I just read “On Keeping Your Marriage From Becoming Troubled” (thank you) and I have a question. What happens if the bump is a significant kind of disobedience that doesn’t get resolved with the first conversation? If the wife is in error, the husband can correct her. But for a very long time I have wrestled with a situation where there is something that is not happening in our family that should be (according to the Bible) and is having big repercussions which make life quite challenging. My husband is a believer, but I haven’t been able to get around 1 Peter 3:1-2 and don’t feel at liberty to point it out repeatedly. I have brought it up in the past, but it didn’t go anywhere. We went to Christian marriage counselling about this (ostensibly to deal with the repercussions, but I always have had the sense that those were just the symptoms, not the root difficulty) but I always felt genuinely constrained by 1 Peter 3:1-2 and so did not feel I should be all that forthcoming out of respect for my husband. I have prayed and fasted and it is a very painful thing, but I have reached the point where I think it is not my place to say anything more, but should wait on God (and attend to my own spirit in order that I am fulfilling the vs. 2 part). The problem is that there is a persistent dislocation of our fellowship and I am unable to figure out how to live like that. My choice seems to be: for the good of our marriage, put on my game face and do my genuine best to preserve our external fellowship as much as I can (while feeling inside very much like I am putting on an act and not in true fellowship) or not put on my game face, be honest about my feelings, and bring on an unpleasant air of desolation in our marriage (and by extension our family atmosphere). We have had a few meetings with the pastor over the past year or so about the repercussions, and I brought up the root in a very tentative way, again not wanting to overstep things according to 1 Peter 3 (I assumed that if I should talk more explicitly the Holy Spirit would steer the conversation in that direction while I waited on Him). The problem doesn’t involve abuse or illegality or anything like that, but (in my opinion) contributes to not addressing serious spiritual problems (e.g. malakoi in a son) which I am desperate to see resolved before it gets worse, and, as mentioned, makes it very hard to relate to my husband in a genuine/honest way. I have received counsel from an older woman friend who is very committed to 1 Peter 3:1-2 and even she has suggested I talk about this issue more with my husband, but I am reluctant to because of that feeling of constraint (which I have assumed is from the Holy Spirit) and because I don’t really think it will make a difference. My purpose in emailing is to ask if there might be anything I am missing. For the record, I have spent a very long time on my knees asking the Holy Spirit to show me anything in the way of my own sin which might be getting in the way (which He has done), and now honestly believe I am being transparent before the Lord about my own spiritual life. Do you have any advice? Thank you.
Beth, it is difficult to say from the details you have shared, but either he is being irresponsible or you are being hyper-scrupulous. You say that it is a sin of omission, and that you have been in counseling over the repercussions (i.e. your son?). The one thing I would encourage you to do is to take full advantage of the next session of counseling you get. Nothing is more crippling for a counselor than to have key elements of the case withheld from him. The next time you are with the pastor, let it all hang out. Do it respectfully, and do it with a demeanor that invites correction if it becomes apparent that you are the problem. Do not rely on hints or suggestions. In a counseling situation, you can say hard things without violating 1 Peter 3. Neither your husband nor the counselor are mind readers. Say, “I want to be genuinely open to correction, but this is how I see it.” And just say it.
Bro. Doug, your letter to Garrett with a failing marriage left me clearing my throat and raising my hand to add an important point. Male headship in a home is definitely the biblical way, amen and amen. But a man can’t establish that if his wife is jaw-jutted stubbornly against it. The Bible therefore teaches women to submit to their husbands, but it doesn’t say for husbands to force it if she’s unwilling. Probably because husbands can’t. The feminist teaching that women should be “fierce” has had a barbaric effect on many Christian women, converting them into the permanently bitter/outraged/angry/ungrateful/indignant/offended/resentful termagants that feminists invariably are. And have you ever known a raised-fist feminist that wasn’t like this? Now light the fuse and stick that in a home. Family life becomes a wild bull ride with a God-fearing husband just trying to hang on for another eight seconds to keep from getting legally raped in divorce court. And in my particular state, moving out for a cooling off period could get a guy accused of desertion, giving her a pretext for a “for-cause” divorce, which invites the feminist judge in family court to convert the husband into a penniless skeleton who pretty much never sees his children again. If Garrett is just living to survive one more day, and one more day, that may be the only practical card he has left to play while he pleads with God for a miracle. A similar observation can be made about children honoring their parents, especially kids who are grown and moved out. It’s voluntary, or it won’t happen. If the kids just absolutely will not (and in my pastoral ministry, I’ve seen some seriously repugnant cases of this), then thankless children forfeit God’s promise, but the parents can’t drag honor out of them, and I would need to see chapter and verse where they’re commanded to. Kind regards,
Steve, you are correct. Women need to submit themselves to their husbands in obedience to what God requires. You are also correct that if a wife simply refuses to do so, her husband has precious few options. And to anticipate additional comments, I also know of plenty of situations where the wife is the one who is trapped.
Dear Garrett, While Pastor Wilson may be quite correct in all that he has said to you in his “trapped husband” letter, I have and still am living through, and in, a similar situation, so I thought I would add my voice of experience to this discussion. Let’s start by noting a common “Christian” saying which is: “two things that you can’t do by yourself are A. Be a Christian, and B. Be married.” While Wilson is quite correct that we husbands are “responsible” for our wives and families, we are not at “fault” for their personal choices to sin, but those choices do happen on our “watch” so to speak. However, our “watch” is not the only watch that sin happens under. It sounds to me like your church has elected to disobey the Word in a number of areas, and the weak teaching and practice of your church is quite likely a significant cause and contributor to your families current problems, when your church should have been a community of support. My church for instance has female “elders,” and somehow the church thinks that is “word grounded.” A church that has female elders has elected to disobey Titus 1:6, expect such a church to be faithless in other areas. If your church has significant “blind guide” issues, and you may have spoken God’s Word to correct them, you may be in your current situation because: Luke 6:2, 22 “Blessed are you when men hate you, and when they exclude you and revile you, and cast out your name as evil, on account of the Son of man!” While Wilson is suggesting that you consider temporary separation from you wife, and as a result, from your children, I did not do that in my situation. My thought was, “if my wife is so bad at the moment, why would I leave my poor kids to have to deal with her by themselves?” Do consider that Jesus came to earth as a baby, and stuck with earth, until the people killed Him because they could not stand His righteousness. You and I will never be as righteous as Jesus, but we will suffer in some of the ways He did, for any righteousness that we have been granted. My thought is that if spiritual warfare has gone so far as to come into your own house, home, family and marriage, and it appears that it has, it is probably a good idea to stay in your house, home, family and marriage and fight it, with God’s help. That is the situation I have been through and am still in. God was faithful though, while our church remains part of the problem, our family was blessed in that our typically silent special needs child (autism) spoke to my wife in the prophetic voice: “Trust in the Lord! Trust in the Lord! Trust in the Lord! Trust in the Lord!” at a very appropriate time. Shortly after that Prophetic Word from our son, my wife stopped being so awful, and following that, she stopped going to a local church “abuse” group that is deceived by an “abuse” charlatan by the name of Lundy Bancroft. Bancroft is a fake “expert” on “abuse,” who’s trick is to make the definition of “abuse” so broad that common verbal disagreements are then elevated to “abuse” or domestic “violence.” This thinking has the result that your wife can be “supported” by her church and social media groups who all share the common deception spread by this Bancroft guy. However, it is looking more and more like Bancroft is the same type of deceiver as “Kieth Raniere” a charlatan who is currently on Federal trial (DOJ Eastern New York) for sexually abusing his female “followers.” Hopefully Bancroft will be facing a similar indictment soon. To close Garret, while your suffering is not what anyone would want, or would expect, continue to be as godly as you can be, and consider that with God’s help, the darkness that is attacking you, your wife and your family can be beaten and overcome, to God’s glory. That’s how it worked out for Jesus anyway! 1 Peter 4: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. If you suffer, it should not be as a murderer or thief or any other kind of criminal, or even as a meddler. However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name. For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” John 16: 33 “I have said this to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.”
Adad, thanks. I agree with you about not deserting little ones. In the scenario with Garrett I described, the children were older and had become antagonists as well.
“Letting her read books that are crammed with lies is not loving her.” While I agree, your response to your critics on this is going to be popcorn-worthy big time.
James, yes, but first the critics have to erupt over that, and I think they may have given up on me.
Can you explain what these lies he is telling, look like? I have a sense of what you mean, but being more explicit would be helpful.
Jane, what I was intending was this. A man who subsidizes irrational behaviors on the part of his wife is telling her in effect that her behavior is not irrational. He is providing her with lying feedback. And I have seen situations where a large amount of crazy can be thought of as normal, and this was the result of the husband not drawing a hard line earlier.
Everybody’s a Critic
Might want to drop the link to Google Plus at the same time. Google shut it down a month or more ago.
Steve, okay. Be like that.
Your iPhone app, at last access recently, still has the problem of scrolling through tens of posts without regard to my input!! Is a bug-fix imminent? Or is the bug immanent? Warm regards.
Robert, yes, that app is a real trouble, and we are contemplating pulling the plug on it.
Will the Logos summer training be available as a live stream? I understand if live-stream students cannot receive credit, just want some training as a new homeschool parent. My wife and I started home-schooling this year after sending my two oldest to our church’s school for three years and I’m a marine now cop and she’s a high school grad that’s been a stay at home mom since 19 (we are both 36).. so we feel inadequate when it comes to educating but feel prepared by God’s word . . . we would love any extra help. Our plan is classical conversations until our 5 kids are old enough for Logos online and we do not want them ill-prepared for Logos. Sorry for the long email. May our Lord bless you, keep you, and His face shine upon you.
Jordan, blessings on your work. It is a good one, and God will bless it. I am sorry that the Logos summer training is not going to be live streamed.
I had a question from Mere Fundamentalism. If we assert that spirit is non-physical, and demons are incapable of creation, how do we come to the idea that demons and humans conjugated to produce half-breed Nephilim in an attempt to breed immortals? Nowhere else in Scripture do we ever see a demon take on a physical aspect of their own, only possession. I’ve always had a hard time with that idea; hoping you can shed some light.
(Not the usual) Trey
Trey, throughout Scripture, angels consistently take the form of men, and are frequently thought to be men until the event proves otherwise (“angels unawares”). I believe that angels are spiritual beings that have the capacity to assume a corporeal body, and that demons are fallen angels, and have retained that capacity.
This post takes that 95 mph pitch and returns it for a home run. I asked you a couple years ago when we were going to see the collection of “Exhortations” in book form. Would love to see that at the top of your project pile.
DC, thank you. Part of my daily routine includes culling old writings from my archives and putting them in appropriate containers for future publications. I have made really good progress on a book of Exhortations.
More on Slavery
In a somewhat similar vein, hearkening to arguments you have made in various places, comes this desperately needed bit of context regarding the “Founding Sin”—slavery. The gist: NO one in the era of the Founding questioned slavery, yet the question is an integral element of the Founding debates, enshrined in the Founding documents. Why?
Jim, thank you.
Crowd Source the Question?
First, let me say that, as a young minister (in Brazil), your ministry has been a blessing for me and my church. May God keep blessing your efforts. Second, I once found a document, a kind of a form for presenting a complaint/accusation, if I’m not mistaken, in the CREC site. I can’t find it no longer. Would you be able to point me to a link or file of it? In Christ,
Thiago, sorry. I am unacquainted with what you are referring to. Maybe one of our readers can help?
Infant Baptism Once More
According to “God of Hearth and Home”: Family Idolatry = “where the father administers the sacraments to his family” Not Family Idolatry (two paragraphs later) = “get married, have babies, and baptize them” Hmm . . .
Steve, nice try! But in the second instance the babies are baptized in the church.
Greetings! Could you recommend a short and readable book on the origins of Baptist doctrine? How did they come to believe what they believe? Does one of your books address this? Thanks for considering!
Grace, I don’t know of a good history of Baptist doctrine. Almost all that I have picked up about the history of it has been through reading polemic defenses of both credo and paedo baptism. The best I can do off the top of my head is refer you to John Gill, if you want to read it from an early Baptist theologian.
1984 and the Resurrection
Commenting on your post about God of Hearth and Home, your point about in the resurrection a man will not be walking along whistling to himself, come across his wife, and say, “Oh hi, it’s you.” That made me think of the end of Orwell’s 1984, where Winston and Julia meet after Big Brother has sent them through Room 101. Sadly our Evangelical and Reformed leaders today are depicting the eschaton, and thus our current trajectory, as one more in line with Big Brother than Scripture.
Thomas, yes. Our hopes with regard to Heaven can be pretty anemic.
I’m reading through the Bible (why start at New Year’s?), and I’m wondering about your interpretation of Genesis 9:3-4. This covenant concerns moral commands to gentile nations, which is why it is echoed after the Jerusalem Council in Acts. I have been informed (by reliable sources, mind you) that you, as I am, are fond of a nice steak. My mother was French, so my taste in steaks has been to order it just on the other side of mooing. Does this passage require us to abstain from eating blood in the meat, just as 9:6 requires us to abstain from shedding the blood of our fellow man? Or am I missing something that one of those high-falutin’ Ancient Near Eastern Scholars could set me straight on? Thank you.
Robert, my understanding of this prohibition is that it refers to the meat from animals where the blood was not drained. When an animal is slaughtered and drained, there will of course be residual blood, visible in a rare steak. I believe that the ancient prohibition referred to the meat of strangled animals.
Thank you so much for your ministry and writing. It’s been a blessing to the people I minister to, my wife, my kids, and my brothers and their families. I’m an elder in my church and also a campus minister, and I was talking with my pastor about how we (fail to) deal with criticism. I mentioned your phrase “sanctified apathy” and we both agreed that you seemed to have, by the grace of God, honed that lesser-known fruit of the Spirit well. Our question is: How do you grow in that? I am always worried that I’ll be too prideful to receive the possible kernel of truth in the criticism I am receiving about our church, the college ministry I lead, or myself. When does one exercise sanctified apathy that allows you to completely disregard unjust criticism, and when does one humbly receive the criticism?
Nick, one should always humbly listen to the criticism without defensiveness, and promise to treat it with the seriousness it deserves. This would vary depending on whether the criticism is coming from your best friend, or from an Internet troll. But the main thing is to not try to deal with this simply by growing a thicker skin (although that sometimes helps). The main thing is to learn to read the story. What is the narrative arc here? I really need to write more about this, but you are not trying to ascertain the heart motives of the bishop, or the knight, or the rook, but rather the significance of their placement on the board. What play is being run?
Beautifully stated. I once restored a 1963 Ford Falcon. It had a rag top. Gorgeous. I was never, however, tempted to worship it, or to ascribe to it supernatural powers, so in a way this “idolatry of heart” is more difficult to identify and conquer because most of us have a hard time imagining attaching any worship ritual to the corner office promotion at work, or our wives. In practice, though, internal idolatry is difficult to measure, since we’re commanded by God to attend to our wives and our jobs and we might not be aware when the duties, themselves, are creeping into idol status. I think a few more words from you on how we know when we’re replacing God with the things in our lives that are bound to seem, on the surface at least, more tangible than our relationship to God. I can well imagine looking more forward to dinner with my wife in a nice restaurant over, say, repeating a prayer that has come to sound boring to me, and probably to God. Is that idolatry, or the difficulty of putting Him first? I’d very much like to hear more from you on this.
James, thanks. Good suggestion.
A Question about Divorce
Hello, sir. I am a Brazilian pastor and I have been reading your books and following your blog for a few years now, since I was a missionary in Thailand. I thank God for leading me to know your work because it has helped me in many, many situations. I got a question which is not really about the situation in your article. But it touches some points that you made. Your books really helped me in my ministry as a local pastor in counseling couples. Well, I am evangelizing a couple, now for maybe 2 or 3 months. I met them for the first time in a visit to the hospital and after that we went to see them when he got better and I started to go there and teach them the catechism and sometimes they come to church. He’s got a permanent sickness in his liver and cannot come very often. Anyways, they started to believe the gospel, and he wants to be baptized. After teaching them the Bible a bit, I told them to start reading it for themselves, which they gladly did. They started reading the NT as I instructed them to. And when his wife read Matthew 19 she started to feel bad and came to talk to me because she is not sure their situation is right before God. I asked her to tell me the story, and here it is. They are both in their second marriage. His first wife committed adultery about two decades ago. So he divorced her and was without a wife for many years until he met her about five years ago and they first went to live together and later got married. Her story is a bit different. Her husband was not very nice, but she never really saw him committing adultery. Many people told her so, and his behavior was likely to commit the sin. He would never be at home, always in the bar, always with friends, etc.—but their divorce wasn’t really because of that, which fact (adultery) was never proved. As she told me her divorce was like this: they would fight very often. In these arguments he would Always tell her to go back to her father because he wanted the divorce, and she would give in to him and nothing would happen. But one day the same pattern happened again, and when he said he wanted the divorce, she said ok, if that is what you want, that is what you are going to have. After a while he wanted to come back but she didn’t want anymore. She was divorced for a few years until she met her current husband. Well, she feels like he was ok to marry again, for his former wife committed adultery, but she was not ok to marry again for she didn’t divorce for that reason. So she was feeling that maybe she should break up with her current husband in case it is adultery. When they first talked to me about this situation, he had already talked to her that if it be confirmed her interpretation that he felt that if the right thing to do was for them to divorce, then that is what they should do. I was glad that they were open to do whatever the word of God tells them to, but I didn’t really have the answer. I am not sure her case could be the same that Paul describes in I Corinthians 7. I read the Bible with them. And I told her I still cannot really say it. It seems to me a complicated situation. My colleagues here in Brazil also don’t seem confident to answer this question. Besides, what about his baptism? He is not baptized yet. Should I baptize him? I feel that if they are not in a rightful marriage I should not baptize him until they fix their situation. But I am not sure if he is in the right or not. Well sir, I know it is my problem and my responsibility, I am not trying to escape that by asking your advice on this. But if you can help with any light on the Scriptures application for this case, I thank you very much. God bless
Luccas, yes, you should baptize him, and they should remain married to each other. Remember that God takes us from where we are, not from where we should have been. This is a situation where you cannot really unscramble the egg. He had grounds for his previous divorce, and she might have had grounds for hers. But even if she did not have grounds (let’s assume that she did not), the thing to do would be to repent of the divorce, and the remarriage, but repenting of a marriage is not the same thing as repenting of stealing something, say, where you can take it back. In this case, if they were to divorce for the sake of “putting things right,” they would actually be committing the same sin again.
Help for the Maladroit?
Not a response to any particular post, but I’m curious if you have any advice for men, who, for whatever reason, never really developed good social skills. It seems that for most people, interacting with others is about as easy and natural as breathing. But for a minority of people (mostly male, in my observation), everything from casual small talk to a long-term relationship is a struggle. I’m not sure what the root of the problem is, but some guys just have a really hard time “fitting in” at church, work, dating, etc. A google search on this subject will bring up a nearly unlimited supply of articles. But most of them are not especially helpful, as most are not written from a biblical perspective. Some tend to assume that anyone with less than optimal people skills has some “disorder” that must be treated with expensive drugs. Others claim that simply interacting with people more often will help, but this overlooks the possibility that practicing the wrong things will just ingrain bad habits. I know you’re an advocate of men being willing to lead and take on responsibility. Perhaps you could help more men do that by writing a series of articles called “Letters to an Awkward Dorky Guy” or something to that effect. I enjoy your blog. God bless, and keep up the good work.
Johnny, thanks. Writing a series of letters like that would be quite a challenge. I will think about it. In the meantime, I would suggest two things. The first is for guys in that situation to come to a realization that they are in that situation. With the socially maladroit, lack of self-awareness often seems to be a big player. This would perhaps come if they promised to respond non-defensively, and then ask friends and family for their blunt assessment. The next would be to simply accept that assessment. The third step would be to begin a regimen of learning customs, manners, etiquette, social graces. Knowing the drill is not the same thing as having the soft skills to navigate the drill, but it is a start.
Why is there not an option to fully bow out? Neither Heaven or Hell, just non-existence?
S, ultimately I would say that the answer is because God did not determine to do it that way. And a close reading of Romans 9 indicates the reason for that is because in a world without Hell, one of God’s attributes—His holy justice—would go unmanifested and unglorified. Which would obviously be intolerable.