Apatriarchal culture and gender-biased interpretation of Scripture has sometimes led to a distorted view of male headship in the home, some biblical scholars say.

At the April “Women, Abuse, and the Bible” conference in Chicago, discussion focused on the suspicion that cultural patriarchy gives license to men to abuse their wives.

Proponents of the traditional family hierarchy, understood as biblical, do not intend to promote abuse of women and children, Catherine C. Kroeger told an audience of 150 that included evangelical therapists, pastors, and teachers. But the system sets people up for it. “It’s a major flaw in the system” of male “headship,” she said, that it “misses the propensity to sin.”

Scripture, theology, and doctrine were addressed from many perspectives at the Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) conference, including co-organizers Kroeger, adjunct professor at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and James R. Beck, professor at Denver Conservative Baptist Seminary.

Kroeger argued that if fellow believers do not confront an abusive husband, they are “depriving a man of godly counsel” and putting him in “spiritual jeopardy.”

She called it one of the fundamental themes of the Old Testament that violence is “the work of sinners” and affirmed, “Christians who construct theological justification for such behavior cast a very large stumbling block in their brother’s way” to salvation.

“We cannot look the other way when we know there is incest or battering, neglect, or sexual assault,” Kroeger said. “Scripture twice tells us that battering is automatic disqualification for church leadership. Why are we so complacent about this?”

Carolyn Heggen, an Albuquerque therapist and author of Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and ...

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