  9. Lucy Browne

    After reading this I went onto youtube and looked up John Piper’s video that you cited. I am completely appalled by the response that he made. Firstly he was answering a question about domestic abuse and the first thing he did was laugh?? Then he went on to talk about whether or not a woman’s life was in danger. How are people actually assessing whether or not the woman’s life is in danger? Women who suffer serious injury or death as a result of domestic violence have nearly always endured years of ”lesser” abuse. As for enduring a ‘smack’ for one night, perhaps Piper is not aware of the deaths that have been caused by one hit, so called king hit punches? Verbal abuse is also a massive cause for concern too. As much as I appreciate that churches are now rightly addressing and acknowledging domestic violence against women it has to be remembered that it is also a crime. These crimes have to be reported to the police for the woman’s protection and what the church can offer in terms of legal protection is limited.

    1. Rachel

      Hi Lucy, I was equally concerned and wrote to David privately on the topic, an excerpt of which was “The issues I had with John’s video was of a theorotician trying to answer a question of how to deal with the brutal reality of a DV situation, where he clearly had no personal frame to do so. You could see the discomfort oozing from every pore in his body language and his manner in how he answered the question.” I see this more as a reflection on a system which asks academics to deal with deeply personal situations, which they’re just not trained to do. Hopefully John will learn from his mistake and deal with this better in future.

  10. Nigel Poore

    In summary I would make the following observations…..

    1. We are looking at the issue of DV through scriptural eyes and yes, we as Christian men all agree that DV is a no go, no thought area ……especially when your prayers won’t get answered, so a definite no win situation.

    2. The problem of DV as l see it is primarily in secular and unequally yoked relationships so no amount of scriptural analysis is going to change the situation which l see as something that is only going to get worse pro rata with money pressures and the departure from Christianity.

    3. DV is also something that is passed down through families ……monkey see, monkey do. You do as your teacher (father) did. Because of this, as hard as it is, there needs to be some compassion for the man perpetrating the violence “for he knows not what he is doing”. As a matter of fact as a teenager l used to spend my evenings and weekends repairing damage to the house from my mother being pushed through closed doors. This said, in my marraige l broke the mould….as well as being wrong, l would be so ashamed to put my children through the same. But as l have seen, some men don’t break the mould.

    4. DV is also woman to man in some cases. Probably don’t hear too much of that….what bloke is going to say my wife bashed me up.

    This said, we all agree DV is horrible. The answer for us Christians is in scripture.

    But, what the answer is among the secular in darkness l don’t know.

    DV is just another dark cloud along with lying, cheating, fornication, homosexuality, paedophilia, child abuse and all the other everyday things we are commonly confronted with today.

    1. Gregory

      My summary Nigel is this:

      I’d don’t think that violence against women which results sometimes in death is anywhere near the same as lying, cheating and the other ‘sins’ you call a ‘just another dark cloud’.

      1. Nigel Poore

        Yep Gregory, good point, had never given DV resulting in death a thought.

        “Just another dark cloud” was not a trivial statement by the way…….what l was meaning by this is that there is an abundance of evil darkening the skies in every direction.

  11. James Dawes

    This is a tough one! David, I’m really glad you chucked in all that stuff at the start, all the caveats and such. The eggshells are very fragile indeed. And that’s probably a good thing.

    It does seem that Peter sees some parallel between the submission of the servant/slave and the submission of the wife. But it occurred to me that abusing one’s slave was probably lawful in Paul’s time, whereas DV today is certainly not. That should play into this question at some level.

  12. Rachel White

    Hi David, I have two thoughts which I'll post separately. As you know, my frame is more experience based, I am not a biblical scholar (and am not going to pretend to be in this august company!). The first is Peter 1 3:1, this is the more straightforward one. The phrase that springs to mind from popular culture that is very similar is "behind every great man is a great woman". Often in that scenario it's got nothing to do with what's said, it's the example that seems to have the most impact, which is consistent with the verse. I have been waiting to see if the opposite phrase would appear in popular culture, being "behind every great woman…..". It hasn't, so I'll submit one which is "behind every great woman is an army of girlfriends". About 10 years ago I saw some research come out of Stamford medical school which looked into whether married or unmarried people did better with stress related illnesses. For men, hands down married men did better. For women it made no difference whether they were married or not, it was how many girlfriends they have. How does this relate to DV? A man who tries to isolate his wife from her girlfriends is a good signal that he may not be acting in service of his wife.

  13. Rachel White

    The second relates to "slavery". When I first starting going to church back in 2008, one of the triggers was to break a pattern of unhealthy relationships. In 2012 I had a work related situation with a CEO of an early stage venture who was very charismatic, very charming and underneath, a very poisonous person. It took a couple of months to realise, I was there for 12 months all up. It took a further 12 months after that for the anxiety attacks to stop. Whilst this is not a husband / wife scenario it was very clear in hindsight that I was still attracting unhealthy people into my life, this time professionally rather than personally. Can I stick up my hand and say I chose to stay? Yes I did. Part of that was an addiction to the drama and being front & centre of a difficult situation (I was a CFO of an early stage venture, living on a knife's edge and going through a protracted capital raise, without which the company would not survive). During that time, God taught me several things which have stayed with me, the first were practices to manage some fairly nasty anxiety, the second was to value my own intelligence which was a gift from Him, the third was a healthy dose of resilience which comes from leaning into Him. The last was to have compassion for the perpetrator, accepting at the same time that I can neither change or "rescue" him. Would I ever go there again? He reached out 12 months after I left, I could feel myself getting drawn back in and I said no. The main point here was that it was my choice to stay and my choice to leave in the end (I resigned very publically to the board), I had an amazing support crew around me the whole time (including post recovery), most of whom were from my church and acted in a pastoral care capacity. How does this relate to DV? The main issue is one of empowerment to make sure a woman feels she can make the choice. In many cases the perpetrator makes someone feel powerless, because they feel they can't make their own choices, I suspect it is that element where the concept of "submission" may have been misinterpreted in the past. Throughout this whole experience I owned all of my choices, I could not have done that without my faith.

  14. Nathan

    Hey David,

    I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about this passage in this debate – I think a helpful distinction, and one I’m not sure is made explicitly, or perhaps not explicitly enough, above is that these “in the same ways” seem to be in the context of Christians in relationships with non-Christians, where the implied desire of the submitter is to see the person won to Christ (ie “they may be won over without words”).

    That said. I wonder if we’re sort of anachronistically reading some DV stuff into this passage, and I’m not sure it’s picturing the sort of relationship we’re talking about (in fact, I’m fairly sure it isn’t), I was fairly convinced by the argument that this is specifically, contextually, dealing with wives who have converted from their household religion – the religion set by her husband – where the husband does not agree with this decision and the wife’s suffering is on that basis. I get that this is reading a fair bit of Roman culture into the text (which in my opinion is slightly more forgivable than shoehorning our issues into the text).

    Also, DV is against the laws of our state, it wasn’t necessarily against the laws of Rome, so at the very least this puts submitting to one’s husband in conflict with submitting to the state. Can a wife report her husband for breaking the law (in any situation) while still submitting? What does she do in cases where, for some reason, there is mandatory reporting? (I’m aware that you can’t compell spouses to testify against each other in court).

    Also, I’m not sure the sort of submission envisaged necessarily requires staying in the same house, in danger, it may (I hypothesise) involve an ongoing commitment to one’s wedding vows and the desire that one’s non-Christian husband might be one over by one’s willingness to pursue transformation and reconciliation. Forgiveness, and such a commitment in the face of wrongful abuse, might be something that lives out the example Peter keeps pointing to – Christ crucified – and make sense of the logic Peter seems to see between all the people he tells to live “in the same way.”

    1. David Ould

      Thanks Nathan. Yes I’ve been persuaded by the many comments here that we are being slightly anachronistic. Your comment is a helpful summary of those errors along with the corrective exegesis from others. All in all a really helpful process. Thank you everyone for your contributions so far.

      Keep them coming

  15. Luke

    Hi David,

    To continue from FB: Can you clarify your comments, or please remove/edit this post?

    This reads like advocacy for a position, not asking a question.

    And that position is very unhelpful.


    1. David Ould

      More than happy to clarify Luke. Which comment was not clear?
      The post is full of questions, none of which are intended to be rhetorical. Which statements of position or advocacy for a position do you find unhelpful?

      1. Luke

        Hi David,

        Points 4 and 5, where you suggest enduring abuse “might actually be a Godly wise choice”.

        Reflecting on this article: http://biblesociety.org.au/news/on-christian-marriage-submission-and-abuse it would seem that framing the enduring of abuse as a “Godly wise choice” would play into the hands of the abuser (perhaps using identical language), and would make us complicit in the evil of abuse.

        If you don’t stand by your comments in point 4 and 5 I strongly suggest you edit the post to reflect that, or better yet remove these points entirely. Given the very real, very sad situations where women are coerced into enduring their abuse by their abusive partner over months, years and decades, I’m not sure that speculative discussions on whether choosing to endure abuse is “biblical” is helpful (or even meaningful), and I fear such thought-bubbles unwittingly aid the abuser.


        1. David Ould

          Luke, there are many things that play into the hands of an abuser, beginning with the Biblical call for women to submit to their husbands. I think my piece is more than clear on a number of occassions on what I think of any man who uses any Biblical text to excuse abuse.

          Any man who reads my post and sees an excuse to abuse a woman invites us to draw conclusions about himself. I’ve been abundantly vocal in my opposition to any action he may take and I’m more than happy to repeat it once again here. And again if you need more reassurance from me.

          1. Luke

            Hi David,

            I think you misunderstood my point. I’m not suggesting you have anything less than abhorrence for DV and oppose any man who acts in such a way.

            What I am saying is that in flagging the possibility of submission to abuse being a “a Godly wise choice” you add pressure to the victim to do the “Godly, wise” thing and submit to such abuse, which is exactly what the abuser wants. I fully understand that is not your intention, however I am trying to point out that that is a potential consequence.

            It’s the additional pressure and doubt about escaping that you are potentially place in the victim’s mind that concerns me (and others apparently), and again I implore you to err on the side of caution and remove this post, or at the very least those comments.

            Again, let me stress I understand you utterly oppose DV. My reservations are to do with your appreciation of what impact your words can have on victims. That you seem to be unaware of any consequences for the victims despite ongoing discussions only strengthens my concern, and I suggest that even if you can’t see the problem, you listen to those brothers and sisters who can.


        2. David Ould

          I fear that whatever is written it will be misconstrued by one party or another and I suspect this is one of the difficulties with many of the very difficult things that the Scripture says to us.

          We speak of justification by faith alone and we are accused of antinomianism
          We speak of submission and we are accused of somehow adding pressure to the victim of abuse.

          Let me tell you my reality. Almost every woman we deal with is not a Christian. These discussions about what the Christian woman ought to do in that situation doesn’t even come into it.
          But on the odd occassion there is a Christian woman in this situation. So the question then arises, what should her response be? Personally, I think she ought to flee as soon as she can.

          But Peter’s letter raises a tremendous conundrum for us for he advocates submission as a general way of life for the Christian. So what am I to do if a Christian woman says “I think I will endure this for a short time. I trust Jesus who has gone before me and I am convinced He can see me through this”?

          Do I think she is required to? Certainly not! Do I think it is the best choice? No, not really at all. But am I struck by a good and godly desire to do what she perceives to be the right thing here, mindful of the general call of Christ to all of us to submit? I have to say that I am. And that she is a challenge to all of us, certainly me in my refusal to submit and trust Christ in far less. I think she has made a mistake in her decision-making but I also recognise that she ought to be empowered to do as she thinks best. That same empowerment is the key to her wisely escaping any abuse.

          And if any abusers read those words and think they are an aid to them, well then shame upon them. And all the more so if they clam to be a Christian.

  16. David Ould

    thanks Rachel. Really helpful observation. Yes, our experience is that one very typical pattern of abusive men is to isolate the women.

  17. David Ould

    thanks Rachel. More really helpful stuff. Empowerment is a big important thing and half the battle is helping victims realise they have options and that they will be supported. Despite this is takes a tremendous moment of courage to make those decisions.

  18. John Dickson

    Dear David,
    I can’t see above if anyone has pointed out the most basic problem with your argument. In Greek homoiōs (likewise) does not function in the way you suggest. It is a loose connector. Therefore, it is not simply that you have missed the flow of Peter’s argument, which takes its cue from 2:12 (as others have noted); it is that you laid upon a Greek adverb a weight it cannot bear.
    I believe you must go beyond vague concessions about corrective exegesis, and admit you are plainly wrong in your handling of this part of Scripture – with potentially grave consequences in a domestic violence context. A full retraction of this post would be honourable and fitting in this case.
    God bless,

    1. David Ould

      I’m sorry John. I don’t think I gave a “vague concession”. I made it clear that I thought those who have provided correction here have made their case. I am happy to repeat that statement here.

      As for the post itself, I’m happy to have it stand as what I hope is a good example of how we can ask questions about difficult passages and then also be corrected when someone demonstrates that the argument we have suggested is wrong. That was, after all, the whole intention of the post.

      If I had boldly said “this is what it actually means and you’re all wrong” then it would require a clear retraction. But I didn’t do that. I asked “I read Peter this way, is that what’s going on? What do others think?” and I received a very useful answer; my reading was incorrect and it was shown why. I consider that a very very useful exchange.

      1. John Dickson

        Okay, I think I’ve got it. I am grateful you have acknowledged the mistake.

  19. Barbara Roberts

    yes. Bounded choice is a key charactisti of the experience of the victim of abuse, particularly when the abuse continues over a long period of time.

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