Mark Driscoll on Women as “Weaker Vessels”

First, I owe an apology for mis-quoting Mars Hill’s Pastor Mark Driscoll in an earlier post when I said he had called women “inferior vessels.” In fact, he refers to them as “weaker vessels,’ and not inferior.

The quote (or one of them at least) where this can be found is from a Bible study he posted online about 1 Peter 3:7, which says:

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7

Driscoll goes on to say that “Men and women are equal but different,” followed by the claim that, “Within the covenant of marriage, men are the head and women are the helpers.”

He goes on in the same post to state the following:

In 1 Peter 3:7 we see this figurative use of the word to describe wives. It should be pointed out, though, that by implication Peter calls men “vessels,” too, since the use of “weaker” shows that a “stronger” vessel exists, which would be the husband.

To his credit, Driscoll does assert that, though men are the “stronger vessels,” this strength should be used to protect their wives instead of abuse or exploit them. He gives a number of examples of how he lives this out, including standing or sitting between her and other men, and so on.

Again, my apologies for misstating his claim about women. Feel as you may about him, it’s incumbent on me to get the facts straight whenever possible.

I do, however, stand by my criticisms of Driscoll as a misogynist who frequently uses his pastoral power to subjugate women to a role of support for their men. Not only do I believe he is “proof texting” scripture (cherry-picking texts to assert a premeditated agenda); he also is acting un-Biblically when one considers texts such as that from Paul in Galatians 3:28, which says:

There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Granted, there are cases to be made form Paul’s writing as well that women are somehow to be subjugate to men. However, we have to consider the cultural context in which these texts were written. Consider, for example, the fact that the women who followed Jesus as his disciples are not named for the most [art, and certainly are not considered among “the twelve.” In the story of the feeding of the five thousand, the story notes that the number includes only men, “not counting women and children.”

Ancient Jewish law outlines codes of conduct for how men are to treat their wives, all of which are consistent with how they are to treat the rest of their property. In that context, Paul’s claim about there being no “man” or “woman” any longer would be considered remarkably radical.

Finally, there is no account of Jesus ever relegating women to a secondary role. Though the recorders of scripture may have marginalized the place of women in many cases, Jesus consistently held up, empowered and affirmed Jesus. In fact, it was the women – as Driscoll himself points out on the Mars Hill website – that stood fast at the foot of the cross when Christ was executed, and were the first witnesses of the resurrected Jesus.

Still, sexism like that which Driscoll preaches relegates women to a role of service to their man.

It’s all well and good to say in one breath that women are “no better or worse” than men. But if in the next breath you clearly place them in a role of obedience and service to their male counterparts, there is nothing to call this other than what it is:

Brazen Misogyny.

About Christian Piatt

Christian Piatt is the creator and editor of BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT THE BIBLE and BANNED QUESTIONS ABOUT JESUS. He co-created and co-edits the “WTF: Where’s the Faith?” young adult series with Chalice Press, and he has a memoir on faith, family and parenting being published in early 2012 called PREGMANCY: A Dad, a Little Dude and a Due Date.

  • Anonymous

    People cannot be “equal in being but unequal in role” when the role is based on their being. Evangelicals never seem to realize that it was that same exact arguement that was used to defend slavery and later discrimination. Think ” seperate but equal”.

    • http://twitter.com/Zema28 Zema

      I appreciate your passion to stand up for us but are you less of a person because my role is to bear children (because I’m a woman) and yours is not?

  • dogselur

    I often admire Mark’s use of scripture to back up all his views.  He is consistent in use and understanding of the text. In my reading of the bible, I see how God has separate roles for men and women. We are both valued in God’s eyes, for we are all made in his image, but you can’t ignore that only men were called to be the disciples.   If anything, Mark calls men to a higher standard because he was called to preach to men. I have heard his talks on marriage, how he lovingly calls the wife to honor their husbands, and then RAGES on men to grow up and love their wives. He is much much harder on the guys to live a life of Christlike-ness. I just don’t see this horrible misogyny you refer to. 

    • http://www.facebook.com/johnrayy John Rochester

      Yes, Yes, Yes.

    • Michelle

      Not all women want to be treated as fragile objects. If that’s what you want, congrats, but some women want to be treated as capable human beings. I say this as a Christian- one who can empathize with those who have difficulty giving up all their hopes and dreams to be live-in maids/cooks/f^cktoys/breeding machines (and let’s face it- that’s all we’re supposed to be). Good luck selling that to unbelievers.

  • Flysinger5

    Brazen Misogyny ????  Mark Driscoll is not.  He is preaching straight from scripture. Men are taught to love women ” as Christ loves the Church “…  period 

      Maybe young children should have the same ” rights” as their parents ?? NOT… their role is just different.  They are not inferior

    Misogyny ( /mɪˈsɒdʒɪni/) is the hatred of women orgirls. According to feminist theory, misogyny can be manifest in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.[1][2]Misogyny has been characterized as a prominent feature of the mythologies of the ancient world as well as various religions. In addition, many influential Western philosophers have been described as misogynistic.[1]
    I agree with dogselur

    • polarise

      Could we please avoid using words like ‘denigrate’? There is nothing bad about being black.

  • Mystery_gals_rock

    In reference to your comment about women being the “helpers” of men, this is seen in scripture (Gen2:18) also the same word is used to describe the Holy Spirit (John14:26) and yet you would not say that, that makes the Holy Spirit any lesser than the Father would you? Also i noticed that you did not acknowledge …. stating that women are called to submit  to their husbands as Christ submitted to the Father. Again i question whether you see Jesus as lesser to the Father. And yet these same words are the words that Mark has used to describe women as quoted from the Bible. This calls into question what scriptures you have to back up your point of view as all you seem to have done is poorly attempted to poke holes in his theology that seems to hold true to the Bible much firmer than your feeble hole poking attempts. 

    • Mystery_gals_rock

      sorry the … that in the garden of Gethsemane Jesus submit to the Father in saying… Not my but Your will be done. And what about, Eph5:22 

  • mjbarefoot

    I think everyone is reading too much into this verse. It may not be an ontological or metaphysical statement about gender. The Greek word translated “vessel” can also mean “tool” or “equipment” as in we in general tend to have equipment that has slightly different maintenance instructions than the male and men would do well to remember this an not use it against us. The attitude of “Oh, you want a day off for cramps? Clearly an inferior vessel. Maybe you should just stay home all the time how ’bout?” might be what is being warned against. This is also a case where Protestants ignoring the Mother of God distorts other theology. How can women possibily be secondary or less than when the greatest mere human (as opposed to God-Human) is a woman?

  • fu

    Thanks to bible verses like these, I live my life feeling inferior.

    • Michelle

      Isn’t it nice knowing we’re resigned to doormats and slaves, simply for having vaginas?

  • Matt Van Dyke

    Wow i couldnt disagree with this more. Mark Driscoll preaches straight from the bible and his “Agenda” is Christ centered relationships. It seems that you have an agenda to buffer the Bible so it is more pallatable towards people. Mark Driscoll is the man stand behind him 100% as long as he keeps preaching the Bible and following Christ!

  • http://www.ibfellowship.org/ John Chester

    You cherry picked Galatians 3:28 which is speaking of the availability of salvation in Christ to all kinds of people, not to Jews only in the context of refutig the heresy of the judaizers. Is Driscoll a misogynist yes, but you do a disservice by accusing him of cherry picking verses to use as proof texts (which he wasn’t doing, he is misapplying them) and then wildly cherry picking a text to prooftext. It makes you very easy to dismiss.


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