[From the archives.]
There are a pair of blog posts over at Reformed Baptist Fellowship styled as catechisms, one for Christian wives and the other for Christian husbands. They aren’t really catechisms, but more lists of advice. There are glimmers of helpfulness in them, but for the most part they are awful. Simply awful.
One main problem is that these aren’t really catechisms, and to call them such gives them an air of authority that is just not there. As Patricia Hunt said, this pair of posts “offers no scriptural proofs with his ‘catechism’? Catechisms are for doctrine, doctrine rests on scripture.” There is no scriptural support for any statement in the posts. None.
An even bigger problem is that the writer, a Reformed Baptist pastor, premises the whole thing on faulty doctrine. In the preamble to each post he writes that his purpose is to help people who find themselves in difficult marriages to non-Christians, particularly those marriages where the spouse is “especially ungodly.”
That’s a huge doctrinal mistake. There is no relative degree of godliness or ungodliness for those who do not belong to Christ. The only godliness possible is in those who have the spirit of Christ within them. (Romans 8:9-10.) It is part of the faith that every one who belongs to Jesus has been given (Ephesians 2:8-9), and without this faith it is impossible to please God. (Hebrews 11:6.)
This is Reformed Doctrine 101, and I can’t imagine this pastor being so mistaken on it not once but in both blog posts. The real problem though is that this premise leads the reader to think that all which follows in these “catechisms” is to be measured by how much ungodliness is in the unbelieving spouse, rather than guiding the reader to an understanding that the unbelieving spouse – being without the Spirit – is completely unable to understand the relationship the Christian wife or husband has with God. (1 Corinthians 2:14.)
The posts continue to fail on practical as well as doctrinal grounds repeatedly.
Mistreated Spouses Get Better Than They Deserve?
Take questions 11 and 12 in each post. (I’ll quote the one directed to women. He wrote the identical advice to men, just switching the spousal roles.)
Q11. How good a husband is my husband to me?
A11. Much better than I deserve, and therefore I will thank God for him every day.
Q12. How good a wife am I to my husband?
A12. Much worse than I ought to be, and therefore I will confess my sins to God every day, asking forgiveness, and to my husband as needed, and continue in prayer for grace to grow into the excellent wife that God wants me to be, and that would be such a blessing to my husband.
If interpreted to mean that all of us deserve death for our sins and therefor anything we receive short of that is more than we deserve, then I suppose he might have some scriptural basis for this. But in the context of two posts on marriage relationships, that interpretation just doesn’t hold up. No, these points are in the context of how people treat one another.
That’s where one of the real big problems comes in, as many commenters to the posts there have shown. He tells women that this advice is a blessing worthy of memorization that will help them in difficult marriages. He then admonishes them that even if this advice does not actually help their “difficult marriage” their husbands are still treating them better than they deserve.
This pastor completely ignores the fact that many people are not treated better than they deserve by their spouses. They are married to people who hurt them. You would think that someone charged with pastoral care of God’s people would know that and write marital advice accordingly.
Women are Needy, Fearful and Full of Feelings!
The post for husbands also includes this point:
Q6. What is it to live with my wife in an understanding way?
A6. It is to show her honor as the weaker vessel, being sensitive to her needs, fears, and feelings; to nourish and cherish her with the love and affection of Christ.
This is yet another point where the writer’s blending of a Bible verse with his own take on women and men is conflated in a manner contrary to the meaning of that verse. It looks like he is starting from the biblical instruction that husbands are to treat wives “with respect as the weaker partner and as heirs with you of the gracious gift of life” (1 Peter 3:7). He then puts his own gloss on the word weakness, identifying it as the wife’s “needs, fears, and feelings.”
How he went from Peter’s use of the word “weaker” to identifying the weakness as wives having fears and needs and feelings reveals more about his view of women culturally than scripturally, because the Bible does not say women are fearful or needy or full of feelings in ways that men don’t share.
As one commenter to the post on these “catechisms” at Spiritual Sounding Board pointed out the sexist nature of the pastor’s advice:
Women aren’t the only ones who can be afraid, needy, and insecure. I’ve known plenty of men who had those characteristics.
I have too. Does that mean the husband is the weaker partner in those marriages? How could he be if the pastor is correct in his reading of 1 Peter 3:7? No, the real answer is that there is no inherently weaker partner in a marriage merely by virtue of which one has a Y chromosome. The original Greek just won’t allow that understanding to hold up.
So here’s my advice to married people, and to everyone else too:
Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. (Romans 12:10.)
… whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. (1 Corinthians 10:31.)
The rest is merely details.