Writing in Unbreakable: The Seven Pillars of a Kingdom Family, Tom Elliff said a Christian man complained to him that "his wife was rejecting his overtures of affection."
"She's always too tired," Elliff quoted the man. "Or she has a headache or too much to do or too much on her mind at the moment. I don't know what the problem is."
Interpreting the man's plight, Elliff wrote, "I could tell he was even wondering if he had married the right woman."
Elliff, chair of the SBC's Council on Family Life and former convention president, asked the man if he was familiar with the biblical analogy of the church as the bride of Christ and Christ as the groom.
"How many times recently has Christ, your Lord, made an overture of affection to you," Elliff asked, "only to hear that you have headache, you're too tired, or you're too busy and distracted?"
The man confessed that "his own devotional life was in shambles. For weeks, he had neglected the practice of prayer and Bible reading," wrote Elliff, pastor of First Southern Baptist Church of Del City, Okla.
"Interestingly," the man said, "I have offered the same line to God that I have heard from my wife-too busy, tired, and distracted."
Elliff wrote, "He got the picture! Later when I visited with him, he acknowledged that both his devotional life and his relationship with his wife had drastically improved."
Now really, can Southern Baptist fundamentalists get any goofier?
After a series of gaffes connected with recent annual SBC meetings, Southern Baptist leaders have attempted to spin this year's gathering into a competition with Mormons as the family friendly faith group of choice. Elliff's book, a pre-convention family rally and the work of the family council are supposed to recast the Southern Baptist image and rescue Christian families.
Yet Elliff's bizarre marital advice does a disservice to families when he distorts the biblical witness, claiming for the Bible what the Bible does not claim for itself.
Apostle Paul, the author of the analogy of the church as bride and Christ as groom, neither wrote nor implied that husband's prayer life and Bible reading would cause his wife to embrace his "overtures of affection." Paul did not encourage male spirituality for the sake of male sexual fulfillment. Paul did write about conjugal rights in the context of sexual mutuality in marriage with a note about an agreed upon abstinence for prayer (1 Cor. 7:1-9).
When Paul did use the bride-groom analogy (Eph. 5:21-33), he advocated marital mutuality, which ran counter to the prevailing Hebraic view that held males as dominant and females as inferior. Mutual submission resulted from reverence to Christ. After all, Paul saw equality in Christ between male and female (Gal. 3:28).
The Bible defines the highest form of love in terms of sacrificial giving, responsibility and accountability, ideals that are applicable to marriage. The biblical witness also recounts a host of inspiring and dark stories about marriages from which much may be gleaned for real life.
Instead of taking these accounts about family life seriously, Elliff ignored germane passages and twisted a revered biblical analogy.
Implicitly promising husbands that getting right with God will get matters right in the bedroom distorts spirituality. It also perpetuates the idea of the wife as spiritually and sexually second-class marriage partner.