DANVERS STATEMENT SERIES: Complementarian Problem #1: Men Dominating their Wives

by | Jun 5, 2023 | Marriage, Series, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 142 comments

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Sheila here!

Keith’s had something gnawing at him for quite a few months, and asked if he could write the series for June where he can build his case.

He’s recently read the Danvers Statement, the statement that solidifies the complementarian view of marriage based on a hierarchical relationship between men and women. It has been cited by many SBC and PCA churches, as well as big organizations like the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It’s one of the most concise statements about what complementarians believe.

Keith wants to work through it in the month of June, focusing on the four ways that the Danvers Statement says that marriages can go wrong. 

We’ve been talking about this and fleshing this out as we’ve been going for walks for the last few weeks, and so I’m pleased to let my husband take over the blog this month on Mondays to show you why the Danvers Statement doesn’t measure up!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

Power dynamics in marriage are inherently dangerous.

One of the recurring themes on the blog and the podcast is the ways that marriage can go wrong if we set it up as a power dynamic with the husband having authority over the wife. We have talked about how studies show that marriages do better with shared decision making than when the husband is the decision maker. Sheila has even talked about how the way we talk about “women’s roles” can actually prime them for abuse. The idea of men being in authority over women can go wrong in so many ways.

Predictably, whenever Sheila writes one of these articles, she gets a variety of critiques from her detractors who want to preserve male authority. 

On the one extreme are the misogynist trolls.

They unironically call her a Jezebel while accusing her of making ad hominem attacks on their favorite authors. They disengage from her arguments (once she runs circles around them) on the basis that she is a woman, so how dare she think she can teach them. And most of all they decry how she is leading people astray from the “true reading of God’s word” (i.e. the one in which they get to be disgusting, hateful and clearly un-Christlike and yet feel that they are doing God’s work). Their arguments are as tired as they are flawed.

On the other hand, though, there are the “Yes, but…” people.

They are the ones I want to spend some time talking about this month. They seem sincerely to disagree with the misogynists, yet they continue to lift up male authority as a noble ideal. Typically, they represent themselves as a “middle ground” claiming that what we are highlighting are only the most extreme cases. Some go as far as to say Sheila has swung the pendulum too far and is herself too extreme, but most don’t take it that far, instead settling for some form of the following: “Yes, there are the ‘hard’ believers in male authority, and I don’t agree with them either; I am a ‘soft’ believer in male authority.”

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The implication is that if we could only understand the kinder, gentler version of patriarchy they believe in, we would see that men being in charge of women is ultimately good – and certainly for the benefit of women.

Personally, I hold that the toxicity demonstrating itself among the ‘hard’ believers in male authority reveals the corruptness at the core of the ideology enough for me to run from it as fast as possible, but I understand there are many who are not similarly persuaded.

So for the month of June, I am going to change strategies. Instead of attacking the most clear examples of how teaching male authority over women has caused harm, I will focus on the mainstream or ‘soft’ version of male authority and show why even this needs to be rejected.

And what more mainstream document could we start with than the Danvers statement!

What is the Danvers Statement?

For those of you who don’t know, the Danvers Statement was published by the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood in 1988 and became the touchstone for believers in male authority of what is “biblical” with respect to masculinity, femininity and their interaction. The CBMW asserts that God’s perfect plan for marriage is a husband’s sacrificial leadership and a wife’s willing submission.

They say this is a beautiful picture, mirroring how Christ relates to the church. The Danvers Statement is basically a manifesto for their position. And they indicate in their own document that this can go wrong in four ways: the husband can err by tending toward “domination or passivity” and the wife can err by tending toward “usurpation or servility”. In graphic form it looks something like this:

Danvers Statement Complementarianism

The idea is that we each need to stay on the center of our respective spectrum and not fall into error in either direction. But I believe we can learn a great deal by taking a closer look at what is meant by each of these errors and by how they are actually dealt with in practice. I plan to take each in turn, starting this week with the problem of men erring toward “domination”, and then, on the rest of the Mondays in June, tackle Passivity, Servility, and Usurpation. 

So let’s start with the problem of domination!

How does domination show up in practice?

Critics of male authority over women – myself included – tend to believe it is a short line from male power to the abuse of women, but that is contested by those who believe in male authority, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ alike. In fact, they both consistently avow to be opposed to abuse and usually purport that their beliefs actually protect women because their teachings mandate that his “headship” is sacrificial and not self-seeking. 

But how does that work out in practice?

The Danvers Statement frames the issue as a continuum where the godly husband straddles the middle ground between passivity on the one end and domination on the other.  But what guidance does a husband have to know when he has slid too far toward the dominating side of the spectrum?  What about a husband who is not abusive, but just “harsh”?

She Deserves Better!

Because we all deserve a big faith.

Your daughter deserves better than what you likely grew up with in church.

What would it look like to prepare the next generation without toxic teachings about modesty, sex, or consent, and instead set her up for a big faith?

Well, Sheila did a podcast, last year talking about a Desiring God blogpost where John Piper answered this specific question.

Piper is the co-author of Reclaiming Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and in conservative evangelical churches is not seen as an extremist. Piper counsels that in such situations, the wife should continue to submit, to be gentle and non-confrontational with her harsh husband. At no point does he ever get around to what would seem to be the key verse dealing with this topic: Colossians 3:19- “Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them”.

Talk about missing the low hanging fruit. How could God have said it any more clearly?

Are complementarians serious about combatting domination?

In Piper’s extensive response, which sounds very spiritual, he never once indicates that this man has fallen into the error of dominating. I find this odd if domination is an error that believers in male authority are truly serious about combating. Now one might argue Piper was answering the woman’s request for advice, not addressing the husband. And I concede that Piper says, “If the husband were here I would have a few things to say to him”.

But that is clearly a cop out. It would have been no additional effort to say, “This man is clearly violating God’s plan in his harshness by straying from humble, sacrificial headship into domination”, but Piper simply does not. Piper’s wishy-washy “if the husband were here I would have something non-specific to say to him” contrasts mightily with the Bible’s clear command of “Do not be harsh.” And it prompts one to ask what happened to the “plain reading of Scripture” Piper otherwise seems so fond of.

Besides, when the shoe is on the other foot, proponents of male authority are not so reticent to weigh in. Consider the podcast Sheila and I did where Emmerson Eggerichs responded to a woman writing in to him after doing the Love & Respect small group DVD series. Her report was that their husbands were now treating their wives worse and her question was how could the wives get their husbands to stop disregarding them. Eggerichs spends the entire response talking about why the wives need to have an attitude adjustment and implies they are contentious and nagging. And (surprise!) he never says the husbands have done wrong in treating their wives this way.

I could escalate up the scale into verbal and even physical abuse and the pattern remains the same. Teachers of male authority talk a good talk about being against abuse, but they consistently fall on the side of the abuser and tell the wife she still needs to submit. If you don’t believe me, ask Eileen Gray, who John MacArthur publicly shamed and excommunicated because she refused to return and submit to her abusive husband. Among conservative evangelicals, MacArthur is not some fringe crackpot, but a beloved and respected teacher. Yet even now after everything has finally come to light, he still has not apologized for what he did to Eileen.

What is the point of warning about domination when you do nothing to stop the men who dominate and even send the women who are suffering back to the very men who are dominating them?

Is domination merely a problem of the misuse of doctrine?

Now I know what the ‘soft’ believers in male authority are thinking at this point, because whenever I discuss this with them on line, they always say the same thing: Any man who abuses his wife is not following God’s plan so you can’t make a case against male authority because some men abuse it. But this is the classic “No True Scotsman Fallacy”. One can’t explain away every instance of abuse by simply saying “If they were a true believer that never would have happened.”

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And I simply don’t understand why anyone would preach “What I teach doesn’t cause abuse unless people misuse it” when there is a clear alternative that doesn’t have that fatal flaw. The clearly superior alternative to preaching men should rule over women and then washing our hands when men abuse that power is simply to not give men that power in the first place. The only reason we would not see this is that we do not wish to see it. Yet Jesus Himself commanded this when he told us not to seek power over others in Matthew 20:25-28.

Those who don’t believe in hierarchy in marriage are following the Bible.

Despite the rhetoric that we are disobeying the Bible, those of us in marriage without hierarchy truly believe we are closer to God’s plan. We are not disobeying God’s command for wives to submit to their husbands, but following it correctly, whereas they are distorting it. In our homes, wives submit to their husbands, just as the Bible says. The husband also submits to the wife, just as the Bible says.

Nothing is taken from or added to Scripture. The way husband and wife submit to each other is not different because the word God uses for each of them is not different. In contrast, those who push male authority read the plain words of Scripture and then say, “but the way the wife submits must be different than the husband” and In doing so make their human tradition of greater weight than the word of God, just like the Pharisees in Mark 7. 

But observe how even the most basic command of Jesus is tainted by hierarchy: “Love your neighbor as yourself”. If I believe in hierarchy, it is impossible for me as a husband to follow. On the one hand, I would not want someone to make decisions for me, so therefore I should not make decisions for my wife. But on the other hand, I am supposedly commanded by God to do so. It makes no sense.

So the next time you hear someone talking about how hierarchy in marriage is “God’s beautiful picture”, instead imagine two people mutually submitting to each other, melding their complementary giftings and experiences into a loving, mutual life-long journey, each following a single authority: our Lord Jesus Christ. Because that is a beautiful picture. In contrast, a unilateral submission of the wife to the husband can only ever be half as beautiful – – and immeasurably more dangerous.

What do you think? Do complementarian teachers truly care about the problem with domination? Have you seen them address it? Let’s talk in the comments!

Keith's Danvers Statement Series

Looking at the 4 ways those who believe in hierarchy in marriage think marriage can go wrong

Plus see the book Keith co-authored with Sheila, The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex!

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Keith Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Keith has been married to Sheila for over 30 years! They met while he was in pre-med at Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario. He has served as Chief of Pediatrics in the Quinte Region, and has been the chair of undergraduate pediatric medical education at Queen's University, and participated in the Royal College examination board for new pediatricians. He is the co-author with Sheila of The Good Guy's Guide to Great Sex, and a new marriage book they're working on. An avid birder, he loves traveling with Sheila all over North America in their RV.

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  1. Mara R

    A couple things to say. I’ll start with this one.

    Keith: “In our homes, wives submit to their husbands, just as the Bible says. The husband also submits to the wife, just as the Bible says.”

    I also used to discuss this on-line with the soft-comp guys. And I’d get this from them every once in a while:
    “You just hate submission and don’t want to obey God.”

    I’d respond with, “No, actually, I don’t hate submission. I engage in it all the time with my husband and other believers. The problem is that comp/patri men are the ones who hate submission, for themselves. Even though they love it for women and preach it up, down, and sideways at women, when it comes to themselves they hate it and don’t want to obey it for themselves.”

    When the trolls heard this and upped their attack.
    But it has stopped some thoughtful men in their tracks.

    I really don’t hate submission.
    But no one should love one-sided submission. It’s not the way it’s taught in the verses they that they use to promote it.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yes, it’s interesting, because whenever I ask someone arguing for wifely submission if they submit, they look at me like I have two heads. But seriously–that’s Jesus’ whole point!

      • Reg

        Can someone explain to me where to find the husband submitting to his wife verse? Or maybe direct me to a blog post that explains this? Really loving this discussion, just trying to understand more!

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Ephesians 5:21 tells all believers that we are to submit to one another! That includes husbands to wives, and it sets up the whole marriage passage.

    • patricia martinez

      I agree with you. Another thing I find frustrating and confusing is why are men so obsessed with being in control? Isn’t that a form of pride? According to Scripture, we should be humble not proud. Therefore, they are sinning against God.

  2. Nathan

    Yes. It’s not submission that we hate. We submit to God and our spouses. We just believe that, in a marriage, submission should go both ways equally. It’s the INEQUALITY or unbalanced nature that we dislike.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Well put!

  3. Mara R


    I think, as you point out, most of them are not.

    Their devotion to hierarchy out-weighs their concern over the collateral damage done by those who are “doing it wrong”.

    And as you’ve said, this isn’t a problem in mutuality. “Do unto others” and the “one another” verses erase someone getting the idea that dominating is okay.

    Their doctrine doesn’t take into consideration the fallen state of men (and women). It doesn’t take into consideration brain or personality disorders. It doesn’t take into consideration men who have anger issues or porn addiction or pedophilia. Or when they do talk about these, they just recommend the wife submitting and respecting more as though that is the biblical-fairy-pixie-dust-silver-bullet.

    They’ve got to stop looking at the clobber verses as though they are the “marriage trouble-shooting” section of the Bible. Because, as you’ve mentioned, people are being hurt in real time and in real ways.

    But those guys must support their hierarchy and Danvers Statement at all costs, If you are collateral damage, oh well, sorry about your luck.
    (I’m glad Jesus isn’t a “sorry about your luck” Jesus)

    Could say more. But this is all for now.
    Thank you for tackling this. This series will be another one that we can link when we get tired of addressing the same old arguments.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Thanks, Mara! It really does show that their main concern is not healthy relationships. It is preserving power for men.

      • Walt Grayum

        Sheila – thank you for your ministry. So much of it has helped so many people, including me.

        Having said that (and I meant it!), your statement is so “broad brush” that, in my opinion, it undermines the good things you’re trying to accomplish. There are definitely men and women who hold to a complementation view point very sincerely, and they are NOT motivated by “preserving power for men.” They are sincerely seeking to live out the scriptures as they understand them. To say that anyone who holds a complementarian view isn’t concerned about “healthy relationships” is just wrong. Many God-fearing, God loving, neighbor loving, husband and wife loving believers care very much about healthy relationships and are not on some kind of power-trip. When you make broad generalized statements like this it works against your ability to communicate to sincere Christians who need to seriously consider what you’re saying. At least that’s the way it comes across to me (as does Keith’s article in many ways). Figure out how to lose the “tone” and really communicate effectively what you believe the scriptures actually teach, and do it in genuine love that “believes all things” including the best about the people you’re trying to help see the Bible’s teachings differently.

        • Joy

          I think Sheila is doing an amazing job and her critique of the complimentarianism is spot on. Stop mansplaining healthy relationships to a woman who has done an incredible amount of quality research on the topic.
          If her “tone” offends you, that’s a point of growth for YOU not her.

    • Stefanie

      🔥🔥 Their devotion to hierarchy out-weighs their concern over the collateral damage done by those who are “doing it wrong”. 🔥🔥

      • Walt Grayum

        Stefanie, I’m sure your statement applies to some people. Some people are more concerned about maintaining power than people’s well-being. That’s horrendous (and we all need to keep looking in the mirror on that one!), and it should be called out.

        However, for many sincere complementarians, it’s not “devotion to hierarchy,” but submission to what they honestly and sincerely believe the scripture teaches on the matter. And that being the case, their devotion TO THE LORD needs to always come first. They can’t say, “Lord, because people sin by twisting Your Word in a way that hurts other people, I will no longer obey your Word myself. The people hurt by other people’s in are more important to me than you what you say.”

        I think it’s very unloving to impugn the motives of sincere believers. It’s absolutely loving to try to get them to see what you believe is a much more accurate interpretation of the scripture. Let’s focus on that instead of stereotyping everyone who holds a different interpretation than we do.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          The problem is, Walt, that what you are calling for hurts people. It makes marriage worse. It makes sex worse. It makes divorce rates increase.

          And most biblical scholars do not support it.

          So, yes, we do get a little testy when people are getting hurt. And we’ve been trying to say this in so many different ways, over so many years.

          It’s really hard to be a woman and have to fight to be considered equal and have your voice heard.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I understand it’s very jarring when you honestly believe that God is calling you to act a certain way, but to ask that others accept this as benign, when we can see the harm that is done when this idea is widespread, is really difficult. Many Christians supported slavery, for instance, using pretty much exactly the same arguments that complementarians use today, and they did so using the Bible, and they were very upset when other Christians became upset at them for it. But looking back, we can see how wrong they were.

            When you consider women under the authority of men, and consider men’s voices more important than women’s voices, it is very hard to see that as a benign thing, as Keith has shown in this article and the next.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Again, I do believe that many people are sincere and are just wanting to follow what God says. I guess what I’d ask, then, is that they look at the evidence more. Like, have you ever read any egalitarian books? Philip Payne’s The Bible vs. Biblical Womanhood is very, very good and rooted in the ancient languages and context of the time. If you’re honestly just trying to follow what God wants, then there should be no problem looking at more evidence, both of the original biblical manuscripts, but also of the fruits of these ideas in relationships today.

  4. Kristen

    I find it interesting how the comp crowd is always so obsessed with the idea of slippery slope; that once you’re kissing your significant other, it’s a slippery slope down to sex. Once you start doing x, it automatically WILL lead to y.

    Except for when they say their teachings don’t ALWAYS cause abuse, and that when they do, it’s because their teachings have been misused. Like Keith said, when there’s a clear alternative that DOESN’T lead to abuse from one party or another, why would we take the slippery slope of a teaching that MIGHT cause abuse?

    Avoid the slippery slope at all times. Except for when it’s a possible result of something I just like teaching because it gives me the power to do whatever I want.
    -Comp Crowd

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      This is a really good point! Slippery slopes for thee but not for me.

    • Walt Grayum

      Kristen, I’m hoping you can clarify something for me. When you describe the reason complementarians believe what they do as “something I just like teaching because it gives me the power to do whatever I want.,” do you really think that’s what most of them are doing? Or is it possible that many (most?) of them are good willed Christians sincerely trying to obey what they understand the Lord, and scripture, to say?

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Many people are certainly trying to obey what they think the Scripture has to say.

        But then they are likely not acting our complementarianism.

        In our survey of 23,000 men and women, when we looked at how complementarianism plays out, the vast majority of couples who believe in complementarianism do not practice it. They say they believe in it, but they actually make decisions together and he doesn’t get the final decision.

        On the other hand, when they start to practice it and the husband makes the final decision (even if he consults with her), the divorce rate increases 7.4 times. These are very similar numbers to what the John Gottman Institute also found.

        So I would say that most complementarians aren’t believing it so they can do what they want, because most don’t act it out. But when they do? Then, yes, I think they are doing so to get whatever they want.

      • Ladybug

        Many good-willed women sincerely try to obey those teachings thinking they are right and true. Some find themselves inadvertently and even unconsciously believing that God takes pleasure in “disciplining” them, that if they could only find the “magic secret” to submission that God will finally reward them with a changed husband who loves them. That God loves them so much that he is hell-bent on purging their soul of idolatry, for if they want their husband to love them, and are disappointed when that doesn’t happen, they conclude or are taught that there must be something wrong with them. All because this is promoted as 100% “God’s way” and if you don’t follow it, you must not believe God. It doesn’t even necessarily occur to someone in this position to question the teaching.

        I was one of these people. “God’s love” was so painful and difficult, I came to believe the only way to make it stop was suicide…because leaving was never even given as an option, something I never even considered.

        Until I woke up one day and realized, “Wait, which is the lesser of two evils? Leaving or dying?” I had come to believe that dying had been the better option…because I did not even believe that leaving was an option.

        Many of the people teaching it probably do not think they are doing what you say. Many teaching it possibly do live out the teaching as intended…I never felt any of those who taught it to me did other wise, and I have no criticisms against them personally.

  5. Mara R

    One more thing for now.

    The Danvers came out in 1988? Thirty-five years ago? Hasn’t it been around long enough to fix all the problems it was supposed to cover?

    I think it’s safe to say that it didn’t work. It didn’t accomplish the things the writers wanted it to accomplish. It just made things worse. Beside MacArthur mentioned above, there’s a ton of other instances where the Danvers and the men who uphold the ideals failed women. Jim Bob (Well, Garsh!) Duggar also comes to mind for some strange reason.

    The Danvers has failed to deliver.
    Just like the IBLP/ATI has failed to deliver.
    These and teachings like them not only don’t solve the problems they were created to address, they have actually made things so much worse, like floating dumpster fire (Shiny Happy People) worse.
    Like Piper trying to display “what a woman’s submission to abuse” looks like worse: https://frombitterwaterstosweet.blogspot.com/2011/02/men-defining-sweet-for-women.html

    I know. I wasn’t planning on linking anything under this thread. But we’ve been fighting these aberrant teachings a long time. And a person just gets tired of saying the same things over and over. And these “root of bitterness” teachings have sprung up and are defiling so many and ruining so many lives. The root of hierarchy teachings in the church needs to be dug out and exposed as the true root of bitterness that is defiling families.

  6. Suzanne

    I have a knee jerk reaction to husbands/men are the “leaders” and wives/women must submit. It makes me angry, it makes me want to slam doors and shake people and say what is wrong with you, why do you think this could ever be correct and from God, why would he chose to make it more likely to have half of his image bearers face abuse, why would he design men to be more and women to be less! Maybe it’s the feminist in me, I am always for equality.

    I am glad Keith is the one writing this, because I know men need to read it and some won’t listen to a woman, they may not listen to a man who gives a voice to women either but it’s a good try. Women need to read this too. I just don’t think, if the example is the comments section on FB, that men are big followers of this page.

    • Laura


      I totally feel this. For almost 5 months I’ve been attending a Baptist church with a friend and just yesterday, the pastor said that only men should hold the role of pastor or deacon because “Scripture” commands it. Although I’ve met many wonderful people there and am part of Celebrate Recovery there, I just cannot ever become a member there or sit through another one of his sermons. It is just not good for my spiritual walk.

      • Bernie

        We are at a similar church where the retired pastor spoke specifically of the calling for a new associate pastor being a “man”. There is no abiguity or lack of clarity in that statement. Unfortunately, our daughter and her family attend there so we are very torn about attending.

        • Laura


          I am so glad to hear that I am not alone in this matter. This Baptist church I’ve been attending for 5 months is actually part of the SBC, which I did not know until the pastor talked about it in his sermon this Sunday. He was frustrated that the SBC was having to go through voting on whether to allow women in church leadership and he strongly believes that because this matter of only men having the pastor or deacon title is “scriptural” (funny, how he would not cite the verse in his sermon, but I knew he was referring to one of the letters to Timothy), that things should always stay the same. But it’s okay to change how humans communicate.

          For the five months I have been attending, I’ve met many kind people there. This church has a lot of community outreach ministries and they have shown great support to my town. I just cannot associate myself as a member because I think women should be allowed to be in church leadership.

  7. Phil

    Hey there Mr Keith. Good stuff my friend. The first thought I had when I read the topic was is there an egalitarian statement? Then I thought…I wonder if no statement is statement enough? Egalitarian – EQUAL PERIOD – end statement. Also laughed pretty good at the low hanging fruit comment. So true. So, I didnt watch the Duggar documentary but I did watch a summary by a youtuber named not ironically, downtherabbithole. I have also read a couple news articles on the topic as well. What is interesting to me is that in many cases of hierarchy, the people just didnt know any better. They were taught and brought up in the culture of christian hierarchy. What seems to be a re-occurring theme is that opportunity to better oneself economic standards aka money is the part of the root to the thinking. So subset example A who chose to either create or participate in a hierarchy doctrine gains in either power or monetarily either separately or together and the results give an appearance (I call this false fruit) that person A is doing well as a result of the doctrine and also appears (false fruit once again) to others that person A is doing well so therefore I should do same to get same results. The power and money shade Jesus and the truth of the bible and correct theology. Ego, power and money then become the litmus test for who is right or wrong – UNTIL – bad things happen and truth is unravelled. Very unfortunate path that people have/choose to follow. I am glad to be part of a movement where people call these things out in the high HOPE – some will see and some will find safety and some will heal and the fallout will be used by God for his purposes.

    On another note – I am working on upping my birding game. I listened to your guest podcast on birding and since I have been working at identifying birds. Also, I am going to track the blue jays and find you that nest. I threw in a request for fathers day for some binoculars with a camera in it. We shall sew what happens there…Plus I found a local birder (my youngest son and daughters Campus Life leader) to share with. Ok thanks for the topic and post. I look forward to the follow ups.

  8. NL

    Every time I read something on the Danvers statement, I see Mrs. Danvers from du Maurier’s “Rebecca” in my head. It always takes me aback, and for a split second I wonder why anyone is quoting her. Then I remember what it actually is and try to shake off the residual creepiness. Except it is still creepy.

    • Lisa Johns

      Love that connection!

    • EOF

      My first thought every time I see Danvers is werewolves. I think that’s actually quite fitting. 😁

  9. Nathan

    Interesting that the spectrum they give has three states, but only 1 real outcome: 1 spouse in control, and the other spouse in submission. The two “bad” states are 1 spouse in abusive control over the other spouse. The “good” state is when the husband is in control, but benign, and the wife willingly puts herself in the submissive role. There seems to be no true middle ground where both are in equal authority.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Absolutely. In fact, equality is impossible because it would go against God’s created order or something.

      • Walt Grayum

        Hi, Sheila.

        Can I suggest that we don’t make the mistake of saying that authority and equality cannot coexist, and even function well? Remember, the Son of God submitted Himself to the Father, and they are completely equal.

        Again, it’s statements like these that work against reaching the sincere believers who need their beliefs lovingly, and firmly, challenged.

        P.S. You’re probably getting tired of me pointing this out, but I think it’s important both for our integrity as we speak to others and for our effectiveness in reaching them. IMO.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Authority and equality cannot co-exist, Walt. They are diametric opposites.

          When Jesus was on earth, he put Himself under the Father’s authority. Thus He was not actually in an equal relationship. He now is, because He is no longer on earth.

          When one does not have the authority to make decisions they are, by definition, not equal.

          When someone else gets to decide for them, then their opinion matters more. That means that they are not equal. It’s just basic definitions.

          I know that complementarians like to claim that authority and equality can co-exist, but this has already been found to be false–just look at Brown vs. Board of Education. You can’t claim people are equal just because you declare them to be so, if you then treat them in an unequal manner.

          Your intention may be good, but the facts of the matter are quite the opposite!

        • Claire

          Walt, what you’re referring to is a complicated belief called Eternal Subordination of the Son, espoused by many evangelicals but called heresy by others. It appears to be a theological bedrock of the complementarians. There is a ton of fascinating analysis out there on the subject – both for and against. I have (obviously) landed on against or I wouldn’t be on Shelia’s page, so I recommend this essay: https://banneroftruth.org/uk/resources/articles/2018/son-god-eternally-subordinate-father/. It makes sense to me that saying Jesus has an eternally different will than the Father’s is heretical. How can that be possible if He is also God?

        • Mark

          Walt, what is complicated is that Jesus has two natures – a divine and a human. Those two natures have wills. His divine nature has a will that is shared and equal to the Father (e.g. I and the Father are one), and his human nature had a perfect will that was also limited in human ways. So, Jesus the divine human can say, from his humanity, “If it is your will, let this cup pass from me, but not my will but your will be done.” Just as Jesus can say, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Is Jesus saying that the Son is not omniscient? The theology does get complex when the Bible doesn’t say, “okay, this is Jesus talking in his human nature about what was revealed to his human nature by his divine nature.” And obviously, even seminary professors are butchering the theology – assigning divine aspects to human nature and assigning human aspects to divine nature. But much of this has been ironed out throughout history in councils and creeds.

    • Bernadette

      I was going to say the same thing! Instead, I’ll just add this: if she always concedes and he always makes unilateral decisions then consensus isn’t even aimed for.

  10. Nathan

    Many of these absuive ideas intertwine and work together to create toxic situations. There are many, but the biggest four seem to be

    1. Male Patriarchy. Men are in charge, women submit
    2. Sex was created only for the pleasure of men, and women were created to serve this need, so men are entitled to it whenever they want.
    3. Complementarianism. Men are designed to do certain things, and women are designed to do other things. This was ordained by God, so if you cross the line one way or the other, you’re going against God himself.
    4. If there is any problem in the marriage, it’s always because the wife isn’t submitting enough, isn’t praying enough, or isn’t having sex often enough.

    There are many others, but if we could ever overcome these four, we’d be well on our way to a better place.

    • Nathan

      absuive = abusive

  11. Nathan

    In other news, our church continues to improve slowly. We’re doing a five week study of how the Old Testament is still relevant to today’s life. Our pastor was talking about Genesis and said “.. and then the serpent tempted Eve in the Garden (pause) and Adam as well”.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is progress!

  12. CMT

    “What is the point of warning about domination when you do nothing to stop the men who dominate and even send the women who are suffering back to the very men who are dominating them?”

    “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?“

    Anybody else see the parallel? I mean james is obviously not talking about exactly the same issue, but still.

  13. Sarah O

    Thank you for taking this on Keith. I look forward to the rest of the series.


    This is the crux of the problem to me. Sometimes, hierarchies are good – for example, parents have authority over their children, bosses have authority over their employees, etc. BUT – authority and accountability MUST run together. If women are more easily deceived, weaker, less intelligent – whatever you think the theological basis is for their lack of authority and lower position in every hierarchy, then you also have to lessen their accountability. If women are not capable of making wise decisions without input from their male counterparts, then you cannot hold them accountable for making unwise decisions.

    When a child makes a serious err, we seek out the parent to sort it out. When a company fails to perform, we call the leadership to account.

    When men mistreat women, we ask women to explain themselves. ??????

    Let’s say she IS the absolute worst. Let’s say she unbelieving, liberal, promiscuous, and has specific ill intent. If you believe in male/female hierarchy, none of her behaviors remove one iota of accountability from the man she targets. She can throw her worst and he should still be expected to conduct himself with integrity.

    But complementarian men never seem to actually get around to pairing accountability with authority.

    Could anyone link to male complementarian theologians holding a MAN accountable for HIS behavior toward A WOMAN/WOMEN? Hint: allowing him to quietly step down without saying why is NOT accountability. It looks like this: This person did SPECIFIC THING which was unequivocally WRONG (no mitigation or minimizers) and here are the INVOLUNTARY consequences WE MEN are enacting as a consequence.” Really I would be encouraged if someone could.

    Does that seem hard, or risky? What is leadership if not the hard and risky stuff?

    If a group really believes in complementarianism, it should be the MEN who are terrified to put a toe out of line. Instead its women pulling out tape measures to check their hem length.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Exactly. Because it’s not actually about logic or proper behaviour. It is merely about keeping men in control.

    • Suzanne

      Did you really list “liberal” as being the worst. Oh my, wow.

      • Sarah O

        I was defining the complementarian boogeyman, not my personal opinion. 😉

    • Tricia

      Yes all of this!!

      I also laughed about the “risky” stuff because according to the comp men the “risky” stuff we want men to do is go to church and read their Bibles. And we should have more sex to get him to do it.

      There cannot be responsibility where there is no authority. I find it very odd that men have all the authority, but women have all the responsibility.

      • Taylor

        That was my marriage–he had the authority, and I had the responsibility. So thankful to be in a different place, now.

        • Sarah O

          So happy for you Taylor. I’m sorry you had to go through that.

    • Walt Grayum

      Sarah, I agree whole-heartedly that men should be held accountable for their sinful and ugly actions. A Biblical, Christian worldview requires it. And if a man is in a place of authority, whether pastor, president, or (as complementarians believe) husband, “to whom much is given, much is required.” When someone is entrusted with responsibility and authority to fulfill that responsibility, it comes with a higher level of accountability.

      I have not experienced what you have, “But complementarian men never seem to actually get around to pairing accountability with authority.” Most complementarian men I know very definitely believe in the higher level of accountability that goes along with authority. I think we make a mistake, and shoot ourselves in the foot, when we don’t acknowledge that in or statements or writings. Definitely call out specific wrongdoing, but don’t stereotype all complementarians. It’s inaccurate, and makes our communication ineffective at best, and off-putting at worst because it slams the door on people whose beliefs need to be lovingly, and Biblically, challenged.

      • Joy

        “Believing in a higher level of accountability” and actually living that out are very different things, Walt. Attitude is not the best indicator of behavior. Past Behavior is the best indicator of behavior. These men believe in accountability in ways that even further marginalize and shame women like the Billy Graham rule and “bouncing their eyes,” that treats other women as objects and temptresses. The responsibility is put on women to “help young men be pure” and when she is married “satisfy his needs so he doesn’t stray away from her and the Lord.”

  14. Wild Honey

    Just checking, but is laziness and/or immaturity (not so much domineering immaturity but more checked-out and uninvolved immaturity) going to be touched on in the “Passivity” week of the series?

    • Wild Honey

      PS – Really interested to hear Keith’s take on all of these.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Yep, it is!

  15. Ati

    Love the diagram from the Danvers statement!! I am always suprised that the only alternative to a passive or aggressive husband is one in sacrificial leadership. What about an equal partner?! Also, it almost feels like: if you want a loving, involved husband, a wife has to allow him to lead. Quid pro quo. Men cant just love and serve without authority given to them first, they believe. Men are better than that!

    • CMT

      “ if you want a loving, involved husband, a wife has to allow him to lead. Quid pro quo. Men cant just love and serve without authority given to them first”

      Yes. It’s not “almost,” some complementarians literally say this. This is a quote from Kevin DeYoung (who is not fringe or “out there” I don’t think)

      “What school or church or city center or rural hamlet is better off when fathers no longer rule? Where communities of women and children can no longer depend upon men to protect and provide, the result is not freedom and independence… The choice is not between patriarchy and enlightened democracy, but between patriarchy and anarchy.”

      If men don’t “rule,” they won’t be dependable, won’t “protect and provide.” If men aren’t in charge, they cause “anarchy.” If men can’t win, they not only won’t play, they will wreak havoc on the whole game.

      I absolutely agree men are better than this.

      • Anonymous305

        What about the men who do rule, but don’t protect and provide? 🤦🏾‍♀️🤦🏾‍♀️🤦🏾‍♀️

      • Ati

        Wow what a quote. Thats just awful. Women cause anarchy basically 😤

  16. Jody

    I am always so confused when complimentarians speak about women in the workplace. I have heard many explain to me why it would be OK to have a women president, but it seems obvious to me from other conversations that they don’t. Complimentarianism was explained to me as just in marriage, but it really spills out all over the place. I never could get a straight answer in my church as to how it is different from paternalism. —- It’s not, how do they not see that?

    • Anonymous305

      I was raised in churches where higher education was encouraged for women, but they couldn’t lead at church or at home. So, they were only allowed to lead in secular jobs. That makes sense????

      Overall, I think that was less damaging than being told to marry at 18 and have 20 kids, but it was logically inconsistent. The more extreme version of keeping women uneducated actually follows its own logic. I’m a little embarrassed that I was over 30 before I noticed the lack of logic in my church, and even then, I needed help from the blog to see it. It’s amazing how we don’t question what feels normal.

  17. Angharad

    No, they don’t care about domineering husbands. The teaching is always that if the wife was being properly submissive, the husband would be properly leading…so her behaviour is her fault, and his behaviour is also her fault. (Which is kind of weird, since it means that someone who is designed to follow can control the behaviour of one designed to lead, but the one designed to lead apparently has no control over the behaviour of the one designed to follow…how does that work?!!!)

    Also, in many cases, complementarian leaders are not even going to know if a husband is being harsh or domineering, because his wife is likely convinced that it is all her fault and that she just needs to find a way of being more submissive for the bad treatment to stop. My grandfather physically abused my grandmother and all she felt able to do was to ask him ‘nicely’ and ‘submissively’ not to hurt her. Which never worked, because he got even more of a kick out of inflicting pain if his victim were frightened or begging for mercy. Years after his death, the leaders at his church were still telling me how blessed I was to have such a wonderful godly grandfather…shows how much they knew about the reality of marriages under their teaching.

    • Rose

      “Since it means that someone who is designed to follow can control the behaviour of one designed to lead, but the one designed to lead apparently has no control over the behaviour of the one designed to follow.”

      Oh, excellent observation. If we believe in a God who equips us to do what we were created for, then this really highlights the cognitive dissonance necessary to actually support such a worldview.

      So much of the misogyny in the church is only sustainable if one is willing to profoundly slander the character of God himself. They’d rather choose to serve themselves and dehumanize half the population for their own benefit than serve God and accept that actually He created them Man and Woman in His image.

      It doesn’t say that Adam walked in the garden and Eve had to ask him how it went later. It says they both walked together with God. At Pentecost, women weren’t excluded from receiving the Holy Spirit. There is not a single place that the literal words of God/Jesus say in scripture that we must obey other humans before Him, be they male or female. If they want intermediaries between women and Jesus we may as well all become Catholic. But I don’t pray to saints and I don’t need my husband to live as Christ commanded, doing signs and wonders, teaching, preaching, and healing, while I sit in the passenger seat thank you very much. If the Word is true than do not add or take from it and I don’t recall Jesus ever saying “except women” in his commands.

      If we’re made capable by our Creator, then it stands to reason that we are expected to use those capabilities.

      • Walt Grayum

        Rose, when you say:
        “They’d rather choose to serve themselves and dehumanize half the population for their own benefit than serve God and accept that actually He created them Man and Woman in His image.”

        This is a completely inaccurate description of most people who sincerely believe the scriptures teach complementarianism. It’s a straw man argument that does injustice to their position and SEEMS to unlovingly disrespect your brothers and sisters who see this differently than you do. Inaccurately representing the beliefs of complementarians will never help them see things differently because they can rightly say you haven’t actually addressed their beliefs.

        I would encourage you – if you haven’t already – to actually study what complementarians understand the scriptures to teach so that you can actually engage with their beliefs and at least have the potential to help them to see things differently.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          Walt, this is an insulting comment, to be honest. You’re assuming that we don’t know what complementarians teach. We have all grown up in complementarian churches (most in these comments certainly have). We can all tell you the arguments for complementarianism, because we know them backwards and forwards.

          We also were all very hurt by it, and those who hold complementarianism don’t seem to care.

          Our survey results show this too, dramatically. To insinuate that the problem is that we just don’t understand is to ignore the very real harm that is currently being done by putting men in authority over women.

        • Keith

          What they believe is much less important than what they practice. For instance, complementarians say they believe women are equal to men yet they shut them out of decision making at church and that trickles down into the home. Advice to “listen to your wives before you make the decision, men” is not equal. And too often women don’t even get THAT in complementarianism marriages.

  18. JC

    Oh Keith… You have no idea how much digging and introspection your posts have caused me to do… I was raised complimentarian, and my parents said they were (though I now realize despite whatever position they hold, they are functioning as egalitarian). I’ve had a very odd string of circumstances the last six months put me in a position to see an actual complementarian marriage play out in the day to day… I’m not going to say it’s a bad marriage, but everyone is lying to themselves. The wife is actually in charge and she is forever contorting to make somebody, not sure who, believe that he is in charge. It would be less tiring for everyone if they just got honest that she’s the driving force in the marriage. She even went so far as to tell me I should try being less direct when my husband and I disagree.

    That’s a no from me.

    Anyway, all that to say, after reading some of your older posts, and this one, I’ve come to realize I’m not much of a complementarian and I’m also in a marriage that functions fairly egalitarian. However, I have had months of theological angst over this because – was I wrong? Have I been interpreting things incorrectly? Are all these preachers I’ve had shown to me all these years as wise and learned and trustworthy theologians actually… Wrong? But how could they get this stuff wrong? Surely it’s pretty basic, right?

    I’ve been digging and digging into biblical marriage, per scripture, roles in the church, per scripture, and biblical man/womanhood, per scripture. I’m starting to realize this is something I needed to do a long time ago, but I didn’t see a reason to. They were right, right? However, between the uncomfortable stats, your arguments, and what I’m seeing in the Bible, I’m finding certain things are experiencing a shift, in other things I’m seeing my long, quietly held ideas validated, and yet others I’m now terribly confused and rather uncomfortable…

    But frankly, I’d rather be uncomfortable with the truth than comfortable with a wrong idea.

    So thank you for driving me back to Scripture with fresh eyes.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Oh, how lovely! I’m so glad you’re going on this journey towards truth and freedom!

      • Walt Grayum

        Sheila, JC’s post is exactly the kind of response we want to elicit in people, which is why I keep harping on how we talk to, and about, sincere believers who see things differently than we do. Respect for those you’re trying to reach, accurately portraying their beliefs and addressing them Biblically, and getting rid of all sarcastic, broad-brush, and even inaccurate representations of complementarians is what will help to keep the door of opportunity open. Failure to do this often results in lost opportunity to communicate.

        In my opinion.

        • Keith

          It might be easier for those of us outside complementarianism to know what the “true version” was and to represent it fairly if the extreme variants of it were policed by those inside complementarianism. Tacitus consentire videtur. “The one who is silent is seen to agree”

  19. Nathan

    What an amazing deal that is! You can do anything you want, and if you mess up, it’s somebody else’s fault.

  20. Boone

    First, I’ve never understood this evangelical need for everybody to be under somebody’’s authority. It’s a wonder we’re not all extinct since we’re so stupid that we can’t function without somebody telling us what to do.
    Second, my wife is a very smart person. She has a master’s degree in healthcare administration and has help run a several hundred bed hospital. She’s perfectly capable of taking care of herself and a host of others. She doesn’t need me making all of her decisions for her. Nor do I want to. As of last Saturday we’ve done a good job working together for thirty-four years. I told her before we married that I wasn’t interested in being the boss and that I figured that she was a highly functional adult, else we wouldn’t be getting married.
    I did have one caveat. I told her that if I ever did give an order to jump and jump quick because something real bad is fixing to happen and there’s no time to explain. I can only remember that happening a very few times early on. One involved a rattlesnake and the other a sow bear with cubs. There were two or three other times but those two stand out.

    • Bernadette

      The world would be better if more men saw their wives as competent adults, like you clearly do. And about that order to jump in an emergency… would you obey a similar order from her?

      • Boone

        I would and I have. She once kept me from getting seriously burned.
        When we got married and she moved to the farm. It was a totally new experience for her. She had grown up in a small town in MS but lived in a neighborhood. Our place backs up to the Great Smoky Mtns. Nat. Park. In fact, the govt took just over 100 acres of the original place when they created the park. Growing up where and how I did snakes, bears, wild hogs and dangerous farm equipment were just part of life. She had never been around such. She learned quickly and well. Today the only way you would know that she wasn’t raised here is she doesn’t elongate her i’s and says y’all instead of you’ns. She’s actually pretty much broken me from saying you’ns.

  21. EOF

    One thing I’ve noticed is that complementarians always have to ignore other verses. I’ve had discussions about Gal 3:28 (there is no male and female) but they have to point out that women still have to submit – you can’t use that verse to get out of it.

  22. NL

    Apparently Dennis Prager is in the news for an article he wrote stating that “Women are disproportionately hurting our country.” He bases this on his idea that women are overemotional, and not controlling their emotions in a mature way, and their emotions are ruining the country.
    I was honestly shocked. I am aware of Dennis Prager’s reputation but even for him this seemed blatantly misogynistic.

    • NL

      I forgot to add, this is pertinent because it really speaks to this whole concept of male leadership.
      I personally think there is an interesting significance in the fact that England’s few female monarchs have been some of her most successful and longest-ruling leaders. I wonder how Mr. Prager explains that.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      He is honestly getting so much worse. It’s disgusting.

    • Lisa Johns

      Dennis Prager is proving himself to be a real asshat. A couple of weeks ago he was endorsing porn as a substitute for adultery (because men are naturally created to be non-monogamous), now this. He’s another who needs to fade into oblivion.

  23. Anonymous

    For someone deprived of an education and brainwashed not to Google for answers, I imagine it falls flat when Keith cites the No True Scottsman Illogical Fallacy. And yet, even without such an education, that same person would probably want to hold Keith to that same logical standard if their child died because Keith prescribed a drug that is only fatal when “someone uses it incorrectly.”

    Education has long been a way out of poverty and oppression because it enables a person to question authority and also provide for themselves without having to rely on the current system. I may be wrong, but I think that’s why Christian missionaries have used the gift of education as a model for Jesus’s love. Sounds like IBLP goes the other way, depriving education to suppress dissent and consolidate control and the fruit of that lack of education is this inability to respond coherently to Keith’s and Sheila’s use of science and logic and this visceral backlash at the audacity of someone to question or demand accountability at all.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Love this, Anonymous! Sums it up so well: “fruit of that lack of education is this inability to respond coherently to Keith’s and Sheila’s use of science and logic and this visceral backlash at the audacity of someone to question or demand accountability at all.”

  24. Faith

    Thank you so much, Keith!

    It is so refreshing to hear a man who publicly opposes the complementarian viewpoint.
    Of course, in my opinion you cannot truly complement your spouse if you are either in authority or subjection to them.

    When you grow up in this teaching your entire life, it takes time to truly recover. Even if you yourself don’t believe it in your mind and neither does your husband, there can still be a subconscious belief that you’re in the wrong for voicing an opinion. Guilt follows.
    But at the same time, I KNOW that our marriage needs my voice, needs the accountability I provide, and needs my thought opinions too.

    If marriage is two people united as one in partnership, why would why treat it as a boss-employee relationship? (Or worse at times.)

    • Bernadette

      I wonder if complementarians are interested in complementary roles, not complementary people?

      What I mean is, if her role is to do what he tells her and his role is to tell her what to do, then those roles go hand in hand.

      But his gifts cannot complement her gifts because her gifts are not allowed to be part of the relationship. Her gifts cannot complement his, for the same reason.

  25. Donald Johnson

    Notice that the Danver’s Statement tries to claim the center position as the best. The ultimate center position is gender/sex equality, no need to divide it into a “center” position for a man and a different one for a woman. They fail once they insist on specifying things by gender.

    I think the comp marriage model can work some of the times, but it greatly depends on the Christlike maturity of the husband to NOT use the power to decide that comps claim he has. And it can fail horribly if the husband is immature, so comps own those failures, since they claim it is THE model.

  26. Terri

    Thank you, Keith, for this post. You are giving me a lot to think about. I am a “soft complimentarian” using and hearing all of those arguments you just pointed out; married to a wonderful man for 32 years. Like the commenter JC, I too have been on a journey. Been trying to make sense of this debate. I’ve only recently come across Sheila’s website and have appreciated so much of what she is teaching and sharing in her blogs, podcasts, and posts.

    There is a lot to unpack in this complimentarian/egalitarianism debate, and not being a Greek scholar, or a Christian willing to devote hours, months, and years to research, it can feel overwhelming and exhausting to believe we can actually arrive at the Truth. Both sides have their scholars. But, I believe iron sharpens iron and I’m here to learn. And I hope your posts open a conversation that welcomes civil discourse and dialog, because I have a lot of questions.

    My first question is: Is all authority bad and likely to lead to abuse, or just authority in the marriage relationship? Lots of words and phrases being used here (power dynamic, hierarchy, authority, control, responsibility, accountability) and definitions are helpful. I appreciate Sarah O legitimizing authority in Parent/Child; Employer/Employee relationships. I assume you would as well. She stated that accountability is what needs to accompany those relationships. So if compl husbands had accountability would this model be acceptable? I can’t think of any rational person who would say parents shouldn’t have authority over their children, yet so many parents are guilty of abuse. Why isn’t this a case of throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

    Also, I’m sure there’s a great deal of comp. men who advocate against abuse. We just don’t hear about them because they’re not big names, or authors with platforms. Mike Winger is a compl pastor and he was also a domestic violence counselor. He speaks out against men dominating their wives quite passionately.

    I just want to clarify. Authority and structure and order in the home are good, just not between the husband and wife? I’m not understanding what seems like a double standard to me. It’s okay and good in other relationships, just not this one because of the potential for abuse? If power dynamics in marriage are inherently dangerous, why are they not also inherently dangerous in every other type of relationship? My argument would be: they are!! We see abuse in every area where there is a power dynamic (authority), child/parent, sheep/shepherd, citizen/govt, employee/boss, airman/commander. But, to throw out the concept of authority altogether in order to eliminate the potential for abuse does not make sense. It also doesn’t make sense of Roman 13 if this is indeed what Scripture means. Thanks for considering my questions.

    • Lisa Johns

      I’ll jump in here just for a small thing: Romans 13 is clearly talking about civil authority and not household structures. Would you want your child to assess/vote about his parents the way we do with civil authorities? 😆😉
      One thing that often gets lost in the discussions about authority is that parents and children are meant to build a love/discipling relationship, which changes in structure and expression as the children grow and mature. An authority-excerciser does not have the room for love and growth that this entails.
      It’s difficult to step back from trying to control our children, because we have been taught for decades that this is our goal. But it is only when we do step back from this that our children can truly become who God created them to be, and that we can have truly loving and honoring relationships.

      • Terri

        Thanks for your response, Lisa. You’re right, Romans 13 is talking about civil authority. I was focused in on the verse, “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” Meaning, in the greater context, God has established ALL authority structures that we see: in society, government; in church, pastor/elders; in the home, husband/parents.

        And I’m not sure I understood your point about parents and children. Are you saying that if a parent exercises authority over their child, they have no room for love and growth? You don’t think it’s possible to have both? It has to be one or the other? Why couldn’t it be both/and, instead of either/or? But, yes, I totally agree we slowly need to release control/authority over our children as they grow older and let them make more of their own decisions as they move into adulthood.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          The thing is, Terri, that you’re assuming that God did set up the husband as the authority. It doesn’t actually say that at all.

          The only time in Scripture where authority in marriage is explicitly mentioned is in 1 Corinthians 7, and there authority is totally mutual and is shared.

          • Terri

            I don’t believe I’m assuming it. The plain reading of the text actually says that….Eph. 5 and 1 Cor. 11. I know this involves the debate though about the meaning of “head”, or “kephale” in Greek. Does it mean authority or source? My understanding is that all the recognized lexicons for ancient Greek give Kephale the meaning “person in authority over”. But I know you’ve had guests on your podcast discuss this at length. I will probably go back and listen to them after I finish Mike Winger’s women in ministry series part 8 addressing this very topic. Would love to listen to a debate between two scholars presenting both sides of this issue.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            The plain reading of the English text. Actually, the lexicons do NOT give that meaning for kephale. Wayne Grudem has claimed that, but Greek scholars have shown this is incorrect. Philip Payne goes to great lengths in The Bible vs. Biblical Womanhood to do so.

            But even beyond Greek–it makes no sense. 1 Corinthians 11 is NOT talking about authority but source and unity. If it was talking about authority, the order of Paul’s argument makes no sense. And the point of what he is arguing is definitely unity, in line with Jesus prayer to the Father–that we would be one, as they are one.

            You don’t even need the Greek to realize that it’s unity that Jesus wants. Just look at Matthew 20:25-28! Worrying about authority and power is not what we’re supposed to do. We’re supposed to live in submission to the Holy Spirit, in unity, following the Holy Spirit together. That’s the picture of the church–everyone using their gifts as we submit to one another and follow the Holy Spirit.

        • Bernadette

          “The authorities that exist have been established by God.” That’s just a translation. It may or may not match the original Greek. Just sayin’.

        • Lisa Johns

          I am saying that I’m not so sure we need to view the parent-child relationship as one of authority. We are called to teach our children to honor, and really, that’s not possible without modeling it. So we teach them to hear our voice, and we teach them to honor us by allowing them to see us honoring them as human beings made in the image of God. This can look very directional at times, especially when they are small; but the relationship structure should look like love, not “instant obedience or else!” (Even God allows us to question and argue with Him! Look at Moses the times when he said, “No, God, You can’t destroy your children!” I think God is so intent on us loving and being in relationship with Him that He would rather we come to Him with questions and argue than that we “obey” and keep trying to hide our misery from Him.)
          I know, THAT was different!
          But instructing/teaching and exercising authority are really two different things.

          • Terri

            Yes, I absolutely agree with that kind of loving relationship we should have with our children. We want them to come to us and feel free to ask us questions and even voice their disagreement.

            I guess I’m just having trouble with the tone around the topic or word “authority”. Like it’s a negative thing, mostly always bad. I just don’t see it that way. Certainly can be abused, but also powerfully used for good.

          • Bernadette

            Legitimate authority is good!

            Illegitimate authority is the problem. And a lot of us here think husbands do not have legitimate authority over their wives.

            Because the “authority” of a husband came from misunderstanding the Bible. Or at least, some of us, self-included, think the Bible has been misinterpreted.

    • Angharad

      Terri, I’m not an expert Bible scholar either, but I can see one big difference between the parent/child relationship and the husband/wife relationship. The child IS a child – they are too young and ignorant to know that it is not safe to play with matches or run across the road in front of a car, or that living on a diet of chocolate, crisps and lemonade and staying up till midnight is not good for their long-term health. As the child grows and matures, the parents should be exerting less authority over the child until he or she is mature enough to make their own decisions.

      A wife is already adult when she marries. And under the complementarian model, she will never be regarded as mature or developed enough to make her own decisions but be constantly under her husband’s authority.

      So I don’t think one can compare these two relationships and say that, because a child is not able to make their own decisions, neither is a wife.

      • Terri

        Angharad, thanks for your response. So, the criteria to justify authority, in your opinion, is because the one under authority (child) is young and ignorant? The wife is not young or ignorant, therefore no authority should be established.

        If I am a vice president of a company, I am expected to recognize and acknowledge the leadership and authority of the president of the company. Is that because he/she is older and more intelligent than me? If I am the same age or older and equally intelligent am I excused from recognizing the company president’s authority, or should there be no authority at all? Of course not. So, that argument doesn’t work in this case, or others. There has to be a different reason to justify the establishment of authority.

        I am under the complementarian model and my husband regards me as mature and developed enough to make my own decisions, and we come together to make decisions together that affect both of us, and yet I can still recognize him as the leader/head of our family. I think Keith’s blog post is characterizing the worst examples of complimentarians.

        • Angharad

          Within a company, people have different roles and responsibilities based (hopefully) on their individual skills and experience. And people can change roles in the company over time – for example, I know someone who was CEO of a company but who wanted to step back as they neared retirement, so they have taken a sabbatical and is now returning as a regional manager. And a vice president can become president.

          For a company structure to reflect the kind of authority seen in a complementarian marriage, we would have to have a situation where the eldest male in the company automatically became president, regardless of gifts, experience and even person desire and retained that role forever. If he started to make unwise decisions or became abusive toward his employees, they could not leave the company and he could never be replaced with a different president.

          It’s absolutely great that your husband regards you as mature enough to make decisions and discusses things with you – but in a complementarian marriage, that is only possible because HE chooses to do so. If tomorrow he were to change his mind and order you to do whatever he wanted without discussion, you would be obliged to obey or fail in your role as a complementarian wife. And I’ve seen first-hand just how abusive this can get.

          • Terri

            And within a complimentarian marriage people have different roles and responsibilities based upon their innate, God-given giftings and talents. And people can change roles in their marriage. There might be a time when the wife works and pays the bills when her husband is finishing his graduate degree, or he’s recovering from a disability. Or the husband stays home and cares for the children while the wife is working on her clinicals. My sister prefers to maintain the cars and plow the driveway and her husband prefers to cook and grill out. These are not things that define a complimentarian marriage.

            If tomorrow he “ordered” me to do anything, I would not be obliged to either obey or fail. He would not be following the clear mandates of scripture of loving your spouse and treating me with respect. He would be demonstrating a heart of pride and would be in sin. I would be obligated to go to my ‘brother’ (Matt. 18) and follow the steps. Again, what you are describing is an unbiblical example of a complementarian marriage. It’s similar to pouring bleach over apple pie then saying, “no thank you, I don’t like apple pie.”

          • Angharad

            You say that “my husband regards me as mature and developed enough to make my own decisions, and we come together to make decisions together that affect both of us, and yet I can still recognize him as the leader/head of our family” and later “If tomorrow he “ordered” me to do anything, I would not be obliged to either obey or fail. He would not be following the clear mandates of scripture of loving your spouse and treating me with respect.”

            So a wife is under her husband’s authority as long as he treats her as an equal and they make decisions together, but if he exerts his authority by making decisions and informing her of them, she is no longer obliged to follow his leadership? If you are only following your husband’s leadership as long as you are mutually deciding things, how is he leading?

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Exactly! What she’s actually describing is an egalitarian relationship. And, in fact, the majority of people who say they believe in complementarianism practice egalitarianism. They are in mutual marriages where they follow Jesus.

        • Sheila Wray Gregoire

          The thing about the vice president, Terri, is that they will not always be a vice president. They could potentially become the president, or the CEO.

          It’s not a good analogy.

          But again–nothing in Scripture says that the husband has authority over the wife.

          Many people think the word “head” means authority, but the Greek word for head that Paul chose does not. It’s more akin to unity.

          • Terri

            Angharad – Servant leaders don’t “order” their subjects, demanding tyrants do. That was the connotation of the term, so that’s why I answered as I did. I believe I still need to submit to my husband even if we disagree. And for him to be a servant leader he needs to solicit my advice and opinions. For example, it was my idea to homeschool our kids. He wasn’t keen on the idea. But I persuaded him and he agreed. If I had failed though at persuading him, I believe I would have been outside of God’s will to do it anyways or argue continuously about it. No, I don’t think I only have to follow him when we agree – how easy and nice that would be! It also has to be when we come to different conclusions and I entrust the outcome to God.

            But back to the point about authority, Moses comes to my mind. He was leader of the Israelites, he had authority, and yet the Bible said he was the most humble man. Being in a position of authority does not necessitate that that person will be a tyrant. But yes there is a great temptation I’m sure, as we all know that saying, “power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

          • Angharad

            Terri, I really understand where you are coming from – I used to believe the same – a couple should discuss things together, but if they can’t agree, the husband gets the final vote.

            But here’s the problem I see with that now. You talk about your husband seeking your views and how you make decisions together. But if, every time you can’t agree, you have to go with what the husband decides, then you are not really making decisions together at all.

            Take your example of deciding your kids’ education. You wanted to homeschool, your husband wasn’t convinced at first. After listening to the evidence in favour, he decided that he also wanted to homeschool, so you homeschooled – based on HIS decidsion. If he had decided against homeschooling, you would not be doing it, again, based on HIS decision. In both cases, your husband gets to make the decision – the only difference is whether or not you agree with that decision. When two people are ‘decision making’ together, if one person always gets the decision they want, you cannot really describe that decision-making process as ‘mutual’.

            Also, I think it leaves out the key factor in any Christian marriage – the presence of the Holy Spirit. God is never going to tell one spouse to do one thing and then tell the other spouse to do the opposite. So if one of you feels convicted about homeschooling and the other doesn’t, you should both be praying and seeking God together and asking that He will makes His will clear to BOTH of you.

          • Terri

            Angharad – I’ve heard that phrase used a lot, “the husband gets the final vote” to describe how a complimentarian marriage will work, but scripture doesn’t actually say that’s what must happen. I think we read this into the text. There is no need to automatically assume that the husband will ‘bring the hammer down’, pull out his ‘I get the final say’ card, and implement his decision. Can it happen, does it happen? Of course. But can’t a servant- leader husband in a comp marriage also choose to defer to his wife in a decision and choose to trust her judgement in a particular matter, and relinquish his decision? Yes!

            I love analogies. Should have brought this up earlier. But my husband is a commercial airline pilot. He has flown as a first officer in the right seat for over 10 years, but has now recently upgraded to captain in his jet. I see similarities between comp marriages and the pilot crew. The mission is the same for both – UNITY. So, I totally agree with what Sheila said earlier about unity in marriage. The mission for both pilots is the same, get passengers safely from point A to point B. But there is a hierarchy in the cockpit, and for good reason. A good captain though will listen to his FO, (maybe he sees something the captain doesn’t see, bad weather, flaps, etc), but in an emergency the captain makes the call.

            Sheila may point out this is a bad analogy, like the VP one, because the FO can upgrade eventually to the left seat. And I understand no analogy is perfect and falls short at some point. But, what if in marriage God designed women to permanently function as the FO, and the husband as captain? Working together as a team, same mission, practicing unity, honoring one another’s gifting? If it can work in the cockpit, why is it so hard to see how it can work in a marriage. The issue to me is not so much whether it is a Comp/Egal model of marriage, but who is being self-centered, entitled, and stubborn. Sinful behavior is an equal opportunity temptation for both men AND women.

            Per the homeschooling example, how would an egalitarian marriage handled that decision any better or different? How would they have resolved the decision if they both had different opinions? Quite similarly, I expect. And regarding your last paragraph about the presence of the Holy Spirit in marriage…Amen to that! We need more of that.

          • Angharad

            We believe that God is going to be saying the same thing to us about decisions we need to agree on jointly. So we keep praying and seeking God until we do agree.

            You mention one person needing to take a decision in an ’emergency’, but realistically, what kind of ’emergency’ is going to crop up that you both have opinions on but can’t agree? I’m struggling to think of something that really matters and that also has to be decided on the spur of the moment.

            If you are both 100% committed to following God’s will, then one person needing to defer to the other because you can’t agree should be seen as a failure (and potentially harmful, if the one being deferred to is making the wrong choice), not as a good thing – because it means at least one of you wasn’t listening to what God was telling you!

          • Angharad

            “But can’t a servant- leader husband in a comp marriage also choose to defer to his wife in a decision and choose to trust her judgement in a particular matter, and relinquish his decision? Yes!”

            It’s still the same issue though – the husband wants A and the wife wants A – they choose A. The husband wants A and the wife wants B – they choose A. The husband decides that he doesn’t think it matters whether they choose A or B, so he lets the wife choose. It doesn’t matter which way you turn it, the husband is ALWAYS the one making the choice, even if his choice is to let his wife choose.

            My husband is in ministry. Right now, we are coming to the end of our initial term in a church, so we have to decide if we stay or move on. We are praying separately and together that God will show us His will. My husband won’t choose and he won’t ‘defer’ to me either – we will keep seeking God until we are BOTH in agreement to stay or go.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            Beautiful, Angharad!

          • Terri

            Angharad – What I hear you saying then, is that submission is never required of you. Or your husband for that matter. Submission is the yielding of one’s will to another. If you both pray seeking God’s will (which I agree and highly commend) for a decision and then come to the same decision when would you ever need to submit? I believe Paul anticipated a difference in opinion otherwise what use is there for that command?

            Also, has it ever occurred to you that perhaps when we pray and ask God to speak to us and show us His will, he sometimes uses our mates? Perhaps He’s speaking His will to me through my husband? Or vice versa. But, I wish you the best and hope the Lord’s will for you and your husband’s ministry decision is made clear to you both. Blessings Sister.

          • Angharad

            Oh, totally God can speak to us through our spouses. In fact, that is how we ended up in our current church. We took a day out to pray and seek God’s will regarding a potential move to this church. I had one specific question that I was asking God during our time of silent prayer. My husband then shared something that he felt God was saying to him, which made no sense to him…but which was the answer to my question! So God spoke to me about the right choice through my husband. But that is a very different scenario from your example of a mother who is convinced homeschooling is right for her kids but who gives way to her husband on it because he doesn’t’ agree.

            I don’t believe the verses about submitting to each other are talking about giving way on important decisions such as relocating or how to educate your kids, but about not being selfish and grabby in daily life. So where a decision doesn’t really matter either way (what to have for dinner tonight, where we go on an afternoon out) we defer to each other instead of selfishly demanding our own way. Similarly in churches – I’ve seen a church split happen because of a difference of opinion over what colour carpet to put down in the church building!!! So much harm to the church’s witness and work would have been prevented if only those believers had been willing to submit to each other in love.

            (I notice you haven’t answered my question about what constitutes an ’emergency’ where the husband has to make a decision even if the wife doesn’t agree – I’d love to know what scenario you are envisaging here. )

        • Danielle

          I appreciate your thoughtful and humble way of presenting your questions because I am also trying to understand this whole concept as well. I would like to ask a question of you if possible- when you say, “I can still recognize him as the leader/head of our family.” What does that look like or mean for you? What functions result from that practically and what are the implications in your marriage that come with that statement? How does that role/title/view/however you see it as play out and distinguish itself in the marriage for you?

          • Terri

            Danielle, I would say that it is more of an internal mindset on my part, than a visible external thing. Similar to my pilot/cockpit analogy. Listening to my husband describe his flights with different captains it’s not as if the captain is constantly reminding the first officer that he’s in charge. They function as team, one mission, to safely fly the flight, they have each other’s back. But, my husband always knows that the captain has the ultimate authority, and therefore the ultimate responsibility if something goes wrong. Has he disagreed with the captain’s decisions at times, yes. Has my husband caught mistakes the captain has made and pointed them out, yes, and the captain acknowledged and appreciated it.

            So, again it’s more a mindset. It’s giving honor to that position I believe God has placed upon the husband’s shoulders. But scripture doesn’t say it’s one-sided. He is called to give honor to me as well. So, there is definitely a sense of mutuality. I think because of all the abuse that is coming out and getting exposed (which is a good thing) we’re tempted to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

    • Wild Honey

      Late to the comment game, sorry.

      Regarding authority, I’m borrowing this from Rebecca Groothuis (her book “Good News for Women”), and paraphrasing from a faulty memory. Authority should be based on things like maturity/character, experience, and skills/talents. Not on something arbitrary like gender (or race, or age, or a whole slew of other things).

      An adult parent has authority over their minor child because the adult is more mature and experienced. As the child grows in their own maturity and experience, the relationship changes, until the child (now themselves an adult) makes decisions autonomously from the parent. In some situations, the relationship will completely reverse, as Alzheimers or dementia sets in with elderly parents.

      A supervisor at work has authority over their employees because of their experience and skills and perhaps education level.

      A doctor has authority over his/her prescription pad and diagnoses because of their training and experience.

      A police officer has authority because of their character and training.

      In these examples, there are always checks-and-balances or limits. Child safety services can remove a child from an abusive home. Bad supervisors can be fired, or their employees can quit. And they only have authority over my time at work, not what I do on my own time. A doctor can be sued or disqualified by the board, the patient can leave the practice or just refuse to take the medication. My doctor cannot come into my home and literally whip me into shape. A police officer can be fired or brought to trial and prosecuted. They also cannot come uninvited into my home without probable cause and/or a warrant.

      I grant you, these are all best-case scenarios. But there are formal systems in place to deal with bad actors. They are imperfect, but they are at least functional. And where the systems are not functional, people are trying to change and improve them.

      In an egalitarian marriage relationship, authority goes back-and-forth depending on who has the most knowledge/skill/experience given a particular topic. My mom manages the day-to-day budget because she has more patience and the better algebra skills. My dad handles the investing of their retirement accounts because he has the interest (and thus does the research) and also has the better head for big-picture patterns.

      I read the first part of Tim Keller’s “Meaning of Marriage” (full disclosure, still haven’t finished it, ten years later) shortly after finishing Rebecca Groothius’s book. What struck me is that in both, their ideal husband-wife relationship looked similar, because a Keller-esque complementarian husband will ceed to his wife when he recognizes that she has more expertise in a particular area. I think this is why many complementarian marriages can function as egalitarian.

      But when a husband has total authority over all decisions and all aspects of his wife’s life AND there is no functional mechanism in place for limits or checks-and-balances, there’s a problem. Just like there would be in any of the other relationships (parent-child, boss-subordinate, etc.) mentioned above.

      In individual complementarian churches there may be mechanisms in place to identify and discourage marital abuse, but there is nothing system-wide THAT IS FUNCTIONAL. Often, it is up to the elders/pastors of a church to decide whether or not there is abuse. Yet they are generally not trained in recognizing it and, as Sheila and team frequently demonstrate when looking at the most popular and most sold resources in North American evangelicalism, are often inadvertantly taught to ENABLE abuse.

      The problem with complementarian ideas of authority in marriage is not (just) that authority exists. (Authority exists in egalitarian marriages, too, there’s just more give-and-take.) The problem is that the checks-and-balances and limits are dysfunctional.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        Very well explained!

  27. Lauralee Davis

    I’m still learning. There are a lot of terms that mean a lot of things. And I’ve never heard of Danveres. I liked Psalm 82 Initiatives definition of submition, that it was not being used in the military sense, not that one had authority over, but as a term for co-operation (language since the bible was not written in english we sometimes get it wrong). Which ministered to me. If you are not truly free from oppression you can not submit. Submission is something a free person does in yeilding their will to the other for co-operation. And yes it’s going to have to go both ways because if one person has more privilege or entitlement than the other this is abusive.

  28. Terri

    After a second read and looking up the definition of the “no true Scotsman” fallacy, I have to confess you are absolutely right, Keith, about how I would respond: “Any man who abuses his wife is not following God’s plan so you can’t make a case against male authority because some men abuse it.” Your response is to say that I am committing that logical fallacy. I agree that some Christians in my camp commit that fallacy, but I am not. I am not explaining away every instance of abuse by saying these men are not true believers; I’m explaining this abuse by saying they are in sin…..and yes, even true believers can be in sin, gross sin.

    But that would open up a whole other Christian debate that I won’t get into right now, the Lordship Salvation view vs the Free Grace view. Men like Piper, MacArthur, Paul Washer, (mostly reformed, calvinists) make the argument what “real” Christians will or will not do and that their behavior proves or disproves whether one’s faith is genuine. But there are other Christians who believe Christians can commit every type of sin that an unbeliever does. Scripture makes that obvious with King David who raped and murdered, yet was a man “after God’s own heart.”

    So, I stand by the response that proof that men abuse God’s plan of male headship in the home is NOT proof that God’s plan of male headship in the home is wrong or unbiblical. I don’t see your conclusion logically following from your reasons. You make a strong convincing case that complimentarian teachers/pastors need to do better at calling out abuse. Amen to that. But the way your argument unfolds is to show all the ways it can go wrong, and then state this then can’t be the right way.

    An analogous argument to yours would be to say that Christians shouldn’t engage in evangelism…….look at all the ways Christians do it poorly. The Crusades, the Spanish settlements, missionaries taking advantage of and abusing the natives, entitled teenagers begging for money thinking it’s a right of passage to travel to Europe for short-term missions trips. All examples of how evangelism can go wrong, so no, just follow what Paul tells us in 1 Thess 4:11, stay home, mind your own business, work with your hands, and win the respect of outsiders. Proof of how Christians have sinned is not proof that it’s wrong or sinful to evangelize.

    Lastly, when you asked, “What guidance does a husband have to know when he has slid too far toward the dominating side of the spectrum?” My answer would be 1) a strong biblical wife who speaks up and tells her husband so, 2) Godly Christian men in his Bible study who tell him so, 3) Sermons from his pastor that tell him so, 4) law enforcement if charges are filed tell him so, and most importantly 5) the conviction of the Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth and resides within every believer surrendered to Him that will tell him so.

  29. Bernadette

    Which is more likely to lead to abuse?

    Saying that he has a God-given authority over her and she has a God-given duty to practice one sided submission?

    Or calling them equal partners?

    If he has authority over her then he is not obligated to listen to her when she tells him he is wrong, like if she says he is being harsh. When you said that a wife could guide him, then you described a situation where she has temporarily stopped following him.

    • Terri

      I disagree. Servant leadership in a complementarian marriage does not excuse the husband from listening to his wife. He is called to love her and treat her with respect and seek her counsel. Acknowledging his authority does not exempt him from doing that.

      Also, I guess I don’t approach Scripture that way…asking those kind of questions. I ask, what does the text say, what does it mean, and how should we apply it?

      • Bernadette

        A passage in the Bible means one thing when you consider it in context and something else when taken out of context. Talking about literary and cultural context, here.

        Accuracy of translation matters, too.

        And the interpreted meaning also changes based on on reader bias.

        Your opinion about the Bible is like mine: an opinion. And it sounds like we disagree with each other’s interpretations.

    • Mara R

      Terri: “1) a strong biblical wife who speaks up and tells her husband so,”

      This is not allowed according to the writers of the Danvers Statement and Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

      Keith is specifically addressing the Danvers Statement. And the Writers of the Danvers Statement are allergic to strong women who speak up and tell their husbands anything.

      Piper is one of the authors for both. Here he is talking about a wife bowing and scraping before her husband that is pressuring her into gross sin. The words he gives her to use are not those of a woman who is allowed to be strong and say so. They are of a lowly servant begging a despot.


  30. Mara R

    Terri: “2) Godly Christian men in his Bible study who tell him so, ”

    This may work out in some cases. But the evidence is that, overwhelmingly, men tend to take the side of men because men understand men and know what it’s like to deal with women whom they have been taught are emotional and irrational.

    Unfortunately, the fruit wives being told to submit without also telling husbands to submit per Eph 5:21 results in things like this.


    This may be an extreme example. But it demonstrates the direction many/most men go on smaller scales. This is some pretty bad fruit that points to the fact that those in your camp don’t do a good enough job of dealing with it. You are so concerned that people believe that the Bible tells men to lead women (which it NEVER does) that women not being led by men is a way worse sin than the collateral damage done by your insistence on faulty doctrine.

    • Mara R

      The above link also addresses your point number three.

      Terri: “3) Sermons from his pastor that tell him so, ”

      But, in case you missed it, John MacArthur’s school teaches that wives must endure abuse like a missionary endures persecution. This is stated by the guy who is the head of counseling. This is how they counsel abused women.


      This is more bad fruit from the Danvers statement.
      Their worship of husband authority overrides their concern for the emotional, physical, and spiritual health of their women.

      MacArthur is not fringe like the Doug Wilson and the IBLP. He’s mainstream. And he and his school have been churning out entitled male headship worshipers FOR YEARS.

  31. Mara R

    Terri : “4) law enforcement if charges are filed tell him so, and most importantly 5) the conviction of the Holy Spirit that guides us into all truth and resides within every believer surrendered to Him that will tell him so.”

    No links for these because I’m running out of time. (lucky you.)

    4.) But wives in domestic violence situation for themselves and their children have been ordered by their churches to NOT call the police. Their are more examples out there than what you want to believe. Maybe others with have the time to link some of those.

    5,) Many churches actively teach their men and women that women are more easily deceived, therefore many men and women believe the man over the woman and the conviction of the Holy Spirit is not taken into account because of bad teaching that squelches the conviction power of the spirit.

    All the things you said should be in place whether egal or comp. But comp teaching cancels most if not all of them out.

    You can argue until you are blue in the face and the cows come home. But it doesn’t matter. The fruit is bad. The teaching is wrong. And the church is paying a high price for this hill that you are willing to die on.

    • Mara R

      Actually, that hill you are willing to die on?

      It’s actually a hill that you’ve built an altar on to Baal, the god of male headship, Or perhaps you have built it to Mars the god of war, if you are a Driscoll fan. Either way, while you may not believe in sacrificing women and children on that altar, you still worship at it. But worse, you turn a blind eye to those who do sacrifice the vulnerable.


      Ephesians 5 and like verses do not teach what you think they teach. But you are so devoted to this error that you have hardened your heart against the cries of your sisters and the reasonings of your brothers who see their pain.

      May the Holy Spirit, whom you invoked earlier, guide you into all truth and expose the fact that you are not defending truth, but a power-grabbing, false doctrine/religion.

  32. Mara R

    I came over here this morning looking for Keith’s next installment of his Danvers Statement series. Then got caught up in answering Terri’s five things that churches should be doing. And I still don’t see the next installment.

    Y’all having a holiday in Canada or something. I hope so and hope nothing bad had happened.


    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      We had a technical glitch yesterday morning that wasn’t revolved until 10 a.m., so I figured I’d wait until Tuesday! Going to put it up now!

  33. Colby W

    Excellent thoughts, Keith!

    I used to serve as a pastor in a comp/SBC/9Marks space. I used to think we were “the good complementarians” since we had women pray and serve as deacons. But our church never had a woman teach in the Sunday school hour and most definitely not from the pulpit. There were even questions about women praying on Sundays because this was “teachy.” 🤦‍♂️

    I’ve shifted to an egalitarian perspective and there’s much to learn.

    Your (biblical!) focus on mutual submission is the key takeaway for me here! It helps me not only intellectually but gives me a way to talk with others in my former complementarian “camp.”

    Can’t wait for the rest of the blog series and seeing more of this truly beautiful vision of marriage!

  34. Willow

    My wonderful pastor, who is writing a doctoral dissertation on the nature of the Trinity, frames it this way:

    The Trinity is our model. The Trinity consists of selfless, joyous, co-suffering love between the three “persons” of God who eternally are equal, co-existent, joined in mission but independent in identity. That is Christians’ model for love, and for how to live in relationship with one another.

    My translation of the Bible, for instance, words the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus at his baptism this way: God says, “This is my well-loved son, in whom I have all my joy.”

    Think of how that transforms the meaning of the sentence, vice the typical English translation of, “…in whom I am well-pleased.” Nowadays, we take that to mean that Jesus has “been a good boy.” But what God is saying at this beautiful Trinity moment is that it is a moment of overwhelming joy, to observe all the parts of God joining in moment and mission.

    This is how I think of marriage: two co-equal partners with independent identities and agency, joined joyously in purpose and mission, forever submitting to – and raising each other up – in love.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      That is beautiful!

  35. Cee

    There’s something that is coming to the surface for me in all of this. Male/husband hierarchy actually promotes emotionally lazy and/or deceptive women. No human adult is to be run by another human (think slavery) and if it happens by coercion, force, etc (which is the only way it happens), it’s terrible for the human souls involved, on all sides, it’s just that one of the sides feels it deeply more painfully.
    My warning to the women is this: if you don’t believe this messaging of male only leadership in church it is VITAL for you to leave these churches. Your voice of opposition won’t matter. We vote with our feet sometimes when they won’t hear our voice. Also, some of us may be called to start pastoring and forming new churches. Women, if we are free, then we must act like it and take our freedom, from the cross, not wait on deceived men to give it to us nicely and make room. Always putting on the cloak of humility and courage. Making love our greatest asset. But nevertheless stepping in to our gifts and callings. The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few… may we all begin to rise up with Jesus, no matter the cost.

  36. Nancy Clark

    Hi, I enjoy this site and only wish I’d had such a resource 50 years ago. I’ve been married for almost 50 years and am 72 years old. Is your course “Boost Your Libido” useful for someone my age?

  37. Norma

    As a woman who was controlled and dominated for 25 years, I cannot express enough my appreciation for godly men who speak up against this atrocity. We women can tell it all day long but no complementarian man is ever going to listen. You are dead on when you say they are not serious about addressing abuse. Every woman who comes out of an abusive situation has experienced pretty much the same issue.

  38. Kent

    I get so frustrated with how complementarianism deals with this. A small group of people say a wife should obey no matter what, even if it’s an abusive and domineering situation. Which obviously is horrible.
    But the people who say “it’s God’s perfect will for the wife to obey, but if course if the husband is abusive she can’t. After all, the husband is called to live his wife, and if he does that they obedience should be easy” in my opinion are way more damaging. Because essentially what they are teaching is that *this* is the will of God for wives and *this* is the will of God for husbands, and wives can follow God’s will if (and only if) their husband follows God first. Which then gives the husband the power to decide how much his wife is capable of following God. God gives women the power to will and to do his good pleasure for their lives (phillipians something something), not their husbands. Physical abuse takes away a person’s health and life, which is terrible. But that takes away a person’s relationship with God, which is just as horrifying in another way

  39. CMT

    Late to the conversation here, but this is such a good discussion. Kudos to everyone who is being respectful and listening to each other even when they disagree.

    I was raised to think similarly to Terri so I really feel where she is coming from. There is one point she raised that no one else seems to have responded to, about personal gifts/strengths being gendered:

    “what if in marriage God designed women to permanently function as the FO, and the husband as captain? Working together as a team, same mission, practicing unity, honoring one another’s gifting?”

    Well, what if he did? If God did lay things out this way, I would expect to find that godly women in scripture always were led by their husbands. I would expect scripture to indicate that spiritual gifts are allocated differently between genders. I would expect that social scientists would find a strong skew in personal qualities and abilities between genders, across all cultures and independent of the effects of gendered socialization. These are the kinds of things I would expect, but I don’t think there is much evidence that any of them are true.

    What if, instead, every person and couple is unique, and ultimately the blueprint we have for relationships in Christ is love, not preoccupation with roles?

  40. MaryKatheryn Freeman

    Is there a way to print a clean pdf copy of this? I am an in print reader.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I can ask Keith if we can create a pdf of all 4 together. In the meantime, other than copy and paste, I don’t think there is! I’m sorry.

  41. Mark

    I think the point that has been ignored is one of the most important. Good Christians in the 1800’s used the Bible to justify slavery. They used the same hermeneutical approach, which is to take what they believe and practice and then find scriptural justification. Just as those who think spanking is the only proper discipline ignore the hundreds of times “instruction” is mentioned in Proverbs only to focus on the two verses that seem to justify what they want to do.
    God didn’t create two universes, one in scripture and one outside of scripture. God’s scriptural instructions are not antithetical to the operation of the universe he created. If you believe that what brings joy and peace and harmony is diametrically opposed to what God desires, then something is wrong, not with God or scripture, but you. Likewise, if you believe that some practice must be on the knife edge to be correct and is otherwise horrible, then something is wrong with you, not God or scripture. Moses said it well, “For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.” If you believe that husbands command and wives submit and that it’s nearly impossible for that to be done without falling into one of the four traps, then again, perhaps it is you, not what God commands.

  42. Ally

    I found this…a bit late…but because I was googling about Christian marriage.

    What is the take here on marriage? I have always heard it taught as a covenant relationship. I get that, I really do. But to say that you can only end a marriage in the case of adultery as many of the hard complimentarians do, I think is really harsh.

    In an ideal world not marred by sin and selfish choices, where we can lovingly submit and trust one another, infidelity would clearly be so egregious as to lead to divorce in this way. But I feel like this constant highlighting of the divorce-only-for-adultery crowd leaves many Christian women trapped in abusive marriages that drain and degrade them with no recourse. Some make “abuse” a category worthy of separation but then making divorce and remarriage unbiblical. There are other forms of abuse besides physical that these types just ignore.

    I am just super uneasy about this and I was wondering what the thoughts of the site were on divorce and remarriage.

  43. MQ

    The wishy-washy mention Piper included in how he would speak to the man re: harshness is a disservice to men in that it enables men (or anyone) to excuse that harshness is the best response to the wife in the moment. Why would my husband hate it later but tell himself it’s justified each time? Seems to me it would help if he heard, “Hey, husband, I understand your flood of feelings, but remember, a hot-tempered man stirs up strife. Don’t be harsh with your wife. Do to others as you would have them do to you. You can do it through Christ who strengthens you! You are redeemed and no longer a slave to sin!” But we didn’t hear anything like this in Christian couple’s counseling.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire




  1. How the ESV was Created and a Critique of CBMW – Toxic Oasis - […] https://baremarriage.com/2023/06/danvers-statement-series-complementarian-problem-1-men-dominating-t… – part 1 of breaking down the Danvers statement by Keith Gregoire […]

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