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Aaron O'Kelley

What do you find controversial about this? Piper addresses two scenarios, one in which a woman graciously refuses to follow a husband's leadership into sin, and another in which she seeks refuge from an abusive husband in the church. It seems like wise counsel to me.

Tim Rogers

Did I just hear John Piper say if a woman got "smacked" by her husband she was supposed to go to the preacher and tell him? Wow!!! No woman should ever be "smacked" by any man!!! Why can't he just say that?


"endure verbal abuse for a season" ... “endure being smacked one night" ... "let the church leaders help you navigate"

Whew! Sounds remarkably similar to the counsel over at SGM. Abuse and the abusive should be dealt with by the proper authorities, not church elders! I’m sorry, but this guy is creepy. It’s amazing that so many otherwise smart young folks in the New Calvinism movement would follow Pied Piper.

Aaron O'Kelley

Tim, Piper did say that. Watch the video again.

Max, nowhere in this video does Piper say that a woman in this situation is forbidden from going to the civil authorities. We should not infer that conclusion. In fact, in an article posted on his website he addresses that very issue:


Tim and Max, I encourage you both to read this article because both of your concerns are addressed explicitly there. Peter, I recommend it for you as well, since this video apparently scandalized you.


I will ask the question I asked the first time I saw this video Because Piper does not make the distinction if the husband is a professing believer or not. However whether the husband is a professing believers or not has nothing to do with the fact she should charge him with assault. She doesn't even haven't to call the pastor first. You may laugh at me saying that but there are many out there teaching this.


Aaron, So it is very important for a wife to be gracious... And continue to see her husband as her leader.... When he asked her to be part of a threesome?

You have as strange a religion as Pipers. Is it Islam?


During college, I was accused by a girl I was interested in (and had a on and off relationship since high school) of being a stalker. We actually were supposedly friends at the time, I was interested in her, and I said to her "I am going to win your heart." It was my intention for it to mean "I am going to be a better man so I can earn your love and respect." She heard it as, "I am going to make you like me whether you want to or not." She went to the school, which was/is a SBC/MBC (Missouri Baptist) affiliated college, and the school placed on me an "informal" restraining order, stating if I did not stay away from her, they would go to the police I would be arrested, and be kicked out of school. I have no doubt she could have gone to the police right off the bat (and I have heard she was even advised to do that by at least one of her other friends who did not like me), and if that had happened, I would forever have a domestic complaint against me on file. A complaint that would prevent me from doing a lot that I am able to do now. By God's grace she did not go to the police.

What makes this case even more compelling is while she was having the school restrict my actions, she continued to write several letters to me, leaving them in my school mail box, explaining her actions, telling me about how she was doing, saying she "hoped I was doing well", ect. I had to take those to the school and it was only then that they realized that her original cause of complaint was exaggerated, and that I had done no wrong. This is something she even admitted to me and others later.

My point is that there are cases where false accusations are made, and depending on what level they are taken to, they can ruin lives. By God's grace, that did not happen to me, but it has and does happen to others. For instance, the Duke Lacross case a few years back. No one can tell me that the lives of these men have not been ruined because of one girls accusations.

That said, let me also say this. I have a friend who was raped. And my own mother was the victim of sexual child abuse. I am of the belief that rape should be a capital crime, and that those who truly are guilty, need to be held fully accountable. Whether it is rape, or marital abuse.

What I see/heard Pastor Piper say, was that a wife has an invaluable resource in the form of the church, that she can go to always. The church can and should be available to her in her time of need. If real and true abuse has taken place, especially physical, the church (and its pastors) have the duty and obligation to inform law enforcement authorities.

However, I also believe that there are times when marital issues should be dealt with within the church. Where is the line that separates in church responsibility and the need for law enforcement? I honestly don't know. I believe that it needs to be taken on a case to case basis. Sometimes our jump to punish and attack all forms of abuse is so strong, we ignore the brush stroke we are creating and those who would be swept into it, who were and are not true abusers. Again, I point to my own case.

Tim Rogers

Wow, I started to read the comments this morning here and think I must be in the twilight zone or something.

Dr. O'Kelley, I usually follow your logic on things but this one seems clearly something you are straining in order to defend Piper's position. I have gone to the link you provided and really hone only one question. How many people will view that video and know there is a written article where he does more explanation? However, in reading his response he doesn't do as much clarification as you insist he does. For example notice the first sentence in his point #3.But recourse to civil authorities may be the right thing for an abused wife to do. [Emphasis mine] According to his position it may not be the right thing to do if a woman gets "smacked". He then follows it up with scripture later on using Jesus' words of turning the other check.

Now, let me give a personal story. I have a 16 year-old daughter. If she were to marry a person and come to me with a hand mark on her check and tell me her husband placed it there and she was just following Pastor Piper's teaching, they would lock me up twice and I would resign myself to the Calvinistic teaching of God's sovereignty that whatever happens isn't based on my choice but based on God's will for my life. I would see that God was calling me to a prison ministry. You may ask why would I be locked up twice? First, I would be locked up for breaking the legs and wrists of my daughters husband. I would plead guilty and ask for the mercy of the court. They would release me and give me probation. While I was out on probation I would get me a flight and register for the next conference that Piper was speaking. I would go through his book signing line and I would "smack" him then appeal to scripture for him to turn his other cheek. When he does that I would smack him again. (Of course you know all this is exaggerated speech) I say all this because you need to see how this can play out. I place my next statement in bold just to make sure it is emphasized. A person that is assaulted must go to the authorities. It is not the responsibility of the church to make people go to the authorities. Common sense tells us that authorities are better equipped to give legal advice and instructions than pastors.

SVMuschany, I do appreciate your position and your person story. I feel bad that you had to endure the accusation. Having said that let me tell you something from the point of a parent. If you would have told me daughter that I would have advised her to do the same thing. (Had I known about the secret letters I would have pulled her from school b/c it tells me there is something mentally she is not able to deal with) However, the fact that you were reported to the school and not the authorities is not a way out. The school actually broke the law for not reporting you to the authorities. Had she gone to the authorities all of this would have been straightened out once you revealed the letters to the authorities the same way it was straightened out when you revealed them to the school.

My point is this. No church, pastor, or ministry, can teach that God has placed civil authorities over us but tell people to come to the church for their civil matters. Which is exactly what Piper is telling in the video. If we push his logic on submission to the command "children obey your parents" we end up promoting the silencing of child abusers.

Tim Rogers


I forgot to close one of my italics. Could you go in and edit it? Thanks


"Where is the line that separates in church responsibility and the need for law enforcement?"

SVMuschany - in one word "abuse". Physical and sexual abuse always start first with verbal abuse (ask any wife who has suffered at the hand of an abusive husband). Perceived threats (harassment of any sort, unwelcome advancement into the life of another, etc.) in the mind of a "victim" is also a form of abuse, for it too often is a pathway to other abuse.

My primary concern with Piper's advise is that it is falling on the ears of multitudes of 20s-30s in New Calvinist ranks. I have great difficulty believing that YRR church planters who are in their 20s-30s, with hand-picked elder boards also in their 20s-30s, collectively have enough wisdom to deal with domestic abuse within their congregations. At the very least, church leadership should refer such cases to professional counselors outside of their congregation or (depending on the report) referred directly to law enforcement to meet their responsibility as a mandated reporter. There are some things which should not fall under the jurisdiction of the pulpit - we have too many horror stories in Christendom where this approach has precipitated much misery (e.g., the SGM scandal).

peter lumpkins


Well, Aaron, Piper's video hardly "scandalized" me whatever under Yogi Bear's thick fur skin you imply by that. My self-description had more to do with the theological doofiness many hard-core complementarians appear to be implying about gender these days. It's not too much to wonder where they're going with this and, to be frank, to understand fully the outcry from some concerning patriarchialism.

Nor is your clever denial that Piper's response forbade the physically abused woman from going to the civil authorities persuasive. No, Piper did not morally forbid the "smacked" woman going to the authorities. But neither did he encourage her to seek refuge in a lawful environment where physical violence meets the God-ordained arm of justice. Instead he explicitly noted the ultimate answer for physical violence is church and church elders who will protect her.

Piper demonstrates the type of strain on biblical complementarianism I find whittling away at biblical norms based on sober, balanced interpretation we find abundance evidence of in historic Baptist theology.


"... I would get me a flight and register for the next conference that Piper was speaking."

Tim Rogers - that would be at a huge gathering of who's who in New Calvinism in Louisville later this month: http://crosscon.com/speakers/

In addition to an easy snag of 3 college credits, you would have ample opportunity to lay hands on the brethren.

Aaron O'Kelley

Peter, evidently you did not read the article that I linked to. Please read it. You are badly misinterpreting Piper.

Have a nice weekend, folks.

Tim Rogers


What is going on with our thinking now-a-days? Look, I agree that the church should be an advocate for an abused spouse. I agree that the church should be involved to a certain level. But I completely disagree that the church pastor or elders should be the first ones notified. Let me just take it from the position of a woman. She has been "smacked" by her husband. She goes to her pastor (another man) to reveal intimate details about her personal life. The man she trusted to share the most intimate part of herself with has "smacked" her and she has lost all trust and safety with him. She is now to go to another man, that she really does not trust the way she trusted the one who smacked her, to plead her case? Plus this man has no authority to deal with the smacking spouse. Let's face it. The pastor/elder can only say, "you should not do that and if you do again we will take action with the authorities". Yea that puts the fear of God in a man that will "smack" a woman.

peter lumpkins


Don't be ridiculous. First, the video above is not a snippet from a sermon where we assume there's a context to consider in dealing with the words. Rather these videos are designed to be straightforward answers to questions asked. If they're not answers, then why post the videos in the first place? What you're trying to do is make out like we've taken Piper out of context or something. Nonsense.

Second, as Tim as already indicated, Piper doesn't contradict there what he's indicated here. So please stop trying to point us to another source.

Third, if Piper is so clear elsewhere, then why not agree he's not clear here. But if he's not clear here, then why do they post it as a straightforward answer to a question received?

peter lumpkins


I think what's going on in part are radical, entirely unbalanced views being pursued by a whole new generation of Christian teachers. Take Piper. He has radically unbalanced views on God's sovereignty. God causes earthquakes, hurricanes, and 9/11 bombings. Furthermore, there's radically unbalanced views on pastoral authority. There's radically unbalanced views on elder boards. There's radically unbalanced views on church discipline. There's radically unbalanced views on baptism. Why should we be surprised there's radically unbalanced views on complementarianism?

Rick Patrick

Clearly Pastors give guidance and counsel to church members in all sorts of different situations. But to suggest to a woman with a wife-smacking husband that her first place to turn following an episode of abuse is her Pastor rather than her local law enforcement officer seems woefully irresponsible to me.

I hate to bring it up, but it sounds almost like the philosophy C. J. Mahaney is accused of fostering with regard to child abuse—let the church handle it and decide whether or not it should be reported to the authorities. This is just totally and absolutely wrong.

Maybe it's just a coincidence, but if another Calvinist like Driscoll or Dever or Mohler promotes this same misguided course of action, I think there may be evidence that would associate the Calvinist approach to shepherding with a systemic failure to report abuse.

Jim G.

I watched the video and read the link. I think Piper is an example of a changing paradigm among Baptists that hopefully is just a historical blip rather than a wholesale change, although it is now too soon to tell. That paradigm is reflected in what my favorite theologian (Thomas Torrance) calls onto-relations. An onto-relation is a relationship that, by the nature of its importance, constitutes at least part of who we are.

This new breed of power-fundies (who are usually Calvinist but not necessarily so) have, as a common denominator, the idea of authority-submission as THE onto-relation in both God's life and ours. In this power-fundy world, everyone falls into some sort of pecking order: women submit to men, laity submits to elders/pastors, employee submits to boss, and everyone submits (presumably) to Jesus. This type of power-structure theology works well in church-states, and episcopal or presbyterian polities (thus its natural coexistence with Calvinism). But congregational polities have never (historically on the grand scale) been enamored with authority/submission as an onto-relation. Congregationalism usually focuses on other-centered love and personal responsibility (soul competency, if you will) as its chief onto-relations.

One of the reasons many baptists (including SBCers) are instinctively wary of Piper and his fellow power-fundies is that they bring to the table more than just 5 soteriological points. It is a package that redefines basic anthropological structures (previously foreign onto-relational concepts) and which demands a functional shift in basic ecclesiology from one focused on other-centered responsibility to authority and submission. To keep this consistent with the rest of their theology, they invent a previously-unknown model of the Trinity (ESS), and vest the church with the power to be the keyholder to civil government (i.e. church authority figures decide whether or not a crime has been committed). A rigid gender complementarianism is a non-negotiable in the power-fundy world and IS the hill to die on in their eyes.

It all goes back to the concept of onto-relation, which for the power-fundy, is authority and submission as the defining human (and intra-divine, with ESS) relationship.

Jim G.

Bill Mac

Tim: Just to be clear, if you heard that a boy said to your daughter, "I'm going to win your heart", you would turn him in to the police?


Jim G, you hit the nail on the head.. it is a caste system religion. Everything is about the pecking order. One does have to wonder if Piper would think it normal to be smacked around for a season by his authority? I seriously doubt it.

Tim Rogers

Bill Mac,

Just to be clear. If my daughter told a friend of hers that she had been in an "on again and off again relationship" she did not like him in that way and he told her I do not care, "I'm going to win your heart". I would ask her more about this and if she told me he was scaring her, which evidently he was, I would not only report the boy to the police I would take his skinned up back-side there myself. That way we both would be locked-up, him for stalking and me for assault. Then I could keep my eye on him for sure.


I think that the woman in Piper's scenario should:

1. Call the police and press assault charges.
2. Change her pastor and her church.

This pastor sounds like someone from the Dark Ages. And his way of speaking and hand gestures give me the creeps.


Tim, Just a clarification, but my case happened in College. Not highschool. We were both from the same high school, we dated in high school, and both ended up at the same college (I had previously went to other schools and transferred to this one). During this incident I was 21 and she was 20. The letters she wrote were after her initial report to the school, and happened on two occasions, one within the first month, the second about 3 months later. It was after the second that the school confronted her over her actions, informed me that she no longer wished to restrict me, and we actually were able to reconcile.

As for "all straitened out after they received the letters", that is exactly my point. Until that point, had it gone to the authorities, I would have a criminal complaint on my record. Even if it was removed later due to those letters, those complaints would STILL be on my record. Further, based on current NICS standards, I would for the most part, forever be prohibited from buying a firearm due to that complaint. That is just one example of how such a complaint, even if later removed, would effect me. While the number is minor compared to women who are actually abused, there ARE significant numbers of men who are and have been falsely accused and had their lives ruined, because the women (liars) went to authorities with their complaints.

David (NAS) Rogers

Just ruminating:

Jim G. brought up the concept of "onto-relationships" and I wonder if part of the problem we see here in Piper's analysis is the failure to account for the differences between ANE corporate solidarities and Western Civilization's individualism. The biblical materials are written from an ancient cultural perspective on the human person which assumes onto-relations within corporate identities and thus the church becomes part of a socio-cultural identity of the person and thus its role in the discipline and protection of persons is naturally more readily enforceable by the group. By breaking the social codes of the group one loses one's personhood. The church can thus serve as a significant enforcer and protector of the weak.

We in this time live within a culture of Western Civilization individualistic assumption of the human person. Our personhood is assumed to be individually separate, and our social relationships are matters of individual choice. The church and the justice system of the society have social roles which function separately from the human person until a need arises. When there is no need there is no relationship with the individual. These separate dynamics make it much more difficult for the church and the judicial system to function in an efficient enforcement role. They must function together in order to have the proper effect on those who break the social codes in such egregious ways. The church cannot really have a criminal judicial function for individuals who function with the assumptions of identity found in modern Western Civilization. And it is certainly more difficult in 21st century America.

When crimes are committed (e.g. spousal abuse) it is too simplistic to merely assume that appeal to the church organization can serve as the fullest enforcement of justice. The society in which we live allows for individuals to far too easily dismiss the judicial role that the church had in ANE cultures. Western individualistic democracies have given persons the ability to live without the corporate solidarity and the corporate responsibility found in the biblical vision of the church. Assuming that one can just impose it today is too artificial and invites corruption as possibly seen in the SGM controversies.

These are just ruminations for anyone to analyze and critique.


SMV, Yes there are false reports. I'm trying to figure out what that has to do with John Piper's advice. That wives take abuse for a season? I am also trying to figure out why a wife should consider her husband her leader when he has suggested she engage in a threesome.

Piper is a sick man.


One more point:

The woman in Piper's hypothetical scenario who's husband has just told her that she will be participating with him in group sex should say this:

Hey buddy, you EVER say something like that to me again, and I will file for divorce. Infidelity is biblical grounds for divorce and if you persist in pursuing this sinful desire, you will do so without me and your children!

Paul Owen

Let's be absolutely clear. The advice given here by Piper is bizarre and cultic. A Christian woman whose husband tries to pressure her to engage in group sex is the victim of abuse, and she does not need to ask for the advice of her church. Nor does a woman who is verbally beaten down, or physically assaulted. She should promptly exit the marriage and never look back. She should "submit" neither to the creep of a husband, nor to nosy elders who might call her to patiently endure the abuse until they give her permission to seek a divorce. Anyone subjected to sexual or physical abuse by their husband should go straight to the police, and then she should let her pastor know what has happened so that the criminal can be promptly dealt with through church discipline and if necessary excommunication. That is the only sane answer to the question posed to Piper.

peter lumpkins

I personally would not immediately start talking divorce. Most of us who've been around the block have seen God restore and reconcile where no human possibility existed. In addition, there are several passages of Scripture to work through concerning the nature of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.

Paul Owen

Peter, I hear your caution, and I am not a pastor, so I lack your range of experience in these counseling situations. But as a general principle I would never want a woman in church who is being bullied or mistreated to feel like she is under pressure from God or the church to "work things out" with a domineering and abusive spouse. I certainly agree that is has to be worked out on a case by case basis. However, Piper gives the impression that a wife should first go to the church rather than the police. That seems to me like a recipe for disaster.

peter lumpkins

Agreed, Dr. Owen. When a relationship has deteriorated to the point of violence, the only one who must be pushed and/or made to do anything is the violator not the victim. It's sad but true some marriages I've dealt with went this far. It's horrible to deal with but the wife and kids are the ones who carry virtually all of the pain in these situations. Restoration has happened but not often...


Guys, A very important place where the church has a serious duty.... Is to make sure those being abused are safe. This means coming up financial resources. Opening our homes and providing a comfortable, Loving and safe place for them. Dealing with abuse takes time and the worst thing women do is go right back.... Because he said sorry.

I used to be on the board of a spouse abuse and rape crisis center. One of our biggest problem were pastor who would come to the center and tell her to go home to her husband.He Promise the pastor he would not do it again. But We knew the next time would be worse.

There are serious issue an abuser needs to work through and it takes a lot of time. In the meantime the woman needs a safe place to take care of her children.

Tim Rogers


Look, do you not even see the preposterous position you are trying to take even now? You followed her to a school after graduation? She reports you in the first month? There evidently was this conversation that took place after you got to the school you both were at. Or you had this conversation before you transferred. If the latter then I know I would have contacted the authorities. But, let me inform you of a misnomer that you are purporting. A charge does not keep you from purchasing a weapon. It is the actual conviction. But than is not the issue. You have brought this red herring in about a false accusation. Piper was not saying anything about that in his video According to the video Piper is advocating this as something that is known to be happening not a false accusation.

Scott Shaver

Excellent points Jim G....thnx

Andrew Barker

Excellent points Jim G....thnx

Count me in that too, even though I had to look up ESS! :-) (what an admission)

Tim Rogers

Jim G.

I am still struggling through this. While I understand the subordination of the Son to the Father and there are verses of scripture that reveal that, I am not able to grasp other areas of ESS. When it is used to translate the complimentarian view of submission for the woman to the man is where I have to part ways and appeal to Scripture. The woman is supposed to be in submission to the man, not because of the trinity, but because of sin. The scriptures clearly point out that sin is the reason for submission not the Trinity.

peter lumpkins

Morning Tim,

Thanks alot for starting stuff on this dreary, rainy Georgia Monday morning.

With that, I am...

Bill Mac

It seems to me that the doctrine of ESS has no value to its adherents other than to undergird their view of complementarianism.


Hmmmm ... With the doctrine of eternal subordination of the Son (ESS) gaining momentum, could this be the reason why some reformed brethren talk more about "God" than Jesus? If you look closely at New Calvinist chatter in the blogosphere, you will note a LOT being said about God, less being said about Jesus, and hardly any reference to the Holy Spirit. If ESS is the historic doctrine of orthodoxy (as some claim), shouldn't the rest of evangelical Christendom be on board with the implications of this form of Trinity teaching? While Jesus was certainly submissive to the Father's will while on earth, I have concerns about pushing this too much when it comes to Jesus' authority in the eternal realm. This could also lead to a stretch of ESS into complementarian relationships in the church beyond true Biblical boundaries ... with an imbalanced teaching to put women in their place. As I often say, my wife is one of the godliest men I know ;^) ... she has spiritual gifts and I allow her to use those freely.

Jim G.

Hi Tim and all,

Tim, it's a shame we live so close and never see each other in person.

The doctrine of ESS (Eternal Subordination of the Son) begins with what is known as a "social" view of the Trinity. It is a view (held by increasing numbers today) that models the Trinity after three "persons" in the western, Boethian sense. To the advocates of the social model, the concept of "person" is roughly equal to the concept of "individual" or at least to the idea of center of consciousness. Social Trinitarians believe that there are three "centers of consciousness" within the Godhead, each with his own personality and will. In social trinitarianism, what unites the three divine persons is a common nature and volitional agreement.

Once this model of "community" is believed to be present within the Godhead, it is not difficult to take one's favorite view of social relations (for the power-fundy, it is authority/submission) and map that to the intra-triune life. Then, that "social" model of God is then re-mapped to human life. Thus, authority/submission becomes the way humans should be because (they reason) that is the way God is.

There are 2 faulty assumptions in ESS. First is the social model with 3 centers of consciousness. This is perilously close to tritheism if it hasn't already crossed the line. Second is the idea that authority/submission is the ultimate onto-relation in the universe. I would argue that other-centered love is the ultimate onto-relation, but that is a discussion for another time.

There are subordination passages in the NT concerning the Father and Son. All of them have to do with the incarnate Jesus and his mission into creation. Where the ESS folks err, in my opinion, is reading those economically-subordinate truths back into the immanent Trinity and making them normative for real ontological distinctions among the three divine persons. In my opinion (and I am not alone on this), the ESS folks are making the same error that the various strains of "Arians" did in the 4th century by failing to distinguish economic subordination from the full deity of Jesus (and the Holy Spirit). They also ignore the distinctions of person and nature worked out by the later Greek fathers. ESS was, for all practical purposes, invented in the 1970s to curb the tide of perceived feminism in the evangelical church. And thus Bill Mac is right in that its only purpose is to uphold complementarianism or other power-fundy structures.

Hope this helps.

Jim G.


"Thanks alot for starting stuff on this dreary, rainy Georgia Monday morning"

Hee Hee. I am not even going to bite. But I am left wondering what male single women, spinsters and widows are in submission to for their sin.


I am just finishing up memorizing the book of Ephesians, which I believe is very clear on the issue of order in the family. As a 46-year old wife and mother, I have seen the church become inept at handling issues such as abuse, deferring instead to law enforcement and secular counseling. This is a profound loss to the Body of Christ. For the believer, the church SHOULD be the first stop, but since the church has become so weak and unable to biblically counsel and exercise church discipline, she may be of no help. We need some men with courage to take back the reins and re-establish these disciplines that have been lost to secular authorities.

Regarding submission and familial order, it seems to me that the majority of the commentators here have drunk deeply from the well of cultural norms, loving the counsel and teaching of the culture which certainly does fly in the face of God's Word on every front I can think of at the moment. In case you fear that I live under some sort of rock, oblivious to real life scenarios, be advised that none of my comments are uninformed or untouched by personal knowledge of situations that are extreme. I have had a bloody woman on my doorstep at midnight, seeking refuge. I have lots of experience with this subject and have watched first hand the ineptitude of the church. And it hurts my heart. It ought to not be this way. We have MUCH undisclosed abuse in our churches, even amongst our staffs.

That said, I fully support Piper's advice. Yes, I am one of the SBC'ers that is reformed. And I find it ridiculous that my reformed views give me some distorted view of church polity.

Just for fun, go dig out your Strong's Concordance and look up the original Greek for "respect" in Ephesians 5:33. That ought to set you ablaze! But what will you do with what you find there? I wonder. Truth is still truth even if you don't like it.

Andrew Barker

Stephanie, I'm not sure I quite get your drift on Eph 5:33. Can you be more specific? Why would I/we not like it?

Andrew Barker

"Just for fun, go dig out your Strong's Concordance and look up the original Greek for "respect" in Ephesians 5:33. That ought to set you ablaze! But what will you do with what you find there? I wonder. Truth is still truth even if you don't like it."

Well I see Stephanie is either still considering her response, or trying to work out what it was she meant in the first place. So in time honoured fashion I will apply a bit of conjecture on my part and decide what it was she meant to say in her hit and run posting.

Why would anybody object strongly to Eph 5:33? I assume Stephanie took a quick look at the Greek and assumed that the passage is suggesting that women should live in fear of their husbands! Being Reformed and used to having to believe truths which deep down are somewhat uncomfortable, she finds solace in following God's word no matter how awkward it might appear to be. But there is a definite finger pointing at those, presumably mainly non-Reformed, who pick and choose from God's word and who if it's 'truth' is uncomfortable find a reasoned excuse to make it more palatable!

But I took Stephanie at her word and had a look. In fact, it would appear that I had a closer look than she did, or at least my conclusions lead me to believe this. I'm no Greek scholar I admit, but I have got used to using the online facilities and find Biblehub very useful http://biblehub.com/greek/5399.htm in this case. It looks not only at the Greek word, but also gives usage and importantly variations in meaning due to context.

So on the face of it, yes I would agree phobeo can mean to put the frighteners on someone so in the context of Eph 5:33 this looks as though a married women should live in 'fear' of her hubby. Does this mean us chaps can rest assured that 'she who must be obeyed' has got it wrong and should live in fear of us?! I think not, but to find out why you need to read further down the page.

Thayers Greek Lexicon lists three main meanings for phobeo.
1. to be put to flight
2. to fear, be afraid or seized with alarm
3. to reverence, treat with deference or obedience.

Helpfully, the verses are placed under the appropriate headings so the context is given for each use of the word phobeo. Well there are no surprises for guessing under which heading Eph 5:33 is listed. I appreciate that some women will find treating their husband with reverence, deference and obedience may not come naturally, but it's a whole lot different to living in fear and trembling which is what I believe was being implied by the good Stephanie.

As ever, just throwing the one verse into the mix is not the best way to determine good practice and if us chaps would only live up to Eph 5:28 onwards a bit more, then perhaps our wives would have less of a problem, if they ever did, in dealing with verse 33! :-)

Jim G.

Hi Andrew,

I also went back and looked at Ephesians 5:33 and came to the same conclusions you did. In a nutshell, the Greek "phobeo" has as wide a semantic range as the English "fear" when examining its uses in the NT. Thayer puts his finger on the breadth of the semantic range.

As I gain more experience, one of the things I am learning is that fundamentalists of all stripes (including our power-fundies) don't like theology. I know that statement seems false at the outset, but it is not. They like doctrine, and love proof-texting doctrine, but are unwilling to engage deeply in the assumption-challenging comprehensive reflection that really IS theology. More often than not, they will find a verse or two that matches what they already think and then trumpet those verses from the housetops as though they are God's last word on the subject - all the while ignoring other verses or biblical situations that seem to imply opposite conclusions from what they are championing.

I have also noticed that they treat church history the same way. Christian theologians of the past are used similarly to the Bible - as a giant treasure trove of quotes that can be cherry-picked to prove any point, all the while ignoring the opposite point of view, or worse, distorting it so that it does not say what was originally intended.

Formulating doctrine by proof-texting (the Bible or history, rather than by hard theological reflection, is a hallmark of the fundy world.

Jim G.

Scott Shaver

Jim G.

That's exactly why there's no dishonor in being selective about who you engage with on these blogs .... and how.

Andrew Barker

Thanks Jim G, I appreciate the comments. I've found over the last few years that many of the so called difficult texts normally have a verse just next to them which when taken together bring a whole different perspective to things. My favourite is Eph 2:8 (9) but that's opening up another can of worms!

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