Al Mohler: Misuse of complementarian theology 'can and has' led to the abuse of women in the church

"Sinful men will use anything in vanity and in anger, in sin of every form. Sinful men will distort anything and will take advantage of any argument that seems to their advantage, even to the abuse of women." - Christian Post

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

The headline is intentionally edit here. Christian Post's version is misleading... "Al Mohler: Complementarian theology 'can and has' led to the abuse of women..." 

Mohler is not blaming the theology. He's blaming humans who distort and misuse it.

 

Mark_Smith's picture

and by extension, your sister in Christ, as Christ loved the church, why would you ever cover up abuse?

Answer: You wouldn't.

So why have people apparently done that?

At least 2 reasons:

1) They were evil, unsaved men. Yep, has happened more than you think. Maybe they just forgot to put on the new man that day...

2) This is the more interesting one. The line between affair and sexual abuse can be fuzzy. Rachel Denhollander refuses to admit this, but it is true. Now let me be clear. I am only talking about adults here (read as, not minors!). Take the Jennifer Lyell case in the SBC. The basic facts are a graduate student says an SBC professor groomed her and led her into a years long abusive relationship. People act like this is cut and dry. Clearly it is sexual abuse they say. I'm not so sure. There are other cases like this. Is it adultery or is it sexual abuse? May not be as clean cut as you think. To be clear, you never "cover up" a situation. But there can be cases where what one person considers abuse is taken to be a sexual relationship that is not abusive.

 

T Howard's picture

Mark, allow us to put this question to rest in your mind. If there is a woman involved, it's sexual abuse. She rarely if ever is culpable, especially if the man has any perceived or real authority over her. When power dynamics are in play, the woman cannot make an informed, consensual, self-directed decision.

[/jaded] 

Bert Perry's picture

One example I saw recently--yes in the Twitter kerfuffle we've been discussing--was a (since deleted) tweet that argued that a particular woman was somehow "unqualified" to comment on these issues, as if the doctrines of the perspicuity of Scripture and Sola Scripture somehow did not apply if the person using them lacked a Y chromosome.  Given that I'm about 95% sure that Mrs. Denhollander is also a complementarian by persuasion, totally unnecessary.  Male headship does not mean (as John MacArthur is on video doing) basically patting women on the head (Beth Moore in his case) and telling them to "go home".   (I think Moore is basically complementarian, too)

Regarding Mark's point, about the Jennifer Lyell case, keep in mind that the offender, Dr. Sills, was also her advisor.  A PhD and professor like Mark should, ahem, be painfully aware of the "pull" that one's advisor has in making or breaking one's career, and all the more in a seminary setting where all students, and especially women, are strongly conditioned to submission.  Combine that with students generally being fairly poor, and aiming for poorly paying jobs, and you're asking for trouble.

And really, in that light, any relationship between an advisor and a student, especially in a seminary, ought to be seen as some degree of sexual assault.  Same thing as forcible stranger rape?  No, but it's still tremendously damaging, especially given fundagelical views towards people who have "experience" outside of marriage.  That's why a lot of colleges and universities specifically ban such relationships, sometimes even if the professor isn't even that student's instructor.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Why is it that we're told that women are helpless to make an informed, consensual, self-directed decision in situations like this? If my VP (who's female) hit on me and wanted to engage in an inappropriate relationship, I'd say, "No!" If that endangered my job, I'd take legal action. However, I wouldn't sleep with her regardless of the outcome. Is this just my white, male (cisgender, etc.) privilege showing? 

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Matthew 16:2–3 (ESV): He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.

My advice: understand the times, what's sensitive and why, and behave wisely. 

Bert Perry's picture

T Howard wrote:

Why is it that we're told that women are helpless to make an informed, consensual, self-directed decision in situations like this? If my VP (who's female) hit on me and wanted to engage in an inappropriate relationship, I'd say, "No!" If that endangered my job, I'd take legal action. However, I wouldn't sleep with her regardless of the outcome. Is this just my white, male (cisgender, etc.) privilege showing? 

Beyond the obvious "consider the advisor's pull over a poor student's career and ministry", you've got the fact that the Torah (Exodus 22:16-17) clearly tells us that the father of a girl who is seduced does have veto power over her continuing in that relationship, even after the seducer pays the bride-price.  Note; she is of age, and not (Song of Songs 8:9) in the category of pre-pubescent girls who shall be protected with "walls of cedar".  

OK, to what degree we're under the law of Moses can (and should) be debated and all that, but the long and short if it is that the Torah does in fact give us some cases where existing systems (family, church, government, etc.) ought to be protecting vulnerable people from unlawful and manipulative relationships.  You see the same thing vis-a-vis slavery, really, and the marriage of a man to a captured woman from a pagan land.  A wife taken from the ranks of slaves actually had a somewhat stronger position than a native born Israelite (Deut. 21:10-17).  For that matter, one basic reason government has gotten involved in family law is about the same; it issues marriage licenses only to those who are judged eligible to marry.  We (rightly) see things like polygamy and child marriage as out of bounds.  Along the same lines, you will in some contracts see a line asking if the contract was signed under duress (large pressure/threat to life, etc..), and contracts are in general null and void if signed under duress.  

Which is a long way of saying that while we would indeed commend someone who realizes the sin that is afoot and willingly risks adverse consequences to avoid that sin, up to and including death, Scripture simultaneously tells us that where there is the likelihood of a coercive motivation on the part of those with power, there also ought to be an institutional barrier to using it.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Quote:
Beyond the obvious "consider the advisor's pull over a poor student's career and ministry"...

Please.

So, one's only response in this situation is to go along with the advisor's advances and sleep with said academic advisor? Not once, but multiple times over the course of multiple years? Are not women strong enough to be able to say "No, you creep! I don't care what you do, I'm not sleeping with you!" and then report his advances to the seminary administration / local media? I know ... that's victim blaming.

Look, if we're rearing our daughters to believe that their only recourse in said situation is to sleep with their academic advisor / boss / etc, we've failed as fathers to instill in them courage and self-respect.

josh p's picture

Couldn’t agree more T. Howard. I always think it’s weird when a movement that wants to empower women starts by the assumption that they cannot decide not to sleep with someone who has influence over them. Seems like a pretty degraded view of women to me.

Mark_Smith's picture

T Howard wrote:

Why is it that we're told that women are helpless to make an informed, consensual, self-directed decision in situations like this? If my VP (who's female) hit on me and wanted to engage in an inappropriate relationship, I'd say, "No!" If that endangered my job, I'd take legal action. However, I wouldn't sleep with her regardless of the outcome. Is this just my white, male (cisgender, etc.) privilege showing? 

Uhh... T Howard I thought you said all interaction with women in the situations is a power play by the men? How come your story has a woman hitting on you? How can such a thing be possible?

Mark_Smith's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

One example I saw recently--yes in the Twitter kerfuffle we've been discussing--was a (since deleted) tweet that argued that a particular woman was somehow "unqualified" to comment on these issues, as if the doctrines of the perspicuity of Scripture and Sola Scripture somehow did not apply if the person using them lacked a Y chromosome.  Given that I'm about 95% sure that Mrs. Denhollander is also a complementarian by persuasion, totally unnecessary.  Male headship does not mean (as John MacArthur is on video doing) basically patting women on the head (Beth Moore in his case) and telling them to "go home".   (I think Moore is basically complementarian, too)

Regarding Mark's point, about the Jennifer Lyell case, keep in mind that the offender, Dr. Sills, was also her advisor.  A PhD and professor like Mark should, ahem, be painfully aware of the "pull" that one's advisor has in making or breaking one's career, and all the more in a seminary setting where all students, and especially women, are strongly conditioned to submission.  Combine that with students generally being fairly poor, and aiming for poorly paying jobs, and you're asking for trouble.

And really, in that light, any relationship between an advisor and a student, especially in a seminary, ought to be seen as some degree of sexual assault.  Same thing as forcible stranger rape?  No, but it's still tremendously damaging, especially given fundagelical views towards people who have "experience" outside of marriage.  That's why a lot of colleges and universities specifically ban such relationships, sometimes even if the professor isn't even that student's instructor.  

Inappropriate is not the same a sexual abuse.

Bert Perry's picture

Mark, what the professor did was abuse by the very definition of the word.  The professor mis-used his position to obtain sexual favors.  In doing so, he treated a woman who should have been someone's wife as a whore.  A synonymn for "mis-used" is "abused."  

Come on, Mark, you can do better than this. 

I notice, by the way, that the forum is not discussing the evidence I presented that in Scripture, there are a number of places where Scripture emphatically says that certain decisions are out of bounds, and that God's people ought to be protecting people from making those decisions and experiencing their consequences.  Come on, guys, if we're going to call ourselves fundamentalists, let's proceed from the Bible, not Ayn Rand.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
I notice, by the way, that the forum is not discussing the evidence I presented that in Scripture, there are a number of places where Scripture emphatically says that certain decisions are out of bounds, and that God's people ought to be protecting people from making those decisions and experiencing their consequences.  Come on, guys, if we're going to call ourselves fundamentalists, let's proceed from the Bible, not Ayn Rand.

Bert,

I don't disagree that the Scripture provides protections for certain classes of vulnerable people (e.g. widows and orphans). I don't disagree that it's inappropriate for a professor / boss to have a relationship with his student / direct report. What I disagree with is the idea that women have no other choice other than to sleep with their professor / boss / etc. if he propositions them for sexual favors. What I disagree with is the idea that women lose all ability to make informed, consensual, self-directed decisions when there is any power differential (perceived or actual) involved. What I disagree with is that women apparently can't be guilty of using their sexuality to get what they want from men. What I disagree with is that any opinion contrary to the current #metoo dogma is viewed as victim blaming.

I don't buy it and neither should you. I want to stand up for real victims of sexual violence and abuse. An adult woman choosing to sleep with her professor multiple times over the course of multiple years is not sexual abuse. 

Bert Perry's picture

Tom, perhaps you (and others) ought to buy a copy of Rachael Denhollander's book and read the chapter where she discusses her high school experience--she'd just been abused by Larry Nassar--with discussing Bathsheba's case, where it was noted "well, she could have let herself be killed."  Is that your position for Ms. Lyell?  She could have ended up dead, or perhaps at best unemployable in her chosen profession and with a mountain of student loans to pay off?

We can argue there was another choice until the cows come home, but what we have here is clear cases of a "choice" between two horrendous alternatives, either of which will be judged by people in the church.  Let's be honest; guys here are blaming her for submitting to sexual abuse, and if she'd refused and ended up bankrupt due to student loans, some here would blame her for foolishly going to seminary, or cast doubt upon her story and tell her she brought it on herself.  I've seen all of this on these threads.

Maybe we should actually, you know, blame the guy who abused his authority and his student instead?  Maybe give that a try?

On another note, how many of us have ever had to make a difficult choice like this, where it was between moral purity and financial and career ruin?  Closest I've ever come is when I elevated a reliability issue to the VP level at a company where I worked, and I ended up on the layoff list. But I wasn't deeply in debt, and nobody was going to ruin my career going forward.  Plus, I was right, and it was good I was gone when the fertilizer hit the fan.

So maybe if you haven't been there, don't be so quick to judge.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Tom, perhaps you (and others) ought to buy a copy of Rachael Denhollander's book and read the chapter where she discusses her high school experience--she'd just been abused by Larry Nassar--with discussing Bathsheba's case, where it was noted "well, she could have let herself be killed."  Is that your position for Ms. Lyell?  She could have ended up dead, or perhaps at best unemployable in her chosen profession and with a mountain of student loans to pay off?

First, let's clarify my comments are directed toward adult women, not minors.

Second, let's clarify that, yes, Ms. Lyell as an adult woman has the ability to make informed, consensual, self-directed decisions. She's not a poor, helpless seminary student with no choice over her life. If she didn't want to sleep with her professor, she should have said, "No! You Creep!", and she should have reported him to the seminary administration. Her life wasn't threatened. Her choices weren't between death and rape. But, I admit standing up for herself in that situation does take courage. It takes self-respect. According to you (and other #metoo advocates), women apparently don't possess these virtues ... at least, not until they become victims.

Quote:
...Guys here are blaming her for submitting to sexual abuse, and if she'd refused and ended up bankrupt due to student loans, some here would blame her for foolishly going to seminary, or cast doubt upon her story and tell her she brought it on herself.  I've seen all of this on these threads.

To clarify, your statement here is unprovable. You don't know what would have happened if she had refused and reported the professor to the seminary admin. Perhaps the seminary admin would have conducted an inquiry and fired the bum. Perhaps Ms. Lyell would have gone on and finished her degree and entered ministry just fine. Or, perhaps the seminary admin would not have believed her. Regardless, you're saying the only choice she had once she was propositioned was to sleep with her professor. Really?

Quote:
Maybe we should actually, you know, blame the guy who abused his authority and his student instead?  Maybe give that a try?

To clarify, I did say he was a creep. I did say his relationship with her was inappropriate (and, I'll add, immoral). But I will not take away Ms Lyell's ability as an adult woman to make an informed, consensual, self-directed decision. She had a choice. She wasn't raped. Her life wasn't threatened. I know, to admit this means that there may be some culpability for her actions. In an effort to remove that culpability, we turn her into a victim of "sexual abuse" and claim that victims can never make informed, consensual, self-directed decisions. I don't buy that, Bert. And, neither should you.

GregH's picture

The one time I was called for jury duty, I was thrown out immediately by the plaintiff's attorney over this very type of issue. A youth pastor had a sexual relationship with someone in his youth group. She was suing the church over it. The statutory rape criminal case had already happened.

One of the preliminary questions was this: is it possible for the plaintiff to be responsible to some extent for the sex? I was the only potential juror who did not immediately say no. I asked a question as to whether he was referring to moral or legal responsibility. The attorney said "both." I responded that while legally she might have no responsibility, it was at least possible that she had moral responsibility (in other words, the relationship was consensual).

I was quickly discharged of course but in spite of the fact that I am considerably more progressive now than I was then, I would still answer the question the same way. It seems absurd that a girl can have no moral responsibility when she is 17.9 years old but be capable of making her own decisions when she is 18.0 years old. And it seems absurd that a girl has no ability to say "no" to someone that has power over her.

That being said, I do not think that the OT is a great resource for help in determining where the responsibility lies in cases like abuse and rape. For example, the Bathsheba debate is easily solved if you go by OT law (Deut 22). Since David was in the city and no one heard her cry out, it was not rape.

God forbid if some poor girl's rapist gagged her in those days. Apparently, she was out of luck unless of course she had the good fortune of being raped in the country where at least she would not be stoned afterwards.

Obviously, there were no rape kits or sophisticated ways of collecting evidence in the OT and they had to do the best they could. However, based on what we read in the OT, it would appear their justice system was pretty inaccurate to put it mildly. We can do better today and we should. That includes physical evidence of course but also these thorny psychological aspects of this that simply are not addressed in the OT law.

Bert Perry's picture

Tom, the scenario I drew for you is representative.  Most students have loans, are not terribly wealthy, and in the case of theology students, are aiming for jobs that don't pay especially well.  It is also a fact that retribution from a school can be devastating when it happens, and that victims who report are often abused again by people casting doubt on their story when they go public. 

Here's an example from The Master's College, where (allegedly) a young woman who'd gone to a bar and got slipped a mickey  (and was then sexually assaulted and a bunch more) was told to repent for being slipped a mickey and what followed.  When she didn't repent of what she hadn't done, she was expelled with a 0.0 GPA.  She might not be able to prove the sexual assault part beyond he said/she said, but presumably she could get a transcript with 3 years @ 0.0 GPA (you can't make it 3 years without ever passing a class, even in community college), her previous grade reports, and her letters of expulsion to prove most of the story.  

Imagine that; 3 years lost, your best choice going forward is the blue vest and community college, and you're still liable for your student loan debts--or with very angry parents whose investment has been lost.  The argument is not that victims don't have moral agency, but rather that in practice, they're not given any good moral choices.  Does she do something degrading in private, or does she open herself up to public degradation?

Again, that's the choice, a modern version of what Bathsheba and Esther went through.  When Scripture doesn't condemn them, should we condemn the modern victims?

(and yes, Esther....again, the case is not airtight, but what woman wants to share her drunken, impetuous middle aged husband with a politically charged harem of hundreds of other women vying for attention and power?  Again, Ockham's Razor)

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
Tom, the scenario I drew for you is representative.  Most students have loans, are not terribly wealthy, and in the case of theology students, are aiming for jobs that don't pay especially well.  It is also a fact that retribution from a school can be devastating when it happens, and that victims who report are often abused again by people casting doubt on their story when they go public.

So, your advice to an adult graduate student in this situation is ... you have no choice but to sleep with your academic advisor. If you were her pastor, you'd tell her she had no choice but to sleep with her academic advisor. If she were your daughter, you'd tell her she had no choice but to sleep with her academic advisor. No discussion about courage and the need to make hard choices? No talk about standing up for yourself and self-respect? Not a peep about what the appropriate response should be in this situation? Got it, Bert. 

Quote:
Here's an example from The Master's College, where (allegedly) a young woman who'd gone to a bar and got slipped a mickey  (and was then sexually assaulted and a bunch more) was told to repent for being slipped a mickey and what followed.  When she didn't repent of what she hadn't done, she was expelled with a 0.0 GPA.  She might not be able to prove the sexual assault part beyond he said/she said, but presumably she could get a transcript with 3 years @ 0.0 GPA (you can't make it 3 years without ever passing a class, even in community college), her previous grade reports, and her letters of expulsion to prove most of the story.

How is this situation anywhere close to the situation we've been discussing? As I've read the details of this story, SBTS admin immediately responded to her accusation, confronted the prof, and fired him.

Quote:
Imagine that; 3 years lost, your best choice going forward is the blue vest and community college, and you're still liable for your student loan debts--or with very angry parents whose investment has been lost.  The argument is not that victims don't have moral agency, but rather that in practice, they're not given any good moral choices.  Does she do something degrading in private, or does she open herself up to public degradation?

So, according to you, she has no choice but to sleep with her academic advisor. After all, she doesn't want to work for Wal-Mart and go to Community State. She's better off doing what a girl's gotta do. Standing up for yourself and rejecting inappropriate sexual advances is not a "good moral choice." Got it, Bert.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
Tom, the scenario I drew for you is representative.  Most students have loans, are not terribly wealthy, and in the case of theology students, are aiming for jobs that don't pay especially well.  It is also a fact that retribution from a school can be devastating when it happens, and that victims who report are often abused again by people casting doubt on their story when they go public. 

One day, a poor male seminary student is approached by his seminary advisor and propositioned to rob several local 7/11's at gunpoint so that the professor can supplement his income. During one of the robberies, the poor seminary student is finally caught by the po po. When the police question him, he admits he was robbing the store but claims he had no choice. "After all, Officer," he sobs, "if I hadn't robbed all these stores like my professor asked I would end up as a Wal-mart greeter with $30K in student loans and no seminary degree to show for it. On top of that, people I don't know on Facebook and Twitter would make fun of me. You see, I really had no other choice than to rob this 7/11."

Bert Perry's picture

It's "no good choice", Tom.  As I've said before.

Regarding your example, the person told to shoot up the stop & rob has an easy out--he just goes to the police with the gun the professor handed him and says "I was told I had to do this."  Police track the gun, look up the FFL holder's 4473 book, verify the gun belongs to the professor, find his prints on the barrel and elsewhere, and make the arrest.  Professor's attempt to retaliate against the student falls flat because he's just been fired.  

The girl being told she needs to perform sexual acts for the professor obviously does not have that out, nor does she have the easy evidence to present to the police of his guilt.  Finally, one can discreetly "groom" someone for sexual sin; it's not so easy getting someone to shoot up a 7-11.  People tend to catch on a little easier to the latter.  "Eh, why is my hermeneutics professor waving that Kel-tec around asking someone to help him make some easy money?  Why is he telling us how the Pakistani guy running the store is oppressing us?"

Come on, brother, this is pretty simple.  The very nature of sexual sins is that they occur in private with only two witnesses, which puts them in the he said/she said category where the 'po-po', as you call them, only manage to imprison 2% of those accused.  You're more or less blaming the victims here for not peeing into the wind.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

It's "no good choice", Tom.  As I've said before.

No, you said she had "no good moral choice."

Quote:
Come on, brother, this is pretty simple.  The very nature of sexual sins is that they occur in private with only two witnesses, which puts them in the he said/she said category where the 'po-po', as you call them, only manage to imprison 2% of those accused.  You're more or less blaming the victims here for not peeing into the wind.

Because, when propositioned by Potipher's wife, Joseph said, "I have no other choice than to sleep with Mrs. Potipher. Given the power dynamics involved what else am I supposed to do? There is no good moral choice for me to make. God will understand."

And, when told to kill the Hebrew babies, the midwives said, "We have no other choice than to kill these babies. The King of Egypt told us to do this. The power dynamics involved don't give us any good moral choice. The king will kill us if we don't. God will understand if we murder these babies."

And, when told to eat from the king's table, Daniel said, "I have no other choice than to eat this food. If I don't, the king will surely kill me. The power dynamics involved make it impossible for me to have any good moral choice. God will understand if I violate his commands.

Bert, the women in the paradigm you want us to accept are weak and witless. No moral courage. No self-respect. They are just sequacious pawns to be used and abused according to the whims of immoral men. That is not the women I want my daughters to be.

Mark_Smith's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Mark, what the professor did was abuse by the very definition of the word.  The professor mis-used his position to obtain sexual favors.  In doing so, he treated a woman who should have been someone's wife as a whore.  A synonymn for "mis-used" is "abused."  

Come on, Mark, you can do better than this. 

Bert, if by "abuse" you mean "misused" then yes, it was "abuse". That is not what people mean when they say "sexual abuse" however, and you know it, sir.

In the 11 years I have been a professor, I have seen 2 professors fired for having sexual relationships with students. Both involved undergraduate students (in other words, 18-22 years old). Both were fired for "inappropriate contact with students in violation of the faculty handbook." NOT ONE WAS FIRED FOR SEXUAL ABUSE.

In the Lyell case she was a graduate student when this happened.

I'll leave it at that. Inappropriate, but it would be a stretch to call what we have been told so far "abuse."

JD Miller's picture

Bert, normally I respect what you write, but I cannot defend the way you are demeaning women in this post.  No doubt the professor was wrong and sinful.  I will even agree that he was abusive by using his power.  I do not know the details of the specific example, but to suggest that a student is never morally responsible for an affair with a professor is a step too far.  I sure hope you are not telling young ladies they do not have a choice in these situations.  If you are, you are enabling guys like the professor instead of stopping them.  

I view women as strong and capable.  I also believe that they have the right to speak up and that they don't have to just silently take whatever is suggested.   Sadly there are people that teach contrary to this view.  We need to address, that without excusing other wrongs.

Bert Perry's picture

JD, it's not demeaning to women to point out that they have no good choices in cases like this, and that we ought to understand a "failure to refuse" or "failure to report" in that light.  It's also worth noting, again, that a lot of times, women simply do not have support in standing up to predators.  It's precisely what most of the victims of Larry Nassar experienced after going public, and it's precisely what I've seen on this very forum when such issues are mentioned.  I'll respond to thoward's comment to make this clearer.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JD Miller's picture

The Christian walk is about making tough choices.  No man should ever put a woman in those situations but both men and women have to make tough choices in life.  We need to prepare one another for how to respond biblically when those tough choices must be made rather than excusing the wrong choice.

My brother had to make a tough choice years ago.  He left a management level job because his boss was asking him to cheat the customers.  It was not the matter of a student loan- it was the matter of having a family with little kids at home who had to be fed.  He did the right thing by quitting and ended up swinging a hammer for a few months until he was able to find a better job.  They made sacrifices, but they knew the difference between right and wrong and did right regardless of the costs.  That is what being a Christian is about.  We must have the courage to teach that and to act on that.

I do not disagree that we should understand how difficult of a situation that people are in when they do wrong, but that is way differnt than excusing the wrong.

Bert Perry's picture

Let's compare the situations in Tom's list to those of Lyell, as well as those of Esther and Bathsheba--yes, I'd argue that both were, properly seen, sexual assault victims.  In the case of these women, their choice was to either speak up and have a negligible chance of getting justice with a high chance of being killed or bankrupted vs. a chance at a normal life if they did not.  You can argue they might have made the wrong one, but Scripture simply does not make this argument for either Bathsheba or Esther.  

In the cases Tom mentions, what we have is four people who were facing the same degradation--death, prison, whatever--no matter what they did.  Joseph faced death or prison either at the testimony of Potiphar's wife, or (had he slept with her) when the matter was found out by Potiphar, a jealous fellow servant, or when a baby was born that looked like Joseph.  So his choices were "death or prison with being raped" or "death or prison without being raped."  Another big difference with Joseph; he was almost certainly stronger than Potiphar's wife.

In the same way, if the midwives had been found out, they could have been killed or imprisoned by Pharaoh.  If they'd obeyed Pharaoh's orders, they would likely have been killed by angry relatives of the babies they killed.  (had there been soldiers to guard the midwives, either (a) they could have killed the babies themselves like they later did or (b) reported the midwives to Pharaoh)

And Daniel?  Same basic thing.  His rivals in the "eunuch corps" tried to get him and his friends killed multiple times for faith in God, so his choices were either risk death and dismemberment without apostasy or risk death and dismemberment with apostasy.    And yes, a lot of commentators suggest that the lack of a reference to a wife or children for Daniel means more than lifelong membership in the BTR club, specifically that emperors tended to castrate many top advisors so they wouldn't get the idea of stealing the throne.

So interestingly, the cases Tom mentions are actually easier than the case at hand here, or Esther's, or Bathsheba's.  His examples had, apart from the divine intervention which occurred, no plausible outcome that preserved a quasi-normal life, and so they found themselves oddly free.  As the lyrics to Bobby McGee go, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose".  

And along the same lines, Scripture contains no condemnation for Bathsheba or Esther.  Shouldn't they have resisted unto death?  Well, God doesn't tell us that.  Maybe we should lay off on telling victims today that they should.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

JD Miller's picture

Bert, I think there are very strong arguments for Esther and Bathsheba being victims, but it is a step too far to project that on every situation.  Do you think that it was unjust for Sapphira to have died because she had no choice but to obey Ananias?  When teaching on marital submission I have made it very clear that submission does not mean that a wife should disobey God in order to obey her husband.  I have gotten pushback over that from Debbie Pearl disciples, but the case of Sapphira makes this very clear as does the answer that we ought to obey God rather than man.  The point is that power dynamics do not negate our responsibility to obey God.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Been a long since I've heard from good 'ole Michael and Debbie Pearl!

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

JD Miller's picture

TylerR wrote:

Been a long since I've heard from good 'ole Michael and Debbie Pearl!

Thankfully, I have not run into their influence much lately either.  In a previous ministry we had some of their "disciples" in our church and I was able to see first hand how damaging their teaching was.  Before that, I hardly knew who they were.  Still, their teaching has had a lot of influence on the subject of the original post here.  

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Let's compare the situations in Tom's list to those of Lyell, as well as those of Esther and Bathsheba--yes, I'd argue that both were, properly seen, sexual assault victims.  In the case of these women, their choice was to either speak up and have a negligible chance of getting justice with a high chance of being killed or bankrupted vs. a chance at a normal life if they did not.  You can argue they might have made the wrong one, but Scripture simply does not make this argument for either Bathsheba or Esther.

But, Scripture does make this argument for Joseph, the midwives, and Daniel. Of course, you'd like to dismiss each of these cases with a wave of your hand.

Quote:
So interestingly, the cases Tom mentions are actually easier than the case at hand here, or Esther's, or Bathsheba's.  His examples had, apart from the divine intervention which occurred, no plausible outcome that preserved a quasi-normal life, and so they found themselves oddly free.

Miss Lyell's case is nothing like Bathsheba or Esther. Nice try though, Bert. The point of these case studies is that God is sovereign and blesses the obedience of his people. If Joseph would have followed your advice, he would have slept with Mrs. Potiphar. However, he knew he would have sinned against God. Same for the midwives. Same for Daniel. Yet, each was courageous enough to obey God rather than the person who had authority over their life (literally). Miss Lyell was propositioned by her seminary advisor. She was not raped. She was not sexually assaulted. Her life was not in danger. Yet, you're telling me that she could not make an informed, consensual, self-directed decision to say no to her adviser's sexual advances. She had no better moral choice.

As I said before, women in your world are weak and witless. Bert, you owe women an apology. You need to repent of this misogynistic masquerade​​​​​​​.

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