The Pence Rule and Wisdom

This topic keeps coming up. Again, I want to stress this. I do not at all care, nor have any issue whatsoever with what Mr. Pence does. As a high powered politician, he might have many reasons not to eat with a woman alone.

My greatest concern is with false teaching. As Christians, we all want strong marriages. As Christians we despise sexual immorality, and seek to flee from it. For these reasons, false teaching sounds appealing and it is hard to put a finger on what is wrong with it. It isn’t that it is completely wrong. It’s that it is almost right, which in many ways is far worse. Almost right is more deadly than completely wrong.

For example, here is a post today from Beautiful Christian Life: Why the Pence Rule Shows Wisdom. These five reasons listed are purported to be Biblical. But are they?

Lets look at them:

1. It helps men and women to avoid sexual temptation.

“And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” (Matt. 6:13)

I don’t see the connection. If a man meeting with a woman alone leads to sexual temptation, then there is a serious problem with the heart. It is the heart that must be addressed.

I think that this is often an excuse. A pastor gets caught in adultery. The facts are that he selected his victim, singled her out, met with her, groomed her, and then seduced her. When he is caught, he says, “I made some poor decision.” Which sounds far better than, “I’m a predator and got caught.”

But let’s not be foolish. A pastor committing adultery is a predator, not someone who made poor decisions concerning the Mike Pence rule.

Quit giving predators this excuse.

If your commitment to righteousness is so thin that being alone with the opposite sex puts you in danger, then you need to examine your heart, rather than add a rule.

I am afraid that this reason simple adds pride and will-worship to the gospel, making it of none-effect.

2. It seeks to honor the marital union.

Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous. (Heb. 13:4)

I would say that a far better way to honor the marital union would be to love, honor and respect your spouse. It is absolutely true that a man who honors his marriage will never allow another to cause his wife pain. But, again, I fear this is an excuse.

I knew a man whose wife was jealous of him, for just cause – as it turns out. He spent many hours dining alone in romantic restaurants with another woman. His issue wasn’t that he violated the Pence rule. His issue was that he was committing adultery. Let’s call it what it is.

So, yes, absolutely go home and love, honor and respect your spouses. But don’t think that adding a man-made rule is the same thing as honoring your wife or husband.

I would suggest that we let scripture define what it means to honor your spouse, rather than a rule imposed from on high.

3. It recognizes the battle within all Christians between the flesh and the Spirit.

For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. (Rom. 7:22-23)

Paul’s whole point in this passage is that the battle is fought and won with the gospel (Romans 8:1), not the law. If the law of Moses is of no effect in the battle against the flesh, how on earth can the law of Pence do that which the law of Moses cannot do?

Who will deliver us from this body of death? Only the Lord Jesus Christ, who died for me and rose the third day! Blessed be the name of the Lord!

By all means, if it is wise in your job to protect yourself then do so. But please do not pretend that the law can deliver us from the bondage of the flesh. Not even Moses could do that.

4. It shows respect for one’s family by keeping boundaries.

Whoever troubles his own household will inherit the wind, and the fool will be servant to the wise of heart. (Prov. 11:29)

I love that verse. It has nothing to do with the subject under consideration. A man troubles his family with pride, arrogance, abuse, adultery, pornography, tyranny, abdication, abandonment, hatred, violence – and on, and on, and on.

A man who does those things certainly doesn’t care about what people think when he goes to a bar with whomever he wants. But the problem is not the Pence rule. The problem is that the troubler of the family is a child of the devil.

He needs converted, not another rule to thumb his nose at. Are there not enough laws in the Bible about honoring your family without adding another one? If he keeps none of the ones there, how can adding another one change anything.

5. It strives to bring glory to God.

Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. (1 Cor. 6:18-20)

Again, a great verse. I love it. It has nothing to do with the Pence rule. In fact, this one bugs me the most. It equates being alone with a woman with sexual immorality.

Really? If this one is true, then Jesus himself sinned when he was alone with the woman at the well, and the woman taken in adultery.

By all means, flee sexual immorality. But have a little bit more respect for our sisters in Christ. You may have a lot of reasons not to meet alone with a woman, either in church or at work. But if your reason is that you are afraid that you might commit adultery with her, then you are an adulterer, and perhaps a predator. You don’t need the Pence rule. You need to be born again. Let’s quit minimizing sexual immorality by equating it with meeting with a woman. It’s degrading to you and to your sisters in Christ.

We need far more than sound bites and twisted scripture. We need the Spirit of God poured out on our hearts. We need wisdom, which only comes from God (Proverbs 2).

Wisdom does not come from the law. The ability to keep the law of God comes from the wisdom of the heart, which is a gift of God. It only comes through the gospel; never through the law.

The difference between almost right and right is the difference between the gospel and another gospel. I fear, whenever we speak of the Pence rule, we aren’t speaking about the gospel anymore. We are adding the law into grace, and pretending that having begun in the spirit, we are now made perfect by the flesh.

It’s time we stopped.


Filed under Gospel, Love, Marriage, Pastoral ministry

11 responses to “The Pence Rule and Wisdom

  1. Gany T.

    Wow! Powerful article! Spot on!

  2. Ted Kijeski

    “He needs converted.”
    Are you originally from Ohio, Pastor?

  3. Well said. Paul summed it up perfectly:

    If you died with the Messiah to the elemental forces of this world, why do you live as if you still belonged to the world? Why do you submit to regulations: “Don’t handle, don’t taste, don’t touch”? All these regulations refer to what is destroyed by being used up; they are commands and doctrines of men. Although these have a reputation of wisdom by promoting ascetic practices, humility, and severe treatment of the body, they are not of any value in curbing self-indulgence (Colossians 2:20-23, HCSB).

    A rule to never to be alone with a woman is a weak and beggarly (Paul’s words in Galatians 4:9) solution to lust. Jesus said that to simply look lustfully on a woman was adulterous. A man does not have to be alone with a woman in order to look lustfully at her. Paul goes on to say in Colossians 3, which is a parallel passage to Galatians 4 and 5, that letting the word of Christ in dwell us (in Galatians 4, this is described as walking in the Spirit) is the only true cure for lust and other evil motivations.

  4. Cassandra Wright

    I always have been bothered by the Pense rule idea. I worked alone with my boss for many years. No, we weren’t married to each other, and yes, we fell in love. But it was the kind of love that made us go home to our spouses with even more love for them. Neither of us ever would have done a thing to hurt our spouses and family, or each other’s spouse and family. We loved each other as brother and sister, and did as Paul said to about considering ourselves as siblings. I have almost always have male friends. My husband knows that, and that I am dedicated to him. None of the people that my boss and I worked with ever thought there was anything going on, and yet most of them knew how much we cared for each other. The whole idea of not having friends of the other sex creates a whole set up that separates us ad condemns us for doing something that would not happen. It drives more wedges between us, and that is the last thing we need to do. How can we as Christians work together if we assume that everyone of the other sex is a threat? We need to help each other build relationships of mutual love and trust. Anyone who is uncomfortable with this Macy exclude themselves, but there should not be a need among the blood bought church.

    This rule of Pence’s also continues the pagan idea that women are the source of sin. What a dreadful thought to have about someone. It also supports the idea that Christian men have no more self control than those that don’t have a Holy Spirit working to develop fruit in a believer.

    Yes, I think that the Pense rule is not a mature way to handle the situation. It’s whole purpose seems to be to avoid getting caught, instead of growing in grace. We should not need this type of negative mindset if we are in Christ.

  5. Matthews Sheffer

    I was tracking with you until you said wisdom does not come from the law but from the wisdom of the heart.
    Psalms 119:97-99 (ESV) “97 Mem Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day. 98 Your commandment makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. 99 I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation.”

    2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

    • Thank you, Matthew. The “law” is being used in two senses. In the verses you quote, the “law” is an inclusive word for all of the revelation of God. In Psalm 119, the word is “torah” which means “instruction.”
      In that sense, certainly wisdom comes from instruction. Solomon urges his son to get wisdom by hearing his words.
      I was using “law” in Paul’s sense – meaning “do this and live”. The commands of God cannot give wisdom, because according to the first nine chapters of Proverbs, “wisdom” is what gives us the ability to keep the law in the first place. It keeps us from sloth, from fornication, from wrath, from anger, from idolatry…and so on.
      Wisdom, then, must come first. And where does it come from?
      Proverbs 2 – God gives wisdom to those who ask him. This is the gospel – revealed in the Torah. but it isn’t “do this and live.” It is “come to me, that you might have life. for my mercy endureth forever.
      For this reason, Christ is called the “wisdom of God.” and he is given freely for us. He is made for us wisdom and righteousness and holiness.
      Thanks for the comment

  6. Pingback: The Pence Rule and Wisdom - The Aquila Report

  7. The Pence / Billy Graham Rule makes me, as a woman, feel bad for being female. I went to a church that believed that rule and if I approached a male to speak to him, even in the hallway (where other people were), they got all weird and made an excuse to get out. I was left there feeling bad because I had made them uncomfortable. Truth is, I didn’t make them uncomfortable. The rule did because it suggested being alone with me, a female, was sinful. I still feel the pain from that and have trouble talking to men by myself because I feel paranoid that I am the one making them uncomfortable. I have low self esteem from that stupid rule…so I’m not a fan.

    • I’ve seen those same things. It is really horrible. I think that we have a rampant porn and lust problem in the modern church that isn’t being dealt with. That’s what concerns me. We are being conditioned as a whole by porn, patriarchy, and fornication to think of women as objects to be used and discarded, rather than as image bearers of God, worthy of dignity and honor.
      Thanks for commenting.

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