Can complementarianism be spiritual abuse?

Can complementarianism be spiritual abuse?

Spiritual abuse on Women in Ministry by Cheryl Schatz

Spiritual Abuse

Can complementarianism ever be considered spiritual abuse?  Before we can discuss this, we need to know what spiritual abuse is.  David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen have written a definition in The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment (pg 20)

Spiritual authority can become spiritual abuse when leadership places a value on a “doctrine” (especially a secondary doctrine) over and above the value of the member of the body of Christ.  Johnson and VanVonderen identify how subtle a matter of authority can become spiritual abuse.

It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t “behave” spiritually the way you want them to.  (pg 23)

David Henke writes in the Watchman Fellowship’s Profile on Spiritual Abuse:

The most distinctive characteristic of a spiritually abusive religious system, or leader, is the over-emphasis on authority. Because a group claims to have been established by God Himself the leaders in this system claim the right to command their followers.

This authority supposedly comes from the position they occupy. In Matthew 23:1-2 Jesus said the Scribes and Pharisees “sit in Moses’ seat,” a position of spiritual authority. Many names are used but in the abusive system this is a position of power, not moral authority. The assumption is that God operates among His people through a hierarchy, or “chain of command.” In this abusive system unconditional submission is often called a “covering,” or “umbrella of protection” which will provide some spiritual blessing to those who fully submit. Followers may be told that God will bless their submission even if the leadship is wrong. It is not their place to judge or correct the leadership – God will see to that.

Does any of this sound familiar?  David Henke continues:

Because the religious system is not based on the truth it cannot allow questions, dissent, or open discussions about issues. The person who dissents becomes the problem rather than the issue he raised. The truth about any issue is settled and handed down from the top of the hierarchy. Questioning anything is considered a challenge to authority. Thinking for oneself is suppressed by pointing out that it leads to doubts. This is portrayed as unbelief in God and His anointed leaders. Thus the follower controls his own thoughts by fear of doubting God.

Authoritarian Leadership

A Biblical system that is set up as a hierarchy with apparently God-ordained men at the top and women set “in their place” underneath the authority and control of men, can be a set up for spiritual abuse.

Henke states that authoritarian leadership can wound so deep that it can rob a person of trust.

Spiritual abuse has a devastating effect on people. A very high level of trust is often placed in spiritual leaders. It is, and ought to be, expected that the trust will be honored and guarded. When such trust is violated the wound is very deep. Sometimes the wound is so deep that the wounded person cannot trust even a legitimate spiritual authority again.

David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen give helpful advice in the final pages of The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.

…find relationships in which it is safe to heal from the wounds of the abuse.

Second, listen to God and do what He tells you. If you are a victim of spiritual abuse, this may be very hard. You have been taught to let everyone else speak for God, and you have been punished for trying to hear from God yourself. He may tell you to stay, when all of the evidence of abuse says to leave. He may even tell you to leave, when everything is going great. On the other hand, it may have been Him, not you, telling you to leave the abuse all along. And He will never leave you or forsake you. Listen to God.

We would like to close by referring you to the way the disciples responded to oppression. Acts 4:23 says, “And when they had been released, they went to their own companions, and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them.”

When you experience spiritual abuse, find your own friends who understand and tell them about it. Get some support.

Consider their prayer in Acts 4:29-30:

And now, Lord, take note of their threats, and grant that Thy bond-servants may speak Thy word with all confidence, while Thou dost extend Thy hand to heal, and signs and wonders take place through the name of Thy holy Servant Jesus.

This is our prayer for you, too:

God, please pay attention to how those who have given their lives to serve you are getting intimidated and abused. And even in the middle of that, authorize and empower them to keep telling the truth. And keep moving your hand over your people to bring healing and rest, in the name of Jesus.

This is one reason why this blog is set up – to help men and women alike to see that restricting women from using their God-given gifts and placing them in a position of having to obey either God or man is abusive, and men and women should have a safe place to discuss the gender issue.

For women who have had men “pull rank” on them and hold them down to restrict their ability to serve their only Master, the Lord Jesus, the pain is very real.  Hierarchy can bring great harm to a woman inside her very soul and cause her to lose her sense of trust.  Sadly a woman may even transfer the actions of these men who are practicing hierarchy, to the nature of God, the very One that they are said to represent.  God now can become “like” the men to her, and this can harm her trust in God.  The spiritual pain that a woman suffers can take a long time in healing.  The body of Christ also suffers when women suffer this way for the body is missing the gifts of these needed members who are being restricted.

Recommended Resources

Recommended Resources from Watchman Fellowship Inc

The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, by David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen, Bethany House Publishers. Dynamite! Excellent help for recognizing and escaping spiritual manipulation and false spiritual authority within the Church. 235 pages

Faith That Hurts, Faith That Heals, by Stephen Arterburn, and Jack Felton, Thomas Nelson Publishers. Very thorough treatment analyzes beliefs that make harmful faith, religious addiction, etc. as well as treatment and recovery, and the characteristics of healthy faith. 320 pages

Breaking Free, by David R. Miller, Baker Book House. Speaking first-hand from the experiences of his own family, Miller penetrates virtually every nuance of legalism and its insidious effects on individual and family life. 176 pages-

Wisdom Hunter, be Randall Arthur, Multnomah Press. Taut, fast-paced thriller presents a powerful message about the damage caused by Christian legalism. 323 pages

Churches That Abuse, by Ronald Enroth, Zondervan. Providing real-life examples throughout, Enroth probes every corner of the abusive church. He also provides help to find the way out, and back to God’s healing. 253 pages, endnotes.

Youtube clips on Spiritual abuse:

Human Coverings Submit to God’s Delegated Authority

Toxic Faith Surviving Spiritual Abuse part 1.

Toxic Faith Surviving Spiritual Abuse part 2.

73 thoughts on “Can complementarianism be spiritual abuse?

  1. For a while in our old church, my wife and I started to think that “devisive” was our last name. Even now, I feel oddly out of place in studies that I generally enjoy and support (“Men’s Fraternity”, “Promise Keepers”, “The Truth Project” to name a few) when they suddenly start talking male leadership and such.

  2. “For women who have had men “pull rank” on them and hold them down to restrict their ability to serve their only Master, the Lord Jesus, the pain is very real. Hierarchy can bring great harm to a woman inside her very soul and cause her to lose her sense of trust. Sadly a woman may even transfer the actions of these men who are practicing hierarchy, to the nature of God that they are said to represent. God now can become “like” the men to her and this can harm her trust in God.”

    This is very true. One of the first things a woman has to do is actually find out who God is and stop listening to men trying to tell her who God is. She must search the scriptures and find His true nature for herself.

    One part of the parable of the talents that not everyone sees is the part where the servant with one talent said he buried his talent because he knew the master to be a hard man, reaping where he didn’t sow.
    This is a lie. If the master wanted to reap where he did not sow, he would not have handed out 5, 2, or 1 talent(s) respectively. He would have given them nothing and expected them to produce something out of nothing if he thought he could reap where he did not sow.
    The servant believed a lie about him. And believed that he was a hard man.

    In the same way, women believe lies about God because of what they have been taught. They have been taught the doctrines of men which are very restricting and these women believe God is that restrictive, as well.
    And so women bury their talents.
    And they are going to be very surprised when God calls them into account.

  3. Mara,
    Excellent observations!

    gengwall,
    Funny I have never read any of your comments as “divisive” so I can’t imagine why people would think that about you. I guess it is just a case where people are already convinced of their view and they take a dim view of anyone who might bring a view that threatens the soundness of their own view. Unfortunately it appears to be human nature to harden the heart to anything that is truth outside of our own comfortable view. It is sad.

  4. It seemed that when ever we raised and issue or even offered an opinion to church leadership (elders and pastor) we were labelled this and our view dismissed (and told to be quiet to boot). I will give three examples.

    We directed the children’s Christmas and Spring musicals for 8 years. Whenever we asked for more rehearsal time and space, or objected to reductions in the same, we were told we were usurping authority and conflicting with the “important” ministries of the church.

    When we were involved in the worship ministry including being on a call committee for a new worship director, we were told numerous times that we were conflicting with the head pastor’s authority over worship when we offered ideas, opinions, and recomendations that differed from those of the head pastor and the elders regarding the “direction” of worship ministry in the church. Not only were we told we were out of order, but also that our ideas subverted the mission of the church for reaching the community.

    When we started our own performing arts ministry outside of the church, we were “hauled in” to a meeting with the head pastor, the elders, and the current worship director and accused of a variety of offenses including planning to “rob” the worship ministry of human resources, not focusing enough on our ministry within the local church body, and using stolen ideas from the church’s internal worship creative team to “seed” our own ministry creativity. (To be fair, this was mostly the head pastor and the worship director. The elders either remained mute, supported us, or considered the whole thing much ado about nothing.)

    These are the extreem examples, of course, but that atmosphere was purvasive in the church not only for us but for a number of other people. If you objected, suggested, or even opined on any area of church operations from administration all the way to the preaching, you were told to hold your tongue or be disciplined for divisiveness.

  5. gengwall

    Wow, sounds very familiar, got a few scars of my own.

    Kudos to you for surviving and continuing to walk with Jesus.
    Many have turned aside because of the abuse.

    I have seen the dangers of “Titles,” of “Pastors,” and of “leaders.”
    Spiritual abuse for both the “leader” and those “being led.”

    I’m not not new to “ministering healing” to those who have been abused by those who “thought they were called to be pastor/leaders.”

    Folks who have been burnt, burnt out, kicked out,
    or crawled out of “the religious system.”
    With it’s leaders, spiritual authority, tithes and offerings,
    forced attendance, and other “heavy weights” put on folks shoulders.

    My personal doctrine now is – eventually…

    No matter how humble one might start out – eventually…

    “Leaders” = excise authority = lord it over = abuse = always

    “Disciples of Christ” = servants = forsaking all = loving one another

    In Mat 23:10 Jesus tells “His disciples” NOT to be called “leaders”
    And none did, they all called themselves servants.

    King James Version –
    Neither be ye called masters:
    for one is your Master, even Christ.

    The Interlinear Bible –
    Nor be called leaders,
    for one is your leader the Christ.

    Phillips Modern English –
    you must not let people call you leaders,
    you have only one leader, Christ.

    Today’s English Version –
    nor should you be called leader.
    your one and only leader is the Messiah.

    The Amplified-
    you must not be called masters ( leaders )
    for you have one master ( leader ) the Christ.

    Jesus told His disciples not to be called “leaders” and none did.

    Ro 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ,
    Php 1:1 Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ,
    Col 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ,
    Tit 1:1 Paul, a servant of God,
    Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God
    2Pe 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant

    His disciples all called themselves “servants,”
    none called themselves “leaders.” None? None.
    None called themselves “servant-leader.” None.

    If Jesus instructed “His disciples” NOT to call themselves leaders
    and someone calls themself a “leader”
    or thinks they are a “leader;”

    Are they a “disciple of Christ?”

    Peace…

  6. I’ve thought for a long time that a large part of the problem is with our definition of “leadership.” Reading today I found this definition of leadership which I think may be one I could fully agree with: “all leadership is to help people to become like Jesus.”
    If that’s our focus, if leadership is about helping another become more like Jesus, then maybe, just maybe, we’d forget about power and titles and (dare I add?) money that goes with some leadership positions, and just focus on being like Jesus. And abuse in the name of our mighty God and our precious Saviour would stop . . .

  7. LMB,
    I think that the definition is a good one and helping people to become like Christ would mean that the leader would need to work on his own Christlike-ness first so that he/she can help people follow Jesus as he/she has already set as an example.

  8. Very true, Cheryl! The leader would have to go first and model the way. Otherwise it would be hypocrisy–“do what I do, not what I say.”

  9. What if we never used the word ‘leader’ and instead only referred to ourselves as bondservants? Words mean things. It is hard for people to wrap their minds around the fact that a ‘leader’ in the Biblical sense is the most lowly and humble….a servant that washes the feet of His followers.

  10. Using the term “bondservant” would be very Biblical. But we have to make sure that we measure up since a bondservant is one who is fully sold out to the Lord Jesus. There is no playing games if one is a bondservant and no turning back. (I am not saying that anyone of us is playing games with the Lord, just making a general comment about the kind of leadership that we often get in the churches).

  11. “What if we never used the word ‘leader’ and instead only referred to ourselves as bondservants? Words mean things.” Lin, it’s true that words mean things. But it’s also true that the meaning of a word changes over time. So I don’t think changing the word would change the problem in the long run. The real problem isn’t the words we use but our own sinful hearts that lead us astray, blind us to our own sin and make us think we are better and know better than everyone else. Combine that with a position of power and you have a recipe for trouble.

    In the field of leadership studies, only a little has been done on bad leadership. Some consistent recommendations are limited tenure, shared power and self-control. (Think of checks-and-balances in the US government system–the theory, at least, is sound.) Followers also have a responsibility to speak up and speak out when leaders make bad choices. Many of us fall down on that one out of fear of reprisals. In John we read several times that people were afraid to believe because they would be put out of the synagogue (9:22, 12:42). And some of the Jewish leaders wouldn’t openly acknowledge their faith and risk excommunication because “they loved human glory more than the glory of God.” (John 12:43). Speaking up against the establishment has always been a risky proposition: you might be excommunicated, or labeled “divisive” or suffer any number of reprisals.

    The cycle of power can be devastating. The more an authority figure has, the less the followers will speak against him/her (though usually him), and the more power he accrues, and the worse the reprisals. That’s why it’s so important to be watchful and address things before they spiral out of control.
    Unregulated power can quickly become spiritual abuse!

    Sorry, I seem to have gotten on my soapbox 🙂

  12. Found these quotes on a site talking about leadership
    and what it looks like today. Anything but servants.

    “Our preacher was preaching on servanthood leadership. He said one of the terms in it’s cultural context meant a servant was a steward. A steward was a manger – a boss. The master trusted everything to this “servant”. A servant was the manager of many resources. So as pastor, he was a manager – boss in the church. That’s how you get from servant to boss in the same “biblical” word. Cough cough.”

    “I had a pastor one time that considered himself
    to be a “servant leader”
    …but I think he meant he was a leader
    to those who are servants…”

  13. Lin

    “What if we never used the word ‘leader’ and instead only referred to ourselves as bondservants? Words mean things.”

    Much agreement. Words mean things.

    Titles and labels divide. And are the beginning of spiritual abuse.

    Titles and labels say – I am, you’re not.
    Titles and labels say – We are, they’re not.

    Titles and labels always come with just “a little bit extra.”
    Power, profit, prestige, recognition, reputation, etc.

    All those things Jesus spoke against.

    LMB

    “Many of us fall down on that one out of fear of reprisals. In John we read several times that people were afraid to believe because they would be put out of the synagogue (9:22, 12:42). And some of the Jewish leaders wouldn’t openly acknowledge their faith and risk excommunication because “they loved human glory more than the glory of God.” (John 12:43). Speaking up against the establishment has always been a risky proposition:”

    Amen. So called “Religious leaders” today fall into the snare of power and prestige.

    Eventually they come to love the praises of men more then the praises of God.

    Pr 29:5 A man that flattereth his neighbour spreadeth a net for his feet.

    Titles become idols.

    Very difficult to lay down and destroy.

  14. “Lin, it’s true that words mean things. But it’s also true that the meaning of a word changes over time. So I don’t think changing the word would change the problem in the long run.”

    but that is exactly what has been done. You can trace it throughout church history. the problem has been changed because fewer people see truth behind the words. Another example of this is ‘complimentarian’. Another word coined to say something that it isn’t at all!. Words mean things and are very important communication tools that direct people. Ask any ad exec or marketing person.

    So, we get to the late 20th century with our business model church and Blanchard coins the term ‘servant-leadership’ to make authoritarian leaders more acceptable. Gengwell is right. It is an oxymoron.

    I was in corporate training for 18 years and we did not need official studies for bad leadership examples. The problem is inherent. And it is everywhere. Seriously, it is the very rare individual who can gain influence over others or be given positional power…to be totally selfless, lack ego and not work to ‘maintain’ that power. I am talking about secular leadership so when you map the same leadership principles taught by most of the guru’s to the Body of Christ…it does not work scripturally.

    The whole point is that it easily becomes a sin trap for the person (leader) who gains power and/or influence over others whether it be positional or influential.

    I was very glad to see Jeff VanVonderen make this very point in one of his books. The authoritarian ‘leader’ is in a sin trap.

  15. Word games not withstanding, we still need to contend with the argument that Jesus was indeed both servant to and leader of the church. So, the comps have a “servant leader” paradigm to point to. Any thoughts?

  16. “Any thoughts?”

    The Body of Christ has only One Head.
    Jesus is still THE Leader/Head of the church – as He has not given anyone else His place. Everyone else is a bondservant. Anyone claiming otherwise is usurping the place of The Leader.

    There is a vast difference in serving others by example and claiming authority over them.

  17. I found Jeff VanVonderen’s book “Families Where Grace Is In Place” to be very helpful as a non-threatening rather soft-spoken introduction to what’s wrong with hierarchial relationships.

  18. The trouble is with the word “leader”. It inherently implies authority. If we equate “head” with “leader” then we equate “head” with “authority over”. But that is never the meaning of “head” in the Greek. So, I do not believe “leader” is a valid word to include in the Pauline Head/Body metaphores. But I do believe “leader” with its authoritative implications is a word we can associate with Jesus. But in what context?

  19. gengwall,
    How about: Jesus is THE only One with authority over the church – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matt. 28:18
    Since He has ALL authority, then there is none left for anyone else. None, zero, zilch.
    Everyone else is a bondservant.

  20. You all know, of course, that I am simply playing devil’s advocate here. I think it is important to review and address the arguments we are likely to get. I know it helps me keep the picture clear in my mind.

    Kay and Cheryl, I agree. But, how does one then avoid connecting the God/Creator oneleader in relation to the church with the head/body, husband/bride pictures in scripture? What I mean is – if Jesus is leader over the church because of what you say, how does that not make Him authority over His bride (and in turn, make the husband authority over the wife and the male authority over the female)? This is where comps make the connection. I believe that Jesus exists in a variety of capacities in relation to the church and husband/bride is just one. But I don;t have this well formulated in my head. I’m curious how you handle the apparent conflict within the egal view.

  21. Jesus is both man and God. As husband of the church he is the resurrected man. And I am wondering if we are making a mistake by using “over” instead of “of”. He is head “of” the church, not head “over” the church. He puts all things under His feet (and we are His feet) so that all things are under the body. The “over” comes in regards to everything else and the “of” is in regards to His body. Make sense?

  22. Yes – and I agree, “head over” is misleading. So you agree that there is a distinction, or a dual…I can’t think of a good word that isn’t already inflamatory in the debate…anyway, let me see if I can summarize.

    Jesus exists as head of the body, husband of the bride in his state as the resurrected man. The head/body, husband/bride pictures are synonymous – they are not two different designs.

    Jesus exists as the authority granted leader of the Church (and the world) as God.

    Is that it?

  23. “And I am wondering if we are making a mistake by using “over” instead of “of”. He is head “of” the church, not head “over” the church.”
    Cheryl,
    You’ve nailed it! That’s what we’ve been stumbling on. Jesus has ALL authority OVER the Church and He is the Head OF the Body.

    (caps just for emphasis – not shouting 🙂 )

  24. Nourishment for the body comes through the head by mouth. Nourishment for the Body comes through the Head – Christ.

  25. Kay – I understand the head/body metaphor and agree that it authority is not part of it. The probelm is that comps do not separate the head/body or husband/bride arrangements from the “Jesus is Lord” arrangement. Put another way, whenever they see Jesus acting in authority OVER the church, they declare that such is part of His “headship” or “husbandry” OVER the church. They make a connection between two different…again, I can’t find the right word…arrangements/orientations/organizations/relationships…between Christ and the Church. They see it all as one marriage. As such, they justify husbands acting in authority over their wives as reflecting Christ’s relationship with His bride. In turn, since it is all or nothing, they see men in the church acting in authority over the women as a reflection of Christ’s leadership of the church. To them, it is all one seemless structure and relationship and they truly believe they are modeling Christ properly.

    As you can see, I have a hard time even articulating the dilema, let alone forming a cogent response to their arguments.

  26. Hi People!

    I have always felt that hierarchy was abuse, simply because hierarchy between men and women seeks to limit, restrict and put someone down, essentially seeking to make them less than they are. I see this as abuse. It is certainly not loving, encouraging, edifying and lifting others up!

    This means that I do not see a slippery slope from hierarchy to abuse, but rather that hierarchy is abuse. Now, having said that I recognise that some comps would be mortified if they heard me say that, but then my parents controlled and manipulated me for many years, and yet they loved me. It was just that their love was so misguided and distorted that what was well intentioned equaled abuse.

    Is that clear?

    Kay, I love it when you emphasise!

  27. Gengwall, could you give us an example of CHrist’s authority over the church that comps would point to? Just trying to understand you.

    Also, I have an issue with taking any God/human relationship and saying it is equal to a human/human relationship when authority is the issue. I assume you do too. 🙂

  28. THANKS DAVE 😉 and I’m with you I see hierarchy as abuse as well. And also in the sense of abusing/misusing/usurping Christ’s authority.

    gengwall,
    Yes, THE delimma – I suppose it boils down to with what mindset one views God and Scripture. I mean how much a person can ignore/justify/misread/etc… Matthew 28:18 to snatch part of Jesus’ ALL for one’s self.

  29. I will give you a general one regarding the Church and a specific one regarding marriage.

    The letters to the churches in Revelation are authoritative and corrective. I think we would agree. Comps take those letters as evidence that Christ exercises authority and gives correction to the church apart from His authority in the world. Now, here is the tricky part. Comps make a kind of connection. They view males as the Christ counterpart and females as the church counterpart in the Christ/Church relationship. Therefore, they see men in the church as being designated to fulfill the authority/correction role in the local body. I know this connection is fuzzy. I am not sure how to make clear to THEM that it is fuzzy. At any rate, they use Christ’s exercise of authority over the church to justify male exercise of authority within the church. I’m sure there are otehrs here who have run into similar justifications.

    In marriage, they view every act of Christ in relation to the church (or psuedo church even) as an action related to husband wife relations. So, when Jesus cleared out the temple, they interpret that as justification of husbandly “righteous anger” and even domestic discipline toward the wife. When they see Jesus rebuking the disciples, they interpret that as justification to rebuke their wives. When they see Jesus correcting bad behavior and doctrine within the various chruches in Revelation, they interpret that as justification to scrutinize, correct, and even punish their wives. They view all of this as righteous “love” because this is supposedly how Christ “loved” the Church.

  30. To reiterate – comps see the relationship between Christ and the Church as 1 dimensional. In other words, there is only one relational paradigm, and it is the head/body, husband/bride one. Even though they may agree that the head/body metaphor does not denote authority, they still believe it is all muddled together and so whenever they do see authority, they incorporate it into the “marriage”. They then extend it to church organization because, as we all know (where is that sarcasm smiley), you can’t have authority over a woman in the home but then have her have authority over you in another realm. Why that just doesn;t work at all.

  31. Thanks for the clarification gengwall. I have to go do something all morning, I hope to mull over it more, but my initial thought is that all authority comes from God. I am sure comps would agree…I hope! Throughout scripture any acts of authority, either through Jesus or even the prophets in the OT, or Paul rebuking/exhorting in the NT, the authority comes from God. The question is, how do we determine what really is authroity from God and what is not. The only answer I can think of is discernment through the Holy Spirit and the written word. God’s authority can come through any means by whic God chooses, even a donkey!

    I have recently been at another blog where I was chewed up and spat out. They then ripped my heart out and stamped on it. They then pursued my children…you get the picture. None of their behaviour fits with the Spirit or scripture.

    Now, they are never going to admit out loud that their behaviour is wrong. They simply keep saying that they speak with authority. But it is characteristic of the authority of the world/satan.

    Did I go off-topic or is this related?

    I shoudl go and think…

  32. Sigh. They take a sinner (man) and ask him to play Jesus (sinless). How can a sinner play the part of sinless? Sinners SIN! Yikes I wouldn’t even want to near that – pretty close to tromping on pride and arrogance!

    Its like they are saying man is a substitute teacher for Jesus since he isn’t here in the earthy form anymore. They want the authority, respect, and position of the teacher that out with God right now (instead of out sick like teachers are). You need to treat me as you would treat him if he was here in the earthy form.

  33. “You need to treat me as you would treat him if he was here in the earthy form.”
    Hannah,
    And how convenient is that. And so one simply over looks loving your “neighbor as yourself.” Loving your husband like he is God trumps that apparently???

  34. “When they see Jesus correcting bad behavior and doctrine within the various chruches in Revelation, they interpret that as justification to scrutinize, correct, and even punish their wives. They view all of this as righteous “love” because this is supposedly how Christ “loved” the Church.”

    In short, gengwall, they want to play God. Haven’t people always longed to do that? don’t we all long to be ‘right’ all the time? to have things done our way?

  35. People who like to be in authority will tend to see it as necessary everywhere and in every relationship. People who see Jesus as having ALL authority will view all relationships differently. Just summing…

  36. Dave,
    I’m sorry you had a bad encounter on another blog. It’s difficult for me to understand why people would rather shout “heretic” and cut another person to shreds, rather than try to correct in love if they think the other person is lost or in error. It’s sad.

    That is one thing I luv about this blog – a comp like Mark comes here and no one attacks him personally or treats him like the Enemy. Yes, the discussions get passionate – I’m certain I’ve exasperated Mark at times (sorry Mark) but the main focus here is to find and teach Truth. Not just some “We are the winning side” attitude.

  37. “Heretic” – yup, been called that one too. Well, to be honest, I was told I was “on the verge” of heresy. I’m not exactly sure how one becomes almost a heretic. It’s a little like being almost pregnant, isn’t it?

  38. “Word games not withstanding, we still need to contend with the argument that Jesus was indeed both servant to and leader of the church. So, the comps have a “servant leader” paradigm to point to. Any thoughts?”

    Dave beat me to it but the answer is that they are only depraved humans saved by grace…like the rest of us. They have taken a metaphor about love and unity and added a leadership ingredient.

    The real paradigm is the Matt 5 Beatitudes. Would you describe a “leader’ as someone with the unglamorous salt elements of Matthew 5?

    When most folks think of leader they think visionary, charismatic, in charge, problem solver, influential, etc. “Leader” denotes human endeavor…it does not give the Holy Spirit the credit

  39. I understand, Lin, but they still won’t give up. They will say that although we can’t attain Jesus’ sinless state, Jesus is still used as the model for human relationships. So, to the best of our ability, we are to lead (including exercising authority). Then all the androcentric stuff comes into play.

  40. “Leader” denotes human endeavor…it does not give the Holy Spirit the credit”
    Lin,
    That’s the main problem with the hierarchist set-up.

  41. It puts a man between a woman and the Holy Spirit’s place in her life.

    It makes her relationship with God something different than a man’s.

    It makes it dependant on man.

  42. I think “Christ has ALL the authority…” is on the right track. The key then is to get them to understand that in this respect, Christ can not be compared to any man, be it a husband or a church leader or the pope or anyone. This “realm” if you will, of Christ’s authority, lies outside teh human realms in which Jesus models husband/head. Does that make sense?

  43. “Christ has ALL the authority” is definitely barking up the right tree. You are very right, gengwall, in saying that because of this, Christ cannot be compared to any man. However, given our desire to claim authority over each other, this is often the last thing we want to hear (and the first thing we willingly forget). Until we get it through our cotton-pickin’ heads that Christ has the final and ultimate authority, we will be locked in power struggles that allow spiritual abuse to happen. It’s a really crummy thing, that we spend so much time debating roles that we lose reality: that around us is a lost and dying world that doesn’t give a rat’s hindquarters who has the authority! Once we lose that reality, we start losing opportunities to set all the power struggles aside and really make a difference–opportunities for which we are all accountable for using.

  44. Dave, #30, spot on! I hold the same view as you and I cannot ever see it another way. And I’ve always held this view.

  45. I see this as abuse. It is certainly not loving, encouraging, edifying and lifting others up!

    Being real – it’s opposite Christlikeness, period.

  46. ”’I think “Christ has ALL the authority…” is on the right track. The key then is to get them to understand that in this respect, Christ can not be compared to any man, be it a husband or a church leader or the pope or anyone. This “realm” if you will, of Christ’s authority, lies outside teh human realms in which Jesus models husband/head. Does that make sense?”’

    That makes good sense to me gengwall. We can’t compare ourselves as humans to the son of God. Everyone should strive to be more like him, but to say we can take the authority he has and Lord it over others at the same time? I don’t know about you all, but I see Christ earning that position in the eyes of those that followed him on earth and saw his miracles and were blessed with his words and presence. He showed them WHY we should be believe, and left us with a yearn for more. He spoke about faith, obedience, and his Father in Heaven. He then left us with a choice to accept him or not. (I realize my visual is simplistic) The two types of authority they speak about are not comparable at all. Jesus has loads of extras on his side (lol) that they will never have, and the leaders of the church, home, etc have fallen on their face to many times without the humble nature that Christ had. We are human afterall right? To me that is huge ingredient they seem to overlook – well one ingredient.

    Jesus won people over and earned their respect, honor, faith, etc. He stated he did these things for his Father, and not because he was born male. It seems due to their gender they expect it, and let you know GOD told them they could. Not the same nature to me!

    Why they don’t see the difference? I have no clue. True leaders in the christian home doesn’t need to proclaim all they proclaim. They don’t due to the humble nature that they learned from their example in Christ our Lord. Why they miss that connection is beyond me. Why they cant see why others would claim they are attempting to grab power instead of earning the honor, respect, and faith in them as a good man is beyond me.

    One aspect you WORK towards, and the other? WELL – not so much!

  47. “I think “Christ has ALL the authority…” is on the right track. The key then is to get them to understand that in this respect, Christ can not be compared to any man, be it a husband or a church leader or the pope or anyone. This “realm” if you will, of Christ’s authority, lies outside teh human realms in which Jesus models husband/head. Does that make sense?”

    Absolutely. You have hit on it. They take Christ’ “human-ness” and “maleness” and apply to themselves on earth. His realm of authority, as you so aptly put it, was supernatural because He modeled humilty and lowliness as the human part during His ministry.

  48. Dave #30, that’s a great comment that hierarchy IS abuse. This one causes me to struggle, I think because I’ve been told for so long that hierarchy is how God set up the world and designed it to operate, and yet the reality is that I can’t think of a single example of a hierarchy that doesn’t have abuse in it. Major cognitive dissonance, right? The teaching and the practice are so far apart as to seem completely incompatible. It seems that any human with unilateral power will use it wrongly. In Spain they have a saying, “Give anyone a cap and a whistle and they’ll become a dictator.” The more I think about the truer it seems.
    Has anyone else seen a hierarchy system that actually worked well and didn’t include some abuse?

  49. I have been mulling things over all morning and wondered if hierarchy and relationship were incompatible. When I say relationship, I mean it in the friendship/love/personal way, not as in ‘position of one to another’ way as that would be simply hierarchy.

    Comps would say that our relationship with God is one of hierarchy, but hierarchy has to do with status, subordination, position etc.

    Relationship, however, works seperately to status etc, sometimes inspite of! God does have a position higher/greater than us, but he chooses relationship first and foremost through Jesus.

    The great thing about Jesus is he is where hierarchy and relationship exist together, not in tension but in harmony. He has authority, but chooses to serve us with his authority.

    I hope this makes sense!

  50. Perhaps ‘incompatible’ is too strong, perhaps they can work together (e.g. In CHrist) but are completely seperate from one another.
    ?!

  51. “The great thing about Jesus is he is where hierarchy and relationship exist together, not in tension but in harmony. He has authority, but chooses to serve us with his authority.”
    Dave,
    He is the only one in whom hierarchy and relationship exist together perfectly because He is the ONLY one with authority…because – dare I say it again?? – Matthew 28:18 says He has it “all.”

    What part of ‘all’ do comps not understand? It’s a simple concept really – as in “I ate all the cookies, so how many are left for you?” None. “Correct”

    Jesus has all authority, so how much is left for hierarchists?

    …time to sleep while you commentors in a different time zone carry on….zzzzzz

  52. “I have been mulling things over all morning and wondered if hierarchy and relationship were incompatible.”
    Dave,
    I wonder if perhaps what you meant here is: if hierarchy and servanthood are compatible?

    *”for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.” Matthew 23:8*

    We cannot all be serving only one Master, if
    some of us
    must answer to others of us
    in authority over us.

    Because “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other.” Matthew 6:24
    ….and that is a big problem. Because as you say, in Jesus is the only place where hierarchy and relationship exist together, not in tension but in harmony.

  53. “Has anyone else seen a hierarchy system that actually worked well and didn’t include some abuse?”

    LMB,
    Exactly, since no one, except Jesus, is perfect, we know that it is an impossibility for any human to ever carry that out.
    “Now an argument sprang up among them as to which one of them was to be regarded as the greatest.” (sound familiar?) “But he said to them, “The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But you are not to do so. On the contrary, the greatest among you should begin to be as the youngest, and the one who leads should begin to be as the one who serves.”

    “An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest.” Luke 9:48

    Is it just me, or does it seem to you that His disciples had a hard time “getting” this??

  54. Kay,

    My heart is really with you. I’ve not been in any hierarchical system where I didn’t receive abuse of one kind or another. (Obviously I’m only talking about human hierarchies here.) But I’m still struggling because I think the hiers. would agree that Jesus has all authority, and then go on to claim that he delegates it to certain ones chosen by him (husbands, pastors, elders, etc) and that all the rest of us just have to submit or obey. They can appeal to verses like these:

    Romans 13:1-5
    Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

    Titus 3:1
    Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good.

    And by Cheryl’s principle of two witnesses, if it’s in their twice it must be right. FWIW, those sermons of MacArthurs on the curse definitely seem to take this view.

    So I’m still fighting cognitive dissonance. My first thought is that these are secular government authorities, not believers taking authority over each other.

    Can anybody help me out on this one?

  55. “My first thought is that these are secular government authorities, not believers taking authority over each other.”

    Go with your first thought. The bible makes a clear distinction between the secular world, with its authorities, and the Church and home, with its servants.

  56. LMB,

    I think this part:
    “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”
    makes it clear that the rulers referred to are NOT our fellow believers. We are certainly not called on to bear literal swords against one another, or be in fear of one another, and nowhere are believers called “agents of wrath to bring punishment” I agree with gengwall.

  57. LMB

    Best I can figure is…

    Hierarchy, titles, leadership, exercising authority, lording it over, abuse,
    only exists in “The man made Religious System”
    that they mistakingly call “The Church.” Which it is not.

    In the USA, you go to the IRS and ask them permission
    to become “a church.”

    You fill out a form called a – 501 (c) 3.
    When you are approved your institution is now a,

    501 (c) 3, non profit, tax deductible, religious CORPORATION.

    And yes I’m yelling. CORPORATION’s by law have hierarchy.

    Complementarinism – Egalitarianism – only exists in “The Corporation.”

    In, Jesus, He is the head of the body,
    (the ekklesia, the called out ones) “the Church.”

    We are all ”one” body.

    We are all “one” in Christ.

    Ga 3:28
    There is neither Jew nor Greek,
    there is neither bond nor free,
    there is neither male nor female:
    for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

    there is neither Complementarinism nor Egalitarianism,
    there is neither Calvinism nor Arminianism,
    there is neither Catholisism nor Protestinism,
    there is neither leaders nor followers,
    there is neither clergy nor laity,
    there is neither pastors nor sheep,
    and the list goes on…

    All are taught by God.

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be all taught of God.

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to hear his voice,
    that he might instruct thee:

  58. “Ga 3:28
    There is neither Jew nor Greek,
    there is neither bond nor free,
    there is neither male nor female:
    for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”
    A.Amos,
    This reminds me of something I read yesterday regarding the translation of this verse. The word ‘ou’ translated as ‘neither’ literally means: the absolute negative. As in ‘no.’
    There is no Jew nor Greek,
    there is no bond nor free,
    there is no male nor female

  59. Kay

    I agree. This verse is not saying male and female are “equal” in Christ.
    I now believe this verse says, male and female “do not exist” in Christ.”
    We are all “one.”

    Now, what does “one” mean? 😉

    “Ga 3:28
    There is neither Jew nor Greek,
    there is neither bond nor free,
    there is neither male nor female:
    for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

  60. A.Amos,
    Hmmm…Just venturing here, from the context surrounding vs.28 and continuing with vs.29 “And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.” It would mean that we are all one thing – heirs.
    The circumsized Jew has not advantage over the Greek; the free person has no advantage over the slave; males have no advantage over females.

    “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” Rom. 8:16-17

    We are all heirs through the Spirit – not physical means.

  61. Kay

    Doesn’t sound like a venture at all.

    Good stuff.

    “We are all heirs through the Spirit – not physical means.”

    You just left off the last part of verse 17.

    “if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

    The suffer part stinketh.
    Jesus had to “suffer,” with and by, the religious leaders of His day also.
    Those were the only one’s He gave a hard time to.

    Snakes, white walled seplecurs, of your farther the devil,
    love the best seats, give money for all to see, long robes,
    recieve honor one of another, seek your own glory,

    a- ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men:
    b- ye devour widows’ houses
    c- for a pretence make long prayer
    d- ye have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith
    e- ye blind guides, ye strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.
    f- within you are full of extortion and excess.
    g- within you are full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness.
    h- within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.
    i- outwardly you appear righteous unto men, but…
    j- you blind Pharisee, cleanse first the inside that the outside of may be clean also.
    k- Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell?

    Remind you of anyone today. 😉

  62. “But I’m still struggling because I think the hiers. would agree that Jesus has all authority, and then go on to claim that he delegates it to certain ones chosen by him (husbands, pastors, elders, etc) and that all the rest of us just have to submit or obey.”

    LMB,
    Wouldn’t it ever occur to hierarchists to wonder why Jesus never mentions any delegating commands right there as He says, “The kings of the gentiles lord it over them, and those who exercise authority over them are called benefactors. But you are not to do so.” ?? or when He says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth” ??

    If He is so bent on delegating His authority to husbands and certain males, why does He actually say just the opposite?

    Clearly, He missed the perfect teachable moment by NOT saying, *All authority has been given to Me in heaven and earth; and now I delegate this same authority to male elders, male teachers, male preachers and to all husbands, including unbelieving husbands – so they may be won to Christ.*

    Not.

  63. I am wondering why the current “leaders” of the church couldn’t use the term Shepherd. That, to me, conveys : Agapae – self sacrificial love. You’d leave the 99 to find the 1. Servanthood – hours of devotion to the attention, care, and well being of the sheep / congregation. I know there’d probably be debate over congregates being “sheep”… but the shepherd is also meek. Compare that to what our culture considers the pastoral dignitarians of our day — you all are fight. There’s a huge reversal of what we’ve come to know. That’s what Jesus did. He chose the simple things to overcome the wise. I think of that daily, as I can be completely thwarted by a one year old — LOL! I do think God has a sense of humor. The biggest detriment to the put-together and perfectly pruned pastor is that when you begin to challenge their position & authority, the anger begins to flow — if they are power hungry, they are most certainly scared to lose it. Look at the Senhedrin & Pharisees. Jesus’ words were piercing – through the heart!

  64. I am wondering why the current “leaders” of the church couldn’t use the term Shepherd. That, to me, conveys : Agapae – self sacrificial love. You’d leave the 99 to find the 1. Servanthood – hours of devotion to the attention, care, and well being of the sheep / congregation. I know there’d probably be debate over congregates being “sheep”… but the shepherd is also meek. Compare that to what our culture considers the pastoral dignitarians of our day . I can see from the previous posts the common thread of the huge reversal of what we’ve come to know from the “pastoral” and “servant-leader” role. That’s what Jesus did. He chose the simple things to overcome the wise. I think of that daily, as I can be completely thwarted by a one year old — LOL! I do think God has a sense of humor. The biggest detriment to the put-together and perfectly pruned pastor is that when you begin to challenge their position & authority, the anger begins to flow — if they are power hungry, they are most certainly scared to lose it. Look at the Senhedrin & Pharisees. Jesus’ words were piercing – through the heart!

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