Abuse in Complementary Marriages

Are egalitarian marriages the biblical form for marriage, and are complementarians at risk for abuse? Professor Ruth Tucker has written a book arguing in favor of egalitarianism, saying, “There is little evidence that proponents of male headship are seriously grappling with [wives’ stories of abuse] and speaking out publicly, and most women in such marriages are not being correctly counseled on matters of domestic violence.”

“Egalitarianism,” Tucker states, “asserts that there should be no gender-based role distinctions or limitations placed on women in the home, church, or society. According to this view, women can serve as pastors in light of passages like Galatians 3:28.”

Tim Challies praises the personal story side of the book (“I believe it will help me grow in compassion and understanding”) but firmly disagrees with her interpretation of the Bible.

Her understanding of complementarianism is inextricably bound up with her own experience, yet I found her marriage unrecognizable as a truly complementarian union. Her ex-husband was an abuser, manipulator, and pervert, a man who interpreted the Bible in black and white ways so he could justify abusing his wife. She gives no reason for us to believe that he was even a true Christian.

Tucker responds with a post on Scot McKnight’s blog:

You take strong issue with one particular “emotional” statement I make in the book: “Imagine saying that African Americans are fully equal to whites before God, but they are not permitted to hold church office and must be subject to Caucasians. The claim would be ludicrous. And so it is regarding gender.” You go on to say: “But unless race and gender are the same category, this is an invalid means to advance her argument. It succeeds emotionally but fails biblically.” Well, gee, thanks, Tim, for saying it succeeds emotionally. And if you would say that women are fully equal, it would also succeed emotionally.

Publisher Zondervan links to all of this on their blog and draws several comments from their readers. “Let’s not make this about doctrine,” one reader says, “but rather about what it is. It is abuse of scripture – what I have seen, experienced and refer to as ‘twisted scripture.'”

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