Sheila here!

Last week I published some “Fixed it for Yous” from biblical counselors which were extremely disturbing.

My husband Keith was just infuriated, and asked to write his response.

He’s quite passionate about this, and he’ll be recording this for our podcast this week too!

So here’s Keith!

Sheila Wray Gregoire

The abuse of children is unconscionable.

Knowing I am a pediatrician, I am sure no one will be surprised to learn that I have a soft spot for children. In fact, I have been that way as long as I can remember.

In high school, I volunteered to tutor kids in younger grades who were struggling in school. I was the kind of teenage boy that actually liked babysitting – – and who parents felt they could trust with their kids! While Sheila and I were dating in university we started leading our church’s high school youth group and we have been involved with children & youth ministries off and on ever since.

I find the Bible stories of Jesus with the little children so rich and meaningful and I know I am not alone in that.

When the writers of “The Chosen” spend an entire episode depicting the interactions of Jesus with a group of children who find his camp in Capernaum, we instantly realize that this is not a fanciful diversion from the true story of the gospel.

Although nothing in that episode is actually recorded in the gospels, it clearly and completely resonates with everything the gospels actually do say. Jesus pointed to children over and over again as examples for us adults to follow precisely because children can teach us so much about God. Who has not experienced that sense that we are somehow touching heaven when seeing the undiluted joy of discovery in the face of a child seeing something marvellous in creation for the very first time?

Which makes the teachings from John Street and Jay Adams that Sheila has been exposing recently all the more hideous and vile.

For those of you who did not see Sheila’s “Fixed It For You” posts earlier this month, let’s start with Street’s:

Biblical Counseling and Abuse Advice

Dr John Street is Chair of the Graduate Program in Biblical Counselling at Master’s University, which is run by Dr John MacArthur. 

When Sheila shared with me that a man who calls himself a Christian had publicly said these words, I was literally speechless.

In fact, I still can’t wrap my head around it. The reality that Street is not the only one to think this way, though, has been hammered home time and again as I have watched the various comment sections since Sheila first posted. To my amazement and horror, people keep trying to justify Street by saying Sheila is “taking him out of context”.  They claim Street was “telling the girl’s story in her own words” or “he was just presenting her perspective of events”. But in what context is it EVER okay to refer to an adult man having sexual relations with a 4-year old girl as “sleeping with her”? In what context it is EVER okay to say that the abuse of a young girl was “BECAUSE” (Street’s word) the mother was not giving the abuser enough “sexual satisfaction”? 

There is no context that makes this right. This teaching is pure, undiluted EVIL.

And sadly – though not surprisingly – this is actually NOT an instance of Street being taken out of context. I watched the video myself (start around the 6:00 mark) and felt sick to my stomach as he went on to talk about how this woman after being sexually assaulted as a child “handled things biblically”. And what did he mean by that? She rejected “abuse literature” which would say “you’re a victim” and instead recognized “the depravity of her own heart when going through this”.

Yes, you heard that correctly: telling a 4-year old girl that she “was a victim” of sexual abuse is not biblical according to these people. No, that is a worldly interpretation. The “biblical” method is to explore her own sinfulness in the situation.

And Street is not an aberration in saying this; he is speaking right out of the official playbook as Sheila’s two follow-up “Fixed It For You” posts from Dr Jay Adams, the founder of Biblical Counselling shows:

Biblical Counseling and Abuse: Jay Adams
Biblical Counseling and Abuse: Blaming the Victim

Christ, have mercy!

When I was in medical school I spent a summer doing research work for a Child Protection Team that assessed and treated children who were victims of physical and sexual abuse.

My research job was basically being a “data monkey”. I took all the information from each case (demographics of the victim and the perpetrator, details of the abuse, findings from the team’s assessment, etc) and I organized it and input it into a database that would be used for future research. Part of the experience was also to get some exposure to clinical medicine by observing the team as they did their assessments.

Many times during that summer and (sadly) during my subsequent career as a pediatrician, I have looked into the faces of victims of childhood sexual abuse and seen the maelstrom of emotions as they try to sort out what has happened to them. I learned from the therapists on that team to say, “It is important for you to know that when this happens, it is always the adult’s fault; it is never the child’s fault.”

But men like Street and Adams would say that those therapists and I are worldly and incorrect. To be “biblical”, we ought to explore the child’s “own depravity” in what happened.

To them I can only say: “Woe to you who call evil good and good evil” (Isaiah 5:20a). How will you stand before the One who said, “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them. For the kingdom of God belongs to such as these?”

How do men who profess to be followers of Jesus say such vile and inexcusable things?

It comes down to our view of men and women. MacArthur is famous for his stance that men are ordained by God to be in authority over women. To me, the fact that people making these atrocious statements are based in his university is no coincidence. It seems obvious that teaching God has put men in authority over women comes with an intrinsic danger that we will prioritize men over women, but I have yet to see those who believe in male authority grappling seriously with this issue. All I have heard is their assertions that their position actually protects women and children.

But do we actually see that happening in the church?

Consider what Julie Roys has brought to light about how MacArthur publicly shamed and excommunicated his parishioner, Eileen Gray, after she decided to protect her children by refusing to take her abusive husband back into the home. This man that MacArthur was so eager to reunite with his children was subsequently convicted of aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child and child abuse, but MacArthur and his supporters still stand by their decision to support him over Eileen and her children. In their mind, Eileen’s husband had repented and wanted to reconcile so Eileen was in sin for not forgiving him.  This is what they call “Biblical”.

But anybody who knows anything about abuse knows about the abuse cycle.

Abusers say they are sorry and will change, they “love bomb” their victims and make it seem like everything is all better now – – until the next time.

I take Jesus’ admonition to be “shrewd like serpents” quite seriously when it comes to abusive men.  When I see men weeping and crying about the abuse they have committed, I hear the words of John the Baptizer ringing clearly in my mind: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Matthew 3:7b-8). In my opinion, if an abusive man is truly repentant he will humbly accept that he needs to prove he truly has changed before he even thinks about asking anything from anybody.

But what response do we see from these teachers?

The priority of men and the expendability of women and children in their minds are plain for all to see.

Consider how Street, faced with the story of a man who abused his 4-year old step-daughter for years, slickly and smoothly switches the focus away from the abuser to the 4-year old and her mother. How can anyone not be sickened watching Street make excuses for a man that any other person would consider a monster? Jesus said, “If anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” In stark contrast, however, men like Street & Adams encourage sympathy, painting the abuser as a poor man whose hateful wife deprived him of sexual satisfaction.

It is disgusting and evil beyond all comprehension.

MacArthur and others who preach male authority make the case that we ought not to let our culture interpret the Bible. Well the words and actions of MacArthur, Street and Adams demonstrate that they come from a culture where, to put it bluntly, men matter in a way that women and children simply don’t. And it is long past time for them to stop pointing fingers at feminist bogeymen and to realize that in fact is it their patriarchal and misogynist culture that is skewing their interpretation of the Bible.

If these teachers would only heed Jesus’ admonition to “remove the plank from their own eye”, they might see they are unjustly accusing egalitarians of a sin that in fact has come home to roost among them a hundred times over. You cannot say you speak for Jesus and then promote such evil as Street and Adams are spewing. 

If the working out of your theological position results in deliberately putting children into harm’s way and even blaming victims of child abuse for what happened to them while making excuses for the men who abused them then it is not from Jesus no matter how many Bible verses you stick onto it.

How Male Hierarchy Leads to Abuse

What do you think? How did this stuff become “biblical”? How do we fight against it? Let’s talk in the comments!

Keith Gregoire

Keith Gregoire

Blog and Podcast Contributor, Co-Author with Sheila of two upcoming marriage books

Keith is the rock that supports Sheila, who runs this blog! Sheila and Keith married when Keith was attending Queen's University medical school in Kingston, Ontario. He later completed his residency in pediatrics at the Hospital for Sick Children, and has since directed the pediatric undergraduate program at Queen's University, and been Chief of Pediatrics at a community hospital in Belleville, Ontario. He and Sheila speak at marriage conferences around the world, and together they've also done medical missions in Kenya. Next up: They're authoring The Guy's Guide to Great Sex together! Plus, of course, he's an avid birdwatcher.

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