People Speak Out About Bruce Ware Sermon

Thanks to Suzanne’s Bookshelf for this list of blog posts in answer to Bruce Ware’s sermon. I’m adding to the list as I find them. These may not all be from Christian sites; I didn’t pick and choose on that basis.

Ruminations – Lutte contre l’injustice

Under Much Grace

Adventures in Mercy

Complegalitarian

Dr. Jim West

Very Important Stuff

A Wife’s Submission

Intellectuelle

Baptists Today Blog

Coffeetrader

The World According to Bruce

To the Ends of the Earth

Dungeon Diary

Fort Worth Feminism

CounterCulture

There are a lot more references to it out there, with people who merely link to another post, or on message boards where a variety of people cannot understand this level of ignorance.

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Bruce Ware and Paige Patterson See Eye-to-Eye On Domestic Abuse

I’ve posted about Bruce Ware’s sermon blaming abuse on women for being unsubmissive. Just in case anyone is under the mistaken impression this man’s perspective is his own and not reflective of a larger trend in the Southern Baptist Church as a whole, I would like to point out an earlier piece I wrote on Paige Patterson’s teaching on the same subject. Paige Patterson is also a leader in the SBC and seminary president. Patterson has expressed the same grossly unbiblical viewpoint on domestic abuse, but did it even more graphically.

Another Excellent Perspective on Bruce Ware Abuse Pandering

I’d like to highly recommend the perspective of this article by “Hannah” at Emotional Abuse and Your Faith as she addresses Bruce Ware’s sermon which blames an unsubmissive wife for her husband’s abuse. She points out that an abusive husband does not require lack of submission as an excuse – though that is probably his most commonly used cop-out. As anyone who has lived with an abusive partner knows, any reason, and no reason at all, is reason enough. If there is not a handy semi-justifiable excuse, an abuser will manufacture one from thin air.

But if a pastor believes lack of submission can motivate a husband to abuse his wife, you can bet that pastor will believe every word of that abuser as he excuses himself and blames his wife. This SBC seminary professor, and all the others who share his beliefs (for he is definitely not alone in his perspective) are as guilty as the abusers they protect with their error and bumbling. When a woman goes to her pastor for help and he puts her in further danger by going to her husband “for the other side of the story” that pastor bears the weight of guilt because he has a responsibility to those he is shepherding. A shepherd who throws his sheep to the wolves is deserving of the discipline of the sheep owner – or God, in this case.

SBC Professor Bruce Ware Blames Wives for Husbands’ Abuse

This article is courtesy of Ethics Daily. My thanks to the author, Bob Allen, for bringing this to everyone’s attention.

This article is such an appalling and revealing glimpse inside the mindset of Southern Baptist Church theology. The SBC certainly doesn’t hold the corner on the market with this viewpoint, however. There is a reason why I feel this article warrants particular attention. We are in a time when domestic abuse is becoming an epidemic in the church. The average pastor is completely unequipped to address the problem. In fact, the secret horror is that the pastor’s wife, in fact, is often one of the abused wives in the church – and there’s definitely no one available to help her. Not only is the pastor unequipped to address the issue of abuse professionally, the pastor applies erroneous theology when teaching from the pulpit and in private counseling. Bruce Ware is a professor of theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. This is one of the men who is teaching these pastors the theology they are using to support abuse in Christian homes.

How will things in the pulpit ever change, when the pastors remain unchanged, because the seminary professors remain unchanged? When a student goes to seminary he is told he will be studying the Word to learn for himself what it teaches. However, the reality is quite different. Students are led to reach the theological conclusions of their denomination through the very deliberate slant in the teaching of their professors. I know this is true because I have seen it in action. In fact, if a student in seminary were to study the Word for himself and reach a conclusion contradictory to his professor, at the least he would receive a reduced grade and at the worst he would be expelled from school. This is the reality of seminary.

I have already written an article which thoroughly addresses the theology used by this speaker, in my article Theology of an Abusive Marriage. This article specifically addresses the misuse of the word “desire” in Genesis 3, the pattern of excusing the husband’s abuse because of his wife’s behavior (whatever happened to personal responsibility?), and the erroneous ideas that males were created before females and that females were created to complete males.

A couple of Ware’s points which I don’t address in the article above I will briefly address here. First, is his idea that woman sinned first but God held the man responsible because he was in authority. That interpretation reads into the text extensively. Adam blamed his wife. But God held the man responsible for using his wife as an excuse for his own choice. Using God’s standard for Adam, God would never accept the excuse that men abuse their wives because their wives don’t submit. God held each party responsible for their own sin and gave them each consequences in accordance with their actions. He did not buy in to their blame game.

Another misuse of Scripture in Ware’s argument is the eternal submission of Jesus to God the Father. In Philippians 2, the Word says that Jesus is equal with the Father. He voluntarily laid that equality down to become a man and interact with the Father as a man, rather than claim his rightful equality with the Father as God. In fact, using the model of the Trinity, we would have to come to the conclusion that husband and wife are equal, with differing roles, which, in fact, agrees with the Genesis record, as I explore in more depth in the Theology of an Abusive Marriage article. While Jesus was on earth living as fully man, he said he was under the authority of God the Father. This was while he was voluntarily laying aside his deity and functioning as a man. In fact, this is a HUGE theological point for us to understand. The authority Jesus had on this earth was no different than what He has given to us through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. Jesus went out of His way to make it clear this authority was his as a man in submission to God the Father, and then made it clear this same authority was passed on to his followers. As humans, we are in eternal submission to the Father.

At the same time, in the relationship of the Trinity we see modeled equal authority and equal submission – which, indeed, should be a parallel for the human relationship of marriage. Each part of the Trinity has a different role and each submits to the other in His role.

That said, I leave you to read the words of Bruce Ware, and be amazed.

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One reason that men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband’s God-given authority, a Southern Baptist scholar said Sunday in a Texas church.

Bruce Ware, professor of Christian theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., said women desire to have their own way instead of submitting to their husbands because of sin.

“And husbands on their parts, because they’re sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged–or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches,” Ware said from the pulpit of Denton Bible Church in Denton, Texas.

In North Texas for a series of sermons at the church on “Biblical Manhood & Womanhood,” Ware described his “complementarian” view as what “Southern Seminary as a whole represents.”

Commenting on selected passages from the first three chapters of Genesis, Ware said Eve’s curse in the Garden of Eden meant “her desire will be to have her way” instead of her obeying her husband, “because she’s a sinner.”

What that means to the man, Ware said, is: “He will have to rule, and because he’s a sinner, this can happen in one of two ways. It can happen either through ruling that is abusive and oppressive–and of course we all know the horrors of that and the ugliness of that–but here’s the other way in which he can respond when his authority is threatened. He can acquiesce. He can become passive. He can give up any responsibility that he thought he had to the leader in the relationship and just say ‘OK dear,’ ‘Whatever you say dear,’ ‘Fine dear’ and become a passive husband, because of sin.”

Ware said God created men and women equally in God’s image but for different roles.

“He has primary responsibility for the work and the labor and the toil that will provide for the family, that will sustain their family,” he said. “He’s the one in charge of leadership in the family, and that will become difficult, because of sin.”

Ware also touched on a verse from First Timothy saying that women “shall be saved in childbearing,” by noting that the word translated as “saved” always refers to eternal salvation.

“It means that a woman will demonstrate that she is in fact a Christian, that she has submitted to God’s ways by affirming and embracing her God-designed identity as–for the most part, generally this is true–as wife and mother, rather than chafing against it, rather than bucking against it, rather than wanting to be a man, wanting to be in a man’s position, wanting to teach and exercise authority over men,” Ware said. “Rather than wanting that, she accepts and embraces who she is as woman, because she knows God and she knows his ways are right and good, so she is marked as a Christian by her submission to God and in that her acceptance of God’s design for her as a woman.”

Ware cited gender roles as one example of churches compromising and reforming doctrines to accommodate to culture.

“It really has been happening for about the past 30 years, ever since the force of the feminist movement was felt in our churches,” Ware said.

He said one place the “egalitarian” view–the notion that males and females were created equal not only in essence but also in function–crops up is in churches that allow women to be ordained and become pastors.

Ware said gender is not theologically the most important issue facing the church, but it is one where Christians are most likely to compromise, because of pressure from the culture.

“The calling to be biblically faithful will mean upholding some truths in our culture that they despise,” he said. “How are we going to respond to that? We are faced with a huge question at that point. Will we fear men and compromise our faith to be men-pleasers, or will we fear God and be faithful to his word–whatever other people think or do?”

Ware offered 10 reasons “for affirming male headship in the created order.” They include that man was created first and that woman was created “out of” Adam in order to be his “helper.” Even though the woman sinned first, Ware said, God came to Adam and held him primarily responsible for failure to exercise his God-given authority.

Ware also said male/female relationships are modeled in the Trinity, where in the Godhead the Son “eternally submits” to the Father.

“If it’s true that in the Trinity itself–in the eternal relationships of Father, Son and Spirit, there is authority and submission, and the Son eternally submits to the will of the Father–if that’s true, then this follows: It is as Godlike to submit to rightful authority with joy and gladness as it is Godlike to exert wise and beneficial rightful authority.”

Identifying Spiritual Abuse

Many years ago when I first began my journey of healing from the spiritual abuse of my youth, there was a book that impacted me tremendously. I just discovered that this book is available to read online, free of charge. So I am including a link here to Churches That Abuse, by Ronald M. Enroth.

Identifying Abuse and Finding Healing

Today I have added two articles to the site. They are both long, so I have broken them down into segments. Both are by the same author, Joseph M Carver, Ph.D., Psychologist.

The first article is titled “The Loser:” Warning Signs You’re Dating A Loser and is in four parts. While it was originally written for dating couples, it really applies to any relationship. So check out this series at Relationship Warning Signs.

The second article is considerably longer — 12 segments! — and you’ll probably want to take it in bites. It is titled Emotional Memory Management: Positive Control Over Your Memory. This article takes an in-depth look at how memories are made and stored, how our brains retrieve and use them — sometimes against us — and how we can change the way our memories affect our daily lives. It is an article that can literally change your life if you take the time and effort to work on yourself as the author describes. You can find this series at Healing Emotional Memories Series.

You Carry the Cure in Your Own Heart


Emotional abuse of children can lead, in adulthood, to addiction, rage, a severely damaged sense of self and an inability to truly bond with others. But—if it happened to you—there is a way out.

by Andrew Vachss

Originally published in Parade Magazine, August 28, 1994

This article is courtesy of The Zero.

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The attorney and author Andrew Vachss has devoted his life to protecting children. We asked Vachss, an expert on the subject of child abuse, to examine perhaps one of its most complex and widespread forms—emotional abuse: What it is, what it does to children, what can be done about it. Vachss’ latest novel, “Down in the Zero,” just published by Knopf, depicts emotional abuse at its most monstrous.

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I’m a lawyer with an unusual specialty. My clients are all children—damaged, hurting children who have been sexually assaulted, physically abused, starved, ignored, abandoned and every other lousy thing one human can do to another. People who know what I do always ask: “What is the worst case you ever handled?” When you’re in a business where a baby who dies early may be the luckiest child in the family, there’s no easy answer. But I have thought about it—I think about it every day. My answer is that, of all the many forms of child abuse, emotional abuse may be the cruelest and longest-lasting of all.

Emotional abuse is the systematic diminishment of another. It may be intentional or subconscious (or both), but it is always a course of conduct, not a single event. It is designed to reduce a child’s self-concept to the point where the victim considers himself unworthy—unworthy of respect, unworthy of friendship, unworthy of the natural birthright of all children: love and protection.

Emotional abuse can be as deliberate as a gunshot: “You’re fat. You’re stupid. You’re ugly.”

Emotional abuse can be as random as the fallout from a nuclear explosion. In matrimonial battles, for example, the children all too often become the battlefield. I remember a young boy, barely into his teens, absently rubbing the fresh scars on his wrists. “It was the only way to make them all happy,” he said. His mother and father were locked in a bitter divorce battle, and each was demanding total loyalty and commitment from the child.

Emotional abuse can be active. Vicious belittling: “You’ll never be the success your brother was.” Deliberate humiliation: “You’re so stupid. I’m ashamed you’re my son.”

It also can be passive, the emotional equivalent of child neglect—a sin of omission, true, but one no less destructive.

And it may be a combination of the two, which increases the negative effects geometrically.

Emotional abuse can be verbal or behavioral, active or passive, frequent or occasional. Regardless, it is often as painful as physical assault. And, with rare exceptions, the pain lasts much longer. A parent’s love is so important to a child that withholding it can cause a “failure to thrive” condition similar to that of children who have been denied adequate nutrition.

Even the natural solace of siblings is denied to those victims of emotional abuse who have been designated as the family’s “target child.” The other children are quick to imitate their parents. Instead of learning the qualities every child will need as an adult—empathy, nurturing and protectiveness—they learn the viciousness of a pecking order. And so the cycle continues.

But whether as a deliberate target or an innocent bystander, the emotionally abused child inevitably struggles to “explain” the conduct of his abusers—and ends up struggling for survival in a quicksand of self-blame.

Emotional abuse is both the most pervasive and the least understood form of child maltreatment. Its victims are often dismissed simply because their wounds are not visible. In an era in which fresh disclosures of unspeakable child abuse are everyday fare, the pain and torment of those who experience “only” emotional abuse is often trivialized. We understand and accept that victims of physical or sexual abuse need both time and specialized treatment to heal. But when it comes to emotional abuse, we are more likely to believe the victims will “just get over it” when they become adults.

That assumption is dangerously wrong. Emotional abuse scars the heart and damages the soul. Like cancer, it does its most deadly work internally. And, like cancer, it can metastasize if untreated.

When it comes to damage, there is no real difference between physical, sexual and emotional abuse. All that distinguishes one from the other is the abuser’s choice of weapons. I remember a woman, a grandmother whose abusers had long since died, telling me that time had not conquered her pain. “It wasn’t just the incest,” she said quietly. “It was that he didn’t love me. If he loved me, he couldn’t have done that to me.”

But emotional abuse is unique because it is designed to make the victim feel guilty. Emotional abuse is repetitive and eventually cumulative behavior—very easy to imitate—and some victims later perpetuate the cycle with their own children. Although most victims courageously reject that response, their lives often are marked by a deep, pervasive sadness, a severely damaged self-concept and an inability to truly engage and bond with others.

We must renounce the lie that emotional abuse is good for children because it prepares them for a hard life in a tough world. I’ve met some individuals who were prepared for a hard life that way—I met them while they were doing life.

Emotionally abused children grow up with significantly altered perceptions so that they “see” behaviors—their own and others’—through a filter of distortion. Many emotionally abused children engage in a lifelong drive for the approval (which they translate as “love”) of others. So eager are they for love—and so convinced that they don’t deserve it—that they are prime candidates for abuse within intimate relationships.

The emotionally abused child can be heard inside every battered woman who insists: “It was my fault, really. I just seem to provoke him somehow.”

And the almost-inevitable failure of adult relationships reinforces that sense of unworthiness, compounding the felony, reverberating throughout the victim’s life.

Emotional abuse conditions the child to expect abuse in later life. Emotional abuse is a time bomb, but its effects are rarely visible, because the emotionally abused tend to implode, turning the anger against themselves. And when someone is outwardly successful in most areas of life, who looks within to see the hidden wounds?

Members of a therapy group may range widely in age, social class, ethnicity and occupation, but all display some form of self-destructive conduct: obesity, drug addiction, anorexia, bulimia, domestic violence, child abuse, attempted suicide, self-mutilation, depression and fits of rage. What brought them into treatment was their symptoms. But until they address the one thing that they have in common—a childhood of emotional abuse—true recovery is impossible.

One of the goals of any child-protective effort is to “break the cycle” of abuse. We should not delude ourselves that we are winning this battle simply because so few victims of emotional abuse become abusers themselves. Some emotionally abused children are programmed to fail so effectively that a part of their own personality “self-parents” by belittling and humiliating themselves.

The pain does not stop with adulthood. Indeed, for some, it worsens. I remember a young woman, an accomplished professional, charming and friendly, well-liked by all who knew her. She told me she would never have children. “I’d always be afraid I would act like them,” she said.

Unlike other forms of child abuse, emotional abuse is rarely denied by those who practice it. In fact, many actively defend their psychological brutality, asserting that a childhood of emotional abuse helped their children to “toughen up.” It is not enough for us to renounce the perverted notion that beating children produces good citizens—we must also renounce the lie that emotional abuse is good for children because it prepares them for a hard life in a tough world. I’ve met some individuals who were prepared for a hard life that way—I met them while they were doing life.

The primary weapons of emotional abusers is the deliberate infliction of guilt. They use guilt the same way a loan shark uses money: They don’t want the “debt” paid off, because they live quite happily on the “interest.”

When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers. It’s time to stop playing that role.

Because emotional abuse comes in so many forms (and so many disguises), recognition is the key to effective response. For example, when allegations of child sexual abuse surface, it is a particularly hideous form of emotional abuse to pressure the victim to recant, saying he or she is “hurting the family” by telling the truth. And precisely the same holds true when a child is pressured to sustain a lie by a “loving” parent.

Emotional abuse requires no physical conduct whatsoever. In one extraordinary case, a jury in Florida recognized the lethal potential of emotional abuse by finding a mother guilty of child abuse in connection with the suicide of her 17-year-old daughter, whom she had forced to work as a nude dancer (and had lived off her earnings).

Another rarely understood form of emotional abuse makes victims responsible for their own abuse by demanding that they “understand” the perpetrator. Telling a 12-year-old girl that she was an “enabler” of her own incest is emotional abuse at its most repulsive.

A particularly pernicious myth is that “healing requires forgiveness” of the abuser. For the victim of emotional abuse, the most viable form of help is self-help—and a victim handicapped by the need to “forgive” the abuser is a handicapped helper indeed. The most damaging mistake an emotional-abuse victim can make is to invest in the “rehabilitation” of the abuser. Too often this becomes still another wish that didn’t come true—and emotionally abused children will conclude that they deserve no better result.

The costs of emotional abuse cannot be measured by visible scars, but each victim loses some percentage of capacity. And that capacity remains lost so long as the victim is stuck in the cycle of “understanding” and “forgiveness.” The abuser has no “right” to forgiveness—such blessings can only be earned. And although the damage was done with words, true forgiveness can only be earned with deeds

For those with an idealized notion of “family,” the task of refusing to accept the blame for their own victimization is even more difficult. For such searchers, the key to freedom is always truth—the real truth, not the distorted, self-serving version served by the abuser.

Emotional abuse threatens to become a national illness. The popularity of nasty, mean-spirited, personal-attack cruelty that passes for “entertainment” is but one example. If society is in the midst of moral and spiritual erosion, a “family” bedrocked on the emotional abuse of its children will not hold the line. And the tide shows no immediate signs of turning.

Effective treatment of emotional abusers depends on the motivation for the original conduct, insight into the roots of such conduct and the genuine desire to alter that conduct. For some abusers, seeing what they are doing to their child—or, better yet, feeling what they forced their child to feel—is enough to make them halt. Other abusers need help with strategies to deal with their own stress so that it doesn’t overload onto their children.

But for some emotional abusers, rehabilitation is not possible. For such people, manipulation is a way of life. They coldly and deliberately set up a “family” system in which the child can never manage to “earn” the parent’s love. In such situations, any emphasis on “healing the whole family” is doomed to failure.

If you are a victim of emotional abuse, there can be no self-help until you learn to self-reference. That means developing your own standards, deciding for yourself what “goodness” really is. Adopting the abuser’s calculated labels—”You’re crazy. You’re ungrateful. It didn’t happen the way you say”—only continues the cycle.

Adult survivors of emotional child abuse have only two life-choices: learn to self-reference or remain a victim. When your self-concept has been shredded, when you have been deeply injured and made to feel the injury was all your fault, when you look for approval to those who can not or will not provide it—you play the role assigned to you by your abusers.

It’s time to stop playing that role, time to write your own script. Victims of emotional abuse carry the cure in their own hearts and souls. Salvation means learning self-respect, earning the respect of others and making that respect the absolutely irreducible minimum requirement for all intimate relationships. For the emotionally abused child, healing does come down to “forgiveness”—forgiveness of yourself.

How you forgive yourself is as individual as you are. But knowing you deserve to be loved and respected and empowering yourself with a commitment to try is more than half the battle. Much more.

And it is never too soon—or too late—to start.