Women in Fatigues.

women-in-combatThere are many reasons for a male only military, some of them are based on battlefield effectiveness, others on societal and social implications and yet others are based on following God’s plan. Dr. John Frame in his ethics class does not define christian ethics as the study of right and wrong, but on what God blesses and what He does not bless. What is understood is that what is right God blesses, although not always as creatures desire, and what is evil God does not bless. God sometime allows evil to prosper and evil desires to be fulfilled, but in the end He brings judgement an curses evil actions. The same can be said about righteousness; it seems as though the righteous are persecuted, but God promises that he will reward the righteous and the testing of their faith is more valuable than riches on earth. (1 Peter 1:7 )

Now that the the pentagon has gone all in for women in combat, I thought it is time to post a position paper that I worked on for a committee my former presbytery. The question of women in combat is a subset of the question of women in the military. I take a position that I believe is the position that God blesses because it is based on His Word.

Women in the military



Holy > Happy!

Happy wifeOn several occasions I have spoken to Christians, instructing them that God did not create marriage to make you happy but holy.  This concept has typically been greeted with steady resistance.  The concept is a paradigm change and that kind of reorientation does not come easily.  Some of the support offered for resistance comes by way of;  1 Corinthians 7:32-35

32 But I want you to be without care. He who is unmarried cares for the things of the Lord — how he may please the Lord.  33 But he who is married cares about the things of the world — how he may please his wife.  34 There is a difference between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman cares about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit. But she who is married cares about the things of the world — how she may please her husband.  35 And this I say for your own profit, not that I may put a leash on you, but for what is proper, and that you may serve the Lord without distraction.

The  rebuttal  to holy not happy is that a married man is to strive to please his wife or put another way to make her happy.  This is not Paul’s point at all, in fact Paul  argues quite the opposite.  The Apostle’s point is that it is natural for a man to seek the approval of his wife, to please her and make her happy but that desire to please her can constitute a distraction to serving the Lord.  St. Paul is not commanding husbands to please their wives, that is what men do already.  He is instead calling men to not put that natural desire above serving the Lord.  To that end he advocates singleness as an easier path, while not condemning those who are married.

The grammar here is crucial to understand the meaning of St. Paul.  The phrase “Please his wife” in Verse 33 is not an imperative, but an indicative.  An imperative is a command or an instruction, where an indicative simply indicates a truth or a situation.  Paul is not commanding husbands to please their wives, he is stating that husbands already want happy wives and already strive to please them.  This is not something that is unique to Christendom, but the normal situation of humanity.  Why husbands want to please their wives is an altogether different question and perhaps the topic of a future post.

In the garden, Adam ate the forbidden fruit at the request of his wife. [i]  Adam apparently let the desire to please his wife occlude his desire to please the LORD.  This is what the apostle is concerned about, husbands who care more about their wife’s happiness than holiness.  For Adam that dereliction of duty to God ushered sin and death into creation. Bad things happen when a man puts the desire of female approval above communion with God.

But Paul does not limit himself to just husbands, for he observes that women also are tempted to make their husbands happy more than serve the LORD in holiness.  The terms holy and world can give the wrong idea that marriage is not holy but worldly[ii].  Here Paul uses the term holy as consecrated to the Lord and set aside for temple service.  World is an order or arrangement and if she is married the arrangement goes God – husband – wife, but a single woman that order goes God- woman.  She is free from changing diapers, cooking and being an intoxicating lover for her husband to serve God without distraction.   Again the temptation is to think that the duties of a wife and mother are not acts of worship, but they can be some of the purest worship on earth[iii].

One irony is that if a husband and wife are equally yoked, and both are seeking the Lord, they will increase joy in each other.  A husband does not need to give up headship to make his wife happy, but he can lead her in holiness and multiply her joy.  Same for a wife, she can present her body to her husband, imaging the worship of the church to her husband, and not be defiled but united to her husband in holiness, joyfully as his helper.  A result of the sexual union is a child and childbearing is indeed holy[iv] when accompanied with faith, love and self-control.

Another misused example of scripture is Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.  Some have made foot washings almost sacramental and white-knighting feminists have used it to destroy the headship of the husband.  The Bible gives a true historical account of Jesus and his words, this is an indicative.  But, Jesus makes it clear that this is an example to be followed[v] and so the indicative is in fact an imperative.  Jesus is at first resisted by Peter who does not yet understand that authority is service.  Jesus does not give up His authority, he restates it in verse 13.  He already has established His headship over His disciples and they have for the most part submitted to their rabbi and His teaching.  Jesus shows that we must allow God to help us and if we are in authority we are to imitate Christ and use it to serve each other.  It is not an instruction for a subordinate to demand a foot bath that is insubordination and sin.  Nor is it a call to those given authority of allowing the subordinate party to become their ruler; that is abdication and that is sin.  It is a call to humility; to humble ourselves before the LORD that He might raise us up and in service to Him we do not use authority to lord it over others as the gentiles do, but to to serve others by the kind use of that authority.

A second rebuttal to the purpose of marriage is centrally holiness and not happiness has been presented from Deut 24:5.

“When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken.

It seems odd that God would only command happiness for the first year of marriage.  That is because the phrase here is a Hebrew idiom that refers to the creation of a bounding bundle of joy.  While the concept of having children and an heir as a happiness is foreign to the modern narcissistic mind, it has been in the history of mankind one of the greatest sources of happiness and joy to be found.  Before a new husband went to battle, he was allowed one year to produce an heir and pass on a human legacy.  If he died in battle his line did not perish with him.   This was happiness for both him and his wife, the two joined sexually to create new life that is the union of both sets of genes.

It is shameful that the modernist glories in fornication and the prevention of pregnancy. These things society says makes you happy!  Women divorce their husbands who fail to make them happy; they divorce to find the elusive happiness they desire. God wants something better your happiness, He sent His Son to make you Holy.  We count it all joy when various trials [vi] exercise our faith and develop steadfastness, for we know this is the road to holiness[vii], and without holiness no one sees the Lord[viii].  Happiness is fleeting and often the fulfilling of the desires of the flesh, but joy in holiness is eternal and the result of sanctification.

Marriage images Christ and his bride the church.  This is holy matrimony!  The traditional christian marriage vows include the phrase “for better or for worse – in sickness and health”.  In other words the vows say the marriage continues whether happy or not for it is a holy estate that God has joined two and made them one flesh.   That may not make some feminists happy, but to those who seek the Lord, there could be no grater source of joy!

[i] Genesis 3:6  She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.

[ii] Hebrews 13:4   Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled;

[iii] Romans 12:1-2  I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

[iv] 1 Timothy 2:15  Yet she will be saved through childbearing- if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.

[v] John 13:13-17  13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.  14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.  16 Truly, truly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  17 If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them.

[vi] James 1:2  2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,

[vii] 1 Thessalonians 4:7   7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.

[viii] Hebrews 12:14  4 Strive for peace with everyone, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.

Musings on Authority!



We live in an age where authority is under assault.   During the social upheaval of the sixties it was not uncommon to hear “don’t trust anyone over 30” and no doubt you have seen the “Question Authority! ” bumper stickers or heard about uprisings against the police.  While these are some contemporary assaults, the principle of authority has been severely thwarted by philosophy and theology for some time.

It would be difficult to construct a more significant presupposition to ethics than authority.   Christian ethics are founded by a doctrine of authority.   Something is write or wrong simply because God, the ultimate authority, declares it so.  Jesus said in Matthew 28:18  “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”  This is the basis for His Lordship.  The three offices that Christ is said to hold are all based on His authority.  As a prophet he speaks truth because he is the authority of what is true.  As priest he is authorized to make intercession to the Father and as the King he has authority to rule and judge.

The commands of God can likewise be expressed in terms of authority.  The first table of the law limits the authorized objects of worship and manner to honor and serve that authority.  Honor your parents is the recognition of authority given to them by God to raise their children.  The laws against murder are a claim over who has authority over human life; likewise theft is the violation of the authority over a possession.  The commands against adultery are commands that require the respecting of who has authority over another’s sexuality.   The commands against coveting are recognition that a desire to disrespect authority is in itself a violation of that very authority and the mental supplanting of self in its place.

The modern age of anti-authority is concomitant with the rise of antinomianism.   That is to say that as men have disregarded the law they have at the same time disregarded the authority that underpins the law.  Men have entertained their own hubris towards a usurpation of the authority of God, taking for themselves the authority to create or ignore laws as they see fit.  The authority of God rests on His claim as creator and provider for all of creation. Without the intervention of God’s creative work nothing would exist except God and without His work of providence nothing would continue to exist.  The authority God possess over the universe is based on its dependence for existence from God.  Much like a painter has authority to put paint on the canvas where he chooses the creator has the authority to create as He pleases.

Authority flows from a source like a flowing river.  It is not as a well that appears in the midst of the land seemingly disconnected from a source.  The Christian view of authority has no islands and no spontaneous appearances of authority, all authority is Christs; all expressions of that authority are assigned by Him.

Rom 13:1bFor there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.”

Authority is derivative of the interactions with in the Trinity.  The Son has been given all authority, but who had the authority to give it to him but the Father. Fathers have authority over their children and the heavenly father also has authority over the eternally begotten son.  But unlike earthly fathers and sons who are tainted by sin and often are conflicted, the persons of the Trinity have no conflict in their purpose or plans and they are untainted by sin.  The Son came to do the will of His Father which is in perfect harmony with the purpose of the son.  In this way the Father and Son are one; one mind one purpose.

Children are under the authority of their parents because their parents have the creative claim and God’s command.  God gives to the parents the children he selects for them in the quantity he selects to raise them with assigned parental authority.   A neighbor does not have the authority of a parent over another’s children, because God has not granted to them that authority. When a civil magistrate claims to have authority over children they are making a claim of authority that has likewise not been granted to them by God.  The secular claim of authority reduces to might makes right.   While Christ has all power and all authority it is not His might that gives Him authority but His claim as creator and preserver.  The secular claim fails on its own terms because God is more powerful than any magistrate and thus according to their own reasoning He still has all authority.  So even if the police have guns and the IRS has the tax code the state does not have authority to raise children or remove them from parents, for the children to belong to their earthy creators and their heavenly creator.  Christ has appointed the magistrate to authority, but that authority has boundaries and limits.  The magistrate is not to be God’s social architect to design a world according to the imagination of the rulers, but to execute wrath on him who executes evil.[i]  That begs the question of what is evil, and what evils is the magistrate authorized to adjudicate. That question can only be answered by seeking the definitions of the appointing authority, that what is evil is what God calls evil and only those evils that God has authorized the magistrate to adjudicate are authorized activity of the civil magistrates.

In the realm of the church, the modern floating unaffiliated “Christian” who is under no ecclesial authority, who claims the sacraments for himself and scorns apostolic succession, is a symptom of the anti-authority zeitgeist.  Beyond the independent member is the equally anti authority manifestation of the independent church and independent pastor.  The polity of independance is foreign to the teachings of the Bible.  It is not to say that these are not true churches or true Christians, but it points out to a spirit of autonomy and false liberty from authority.   The Reformation made an appeal to the authority of the Bible over the pope, counsels and traditions of the church.  Sola Scritptura trumped ex cathedra.  Martin Luther at the Diet of Worms stated the principle clearly in the historic statement:

Your Imperial Majesty and Your Lordships demand a simple answer. Here it is, plain and unvarnished. Unless I am convicted [convinced] of error by the testimony of Scripture or (since I put no trust in the unsupported authority of Pope or councils, since it is plain that they have often erred and often contradicted themselves) by manifest reasoning, I stand convicted [convinced] by the Scriptures to which I have appealed, and my conscience is taken captive by God’s word, I cannot and will not recant anything, for to act against our conscience is neither safe for us, nor open to us.

On this I take my stand. I can do no other. God help me.[ii]

This doctrine of Sola Scriptura was never intended to be a “me and my bible” as the authority.  Luther did not start a new church, but restored the church of the apostles under the authority of the God breathed scriptures.  Some have taken the Sola Scriptura doctrine as an invitation to create an autonomous ecclesiology, but a thorough reading of the scriptures would prohibit such a result.   Luther would be aghast at the modernist approach to the sacraments apart from the authority of the apostolic church.  The family does not have jurisdiction over baptism or communion and elders are not self-appointed.

Perhaps the most the destructive manifestation of the anti-authority spirit is in the modern configuration of marriage.  God has created marriage with an authority structure.[iii]  Husbands have authority over their wives, wives are to be subject to their husbands in all things.[iv]  But the modern marriage, often characterized by the label marriage 2.0, defies the authority of God to exult the authority of the wife.  The Church has contributed to the anti-authority trend.  Wives are rarely exhorted that they are helpers to their husbands rather than partners .  They are more often told that they are equal not subordinate and that submission is to be avoided so that she can be all that she can be.  Some Churches will give lip service to the Bible’s commands that women submit to their own husbands, but will immediately define submission to be anything, but true submission.  In doing so, they stir up women to insubordination and discontent, telling them to avoid being doormats and creating images of abusive angry patriarchs with imagined or exaggerated abuses of the past, before the golden age of the anti-authority wife.    Wives are taught that sex is a reward for their husband’s dutifully earning his way to her bed.[v]  But the Bible teaches she has no authority over her body and her sex.[vi]  Women follow the example set by ministers who engage in male shaming language and the condemnation of men for being masculine.   They are in essence being taught by example to speak evil of those to whom they owe honor, their husbands who posses the authority of Christ over her.  They are styled as dignitaries in…

Jude 1:8    Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.


2 Peter 2:9-10  preserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment,  10 and especially those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries…


Hebrews 13:17  Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

I believe it is good to question authority to inquire whether one’s claim of authority is legitimately given by God.  But in our zeal to resist tyranny, unlawful claims of authority, we must have equal zeal to honor the authorities that God has ordained.  If western Christendom is to be preserved it is my contention that the authority of husbands must be taught and all opposition to his legitimate authority rebuked.  That means that ministers must have the courage to condemn wives of their sins of desiring to be partners, insubordination, withholding, and spiritual contention in the home.  It also means that preachers must demonstrate and support honor to the household authority.  Husband is to wife as Christ is to the church and defamation of the husband in the presence of the wife is akin to leading a rebellion against Christ.


[i] Romans 13:3-4  3 For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to evil. Do you want to be unafraid of the authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same.  4 For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

[ii] http://www-personal.ksu.edu/~lyman/english233/Luther-Diet_of_Worms.htm

[iii] 1 Timothy 2:12-13    And I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man, but to be in silence.  13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

[iv] Ephesians 5:24   24 Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.

The jurisdictional limits of a husband’s authority are expansive indeed.  Many like to point out that a husband does not have authority to command his wife to disobey God, but this is a cavil as the apostle is clear that his authority over her is comprehensive.

[v] An Example of such a teaching comes from AL Mohler who writes that a wife should withhold sex until her husband earns her favors  “Consider the fact that a woman has every right to expect that her husband will earn access to the marriage bed. ….Therefore, when I say that a husband must regularly “earn” privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife the confidence, affection, and emotional support that would lead her to freely give herself to her husband in the act of sex.”  http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/06/09/the-seduction-of-pornography-and-the-integrity-of-christian-marriage-part-two/

[vi] 1 Corinthians 7:4-5   4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.  5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.

The Ministry of Transvestism?

Tim CurryFor the Christian the goal of counselors and ministries ought to be to help people live according to the Word of God.  To those who are in Christ, they work to help them understand and apply the law of God as a response to the authority of the creator while they concomitantly help the Christian to apprehend grace found in Christ.   A ministry is in the business of equipping the saints in pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:4-5)    A life of joy is a fruit which is the result of the knowledge of pleasing the Father, honoring the Son and walking in the Spirit.  Happiness is not the purpose of ministry, that is not say one cannot be happy in ministry, but the great men of the faith and the apostles lived with severe trials of discomfort, persecution and conflict.  A counselor that seeks to suppress the law for the expediency of the illusion of peace is not a shepherd of Christ, but of the world.  This is way so many marriage ministries are loved by non-Christians and nominal Christians, because they are of the world.   I make a most serious accusation for consider 1 John 4:5: They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them.   Those who claim to be Christians who teach/advocate worldly wisdom should take head to the damage they are doing to the bride of Christ. 2 Peter 2:20  For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.  They bear the burden described by James, James 3:1  …let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.  So I do not make this accusation lightly but with all due gravity, for it is a serious thing.  Now, just because one’s ministry is valued by those of the world, doesn’t not necessarily mean that one is of the world.  One is of the world if they teach and think in a manner contrary to scripture and especially when they compromise to appeal to itching ears.[i]

The word “world” as used in 2 Peter and 1 John is the Greek word cosmos.  It does not refer to the matter and space, but to an order or arrangement.  The opposite of a cosmos is chaos or a lack of order and a purely random happenstance of muddle.  The apostles contrast the Biblical ordering or arranging of truth, reality and ethics with the arranging of the natural and rebellious man’s commitments to truth, reality and ethics.  The whole of this order can rightly be called a philosophy.   James tells us the source of the philosophy, which he styles under the heading of wisdom, is crucial to discerning of which order it belongs; either from above, ie the infallible Word of God, or earthy sensual and devilish.  Philosophy that is arrived at by our senses is sensual, from fallen thoughts is earthly and even arrived at the suggestions of devils.  Again I repeat the warning of the apostle:

Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  Colossians 2:8

So that brings me to Christian marriage ministries.  Remember their objective is to influence others to live according to the ordering of Christ as revealed in the scriptures.  They are to be concerned with holiness not happiness. (Joy is a fruit of the spirit and will follow as an outgrowth of holiness.)  So when I observe that what they are teaching is antithetical to the scriptures it is necessary to expose them.[ii]   One such ministry that has come onto my radar is Marriage Builders, a site run by best-selling author Dr. Willard F. Harley, Jr..   You might be familiar with his book “His needs – Her Needs”.  He writes a piece entitled   Why Women Leave Men in which he writes that the reason why women file for divorce is they are unhappy, and he seems to validate wives actions for being unhappy.  Harley does not present his practice as overtly christian, but he is venerated by many pastors, he speaks at Christian conferences and his books and programs are staples of marriage ministries, so whether he makes himself out to be a christian counselor, others in the church respect him as such.   But if he is a christian my analysis is fitting and if not the same charge is leveled against those Christians that advocate his work.

Men’s perceived failure to satisfy their wives is punctuated by the fact that women file for divorce twice as often as men. In other words, their unhappiness with marriage often results in divorce.

The most common reason women give for leaving their husbands is “mental cruelty.” When legal grounds for divorce are stated, about half report they have been emotionally abused. But the mental cruelty they describe is rarely the result of their husband’s efforts to drive them crazy. It is usually husbands being indifferent, failing to communicate and demonstrating other forms of neglect.

….Surprisingly few women divorce because of physical abuse, infidelity, alcoholism, criminal behavior, fraud, or other serious grounds.

Harley’s solution is not to exhort women to pursue a meek and quite spirit, but for husbands to get with her program and make her happy or she will destroy the family. Harley wants to neutralize this threat by submission; that is a husband is to abandon his headship and authority to his wife’s feelings so as to avoid the calamity of a frivorce.  He has a little gimmick he calls a Policy of Joint Agreement, wherein the husband submits to his wife and in particular her feelings.

This policy helps men take their wives’ feelings into account whenever they make a decision. They avoid thoughtless habits, learn to meet emotional needs with mutual enjoyment and resolve their conflicts.”

By take into account, he means make her feelings the primary factor in every decision thereby “meeting her needs” so she will take her hand of the handle of the guillotine. Harley wants men to live in fear of their wives, who if not sufficiently placated, will file for divorce and destroy the home. I searched but I found no such article or reference on his web site that advocated wives fear their husbands or submit to them or even try to make thier husbands happy, but I did glance an article entitled “How to Make your Wife Happy“.  (I do get the feeling that if a wife did fear her husband he would be accused of abuse at least according to the Duluth model)  This is contrary to the scriptures in which wives are to fear their husbands Eph 5:33.  Your translation may substitute a euphemism for “fear”, such as respect of reverence.  The word in the Greek is phobos and is translated in every other instance as fear.  It is the same word that phobia comes from and used by Paul in Romans 13:4

For he is God’s minister to you for good. But if you do evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain; for he is God’s minister, an avenger to execute wrath on him who practices evil.

Pretty scary stuff and it is clear that Paul does not mean respect but that his use of phobos means fear or even terror.  An accurately rendered of Eph 5:33 is

… “but also, every one in particular — each so love his own wife as himself, and the wife — that she may reverence the husband.”

The Bible says wives are to fear their husbands and not the other way around.  Harley is advocating that men act like women and women act like men, and hence Transvestism.

Transvestism (also called transvestitism) is the practice of dressing and acting in a style or manner traditionally associated with the other sex.[iii]  –wiki

His egalitarian Policy of Joint Agreement has no basis in scripture and fails to call for the wife to be subject to her husband in all things.[iv]  He fails to call women to repentance for frivolous divorce and covenant fraud.  He fails to tell husbands to teach their own wives[v] using Bible’s instructions to her, to sanctify her unto holiness. [vi]  Harley also fails to point out that Paul says the order of authority in marriage is part of God’s created order and reflects the order of authority established by God, [vii] with the women under man, man under Christ and Christ under the Father.

If he were interested in aligning a marriage with the Word of God, certainly he would tell men to rule their households well, [viii]  warning them to listen to God and not their wives [ix] and he would tell wives to learn the discipline of contentment and the joy of being a helpmate.  But he seems far more interested in validating the discontent in women, who buy his books and will feel all tingly as he tells them to suppress the wisdom of scripture and make their man her servant to her happiness.   I found his website and his ministry to be worldly according to the scriptures.  If this is what passes for christian counsel we are all in desperate need of real shepherds.  The Christian family is endangered because of  divorce and the shepherds are watching and applauding the slaughter of the sheep.

My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray; They have turned them away on the mountains. They have gone from mountain to hill; They have forgotten their resting place.  All who found them have devoured them;   Jeremiah 50:6-7

[i] 2 Tim 4:3

[ii] Eph 5:11

[iii] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transvestism

[iv] Eph 5:24

[v] 1 Cor 14:35

[vi] Eph 25-27

[vii] 1 Cor 11:3

[viii] 1 Tim 3:4

[ix] Gen 3:17

A Few Thoughts on Christian Counseling and Marriage Ministries.

tug-of-warCounseling is the Christian equivalent of a therapy, it is often a synthesis of Bible teaching with modern psychology.  Marriage counseling in particular has become a growth industry for both the secularist and the Christian in part because of the dismal state of marriage in North America.   It is common to hear well-meaning Christians and especially family ministries recommend Christian counseling.  The New Testament knows nothing of a professional counselor; the Old Testament refers to counselors, but probably not like the counseling center at the local mega-church.  The Old Testament and especially the book of Proverbs refers to counsel or counselors, not as a profession but in advocating that a mark of being a wise man is that he is humble enough to receive advice from others.  Advice is helpful if the advice is helpful; much advice given today is not helpful, but harmful.  My position is that advice is only helpful if it is in harmony with the infallible and inerrant Word of God.

Willard Harley, the author of the best seller “his needs her needs” once lamented that his practice had the same divorce rate as couples that did not attend his counseling.  We further writes:

In my effort to overcome failure, I made a crucial discovery: I wasn’t the only one failing to help couples. Almost everyone else working with me in the clinic was failing as well! My supervisor was failing, the director of the clinic was failing, and so were the other marriage counselors that worked with me.

And then I made the most astonishing discovery of all: Most of the marital experts in America were also failing. It was very difficult to find anyone willing to admit their failure, but when I had access to actual cases, I couldn’t find any therapist who could prove their own success or train others to be successful in saving marriages.

In fact, I learned that marital therapy had the lowest success rate of any form of therapy – in one study, I read that less than 25% of those surveyed felt that marriage counseling had helped. A higher percentage felt that counseling had done more harm than good.”

One of the many objections I have with the methods of “Christian Marriage counseling” is the disregard of the household jurisdiction and the order of authority and responsibility with in the household.  When a couple shows up for counseling the counselor becomes the arbitrator of conflict and uses his position to referee the session.  A counselor becomes the head of the marriage, even if temporarily, usurping the God ordained covenant head of the family. Christ does not command wives to be subject to counselors, nor does he command elders to rule the home. It is a jurisdictional encroachment that supplants rightful authority.  I frankly doubt that most “Christian counselors” actually respect the Biblical doctrine of authority and many even demean it.  The egalitarian cancer has metastasized and infected all parts of the body of Christ.

Most men are raised to respect chivalry and have an inherent and holy instinct to protect the less able to protect themselves.  The instinct often manifests itself in the counselor, when he has a predisposition to protect the weaker vessel; thus he/she has a bias against men as a potential threat to women. This impulse lodges a bias of women as victims, not because of any circumstance other than she is weaker.  The predisposition dismisses the possibility that she, as the weaker one, might be guilty of wrongful actions against the stronger including neglect or fraud. The treatment is full blown prejudice against the male, who is presumed as an abuser to some degree and negligent to the “needs” of the weaker vessel. Thus a husband is presumed to be either ignorant of how to love his wife or malevolent toward her. The prejudice is antithetical to the idea that the husband has authority over the wife and is to sanctify her by the washing and watering of the Word, that is if he uses the Word according to the uses in 1 Tim 3:16, for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  For many counselors who have been affected by the Duluth model, a husband using the scriptures in this manner is to manipulate (repentance and sanctification are manipulation according to these white-knights) and to Lord it over the wife.  It is, according to them, not servant leadership to use the Word for correction, simply because she doesn’t like it, therefore she does not feel loved, therefore it must not be loving.    If it were loving she would feel all tingly and not rebel; so she cannot be corrected from rebellion, because to lead her to repentance only provokes bad feeling in her which is unloving and manipulative.  This reasoning confounds love as a committed action to the provocation of feelings.

A source of the prejudice proceeds from the erroneous notion that women are only responders and men are initiators.  If a woman is responding poorly it is because her husband is initiating incorrectly.  A consequence of this view is that women lack moral agency or at least not as much as men.  In practice this works out such that the husband is responsible for his own sin and those of his wife.  But if he is responsible he is certainly not allowed to correct her, that is abuse whether emotional, spiritual, or intellectual abuse.  The deck is stacked against the expression of Biblical marriage.  Because the relationship of husband and wife and Christ and the church are strong parallels according to Eph 5:31-32, the prejudicial view would also accuse Christ of being unloving in His correction and discipline of the church.   To be consistent, one would also have to assert that the reason more people do not respond to the call of the Gospel is that God as the initiator is doing it wrong.  I for one do not want to charge Christ with not being loving or not initiating in the correct manner; it would be far wiser to recognize His authority, fear Him and keep His commandments.

If the counselor desires to uphold the scriptures then the counselor should have a strong inclination to see to that a woman fears her husband (Eph 5:33), that she be subject to him in all things, (Col 3:18, Titus 2:5), that she refrain from complaining (1 Peter 3:1-4) and that the husband also be in subject to elders who rule in the ecclesial jurisdiction. That in husbands submitting to elders over matters of the church and wives submitting to husbands in matters of the family, both are subjecting themselves to Christ (Heb 12:9).

When a couple walks into counseling for “relationship issues” the counselor’s first line of questioning is to elicit why are they here?  Some of the likely possibilities include:

1) A husband’s complaint.  The wife is not cheerfully submitting to her husband.  The remedy: admonish her to submit to her husband in all things even as church is in submission to Christ and as Christ our example is in submission to His father (Eph 5:22-24).

2) A wife’s complaint.  The wife has a complaint against her husband’s treatment of her.  The remedy: admonish her to win him over without a word and act in such a manner that he will observe her behavior characterized by respect and purity. (1 Pe 3:1-2)  The counselor should under no circumstances become an arbiter of a conflict or representative of the wife’s complaint, it is not his home, his job is to reestablish Biblical order.  The temptation is to convict the husband of not loving the wife as Christ loved the Church, but Church’s feeling are not the gage for the love of Christ.

3) Sexual sin in the relationship – remedy first forgive as Christ has forgiven you, then stop defrauding and step up your game in bed so that the other will not burn in lust but enraptured with the love of the other. (Matt 18:21-35, 1 Cor 7:5, Prov 5:19)  “Accountability” is all the rage in Christian spheres, while it may be wise for one to have some safety fences is certainly not commanded and it is most unwise to give power of a wife over her husband.  Counselors need to tread lightly here and act cautiously lest they make law where God has not.

4) Bona fide medical complications that require prayer and perhaps fasting. Remedy: pray with them, suggest a fast to the Lord, and work with the deacons to help them in various difficulties.  There may be any number of complications and a couple may just need a friend so that they do not bear the burden alone.  Some circumstances may require some additional education so they know what to expect.

In no instance should a counselor cast doubt or aspersions on the manner in which the husband runs his house. That is between God and him, even if the counselor thinks he is ham-handed in his approach he must not hint at such in the presence of the wife as this will only feed her discontent.  A wife’s discontent is one of the great drivers of divorce in America, it is a sin and should neither be countenanced nor provoked.  The counselor must not receive an accusation against the husband except for cases of proven adultery or verified physical abuse that required medical treatment. Any such discussion where a husband’s obvious sin is not present, the counselor must tread lightly with all humility knowing that there is always more to the picture than meets the eye. While it is good to encourage men to improve themselves including how to manage their households, it is wrongheaded to assume a best practice for all situations and it is foolhardy to confound love (actions) with feelings that are provoked. After all God is love, but he still disciplines His own.

Hebrews 12:6-11 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Ironically it is the husband who submits to his wife, who serves her feelings that, is the most likely candidate to find himself receiving papers from his wife’s divorce attorney.  Between 70 and 80 percent of all divorces are filled by women, and most of them for no other reason that she is unhappy.  A man fails when he makes the decision to make his wife happiness the controlling concern in his leadership, thereby transferring his leadership to her emotional state.  This is a paradox, that when a husband does what God commands and what he knows is best for the good of the family, the wife respects him more; when he listens to his wife and not God he gets her contempt.  In the end she is happier when he does not focus on her happiness, but on her holiness.  Adam listened to his wife and not God, men should be encouraged to learn from Adam’s failure and obey God and not their wife. The counsel that turns men into supplicating wimps is an abomination and a cancer to the family, yet is the most common approach for marriage ministries and Christian counselors.

In short the counselor’s task is not to make the marriage happy, their task is to make it holy.  To lead the couple toward the goal of holiness, the counselor needs to reorder the marriage according to scripture.  The women complain and men comply approach must be disposed for a Biblical model of the home.

Men ought to be encouraged to lovingly lead: to take the reins and sanctify their wives with the washing and watering of the Word, including teaching, rebuking and admonishing them.  The counselor should speak to the husband, while not in the presence of the wife, to examine his motives to make sure that his leadership is for the Kingdom and not his own.  Resources to areas that the man might need some guidance might also be given, but again not in the presence of his wife, nor should such discussion ever be revealed to her.  To breach this principle is to undercut the husband’s position in the home and validate a wife’s discontent by creating an expectation in the wife that she and the counselor are ganging up on him to change.

The wife should be admonished to subject herself to her husband in all things and the only exception is if he is requiring her to clearly violate the law of God.   If he asks her to make sammiches and does so coarsely, she is to not voice her objection, but by her meek and quite spirit persuade him to love as Christ loves us.  Both must freely and passionately give and enjoy regular intimate activities.  How often is regularly? The answer is as often as either one desires, your body is not your own.  The counselor should resist the temptation validate her feelings.  If he engages her with questions of her feelings it should be only to help discover areas where she is resisting to submit or giving in to her anxiety and fear.

Unfortunately counseling like I describe would most likely fail, because wives would avoid such Biblical correction and they would object to losing the shift of power and control that they have come to expect from making their hubby go to counseling.  With no divorce threat, no advocate to force him to change she might lose her status as the victim of patriarchy.  Those that listened to the Biblical advice would not need to keep coming back and so the counselor would lose revenue from their return customers.  Those who disliked what the Bible has to say would find some other “expert” that would help the wife make her husband submit to her and give justification for the role reversal by labeling it love.


The Gospel Centered Marriage!

Gospel marriageOn a prior post I asked the question “what is the Gospel?” While it is true that Jesus saves all His elect the gospel is not as much about the elect as it is about the glory of Christ. The effect of the gospel is the atonement of the elect and their union with Christ. This is the effect of the gospel not the gospel itself. The effect of the gospel to me is that my sin is imputed to Christ in his death and His righteousness is imputed to me in His judgement. Further I am adopted into the household of faith a son of the living God and become a member of the bride of Christ. This effect is good news for me, but the good news that transcends me is that Christ is victorious to all who oppose His rule.

In this post I will attempt to demonstrate how the gospel changes marriage. I firmly believe that the gospel changes everything, but marriage itself is a type of the relationship of Christ to the Church. The Apostle Paul intentional conflates the relationship of husband and wife in marriage with the relationship of Christ and the church.

Ephesians 5:22-33 Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. Nevertheless let each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

The gospel is first and primarily about Christ, so also marriage is first and primarily about Christ. It is not first and primarily about us it, is not primarily about the bride, the wedding or the sex. It is a type or a living picture of redemption, union and worship. Paul makes it clear that both these relationships have an element of mystery. How is the church united to Christ is similar to how a husband and wife are made one; both are mysterious and beautiful.  Paul also reveals that the roles in marriage are to mirror those of Christ and His bride the church.

One parallel is the church is to submit to Christ as her head, so wives are to submit to their husbands. Because that submission is absolute to Christ, so it is to her husband in “everything”.   The statement of Paul is absolute;by logic the only exception to her submission is if submitting to her husband means not submitting to Christ. This exception is rare and should only be employed when she is absolutely certain of the situation and the law of God. This submission follows a chain of command with the Father at the top then Christ who has been given all authority in heaven and earth 1 , then the husband followed by the wife 2. The submission reflects the chain of command and the flow of authority that even the Son is subject to. There is no fear of being a doormat or envy of the head in this model. The son does not complain about how unfair it is that He is stuck with the task of dying to redeem the elect, he does not worry about being subjugated. The modern wife who worries about such things is rebelling against her head and his head, Christ. As she is in full submission to her husband she is concomitantly in submission to Christ (Eph 5:22).

The Church has largely failed in this teaching. Consider what many consider to be the best book on the subject of a response to feminism in the evangelical church, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood : A Response to Evangelical Feminism by Wayne Grudem and John Piper. I have been thinking for some time about writing on many of the troubling claims in this work, but over at the Society of Phineas he has uncovered this gem on pg 29.


*The book has the definition in all caps, the underlining is mine.

The word “only” is not in the text, but is implicit as a modifier of worthy.  It is also not Biblical!   Christ is the worthy lamb who commands a wife to submit to the husband that God united her to. She is not commanded to submit to just any man no matter his worth, but her own husband, who is Christ’s representative head. Likewise she is commanded to submit to her father, simply because he is her father and has authority over her, not because of her evaluation of his worth. Grudem and Piper would have a woman judging the worthiness of her husband to be her head, as a condition of her submission.  The implication is this evaluation of worthiness is ongoing even after the wedding. This idea is found nowhere in the bible. The Bible states emphatically that the husband is the head, not that he conditionally is.  This teaching of conditional submission is fueling the divorce epidemic of our day.  (The best  current data suggests that 75-80% of divorces are filed by women who find their husbands wanting.)

Going back to the typology of marriage to Christ and the church, the parallel of Grudem and Piper is that the church submits to Christ only when the church is satisfied that He has earned her submission. This is made more explicit by another champion in evangelicalism Al Mohler. He writes: “when I say that a husband must regularlyearn” privileged access to the marital bed, I mean that a husband owes his wife.…the fact that his wife will freely give herself to him sexually only when he presents himself as worthy of her attention and desire.” 3  Mohler agrees with Piper and Grudem, the wife submits sexually only when she has judged her husband to be worthy.

The gospel centered marriage has husbands in full submission to Christ the victor, and wives in full submission to their husbands. For the wife to require more of her husband than being Christ’s envoy is to require Christ to be more worthy of our fear, and worship. The gospel involves fear and worship, and gospel centered marriage involves fear and worship as well. A man worships with his head uncovered to honor Christ, for the man is the glory of Christ and the woman covers her head to honor her husband for she is the glory of her husband4.

The evangelical disconnect between the gospel and marriage is astounding. If the church treated Christ like they instruct wives to treat husbands no doubt there would be fewer lampstands in heaven5. Yet I can’t help but wonder if this is exactly the problem. The popular notion that the gospel is about me and for me is mirrored in the idea that marriage is for me and about me. If a wife is to continually judge her husband’s worthiness, than he must submit to her standards if he is to “earn” her submission and sex.  If he fails to make her happy she can defraud him in bed and chose to not submit to him everywhere else. Likewise the church decides to stop worshipping and submitting to Christ when they feel they have not been blessed enough and are not happy. They sing about themselves and preach about how they can overcome and be blessed and happy.  It is eerie how a self-centered marriage and a self-worshiping church reflect the same pitiable condition.  Is Christ to submit to the church’s standards for Him, of is the church to submit to her LORD?

The Gospel centered marriage, like the gospel centered church, fears the Lord, glorifies Christ in His victory, and worships Him.  Both the Church and the wife submit to their respective head.  The husband submits to Christ and reflects His love of His bride.  He sacrifices for her sanctification, not necessarily her feelings, He protects her from enemies,  He instructs her in the Word and rebukes her in her sin.   The husband loves the wife, because he has been first loved by Christ 6.   This is how the gospel of victory is lived out.  The gospel is vandalized by contentions for power and control, by judging the worthiness of the head and by withholding love, honor and submission.

1 Matthew 28:18 18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.
2 1 Corinthians 11:3 But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.
3 http://www.albertmohler.com/2012/06/01/the-seduction-of-pornography-and-the-integrity-of-christian-marriage-part-two-2/
4 1 Corinthians 11:7 7 For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.
5 Revelation 2:5 “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place — unless you repent.