Women in the Text: Gender and Gospel

The conservative church has become focused on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.* Have you noticed that gender-role emphasis has seeped into sermons, doctrine (mainly the Trinity), kid’s Sunday school lessons, movie reviews and conferences? I admit it might just be my touchiness on the topic that keeps me tuned into its noise. But then I read the mission statement of the a fore-linked Council, and I know it is a purposeful movement with that very goal.

The vision of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is to see the vast majority of evangelical homes, churches, academic institutions, and other ministries adopt the principles of the Danvers Statement as a part of their personal convictions and doctrinal confessions and apply them in consistent, heart-felt practice. (http://www.cbmw.org/Our-Mission-and-Vision)

If I read this correctly, the goal of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is to include gender roles in our Christian doctrine. Does this bother you?

I have been hesitant to tackle a post on the CBMW.

  • Because I admire many men and women who’ve joined.
  • Because I value unity in the body of believers.
  • Because I realize my knowledge on the Bible and gender is still growing and I may be wrong.
  • Because I do not trust my emotions, and I get angry reading CBMW literature.
  • Because I am afraid of what people will say about me.
  • Because I am ashamed of the CBMW and don’t want to call attention to them.

So, its complicated. But, boiled down to the kernel, I do not agree with the result that CBMW says that  gender has on the gospel. Is the good news of Jesus Christ so insecure that we need to spell it out in terms of how I behave as a woman? The CBMW says yes.

the evangelical community needs to be aware that this debate reaches ultimately to the heart of the gospel.

The advance of the Gospel is at stake.

Ephesians 5 calls husbands and wives to relate to one another as a picture of Christ and the church.  The picture involves the humble, sacrificial leadership of the husband and the joyful, intelligent submission to that leadership by the wife.  Husbands and wives who model this improperly portray a distorted and false picture of Jesus Christ, the Head and Savior of his bride, the church.  Deviation from biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood hinders the advance of the gospel. (http://www.cbmw.org/Our-Mission-and-Vision)

The elevation of gender roles to the level of core doctrine is why I’m touchy. I believe the emphasis on men and women’s behavior as it relates to their gender, and not to the “law of love” as given to all genders,  is a perversion of the freedom found in Christ.

*I realize I’ll probably need a few disclaimers by linking to that site. 1) I enjoy many of the leaders, authors and teachers that are affiliated with the council.  Just because they believe strongly on a different side of this topic than I, does not mean I discount everything else they support. I sift everyone. I don’t mind being sifted myself. 2) I need to pound this again…The Council members are godly. They know Jesus. They preach gospel. My goodness, they are the voice of today’s church! I think its okay to disagree on gender and still serve the same Lord. I’m not sure they would agree. 3)I realize I may sound schizophrenic on this topic, jumping back and forth in what may seem a haphazard fashion (read some older posts and you’ll see what I mean), but you are witnessing my journey. Its messy. As I always say, I reserve the right to change my mind! 😉
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53 thoughts on “Women in the Text: Gender and Gospel

  1. I am certain that this movement is the current big push because of the state of our culture at large. This is nothing new. It’s the “hot topic”. As someone who came from a background where the family unit was so completely and totally screwed up, I’ve spent a lot of time studying this topic. I think this could be part of it too… children of a generation that didn’t see these rolls played out naturally as they should be who crave this type of information as we try to put our families and lives together. (How’s that for a run on sentence?) Some of us crave this kind of information and affirmation.

    I can see their point that it has results on how the gospel is seen by the world at large, however, I agree with you in that the gospel has it’s own power. People are imperfect and always have been… yet the gospel moves forward generation after generation for thousands of years. However, we also can’t let that be an excuse to allow a trend of non-biblical behavior and sin go on unnoticed.

    It’s a fad. I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad one. It could be, as anything could, but for me personally I haven’t seen anything that’s offended me. Curious about what you’ve seen that has got your blood going.

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    1. Jess, Thanks for speaking up! 🙂

      I realize the CBMW is reacting to the sins in our culture. But, I think in their desire to correct the problem, they got the answer wrong. Christian marriages (as they limit and define that… heck, even as I define it!) are NOT the answer to a rebellious and resentful world. I think they’ve diminished the power of Christ in overemphasizing gender roles. So much so, that folks are affirmed when they correctly live out a role, and maybe not so much who they are in Christ. Do you see the difference? One will never satisfy, even if its “right”. Women and men should find identity and affirmation in the gospel alone. Sadly, like the racism of the last century, I think this issue is one that is taking the church too long to find the right tone for our culture.

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  2. “I believe the emphasis on men and women’s behavior as it relates to their gender, and not to the “law of love” as given to all genders, is a perversion of the freedom found in Christ.”

    Yes!

    Also, there is way too much weird extrapolation based on the creation story, which really has nothing to do with that. The creation story, I think, is about (1) that God created us and (2) that we rejected him. Why the crap does everyone make it about (3) how we should live? Yes, Paul references it once, but I hardly think that’s a license to go to town.

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    1. I agree we shouldn’t make it about “how we should live”, but it does help give us clues into God’s original design for his creatures, which we’ve mucked up by our sinful nature.

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  3. This is a topic I’ve been working on for the last couple years and I like to hear your thoughts on it because in my life you have championed submission and addressed God’s design for women. It’s not at all as if you go all feminist and throw the baby out with the bath water. I have really struggled in sifting through what God/the Bible has to say about women and our value vs. what I have experienced from men in the church, what I hear in Christian culture, and even what women put on each other. Some of the most damaging verbal blips in my head that I have to overcome have been Christian soundbites about how I should act or feel. Yes, maybe it’s helpful to have general validation that roles are necessary, that the genders are each equality part of God’s image, and to encourage men and women to work harder on relationships. But I think when people start pinpointing or overgeneralizing how men and women are, it really hurts the people or relationships that don’t fit in the box. This is also why I start to tune out during most Christian discussions on women and sex. I’m not sure exactly how clear I’m being or if I’m rambling…but basically I like to pick the brains of trusted people who are also trying to figure this thing out. :o) Thanks!

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    1. I’m so curious what some of the sound bites in your head are? Will you write them to me? Even if I put it there! 🙂 I too don’t enjoy being put in a box when it comes to my gender. I get prickly.

      I will be writing off and on about this because it is near and dear to my heart as well. Its not that I am against genders having different roles… my beef with the CBMW is that they filter everything through a gender role perspective. And that’s warped.

      ALL Christians should have the same filter (maybe different answers though as the Spirit leads?): Does my behavior reflect Christ? Does the GOSPEL have an answer to this problem? How can I love my neighbor (husband, father, mother, friend) and sacrifice my own desire for their good?

      I waffle on the particulars. I hope to explore further and hope you will join me! To GOD be the glory.

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  4. I am hesitant to write this, but I reread the last box quote and it rings so familiar to the book I just finished I am compelled to say it. I devour books on women in Islam. I’m not sure why, but feel such a desire to understand them. Read “Dressmaker of Khair Khana” this week about 5 sisters who survive under the Taliban rule without their father or older brothers by starting a tailor business out of their home. They are lovely, resilient, hard-working women who wake to pray and trust Allah to keep them safe. They are pure according to their faith. But the Taliban redefined that faith for them. Told them they were only holy if they stayed in their homes, left only accompanied by a male relative, and completely covered every inch of their skin. According to Afghans, the Taliban hijacked Islam and redefined gender roles, instituting a new interpretation of righteousness… and said it was central to the Islamic doctrine and paramount for Muslims to obey. Please do not hear that I am equating this discussion to the level of what the Taliban did. But you do hear the resemblance, do you not?

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  5. Beth, wow that resonated with me. And Kay, I completely agree with you about the emphasis being on the wrong thing. It’s like it was in our fundamental background – as long as my outward actions and words were in compliance with the norm, everyone was satisfied. True Gospel and heart change was irrelevant. I think you’re right – when we settle for everyone living out their role, that’s settling for less than what Christ expects. However, I DO see that marriages that don’t reflect Christ’s relationship with the church damage the spread of the Gospel. But, it goes both ways – men who don’t behave as godly, loving leaders, and women who selfishly dominate. So, it doesn’t get my blood boiling as much as it does yours, because I understand their concern about the sins of our culture. But, they may be giving the wrong solution – focusing on behavior and not heart.

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    1. hahaha. I always walk away and think about things a little longer, and change my mind. I think rather than role confusion damaging the spread of the Gospel, it really is people who don’t apply the law of love. So, you’re right. =)

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  6. Are we ordered to keep marriage a picture of Christ and the church?
    Does the Bible say that marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the church? Or does it just use the picture of marriage for how it apply to Christ?

    Christ use the picture of a hen gathering her chickens as what he want to do. (Mat 23:37) We don’t coerce or train hens to keep chickens under their wings 24/7 so that the world may see a good picture of Christ in hens.

    The OT sacrifices is a picture foreshadowing Christ as lamb who takes away our sin, but we don’t keep them, with the excuse that the world may get the picture of Christ.

    Similarly, if the Bible uses marriage as a picture of one aspect of our relationship with Christ, as opposed to an order on how to give a Christ-church picture, it would not mean we have to keep the picture the way it looked in the first century.

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    1. Totally right. Because marriage IS different in today’s world compared to Roman (even Victorian) times…I think in great part due to the gospel…the picture may need to look different too. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

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  7. I am egal so I think CBMW and the Danvers statement make some serious errors in interpretation. For example, it is NOT the case that marriage is an example of how Christ relates to the church, it is the other way around. Christ relates to the church by serving it and dieing for it, so a husband should do these types of things for his wife. But just before this, Paul uses Christ’s example of serving as an example for ALL believers.

    Also, submission is to be mutual in marriage (assuming both are believers), per Eph 5:21.

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  8. the problem here is that these kinds of defining or separation of roles based on gender always seem to put limits on people, instead of freeing them up to serve the Body in whatever way God has gifted and called them. and usually the “people” who are limited are women. not always (consider the man who is called to teach young children), but most often. a theology of gender that focuses on limiting or reducing the ability of one in service and ministry is not a theology that understands and affirms freedom in Christ, and therefore, i regret to say, is not a supportable Christian theology. I understand the sincerity of those who may (mistakenly) hold this interpretation, but nonetheless, it is not in keeping with the message and work of Christ.

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  9. Aren’t we really talking about two different things here? Gender roles vs. positional roles (i.e., man and woman vs. husband and wife)? True, a man should be a husband, and a wife should be a woman, yet if a woman is single, the “rules” for a wife don’t necessarily apply (as they relate to her role as wife). In fact, the single man or woman is “free” to please or concentrate on the Lord without the necessary distractions of pleasing a spouse (I Cor. 7:32-35). Thus, the positional role must necessarily change with marriage, and with that positional role comes the authority ranking of the husband (within the boundaries of always pleasing God, of course). This positional role for a husband and wife is a further example of Christ’s relationship with the church. I believe Scripture is showing the great love played out between the two (in both examples), yet the authority of the “head” remains intact. I guess the next question should be: Why does our society put the greater worth on the one in authority vs. the one submitting? After all, it is JESUS who yields to the will of His authority, the Father; yet it is/will be JESUS who receives the highest honor and glory. Seems to me, there will be the opportunity for greater reward and honor (or at least equal) for those who submit biblically. Yet, my flesh, pride, and “worldly” training definitely lashes out against yeilding MY desires to someone else, especially when that someone else does not appear to have my best interests at heart!

    Now, if we’re talking about what positions a woman can/should have within the church, that opens a whole other subject…

    (Love your discussions, Kay!)

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    1. Well, I thought so too. (gender vs positional) That’s why I always made it clear in teaching that wives are to submit to husbands, not women to men in general. But the CBMW has made it about masculinity and femininity. Read the Danver’s Statement. That is one of the reasons I’ve decided to take the scary step of writing my words on this topic out in cyberspace. (terrifies me) They’ve made it about gender. And, they’ve stretched the meaning of scripture by hinging the success of the gospel on positional roles in Christian marriages. That scares me more than speaking up. 🙂

      breakfast time, I’ll be back.

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    2. At least when we discuss on line, its not so loud!

      Read exactly what the CBMW says: “Deviation from biblical teaching on manhood and womanhood hinders the advance of the gospel.”

      The issue is not just marriage roles. Its about gender.

      I hope to discuss the honor of submission and Jesus’ example in other posts…which will necessitate a discussion of “head” and authority.

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  10. As an egal, I do not agree that Greek kephale when used as a metaphor in Eph 5 and similar MUST refer to a position of leadership, although I agree it is possible. This is usually the case in 21st century English use of head, but not in the 1st century and also not necessarily today. We can tell how far to take the metaphor by the examples Paul uses in Eph 5, which are all serving examples of Christ as head. I see this metaphor as a head/body metaphor of unity in marriage.

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  11. In Titus 2:4-5, we see the insinuation that there is discredit brought on the “word of God” (or the advance of the gospel, to use their terms) should the “young women” (though in context, it seems to refer to wives again) NOT be loving to husbands, children, discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, and obedient to their husbands. It seems, in context, that this (discrediting the word of God) could be said of the aged men, aged women, and young men as well, should each group not follow the exhortation laid out. Notice here that it divides the groups by gender and age, NOT by roles in marriage (though, again, it is insinuated for the younger women). Possibly this is the passage which spurs Danver’s Statement? Do they give Scripture references for their position?
    Don, your comment on the head/body metaphor of unity in marriage is interesting; however, vs. 24 of Eph. 5 suggests the practical use of the metaphor (by the use of the term “therefore”). Thus, as the church is subject unto Christ, it’s Head, so wives are subject to their own husbands, their earthly head (again, if there is a question of either/or, obedience to Christ is still foremost). In Eph. 5:22-24, the teaching of submission to authority is the purpose of the metaphor in my viewpoint.

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    1. There are few things to see, as I see it.

      1. Submission is NOT necessarily obedience. In the case of slaves and kids in Eph 5-6, it DOES manifest itself as obedience, but Paul does not say this for wives. The Greek words are different.

      2. All believers are to be in mutual submission to other believers, this includes wives to husbands and husbands to wives. This is a general Kingdom principle.

      3. Besides that, all believers are to treat others like Christ did, it is a general Kingdom principle in Eph 5:1-2, which is then reiterated for husbands later.

      4. Just because it is written that a wife is to respect her husband, does this mean that a husband does NOT need to respect his wife? Perish the thought.

      So the supposed role definitions in Eph 5 vanish when the whole counsel of Scripture is considered.

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      1. “So the supposed role definitions in Eph 5 vanish when the whole counsel of Scripture is considered.”

        That’s the way I see it. People are needlessly emphatic about wives/husbands, when if you treat your partner like a good, decent person deserving of love and respect, that’s most of the battle.

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  12. Just a quick reply to John & Jamie’s post: The best example of what submission looks like between two people (entities) who loved and respected each other perfectly is Jesus’ yielding/obedience to the will of His Father even though His Father’s Will was not perfectly His own. Jesus said to His Father in the Garden, “Not my will, but thine.” It is MOST of the battle to treat each other with respect, love, and mutual submission; however, it is not ALL of the battle. At the times when two wills collide, there MUST be a head/authority established so that the home/marriage will go on in peace and for the glory of God. If nothing else, it is for this purpose that God’s system as taught in Eph. 5 is so beautiflly appropriate. Two perfect people (husband & wife) will still disagree, and for this God has established the hierarchy. It would be unloving for a husband to NOT expect his wife to yield her will to his (for the good of the home and the glory of God); and it would be unloving for the wife to withhold her respect/honor for her husband because he assumed his God-given role as head of his wife (and children as well). Yet these two scenarios would play out repeatedly if not for the teaching and commands of God in Eph. 5, which give sinful men HIS guidelines and plans for the husband/wife relationship.

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    1. So, what Paul really meant to say was…”Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ…unless you’re God… or a husband.”

      And “Deny yourself…unless you think your way is better than your wife’s. In that case, insist on your way.”

      Or maybe he meant to add to the Corinthians… “Love insists those under its care yield to its own will.”

      I realize that sounds silly. But using absurdity, isn’t that the way heir-achy works?

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      1. I just don’t see how the command to submit to everyone negates the special command for wives to submit to their husbands. The husbands are commanded to love their wives, correct? And, we are all commanded to love one another. So, is the husband supposed to love everyone the same way he loves his wife, or is there a special love he should reserve for her? Couldn’t it be the same with the submit command? We submit to everyone, but there is a special submission (placing ourselves under) our husbands. Following the example of Christ, He submitted to others when appropriate (of course, not to everyone’s demands!), but He placed himself under His Father in a unique way. Kay, are you really saying that there should be equal submission in life, across the board? The government should submit to me half the time, and me to it half the time? Our kids? Our bosses?

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      2. Paul let us no doubt on how to understand submission of wives to husbands being a part of the larger idea of submission of one believer to another in mutual submission. This is because he LEFT OUT THE VERB in Eph 5:22 (wives submit to husbands), so it INHERITS it from Eph 5:21 (mutual submission) according to the rules for Greek grammar. So it MUST be seen in a way that allows it to be mutual and NOT hierarchical! However, some translations obscure this by breaking Eph 5:21 from Eph 5:22, but the Greek text does not do that at all, it is one big idea (mutual submission of believers) with a specific application to wives.

        It is critical to see that submission and obedience are related but different things.

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      3. Christy, “Kay, are you really saying that there should be equal submission in life, across the board?” In my post ( https://kbonikowsky.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/women-in-the-text-ephesian-marriage/ ) I think I worded it as yielding to your husband first, cooperating with him before all others. He is one with you, so you yield to his will. I think government, children, slaves are never called “one” with their counterpart so they fall into a different category, some how.

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  13. Another absurdity, then: When E wants something done HER way, but you have good/valid reasons for needing them done YOUR way, will you “deny yourself” and submit to HER way because you love and respect her so much? Or…will you simply say, “Because Mom said so!” (of course, this after you may have gently explained your reasoning to her)

    Sometimes there simply MUST be someone who makes the final decision. According to Eph. 5, at those times it IS the husband whom God has appointed – and according to Eph. 6, it is the parent when conflict occurs with a child.

    In your Eph. 4 reference, you are attempting to apply God’s instruction to the church body as a whole with the more-specific instruction to husband and wife. One does not negate the other, but instruction to husband/wife relationships will be further applicable to that relationship. Thus, when there is the inevitable conflict of wills, the HEAD is commanded to lead lovingly (which does NOT mean he shuns the decision to be made) and the other party yields his/her will to that of the leader’s. (Just as God the Father and the Son demonstrated, WHO were still ONE, but with separate wills.) This is also exemplified in other authority relationships, such as pastor (I Peter 5:2-3, 5; Heb. 13:7), parent (Eph. 6:1), employer (Col. 3:22), government (I Pet. 2:13-15), etc. When any one of these authorities does NOT lead biblically (lovingly and patiently), we are called to I Pet. 2:19-21, which IS applicable to any one of these authority relationships (not just for servants).

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    1. You assume that kephale/head means leader, this is a very common but false assumption. In Eph 5 we are shown by many examples what Christ as head does, and NONE of them involve leading, but all involve serving.

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    2. “In your Eph. 4 reference, you are attempting to apply God’s instruction to the church body as a whole with the more-specific instruction to husband and wife.” That is what I am doing! I actually think its more applicable than comparing a husband to Christ (which is what headship teaches). That opens up all the divinity issues. We must be careful not to negate church instructions with specific gender instructions, for sure… which was kind of my point of “do women need another priest?”

      I like to get you thinking! I like to think too. I don’t mind we are on differing sides. Keep challenging me!

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  14. Don, I went back and did a little more reading on this subject, specifically the usage of the term “kephale” here. Interesting “stuff”, I must admit. It does “soften” the teaching to husbands considerably! However, when I go back and simply read the text of Eph. 5, specifically verse 24, it can’t be any plainer that it is teaching wives to “be subject” (whatever that means) to their husbands. Thus, even though the love from a godly husband makes this more pleasing for wives, there still must be those times of “subjection” (does this HAVE to be a terrible word? God says these servants will be the greatest in His Kingdom!). Specifically pertaining to verse 24, am I missing something???

    Kay, after reading more online about this, I can see why you chose to address it. However, it’s not wrong to compare a husband’s role with Christ’s – Scripture does, after all.

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    1. Hi Linda,

      The Greek is hupotasso, It has a range of meanings in English, from support, to submit, to obey.

      The pericope (teaching unit) goes from Eph 5:15-6:9 and it is worth noting that from Eph 5:22 on it gives what is called a household code.

      The superordinate clause that governs how to understand Eph 5:22 to 6-9 is Eph 5:21, which is mutual submission. ALL believers are to show mutual submission to one another and this can take various forms. In a master/slave (or employer/employee) relationship, the slave/employee is to obey the master/employer. In a parent/child relationship, the child is to obey the parent. But this word obey is curiously MISSING from the husband/wife relationship, even tho Aristotle taught that a husband ruled his wife and this was encoded into civil laws to a great extent. So any reader in the 1st century would notice this missing part about obedience, but since few read Aristotle today, we can miss this.

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  15. I think the organization tends to fear monger to much. They seem to love stereotypes.

    I’m not saying feminists – for example – did everything right, were awesome, blah blah blah okay? I do have to giggle at how they expand their definition of what a feminist is, and what she does. If something is ugly – the feminist must do that as well. Its like a never ending list of evil. They don’t like children, and love abortions. They have to rule over men, but demand respect. They are responsible for too many lesbians in the world (notice not homosexuals, but lesbians – I guess they only worry women being gay ..lol). We will soon not be able to see a different between man and woman, because they want genderless blogs. To them? This is somehow the equality they speak of. (scratches head) Its like they take the most extreme model they can think of, and make it sound like the ‘norm’ of the world.

    I personally think they also degrade men the way they speak of them. If women don’t do this, that or the other – you are effecting his manhood. Seriously? Is that the leadership qualities you speak about? Leaders depend on women to make them ‘feel’ like leaders? I thought they said that is the nature position for men. Now they say women are taking down what they claim God created. (scratches head again) I don’t think women are capable of that sorry!

    To me they are too focused on boxes, and not God would wish us to focus on. They plant fear if you don’t live as they tell you. You are blind if you don’t see what they see. Its just too extreme for me. They contradict themselves, and have double standards. It shouldn’t be this confusing.

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    1. It is a funny cycle that you point out. I’ve often thought that myself. The success of hierarchy rests with the woman (the follower) not the man (the leader). If the wife doesn’t submit, then it is her fault her husband is a bad leader, because he’ll have to act in unloving ways to get her submit so he can lead. Of course, its not stated that way, but it definitely plays out that way, practically!

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  16. So…because “hupotasso” encompasses supporting, submitting, and obeying, I think we get a pretty clear picture of what God intends a wife’s action/attitude to be toward her husband. This is one relationship group which God addresses specifically within His more general guidelines of “submitting one to another” (vs. 22). Should a wife only be responsible to obey God’s commands if her husband is obedient to his? I think not.

    Don, I have noticed previously that nowhere in Scripture are women DIRECTLY commanded to obey their husbands, but I do think the principle is there. Also, wives are indirectly admonished to this very thing in Titus 2:5. And, as I check a concordance, Hupotasso is used here as well. The commentary Strong’s gives is:

    This word was a Greek military term meaning “to arrange [troop divisions] in a military fashion under the command of a leader”. In non-military use, it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

    Thanks for the discussion…love it!

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  17. Linda,

    hupotasso does not need to include all of those ideas of supporting, submitting and obeying at the same time, it can refer to just one of them. This is one reason why the Amplified Bible is not such a good idea, a word normally means one thing, not everything it MIGHT mean.

    hupotasso was the command given in the Greek army to get into your place in line, in support of all the others in line. But a marriage is not like an army, or at least it should not be.

    Titus 2:5 and similar often gets watered down and taken out of cultural context. In the 1st century, a home was a production factory, most things used in the home were produced there. It was not until the industrial revolution that the nature of a home was allowed to change from that and only in the 20th century that most things in a home were purchased.

    A husband is told to love-agape his wife and we know from 1 Cor 13 that love-agape does not seek its own way. So how come a husband gets an exception to this general kingdom principle?

    My answer as an egal is he does not. I think it is a boundary violation to try to enforce my will on my wife, as she is an adult. And there are many many ways to get things done without violating her will. We can alternate choosing to go out somewhere. We talk about what our priorities are in spending and saving money. Love lays down one’s life for another. It works out great, come on in, the waters fine.

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  18. brent, i think there is another alternative that you’ve not mentioned, or perhaps have “lumped” into your first option. the alternative is that within a marriage, two people covenant together to live a life that glorifies Christ as much as possible. in that case, each leads in the area that they are the most gifted and skilled. it is the same picture as that of the necessity of each different part of the body. if i am a better gardner, then it makes sense that, in our marriage, i am the one who makes the leadership decisions about how to plant, what and when to plant, and how to care for what is planted. of course i take my husband’s input and feedback to heart, but in the end, because i am the more gifted and skilled, the decision-making leadership will rest with me. on the other hand, because my husband is gifted and skilled in another area, i will submit to his leading there, while still helping by giving him my input and support. we don’t lead separate lives either physically or spiritually, but we recognize and honor the unique way God has gifted and designed each of us. and in the areas where either we are equal or both are weak, we agree on by whom, or at least how, the decision making process will be carried out. and all of this, of course, is done through mutually seeking God’s will in everything.

    and if this is also how the church delegates leadership–seeking Gods will, and trusting leadership to those who are the more gifted and called to a particular role or position in ministry, rather than by “plumbing”, we have a much more biblical pattern that is supported throughout Scripture. submission to a leader requires that they are “submittable to”, meaning that they have the needed skills, calling, gifts and resources. this, i believe, is the mutual submission the bible calls for both in marriage and in ministry.

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  19. Don,
    I’ve heard the views you hold to submission before. The problem is taking one single difficult verse and explaining all other Scripture around it instead of starting with the clear and then re-thinking the not clear. Once “submission” is taken from heirarchy it becomes non-sensical. Like the dude and the woman both trying to hold the door for each other. “You go first”, “No, you go first”, “No you first”.

    Ephesians 5:21 has to be viewed in the context of many other verses which use the Greek word, “hupotasso”, submission. So here is the exhaustive list of it’s use at least in the didache writings.

    In Luke 10:17 the disciples talked of the demons being subject (hupotasso) to the disciples. Romans 8:7 talks about the sinfulness of our flesh in that instead of submitting (hupotasso) to God’s law it is hostile to it. Everyone is told to submit (hupotasso) to the government not if it is a good government or bad but because your submission is to God. “Those who resist the authorities resist what God has appointed.” Rom. 13:1-5) It uses submission and authority as tightly related along with judgment. We are comanded NOT to submit to the elemental principles of this world (Col. 3:19), but we are to submit to our heavenly Father (Heb. 12:9). Submit to God James says (James 4:7). Submit to every human institution, whether king or governor whether they are a believer or not (I Pet. 2:13). Slaves were commanded to submit to their master with all respect, not to those who treat them well, but also who treat them harshly for God’s sake.

    So from your perspective submission is a mutual thing we can easily reverse it in all other cases. We don’t submit to the government, it also must submit to us. How does that work. We submit to God, but God submits to us as well. Explain that. Slave submit to their abusive masters unless they are tired of it and then have role reversal day where the Master submits to the slave. We can submit to the rules of the world, but the rules of the world submit to us. Here it is clearly non-sensical. What it does is redefine “submission” into something more like “kindness, humility, respect”. This isn’t what it means.

    The only verse in entire New Testament that says “submit to one another” is this verse in Ephesians. It is the only verse that doesn’t connect a subject and object, a hierarchy. It usually isn’t the best idea to take one rogue verse and redefine the entire NT by it. This is why many scholars see this verse to means, not “everyone fight over who submits to who” but instead “order yourself around the structure God has setup for his name’s sake as listed in the other dozen verses”

    This is what that means.

    brent

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    1. No, submission is not always mutual, in Eph 5:21 it is because it is one of the “one another” verses and the 6 examples following illustrate how to apply it in specific instances. Do you really want to decline the “one another” principle as used elsewhere, as it destroys Christian living ala Orwell, love one another, be kind to one another, etc.

      On gov’t, a believer is to obey God rather than man, so the submission to gov’t authorities is limited.

      Jesus did submit to us, see the foot washing episode, this was the last of the lowest slave in the household. Jesus also pointed out consequences if one does not accept this. He also did for me what I could not do for myself in saving me, dieing for me literally.

      What Paul did in Eph 5:21 is carefully craft an extension to the word’s meaning, the Bible gets to do that you know, it can act as its own dictionary and define or refine meanings.

      Another aspect is claiming a hierarchy is suspect, as it can be self-serving, so one should reject the temptation to do this and be suspicious of anyone that claims it. There certainly is no requirement to see the Bible as teaching that God endorses this, altho many MEN do teach it. For example, headship is nowhere found as a word, it is a made up human construct, what does exist is kephale as a metaphor and one needs to discern what the metaphor might be in each case it is used that way.

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  20. Also, when you take submission line it up with creation order and headship the vast majority of Scripture clearly points to submission as hierarchy both from Old Covenant to New Covenant. The only thing left is to say Paul and Peter are Jewish male chauvinists and therefore don’t know what they are talking about (A women told me that the other day).

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    1. No headship found in Scripture, that is a human invented concept. What is found is head/kephale as a metaphor. And one can work what the metaphor might mean.

      Jesus, Paul and Peter, etc. were egals, and so certainly not male chauvinists. In a few verses, they can be misinterpreted by male chauvinists, but this is nothing new, people tend to make God in their own image, always a risk.

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  21. Zane,
    What you described is a good healthy marriage. I actually agree with everything you said in the first paragraph. If two people love and respect each other then they work as a team. Sometimes the wife takes over the education or finances. Sometimes the husband focuses on things he does well. The wife needs to be willing to get into her husbands face when she sees him in sin, or when she is struggling with his apathy. This has nothing to do with ability but responsibility.

    Submission is more the “pull in case of fire” which is why God put submission structures in place from the government down. You assume both of you decide on everything perfectly. What happens when you vehemently disagree on something that isn’t sin, just philosophical. If you are a Mormon family of three you could take a vote and maybe come to a decision, but what about with two. Who needs to take ownership of the right decision and who needs to be willing to step off a bit even if they don’t fully agree. In a Christian marriage the husband has been given that role. If he lives that role biblically he will see his wife’s opinion as very important and many times go her way. But God doesn’t allow him to simply put up his hands and say, “I don’t agree but whatever. You do what you want”. He is required to take ownership of the decision and not be a coward. She is required not to trust her husband, but submit as to God knowing he will deal with her husband and she can do it unto the Lord.

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    1. If it is important and the spouses do not agree, then the general principle is to NOT do something. In an emergency where harm is possible, the goal is to preserve life and avoid harm, not follow hierarchy!

      The husband is to serve his wife, loving her, laying down his life. The only “final decision” authorized by God in Scripture is to die to himself and let her win the argument! But SOME men might find a reason to avoid this.

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  22. Don,
    Your missing the point of my question. It is impossible based on the definition and use of (hupotasso) to “mutually submit”. The word is a military term which means to “subject oneself voluntarily or be subordinate too.” Two people can mutually humble themselves, or mutually love, but never mutually submit.

    You said, “On gov’t, a believer is to obey God rather than man, so the submission to gov’t authorities is limited.”

    I’m not sure what your point is. Are we to submit to the government or not? What does submitting to the government practically look like and how could the government ever at the same time submit to us? Impossible.

    You said, “Jesus did submit to us, see the foot washing episode, this was the last of the lowest slave in the household.”

    Again, it seems like you are morphing terminology and changing the meaning of submission. Scripture tells us Jesus humbled himself. He never submitted to the leadership and authority of the disciples. They were to submit to him as “Lord”.

    You said, “Another aspect is claiming a hierarchy is suspect, as it can be self-serving, so one should reject the temptation to do this and be suspicious of anyone that claims it. There certainly is no requirement to see the Bible as teaching that God endorses this, altho many MEN do teach it.”

    Really? After Paul talks about new life in Christ he then says, 18 ¶ Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. 19 Husbands, love your wives and do not be harsh with them.” (Col. 3:18) You say the apostles were clearly not about hierarchy, then what does this mean? Why is it that each and every time Paul talks about the marriage relationship he says “Wives submit” and “Husbands love”. He uses a ranking military term for the wife’s responsibility but “love” for the husband. If clearly, “mutual submission” is what he has in mind why wouldn’t it be mentioned even one time. Why command unique and separate things for each spouse? How easy it would be for Paul to say “Wives submit to your husbands” and “Husbands submit to your wives.”

    Again, Ephesians 5:23-25 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.

    Even if one says “head” means “source” it doesn’t change Paul’s crystal clear conclusions. Christ being the head of the church means the church submits to him. He doesn’t submit to us. The husband is the head of the wife. Therefore, by application the husband being the head of the wife means he is to love her like Christ, but she is to submit to him. This is what it says. How do you get around the application? Do you believe we are to submit to Christ? Is Christ the head of the church? Are husbands also the head as Christ is for their own marriages? That is what it says.

    You said, “For example, headship is nowhere found as a word”

    Neither is the word Trinity, but I’m sure you don’t believe that was formed by men. Headship is a concept developed through a systematic understanding of the Scripture as a whole. Just because it isn’t in found in the Greek doesn’t make it man invented any more than expiation, vicarious, or incarnation all words not found in the Greek.

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    1. It MUST be possible to mutually submit as Paul says we are to do it. Words have meanings based on how they are USED. What you are doing is IMPOSING a requirement of hierarchy on the idea of submission, but this is not required. Not everything is like an army despire was hierarchalists may claim. Is marriage like a partnership or an army? I think it is a partnership, you think you get to be general, I dispute that claim as a serious misreading of the Bible. You get to serve, end of statement, you do not get to give an order, as a husband, you get to give a request, and your wife can say no. But some who might want to give orders misread the Bible to justify it. They are misreading the BIble just like slave owners misread the Bible to justify slavery.

      The only time God endorses authority/exousia in relation to marriage is when it is mutual in 1 Cor 7. My wife has authority over my body and I have authority over hers, guess what, we cannot “dance” unless we both agree. Doing otherwise is a direct violation of Scripture, tantamount to rape.

      We are to submit to the gov’t, but our submission is not absolute. It may involve obedience at times, but if they ask things contrary to God, then we are to obey God.

      As you agree that headship is not found in Scripture, please do not use the term, as it prejudges the meaning of some head metaphors. I believe the Bible is sufficient for our faith, including the words God inspired to use. Using non-Biblical words risks non-Biblical ideas which can easily be avoided by not using such terms.

      Paul does not command unique and separate things for each spouse, that is another false teaching of hierarchcalists. It is true that he wrote in a culture of patriarchy, all the Bible was written in such a culture, this does not mean it endorses patriarchy.

      All believers are to submit to one another, obviously this canot be done IF a hierarchy is assumed, so do not assume it. It is so easy to see once you drop your hierarchy assumption. Yes, hierarchy does exist in some cases, but not in ALL cases. All believers are to support each other, and a wife is to support her husband is an application of that Kingdom principle

      All believers are to love with the love of Christ, and a husband to his wife is an application of that Kingdom principle.

      A wife is to respect her husband, are you going to claim that this means a husband does not need to respect his wife? What kind of Kool-Aid are you drinking if you believe that?

      The solution is to remove your blue lenses and see what the Bible really teaches, in other words, get off your high horse of priviledge.

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      1. Don: “It MUST be possible to mutually submit as Paul says we are to do it.”

        Ephesians 5:21 is all about mutually submitting.

        It is not only possible, it is foundational to understanding all the verses that follow.

        It is not only possible, it is what Jesus spoke of when He said, “If you would be great in God’s kingdom, then learn to be servant of all.”

        It is not only possible, it is foundational to what Christianity is all about.
        Jesus came to destroy hierarchy, not support it.

        The old wine skins simply can’t handle the new wine and foundational Christian doctrine of mutual submission.

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      2. I should clarify.

        Jesus came to destroy human constructs of hierarchy, such as the Roman Patriarchy, and replace it with the Kingdom of heaven principles which are at odds with human structures of authority.

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      3. Yes, it gets tired really fast when male priviledge seekers want to hold onto their supposed priviledges of being a male. It is santified sin, as I see it, and that is a type of sin that is very hard to even see sometimes.

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  23. I like your words, Don. You stick to the core problem well and don’t get sidetracked off it! I can tell you love Scripture. I know Brent does too. Funny how we (Christians) can see this so different, yet both be willing to live and die for Jesus?

    I know it takes me a long while to chew on something before I start to taste it…but only if its tasty. Keep it tasty for those still chewing. 😉

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