Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.”
• Matthew 9:13
• • •
In her book, Black and White Bible, Black and Blue Wife: My Story of Finding Hope after Domestic Abuse, Ruth Tucker references a prominent preacher who promotes the “complementarian” view of gender roles and who gives unrealistic advice in an online Q&A to women living with abusive spouses. She says this about him: “It’s almost as though [he] is living in a parallel universe. He just doesn’t seem to get it. Does he have any understanding at all of the law or of tyrannical husbands?” (p. 155).
I have the same question about Tim Challies.
With cool detachment, Challies reviews Ruth Tucker’s book at his blog and does what people who have their noses stuck in their Bibles often do: he fails to see and listen to a hurting human being and focuses his attention instead on where he thinks her ideas are wrong.
His empathy (and there is some) is faint and brief. He’s glad he read her book: “As a Christian and a church leader I gained important knowledge from reading her book and I believe it will help me grow in compassion and understanding toward those who are in similar situations.”
His criticism, however, is lengthy and sustained — a four-point argument against Tucker’s “case” for egalitarianism rather than complementarianism.
First, he writes these condescending and ignorant words: “The first weakness is related to the fact that to some degree Tucker defines an entire theological understanding out of her own experience. She understands her ex-husband to be a complementarian and in that way an exemplar of this theology as it takes root and advances to its logical conclusions.”
As I wrote yesterday, I took a course on women in ministry from Ruth Tucker back in the mid-1980’s in which she clearly displayed her grasp of the biblical text, without any reference to her own experience. She publicly debated John Piper on the subject in 1995 at Wheaton College, and over half of her presentation was a survey of the biblical argument for her position. She’s written and published more than enough on the subject that a little research would have put the lie to Challies’ contention immediately.
Of course, this particular book was not written to cover this ground again. It is not designed to be a dispassionate discussion of the biblical texts. It’s her story, and a discussion of some of the questions it has raised in her mind over the years about men and women and marriage and the church. In fact, she makes a specific point early in the book to appeal to her fellow Christians to set aside academic debates for awhile and listen to each other’s stories and experiences of life.
But no, for Challies that simply shows intellectual weakness on her part. Her position is based on her experience, not the text. She is writing from emotion, not from a careful analysis of the text. He simply does not get it, or perhaps he doesn’t want to get it.
This shows in his second complaint: “A second weakness is that she does not deal well with the various texts that challenge her egalitarian viewpoint.”
Tim, once again, a little heads up here. This is not a Bible study.
Third, he defends complementarianism as a doctrine that offers equal protection and escape for a wife who experienced abuse as Tucker did.
Perhaps, at least on paper. However, Challies says nothing about the many examples of inadequate and incompetent counsel given to abused spouses by prominent “complementariness” that Tucker cites. A little humility and honesty would be nice here.
Finally, he criticizes Tucker’s interpretation of the historical examples of good marriages she commends, saying that they were actually complementarian unions, not egalitarian. To think Tucker is not aware of this is silly, and besides, this is such a minor point in the book that I don’t feel compelled to comment on it, except to say that Tim Challies is really reaching here to find something he can speak against.
In the end, Tim Challies says he’s glad he read the book, but he can’t recommend it to others.
Of course not. It doesn’t fit comfortably within his alternate universe.
Like the Pharisees, biblicists (and the neo-reformed are preeminent examples of this) are stuck with their noses in the text. Real life is too messy, too conducive to spreading uncleanness in the camp. So they stay above the fray, making absolute pronouncements from their sanitized pulpits and writing desks.
They can’t even set that aside when faced with a woman covered in bruises who has just escaped with her life. They barely look up. They question her ideas but cannot see her face.
How unlike Jesus.