Mark Driscoll on Women as “Weaker Vessels”

Mark Driscoll on Women as “Weaker Vessels” January 27, 2012

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.

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