Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Why Biblical Submission Might Not Mean What You Think It Does

Photo Credit: Daniel Andre
There are many positive ways in which the Bible can be read. It can used to comfort, to encourage, to challenge, to direct, to instruct, to guide, to teach, to discipline and to train. Unfortunately, there are other ways that the Holy Scriptures has been twisted and distorted to demean others, to subjugate others and to hate others.

One of these areas in which the Bible has been misused is the topic of biblical submission. This subject relates specifically to how men and women are to relate to each other in marriage, church leadership and society at large. There are a variety of perspectives on this matter but, in general, there are two specific camps when it comes to the area of submission.

Complementarianism is the belief that God created men and women distinct from one another with differing, yet complementing, roles. For example, the man is the head of the household and the role of a pastor is reserved exclusively for men. Those that hold to this view will typically hold to more traditional roles between men and women when it comes to vocations and service in their local church.

Egalitarianism is the view that any roles both within the home and within the Church are not limited by one's gender. This would mean that a woman could be the final decision maker in a marriage relationship and that woman could hold any leadership role within the Church that she is gifted for. Egalitarians typically advocate women stepping into positions traditionally held by men if they feel they are called by God.

The proponents of both of these positions use the Scriptures to back up their views and both believe that their view is correct. My point in this post is not to argue for either position but to offer a different slant on what biblical submission truly means. Russell Moore explains in a recent post why he feels that even if one subscribes to a complementarian position in marriage it doesn't mean that women are to submit to all men everywhere.

Dr. Moore says this:
"Too often in our culture, women and girls are pressured to submit to men, as a category. This is the reason so many women, even feminist women, are consumed with what men, in general, think of them. This is the reason a woman’s value in our society, too often, is defined in terms of sexual attractiveness and availability. Is it any wonder that so many of our girls and women are destroyed by a predatory patriarchy that demeans the dignity and glory of what it means to be a woman? 
Submitting to men in general renders it impossible to submit to one’s “own husband.” Submission to one’s husband means faithfulness to him, and to him alone, which means saying “no” to other suitors. 
Submission to a right authority always means a corresponding refusal to submit to a false authority. Eve’s submission to the Serpent’s word meant she refused to submit to God’s. On the other hand, Mary’s submission to God’s word about the child within her meant she refused to submit to Herod’s. God repeatedly charges his Bride, the people of Israel, with a refusal to submit to him because they have submitted to the advances of other lovers. The freedom of the gospel means, the apostle tells us, that we “do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal. 5:1). 
Despite the promise of female empowerment in the present age, the sexual revolution has given us the reverse. Is it really an advance for women that the average high-school male has seen images of women sexually exploited and humiliated on the Internet? Is it really empowerment to have more and more women economically at the mercy of men who freely abandon them and their children, often with little legal recourse? Is this really a “pro-woman” culture when restaurant chains enable men to pay to ogle women in tight T-shirts while they gobble down chicken wings? How likely is it that a woman with the attractiveness of Henry Kissinger will obtain power or celebrity status in American culture? What about the girl in your community pressured to perform oral sex on a boyfriend, what is this but a patriarchy brutal enough for a Bronze Age warlord? 
In the church it is little better. Too many of our girls and young women are tyrannized by the expectation to look a certain way, to weigh a certain amount, in order to gain the attention of “guys."
Biblical submission, when properly understood, doesn't mean that men are rulers over women. Too many men treat women as second class citizens or "less than" in the eyes of God because they are of a different gender. A wife who graciously submits to her husband is to be loved by her husband just as Jesus loved His followers, even to the point of death. A man that seeks to abuse submission to his own advantage simply does not understand the gospel of Jesus. Pastors on ego trips that play the submission card whenever someone disagrees with them probably need to find a new line of work.

One passage that is often quoted in this discussion is Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord." However, it is rare that the verse right before it is also included -- "Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ." Ephesians 5:22 specifically speaks to husbands and wives; Ephesians 5:21 speaks to all of us.

To read Russell Moore's complete post please click here.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Umm yeah...that opened my mind to some stuff that I didnt think about. Thanks for sharing.