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John Piper, Spousal Abuse, and Empowerment

Dianna E. Anderson deconstructs a recent clarification John Piper made on his blog to a response he gave during a Q&A a little over two years ago in response to a question about how women should respond to spousal abuse. This was Piper’s original statement:

Part of that answer’s clearly going to depend on what kind of abuse we’re dealing with here … .

If this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly—group sex, or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin. Then the way she submits—and I really think this is possible, it’s kind of paradoxical [sic]. She’s not going to go there. I’m saying no, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove [sic], even though the husband is asking her to do it.

She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. I think God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership.” And so—then she would say—“But if you would ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t—I can’t go there.”

Now that’s one kind of situation. Just a word on the other kind. If it’s not requiring her to sin, but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.

First of all, I think it’s kind of telling that Piper spends nearly his entire response on a situation that, of the two he mentions, is the one far less likely to actually occur, and I further think that choosing “group sex” as his example is weird to say the least. Secondly, while John Piper refers to his beliefs about marriage as “complementarian”, this statement sounds like straight-up patriarchy to me. The husband is the boss, and the wife is to do whatever he says unless Jesus pulls rank on him.

But we’re really here to talk about his clarification. I recommend reading it, then jumping into Dianna’s thorough analysis and response. My only comment is that I can’t believe we have to have this long a conversation about whether a woman is allowed to take action against an abuser.