Do We Even Need Headship?

8:27 PM

The last time I wrote about egalitarianism, I wrote against it as a teenage girl trying to shove herself in the stay-at-home daughter box. I didn't know anything about being a woman, being independent, or being in a relationship that requires headship and submission. As of now, I know a little bit more about being a woman, a decent amount about being independent, and despite the fact that I've been seriously dating for over two years, I still know nothing about a relationship that requires headship and submission.

It's my boyfriend's fault, actually. He goes out of his way to lay down his life for me by letting me call him when he's tired and chat his ear off about why today stressed me out. He's constantly asking for my advice and help as he looks into grad schools. The other day, my normally quiet, unopinionated man lectured me on not caring enough about my own future: "Why do you assume that we have to put me through grad school first? What about you? Maybe we should put you through grad school first. I'm not going to let your dream die for mine." 

I thought he was kidding. He wasn't. He turned on its head my perfect little plan of me working my butt off at a lame entry-level job for his expensive doctorate degree. He threw down his dreams and his plans before my feet. That was one of the most terrifying moments in our relationship -- to look point-blank in the face of fierce, selfless love.

With a man who's willing to lay down his life, love me like Christ, and submit "one to another," we don't worry much about the whole male headship thing. It just never comes up. We don't argue about who leads and who follows because I'm so busy submitting what I want to him and he's so busy submitting what he wants to me. 

We've never discussed much about "roles" in marriage, mostly because we don't need them. When we hang out on weekends, he starts cooking pancakes because we're hungry, and I wash the dishes because he cooked. When we went back to Wisconsin after our summer apart in Michigan, I drove the car, paid for the gas, and washed the windows because it's my car. (He provided the Celtic music and the backseat driving.) When we go out to eat, he usually pays for the meal, but sometimes I treat him because we're both broke college kids -- who doesn't love a free meal? When we get to the door, the first person props it open. When we need to carry tons of stuff across campus, he's always willing to sling my backpack over his shoulder, and I'm willing to do the same. 

Exclusive male leadership never played a role in our relationship. We mutually decided to start dating. (I actually initiated the awkward define-the-relationship talk that gave him enough courage to confess his crush on me.) Unlike some couples, we never did the awkward dance of "who makes the next move" just because our relationship story precluded that -- he followed me around, I tried to get away from him, and we fell in love. He pursued me in the beginning, I pursued him when things got rough and schedules got tight, and we now play phone tag as a long-distance couple.

The one time the headship/submission thing came into play was when I badly wanted to get married, he wanted to wait, and I got mad at him for his lack of readiness. I concluded that I just needed to submit to his leadership and abide by his decision. While the headship model helped me see my need to respect his decision, I could have arrived at a similar conclusion by realizing that common sense and Christian love dictates respecting someone's feelings when he says he doesn't want to get married quite yet. (Duh, Bailey. Duh.) I didn't need to submit to his leadership, per se. I just needed to respect his feelings like any loving Christian should -- problem solved.

The other time headship/submission came into play was at the beginning of our relationship. I freaked out over how few years he had followed Christ and the little theological language he could speak. How could I possibly submit to a man who was my spiritual "inferior"? I almost broke up with him over that concern -- not because I felt I couldn't learn from him but because I was afraid he would learn too much from me. How did that fit into the headship model? It turns out that Erich badly needed my outspoken opinions and bold convictions (and I needed his quiet faith and discipline -- he's definitely the better of us two!). He needed my teaching. He wanted it. It didn't hurt his pride in the least for his girlfriend to explain a doctrinal issue to him.

You know, I'm always afraid that my outspokenness, stubbornness, and penchant for blazing the trail on all our mutual decisions scares him. Far from it! He tells me all the time that he respects what I think and doesn't want me to stop giving my opinions or planning my plans. He loves when I stand on my own two feet and cut out the clingy, whiny girlfriend act that (newsflash) is never attractive to any guy anywhere. He doesn't want my submission to his "authority." He wants me to be his ezer -- the strong, wise helper ready to kick butt at his side.

My accidentally egalitarian relationship has me questioning whether headship is even necessary for a healthy relationship where the man lays down his life for the woman and the woman lays down her life for him in mutual submission. If both the man and the woman are exemplifying Christ's humility and love to each other, when does headship, power, and authority even come into play? 

Further, in a relationship where both husband and wife strive for the other's good, how can the headship model improve their relationship? Why does authority need to compel me to submit when love already compels me?

And how does it improve a man's ability to lay down his life for his wife when he holds the trump card -- "I'm the head, and this is what we're doing"? How does that trump card encourage him to negotiate further with his wife, listen to her side, and seek out better compromises so that both parties end up happy? Businesses and governments do it every day. Why can't two people who became one flesh do the same?

Like silencing women gifted by the Spirit for the edification of the church, it makes no sense to me why Scripture belabors the point of mutual submission, humility, and equality only to reinforce a headship model that has little relevance for healthy relationships. There must be some way of reconciling God's truth revealed in Scripture with God's truth revealed in healthy, happy, mutually submissive and loving relationships. 

Does your relationship need headship?

Photo Credz: Tara Pearce

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64 impressions

  1. This. Was. Awesome.

    I've been thinking about headship, submission and authority off and on all year. I've come to pretty much the same conclusions you have, but I wasn't quiet sure how it would work out in real life, or if it would work well in real life. It is so refreshing to actually know that real people can have a healthy, loving relationship without heavy-handed headship. So thank you for sharing this, I really appreciate it!

    1. Thank YOU for your encouragement! I can assure you that it works super well in my relationship and in many other "egalitarian" relationships. :) It's a joyous thing when both the man and the woman love each other.

  2. A simple illustration can point out the most basic need for Scripture's teaching.

    What if two people in a relationship aren't living in Christian love toward each other? Perhaps the extreme example might be a woman married to a non-Christian man. Such a man is not ruled by the Spirit but rather by the flesh. Since there will be no meeting of the spirit between these two marriage partners, should the woman go her own way? How is a woman to please God in this marriage?

    When people are living in the perfection of love, in a Spirit filled way, an awful lot of the Bible instruction can feel unnecessary. It is in broken relationships (whether marriage or just plain old life) that much of scripture's guidance begins to find its weight.

    If a woman comes to know Christ and at that point in her life realizes she is in a marriage to a fleshly, self-centred jerk--what to do? The Bible teaching on submission in the context of marriage then gives the woman guidance on how to honor God in a relationship when the other partner is not seeking that goal.

    Separately, it is unfortunate that so much of Christian culture has accepted the world's idea of what is meant by submission, headship, and authority--worldly formulations that I do not agree with. Of course I cannot read your mind, so I don't know where you are coming from. But a fundamental question that needs to be asked is, "are you [anyone] rightly understanding God's truth in Scripture?" If not, then have you just set up a false dichotomy in your concluding question?

    Ah, questions, questions.

    1. I disagree, Rundy. The headship/submission model is allegedly what a HEALTHY relationship should look like. There will be more instances where a woman should NOT submit to her husband if her husband is a fleshly, self-centered jerk or abusive. Teaching a woman to submit in all things to a man who does not love her selflessly is a recipe for coddling abusive men.

      In a broken relationship like you mentioned, the man does not have selfless, sacrificial leadership. He only has brute power and authority -- a kind of authority a husband is not authorized to have. I'd argue that using the headship/submission model in a broken relationship will end up looking like the world's idea of submission, headship, and authority.

    2. See, I think too often "submission" is thought of as a state of being rather than a tool in a Christian's kit of coping with life. I really think submission is a recommendation for dealing with life (like, for example, celibacy or marriage could also be) rather than an inherently good or bad thing.

      I think 1 Peter 2-3 could be used to back up Rundy's point, however I would not say "submission" is indicative of either healthy or unhealthy relationships since it is not a state of being, but an action and attitude which can be undertaken for a specific goal (in 1 Peter, the conviction of the unrighteous or disobedient husbands and masters). For this reason, I believe Christian submission (as outlined in 1 Peter) to be a subversive submission which undercuts sin with respect, gentleness (3:2-5) and radical courage (3:6). In this society, women and slaves had little to no legal recourse in the case of damaging relationships and here, Peter is offering a courageous action they can take, which is also an act of radical autonomy, where you reject sin and a broken society, yet do so without losing your temper, raging in emotion, or damaging the testimony of Christ in some way (or even putting yourself in danger of divorce or domestic violence).

      Honestly, if I ever go to seminary/grad school for theology, my thesis will be on "Submission as Subversion in 1 Peter".

    3. Wow, that's interesting. I've never thought about it like that. Along with this idea of "subversive" submission, it's also interesting to note that household codes always include the master/slave relationship. Christians today are appalled at the idea of arguing that Christians can hold slaves, but here they are in all of the household codes --- neither Paul nor Peter argue against slavery; they merely give instructions to masters and slaves on how to live out those positions in a Christ-like way. Many have suggested that this patriarchal understanding of women's roles is the same --- Paul and Peter aren't necessarily affirming the patriarchal understanding of women's role (i.e., absolute submission) and they aren't speaking against it; they're merely speaking the Gospel into already-established cultural roles.

      If that's the case, then submission really is subversive -- it's subversive because love automatically breaks down these hierarchical barriers. Love eradicated slavery and brought slaves to an equal footing with their masters. And maybe love eradicates patriarchy and brings women to an equal footing with their husbands. I wrote this post because I felt like that's what love is doing in me and my boyfriend's relationship: we've moved beyond the cultural "structure" of our relationship and into the main point of what God wants us to do --- LOVE. We haven't lost anything by abandoning the hierarchical structure. In fact, we feel like we gained.

      As a side note, this interpretation of the household codes makes Scripture SO MUCH easier to take. Frankly, Peter always offended me when he called women "weaker vessels" and such talk. I always felt that the NT was out-of-touch with how women are today -- strong, intelligent, educated, and capable of leadership. But with this interpretation of the household codes, it doesn't make the apostles sexist --- they're just accurately describing the prevalence of young, uneducated wives, a situation very different from today's culture.

    4. EE pretty much states my thoughts when she says, "I would not say 'submission' is indicative of either healthy or unhealthy relationships since it is not a state of being, but an action and attitude which can be undertaken for a specific goal."

  3. Very interesting! I don't know if we "need" headship, exactly, but I view it as a pattern to follow. The church follows Christ, and the relationship between the man and the woman is similar. But since every relationship is different, the way a loving, Christ-honoring relationship looks would probably look different in every case too.

  4. Preface: Dating is kind of its own weird thing, because you are more than friends but not yet husband and wife, and "headship" is a word fraught with connotations (oh for a language without connotations!), so I'm not going to use it in my comment. Also, we just studied this at church! And in small group! And in the sermon at my brother's wedding a week ago!

    So, wives are to submit to their husbands (their *own* husbands, not all men everywhere all the time) as to the Lord. Husbands are to love their wives as Christ loved the church. Done right, it all evens out anyway, like you note here. But what about those times when a husband and wife are deadlocked and a decision has to be made? Who gets the final say when you've talked and talked and can't agree or compromise?

    The husband is also to lead the family because he will be the one held accountable by God for his leadership of his wife. We are not held responsible for our leadership of our husbands, because we don't lead them. We will be held accountable for our submission. The way I see it, given the grave duty my husband has been given, I should do everything I can to not make his leading harder by trying to usurp his authority. (My theoretical husband; I'm not married.) Honestly, this is a great relief to me--I don't have to be in charge. I don't have to carry the weight of the hard decisions (but you know I will, because when something weighs heavy on a husband, it tends to weigh on the wife as well, because she loves him. Bear one another's burdens and all that.) But, I also don't get to abdicate completely or play stupid; most any husband would be a fool not to consult his wife on things, unless she's the fool in the relationship. Still, despite being a relief, this probably won't be easy for me, or for most women, I suspect. It's part of the curse: your desire will be for your husband. This isn't sexual desire, because what sort of curse is that? It's desire for his position in the family.

    Side note: We recently finished a study of Ephesians at my church, and my pastor, who has been married 30 years, noted that he only had to make a decision as a husband and the final authority a handful of times over the years. The vast majority of times when he and his wife disagreed, on both major and minor issues, they could talk it out and come to an agreement that they were both okay with. So in a marriage that follows the scriptural commands, it's not like the husband keeping the wife browbeaten or anything.

    1. In my research, all the outspoken egalitarian couples say they've never once come to a position of deadlock. They just keep discussing it and discussing it until a compromise is made. Businesses do this. Governments do this. And those decisions are made among more than just two people who are one flesh -- they're made among rivals or detached business partners. I just don't buy the need to for someone to have to take the lead. :) And I say this from personal experience -- Erich and I are opposites in almost every single way imaginable. In both big and small decisions, we've reached deadlock so many times, to the point where I thought we'd have to break up and go separate ways. But we never stayed in deadlock. We've worked it out because UNITY was always more appealing than having our own way.

      And that's what I see the point of Ephesians 5 as -- uniting husband and wife even as Christ and the church will be united, a beautiful, inexplicable mystery. Headship as anything else but sacrificial loves seems to undermine that, because then you have a husband making the decision in disunity with his wife's better judgment.

    2. Wow, I need to not write comments late at night... sorry for the ramblings.

      To be fair about it, you also have the times where a husband makes the right decision over his wife's bad judgment. But everyone has bad ideas some of the time, so saying I don't have to do x because sometimes he/she has bad ideas is missing the point, I think. Unless the point is to love each other in spite of our flaws.

      Ultimately, a marriage that follows the biblical pattern will play out in egalitarian-looking ways. But that is subtly different than actually having an egalitarian marriage. I see several passages in the New Testament that clearly state that men and women are equal in the eyes of God, but I don't see anything that contradicts the husband-leading, wife-submitting model, which follows the Christ-leading, church-submitting model. (There's probably a whole subargument concerning the fact that my (still theoretical) husband and I are equals as human beings, whereas Christ and the church are not and never will be equals, but I'm not going to write a treatise here in your comment box.) Anyway, my submission has nothing to do with the supposed inferiority of women in general or me individually. It doesn't even really have anything to do with my husband. Submission is a command of God to me, as a way of honoring God by my obedience. It's really more about my relationship with God than my relationship with another person.

  5. I think the idea of headship was initiated by men who wanted to dominate women. It is totally unnecessary in a mature relationship. Remember that most Christian marriage advice that emphasizes headship also emphasizes a courtship-type model where women are not encouraged to be independent or have dreams of their own. Mature adults in a healthy relationship don't have to have one person dominant.

    1. I agree, Heather. I've been reading about how Paul's household codes were a radical reworking of the Roman household codes, which had already established a rigid patriarchy. Patriarchy was already in place as the cultural norm. Paul wasn't reaffirming patriarchy as the God-given model; he was infusing it with Christ to break down male dominance in order to promote submissive unity between husband and wife, even as there would be unity between Christ and the church.

  6. * raises tentative hand * Uhh... Dumb question alert: is there a scriptural reference to "headship"?

    1. :D Ephesians 5 talks about the husband as "the head," and is the primary Scriptural reference everyone is debating. 1 Peter 3:1-7 also talks about women submitting and calling their husbands "lord." It's interesting that husband's "authority" seems to be only about holding men accountable for loving, understanding, and honoring their wives -- not ruling over them. It seems that the heart of "leadership" is, actually, love -- not hierarchy. That's why I think headship misses the point.

  7. Hhhmm. I started reading this post thinking, based on the title, that I would not agree with it. However, I found that I actually agree with most of it. :)
    I would say, we need headship because God has placed a lot of responsibility on husbands and fathers and they have to answer to Him about not only their own spiritual walk, but also their wives' and children's spiritual walk and way of life. Headship has nothing to do with power, control, and dominance. Those things have to do with abuse and dysfunction. From my experience, watching my parents and being married for a short time myself, headship and submission are like housework - if everything is working properly, you don't notice them. It is only noticed if they are being done wrong or not at all, like people notice if you don't clean the bathroom but don't notice if you do. Ultimately, I think in a healthy relationship major (and probably minor) decisions are made jointly, but the husband has the responsibility before God to make sure that the decisions are God-glorifying and good for the family. This should also be first in the wife's mind, and if it is, there should be no problem. The husband has the authority (and responsibility) to make sure his home and family are decent and in good order so to speak, but often the wife as his helpmeet actually takes care of a lot of the details.
    I know for me the idea of headship and submission makes me feel secure. Submission means practically for me, right now at least, that I serve my husband by working together with him for the good of our home and future. I do a lot of things "for" him, like cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping. To some this looks oppressive, but I enjoy these things and I am not strong enough to work a full time job, whereas he doesn't enjoy housework and is strong enough to work a demanding job. It is a situation of cooperation where I don't have to be afraid of becoming hungry or homeless, and he doesn't have to try to keep up a house and a job. We both have more free time and are able to enjoy each other's company more. :)
    Also a last point: I have heard in a sermon on this passage that in the Greek Ephesians 5:21 and 22 are actually one sentence, "... submitting to one another in the fear of God - wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord." And then "Husbands, love your wives..." is a continuation of the thought. Basically what the pastor was saying is that the "wives submit" part and the "husbands love" part were an explanation of "submitting to one another in the fear of God." Explained that way, there really is no room for dominance, bullying, OR doormats :)
    Sorry for such a long winded, rambly comment. I hope you can understand my point, because I am not at all sure that it is clear.

    1. You have some very helpful thoughts, Justine! I'm not sure I agree that a husband is responsible for his wife's and children's lives and choices. I don't see that anywhere in Scripture. The only headship I see explained is the husband laying down his life for his wife. Nor do I personally feel like it is a burden for a wife to work. I enjoy working my job. It's housework that I don't enjoy!

    2. After reading your response, I have to say I don't agree with you after all. I do agree that it is not necessarily a burden for a wife to work, but I don't agree that we don't need headship or that a husband isn't responsible for his family. Specifically see Ephesians 5:23-24, where Paul states very clearly that the husband is head of the wife just as Christ is head of the church, and the wife is to be subject to her husband as the church is subject to Christ. Also see 1 Timothy 3: 4-5 and verse 12. These speak specifically to elders and deacons, but I believe that the qualifications for these offices should be a standard for all men in the church. I am also going to comment on your next post, as the conversation seems to be continuing there. :)

    3. I have to agree with you, Justine! You summed up my position perfectly.

      And Bailey, I do believe that a husband is somewhat responsible for his family, but that doesn't mean that they don't answer to God as well. They are responsible for their own actions too. It's sort of a paradox in my mind, I guess.

    4. A question for you ladies, one that I struggled with when I was more complementarian: where does the Bible say that headship means "responsible for one's wife"? It's fine to say the husband has headship, but I don't see quite the definition that you ladies are describing.

    5. I think that if the husband is the one making the ultimate decisions as the head of his family then he should be responsible for those decisions. I don't think he should be responsible for his family's actions in response to that (except his own, of course); I definitely don't believe that he's responsible for their souls-not that I thought you thought I thought that. :)

      I would add that in Genesis 3, even though Eve took the fruit first, God asked Adam "what have you done?". Obviously, God knew Eve had done it first, but Adam was responsible for her.

      I'd have to think of/look up other places where I see that theme.

    6. God also asked Eve what she had done. He then punished Eve. To me, it sounds like Eve was responsible for her own actions and consequences. The irony is that both Adam and Eve tried to pin their own sin's blame on somebody else -- but it didn't work. They both received questioning and punishment separately and individually. I don't see where there's much credence for Adam taking responsibility for Eve's actions when God confronted and punished her without mediation from her husband.

    7. Yes, He did! I just meant that he asked Adam first even though Eve did it first. Eve was definitely responsible for her own actions; we all are. I guess what I mean is that Adam was partly to blame because he didn't try to stop her. He should have been looking out for her. Obviously, there reaches a point where we can't stop someone from doing what they're going to do. But we should try.

      So maybe I'm not talking about responsibility. Maybe I'm talking about love.


    8. Yes, love! I agree. At the same time, I really don't think that's an argument for headship meaning male responsibility for a wife's decisions. Asking Adam first could be a literary device to make Adam blame Eve, and Eve blame the serpent. It wouldn't work if God started with Eve. God also is addressing the three backwards of how they actually sinned -- Adam sinned last but was questioned first. I don't know enough about Hebrew literature to definitively claim what the significance of that reversal was, but I see little evidence for a whole theory on gender roles. :)

    9. I agree! It was just one instance I thought of and as I went on I realized that I meant something different from responsibility.

  8. Lol, the story of how you met Erich and started dating is like a carbon copy of my story. It was comforting to read about yours. : P Many awkward moments, but great times! Especially the moment when you realize that maybe you don't want to run away from him anymore. : )

    1. Yesssss! Someday I'm going to finish writing out all of our love story. You'll have to tell me how similar our full stories are!

  9. Hey Bailey! So... quick thought... you know me and where I'm coming from, so no surprises here. :-D

    I thought it was very interesting how you phrased this:

    "it makes no sense to me why Scripture belabors the point of mutual submission, humility, and equality only to reinforce a headship model that has little relevance for healthy relationships. There must be some way of reconciling God's truth revealed in Scripture with God's truth revealed in healthy, happy, mutually submissive and loving relationships."

    It seems to me that... well... frankly... your quarrel is with Scripture. It warn't angry patriarchalists who said that the husband is the head of the wife... it was the Holy Spirit through Paul. And if that's what God's Word says, then it falls to us simply to say "God has said it, therefore it is true and good."

    So yes, we need headship. Why? Well... if for no other reason, because God says that's how He designed marriage to work.

    Actually... Scripturally, it's not that we *need* headship- it's that there *is* headship. Paul doesn't say "the husband should be the head of the wife, just as Christ should be the head of the Church." He said he *is.*

    That's God's reality... we can fight it or we can love it. :-)

    1. Neither the complementarian nor the egalitarian model of marriage and gender "roles" is airtight. I'm simply pointing out the holes in the complementarian model based on my personal experience in a relationship. My quarrel is not with Scripture; it's with my previous interpretation of Scripture. Both egalitarians and complementarians are trying to interpret Scripture correctly.

  10. Oh, and one other thought. Scripture makes a very strong parallel between the authoritarian roles of husband and wife and those of Christ and the church. So if the husband is not supposed to be the leader/head/authority over the wife (as also exemplified in places like Numbers 30), how does that square with the relationship between Christ and the church?

    1. I'm more personally convinced that the parallel between Christ/church and husband/wife is about unity, not headship. In that view, then, the point of Ephesians 5 is not modeling your marriage after the headship of Christ and the submission of the church, but about modeling the future UNITY of Christ and His bride at the marriage supper of the Lamb. That's why Paul quotes the verse on leaving and cleaving (which makes little sense if Paul's simply trying to set up a hierarchical marriage relationship).

      I also think it's incorrect to assume that the husband is supposed to be just like Christ is to the Church. For one thing, husbands are a part of the church, and for another thing, wives are supposed to exhibit Christ's humble love and live the life of Christ too. I believe that the husband's headship as expressed in Ephesians 5 (and elsewhere in Scripture) is NOT about authority or responsibility. It's about love. It's about submission. It's about laying down what he wants for His bride.

  11. I love this post! And you know what I love most about it? The joy that infuses every line. To strive to love selflessly and spiritually is a good thing, but to find yourself in a relationship where you naturally want to give everything of yourself to your partner, and see that he feels the same way, where you don't need external structures and guidelines imposed to encourage (or force) you to act the way selfless love inspires you to act - well, that is an amazing and beautiful thing.

    1. THANK YOU for seeing my exact point --- the JOY of pure, simple, hard but worth-it love. That's something so beautiful and precious, and something I think we lose when we argue about marital hierarchy.

  12. You keep comparing the relationship between you and your boyfriend to the relationship between a husband and wife (marriage). I hate to split hairs, but sometimes it's necessary. The relationship between a husband and wife (marriage) is distinctly different from the relationship between a girlfriend and boyfriend. The relationship between husbands and wives is distinctly different from all other HUMAN relationships.

    For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. Ep 5:23

    The Bible clearly states that the husband IS head of the wife. That's a description and not an instruction. It describes the relationship between husbands and wives. A husband's position or status as "head" is not a mandate or commandment, but it's an immutable state of being. It is immutable as it relates to the covenant relationship of marriage. The only thing that can sever a husband's headship over his wife is divorce or death.

    The Bible specifically says that "the husband is head (kephale) of the wife." Why is that important? Because it speaks to the unique relationship between a husband and wife. It helps differentiate the husband and wife relationship from other HUMAN relationships. The Bible does not say that the husband is head (kephale) of the daughter, son or children. The Bible does not say that the husband is head (kephale) of his servants. The Bible does not say that a boyfriend is head (kephale) of his girlfriend. The Bible clearly and intentionally states that the husband is head (kephale) of the wife. Why? Because the relationship between a husband and wife is unique and set apart. It is not a father-child relationship. It is not a master-slave relationship, although many comps, patriarchs and authoritarians like to describe it that way. It is not a boyfriend-girlfriend relationship. There is no headship (kephale) in those relationships.

    Note: I'm specifically talking about (kephale, Strong's 2776) the Greek word used in Ep 5:23 and 1 Cor 11:3 translated as "head."

    With that being said, I believe the "do we even need headship?" question is misappropriated. The real question is this: WHAT is headship? Once we truly understand WHAT headship is and the nuisances involved, we won't have to ask or ponder if it's needed.

  13. More often than not both sides, comps and egals, fail to acknowledge, validate, investigate or thoroughly expound upon some of the important nuisances that exist within marriage.

    Egals generally fail to acknowledge and/or validate the headship authority that comes with being a husband.

    Comps generally fail to acknowledge and validate the concept of mutual submission.

    The relationship between Christ and the church is a model for the husband and wife relationship. However, husbands and wives are also brothers and sisters in Christ. In Christ, both men and women, regardless of marital status, are members of the church and represent the church. Both men and women, regardless of marital status, are called to love like Christ and lay down their lives for one another (1 John 3:16). Representing the church is not an exclusively feminine duty. That's a function of the congregation. Likewise, loving like Christ is not exclusively male duty. That's a function of the congregation. Comps generally fail to acknowledge those nuisances; marriage also being a brother and sister in Christ relationship. Wendy Aslup does an excellent job of addressing that in Practical Dangers of Teaching Women Made in the Image of the Church.

    1. I'm slightly confused. Are you saying that headship is what distinguishes marriage from all other relationships?

      And as far as complementarians go, I LOVE Wendy! :)

    2. I'm saying that headship is just ONE (there are others) of the nuisances that distinguishes marriage from all other relationships.

    3. Ok. I'm not sure what to think about that. I don't really see headship in the first marriage between Adam and Eve. I would see oneness and intimacy being the main thing that sets marriage apart. Leadership, authority, and hierarchy are commonplace. Oneness is not.

    4. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh (Mark 10:8). Is oneness and sexual intimacy really the main thing that sets marriage apart? Is it really that simplistic? Of course, a husband can experience oneness and sexual intimacy with his wife. An unfaithful husband can also experience oneness and sexual intimacy with a prostitute if he decides to (1 Cor 6:15-17). It's not idealistic or romantic, but oneness and sexual intimacy aren't unique to marriage. Oneness and sexual intimacy is not the main thing that sets marriage apart from other human relationships. Let's consider sexless couples who can't "be one flesh" because of various health issues or couples separated by geographical distance. For those particular couples, the "one flesh" aspect might be absent, but headship and mutual submission could still be very real aspects of those marriages.

      I believe God orchestrated at least 5 events during creation and 2 after the fall that illustrate Adam's headship over Eve:

      1. Adam was made first (1 Tim 2:13). God could have made Eve first, but he didn't.

      2. Woman came out of man, and not other way around (1 Cor 11:12).

      3. God intially placed Adam( not Eve) in the garden to tend it (Gen 2:15). God brought the animals to Adam, so that he could name them (Gen 2:20). Adam was given jobs and responsibility, tending the garden and naming the animals, before he was given a wife.

      4. God gave Adam a first-hand commandment, "... you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil ..." (Gen 2:16-17). Eve hadn't even been made when God gave Adam that first-hand commandment. We don't know for sure because the Bible doesn't tell us, but it's very likely that Eve got the commandment second-hand from Adam.

      5. Twice, God allowed Adam to name the woman, and not the other way around (Gen 2:23, 3:20).

      6. After the fall, God questioned the man rather than the woman (Gen 3:9).

      7. Sin entered the world through Adam and not Eve (Rom 5:12).

    5. Sex is not unique to marriage? Oneness is not the point of marriage? But hierarchy, something found in almost every other kind of relationship, is? You're married, Kim. You know that's not true. :)

      Yes, a man can lie with a prostitute and experience "oneness" with her, but that's why sex outside of marriage is so very bad --- sex should be unique to marriage. That sort of oneness should be found only in marriage. Further, whenever marriage rules and regs are mentioned in the Bible, this quote almost always follows: "For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and they shall become one flesh." That's quoted after Adam declares Eve bone of his bone, flesh of his flesh; Jesus quotes it when talking about why divorce is wrong; and Paul quotes it in Ephesians 5 when talking about marriage. I think it's safe to say that that's the basic definition of marriage. :) There is no equivalent passage about hierarchy in marriage: "For this reason shall a man rule over a woman once she becomes his wife." (Actually, the curse in Genesis 3:16 sounds a lot like that....)

      Thank you for explaining what you meant about headship being established at creation. I still disagree, because there's crucial information missing:

      1. God created animals before he created Adam. Does that mean the animals are more important than Adam? No. God just decided to create them first. Plus, see the next point:

      2. 1 Corinthians 11:11 finishes Paul's thought: "Nevertheless, in the Lord, woman is not independent of man nor man of woman; for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God." One woman came from one man at creation. The rest of the men came from women. This symbolizes male and female codependency and equality, not gender hierarchy. Maybe that's why God created man first and Eve second --- if source is what determines headship, then we would have had a matriarchy instead of a patriarchy. :)

      3. Both Adam and Eve were given the command to be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion over the earth. That's the same job and responsibility.

      4. Since God walked in the garden with Adam and Eve and gave them both same command to be fruitful and multiply, it's equally likely that God personally gave Eve the command to not eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Like you said, the Bible doesn't say.

      5. Naming doesn't imply authority. In fact, Adam's first naming of Eve is an expression of delight at their equality: they're man and woman, bone of bone, flesh of flesh, and for this reason a husband and wife shall become one flesh. Those are symbols of oneness and equality, not hierarchy.

      6. God also questioned Eve directly and punished her directly.

      7. The first and last Adam symbolism only goes so far. Thanks to Eve's curse, childbirth hurts a lot and women are ruled by men. I think it's fair to say that both of those things can be traced directly to Eve's sin and punishment.

    6. I was married. Currently, I'm divorced. I'm sharing something here that I rarely ever share or discuss online or over social media. My professing Christian ex was abusive and unfaithful. Therefore, sexual intimacy and oneness were not unique to my marriage, but here's the thing. Although my husband was unfaithful, his unfaithfulness in and of itself DIDN'T sever his headship over me. He was still my head as long as we were married. He was my head even while he was committing adultery. That's not a romantic or ideal notion, but it's still the truth, and I believe the truth can set us free if we let it. My relationship with my husband was not distinguished from all other human relationships because of sexual intimacy, oneness - being one flesh. At the end of the day, one of the major things that distinguished the relationship between me and my husband from all other human relationships was his headship over me. That remained intact even when the one flesh aspect had been violated. No, it's not romantic or idealistic. It's a cold fact, and I learned that through a hard experience.

      I certainly recognize that not all husbands are unfaithful. The coin has two sides. The husband of an unfaithful wife is still her head even if she violates the one flesh aspect of marriage. While sexual intimacy and oneness is an important aspect of marriage, it's not what set's marriage apart from all other human relationships. People who have been married to an unfaithful spouse can vouch for what I'm saying here.

      Please understand that I'm not excited about patriarchy, and I'm not promoting the complementarian (or egalitarian) view point. I'm pushing, promoting and desiring to raise awareness about the REALITY and APPLICATION of marriage. I'm not interested in fitting into some comp or egal mode. I'm interested in learning and understanding God's mindset concerning the issues - not my own mindset, not a man's perspective or a woman's perspective.

      Your last 2-3 blog posts have been absolutely beautiful, and I THEORETICALLY agree with many of things you've said about how marriage SHOULD work, but I also feel that some of your recent posts/comments are somewhat romanticized and idealized, and that struck my attention. As I said before, we live in a fallen world, and things don't always work the way they should. Before I got married, I had similar notions and ideologies, and they were all rooted in scripture. Nevertheless, my Christian dream marriage turned into a nightmare. What's my point? Courting/dating and the THEORY of marriage is often very different from the REALITY and APPLICATION of marriage. Even in the healthiest of Christian marriages, husbands often struggle to love their wives and put their wives' needs before their own, and wives are often faced with decisions about how they can or should submit when they don't trust their husband's judgement or believe that he is putting their needs before his own. Some Christian marriages are centered more around male headship and wifely submission than they will ever be on love, equality, unity or mutual submission. That's why I believe that it's vitally important for Christian women (and men) to have a healthy, yet realistic view about the day-to-day reality, application and hardships of marriage. Those day-to-day and year-after-year marital struggles can be devastating, hard to cope with and hard to survive. It's no wonder the divorce rate is so high. I get concerned when I see women (especially those who have never been married) with such romanticized and idealized notions because I know first hand that they are in for a rude awakening. What do I mean by rude awakening? Of course, not all Christian marriages will be abusive and/or unfaithful. However, even healthy Christian couples encounter some of the typical headship/wifely submission struggles that Frannie referenced in her comments.

    7. You've written a powerful comment, Kim. Thank you for being so open about where you're coming from and your concerns. Now that I see your heart in this matter, your perspective make so much sense. I too am passionate about women knowing the reality of love, not just the romance --- because if it doesn't hit during their dating years, it'll hit hard in marriage.

      I'm embarrassed that my views seem romantic and idealized, because they're born out of the reality of what it took for a Protestant girl to love and respect a Catholic guy who was my personality and communication opposite. It's hard to express to strangers how difficult it was to love him (and how difficult it was for him to love me) during a nightmare year of dating. I've been pretty blunt on my blog about how much dating sucks sometimes. I've always felt (until recently) that my relationship seemed particularly unromantic, unidealistic, and just like the early years of marriage -- the romance fades, the fighting starts, his lack of interest, my frustration, the feeling like I'm always giving in to what he wants. It took lots of self-denial and submission to each other's interests to keep our relationship afloat over the past two years --- but it's so worth it now, because our tenacious resolve to love each other and appreciate our differences over two years has landed us in a beautiful, happy place. We're experiencing the honeymoon stage we never had.

      So I already got the rude awakening. :) I already know firsthand about how hard and unromantic relationships can be. My point, then, would not be, "Look at what an ideal relationship we have! We don't need headship and submission because we've never experienced hard times in our relationship!" It's more like, "Man, we had a pretty AWFUL relationship at various points, but it wasn't headship that got us out the miserable times --- it was submissive love on both parts."

      In short, I developed my theory of marriage in the midst of the ups and downs of a serious dating relationship. I'm not pulling out an ideal marriage theory from the sky. I've lived out what I think it means to love and submit in hard times; he's lived out what he thinks it means to love and submit in hard times; and while submission plays a huge role in our relationship, headship never has.

      Of course, it's possible that actually being married will be worse than dating...but we'll see. :)

    8. First of all thank you Miss Kim for linking me to this blog.I will admit Im not as studious as some of the commentors here seem to be.I only know what works in my situation.My husband and I dated for several years before getting married.I must say that I grew up with the headship/submission model with my parents and swore I would never marry because it was such a disaster.Now I love my parents dearly but my father is a poor decision maker.He jumps in with both feet and asks questions later.He is also very poor with finances.This set up a struggle in the marriage because my mother was the sensible one but my father very much believed in the man being the authority in the home.Therefore my parents fought,a lot! And loudly.I was very independent and as I grew older I knew I did not want to marry a man like my father.Its very hard to admit that but its the truth.My mother kept us out of trouble so many times because she argued my father into common sense.

      My younger sister married before me and married into the headship model and even more so cemented my position that I was going to stay single.Her husband was abusive in every way but hitting her.I saw her tears and her walls with holes beat in them.This young man was a church deacon and youth leader! I felt there was no hope at all.He even told my sister what to wear and in what color! Well that was more than I could take.I knew I would never marry so I didnt even bother to date.

      Jump ahead several years later.I will admit I met my husband online,though we hate to admit it For some reason we hit it off talking on social media.We met for a date,liked each other and continued to date even though he lived an hour away.As we became more and more serious my father started talking about my submission and told me I should go live in the city my husband was from.He and my mother went to counseling and the pastor informed them that I should go move where my husband was in the city.I informed my father that that was between and the pastor could keep his advice to himself.My then fiance and I talked over moving to the city.He said it had too much crime and he didnt want me to live there.He knew I was close to my mother also.He gave up the town he was born and raised in and came to live in my town! That touched me so deeply.

      When he proposed to me the first thing I said to my mother is "I will not say obey in my vows,just so you know" she said that was up to me. When we did rehearsals my pastor had already picked vows that did not say obey in them.My husband and I have a relationship that doesnt work on the headship model at all. We are equal in all things.We both cook,we both clean,we both do laundry.If we see something that needs doing we do it.There is no "that is your job".We discussed a lot before marriage,we still do.Seldom do we come to a deadlock but are able to hash it out if we do.My parents still argue about every thing they do.They never communicate.They are harsh with each other and say things to each other that we have never said to each other in the seven years we've been together.They are miserable,though they say they love each other.I grew up with that misery and swore I would never have that in my life.I still worry about it.My husband says "we're nothing like them".And I wonder because supposedly their marriage is Bible based and mine is not.Have we been teaching these verses the wrong way? What is lacking in this teaching? Sorry for the long post but I feel very strongly about this the church needs to take a second look at the teaching here.Somehow there is a miscommunication or lack of solid teaching here.JMO

    9. Thank you for being so open about all of this! Your marriage sounds beautiful. I'm so glad God blessed you with a wonderful man and a healthy relationship after all the awful relationships you witnessed. I've seen these sort of terrible relationships too, all based on headship. I'm not sure how much of that is because of the headship model or because of sinful people who abuse it. :/ It's just a tricky, terrible situation. Abuse is never solved by silent submission.

  14. A marriage, I think, should be beautiful. Per Aquinas, there are three fundamental aspects of beauty: unity, harmony, and radiance. Unity is the ability to determine something as a singular thing distinct from other things. Unity in a marriage is what one may point to and say: there is a family. A family is the new unity formed in marriage. Harmony is the aspect of a beautiful thing that it is not at conflict with itself, not ever battling part against part. This aspect is not to say that in a marriage or like relationship there will never be disagreements, but that by loving sacrifice by both they may come to a resolution. For marriage to have unity and internal harmony there is no need for headship, there is merely a need for Christ-like love by both parties.

    The problem I have with the above post comes in the realm of radiance. Radiance is the aspect of a beautiful thing that signifies beyond itself, towards God and the story of universal history. (Side note: These three aspects correspond to the layers of interpretation in medieval biblical exegesis, unity:literal::harmony:moral::radiance:allegorical/anagogical). In this aspect the couple is, by their actions, to be a living image, an allegory expressed in the symbolism of anagogy, of Christ and his Church. In this sense there is hierarchy, for there is the Headship of Christ over his Church, and a couple is, even if absolutely unified and harmonious, to imitate and reflect that headship of Christ. If it were all about conflict-management, there would be no need for headship, but marriage is also an ikon of that most hierarchical of weddings.

    Now, obviously, this is not to say that this headship should be tyrannical and overbearing, for that would violate harmony, but that is not to say there is no element of obedience needed, for that would violate radiance. To extend the parallel with Christ and his Church, we are to obey Christ, but, if we are in such unity and harmony with him, whatever it is we are asked by Christ to do is what we would have wanted to do even if not asked. I will agree with C.S. Lewis (The Four Loves) that the greater fear is that the man will not take the headship, in that to be an image of that headship is also to be an image of him who bore the crown of thorns.

    Secondly, the hierarchy is one of Primus inter Pares, first among equals. In God himself there is absolute Beauty, absolute equality in Godhead among the persons of the Trinity. All are God, yet Christ submitted to God the Father. This is, in my opinion, one of the stranger doctrines of Christianity, that among equals who have no strife among them, there should still be hierarchy, that there is a "first among equals" even in the unity of persons in God.

    This, in turn, informs my view of the roles in the congregation. The congregation is an image of the Church (in much the same way as a family is). The priest, in his role as image of Christ to the Church, the primus inter pares of the congregation, ought to be a man, for in that aspect he may be a proper Ikon of Christ at the wedding feast of the Lamb which he is making present in the sacrifice of the Mass. The chief duty of the Priest to his congregation lies in the observance of the Mass, the administration of the Sacraments, and the guiding of his congregation into good doctrine. I have often had disagreements on points of doctrine with my priest, but I do not express them in opposition to him unless they are a matter of dogma, in submission to the headship of the priest over the congregation. Thus, as I see it, teaching in the congregation is to be done either by the priest or by members of the congregation (of either sex) recognized to have the gift of teaching and who are recognized by the congregation as being under the authority of the priest (or, in a more evangelical context, replace “priest” with “elders”).

    1. I really loved how you explained this all, Evan! I still disagree that marriage is supposed to be a picture of Christ and the church. It's the opposite --- the married couple should be looking to Christ's sacrifice for the church in order to bring the church into unity with Christ. Likewise, a husband should lay down his life for his wife in order to bring her into perfect unity with him.

  15. I haven't read the comments above but I sense by the length of time it took to scroll down there has been some debate on this issue. I shall keep my thoughts short and to the point.

    I think it's a balance. A perfect, God-given balance of both mutual submission and headship. God wisely included both in the description of a well-tuned marriage. (Note, marriage. While you may practice headship in a dating relationship it is not required or even Biblical until you say "I do." And until that beautiful day the Golden Rule is sufficient.)

    Okay. So, in my opinion, yes, I believe in headship and desire it in my marriage. Why? Because the Bible subscribes it and I want the world and my eventual children to see a beautiful marriage done God's way.

    Now, that does not mean my husband steps on my toes. On the contrary, he loves me more than he does himself. He fulfills his calling by loving me as Christ loved the church and he daily lays done himself for me. (He's a great guy.)

    It takes two to tango so I submit to m husband because that is what God has called me to do. To submit, reverence and honor my man as the church does to Jesus Christ.

    I believe we have an incredibly strong and happy marriage because of this.

    Naturally, it looks different for every couple. My dad is very hands-off when it comes to running his home; he prefers for mom to balance the check book and manage without his input. It makes him proud to have a capable wife.

    My hubby is different. He enjoys being apart of the day-to-day stuff. It blesses him to more hands-on. He prefers to let me handle the budget and run the home but loves for me to keep him informed about what's going on in life.

    So, we wives need to be flexible with our guys and not place expectations on their leadership styles. We need to be ready to honor and reverence our men just as they are to be ready to love us with a love that hurts.

    It's mutual, it's lovely and it works.

  16. Also, I'd like to add one more tiny thing. One day, in all marriages, there will come a time when love is *simply not enough.*

    There will be a day when your husband is incredibly non-bending in his opinion and you cannot fathom how or why you can follow it. You will feel no love for such a decision and you will feel like it will not be possible to remain true to yourself and honor such a guy.

    This is where submission comes in. Men (just like women) will make tough decisions their counterparts will not always like. It is then that submission becomes vital.

    Imagine the alternative: Husband makes a decision his wife cannot bear. She shares her opinions and logically explains her beliefs yet her man will not change the direction he is leading. The unbending, non-submissive wife will then refuse to obey, will harden her heart, give the cold shoulder and resist his faulty decision. In the mean time she has disobeyed God's command and opened her marriage and home to the ice of disobedience and the sorrow of a couple not in unity. They will suffer greatly.

    This is why headship is important and mutual consideration isn't always possible (although it should be the rule -- I mean, mutual submission between brothers and sisters in Christ is required). But in a marriage there will be days when tough, hard decisions will be made and it is our duty to trust our men and trust our God.

    Note: I am not talking about sin-oriented decisions. Merely the ones we disagree with.

    1. Or consider this alternative: the husband and wife make all decisions together so that the husband is not authorized to make a decision that disgruntles the wife. :)

      I'm not unfamiliar to stubborn unbending wills. There are two in my relationship. ;) Because we never assumed that Erich was leader and I the follower, that situation never came up. We were forced to work it out until a compromise was made, like a jury forced to mak a unanimous declaration. And I'm not talking silly little dating disagreements. I'm talking about huge life decisions about marriage, where to attend church, parenting, grad school, jobs, and finances.

      Of course, there are many times when we make personal decisions that tick off the other person, but those are not matters of submission and leadership --- just matters of grace.

      Both you and Kim drew the line between how the relationship functions before and after marriage. You said that the Golden Rule is enough in a dating relationship but headship is required in a marriage. How is that NOT enough in marriage? I honestly don't get it!

    2. Because headship is only required in marriage. :) Single, grown, independent women have God as their authority as do widowed and divorced women. They should not submit to any man other then when entering someone's realm (policemen, courts, church, etc.).

      Of course the Golden Rule is important for any relationship and I by no means meant to exclude it from marriage. So important.

      I guess I cannot get away from the simplicity of the Scriptures. Is Peter to be disregarded when he said, "likewise, wives, be in subjection to your own husbands ..." ? It's in their because God knows how to best run a marriage.

      Maybe this is all irrelevant because you are right. When we love each other perfectly we bend to each other perfectly. My husband and I love each other so it is natural that we seek to bless and please each other.

      Likewise, I will submit to my husband because I love him (and more importantly, I love God).

      Also, it is important to remember the "why" given by Peter. After encouraging women to submit to their own husbands he goes on to say "that, if any obey not the word they may ... be won."


    3. I know this isn't what you're trying to say, but it sounds like you're saying, "Headship is necessary for marriage because it's necessary for marriage." :) That's not a reason headship is necessary for marriage but not for a close relationship. In fact, it's truly bizarre that in our close friendships, we need no hierarchy, but when it comes to the most intimate of relationships, hierarchy is mandated --- and for what reason? That's my point. Nobody has been able to give a REASON for why a husband needs to be in charge.

      Why would God's best for marriage include a structure that produces no obvious benefits for that relationship? Yes, a wife's submission produces benefits, but a husband's headship? It doesn't. It's only when he lays down any authority he thinks he has and LOVES that the household codes produce the desired result --- unity and submission one to another. The hierarchy, then, seems secondary to the primary ingredient of an intimate happy marriage: submissive love.

      And the "why" that Peter gives is only applicable to marriage with a nonbeliever. :)

      I guess my point is that I have no issue with wives submitting. I just think that husbands are commanded to submit too, and that the hierarchy is unnecessary for both husband and wife to submit to each other. In fact, the hierarchy often GETS IN THE WAY of the husband submitting to his wife.

    4. Bailey said: Both you and Kim drew the line between how the relationship functions before and after marriage. You said that the Golden Rule is enough in a dating relationship but headship is required in a marriage. How is that NOT enough in marriage? I honestly don't get it!

      I understand. I didn't get it either until I had to live it and experience it, but that's a personal testimony for another time. The simple and hard truth is that in reality and application, marriage is EXTREMELY different from courting/dating and all other human relationships. You can't really know or understand that until you cross that threshold.

      Why is the golden rule (love your neighbor as yourself) NOT enough in marriage? I also believe that the golden rule SHOULD BE enough to sustain a healthy marriage. However, let's face it. We live in a fallen world, and things don't always happen like they should.

      During Jesus' earthly ministry, he taught love your neighbor as yourself and the principle of laying down your life for your brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16). However, husbands still didn't get it. Husbands still struggled to apply the principle of laying down their lives for others to their marriages. Paul had to come behind Jesus and reiterate that very message specifically to husbands, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her ..." (Ep 5:35). Why did Paul have to come behind Jesus and specifically call out husbands and instruct them to love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her? Why wasn't what Jesus taught about laying down your life for your brother or sister enough for husbands? Why did husbands need additional and even more specific instruction in the area of laying down their lives for closest sisters in Christ - their wives?

      Jesus answered, ... "The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself" (Mark 12:31). Husbands still struggled to love their wives (their closest neighbor) as themselves. Paul had to come behind Jesus and reiterate that very message specifically to husbands, "Husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies (v. 28) ... each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself (Eph 5:33). Why did Paul have to come behind Jesus and specifically call out husbands and instruct them to love their wives as their own bodies? love their wives like they love themselves? Why wasn't the golden rule that had actually been taught from the OT (Lev 19:18) thru the NT enough for husbands? Why did husbands need additional and even more specific instruction in the area of loving their closest neighbors (their wives) as themselves?

    5. Kim, you just made an argument against male headship. :) Husbands needed specific instructions to love their wives as their own bodies because women's curse is that men want to rule their wives. Husbands aren't naturally inclined to be submissive and loving. They're naturally inclined to rule and push their own way. As you pointed out, husbands struggled to love their wives.

      Since husbands struggle to love their wives, why on earth would Paul's point in Ephesians 5 be to put more power back in husbands' hands? "We live in a fallen world where the Golden Rule won't be enough to sustain your marriage, but don't worry --- male authority, hierarchy, and rule will protect wives from male authority, hierarchy, and rule"?

      Hierarchy in marriage is the problem. Husbands' dominance is the problem. Submission and the Golden Rule is the solution. Headship doesn't fix anything. Love does.

      Also, Paul isn't adding anything to the Golden Rule when he's telling husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. He's reiterating the Golden Rule in a particular context because men thought patriarchy exempted them from submitting to their wives' needs and desires. So yes -- the Golden Rule is enough for marriage. :)

  17. I suppose you have an inside scoop because you're very familiar with conservative, patriarchal, demanding headship situations (at least that's what I gather). I know some of those men as well and both my husband and I would agree that they are out of control, that there is something lacking in a marriage when the focus is on the wife's submission and the man's leadership instead of understanding and love.

    But I still disagree when saying headship is unnecessary and with your point on Peter's "why." Don't we all act like unbelievers sometimes (lacking love, forgiveness and other Christ-like virtues?). I know I do; even my sweet, loving man falls short of God's plan. We're human. So, I believe the "why" is applicable.

    I think the "why" is the reason. By being submissive (not just in actions but in heart too) we grab a hold of the promise of God to work good through our behavior.

    But I do agree. Husbands are commanded to submit just as brothers and sisters in Christ are called to submit to one another. If that is lacking in a marriage he is sinning against his wife. We're called to submit to each other. But that doesn't always look like a compromise or a win-win situation. Sometimes that looks like not eating meat because you're around a veggie-eating Christian with a gentle conscious. Or like not getting married even though you'd like to. :)

    I guess my point is that both are necessary: mutual submission and headship. In my opinion they are inseparable. My husband has told me repeatedly that he wants to hear my opinions and that if they are the best idea he will want to go with it; he thinks I'm pretty great and full of good thoughts. ;) We've also agreed that in the end he may make a final decision that sometimes looks more like his original thought (but sometimes its a compromise or more like my plan). So mutual submission is happening but there is also the element of headship. A husband laying himself down for his wife and a wife submitting. I guess that is good fulfillment of the golden rule which should be in any relationship.


    1. Frannie! I hope that this post doesn't ruin all my online relationships --- I hate when friends and I disagree, and I don't want to scare away people like you from my blog just because we disagree on this issue. I've loved how clearly and persistently you've been presenting your points. Thank you for your grace and understanding.

      Final thing I want to say: your above comment isn't proving that headship is necessary. It's proving that submission is necessary.

      Here's something to think about: When a woman is married to a dominating, stubborn man, how is she supposed to treat him? With love, submission, and respect. That's obvious. We all agree. When a man is married to a dominating, stubborn woman, how is he supposed to treat her?

      .....with love, submission, and respect, living with her in an understanding way. That's Paul and Peter's point. :)

      Authority doesn't solve any problems. Authority creates the problems, and it has ever since Genesis 3:16 where marriage became a power struggle instead of equality and intimacy.

    2. Oh, Bailey! I hope you didn't feel like I was attacking or a constant online presence of nagging. That would be my fault if I came across that way and I definitely did not mean to. :) I tend to drag things on or in the words of my D, "You keep repeating yourself, Frannie. I get it!" Ha!

    3. No no no no! You NEVER came across in any negative or repetitive way at all. I was afraid *I* was coming across in a negative/repetitive way. And I just wanted you to know that I'd be very gloomy if I lost your online friendship/wisdom/humor over this issue!

    4. Hahaha! No, you sure didn't! :) Ah, the troubles of online communication and my inability to leave something alone. ;)

      I do have a question for you. What do you think about women's role as helpmeets and its relationship between headship and submission? In a previous comment w/Kim you stated that the woman's curse is that man would want to rule over her, yet, I suspect it is opposite. She wishes to rule over him.

      If woman was originally designed to meet man's need, to be his helpmeet, wouldn't it make sense that Adam would be the natural leader and Eve the willing blessing and gift a helpmeet is? I mean, they were perfect so their attitudes and relationship would reflect God's original design, wouldn't it? When I imagine Adam and Eve I see them both interacting as God intended and loving their roles -- Eve didn't fuss over being made to be a helpmeet until after the curse and suddenly she wasn't content any more. (And suddenly Adam became more brutish then intended.)

      What do you think?


    5. Ooo, good question! I think understanding what "helpmeet" means is crucial to interpreting what went wrong at the fall. The Hebrew is ezer kenegdo. It's used to describe Eve and to describe God as the helper, defender, and rescuer of Israel. The ezer comes on the scene to help out the weak, defenseless, and needy. Eve is there to rescue of Adam, who is incomplete without a partner. (And I think that's why Eve was created out of Adam, to show that woman also needs the man.)

      Both were given the command to be fruitful, multiply, and have dominion over the earth. Adam and Eve were basically partners in crime -- co-rulers over the earth and bone of bone, flesh of flesh with each other.

      I don't think "helpmeet" needs to be an official marital role. The question is this: Did God mean that He would create another creature who would actively pursue and meet Adam's needs? Or did He mean that He would create another creature who automatically met Adam's need for companionship simply by being in relationship with him? I think it's the latter, especially since Adam embraced her with unity and oneness, not authority. Helper was woman's nature, not her job title. Adam needed a woman's nature, not a woman's service.

      It makes my heart ache with joy to hear Adam say, "Yes! Finally! I have found the one who is like me and perfect for me and can be united with me in total harmony!" Bone of bone, flesh of flesh -- they are one. Nothing in that even hints of hierarchy.

      Indeed, he creation account does not say Adam ruled his wife. It says they both had dominion over the earth. Complementarians read authority back into the first marriage by making much over the fact that Adam named Eve, but I think that's a weak argument due to the above reasons.

      The first mention of a split in unity is at the curse -- and this split in unity is hierarchy. People debate over what it means for a woman to "desire" her husband. Frankly, it doesn't really matter whether "desire" means "pathetically run after an abusive guy" or "wrestle power from the man." That part's vague, but this part isn't: "he will rule over her." Thus patriarchy was established for the majority of human history. The point is that women will get trampled on by men, and women will be in a constant war to get men's attention or be in charge of the relationship too. Thus the dripping faucet woman mentioned in Proverbs was established. :)

      So yes, woman's curse could mean she wants to rule over her husband, but her curse is also that man actually succeeds in ruling over her. The irony is that nobody should be fighting for authority in the relationship, because true happiness lies in embracing each other as one and treating each other as their own flesh.

  18. Hey, Bailey. I'm not sure exactly where I fall on the spectrum (I've not yet landed, after moving away from a more strict version of patriarchy), but I do believe headship is biblical, so I may be biased... but. The arguments you lay out are good in and of themselves, but it keeps striking me that you are arguing from a standpoint of what "makes sense" to you or what "works for you" or what you can back up with reasonable examples. I don't think it's wrong to look for those. But you cannot base your beliefs on what jives with you. (I know, you're not operating on your own ideas alone, but sometimes it starts to sound like it's going that direction a little bit.) There are plenty of ideas in scripture that we cannot rationalize or that don't "sit well" with us. But we bow our finite minds to His decrees regardless.
    But I see that you're trying to understand the *heart* of Paul's message and I admire that. I'd love to see some more expounding on the actual verses!

    1. Thanks for that exhortation, Amadeus! I'm going to respond to your comment in another post, because you're so right --- it's important that we don't base our beliefs on "what makes sense with us." At the same time, something not "sitting well with us" can be an impetus to rethink how we interpret Scripture. It's a tough call, sometimes.

      If you dare/have the time, read the above comment thread. It involves a lot of expounding the Scriptural reasons why I'm questioning headship. Also, my post, "Don't Get Excited About Patriarchy" addresses the issue from a more Biblical-based rather than personal-based standpoint. Hope that's helpful! May God bless us both as we figure this issue out. :)

  19. Hey Bailey... thought of another verse... the one that says it is improper for a woman to speak in church, but that she should rather ask her husband at home "if she wishes to learn anything." (1 Cor. 14)

    How does that square with the egalitarian model you are presenting?

    And one more question... honest question... do you at all feel like you're fighting the plain meaning of Scripture here?

    1. Paul permits women to pray and prophesy in church back in 1 Corinthians 11. There were prophetesses, deaconesses, prominent female servants of the church, even a female apostle. So that verse cannot be an absolute prohibition; it contradicts the life of the early church and Paul's other writings. It must be understood then in the context of the Corinthians problems. There are many more eloquent theogians who have hashed out that verse, and I have not come to a confident interpretation of what exactly he was saying.

    2. Oh, and to your last question: no, I don't feel like I'm fighting the plain meaning of Scripture. :) For one thing, the Bible's stance on women has never seemed "plain" to me. It seems to subject and elevate women all at the same time. And there are some passages on women that embarrassed me with how out of touch with reality they seemed -- women are not more fragile than men and are not more easily deceived than men. It wasn't until I explored egalitarian interpretations that everything clicked with me -- it clicked within Scripture, the early church life, the Gospel, and the reality of who women are. It just made sense. For the first time, I came away from difficult passages feeling more confident that I got the heart of what the passage meant and how it fit in with everything else. It doesn't feel like proof texting anymore -- it feels like I finally know what on earth the apostles were talking about and who they were talking to.

      That's why I'm so excited about it -- these verses on women make so much more sense within the context of each epistle now, as well as with my experience as a woman among intelligent women. I know that a more egalitarian interpretation makes people feel uncomfortable, like it's betraying the plain sense of Scripture...but I think it makes an already-befuddled issue way clearer than a complementarian interpretation ever did. It's made me trust and respect Scripture even more and to rejoice more in the God who celebrates a womanhood which defining feature is not submission. It's okay if you disagree with me, but please don't think that I'm twisting Scripture to get "my way" -- that's not how I went about it. I actually refused to look into egalitarianism because I was AFRAID it was right -- and I didn't want to change my mind on an issue that would separate me from so many people. But I'm so glad I stopped kicking at the goads. ;)


Hit me with your best thought! I'm very interested in your unique perspective. If you'd like to discuss things in private, feel free to email me! :)