The “Mansplaining” Approach to Female Modesty?: Go Duggars or Go Home?

The case with this post? Discuss: “So many of the debates which routinely erupt in the church… often have more than an underlying whiff of personal or subcultural taste about them, even as we attempt dress them up in speciously ‘objective’ arguments….” — Carl Trueman



Okay, this post really isn’t about the Duggars, but they are a good hook I think!

It, is, however, about the search for female modesty, a topic the Duggars are familiar with. What is modesty?

One definition is behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.

To begin our journey, please consider this extended quotation from Leslie’s Vernick’s The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:

Married couples need freedom to thrive. I do not mean the freedom to do whatever you want regardless how the other person feels. When you commit to someone in marriage, you freely choose to limit some (not all) of your choices. But all healthy relationships need to include freedom for the individuals to disagree, to respectfully challenge the other’s decisions, and to be the persons God made them to be. Having your freedom of movement, choices, friends, and emotional expression restricted by your husband sends the message that you are not allowed to be a whole person in your own marriage. Instead you are to become what your husband tells you to be.

At a retreat where I was recently speaking, a young woman approached me during a break. Aime said, ‘My husband doesn’t like the way I dress, but I don’t know how to respond to that. I like the clothes I wear. What should I do?”

“What doesn’t he like about the way you dress?, I asked.

“He says men look at me. He wants me to wear baggier jeans, long dresses, and no makeup.”

“What do you think about that?” I asked, concerned that she was feeling pressured to become someone else in order to pacify her husband’s insecurity.

“I think I dress modestly. I don’t seek out attention, but I don’t want to be frumpy either. But he said that if I loved him, I would dress to please him, not myself.”

Immediately I felt great concern for this woman’s dilemma. Her husband twisted the Scripture and put himself in God’s place in her life. The Bible says we are to please God, not ourselves. Nor are we to orient our lives around pleasing others; that gets us in trouble (see Galatians 1:10, 1 Thessalonians 2:4). That does not mean we are to have no thoughts of pleasing our husbands, but pleasing our husbands is not to be our first concern. And it’s important to understand that pleasing God by pleasing our husbands does not always work. Sometimes we please God and we displease our husbands, like when we stand up for what is right, true and good and our husbands get mad or threatened.

Here is what I told Aimee: “You need to be very wise right now as you’re at a critical crossroads in your marriage. If you give in to him in this, you will lose a part of who you are to satisfy a part of him that is sinful and immature – his insecurity. That is not healthy for either of you of for the long-term stability of your marriage. It’s up to you, but I think God calls you to be courageous in this manner and lovingly tell your husband you think he needs to face his own issues of jealousy and insecurity, rather than you changing your wardrobe so that he won’t feel those feelings. He will not like it at first, but in the long run, this approach will preserve your freedom to be your own person and to speak truthfully into his life, which is essential for a healthy marriage.”

Some of you are trembling right now because you are becoming more aware of the high cost you have paid to cater to your husband’s demands…” (34-35)

Good advice? Or does something seem “off”?

American Taliban? Can the abuser!?: “The SPLC said [Brian McCall, now former professor and dean at the University of Oklahoma’s law school] probably [is] an anti-Semite, and he believes that women shouldn’t wear pants.” – Rod Dreher.

First, you might be wondering: “Who is Leslie Vernick?” She is an increasingly popular author in the evangelical world writing about issues of marriage in general and issues of domestic abuse in particular. One of her highly respected books, cited by the LC-MS Task Force on Domestic Violence as a good resource to check out, is the Emotionally Destructive Marriage, from 2013. I can understand why the task force recommended it. Vernick, a licensed clinical social worker and “relationship coach,” is a good writer and brings a wealth of experience as well as biblical knowledge to difficult marriage issues. I found the book helpful, clarifying, and challenging on a number of fronts, and I think that most any pastor especially would do well to consider reading the book.

So why do I bring her, her book, and this quotation up in this post? Not because what you read above is meant to be about modesty—which you may well have gathered from her words—but because she is clearly writing about things that touch on the topic of modesty.

Whether she realizes that or not!

In the rest of this post, I want to critique this passage by pointing out that Vernick’s assumptions seem to avoid the main issues.

Do “blame-shifting” (?!) discussions like this also “traumatize[] many girls”?

When the young lady says that her “husband doesn’t like the way I dress” and states that “he says men look at me,” Vernick’s first reaction is to think that the husband is insecure and threatened, evidently concerned that others might find his wife attractive and that he might risk losing her. As is clear from the rest of what Vernick writes, this insecurity should not be pacified at any cost.

For the life of me, I cannot understand Vernick’s reasoning.

Let’s leave aside the important point that wives don’t want their husbands being tempted to eye up other women. Let’s leave aside the fact that God Himself is jealous for His people without, presumably, being insecure. It seems to me that the focus of Vernick’s work, and hence her book, blinds her to what could indeed be the real issue in this case, or, at least, in many cases that somewhat resemble this one: modesty.

When it comes to the inevitable and necessary backlash vs. “purity culture,” there is a feminist/pagan one and an orthodox Christian one (see this book).


There is both the temptation to look and the temptation to be looked at. Of course, women have some sense of what gets men’s attention when it comes to the feminine form – and therefore one might think that they can gauge their own attractiveness and act accordingly. Curiously though, this often does not seem to be the case, whether they are attempting to dress comfortably (while simply looking nice), or to attract and allure, or even intending to practice modesty.

So, when it comes to a conversation like the one mentioned above, why not—if it is not impossible to do so!—put the best construction on the woman’s husband?

In other words, assume that the husband is perfectly secure—including being supremely confident of his wife’s love and devotion to him—and yet still, for some reason, has this concern. Why might that be? Yes, it is possible that he might overreact and some of his reasons might not be so good. Nevertheless, in any case, perhaps the core reason for his concern is this: not that he might risk losing his wife to others, but—confident of her God-given appeal (which no, she should not be ashamed of!)—that she may indeed cause an occasion for sin for others given her choice of apparel (see Matthew 5:28)

“If, as the authors state, a virile man’s libido can instantly be set off by one or more visual cues…” — Leon F. Seltzer

In other words, don’t first assume jealousy but love for his brothers!: namely, the husband’s concern being geared towards the Christian consciences of his brothers in Christ! (kind of like this good Lutheran lady’s concern. WWDWT?).[i]

Is it really so hard to imagine that this husband—or, at least, another man voicing the same concern—might be a secure man, instead of an insecure one? For those women who wholly sign on to Vernick’s analysis and views, is there perhaps a bit of projection happening here?

Again, is it so difficult to believe that a man, being formed by Christ and confident in a godly way, has the exact opposite impulse of the man who looks to proudly display his “trophy wife”? (thereby advertising his own value!) When a man is attracted to his wife and thinks it likely that others might share his judgement (yes, love blinds us to flaws, but let’s give him a little credit), it is possible that she might think “oh, that is only because I am his wife.” If she thinks this though, she should think again. Respect demands this.

Going along with this, I note yet another reason (!) a husband might be interested in what his wife wears in public. One reason might be that he, when he is “out and about” with her, the children, and others, is not interested in being distracted by her (at that time!).

Don’t laugh!

Clearly then, what this passage from Vernick’s book does not take seriously, or even into consideration then, is the critical truth of modesty.

Google’s n-gram viewer shows the decrease in the use of the word “modesty” in the past 200 years.


And why in the world not? Is it because she believes that modesty is an idea that is wholly culturally determined?

And is that true? On the contrary, isn’t there anything that can be said at all about modesty as a universal concept? Something that we all share?

Sometimes, I get the impression many Christian ladies don’t think this is the case at all! Consider, for example, this post from the Christian writer Sheila Wray Gregoire: “Why ‘Don’t Be a Stumbling Block’ is A Really Bad Modesty Message”. To some, it might seem like Gregoire is speaking to the issue of modesty, even ending with a “list of modesty standards.”

I disagree. Instead, she basically ends with rules of thumb that individual women are free to apply to their own selves.

You’ve come a long way baby. “Partly due to material rationing after World War II, French engineer Louis Réard introduced the modern bikini…During the early 1960s, the design appeared on the cover of Playboy… giving it additional legitimacy” — Wikipedia


In other words, *not* any real standards that we could understand to be widely shared in any sense. For her, if you think there are, or at the very least should be (that is, things we come to agree on together, on the basis of the natural law), some common modesty standards that should be applied, you are wrong!

And if that is what people like Gregoire are saying, that must be wrong!

Beauty is not wholly culturally determined, and therefore neither is modesty.

“…I want the women to adorn themselves with respectable apparel, with modesty, and with self-control… ” — I Tim. 2:9


And let’s get real—it is not only men who know that.




Brian McCall: Fatima Center screengrab


[i] WWDWT= What would the Duggar women think?

Regarding the content of this paragraph is this where the push-back really starts and we start talking about blame-shifting? Men – or even women – should not make excuses for men when they respond wrongly to women who dress as they think best.

Vernick writes about the topic of blame-shifting in her book, and there is no doubt that in some contexts, such as contexts pertaining to domestic violence, such words need to be said. To be clear, she does not talk about this directly when she is discussing issues pertaining to modesty – it is in the context of domestic violence. Nevertheless, as regards the sentences below in italics, it is interesting to realize that many think along the same lines when it comes to issues pertaining to modesty:

Ever since Adam blamed Eve for giving him the forbidden fruit, we all shift blame. Can you heal yourself? You’re held captive by your own storyline that says you had no choice but to respond the way you did. You tell yourself the only reason you reacted that way is because of the other person’s wrong. Therefore, your response is their fault. The deceptive part of this thinking is that there is a smidgen of truth in it. Imagine what a wonderful person you could be if your husband, children, mother, friend, or neighbor did exactly what you wanted them to do when you wanted them to do it, all the time. Imagine how kind you would be if people never upset you, never disappointed you, or never hurt your feelings. Imagine how loving you would be if life went exactly the way you wanted it to. The problem with this thinking is that it’s pure fantasy. People do provoke us. They let us down. We get disappointed and frustrated. Others don’t always love us and we’d like them to or do exactly what we want. Our wrong and hurtful reactions to life’s frustrations and disappointments are understandable, but they usually make things worse (40-41).

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Posted by on November 15, 2018 in Uncategorized


Purity and Politics: a Short Reflection

“…we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. ….everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.”

–I John 3:3



As you get ready for tomorrow, remember….

1. First, the world’s quest for purification

Politics is on our minds these days, isn’t it?

Down in Texas, one candidate says “Y’all means y’all” while in California another chooses a more direct approach: “we stand united against hate”.

In either case, the message mirrors biblical themes of purity: those who understand what is good, what is righteous, will “resonate” with these themes… they will unite with us…*

Others, of course, take some real offense here and counter with their own slogans, seeking a majority…

Remember: life is not ultimately about such things.

It is not about the particular earthly princes of the day – those we think might help us, help Christians, help America, help the poor, the outsider, etc.

These questions are not unimportant,

But they are not ultimate either…

Our Hope, after all, is not in earthly princes, horses, chariots.

Our Prince of Peace and His direction are that which ultimately matters.

And He comes to you, even now, with real tidings of peace, not condemnation.

…inviting you to renew your mind,

…see things with new eyes,

…to walk in faith.

At home, at church, at your work, in your neighborhood, in your nation… etc. ..

2. How are we made pure?

What does it mean to be pure anyways?

Have you heard the phrase “pure as the driven snow”? Driven snow is snow that has been blown by the wind, into drifts and such.

The kid in me concludes that it’s the kind of snow you can eat.

In any case the expression isn’t used as much these days, but it is used to speak, sometimes disparagingly, about things like moral purity, chastity, and virginity. (also rarer terms these days).

And of course in our everyday language, pure means something that is uncontaminated.

There is no defilement or spoliation. And to purify something means to bring it to this state.

And if a person has been purified, is pure, this evokes the idea of not only outer, but inner cleanliness… to the very center of one’s being. Through and through.

How, then, does the Bible say this takes place? It says that true purity, purity that lasts and is never faked, is rooted in God.

Only God, after all, is truly good, truly pure.

So, when it comes to us poor sinners, being pure, in the most simple sense, means to believe and hope in God, as opposed to the world, false in its love, which rages against Him.

In I Peter chapter 1, the Apostle says you have purified yourselves. How?

By submitting to what you heard: you believe, Peter says, the words of testimony about Jesus Christ, raised from the dead.

And glorified!

And revealed in these last times for our sakes!

And it is because of this truth, Peter says, that you have true love for each other. Therefore, he says “love one another deeply, from the heart,”

This is what it means to be pure.

3. Living in That Purity

“Keep yourselves pure…” (I Tim. 5:22).

The question of living in God’s purity has to do with what God’s purity and holiness is.

It is this:

He, and He alone, is the Love which burns through Evil en route to rescuing those lost in the darkness.

In Christ’s work, we see the charred remains of sin, death, and the devil.

He did this for us.

And so when it comes to us… the implication is that we have – and create – spaces and places where this message can be heard, believed and lived.

The mission we have is never about God’s people being intrinsically superior than others…


Rather, this is about True sight, True seeing… I was blind but now — because of Him — I see!

Being blessed to know not only where the bread is which we share – the Forgiveness of sins which heals and nourishes… but also knowing where True Life is in Fullness.

What is that?

There is a King we know who is simple (yes America, there is!) One we long for.

Who loves His people, who is loyal… but who does not let sin go unpunished….

Who will not allow us to live in our lies, our lusts, our pride, our selfishness… “Tough love,” some still call it today.

He is ready to refine us again, and He will stop at nothing to make us more His…

So don’t say, for example, “am I my brother’s keeper?” They are all your brothers!…

You are to love your brethren in Christ first of all,

…and in this world you must look to provide for family first,

…but all are your brothers…

The Christian life never has as its goal alienation and cutting one’s self off, but we call people–even our enemies (yes, use some discretion!) — into our spaces, into our places, to participate with us “in the life that is truly life”.

Though He has hard words, demanding words, damning words, Jesus’ default orientation is not to condemn, but save – from the horror of sin, the destruction of death, and the lies and wiles of the devil.

…and His heart is now ours.

This is the life to which he has called us….with these truths we must practically wrestlle in the church… and beyond…

What does the Lord require of me now? What does love mean now, in this or that circumstance? Why can’t more of us see eye to eye?

Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely! Anyone who is thirsty…

With Him, we’re ready.

We’re pure.

We were washed and we ARE baptized, belonging to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Come Lord Jesus.

We desperately need you.




* Alan Jacobs speaks, intriguingly, of the “the reality of life within the mythical core, with all its experiences of defilement and desecration…” (read more here).

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Posted by on November 5, 2018 in Uncategorized


Can an Atheist Love Anyone? Is Anyone Who Loves a Good Person?

Seriously Sirius?: “We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”


This was a question from a student:

The Bible says that God is love. Does that mean that anyone who loves is a good person? Can an atheist love anyone?”

And is this doable?


I will get to an answer below. First, however, we must focus on some preliminaries, on “the spirit of the age”.

In one sense, there is much truth in what this man says… :

There is no doubt that an element of the truly righteous life, or good life, is that it is characterized by real love and compassion which does not think about rewards, comes spontaneously comes from the heart, and shares the love of God with all people (see, e.g., Deut. 11).

That said, here is the answer you will be hearing from some who carry Martin Luther’s name–and from some quarters of the American evangelical churches–more and more:

The truly righteous life, or good life, is always about compassion (acts perceived as compassionate!) which never thinks about rewards, always comes spontaneously from the heart, and never fails to indiscriminately share the love of God with other full human beings in equal measure.

See what I did there?


And, importantly, you will also hear (no doubt!) the following:

We are all broken people, with good and evil inside of us, and what really matters is that you do your best to live a righteous life.

If you at least struggle in your soul to overcome this evil in yourself…. If you really just want to live the kind of honest and righteous life Nadia Bolz-Weber speaks of, you are on the way, on the side of the angels…

After all, you might hear “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God…”


And Biblically speaking, this message–while certainly having the capacity to appeal to many persons from all tongues, tribes, and political preferences–is massively messed up. It confuses what we might call “civil righteousness” with the righteousness that avails before God, and it even, leaving no room for passages like I Tim. 5:8, Gal. 6:10, Eph. 5:22, and I Cor. 6:9-10 for example, throws real civil righteousness under the bus.

And–importantly!–note that as Pastor Todd Wilken puts it, here “the Simul,” which is how some Lutherans have come to describe Paul’s description of a Christian continuing to struggle with sin (see Romans 7), now “applies to everyone, believers and unbelievers alike. It is truly a different gospel.”

When it comes to what Bolz-Weber is striving to achieve though, we must acknowledge the utter brilliance of what she is doing here.

First of all, she is correct in pointing out that the early church fathers do not always seem to see the pleasure of sex as a gift from God, which it clearly is (see the Song of Solomon and many of the Proverbs).

Second, even before the most recent issues regarding the Roman Catholic churches scandals, many have been rightly calling into question Rome’s insistence on mandatory celibacy for priests–and with this, of course, the necessary rejection of Paul’s apostolic advice in I Cor. 7:1-7 (see this post for the best analysis I have seen on this issue).

The symbolism rejected, the substance? Not so much.


Third–and most unexpectedly–because even among some of the most theologically conservative Christians most of them believe that in Romans 7 the Apostle Paul is speaking about his life before becoming a Christian… Even the the Reformed camp (i.e. derving from Calvin, Zwingli and co.), seemingly sharing the “Protestant Reformation” with the Lutherans, are very much divided on this text.

All this said, what Bolz-Weber is saying is truly is a different Gospel, and sadly, as Pastor Wilken has seen more clearly than most, there are many on this train fixated on “the Simul,” even if they do not intend to undermine biblical truth.

And note “1517. and Christ Hold Fast are the same thing” — Dan Emery Price, Christ Hold Fast founder.


How different are today’s “conservative” Lutherans–who sometimes, for example, carelessly double down on things on Luther’s Heidelberg Disputation–from the Great Reformer himself! (just see the introduction to my paper recently published in Concordia Theological Quarterly here).

As the Reformation progressed, Luther–to say the very least!–grew more and more cautious when it came to downplaying the role of God’s law, confirmed in the Scriptures, in the life of the believer.

Note Carl Trueman’s words on the White Horse Inn blog:

In the early years of the Reformation, Martin Luther was so carried away by his recovery of the doctrine of justification by grace through faith that he believed that little positive moral teaching was necessary in the church: believers would simply spontaneously respond to God’s grace by performing works of love. Luther assumed that Christians would know what such works were, but by the late 1520s, it was clear to him that this was not the case—the church required careful and precise moral guidance; the rhetoric of ‘just do works of love’ was a dictum into which Christians could pour any content and none, as the fancy took them. (This was the primary concern which lay behind his composition of his Small and Large Catechisms.)

While I think it is largely inaccurate to say that the “earlier Luther” thought believers would just spontaneously respond to God’s grace by performing works of love,” (just see 1520-1528 here and “tolle lege”) this quote is significant for what it is correct about: we “require[] careful and precise moral guidance”.

What can be done about the great problems we face today? Even relatively good secular men like Jordan Peterson have absolutely nothing to offer vs. Bolz-Weber’s teaching, but can only go along with it while urging caution and mild pushback, at the most saying something like this:

“In the long term, more extreme forms of what she proposes, in all likelihood, won’t work…”

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” — Jeremiah 17:9


Why is this all that can be said? Because the “knowledge” among even “conservative” elites of influence is no longer something like “justified true belief,” but rather “conceivable, useful trust”: a lethal cocktail usually consisting of thoughts cobbled together from modern men like Charles Darwin, Georg Hegel, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, and William James.

Not Jesus Christ!

Thomas Lemke: “Be careful how you speak…”


What to do?

What should we say to a man, for example, who feels his relationships are healthy and strong and who is sure he trusts in Jesus Christ, but does not seem to call “sin” what Scripture calls sin?

“Being a human is a paradox. There is no purity to be had here…”


What if he is content “killing his old Adam”–keeping his flesh down–only by engaging in the good deeds he is “passionate” about and is convinced are helpful to his neighbor (perhaps to him, the ethics of Aristotle, Kant, or even Nadia Bolz-Weber, for example, are more or less synonymous with “God’s Law,” or, scratch that, “God’s [evolving] will”)?

What do we do if such a person insists that they have no need of warning or correction?

What do we do when, for example, even seemingly devout Lutheran Christians who are clearly brilliant are also clearly laying the groundwork for the erosion of God’s law among the faithful in the name of love? Or can’t see what is directly in front of their faces? What do we say to persons who insist on using pious-sounding phrases like

  • “God’s law is not a window through which we inspect other people’s sins, but a mirror to reveal our own,” or
  • “You may use your conscience to guide your behavior. You may not use your conscience to guide my behavior,” (more here) or
  • For Luther, the Old and New Adam, or Eve, are clearly bound in a life and death struggle within each person.

Or, maybe they even insist that, while they believe in the inerrancy of the Scriptures, there is much that the Apostles got wrong….

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” — Hebrews 4:12 (also see Isaiah 30:8)


With all this on the table for our consideration, we are now ready–finally!–to give a biblical answer to the student’s question:

First, we should be very careful about how we address this question. What should we say about the two non-Christians who fall in love? Or even the worldly caddy who really does care, at some level, about the golfer he makes big money from?

When I John says that the one who does not love does not know God, it does not mean that the one who shows love in just any way knows God the way one needs to know God….

After all, do we not all live and move and have our being in God? When the popular writer Frederick Buechner blogs “To love God is to be saved. To love anybody is a significant step along the way…” what should be our response? Does Paul not say God fills the hearts of even pagans with joy (Acts 14)? So, if this is the case, what could be wrong, or incomplete, about such love?

God’s child, Richard Dawkins (Acts 17:29), expressing true joy from the Lord (Acts 14:15).


Here, we are in part talking about a “first article” [of the Apostle’s Creed, which deals with God as Creator] kind of love – i.e. love that is a residue or continual fallout from creation itself, by the Creator who is love.

This kind of love for neighbor, although something you certainly would like to have in a neighbor (as opposed to the alternatives!), is severely deficient because:

  • a) It is not bolstered and informed by an underlying love for the Triune God, and hence its ultimate hope and expression is not the salvation of the whole world – i.e. people’s rescue from sin, death, and the devil and growth in eternal life, that is, knowing God through His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:3), and
  • b) A lack of godly purity or holiness in fulfilling this love – which of course is supposed to flow through us unhindered from God and for our neighbor, devoid of any false motive or desire

“The law is spiritual.” — Romans 7:14


The believer in Christ, on the other hand, lacks the love they should have in the sense of b) above (not a). But–critically!–they also know God as He reveals Himself to us in Christ, that is, as the friend of sinners who do not love as they ought.

We need to talk in a certain way about these things. The best way is the way of the first Lutheran Reformers, who contra what many say today, never rejected the best of classical philosophy:

“…our relationship with God is based upon the essential righteousness of Christ, sacrificed for us. Within that relationship, God would make us, by His Holy Spirit, also essentially righteous [where we reflect the love of Christ (God)]. This work He begins in our baptisms and brings to a completion in the resurrection.” — my pastor

Again–it mattes not whether someone like Pastor Cooper nails the exact specifics here–this love of God, this “essential righteousness” in line with God’s Ten Commandments, is very different than the world’s “love”.

To take just one jarring example, as I noted in a previous post, “Nancy Pearcy, in her fantastic recent book Love Thy Body, has many important tidbits to share–tidbits that show Christianity as a constant that moves the world, not vice versa…:

  • “We should never defend Christianity by saying it is traditional. From the beginning, it has stood against the traditions of its day” (70).
  • “Beginning in the fifth century, Christian leaders finally began to wield enough political influence to pass laws against sexual slavery…The most reliable index of how deeply Christianity had permeated a society was whether it outlawed sexual slavery” (72).
  • “[In ancient Greece and Rome] brothels specializing in sex slaves, including children, were a legal and thriving businesses… Jesus shocked his contemporaries by treating children not as contemptible but as valuable…” (104-105).
  • “Scripture offers a stunningly high view of physical union as a union of whole persons across all dimensions” (138).
  • “The communion of male and female is meant to mirror the communion of divine persons within the Trinity” (139).

Um, no: “[Christ’s] gift is an F-You to the Law that would forbid your entry into paradise.”

  • “Some of the early martyrs were slaves who proclaimed their freedom in Christ by refusing to [sexually] service their masters – and were executed for it” (143).
  • “Christianity, we might say, invented consensual sex when it developed a sex ethic that assumed that God empowers individuals with freedom” (143).
  • “When we make sexual decisions, we are not just deciding whether to follow a few rules. We are expressing our view of the cosmos and human nature” (156).”

Um, no: “Do you renounce the lie that Queerness is anything other than beauty?” And the youths dutifully chanted back: “I renounce them.” (from here).


I went on to build on what Pearcey had to say:

“We are expressing our view of the cosmos and human nature” not only as regards sexual decisions but about politics as well. After all, most political action — that is the governance of human beings in the world — happens organically with marriage, i.e. at the level of the family the one flesh union creates. It should therefore be no mystery why marriage is the ultimate icon of Christ and His Bride, who is the Church — the mother of the children of God who guides them to their Shepherd-King.

Renew true love in your Church O Lord! Do not let our love grow cold!

“Christians love. So do those people. But a Christian would not want them to perish.” — Martin Luther


And when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on earth?

Have mercy Lord.

Be gracious Lord…




Posted by on November 2, 2018 in Uncategorized


I’m Just Going to Blog This Tweet Too.

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Posted by on October 27, 2018 in Uncategorized


To Subscribers of this Blog Via Email or Blog Reader… and More

Note: the content of this post has been significantly altered and updated as of 4:45 pm, Tuesday, Oct. 23rd.

If you only subscribe to this blog via email or blog reader, you likely did not see that you can read the entire text of “What does the LC-MS document “When Homes are Heartless” Mean?” series in one place (including the piece on the Duluth Model).

Federalist contributor Matthew E. Cochran also weighed in on the series in a recent blog post

“…when the Church looks to the world for guidance on this issue, she inevitably imbibes a substantial amount of worldly philosophy that undermines Biblical teachings.”

There has also been a very important conversation that has happened, and I have to clarify what I previously said about this meme. Here is what I can say:

Here are a number of other persons commenting on the series on Twitter:



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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Uncategorized


What does the LC-MS document “When Homes are Heartless” Mean? (part 10 of 10)

“God leaves it to everyone to treat his wife considerately according to each wife’s nature. You must not use your authority arbitrarily; for you are her husband to help, support and protect her, not to harm her.” – Luther


Part 1, 2, 3 (trigger warning), 4, 5, [Interlude: Duluth Model], 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Read entire text all at once here.


Earlier, about this last post, I had given the following preview:

“….finally…I will—utilizing the content from…parts 6-8—make a final evaluation on the usefulness of this document.”

As you can tell from the last post, part 9, you now know that “make a final evaluation on the usefulness of this document” equals “see what happens when one is controlled by the idea that control itself is abuse”. Correspondingly, this also means “severely call into question the ability of the authors and seemingly well-informed and articulate promoters of this document to look at this important issue evenhandedly.”

And in the context of the Western world’s current Christian apostasy.

While, I repeat, there is undoubtedly much that is valuable in these documents, definitions of domestic abuse taken from domestic abuse advocacy groups driven by feminist philosophy are, sadly, that little bit of yeast that leavens the whole lump.

Here are five more examples of what happens when one is controlled by the idea that control itself is abuse:


First, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse lose their ability to think rationally or logically when they sense their own control over the battle of ideas slipping. In the conversation that took place in the private online discussion group, I found it very interesting to see one of the reactions (from one of the document’s authors) to one of my stated concerns about the document, namely the subjectivity involved in determining what is really verbal domestic abuse.

Author: “Apparently[, according to Nathan’s piece,] only physical abuse qualifies as ‘justified’ divorce though…”

Eric Phillips: “Nobody but you has said, ‘only physical abuse qualifies as justified divorce….’ If there is an equation, it’s at most a partial one, since he explicitly said that divorce was an acceptable remedy against physical abuse…you are smart enough to notice the difference between ‘Divorce is acceptable in cases of physical abuse’ and ‘Divorce is acceptable ONLY in cases of physical abuse…’”

Author: “When only the one form of abuse is noted as a justifiable reason for divorce, it does exclude other forms.”

Notice how my concerns about subjectivities are simply passed over, and I am confidently portrayed as saying things I never said, due to the faulty use of logic. And believe me, this kind of thing is not an isolated incident.

Second, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse completely redefine the word “divorce”. Divorce is no longer about deciding what one may do justly in regard to one’s offending spouse, but becomes an act which the offending spouse alone enacts.  

In my original post, I had quoted the following from the When Homes are Heartless document:

“…it is important to recognize that sometimes domestic violence or abuse is more verbal and emotional than it is explicitly physical. That does not mean that every example of an angry outburst or a cross word constitutes ‘abuse,’ but it is necessary to emphasize that obedience to God’s laws and expectations is never merely a matter of external conduct. Just as sin flows from the heart (Matt. 15:19), so do genuine obedience and good works. The husband who has abused his wife cannot claim that he is innocent of destroying his marriage since he ‘never caused permanent physical harm’ and, besides that, was a ‘good provider’ or ‘never cheated.’”

I then commented:

“First, all of this is said in the context of a part of the document that is dealing with understandable reasons that persons might have for getting a divorce. What kind of evidence might be required to render these kinds of decisions? It seems to me that the dangers for subjectivity here are immense.”

One of the authors of the document, the same one just mentioned above, took offense to this and explained why:

“This paragraph does not deal with “understandable reasons that persons might have for getting a divorce.” This paragraph deals with the fact that domestic violence is not always physical (a very common misunderstanding), and the emotional/psychological betrayal of the intimacy between husband and wife is what ultimately causes the damage in the relationship. An abuser may contest a divorce on the grounds that they did not abandon the relationship or commit adultery or even physically assault the victim. But that does not release the abuser from culpability in destroying the marriage by abuse, threats, and degradation of their spouse.”

Is this, however, all there is to the story? Almost immediately prior to the part I quoted above, the document says the following:

“Domestic violence always includes either threats or realities of physical harm, but its deepest effects are not necessarily physical in nature. The emotional effect of violence and threats is what ultimately destroys the bond of marriage…”

And in the paragraph right before this (note I was not speaking about one paragraph but simply said “the context of a part of the document that is dealing with understandable reasons that persons might have for getting a divorce”) it says:

“As is the case in adultery or physical desertion, the marriage cannot continue when one person makes it impossible for the two to live as one, effectively forcing his spouse to flee. In domestic abuse, a husband forcibly separates himself from his wife, harming her physically and emotionally, trampling on her vulnerability, treating her as an enemy, attacking her person and driving her away. So the CTCR (Creator’s Tapestry, 2011) has also said: “Some divorces are unavoidable — for instance, where a spouse abandons the marriage, or persists in stubborn infidelity, or physically drives away the other spouse through abuse.”

The argument that this author of When Homes are Heartless is making here is that according to the document, it is the abuser who has caused the divorce per se. I can certainly understand how a person might make this argument, but that, to say the least, should certainly be debatable. Would all those who contributed to this document argue in this way?

“Would all those who contributed to this document argue in this way?” Not just a rhetorical question, LC-MS.


In any case, it might seem like the author has a strong case. Immediately prior to the previous quote we also read the following:

“Jesus, in warning that divorce contradicts God’s work in joining a man and woman as one, does so because divorce is also a tragic possibility in a world of sin (Matt. 19:3-9). Hard-hearted sin leads many to refuse to uphold the promises of marriage. They put away the spouse God has given to them and destroy the unity He created. Jesus calls divorce a form of adultery, which He identifies as profoundly destructive to marriage (Matt. 19:8-9) since no marriage can survive one party to the marriage persistently giving himself or herself sexually to someone other than his or her spouse. Jesus’ words indicate that both when a married person violates his or her vows sexually, while still legally married, and when a person ends a marriage in order to (or in the hope of) establishing a new relationship with another person, such adultery destroys marriage.”

I will admit that it makes sense that some would see the document arguing that if a spouse is unfaithful and commits adultery, “persistently giving himself or herself sexually to someone other than his or her spouse” he “destroy[s] the unity [God] created,” “put[ting] [a]way the spouse God has given them,” and, in effect, enacting divorce. The problem with this, of course, is that this is not the way the word divorce is commonly understood among us, or has ever been understood in the history of the world. Adultery, even adultery which is persisted in, is not divorce.

In fact, none of the actions described above alone are sufficient for a divorce to take place, even spiritually. After all, a spouse may choose, for example, to not only continually forgive but also continue to bear with the offending party. Therefore, as Luther says, the offended party may indeed, recognizing the situation, “change his status in the name of God” (LW 28, WA 12: 122-124), but this is not required. In other words, even if we say this person has suffered an “involuntary divorce” in one sense, on the other hand, a real decision, a real action on the part of the offended spouse is nevertheless required, and not only when it comes to divorce as a legal matter.  

This author, however, stopped talking with me after I tried to explain the broader position in my post (which others had no trouble understanding): “I have nothing more to say to you on this. Please don’t tag me again”. Other prominent posters, clearly informed on current domestic violence abuse orthodoxy, also made it clear that they did not want to continue to be a part of the conversation or try to understand my position. Sadly, this seems to be par for the course when it comes to the authors of the When Homes are Heartless document….


Third, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse cannot see that divorce from unhappiness is of comparable seriousness with the matter of domestic violence. When a commenter says (this quote was originally shared in part 3):

“A divorce is hard, heartbreaking, and painful, but usually the divorce in an unhappy marriage frees the unhappy spouse to pursuit their “dream”. I am not saying it’s right, I am not saying it’s God-pleasing. But it doesn’t fit the definition of abuse… If someone is filing for divorce and taking their spouse to the cleaners while they are at it, making sure the spouse is destitute, then I might agree that there is grounds for calling it abuse… But if they are just filing because they are unhappy, and they just want to be “free”, is it wrong? Yes. Is it abuse? No.

I have to cry foul. Very foul.

Take a look at part 6 again, and ask yourself “where in the world is the is real concern over the seriousness of this issue” It is not equivalent to the technical term “domestic abuse,” as we have seen above, but the harm, violence, and abuse enacted by such a divorce–or even the threat of divorce–certainly should be of grave concern to Christians in particular and all persons concerned with the common good. In general, as one commentator pointed out:

“Violence does seem like a better term to me [than abuse], as it comes first of all from the concept of ‘to violate’, that is, to treat dishonorably or treat someone in an outrageous manner. Such seems to fit the character of a destructive way of relating to someone; it is not a ‘wrong use,’ it is ‘an outrage’.”

This is especially the case when children are involved. Fathers matter immensely. The lack of a father or father involvement can be connected to all manner of social ills, decreased religiosity in children, and more opportunities for persons to prey on children in this or that fashion. And again, as an online friend pointed out to me: “Forcing a man to pay his ex-wife for the next few decades is a matter of power. Deciding when he’s allowed to see his own children is control.”

Frankly, that people not see the comparable seriousness of this issue is an immense problem. It is pure folly. And I am absolutely convinced Satan just loves that.

The insanity of the whole situation is not lost on me. The people I spoke with on this thread would rather chide me for not being sufficiently supportive (perhaps to some I am even an enemy) of their own efforts to fight domestic abuse—efforts not helped by their own reliance on and parroting of questionable data—than even acknowledge that I made an exceedingly good point. Really, a life or death point when it comes to our life together—our culture, our civilization.

This also does not help one to depend on their judgment.

Fourth, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse will often deny that they believe this, but then also will not think to – or perhaps not be able to when asked to – list reasonable examples of commands a husband might give that are not abuse.  

While they might say that they are not controlled by the idea that control is abuse, when asked for examples of situations where a husband might command his wife and not have it be abuse, no answers to this question will be forthcoming. The reason? It is because the way they have defined abuse, the question basically makes no sense, because it focuses on specific things someone might say, how they might behave. Remember, the feminist definitions of abuse they have used — admittedly constructed in order to single out and reign in abusive men — are not concerned with this at all.

LC-MS Task Force definition of Domestic abuse #1

LC-MS Task Force definition of domestic abuse #2.


What if they nevertheless did attempt to answer to give an answer to this question though? What would happen? Well, a husband might initiate commands that are good and would be beneficial for everyone but what if he does it for selfish motives? Perhaps good commands which seem to encourage harmony are good if the man is “authentic enough” according to the woman’s judgment? (in which case, if the man occasionally resorts to harsh language or even violence, perhaps it is generously interpreted not as “domestic abuse” but an unintentional pattern of “situational violence”). If so, where do we go for our view of authenticity? What about the role of a man’s “impressiveness” in this equation? Impressive people, after all, are not only honored but are deemed “worthy of honor”. And again, where do we go to help us make a judgement? How easy is it for us to rely on pagan and worldly notions of things like this vis a vis Scriptural teaching?

What do we think about this idea?:

God’s highest goal is the equality of His children — that all may be one in Christ Jesus. If one is sufficiently worthy that one will never need to resort to anything which the other might take, rightly or wrongly, to be a command. Commands, after all – even attempts to educate – must always be coercive, and this is not becoming of God.

Is that really what you’re doing?


If you think that sounds alright… if you think that this is the way that we must view God… if you say “how else could we say God is good?,” you have embraced the Radical Lutheran Idol (or maybe, the “Radical Grace” idol).

In other words, Radical Lutheranism and Feminist lines of thought–not the least of all Feminist theology–have a lot in common. Interestingly, neither of these believe in the traditional Christian understanding of the atonement, the insistence that God punishes, even uses violence, because He is Just.

This, I submit, is a pretty important idea — the most important idea in this post. These two problems — Feminist philosophies and Radical Lutheranism –are tied together at the hip, so to speak.

Fifth, those controlled by the idea that control is abuse begin to imagine true things they have seen and heard are dubitable when not shared the way they like (i.e., when the “influence” does not take place in accordance with their standards of propriety). In the third post in this series, I mentioned the following comment that was made about me on the private online discussion group thread:

“If Nathan had made the point about encouraging unhappy people to stay married without styling it as an addendum to the task force, then I would agree with him. I wouldn’t even mind the glib tone he took. But by inserting it into the church’s discussion on abuse, it blithely critiques the task force and minimizes the very real problem. That’s where I think he’s very wrong and why I’m not sure if I agree with his point.”

This person also said this:

“Nathan could not have picked a more harrowing, dire conversation to blithely insert himself into.

It’s his freedom to do that. But he shouldn’t be surprised if people don’t appreciate it and aren’t particularly receptive.”

I get the point. Really, I do. That said, even someone like me, who calls himself a Liberal Christian Nationalist and who has embraced identity politics, values truth and is going to insist that the truth matters here.

Did I or did I not, utilizing the Task Force’s document in order to do so, make a very good point in my original post? One which should be clear to anyone, male or female? And one which absolutely demands the church’s serious attention (why not devote a task force to this issue?)?

As the Wikipedians used to say “Play the ball and not the man.”


I submit that all need to wrestle with those questions in their conscience.

I insist.


I could keep going on here for a while. The remarks shared above simply stick out to me as most representative of the persistently bad thinking which I noted from many persons on the original discussion group thread.

And yet, in spite of this, it is interesting to note the kinds of things that did come up and that were admitted as being of significance:

“[Your] job as a fellow Christian is to hear the story they are telling and help them. If you have just cause that they are making it up, then you might want to take a step back.”

That is certainly not lost on me of course. Nor is the fact that they don’t have to be making anything up for me to “take a step back”. When a society is as sick as ours is, taking steps back is a day-by-day, hour-by-hour, minute-by-minute occurrence.

Amen! That said, Baal or God? Feminism or Christ’s, and man’s, headship?: “We must not be afraid to say that certain doctrines or teachings are tools of social control rather than of liberation and gracious freedom.” — Pellauer


Again, I say all of the above while wanting to be supportive of those who would fight against domestic abuse, which I certainly acknowledge is real and is even present among those who would claim Christ. If someone I know and trust were to come to approach me and share that they were being abused, of course my gut impulse would be believe all they say. Even for a stranger, I would listen carefully and assume the best, reserving judgement and skepticism for another time. The same would hold true for a man who spoke to me about being wrongfully accused.[34]

I understand if right now you still don’t understand why I have approached the matter as I have. This is many of you, I know. I understand that you doubt me, don’t trust me, think I am naive, and think that I am actually providing cover for abusers. At this point if you would like some encouragement that I really am on your side but feel discouraged, please take the time to go back to part 5 of this series and to read especially the second half of that post…

I am not convinced that that will change your mind, but it is the last thing that I would like you to think about.

Pax Christi,





[34] From the LC-MS training manual on domestic violence:

“If a woman says she is a victim of abuse, refer her to professional resources. If a man says he is being wrongfully accused, refer him to professional resources. Accept everything you hear, even if they are contradictory, as true, even while knowing that everything cannot be true. Refer to domestic abuse resources and professionals.”

They go on:

“It is important to understand that false accusations are rare. They do happen, especially if a couple is divorcing or in a custody dispute, but they do not happen often” (p. 25).


Posted by on October 21, 2018 in Uncategorized


What does the LC-MS document “When Homes are Heartless” Mean? (part 9 of 10)

“He must be one who manages his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity.” — Paul, foreseeing this series of posts… : )


Part 1, 2, 3 (trigger warning), 4, 5, [Interlude: Duluth Model], 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 (read entire text all at once here)

Prefatory comments: This post appears on the Just and Sinner blog this morning as “Male Headship as Domestic Abuse: a Crypto-Feminist Plot in the Church?“. Also, as I already did in part three of this series, I might need to post a trigger-warning to this post, albeit much briefer, here as well.

Some are likely to see this post as not sufficiently sensitive or even as insensitive. If sensitivity is what you want, please read part 5 in this series (again if you must) and come back to this post later.


In this and the last post, we will see some of the consequences that occur when persons are controlled by the idea that abuse is ultimately just about control. Put bluntly: control, at least by men, is abuse.


If that is not nuanced enough for you, we could perhaps effectively sum up the matter as follows: If you are a woman, being under authority where your rights are not a prominent part of the overall picture is always abuse, period.

In other words, what we see is that for many in the world of domestic abuse prevention, the real problem is not something like the abuse of male headship. Rather, male headship itself is the problem.

“Your life belongs to no one but you.” – Bancroft, 231


In the last post, I said, among other controversial things, the following:

“And isn’t it easy to see how men specifically might fall into traps whereby they look more to “control” than “manage” (is this just a clever synonym for control the patriarchy uses? What am I–evil man that I am perhaps!–doing right now?) the household, not excluding their wives? Especially when there are in fact Christian wives among them who really are not eager to show them respect (you *aren’t* worthy!), listen to them, uphold their honor and goodness in the eyes of others, apologize for their own selfish and controlling behaviors, etc.?”

Well, even if their wives really do have these problems, men had better be extremely careful. When the highly popular and influential domestic abuse advocate Lundy Bancroft makes it clear that:

  • “…you have rights and…they are equal to his” (340).
  • “There can be no positive communication when one person doesn’t respect the other and strives to avoid equality” (351).
  • “[w]e must teach equality” (388)
  • “…abuse comes from…one person’s decision to claim a higher status than another…” (387)

…without talking about just what is meant be equality, one can guess that he probably is not too eager to find room for Christian notions of how male headship might work.

“All other institutions exist and are sustained by marriage.” — Martin Luther, p. 11, from What is Marriage Really?


In addition, as one commenter in the private online discussion group (discussed in earlier posts) brought out, men must also contend with definitions of abuse like those from the federal government itself, found at, the summary of which is posted below:

“We define domestic violence as a pattern of abusive behavior in any relationship that is used by one partner to gain or maintain power and control over another intimate partner. Domestic violence can be physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological actions or threats of actions that influence another person. This includes any behaviors that intimidate[32], manipulate, humiliate, isolate, frighten, terrorize, coerce, threaten, blame, hurt, injure, or wound someone.

First, just read my italics above alone–and then just read my bolded words alone–and ask yourself if it makes sense for me to bring these things to our attention and ask hard questions (it does, even as we note that domestic abusers also often do many of these things). I mean, of course, as good Christians, we would never want to influence anyone or blame anyone for anything, would we?

“Submitting to the Lord sometimes involves drawing clear boundaries and enacting consequences when a husband sins.” — Mary Kassian, Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).


As Lundy Bancroft points out, angry or controlling partners will “frequently tell[] you what you should think” (xxii), and again, he also uses the word abuser “as a shorthand way of saying ‘men who chronically make their partners feel mistreated or devalued.’” (xviii, Why Does He Do That?, 2002). If someone persists in the belief that they are right, making you feel guilty, that could never be an indication that an evaluation of one’s own thoughts and behaviors is in order, right? Instead, the problem must be the other person! After all, as Bancroft pronounces, presumably anything you might feel is a “guilt trip” is also abusive (347)!

In addition, it is important to note that, as the domestic abuse hotline puts it (presumably, the place where When Homes are Heartless gets its working definition of “domestic abuse,” even though it is not included in this document itself) “making all the big decisions” is also defined as abuse! [33] Bancroft also works in these grooves when he says “Interference with your freedom or independence is abuse. If he… discourages you from pursuing your dreams… he is trying to undermine your independence” (127). Here, just think of the internet firestorm caused a few weeks ago from a Christian woman, Lori Alexander, making the simple and uncontroversial point that men tend to prefer marrying debt-free virgins without tattoos (see original post here, as well as a couple reactions on the opposite ends of the spectrum here and here).

In the dreaded shadow of Bill Gothard?! Or is that just too easy?


We also note that “stereotyped beliefs about women’s sex roles contribute to the risk of abuse,” including things like convictions that “women should take care of the home” (120). Nevermind that many women, informed by the Bible, have this conviction. Perhaps they also contribute to the risk of abuse, and are in effect traitors to their sex? Perhaps the remnant of Christian women endeavoring to train young women to be good wives and mothers might want to consider that passages like Ephesians 5 are priming their young charges to be abused?

Perhaps feminists like Bancroft agree with what Richard Dawkins said years ago? That raising kids in the Christian faith is child abuse?

Bancroft: “….the abuser’s problem lies above all in his belief that controlling…his female partner is justifiable…” (35). And, while you chew on this, please don’t keep trying to “influence” me either in any way I won’t enjoy or appreciate…


And what, in our egalitarian world, could be more contentious and cause more problems (perceived problems!) than a man like the Apostle Paul? What might having “a respectful and equal relationship with a woman” (Bancroft, xxi) looked like for him? Would his view of marriage pass muster today? Would his view of being a slave of Christ? What kind of sick person, after all, finds contentment and joy in slavery, submission, obedience?

Increasingly, in the Western world, even those more conservative folks who believe that we do need traditional institutions that shape and mold us so that we can make good choices, we nevertheless do not want to focus on, for the most part (remember, I am a Lutheran), submitting to them. We certainly do not want to wildly exacerbate our delight in doing so, at least as a general matter of course.

What, really, could be worse!? I mean, these persons aren’t Jesus, who, of course, we would never hesitate to submit to—at least in person!

“Every knee shall bow…” True enough, willingly or unwillingly.


And doesn’t Bancroft simply put the icing on the cake when he reminds us as regards the vast majority of abusers: “Their value system is unhealthy, not their psychology”? (38)

The apostle Paul, like Christ, just not husband material.


This post, 9 of 10 in this series, has examined one of the critical consequences of being controlled by the idea that control is abuse.

In the final post, we will examine a few more.



Images: Bill Gothard: ; Source IBLP staff (Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license) ;  Mary Kassian from ; Lundy Bancroft from


[32] “Intimidate”: Should I assume that the fact that some men simply are physically and/or verbally intimidating, even if they don’t try to be is taken into consideration here? I’m not feeling very trusting these days. : )

[33] This was defended then by one member of the task force:

“The diagram didn’t really explain things well with that statement. ‘Making the big decisions’ in an abusive way would be to do so without (and even contrary) to the input of the spouse or without consideration of them or what’s best for the family, but based on their own desires/ plans alone.”

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Posted by on October 17, 2018 in Uncategorized