PODCASt: 4 Ways Complementarian Marriages Can Go Wrong (Danvers Statement)

by | Jun 29, 2023 | Podcasts, Theology of Marriage and Sex | 89 comments

Danvers Statement: 4 ways complementarian marriages can go wrong
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Let’s talk about how complementarians think marriage can go wrong!

This month on the blog Keith’s been writing up a series on the Danvers Statement, the codified statement of complementarianism that launched the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and that has been adopted by SBC seminaries and many other notable institutions that are complementarian.

It’s been an awesome series. And I think you’ll enjoy hearing him summarize it here! (As well as John Piper’s horrible clip about how to say no to group sex.)

Or, as always, you can watch on YouTube:

Timeline of the Podcast

0:10 What Keith has been working on for the blog
4:00 Keith shares on how ‘The Danvers Statement’ says marriages can go wrong
10:15 Men’s error of domination
20:00 Men’s error of passivity
30:30 Women’s errors of usurping and servility
38:00 Servility: do they mean what they say?
50:45 What do they think servility is?

The Danvers Statement says marriages can go wrong in 4 ways.

The ideal, they say, is men sacrificialy leading, and women willingly submitting. But it can go wrong if men became dominating or passive; or women usurp or become servile.

Here’s how they would explain it:

Danvers Statement Complementarianism

In today’s podcast (and in Keith’s four part series) we took on each of these things! I’ve had so many notes from people asking if we could put the series in podcast form, because they’ve really enjoyed it but they want their spouse to listen in. So here you go–I think you’ll love it!

Things Mentioned in the Podcast

The Danvers Statement's 4 Ways Complementarianism can Go Wrong

What do you think? Have you enjoyed the series? What has stood out to you the most? Let’s talk in the comments!


Sheila: Welcome to episode 198 of The Bare Marriage Podcast. I’m Sheila Wray Gregoire from BareMarriage.com where we like to talk about healthy, evidence-based, biblical advice for your marriage and your sex life. I am joined today by one of my favorite people. Hi, my favorite person. My husband, Keith.

Keith: Hey, everyone.

Sheila: You haven’t been here in a while.

Keith: No.

Sheila: So this is great.

Keith: Yes, it’s nice to be back.

Sheila: Yep, but even though you haven’t been on the podcast. You have been on the blog.

Keith: Quite a bit this month.

Sheila: Yeah, which is awesome because every month on the blog—at least on the good months when I’m organized—I like to do a series where I write four or five or six posts about a specific thing so we can go in-depth. I’ve done series on direct communication, on how to get out of a rut in your sex life, on orgasm, all kinds of fun things. This month you and I have been talking a lot behind the scenes about some of the things that have really been bugging you, and you asked if you could write the series. I’m like, “Well, yeah, because then I don’t have to do as much work so that is awesome.” Boy, was it ever well received.

Keith: Yeah, I think people really liked what I was saying.

Sheila: Yeah, so you wrote your series on the Danvers statement—the four ways that it could go wrong. We’re going to get to that in a minute. But before we do as always I just want to do a special thank you to the people who help make everything that we do possible which is our patrons. They are amazing. We have quite a few hundred of them now, and we have so much fun in our Facebook group—our private Facebook group. You can join for as little as $5 a month. Some people give a lot more than that. Some people are just along for the ride, and that’s wonderful too. But their money helps support our research. It funded the research for She Deserves Better. It funds the one sheet downloads that we’ve made recently on—most recently The Power of a Praying Wife. They help support what we do, and so it’s a great place. You can join as well, and so we would love to see you. It’s at patreon.com/baremarriage, and the link is in the podcast notes. Also as we’ll be talking about in a minute, we have something new for all of you. So when we wrote The Great Sex Rescue, we said, “We just want to change the evangelical conversation about sex and marriage.” You know what? The conversation is changing. We’ve done these big books. We do this podcast, and we’re putting all this amazing information out there so that we can stop the toxic teachings. But there’s something that we can’t do which is we can’t speak into your church. We can’t talk to your spouse. We can’t talk to your mom. We can’t talk to your small group, but you can. You can join us and be part of this amazing movement to do things right and to figure out what bears good fruit and to spread that message. So we’ve created The Great Sex Rescue toolkit. It’s like a cheat sheet. It’s like a synopsis. In Canada, we’d say they’re Coles Notes. I don’t know what you say they are in the States or in the UK. But it’s like everything that we’ve found, all shortened and made with these amazingly beautiful handouts so that you can give your small group leader a handout on the problems with the all men struggle with lust message or you can give your pastor a handout on why he shouldn’t use the obligation sex message in his sermons. Then you can make an appointment to talk to him. Or we even have one sheet that just has everything that we have found, and it’s a great resource. There’s a video. If you are a church leader and you want to share with your team, there’s a video that you can watch that’s an hour long that goes over everything. It’s pay as you go. We didn’t set a price for it. It’s pay whatever you can. If you can afford it, then please be generous and help us cover our costs, but we don’t want cost to be a barrier. Check out the link to that. We’re so excited to have that ready to share with you. Okay, and part of changing the conversation about sex and marriage has been this series that you’ve written this month on the Danvers Statement. Why don’t we jump into that?

Keith: Sure.

Sheila: So tell us what the Danvers Statement is.

Keith: Yeah, so the Danvers Statement was written up in the late ’80s. It came out of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. Basically it was the whole resurgence of this idea of the man being in charge of the family being the Christian ideal and that sort of thing. It was their way of—people that believe there’s a hierarchy that God has ordained that the man be the leader and the woman submit to him and that’s a unilateral submission—that sort of mindset got codified in the Danvers Statement. The reason I picked the Danvers Statement to talk about was for two reasons. The first reason is that when we combat these ideas about hierarchy in marriage we often naturally go to the most glaring examples of how badly it goes, right? So people say, “You’re just taking it out of context,” “You’re taking the most extreme cases,” and, “Real people who believe complementarianism don’t believe that.” So I said, “Okay, well, let’s just look at what on the ground regular people believe, and this is the statement that codifies exactly what they believe.”

Sheila: Yeah, and who is it—I think most of the Southern Baptist seminaries have signed it. Many of the big organizations have signed it.

Keith: Yeah, who we often call the evangelical industrial complex.

Sheila: Yeah, Skye Jethani from Holy Post coined that I believe.

Keith: But yeah, so The Gospel Coalition, Desiring God. John Piper probably helped write it because he wrote Reclaiming Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which was part of the whole movement. So the first thing was I just wanted to take the more standard what people actually believe.

Sheila: Yeah, this is what they’re saying, “Hey, this is what we believe.”

Keith: Yeah, exactly. The second thing is because the Danvers Statement itself talks about ways that marriage can go wrong. I personally believe that if you preach that there should be a hierarchy in marriage, I can see how that would go wrong, but I was curious to see how they thought things could go wrong and talk about those. Because I think it’s extremely telling—they talk about four different errors—four different ways that things can go wrong. I think it’s really, really telling how much attention they pay to each and how they treat each of them. So that’s why I did the series as four weeks. Each week was one of the four errors that the Danvers Statement says can happen if we don’t do marriage God’s way.

Sheila: What are those four ways?

Keith: So there’s two for men, and there’s two for women because the whole thing is based upon men have to do one thing and women have to do a different thing. So men are supposed to sacrificially lead, and women are supposed to willingly submit. So a man can err by instead of sacrificially leading, he can err into domination or passivity. A woman instead of willingly submitting can err into usurpation or servility. So I took each of those in turn.

Sheila: Okay, so that’s what we’re going to do right now as well is we’re going to take each of those in turn. I want to say too what I loved about your series, and I think what people really reacted to and loved was that you weren’t doing this necessarily from a proof texting biblical standpoint. You were just looking at this logically. It’s not that we don’t believe there are biblical arguments for not seeing marriage as a hierarchy but instead seeing marriage as mutuality. It’s just we’ve covered a lot of those things on this podcast. So you can go back and listen to the podcast we did with Philip Payne about his new book The Bible vs. Biblical Womanhood. So we had two segments with him which were really strong. I love Marg Mowczko website where it’s so well laid out, and you can just look up any Bible passage. She’s written about all the Bible passages that have to do with women. You can just click on her categories. They’re all by Bible passage, and then look at everything she’s written on that passage so whether it’s 1 Corinthians 11 and headship and head coverings or 1 Corinthians 14 and women need to stay silent or 1 Timothy 2. You can look at all those passages. They’re really short read, and they’re so good. I will put a link to Philip Payne’s podcast and to Marg Mowczko, but I just wanted to do that disclaimer first because often when we talk about this stuff, people are like, “But you’re not using any Bible verses.” We have. We’ve already covered this with Bible verses. Many other people have covered this with Bible verses. We just want to look at this from just a purely like let’s just take this at face value. Let’s take this to its logical conclusion about what they’re actually saying and see how they’re dealing with this stuff.

Keith: Yeah, because despite what some people would say they say the Bible is clear because they interpret those verses a certain way. So if you say, “Well, I don’t interpret those verses that way,” then they say, “Well, you just don’t believe the Bible.” People will read the same Bible verse, and they’ll take different things away from it. So what happens is a person who believes in hierarchy reads a Bible verse and then goes, “See, see there’s hierarchy,” because they see hierarchy in it. A person who’s an egalitarian doesn’t see that. They see something different, and they say, “Well, you just don’t believe the Bible because you don’t interpret it the way I interpret it.” So it becomes an argument of who’s interpretation of the Bible is right. If we’re disagreeing about what the interpretation is, let’s look at which one makes more sense. Let’s look at which one philosophically follows through and is consistent. If your way of doing things is inconsistent, then maybe you’re not interpreting the Bible right.

Sheila: Right, and that’s what your series said. We looked at these issues from the idea of good fruit.  So what bears the best outcomes?  Definitely marriages where there’s mutuality instead of hierarchy bear the best outcomes, but now let’s just look at—let’s just take it at face value and measure the logic in what you’re saying. So that’s what you did. You took the four ones—and they see these as a spectrum which is an issue in and of itself which we will get to in a minute where the happy middle is so happy. Why would you not want to do this happy middle? But again, we’ll get to that in a minute. The first one they’re saying is men can err in domination. Your main point in that week which I will let you expand on is that if they think domination is so bad why the heck don’t they warn about it more?

Keith: Well, exactly. Why when it happens do they not respond to it? Because what I see happening is when you preach that women are supposed to be under men and they’re supposed to listen to men and do what men say and then men use that power to hurt women and you say, “Well, that’s not my fault.” To me that shows that you’re not a person I want to listen to. That’s what we see happening time and time again. The answer they say is, “Well, a person who believes like we believe would never hurt their wife because we believe that the leadership is supposed to be sacrificial.” But then any time it’s not sacrificial, it’s not their fault then because it’s just a bad person who did a bad thing.  Emerson Eggerichs says this specifically in his book, Love and Respect, because he’s a very big proponent of this idea that the man is in charge.  And he says, “An evil man is going to do what an evil man is going to do.”

Sheila: Oh, I have this passage.  Can I read this?

Keith: Oh, yeah.  Yeah.  Sure.  Sure.

Sheila: Yeah.  Okay.  Okay.  So right.

Keith: Yeah.  Let’s quote him directly.  Make sure we get it right.

Sheila: Yeah.  This is from his chapter on hierarchy.  And he says this, “Will the concept of biblical hierarchy lead to abuse?  Will a man take advantage of being head of the family by putting down and even abusing his wife and children?  Yes.  This is possible.  But because it is possible does not mean that a woman should refuse to allow her husband to be the head.  If a husband is evil willed, the abuse will happen anyway.  No matter what the family structure is.  Any hierarchical role given to him has nothing to do with the abuse.  The evil willed man always treats those around him abusively.  If a man is good willed, his wife’s respect and his hierarchical position will not cause him to abuse because that is not in his nature.”

Keith: Exactly.  And so basically any time their teaching gets used to abuse a woman, it’s not their fault.  Right?  Because well he’s not following our teaching then.  But this is what’s call the no true Scotsman fallacy.  Right?  And this is the idea it’s like—true Scotsman don’t put sugar on their oatmeal.  Oh, but Uncle Jamie is a Scotsman.  He puts sugar.  Well, he’s not a true Scotsman then.  That’s what a Scotsman—no Scotsman fallacy is.  If you exclude all the exceptions to your rule, then you can prove that your rule is unanimously true because you’ve excluded all the exceptions. 

Sheila: Yeah.  I think people’s favorite part of your article was when you showed the logical fallacy with regards to Beth Allison Barr.    

Keith: Oh, yeah.  That’s a perfect example.

Sheila: Yeah.  Do you want to tell us that?    

Keith: Well, that’s different than the no Scotsman fallacy.  But yeah.  So people are arguing against hierarchy in the Bible in a variety of different ways.  And Beth Allison Barr wrote a really great book called The Making of Biblical Womanhood.  And basically, she talks about how this idea of biblical manhood and womanhood is not actually what they say that it’s been taught by Christians through all of the centuries, and all this egalitarian is a feminist heresy that’s coming up in the recent days.  It’s not the case.  Men have, throughout history, tried to keep women down in a lot of different ways.  And it changes shape from generation to generation.  So biblical womanhood is just the latest iteration of that and that’s what she talks about in her book.  And she weaves both historical research and a lot of good academic work with her own personal experiences about being hurt by patriarchy in the church because this idea of men being in charge hurts women.  It does.  And so she talks from her personal experience how it did.  So her book gets reviewed by Kevin DeYoung on The Gospel Coalition website.

Sheila: Yeah.  I think it was in their journal. 

Keith: Oh no.  It was in the journal.

Sheila: Themelios.  I don’t even know how you say that.    

Keith: Themelios or whatever.  Yeah.  Yeah.

Sheila: Themelios.  Yeah.

Keith: And he reviews it.  And he talks about this particular section.  And I forget exactly his wording.  But it’s something along the lines of, “Perhaps her woundedness doesn’t allow her to see complementarianism in a fair light.”  So what he’s basically saying is patriarchy does not hurt women.  And any woman who says that it hurt her is just speaking out of a place of hurt caused by patriarchy.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Sheila: Well, yeah.  And if you’re hurt by patriarchy, then you don’t have the right to criticize it because you were hurt.  So the only people—

Keith: Yeah.  But if you benefit from patriarchy, you’re allowed to talk against it.  Surprisingly, very few people do that which is one of the reasons why I think that my post this week—this might have gone so well.  I’m a man.  I benefit from this system, right?  If I were to just go along with it.  And I think a lot of people have found it really refreshing to see someone who could benefit from this saying, “You know, no.  This is kind of rotten to the core, and it really needs to come down.  And you’re okay to think that way.  Women who feel like you’re being treated unfairly because yeah.  You’re being treated unfairly.  This is not right.”

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  Exactly.  No.  Exactly.  Okay.  Sorry.  To jump around a bit to get back to something else that Emerson Eggerichs said in that passage that I read.  He said that hierarchy doesn’t make men more willing to—more likely to abuse.  

Keith: Yeah.  The idea is bad men are going to abuse no matter what.  The hierarchy has nothing to do with it.  So it’s kind of like saying, “If your house is going to catch on fire, your house is going to catch on fire.  So you might as well douse it in gasoline.”  Are you kidding me?  So if you’re teaching that these teachings can be used by a bad person to do bad things and you feel no responsibility to take ownership for that that is ridiculous.  If I see two men who are in a heated dispute with each other and really, really angry, mad at each other, and I hand one of them a hammer and he bashes the other guy over the head with it, and I said, “Oh, well, it’s not my fault.  It’s a tool.  It’s not a weapon.  He was supposed to use it as a tool, not a weapon.”  Are you kidding me?  That’s no excuse.  So even if you believe God created hierarchy, if you believe that with every fiber of your being, you think that’s the truth, right?  You cannot say when someone misuses that that you can wash your hands and walk away.  That is not a Christian view.  If it can be misused, it is your role to make sure it does not get misused.  But instead any time it gets misused, they go, “Well, not my fault.”  And they walk away.  When they speak up at all—because oftentimes when this kind of idea is used and people are abused, they don’t speak up.  I talk about the Steven Crowder video.  Right?  Steven Crowder just berating his wife—

Sheila: Let’s just give some context.  So he’s a political commentator.  He is a Christian or claims Christ.

Keith: He’s not a Christian commentator per se.

Sheila: Right.  Mm-hmm.  And there was a viral video of him—I don’t know when it was.  Like 2 months ago maybe?  I wrote an article about it which I will remember to link to hopefully in the podcast news.

Keith: Yeah.  For Baptist World News.  

Sheila: Yeah.  For Baptist News.  Where his wife was 8 months pregnant with twins, and she didn’t want to give the dog medicine because she wasn’t sure if it would affect the baby.  And he was sitting there smoking a cigar berating her for not doing that and for being lazy and not respecting him.

Keith: Yeah.  And so do we see people in The Gospel Coalition quickly rising up to say, “That is wrong.  That is the sin of domination.  He shouldn’t be doing that.”  Do we see him being decried?  Do we see him being—no.  We don’t see that.  Right?  I mean do we see John MacArthur, right? Saying, “No.  That’s not what complementarianism is really about.  That’s not what sacrificial leadership looks like.”  No.  He’s too busy telling Beth Moore to go home.  I mean come on.  The double standard here.  They will—the instant a woman does something they think is slightly out of line they’ll jump all over her.  But a man does something like that, and they don’t say anything except that, “It’s not our fault because he’s not following the truth.”  It’s crazy.  It doesn’t make any sense.

Sheila: Well, and you can see that even with the SBC, Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S.  They had their annual meeting.  Gosh.  What was it?  2 weeks ago now.  And they really haven’t made headway on abuse.  They’ve given lip service to it.  But the big thing that the meeting was about was making sure that women aren’t pastors.  So even though they have this huge abuse crisis and they’ve passed the buck and they haven’t dealt with it—

Keith: Yeah.  So to me, this leads me to believe that they don’t take domination seriously.  It’s something they’re saying, but they’re not actually putting their money where their mouth is.  And so from my point of view, I know there’s a lot of disagreement on this.  I know Christians disagree with me and not all of them are egalitarian.  I think that’s—I understand that.  I respect people have the right to their own views.  But to those of you, if you are complementarian listening to this, can I suggest that maybe you spend less time criticizing people like me and more time policing your own?  Because that’s what’s—if you want people to think complementarian is a good thing, doing a little bit of housecleaning might be good.  That’s all I got to say.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because Emerson Eggerichs said it has nothing to do with hierarchy.  Abuse has nothing to do with hierarchy.  And John Piper has said that—

Keith: Yeah.  Despite the fact that all the studies do show that it does.  I mean because if you tell a person they’re supposed to be in charge of another person you can’t—and you teach that we believe people are innately sinful.  People are inherently sinful.  We’re teaching that people are inherently sinful, and we’re teaching that men should be in charge of women.  And then we go, “Surprise.  Sinful men misuse that.”  Are you kidding me?  You don’t get to do that.  If you believe those things, you need to expect it.  You need to anticipate it.  And you need to be on top of it.  And the fact that they aren’t, to me, suggests this is not really about sacrificial leadership.  It’s about keeping women under men.  End of story.  In my mind.

Sheila: Yeah.  Yeah.  That’s the aim.  Okay.  Let’s move on to number 2.  

Keith: Passivity.

Sheila: Passivity.  And I believe that your main point with passivity is that they’re not actually concerned with men being engaged people in the family.  They’re simply concerned with men not being in charge.

Keith: Yes.  This is a broken record.  As we go through each of the 4 errors, the errors are all that women need to submit.  Okay?  So even when women are being dominated by their husbands, there’s no relief for them.  They’re told submit more.  They’re told win him without words.  They’re told go back to your abuser.  Maybe get the church to help out.  Keep him accountable.  But submit anyway.  With passivity, they’re told, “That’s your fault too.”  

Sheila: Okay.  And how does that work?

Keith: Because if a man is not leading enough, it’s because he doesn’t feel supported enough by you.  And that was what the Ligon Duncan post was about.  You posted about that on a blog post a little while ago.

Sheila: Right.  Yeah.  So Ligon Duncan did—The Gospel Coalition published—put up a reel on Instagram of him talking about—and we’ll link to that reel.  Of him saying that if you want a man to do risky things, things like getting the kids ready for church—

Keith: Reading the Scriptures.

Sheila: – reading the Scripture or thinking of life from a biblical point of view, so we’re talking about the bare minimum of being a Christian.  And he’s calling these risky things.  So if you want your husband to do risky things, you need to respect him first because you don’t understand how difficult this is for men.  So it’s like all these things women are already doing.  But ladies, if you want men to do them to, then you’ve got to support him, or else he won’t do these risky, risky, risky things like just being a bare minimum Christian.  Yeah.  Mm-hmm.

Keith: Yeah.  And the thing is too—is whenever they talk about passivity they don’t really mean passivity.  Again, it’s kind of a code word.  And this is, again, just my opinion.  But I challenge you to look at it yourself and see what you think when you hear about people speaking about passive men because they’re usually talking about men not being in charge.  They’re not talking about men not pulling their weight and acting as an equal in the marriage.  They’re saying he’s not in charge.  And the whole point is not for him to stop being passive and pull his share.  The point is for him to get back into leadership and her to submit to him.

Sheila: Right.

Keith: And they even blame the women by saying, “If he felt more supported by you, he’d probably lead.”  I mean it’s ridiculous.  I mean so here’s the deal.  So they teach that men are supposed to lead and women are supposed to submit.  That’s the way that God designed us to be.  So women not wanting to submit is rebelling against that.  Okay.  All right.  I don’t believe it, but I can see where you’re going with that.  Right?  But this leadership that men are supposed to do—it’s so fragile that if a woman—even doesn’t support 100%, he can’t lead.  It’s not his fault.  He just can’t do it because she’s not supporting him.  These are the people who are supposed to be the leaders.  Are you kidding me?  What a bunch of snowflakes.  Egalitarian husbands are 10 times stronger than that.  Come on.  Pull your weight, dude.  Talk to the men about pulling up their socks.  Don’t talk to the women about how they need to support their men more.  At least be internally consistent.  If you’re supposed to lead, then lead for crying out loud.  I mean I think most women don’t want to lead.  I think most women want to partner.  And that’s what we try to be.  

Sheila: Yeah.  I think when women say, “I just want my husband to be a spiritual leader,” I don’t think they mean leader.  I think they just mean I want him to be engaged.  I want someone who is actually taking the initiative and being proactive and thinking, “Okay.  You know what?  We really should be talking to our kids more about God.  Let’s just pray after dinner.  Or let’s have some neat conversations at dinner where we share our highs and our lows.  And let’s connect with the kids.”  She’s not looking for a leader.  She just doesn’t want to have to do all this herself.

Keith: Mm-hmm.  That’s right.  And the thing is it—probably she has never been taught anything else.  It’s either he’s a leader or he’s disengaged.  Because to be honest, that’s a lot of times what happens in these circles because guess what?  When you teach that men are supposed to be in charge of women, right?  It’s going to naturally lead to domination or passivity because—this is what I said in the article.  They talk about it as a spectrum where on the one hand is domination and on the other hand is passivity.  But they’re not 2 ends of a spectrum.  They’re actually 2 sides of the same coin.  Men being in charge—I think the way I worded it in the blog post was if you preach that men are supposed to be in charge, then when women don’t let them be in charge, you should not be surprised that they rail and rant and get angry and dominate.  But neither should we be surprised when women do let them.  Then they become indolent and passive because that’s the reality of the way the human beings work.  If you teach a man he’s supposed to be an equal, that the 2 of them are supposed to work together under God, they’re supposed to each bring their gifts, their complementing personalities and insights into the marriage, and the 2 of them, under God, work together as equals to build something great, you’re going to build a great marriage.  But if you teach a man he’s supposed to be in charge and she needs to listen to him even if he doesn’t deserve that respect, how are you going to be healthy?  He’s either going to—she’s either going to respect hi, which he’s just going to go, “Oh, great.  I’m the cat’s meow.”  Or she’s not going to respect him which he’s going to say, “Hey, woman.  Emerson Eggerichs says you need to submit to me.”  You know what I mean?  It’s crazy.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because it’s not actually teaching guys to be engaged, it’s teaching guys, “Hey, you—by nature of you having a penis, you get to have what you want.”    

Keith: Yeah.  The subtle teaching is that if men can’t be in charge then they will just disengage.

Sheila: Yeah.  They’ll take their ball and go home.

Keith: Yeah.  This is what’s said all the time.  No wonder there’s so many disengaged men.  Women are not letting men be men.  Right?  So basically what that implies is that a man cannot be an equal partner.  He cannot share a relationship with a woman as an equal and see her at eye level on the same level as him and work together with her to make a good marriage.  He either has to be in charge, or he’s going to not be able to—he’s going to disengage because he either has to be in charge or not.  And I just think that is a horribly low view of men.  I think that—I’m not that kind of man.  That kind of a man, to me, is not the kind of man that anyone should aspire to.  And I think that most people understand that.  So why would you want to preach that?

Sheila: Yeah.  Well, you said too—bring back up the Steven Crowder thing.  What was so interesting about that video is that he’s demonstrating both domination and passivity in the same video.  

Keith: Yeah.  Yeah.  Because he’s not doing his part of things.   His wife is pregnant.  The dog needs medication.  Just give the dog the fricking medication, dude.  What is your problem?  Right?

Sheila: Yeah.  But instead he’s sitting there smoking a cigar yelling at her to do it.  So he’s being passive because he’s not engaged in the family, but he’s being domineering at the same time.

Keith: And this is the thing is if you call something a leader then you’ve ticked the box.  So it doesn’t matter how you act because you’re the leader as opposed to actually looking at a person’s actions and what they’re doing.  Another thing that we see a lot of times in homes that believe in hierarchy is a woman really being in charge of the house.  But they all say that dad is head of the house.  And so, therefore, we just ignore the fact that mom is really the head of the house because—but if we were to say mom is the head of the house, we would be in sin then.  So we will just say dad is the head of the house.

Sheila: And I just want to point out that the phrase head of the house is not in Scripture.

Keith: Absolutely.

Sheila: In fact, the closest that it comes in Scripture—it’s referring to women as women being managers of their own homes.  It’s in Titus, I believe.  And the phrase head of the wife, which is in 1 Corinthians 11 repeatedly especially, is not used in the Greek word that means authority or leader.  There is a Greek word for head that means authority or leader.  That is not the word that Paul chooses to use.  Instead he chooses to use a word that has more unity connotation similar to Jesus’s prayer in John 13 that they would be one.  And that’s the metaphor that he is using in the head body metaphor.  That we are one and we need each other.  And, again, Marg Mowczko is a great place to go for that as is Philip Payne.  And I’ll put links to that.  I just want to throw that in there.

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.  That’s a perfect example because people read head of the wife and they assume that it means authority.  Right?  And they don’t realize it’s an assumption.  They think that that is the Bible, and they’re not open to these other ideas.  And then they start sliding into head of the house.  Man is the head of the house.  That’s not in the Bible.  But they all think it is because of their assumptions.  Right?  So if you look at the word there, it’s kephale, which is—or kephale or kephale.  I’m not sure how you pronounce it in Greek.  But the word for the woman managing her household is oikodespotes.  It has the word despot in it.  Right?  Okay.  So there’s more of a connotation of authority in the word for the woman than for the man.  Right?  The word despot is actually in there.  

Sheila: Yeah.  Very, very funny.

Keith: I don’t think it means a woman is supposed to be a despot in her house.  The point I’m trying to say is is that if you decide that this is the way it’s supposed to be and you say you believe that but you don’t actually live it out that’s okay.  Somehow that’s okay.  And that doesn’t make sense to me.  It either has to work or it doesn’t have to work.  So people who say, “Well, I would never take it to that level.  So, therefore, don’t criticize this belief,” well, some people will take it to that level.  Right?  I had a woman arguing with me on Facebook in the post talking about how Sarah called her husband lord.  So it’s like this is not unity.  This is not about unity.  This is about submission.  Sarah called her husband lord.  Okay.  That means that you believe that all Christian women everywhere should refer to their husbands as lord.  You believe that, like Sarah, they should let their husbands sell them into a harem for an Egyptian king to save his own skin.  And we should praise him for that.  That’s what the Bible says.  So don’t tell me about these Bible verses and take them out of context like that.  Right ? You’ve got to look at the whole picture.  If it takes you down a bad pathway, don’t say, “Well, just come down the bad pathway a little bit but not so far.” Don’t go on the bad pathway. You don’t need to. There’s lots of good evidence of an egalitarian view in the Scriptures.

Sheila: Yeah, exactly. You want to turn to the women?

Keith: So the women, yeah. Men—dominating or passive. If men are dominating, women need to submit still. If they’re passive, women need to submit more.

Sheila: Right, and then women can usurp or be servile. The usurpation one people really liked this post.

Keith: Yes, they liked the Sesame Street thing.

Sheila: Yes, because why don’t you explain the Sesame Street one.

Keith: So I said somewhere in the post that—like when I see these four errors, it’s like the Sesame Street song. “One of these things is not like the other.” It comes into my head because the other three are all—

Sheila: By which you mean domination, passivity, and servility.

Keith: Yes, they’re all sort of character traits that a person can have. You can make an argument they’re bad. You shouldn’t be dominating. You shouldn’t be passive. You shouldn’t be servile. That would apply to men or women. We just recognize them as universally wrong. But usurpation is its own little category. This is actually something that is philosophically called begging the question. Now people often use the expression begging the question incorrectly. They use it to mean—prompt the question. Like, “Oh, but if you were there, then that begs the question,” and what they mean is that it prompts me to ask you. But that’s not what begs the question means. So begs the question is actually a philosophical form of circular reasoning where you use—you assert your belief and use the assertion of your belief to prove your belief. The reason this is begging the question is because usurpation can only happen if one person is usurping authority that they’re not meant to have from another person who’s meant to have it. So basically what people are saying is we believe in hierarchy between men and women, and if women err they might disrupt the hierarchy that we believe in. That’s an error that could happen that they stop believing in the hierarchy that we preach. Do you see how it’s circular? Usurpation is only a sin if you believe it’s possible to usurp. I understand that they believe that women should be under men, but you can’t use that to prove your argument. That’s called circular reasoning. So what’s the horrible sin women will go into? There’s no word they can put there because any word they put there—how would it be a sin for a woman to stand up for herself? How would it be a sin for a woman to say—to want her needs met in a relationship? How would it be a sin for a woman—these things they can’t say those things because they would so clearly obviously be a wrong thing to think of as sin so they say usurpation. You shouldn’t usurp. So women feel bad when they usurp their husbands’ authority. It’s just terrible. Again I know the vast majority of guys who believe this way are not going to mistreat their wives. They’re going to be decent guys, and they’re going to try to lead sacrificially and do that kind of stuff. But some of them are going to do—are going to expect their wives to submit in ways that are not appropriate. When you start talking about usurpation, what does that tell a woman about her place in this marriage? I mean just think about that. That is just so incredibly profound. I would never want to be in a relationship where you felt like you had to be afraid of what you said to me because you don’t want to overstep your bounds. I want you to be you. I want you to be all of you. I want you to be—I want 100% of you. I don’t want you holding back on me. To me that just sounds like holding back. I can’t imagine that.

Sheila: Yeah, what I loved too that you said in that post is that if a woman wants to be an equal partner, she is considered to be grasping for power and being selfish because she wants power. But if a man wants to have power over his wife, he’s considered righteous and good.

Keith: Yeah, I mean it’s a total double standard. It’s a total double standard.

Sheila: So a man can want power and not be grasping for power, but if a woman merely wants equality, then she’s grasping for power.

Keith: Yeah, exactly.

Sheila: If she just simply wants to—

Keith: Be treated as an equal. Yeah, exactly. So if she wants to be an equal, she’s usurping because you’re not supposed to be equal. You’re supposed to be submitting. I mean again I think most of them probably live like equals. But again, I’m a doctor. If there’s a drug that really doesn’t do anything to help you but every once in a while it really, really hurts you badly, I’m not going to give that drug to anybody. Like never. So to me you’ve got to show me that this way of looking at things is going to give some real serious benefits for the risks that you’re putting the people at. Again most of the evidence is showing that it does not bring benefits. The more you believe it, the more it hurts you. It’s just that people don’t totally put it into practice so they don’t really see how bad it is a lot of the time in my mind.

Sheila: Yeah, I am in the middle of writing an op-ed on some of the actual findings about whether or not complementarian men do better because there’s been a lot of conversation about that especially lately. This week Nancy Pearcey’s new book The Toxic War on Masculinity launched, and in it she was claiming that complementarian men do best. Josh Howerton said that last year in a viral Twitter thread. He’s an SBC mega church pastor from Texas and then also in an article for The Gospel Coalition. We already looked at how the research that he quoted from doesn’t actually say that. It in fact says the opposite. So we’re going to be writing a longer thread about that because Joanna has uncovered some amazing new data from even some more datasets showing again that we are misreading what complementarianism is in a lot of these surveys. We’re actually not measuring complementarianism, and then we’re saying, “Complementarians do better.” No, it doesn’t work that way. So I don’t know if that is going to be out at the same time this podcast is out because we’re recording this ahead of time, but in the next week it should be out. If you are part of my email list or part of the blog, you will see it so please sign up for our email list. If you just go to baremarriage.com, there’s an email signup on the very front page, and then you will see that op-ed and just everything else that I write so that’s great.

Keith: Well, the toxic masculinity thing is a perfect example, right? Because to me, there is a form of masculinity that’s toxic. But people say if you talk about toxic masculinity, you just hate men. Well, it’s like by saying that you’re telling me that you think that all masculinity is toxic. I think there’s a form of masculinity that’s toxic, and I think there’s a form of masculinity that’s not toxic. I’m against the toxic type. But if you say that by doing that I’m against all men, it means that you think all men are toxic. I disagree with you.

Sheila: Exactly.

Keith: Part of the toxicity of masculinity is this whole idea of needing to be in charge or I’m going to take my ball and go home. That’s a toxic view of masculinity. I think that a more healthy view is a Christ-like view. Jesus although being in the very form of God emptied himself and became like a servant. That to me is my example. It’s not about grasping for power. It’s not about making sure that everyone knows their place in the pecking order, making sure that I’m the head of the house. It’s about making sure that I’m serving people around me like Jesus would.

Sheila: Yeah, and it’s taking the initiative to see what needs to get done and getting it done, like helping people. Yeah, exactly. Okay, so we had domination. We had passivity. We had usurpation. Now one of my favorites—I think this is my favorite one that you wrote. It’s certainly the one that got the most buzz on social media is the idea of servility.

Keith: Yeah, saving the best for last.

Sheila: Right, and the problem if I can summarize your argument here is that they’re not actually against servility because everything that they teach how women should be is the very definition of servile.

Keith: Yeah, and I said that in the blog post. I said that by making it sound like there’s a spectrum where willing submission is the middle and the extremes are usurpation and servility, it presents them as moderates. We don’t want women to be servile. We just want them to willingly submit. But then when you look at what they actually teach in their books and in their sermons, spoiler alert–it looks like servility. It really does. At what point, does a woman abase herself so much that she’s now being servile? I don’t see a line in that. I don’t see that. I don’t know if you want to talk about the Emerson Eggerichs part that I quote him in his book where he talks about a woman who is confronting her husband who is a workaholic. He tells her how to confront him.  It’s this big long thing where she’s supposed to quietly go in and—

Sheila: Do you want to read it?

Keith: Oh, yeah, sure we can read it if you want. It’s on page 316, I think.

Sheila: Here’s what you’re supposed to say. “Your children need you at home more. You have a unique influence on him. In certain areas, nobody matters to him as much as you do. It may not appear that way to you, but your positive presence has the power to mold your kids. I know you are swamped and have little time, but I also know that you want to give him that part of you that no one else can give him. Thank you.” So here’s a woman who has a big problem with a workaholic husband, and that’s how she’s supposed. She’s allowed to say that, and then she must be silent for 10-20 days.

Keith: Yeah, and he even says, “Don’t ever let him know that what you’re really thinking is that he’s an idiot, and if he doesn’t smarten up, he’s going to ruin the whole family.” But don’t ever let him know that. It’s like that’s how bad it is, but you have to keep all that inside and say all these nice things about how you’re such a positive influence and all this stuff. Then say, “It would be really great if you could do this. Thank you.” Then it says don’t say anything again for 10-20 days.

Sheila: Yeah, and it even gives him an out. I know the reason you’re not doing this is—like it gives him the excuse.

Keith: Yeah, exactly. This is what they expect how a leader is supposed to be addressed. I’ll tell you. The people I know who are good leaders, they look for feedback. They don’t care if the feedback is good or bad because all feedback is good feedback. Yeah, don’t be disrespectful. Don’t come and yell at the guy and berate and treat him badly and stuff like that. But this is not—this is servile. I’m glad that when I’m being a dork, you call me on it just like I call you on it.

Sheila: Yeah, what’s the definition of servility again? I know you looked it up.

Keith: It’s an excessive willingness to serve or please other people. So excessive—like where’s the bar? When does it become excessive if this is what they expect? You’re not supposed to say anything again for 10 to 20 days. Then when you bring it up again, say, “Just a gentle, friendly reminder about how you’re important to us.” It’s like I am so glad that when I’m getting off-base you don’t have a problem talking to me about it. I want to hear from you.  When you’re going off-base, I’m going to tell you about it. Now we’re going to be respectful to each other. But I don’t expect you to come to me like that. I would never want to be in a relationship where a woman felt like she had to come to me like that. I mean what kind of man wants his wife to feel like that’s the way she has to act around him. She has to jump through all those hoops. She has to be so gentle on his ego. She has to make sure she says all these nice things and then doesn’t really push him too hard. This is what God’s great leader for the family? He needs to hear that otherwise he can’t lead? I mean it’s inconsistent. If you’re a leader, you shouldn’t have to be treated like that. Why do they want women to treat you like that? Because they’re not interested in making good leaders. They’re interested in keeping women subjugated to men. End of story.

Sheila: Yep. Here can I read you some other examples?

Keith: Sure, yeah. I mean these are some great things. These are Christian teachings of what submission looks like. This is not servility. This is Christian submission for the wife.

Sheila: Okay, so I want to read some clips from Martha Peace’s book, The Excellent Wife. This is a really, really dangerous book. As much as we criticize Love and Respect, this one is way worse. This book still sells incredibly well. It’s heavily promoted in some biblical counseling circles especially with the ACBC. Again biblical counseling does not mean Christians who are counselors. Biblical counseling is a specific method of counseling that says only the Bible is okay and has a very hierarchical way of looking at problems and sees everything as a failure in terms of not enough faith or sin. So they don’t really look at trauma. Now some biblical counselors are starting to, but the original biblical counselors did not. This book is very much in that line. So this is a very dangerous book. Here’s what she has to say about submission. “In considering the scope of submission, in everything (Ephesians 5:24) means in all areas of life such as finances, decorating the house, the length of her hair, what to have for supper, and discipline of the children. A wife must obey her husband unless he asks her to sin.” It’s not even about submission. It’s about obedience. They’re arguing for a woman’s obedience.

Keith: Well, that’s the natural conclusion.

Sheila: Yeah, then she goes on to say, “A wife’s responsibility is to change her perspective and view submission through God’s and her husband’s eyes.” So not just through God’s eyes but through her husband’s eyes. She’s supposed to view submission through her husband’s eyes. This is actually calling women to violate the first commandment which is you shall love no other gods before me. Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5 that there is one God and one Mediator between humanity and God. That is the man Christ Jesus. This has actually set women up to have another mediator. It’s just like the umbrellas of authority that they talked about in the docuseries Shiny Happy People that Bill Gothard wrote about. Those umbrellas by the way make no sense. Just from a logical standpoint. The biggest umbrella is Jesus which is over everything—or God. Now if you have a huge umbrella that’s over everything, why do you even need smaller umbrellas? The big umbrella is already protecting you. You have this big umbrella that’s Jesus, and under that you have the husband’s umbrella of authority.

Keith: Slightly smaller.

Sheila: Then you have the wife’s under that, and then you have the children and presumably the dog under that. Everybody has to stay in their place or else Satan can attack you, but again how is Satan supposed to attack you if you’re under the big umbrella? You don’t need any umbrella other than God.

Keith: Here’s the thing. If you’re a woman and you step out under your husband’s authority and you become a usurper, then you’re now open to satanic attack. I want people to think about the theology of this. This is what I’m talking about. People talk about the Bible verses and we don’t use the Bible. Think of the theology of what this is saying. So there’s the umbrella of God that’s covering everybody. Then there’s the umbrella of the husband. If the wife steps out from under her husband’s umbrella, she is able to be attacked by Satan. So what that’s saying is that the husband’s umbrella is effective to protect her from the attacks of Satan, but the umbrella of God is not. She steps out–the husband’s umbrella is stronger than God’s umbrella because she’s still under God’s umbrella if she steps out from under the husband’s umbrella. But she could still be attacked by Satan. Is God not sufficient? What is this saying? The theology of it is so wrong.

Sheila: Yep. She’s supposed to view submission through God’s and her husband’s eyes. “The husband is the head of the home.” Again the Bible does not say that. “The wife is submit to even very small and seemingly unimportant requests or directives from him because they are important to him unless she is providentially hindered,” so unless she gets a broken leg or something and so she gets to not have to do it, “her failure to comply is not only insubordination to her husband but disobedience to God.” So if you want me to do something really little and I decide that I don’t want to, I’m actually disobeying God.

Keith: Yeah, that’s right because I want it, and I’m your husband.

Sheila: In our marriage, you are God to me.

Keith: Well, you could definitely read it that way for sure. Definitely the way you serve God. You serve God through serving your husband. So I become an idol in a sense.

Sheila: Yeah, exactly, which again violates commandments. It’s telling women they should have idols before God because even Peter—Peter wrote in Acts 5:29 that we need to obey God.

Keith: Rather than men.

Sheila: Not men. This is how she wraps it up. “In the event that submission does not turn out well, the wife can have the comfort of knowing that she was pleasing to her Lord and whatever suffering she undergoes will be for doing what is right.” So if she suffers, if her husband hurts her or abuses her, that’s pleasing to the Lord because her obeying her husband is the same as obeying God.

Keith: So basically we’re preaching women need to be under men. A woman comes to you and says, “Pastor, my husband is not treating me well.” Let’s say it’s not abuse. Let’s just say he’s nasty, and he’s not a nice person. You say to her, “Read this book The Excellent Wife, and go back.” Then she comes back to you a year later, “I read it. I put everything in place. He’s still not nice to me. My life is still really bad.” He says, “You have the treasure of knowing you’re obeying God in heaven. Go, be warm, and well fed.” That’s exactly out of James. How can you say to a person who’s suffering, “Go and be well, knowing your reward is going to be in heaven”? That is the antithesis of a Christian response.

Sheila: What does Jeremiah say? “Woe to those who say, ‘Peace, peace, when–

Keith: “When there is no peace.” 

Sheila: “Yet you ignore the wounds of my people.”

Keith: If you believe women are supposed to be subject to men and women are getting hurt by it, and you say to them, “Well, at least you’ll have your reward in heaven,” what a copout.

Sheila: Which is what Emerson Eggerichs says every time a woman submits to a very harsh husband, and the definition of harsh if you read his description is an emotionally abusive man. He says, “A billion angels celebrate.” So again I just want to say that what Martha Peace is saying about how obeying him in the tiny things, that’s not servile. 

Keith: Yeah, exactly, because that’s the definition of submission.

Sheila: Because this is just willing submission. Remember, servility is bad. They’re telling me to do it, this can’t be servility.

Keith: Well, there’s even one in The Power of the Praying Wife where she basically says he tells her, “I want pork chops tonight.” He gets home and says, “Actually I don’t feel like pork chops. I want chicken.” The expectation is—

Sheila: In The Power of the Praying Wife which we talked about last week on the podcast—and by the way thank you so much for the—we had no idea that podcast was going to go as big as it did. We really struck a nerve. I know Sarah McDougal and Gretchen Baskerville were blown away by the response to that as well. If you haven’t listened to it, please do. It was a really important podcast about prayer and the problems with The Power of the Praying Wife, but in her book, Stormie Omartian tells the story of how—and this happened frequently apparently. Her husband would call her from work and say, “Hey, you know what I really want for dinner. I want this chicken dish.” She would go to the store. She would buy the stuff. She would prepare the chicken dish. He would walk in the door and say, “No, I’ve changed my mind. I want this instead.” She would go and prepare the other thing. She said she just had to learn to be grateful for what her husband brought to the—so again, this is not servile. This is what they would call willing submission because servility is bad and what they’re teaching you to do is even when he asks you for ridiculous things—

Keith: Yeah, when he changes his mind on the drop of a hat and does a 180, you’re supposed to adjust. That’s not servile. That’s willing submission.

Sheila: That’s not servility. So remember all of the things they are describing in these books which are outrageous, they would not describe those are servile because this is—they’re expecting women to do this which means they think this is the proper thing which means this is what they think willing submission looks like. This isn’t servility.

Keith: Exactly. Again I would say there are people out there who do believe in hierarchy don’t come back to me or Sheila now and say, “That’s not what we believe. That’s not what we believe,” when there’s people out there who are preaching that. Go talk to them, and teach them why they’re wrong and that’s not what God actually meant.

Sheila: Yeah . If you believe that this advice is wrong, then will you please tell people to stop reading Power of a Praying Wife?  Will you please tell people to stop reading The Excellent Wife?  I shouldn’t have to do it.  You should police your own.

Keith: Yeah.  Exactly.  I don’t want to belabor the point.

Sheila: Okay.  So servility.  So if servility isn’t that, what is servility?  

Keith: Yeah.  And this is the thing is every time you hear about servility being talked about—I never heard a sermon saying women are too submissive.  It’s like no.  But the one thing I’ve heard is women cannot follow their husbands into sin.  Right?

Sheila: Yeah.  So that’s what they think servility is following your husband into sin.      

Keith: And that to me is the only way that I can think.  You’re so servile that you follow your husband into sin.  And she even said that in there too.  She can’t follow him into sin.  And they get mad at women for following—for doing that.  Right?  Because  a lot of women sort of feel like they’re following their husband, and their husband kind of leads them down bad pathways.  And then they get blamed for going along.  Well, it’s like but he was taking her there.  And you told her to listen to him.  And then he took her there, and then now you’re mad at her.  That doesn’t make any sense.  I mean a lot of people who preach this stuff about how women need to submit to their husbands preach women are more easily deceived than men.  That’s one of the arguments I see.  Why can’t women be pastors?  Why does the man have to be the head of the family?  Because women are more easily deceived.  So therefore, God has instituted this situation where the husband is actually in charge because he protects her, and he takes care of her.  And she should always follow him because she’s easily deceived unless he’s trying to deceive her.  And then she should know better and not follow him.  It makes no sense.  If a woman is easily—more easily deceived, then there should be all kinds of sermons about how—okay, women, you should follow your husband.  But because you’re easily deceived, you should never, ever do this.  And you should never do that, and you should never do this.  And there should be a lot of policing going on because we should recognize that women are more easily deceived and be trying to help these poor women who God has made more easily deceived not get into trouble because God bless them.  They can’t help it.  Right?  But instead, we tell women they are more easily deceived, first of all, which is a crock.  And I don’t believe, by the way, if you didn’t get that from my sarcastic tone.  But they teach women they’re more easily deceived, but then they’re still in trouble if they were deceived and believed their husband.  That is so unfair.  That is so wrong and theologically, philosophically, metaphysically, everyway, it’s bad.  It’s just terrible.  I mean Eggerichs is another one.  So Eggerichs says—it was a sermon.  The sermons that you talked about that he didn’t—at Houston’s First Baptist.  Right?

Sheila: Mm-hmm.

Keith: He talks about how—he’s clearly mad because people have clearly said to him that—I shouldn’t say clearly.  It appears to me that he’s very angry.  

Sheila: And feeling defensive.

Keith: The assumption that I’m making is people have told him, “You’re telling women to follow their husbands into sin.”  And he gets mad because he says this whole thing.  He says, “Ananias and Sapphira.  They were both killed for their bad behavior.  Ananias first.  Then Sapphira gets brought in.  And Peter says, ‘What did you do with the money?’  And she lies to him too.  And she dies too.  And Peter doesn’t say, ‘I preach women should submit to their husbands.  You submitted to your husband.  You get a pass.’  He says, ‘No.  Because they’re boundaries.’”

Sheila: Yeah.  And he says it really loud, like really mad.  “There are boundaries.”  Yeah.

Keith: And he’s really mad.  Boundaries.  Right?  So it’s like, “Woman, you should know better.”  So it’s like, “Okay.  Woman, if you don’t submit to your husband, you’re going to hell.  But if you do submit to your husband and he leads you into sin, well, then you’re going to hell.  But if you don’t submit to your husband because you think he’s leading you into sin, but he really isn’t, then you’re going to hell.  But if you do submit to your husband and you didn’t feel right about it, you thought it was bad.  But you decided to trust his judgment because you’re easily deceived and it was sin, well, you’re still going to hell.”  It’s terrible.  It’s just so wrong.

Sheila: Yeah.  It absolutely is.  There was one example that you gave of—

Keith: Yeah.  Of servility.

Sheila: Of a man—of John Piper.  It was John Piper giving advice about not to follow your husband into sin.  And I think of everything that you wrote that’s got the most interaction on social media.  So why don’t we play that video?  So to set up the context, this is part of a longer video that has actually gone quite viral because it’s the famous one where John Piper said that women should endure abuse for a season and endure getting smacked around for a night.  And so that’s highly obviously problematic.  But that’s not actually the part of this video that we want to bring attention to.  There’s this other minute long clip where he’s talking about what if your husband is asking you to sin.  

Keith: Mm-hmm.  How do you submit in that situation?

Sheila: Yes.  And he uses the example of group sex.  So let’s just listen to this.  

John Piper: If this man, for example, is calling her to engage abusive acts willingly—group sex or something really weird, bizarre, harmful—that clearly would be sin.  Then the way she submits—and I really think this is possible.  It’s kind of paradoxical.  She’s not going to go there.  I’m saying no.  She’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove even though the husband is asking her to do it.  She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader.  God calls me to do that.  And I would love to do that.  It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership.”  Then she would say, “But if you ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t do there.”

Keith: Okay.  So first of all—

Sheila: First of all, ick.  Oh my gosh.

Keith: So tell me that’s not servile.  Right?  

Sheila: Like, “Baby, I would love to follow your leadership into bringing your secretary into our bedroom.  But I just don’t think I can.  But honey, I love you so much.”  

Keith: I just can’t.  Yeah.  And the thing is.  Listen to the way that he talks when he goes into that fake woman voice.  It’s like he’s practically crying.  “It would be so sweet to follow your leadership.”  What guy doesn’t see that as servile?  That is servile.  She’s apologizing for not wanting to do group sex.  And this person has the gall to say that he has the right to tell women how to act.  This is crazy.  This is so morally bankrupt.  It is unbelievable.  I cannot believe this has lasted.  Again, I think the vast majority of people who would call themselves complementarians would agree that is wrong.  But then they need to start stepping up and telling John Piper when he’s wrong then. 

Sheila: Yeah.  And you need to stop quoting him and using him in sermons because—I keep hearing people say he’s such a good Bible teacher.  Would a good Bible teacher ever say that?  Would a good Bible teacher tell women they need to endure abuse for a season?  

Keith: I know.  It’s crazy.  I think a lot of people are scared because they see egalitarianism and they think it’s really extreme.  They want to have a more traditional kind of life and stuff like that.  You can have a very traditional kind of household and be egalitarians.  All egalitarian means is that the husband and wife are both equally under God.  They’re not one under the other.  We’re both equally under God, and we’re striving to follow Jesus.  And if your family that’s he brings home the bacon and she fries it up on the stove, that’s fine.  But don’t say that she needs to do whatever he says or else they’re not following the Lord.  That’s crazy especially when it brings such heartache.  And when heartache does come, step up and say, “That’s never what God intended.”  Please, please.

Sheila: Yeah.  Because there is just a more beautiful way of doing this.  I think of the start of Hebrews 12, right?  “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us throw aside every weight,”—like a lot of these teachings—“and the sin which so easily entangles.  And let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us looking to Jesus, the Author and Perfector of our faith.”  It is Jesus who is the Perfector of our faith.  Both men and women.  It is Jesus that we are to be looking to.  Both men and women.  And what a beautiful picture of marriage for a husband and wife to side by side, holding hands, aiming for Jesus.  That is who we’re following.  That is who we’re allowing to lead us, and we are serving each other as we following Jesus.  How is that an unbiblical way of looking at it? 

Keith: Exactly.

Sheila: And it works better.  The studies show it works better.  Hierarchy is inherently dangerous.  It really denies women their personhood.  When you say, “Hey, you’re not supposed to bring things up.  You have to,”—basically, like what Emerson Eggerichs was describing.  “You can’t share most of what you’re feeling with your husband because that would be usurping.  That would be not respecting him.”  And I want you to know everything I’m thinking.

Keith: And I want to know what you’re thinking.

Sheila: Yeah.  

Keith: Absolutely.

Sheila: That’s how we get intimacy.  I don’t have to hide who I am to you.

Keith: Yeah.  Because it might upset me.  Right?  And I certainly don’t want you to be always—if I’m becoming a workaholic, I don’t want you to be afraid to come and talk to me about that because you have to protect me.  I want you to—iron sharpens iron.  This is what we want to do for each other.

Sheila: Yeah.  And so anyway, that’s just what we wanted to share.  I really loved your series this month.  And we will put the link—I’ll put the link to the first post in the podcast notes.  And then if you—when you scroll to the bottom after you’ve read it, there’s links to the other 3 on domination, passivity, usurpation, and servility.  Really good.  And I really pray that the evangelical church will wake up and will move towards what is really real health and wholeness as we serve Jesus together because that is a beautiful picture.  So if you want to be part of that with us, remember to check out our tool kit, which is brand new, and it’s available now.  And yeah.  We just had an amazing couple help us and design it beautifully.  It’s so cool.  So you’ll want to get your hands on those hand outs that you can give to friends, to pastors, to small group leaders, and help spread the message.  And if you like what Keith had to say, remember that he is the amazing coauthor of our book, The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex.  And we did that together.  We are about to start writing our marriage book together.

Keith: Yes.  

Sheila: Which is going to be awesome.  But The Good Guy’s Guide to Great Sex, Good Girl’s Guide to Great Sex, they make awesome bridal shower gifts.  Let’s make those the bridal shower gift so that in 10 years nobody needs The Great Sex Rescue.  Yes.  So thank you for joining us.  We have 2 more podcast coming up to end this season before we take a month off.  And they’re going to be fun.  We’ve already recorded next week’s.  Rebecca, Joanna, and I are talking about Jane Austen’s marriage advice.  So we’re all Jane Austen fans, so we go deep into Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility, Emma, Persuasion, Mansfield Park.  And I think Joanna talked about Northanger Abbey, but I’ve never been able to get through that one.  But anyway, so that’s super fun.  And then the week after that, Rebecca and I—we are having a Brio magazine pajama party where we are looking at Focus on the Family’s Brio Magazine and the advice they gave to teenage girls for so long.  So that is going to be ending this season before we being our next season in mid-August.  So keep your eye out for that.  And maybe, hon, maybe you can write another series for us sometime because this one has been awesome.

Keith: Thanks.

Sheila: All right.  Bye-bye.

Keith: Bye.

Sheila: See you soon. 

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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Sheila Wray Gregoire

Author at Bare Marriage

Sheila is determined to help Christians find biblical, healthy, evidence-based help for their marriages. And in doing so, she's turning the evangelical world on its head, challenging many of the toxic teachings, especially in her newest book The Great Sex Rescue. She’s an award-winning author of 8 books and a sought-after speaker. With her humorous, no-nonsense approach, Sheila works with her husband Keith and daughter Rebecca to create podcasts and courses to help couples find true intimacy. Plus she knits. All the time. ENTJ, straight 8

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  1. Angharad

    Thank you, Keith, for taking the time to do this series. I just love the slow, steady, methodical deconstructing of these ideas and the way you point out the hopelessly flawed logic. Hopefully, those who would never, ever listen to Sheila (because she’s one of those terrible ‘usurping’ women!!!) might be more inclined to listen to a man on this topic, and maybe even some might change their minds!

  2. Jo R

    Some people say “biblical” to mean “this is in the Bible,” and other people say “biblical” to mean “Christlike.” The problem comes when both types of people are conversing and both are using the word but they mean very different things.

    After all, slavery could be called “biblical” because it’s in the Bible, but no one (I hope 😳) would say slavery is “Christlike.” Likewise, patriarchy is in the Bible, so it’s “biblical” in that sense, but how can anyone say it’s “Christlike,” when Jesus had some pretty direct words about not lording it over one another (unless, of course, He was only referring to how MEN treat ONE ANOTHER, not how men treat women 🙄)?

    Given this conflating of very different meanings, can we please just stop using the word “biblical” altogether and instead use “Christlike”?

    In a similar way, I’d like to suggest the word “adultitarian” to describe a healthy Christlike marriage. Both the adults are pulling their weight, doing what needs to be done when it needs doing, mostly based on interests, skills, knowledge, availability, and so forth, with both adults being able to do at least a bare minimum in most areas (just as they would have to if they were single and living alone), and in emergency situations where someone has to do something right now, even if the something is not in the someone’s wheelhouse.

    A completely different word would help avoid all the confusion of the connotations that various people have with “egalitarian.”

    So the only way a wife can actually fall into servility is following her husband into sin, even though she’s not supposed to question his authority which by definition has declared what he’s suggesting isn’t sin? Um, what? 🥴

    Too bad that wife didn’t wholeheartedly and enthusiastically agree to group sex by saying “Wow, honey, group sex would be great, because it might mean I’d actually have an orgasm for once!” 😜

    • Lasta

      When I first quit porn six years ago, it involved a 90 day sexual fast — no sexual stimulation for 3 months including with my wife. I remember distinctly asking if she could buy in to that, and she said “No problem, if that’s what’s needed, I’m fine.” It was a blow to the ego. I was hoping for more reluctance on her part, “wow, that’ll be a sacrifice.” Exactly the smack in the face of truth that I needed.

      • Suzanne

        Ha well good for her not sugar coating it for your feelings! Congrats on your recovery, hopefully now that change and learning has happened it would be a sacrifice.

      • Jo R

        You were hoping she’d be sad for not having to be your church-approved porn substitute for a whole ninety days?

        I’d be telling you no sex for sixteen years, to help you understand the magnitude of what you’d been doing with your little … habit. Not as revenge, but as—what’s that phrase?—“you reap what you sow.” (The fact that that response happens to LOOK like revenge is just one of those funny coincidences of life.)

        • Lasta


          Yeah, it’s amazing what a novel idea the three month fast is to people (myself certainly included). The point isn’t to use your wife as a porn substitute, but to actually gain some level of mastery over your own sexuality. Sex with her has to become a different kind of thing altogether, not a licit (and abusive) form of the same dysfunction thing.

          Per your 16 year comment, after I got through the 90 days (first time I’d ever done something like that post puberty) and she still wasn’t throwing herself at me, I read a secular book on getting your married sex life fixed as a man. The book basically said, “become a better man, so that she wants you again” but had a lot of practical advice. Anyway, one of the things was family leadership. There was absolutely no Christian “she’s your wife so she must submit and encourage you” to lean on, just “start acting and taking initiative.” I mentioned off handedly that I might be taking on more leadership in the home, and she quite literally laughed in my face. “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

          Then, when it kept up and wasn’t just a phase, when I got home from work and was involved, saw things that needed to be done and just fucking did them, attended to the boys, kept a level head when she was pushed overboard and overwhelmed and calmed her down and helped her plot a course, etc…she got…PISSED.

          I took her on a date, she looked across the table from me and said: “You are capable of THIS, and you have me 15 years of THAT? I wan’t a refund. I want those 15 years back!”

          Thank God I had the wisdom to understand what was happening. She was giving me a backhanded compliment: “the change is real, I believe it’s here to stay, so I finally have the freedom to be angry and grieve just how bad things were. I don’t have to pretend or lie anymore.” This anger from her was the fruit of all my work. It was a gift. And I said, “I wish more than anything I could give you those years back. I want them back too. All I can do is make these next 15 so much better that the last 15 pale in comparison- if you’ll have me.”

          The wifely servile bullshit prescribed by Piper and discussed in this podcast would have let me opt out of all that. It’s like trying to have the crown without the cross, forgiveness without repentance.

          • Jo R

            She was absolutely right to be pissed.

            You finally, after fifteen years of living like a twelve-year-old boy who just found his penis, actually started ADULTING.


            That sole adult in your home had been carrying not only her own load and probably her own burdens without any help from you, but also the burden of your porn addiction and probably most of what you should have been your own load of daily life activities.

            And what’s REALLY sad in all this is that ALL the “Christian” marriage books would have backed YOU up. Probably your pastor, elder board, and men’s ministry did/would have too.

            Again, your wife was the only responsible adult in the house for fifteen years. You should count yourself lucky she didn’t drop-kick you to the curb—or remove any offensive parts of your body.

            How much longer could she have held out? How much longer would you have EXPECTED her to hold out?

            Sheesh! There are not enough bad words in the English language to convey my feelings. Good thing I’ve studied French, Russian, and Spanish too.

          • Lasta

            Gosh, “leadership” sure is a dirty word around here.

            I love being under my boss’ leadership at work. He sees that I’m equipped to thrive, keeps an eye on the big picture, listens and asks good questions, and sets direction in conversation with us. They are constantly trying to foster leadership skills in all of the team members. I try to help the guys I manage grow in leadership skills. Leadership, leadership, leadership – practically all you hear about in professional development. It’d be weird to run around and say “you’re just adulting’!”

            In evangelical circles, however, I never learned how to lead.

          • Jo R

            It’s only a dirty word when husbands—cough—USURP it to describe what they do when they finally start to do just a fraction of all that “leadership” that their poor wives have been doing all along.

            How about a work example? There are two employees, Bill and Rob, who are part of a largish team. They both sit in the meetings where the team discusses what needs to be done, and they both receive specific assignments from the boss.

            As Bill starts doing his explicitly assigned tasks of ABC, he realizes that he really ought to do GHIJ and even PQR as well, which hadn’t been explicitly assigned to anyone.

            Rob does his explicitly assigned tasks of DEF, then stops and waits for his next assignment. He never notices that GHIJ and PQR also need doing, or if he does, he decides they’re not his responsibility because they were not explicitly assigned to him. His boss never ASKED him to do those additional tasks, so he simply doesn’t do them. Or perhaps he goes to his boss after completing DEF and asks, “What should I do now?”

            Who would you prefer to work with, Bill or Rob? Sure, Rob will do the other stuff IF YOU ASK HIM, but Bill is a self-starter who keeps his eyes open for whatever ELSE needs doing to complete the project—and he just does those extra things.

            Is Bill a leader? Or just being a responsible teammate and employee?

            LOTS AND LOTS of wives are Bill, noticing and doing all the stuff, and LOTS AND LOTS of husbands are Rob, who has to be told explicitly what to do and won’t do any more unless he’s directed, or deigns to ask. And those differences are not a bug of the hierarchical, “just tell me what to do” system that make up so many marriages. They ARE the system.

            If your boss turns every employee into a “leader,” then all the employees would be equal, wouldn’t they? All equal, all working to get the group goals done. The BOSS is the director, but he’s usually not also one of the regular employees (though that is the case in some instances).

            In a marriage, why shouldn’t the spouses be equal, with the boss being JESUS?

          • Angharad

            No, we do not think that leadership is a dirty word. We just think that it is a word which should be used correctly.

            You have described three situations to show how you ‘led’: you observed tasks that needed to be done and did them, you attended to your children and you supported and encouraged your wife when she was stressed. None of these are ‘leadership’ behaviours – they are normal adult behaviours. If you are an adult, you have a responsibility to carry out tasks around the home whether you are living with a spouse, flatmate, sibling, friend or pet hamster. You provide support to family & friends when they are going through tough times. And if you are a parent, you have a responsibility to attend to your children.

            Claiming these things are ‘leadership’ is a bit like saying ‘Hey, I’m a leader – I went to work, did a grocery shop on the way home, and paid my bills when I got in.’ Basic adulting is not leadership.

          • Nessie

            “[My boss] sees that I’m equipped to thrive, keeps an eye on the big picture, listens and asks good questions, and sets direction in conversation with us.”
            Most wives I know do ALL of this and plenty more yet they are not considered “leaders” or “leading.” Most women I know are actually FAR better at those points than the men I know. It’s that most people, and it sounds like you as well, don’t ever consider that wives can “lead.” That tips it to sexist.

            “They are constantly trying to foster leadership skills in all of the team members.”
            Again, similar idea. A good boss is a leader and does try to equip those under him or her with leadership skills. And again, this is where it becomes sexist.

            I have not once seen you describe yourself trying to foster your wife’s leadership skills. For her to be equipped to do things, yes, but I think there is a fear of being weighed, measured, and been found wanting in there that should be addressed (in all men like that, not picking on you specifically.) As you pointed out to Jo R, women sure as heck better not be better than the men at how many chairs you can carry.

            If anything, it sounds like your wife was probably trying to help you adult all along but you weren’t a quick study and, just like a boss might, she gave up trying. In the business world, you’d have been looking for a new job. In a marriage, well, this is why so many women feel trapped. Because we have been told ad nauseum that we are in sin if we so much as consider the D word.

            Would you still love your job if you were told after being hired that there was no way you would ever get to advance in the workplace because you were hired as a specific position and that could never change? And if in a few years you decided that wasn’t what you wanted to keep doing, you were outta luck because you had signed a lifelong agreement to it? If you learned your boss was incompetent and sold out to other companies and treated you badly for 15 years, what do you think it would take for you to actually enjoy staying?

          • Jo R

            By your descriptions, a single man who goes to work, cleans his home, does his laundry, grocery shops, cooks, cleans the kitchen, and pays bills is a LEADER.

            Of whom, exactly?

          • Lasta

            If one of my guys at work is given a project, and he spearheads it, dealing with the client and solving problems, getting the resources he needs and fostering buy in to build a team around the effort, such that he needs minimal supervision, and such that it actually starts a new effort and opens up new opportunities, I’d say that he showed real leadership. He can be trusted with much.

            Jo’s last question about who the single guy leads is very suggestive of our entire approach with the men we work with. It’s his own passions and intellect, his instincts and desires, that he is to govern. All that has been entrusted to him by God. If he can’t govern that well, he isn’t fit to be entrusted with more.

          • TMF

            Oh good, a new Doug.

            Same ole stuff, different day.

          • Jo R

            A man who did all the adulting things while single marries a woman who did all the adulting things while single.

            Why does he get the title of “leader,” which in too many Christian circles implies that the wife is a “follower”? Why is she not not a “leader” also?

            If multiple coworkers on a team can all be leaders in a place as impersonal as a company, why can’t there be two leaders in the most intimate relationship humans can have on this planet?

          • Karen

            Lasta, there are very intelligent and patient women here who have been giving you wonderful feedback and insights over the past few days. Several of your replies have been dismissive and condescending. I hope you go back to read and reconsider what they’ve been telling you.

            I don’t think comparing a work relationship to a marriage relationship is helpful. Yes, there is usually a hierarchy at work, but there shouldn’t be in a marriage.

            I have a simple yes or no question for you. Can you accept that your wife is an equal partner in your marriage who doesn’t need you to “lead” her?

          • JoB

            Yikes. I’m glad you didn’t continue in the path you were on. But did you consider what would be justice to fit the crime: if you had 15 years of irresponsibility, selfishness, addiction and infidelity, what if she got a free pass for the same stuff for the next 15 years? (You’d have to have a couple of new babies for you to take care of to make it an equivalent experience.) What if you were the one carrying the load for the next 15 years? Parenting solo? The one getting hurt over and over by infidelity? The one feeling your love and attraction die a slow death as you saw her choosing her addiction over you? The one being neglected and put upon? For 15 years. Would that scenario give you pause?

            it sounds like you finally rose to your wife’s level. She sounds like she’s still responsible, involved and engaged- just not hyperactively so. She’s a woman with a partner now, she’s no longer a single mom. You became partners- in a partnership, people often take turns leading. Partners do strive to encourage and develop the best in each other. But the responsibility, support, fidelity and mutual care should be constants for both. And decision making should be mutual. Maybe you agree with all of that?

          • Lasta

            Karen, I can answer yes, though if we say “need” there’s also an implied “need for what?” I don’t believe any of that nonsense in the podcast about her being open to the devil outside my umbrella or being particularly easily deceived without me explaining things to her. But she might “need” me stepping up in the way I have to be as happy and fulfilled and peaceful as she has become. That was my judgement anyway, which was why I changed how I did things.

            I was asked if I appreciate her leadership and want to see her improve. Absolutely. But certainly the balance is more and more needing me to take more responsibility and not less. I celebrate her dedication to high heaven, but she still wants help more than praise. I have to be careful to walk the line well when I see ways she could lead better (like in enforcing her words to the boys and not setting the precedent of being ignored), to not stoke up old resentments.

            Several have mentioned the justice I deserve for those 15 years. Neither of us really see it that way, but as far as the road to healing, there was an element of reversing old roles. My wife said a year or two in to this journey that, “you pulling yourself together is gonna result in me falling apart.” She meant that she’d been holding things together for so long, and now she simply had to collapse. And so she did. She got depressed, and relied on me to get up before her and get things done for the kids. Rather than me dumping all my emotions on her and expecting her to help me sort them out (something I did for years and years thinking it was “intimate” when it was actually childish and even abusive), she would lash out or get unhinged, and I needed to be patient and curious and help her work through it or give her the space she needed. Later on, she asked for another long sexual fast, because she really needed to feel fully free to know that she could say no, and I would be OK and not be resentful or moody, but also to start to feel her own longing and connect to God’s love for her. During this time I wrote a “magnum opus” where I dug deep into my own sexual idolatry, putting the longings of my soul on things that were only meant to point the way, and cast a new vision for how to channel my life’s passion and desires.

            There is a lot of discomfort in the word “leadership” here. I’m happy to find a new word, but it’s important that I use a word that resonates with what has actually helped. What do you call it when a boy starts finally learning what it means to be a man to a woman? What do you call it when you take your wife on a date on your 20th anniversary on the streets of Florence, surveying the restaurant you’ve chosen, finding a place for her and pulling out the chair for her because you want to give her a good experience? And afterward how you hold yourself tall as you walk down the street, plotting a course to make it a great time, walking on the side of the street to take any potential danger on yourself, and holding her just a little tighter around the waist as a seedy character passes by? Her response isn’t to give me a high five and say “great job on the equal partnership, fellow adult!” but to look up adoringly and say, “thank you for making me feel taken care of.”

            She didn’t want me to affirm her self-actualization campaign. She wanted to feel taken care of. And I’ve done that, and aspire to do it better and better. And now, instead of wanting those 15 years back, or needing to fall apart, she looks at me getting up before her to get in a workout and put on some tea for us, and says “I’m so thankful for you.” She hears a friend at church whose husband isn’t checked in, and who is at the end of her rope, after suggesting they and some friends take four days away together, reply “you mean four YEARS!”…she hears that, and tells me, “you know, I don’t feel that way now. I don’t want to be away from you or the boys anymore.”

            What are you to do when your anger and pain at the church for having 25 years of an addiction that the church condemns, but with no good guidance on how to quit? What do you do when the church tries to protect the role of leader for men, but doesn’t teach boys how to become reliable men? And then you finally find the path, get coached by someone who knows what they are doing, who looks at the science behind both porn addiction and masculinity instead of weaving well-meaning poetry around Bible verses, and you get clean? And then actually become a man, and realize that the “privileges” around manhood in conservative churches actually keep men infantile while pathologizing the virtues of manhood? You get pretty angry at the church.

            And then your pastor says, “how about you do something about it, rather than bitching about it?” And then you find your story gets repeated in the lives of others. Men whose marriages are on the brink of divorce, men much older than you who thought they were well past hope, men who are younger than you and are just being married, all of them have the same transformation that you had. And the women in their lives eventually feel that same joy that your wife feels, though the younger brides get spared those years of pain. And years go by, and you see these men become leaders to other men. And the same coach that helped change your life hires you to lead classes online, and you see this story being repeated in them.

            What do you call increasing circles of impact and love and work, where your past pain and sin becomes power to bless, where others feel cared for and changed, who learn from you and then give to others? Give me a word. I’d like to communicate better about this, because I’d like to think y’all could see that what I’m doing actually isn’t the same old shit that has wounded you, but is actually doing the opposite.

          • Angharad

            “There is a lot of discomfort in the word “leadership” here. I’m happy to find a new word, but it’s important that I use a word that resonates with what has actually helped. ”

            Why not use a phrase like ‘behaving like an adult’ or ‘playing an active part in the marriage’.

            Yet again, all the examples you are giving of your ‘leadership’ are nothing of the kind. You describe selecting a restaurant for a date as ‘leadership’. On that basis, I ‘led’ both my parents when I organised special meals for their significant birthdays. ‘Holding yourself tall’ as you walk down the street is just good posture. Plotting a course for your walk is basic navigation (and if that’s ‘leadership’, then I’m ‘leading’ my husband pretty much every time we go out, because he is a hopeless navigator). I could go on.

            You’ve mentioned repeatedly how your wife looks at you adoringly for these things – well, that’s great. After 15 years with an overgrown schoolboy, I’m not surprised she’s loving being around an adult for a change. But this is not leadership – it’s just being a normal, grownup human being who has (finally) realised that more than one person needs to put effort into a marriage if it’s to work.

            Please stop patronising us by telling us we have difficulty with the word leadership – WE are not the ones who don’t understand the meaning of the word.

          • Bernadette

            Lasta, you used the phrase “stepping up” like it means leadership.

            Did you step up by showing her what to do? That would be leading.

            But from your comments it sounds to me like you stepped up by doing your fair share of the work. That’s not leadership.

            Several times you’ve claimed that you and your wife’s relationship improved because you are now leading. But based on your own descriptions you didn’t lead, you started acting like an adult.

            Near the end of your comment you describe things that are not leadership while insinuating they are leadership. Addressing all of them would take too long.

            Here’s one I will address. You said that your wife wanted to feel taken care of?

            You do realize that she’d been taking care of you for 15 years? How come it’s leadership when you do it but not when she does?

            And even if being taken care of was the same as following someone, why should one spouse be designated as the one who needs to be taken care of because of gender?

            What if her gender isn’t the issue, it’s that she’s exhausted from taking care of you?

            And once she’s recovered the workload will be distributed more evenly?

            By the way, if you want us to stop correcting your misuse of the word “leadership” you can just use the word properly. Or make a good faith argument trying to convince us that you have been using it properly. Don’t presume that if we disagree with your (mis)use of the term it means we dislike the term itself.

          • Jo R

            JoB said, “it sounds like you finally rose to your wife’s level.”

            Angharad said, “But this is not leadership – it’s just being a normal, grownup human being who has (finally) realised that more than one person needs to put effort into a marriage if it’s to work.”

            Bernadette said, “How come it’s leadership when you do it but not when she does?”

            Ladies, I think you dropped something. 🎤 🎤 🎤

          • TMF

            Lasta, your recovery journey concerns me. I have been in recovery from sex and porn addiction for over a decade. We call the people leading others Trusted Servants. Yes, servant. We tell the ego to get out of the way. I have yet to see anybody who acts like you make it to year 9. There are so few people with solid time around recovery to help people because their lack of humility washes them out. It may take weeks, sometimes years, but I have yet to see somebody without true humility, seeing themselves as a servant, do well over a long period of time. I have met hundreds of people in my time in recovery and have seen a lot of people act like you–Thinking they have all the answers, that other people are doing well in recovery because of them. They don’t do well long term and then they crash and burn dramatically not quietly.

            Insisting that everything you do is leadership is a lack of humility. Talking down to women is a lack of humility. Dismissing peoples’ experiences and also solid research done by Sheila is lack of humility. That is not true recovery, it is your addict fooling you. Puffing yourself up to make yourself feel better about your actions is a lack of humility. Real recovery speaks for itself, it doesn’t insist on being in charge. I truly hope you get a grip on this and don’t crash and burn and ruin your life as I have seen so many others do.

          • JoB

            Lasta, I appreciate you sharing so much of your story. I think what is muddying the waters a bit is that with your healing, many relationships in your life changed: with God, with yourself, with your wife, with your kids, with your faith community, with other men. It seems to me that where you really took leadership is in yourself— that you made changes with God’s help that developed the fruit of self control. Your wounds, addiction and sin were no longer exercising leadership in your life – you gained self control over them, were no longer enslaved to them, and could say no to them. You are now truly leading yourself.

            Regarding your relationship with your wife, maybe this analogy would help you understand some of the pushback you are getting here: let’s say you have a male childhood friend, or a brother or cousin. You have affection and loyalty for him, but he grows into an irresponsible adult. If you do something together, you have to initiate and plan everything. You always pick up the check, it’s never shared. You buy and organize all the equipment for camping trips. He frequently fails to show up when you make plans. He calls you up to vent whenever he feels like it, or has no problem monopolizing the conversation, but if you need to talk, you notice him scrolling his phone instead of listening. He’s moody and pouty if things don’t go his way, or if you can pick up more chairs than him 😜 In short, the relationship is completely one sided. You still care for him, but he’s a crap friend.

            One day he comes to you and acknowledges how one sided the relationship has been and tells you that he’s going to make changes. He’s going to try to be a real friend, one who gives as well as receives. Since you consistently picked up the check for 15 years, he wants to pick it up himself for a while, rather than just splitting it. He wants to do other things to make up for your one sided relationship.

            Is it fair to say that you might feel annoyed, or patronized, if he characterized this change as him “becoming a leader in your friendship”? When he’s really just trying to be the kind of friend that you have been to him. And if he’s doing extra things to make amends, it’s only fair?

            A husband and wife should be friends as well as partners.

          • Lasta

            I think my question here for everyone is: how would you characterize a sense of vocation, where you are responsible for the wellbeing of someone else, where you are accountable to God for their flourishing? I used the word “leadership” for that, but I think that has not been a helpful characterization here. Is there a better word for that?

          • TMF

            That is parenting.

          • Angharad

            “how would you characterize a sense of vocation, where you are responsible for the wellbeing of someone else, where you are accountable to God for their flourishing?”

            But you are not responsible for another person’s wellbeing, nor are you accountable to God for their flourishing. (With the obvious exceptions of caring for someone who is too young or disabled to care for themselves)

            Yes, you are responsible for how you interact with other people, and you are accountable to God for how you behave to others – but that is about YOUR behaviour, not theirs.

            If you disagree with me, then please provide just ONE Bible reference that justifies your position.

          • Jo R

            “how would you characterize a sense of vocation, where you are responsible for the wellbeing of someone else, where you are accountable to God for their flourishing?”

            I think you’re conflating things that don’t always go hand in hand.

            Your phrasing makes it sound like the actions of other people, people who have free will of their own, can be completely controlled by you (“responsible for the well-being” and “accountable … for their flourishing”).

            Unless you’re talking about very young children, or possibly elderly parents who are no longer self-sufficient, then AT BEST you can only influence. You can’t force well-being or flourishing. You can guide, you can suggest, but those outcomes you mention depend too much on the free actions and choices of the people in question.

            What vocations directly work for people’s well-being and flourishing? Medical professionals, teachers, and coaches come to mind. People who work quite directly with others.

            Does the average office worker affect or even think of people’s well-being and flourishing? What about a landscaper? Or a plumber? Or any of a hundred other jobs that at best only indirectly affect others?

            Not saying that plumbers don’t help people flourish, but that’s not the focus of their vocation.

            Again, you seem to be trying to do more than is really humanly possible, even with God’s calling and help. Really, your idea seems to involve a bit—or a lot—of some self-perceived grandiosity.

            Why do you think such important issues fall so directly and solely on YOUR shoulders?

          • Nessie

            Taking initiative.
            Behaving in a healthy, adult way.
            Growing up.
            Getting your head outta your backside.

            But thank you for finally admitting that your wife can be a leader, too- although: 1. she was adulting for two, and 2. you still come across as though you think you are better at it simply for being male and thus use it more loosely and broadly.

          • exwifeofasexaddict

            TMF said: “Insisting that everything you do is leadership is a lack of humility. Talking down to women is a lack of humility. Dismissing peoples’ experiences and also solid research done by Sheila is lack of humility. That is not true recovery, it is your addict fooling you. Puffing yourself up to make yourself feel better about your actions is a lack of humility. Real recovery speaks for itself, it doesn’t insist on being in charge. I truly hope you get a grip on this and don’t crash and burn and ruin your life as I have seen so many others do.” This is Fire! The entire comment is fire, but especially this part.

            As my moniker shows, my ex never got to this point. He crashed and burned. He couldn’t handle me setting limits and boundaries. He couldn’t handle me failing to meet his ideal. His Pure Desire curriculum was telling him to start leading, when he hadn’t even started leading himself, let alone earned the right to lead me.

            Lasta, please listen. The women here have been through hell at the hands of men. And you say some things that sound really good, like realizing your wife had a right to be mad at you. But then you won’t listen to the women telling you that the behaviors you started are just adulthood, not leading. That you see them as leading when you do it but not when she does it. You say we have a problem with the word leadership and you would be happy to find another. But we have offered another…. adulting…. and you have ignored that. Please, please keep listening.

          • JoB

            Maybe what you are trying to describe is “loving another as yourself.” Other positive words might be being supportive, cherishing, encouraging, sharing wisdom and truth with love and and a humble heart. I guess I see that kind of a relationship between Sheila and Keith; they support each other in their shared and individual endeavors. They defend and encourage each other. They work as a team.

            On the flip side, Some negative connotations to what you described could be paternalism, being patronizing or condescending.

          • Lasta

            Ex, I am happy to listen. I’m so sorry that your husband betrayed and failed you. Not that it matters, but I was not at all impressed with the Pure Desire curriculum, or any Christian curriculum for this issue. There is some truly horrible advice given in this sphere. Trying to lead you when he can’t even lead himself sounds galling and terrible, adding insult to injury, for all the ways that JoB describes. The thing I try to impress on every man who wants to “do it for her,” is that the best thing you can possibly do for her is get your own house in order. You are no use to anyone if you can’t lead yourself.

            It seems like a lot of the women here have been so abused and betrayed by men, that the very thought of trusting a man with “benign” power is sickening. Jo R used the metaphor of a steel fist in a velvet glove. It makes sense that if I had been suckered in with generous sounding words and then trapped and exploited by my trust, I’d go far out of my way to not get my hand burned again.

            I do like to use the word “manhood,” which is just the male version of “adulthood”. I don’t want to presume upon you or your pain. But if you are willing, where specifically did your husband fail in terms of adulting, even though presumably he was “trying” some sort of recovery? And when he tried to “lead”, what did that look like, and what was the worst thing about it?

          • Jo R


            If you are going to continue to insist that male adulthood is different from female adulthood, we are going to need lists of traits and characteristics of each.

            How many times do we have to ask you this? You clearly are SO SURE they’re different from plain old ordinary generic adulthood because you keep mentioning it, so we 👏 need 👏 to 👏 see 👏 those 👏 specifics.

            The fact that you keep ignoring this question is not helping you AT ALL.

          • Lasta

            Why do you need a list of characteristics? I certainly don’t have one in my back pocket. I’ve said what I think the core dynamic between the sexes is (man prove / woman trust), and where it comes from, and you were offended by it, weren’t you? I’m sorry for that, but I’m afraid I haven’t changed my view. Can we agree to disagree?

          • Lasta

            BTW, I’d like to say this more generally. I didn’t come here to find healing or to have my mental or spiritual health diagnosed. That would be a foolish use of a blog comments thread. I came here out of curiosity to see someone who was deeply sympathetic and intrigued by Sheila’s work, who agrees with her about these toxic teachings, and yet also still sees some leadership vocation for men in marriage could be seen as an ally rather than an enemy.

          • Sheila Wray Gregoire

            I understand that, Lasta, and I’m so glad that so much has resonated! I do think that you may want to rethink your definition of leader, and I think that this point has been made several times by many people quite well. I hope you and your wife can experience true intimacy and an amazing relationship, and it sounds like you’re much closer to that than you used to be, which is wonderful!

          • Angharad

            Lasta, when you first commented on this blog, you claimed to be open minded and willing to learn and engage in discussion. For my part, I was willing to believe you unless the evidence proved otherwise.

            I’ve been watching your comments since, and I’ve noticed something about them. You respond eagerly to any comment praising you for the changes you’ve made in your life. You also respond directly to anyone who asks questions in a ‘wow, this sounds really wonderful, please tell me more!’ way. However, you ignore or dismiss any comments which raise questions about how your belief system matches up with the Bible or with the real world and which ask for specific answers.

            You have repeatedly referred to ‘male and female’ virtues and characteristics, yet every time you are asked for a list of these, you refuse to provide one.

            You have repeatedly claimed you have shown ‘leadership’ when what you are talking about is basic adulting. And when we point this out to you, you either brush us off or tell us that we are traumatised by the word ‘leadership’ because of bad experiences. When we ask you for Bible references to back up your claims, you also ignore us.

            One of your early comments referred to the fact that most of those were responding to you were women. Do you know why that is? It is because most of your comments involve sweeping statements about ‘what women want’ or ‘what women are like’. Most of the male commenters on this blog have the grace and wisdom to realise that women are better qualified to know what women want than they are, so it’s not surprising that they’ve left the responses to us!

            This makes it clear that you are not really interested in learning. You’re here to try to convince other people of your belief that men know more about what women want than women do, and that men who behave like men instead of stroppy toddlers are being ‘great leaders’. (Spoiler alert: they’re not – they’re just being men.) So this is the last of your comments I’ll be responding to. All I would say is to urge you to listen to the very wise counsel you have received already, and to remember that “if you think you are standing securely, take care that you do not fall.”

          • Lasta


            I have a different perspective. I am vastly outnumbered in these discussions, and so have prioritized responses to people who are engaging what I’m actually saying rather than projecting negative things onto me that I don’t believe.

          • Jo R

            You are the one who, by your own explanations, described yourself as taking on male adult maturity, or manhood, by FINALLY DOING WHAT YOUR WIFE HAD BEEN DOING FOR THE ENTIRE DURATION OF YOUR MARRIAGE BEFORE YOU FINALLY STOPPED COMMITTING ADULTERY VIA PORN.

            You. Your own descriptions of your actions. When we point out that you merely began ACTING LIKE A MATURE ADULT, i.e., our suggested qord of “adulting,” you double back to “manhood.”

            You are the one making it sound like manhood and womanhood are so wildly different, but your own words are that you started doing the same things as your wife.


            And yes, that’s yelling due to frustration from you refusing to answer what seems to all of us to be a straightforward question.

            If your becoming a husband of leadership means you started doing the same things as your wife, how is a husband’s leadership different from a wife’s normal life?

          • Lasta

            I took a breather on all this, which did me some good. A few broad clarifications:

            1. I don’t respond to ad hominems. If people are making personal swipes at me, I will not be engaging them. This includes not just “you are a bad person” but also “I’m so concerned for you, because it’s bad for your soul to be such a bad person, please consider getting the help you so desperately need.” Of the two, I vastly prefer the first form without the pharisaical passive-aggressiveness. Y’all can disagree with me here, but that’s a hard line for me. A boundary, if you will.

            2. I prefer to respond to people who are responding to me, rather than to points I’m not making. In these discussions I’m often engaging multiple people, and I can’t follow every thread. I have an interest in moving the discussion along to try to get somewhere interesting or learn something new.

            3. I admit that I also have a preference for engaging people who are being civil and pleasant. I try to resist the temptation to reply to the most inflammatory or emotionally charged thing, but I don’t always succeed!

          • Lasta

            As to the leadership discussion, I’m not quite sure why things got so emotionally charged. I characterized some things “leadership” in my own story, and many of you disagreed. The objections were interesting and have given me some things to think about. I tried to think about things just in terms of being a mature adult. (Incidentally, I don’t know if I can bring myself to use the word “adulting” – my wife thinks it’s a lame made-up word, and as the partner more trained in language, I tend to submit to her leadership here.) It also spurred a good conversation with my wife about the distinction. Y’all’s position on this makes total sense, but my gut is telling me that, in this really important personal journey as well as those of the men I lead, limiting the characterization to “being a responsible adult” misses something central.

            Sheila suggested rethinking my definition of leadership. I’m open to it. I’m also quite interested in finding a better word for the energy I’m describing, “seeing yourself as responsible for the wellbeing of these people.” There were some diverse suggestions. Jo R thought this idea contained delusions of grandeur. And things got heated here, which doesn’t make immediate sense to me. I know some complementarians see “leading” as the man’s exclusive role in all things, and people have been really hurt by nice-sounding words shielding abuse.

            Part of the anger seems to be around it being patronizing and presumptuous for me to assume that “I’m the leader”, when I mistreated my wife so badly. JoB really laid out the case well. If you look in terms of a friendship and a partnership, it does feel presumptuous. Marriage certainly is a friendship and a partnership, and I respect it if egalitarians want to see marriage only in those terms. I understand if abuse makes it unthinkable to see marriage in anything but those terms, and I don’t need to change anyone’s mind and light up past trauma.

            A word about status. The idea that I’m grasping for unearned status by taking on family leadership makes sense. In our particular church community, the reality is that I lose status for doing this. Many people in our church are deeply concerned with gender equality and would look down on me for presuming to be the leader. There’s almost an attitude of, “I do not allow a man to teach, or hold authority over a woman.” For my wife, she’s sensitive that some other women in the church would look down on her as being a doormat or a frumpy servile housewife, when she’s amazingly strong, intelligent, and independent. This is almost something we need to whisper about behind closed doors, for fear of being misunderstood.

            Here’s the thing my wife came to when I summarized the discussion: what if the man IS the leader? Not “should be”, not “has that role decreed by God and the Bible and you’re sinning by doing otherwise”, not “is more equipped with leadership skills”, but just “is”? We’re talking animal biology here. What if, by being the senior male in the pack of creatures in the family unit, who is by nature bigger, stronger, and more aggressive, he simply is the thing that their primal brains consider the leader? “This is the one who protects us and we watch him and do what he does.” If that were true, then a failure of “adulting” for him would be a failure of leadership. Let me give a couple examples:

            Yesterday I noticed my wife was exasperated. I came in from working in the yard, and she said: “The boys are downstairs on their devices. I really need them to step up and do their house jobs, and they aren’t listening to me.” I called their names and told them to come upstairs. They complied, with some grumbling. I reminded them that I was doing work around the house. I talked to each one of them and asked what their house jobs were. I asked if there were any reasons why those jobs couldn’t be done. I asked them if they want to be the sort of young men who don’t respect their mother. And they got to it.

            The last six years I have gotten into fitness. I have a workout schedule that I mark on charts. I listen to 80s power ballads as I do it, and everyone in the family makes fun of me for it. And each one of the boys as well as my wife have slowly, over the years, on their own initiative, followed by doing some form of workout. No coercion or nagging on my part, just example. I was making changes to be a more responsible man, taking ownership of my body, and there was a gravitational pull. And they even sheepishly admit they like the music (while needing to keep up the eye-rolling facade).

            I was the leader during those years when things were a total mess and I wasn’t leading. I am the leader now that things are better and I am. I am the leader always, whether I like it or not (and it’s mostly a burden – the rewards aren’t perks or status, but satisfaction at them doing well). If my wife is leading, and I back her up, they follow her. If I don’t, they don’t. If I lead, and she doesn’t back me up, they follow me anyway (though anxious about the discord). If that’s the hand I’m dealt, then the way to *serve* my family, is to step up and lead sacrificially in a way that doesn’t squelch them at all, but seeks to build leadership qualities in them. To lead like Christ, the shepherd laying his life down for the sheep, loving unconditionally (and NOT demanding unconditional respect), and seeking to give them more power and not less.

            If we’re right here, then in an egalitarian marriage, where the man is engaged and mature, his family will not be bereft of leadership. Things will have a good shot at going well. Great! In a complementarian marriage, where the man is resting on his laurels supposedly making the “big decisions” and demanding submission and to get his way because of his “role”, it’s gonna be an abusive cluster****. On balance, I may actually prefer egalitarianism if the dysfunctional complementarianism above is the norm, even on the sole grounds of fostering better leadership in men.

            If y’all disagree – that’s fine. Blessings on you. If you are married, blessings on your marriages. I hope things go awesome, and if something is working, don’t change it.

          • exwifeofasexaddict

            Lasta, my EX husband was an officer in the army. He knew how to lead. He did it for a living, and mentored younger officers too. So his leadership was never in question. And it wasn’t adulting at home either. It was that he never did the hard work of finding and healing the root source of his trauma that cause his addiction. So when the counselor said he should lead me in prayer I said F that. No way am I praying with him.

            You’re right that your opinion on Pure Desire doesn’t matter to me. I have my own experience which I trust more than your evaluation.

            The issue that I’m trying to get at here is that the women here have given you example after example after example of “leadership” failure by men, or times when leadership was simply unnecessary. And yet you continue to say we are offended by ideas of leadership. We want you to understand that we are capable. We don’t need to be led, no matter how benign you make the leadership. (Leadership isn’t benign. It isn’t effective if it’s benign. Maybe you mean benevolent or something like that.) But the point is that most women today are very capable of leading themselves and communing with the Holy Spirit and following Spirit’s lead in our lives. Most of us did it for some amount of time before we were married. We can continue to do it in marriage. AND…. and this is important….. God never told husbands to Lead their wives. He did, however, use another L word- Love. And that’s why Angarad and JoR and I are getting so frustrated with you. You just keep saying, but what if the leadership is like THIS??? And we say, no, I don’t need a leader, and you say, How about THIS??? That’s why I implored you to LISTEN. We are telling you that we are quite capable and don’t need to be infantilized by being led. In some cases we are more capable to lead than they are.

          • Jane Eyre

            Late to the discussion…that is incredible of both you and your wife. I hope your marriage is blessed.

    • Lisa Johns

      That last made me laugh out loud! 😂❤️

      • Lisa Johns

        (Meaning the comment about the orgasm, not all the replies since.) 🙂

    • Taylor

      Jo R, thank you for pointing that out: that “biblical” can mean different things depending on how someone is using the term. I hadn’t put that together until you mentioned it.

      You’re right. According to the definition of “biblical” meaning “in the Bible,” then Annanias and Saphira lying to the church was biblical. Saul trying to murder David was biblical.

      Agreed–a different term is needed.

  3. Nathan

    Just to be sure that we’re all on the same page, this is what I think the definition of complementarianism is. Is it correct?

    We all have different gifts and different skills and levels of talent. Some of us just do things batter than others, and other can do things better than we can.

    Complementarianism, however, teaches us that these gifts and skills are completely gender related because God built us that way. Women are ALWAYS better at A, B and C, while men are ALWAYS better at X, Y and Z. That’s just how God made us, and even if it appears that it’s not true sometimes, we should act as if it is, since to do otherwise is going against God and the Bible.

    For example, Marcia has a degree in accounting, while Donny barely graudated high school. But Donny should still be in charge of the household finances because that’s what God wants, even if he fails to pay the bills on time of trashes their credit.

    • Yvette M. Alley

      Exactly right. If the accounting wives didn’t allow her non educated husband to handle the finances, the couple would suffer financial strife because she didn’t let him lead. And because the non educated man did hande the finances because he’s the man, the finances suffered, it is still the educated woman’s fault because she did not submit elsewhere. That is complimentarianism.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I wouldn’t say exactly. I would say that complementarianism is about hierarchy and authority. They believe in roles in the sense that one has the role of leading and one has the role of submitting.

      • Bernadette

        The wife’s alleged role of submitting to authority complements the husband’s alleged role of exercising authority?

      • Angharad

        Yes, the overarching rule is that the husband leads and the wife submits. But complementarian ‘sub groups’ do often add to this by insisting that certain character traits and talents are inherently male or female – so, for example, all women are (or should be) nurturing, emotional and good at cooking, childcare and housework, all men are (or should be) logical, practical, good at driving, navigating and diy. We are a very non typical couple, and I often get grief for being the one who tackles the gardening, the diy, the navigating. Ironically, he doesn’t get any hassle for being the pastoral, nurturing one who is good at cooking, because if I were being a ‘proper’ wife, then he would be encouraged to be a ‘proper’ husband!

        • Jo R

          Ooh, I guess I better stop saving Mr. R. so much time by not being afraid of a screwdriver, or a compound miter saw, or mowing our acreage with our Scag, or a cold chisel and masonry hammer, or … 🙄

    • Nessie

      This drifts a bit off topic, but when I think of complementy things, I think of a color wheel. Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, all in a circle in that order. The complements (or contrast colors) are opposite of one another. Red/green, yellow /purple, blue/orange. In art, you can use these combos to better set off the painting. Maybe you want the light (bright yellow) to really shine, so you make the shadows deep purple or grayish purple, that kind of thing. You can make either side of the pair stand out more while the other takes a backseat.

      In a marriage we should “complement” one another. Sometimes the husband is “highlighted,” sometimes the wife- whomever is a better cook, socializing, yardwork, etc. It can be a beautiful picture of bringing out the best in one another. Neither “leads” or “submits,” and there isn’t jealousy if the other shines for that time or reason.

      But words have a way of being mishandled and abused, just like the people they are used upon. Where I used to could see beauty in the word complementarianism, I now see grief, abuse, manipulation, thievery, polarity. Where the idea could have been a complementing of spiritual giftings, abilities, talents, etc., as Nathan mentions, it was usurped by these men who wanted to take a beautiful concept and use it to magician-misdirect from their self-promotion via hierachy and authority. I think it’s all the more heinous because of the sneaky, underhanded way in which they do it.

      • Lasta

        The thing that had meant to bring life, brought death. Because they tried to attain it through the letter and not the spirit.

        • Nessie

          Complementary things were not what was meant to bring life. That was Jesus.

          You really don’t yet see that you’ve been using the word leadership as a letter of the law, do you? They misused a word to puff themselves up much like we’ve seen you using a different word to puff yourself up. Many here have been Inigo Montoyas to your Vizzini the Sicilian, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.” If you keep using that word as you have been, you corrupt and weaken it. That takes away from those who truly are leading others.

          Leadership can be a beautiful thing when properly done. But it isn’t what you have been claiming it for yourself.

          “And a little child shall lead them.”

          I really hope you check out andrewjbauman.com and his books, The Sexually Healthy Man, and How Not to be an *ss. Great resources that may help you understand what many of us have been trying to help you understand.

          • Lasta

            I meant the “rule” had been meant to bring life. A rule about leadership.

          • Nessie

            Oh dear, you really can’t see, can you? You feel such a need for control (which is a big component of PSR) that you have to get in the last word, especially on those of us who have asked questions for which you have no good answer, so you respond to our other comments feel that sense of control, of one-upmanship.

            I have nothing that can help you, nor anyone else here, because you, willfully or ignorantly, Will.Not.See.

            I hope you get the help you need to heal fully and not simply mask (via mere behavior modifications) your deeply-rooted problems as Karen and TMF have graciously shared. They have wisdom and experience you could beneficially utilize, yet you choose instead to ignore the most important things others have shared so that you can nit-pick details to feel in control.

            Please, for the sake of you wife, your kids, the guys you reach, and yourself, please get help. Things may be much improved but what if there’s more?? What if you can give all of these people in your life far better instead of settling for your current “better than it was,” considering how bad it really was? You have the opportunity to live life more abundantly, for yourself and your loved ones, yet you squander it because it looks like humility and more work.

            Enjoy replying to me and others with nitpicky responses that evade what you could to hear and receive. If your ego is so desirous of that, so be it. I am shaking your dust from my sandals now. I’m taking a moment to pray that you one day find true, full healing beyond what you think you have now. Goodbye, Lasta.

          • Lasta

            Hi Nessie,

            I’ve upset you. That wasn’t my intention. Please forgive and know that I mean you no harm. I’ll be more careful in responding to you in the future.

          • Jo R

            She probably isn’t so much upset as she is unimpressed by your homiletic *&*&

            I know I am.

          • Spock-ish

            Lasta, as a dude trying to recover from a pornographic style of relating (PSR) myself, do you not see how dismissive you are? You read a comment where she’s communicating she no longer will engage you and you reply you’ll change how you engage with her. That’s ignoring and disrespecting her no, which is an indicator of a pornographic style of relating.

            I would guess she and other women here are exhausted and exasperated by you, rightfully so, for reasons they’ve clearly spelled out.

            In reading your back and forth, you come across to me as someone unwilling to listen and having a desire for control over the conversation. That’s not being a leader, and honestly, not being Christian.

          • Lasta

            Hey Sheila, am I not a Christian?

          • Lisa Johns

            Lasta, SMDH!!!

          • Nessie

            Jo R and Spock-ish,
            You two are correct- I am not at all upset though I am thoroughly unimpressed and a bit exasperated, lol. As the saying goes, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink.” Doesn’t matter how much you know that horse needs that water.

            I know myself and believe it is a misuse of my time to try to reach someone who chooses to put words in my (and other women’s) mouth that are blatantly incorrect, who absolutely refuses to consider others’ words, and who lacks humility. For myself, I choose to reserve my energy for things other than trying to knock sense into people who eshew others’ experiences, opinions, and wisdom. That is part of why I left my old, complementarian-believing church. Thanks for having my back.

  4. recoverymode

    It’s interesting how many caveats are made in reality. We have friends that are pretty staunch believers of complementarianism — however in reality, they definitely live outside of traditional roles in some things. For example, he is quite a good cook, and takes on a lot of the cooking for the family. So despite the belief system, they act more like equals in some respects, and in so doing, kind of negate the very beliefs they hold (gender specific roles, etc.).

    • Yvette M. Alley

      Thank you, Keith for such fabulous points. I am so glad to hear from a man’s view about this whole submission thing. It’s need liberating.

  5. Lisa Johns

    I love the way Keith methodically DEMOLISHES the Danvers arguments in favor of “wifely” submission! Thank you, this was an awesome conversation!

    • Jennifer

      Agreed! Podcast is a very good summation of Keith’s helpful series.

  6. Jennifer

    Martha Peace!! Her book was required for the bride to read for premarital counseling at the church where I got married 8 years ago. So much in that book (Excellent Wife) makes my skin crawl. It teaches wives to be complete doormats. (I am no longer at that church. Left after the women’s Bible study devoted a whole session to preaching against The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Barr.)

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Good for you for leaving! That’s how change will happen–when we all refuse to prop up toxic church structures.

    • Anonymous

      YES…..YES….YES…..YES…..YES…..A million times…YES. THANK YOU.

    • Laura

      I only heard about Martha Peace through Amazon and other blogs that have mentioned how harmful her book is. I find it ironic that her last name is Peace when nothing about that book is peaceful.

  7. Lisa Johns

    Hey guys, do you know that the website is deleting comments? It has deleted three that I’ve tried to post so far, and it just deleted about three that I saw that were already posted. I first started noticing this problem yesterday. I thought you might want to know, and I hope you get to see this!

    • Lasta

      I’ve had it just take a while to show up before…

    • Jo R

      One tip: when you’ve finished composing your comment, select a word somewhere, then stop “Select All,” then tap “Copy.”

      Then if it disappears when you tap the submit (🤣🤣🤣) button, you can just paste it in and try again.

      • Healing

        I sometimes write my comment in my “notepad” and then copy and paste it here. I’ve had one too many posts disappear when I go to post them.

      • Lisa Johns

        Good idea! lol!
        I think the problem is fixed now. 🙂

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Is it? I have no idea why. Shoot.

      • Sheila Wray Gregoire

        I’ll have Connor look into it tomorrow! I haven’t noticed anything but I certainly don’t want that happening. I did check and your comments aren’t in spam or anything.

  8. Nessie

    I loved your example of the 2 men fighting, handing one a hammer, then claiming innocence because, “I handed him a TOOL, not a WEAPON!” Brilliant.

    I’m so excited you’re writing a marriage book together!! I know that will be filled with much love and wisdom! Praying the Lord reveals great insights and anecdotes for y’all along that writing journey.

  9. Jordan

    Thank you so much for bringing up The Excellent Wife! I’m engaged, and someone from my small group recently suggested all the wives read this book. I rented it from the library, and read the entire thing in one night, horrified! I want to have a heart to heart conversation with my friend about it, but would love to hear more of y’all’s points how this book could be so damaging!

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      I do plan on doing a onesheet on it, but it likely won’t be until at least November. We have others to do first!

  10. Taylor

    The Scripture that keeps coming to mind is, “Love does not demand its own way.” In mutuality, this applies equally to both genders. In complementarianism, it only applies to women. The whole system is designed for men to demand their own way. And no matter how gently a man may appear to do this, the presence of a whole spiritualized system gives him the power of a demand. Because a woman is spiritually obligated to comply if she wants to be right before her husband, children, the church, and God.

    “Husband’s, love your wives …” “Love does not demand it’s own way.”

    • Davis

      And learn to serve …..we do not need leaders…only God has this title.

  11. Ellie

    As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. – Proverbs 27:17
    So complementarians want husbands to be dull while wives are sharpened?! (Since he can rebuke but she can’t.)

    Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. – John 8:32
    Complementarians want husbands to be in bondage!? (Because the wife can’t tell him the truth if he doesn’t want to hear it.)

    Whoever rebukes a person will in the end gain favor rather than one who has a flattering tongue. – Proverbs 28:23
    Unless the person is a wife speaking to her husband?! (Since she’s supposed to flatter or fawn over him regardless of the circumstances.)

    • Nessie

      Exactly. I’ve heard that camp say that it’s only for men to sharpen other men, the truth is that wives must submit, and marriages are not covered under the ways we should treat others. Because there is a different “rule” for marriages.

      It’s pretty sad, twisted, and evil.

  12. Greta

    Martha Peace also says…..if the man gets so bad…God will take care of it, to the point of the man dying. So you are left sitting, waiting for the man to die. Now I believe God will and csn take care of things in any way, but really? If they taught better this wouldnot be needed. I did a study at church with this book. It was tough….but we wanted to be “The Excellent Wife”

  13. Amy

    I just find it funny that they say “a man who is abusive will abuse no matter what kind of heirarchy or not there is for him” and yet can say that a man can’t lead without his wife supporting him. If an abusive man is an abusive man no matter what, then a leader is a leader no matter what. And if a man can’t be a leader unless his wife is a supporter…wouldn’t that mean the women are actually in charge and we’re just creating a smoke and mirror for men to believe they’re the leader when the women are the only ones making it possible?

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Excellent thoughts, Amy! Absolutely.

  14. Anthony

    Hi Sheila. My wife and I recently found your content and have found it helpful and clarifying especially because we’ve both been influenced by complementarianism. I have one question for you (or Keith). Keith made a comment in this podcast along the lines of, “teaching hierarchy and people being inherently evil will result in abuse” (paraphrase). I have never made that connection. Do you think pastors teaching people are inherently evil leads to abuse or do you think it’s only bad when paired with hierarchy type teaching? Should the church stop teaching that people are inherently evil? Thanks.

    • Sheila Wray Gregoire

      Too often we only teach half the story–that people are prone to sin–and we forget the other half–that we are made in the image of God. We are not worthless worms. We were created for good works, and are equipped for good works, and there is much good in the world. Yes, there is evil. But there is also good. And when we teach that people are nothing but evil, AND we teach that hierarchy is God’s design, we do set up a perfect incubation for abuse.

      Teaching that we should expect people to submit to one another and be kind, and that if they are not they are likely not good partners and should not be church leaders, would go a long way towards making our churches healthy.


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