Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

Domestic abuse is always about power and control
… Red Flags” Of An Abusive Personality:
… 2. CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because they are concerned for your safety, a need for you to use time well or to make good decisions…” – Cantara Safehouse

John Piper is at it again. He is vehemently denying that Complementarianism can ever be complicit in the abuse of women.

Even before we go to Piper, I want to compare a definition of complementarianism to the definition of domestic abuse at the start:

“Complementarianism holds that “God has created men and women equal in their essential dignity and human personhood, but different and complementary in function with male headship in the home and in the Church.” – Duncan, Ligon

The first part – before the word “but” is asserted by egalitarians too, and as such is not what Piper speaks about when he opposes egalitarianism. Basically, complementarians say leadership, or control, belongs to men. If abuse is always about power and control, and controlling behavior is a red flag for an abuser, complementarianism is a red flag for abuse.

But let us hear Piper in his own words.

First, note that he does not define abuse. In fact, I never heard one complementarian actually deal with the link between control and abuse. (As an aside, if any complementarian leader ever starts out by mentioning the link between the two issues, and then discuss how complementarianism can or cannot be called complicit in calling men to be controlling, please tell me where! I am very curious to see them handle the elephant in the room.)

At 1 minute and 20 seconds, he says:

25 “We not only say: ‘Humans do not treat humans that way’, but ‘men don’t treat women that way’…”

Firstly, please bear with me if I get very literal. (Hey, I’m autistic. I take things literally. It is better than kleptomaniacs, who take things – literally.) He is wrong. Men do treat women that way. Not all men, of course, but too many of them. In fact, whether you define abuse as control, or as giving your partner physical injuries, more men than women do it.

I realized he meant it as a form of shaming. He meant it as peer pressure: Men shouldn’t where he said men don’t. The same way boys in high school would shame a another boy who does not (falsely) brag about (alleged) sexual prowess, he wants to shame men who abuse women.

However, most men are less influenced by peer pressure now than they were in high school, and Piper is not the cool kid in most circles. (To be fair, there are a few theological seminaries where John Piper is regarded as one of the “cool kids”. That is why I would love if he really speaks out against abuse. But I digress.)

Ultimately, messages like: “(Real) men should not abuse women” is less effective than “(real) men should control/ be the heads of women“, for a simple reason. Manhood, to be anything, must be different from something else, in this case from womanhood.

Men should not abuse women” would be a special manhood assignment if women had the right to abuse men. Women do not, so it is not. “Men should control/ be the heads of women” is a manhood assignment if women are not supposed to control/ be the heads of men. By complementarian theology, women are not supposed to control, so it is.

“…It is written on your soul, man. You are a wicked, unmanly person if you do that. Complementarians are the only people who can talk that way.”

Complementarians may be the only people who talk that way, but it is a very ineffective way of talking: Your average baby, child, or woman do not abuse a woman. The majority of people who abuse them are men. Why would an abuser believe his behavior is not manly, if it is more common in men than in women and even supports male “headship” – which Piper endorses?

1:50 “It makes for beautiful and safe and flourishing relationships.”

When I heard the word “safe” in there, my mind immediately returned to the second red flag for an abusive personality:

“CONTROLLING BEHAVIOR: At first, the batterer will say this behavior is because they are concerned for your safety…”

When I heard flourishing, I smiled because it is such a typical Piper adjective. I don’t think I ever hear anyone else say it, except him discussing complementarian relationships.

But my favorite part is about 25 seconds into the video:

“Complementarianism stood in the gap between (gesturing with his right hand as far right as it can go) abusive, dominating, patriarchalism and egalitarianism (gesturing with his left hand as far left as it can go) over here.”

I actually believe him here. Egalitarianism is as far as can be from abuse! He actually made our point for us. Thank you for that, John Piper!

Comments on: "John Piper – as wrong about Domestic Violence as ever (read if you want to see me agree with Piper on something)" (7)

  1. Cindy J McKnight said:

    This was great! I love your writing style…. makes me smile as much as makes me think! God bless you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. You assessed Piper’s statements very accurately and in a helpful manner. Thank you! I also appreciate how you point out the beauty of Piper putting abuse at the extreme opposite of egalitarian theology, with complementarian ideology somewhere in between. Yes, it is in between, because when followed by men who love and respect their wives, there is no (or little) abuse, but the ideas create an ecclesial structure and home environment where abuse can be fostered, justified (falsely) as godly behavior through “clever” wording, and hidden.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Piper is a spiritual abuser whose teaching facilitates abuse, full stop. How does he respond to this?

    He invokes the well-known “No True Scotsman” fallacy where he tries to redefine a “true complementarian” as one that does not abuse his (male only) position of power over others, including his wife. What this really tries to claim is that all complementarians are mature believers that love their wives as Christ loves the church. This is easily seen as false, as Retha points out.

    Piper also invokes the false claim that something in the middle between extremes is the best answer, this is also not true, sometimes the middle is, but sometimes God wants to abolish something, for example, slavery. God also wants to abolish the permanent caste system of complementarianism.

    Piper is offering codswallop, don’t eat it.


  4. What mainly separates complimentarian’s from egalitarian’s is denial. Without this denial complimentarian’s would loose their identity. Remove their arguments and talking points and what you end up with is an egalitarian relationship.
    Don’t believe me?
    If a complimentarian adopted the name egalitarian you would not notice a difference!
    How did the egalitarianism of Rachel Held Even’s look, act or function any different from the complimentarian relationship of Mary Kassian?


    • I am not sure what Kassian’s marriage looks like. The difference between a comp and egal marriage is the hierarchy. Some complementarians – as you can probably guess – pay lip service to it and are functionally egalitarian, others actually live it.


  5. The huge variants within the egalitarianism and complimentarian camps is a trademark of egalitarianism because an egalitarian relationship can mean whatever the people involved want it to mean.
    The name of your website “biblical personhood” and your slogan “Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood” sums everything up nicely because if what defines personhood is a non physical mind/soul then “personhood” masks the physical meaning of the gendered body and sexual meaning and purpose is determined from the higher perspective of consciousness.


    • Hhhmm. Egalitarian relationships cannot be “whatever the people want it to mean”. It has to mean relating to one another as equals.

      Personhood is bigger than just the physical body, yes. And in the Christian view, we continue to exist when we die, and in the next world, Jesus says there will be no marriage.


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