Oppressing Women – a Coalition Built on False Premises

You read some things on line and know something’s off but can’t quite put your finger on it:

The first thing I saw was that they equate a right understanding of doctrine with trust in God, and a wrong understanding of doctrine with a lack of trust in God. That is nowhere in the Bible.

But I couldn’t help thinking there was something more basic that was wrong with the message in that tweet. Then it hit me. It relies on a false premise.

A false premise is an incorrect proposition that forms the basis of an argument or syllogism. Since the premise (proposition, or assumption) is not correct, the conclusion drawn may be in error. (False Premise.)

The premise in this case is assumed to be understood by those who ascribe to the gender teachings of The Gospel Coalition: men are God’s ordained leaders over women, women follow men in humble submission. If you can’t see God’s justice in this, The Gospel Coalition says, you must not trust God very much.

The problem, as I said, is the use of a false premise. Here, that premise is that God ordained that men lead while women follow. A corollary to this is their teaching that women who won’t follow men are fighting against God’s will.

The notion that a woman would have to live with being under a man’s leadership is described in Genesis, but it is not at all part of God’s original blessing for his people. It comes instead after the first sin, when God told Eve:

Your desire will be for your husband,
    and he will rule over you. (Genesis 3:16.)

This is not a prescriptive command for how men and women are to relate to one another, but a description of how much things have changed now that sin has entered the world. It is a consequence of sin, not of God’s original intention, which suggests that things were quite different beforehand.

Like maybe husbands didn’t rule over wives before the first sin.

Looking at the relationship of Adam and Eve before that first sin is revealing:

But for Adam no suitable helper was found [among the animals]. So the Lord God caused the man to fall into a deep sleep; and while he was sleeping, he took one of the man’s ribs and then closed up the place with flesh. Then the Lord God made a woman from the rib he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man. (Genesis 2:20-22.)

The original Hebrew language speaking of a suitable helper in the passage gives the impression of someone far superior to what we think of in modern English when we read the word helper; it is a person of equal strength who helps carry the burden, a helper of the same kind as the one being helped. There is no leadership component between the helper and the helped person. In fact, the same Hebrew for “helper” can be found later in the Old Testament when God is described as a helper to his people. God certainly is not the inferior party in that relationship.

The word translated as “helper” is “ezer”, which comes from Hebrew root words meaning strength and power.  The word translated as “suitable” is “kenegdo”, which means facing, corresponding, or equal to.  In English “helper” suggests an assistant or subordinate, but the Hebrew doesn’t carry that connotation.  In fact, the term is used more than 20 times in the Old Testament to describe a superior helper; usually God.  So a better translation is: “I will make him a “strength corresponding to” him, or “a rescuer equal to him”. (Gail Wallace, In The Image Of God: Implications for Gender Equality.)

Since “ezer” is used to describe God as our superior helper, then the word “kenegdo” might be seen as bringing the word “ezer'” down to Adam’s level so that it is clear Eve is a helper equal to Adam rather than superior to him.

ezer

The other telling aspect of the original relationship between the woman and the man in Genesis 2 is how Adam himself looked on Eve, and what the Bible says about Adam’s characterization of their relationship.

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh. (Genesis 2:23-24.)

Adam doesn’t say, “Look, I’ve got a little helper to keep me company.” He declares that she is the same as him, bone and flesh. The Bible confirms that this relationship does not have one person taking the lead while the other follows along. No, it says that in marriage the husband is united back to the wife and they are again one flesh.

Where there is one flesh there is no leader, no follower. So to go back to The Gospel Coalition’s message, my answer is that if by divinely created gender roles you mean the roles men and women have suffered through ever since the first sin, then no. I trust God’s character more than that

But if instead we consider that the truly divinely created gender roles for women and men lead to equality of men and women in function and standing in the home, church, and life then yes, I do see God’s justice in that.

I see it precisely because of my trust in God’s character.

***

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76 Responses to Oppressing Women – a Coalition Built on False Premises

  1. Bev Murrill says:

    That’s very empowering, Tim. It’s good to hear that whole deal about seeing something that looks right but doesn’t feel right, and it’s great to follow that sense through, rather than ignoring it. I’m reposting to Kyria.

  2. Leah says:

    Thanks Tim! You broke that down so well. I think it’s dangerous to judge someone’s heart based on your own personal understanding/interpretation of Scripture. Those who do such in essence are saying, “If you dare to question me, then you are questioning God.”

    • Tim says:

      God works in people in as many different ways as there are people, because he not only made us but knows us as individuals. Someone else’s understanding of a particular doctrine might not be how I see it, but it’s got to be something awfully fundamental (like denying Jesus’ divinity or something) for me to wonder if they believe in Jesus at all.

  3. Jeannie says:

    I appreciate your analysis, Tim. I’m particularly frustrated by the shame/blame that the quote conveys: “Our view on this issue is the correct, God-ordained one; if you’re not comfortable with that, you must not really trust God.” Even the use of “you” sounds judgmental. It sounds like this is a quote from a talk at a conference (given “gospel truth” status with a pretty ShutterStock image), so it’s probably somewhat out of context — but it still really bugs me!

    • Tim says:

      I wonder about the context of the original statement too, Jeannie. Yet the fact that TGC is using it as a stand-alone statement tells me they consider it proper as it is.

      • Xian Atty says:

        Tim –
        Great post! I especially like the false premise analysis.

        This meme has bugged me in part because it seemed familiar. Reading your post brought it back to me. The quote comes from a book Keller wrote a few years ago on gender roles & justice, written to answer the “but that’s not fair” response to Complementarian doctrine. It stuck in my mind because I got into a debate at TGC, when they allowed comments more freely, although they’ve now stripped the comments. http://www.donotlink.com/i79n

        What’s even more disturbing to me is that the full quote is this: “Justice, in the end, is whatever God decrees. So, whether or not you are able to see justice in divinely created gender roles depends largely on how much trust you have in God’s character.”

        When I read that, my first thought was “Danger, danger!” The idea that “justice is whatever God decrees” is what fuels, and (in their own eyes) justifies, every religious fanatic who takes matters into their own hands. Even when the error doesn’t rise to the level of the Inquisition or to violent jihad, it allows the proponent to say “whatever *I believe* God decrees *is* justice.”

        We’re all capable of adopting a false premise. The danger comes in not allowing for that possibility.

        • Tim says:

          “Justice, in the end, is whatever God decrees.”

          That truly is a dangerous statement because it ignores the fact that God is good and loving, and all his justice is good and loving as well.

  4. Carmen S. says:

    I am told my Cox Communications does not recognize the link I’d like to post…so maybe Google likes it? Dr. R. Scott Clark, professor at Westminster Seminary,CA. and an associate pastor at Escondido United Reformed Church, wrote about this in 2012 when Tim Keller hinted this might be a gospel issue. Tim Keller is PCA and supposedly subscribes to the Westminster Confession of Faith. As Dr. Clark points out, The Gospel Coalition is not the church. The Gospel Coalition is a parachurch organization.

    http://www.heildelblog.net ” Why Complementarianism Can’t Be A Gospel Issue.”

    Dr. Clark: “Considered biologically, human beings do not have a gender. We need to stop speaking this way. In Greek, Latin, English, and other languages, nouns are assigned, often arbitrarily to a gender but the same is not true of human beings. It is a mistake ( or worse an intentional plot to destroy the very idea of sexual differences) to confuse the two.”

    • Tim says:

      That’s a helpful quote, Carmen. I’ve written before about male and female (sex) not being synonymous with masculine and feminine (gender).

  5. Yeah, I saw this posted by a few last week, although all in critique I believe. It really is a frustrating quote. Does our view of gender roles really have any connection to our trust in God? I mean I’ve seen what would be labeled as complimentarian and egalitarian relationships that both do and do not demonstrate a trust (or even a belief in some cases) in God. So perhaps the focus is in the wrong place.

    It’s also tough to really take this hard line view of gender roles when reading the BIble. I’m blogging through Exodus and the story of the Hebrew midwives shows two women being remembered by name for going against the most powerful male in the land of Egypt (http://anintermediatefaith.com/?p=2969 if interested). How does that fit with this rigid view of women submitting to men? Not to mention the very saving of Moses which has three women play center roles.

    • Tim says:

      It doesn’t square at all with their view of gender roles, Jeremy. I’ve read a too may comp writers who at most grudgingly admit there might be women here and there God used outside the “right” gender role (e.g., the midwives, Deborah, Huldah), and a few who say outright that even if God did use those women they were still sinning by straying from their proper place.

    • Mary Anne says:

      That’s one of my favorite passages in the Old Testament–think how long ago that’s been, yet we still know the names of those midwives because they feared God and obeyed Him rather than Pharaoh. You never know when or if or how you’re going to make history.

      • It’s really interesting, particularly since there are so few names given in the first couple chapters. We aren’t even told the name of the Pharaoh, but these two women are named to be remembered. It’s not the way you would expect things to be.

  6. Pastor Bob says:

    Topic by topic, issue by issue, one leads the other follows, at time with hesitation.
    Are there clearly defined gender roles ? Yes and No. Books can be written, but generalities are safe if BOTH agree and outside opinions are minimized.

    For example, one does something ‘normally’ done by the other. If unasked, my opinion is unwelcome. Yet when someone has jumped in, I have defended the “unconventional,” since the outsider has no clue as to what makes this family work well an (AND!!!) Serve Him.

    Generalities (gender roles) may help us START to understand some things, but should not be the “end of it all.”
    — Another one about all or nothing being hurtful.

  7. Olivia says:

    Some of the most painful conversations I’ve had about this issue have been on precisely this issue, specifically, the question: Do you think God cannot use you even with these limitations in place? Doesn’t God know best? Why can’t you trust the ‘plain reading’ of the Word?

    My question in response to that is: What makes you think those limitations exist, and are valid? That they are God’s will in the first place? Does the fact that I disagree with you mean that I don’t trust God? Does it mean that I am sinning?

    Thank you for illuminating this issue.

    • Tim says:

      “What makes you think those limitations exist, and are valid? That they are God’s will in the first place?”

      That is a great way to put the question to the other person to prove their point. And in a decent conversation they should come to see that your position is not unreasonable and so there is no basis for doubting your relationship with God.

  8. Kathi says:

    In the creation account we are told that God made man and woman in his image. It is because of this that we are equally created. I’m beginning to think that TGC can not get out of the mindset of constantly living in a fallen world, therefore they cling on to the verse that woman will desire her husband and he will rule over her. They are stuck on a few verses that maintain their viewpoint and cannot look beyond it for how God intended us to live.

    • Tim says:

      I recently re-read Denny Burk’s post where he identifies five passages that he says support comp doctrine. The problem is that it’s a matter of how he interprets the passages rather than the words being solid and unequivocal support for his position.

      The fact that passages lend themselves to one interpretation or another is fine with me. It’s when someone says their reading is the only one, and anyone who disagrees must not trust God’s character. That’s what the TGC meme does.

      • Kathi says:

        I still want some clarification from her in regard to what she means by justice. She clearly is making an if/then statement that draws a definite line in the sand in terms of the comp/egal debate.

        • Tim says:

          It’s the same line I’ve seen some of my fellow Reformed believers draw between themselves and non-reformed folks in the church. They completely miss that thriving in the body of Christ depends on Jesus, not whether one has gender doctrine down right.

  9. Brad says:

    Is part of the difference between egalitarians and complementarians their view of leadership and authority. Do egalitarians basically see leadership and authority as unjust because those things communicate superior worth? While complementarians basically believe that leadership and authority are roles that don’t speak to a person’s intrinsic worth or value, and therefore gender roles are not unjust?

    • Tim says:

      I’ve not yet read an egal writer who says leadership and authority are unjust, Brad. It’s that TGC equates whether you get gender roles right with whether you trust God. It’s nonsense, because whether an individual trusts God is not dependent on getting gender doctrine right. That’s like saying a Reformed believer doesn’t trust God because she or he don’t hold to Arminian doctrine, or vice versa.

      • Brad says:

        Ok, thanks!

        Concerning the quote, I wasn’t really offended by it. I read it as, “Complementarianism doesn’t really make sense to my human mind, but it’s the way God set it up and if you trust and obey Him you will see why it is good.” I am ok with someone saying that because I think it takes a greater leap of faith (more trust) to believe complementarianism. Egalitarianism just makes way more sense practically and logically.

  10. Melody says:

    Bold title. 😉 Good post. Thanks.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks, Melody. I almost went without the “Oppressing Women” preface, but then decided it really captured the problematic conclusions the false premise leads to.

  11. Bravo on continuing to expose deception!

    I have to hand it to TGC, their “Alice” follows their “rabbit trail” all the way down. It is true that IF there are God-given gender roles THEN such will be just, since God is just. However, it is at just this point that the reader of the meme is being implicitly asked to swallow a GIANT assumption. And the kicker is the implied shame for doubting God (instead of one simply coming to a different conclusion about whether there God-given gender roles exist)! It is psychological manipulation based on arrogance, plain and simple; thanks for pointing this out.

    • Tim says:

      “the kicker is the implied shame for doubting God” – and that is one of the big problems with this my-way-or-the-highway-to-hell type of teaching. Any disagreement is met with at least a tsk-tsk and at most with shame-shame on you.

      • “my way or the highway to hell” is a phrase I am stealing.

      • ezerkenegedo says:

        Nobody in the body wants to be accused of not trusting God, or being outside the will of God (another all to common accusation) This is indeed a cruel technique of manipulation (which I have heard it said is a form of witchcraft) A tool any cult leader would be proud to use perhaps? So often they dress up their message and make it attractive with pictures of seemingly happy married couples, or by speaking with soft and caring tones, but with such a harsh and damning message being put forth!. Well done for pointing this out. Also I can only see that what is written in Ephesians and other epistles has so much more clarity and significance when we read ‘head’ as source. – Leanne

        • Tim says:

          “I can only see that what is written in Ephesians and other epistles has so much more clarity and significance when we read ‘head’ as source.” Good point, Leanne. source is different from leader, and has much different doctrinal implications.

  12. OKRickety says:

    Where there is one flesh there is no leader, no follower.

    What is your basis for this?

    Of course, one flesh acts together, but how does that happen?

    The following supposes that you would agree that “one flesh” is equivalent to “one body”.

    [Romans 12:4 NASB] “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function,”

    One body has many members with different functions.

    [1 Cor. 12:21 NASB] ‘And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.”‘

    All members of the body are needed. However, a person chooses where to go with their head (mind) and the other members obey (unless there is some serious dysfunction in the body). Effectively, the head is the leader and the other members follow.

    After all, a head by itself is going nowhere, nor is a body by itself going anywhere.

    Since all members are needed, it is important to pay attention to the other members.

    [1 Cor. 12:25 NASB] “so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”

    In short, I posit that one flesh does indeed have a leader, and the other members follow.

    • Tim says:

      The one flesh of marriage is not the one body of the church, though. They are different organisms and therefore act and interact differently.

    • muzjik says:

      True…but in the Body of Christ, He is the leader and the One the members follow.
      The head (leader) is not just a random (male) member of the Church.

      • Tim says:

        If the word translated as head into English is from the Greek kephela (sp?) as in many instances in the New Testament, then it doesn’t even mean leader. That just wasn’t the idiom in the Greek language at the time. We assume it is because that’s how we use head in English, but that’s not how the Greeks used it.

      • It is true that Jesus is many things to the church, his body. The question is what did Paul mean by “head of the church” as a phrase. Fortunately one can find out, as he used the phrase a few times in his letters. It turns out that the “head of the church” is always doing serving type functions, never any leading type functions. So misreading head as leader is seen to be teleporting a 21st century meaning back into a 1st century text, never a good idea unless one wishes to do a magic trick on oneself.

  13. I appreciate the whole tenor of your argument about “ezer kenegdo.” (Especially “Adam doesn’t say, ‘Look, I’ve got a little helper to keep me company.’”)

    I started out at an evangelical bible college in the 80’s. I felt even then that the faulty reasoning and misleading premises about the inequality of male and female roles were stifling and narrowing. Like wearing a straightjacket! Not that way in my diligent reading of Scripture. Since then, adding a seminary degree, reflection, conversation with theological/pastoral colleagues, and a great deal of theological reflection and instruction, I am relieved and validated to say that my early misgivings were correct.

    Love the post. Pointed argument. Excellent job. @chaplaineliza

    • Tim says:

      “I am relieved and validated to say that my early misgivings were correct.” God’s truth truly is a relief for us all, Eliza, thanks.

  14. Laura Droege says:

    That theme (my view of the Bible is the ONLY one, therefore if you don’t share it, you’re wrong and something in your relationship with Christ is wrong) seems to run throughout a lot of Reformed churches, and not only on gender matters. (I’ve attended more than one Reformed church.) There are a lot of people who seem unable or unwilling to accept that someone can take the Bible seriously and be a faithful, trusting God-follower and not share the doctrinal views that Reformed folk deem “correct.” It leaves me scratching my head in bewilderment. Yes, theology is important, but not more important than Jesus. And I’m afraid that some miss Christ and how he works in crazy, marvelous, inconceivable ways because they’re busy keeping their theology straight and consistent.

    I’m willing to accept that God uses complementarians and egalitarians, Protestants and Catholics, etc., and people with imperfect theology (that would be all of us!) to do his will, and that it’s okay if my theology isn’t perfect because my relationship with God isn’t dependent on that. Now, would it kill the TGC folks to admit that, too?!

    • Tim says:

      “it’s okay if my theology isn’t perfect because my relationship with God isn’t dependent on that”

      Amen, Laura. Would that more believers may look upon one another with that understanding.

    • DesiringFreedominChrist says:

      YES! YES! YES! As one who is much more sympathetic to Wesley than to Calvin but has been trapped in a patriarchal Reformed church for five long, weary years, I totally agree with you. Every sermon, every argument, every overheard comment in the fellowship hall is all the same: WE are right, and any who dare to question or disagree are WRONG! WE know how to read the Bible correctly; YOU do not.

      This Keller/TGC comment that you’re writing about, Tim, has the same tone as everything else I hear from Reformed people.

      It’s truly brilliant how gender role theology is able to tell a woman that if she’s questioning her “role” or the system then she’s clearly just “desiring” to rule over her husband or “take authority” over some man in the church. We all “know” that desiring power and authority is the feminine sin equivalent to a man not taking responsibility for something. A woman who loves God and desires God’s will for her life will struggle to find the courage to even consider there’s another way to read scripture, let alone ask questions or challenge the system. “Oh, you don’t like you’re gender role? Clearly, you have a deficient view of God’s character.” The manipulation is breathtaking.

      This quote, along with so much else I’ve heard the past five years, is borderline spiritually abusive.

      • Tim says:

        I get what you’re saying about the way some Reformed churches present the doctrine. I’ve actually read similar we’ve-got-it-right-and-they-don’t from some Arminian bloggers as well.

        To give you some encouragement in staying in fellowship with Reformed belisvers, keep in mind that I am one. 😉

      • Laura Droege says:

        What’s interesting to me is that I didn’t encounter this attitude (at this extreme, at least) at the first PCA reformed church I attended. There was more tolerance for other views (until the church split, but that’s another story). Of course, I wasn’t as openly egalitarian then, so that might be a factor. The other big difference between the two churches is what types of jobs the leadership did in their non-church life; the first church had elders who were doctors, businessmen, people who had to listen to other people for a living, and this current church has more engineers. And (I have to be careful, because my husband is an engineer and he isn’t like this) as a rule, the types of engineers in our area are not open-minded on personal/theological views. They have very logical, orderly minds, which can be wonderful for science/technology but can be exasperating for personal relationships!

  15. Angie says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed this post and the comments.

  16. parmadur says:

    “Where there is one flesh there is no leader, no follower.”

    What about the relationship between Jesus and God the Father, or the relationship between Jesus and the Church? The Trinity is One and Three in a deeper and profounder way than a married couple (Jesus and His Bride, or any earthly couple) is One and Two, yet the marriage relationship is intended to mirror and give a foretaste of the oneness we will share with Him in that relationship (see Jesus’ prayer in John 17, “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us”, and Ephesians 5 that marriage is a picture of the relationship between the church and Christ “This mystery [two becoming one] is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”). In both the Father-Jesus and the Jesus-Church relationship, one party is the clear leader and the other the clear follower. Jesus said that He came to do His Father’s will (“not my will but thine be done”), indicating a leader-follower status. And I think no Christian would argue that the Church is not supposed to follow Christ!

    I am curious as to what you meant – whether I am misunderstanding your statement, or if there is a different way of looking at the issue. Thank you for your time and response.

    • Tim says:

      I think part of the issue is that while there are some analogies that can be drawn between a married couple and Jesus with the church, they are no more than analogies. True likeness is absent. So while the church is the bride of Christ, it is not the same as a man and woman who are both created beings that started together, were separated in the garden when God drew Even from Adam’s flesh and then are joined as one flesh again. No one in the Bible ever described Jesus and his Bride in that fashion.

    • muzjik says:

      Here is something I’ve been mulling over and trying to wrap my head around…and please forgive me, because I know I won’t explain my thoughts well.

      Does Paul use marriage as a analogy/model to describe the Christ-Church relationship or does he use the Christ-Church relationship as an analogy/model to describe marriage?

      It seems to me that the first is Paul using a familiar example – marriage – to try to describe the mystery of Christ’s relationship to His bride – the Church.

      The second (and I’ve heard it taught this way) tells us that marriage is supposed to provide an example and picture to the world of the Christ/Church relationship with the husband taking the role of Christ (head/authority/leader) and the wife taking the role of the Church (submissive/obedient/subject).

      The problem I bump up against is that Christ’s relationship to the Church is that of Savior, cleansing the defiled one of sin…a role which a husband can not fulfill in regards to his wife (unless one is Mormon). In addition, the husband is part of the redeemed, cleansed and sanctified Body…therefore, owing submissive obedience to…himself?
      Finally, and this is, of course, huge: Christ is the Lord, God and is incapable of acting sinfully toward us. We follow and obey, in part, because we believe that. A sinful man can never model that within his marriage.

      And to add to the confusion, the wife is also supposed to be Christ in this model, extending grace and forgiving her husband when he does sin against her, as he will inevitably do.

      Does this make any sense?

      • Tim says:

        I read that passage in the first alternative you suggest, not the second. The analogy works the one way but too quickly falls apart the other.

  17. Bill M says:

    Thanks for the useful post. It is a good deconstruction of TGC’s claim followed by an equally excellent construction of Genesis 2. Some might call it bias but I always marvel at a good articulation of something I already knew but couldn’t put a handle on.

    • Tim says:

      I think that’s part of our growth in God. He brings us to understand things that – because we are now alive in Christ – we are already aware of but haven’t yet been able to articulate.

  18. Jeff Staum says:

    Thank you for presenting your perspective here.
    I would like to offer a possible challenge to it though; in 1 Cor 11 the Apostle Paul offers his interpretation for the purpose of the complimentarian perspective. He claims that God ordained male leadership before the fall (not as a result of the fall). That the fact that woman was made after, from, and for man is the basis for a husband’s leadership at home.
    In the hermeneutics I have studied, one of the principles I learned was “let Scripture interpret Scripture”.

    Getting to the main point of your article (as I understand it), I do believe it is a faith issue. But, I can understand how people reject this premise. At face level it appears to be just what you described: a logical fallacy.
    Perhaps this will head some light:
    If (at face value) the Bible teaches husbands to love their wife (the way Christ loves the church), and if wives are instructed to submit to their husband (the way that the church submits to Jesus). We then have two options:
    1. Accept it at face value. Place our faith in a God who inspired the writers of Scripture. Believe that God would not have allowed a wrong teaching to be put into the Bible. Believe that God’s right and wrong transcend time and culture, so His morality would not be constrained by cultural norms

    or 2. We can look at how our modern society views moral issues. Then look back at the pages of the Bible through that lens and interpret the text not from the understanding of “what did the author intend to say’ but rather, what do I think he may have said if he was writing in the society/culture i am now living in

    This is where i (and perhaps Kathy Keller) get our perspective on it being a faith issue. The Bible clearly describes gender roles (not values). So we can either accept them on faith, or we can doubt the idea that God was able to clearly communicate timeless truths through the medium of Scripture.

    To be clear, I would not say people who disagree are intentionally doubting God, more of an ipso facto kind of doubt. For example; I, myself doubt God’s goodness every time i sin. Even if i don’t think i doubt Him, I demonstrate that in that moment, I doubt Him, His character, and His goodness.
    In a sense I don’t doubt God (because I believe in Him, His Son, etc), but by my actions/beliefs, I demonstrate that at various moments I do doubt Him.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for those well thought out points, Jeff. One thing to keep in mind is that in Ephesians 5 the word translated head is not used as a metaphor for leader. The Greek word is used for source and that makes sense in English too when you see Paul immediately go to the creation account where Eve is taken from Adam’s side, in that he is the source. Christ is the source of the church in Paul’s argument here, meaning the church is inseparable from Christ. Paul teaches that the man and woman are likewise inseparable, and that is why I wrote my post as well. Neither Genesis 2 nor Ephesians 5 are about leadership but about being one.

    • The first point is that Scripture is NOT clear about gender roles. It is true that all Scripture was written in cultures that where patriarchy was assumed, but that is far from claiming that patriarchy was endorsed by God in a transcultural way; for example, all Scripture was written in times when slavery was assumed, but this is far from claiming that slavery was endorsed by God in a transcultural way. Nowhere in Scripture does it say that God endorses gender roles explicitly, that is an interpretation and once you see that one is interpreting ancient text in every book of Scripture, one needs to be humble and agree that one might be doing it wrong, might be making mistakes because of the large difference between now and then in terms of language, culture, etc. This is especially true with Paul’s writing, if Peter writing the 1st century says that Paul says some things that people can misunderstand, how much more is this true for us in the 21st century.

      You next present a false dichotomy. Either (A) I accept the gender roles as presented in Eph 5 and elsewhere OR (B) I rebel against them for various reasons and water them down at best. This assumes there is no other way to understand Eph 5 and other similar passages except as “clearly” defining gender roles. There is at least one other way to understand Eph 5, for example, and I will state it. (C) Paul is EMPHASIZING certain things to husbands and wives respectively that are true for all believers.

      Why would Paul do this? First one sees that the teaching unit that this text is a part of is Eph 5:15-6:9. This is a part of the analysis that is often omitted, and taking text out of a teaching unit is a way to take text out of its immediate context. The next thing to notice is that the teaching unit discusses slavery, but we do not have slaves in the West in the 21st century. This locates this portion of the test to be an appropriate teaching for circumstances that are very different from ours, what is going on is Paul is giving a 1st century application of a principle. In fact the principle is given in Eph 5:21 and it is the Kingdom principle of mutual submission, all believers are to submit “one to another”. Recall that this phrase is used a LOT to describe the behavior of believers, we are to love one another, forgive one another, etc.

      My claim is that Eph 5:22-6:9 then gives 6 1st century APPLICATIONS of the Kingdom principle of mutual submission, that is Paul gave practical advice to his immediate (1st century) audience about how they were to accomplish some of the implications of mutual submission among believers. A husband is to love his wife as Christ loves the church, serving her. Right at this point, here is a CRUCIAL question to ask. If a wife also to use Christ as her model? Yes, she is. Is a wife to love her husband as Christ loves the church, serving him? Yes, she is.

      And Paul says a wife is to respect her husband. Does this mean a husband does not need to respect his wife? No, of course not.

      Once one sees that Paul is giving emphases to things that are expected of every believer, one can ask why he is doing this. I think the reason is that there were temptations to NOT do these things in the 1st century culture. A husband was told he had all the power in a marriage by the culture and by Roman law, he is to lay down that power and serve his wife. A wife might suffer a huge loss of status in the 1st century culture if her husband was a believer, so instead of possibly disrespecting him, she is told to respect him.

  19. Darlene says:

    Tim, first time commenting here. Thank you for the clarity on such a controversial issue among Christians. I have taken part in discussions of this nature regarding wifely submission in marriage on a Facebook site. The misogynist views are astounding.

    Recently I posted a scenario in which a husband and wife have differing political views on the presidential candidates. I asked the question that if a husband requires his wife to vote according to his wants and desires, should she submit, even if it would be going against her convictions? The overarching reply from those who commented was: ‘Yes. She is required by Scripture to be obedient to her husband and submit.’ All who responded in this fashion were men. No surprise there. One man asked me: “So is your basic premise that since some men are known to abuse their God-given authority, women are justified in rebelling against that authority as they see fit?” Such a question is quite revealing. It assumes that women have no right to use the wisdom, knowledge, and understanding God has given to them to make any decisions. It’s as if she is required to suppress her mind and thoughts to acquiesce to her husband’s will at all times. He went on to say: “It is my contention that women who submit to their husbands are generally more content than those who are demanding their rights and incessantly whining about how unfair it is because this is God’s plan. There is a reason we are given advice in Proverbs 27:15.”

    I basically replied to this guy that I am familiar with those who use the buzz words meant to shut down communication such as the word “whining.” I told him that whining according to some means expressing one’s convictions, or stating someone’s opinions or beliefs, or giving advice. And of course, with complementarians it is applied to women since in that system women have no right to have a voice if it in any way disagrees with her husband – her male head. I am convinced that complementarianism is a system that lays the foundation for abuse. The wife effectively becomes infantalized and the marriage, rather than being a partnership between two people, becomes a relationship akin to a father and child.

    • Yes, exactly, the wife is infantilized and not treated like a fully functioning adult (assuming she is one). And even in the few cases when a wife is not a fully functioning adult, then the husband is to do his best to fill in any gaps, but not to override her will except perhaps for her own well being.

      It is also true that comp. doctrine facilitates abuse. I have read that the number 2 prevalent indicator of an abusive marriage is a strong belief that the man is in charge (the number 1 is substance abuse). An indicator is not a sure thing, but it is a marker of things to look for.

    • Tim says:

      The father and child nature is something I’ve read some patriarchalists use as the best model for a husband and wife, actually. Blech. And as for men having a God-given role over women, I’d like to see the person support that with more than relying on taking Ephesians 5 out of context.

      • yael58 says:

        Tim, sorry I’m coming in late to this conversation but I feel constrained to say this…
        It’s funny you should mention how some patriarchalists use the father/child nature as the ideal for the husband/wife relationship.
        I’ve always thought that if I had to relate to my husband as an authority figure over me, I would likely have no sexual desire for him.
        It would seem somewhat incestuous to me.
        Double blech.

        • Tim says:

          Double blech is right, Yael.

        • Terri says:

          Yael58 — egalitarian wife here, married to a firmly complementarian husband (long story). You are spot-on. This “icky” skin-crawling feeling has been one of several major factors gutting our marriage. No one healthy desires their father or even father figure.

  20. Maria Echevarria says:

    Annoyed… Today someone in leadership at my church said (preaching) that the churches are getting so crazy that they are denying authority lines in the households…. That is so crazy right???

    • Tim says:

      Authority lines? It’s a phrase not found in the Bible that I know of.

      • Maria says:

        I can understand that it can be interpreted or inferred that there are authority lines in households…. That I get… but from that to saying that churches are getting crazy to the level of denying authority lines in households it is stretching it…. I have always been part of churches that empower women in ministry but adhere to the headship at home.. I once thought that this was definitely the only way to interpret the Bible until a couple of years ago when I started reading and studying other ways… I understand the resistance and “ignorance” but it still aggravates me the tone in which others that differ are referred to…Gotta love them!

  21. Pingback: Marriage: A Means to Holiness or to Happiness? | Tim's Blog – Just One Train Wreck After Another

  22. hengej says:

    This article has radically changed my thinking!!! Wow! “The notion that a woman would have to live with being under a man’s leadership is described in Genesis, but it is not at all part of God’s original blessing for his people.”

    This opens so many possibilities! By his logic, I don’t need to worry about Jesus’ teachings or his work on the cross because humans didn’t originally need a savior. It wasn’t apart “of God’s original blessing for his people”! I get it now! Thank you so much for opening my thinking!

    • Tim says:

      The context of the post is whether male headship is God’s present plan for his people, not the need for salvation due to the Fall, and whether sering things this way really means one must not be taking the Bible seriously. If you’d like to engage on that topic constructively instead of taking my points out of context, I’d enjoy hearing what you have to say.

      • hengej says:

        Neither have you addressed my argument (granted, veiled in sarcasm though it was).

        I’ll now express clearly what I’m saying, your “premise” is also false. Which leads to your wrong conclusion. I’m taking your argumentation to the next level using your own faulty logic.

        To be even clearer, your wrong premise is that we can compare the pre-fall intentions of God to the clear direction in the writings of Paul and conclude the pre-fall intentions are even remotely applicable today in a fallen world. I understand you don’t think Paul was saying Men should be heads of the house. That’s where our disagreement lies and I won’t get into a debate on this since we’re both convinced of our sides and wouldn’t be constructive.

        Ultimately, you haven’t furthered your position via this blog post since your post was based on a faulty premise which, ironically, was the catalyst to you writing out this poorly thought out argument

        • momzilla76 says:

          Pre fall both male and female were created in the image of God and both received the dominion and multiply command. Adam’s rejoicing over their unity. I still have yet to figure out how that translates to Adam leads and Eve follows. Any input that sticks with the passage and instead of the usual inferences onto the text?

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