3 Wives, likewise, be submissive to your own husbands, that even if some do not obey the word, they, without a word, may be won by the conduct of their wives, 2 when they observe your chaste conduct accompanied by fear. 3 Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— 4 rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God.
— 1 Pet 3:1-4 NKJV
Reading Kathy Keller’s teaching on Headship and Submission at Family Life, it is striking how poor a job she does at hiding her rage at what the Bible instructs husbands and wives. She rationalizes that if she is tempted to rebel against submission, this must mean that “the culture” has misunderstood submission:
Long ago, when I was struggling with this teaching, and I did struggle with it, I had to ask myself this question, “If it’s not an assault on the dignity, and value, and equality of Jesus to take the subordinate role to His Father in order to accomplish our salvation, how on earth can I be hurt or devalued when asked to play the Jesus role of subordination in my marriage?” The answer is, “I can’t be. It’s not going to hurt me if it’s defined by Jesus rather than by a cultural understanding.”
This is the foundation for all of the rest of her rationalizations, and as rationalizations go it is especially weak. By “the culture”, she must mean both our current culture (the one which caused her to rebel), as well as all cultures from the time of Christ until now. Only now, two thousand years later with the benefit of Kathy’s emotional state, can the clear instructions of the Apostles Peter and Paul finally be understood.
Kathy explains that “helpmeet” is comparable to the role of God (emphasis mine):
Genesis 2 then—there’s this thing like, “Adam first, then Eve; and she’s the helper?” Like, “What happened to the equality?” The word “helper” in the Bible, azer,—I’m not sure, you Hebrew scholars, if I’m pronouncing that right—it is more frequently used of God. You may have heard this; but in the Bible, the word azer—the helpmate word that is used of Eve in Genesis—is most often used of God—God, our help.
A helper can only help out of strength. The helper helps because he or she has qualities that are needed by the person who doesn’t have those qualities. It is a position of strength. It’s not like “assistant”—you know, “God’s my assistant.” “My wife is my assistant.” It’s a helper who helps out of complementary strengths that the husband doesn’t have. Okay, that’s a tangent; but we needed to do it.
Later she thinks out loud that while husbands and wives are totally equal, wives might secretly be more exalted by God. She does this while simultaneously denying that the thought came from her:
You could actually make the case that, in asking women to be submissive, that they are actually being given a greater calling than the men and will be exalted more highly for it.
I’m just saying, “You could make the case”; I’m not making the case.
The whole piece is riddled with these kinds of painful rationalizations, and reading it gave me great sympathy for the torment Kathy is clearly experiencing due to her rebellious state. This torment has gone on for many decades, and instead of trying to help her escape from this state of constant torment, her husband Tim Keller (a famous pastor) has encouraged it by placing her in a teaching position over both men and women. This not only increases the torment, it makes it visible to the entire world.
It isn’t just her husband who has failed Kathy in this way. Dennis Rainey of FamilyLife is the man giving her the radio platform to teach headship and submission, and Owen Strachan offers her and her husband great praise in his article: Giving Thanks to God for Complementarians Tim & Kathy Keller. Not surprisingly all of this ties back to the CBMW, as Strachan is the Executive Director of CBMW and Rainey is on the CBMW Board of Reference.
Kathy’s highly agitated rebellious state of mind is surprisingly well known within the complementarian world, where it is seen not as a problem but is instead celebrated. It is seen as something for all complementarian wives to emulate. The most famous example of this is what Kathy proudly calls her “godly tantrum”, where she smashed their wedding china in order to get her own way. Tim and Kathy are both so proud of this moment that they feature it in their book The Meaning of Marriage.
In the section titled The Godly Tantrum, Tim explains that Kathy wanted Tim to work fewer hours, but he was focused on the goals of his ministry. Tim offers this story as encouragement to readers “not to shrink from really telling the truth to one another.”
One day I came home from work. It was a nice day outside and I noticed that the door to our apartment’s balcony was open. Just as I was taking off my jacket I heard a smashing noise coming from the balcony. In another couple of seconds I heard another one. I walked out on to the balcony and to my surprise saw Kathy sitting on the floor. She had a hammer, and next to her was a stack of our wedding china. On the ground were the shards of two smashed saucers.
“What are you doing? I asked.”
She looked up and said, “You aren’t listening to me. You don’t realize that if you keep working these hours you are going to destroy this family. I don’t know how to get through to you. You aren’t seeing how serious this is. This is what you are doing.” And she brought the hammer down on the third saucer. It splintered into pieces.
Tim explains that this was the wakeup call that he needed to decide to work fewer hours. Hilariously, he also explains that his wife wasn’t emotionally out of control while she very clearly was:
I sat down trembling. I thought she had snapped. “I’m listening. I’m listening,” I said. As we talked it became clear that she was intense and laser focused, but she was not in a rage or out of control emotionally.
In the preface to the story he makes the same absurd claim:
Kathy talks of what she calls the “godly tantrum.” By this she means not an emotional loss of temper but an unrelenting insistence on being heard.
Tim’s denial here is breathtaking, but it is essential to understand that it is at the foundation of the complementarian perspective. For all of their lectures about believing that men and women are different, their whole edifice is founded on the feminist denial of the nature of women. Complementarians must deny bad behavior of women no matter the cost. No matter how many children grow up without fathers, and no matter the cruelty of parading Kathy out in this highly disturbed mental state for decades, the first priority is and always has been to maintain the denial.