A Question about Egalitarianism

by Mike Duran · 73 comments

No, this isn’t a trick question. I am genuinely trying to decide where I land in the Complementarianism / Egalitarianism debate. I haven’t studied the subject extensively, but pretty much know all the arguments and proof texts for both sides. But for the life of me, I can’t seem to find a clear place to fall.

Here’s my dilemma: I think it’s pretty clear Scripturally that Men and Women were designed to complement each other and that, in that union, men were called and equipped to lovingly lead. In this, I pretty much fall in line with traditional interpretations about husbands and wives, headship and submission. In fact, from my perspective, most positions that veer away from traditional interpretations often end up tinkering with Scripture and theology (reinterpreting Genesis as a myth, deconstructing the Apostle Paul and his teachings, etc.). However, there’s far too much evidence (both Scriptural and sociological), that women are entirely capable of leading men and teaching men, exercising equal authority, and pretty much occupying any office or role that a man could.

Much of what I bring to this issue is anecdotal, to be sure. When I pastored, it was typically the women who were more active, more participatory, and more integral to the life of the church than the men. Furthermore, some of the most influential people in my life have been women: intercessors, female pastors, and, dare I say, prophetesses. I realize this shouldn’t set the precedent for my conclusions, but there it is. As a result, I often struggle with churches and pastors that don’t allow women to teach (and I mean teach groups that include men), and men who (perhaps unconsciously) disrespect women in roles of leadership over them.

To summarize: I believe men and women are co-equal, that the man is called to be “the head of the wife.” But I also believe a woman can and should lead men in certain settings. Should men be the “default” leader (in the home, church, culture)? I think so. But in the same situation, where evenly “gifted” men and women exist, would God always prefer the man over the woman to lead? I don’t think so. So you see my dilemma. Or confliction.

Anyway, I don’t want to turn this into a fight. But I’m genuinely trying to figure out where I land on the map. Am I a “modified Complementarian” or a “confused Egalitarian”? And what question do you think I should ask that would help me resolve my conflict?

Katherine Coble July 19, 2012 at 10:08 AM

What I generally tell people sounds like a joke, but it’s where I’ve honestly landed on the matter.

I’m an egalitarian in a complementarian marriage.

As a Christian feminist I’ve gone round and round this issue in prayer and study. My thoughts have ended up just so:

1. I really am very uncomfortable with the violence shown in many egalitarian’s presentation of their POV. When Rachel Held Evans had her big Egalitarian Free For All (or whatever it was called) a month ago, people spoke about throwing rocks, slapping other people around, etc. I know they claim to mean it metaphorically but that’s far too much violence in language. Hard to camoflage the heart.

2. The Bible clearly states that a Complementarian Marriage is the plan for a Christian couple. BUT this plan is very much dependent on the Husband being sacrificial and unconditionally loving. Fortunately the man I married came to the same understanding on his own before we even met. So I have what is I believe to be the Biblical marriage ideal.

3. The complimentarian relationship between men and women is _only_ mandated in Scripture as between husband and wife. I am not scripturally required to submit to every empenised individual who passes by me in the Church. This is, to me, where most Complimentarians drop the ball. The True Woman Manifesto claims that the True Woman “submits to male authority”. I don’t believe that authority is given to a person purely on the basis of his gender.

4. Complimentarian submission in marriage is a form of intimacy. To require complimentarian submission outside of marriage strikes me as pretty close to adultery. Only my husband gets that part of me, thank you.

5. I do believe the Bible is pretty clear that women are not permitted to teach the whole church gathering. And I get the many reasons that this is sensible, quite frankly. Especially as I see many egalitarian women argue for their rights to be pulpit pastor. What comes out repeatedly in these discussions is ego, ego, ego. “I want to be the Star of Church!!!” God called me to the ministry. When I asked how I could do that as a woman I was not unlike Sarah asking how she could be a mother at her age. God said “wait and see” and I have found myself ministering countless times in countless ways in the forgotten nooks and crannies of Christianity. There are plenty of ministries outside the flashy pulpit gig.

7. Other than pulpit ministry, I think the egalitarian church model works very well. I think women can and should be able to teach a Sunday School class without a male co-teacher. I think women can and should serve other ministerial functions. I think women can and should be elders and deacons, provided they meet the strict criteria for elders and deacons.

Jessica Thomas July 19, 2012 at 1:37 PM

Katherine, #3 is insightful. I ‘heard’ you say this over at your blog and I had an “a ha” moment. The idea of having to submit to all that is male in the church is very oppressive. I thought perhaps I wasn’t being a good Christian lady…too many opinions…not subdued or submissive enough…all that. Then I’d go to work and hang with the guys, succeeding at my stereotypically “masculine” job, working in “their” playground as their equals. Something about that has always felt off to me and I think you’ve finally helped me put my finger on it.

Mike Duran July 19, 2012 at 7:50 PM

These are great thoughts, Katherine. I agree to your point that allowing women to not teach the whole church may be “sensible,” but perhaps not in the way you meant it. I think it’s sensible because of the culture we live in. Specifically, men would have trouble with a woman teaching them. I’ve sat in churches where men who aren’t very good teachers are chosen over women who ARE very good teachers. I think this does a disservice to the Body. Once again, great thoughts!

Nicole July 19, 2012 at 12:56 PM

I think a definitive question or answer to this well-expressed conflict involves too much opinion-laced rhetoric as a general response. I’m right there with you as far as the man’s headship in the home, but having been allowed to teach co-ed bible led discussions, classes, teens, in the church I can testify to the “call” upon women to lead in certain instances. “. . . would God always prefer the man over the woman to lead?” Sometimes, yes. “Always”? I don’t think this is the case. I think the Holy Spirit places His people to do certain things at certain times, and while some individuals, both male and female, decide what they’re bound to do without consulting Him, He can use anyone He chooses at any time within the Body. (1Cor. 12:11;13;18;27) JMO.

sally apokedak July 19, 2012 at 1:55 PM

“And do you not know that you are (each) an Eve? The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in this age: the guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil’s gateway: you are the unsealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God’s image, man. On account of your desert— that is, death— even the Son of God had to die.” Tertullian

Sorry. I just love that Tertullian.

And even dear Augustine: “I cannot think of any reason for woman’s being made as man’s helper, if we dismiss the reason of procreation.” and … “how much more agreeable it is for two male friends to dwell together than for a man and a woman!”

They were sinful men and they didn’t get everything right.

But what about the error in the church today?

Husbands have authority over wives. But that does not mean husbands must pay the bills and wives must bake the bread. If the husband wants to delegate charge of the bank account to the wife, whose business is that? I’ve been in churches where elders said husbands were shirking their responsibility by letting the wife take the paycheck and give the husband an allowance. But Scripture doesn’t say the husband is not allowed to delegate jobs to his wife.

Wives are to submit to their husbands. Men and women are to submit to their elders. Wise husbands will look at their wives’ strengths and utilize them fully. Wise elders will look at the strengths of the men and women in the church and utilize them fully.

Wives are not required by scripture to cook and clean and husbands are not required to balance the checkbook.

Priscilla taught Apollos and Stephen’s daughters prophesied. If a woman is to have her head covered when she prays or prophesies, in the worship service, then she must be praying and prophesying in the worship service.

I have been in churches that did not allow any women or unordained men to speak between the call to worship and the benediction. Like there was this holy hour when only ordained men could speak. Women were never allowed to pray in any gathering of the church on Sunday, though they could pray aloud on Wednesday nights. ??? I can’t see that in scripture. I think the elders in those churches are following traditions of men.

I’ve been in churches where pastors were disciplined for allowing women missionaries to stand behind the “sacred desk” and give their missionary report during the holy hour of the worship service.

Not surprisingly, the men in those churches often didn’t display any grace. The elders in those churches don’t go to prayer meeting, and they don’t read their Bibles much. But they have the creeds and confessions down and they are ready to wrangle the moment the Book of Church Order is questioned.

I tried to teach them. I think God requires all of us to love our brothers enough to call them on sin. Women aren’t excused from that requirement. But try as I might, my elders could not hear me. I was, after all, a woman.

A women does not have authority in the marriage or the church but she should be teaching her husband and men in the church. If she really wants to help them she’s required to teach them. She required to let the word of Christ dwell in her richly as she encourages and rebukes others. If we love our neighbor we have to serve and feed and teach everyone when we see a need.

Jessica Thomas July 19, 2012 at 7:35 PM

“If the husband wants to delegate charge of the bank account to the wife…”

Oops. Was that how it was supposed to work? I just took charge of it because I’m a control freak. 😉

Sue August 26, 2012 at 7:51 PM

If you have no authority (and freedom) how can you teach someone? How can an inferior teach someone that is said to be so superior to her? Masters do not normally listen to slaves.

sally apokedak August 26, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Sue, perhaps you can show me where I said, or where the Bible says that women are inferior to men, or that wives are slaves and their husbands are their masters. I’m not familiar with those verses.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 12:46 PM

Sally, there are many submission verses in the bible telling women to submit to their masters/husband in everything. In fact, isn’t it compared to the master/slave realtionship? What is the difference between a slave or a wife obeying every word that comes out of their master’s mouth. In fact, a slave can be freed, a child grows up, the only person in a constant role of submission or slavery is the wife. Then it goes on to tell men that they are the”head” of women. How can that not be conclued as him being her master? It even tells slave-wives to treat their master as if he were god. This is definately implying inferiority. Bible god wants women to live in a constant state of submission (yielding one’s will to that of another). How can a head be equal to his submissive? In the bible, God is first, man second, women, last. Do you really think that implies equality? Since a submissive yields their will to another, if you believe in the bible, you must believe that women, if not pure slaves, are not allowed to do anything without their master’s permission. After all, you must yield to his will, his rules, his wants and his needs. You also mentioned that wives have no authority. Does that mean in their own home-the home she probably pays half the bills, and probably does most of the housework. No authority to…what…go out with friends, to see family? No authority to make any decision regarding where the furniture goes? So, you think they should have absolutely no authority? Do you think wives should have the authority to take a bath (in her master’s house-it isn’t hers, since you specifically stated she should have no authority)? Should she not have the authority to purchase a painting for the house? Heck, the way you sound, she would not even have the autority to do the dishes (now that might be nice-“sorry,master dear, I have no authority in this house, I could not possibly do the dishes-it’s your home, take your authority and do all the housework”). Even in my parents home, I had some authority. I hope you meant something other than what you said. Even in your first example, the wife had the authority that the master gave her. But then you say she has absolutely no authority within the marriage. With all due respect, you are definately saying women (at least wives) are inferior. But I don’t really think you meant that wives should have absolutely NO authority in their own home. Please tell me that.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 12:19 PM

Do you really believe a wife should have absolutely no freedom or rights in marriage. That the only rights she recieves are the one her master gives to her. what if the master orders her not to teach him? What if the master, like the god of the bible, tell her to shut-up. If a wife has no authority, it is clear she is NOTHING. How can you teach if you have no authority? Only responsibility huh. I really don’t understand your comments.

sally apokedak August 30, 2012 at 8:11 PM

No, I don’t believe that women have no freedom and no rights in marriage.

No I don’t believe women have no authority in their homes.

Sorry I can’t explain to you what I mean. I’ve read all your posts and I’ve prayed for you, but I can’t figure out how to communicate with you. I’m praying that God will put someone into you life who will be able to help you with your questions and your thinking on this issue, which is obviously bothering you.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 8:41 PM

Hi Sally, I have gone through this blog to everyone who was kind enough to make comments to me. I have realized something very important in my few days on this blog. First is that my idea of God, and yours may be entirely different, but that’s okay. I have gone beyond organized religion, and beyond the bible (those things are not for me-but that’s not saying it’s not good for you), to reestablish my own realtionship with God. It will never be like your view, or maybe anyone else’s, but that is what make us who we are. I may never be able to like men-but that’s okay too. What I;ve learned on this blog is that we all must live the life we feel is right for us. If they want to live a complementarian lifestyle, it is not for me to judge. As long as they do not attempt to “convert” me” in to this type of life(which they won’t)-that’s okay by me. Live and let live is my new motto. Thanks for your comments, and God bless.

Iola July 19, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Mostly agree. I’m not convinced that a woman can’t be a pulpit speaker/pastor, but I agree with the comment about ego – if she wants to preach to be the star of church, then that’s the wrong motivation (it’s also out of touch. The worship team are the stars of many contemporary churches, and no one complains about a woman leading the singing). However, I’ve seen men who preach/pastor purely from ego, so that’s not perfect either.

Are any men going to comment, or are they all too scared?

Sue August 26, 2012 at 7:47 PM

Men never have ego’s, so that’s not a problem-right?

Nicole July 19, 2012 at 4:59 PM

(A sidenote on the two men’s quotes in Sally’s comment. Dear Guys, you stood right next to Eve and didn’t slap that fruit out of her hand. You didn’t protect her from her bad decision. You looked on and joined her. Sin is sin.)

Jill July 19, 2012 at 5:33 PM

Groan. I’ve had too much of this topic lately. Complementarians, I’m afraid, add unto scripture too much. They place burdens on wives’ shoulders that God didn’t place there. That’s all I really want to say about that because there’s no label I entirely agree with and brand myself with.

Jay DiNitto July 19, 2012 at 5:43 PM

If I may address a presupposition here.

I have no idea what “egalitarianism” means. The only egalitarianism I can attest to is the equality of all of us before God (Colossians 3). We understand a sense of this, particularly when we we compare ourselves as finite creations vis-a-vis an infinite agent like God. But this is meant metaphysically and there’s further truths attached to this than what we can realize while we have bodies. Can I say it’s mystical?

I’m explaining this because I don’t know if this egalitarianism can be transcribed into a finite social structure as complex as marriage. If marriage was meant as a model of the Christ/church relationship (another concept we cannot fully grasp) then egalitarianism cannot be applied as a social aspect in the relationship, unless we’re ready to equate Jesus with the church (maybe in some mystical ways she is). But again, the Christ/church relationship is too profound to grasp so I can’t understand what or what not to transcribe onto the finite plane.

Mike Duran July 19, 2012 at 7:35 PM

Jay, Paul seems to refer to this “mystery” (Eph. 5:32) in the context of specific roles within marriage (Eph. 5:22-33). In other words, he IS “transcribing onto the finite plane” something that “s a profound mystery” (v. 32). Kind of the the earthly temple was meant as a “pattern of heavenly things,” not the exact thing, obviously. In this sense, we we CAN “transcribe into a finite social structure [something] as complex as marriage.” Or am I reading you wrong?

Dennis July 19, 2012 at 6:26 PM

I would agree with Katherine that Scriptures teaching of complimentarian relationship between men and women is localized to the marriage relationship and not church or society in general. I do believe we see instances where women teach and prophesy in the New Testament and so I believe Scripture embraces women teaching/prophesying in the church (mixed crowd) as long as they are not usurping the authority of the church’s leadership. But this would apply to men as well.

Regarding serving as elders/pastors my perspective is that Scripture uses masculine terminology for these roles and so they are reserved for men only. Perhaps this falls under the verse that say’s “God chooses the foolish things of the world (men) to confound the wise (women). 🙂 So we see in the New Testament women having leadership roles in the church but that does not include eldership or pastoring.

So we see a bit of both sides of the coin in Scripture. Equal worth, equal value, equal importance but in some ways different roles and functions. The same is true with children. They have equal worth, value and importance but a different role. It does not make them inferior in the least bit they are just not called to lead the family.

So from my perspective this topic does not have to be an either or.

sally apokedak July 19, 2012 at 6:35 PM

Yes, exactly. I would only add: equally sinners.

Rebecca LuElla Miller July 20, 2012 at 10:39 AM

Dennis, you’ve stated it clearly and succinctly:

So we see a bit of both sides of the coin in Scripture. Equal worth, equal value, equal importance but in some ways different roles and functions.

I’ll just add, I don’t know why Paul gets such a bad rap when Peter voices the same ideas about wives. He also makes a clear statement that it is to their own husbands–not to every man on the planet–that they were to submit; and that they are “joint heirs” with their husbands (see 1 Peter 3:1-7).

Becky

Sue August 26, 2012 at 7:49 PM

Have can a submissive be an equal to a master?

sally apokedak August 26, 2012 at 8:53 PM

A child who obeys his parents is equal to his parents. A worker who obeys a boss is equal to his boss. Jesus when he obeyed his Father, was equal to God the Father. If you, Sue, disagree with your husband on whether you should buy a sofa or not, and he submits to your wishes and lets you but the sofa, that doesn’t make him inferior to you. You two are equal. If you submit to him and don’t buy the sofa because he doesn’t want you to, you are not inferior to him. Submission does not speak about a slave master relationship. Slave don’t submit to masters of their own free wills. They have no choice. Because women are equal to men, they are to submit of their own free will–the same way Jesus submitted to Pilate, though Jesus was far superior to Pilate in every way.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 8:11 PM

My spouse would never allow me to buy a sofa. If I wanted the sofa, I would buy it. If he wanted another sofa, he could buy it. I wouldn’t care if we had two different sofa’s in the same room if it made everyone happy, even if it looked terrible. I realize that everyone has their own version of God, and yours may be different from mine. After reading and posting on this blog, I realize that everyone may not want to live the way I choose to live, and I am sorry if I insulted you about your lifestyle. It’s not the lifestyle for me, but, hey, that’s okay. See, I learned from this blog, and from everyone on it. God Bless.

Sue August 26, 2012 at 7:54 PM

We are either equal or we are not. Egalitarians believe we are. Complimentarians not so much, They believe some are more equal than others.

Mike Duran August 27, 2012 at 6:13 AM

I agree with Sally on this, Sue. Submission has nothing to do with inferiority. It seems like you’re using charged language to make your point.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 11:58 AM

A slave or submissive is never equal to her master/head. A child is not equal to her parents. A child, however, grows up, and once grown, has the same rights and freedoms as the parents. A slave may…well, slavery is illegal, so we won’t even mention that one. The only person is a permanent slave position is the completmentarian wife. It makes me sad that slavery is alive and well in the good ole USA, in the name of complementarianism.

Katherine Coble August 30, 2012 at 6:01 PM

Sue, I’m afraid you are intentionally misunderstanding Complementarianism for the purposes of having charged dialog and slamming people you have characterized as your opponents.

I am highly offended that you liken my fully loving, genuinely respectful and gracious marriage to “slavery”. The fact that you would think this man who anticipates my every need, provides for me financially and assists me through my chronic illness has “enslaved” me shows that you’re looking not for facts but for sound bites to fuel your rage.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 8:19 PM

Hi Katherine. I am sorry I offended you. This blog has given me such insight. The insight that my version of God may not be yours. I have no reason to to offend anyone that does not share my version of God. We are all free to live the way that we want to (thank God), and although your lifestyle is definately not for me, it is right for you. I have grown so much these couple of days on this blog, and that is that not all conservatives or complementarians are out to get me to “come over to their side”. They just want to live their life the way that makes sense to them. Whether you are a complementarian or an atheist, I have learned not to judge you at all. You are a person living life the way you choose, as am I. I am glad you had someone to help you through your illness, and I hope you are feeling better. Thanks for your insight.

Bobby July 20, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Love Katherine’s top comment. Good stuff there.

Some of this is due the changing gender norms. Now, lots more women are working and possibly making more than husbands/boyfriends/male friends. Thus, to encounter the kind of hardcore complementarian culture that the Neo-Reformed dudes have rallied around (see: Piper, Driscoll, the Wilsons’ recent article) these ladies bristle. I can’t blame them, really. I think it’s honestly this representation of complementarianism that feminist bloggers like Rachel Held Evans get so frustrated with and lash out against. There’s a whole group of, shall I say, softer complementarians who simply see a natural outworking of what they’ve seen in life: more men want to lead than women.

When the Bible verses and exegesis starts flying between the two parties, I start looking at what’s going on in the real world. Some notes I’ve taken:

-I haven’t yet seen a female head pastor whose church doesn’t get bogged down in internal infighting. I’m sure this isn’t the case across the board, but it’s what I’ve seen.

-I’ve heard from lots of women who say they don’t want to see women in two roles: the Presidency and the pulpit. Some have said they’d leave the country/church if it occurred. Obviously they’re probably overreacting, but you get the point. I’ve never heard men say the same about other men.

-I asked my wife what she thought about all this headship stuff. She’s told me she wants me to lead the household (while admitting she’s a quieter person) but she has her own dreams and desires she wants to pursue; not just help me get to mine.

-I’ve heard lots of men talk about getting leadership roles. I’ve heard very, very few women say they want to lead.

I think overall there’s kind of in-between amongst all this. I’d say I probably fall into that. I do believe men are overall gifted in leadership, because that’s what I’ve seen all my life. That said, some women have that spark, too. And if they do, let ’em have at it.

–A curious footnote: the most successful female leaders I’ve seen weren’t Christians. They went in and got the job done, and because of that, men (including me) followed them. One of my problems with many progressive Christian feminist bloggers is that they go on and on about women in leadership, but they don’t do anything. They want some idealized world but have no idea how to go about getting there. The female leaders I’ve run into would never call themselves feminists, they just recognize that they’re cogs in a machine and do what they have to in making it work. No ranting blog posts necessary.

Another Dennis July 20, 2012 at 6:39 AM

I am not a linguist by any stretch so if the nature of Greek grammar renders my comment moot forgive me, but I have often pondered the number of Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy, “I do not allow ‘a’ woman to teach, or have authority over ‘a’ man.” (Single quotes mine for emphasis) I find myself wondering if Paul’s statement is more about mentoring than the pulpit. If he was talking about the church at large would the verb and object not be plural instead of singular? “I do not allow a woman to teach men.”

Paul’s most effective teaching relationships were one-on-one with Timothy and Barnabas. No one would argue the inappropriateness of a woman having a Paul/Timothy relationship with a single male member of the congregation; but in the larger context of the pulpit the same danger does not exist. Must we assume that Paul is speaking of the pulpit in this context?

C.L. Dyck July 21, 2012 at 4:33 PM

Thanks for that, AD. I hadn’t thought of it that way before, and now I feel a need to look into it. However, there’s also the context of the passage, which is general instruction on congregational harmony. “Likewise” places the role of women’s godly participation as complementary to the role of men in prayer.

However, I asked my husband how he reflexively hears those verses on learning/teaching, deception and childbearing, and I said, “Honestly, they make me angry, because all I can hear is the extreme fundamentalist interpretation that puts women in a corner of the house and renders them basically baby factories.” And he said, “I don’t know, because those were the churches I grew up with.”

I guess we have things to study between the two of us, because those extremist interpretations have been very detrimental to the trust in our marriage.

This quick study on “suitable helper” intrigues me, because it makes the point that women are co-warriors with men:

“The traditional teaching for the woman as help (meet) is that of assistant or helper subservient to the one being helped. This definition would appear to line up with Strong’s definition of the word. However, if you look at the context of every other use of the word ezer in the scripture, you will see that ezer refers to either God or military allies. In all other cases the one giving the help is superior to the one receiving the help. Adding kenegdo (meet) modifies the meaning to that of equal rather than superior status. Scripture is so awesome. God says just what He means.” http://godswordtowomen.org/help.htm

It suggests to me that, just as men are regularly admonished to be sacrificial rather than domineering with their physical strength and leadership (and I think we could do very well to put more emphasis on that for those who take pulpits and public ministry), women are regularly admonished not to let the sin nature cause them to take undue power over, or go to war against, the wrong enemy–their own husbands and fellow Christians.

Ron Williams July 20, 2012 at 8:11 AM

It is quite a dilemma and I think I stand right on top of the fence. The Bible does seem pretty clear that the man should be in the primary leadership role as “Christ is the head of man and man is the head of the woman”. However, there are also times in the bible where women were placed in leadership and many women took on very important roles. I would feel uncomfortable having a woman be my Pastor but having said that-I love turning on Joyce meyer and watching her broadcasts, I think she is awesome. I do not have a problem with women teaching from the pulpit, but having the title ” Pastor ” makes me a little uncomfortable. Perhaps I gained this perspective from the teaching of my 1st Pastor(wink).

Sue August 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM

I agree with Ron. the bible does say that marriage is a master/slave relationship. However, slavery has been abolished, and so should the slavery of women.

Jason H. July 20, 2012 at 8:57 AM

I also find myself unsure of where I stand on this issue.

I have studied enough to know there is a scriptural difference between “woman” – gender based, and “wife” – relation based. Unfortunately, many interchange the two or twist scripture to justify sinful attitudes and actions.

Regarding wives, consider Ephesians 5:21 – “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” “Submit” is a foul word in our world, equated with weakness. The powerful over the powerless. Those who are worthy will lead; those who are not are forced to submit. However, the original Greek in these verses implies placing things in proper order, not a statement of value. Yet how many times have you heard this verse twisted to justify sinful attitudes and actions? Some read verses 23 & 24 and incorrectly take the comparison of husband and Christ far beyond the intent. Interestingly, some also fail to factor in Ephesians 5:20 – “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” In fact, Ephesians later shows that both a wife and the Church are to be lifted up and honored, not oppressed.

Christ’s example was that of a submissive servant. He did not follow his own will, but submitted to his father and what was best for us. This is my role, responsibility, and even my burden, of being a husband. If husbands take Ephesians 5 into their hearts and live as the servant leaders God intended, acting selflessly on what is best for their wives, they would have little of their wives not doing the same! At least for me, God’s marriage plan for mutual submission to one another, equally saved sinners in Christ, is fairly clear.

What is not clear to me is the role of gender in the Church. As a child, I found most fellowships around me permitted believing women to teach children, women and non-believing men only. As soon as men – excuse me, males – were dunked in the baptistry their position of authority changed – regardless of age, scriptural knowledge or applicable wisdom. From that moment on, women were no longer allowed to have any perceived authority over them. Only later did I learn that these practices were not expressly taught in scripture, but were based upon the choosing and ignoring of certain verses. As I observe the worldwide church today, the pendulum swings to two extremes, both telling the Spirit in me that something isn’t right. I am now starting to study these things more closely in their original context to determine what aspects are cultural and changing and what are universal and eternal.

When the Spirit leads you to the Truth of the matter, please share. It’s a difficult issue to address.

Bobby July 20, 2012 at 10:27 AM

Jason you’ve hit the nail on the head in that part of the problem is whenever the word “submit” is mentioned, defenses immediately go up and the conversation becomes an argument.

Submission (and in a more general sense, humility) are seen as weaknesses, yet Jesus submitted to God.

J.S. Clark July 20, 2012 at 2:16 PM

I think that a lot of the confusion comes from a later to latest interpretation. When Yeshua (Jesus) made the argument against divorce he did it by going all the way to Adam to understand Moses. I think we tend to start with Paul as the foundation of understanding so its easy to come to differing views because he’s relying on a context we are either ignorant of or ignore.

In the beginning, Man and Woman even in marriage were as far as we can tell, equal but opposite (helpmate rought translated could be counterweight), both in the image of God. Now, God did institute man’s headship in the home at that place (presumably because of the lessons each gender needs to learn to manifest the combined image of God), but even so women did all sorts of things that would have been “forbidden” by Paul. Miriam was a prophetess and worship leader, who along with Aaron only got in trouble WITH Aaron when they tried to displace Moses. Deborah was a judge over Israel sitting in the “seat” of Moses as it were. Tamara was “more righteous” than Judah when she pushed against his leadership. Nabal was saved from David by his wife acting contrary to him (though God took Nabal out anyway). Esther pushed her husband the king. Heck, Song of Solomon might have been written by a woman. So there were plenty of women demonstrating leadership even if some might argue they were not holding “offices” (though Deborah clearly was).

So when we get to Paul, I think he would know this. He knows women have right held various positions of leaderhips–while at the same time practicing at least a norm of submission to their husbands inside their marriages. So is he deligitimizing all those women of God before? No, I don’t think so. Yes, the woman is to submit to her husband in the home, but was Paul establishing a body wide doctrine that women were never to speak, or never to teach, etc . . . or was he giving guidance to a specific circumstance in those churches? If it was church-wide, how come Yeshua never taught this? We don’t assume that Paul was telling everyone to take a little wine for their stomach, maybe this is similar.

I would note that as the “apostle to the gentiles” Paul would be dealing with a lot of new converts who were unfamiliar with the history of their new people. A pagan woman growing up in a pagan culture, would have been seen as an object, temple prostitution was normal, women had no rights etc, to suddenly “make them equal” with men for example could lead to chaos. Might it have simply been sensible at that point to say the men who simply by virtue of the culture (in and out of the synagogue) would be in a better position to know or learn the history of how men and women were to relate and represent that to the pagans?

For myself, I believe Paul was more like that then suddenly putting a restriction on every woman married or unmarried that never existed before. And simply as a matter of Spiritual testimony, I know I’ve been ministered to by God through women. Was Paul trying to thwart that? I think not, he was simply trying to preserve order and giving guidance on how to do that.

Mirtika July 21, 2012 at 2:48 PM

I lean complementarian, not because my bossy inner tyrant likes it, but because I do believe it’s the Scriptural model. Back in the 90s, I read so many apologetical and theological discussions, and one of the trends I kept up with for a while was complement vs egalitarian. I could not be utterly convinced–though Heaven knows I WANTED TO BE–that Egalitarianism was the winner in that discussion. Emotionally, I want it to be so. But Scripturally, I can’t see it.

However, I do believe that sometimes, men cannot do the job, and a woman is called for the leadership task (Deborah), but even doing such a thing because the gift falls upon such a woman, the sense of the general order of complementarianism holds sway. I am not comfortable with churches that allow women to be the Shepherd. I am fine with women leadership roles at work, or to take the reins if the husband cedes in a certain area due to her particular gifts/knowledge. I mean, a husband knows the areas where the wife gives sounder counsel or better leadership or a keener opinion, and as home leader, he can say, “Take this one, babe. I trust you.”

I suspect the conversation on this will have no end…although the culture sides with egalitarianism, which makes it shinier. Just as with pastors who call, say, homosexuality sin, and then get crucified by the press and others for it. Sometimes, being true to Scripture is hard and unpopular and we wish God would let us fudge more. ; )

Sue August 26, 2012 at 8:06 PM

If you don’t believe in a master-slave relationship in marriage, then you are a egalitarian. Or better yet, secular.

Katherine Coble August 30, 2012 at 6:03 PM

Do you have another point to make or is it just this same one over and over?

Kate July 23, 2012 at 4:20 PM

This is an issue I’ve been thinking/reading a lot about lately as well. Right now I’m reading The Resignation of Eve by Jim Henderson, a collection of women’s stories about their experiences with complementarianism/patriarchy in the church. I lean pretty heavily towards egalitarianism because I think there are solid arguments for that position (which is not to say there aren’t for complementarianism). I’m also concerned that prominent Christian leaders (Piper, Driscoll, etc.) place so much of an emphasis on this issue. To them it’s just as important as the gospel, and that really bothers me.

Advocates of complementarianism talk about how it benefits women, but all I see is a system that limits women while trying to pacify them with promises of protection and fulfillment and making them feel guilty if they want something more/different. I don’t have that much of a problem with soft complementarianism, but unfortunately this seems to lead to hard complementarianism/patriarchy which can be very damaging to women. I’m still trying to figure this issue out, but I have a hard time being objective when I see the consequences of the complementarian model: women not being allowed to use their gifts for leadership, guilt heaped upon women for wanting to do something different than being a housewife/mother, and even spiritual, physical, and emotional abuse in more extreme cases.

Sue August 26, 2012 at 7:25 PM

Why would god want marriage to be a master/slave type relationship? My God would never want me to become a slave to some man. Egaltarians tend to justify those horrible verses telling women to shut up and to become slaves. Why would god tell wives they are not to be free people? That they are to have no rights and privleges within the marriage? I had to leave christianity because of the verses telling wives to obey their masters (spouses). People have fought and died for our freedom, and submissive wives are willing to give it all up? Because of a book that was written many years ago? I am just looking for someone to explain this reasoning. Why would a wonderful god want women (or anyone) to become slaves (even if their master is nice)? To abandon all their freedom?Their rights and privleges? Where one person has complete power over another? Haven’t we grown as people to endorse this type of slavery? Ladies, if your god loved you, would this same god want you to become a slave? To use only the gifts that your master allows you to use? What if your master is a selfish person? We all know that men are never selfish or greedy (sarcasm). Do you really need a “head” or master to tell you what to do? Egaltarians are using the modern information-That slavery is wrong- to guide them in their lives. Men-how would you feel if your god told you that you were nothing more than a slave-with no rights or freedom? Would you prefer to live in the past, where your slaves did not have any secular rights? Ladies-do you think you get a “get into heaven free” if you are submissive to your spouse? Do you feel you have absolutely no control over your own life, that your master must make all your decisions? Do you actually believe in your own inferiority? I don’t care how you put it-a submissive is never equal to her master. With all due respect, I don’t think christianity is good for women. I have taken some of christianity with me-like treating others as you would like to be treated. Men-if you treat your wife as an inferior, do you think you are doing this. If you think she must be submissive to you-are you doing this? If you treated everyone the way you wanted to be treated, there would be no masters (husbands) and slaves (wives), everyone would be equal. And I repeat, a submissive is never an equal. Do you think of your wives as equals? Thanks for letting me ask these questions. If those certain shut-up and submit verses were not in your religion, I mights have given it another chance. But I would never give up my freedom, and give over “headship” to someone whose only qualification is biological.

Sue August 26, 2012 at 7:40 PM

Just one other point. The fact that people are so undecided about whether or not a wife is to be a slave within her marriage is reason to maybe question the whole premise of the bible. Either the bible advocate equality or not. those passages are just so demeaning and bad for women the way they are read. Egalitarians, I think, are just trying to find the justice in a very unjust book. The egalitarians are trying to put some morality in a book that is, quite frankly, very unmoral in some of it’s messages. If a woman wants to become a slave to her master, then she should be free to do so, but why would a complementarian want to? Egalitarians know that slavery is wrong-even if it is only for women. Egalitarians believe in freedom for all-even women (gasp). Even if they have to grasp at straws, they are at least moral in their beliefs that everyone should be free. If the egalitarians can convince me that christianity is not bad for women, and does not condone their slavery in marriage, maybe some people will come back to it. However, the terrible words are still there, even if they have a complete opposite meaning, so I doubt I will ever go back. I still believe in God, just not the god of the bible.

J.S. Clark August 27, 2012 at 5:55 AM

Sue, I can see why you would take issue. Personnaly I believe the passages that tell women to “shut up” or not teach were local issues with a basis in the practicalities of growing into freedom out of a pagan culture where women really were treated like cattle or prostitutes. It’s easy looking back from now to forget that it was Christians who have done most of the elevating of women in history.

However, on the issue of submission (which I suspect is also temporary, Eve was not always in a place of submission, but after the fall she was). But I would question the premise the submission has anything to do with equality. Is a general superior to a PFC? No, he could never win a war by himself, he needs the PFC. Yet the PFC acts in submission to the general. Is a father superior to his son? If equality means sameness of position, then you must advocate there is no difference in role between a toddler and adult, or that children truly are inferior. Then you would have to say that children should have to be bound by contracts they make even with an adult. Sex between a six year old and a 40 year old must be consensual in this view.

As for how would men feel about being told they must submit, as a PFC and a man I did have to submit. As a citizen of this country with some terribly oppressive laws, I do have to submit. As a non-elder in a church, I do have to submit. As a married husband, my wants must be submitted to my wife’s needs. And as a follower of Yeshua all my actions are supposed to submit to my Master, Yeshua.

It is a different relationship with a spouse, no doubt, but equality as a person has nothing to do with it. Like everything since Eden, it is a training tool. God is correcting something in our character. There’s equality for you, we are all sinners. And God knows what each of us needs as individuals, as groups, and as genders to bring us back to him. Men do seem to have the same faults as Adam, and Women do seem to have the same faults as Eve in many ways with individual nuances.

So I would say that women are not to “shut up”, and submission even if it were the same as slavery means we are all slaves, it is just a matter of who we are slave to. And the form of “slavery” in marriage is unavoidable. Unless there is complete unity in that egalitarianism then there can be yoking together. How could a ship run if every crew member thought they were to be captain? Unless you are in complete unity, it could not be done.

And maybe that’s the point of submission? To bring us back to unity, with unity no one is submitting because we’re all pulling together. And yet even in that someone would naturally be delegated to what they were best at which would mean in function people would still be submitting, but they wouldn’t feel like it.

Sue August 27, 2012 at 9:30 AM

J.S., A general is most certainly superior to a private within the organization. After all, the general is the “superior officer”. And the general is paid quite a bit more. A parent is superior to a child because the child has not developed the full use of her brain yet. An employee is inferior to the “boss” only from 9 to 5, after that they are equal. Once a child is grown s/he is equal. Once the private is no longer in the miliary, s/he is equal. We are not all equal in society, but at home we should all be equal to the other adults in our home. To submit to someone is not always negative, but to “submit in everything” is wrong. I hear what you are saying about having to submit to people on a daily basis on some things. I know we are all slaves in a way, but to be a slave in one’s own home is something I cannot understand or condone. A home should be a place where one should be free. A complementarian wife is not free, even in her own home. I can see how maybe she can be free from making decisions about her own life can, in certain circumstances, be something desirable. After all, her “head” or master will make all the decisions, and if they don’t work out, she can say “well, I had no choice in the matter-it’s not my fault”. since the world has many types of people, being a submissive wife may be a good fit for some ladies. However, they are cheating themselves from being a full, adult person. Are you a complementarian? If you are, do you allow your wife any minor freedom? Any minor rights? Is the only freedom she has, what you allow her to have? Do you allow her to drive? to vote? to go out with friends? to see her family? to be nurturing to your children? Somehow I don’t think complementarian husbands would be inclined to allow their wives to be nurturing toward their daughters. After all, I’m sure complementarian men do not like women, and this includes their daughters. If you are an egalitarian, then these questions don’t apply to you. In that case, your wife is a free person, and would not need your permission to do the above things. You would treat your daughters just like your sons, and you would love both. Am I correct in my thinking that complementarians do not like women. After all, if you like someone, you wouldn’t demote them to a life of slavery. Right? You wouldn’t want to be their “head”/master, but a equal partner, willing to give and take. What are your views on what I have said? I hope you will answer

Sue August 27, 2012 at 9:44 AM

P.S. As far as women being like Eve, and men being like adam-the fable about the first people on earth-sometimes we are led by someone into sonething we shouldn’t do (Adam), and sometimes we lead others to do something we shouldn’t do (Eve). Are you saying only women are leading people to do things we shouldn’t do? And that only men are led into doing something they shouldn’t do by someone else? Don’t you think there is a little bit of both in all of us? If women are the only people to lead others astray then the women you know are very persuasive. Hitler was not female, and yet convinced many people to do something very wrong. If your analogy was correct, only women would be the ones convincing people to do things they shouldn’t do. I don’t think that’s the case. Do you really?

J.S. Clark August 27, 2012 at 10:49 AM

Sue, thank you for your thoughtful reply. My point with the various analogies was that equal worth is not based upon role. And that points to something. Master slave is not an appropriate analogy, because the subject being discussed is submission not compulsion. My wife can do anything she pleases, but she chooses to (and sometimes chooses not to) listen to what I have to say. And sometimes I would argue that she SHOULD disagree if my instruction is contrary to God’s.

But if my instruction and God’s instruction appear to be in unity, then why would she disagree with me? And for me, as a good leader, would I not also look to recognize when God is speaking through her and thus SUBMIT to her wisdom? That is often the case, but my wife leaves the decision with me (generally). But the submission is something she does, not something I force upon her.

This shows that even in an egalitarian situation is submission still required. A woman for example no matter what “rights” or “priveledges” she possess, still depends on the man to not use his physical power to dominate her. He is required to submit even though he could have his way. And the priveledges she enjoys are because of his non-obstruction. As also every other man she meets (except for the wimpy vegetarian guys =)

Point being that whether your husband is a “good master” is always the crucial matter regardless because in any structure of relationship he is allowing or disallowing the right the woman wishes to enjoy. So since we are all in this case (men and woman) how can it be less than adult to recognize and live in it? I think most government laws are over reaching and many border on immoral, I will break the latter just as I suggest a wife should, but I do not fight the amoral laws, I cope. Now with man the reasoning is flawed, but with God, wouldn’t only be natural to assume that the submission does or at least did serve a purpose and try to find out what has changed?

As for Adam and Eve, I can’t say exactly why God had the woman after the fall submit to the man. My speculative gleaning is the man was not deceived and woman was (Paul seems to suggest that). Thus woman (if women really did generally inherit the same flaws, which can be overcome) is more likely to be deceived by an exterior source . . . that kind of makes sense since woman’s design is generally responsive vs initiative. So perhaps woman is (for the moment) to submit to someone who is covenant with her because he is less likely to be deceived from the outside while his love keeps his actions guided by her good. Or more to the point it was for HER to learn to trust someone other than herself (like she just failed to do). Not for the man to “master” her, but for her to learn.

A parrallel with man is that man KNEW WHAT TO DO and did not do it. He failed to lead, to protect his wife when he knew she was about to go down the wrong path; to kick the serpent to the curb; and possibly to instruct her in what God actually said verses the addendum that she quoted). And what happens to man? Suddenly all his efforts become futile, our work produces thorns. In a sense, Man failed to act and sacrificed what could have been a great achievement, so God’s like “OK, you don’t care if your actions have consequences? You think you should be free not to act? Alright, here’s all your work getting eaten up.” The curse (behavior correction) on woman was against her relationships; the curse on men was against out achievements. In both cases it brings us back to God.

And that is the point of every instruction. We think about changing circumstances to make here now free/equal/better, but none of that apart from God will be truly good. All improvement must bring us back to God.

Sue August 27, 2012 at 7:01 PM

When I was 17, I heard those terrible verses when my parents forced me to attend church. That moment shanged my life. I thought ‘Why would god want me to become a slave-I’m alsmost 18, almost free. I will never get married”. I never even had a relationship with any man because of those words. At work, at parties, and at bars, I was fine with men, but if I ever started to like someone, I read those verses, and ran-real fast-the other way. I develeped a hatred for myself, and for men. Now, 30 years later, I had some unfortunate experiences, and wanted to turn to some kind of religion. But reading all the posts, it appears organized religion hates women, and thus, hates me. I wasn’t going to get any relief from organized religion. Even egalitarism seems to change the meanings of those horrible verses. In my 30’s and 40’s, I was fairly successful in career, but after these experiences, I again feel suicidal. It’s not all because of those words, but to have a loving god tell you that you are worthless, the only value you have is in your slavery-well, I’ve rejected christianity, but those worthless feelings don’t go away very easily. I just wish I could die, I hate life so much. I hate the fact that ANYONE thinks I should be a slave of men. My life changed that day 30 years ago, I lost all faith in god, in the religion I was brought up on, and in myself. Why can’t I get over it. Do you think all women should own a gun in case he forces his wishes on her? Should she learn karate to make sure her so doesn’t force himself on her? Do you think that most men dominate their wives or girlfriends with force? Do you think these women should put up with this type of behavior. Do you think god even likes women at all? My God does not hate me, but the bible god abhors me. I pray every day to god to let me go (die) but God won’t answer my prayers. Why, because I am female, and therefore god hates me? The bible god sure does. Why won’t god listen to my prayers? Does god listen to yours? Why am I not more successful with suicide attempts? Why was I listening that day at 17? I normally didn’t. Why did that one verse change my life? why did I let it? These are all questions for me to answer-I was just venting a little-sorry. Bible god hates me, and although I’ve rejected that god (not God) the feelings of hatred continue. As for the “curse” handed down to Adam-it was also a curse to women as well. I really don’t think of ancient women sitting around eating bonbons all day. They also had to work the land. I’m just trying to let people know how those verses could destroy a person. It did me. How do I know that it was those verses that “destroyed” me-because whenever I tried to hurt myself, the thought that always comes to mind is “maybe bible god is right-you are NOTHING. Meant to be a slave!!! It’s my fault-I let it hurt me.

Sue August 27, 2012 at 7:04 PM

Thanks for listening. It means a lot to me. I don’t know if you are one of those “evil complementarians”, but at least you let me vent. Thanks

J.S. Clark August 28, 2012 at 6:51 PM

Sue, I’m sorry you were so hurt when you were young. I wouldn’t try to redefine what happened to you then or since, but I can tell you that the God of the Bible has never hated you. My studies of that God have lead me to understand that the words there do not have my meaning, but God’s meaning. So when I see cruelty in something he said (or a doctrine based on something he said), it is because we are misunderstanding him.

For example, Eve, a woman was the one to whom the promise was given that a redeemer was given. Tamar broke her father-in-laws sense of justice and he was found guilty and she more righteous. Miriam was in something of leadership. Deborah was a judge over Israel. Bathsheba was possibly either the inspiration or contributing writer for part of proverbs. Abigail saved David from his own evil inclination. The Song of Solomon was possibly written by a woman. Mary was brave for the part she played in having Jesus though he was not Joseph’s son. Widows saw their dead raised again. Excluding John, most of the disciples who were faithful at the cross were women.

The Bible is full of brave and great women. God does not hate women, and he does not hate you. And that is a far more important truth than whether someone should be egalitarian or complementarian.

Have peace.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 10:52 AM

It is pretty clear that the god of the bible wants me to become a slave. Wants to make someone the “head” of me. Wants to make someone the master of me. Wants to take my freedom away. Wants to take all my rights away. Does bible god even want women in heaven. After all, bible god teaches that women should become slaves, shut up, and are unclean. Why would bible god want these vile creatures in heaven. I guess bible god telerates women who accept their slave position, do everything their master/husband tells them, shut up, and know their inferior place. Will this inferior status be in heaven also. It does not sound very appealing if that’s the case. I know it should not bother me what complimentarians think of me, or anyone else. After all, I do not associate with them. It just scares me to death that there is even a possibility that they are right. In that case, heaven will not be good. Since bible god abhors women (maybe not the silent slaves bible god endorese), and bible god would not like them any more in heaven. In this world, I’m pretty sure complimentarians will not take my right to freedom away. After all, we are a secular society, and hopefully, that will never change. But, with a chance of these complimentarians getting into office, I’m afraid that maybe I’ll be left with no rights. It can happen. In Nazi Germany, Jewish people were once free. Complimentarians can believe whatever they want in their personal life-they can deny women rights if they can find women to put up with it,but what if they are put into government offices. Women will be like the Jews in Nazi germany. Maybe not killed, but stripped of all rights and freedoms. The women who continue to fight for their rights and freedoms will be given a lobotomy to make them submissive. I know I’ve rambled on, but I am very scared. I honestly don’t think this will happen-at least in my life. But the constant goal of complimentarians seems to involve taking away women’s rights. First within the home and church (which really doesn’t concern me), then in government and corporate America. I don’t know what complementarian christians believe, other than the slavery of women, so I really don’t know what to think of them. Am I right to be woried? Like I said, in Germany, Jews were free at one time, how easy was it for hitler to brainwash poeple into taking their freedom (and lives) away from them.

Jill August 28, 2012 at 12:50 PM

I would like to have a conversation with you about this because I’ve been in and around the culture of Christian patriarchy and despised it for the way the people twisted scriptures to suit their own lifestyle. Will you possibly tell me exactly what verses bother you so that I can respond to them? I would like to help you. If you’d rather take this to e-mail, contact me at jdomschot@msn.com. It’s a big subject–but I will tell you one thing right now–the God of the Bible doesn’t hate you, and many complementarians are choosing to live under a curse rather than a blessing.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 10:10 AM

Hi Jill, the passages are the sumit to your master and husband. there are quite a bit of them. Wives are compared to slaves. Please read my story below to get where I am coming from. I would like to die because I can’t stand living in a world where complimentarians hate me so much and want to take my rights away. Complimentarians HATE women (even the women) and do not want them to be free. It’s just hard to live in a world where such hatred is rampant. I do not associate with complimentarians, but knowing there are people in this world that want me to have no freedom or rights-hurts. Unless they are elected into government, it’s really none of my business how others live. Why do I care. Why is there such hatredamong so called religious people that seems their only goal is to take my freedom away. It’s none of my business, but so many negative thoughts are still in my sub conscious. Egalitarians are okay. they want to make some moral sense of those terrible verses. I don’t know if they can, though. That is why I left christinaity. Now, my only goal is to let it be. I really don’t think the complimentarians will be able to take my rights away, after all, we are a secular government. Complimentarians can dominate and submit all they want, it doesn’t concern me really. I guess I’m trying to get over the hurt. Ps. my parents did not have a master/slave marriage. I called my mother a hypocrit once if she wasn’t a slave I do feel bad about that since she is now gone. Her religion was catholic, and, although she did not tell me, I saw in her journal that she was sad I didn’t follow her faith. Maybe I just should have pretended for her sake. Even though I would never follow a religion that, in any way, shape, or form -discriminates in any way towards women (I’m ruling out almost all) maybe I should have pretended-at least not put down her religion so much. Thanks for listening.

Jill August 30, 2012 at 2:51 PM

The actual fact of the matter is that the Bible doesn’t have a ton of verses on female submission. The Old Testament law regulated patriarchy in the same way it regulated slavery, without mandating it or outlawing it. In Genesis, the curse placed on Eve is that her husband will rule over her. This wasn’t a law–it was what naturally occurred because of sin. When people mandate that husbands must rule over their wives, they are choosing to live under a curse rather than a blessing.

In the New Testament, Christ said nothing about female submission or patriarchy. So aside from Paul, there is one verse in the New Testament that seems to require women to be in subjection to their husbands, and that is found in 1 Peter and is given for a specific reason. When people converted to Christianity, their life situations didn’t change. Hence, it was necessary to tell slaves they needed to continue to submit to their masters (which comes right before wives submitting to husbands). You have to remember that the Greco-Roman culture despised women. Women were despised as nothing more than bearers of the next generation, or sexual objects. Under that context, it was necessary for Peter to tell Christian women to submit to their husbands so that if their husbands are not Christians, they will be won over by their wives’ exemplary, humble behavior. Conversely, because of the same societal dynamics, husbands are told to honor their wives–that is, not take advantage of the physically weaker person. Peter in no wise tells wives they are to be slaves! Remember, these were new converts to Christianity who were still stuck in an unchristian culture.

That leaves Paul. All the other submission verses are found in Paul’s writings. It’s necessary, at this point, to ask a vital question. Was Paul a giver a law? I don’t think so. The OT law was given through Moses, and any other law was given through Jesus. If Paul’s commands can’t be found in other parts of scripture, then 1) we are misunderstanding his commands or 2) he was speaking about specific situations at specific people or 3) Paul was wrong. Being a respecter of the Bible, I would go with 1 or 2.

Lastly, I want to reiterate that God’s laws in the OT regulated cultural practices such as patriarchy and slavery without outlawing them. Neither were these practices mandated. Because of this, I don’t have a problem with an egalitarian society. God certainly never commands a complementarian society–that term, in fact, was made up by the Baptists in the 1980s. In an egalitarian Christian marriage, husbands and wives discuss things–unless, of course, the husband is a tyrant–in which case, the wife is supposed to win him over by her submissive behavior. That is, sadly, and unfortunate effect of Eve’s curse. For most of history, men have ruled tyrannically over women. Will that ever go away? No, but thankfully, God gave checks and balances to ensure that women weren’t blatantly abused and taken advantage of.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 7:38 PM

And secular laws.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 8:01 PM

Hi Jill, Thanks for your kind words. I’m so glad men are unable to “rule over women” today. They may try, and some women will allow it, but the law states that everyone is free. I have decided to accept that some people view God differently from the way I view God. You have helped me to realize that, and to shed some pain that I had in the matter. I appreciate your help in my struggle. God Bless and thanks.

Jessica Thomas August 28, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Sue, first of all, please do not hurt yourself! You are valuable and God loves you!

When I was a teen, I “felt” the presence of God, and developed my understanding of him based on experience and intuition. When I fell into depression in college, I was confused, didn’t know what was going on, but I knew what I felt like : God had forsaken me. I could not find him nor feel his love try as I might!

I still deal with depression at times, but now when I feel that way, I remind myself, God is there even if I can’t feel him, and he loves me even when I’m not capable of feeling love for whatever biological or chemical reason.

I talk about my experiences some over at my blog, and I’m currently posting a series of poems I wrote during that time. I was very angry at God for leaving me (even though I now know he never left) and it shows through. I’m hoping to show readers my path away from that. Hop on over if you get the chance! Maybe we can talk some more over there.

Jessica Thomas August 28, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Me again. 🙂

I wanted to clarify my comment above a little bit.

When said “I was very angry at God”, I think I was experiencing the same dichotomy that you are experiencing. I never gave up on God. In fact, I was more determined than ever to find him. What I was mad at was the “god” I had known up to that point. That “god” was built from various religions and philosophies as well as from a loose understanding of the Bible.

I say “loose” because I had never read the Bible myself, I had just heard scripture quoted from it and assimilated what most of us do while growing up in a so-called Christian dominated culture. I agree with that a loose understanding of the Bible can be spiritually dangerous. That’s why it’s so important to understand *every* verse within the context of the *entire* Bible.

When I started to look at the Bible myself, engage in Bible studies, open my mind to what God might be trying to tell me via his COMPLETE word, the TRUE God slowly but surely peeled away my anger.

It’s a long process, and it sounds like you have a lot of spiritual misconceptions to work through (as most of us do!), and…ironically…the Bible is the most fully equipt book to help you do that. And since you have been so scarred by the very book you need, it would be most helpful for you to revisit it within a strong committed fellowship of believers who can point you back in the right direction when you start to go astray.

Hope I’m not saying too much, or making too many assumptions about your journey. If so, I apologize. 🙁 Regardless, I very much relate to the pain I hear in your words!

Sue August 30, 2012 at 10:24 AM

Hi Jessica,
Do you believe in the god of the bible, or are you able to have your own perceptions of a wonderful and nicer God. The only way I can have any hope in the world is to reject the idea that bible god is our god. If bible god is the real God, and I know this god hates me and women in general,I don’t know what to do. I certainly don’t want to pray to a god that hates me so much. That wants to make a slave of me. There is absolutely no way that the god of the bible loves me, or any other female on the planet. For the last 3 years, I have prayed every night for god to let me die. God has not answered, so I am beginning to believe the complimentarians-that god absolutely hates women-myself included. Although I don’t believe in the god of the bible, the god of complimentarians, or even the god of egalitarians, I am deeply afraid that maybe they are correct. If the real God is the god of the bible, and complimentarians, will god want me to be a slave in heaven. Do you think this god even wants women in heaven. After all, this is the god that thinks women should be slaves, shut up, and are unclean. Why would bible god want these horrible creatures in heaven. I’m going to go with my version of God-a wonderful God, who does not hate women (or me) and want them to become slaves of god’s chosen people-the masters (men). This requires a total rejection of bible god. I pray that God is not bible god.

Jessica Thomas August 30, 2012 at 1:18 PM

“I’m going to go with my version of God-a wonderful God, who does not hate women (or me) and want them to become slaves of god’s chosen people-the masters (men).”

I am too. This is the God I believe in. I’m saying that as one who reads the Bible and believes it is the word of God.

I’m also a woman who got straight A’s in high school and college, who was a competitive athlete for 12 years (a swimmer, I wore a swimsuit that showed every curve–or lack thereof–on my body in front of “stadium-full” crowds. Men. Lots of them.).

I married my high school sweetheart after college, joined the workforce while he worked on an MA in sculpture. Blue collar daughter that I was, I went downtown and worked in a *conservative male-dominated* (with extra emphasis) law firm. Not kidding, there were about 200 white males, I was a lowly secretary making less money in a year than the top partners made in a month. And it pissed me off. But they worked to get where they were, and I didn’t want any part of their 24/7 lifestyle, so I started thinking about what I did want out of a career.

Did some of those lawyers look down on me dismissively? Yep. Did it make me uncomfortable? Yep. Did it stop me? Nope. Because I believe in a God of equality, and a Jesus who loves us all equally, and died for each and every one of us, men and women alike.

This world can say what it wants about me. Liberals can call me a hate monger. Ultra conservatives can look down their nose at me. Is it going to hurt at times? Yeah. But I’m Jesus’ back pocket, safe and secure. Any harm inflicted on me in this world is temporary. In heaven the Triune God will wipe my tears and mend my scars.

I’m still married to my high school sweet heart. We celebrated 15 years in August. I grew two babies while working full time as a computer programmer (in IT, a male dominated field). My husband currently stays home and watches the kids. He has dinner ready for me when I get home from work. He reads the Bible, believes the Bible, prays to the God of the Bible. We pray over our children together every night.

I’ll put out a challenge to you. Forget about the Bible for a moment. Think about Jesus. He died for you. God in the form of a *man* submitted himself *to himself* (and to you) on the cross!

My challenge is for you is to focus on Jesus, and what he did for you. You personally. Continue to meditate on that. Tuck yourself into his back pocket. Trust him with your fears, *including* (and especially) your fears of what heaven may or may not be like. Let him worry about what heaven will be like. Let him worry about what the social climate of this country will be like in 20 years. In the meantime, keep your focus on him. If you do this, I think your confusion and anger will slowly begin to unravel and be replaced with a sense of peace…the peace that passes understanding.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 7:55 PM

Thanks, Jessica. You have given me the best advice I can think of. I need to develop my own relationship with God personally. Not other people’s version. I have never, personally, been discriminated agaisnt, so I appreciate your views as someone who has. By doing what you advise, I will hopefully be able to let go of the hurt and anger that I have experienced all these years. An as long as they don’t try to convert me to their “side”, I may be able to accept that every person has their own version of God, and that it is not really my business to condemn them for their beliefs, or the way that they choose to live their life. You don’t know how much you’ve helped me come to that conclusion. I don’t know why I get so angry when people are living the way that they choose. It’s really not my business. Because of your kind words, I am now going to continue my own special relationship with God-that may be different from others relationships. This realtionship will not be in organized religion or the bible, but my own relationship. And I will not worry about what tomorrow or heaven is like, but attempt all that I can be now. As a person who has been severely depressed for 2 years, you don’t even realize how it feels to have a little hope after 2 years of none. May God bless you, whatever your relationship is. Thanks again.

Jessica Thomas August 31, 2012 at 5:53 AM

Sue, I’m so glad you are finding some clarity.

I’ve dealt with depression quite a bit, so I know how dark and confusing it can be. If you have time, I document some of my experience with depression and my journey to Jesus here:

http://jessicathomasink.com/blog/testimony/writing-for-writings-sake-a-vain-pursuit-part-2/

I hope you continue to hang around. We have some interesting discussions. I may not agree with everything my Christian brothers and sisters say, think, or do, but I’ve found Christians to be the most humble of people and the most willing to say “I’m sorry. Live and let live.” I know the media doesn’t paint Christians that way, and there are certainly some bad apples in the bunch, but I’m speaking from my own personal experience.

If/when you feel inclined to open the Bible, I recommend you start with the New Testament, specifically the first four books of it, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. These are the books that tell of Jesus’ life and death, and they are the books wherein Jesus speaks directly to me and you. (Sorry if you already knew all that!)

Sue August 30, 2012 at 1:02 PM

J.C. You mention the ability of men to physically dominate women by force. Don’t you think this is another way of god hating women? Just asking.

J.S. Clark August 30, 2012 at 5:41 PM

I was making a point about reality. We are all in positions where our “rights” are vulnerable to the powers of other people whether men or women. But that status of weakness whether by legal, social, or economic position, does not make anyone inferior or superior. Therefore the “subordinate” is not inferior simply because they are in a position of weakness. If you view weakness as inferiority, then of course you would have to see yourself as inferior. I have much weakness, but I am inferior to no person.

Sue August 30, 2012 at 8:28 PM

Hi J.S. , I have realized from the people on this blog that I may not have the same version of God that you, or anyone else has. I have learned that everyone is entitled to live the way that they choose, and it is not for me to judge. I choose not to live my life the way that some people on this blog do-but that’s okay. I have decided to have my own relationship with God, without organized religion or the bible to influence me. I have learned from everyone on this blog that have commented, and some I apologized to, for putting down their lifestyle. The one take home I got from you is that I bought a gun. I didn’t realize that men would try to use their heavier frams against me. I also am enrolling in karate class, so I won’t have to keep the gun. Never having been assaulted by anyone, I did not realize that it was so common. Thanks for that. No matter what your lifestyle is, I wish you all the best. I have grown so much from this website.

sue August 27, 2012 at 10:10 PM

Ps. luckily we have laws against the physical domination of.anyone over another. Women would.do themselves an injustice if they use them. Buy a gun. Learn karate. Noone should be physical ally forced to do anything. This is against the law its calleqd assault

sue August 27, 2012 at 10:15 PM

Sorry I meant women would do themselves an injustice if they did not use their right to not be assaulted.

sue August 27, 2012 at 10:24 PM

To Mike Does your wife know that you consider yourself her head/master? Is she OK with the master/ slave relationship. If she is…well, more power to you. Slavery is alive and well in the good old USA.!

sue August 27, 2012 at 10:23 PM

To Matt. Does your wife know that you consider yourself her head/material? Is she OK with the master/ slave relationship. If she is…well, more power to you. Slavery is alive and well in the good old USA.!

Sue August 30, 2012 at 8:51 PM

Thanks to everyone who commented on my comments. I think I have finally made peace with all the different types of lifestyles. Everyone must live the life that fits them, and that may not be the one that fits me. I will never be a complementarian, but that does not mean their lifestyle is wrong. I may never even be an egalitarian, but that doesn’t mean that their lifestyle is wrong. After 30 years of this hatred, do you realize how freeing it feels not to hate so much? and you all did it. You showed me that my lifestyle may not be what you want, and visa versa. I don’t mean to be going on and on, but I appreciate you all so much. I never thought I would appreciate, much less like, people whose views were so far from my own. but you have chosen to live your life your way, and you never asked me to adopt your lifestyle.-which I wouldn’t-it’s not me. It’s like 10 years of psychotherapy in the couple days that I’ve been commenting on this blog. I think I felt guilt that I abandoned my mother’s religion, and then insulted her because of it. Anyway, thanks again to all of you. I may never understand your views, but I appreciate each and every one of you. Thanks again.

sydney January 16, 2013 at 10:20 AM

I had to read a book called the handmaid’s tale for a class, and I became frighted and started having nightmares. This is what led me to religious blog. In reading some of the.comments, it seems that some people have.these view (the views in the book), and I am even more afraid then when I finished the book. In the book, all access to money and jobs were denied to women. Isn’t this a way to make them submissive? If one has no rights, one must be submissive to the one’s that do. Is the goal of some of these religions to make all women submissive, or just within their own church? Complementarians don’t want to take all women’s rights away, do they? Maybe just the rights of women in their churches. I have become in teasingly paranoid because of this book, even changed the.spelling of my name to Sidney (in the book, accounts.were deactivated according to sex). Please, to calm my increasingly frightened views, tell me that you are not trying to take way all women’s Dwight’s,just the ones that are in your church? And even then, you are not trying to take all their rights away-just their right to have authority in their marriages, and the right to speak in church. I hope someone will reply, maybe.you can help to alleviate my fears, and in doing so, helping out a person. I can’t even go to sleep at night because of the.nightmares.

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