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In which I disagree with Candace Cameron Bure about “biblical marriage”

Candace Cameron Bure recently stirred up a bit of controversy when, in her new book, she wrote about her “submission” to her husband:

“My husband is a natural-born leader. I quickly learned that I had to find a way of honoring his take-charge personality and not get frustrated about his desire to have the final decision on just about everything. I am not a passive person, but I chose to fall into a more submissive role in our relationship because I wanted to do everything in my power to make my marriage and family work.” – (excerpted from “Balancing It All”)

Later, because of the resulting pushback to her words, she sought to clarify her position in an interview at HuffPost Live:

“The definition that I’m using with the word submissive is the biblical definition of that….I love that my man is a leader. I want him to lead and be the head of our family. And those major decisions do fall on him. It doesn’t mean I don’t voice my opinion. It doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion. I absolutely do. But it is very difficult to have two heads of authority….When you’re competing with two heads, that can pose a lot of problems or issues.”

I believe that Candace Cameron Bure is wrong here. Of course, even simply scientifically, we know that there are millions of egalitarian marriages that “work” very well. But also, biblically, there are problems with her words.

This method or strategy may well be how her marriage works – and if so, lovely – but it’s not necessarily biblical: in fact. The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.

And the idea that, as a wife, I would need to “become passive” or smaller or somehow less in order to make my marriage work is damaging and wrong.

Jesus Feminist_Surprise Party 78

My marriage has instead brought out the best in me. I am stronger and more courageous. I am bolder. I am more loving. I am more of who I was meant to be because of the way that tall Nebraskan has loved me well. And I believe that I have done the same for him. It’s been fifteen years since we fell in love, thirteen since we were married: our marriage and our family works because we submit to one another. And because we make each other better at being ourselves, in all the fullness and glory and mess and truth.

But don’t get me wrong: I believe in submission.

I just don’t believe that our call to submission in marriage is restricted to me.

I submit to my husband. And he submits to me, too. And together, we submit to Jesus.

Like many Christians down through the centuries, we practice mutual submission. Patriarchy and hierarchy within marriage were consequences of the Fall (see Genesis 3:16).

In the church, people of Candace Cameron Bure’s doctrinal slant tend to point towards a few passages of Scripture (particularly Ephesians 5:22-24, Colossians 3:18-19, and 1 Peter 3:1-2) as justification for the the idea of a husband as absolute head of the home with his wife in submission to his leadership. She is not alone in adopting this as the standard of “biblical marriage.” (As an aside, I’ve never liked the phrase “biblical” as a descriptor. There are a lot of marriages in the Bible and I wouldn’t necessary identify most of them as the ideal or example to emulate.)

But those passages of Scripture are, in fact, a subversion of  the Greco Roman household codes in effect at the time. The maintaining of total authority in the home was critical to the functioning of a society that relied on the total authority of the government and/or religion. At the time of these writings on marriage, the Greco-Roman Household Codes were part of Pax Romana, the laws keeping the peace of Roman.  Peter and Paul worked within imperfect systems because any outright challenge to the law of the land would bring persecution down upon the Church in great number. In fact, the Apostles “advocated this system, not because God had revealed it as the divine will for Christian homes, but because it was the only stable and respectable system anyone knew about” at the time, according to Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe of the Women’s Bible Commentary.

Paul and Peter used the codes, not because they were perspective or ideal, but because they were familiar and they were showing the church how to move within the world while not being of the world. In fact, incredibly, they placed demands on the assumed power of men by teaching them to be kind to their slaves, to be gentle with their children, to love their wives; they addressed the powerless within a patriarchal society.

There is a redemptive movement happening here in Scripture. “Here is what is, here is what I want for you, move closer to My purposes” and so we find God out ahead of us, always moving us further into his purposes.

(For instance, just because there are references and instructions about how to treat slaves in our Bibles does not meant that slavery is right and good. In fact, it’s precisely because of our great love for Scriture and respect for God’s created order that we know that slavery is evil and wrong, an absolute perversion of our humanity. Yet the writers of Scripture often tried to find a way to subvert the current culture and to move us further ahead on God’s arc of justice even within unjust systems. Eventually the Church moved to the forefront of abolition because we understood this truth: Just because the Bible contained instructions about how to treat slaves in a context and culture where it was acceptable to hold slaves does not mean slavery is a godly practice or part of God’s intended purpose for creation.)

The Greco Roman household codes were an unjust system: these teachings show us how to work within them as people committed to the ways of Jesus.

As I wrote in Jesus Feminist, “life in Christ is not meant to mirror life in a Greco-Roman culture. An ancient Middle Eastern culture is not our standard. We were not meant to adopt the world of Luther’s Reformation or the culture of the Great Awakening or even 1950s America as our standard for righteousness. The culture, past or present, isnt the point: Jesus and His Kingdom come, his will done, right now – that is the point.” (p. 77)

Not only is the idea that wives alone are to submit to their husbands poor exegesis, it is damaging.

It is damaging to the image of God carried in women and in men. A woman who is held back, minimized, or downplayed is not walking in the fullness God intended for her as an image bearer (for instance, take a look at Carolyn Custis James’ excellent discussion about being an “ezer kenegdo” in her book, “Half the Church.”) A man is  most truly “helped” when women are walking in the fullness of her anointing and gifts and intelligence and strength, not when she reduces herself out of a misguided attempt at righteousness. This kind of doctrine has the potential to stifle and suffocate women, even resulting in abuse at times. And it doesn’t do men any favours either, often giving place to pride and individualism.

This is the danger of black and white thinking. We think that we only have two options when it comes to our marriages:

  1. Women submit to men, like in ancient secular patriarchal culture or,
  2. Nobody submits to anyone and we’re out for Number One, like in our modern individualist secular culture.

But instead here is the third way:

 3. Submit to one another, mutually, as in the Kingdom of God.

This is a Kingdom of Love. Anyone who wants to be first must be last, and the greatest is the servant of all, said our Jesus (Mark 10:44). In the upside down Kingdom ushered in by Jesus, the least is the most honoured and the one who gives everything gains it all.

The marriage relationship isn’t exempt from the words of Jesus – and the teachings of the Church – about how we are to interact with one another and love one another.

We are all called to meekness. We are all called to love others. We are all called to bear with one another. We are all called to love, to care for one another, to forgive, to minister, and so on.

When Paul likened marriage to the relationship between Christ and the Church, it was an exhortation to crazy love and sacrificial giving, not power grabbing. Paul’s words remind us that Christ gave himself up for the Church, loved her.

“And so we discover the great paradox hidden within these hotly debated passages of Scripture, tragically misused to subject and berate and hold back, to demand and give place to pride – however benevolent the intention. If wives submit to their husbands as the Church submits to Christ, and if husbands love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her, and if both husbands and wives submit to one another as commanded, we enter a never-ending, life-giving circle of mutual submission and love.” (excerpted from Jesus Feminist)

There is a vast difference between mutual submission to one another out of an overflow of love and having submission demanded of you, one-sided, out of a misguided attempt at biblical marriage.

In a Christian marriage, Christ is meant to be the head of our homes, and within marriage, we are meant to submit to one another - even as Candace Cameron Bure rightly defines it, “so, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength.”

Yes, yes, it is. For both men and women.

My husband and I submit to one another as we both submit to Christ. We learned that from our Bibles.

Photo courtesy of Tina Francis

Some portions of this post are quoted from my book, Jesus Feminist.

Jesus Feminist, marriage
  • kerry57

    this wife has really deluded herself..being around the evangelical controlling hubby she chooses to be committed to

    • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

      Perhaps. For those who remember the 80s, Ms. Buce was well-known as one of the stars of Full House (and for being the sister of Kirk Cameron, who at the time was not yet known for being the ultra-conservative fundamentalist he is known for being today). I always thought, even way back then, that she married *extremely* young (very shortly after the series ended, I believe, but don’t quote me), and can’t help but feel that this plays into the situation she described in her first paragraph.

      No doubt Ms. Buce wants not only to make her marriage work (however imperfect it might have been at the beginning or since), but to be faithful to God. If her brother is any indication, the interpretation of submission she advocates is the only one she knows, and she has been trained to believe that it is the only interpretation that can be faithful.

      I disagree strongly, but I find myself feeling far more sorry for her and her limited worldview than I find myself upset at her choices.

      • Rachel Heston-Davis

        After hearing her say that she had to become used to her husband wanting the final say in everything, I am feeling sorry and worried for her too. And 20 is pretty young if we’re talking about being able to judge the health of a relationship apart from what your parents have indoctrinated you with.

        • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

          For what it’s worth, I can’t tell that her parents were responsible for her indoctrination (I don’t know their role one way or the other). It seems to be that Kirk came to faith fairly late in his teens, and that Candace herself came to faith at around that same time (but I can’t tell if it’s before or after).

        • http://www.jessicaclemmer.com/ Jessica Clemmer

          As a very happily married, for 21+ years now, Jesus Feminist myself, I’d just like to toss into the conversation that I married at 19, being raised in the very same mindsets as Candace Cameron Bure. God quite graciously brought both my husband and I to clearer understandings. I’m bothered by the insinuation that young people are unable to be mature enough to judge or discern healthy relationships…especially Christian young people. I’m not de-valuing the maturity that comes with age, but I don’t think it has the slightest thing to do with where Mrs. Bure is at today or her beliefs. I think she is simply living with integrity to the best of her current understanding. It doesn’t mean she was viciously ‘indoctrinated’, nor that she should be written off as having married ‘too young’. I think it simply means this is where she is at in her journey.

          (And as a side-note, I’m pretty sure our dear Sarah Bessey also married ‘quite young’ and look what a wonderful powerhouse she is on this very subject!) :)

          • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

            If I were in your position, and had married young, I’m sure I’d feel the same way. I’m sure my own mother (who married at 19 and had her first child — me — later that same year) would probably be the same. That said, I stand by my remarks on this regard. God can work with people in all situations and ages and levels of maturity. The fact that God does so does not invalidate the wisdom (in a general sense) of waiting, and the fact that people who marry younger often find themselves especially unprepared is well-documented.

            Full disclosure: As a person who DID wait, I find that I often bristle at comments from the other side (NOT saying you feel this way!) that seem to suggest that waiting is, itself, somehow sinful. Perhaps the best that can said is that we must work out what God wants from each of us from our own position, whatever that happens to be.

          • http://www.jessicaclemmer.com/ Jessica Clemmer

            I very much agree, that we must all seek what God wants for each of us. I certainly don’t think waiting to marry is sinful in the least, nor do I think that marrying young is categorically foolish or less ‘God’s will’. However, I was more trying to comment in this regard to say, I highly doubt that waiting would have changed her viewpoint at all on the subject. I think it has far more to do, simply, with the church circles she is in, and had she married at 25 or 30, I believe she’d likely still hold the same viewpoint, as do the majority of my own Christian friends, who have been loving, faithful believers for much/most of their lives. Those friends of mine who are complimentarian are so because of their sincere belief that they are living faithfully to scripture to the best of their understanding. It’s not an age-determined belief. I think that’s all I was hoping to point out.

            (And granted, maybe felt a bit bristly about the age-factor, as I have no doubt that marrying when I did really was God’s best for ME…but agree wholeheartedly, again…we all have need to seek Him for our individual situations.)

        • Jon L. Estes

          I cannot find agreement here but would like to understand. Here is where I am coming from. If the relationship between the believer and Christ is to be the model for the relationship between the husband and wife, then I could rewrite your comment with Christ and the believer in place of the wife and husband.

          After hearing the believer say that they had to become used to Christ wanting the final say in everything, I am feeling sorry and worried for them too.

          To me, it does not jive with the Bible when put in this perspective.

          • http://aftertheecstasythelaundry.wordpress.com/ Cynthia Schrage

            Ooh, that’s a great analogy! This is exactly what is being implied here, and yet, I think most evangelicals would shudder at that very implication.

            It does not matter whether you believe in the ultimate authority of God. It depends on whether you think Jesus acts like a tyrant. Which, obviously, he does not.

      • Zrinka Davis

        I have heard her say that her husband was not a believer when they first met and married; that she is the one who turned to God first and it took him some time to “come around.” if this is the sort of thing that their church emphasized, no wonder he “came around” :) i disagree with her but know so many wonderful women who would say the same about their marriages that my response is to sigh and move on…

    • Miriam

      There really seems to be misunderstanding on Sarah ‘s part. She has a very good point that in Christ we are equal sinners and saved. We should “submit to each other” but we have all but lost understand in about what true LOVE is and the fact that men and women have different needs. We are made by God in special ways so we can compliment each other. THERE is NO debate that women should submit to their husbands (not men in general). But that does not make them LESS! Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.

      22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

      25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church…… ” The only thing that women are confused about is what true love from a man is. While I submit to my husband, he LOVES me (aka care and SACRIFICE even willing to give his own life for me) while I give him something he dearly needs RESPECT! Check out Garry Smalley’s book Love and respect.

      • Ada

        ” he LOVES me (aka care and SACRIFICE even willing to give his own life
        for me) while I give him something he dearly needs RESPECT! ”

        Good for you and your husband. I mean that quite sincerely: I’m glad you have something that works for you. But don’t generalise from there to thinking that you’re the gold standard.

        I am a woman, and I will take respect over love every day and twice on sundays. If I had a husband who loved me but didn’t respect me, as you seem to describe in your relationship, that marriage would have a very high chance of ending in bloodshed (figuratively speaking). Fortunately, I have seen enough beautiful, functional, egalitarian marriages, in which both parties are both equally loved AND respected, that I know such compromises are unnecessary.

        If I read the passage your way, I have to believe that God is either too stupid to understand his own creations, or that he forces people into unpleasant, and often badly dysfunctional situations just to mess with them. Neither of those sounds like the God I know, so I will probably stick to the assumption that those beautiful, functional, healthy, loving egalitarian relationships to which I referred earlier are as God intended, on the grounds that a good tree bears good fruit. And I will follow the same logic in assuming that where a “complementarian” marriage works, it is likewise intended by God, as applied to the parties involved.

      • Jean

        Thank you Miriam for that comment. Too many times, men and some women whjo are confused, overlook Verses 25 and 29. Most of the Christian websites on the internet, go on and on about verse 22. The sites are not truly founded on the Word of God, but on man made doctrine. The websites beat women over the head about submitting, but never lecture the husband, as if God only gave marital roles to just the women. I wonder how these sites overlook the awesome roles that God gave to the husband?
        ” You can tell them by their fruit”, in other words, if we want to know if a Christian website is truly Christian, and not just an an women website, we can take a look at whether on nor they include all the verse. You can also look to see if they scold only wives and write these long lists for wives to do, without writing long lists for the husbands to do.
        Here a a few made up names of what these so called “Christian” sites, might call themselves. They are so sad and so pathetic.
        “Iamarespectinghusbandwife”, or “reallyreallysubmissivewife”, or bowingdowntosubmitwife, or “Idon’thavemyownopinionwife”, or “myhusbanddominatesmeasawife”, and so on.
        Finally, what makes all these websites about submitting, is that women actualy fall for them, and write in to those sites, saying thank you to the writers, then say that as wives, they will try to respect or submit to their husbands so that they will be better wives or so the husbands will not be angry or shut down, etc. 4-28-14

  • Megan Westra

    I saw the huffington post article last week, and found myself so indignant that I couldn’t even see straight after reading.
    Thank you for speaking, like you so often do, with grace and poise. Testifying to what you know in your own life as well as teaching us to look not just at a few proof-texted verses from Paul but to Scripture an history and the Holy Spirit blazing in our bones and bellies as well.
    Well done.

    • http://ebrits.tumblr.com/ Eugene Brits

      Is it more important that we hear from men/women and their insights or for God and his word?
      Jesus came full off grace and TRUTH.

  • Carly @ Creating Mom

    Thank you for writing this. It’s so annoying when Christians use the word “biblical” as a modifier for their opinions, especially because the people who tend to do that take a chauvinist, homophobic, legalistic and literal reading of the New Testament. Thanks to writers like you, Sarah Bessey, and Rachel Held Evans, I’m learning to be freed from that kind of “biblical” trap. I
    http://creating-mom.com

    • http://ebrits.tumblr.com/ Eugene Brits

      freed from the bible :-) Sounds dangerous to me!

  • http://ecclesiaextraneus.wordpress.com/ Matt

    Its always interesting how shared, equal leadership works well in business, in education, in social situations, and many other places where you can have two, three, four, or more male and female leaders working together to serve each other. But somehow, that won’t transfer to marriage? Compartmentalization: it’s only a problem when others do it differently than you want them to.

    • Paul Fekete

      I am not aware of another other group of humans (club, business, organization, etc.) that does not have delegated leader that makes the call for the best of the team if consensus can not be reached. Did I miss something or where you being sarcastic?

      • http://ecclesiaextraneus.wordpress.com/ Matt

        Yeah, you have missed the last two decades of group work dynamics where ever you have worked, learned, or formed other groups. I know there are many places that are still operating with the older American business model of ONE “delegated leader that makes the call for the best of the team”, but not all do. I have been a part of I can’t count how many that didn’t have ONE leader. The point is not team decision making, but multiple people in charge. The original post here had this quote: “When you’re competing with two heads, that can pose a lot of problems or issues.” My point was that two (or more) people in charge has proven to work quite well in many situations.

      • Jane Dunn

        Yes, you’ve missed the fact that millions of businesses are operated as 2-person partnerships or 50/50 corporate ownership. As lawyer, I can tell you that in these types of businesses there is no ultimate “decider” and they function just fine. Of course, just as in a marriage, these businesses can reach an impasse and break up but many more are quite successful for many years.

  • Anonymous

    I love this. My husband recently told me that he felt I have rebellion and disobedience in my heart, that God is not blessing me or our family because I am not in submission…I’m not in order. He even questioned my salvation and implied that a woman like that isn’t esteemed by God. That sent me on quite the roller coaster ride, but God has graciously met me along the way with words such as yours. I can admit I’m not always fun to live with, but I’m sure of my salvation. My call is to love God, love my husband and be the very best me I can be. My husband genuinely loves God, is not a harsh man and really has good intentions; however, he is fully indoctrinated with the mindset you’ve addressed here. It’s difficult, but I am finding my own voice, while striving to walk in love. Thank you.

    • Lyn Belzer-Tonnessen

      Keep up your strength. Keep the faith. And get the number for a good therapist. :)

      • Anonymous

        Haha ;) Thanks!

    • Elizabeth

      Could I suggest reading “Powerful and Free” by Danny Silk? I spent years being difficult to live with because I was so hurt and resentful that I was told for years that I was rebellious, controlling, etc. just because I was a female who didn’t feel that bring controlled by men was Biblical. This book brought healing and understanding to me (and my husband!). Praying for you. It is such a difficult road.

      • Anonymous

        I have thought about reading that one. I’ve listened to his teaching and also Kris Vallotton’s. Both have been extremely helpful and affirming. At the right time, I might ask my husband to listen, too. Right now I think the Lord has me focused on my own heart, and how I’ve responded in bitterness. All I can control and answer for is myself. It’s a difficult thing to navigate and I want to stay within the parameters of love, not demanding my own rights or my own way, because that isn’t the way Jesus did it, but at the same time use my own voice and just sort of take my place. I really think God just wants me to become myself, if that makes any sense. That may be the way this thing will fall into line. Thank you for your words and your prayers.

    • phoenixmind

      Hi anon, I was the spouse indoctrinated to be less than, and like you said, finding my voice was really hard. I found the book Boundaries by Dr’s Cloud and Townsend to be a God send, they’ve also written one for marriage, Boundaries in Marriage. It’s firmly based in scripture and has some great examples of God modeling healthy interpersonal relationship skills. The writers specifically mention the pushback we can get from our loved ones when we start establishing healthy boundaries.

    • Anonymous

      May I recommend “Passionate Marriage” by Dr. David Schnarch. In my humble opinion the very best book in print on marriage— it is not a christian book so you don’t have to sift through someone’s pet theology– it is pure psychology addressing emotional intimacy and sexual intimacy– it completely altered my views on marriage (for the better) and changed my life— I came across it when I was experiencing double depression, despair, hopelessness– i believe it was GOD who let me come across it! From the first chapter I was hooked— the skills you learn in the book positively affect all your relationships (not just marriage partner)

      • KA

        Schnarch is a great resource! “Sexual Crucible” was used in a Christian Counseling & Sexuality course I took a few years ago. it’s great because he doesn’t bog everything down with theology, but leaves room to figure out how everything fits into your own situation!

    • Anonfornow

      This is harsh, but the things your husband is saying sound like pretty classic psychological abuse masquerading as religious doctrine. I hope you will take the suggestions of therapy and reading others have offered, but also, please allow yourself the option of just getting OUT if you need to.

    • Jean

      Thanks Anonymous,
      I understand and agree with what you wrote. I wonder if anyone sees that there are no articles written to husbands to tell them what God tells them to do for their wives. It would make a difference for women, I think. Do you think that men could understand wives better about this, if they were continually beat over the head with Scripture, the way women are done? These articles are everywhere and God sees this and we need to be aware that He may not be pleased with the way we write and scold only wives. Do men really think God intended for them to make submission the topic of every article. They need to be careful, taking Scripture out of context and read the whole Word of God.
      You see, Candace Cameron Bure’s husband needs to write a book for men antd tell them how God tells us to submit to one another and honor their wives and give their lives for their wives. Are men willing to do what God asks them to do. Maybe if men could see articles about them, then we would not have all these big mouthed people on the internet throwing the word “submit” at wives. 4-24-14

      Men: You all are to love, honor, and give your lives for your wives and be servant leaders. Go men and read all of Ephesians, before you throw another lecture at wives. You will not be blessed if you all continue to nit pick at the Word of God. Read all of it, then you may come back and talk about “submit” to women.

  • Thomas

    To be honest, we can say what we want to say about it, and even if I don’t agree with how they have decided to structure their marriage, I take the words of John Wesley to heart:

    “Is your heart right with God? Do you believe in Jesus Christ as Lord?
    Do you show your love by your actions? If so, let’s all say, “Yes!” If
    that is what you want, then your heart is right, and my heart is right
    there with you. If so, then take my hand.”

    It always troubles me that happy Christians have to call out the beliefs of happy Christians who work out their salvation in a little bit different way.

    What is more troubling is how comment sections everywhere (as it is already here) that will call this woman delusional, oppressed, blinded, and other assorted insults thrown at a woman who seems to be anything but.

    • Jacob Gehman

      You would have a very good point if the article was about random words from a random person. But when someone writes a book expected to help instruct other people? Then there can–and should–be public discussion.

      • Roberta

        Public discussion, yes. By why do we have to stoop to name calling and personally attacking. I don’t think that was what Sarah had in mind when she published this. This is about coming together, discussing and even disagreeing ~ but we don’t have to be cruel.

      • Thomas

        Last time I checked, God shows no partiality, and neither should we.

        My question is, why couldn’t a book like this help someone. Is there only one way to run a marriage, or should the marriage be run in a way that is in agreement by both parties? I see no hints of abuse, coercion, etc. – and we shouldn’t imply as much even if we – in our own self-absorbed ways – feel she might have “married young” or “is related to Kirk Cameron”.

        If I remember correctly, it is not sin to have a marriage that looks this way, and people should have a right and be free from ridicule for deciding as such – especially when no one here has provided any evidence that she nor her children have been “harmed” in the process.

        We may “think” she has been harmed, because her views are different than hers, but in fact, she states she is happy, as well as that she is working hard at continually improving her marriage … and that should be met with a great hurrah!, not a haughty disdainful “you’re doing it wrong, silly girl” or for feeling “sorry for her”, as others have noted.

        • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

          Since some of these comments seem directed to something I said earlier, perhaps I should respond.

          I did not mean to suggest “coercion.” I did, however, mean to suggest that she didn’t know what she was getting into. One could argue that no one who gets married does, but in my experience, those who wait a few years to get married are for more prepared for dealing with life as a married person, having spent more time getting to know who they *themselves* are first. They are more likely to know what worldview they want (and, similarly, what kind of a worldview they want their spouse to have), having spent time learning about different options.

          Age is by no means a guarantor of having this experience and learning, of course, but it is much harder to have it without the benefit of those years. And when one’s close family member is strongly encouraging a particular view, one is even more likely to adopt it (perhaps without considering whether it is a good one. After all, if you can’t trust your beloved family member, who *can* you trust?).

          I think she is harmed, not just because her view is different than mine. There are views that are different than mine that I don’t think are harmful. I think she is harmed because I *do* think *this* view is particularly harmful. I think Ms. Bessey’s post gets into some of the reasons *why* it’s harmful, so I won’t comment further on that point. But I do note that it is entirely possibly to be “happy” (or, perhaps more accurately, to be seen as happy, because I honestly don’t claim to know whether Ms. Bure is happy or not) while still being harmed by thing that makes one happy. In fact, it’s quite common.

        • http://aftertheecstasythelaundry.wordpress.com/ Cynthia Schrage

          I disagree with your implication that she has not been harmed. Bure’s own words are, “I quickly learned that I had to find a way of hohonoring his take-charge personality and not get frustrated about his
          desire to have the final decision on just about everything.”

          She is doing what she can, that is true. And she is committed to the marriage, that is true. But I’m not seeing how a husband who “[desires] to have the final decision on just about everything,” is anything less than a bully.

          How is that not harmful? How is her loosely veiled assertion that it’s “his way or the highway” anything less than the very kind of tyranny that is NOT advocated by Jesus?

          I do not mean to ridicule her, I’m certainly not thinking Sarah Bessey is, and I don’t think most of the people commenting here are. Yes, there are certainly a few individuals that might make a knee-jerk reaction. Such is the way of things. But for you to make the assertion that “oh, everyone’s marriage is different–to each couple their own” misses a critical point. We should be moving toward love, not just suffering along to make it work at all.

        • Jon L. Estes

          You make your point well. Thank you. The “desire” of her husband to have the last word seems to be more of a personality trait he has, less than being a bully.

          That same personality trait is seen in many comment sections on the internet. How many comments drag on and on just because some desire or must have the final word. Bullies, probably not. Type A personality, more than likely.

          Gosh, someone will get the final word and as a result lots of people will give up the discussion and/or be angry.

          In marriage let’s let God’s word have it but let’s make sure we do not leave anything out to make our point.

          An example for that (to me) from the article when Genesis 3:16 is used but Genesis 3:17 is not considered as part of the context.

    • Rachel Heston-Davis

      I don’t have any interesting in bashing Cameron-Bure for her choices. However, I do think it’s appropriate and fair to have a public discussion when a celebrity knowingly sets out to persuade other young women to her way of living. It’s okay to write articles in which we examine and disagree with a point of view that someone else is actively trying to enforce on others. I felt like Sarah Bessey did a good job of talking about the complementarian ideas and not just trash-talking the person who said them.

    • Rene

      Thank you!! I was wondering if this was a christian thread!!!

  • Patrick Olp

    Does she mean “biblical” in the sense of men marrying teenage girls?

  • Pookie McGee

    Thank you so much for this article!! Too often, especially in the church, wives who “submit” to their husbands end up in abusive relationships. It’s not one who submits to the other, it’s mutual submission.

    Beautifully written, and thank you.

  • http://www.inahazelnutshell.blogspot.com/ Laura Werezak

    I love this! So often in the marriage debates people portray those of us on the egalitarian side as anti-submission, or anti-scripture when that is not the case! Thanks for bringing out this side of our argument, Sarah, with so much grace and truth.

  • Rebekah Richardson

    oh Sarah….you speak with the kind of grace that no one else can, bless you and your courageous heart

  • Lily Fryer

    Graceful. Eloquent. Refreshing. I expected nothing less. Thank you!

  • Sally Hanan

    I wonder if some women slide into the role of submissive wife because they are afraid of taking responsibility for their own power.

  • http://www.jamesprescott.co.uk/ James Prescott

    Yes, yes, yes. So true. Couldn’t agree with you more Sarah. We need your words on this. Thanks for standing up for what matters.

  • soprano116

    “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.” That is, in fact, verbatim scripture (Eph. 5:23), contrary to this author’s assertion that “The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.” I actually agree with the author’s overall points about mutual submission to a point; when one takes the totality of scripture, God does indeed call all of us to submission and mutual, sacrificial, Christlike love and service. But it is more complex than that. Whether we want to submit our lives to it or not, God did indeed create and establish an “ideal” order – for the church, for the family, and for all of his creation. He is the head of Christ, his son, and has authority over him, even while they exist in the same being with the Holy Spirit. Christ is the head of the Church, and we as believers and those in ministry must submit joyfully to his loving authority, or risk going our own way and leading others astray, or worse, causing division in the body of Christ. Therefore, when Paul says “Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her”, he is illustrating the reality of what a marriage actually is designed to be – a union of a man and a woman reflecting the relationship between Christ and his bride, who he loved to the point of submitting to being brutally killed on a cross… for her! The husband carries this enormous responsibility of spiritual Headship. Regardless of the day-to-day decision-making process in their home, he is the one who ultimately will answer to God for how he led his family – whether towards a deeper love for the Lord, or away from a relationship with him, just as any pastor or teacher must answer for the way he instructs his flock. I don’t know about you, but that’s the kind of marriage I want, one in which both partners seek to reflect the unconditional, self-sacrificing love of God in Christ to the benefit of each other and their family, and the glory of God. Whenever we seek to impose our modern values on a holy, sacred institution ordained by God for the purpose of reflecting his love for humankind, we cheapen it and miss out on the rich blessings we could enjoy through submitting ourselves to his Word.

    • http://www.knotsvilla.com/ Gee | KnotsVilla

      Yeah the author kind of threw me off a bit with this statement too “The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity”

    • Brandy

      Perfect response and explanation! Agree wholeheartedly.

    • http://www.prestonyancey.com/ Preston Yancey
    • Dave

      Very Well said

    • Melissa

      Do you think that slaves should never have run away or resisted slavery? Or that current slaves in the world (of which there are many) should not resist? Or that Bonhoeffer and other dissenters in Nazi Germany should not have resisted or fought, because we must obey political rulers, whom God, after all, has set over us?

      These questions are not irrelevant. The passages that address them are closely linked in language, rationale, progression of thought, and spatial proximity to the passages you quote on submission for women. I have heard no legitimate or logical reason why they are subject to interpretation, exception, or questioning, and yet somehow passages on women never are.

    • Rev_Cocoa

      This idea that God holds men somehow more accountable for the status of his family more than women just strikes me as baffling. First of all, where does it say that in the Bible? Nowhere. That’s just read into the text. Second of all, really? Women are less responsible for how their families turn out? That’s bonkers.

      • Brian

        That’s pretty easy, who does God call out in the garden after the fall. Who is held resposible for what happened and then is the reason for the sinfullness of man. Read Gen 3

        • Rev_Cocoa

          You read it. There’s nothing explicit in the text that would defend that interpretation. In fact, while you’re at it, read the first two chapters– describing the creation that is still “good.” And there the picture we get is one of equality.

          It’s only “pretty easy” if you’re ready to impose chauvinistic readings onto the text.

        • Rev_Cocoa

          According to your logic, Adam’s fall from grace was not a result of having eaten the fruit but of having allowed Eve to do so. But God did not say, “Why did you allow Eve to eat of the fruit?” He asked why he himself had eaten.

      • patriciamc

        Thanks for that point. No where in the Bible is the husband held more accountable. That’s something complementarians have read into scripture.

        • samshea

          In fact, I find just the opposite. Sapphira was held fully accountable for the deception committed with her husband, Ananias (Acts 5:1-11). The idea that the husband is fully responsible is not only wrong, but dangerous.

    • heretic

      I read some of Rachel’s post too. The problem is not with scripture. The problem always lies within our understanding or misunderstanding of it. Does misinterpretation of “women submit to your husbands” lead to domestic violence and misuse and abuse of a man’s power and authority over his wife? Absolutely – yes. But the problem is not with the scripture. The problem is with the way we as a society have identified and defined the words “authority” and “submission.” I believe the problem goes further than the family, but also has roots in society, government, church and business.

      No one (I presume) would argue that Christ is head of the church. Yet if we follow the logic used here to dismiss men as head of the home, we can also dismiss Christ as head as well.

      Authority is different than power. Authority is to set the captives free. The right to remove restraints an prisons that would bind a person, and keep them from being all that God has created them to be. It is never self-serving or self-seeking. Love is not selfish.

      God resists the proud. Yet in America we pride ourselves on our pride. Why wouldn’t a woman want to submit to a man if the man was like Christ? Answer: Pride and Selfishness on the part of the woman. Why wouldn’t a woman want to submit to a man who was anything but like Christ? Answer: Pride and Selfishness on the part of the man who clearly misunderstands that the authority he was give was not for his own benefit, but for the benefit of those he was called and created to lead. The woman’s response to not want to submit is logical but is it Christ-like?

      Q. Is Christ the head of the church?
      A. Yes.

      Q. Is man the head of the woman?
      A. Yes.

      Q. Does that position give him the right to wield his wife as a tool to satisfy his own needs?
      A. No.

      Q. Does that position require that he submits himself to his wife?
      A. Yes. Submit yourselves one to another. Submit even to the point of laying down his own life, rights and privileges so as to serve his wife and children. He will be held responsible for how he used the authority he was given. He was given great authority over his family to set them free. It was for freedom that Christ set us free. He didn’t set us free so he could control and micromanage our lives. That’s the authority that we have received as men from Christ.

      The problem is not with the man being the authority or the head. The problem is with how we interpret and define that authority. When we place the world’s definition on authority instead of the kingdom example that Jesus gave to us with his very life then things get perverted from their original intent and design.

      I could go on, but let me close with a few final thoughts. The author’s identification of a problem within modern society and even the church is right on. Her conclusion that men and women should submit to each other is also right on. However, man as the head is God’s design. And it is for the liberation of the woman, not for the sake of male dominion. Positions of authority are designed to be positions of servanthood, not to make one a lord with servants.

      • Gail

        Not to minimize those who struggle under the tensions arising out of control issues or unealthy boundaries within their marriage, or those who have yet to come to some realizations about the goodness of their own gender identity or their mates gender identity as created in the image of God as male and female, the views presented in this comment in my opinion offer the best perspective I have read. I am glad this comment made it into the discussion.”Soprano” also does well.

      • Anna

        Can you (or any complementarian) please explain how women are liberated by the man being the head? Are you saying a woman can’t be liberated without male authority? A man
        does not need authority to serve his wife. Egalitarian marriages work just fine, actually better than comp marriages.
        Could you provide a specific example or scenario to demonstrate what you mean?

    • Jessica

      This is my opinion, as well, and I was also surprised at that first assertion, having read that passage in Ephesians many times over. Submission isn’t a four-letter word, nor does it mean what most people assume it means, culturally. It has a much different connotation in the Bible (believe me, for a total control freak and super independent woman, this would be a tough nut to crack, otherwise). The bottom line is that Christ is the head of our homes and our lives, and if we come together in marriage to serve Him, that’s the goal. A man does have a God-ordained role to be the head of a household, and women were created to be a companion to a man (from the story of creation)- that doesn’t mean we are less or not capable of leading ourselves. Of course we are- read Proverbs 31 and all of the accomplishments and strength credited to the Biblical account of ideal womanhood- she is capable, intelligent, independent and kind, but all that she does done to serve the Lord and her family. God obviously values strong women and WANTS us to be that way. Submitting to your husband doesn’t mean being a doormat or allowing him to just have his way just because he’s the man (that’s the only part of what Candace Bure said that bothered me), it’s about allowing him to have the spiritual authority over your family because that is how it was intended to be.

      • Rev_Cocoa

        “It’s about allowing him to have the spiritual authority over your family.” Where does it say that in the Bible? And what exactly does that mean? How does a man exercise this spiritual authority– really?

    • Jo

      Hello. I recently took a basic theology class, and the idea that God the Father is over God the Son is the basis for one of the oldest official heresies in Christian history, Arianism. Granted, I’m of the opinion that all of our thoughts about God are in some way flawed because A) Sin broke the created universe, including our ability to understand, and B) by comparison to God, our minds are tiny, but if there is one thing nearly all denominations agree on, it’s the equality of the Trinity; considering the amount of diversity the in the Church, I have to think that means something important. I’m not saying you can’t believe complimentarianism is right, nor am I saying you have no basis for your belief, but I would not recommend using the argument above as evidence or defense. If you would like someone more trained in Theology to back me up, I’d be happy to ask any of my former religion professors, my pastor, or my seminary-bound friends.

      • soprano116

        Jo, thank you for your thoughtful response. You may not realize it, but you actually made my point for me. Christ and the Father are indeed one, and neither is “superior” to the other. But even though they are on equal standing as One God, Christ submitted himself to the Father’s will. See Phil. 2:5-8: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” This is a great and beautiful mystery that our finite minds can only begin to grasp.

        So it is with Christ and His Church – we as Christ’s body lovingly submit ourselves to Christ our head, and to the shepherds he has put over his flock. Likewise, in marriage, which reflects in earthly form the relationship between Christ and his bride, the church, wives submit ourselves to our husbands in love, while husbands submit themselves to God, even to the point of death, and accept the enormous responsibility of servant leadership.

        It is both/and, not either/or. Yes, women are equal to men and full partners with our husbands through life. Yes, women are just as capable as men at leading. Men and women are “joint heirs” of the kingdom. Scripture makes it plain that both men and women are children of God, and neither is superior to the other in his sight, yet they are different, they are uniquely complementary, and both are called to submit to one another. Women are specifically instructed to respect, honor, and submit to their husbands, and husbands are called to love and lay their lives down for their wives.

        To be clear, this model is rarely lived out perfectly by human beings because we are human beings who are sinful and selfish and incapable of holiness on our own strength. That’s why Christ died to offer us grace. Many misguided men (even pastors, tragically) have tried to use this instruction as license to dominate their families in a worldly sense, rather than lead their families in a spiritual sense. But just because a command given by God is hard and complicated and makes us uncomfortable, doesn’t mean his will is not perfect and that we should not strive to live our lives in line with his teachings.

        Thanks for an excellent conversation, everyone.

        • Rudy

          So the ‘thought control’ people are at it again. Now we can’t use the word Biblical” when it comes to our opinions. I find it interesting that there are so many who define their faith by what parts of Scripture they do not believe. They change it either by false exegesis, historical inaccuracies, or pulling verses out of context, in order to create something they are comfortable with. God gave us something very beautiful in the institution of marriage.His instructions are plain and easy to understand. There is no reason to change it to fit what we perceive to be our cultural taste. We need to have the faith to believe that if we are obedient to His unadulterated teaching, we will be doing what pleases Him. And pleasing Him is what it’s all about whether we are comfortable with it or not. We don’t know better than God.

  • Maya Resnikoff

    “Biblical” as an adjective always feels sort of mystifying to me- Biblical by what rules of interpretation? The example (extreme) that sticks with me is Heinlein’s description of a world with the exact same Bible that we have, in which lex talionis (eye for an eye, etc) is practiced literally- because that’s what the Bible says.

    In Jewish tradition, “ezer k’negdo” is most frequently understood according to this (paraphrased) comment by Rashi (medieval Jewish commentator)- ezer means a help, k’negdo means “against or opposite”- a woman is to a help to her husband when he is doing right, and against him when he’s doing wrong. That doesn’t work out to something submissive at all, from my own understanding of my marriage, not to mention the other marriages that I’ve seen. It’s an interactive, debating, sort of relationship, where both voices truly matter.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    “But it is very difficult to have two heads of authority” <—-Why do people keep saying that? Where is their evidence? What is their reasoning behind this? I could decide to start repeating something over and over, but that doesn't make it true. I could start saying silly things like "It's really difficult to have a healthy marriage when you decide to have kids" or "It's really difficult to stay married when you live in the state of Missouri" or "It's really difficult to love your partner when they wear green socks" but unless I can back that up with reasoning and indisputable examples, my words are empty.

    Besides the fact that, if we really want to argue the point, egalitarians believe that neither person has "authority," so her concern about two sources of authority is invalid to begin with. It isn't about authority; it's about loving other people.

  • http://www.girlwithblog.com/ Anna R.

    {repeating my tweet here} Standing, slow clap. So well done, you.

  • pastordt

    Yes, ma’am. Well done – and thank you.

  • John Hawthorne

    Mutual submission is harder than it’s critics allow. In my career, we’ve moved four times. Each time, we decided together that it was the right move but my wife felt the brunt of the decision. I advanced my career but she had to reinvent herself four times. Even though we decided together, I’ve had to cope with the inequity of the outcome. (I’ve promised we aren’t moving again!)

    • http://www.kellyjyoungblood.com/ Kelly J Youngblood

      I’d like to know your wife. We have moving multiple times in common. Same as with you the decision was mutual but I also had to adjust more each time. It has been good for me though and I don’t think i would change it.

  • Camp Whisperer

    This is so well written and powerful. It is rare to hear someone speak (you have a very specific voice in my head, by the way) with such eloquence and clarity about such a challenging and personal topic. You continue to astound me.

  • Linda File

    There are problems with this on so many levels. The Bible is the guide, but someone has to explain what worldview we are working with in order to make its awkward statements work? The Bible is wrong about slavery, but eventually we’ve gotten it right? The Bible says to submit, but it’s mutual submission that trumps the other kind some men are going with. They just need our patience, ladies. When are we going to admit the foundation we’re working with here is very, very unsound? Let’s talk about deciding to live rationally, respectfully, intelligently–not trying to fit rational thinking into something with so many obvious irrationalities.

    • RationalThinker

      Finally someone talking some sense

  • Sister11

    I feel there is an important fact from her interview that seems to have been overlooked, (which I believe falls toward the end of the quote from Mrs. Bure which is posted above.) She said if there were an area where she felt strongly, her husband would submit to her because he values her opinion just as she does his. That is mutual submission.

    • http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com Mark Baker-Wright

      I think a lot of people who claim patriarchy actually live out mutuality while arguing against it. That doesn’t make the admonitions for a patriarchal marriage as “biblical” any less harmful.

  • Amanda Stewart

    I would love to see someone like Sarah write an article about how to relate this truth lovingly to women who are in marriages where they are expected to submit and are struggling deeply with feeling trapped between their husband and their own convictions or needs. I know women who are dealing with the financial repercussions of their husband’s ambitions, and even the emotional stress of having to give up on a calling and stay home. On top of these things they are feeling spiritually inadequate and even disobedient to God for disagreeing with the “head.” How does one respect a friend’s marriage while at the same time lovingly encouraging her to stand up for herself?

    • Nelson

      Encourage her to become Episcopalian. Cause E wives don’t play that game! :)

  • Jamie

    “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.”

    Whatever you do, make sure your view is based out of scripture and not just forming a view that makes you feel best about yourself. God’s ways are higher than our ways even when we don’t understand them. Takes faith.

    • Rev_Cocoa

      I’m sorry if I’m misinterpreting your tone here, but it’s coming across as quite sanctimonious– as though you’re little quotation from Ephesians there is offering a corrective to the content of the post. But let’s look at that passage (and not just an isolated verse from it). The fact is that this instruction to wives follows an general instruction to the church as a whole to “submit to one another.” So basically Paul’s just repeating himself and the implication from the earlier command is that husbands should submit to wives.

      Oh, but Paul doesn’t say “submit.” He says “love.” True. But given that the example of “love” he gives is of Christ “giving himself up” I think we’re seeing a distinction without a difference. All attempts to read a distinction between “submitting” and “loving” are reading more into the text than the text actually says.

      • Humble Man

        I think you answered your own counter-argument with your last sentence, as you yourself are guilty of “reading more into the text than the text actually says.” Men are called to die unto themselves and serve their wives, as Christ served the Church. If we use your logic here, then you are saying that Christ also submits to the body, His church. This is a fallacy and a dangerous way to read scripture.

        • Rev_Cocoa

          It only seems problematic, Humble Man, if you assume that submission is about establishing a traditional chain of authority. I think Paul is in fact subverting such thinking. I’m not saying that the church is in authority over Jesus. I’m only saying what Paul said, that Jesus “gave himself up for the church,” and suggesting that this sounds a lot like “submission.” Does that give the church authority over Jesus? Of course not.

          • Humble Man

            I actually never said anything about “a traditional chain of authority.” Submission in the context Paul is saying is a penultimate authority, which means that it is not the ultimate authority, as it is thus submissive to Christ – the ultimate authority.

          • Rev_Cocoa

            Actually “penultimate” is more specific than simply saying it’s not ultimate. It’s that which immediately precedes the final or ultimate. It sounds like you’re saying “submission” is a secondary authority to Jesus– which makes no sense. Submission isn’t an authority at all. It’s an act. So I assume you’re saying that we submit first to Christ and secondarily to others. Or, more to the point, we submit to others out of and according to our submission to Christ.

            You appear to assume that I called this into question. I did not. I did say that Christ provides a model for our understanding of submission in that he gave himself up for the church. Again, this doesn’t say he isn’t the authority over the church. In the same way, Jesus himself saying he came not to be served but to serve doesn’t mean he doesn’t have authority over the church. Of course he does.

            Accordingly, Paul saying that wives should submit to their husbands doesn’t necessarily mean that husbands are in authority over wives. That’s not his point. Just as it isn’t Jesus’ point to say that those whom he serves have authority over him.

        • Anna

          Isn’t he submitting to the church each time he answers a prayer?

  • Guest

    Biblically speaking the Apostles tie the headship of man in a marriage to the order of creation–not a sign of man’s importance but of his firstness and teaching and leading role…and they tie the headship of man to the fall and the differing sins of man and woman and the differing results. So–though at heart I’m an egalitarian–what is written will not pass any serious Biblical test. Just simply assigning the Apostles’ motives to the Greco-Roman world does not just brush them away. In many ways Pauls’ views are quite radical–why can’t we see that without wiping away the meaning of the Scriptures? 1 Cor. says a womans body does not belong to her along but to her husband AND (very radically) a man’s body does not belong to him alone but to his wife. Mutual ownership was unheard of. And the mutual submission– I agree–is the norm in Kingdom relationships. But that does not diminish the headship teaching. And the headship teaching does not diminish women, their roles, their partnership in marriage, their worth, etc etc. But being cleaver in brushing off teaching in Scripture tied to creation and sin—is not just harmless stuff. It undermines fairness in dealing with interpretation of Scripture. We may think we are solving our problems with Scripture with a cute explain away–but it comes back to bite us on other important doctrines. We have become the judge of Scripture rather than it being the timeless judge of us.

    • Alastair J Roberts

      Yes, the Scripture clearly teaches mutuality and equal dignity and worth. What it does not teach is equivalence of vocation, interchangeability or symmetry of callings. I don’t have a problem talking about ‘mutual submission’, provided that we recognize that, as the Bible teaches this, it isn’t ‘symmetrical’ submission. Man and woman are called to submit to each other in differing (though overlapping) ways.

      The original created order is worth reflecting upon here too, especially as it is something that Paul alludes to on a number of occasions. A few things to observe:

      1. As Beale and several others have argued Eden is a prototypical sanctuary/temple.
      2. The man is created before the Garden and probably witnesses its creation. God places him within the Garden in order to ‘guard and to keep it’, guarding and keeping being the task of the priests and Levites relative to the tabernacle/temple (the same verbs are used).
      3. God gives the man the command concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
      4. God brings all of the animals to the man in order for him to name them and to look for a helper.
      5. God then creates the woman as a helper for the man from his side and brings her to him, at which point the man names her.

      It is important to recognize the situation that now pertains in the Garden between the man and the woman, prior to the Fall. The man has been placed in the Garden with a vocation to guard and to keep it. The woman and the man were not commissioned together. Rather, the woman comes under the commission given to the man. She is created as his helper in a priestly commission entrusted to him in particular, not his counterpart in a priestly commission entrusted to them both together. The man alone stands for the whole human race before God (we are ‘Adamic’ in the final analysis, not ‘Adamic and Evean’). The man has the primary authority and the primary accountability, which is how he is addressed by God. It is in the man that the human race fell.

      Furthermore, and this is important to notice, the woman is never given the commandment concerning the Tree, although she does come under it. Whenever the commandment is spoken of it is spoken of as a command given to the man alone (Genesis 2:16-17, 3:11, 17—reading in the original Hebrew is helpful here, the ‘you’ is Adam, not Adam and Eve), although both man and woman were subject to it. The woman could be deceived precisely because she only knew the commandment secondhand and the man allowed her to be deceived while he stood by.

      In short, the situation before the Fall is far from that which egalitarians like to present it as. The man is functioning as the priest of the Garden, the one finally responsible for the commission to guard and to keep it. The man is also responsible to uphold and to teach the law concerning the tree, a law which the woman only knows from him, as God has not told her directly. As she is the helper of one commanded concerning the tree, she comes under the command too.

      Whether we want to translate kephale as ‘head’, ‘source’, or something different entirely, the original, prototypical and archetypal situation in the Garden, prior to the coming of Sin, is still one in which the man has a priestly authority and responsibility that the woman does not. When Paul alludes to Genesis he expects us to know this and to recognize that Adam’s ‘firstness’ is not just an arbitrary detail, but is a key framing factor in that narrative.

      This is not to argue for a unilateral and universal priority of the man over the woman, or for authority as personal ‘right’, but for an asymmetry of callings. Man and woman relate to their shared human vocation differently, each taking priority in different respects and areas. However, in the area of priestly authority, it is the man who takes the priority.

      • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

        “The man is also responsible to uphold and to teach the law concerning the tree, a law which the woman only knows from him, as God has not told her directly.”

        How do you know the man was responsible for teaching her? It is neither in the Bible that the man taught her, nor that God taught her.

        “The original, prototypical and archetypal situation in the Garden, prior to the coming of Sin, is still one in which the man has a priestly authority and responsibility that the woman does not.”
        How do you know she did not have that “authority” when she came into existence?” The Bible does not say she does not, but you assert it.

        There are several things like that in your comment – Alistair, beware of teaching as if you speak from the Bible when the Bible is silent.

        • Alastair J Roberts

          That the woman didn’t receive the commandment directly can be deduced from a careful reading of the text. A few points to recognize:

          First, whenever the actual giving of the command is referred to, it is referred to as something that is given to the man alone, before the woman was created (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:11, 17). In the Hebrew, God declares to the man ‘because you (singular) … have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you (singular), saying, ‘You (singular) shall not eat of it’ (Genesis 3:17).

          Second, the woman was deceived, but the man was not, sinning with a high hand (Genesis 3:13; cf. 1 Timothy 2:14). We need to ask how this could be the case, if the woman had heard the command directly from God. In such a case she would have been directly going against what she knew that God had said, directly questioning his character, and would also have been wilfully and knowingly leading another to go against God’s word. This is more than just being deceived.

          The woman could be deceived because she was receiving mixed messages. 1. In Genesis 1:29 we see that God had explicitly given the man and the woman every fruit-bearing tree to eat from; 2. The man had received the commandment that the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was forbidden and had passed this commandment onto his wife: as his helper, she came under the commandment too (a point that she made clear when she recounted the command); 3. The serpent, who is introduced as a cunning creature, the sort of being who would be good at teaching the ways of the creation, pitted these two messages against each other, calling into question whether a prohibition really existed; 4. The man was standing by silently all of the time (notice the end of verse 6), failing to challenge the word of the serpent, even though he knew that it was false (also, guarding the Tree was part of his job description). The serpent, acting as a teacher, contradicts the teaching of the man concerning the teaching of God. He directly challenges the man’s word and indirectly challenges God’s word.

          In the rest of Scripture, the woman is presented as relatively innocent in the Fall. We fall in Adam, not Adam and Eve. The deception of the woman is a wrong committed against the woman (by both the serpent and the man). There are consequences for the woman, of course, but the Fall itself is the result of the man’s sin.

          As she is the largely innocent victim of the serpent’s evil, God places enmity between the woman and the serpent and declares that salvation and defeat of the serpent will be achieved through the woman. Also, from that point forward in the biblical narrative, there is the theme of the woman getting her own back by deceiving ‘serpents’. Sarai deceives Pharaoh. Sarah and Rebekah deceive Abimelech. Rachel deceives Laban. The Hebrew midwives deceive Pharaoh’s men. Rahab deceives the rulers of Jericho. Jael deceives Sisera. Michal deceives Saul. Esther deceives Haman. And so on. That the woman was deceived and that she was primarily an innocent victim only makes sense when we appreciate that the man knew more than she did and was consequently her teacher.

          The fact that the serpent addresses the woman, rather than the man and the woman together is significant. She was the one who, through ignorance, could be deceived. When God inquires about the sin, he calls the man alone first. Once he has cast judgment on the serpent and the woman, the primary responsibility is placed upon the man, and his failure to keep the commandment addressed to him directly and individually is highlighted twice. He is also challenged for ‘hearkening to the voice of his wife,’ reversing the order of the sanctuary. The man represents all of humanity and so both the Fall and the expulsion from the garden are concentrated upon him, although both the man and the woman were included (verses 22-24 speak of the man in the singular and of things that were only true of Adam as a particular individual). As the man was the source of the woman, she came under his vocation, under the commands given to him, and also under his judgment.

          The fact that the man had the primary authority is seen in a number of facts:

          1. He was the source of the woman and, as a consequence, he stood for all of humanity. The woman could not represent all of humanity in the same way (another reason why we fall in Adam alone, rather than Eve alone, or Adam and Eve together). We all bear the image of Adam, not the image of Adam and Eve (cf. Genesis 5:3; 1 Corinthians 15:49). The man is the image of God par excellence (1 Corinthians 11:7). The man can represent God’s authority to the woman in a way that the woman cannot to the man (this doesn’t mean that the woman cannot represent distinct aspects of God’s creative rule to the man).

          2. He received the priestly commission concerning the Garden before the woman was created (the fact that Eden was a sanctuary for worship and that the task of ‘guarding and keeping’ given to the man was a priestly task has been explored in detail by G.K. Beale and others). God didn’t suddenly split this commission in two when the woman was created, or declare that it was a purely shared commission. The commissioned man was the source of the woman, so she participated in his commission. However, the responsibility for the commission stopped with the man. The woman doubtless had a priestly authority within the Garden, but this authority was a participation in the authority given to the man and was an authority that he primarily represented.

          3. I won’t repeat the points that I made about the commandment being given to the man alone, before the creation of the woman, but they apply here.

          4. The woman is formed for the man and from the man, not vice versa. Paul makes this point in 1 Corinthians 11:8-9.

          5. The man named the woman twice: the first time as ‘woman’ (2:23) and the second time as ‘Eve’ (3:20). This is the sign of a certain primacy of representation (much as the fact that a family bears the surname of the father has traditionally been related to the fact that the man is the chief public representative of and person responsible for the family).

          6. The man is addressed as the one with primary accountability following the Fall, as the one who has to take primary responsibility, and as the one against whom the sanctions are most directed.

          Of course, Paul takes up these points in 1 Timothy 2. The reason why women cannot teach or usurp authority over a man in the assembled worship of the Church (this is the context of 1 Timothy 2, not general relations between men and women in the wider culture) is because Adam was formed before Eve. Adam was commissioned as the priest before Eve’s creation and then Eve was created as a helper suited to him. The Fall resulted from the confusion of this created order, by a woman taking the priestly lead in the sanctuary.

          Men can and should learn from women in many areas of life, the Christian life included. Men can also be led and guided by women in many ways and areas of life. However, a woman is constitutionally incapable of representing the authority of God in his Church. This isn’t because women lack some necessary skill set, or that they are less intelligent or more easily deceived (Eve wasn’t deceived because she was less intelligent, but because she was receiving contradictory messages from her sources). The man, having come first, can represent humanity in general. He is also the ‘head’ of the woman (1 Corinthians 11:3) and, when the headship of Christ is being represented in his Church, it is through the man that this must occur. A woman cannot symbolize God’s headship in relation to a man. Where the Church lacks a clear symbol of God’s headship, the conception of God’s authority in his Church will start to shift in unhealthy directions or be neglected.

          • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

            Alistair, since replying to you will be very long, with quoting you and then making a response to each point of yours, I responded here: http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/2014/01/18/assumptions-the-mother-of-all-screw-ups-answering-assumptions-on-the-garden-of-eden-and-gender/
            In short, you make a lot of assumptions from the text which are not in the Bible. I do not agree with you on your conclusions.

          • Rev_Cocoa

            Alastair’s response is what drives me bonkers about all of this. All these exegetical gymnastics to draw the conclusion that men and not women symbolize God’s authority. But then you ask, “Well, what the heck does that mean?” It’s hard not to simply read it as a way of asserting superiority.

          • Alastair J Roberts

            Thanks for the response, Retha.

            For me, a lot of this comes down to the attitude that we bring to the text in the first place. If we come at the text from a posture of absolute resistance to certain conclusions, the text can never be clear enough to persuade us. We will always be able to find exceptions, loopholes, and wriggle room if we want it. The tendency of such approaches is to search for hypothetical readings of texts that contradict what the text appears to be saying on the surface. The purpose of such readings is to allow people to declare the meaning of particular texts to be so unclear or uncertain that we cannot safely rest anything on them. Alternatively, people assert that these highly speculative readings, depending primarily upon details that the text doesn’t give us, must be the true ones, because they are the readings that deliver or uphold our favoured beliefs.

            This sort of approach is fairly common. It is these sorts of readings that are produced when people want to justify homosexual practice, when they want to argue that, far from challenging women teaching and exercising authority over men in the Church, God encourages this, or when they want to deny that God could have anything against them sleeping with their girlfriend. The typical result of such readings is to evacuate biblical teaching of its force. While lip service will still be paid to God’s authority exercised in Scripture, it will no longer be operative. We will be like disobedient and resistant kids who are adept at interpreting their parents’ words in a manner that ensures that those words have as little claim upon their lives as conceivably possible. The problem in such situations is not that the text isn’t clear enough, but that we are wilfully resisting going where it is leading us. The text is treated as something that we need to defuse, rather than something that should lead us.

            It is a very different thing to cultivate a deep attentiveness to the text, to allow us to take us where it wants us to go. This attitude will mean that the text doesn’t have to make everything tiresomely explicit, close every other possibility, and remove any potential loophole for us to get its point.

            So, for instance, if we are paying attention, we should recognize the significance of the fact that the commandment concerning the tree is only ever mentioned as something given to the man alone (Craig Keener, in one of the most important theological defences of egalitarian readings of the NT in recent years, recognizes this fact and that the woman was relying upon her husband’s teaching here). We should pick up on the fact that the woman could only truly be deceived concerning God’s command about the tree if she hadn’t heard it directly, but only through the man. If she had heard the command directly from God herself and had eaten of the tree anyway, she would have been sinning with a high hand, as the man did.

            To suggest the possibility that, in an event unrecorded by the text, God also gave the command directly to the woman, is not to avoid speculative reading, but to engage in speculations that undermine the surface sense of the text. The actual evidence in the text itself points in the other direction, but we choose to hypothesize a scenario within which that evidence can be dismissed. There is a big difference between readings that are closely attentive to the details of the text itself and what they suggest (in this case, that the command concerning the tree is only spoken of as delivered to the man, before the creation of the woman) and readings that depend upon supposing things that the text itself does not mention and which leave the text unclear (that, in some event unrecorded by the text, God delivered the command to the woman too).

            Similar things could be said about others of your points. They typically depend upon the notion that, since we can’t absolutely rule out a possibility that the text weighs against, we don’t need to follow where the text seems to be leading. So, for instance, even though the man names the woman by the two names that she is called by from that point onwards—‘woman’ and ‘Eve’—and as an action directly related to the naming of the animals earlier (the pattern is that looking for a helper, God forms animals, brings them to the man, he assesses whether they are a suitable helper, and he gives them their name: the story concerning the creation of the woman is part of this), we are to suppose that this is more akin to Hagar’s naming of God (who most definitely isn’t identified solely by that name from that point onwards). Also, since we are not explicitly told that God didn’t repeat the commission concerning the Garden (not the same thing as the more general blessing/commission of chapter 1), addressing it to the man and the woman equally, we can’t take the text at face value.

            One of the things that is crucial to notice here is that, although you are challenging me for going beyond what the text demands, it is you whose reading depends upon the speculative possibilities that you suggest. If we take the text at face value and see that the commission concerning the Garden and the commandment concerning the tree were delivered to the man alone, before the creation of the woman, and that the man named the woman in an act directly related to his naming of the animals, deep problems arise for the egalitarian position. The egalitarian position depends upon speculative scenarios within which the force of these textual details can be dismissed. While I am not introducing anything beyond what is in the text itself, your reading depends upon supposed events that are not mentioned within the text.

            And herein is a big and telling problem for egalitarians. Time and again, it is asserted that the situation before the Fall was egalitarian, with no distinction in vocation for man and woman, and that differences in authority are an evil result of the Fall. However, the more one probes these claims, the more one discovers how shaky and speculative their textual basis is, depending upon the assumption that events that the text does not record must have taken place. The supposed foundations of egalitarianism are extremely uncertain.

          • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

            For me too, a lot of this comes down to the attitude that we bring to the text in the first place. I know some people will never be persuaded. However clear the Bible are that both genders were made to rule, they get from God speaking to Adam before Eve was made, and later naming her that he ruled in a special way Eve did not.

            They read special meanings like naming imply having authority, while ignoring the plain meaning of texts like Hagar naming God. In short, they accept interpretations that cannot deal with scripture, in a desperate effort to miss the plain truth that the only thing ruled by humans before Genesis 3 was the earth. It was ruled by both genders. Sin introduced hierarchy, but they do not accept the plain meaning of Genesis 3’s “curse” passage to see that male rule over woman was one of the bad things of the fall, like thorns and thistles and the serpent (Satan) harming them.

            Why did he speak to the serpent first, then man, then woman? You think he spoke to the man first because he implied man should have more authority. In that case, satan/the serpent should have even more authority than man. Your accuse me of speculating on what texts mean, but that -and several other things – is really speculation in your part.

            You are unhappy because I don’t read 1 Timothy 2:12 by the plain sense of it, but you do not accept the plain sense of 1 Timothy 1:4, avoiding endless geneaologies – when reasoning the way you do from 2:13-14, you are endlessly talking geneologies. And you hopefully don’t take “women shall be saved in childbirth” by the plain sense that all women with children – Hindu, Muslim, etc. are saved?

            I am going to leave it at that. Just remember that with the same measure you judge you may be judged. Will God judge you, one day, by all those texts you did not accept the plain sense of? Will he judge you, if he calls all believers to submit to one another, for not submitting to all believers the way you believe women should? Will he judge you for speculating on who taught the woman, and on why Adam was called first? Perhaps you may some day discount the message God gives through a woman. Will he judge you for treating a prophesy with contempt (1 Thes 5:20)

          • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

            For me too, a lot of this comes down to the attitude that we bring to the text in the first place. I know some people will never be persuaded. However clear the Bible are that both genders were made to rule, they get from God speaking to Adam before Eve was made, and later naming her that he ruled in a special way Eve did not.

            They read special meanings like naming imply having authority, while ignoring the plain meaning of texts like Hagar naming God. In short, they accept interpretations that cannot deal with scripture, in a desperate effort to miss the plain truth that the only thing ruled by humans before Genesis 3 was the earth. It was ruled by both genders. Sin introduced hierarchy, but they do not accept the plain meaning of Genesis 3’s “curse” passage to see that male rule over woman was one of the bad things of the fall, like thorns and thistles and the serpent (Satan) harming them.

            Why did he speak to the serpent first, then man, then woman? You think he spoke to the man first because he implied man should have more authority. In that case, satan/the serpent should have even more authority than man. Your accuse me of speculating on what texts mean, but that -and several other things – is really speculation in your part. (In fact, in my very piece that I wrote to answer you, I accuse you of making many assumptions – taking speculative readings and accepting it as truth. Speculating when the truth is not clear – I know I do – is thinking. Assumption, on the other hand, will accept a speculative meaning and forget it is speculation.)

            But I will go from speculation to facts: If we read the Greek in which Paul wrote, Paul said “a woman” was not currently allowed by him to teach a man. It is Paul, it is a tense that is not permanent. Speculation again: To the best of what is known of Greek, “a woman” mean one particular unnamed woman, who may not teach “a man”, one unnamed man. Fact again: our English translations do not convey the plain sense of the text well.

            You are unhappy because I don’t read 1 Timothy 2:12 by the plain sense of it, but you do not accept the plain sense of 1 Timothy 1:4, avoiding endless geneaologies – when reasoning the way you do from 2:13-14, you are endlessly talking geneologies. And you hopefully don’t take “women shall be saved in childbirth” by the plain sense that all women with children – Hindu, Muslim, etc. are saved?

            I am going to leave it at that. Just remember that with the same measure you judge you may be judged. Will God judge you, one day, by all those texts you did not accept the plain sense of? Will he judge you for, if he calls all believers to submit to one another, to not submitting to all believers the way you believe women should? Perhaps you may some day discount the message God gives through a woman. Will he judge you for treating a prophesy with contempt (1 Thes 5:20)

          • Rev_Cocoa

            Consider for a moment how labored your exegesis is in order to draw a conclusion that women cannot symbolize God’s headship in relation to a man. In practical terms, what the heck does this even look like? Brass tacks, Alastair. I mean, I can’t remember ever saying to someone, “Hey, we need someone to symbolize God’s headship! Who’s up for it?”

          • Alastair J Roberts

            Sometimes things need to be spelled out in detail and in a more abstract fashion, especially when people resist the basic and surface statements of the text. I am saying nothing more than the Scriptures themselves declare when they say that the man is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church (1 Corinthians 11:3; Ephesians 5:22-24). This relationship isn’t reversible: the wife is not the head of the husband as Christ is the head of the Church. Nor is the husband told to be subject to the wife in all things, as the Church is subject to Christ (Ephesians 5:24). While there are ways in which both husband and wife may submit to each other, only wives are told to submit in this manner. God doesn’t address ‘spouses’ indiscriminately, but gives consistently distinct instructions to men and to women.

            When it comes to authority in the Church, the pastor is to symbolize Christ’s authority to his Church and Bride, to maintain his pre-eminence and transcendent authority within the Church. The authority of God within the Church is the authority of the Father and the Husband. It is a masculine form of authority and can only be represented by masculine persons. To do otherwise is to twist the character of the authority of God into another form. The woman is not the head of the man, so when she leads within the Church, she cannot represent the authority of God to him in the way that he can to her.

            When women symbolize God’s authority in the Church, that authority starts to be conceived of in a more maternal or wifely manner. The mother’s authority doesn’t stand over against others in the way that the authority of the father does. It is related to the fact that the mother bore her children within her. When the authority of God is viewed in a maternal manner, instead of transcendence (attached to images of God as Father, Husband, King, Lord, Sovereign, Judge, Lawgiver, Creator from nothing, etc.) we have an emphasis upon interdependence and a communion of being and notions of God’s transcendent authority tend to be diminished in a vision of immanent intimacy.

          • Rev_Cocoa

            “It is a masculine form of authority that can only be represented by masculine persons.” So if it were a masculine woman, would it be okay? No, I’m sure it wouldn’t. What if it’s a more effeminate man? Would he be suited for ecclesiastical authority? Probably not. It needs to be a manly man. You’re comfortable with that? You can’t see why people view such interpretations with suspicion?

            Your exegesis strikes me as missing the forest for the trees. In Genesis 1, we are presented a picture of the creation that is “good.” And there is no distinction between the roles of men and women. There’s equality in their shared responsibility. The big picture passages of the New Testament point to a restoration of this reality. There is no male, nor female, Jew or Greek, etc. All ways of establishing one’s social standing are relativized. Why? Because it’s the Spirit that gives us our calling. That’s the thrust of the New Testament.

            Your claims about the church under the leadership of women are not rooted in Scripture. The fact is that I could talk about masculine qualities and how they can translate into a distorted view of God as well– and could certainly point to plenty of evidence for that having been born out in reality.

          • Alastair J Roberts

            The ‘masculine’ form of authority is not just a free-floating set of characteristics and personality traits of persons that could be either male or female. Men and women are different sorts of beings, that symbolize different realities and modes of relation. The woman is a ‘womb-man’, a distinct form of human being whose distinctness is focused upon her capacity to bear, create, and symbolize human bonds within herself. No matter how ‘masculine’ a woman is, she remains a ‘womb-man’ and, as such, incapable of symbolizing the same modes of relation that a man can symbolize.

            As for ‘effeminate’ men, this doesn’t seem to be something that God generally selects for in leaders. It is interesting to observe the traits that God privileges in the priestly leaders of his people. First of all, the Levites are selected as the tribe from whom the priesthood comes. The Levites are the tribe known for violence and vengeance in Genesis. In Exodus, we see that Moses is an avenger of blood. Later, in Exodus 32, the Levites are set aside for their ministry immediately after killing 3,000 of their Israelite brethren. They function as a sort of standing divine army in the camp of Israel, men of sword and flame, like the cherubim guarding the Garden. In Numbers 25, Phinehas is promised the priesthood by God for thrusting a javelin through an Israelite man and a Midianite woman. In the NT allusion is made to the events at Sinai as the Christian priesthood is set apart by ‘cutting to the heart’ 3,000 men. We see that both Peter and Paul, the chief apostles were men known for their preparedness to use violence. James and John, the ‘sons of thunder’, the other two of the central three, were also known for the same trait. Obviously, Christ challenged and changed these men, just as he changed the tribe of Levi. However, their natural zeal and readiness to take decisive and even violent action to uphold God’s truth was maintained. Peter may not have been justified in cutting off the High Priest’s servant’s ear, but God slew Ananias and Sapphira by his word.

            The priestly leadership of the people of God isn’t just one to be exercised by men, the traits that are emphasized are more masculine in character. So, for instance, the model of the pastor is often the shepherd. However, the biblical shepherd is a man who fights and who is equipped to resist fierce opposition.

            The biblical image of the shepherd is of a man surrounded by many threats from which he must protect the flock within his charge. He works within a harsh and unforgiving terrain, a place with much barren wilderness, rocky areas, and dangerous mountain valleys and passes, within which he must find water and secure and good pasturage. He faces the threat of bandits, robbers, and thieves, who might kill or steal his flock (John 10:1-4, 8, 10), and of ravenous wild beasts who will prey on the sheep (Ezekiel 34:5, 8; John 10:11-15). Protecting the flock may cost him his life: the good shepherd lays down his life for the sake of the sheep.

            Our images of the shepherd tend to focus upon themes of tenderness, compassion, provision, and deep personal care for the sheep. These are undoubtedly prominent biblical images in such places as Psalm 23, Isaiah 40:11, Ezekiel 34, and John 10. However, what is generally forgotten or neglected is that each of these images of tenderness is counterbalanced by images of violent struggle, might, or judgment. The God who carries the lambs in his bosom in Isaiah 40:11 is the same God who has just come with a strong hand and a ruling arm in the previous verse. The God who leads his flock by still waters in Psalm 23:2 is the same God who powerfully protects his sheep in the midst of their enemies, and who has a rod to serve as a weapon by which to protect them.

            The theme of the shepherding of Israel is associated with the Exodus, where God shepherds his people by the hand of his servant Moses (Isaiah 63:11). As the shepherd of his people, God strikes those who would steal or destroy them with his might and drives out all of their enemies before them (Psalm 78:52-55, 70-72), finally planting his people in the safe mountain pasturage of Zion (Exodus 15:13, 17).

            The theme of the shepherd’s rod as a weapon is important in the book of Exodus. It is with the shepherd’s rod of Moses that God strikes the Egyptians (Exodus 4:20, 7–10) with many blows, until they finally let his flock go. It is with the shepherd’s rod that the sea is parted and later drowns Pharaoh and his warriors.

            Far from fitting our common image of the gentle country shepherd boy, the young David was a man who had killed lions and bears as part of his day job (1 Samuel 17:34-36). David is marked out as the new shepherd of Israel by using his shepherd’s sling and bag to crush the head of the great enemy of Israel, much as Moses defeated Pharaoh with his shepherd’s staff.

            So, yes, I think that masculine traits are privileged when it comes to pastoral leadership in the Church. The Christian shepherd has to face ‘savage wolves’ (Acts 20:28-29). He is someone who has to be equipped for fighting and opposition. The biblical shepherd is a mighty and courageous figure, who puts his life on the line for the sheep that he loves and has the strength and pitiless determination to drive off their enemies. The shepherd is a fighter and is marked out for his role by powerfully striking those who would seek to harm the flock. The Christian shepherd’s charge is to be attentive and heedful, guarding against, destroying, or fighting off wolves and other wild beasts, while giving authoritative guidance to and providing sustenance for the Chief Shepherd’s sheep (cf. 1 Peter 5:2-4).

            In stark contrast to this biblical vision of pastoral ministry, the prevailing conception within much of the contemporary church is of a rather effete, weak, and non-confrontational pastorate, tolerant, inclusive, and inoffensive, whose role involves little more than playing an almost exclusively nurturing, affirming, and supportive role in relation to a spiritually democratic congregation. The image of the shepherd is purged of any notion of authority, might, leadership, conflict, or violent opposition. As our concept of Church leadership has been rid of these elements, we have tended to move towards a more ‘feminized’ pastorate, a form of pastorate that isn’t so equipped to resist false teachings, nor so prepared to confront and lead the people of God out into the world.

            God didn’t just give us Genesis 1, he gave us Genesis 2 as well. Men and women share in the general calling and blessing of Genesis 1. However, even on the surface of things it should be obvious that there are differences. One of the chief aspects of the blessing concerns fruitfulness and multiplication, which relates directly to procreation. However, men and women play rather different parts in procreation. A shared blessed and vocation definitely does not mean symmetry in its fulfilment.

            Also, Genesis 2 and 3 refer to the more specific context of the Garden sanctuary and the differing ways that man and woman relate to its life. Within this particular realm, the man has a vocation that the woman does not. As the woman comes from the man, she shares in his vocation. However, once again, there isn’t symmetry, because the priestly vocation belongs to the man in particular.

            Galatians 3:28 refers to the fact that, in Christ, we are all equal heirs of Abraham and united as a single ‘seed’. The former differences that would mark out different levels of or access to Abrahamic inheritance are removed, as are those divisions that formerly separated people. This point doesn’t mean that such distinctions and relations between people are rendered entirely inoperative within the life of the Church, not least because that would directly contradict the teaching of Paul elsewhere. Saying that we are an undivided people (‘one’) with equal claim to the promised inheritance is most definitely not the same thing as saying that there are no differences within us. It just means that, whatever these differences are, they are not divisions, nor do they render any group second class citizens within the kingdom of God. All of this sits comfortably with Paul’s teaching about a body with different members, with different kinds and degrees of gift, and of a Church where men and women are formally distinguished from each other in the context of public worship and ministry. Men and women are different but not divided, distinct but not of different spiritual classes.

            Also, we need to translate carefully. The passage actually reads (check the Greek): ‘there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, neither is there male and female.’ There is a broader point being made here, one that will be missed if we view male and female primarily as an opposition within the fallen world, rather than a union: ‘male and female’ refers to the original order of creation, prior to the Fall, which was ordered around marriage, procreation, and the family that resulted. By negating this within the kingdom, it is being declared that the family is no longer a constitutive reality of the kingdom: in the age to come there will be neither marriage nor giving in marriage, as Jesus observes in Luke 20. Rather the Church is a new Family, within which the boundaries between all of the old human families dissolve.

            Most of us recognize—with the clear teaching of Scripture on our side—that, although in the new creation in Christ the old created order of marriage no longer applies, marriage is still blessed within this age and that the life of the kingdom of God can be known within it as husband and wife are equal heirs ‘together of the grace of life’ (1 Peter 3:7). We also recognize that upholding marriage is very important and that sins such as adultery are of most serious consequence. The idea that we can do away with marriage and gender distinctions in this age is a problematic viewpoint. Furthermore, the ministry of the Church is also something of this age. It is performed by people with sexed bodies and, like marriage, will end at the resurrection. A pastor isn’t a pastor into eternity.

            Anyway, I’m leaving it here. Feel free to have the final word.

          • Rev_Cocoa

            I appreciate you keeping it civil. And you’re willing to invest time in expressing your views. So what about these traits? Masculine or feminine?: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control. If God’s so big on decisiveness (let alone violence), why wouldn’t his Spirit manifest that in those whom he’s called to “symbolize his authority”?

            True enough, it is “male and female.” However my point was not that there was no difference between men and women, only that those difference do not dictate one’s role. And salvation is not merely a status we’re given, it is a role. To be saved is to be given a calling. And that calling is not determined by that difference. It is determined by the Spirit.

            I will grant that there are some passages that appear to endorse male authority. However, in each instance in the NT, by and large those verses are clearly written in response to particular issues within a particular church. What’s more, many of those verses are– let’s be honest– odd. They’re hard to translate and harder yet to interpret. “Saved through childbearing”? “Keep silent” after Paul has just talked about women prophesying with heads covered? I don’t think we should ignore these verses but I don’t think we should interpret them in a way that allows them to undermine those other passages– passages in which Paul gives us the big picture. In those passages, again, all socially constructed distinctions are relativized by the Spirit.

            In the end, it’s a pretty big deal to claim that half of the world’s population is disqualified from having authority given to the other half. Such a big deal that I think God would have been clearer about it. Instead, we have these odd prohibitions in the midst of other texts that are explicitly egalitarian and, quite frankly, feminist. And not just the big picture passages, stuff from the gospels. The first missionary is a woman (the Samaritan). She is also the first person to whom Jesus makes an “I AM” statement. The women at the tomb are the first to preach/proclaim the gospel of the resurrection. Women bankroll Jesus’ ministry. Etc. All these things strike me as, at the very least, hints of the restoration of an egalitarian relationship between men and women.

  • americanwoman343

    Sadly, I remember when I was younger, knowing many Christian women who were making themselves unhappy in their marriages because their husbands “wouldn’t lead” – at least, they didn’t “lead” according to some description of behavior in someone’s book. I wish we’d known better then – there was a lot of conflict over that.

    • http://aftertheecstasythelaundry.wordpress.com/ Cynthia Schrage

      There’s still a lot of conflict about that. It comes up at a lot of evangelical women’s Bible studies I’ve attended. Much hand wringing ensues…

  • pastordavidsweet

    Biblically speaking the Apostles tie the headship of man in a marriage to the order of creation–not a sign of man’s importance but of his firstness and teaching and leading role…and they tie the headship of man to the fall and the differing sins of man and woman and the differing results. So–though at heart I’m an egalitarian–what is written will not pass any serious Biblical test. Just simply assigning the Apostles’ motives to the Greco-Roman world does not just brush them away. In many ways Pauls’ views are quite radical–why can’t we see that without wiping away the meaning of the Scriptures? 1 Cor. says a womans body does not belong to her along but to her husband AND (very radically) a man’s body does not belong to him alone but to his wife. Mutual ownership was unheard of. And the mutual submission– I agree–is the norm in Kingdom relationships. And yes the husband submits to the good of the wife–clearly “love your wives as Christ loved the church and laid himself down for her…” But that does not diminish the headship teaching. And the headship teaching does not diminish women, their roles, their partnership in marriage, their worth, etc etc. But being cleaver in brushing off teaching in Scripture tied to creation and sin—is not just harmless stuff. It undermines fairness in dealing with interpretation of Scripture. We may think we are solving our problems with Scripture with a cultural explanation which seems to do away with something we don’t like, but it comes back to bite us on important doctrines. We have become the judge of Scripture rather than it being the timeless judge of us. It’s not my job to make my wife submit to me (and believe me she’s very much a partner in our marriage) Submission to the headship of man is in the Bible (I personally don’t like it, but…) and its a woman’s calling…one I doubt is automatically or easily chosen, and will largely depend on the depth of love of the husband for the wife. As a pastor I am a leader, but I am also to submit to the needs of the church I lead, even as I lead. I am to be a submissive leader. The ideal that the Bible presents is a submissive leader husband, and a loving partner wife who seeks God’s power to look to her husband to lead. Submission is not obedience as Martin Luther King demonstrated. He was submissive to the government–not rebelling or resisting arrest– but he clearly was not obedient. I don’t know if that analogy helps you or not, but it says shows me that submission to the headship of a husband–in a grace-filled, Christ-centered marriage will not look anything like what the world thinks of submission! It should be—ideally— seamless and almost invisible or indecipherable since these are two people empowered with the love of God. There’s no making someone submit. That’s not in the Bible.

    • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

      Pastor Sweet,
      I have an honest question for you. Not one meant to be a critique. But, I spent many years in churches that taught male headship. Much of the church culture was quite strong on the patriarchy side. I know well their biblical stance. I no longer abide by that view, after being happily married to a man who does not desire to be my leader, but would rather be my partner.
      I honestly have a hard time understanding the “soft” complementarian view. I am not sure if that is what you would type yourself. But, I hear you saying here that the man should be gracious and treat the woman as an equal partner. But you believe that he still has the responsibility to lead. Is that right? My honest question is, what does that look like in a practical manner? I am having a hard time understanding what my husband is supposed to do as a leader. What is God calling him to do, that I am not being called to do? What are your thoughts on the real difference, of what God is calling the “head” of the household to do or be?

      • Rev_Cocoa

        Exactly the right questions– but don’t expect answers.

      • pastordavidsweet

        Good question! It will look different in different marriages. I don’t think you will decipher it much from the outside. I think a husband and wife are partners, therefore there is plenty of discussion and disagreement. You can’t have any relationship without some conflict–unless someone turns his/her brain off. Each conflict is different–some lasting weeks, some days–hopefully carried on as charitably as possible. But I think what a woman MIGHT do to try to follow Scripture–not really even knowing the full purpose of why Scripture teaches it—is to yield more often than not to her husbands desired direction, and don’t say “I told you so” if he ends up demonstrably wrong. If he is a very foolish person, she can’t yield often but has to ultimately stand her ground, and she doesn’t have to yield if it violates Scriptural commands, endangers the children, or significantly puts assets at risk in a very foolish or needless way. BUT when she can yield, she should practice yielding, but I would add, only by the power and help of the Spirit of God. A husband needs to lead, and he needs to love his wife which means he will listen to her as he leads. He should not force his own leadership. The wife either chooses to yield or she doesn’t. It’s between her and God. How it might look if I were counseling a couple: they have 100 conflicts in one year. I would challenge her the next year to try and pray for power to–yield in the midst of 20% of those conflicts, by the grace of God. If her husbands loves her, she will more likely yield more often. If he’s not a fool she can yield more. She is developing a submissive spirit–which is one of the hardest things to do and takes incredible grace and power. The hope is that the husband continues to argue with his wife and to listen to her and to love her and HOPEFULLY is proving to be a wise leader or decision-maker who is making more wise decisions than foolish. If so, I would challenge the wife to yield more and more. But she always carries the right to disagree and not yield based on various factors I described above. The above is a hypothetical. Another way I would counsel is to help the wife–if this is an issue–to be less sarcastic, less derisive, more respectful, even when she is not yielding on the decision to be made.

        • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

          Thank you Pastor Sweet. I don’t think it is a necessarily a bad thing for a couple to relate as you are describing.

          I, too, believe that I should yield to things that matter to my husband and are not foolish. But, he treats me the same way. He confides in me and offers me an equal voice. I really am not sure how we can honestly say a wife has equal voice, if she is supposed to yield to anything that is not foolish. And if the husband believes he should make the decisions, and not his wife, then how does he offer her an equal voice?

          My husband is not a weak or cowardly man. He is confident and independent. But, one of the reasons he married me because he valued my wisdom and counsel.
          I believe both parties should show love and respect, keep sarcasm in check, be willing to yield, use wisdom, seek God for direction, be of character that is worthy to a leader, etc. These are things I think we are called to as believers. So, that is where I am confused as to the differences between us, in the christian way we should relate to each other and to God. Should the husband be the spiritual leader and take responsibility for the families state before God? Then what is the wife’s different duty? To not be seeking direction from God and not taking responsibility?

          If we take Jesus as an example of submission, perhaps it is not so much about letting someone else make the decisions. Jesus and the Father were still in complete unity, when Jesus submitted Himself to come to earth. The redemptive plan of the Father was very much the plan of the Son. He yielded, in that He put Himself under that plan and humbled Himself, and became “less than” for a time. But, it isn’t as if He just followed the decisions of the Father. Or that the Father was the final say. They were united in desire. I think the mystery of marriage is a man and woman learning to come together in unity like that.

          • pastordavidsweet

            Erin, I share some of your confusion. I don’t know exactly how it is supposed to work. All I know is that it is in Scripture and it is not presented as something influenced for cultural reasons–headship of man is tied to theological implications of creation and sin. So we should do our best to present it as God’s ideal and then women decide in how to do it. It may merely mean an attitude of submission or not rebellion anyway. Perhaps it is also that men need to be leaders and not wait for women on spiritual issues. That’s ideal. We know that no marriage has partners completely on the same page spiritually. In some way men are understood to have this leadership role in the family/marriage. I think it is up to the wife to determine how that is lived out–but I don’t think it ought to diminish her partnership in the marriage and the wisdom she has to share. To your point about the Son of God and the Father, actually it is true according to the words of Christ, that though He and the Father were one and in accord, He did express regularly His dependence on the Father’s will. He said He did nothing apart from the Father and looked to the Father constantly. “I only do what I see the Father doing….I do nothing on my own accord” (see John 5 and John 12 especially) In the garden He prayed that the cup would be removed, but “nevertheless, not my will but Thine be done.” Now was this a something only true of His time on earth due to the limitations of giving up omnipresence and perhaps omniscience on earth? Most evangelical scholars say there is indication that there is headship of the Father for all eternity. The Father sent the Son and sent the Spirit. The Son proceeds from the Father at the will of the Father. How is that possible if the three Persons of the trinity are one in essence and equal in divinity? We don’t know!!! But in the same way that the Son is equal to the Father and His submission to the Father does not diminish His divinity or essence or equality with the Father, so to the woman’s submission to man does not in any way diminish her equality or value. I wish I could be of more help on how to flesh out the Scriptural ideal. I don’t know that there can be a model or plan, only a spirit willing and prepared to submit when it seems right. This is not to deny that the husband truly also has a role of submitting to the good of the wife, to lay his life down if necessary. (Ephesians 5 does not tell wives to love their husbands, but we can assume they should…nor does it tell wives to submit to their wives, but based on other words in that chapter–we can assume they should….but it seems that women have a special calling to submit and husbands have a special calling to love their wives.)

          • pastordavidsweet

            on that last sentence I meant to say “nor does it tell husbands to submit to wives…”

          • E

            Ephesians 5:21 – submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. My pastor read through all the submission verses and said that to him, the instructions for husbands and wives have basically the same meaning: set aside your self-centeredness and do for the other. This goes back to Christ’s teaching to love one another. Good, strong, secure men submit to their wives when necessary.

          • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

            Thanks for your honesty to say you are confused about what this means too. I really think many of us in the church agree more in this area, than we disagree. Surely anyone who believes in treating one another in a Christ-like manner, are agreeing on quite a bit.
            I think that the abuse of the idea of “headship” might lessen, if more pastors publicly said, “I don’t know exactly what this means, but I know it doesn’t mean (fill in the blanks of all the abuses that are commonly excused, based on this doctrine)”.

            I do understand that most modern evangelicals believe in the eternal subordination of the Son. But, I did not think that was an orthodox view according to theologians of the past. Am I wrong on that? I have a hard time seeing that the Bible is teaching the Son is eternally subordinate. I understand His struggle in the garden to be due to his limitations in the human flesh. Do you believe that He would struggle in the same way, while outside of human limitations?
            Do you also not view Jesus, in His example of submission, to be an example to men as well? I would say that He walked on earth and took on human flesh and showed us how we ought to walk. Men and women alike – how we ought to relate to God and to each other. Would you agree? So, in that way, I still see His example of submission as an example to us both.

          • C. Lyn Miller

            1Cor. 15:27-28, “For He ‘has put everything under His feet.’ Now when it says that ‘everything’ has been put under Him, it is clear that this does not include God himself, who put everything under Christ. When He has done this, then the Son himself will be made subject to Him who put everything under Him, so that God may be all in all.”
            http://www.riseupandwalkwithme.wordpress.com

  • theresa

    This is a great discussion on this issue, and thank you for writing it. I concur, and feel that more needs be to discussed on why the power issues in marriage are so damaging. I say this because we have generations of women who are taught to submit, not to question authority, and therefore have no idea when or if they are being abused by the unbalanced power. The issue of submission might not be a big deal if your husband is gentle and kind. It is a whole different issue, however, if your husband is controlling, whether it be financially, socially, physically, or otherwise. Whenever I read comments of people who don’t understand why the submission issue is a big deal, I am reminded of how few discussions are happening around violence and abuse, and how relevant this is to such abuse. And, sadly, how many women are suffering abuse precisely because the Church continues to “sell” submission, and refuses to discuss power and abuse.

  • Brian Bither

    Wonderful post! I just wanted to add that you don’t have to subscribe to “progressive revelation,” nor do you have to be a scholar who knows about the “cultural context” to come this conclusion. I know this because I watched my parents develop an egalitarian marriage through a very literal interpretation of Scripture.

    Prior to her conversion to Christianity, my mother participated in a secular version of feminism that protested war, valued education, and fought for civil rights. She was (and is) an intelligent woman who thrives in leadership wherever she goes. But she became disillusioned and emotionally harmed from her experiences with that group, and in response, she converted to a conservative version of Christianity. She fell in love with Christianity because of its profound spiritual depth, its teachings on love and forgiveness, and its emphasis on service and salvation. However, she felt that in converting, she had to embrace the whole package, which meant that she had to be willing to accept the “Biblical” teaching that wives should submit to her husbands. Thus, she concluded that she should never get married.

    Then she met my Dad. My father had perhaps the most gentle temperament of perhaps anyone I have ever known. He never yelled, never demanded obedience, and was an incredible listener. They got married in a conservative church that took the Bible very literally, but she was able to teach, lead, and use all of her natural gifts, since my father always supported that in her.

    When I was a teenager, I had no awareness of my white male privilege, and I began to notice that my mother did not live up to the standards of a “submissive wife” that my subculture taught. So I started to challenge her on this. She seemed to me to be a “dominating” personality – even though my father never accused her of this and didn’t seem to be bothered by it. She always replied that she would submit completely to my father, but she wouldn’t have married my father if he was a man who demanded submission from her. This seemed like it was cheating to me at the time, but I eventually came to respect my parents’ marriage and see the profound wisdom in her remarks.

    No one could accuse my mother of violating the Scriptural teaching because my father was never threatened by her gifts and never asked her to back down from them. And no one could accuse my father of not loving my mother because she felt so cared for by the mere fact of his support. You don’t have to be a theologian or Biblical scholar to see how subversive the Biblical teaching is: Anyone who tries to live out the Bible learns that “love” and “submission” are radically redefined in Scripture.

  • http://www.mariadrews.wordpress.com/ MariaDrews

    Sarah, thanks for this great post, along with your book. I actually just finished writing a review of it today, and one of the things I praised was your ability to “take a step out of those debates, to pursue a third way: a redemptive way” (to use your own words). This post made me wonder if we can step out of the debates in the blogosphere, a notorious playground for spiraling arguments. Although I also disagree with Candace Cameron Bure here, maybe we can focus more on disagreeing with her ideas than with her personally, accepting with some humility that we all probably can learn something from each other, or at least understand where each other are coming from, however misguided our final conclusion may be. To the redemptive way!

  • johilder

    In my twenties, I went on a binge of submitting to my husband because it was “biblical” and I wanted to be a good, Christian woman. I even wore a little headscarf to show I submitted, to which my husband said, “get that do-rag off your head”. But I rebelled and wore it anyway. Now I’m 45 and look back and think, “what the hell was I on about?”
    We’re still married, much more happily than we were then, by the way.

  • chunkstyler

    so these words may sound “empowering”, but this is just a puff piece. There are no specific examples of how two people submit to eachother. Lets say one spouse want’s the kids to be in homeschool and one want’s private school. How submits to who?

    • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

      It is a continuing discussion. One where both parties get equal voice. For my husband and I, if a decision has to be made, and we are not yet in agreement, then we usually go by whomever it directly affects more is the one who is deferred to. So, in a private school vs. home school discussion at our house, it would more directly affect me, since I would be the one doing the bulk of the schooling, if it were at home. (which for us, it is.)

      • chunkstyler

        But if the husband is the bread winner- and he would have to work more to pay for private school- That would also directly affect him. I still think this ‘equal decision making’ thing is something that sounds good to women who may struggle with feeling not empowered, but I haven’t seen any specific examples of how it works.

        • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

          You are absolutely right about the money out for private school would affect the bread winner. So, if the wife is not bringing in an income, and is the one who wants the kids in private school, and is unwilling to bring in any income, this could be an issue. If there is not enough money for it and no one with the ability and/or desire to make more, that seems, pragmatically, like the answer there. No money for private schooling.

          Truly I don’t see how the husband making the decision makes it better. And, my husband fully respects me as an equal voice. He has helped me grow in confidence and grace. I am not sure how that is me (or Sarah or any of the other ladies to whom you are speaking) feeling “not empowered”. ?

          • chunkstyler

            So in this situation it would be homeschool for the couple? I guess I still haven’t got my question answered in that I’m looking for specific examples of how every decison made by a married couple has an equal say by both people. I think this is difficult. I could see where a few decisions the wife gets final say, and an equal amount the husband would get an equal say. But again I feel like every comment in this article and thread just uses buzz words and sayings about equality without giving any specific examples of how it works or it’s success. To be clear, I’m not against equal voices and you seem like you have a marraige that works and you both respect and love eachother. In this day and age, most couples I know the woman actually has more of a say than the man. Threat of divorce, taking the kids, house, money is a great bargaining chip. I’m just curious on how this works. I’m single by the way, so obviously I don’t really have a say on what works. I just have a lot of divorced friends and family.

          • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

            I appreciate your candor and honesty. There is no easy solution to making marriage happy and holy, other than both submitting to Christ. There is no formula or “model” for that, I suppose.

            The answer for the fictitious couple is one I guess I don’t know, because there are so many variables. But, the only two choices for a family are private or homeschooling (for whatever reason(s) they aren’t counting public schooling as a choice) and there are is no funding for private, I guess I would just assume you have to be somewhat pragmatic. But, like I say, there are always so many variables, that I don’t know how I could say what “heir answer would or should be.

            I really do think that truly being a place of being willing to mutually submit to each other would be a much better protection from divorce and “bargaining chips”, as you say, than a male leadership structure. Using bargaining chips against each other seems the opposite of gracious love and mutual submission and respect. It can seem an “easier” solution to say, the woman should just submit. But, I think that it is simplistic and not a solution to a healthy love and working relationship.

            I am not sure if that is helpful. I am not against a woman being submissive at all. But, that is a small piece of relating to one another. I am not against a man being strong and confident. I don’t think Sarah is either. It is not a puff piece to say that being respecting one another as equal partners, both are able to thrive is something that I see as reality. But, there is no formula for it.

          • chunkstyler

            Maybe there is no formula, but there should at least be concrete examples. I’ve read through a lot of these posts and still have yet to see any specific examples of decisions made where there was no issue of ‘final say’, or no no one had to give up a little. Maybe I’m completely missing the point of this article, but so far Candice Burg makes more pragmatic sense to me(not saying it’s right) then Sarah.

          • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

            I did not mean to say mutual submission is pragmatic. I meant to say, when there is a disagreement (such as schooling) but there is no money to follow through with one of the parties wishes. That is what I meant to say seems like a point where you may both just have to be realistic, if there is no way of coming up with the money.
            I think the concrete examples are a little hard sometimes. Because, at least in my marriage, most of the steps we take are really gradual. We have continuing conversation about the subject, and usually we both move toward each other’s point of view and come to a point of agreement.
            If one or both of the parties cannot be kind and patient in coming to agreement, then they probably need to ask someone wise on the outside for help. Just for clarification, do you believe that stronger male leadership would have cut down on the divorces you have seen, or motivated couples to not bargain and manipulate?

          • Laaur

            I can’t say a specific example from my own life, as I am not yet married. But I can share one from my mother’s best friend’s life — she is like an aunt to me. When her daughter was ready to begin first grade, she and her husband disagreed about what school to send the daughter to. He wanted to continue to send her to a private school where she had gone for nursery school & kindergarten, and her mother wanted to send her to a local public school with a special emphasis on environmental science.

            Here are the steps they took, as I understand them:
            1. Did lots and lots and lots of research. Talked to parents of kids at both schools. Toured both schools. Did the number-crunching regarding the money it would cost for the private school, etc.
            2. Both were honest about their reasons for wanting this. For the mother, it turned out she had been very insecure about science at school and thought the science-focused school would help the daughter be more confident.
            3. Discussed it with me and my family, since I attended private school. What did we think I’d gotten from that experience? etc.
            4. Wrote out pros & cons. Both admitted and discussed the pros of the other one’s choices.
            5. Came to a compromise: they sent their daughter to the public school, but decided that for middle school she will attend private school to help her get ready for college.

            So, that’s a real-life example I can think of. Obviously not every situation can end in a neat compromise like that. But I think many can, and I also think it has to do with prioritizing what’s really important to you and what you have emotions about.

  • Struth

    I have a few issues with this article:
    Firstly, why, when a godly respectable woman speaks of her marriage and her role as wife, do people question the state of her marriage? All marriages, whether Christian or not, experience ups and downs, but the fact that she is still married to and respects her husband is something to be admired. I think it’s completely irrelevant to question the beginnings of her marriage, or how old she was when she got married. Candace Cameron Bure is a smart woman who has overcome the temptations of teen fame, she has raised a family, and she has written a book, amongst other things. Why do people insinuate that she is “deluded” or “reducing herself to a misguided attempt at righteousness”? It seems to me that, in entrusting her life to her husband, she is freed up to achieve many honourable things in her life. I think she not only believes that submission is a core part of marriage, she is strongly convicted by it, despite the controversy it may cause. I don’t believe she is reducing herself at all.
    Secondly, when we speak of submission in the Biblical context (as we read in Ephesians), we have to remember that a husband’s love and a wife’s submission is compared to Christ’s love for the church. When you say, Sarah Bessey, that submission is mutual, are you suggesting that Christ should submit to the church? I certainly hope not… Christ showed his love for the church by laying down his life for it, not by submitting to it (in laying down his life, he was actually submitting to God, not the church). If that were the case, Paul wouldn’t have used that illustration of marriage– and what a strong illustration it is!
    Thirdly, you are right in recognising Jesus’ instructions to ALL followers (male or female) to have meekness, love, and a servant heart. Note, though, that these are character traits. He wants us all to bear these traits. And as we are sanctified, we bear them more so. Note, though, that submission is not a character trait, it’s an action. An action directed to wives. But I have one question for you… If you’re husband bears the character traits of Jesus, then why wouldn’t you be willing to entrust your life to him, and trust him to make decisions for the good of you and your family? This whole mutual submission thing sounds like pride to me. Also, on a side note, if submission is mutual, does that mean wives have a duty to lay down their lives for their husbands, or is that specifically directed at men?
    Finally, you say that the idea of submission in a God-fearing marriage is dangerous and damaging, but I would argue that mixing feminism with Jesus is dangerous and damaging. Has it occurred to you that God designed men and women for different tasks/ roles in life and in marriage? Perhaps it is not submission that “reduces” women, but trying to live the same role as men that does it. Instead of working so hard to have the same role as men, maybe we (women) should be “walking in the fullness of her (not his) anointing, and gifts, and intelligence, and strength”. To make it simple, Biblical instructions on marriage= God-breathed, authoritative, and everlasting; on the other hand, feminism= not God-breathed, not authoritative, and not everlasting. It sounds like your problem is not so much with Candace Cameron Bure’s view on marriage and submission, but on the way the Bible contradicts your own feelings towards submission. There are many other points I could raise, but I will leave it at that.

    • K. Martin

      Struth said: It seems to me that, in entrusting her life to her husband, she is freed up to achieve many honourable things in her life.

      EnTRUSTing your life to your husband or any other human being is dangerous. The Bible teaches us to put our trust in God alone and not people – husbands or otherwise. There are a plethoria of verses about trusting God; far too many to list here. However, this is what the Bible teaches as it relates to trusting mankind:

      It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. Ps 118:8

      Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save. Ps 146:3

      Stop trusting in man, who has but a breath in his nostrils. Of what account is he? Is 2:22

      This is what the LORD says: “Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. Je 17:5

      Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint. Pr 25:19

      Although the Bible tells us to trust God and not mankind, Pr 31:11 states that “her husband can trust her.” However, there is no equivalent verse stating that a wife can trust her husband. At least, I haven’t read one, and I’ve searched. That might be some indication that virtuous wives have a tendency to be more trustworthy than husbands. That’s definitely a thought worth prayer and consideration.

      Struth said: If you’re husband bears the character traits of Jesus, then why wouldn’t you be willing to entrust your life to him, and trust him to make decisions for the good of you and your family?

      As believers, we are all suppose to bear the character traits of Jesus – male and female alike.

      Struth said: Also, on a side note, if submission is mutual, does that mean wives have a duty to lay down their lives for their husbands, or is that specifically directed at men?

      As believers, we are ALL commanded to lay down our lives for one another..

      This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters (1 John 3:16).

      My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15:12-13).

      • Struth

        Point 1: If you cannot trust your husband, why on earth would you get married? That sounds like a lot of unnecessary heartache to me. All the verses you have mentioned need to be read in their contexts. For example, Pr 25:19, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in a time of trouble is like a broken tooth, a foot out of joint”. It clearly speaks of the folly of placing confidence in an unfaithful man, but what about the faithful man? Many of the other verses you mentioned speak in regards to placing trust in one who promises to SAVE. That is a bit different from trusting someone to care for you, and make good decisions for you. After all, the Bible also instructs us to respect the law of the nation, “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, and to God what is God’s”. This does not mean it is one or the other, but both.

        Point 2: I don’t disagree with the idea of placing trust in the Lord ABOVE man (which, by the way, is mankind, not just men). But God obviously designed marriage to be a matter of trust between a husband and a wife. So your argument on the nature of trust between humans is ridiculous. How many relationships (friends or spouse) survive without trust? Trust is an essential element of a healthy relationship. But the marriage I spoke of was a God-fearing marriage, where the husband is in submission to God, and thus his actions support the actions of his wife as she submits to God. So the description of marriage in Ephesians does not contradict our need to submit to and entrust our lives to God (whether male or female).
        Point 3: Once again, and I did say this initially, I agree that we should all bear the character traits of Jesus. My point was that if your husband is trying to live like Jesus, then what do you have to fear in submitting to him?
        Point 4: To imply that women are more trustworthy than men, based on one Bible verse, again proves my point that everything needs to be read in context. The woman spoken of here is the wife of noble character (first line, “…who can find? She is worth far more than rubies”), which we should each strive to imitate, but if you read the rest of the description also proves to be difficult to imitate. Yes, her husband has confidence in her, but also “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land”. And “she brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life. Every aspect of her description, including her relationship with her husband, is built upon respect and service.
        And finally, point 5: I 100% agree that we are instructed to lay down our lives for one another. But my question is this: Why has Ephesians so clearly instructed men to do this service of love for their wives? Why doesn’t it say “Husbands and wives should submit to each other, and be prepared to lay down their lives for each other”? Why is this strong illustration of Christ and the church used? This passage makes it very clear that wives and husbands are called to different acts of love within a marriage.

        • K. Martin

          Struth said: For example, Pr 25:19, “Confidence in an unfaithful man in a time of trouble is like a broken tooth, a foot out of joint”. It clearly speaks of the folly of placing confidence in an unfaithful man, but what about the faithful man?

          What verses tell us that it’s okay to put our “confidence” in a faithful man?
          A lot of people like to talk about the rarity of the virtuous woman (Pr 31:10). I believe you referred to that verse too. However, let us not forget that Proverbs also states this:

          Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness: but a faithful man who can find? (Pr 20:6).

          Struth said: Many of the other verses you mentioned speak in regards to placing trust in one who promises to SAVE. That is a bit different from trusting someone to care for you, and make good decisions for you.

          Only 1 of the verses that I listed had to do with SAVE – not multiple (Ps 146:3). However, all of the verses I listed have to do with the inadequacy of putting trust in people – flesh as Je 17:5 refers to it.

          Struth said: Point 2: I don’t disagree with the idea of placing trust in the Lord ABOVE man (which, by the way, is mankind, not just men). But God obviously designed marriage to be a matter of trust between a husband and a wife. So your argument on the nature of trust between humans is ridiculous.

          The Bible tells us that heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s words will never pass away (Mt 24:35). With that being said, I strive to place my hope and reliance upon God’s word and his word alone. You commented about the idea of placing trust in the Lord ABOVE man, and marriage being a matter of trust between husband and wife. However, exactly where in the Bible does it say to trust the Lord ABOVE man? What verse? What verses literally and emphatically tell us that marriage is a matter of trust between husband and wife?

          While this concept (and I say concept rather than argument because I’m assuming that neither you or I are here to argue. It’s one thing to argue, but another to respectfully and lovingly discuss a matter as Christians) “on the nature of trust between humans” may be ridiculous to you, there is a literal verse that states, “don’t put your trust in mere humans (Is 2:22 NLT). That’s not so ridiculous to countless people who have had to learn that powerful lesson the hard way – myself included.

          Struth said: To imply that women are more trustworthy than men, based on one Bible verse, again proves my point that everything needs to be read in context.

          I am well acquainted with the Pr 31 woman. That’s why in my original comment I said “that might be some indication that VIRTUOUS wives have a tendency to be more trustworthy than husbands.” Notice that I didn’t say foolish or even mediocre wives because the Pr 31 is about a VIRTUOUS wife.

          You state that I based my rationale on only 1 verse. However, with all due respect and love, what verse(s) are you standing and relying upon to support your ideas about trusting the Lord ABOVE man and the nature of trust between humans in general and husbands and wives?

          Struth said: Why doesn’t it say “Husbands and wives should submit to each other, and be prepared to lay down their lives for each other”?

          You are very quick to address, “Why doesn’t it say…” I can understand that sort of reasoning. Which is the same sort of reasoning that I used concerning Pr 31:11. The Bible emphatically states that “her husband can trust her.” However, why doesn’t it say (somewhere in the Bible) that a wife can trust her “faithful” husband? There is no equivalent or even similar verse as it relates to a wife being able to trust her “faithful” husband.

          If you go back to my original response, you’ll notice that I never used the phrase “mutual submission.” While it does have some merit, I’m much more an advocate of a husband’s duty to listen to the wisdom of his wife. (I said wisdom and not foolishness. Wisdom comes from God.) While “listening to the wisdom of your wife” isn’t such a catchy catch phrase, it’s very Biblical, but that’s another conversation.

          • Struth

            “22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

            25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his
            father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband”. (Ephesians 5:22-33 NIV)

            The most beautiful thing about marriage, as we approach it from a God-fearing, God-loving, God-trusting point of view, is that it is not simply about what marriage represents on Earth, but also what it says of Jesus’ relationship with his people. God, in his amazing design, gave us many earthly concepts to help us understand holy, eternal concepts. Ephesians talks about marriage being a mystery, but it speaks of Christ and the Church. Dare I say it, this eternal image is far more important than the earthly one, which, as you rightly say, will pass away. And as we remain true to the Biblical instruction and definition of marriage, we bear witness to Christ’s faithfulness to his people—a love that was so deep and so selfless that he…

            “Who, being in very nature God,
            did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
            7 rather, he made himself nothing,
            by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
            8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself
            by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!”
            (Philippians 2:6-8)

            And while we place so much focus on the term “submission”, we forget what men are called to do—to be like Christ to their wives. Why do we lose sight of this important role? When we look at what Christ did for his Church, we are reminded that he reached out to a world filled with sinners (we made ourselves his enemies), and laid down his life for us, even though he had every right to deny us forgiveness. In other words, husbands are called, not to take advantage of their leadership, but to make themselves nothing, and be prepared to restore a relationship with his wife at any cost—even if he is not to blame. What we are called to do in return is submit to him, in trust and loving
            gratitude. The illustration of Christ and the Church in Ephesians 5 is not an accident
            or a culturally relevant image; it was a picture of profound love that overcame sin. It was a profound revelation even for those times. And while it is true that we are called to lay down our lives for one another out of love, this speaks of the relationship within the church. But the marriage relationship is different (this makes sense—we are not as intimate with our friends as with our spouses), and this relationship is compared to Christ and the Church. Jesus does not have to submit to the Church because he is the head, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t love the church. His very life was given to demonstrate his love. And he also trusts the Church—he gave the great commission to take the Gospel to the ends of the Earth. He gave this responsibility to us—hopeless, sinful humans. Again, loving husbands can (and will) seek the wisdom of their wives.

            But in a nice twist, one of the many ways we can share the Gospel is through our marriages. Just think about it: the image of a faithful, loving, servant-hearted husband who lays down his life for his wife and kids every day, who has the respect and trust of his wife, is a very different image from the one the rest of the world paints, in which a wife is a ball and chain and a husband is a selfish, incompetent couch-potato (I hate hearing those sorts of jokes at weddings). Of course, when we lose sight of this profound mystery—the pure, eternal, relationship—then it’s easy to feel like I suffer in my submission. But then I consider how much my husband loves me, how gracious God was to give me such a loving husband, how much I have learned about love in submission, and how much my husband has learned about love in leadership, and I feel honoured that God would reveal this mystery of profound and faithful love to me. Not that it’s always easy—I do, after all, still struggle with my sin. But when God allows my husband and I to reach a new level of understanding, I think it’s all worth it.

          • E

            Good words. Unfortunately, people have perverted these teachings to mean that the husband is the boss and therefore has the final say in decision-making. This is, of course, not in the scripture and is grossly inaccurate. A couple is free to handle decision-making as they see fit (as long as they’re not self-centered and look out for the other – mutually submit!)

          • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

            For the sake of argument, let’s say the command was for husbands to portray Jesus, and for wives to portrait the church, as a gospel picture.
            > Do you agree a caring, wise man with a spouse that simply don’t want to work along with him can give a gospel picture? (Hosea and his wife did!)
            > Do you agree a selfish, foolish man with a submissive wife who gives in to his every whim would give a horrible picture of the gospel, that can even be called blasphemy – the picture that Jesus is a selfish fool whom we obey to our own detriment?

      • marie

        Struth said: “If you’re husband bears the character traits of Jesus, then why wouldn’t you be willing to entrust your life to him, and trust him to make decisions for the good of you and your family? This whole mutual submission thing sounds like pride to me.”

        Honestly this was a topic of discussion for my husband and me this morning when he told me he wants to act more like how he was when he met me. That he wants to change because he got too “soft” and I got very upset with this. I love the point we’ve reached in our marriage where it feels like he and I have more of a mutual submission (for lack of a better term). When I mentioned I don’t want to submit to the guy he wants to be (cause the guy he used to be was a bit of a jerk) then he said, have faith in us, trust me more. It broke me and sent me to the bible for answers.

        Point is, Struth has a solid point. My husband currently bears the character traits of Jesus. Why wouldn’t I trust him now? He takes care of me and our son and has shown good leadership. I’m not supposed to live in fear, and God gave me my husband. Guess I will work on submitting to God, trust my husband, and act in love. If I focus on God, I know the rest will fall into place and I can’t control my husband. He seeks God and therefore God will work in him, and we’ll have our erh, ‘arrangement’. Now I’m afraid to say submission hah.

  • Sara

    yikes! totally okay to disagree, but I wish you were more encouraging of Candace and her desire to be Biblical and honor Christ. I also think you demean the ‘complementarian’ position and don’t represent it well.

  • smoothstones

    Looking forward to reading your book, Sarah (Esther Emery sent me her extra copy.), especially since I’m a middle-of-the-road kind of girl. I would characterize my marriage as one in which I submit to my husband, but I enjoy many wild freedoms, and often, as I read others’ words about their marriages and the subject of feminism, I think one side is not so far apart from the other. (For example: “I submit to my husband, and you should, too, and I’m flying off to tell all the participants of a big, fancy conference, this weekend, while the kids stay home w/ their daddy.” This is NOT a woman in bondage.) I just wish we could recognize that God works differently in different people’s lives. I’m not inclined to call anyone’s idea of marriage wrong if it’s safe and it works for her. And what I know is that–whether one partner submits or both partners submit–submission indicates strength. I find it challenging any time I put another before myself.

  • jenrun

    I think I agree with some of what she’s trying to say but I would question her interpretation of scripture in the end. She said “Patriarchy and hierarchy within marriage were consequences of the Fall (see Genesis 3:16)” but I don’t agree with that. When Adam and Eve sinned, God called Adam (Not Eve) to Him and asked Adam to give an account for both of their actions thus it would seem that God always intended for him to have authority over his wife/family. I would also be curious as to how this model of “mutual submission” plays out practically in her marriage. In marriages there are disagreements. When husbands and wives disagree but a decision HAS to be made, who makes the ultimate decision in a “mutually submissive” relationship? The analogy I find most upsetting is her saying that a “mutually submissive” marriage is still an accurate picture of Christ’s relationship with the Father. How? Jesus begged his Father to spare Him the cross but in the end, His Father asked it of him and He submitted to His Father. I cannot arrive at any other conclusion but that someone in a marriage must submit, and in the context of the whole of scripture that person would appear to be the woman. God is not so small as to limit His words by “angling” them into the Greco/Roman culture in which they were written. Having said all of this, submission does not make a woman “lesser” as she put it. It has nothing to do with more or less and simply to do with two roles of absolute equal value in God’s site that play out differently simply because God said it was a good thing and that is how it pleased Him to do it. Hope I don’t stir up any controversy sharing my thoughts here. It’s definitely not my intent. If something seems apparent in scripture and we are explaining it away over and over in many different places…we need to examine our hearts and ask ourselves why it bothers us so much if it really means what it says. God bless all of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ as we do our best to interpret His Word and seek to realize the gospel in our lives. :)

    • Struth

      Thanks for your comment, jenrun. I thought it was very well said. I especially liked your point about Christ submitting to his Father.

  • Scott Smith

    Could we agree it is your right to disagree and her right to maintain her beliefs and both of you can be rational, intelligent women? I listen to the “superior” women that have responded to this post and think Feminism was meant to empower women to live their lives and not a forced cookie-cutter model of womanhood. Now as a clergy person with an MDiv from an accredited seminary who does not particularly agree with Mrs. Bure, I will not say she has no right to believe as she does. Nor would i prevent her from the free speech she is entitled to, despite her conservative values that offend so many feminists. i just wish feminism would start being honest and confess, to be a real woman you have to walk like the pack and talk like the pack and believe like the pack…so much for freedom.

  • Humble Man

    I’m sorry, but this is blasphemy. You just push aside the word of God, manipulating it to your own pleasing. You are misinterpreting His Word and are leading others astray as well. This is a very slippery slope. This isn’t about how we act in a more modern culture compared to older cultures – it’s about submission. I believe you are confusing submission with a harsher word. The type of submission talked about by Candace Bure is penultimate submission, meaning it’s not the ultimate authority. Scripture is very clear on this and clear that women should submit to men as men submit to Christ.

    • E

      Scripture is also clear that we are to submit to one another (Ephesians 5:21). The following verses explain this submission to one another: respect and love. Who is the boss has been inaccurately read into these verses and perverts the beauty of them.

  • boogiegirl

    Hmmm….I’m not sure how I feel about this post. I deep down want to think this is not about attacking the Bures and their marriage but that’s indeed what I’m picking up. And it grieves me. It grieves me to see all this judgement and analysis of a marriage of two people none of us know personally. Of people whose lives we have not shared, for which we have no legitimate grounds in which to speak critique.

    I think it’s fine to disagree about marriage, but this post seems to have morphed into an attack dressed up pretty in biblical texts and loving images of mutual submission. And the strong message I see here is “my marriage is better and more biblical than yours”. Really? Granted, Candace put herself out there. But the comments I’m reading about people being enraged at her expression of her marriage, his being controlling and her being in some kind of bondage are just too far in my opinion. All see here is judgement….what Christ warned us NOT to do.

    This post also begs the question: what if you believe in mutual submission but your husband does not? What then? What. then.?

    • Sara

      Look, Candace Cameron Bure chose to share her personal business with the world.She talked about being a so-called “submissive wife” in Huffington Post for crying out loud. Why are so many of you acting like people aren’t allowed to have opinions and/or disagreements about information that was made public? If the Bures did not want people to talk about their marriage and the dynamic within it then they should not have made that information public. It should not grieve you that people are talking about this. It is not longer their private business if they are talking about it in national publications. And I don’t see anyone being enraged about her marriage. I see a lot of confusion, a lot of concern, a lot of disagreement. But not rage.

      • Struth

        I actually think Candace Cameron Bure has no problem with people discussing the topic of submission and marriage. Dare I say it, I think she had the foresight to know her comments would be deemed controversial and bring about plenty of discussion. Maybe that was her plan…? It is important, however, to keep a respectful barrier between a broad discussion on these topics and a harsh analysis of a marriage we know very little about. People put themselves out there everyday via twitter and Facebook (among other things), but that doesn’t mean they are asking to be put down. Celebrity or not, a national publication or not, we need to respect each others voices in that way.

  • Suzanne Burden

    Spot on! And beautifully written to boot. Sarah, I do so love how your marriage inspires.

  • karen huber

    Full disclosure: I am both an egalitarian wife in a mutually submissive marriage AND a recovering Full House fan. That being said, while I don’t find myself in agreement with her on the exact definition of a biblical marriage, I think Jesus-feminism, as well as full equality and freedom in Christ (there is neither slave nor free, male nor female, etc) would imply that she can CHOOSE to be submissive in marriage if that is what she feels called to do. I haven’t read the book, and I don’t know if Sarah or other commenters have read it in its entirety, but she may very well have said: “I’m a bossypants and it gets me in trouble, so I’m learning to step back and serve in this season.” I have had to say this myself in my own egalitarianism. And my husband has done likewise.

    My issue with complementarianism and/or patriarchy is when men and women feel they HAVE TO be this way because Scripture explicitly demands it (which it doesn’t, which is why I disagree with this philosophy). I am not a complementarian, but I know many happy complementarian marriages. I think we all have the freedom to choose how our marriages want to look, and then by extension, allow for differences and variations within the Kingdom. Forcing itself upon one’s wife or one’s marriage is one thing – and forcing it on others’ marriages the same.

    I am a huge Sarah Bessey fan, a woman who has spoken into my life from afar. But I fear that somehow in the tone here (and in the comments) we’re doing the exact same thing we accuse complementarians of: damning marriages because they don’t look like our own.

    Also, I find myself in agreement with another commenter who said that many marriages claiming complementarianism may mirror egalitarianism and mutual submission more often than not. We were one of those… back when we got married at, yes, 20! (gasp!)

    • E

      Excellent! I think scripture gives a framework that’s rather egalitarian, but ultimately a couple is free to handle their marriage in whatever way works best for them because different people have different needs.

  • Kevin Williams

    This is a great post. The submission texts that often drive this discussion call for mutual submission. The kind where the personhood of both husband and wife is given space. This kind of submission is difficult in a society that understands personhood related to bounded set individualism. Relationship is a dance of mutual giving and receiving. The Triune God functions this way. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are completely open to the giving and receiving of the other. They live in a dance of communion.

    This type of relationship easily escapes us. We become people who exert our way upon others or passively receive everything. As Sarah mentions, this is the mark of the fall, but God’s new creation happens as we learn to live out of mutual submission. We become people who act differently than the world around us. This kind of difference leaves room for the interruption of the other. In this relationship both personalities come together to practice giving and receiving, and they come together to form one. The mystery of marriage is that the two become one just as the Triune God is 3 and 1.

  • Jeremy S. Crenshaw

    I just love it when we proclaim something to be unbiblical because it doesn’t fit our agenda, then we point out the passages used and try to reinterpret them in light of our current cultural situation – in this case Western feminism. Contrary to what the passages actually say or indicate, they were really trying to push the envelope as far as they could for women. They were ignorant and did not know about our superior way of looking at marriage today. And this is called biblical? Seriously? The interpretation of these passages breaks just about every rule of proper hermeneutics and biblical exegesis!

    • patriciamc

      Think about this: up until about 30 – 40 years ago, the current cultural situation was very male-dominated. Women had very little power for most of human history. So, people look at the Bible through the lenses of that current cultural situation, which unfortunately still affects us today, and sees that the man is the boss and that the woman, or wife, is subordinate. Now, look at these verses through the lenses of Christ’s teachings to love one another. You get the mutual submission to respect and love one another. That’s quite a bit different from the inaccurate reading that the man is the boss.

  • Danielle

    I can’t thank you enough for this eloquent expression of the submission theory. I could never see myself in a marriage where my husband was my head and my voice and he made all the decisions. I’m not wired that way. I submit to Christ and I believe that we should mutually submit to each other in a marriage. But that one-way submission, definitely doesn’t work for me and I would be a terrible wife, if I was required to fit into that role..

  • Mary1912

    I’m trying not to be reactionary and defensive. I mulled over this for a day. But I really feel like you just told me my marriage is unbilbical and therefore not as good and godly as yours. I’ve known you online Sarah for well over 13 years and that can’t be what’s in your heart, can it?

  • jswwrites

    I’m sorry, but I don’t see this passage as ambiguous: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 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. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Paul compares the structure of marriage to the structure of the Church with Christ at the head. This may not fit your philosphy, but you can’t pick and choose. As a charismatic, I assume you take the parts about speaking in tongues, healing, prophecy, etc, literally. Paul said those, too. Additionally, your picture of what this kind of marriage actually would look like is ludicrous, and harkens back to some Southern Baptist definition of submission. My marriage is one based on Paul’s defintion, and it isn’t in any way holding me back. I’ve started a nonprofit in Uganda, travel a lot, have written 7 books, homeschooled my kids for 13 years, and have been in every way encouraged and lifted up by my husband. But just like a business needs one person who has the ultimate responsibility, so does a family. So does the Church, and Paul makes it clear who that is. Hint – not you.

    • Jane Dunn

      >> “But just like a business needs one person who has the ultimate responsibility . . .” <<

      Respectfully, you're simply incorrect about how many businesses work. As a lawyer I can tell you that there are millions of businesses that use the corporate form of a 2-person partnership or a 50/50 ownership. These businesses may have lots of other employees and be quite complicated to run. What usually happens is that the 2 partners or shareholders figure out what each is best at and they generally defer to each other in those areas. Sometimes they hire someone to take care of an area that neither is good at. This is quite similar to how many marriages ( both egalitarian and complementarian-in-name-only). And, yes, like some marriages, these businesses sometimes fail and have to break up or, in essence, go through a divorce of a sort. But millions of them are quite successful. So, the comment that one hears often as a justification for complementarianism — that like in a business there has to be just one "decider" or just one person with ultimate responsibility or authority — just isn't true in the real world.

      • jswwrites

        Well, I own 3 businesses, one for over 20 years which grosses more than $5m and was started with one $180/mo account. With my husband. And ultimately, one person is responsible. It may be that each has areas they’re responsible for which differ, but the businesses I’ve seen go out of business for bad management (not the economy) are always because they’re too many chiefs. I have plenty of real world experience in this area (I daresay a bit more than an attorney). There’s a reason there’s a CEO. And that it stands for chief.

        • Jane Dunn

          I’m glad your businesses have been successful, but not all businesses are organized as yours are. You might want to open you mind to the possibility that the business world is bigger than your corner of it. I have had more than 20 years real world experience with various types of real world businesses. In the real world, not all businesses have CEOs. For example, businesses that organize as partnerships, professional associations, or limited liability corporations make decisions by a vote of the partners or shareholders. Similarly, other businesses that are incorporated but only have 2 shareholders often do not have a CEO and operate quite successfully by making decisions jointly. Another example is Hobby Lobby, which is actually owned by a family trust. Since the trust papers have apparently not been disclosed in their lawsuit, we don’t know if the trust is organized so that there is one person with final control, but often family trusts are organized so that no one person can control a majority of the votes so that the family must work together to make decisions. There’s a whole big world out there beyond your own experience so you may want to hold off on pronouncing how things have to be.

    • patriciamc

      I think you forgot the first part of those verses: Ephesians 5:21 – to submit to one another. A couple is free to structure decision-making any way they see fit, but reading into those verses a hierarchy of who is the boss is inaccurate. A husband’s headship is as a loving servant, not as the boss. Also, I think your reading of those verses is in fact the Southern Baptist version.

  • http://www.simplyfreeblog.com/ lauren

    I very much agree with this. Well written. “Christ is meant to be the head of our homes, and within marriage, we are meant to submit to one another” Amen.

  • Danielle

    I don’t see Sarah’s post as an attack on Candace Cameron Bure. I think she is stating an opposing opinion, which is perfectly fine. I think we all agree that God’s word is our standard for living as Christians. We have to trust God’s sovereignty and divine will, and submit to his work in us and his revelation on what his word is saying to us. However, we aren’t all going to look the same in the end, and one’s biblical marriage isn’t going to look like another. It’s worst for a Christian woman to try to fit herself in a mold that doesn’t work for her, just because she’s been told that that’s what the scriptures say. She can read them for herself and ask for God’s revelation on his plan for her life and trust that she is doing the right thing in her marriage, even if it doesn’t look the same as another woman’s marriage. I’m glad that Sarah is making a statement to those of us Christians who can’t see a marriage that looks like Cameron Bure’s. I appreciate her greatly for that.

  • TexJoe

    “Of course, even simply scientifically, we know that there are millions of egalitarian marriages that “work” very well.”
    Of COURSE! And since science is the new authoritative hermeneutic, could you please explain to me, scientifically, why it is that men are, in general, bigger, faster, and stronger than women? Or could it be that they were created that way because they were always expected to be leader/protector/providers?

    You do not have science on your side. Not the self-evident fact that men are naturally equipped for leadership nor what you here are calling science, given that there are probably homosexual, incestuous, or even pedophilic relationships that “work,” as long as “work” is measured pragmatically and not Scripturally.

  • Ken

    #1 – Bessey is arguing against something that Bure never said – “And the idea that, as a wife, I would need to “become passive” or smaller or somehow less in order to make my marriage work is damaging and wrong.” Bure simply said she is not a passive person. I interpret her selected comments as a woman struggling to understand how the Word of God is calling her to live in her marriage.

    #2 – Bessey claims that Bure’s comments are rooted “in the secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God.” Yet the only scripture Bessey mentions in her entire explanation is Genisis 3:16. Seriously, read it real quick. While I haven’t read Bessey’s book, literally non of her explanation is rooted in the Word of God.

    #3 – I can’t defend a woman criticizing another woman trying to personally interpret her relationship with her husband in the presence of God. Both the husband and the wife are sinners in need of God’s Grace.

  • Daniela

    Oh My Lawd Sarah Bessey!!!!! If you could read the email I sent Kelly N. this morning during a personal crisis defining “biblical marriage”. It involved spitting and a life long mission to find truth and wisdom. Thank you for saving me a year and putting into words exactly how I was feeling. #notcrazy #youarethebest

  • Sarah Miciek

    Sarah, thank you for your words and for the beautiful picture of a mutually submissive marriage. My parents have a 55 year marriage, and I don’t know if they would use the “mutually submissive” phrase, but it’s clearly the marriage they have, as they have served God and each other through the years. My marriage is young (22 yrs) in comparison, but we look forward to many years with Christ the head of our home.

  • Kevin

    While the term “Biblical” might annoy us, surely we understand that that idea means the perspective the Bible gives as a whole. Obviously people can choose bad examples to instruct them and call that “Biblical”, but that’s not what people generally mean when using that term. The author herself is trying to be “Biblical” by giving what she believes is the more true position of the Bible itself, and hence of God. At least I hope that is what she is doing, because if she is not, but believes her opinion is above Scripture, and we enlightened moderns are beyond what the Bible gives us, then she is offering us dust and nothing to help us. We should all try to be Biblical, but all of us should just know we won’t all have the same take on what the Bible is really trying to get at, thus some issues are debatable, as Paul tells us in Romans 14. But as long as my brothers and sisters are seeking to let the Scriptures guide their perspective, and willing to submit to what God is saying, even if I disagree I can say they are being Biblical, too. I may not agree with them, but surely we can all try to do better study of Scripture and help each other to a more solid position that more fully reflects what all of Scripture is saying- it is saying something, and not nothing. In light of Romans 14 we have to hold this position. But if we aren’t trying to be Biblical, then what is the point?. As a Jesus follower, I need to let Scripture show me the way to go. Jesus listened to Scripture, and so must we. So we should all seek to be Biblical and not shy away from saying so, at least if we really want to follow Jesus.

    • Kevin

      Let me add that saying “such and such a scripture is molded by the Graeco Roman world…and therefore not really what we should listen to, but we should listen to…” is VERY dangerous hermaneutics, and wrong. Simply looking at Ephesians 5:21 would have sufficed: Paul says there that we should submit to one another and then lays out several examples of that in a row, including the man to his wife. That’s where she seems to come down, and if she had just used that passage to clarify the next 3 verses, and then how the man submits through loving his wife as Christ loved the Church, well that works out pretty well and does not discredit a passage based on some external influence theory. All Scripture is influenced by surrounding culture, except where God is dictating, and even there He was speaking into particular cultural situations and saying things they could understand in that culture. BUT that doesn’t mean any of Scripture is less applicable to all of us. “All scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim 3:16-17 We don’t get to pick and choose, but we do need to work at our study to make sense of passages that seem hard to stomach to make sure what is really being said, and what applies to us and how.

  • Everly Pleasant

    I have no intention of tearing apart this post (I think I agree with your disagreement!) but how do you explain Ephesians 5:22-24 specifically? What do you think the intended message was therein?

  • Tired of stuff going viral

    Got lots of hits on your blog since you’ve publicly disagreed with Candace Cameron Bure? Sigh…..

  • tommarroww

    Your article is well-written but somewhat flawed. While it is true that the secular culture viewed men as the head of the house during the life of Peter and Paul, that is not why they wrote what they did. In actuality, the Apostles cared very little about politics and social behavior unrelated to the Scripture; they concentered on Biblical principles the Church has simply lost an understanding of. The order that the husband is the head of the woman goes all the way back to Genesis 1. Head, rosh (ראש) in Hebrew, means ‘head’, ‘headwaters’, ‘first’ in time, rank or order, ‘top’, ‘chief’, and a few other things. Adam was before Eve, first (rosh) of all mankind, and the Messiah was before Adam, the first or source (rosh) from which all things came. Paul is simply stating a literal fact.

    Candace Cameron Bure is correct in what is quoted of her above; it agrees with the order of creation. There is a difference between submission and passivity which she mentions in the first quote. One needn’t be passive in order to be submissive. Mutual submission is an oxymoron. Two cannot be mutually submissive any more than two negative charges are able to attract. But what is submission? That is where the confusion sets in and drives disagreements like this.

    Submission has to do with authority and authority with responsibility. The man is responsible for all who are in his house and all who are in his house are under his authority. This is the same order between Jesus and His Bride and was set in order in Gen 1:27 before the fall. Male, zachar (זכר) in Hebrew, means to ‘protrude’, ‘male’, ‘initiate’ or ‘give’, and ‘speak or act on behalf of (remember)’. Female, nequvah (נקבה) in Hebrew, means to ‘pierce’, ‘female’, ‘submit’ or ‘receive/ respond’, and ‘express’.

    These characteristics are further seen in the Hebrew word for ‘love’. The masculine form of love, ahav (אהב), means to ‘give’ or literally ‘provide to strengthen the family’. The feminine for of love, ahavah (אהבה), mean to ‘receive’ or literally ‘look upon what has been provided to strengthen the family’. This is the order that was set from the very beginning. Peter and Paul didn’t take it from modern social behaviors of their time. Social behaviors of their time inherited it from their ancestors who ultimately inherited it from the Creator except their version was perversion.

    I hope this clears up some of the gross misunderstanding plaguing the Body and promotes a desire to more deeply study the Word of God.

    • Westcoastlife

      Those Hebrew words for love (ahav and ahavah) make sense to a Jewish culture where the wife leaves her childhood home and goes to live with a strange man and his parents. A loving man would be a giver while a woman would look after her husbands efforts. However, Hebrew word-meanings don’t mean a command, just how a different culture used language.

      In French, Hebrew and Greek, nouns are considered either masculine or feminine (in Greek they can also be neutral, but not French or Hebrew). So, lets look at the Holy Spirit. In Hebrew, the Holy Spirit is feminine. In Greek, it is neutral. Not once is the Holy Spirit considered masculine, yet everyone calls the Holy Spirit a “He”. Why? Because root meanings don’t convey the author’s intended meaning. Generous means the same a simplicity in older English, yet today, those word carry different meanings. If someone wrote about Generous giving in todays world, they are not also talking about generous simplicity.

      • tommarroww

        Words mean things, especiall Hebrew words; they transcent time and culture. What you are conveying is evolutionary thinking. Words and their meaning change because people corrupt them. At best, they can only be restored to their root or original meaning. The origional meaning conveys God’s intent whereas their evolved or different meaning carry mankind’s intent.

        In Hebrew, Holy Spirit is maculine. Holy, qadosh (קדש) is masculine and spirit, ruach (רוח) is also masculine. It’s literal meaning is the ‘breath that sets apart’. Today we look at the Holy Spirit as an entity whereas scripturally it is the breath of the LORD breathed into or onto someone that enables a person to do the work(s) of God.

  • Laaur

    Thank you for this. As a feminist, new Christian, and newly engaged woman, I am really interested in all these discussions about marriage. I guess for me, I have little sense of what mutual submission LITERALLY means. I would love to see sort of “a day” or “a year” (for bigger decisions) “in the life of a mutually submissive married couple.” Thanks for all you do! I have your book & plan to begin reading soon. :)

  • norain

    Perfect post–you might just clean up the typos in para 14 & 15. you’ve got a “Roman” instead of ‘Rome’ and in the next para, you mean “prescriptive,” not perspective. Thanks for writing.

  • b

    To clarify what I read, it seems to me what you are saying is that the Bible was written for the people of that time, and is not relevant to us now on the subject of marriage? You used 3 cited passages to show where marriage is specifically mentioned, but then state that it was only for that time. Then when making your personal opinion point about how marriage between Christians should be you take one random verse and quote a book? Why should I take your opinion over hers? Seems to me you are both women seeking to glorify God with your own personal opinions about what marriage should look like. Either scripture is currently relevant or it’s not, you don’t get to pick and choose which parts you abide by.

  • wonderwoman76

    I am in agreement with about 99% of what Ms. Bessey writes in this article. I am curious about her stance on homosexuality and what her arguments may be whether it be for or against. anyone know?

  • Jim2k

    I think you do an injustice to God when you claim that slavery is evil. God condone, even orders the Israelites to take slave. God doesn’t command people to do evil things. Don’t water down the scripture with your modern notions of morality.

    • Jo

      If trolling for reaction, please stop. You could be much more creative with your trolling. If serious, leave now. You’re about to get a whole lot of hate coming your way.

    • tommarroww

      The modern concept of slavery is so far removed from slavery in the Bible. In actuality, ‘slave’ is perversly translated from ‘eved’ (עבד) which literally means to ‘watch over the door of the house’ and is best translated as ‘minister’ and loosely as ‘servant’.

  • Paul Fekete

    Roles in marriage are not a result of the fall as this author states. The results of the fall in Genesis 3 is that instead of assuming the roles God gave Adam and Eve now husbands and wives will be in strife with each other. Because of the fall all wives will have a “desire” to control the husband (Genesis 3:16) as sin has a “desire” to dominate and control Cain in Genesis 4:7. . Because of the fall all husbands will have a tendency to rule harshly over their wives instead of like Jesus as a loving servant (Genesis 3:16). Servant leaders ask and include their wives in all decisions so I am not sure why functional equality is so important to this author when Jesus submitted to the will of God and not his own will.

    • tommarroww

      Yes, the Hebrew word for ‘rule’ in this regard is ‘mashal’ (משל) which means to ‘rule by serving’ and is first used in Gen 1:16. The other Hebrew word for rule is ‘radah’ (רדה) which means to ‘rule over as an enemy’ as used in Gen 1:26.

      • Paul Fekete

        What Hebrew word for “rule” was used in Genesis 3:16. “and He shall rule over you”

        • tommarroww

          Mashal. “. . . and he will rule (משל) over you.”

      • Paul Fekete

        What Hebrew word for “rule” is used in Genesis 3:16?

  • http://plasticmind.com Jesse Gardner

    So Jesus should be submitting himself to the church? If not, why use that example?

    • Paul Fekete

      Great point.

  • Jaime Howsare

    You go girl! I absolutely love this. (:

    And by the way, that picture is precious. I hope that someday when I do fall in love, my marriage is as loving and as strong as yours.

  • Daniela

    Sarah, You are an amazing women and continually encourage me with your words. Love ya’ to the moon. oxox

  • Hannah

    Denny Burk posted a response to this blog entry on his site, and the most amazing thing happened. Some women came out and owned the comment board with an amazing articulate defense of the egalitarian position. My jaw hit the floor. It was beautiful.
    Love your work, Sarah. Keep pushing back the darkness. :)

  • David

    I feel like her article addresses more the abuse of the Ephesians scripture by men, as opposed to men who are actually loving their wives like Christ loves the church, who are submitting to God, and laying their lives down for their wives. Is her disagreement with Candace more semantics, or actual theology?

  • Ryan

    Can I ask why you felt no need to quote scripture, nor back up any of your points in this article with Scripture? (While pointing to a few verses on two occasions, there is never any explanation on what these verses say or how they should be interpreted.) You seem to get your authority from people and culture as opposed to God.

    Another question: Who makes the final judgement on what portions of Scripture are true for us and what portions were true only for the individuals of the 1st Century? If we are to say the passages referring to gender roles were only for the 1st Century, what stops us from saying that Salvation by Faith Alone in Christ alone was not also a concept for the 1st Century alone? Who makes this call and where do they derive their authority?

  • Jon

    Great post. I think that the comparison to slavery is a little misguided, though. We don’t find slavery abhorrent because of our love for scripture and respect for God—what about all those secular abolitionists? Is there no room for the holy spirit in there? Why were the biggest 19th century slavery supporters Christians? Basically I think that it’s a lot more complicated than you make it out to be. (I would recommend reading Mark A. Noll’s America’s God, chapters 18 & 19 specifically)

    I know that this article is not about slavery; it’s about hermeneutics, but slavery was your prime example of your hermeneutic. I happen to agree with your point on feminism but I don’t think that you should have included the slavery part. It’s an easy way to get most people to agree with you but it risks oversimplifying and devaluing an important and complicated piece of history that continues to have devastating effects today.

  • Scott Praxl

    “But those passages of Scripture are, in fact, a subversion of the Greco
    Roman household codes in effect at the time. The maintaining of total
    authority in the home was critical to the functioning of a society that
    relied on the total authority of the government and/or religion. At the
    time of these writings on marriage, the Greco-Roman Household Codes were
    part of Pax Romana, the laws keeping the peace of Roman. Peter and
    Paul worked within imperfect systems because any outright challenge to
    the law of the land would bring persecution down upon the Church in
    great number. In fact, the Apostles ”advocated this system, not because
    God had revealed it as the divine will for Christian homes, but because
    it was the only stable and respectable system anyone knew about” at the
    time, according to Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe of the Women’s Bible Commentary.”

    This is one of the most ridiculous arguments I have heard to date to support the egalitarian view of scripture. Since when did Paul or Peter or any of the Apostles care about being persecuted? They welcomed it as the ushered in the Kingdom of God in word and deed. I don’t get it, let’s go back to inerrancy, if it is written in God’s word, do we follow it or not? Christ fulfilled the OT codes and law, and I know we need to interpret the NT still and not everything is literal, but not just tossing this stuff out and calling it cultural.

  • cera

    Thank you for this. As I always point out, doesn’t Ephesians also say, “husbands love your wives?” Does that mean wives don’t have to love their husbands – since the Bible doesn’t command them to?

  • Mandi

    Ephesians 5 was our wedding passage. God created marriage to be a mirror of the relationship between Christ and his church. It was been so much better explained by so many in this discussion but I’d like to share an example of what my marriage looks like. I am extremely stubborn (thanks Dad!) and I like to get my way. I never realized how much this was true until I got married. Our first year was miserable as I fought tooth and nail against submission, being afraid that by submitting I would end up being treated like a doormat, although I still can’t believe why I ever thought that, as my husband is the most gentle person I know. The desire was there, but putting it into action was another thing. God’s really been gracious to me in this area and has helped me overcome that fear and with His help I’ve been able to more willingly submit to my husband. This does not mean that he always gets the final say or that he makes the big decisions, but it’s the little things. My husband HATES arguing and I hate not having the final word. We used to go round and round until we were both furious. Now if some things starts to turn into an argument, I say to myself “I choose Jesus” and I hold my tongue. Like I said, if it’s an important matter, that is different. He respects my opinion and we work together to mutually come to an agreement, but I’ve found that by being able to submit to him even in the small things has literally saved my marriage. God created men with the desire to lead, and that’s not to say that women can’t be leaders, because yes we can! But in my marriage, my husband is the head, just as Christ is the head of the church. Submission is still hard for me, but the love that my husband returns when I am being submissive and respectful is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

    • Paul Fekete

      What a great testimony of how marriage can function in a complementary way! Thanks for sharing!

  • C. Lyn Miller

    Let’s not through the baby of doctrinal headship throughout the Bible out with the bath water of unilateral submission. Renewing my mind according to God’s perspective helps. Interesting discussion. http://www.riseupandwalkwithMe.wordpress.com striving to love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength and my neighbor as myself.

    • C. Lyn Miller

      Oops! Let’s not throw…

  • http://asacredjourney.net/ Lacy Clark Ellman

    As much as I disagree with her, I will say that her phrasing allowed me to have an “aha!” moment (though not in the way she intended, certainly). In the second quote you shared, she says, “When you’re competing with two heads, that can post a lot of problems or issues,” and she is so right (though she might not agree with my interpretation) — when you’re competing with two egos, that can pose a TON of issues (and bring up all of our own issues!). Which then reminds me of the way you talk about your relationship, Sarah, and your mutual submission and the often tough battle of laying egos aside and hearing each other out and navigating the dark and often murky paths toward truth, life, and love. It’s the work of redemption, and it’s not easy, but it’s earthy and beautiful, and it’s evidence of the Kingdom (a stark contrast to what many, including Candace, might claim). This will (and should) always be a gender conversation — we’ve got a long road ahead of us and a lot of untangling to do — but this has really helped me see how much of a pride issue this is, too. Another angle in an ongoing and necessary conversation.

  • agirlwhocares

    Ephesians 5:21. The Bible talking about submitting to one another. I deeply studied this passage (Ephesians 5:21-31) and wrote over 70 pages via exegetical study (after studying thousands of pages of other commentators and theologians). People who use JUST Ephesians 5:22-24 only, are ripping the verse out of context. There needs to be mutual submission (5:21), yes. However, there also must be the understanding that just as Christ is the head of the Church, the husband is the head of the household (5:22-24). You cannot have one or the other. YOU are choosing to eisegete the text by looking at ONLY the “we are equal” part of the text. Marriage is not about equality, it’s about complementing each other. We are to be companions. That’s what this text covers (and a lot more than I put in this one little comment).

    • marie

      thank you for this. You’ve answered some of my questions. Breaking down Eph. 21-33 is a tough road. Eph. 5:33 says more, “However, let each man of you (without exception) love his wife as (being in a sense) his very own self; and let the wife see that she respects and reverences her husband (that she notices him, regards him, honors him, prefers him, venerates, and esteems him; and that she defers to him, praises him, and loves and admires him exceedingly). ref (1 Pet. 3:2)”…taken from the Amplified Bible, which tends to build on and break down verses.
      I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t always revere and esteem my husband. Working on that…

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  • Kevin C. Neece

    This article states something I have been advocating for years very, very well. I am in complete agreement with you, Sarah. I’m also quite interested in your book!

    However, let us also consider that when Paul and Peter are dealing with these dynamics of authority in their culture, they teach mutual submission *within* those structures. The structures don’t go away; we just alter how we think about authority. I this new view, the position of authority is a submissive, serving position, just as much as is the position of the one who is under authority.

    Just as you point out that it’s not a binary choice between the submissive wife and two people both out for number one, it’s also not a binary choice between the submissive wife (or the submissive husband) and a more egalitarian model. Mutual submission does not only exist in an egalitarian model. It also can, does and should occur within relationships which tend toward a more strongly dominant/submissive dynamic.

    As you said, if Candace’s marriage works well within a strong authority structure, then good for her and her husband. But you also seem to insinuate (and, judging from some of the comments, many readers have read you to say) that Candace’s marriage is not based on mutual submission. The fact of the matter, however, is that mutual submission may very well exist within the authority structure of that relationship. The point of discussing relationships of authority in the subversive manner in which Paul does is not simply to move us toward an eventual egalitarianism (though that is perfectly fine) but to redefine authority itself.

    So, while the submissive wife may not be the point of Pauline models of marriage and the home, it may indeed be a structure within which both partners can flourish in an atmosphere of both an authority structure and mutual submission. I love this paragraph here:

    “My marriage has instead brought out the best in me. I am stronger and more courageous. I am bolder. I am more loving. I am more of who I was meant to be because of the way that tall Nebraskan has loved me well. And I believe that I have done the same for him. It’s been fifteen years since we fell in love, thirteen since we were married: our marriage and our family works because we submit to one another. And because we make each other better at being ourselves, in all the fullness and glory and mess and truth.”

    In it, though, I hear also the voices of women and men who have been the more submissive or the more dominant partner in a strongly dominant/submissive marriage which has also practiced mutual submission within that structure. In the biblical concepts you so adeptly discuss, I see the idea time and again that authority is often a fact of life–sometimes by force and sometimes by choice–but that authority structures and mutual submission are not mutually exclusive. More properly, the former needs the latter (and often the latter needs the former) in order to function in a healthy way that models the love of Christ.

    So, while I join you in disagreeing with Candace’s characterization of the submissive wife as “biblical,” I’m not about to assume that Candace’s submission to her husband as an authority figure in her home excludes the possibility of an ethic of mutual submission within her marriage.

    Thanks again for a great post. I hope I’ve offered some complimentary thoughts to your words. You’ve certainly gained a new fan! :)

  • Kevin C. Neece

    This article states something I have been advocating for years very, very well. I am in complete agreement with you, Sarah. I’m also quite interested in your book!

    However, let us also consider that when Paul and Peter are dealing with these dynamics of authority in their culture, they teach mutual submission *within* those structures. The structures don’t go away; we just alter how we think about authority. In this new view, the position of authority is a submissive, serving position, just as much as is the position of the one who is under authority.

    Just as you point out that it’s not a binary choice between the submissive wife and two people both out for number one, it’s also not a binary choice between the submissive wife (or the submissive husband) and a more egalitarian model. Mutual submission does not only exist in an egalitarian model. It also can, does and should occur within relationships which tend toward a more strongly dominant/submissive dynamic.

    As you said, if Candace’s marriage works well within a strong authority structure, then good for her and her husband. But you also seem to insinuate (and, judging from some of the comments, many readers have read you to say) that Candace’s marriage is not based on mutual submission. The fact of the matter, however, is that mutual submission may very well exist within the authority structure of that relationship. The point of discussing relationships of authority in the subversive manner in which Paul does is not simply to move us toward an eventual egalitarianism (though that is perfectly fine) but to redefine authority itself.

    So, while the submissive wife may not be the point of Pauline models of marriage and the home, it may indeed be a structure within which both partners can flourish in an atmosphere of both an authority structure and mutual submission. I love this paragraph here:

    “My marriage has instead brought out the best in me. I am stronger and more courageous. I am bolder. I am more loving. I am more of who I was meant to be because of the way that tall Nebraskan has loved me well. And I believe that I have done the same for him. It’s been fifteen years since we fell in love, thirteen since we were married: our marriage and our family works because we submit to one another. And because we make each other better at being ourselves, in all the fullness and glory and mess and truth.”

    In it, though, I hear the voices of women and men who have been the more submissive or the more dominant partner in a strongly dominant/submissive marriage which has also practiced mutual submission within that structure. In the biblical concepts you so adeptly discuss, I see the idea time and again that authority is often a fact of life–sometimes by force and sometimes by choice–but that authority structures and mutual submission are not mutually exclusive. More properly, the former needs the latter (and often the latter needs the former) in order to function in a healthy way that models the love of Christ.

    So, while I join you in disagreeing with Candace’s characterization of the submissive wife as “biblical,” I’m not about to assume that Candace’s submission to her husband as an authority figure in her home excludes the possibility of an ethic of mutual submission within her marriage.

    Thanks again for a great post. I hope I’ve offered some complimentary thoughts to your words. You’ve certainly gained a new fan! :)

  • Sasran Jonelle

    This is a testimony that I will tell to every one to hear. I have been married for 4years and on the fifth year of my marriage, another woman had a spell to take my lover away from me and my husband left me and the kids and we have suffered for 2years until I met a post where this man DR olokipa have helped someone and I decided to give him a try to help me bring my lover back home and believe me I just send my picture to him and that of my husband and after 48hours as he have told me, I saw a car drove into the house and behold it was my husband and he have come to me and the kids and that is why I am happy to make every one of you in similar to met with this man and have your lover back to your self. His email: drolikipaspellhome@gmail.com,,,,,,,,

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  • Jesus H. Christ Himself

    Sarah, as usual you tow the line of the typical Christian apologist. Your ancient holy book was written by a scientifically unenlightened, ignorant, superstitious group of goat sacrificing lunatics who lived more than two thousand years ago.

    Your Bible is saturated with page after page of Cro-Magnon nonsense that was typical of ancient cultures.

    And your attempts to rescue it from the irreverent garbage that it surely is, is beyond lame.

    The ‘dominant’ theme of women in the Bible is that of property. They belonged to men just as a house or a donkey did. And just because some verses of the Bible speak of women in a somewhat more gracious manner doesn’t in any way change the fact that the ‘dominant’ view of women in the Bible is that women are submissive to men and are less valued than men are. Because that is the way that the majority of people thought in ancient times thought. The authors of the Bible were no more enlightened than other ancient cultures. And there is page after page of misogynistic nonsense in the Bible to support that belief.

    Have you burned the carcass of a dead goat or stoned to death a woman for not being a virgin, lately? And notice, that it is only women that are subject to the Neanderthal laws of the Old Testament. Not men. Of the twenty one commands to kill people in the name of God, not a single one is specifically directed towards men. Although many specifically refer to women.

    And would you care to name the book of the Bible that was actually written by a woman? Or the single verse of the Bible that was believed to have been written by a woman?

    Of course, there isn’t a single word of your Bible that was written by a female. Because, apparently, your god didn’t think that women were capable of being trusted with such an important message.

    Are you paying attention?

  • Patrick

    Question, does Christ ever submit to the Church? Is there any biblical basis in which the Church has an equal say in spiritual matters? Is there any part of Church Tradition which suggests this? And the answer to this is no, there isn’t.

    I do believe the Bible used the cultural and societal norms that surrounded its composition to make points. However, the purpose of Scripture was to convey absolute, objective, and universal truths concerning God, salvation, the Church, and the life individual believers should lead. For this reason it is unlikely God would allow truths about important things like marriage to be colored by limited, subjective, and temporal beliefs.

    Consider Eph. 5:22. Yes it says for wives to “subject,” “submit,” etc. to their husbands. It also says “as unto the Lord.” Now who is the leader in our spiritual lives? Christ. We may argue with him, plead for something with him, or completely ignore him. But ultimately, his word is final. He isn’t mean about it, and that’s something all Christian men should remember. He doesn’t wield his authority like a dictator, but takes everything under advisement. And ultimately he makes the decision. So as much as you may dislike Candace’s word choice and her husband, she wasn’t wrong with what she said.

  • Kyle K

    I think many good things have been said here so far, I especially agree with Soprano116, and don’t just want to rehash what others have already said, and said well. What I want to point out are a couple of observations about the movement to bring Christianity and the teachings of scripture into line with modern feminist ideals. The first problem that I see is the way people have come to see value, and how the woman, if not given complete and total equal status with men in our culture are seen as being less valuable. I think this notion simply reflects how much we have absorbed our cultures backwards values system where we measure worth by worldly accomplishments. It seems especially strange that this is the case when you consider the fact that, in this article at least, what is being argued for is a kingdom ethic where servanthood is seen, and rightly so, as that which truly makes one great, while simultaneously seeing being under the authority of a man as degrading. Is this not something of a contradiction? Unequal in station is not the same as unequal in value. To argue that it does would contradict the teaching of Paul regarding the Church being made up of people that all have different gifts, different roles to fill, yet all are necessary, all equally valuable in spite of their differing functions.

    With that said, I think the biggest problem with this movement is that it is simply doing what all of us Christians tend to do when we encounter a problem. We over correct. That is, rather than find the middle ground, the bull’s eye, we swing away from one extreme, one error, right into another. I think the “Biblical Patriarchy” movement stands ,more or less, at one extreme, while the view being espoused in this article stands near the other. In this case, rather than simply recognize that men are indeed called to lead and that they are called to lead in love as Christ did, it seeks to solve the problem of men’s abuse of their headship by eliminating it altogether. This, of course, requires that this views proponents turn a blind eye or cleverly explain away essentially everything the bible explicitly teaches on the issue, while using as it’s foundation a passage that is not at all addressing the marriage relationship. Interpreting the more clear in terms of the less clear is backwords hermeneutics and poor exegesis.

    Now I don’t know whether Candice Cameron’s husband is using his headship rightly or not, but submission isn’t about letting the husband have his way all the time, nor is it simply a tool to make a marriage work. It is the modeling of the Christ/Church relationship that marriage is intended to model, and which the view that Sarah is here espousing completely destroys. What we need is not a radical transformation of our views on the marriage relationship, but a move back towards the center where the man is indeed called to lead, but called to lead in love, not serving himself, but his family, just as Christ came to serve. And the wife called to lovingly submit to her husband, just as we, the bride of Christ, submit to Him. Both taking their positions with a love that is self sacrificial. Christ-like leadership requires humility and sacrifice. It requires dying to self. So does submission. And this is what God calls men and women to. Lives of self sacrifice, each lived out from our respective stations as we show the world through our marriages what Christ and His Church are really like. Thanks for reading.

    • theresa

      Hey…thanks…I enjoyed reading that. : )

  • Sherai

    There will always be an ongoing debate on whether a submissive wife is really dealing with an controlling husband. The reality is that what works for one may not work for another and that is okay. God teaches that man should be the head of household. That is His word but in many ways men and women must both submit to each other. In love, in decisions, in trust.
    I invite you to check out my blog: http://www.releasetorenew.com

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  • frankfalcone

    God is the head of Christ. Jesus is the head of the church. The husband is the head of the wife.

    Jesus must obey God. The church must obey Jesus. The wife must obey the husband.

    This biblical concept is clear and I think it is what Candace Cameron Bure is trying to live out in her marriage. It is one Sarah Bessey is not comfortable with and is trying to rationalize her way out of.

    • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

      Jesus must obey God? Jesus is God, he has to obey himself?

      • frankfalcone

        I assume you’ve never read the New Testament?

        To name a few:
        “Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come . . . to do thy will, O God’” (Hebrews 10:7)
        “That the world may know that I love the Father, and as the Father gave Me commandment, even so I do”(John 14:31).

        “For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me commandment, what to say, and what to speak” (John 12:49).

        “Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered” (Hebrews 5:8).

        “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).

        “Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; yet not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42).

        • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

          To assume that I never read the new testament is very uncharitable – and untrue. You should treat other believers as sisters and brothers, as you would want to be treated. Would you want your brothers/sisters in faith of never having read the Bible if you say something percieved as an error?

          Your texts are true, I believe them. But my contention is that Jesus had (past tense) to obey God while on earth, precisely because he was also a man at the time, and man nature had to submit to God. God nature could not submit, as it wanted exactly what God wanted. http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/does-jesus-always-submit/

          You said Jesus “must obey” (present tense). You then quoted texts that speak of Jesus on earth, when he did obey (past tense).

          You even included this bit of evidence: “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). – the man Jesus had to submit.

          Present tense? “Must obey?” There is nothing teaching that, AFAIK. If you know of a text that say Jesus presently must obey, you are welcome to give it.

          • frankfalcone

            You go a long way to twist the meaning of simple scriptures to say what you want them to say. “But there is one thing I want you to know: The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” Headship is about authority. You can not twist your way out of this.

          • Guest

            The man must submit to the woman as Christ submitted himself to man by coming to earth to serve and to die for man. But Christ still mantains his authority over man, as the man still maintains authority over the woman.

          • frankfalcone

            Jesus was glorified because of his submission and obedience to God the father.

            The verse you singled out. “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8)

            Next verse goes on to say:

            THEREFORE God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

            All those verses you cited about the glory of Jesus. The Bible states he was glorified BECAUSE of his obedience.

          • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

            Nope. I cannot, and I don’t want to. The man IS the head (not a command to him to be the head, but a statement of what the man is already) even when you see a man in a coma. When you look at the most hen-pecked man in the world, the statement remains equally true: The man is the head. What is more, the man IS the head as Christ is the head: Eph 5:23. Even when he uses authority in abusive ways very unlike Christ, he is still the head as Christ is the head.

            Do you, Falcone, also believe that when a man is abusive or in a coma, the man is the head as Jesus is the head?

            I can believe the Bible on this because I believe the egal understanding that the word head (it was the literal word for body part above the neck), when Paul wrote his words, did not have the symbolic meaning of authority, but another meaning. But to claim an abusive man is an authority in the same way Jesus is an authority – now that will be blasphemy!

            (BTW, your allegations that I twist scripture falls on deaf ears. You have not shown me one bit of scripture I refused to believe, or that my understanding of anything in the Bible is wrong. My one question I directly asked you: “If you know of a text that say Jesus presently must obey, you are welcome to give it” you did not give any answer to. Which leads me to conclude you either twist scripture to believe he must presently submit, or learned something from our exchange about the submission of Jesus, but do not want to admit it.

            Do you really want to be like the accuser of the bretheren, as far as I or other believers like me are concerned?)

          • frankfalcone

            You are spouting gibberish to avoid simple clear teaching. Headship is about authority and subordination. You deny this, you say its about something else (but don’t really specify what), but this is clear and straightforward. Christ is subordinate to the Father. Period. He is obedient to the father. Period. This is not ambiguous or unclear. His current glorification is GIVEN to him by the Father because of his obedience. The Father is the head of Christ. It is not convoluted as much as you are trying to make it so. You can try to go off on these tangents to avoid the simple truth clearly stated by the Bible.

            I believe you, when you say you don’t want to believe this. You sound very similar to those who claim homosexuality is not a sin, and take overly complex views of very simple clear verses, because the verse does not say what they want it to.

          • frankfalcone

            Christ’s obedience to the Father is central to his being. Period. Where the Bible says nothing, I say nothing. But the Bible is clear about Jesus and his obedience to the Father.

          • frankfalcone

            “The man IS the head (not a command to him to be the head, but a statement of what the man is already).”

            Exactly. Jesus is the head of every man. Not every man may obey Jesus. Not every man may respect that Jesus is the authority, that he is subordinate to Christ. But Christ is still the head. Just as not every woman, yourself included, may respect that they the husband is the head, that God intends for her to be subordinate to him. But he is still the head. Just as Christ is the head of every man. Just as the Father is the head of Christ.

            Jesus is the perfect example of subordination. God intends for man to be subordinate to Christ and for the woman to be subordinate to man. An abusive man is not living under subordination to Jesus and therefore is in sin.

          • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

            You see, Frank, in your argument you used two premises:

            1) The head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God

            2) Headship is about authority

            If both your premises are true, your conclusion would have held. You think your argument is Biblical, but only premise 1) is – and I deny premise 2).

        • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha Faurie

          Texts that speak of Jesus, not on earth any more, being glorified instead of submitted:

          13″The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified His servant Jesus…” (Acts 3: 13 NASB)

          31″He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and a Savior…” (Acts 5: 31NASB)

          20″…which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21far above all rule and authority and power and dominion…” (Ephesians 1: 20-21 NASB)

          9″For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name…” (Philippians 2: 9 NASB)

          8″But of the Son He says, ‘YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER…’” (Hebrews 1: 8 NASB)

          13″Behold, My servant will prosper, He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.” (Isaiah 52: 13 NASB)

          13″…One like a Son of Man was coming, and He came up to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. 14And to Him was given dominion, glory …” (Daniel 7: 13-14 NASB)

          32″This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. 33Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God…” (Acts 2: 32 NASB)

          But I don’t assume you don’t read the Bible – I assume you took little notice of some things while focused somewhere else.

  • http://logicandimagination.wordpress.com/ Melody Harrison Hanson

    Yes, yes, yes! Thank you Sarah.

  • susan chenier

    I used to believe Candace Cameron was a good role model for young people but over the years I’ve read a lot of things that seem to cotradict what she’s said in the past. I feel sorry for her. The picture she posted flexing her muscles and saying ” You call this weak” seemed desperate to prove something. Did someone question her physical strength? Does she realize she was using weak in the wrong context of the topic here?

  • AC

    First I want to say age is nothing but a number and just because she was twenty doesn’t mean she was not ready for marriage. We all know there are 20 year olds who are a more mature than some 30 year olds or whatever age society seems fit for marriage. Second everyone is totally acting like she is saying she has no opinion whatsoever, when shes clearly saying she does she just ultimately leaves the decision to her husband . Marriage is a partnership and there are different dynamics in every relationship and this is the one that works for her. Shes not condemning anyone who has a different view of marriage than she does only sharing hers. And there’s nothing wrong with that! So many people keep asking ” what century does she live in” but what century do we live in? Today anyone who voices an opinion against society is condemend. So nothing has really changed it’s still unacceptable to go against the majority! The only difference is the majoritys opinion has changed! WAKE UP AMERICA EVERYONE IS ALLOWED an OPINION! NO ONE HAS TO AGREE WITH IT BUT EVERYONE NEEDS TO RESPECT IT IF NOT WE WILL NEVER TRULY PROGRESS

  • Sarah Grochowski

    THANK YOU SO MUCH… you get it.

  • Janelle

    “I submit to my husband. And he submits to me, too. And together, we submit to Jesus.”

    This is my husband and I and I love him dearly for not wanting me to be some passive submissive wife while he runs the whole show. We submit to one another and our marriage works great that way.

    Nell

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  • Úna Lucey-Lee

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  • Miriam

    Every one is dealing with some imperfection in their spouse. The question is, are they going to make the relationship more important than their ego like Cameron has? (In line w GOD as the ultimate authority of course, husbands are not ultimate authority) OR is your personal ego more important? Giving your spouse grace on their imperfections in the moment, while discussing in it in a respectful way, is one thing America has lost a hold of!

  • Jeff Snively

    I believe in what you are saying to a point, Sarah but I do not believe you to be fully correct on this. I do believe this and his is how my marriage is. My wife and I respect each other and both have equal say. When one of us are going thru a problem, we rely on each other to help come to a solution. We also know our ultimate roles which is I am responsible to love and care for her and to be the man that God has created me to be in the marriage. I’m not always perfect but I strive to be the best husband ever. Because of that, I have also earned her respect and trust to be the wife she is supposed to be. And as a result we try to have a marriage that we could ask people to model theirs after. It is a choice we made that in all ways we prefer the other person but also respect and love our position. My wife is one of the strongest women i know and the best that God has ever created.

    I have seen first hand where the woman is the head. 100% of them there is always fighting, and bad-mouthing. There is resentment and always the feeling of trying to belittle the other in the eyes of their family, kids and public. It never works because it is out of order. You say that the idea of submission is from ancient secular, but you know it is in the bible. I do not need to tell you cuz I know you know it. The part you did not say is that only in the last about 300 years have women tried to rise up and overrule the husbands, especially in the 20th century. Since then divorce has been the end for more marriages than ever before.

    I love your writings Sarah and I know you are a woman of God. I do not write this to condemn or upset you and I am sure your marriage works.

    • Rev_Cocoa

      The level of condescension in this comment is stunning. I’ll grant that you’re trying to be civil, but this message just oozes smugness.

      What exactly does exactly does it mean for a husband to be “the head”? Give me an illustration that doesn’t go beyond what the Scriptures themselves teach. The fact is that Paul doesn’t get very specific. In fact, even the command directing women to submit to their husbands comes right after a verse in which we’re all instructed to submit to one another. In light of that, husbands should submit to their wives as well. And, really, what is the difference between “loving your wives” and “submitting to your husbands” given that submission, like love, is to be modeled after Christ.

      Your attribution of the rising divorce rate to women trying to “rise up and overrule the husbands” is just ridiculous. How about the decline in spousal abuse to women’s demands for equality and respect?

      Typically when I encounter someone who considers themselves and their marriage as a mode for others to follow, I find that they’re delusional. That they’re just pretty arrogant. I have no reason to believe that you are an exception.

      • Jeff Snively

        Rev. Cocoa,

        First of all, I am surprised it has taken a month for someone to respond to mine but not surprised that it was a negative reaction. I actually had forgotten what I wrote and had to re-read it. I am use to people disagreeing with me because what I comment on are controversial ideas but if I believe I am right, then I write it and stand by it. At first I thought your ridiculous answer was not worthy of an answer, especially since I do not know you. I do know Sarah (or at least I did at one time) which is why I felt OK to leave the comment. However, I will respond to you even though I know you have already decided in your heart that I am ignorant and misguided. The only thing I ask is that you read the whole thing before you start getting upset. Below I have it set up as

        1) an answer to your first paragraph

        2) 2 examples

        3) an explanation of my marriage and how it can be a model marriage, even though I truly did not mean what I said when I said “And as a result we try to have a marriage that we could ask people to model theirs after.” What I was meaning is that people can be inspired by our marriage due to things we have overcome and I believe if they took some of the steps we did to heal our marriage, they would be able to heal theirs too.

        4) My final thing is just a little note about Candace Cameron Bure, which is what this whole blog is really about. So enjoy reading, These are my thoughts and I stand 100% behind it.

        First of all, to your description of me being condescending, if I am I apologize. I do not believe though it is condescending to tell your view (especially in a blog since that is the purpose of a blog.) So If I am oozing smugness as you say, then you my friend are doing the same.

        Secondly, what does it mean to be “the head”? I will give you 2 examples of where there is “a head”.

        1) a business…. there is always a person who is at the top. He (or she) runs the business as seen fit. There may be lower managers who report to a senior manager, and that senior manager reports to the owner. No matter how many levels, it is run that way. Now, the lower managers may want to run a store according to their own way, and they have been given that right to do so (as long as it goes within the boundaries of their authority).

        My question to you is this: In a healthy company, does the senior and the lower managers work together to bring about the better good for the company? Or do the senior manager make the lower managers feel inferior? That does happen sometimes, but NOT in a healthy company. In a healthy company, they work together, but with each having their own part. Yet even in the working together, there is an order of authority. If the senior manager wants it done using plan A and the lower managers want it done plan B, which plan gets completed? What would happen if the lower managers were to go ahead and do plan B instead? Then the whole company would be out of order and authorities would be undermine and then the employees would have no standard to which to work there.

        Take that to a marriage….. In a healthy marriage, both husband and wife work together equally to run the family. In a healthy marriage, there still is a head…. but as a unit, it works. I did say 100% of all marriages I have seen where the wife “wears the pants in the family” has ended up with dysfunctional kids and home, and about 80% are divorced (the other 20% will happen one day I am sure).

        2nd example) God is the head. Jesus and God are one. However, Jesus submitted to God, but God did not submit to Jesus. Jesus does not submit to the church yet we submit to Him.

        look at our churches. The pastor is the head of the church yet he (OR SHE) is or should be submitted to God. If the pastor is submitted to God, then correct teaching will go out. True love and devotion to God will go out. Ministry will not only be within the church but also outside the church. However, we see over and over again where the pastor is not submitted to God or the people are not submitted to the pastor. Then it gets to be bad and dysfunctional and instead of life going from the church to the outside, death begins from the pastor to the people and then to the outside to where the church is just a memory.

        So I just gave you 2 examples…. you probably are really mad at me now because I am this person who believes the Bible. By the way, do you believe that the Bible is the one book that has no mistakes? Therefore if it says that wives are to submit and men are to love their wives and if it says to submit to one another….. then that is what it says….. I will not disobey because Reverend Cocoa says to or because Sarah Bessey (I know her as Sarah Styles) says to. If you wish to disobey God, that is up to you. I however would plead with you to drop the Reverend part of your name if that is what you wish to do.

        As far as my marriage with my wife….. we have had our issues. When you said I said we had a model marriage and people should model them after us, I at first was like “no i did not”. I realize the way I wrote it made it sound that way, and that is very far from the truth i was trying to say. What I meant was we have had our problems. We actually came to a point of do we separate or try to work it out. But through the love, through the respect we had to each other and even through the pain and hate we had for each other, we looked to our savior Jesus Christ for the answer and we made it through. We learned to forgive each other. Now, we have a very strong relationship again.

        Based on that, I would say yes… people could look at the steps we did and make those same decisions to help them get back on track or maybe to never even fall in the sin that we did. What I was trying to say is that people could learn from our marriage something that could help their marriage. That is what I meant when I said that people could model their marriage after us. Poorly written on my part, but it is true.

        I am sure there are things about you I could model after. The fact that you are a reverend, I would hope that there is. If there is not anything, then you should probably rethink your position.

        Finally, on Candace Cameron Bure…. why is this blog even in existence? Right below this is someone who says that she has really deluded herself. Why? Because she chooses to have a good marriage that is modeled after the Bible? I think it is awesome. Why is it any of our business how she believes she should live in her family. It is much better than what most of the Hollywood marriages are like. That is all about her.

        Reverend Cocoa… I wish you well in your relationships and in your service to God. We are all on a journey to God and there is only 1 way and that is Jesus Christ. In order to follow Jesus, you must follow his teachings. That also includes the positions each member of the family holds. If I am wrong, I pray God forgive me and change my ways. However I do not believe I am wrong because I am following what is in the Word of God. I do not do anything to harm my wife and I do not make her to feel inferior. That is not now nor was it ever a part of the Gospel. But I do have a role to lead my wife to Jesus and to make sure that not only my wife and I but also my children are brought up to know and love Jesus Christ and in addition to know and love the people around us. May God bless you.

        • Rev_Cocoa

          The clarifications helped. Given that this whole discussion has been about headship (and not forgiveness), I got the wrong impression.

          That said, you illustrate the problem I have with the pro-headship position. Indeed, while your business analogy reflects how households were run in ancient times (and throughout much of history), I don’t think Paul’s either implicitly or explicitly endorsing such a position. No where does it say in Scripture that it’s the husband’s job to make the final decision on matters relating to the household.

          So please, let’s not make this about whether you follow Scripture or I do. We are both interpreting Scripture to the best of our ability. Your refusal to see your interpretation as an interpretation (as opposed to simply “doing what it says”) is naive.

          And let’s consider your business analogy a moment. The best businesses are those in which the chain of command is irrelevant. In which the decisions of any individual reflect the will of the whole. Any business which relies heavily on the sole decision-making power of the final authority is likely a business in trouble. Ultimately you want a business in which the hierarchy is irrelevant. That would be ideal. Paradise, if you will.

          Will there ever be such a paradise when it comes to relationships? Yes. When the creation is restored, it will be as it was before the fall. There is no hierarchy between men and women pre-Fall. Both are assigned to rule over and care for the creation– almost as if it were their business. Both were to do in ways that reflected the love and care of their Creator. This is what the Holy Spirit is working to restore even now.

          So the fact that we’re working toward a future in which hierarchy is irrelevant between human beings, why is it that folks like yourself are so emphatic about the need for headship in a marriage? That this is critical to “the biblical view” of marriage? It strikes me as a low priority at best. At best. And since you feel free to generalize about marriages, let me just say that, in my experience, most of the men who emphasize headship are insecure about their masculinity.

  • Bek

    Oh my gosh, YES. I am so glad other women are ready to believe this, and I really do believe it’s how God designed us. Mutual submission. That’s the key.

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  • Emily

    Sarah, I think you have an excellent understanding of the word, and I agree that there is mutual submission involved. However, I would like to mention that I am not sure Candace’s words are being correctly interpreted. Keep in mind that I have not read her whole post, but only the portion that you have shared and so if I am completely out of the loop here feel free to let me know.

    Just because she is specifically talking about her submission to her husband, that does not automatically nullify the idea that her husband also submits to her. You may find that if you asked the both of them, they would agree that there is definitely mutual submission. I don’t quite see how any marriage could exist that doesn’t have that. There are many ways that he, as the leader of the household, could still submit to his wife. I think that because she is only speaking of her submission to him, it is being assumed that he doesn’t submit to her. Of course I don’t know any of this for sure, but that is kind of what I am trying to get at. These days blog posts and counter blog posts get written so quickly that we forget we are only reading words (that can be read a gazillion different ways) and so we must be careful to not make assumptions.

    I did enjoy reading your post. You reminded me of many great truths in the bible.
    Emily.

  • amina

    I have great joy in me as i am writing this testimony about the great man called Dr.Eziza. When my lover left me i never taught that i will be able to get him back after all he has put me through, But i am so happy that after the interference of Dr.Eziza i was able to get my lover back after 48hours and i can proudly tell anybody who is in need of help in getting their lover back should contact Dr.Eziza on these contact details below ezizaoguntemple@gmail.com for proper understanding of what i have just witness.

  • Christian Female Lawyer

    So what do you make of God holding Adam (as opposed to Eve) ultimately responsible for his wife’s actions in Genesis, which is also confirmed by Paul in Romans that sin came through one man, which is why one man had to atone for sin? Who did God call to account in Eden?

    I am a female Christian lawyer from a high pedigree education and I can tell you that mutual submission does not work in a marriage relationship. Perhaps it makes you uncomfortable to not have a leadership role, but that doesn’t mean God hasn’t ordained it. There are lots of things in the bible that don’t sit well, but they are nevertheless true (no matter how offensive or politically incorrect). You can’t just write it off as cultural because it doesn’t sit well.

    Logically, somebody HAS to make the final decision. If there is a deadlock (even after he has taken your views into account), the buck has to stop with somebody when there’s only two. God has put that on the man. It is also a great responsibility because husbands will also have to give a special account for how they led their families. Women are asked to submit to their husbands, but men are asked to love their wives as their own body. Given how innately selfish we are, I think the latter charge to men is much more difficult.

    Finally, contextually the text on mutual submission is clearly speaking to believers generally, whereas the male/female one is always addressed in terms of headship and submission. If submission is somehow inferior or wrong or cultural, than are certain members of the trinity inferior to God the Father? Equal in power and dignity, different functions. It’s not a matter of value, but of roles

    It’s not a reflection of the times, but ordained order.

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  • Sarah

    I recently left the church I’d been attending over their views of women in the Church. I met with the Elders and the Pastor first to ask questions and to find out where they were basing their views from (very conservative views, such as only men can be elders or preach, men can only hold leadership positions or be pastors IF they are married, and men are to ‘shepherd’ their wives, making sure that they are on the spiritual straight and narrow). I was horrified and shocked by the reception that I received to my honest questions. The opening response was, “If you don’t agree with our teachings about men and women, why don’t you find a church that has the same beliefs instead of trying to change us.” I hadn’t even had the opportunity to engage in a mature dialogue at that point, so it was apparent that Christian charity and humility were out the window. What was worst, was that the women were the ones who ostracized me, treating me like I was some dangerous pariah threatening the system. I don’t know what it is, but when passive women see a women rising up and using her intellect and voice to question the system, they put you down. Anyway, I’ve been grieving this for a year. It shouldn’t be this way. Defending men and women as being of equal value and potential according to God’s created design shouldn’t result in basically being expelled from a church like I was. I’ve found that other churches have much more holistic and healthy views, but this still hurts and it will take a long time to heal.

  • Gen_Lee_Wright

    And this is why it says in the bible “I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man…” because we end up with ill-conceived screeds such as these. Do you really have the gall to accuse the majority (not simply the seemingly “not alone” minority you make it out to be) of biblical scholars or poor exegetical writings when you point to your own book, a women’s commentary, your own theory, and unsubstantiated hermeneutics as your ‘proof’ that God didn’t actually mean what He said very plainly in the bible?
    Wow. Why not just end the pretense and say you “just don’t like that part of the bible” and continue to ignore it? It would be much easier than the intellectual dishonesty and mental backflips you have to do in order to contort your twisted theology to fit your skewed worldview.

  • SunnyRoseMama

    Human communication is wonderful yet at times INCREDIBLY insufficient and limited in its capacity to fully reflect the genuine heartfelt meanings and lessons of ones soul, especially on a topic as complex, challenging, personal and tender as marriage, and application of the Lords teaching within it.
    We are all here on Earth to learn different lessons, and even for those of us who have similar lessons to another, we may express such in ways that appear to be entirely different.
    If (and I say “if” because only the good Lord can judge) this wonderful sister in Christ has found lasting value and marital blessings from her striving to follow God’s word as she understands it then I admire her courage to live and share that lesson to others in this highly analytical and critical climate for each of us to apply or dismiss as we see fit.
    And “if”, on the other hand she understood wrong, and/or misrepresented herself or her faith, then let us who profess to follow Christ, not be among those casting stones.
    May The Lord bless and guide us all as we strive to hear HIS voice and apply HIS teachings in HIS oh-so wonderful and personalized ways.

  • Heather B.

    Simply put…honor. Honor each other and you will honor God. I just finished reading a great brand new book that helps understand and put this and other valuable practices into action. It’s about effectively influencing
    our marriages in a positive way by changing what we can – ourselves – our attitudes, actions, decision, priorities and words; honoring, nourishing, communicating, etc. It’s called “The Wholehearted Wife: 10 Keys to a More
    Loving Relationship,” by Erin, Greg and Gary Smalley. Biblical, inspirational, affirming. One of my favorite quotes is, “If you want to have a more loving relationship with your husband, remember that he’s a gift from God, a treasured possession – just as you are. As a Wholehearted wife, seek to honor him each day by cherishing him and affirming his value. Treat him like a Stradivarius!” I highly recommend it!
    http://www.tyndale.com/The-Wholehearted-Wife/9781624051463#.U6upS14Q7w

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  • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

    I experience it this way: as a man, it is very easy for me to respect somebody, but harder to express my love. Thus God’s command to me to love my wife. Could it be that as a woman it is easier to love than to show respect?

    I agree that we all need both. And believe me: I don’t believe love that is without respect.

  • http://Rickenba.ch/blog/en Ralph M. Rickenbach

    The point about Greco-Roman world view might be correct for the letters to Colossians and of Peter. But Ephesus? In Ephesus there was the temple of Aphrodite, and out of it a matriarchal society. That argument does not count for that letter.

    And it is more than difficult to argue that way, as we will find cultural restrictions for many topics in the bible, and we can start to second guess and circumvent most things we do not like any longer.

    For some it is true: slavery has not been addressed by Jesus or Paul, but mere maturing in Christian thought patterns and the work of the Holy Spirit helped change that, and we are still at it.

    I would argue totally different than using cowardice on Peter and Paul’s side. They said plenty that they knew would have them persecuted, why shy back in marriage issues of all things?

    But going back to the culture of Ephesus: Paul in this letter countered both the patriarchal as well as the matriarchal view of the day. He allowed women to prophecy – therefore speak in church! He allowed them to teach. When he told them that he would not allow women to teach men, the word used is for authoritarian correction, lording it over the listener, always used with a negative connotation.

    Submit to each other. That says it all. Cherish the differences, as God is a God of diversity.

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  • HopeBG

    That’s not what she meant, but I’m hoping your emoticon indicates that you know that. :) Personally, I never want to be free from God’s Word, but I DO want, with all my heart, to be free from a misguided view of what “biblical” means.

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  • https://www.facebook.com/annegarboczievans Anne Garboczi Evans

    Really enjoyed your post about the historical significance of the Greco-Roman culture. As a Classics major who took two years of Latin, have to agree. I would question your thoughts on “mutual submission” though. I am an egalitarian, but mutual submission has always seemed to me like a poor way to explain egalitarian marriage. For example, what if sweet wife is married to controlling husband. She’s all like I’m being submissive to you, now you be submissive to me too. But controlling husband refuses. Sweet wife still gets burned.
    What interests me is what does submission really mean. Church folks are told to be submissive to one another in the “mutual submission” verse. Yes if your affluent, able-bodied church friend called you the night of your daughter’s dance recital and said get over here and clean my gutters, you would likely say no. If affluent, able-bodied church friend said, “But I don’t want to clean my gutters, and you HAVE to b/c of the submit verse in the Bible,” would you then feel required to go clean those gutters?