06 October 2014

don't be a dumb-dumb, or, just a few catchphrases

Know what really gets steam coming out of my ears? People who cherry-pick Scripture. To faithfully interpret God's word, you have to consider the whole thing, not prance about picking verses you happen to like and shouting lalala I can't heeeeeear you to the rest of it. Consider my most un-favorite category: the false teachers who claim that since the apostles commanded wives to "be submissive to their own husbands," if a husband is abusive, his wife must quietly accept his abuse in order to honor God.

Self-Portrait With His Wife Isabella, Peter Paul Rubens
My first instinct is to say "what a bunch of dumb-dumbs," but I'll attempt to be more articulate: anyone who even entertains that interpretive possibility is not using God's word to help them understand His will.

To start out, Peter reminds husbands that their wives are fellow heirs in the kingdom of God. Thus everything that God says to believers in general includes wives. For example, we are told by Jesus Himself that if Christians have a grievance against another, they have recourse to a careful process of justice within the church. God provides protection for His people through the care of fellow believers. Scripture nowhere suggestions that wives are suddenly excluded from that process and protection just because they got married.

The government is endowed with authority to prosecute wrongdoers. A husband who abuses his wife is doing wrong and deserves prosecution. But how is the government supposed to mete out justice if the wife refuses to speak out of a sense of "duty?"

Further, a wife's role is not primarily defined in terms of submission. Way back in Genesis, God defines a wife's role in terms of helper: he creates a noble and capable soul given the task of supporting and sharpening her husband. She is called to do those things submissively, sure, but submission does not preclude a wife from carrying out the rest of Scripture's commands. If she sees her husband locked in sin, it would in be completely unloving on her part to let him continue unchallenged, either by her or by the church elders.

After you read all of those Scriptures (and more!) and ask yourself if a wife should accept abuse in the name of submission, you say no, clearly not. She should lovingly rebuke her husband, appeal to the church for her own protection and her husband's good, and seek aid from civil authority. That's straight from the word of God. Then when you get around to the verses about submission, it's clear that-- taking into account everything else God has said in His word-- the submission He commands cannot possibly mean "putting up with" a husband's unrepentant, grievous sin (whether that's abuse or something else). Biblical submission means a lot of things, and plenty of them are unpopular in this era, but it sure doesn't mean that.

In my opinion, this applies to a lot of other bad teaching. You take one or two verses that seem to make a clear statement on a particular topic, and you start spinning a new theology of parenting, or politics, or sexuality. Of course, you don't bother to consider what any other passage of Scripture has to contribute to the discussion. Usually that consideration would force you to significantly adjust your initial interpretation. Inconvenient for you, perhaps, but ultimately bearing much better fruit.

This is why God calls us to study the entire Bible, not just a few catchphrases. That was the real point of this post, but I took the long way round just so I could pontificate on one of my own pet topics. :)

1 comment:

  1. I like the whole Idea of having my wife as a helper. I am not sure about other men but I want the most developed and confident helper I can get. One acquires better help in that manner. The Idea of abusing my helper either physically, mentally or spiritually goes against my own self interest, which is the point Paul make in Ephesians 5 regarding the comparison of how a man treats his own body.

    The whole counsel of God is work to understand, it is oh so much easier to attempt to narrow it all down to one easy view and go with it. As we experience life and all its realities and its complexities so much reductionist philosophy is forced out of the mind... in all areas including theology and our understanding of God.