Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Women Leaders: Question?

posted by Scot McKnight

Here is a letter, published with permission, about the “spiritual leadership” of husbands and women in spiritual leadership at a church. What are your thoughts? What would you say to the person?

Dr. McKnight,
 
I am in the process of rethinking my views in women in the church, and my wife asked me a question last night that I couldn’t answer. Her sister has been an elder in a church at various times and always struggled with being in a leadership position and believing that her husband was to be the spiritual head of their family.

My wife’s question was, if the husband is to be the spiritual head of the family, doesn’t a wife being in leadership conflict with that? I’m coming to believe that a woman should be allowed to exercise the gifts that God has given her, but I don’t know how to deal with that question. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.
 
Yours in Christ,



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RJS

posted June 15, 2009 at 6:56 am


What is spiritual leadership – and what does it mean to be a “spiritual head?”
This is an important question – clearly the exhortation for a man to exercise spiritual leadership in his home is not a command that a woman always remain “less spiritual” than her husband whatever level that may be. In fact Paul certainly expects women who are following Christ to work to bring an unbelieving husband to Christ, he also commends women in the church for their work when appropriate.
So there are, it seems to me, three important points
Following Christ is the first call on all, male and female.
The exhortation to leadership is better seen as a positive call to Christian men than as a negative command for Christian women. If leadership is enforced by suppression something is wrong and the church suffers for it.
Finally, if we take this in the context of servant leadership in the NT teachings there need be no conflict no matter what role a man or woman plays in a church institution. After all – the sign of appropriate Christian leadership is not in outward acquisition of power, respect, position, deference, rather it is in service to the mission of God. At times it is exercised by “washing feet.” And this applies to a Christian woman as well – home life shouldn’t be a power struggle for supremacy.



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Jim Marks

posted June 15, 2009 at 8:16 am


Any word that is translated “leader” in the New Testament is almost universally used in a negative way. The picture we see, even amongst the Apostles when they discuss leadership (among themselves, as heads of the early church, &c), is that ‘leadership’ makes people corrupt, self-important, detached, power hungry, inflexible, controlling… very un-Christ-like.
And then we have these instructions:
Matthew 23:10 Neither be called instructors (masters, leaders), for you have one instructor (master, leader), the Christ.
Luke 22:26 But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
I think we make a huge mistake when we think of the male gender roles described in the New Testament into positions of authority, leadership, control, or power.
I also think it is strange that someone can reach a place where they are willing to acknowledge that the passages which demand women be silent in church and the like might not necessarily be something we’re supposed to take a face value, but they continue to cling to passages that set men up into de facto positions of power and authority over women. If the one isn’t intended to be taken literally, how can the other be?
Stop trying to control your wife and focus instead on Ephesians 5: 22-33 and the radical call you are given there to love her. Yes, verse 23 says that you are the head, but it says “even as Christ is the head of the church”. How was it that Christ was the head of the church? He washed the disciples feet. He forgave them even when they were hopelessly stupid. He died for them. He didn’t lord power and authority over them and control them. As in verse 25, LOVE HER as Christ loved the church (again, service, forgiveness, sacrifice, not power and control) and in verse 27 at least love her as you love your own body (which you would probably protect at almost any cost).
When you think about your wife “submitting to you, think about her submitting to the indignity of having you wash her feet, not about her keeping her mouth shut while you make all the decisions.



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Rick in Texas

posted June 15, 2009 at 8:18 am


Great reply RJS – excellent way to start the comments on this thread. Let me add my $0.02 …
1. I think one will benefit from bearing in mind that the high water mark of the biblical discussion regarding women, the starting place, the verse to which we must reconcile other thoughts (such as apparently exclusionary texts) is Galations 3:28. Whatever Eph. 5:23 means, it can’t violate the Gal. 3:28 principle.
2. In concurrence with RJS’ second point, the positive call to Christian men, let us recall what Christ did with his exclusive role – Philippians 2:5-8. Whatever Eph 5:23 means, it can’t be honored when men defend turf in a way that contrasts with the spirit of Christ.
3. 1 Peter 4:10 is not abrogated by one’s gender, nor does a man exercise healthy leadership by encouraging the neglect of this verse on the part of any member of his household. Whatever Eph 5:23 means, it will respect and honor obedience to 1 Peter 4:10.



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Kate Johnson

posted June 15, 2009 at 8:22 am


Amen, Jim. It is amazing which scriptures are clung to as “the gospel” but which ones are “not literal for all times.” (i.e. When adult men become Christians, should they be circumsized???? Ouch)
A must read for anyone struggling with this issue is “Why Not Women” by Hamilton and Cunningham.
You are a brave soul, Scot, for starting this discussion…. applause, applause…



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Peter

posted June 15, 2009 at 8:46 am


Not related to “women’s roles in the church,” but to Ephes 5: I’m a husband; I read the part addressed to husbands and obey. I have a wife; she needs to read the other part and figure out what it means. Submission (ie., in regard to v22f addressed to wives) is not my problem to figure out. I have more than enough difficulty obeying, “Love your wife just as also Christ loved the church and gave himself for her” without sticking my nose into the verses addressed to her.



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Alice

posted June 15, 2009 at 8:57 am


I would be curious where folks find the passage that states the husband is to be the “spiritual leader of the family.” I don’t see this particular set of words anywhere in Scripture. And I question its validity, to be honest.
I know there are all kinds of debates about what the word “head” means in several key NT passages … but I must submit that nowhere do I see the admonition to men that they are to be the “spiritual leaders of their family.”
I think this is a phrase that gets so misused … to justify dysfunction and abuse, of course, but also in less blatant ways. So often what I witness is women and mothers doing ALL the spiritual nurturing in families, all the while feeling guilty and angry because they don’t feel like their husbands are “stepping up.” I see men who feel super guilty and nagged at by wives who tell them to “lead” but then demand that they “lead” in certain culturally acceptable ways in the church.
Weird stuff … based on this phrase that seems to one we’ve simply made up. :)
FYI – Sarah Sumner has a great chapter on this concept in her book on men and women in the church!



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Travis Greene

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:04 am


Peter @ 5,
That’s a great insight. I’m amazed I never thought of it before. Paul is, quite literally, not talking to us, is he?



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John W Frye

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:25 am


I think that Alice (#6) is closer to the error in thinking. As blatant as Jesus was about rejecting hierarchy in leadership within the believing community, some in the church–competent pastors and theologians–still don’t get it. At root this is not a textual, exegetical issue; it is a Trinitarian issue. If you hold to an “eternal hierarchy” within the Trinity, you will argue for headship (men/submission (women), leaders (men)/followers (women) in all realms–home, church, society, etc. Jesus through His Spirit is the Leader in the home and the church, and is Lord of the universe. How some males can presume Jesus’ role (on flimsy exegetical ground) is truly amazing to me.



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Julie Clawson

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:31 am


“if the husband is to be the spiritual head of the family, doesn’t a wife being in leadership conflict with that? ”
In all truth I find the question a bit disturbing. It implies that if the man if the spiritual leader then the woman shouldn’t be allowed to develop spiritually in the ways she has been called by God. That isn’t leadership, that’s spiritual abuse. So even if one does interpret the Bible as mandating that the man be the spiritual leader of the household, I would assume that a good leader encourages all of those under him to fulfill their potential and to grow spiritually as well.
But of course that isn’t how it happens. From my experience the whole “man as leader” thing is used far more often to justify abusive and oppressive domination than caring and encouraging leadership. Men use it to control their wives, force them to live in fear, and deny them their dreams and passions all in some twisted attempt to play God and demand “spiritual” authority. It doesn’t matter how the high minded theologians defend the idea, its the way it’s twisted and abused in reality that matters.
But in marriages where both partners truly care about the spiritual development of each other, the whole “who holds more power” or “gets to be in charge” discussion really doesn’t ever come up. If a man cares less about controlling a woman and more about her faithfully serving God, how that happens (even if it involves, gasp, leadership) shouldn’t get in the way.



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Jjoe

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:36 am


Men get to be in charge per the Bible because Men wrote the Bible. Period. There’s no Holy Spirit running through us defining men as superior. Or, if you will, with complimentary gifts with one of theirs just happening to be leadership.
I doubt that Paul ever had the slightest inkling his words would be treated as if he were God. I think he would’ve been scathing in his indictment of any church that placed him on the same level as Jesus.



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cas

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:39 am


The Ephesians passage on submission begins with “Submit to one another out of reverance for Christ.” I think that about says. Mutual respect and submission makes for a good marriage.



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Melissa

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:51 am


@Alice:
Good point! So far as I’ve discovered, there are lots of places where women and men are called to submit to Christ, submit to their leaders, and submit to each other, but nowhere in Scripture does it tell husbands to lead their wives. We made that part up, hung our complementarian hat on it, and then forgot that it wasn’t ever there to begin with. Oops!



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Rachel H. Evans

posted June 15, 2009 at 10:10 am


I’ll have to disagree with Julie and say that most of the people I know who adhere to a male leadership structure in their homes and in their churches are good people who treat one another with kindness and respect. Although I feel that they are misinterpreting Paul and perhaps distorting Jesus’ teachings on leadership, I think that most of them approach the issue with a sincere desire to do the right thing. In fact, I know a lot of women who are bigger proponents of male leadership than their male counterparts! Honestly, I’ve had a harder time convincing women to re-think this issue than men.
The fact that “spiritual leader” is an invention of the conservative evangelical subculture is an important fact to note. To me, it’s also problematic because 1) it once again separates the spiritual from the rest of life, which is a departure from the teachings of Jesus and the Jewish community in which he lived, 2) it is vague and ill-defined (Does “spiritual leadership” mean that my husband should know more about the Bible than me? Does it mean that he should pray more often?), 3) it is contrary to the concept of mutual submission (“submit one to another” is a phrase actually found in the Bible), and 4) it is contrary to the concept of servant leadership, as taught and exemplified by Jesus.
It seems to me that when you are in a healthy relationship, there is no need for someone to be in control. When my husband and I first got married six years ago, we started out assuming we would stick to the whole male leadership/ female submission stuff. (Heavily influenced by fundamentalism at the time.) But as time has gone by, we have seen how irrelevant all that hierarchy stuff is. We’re a team. We’re partners. We make decisions together.
And, like most married couples, we BOTH need to work on submission!



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RJS

posted June 15, 2009 at 10:13 am


Any approach to this question that diminishes or undermines the positive call on Christian men to act as spiritual leaders in their sphere of influence – which certainly does include the home – is misguided.
But spiritual leadership isn’t exercised by insisting on “superiority,” “authority” or “submission.” I think Julie and cas hit the key points quite well.



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RJS

posted June 15, 2009 at 10:16 am


Rachel,
I don’t think that “spiritual leadership” is contrary to the concept of servant leadership, as taught and exemplified by Jesus – rather it needs to follow the model of servant leadership.



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Scott Morizot

posted June 15, 2009 at 10:27 am


I think I’ll just sit back and watch the women on this blog discuss this one. ;)



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Rachel H. Evans

posted June 15, 2009 at 10:28 am


RJS – You’re probably right. I’m thinking exclusively of how I’ve heard the term “spiritual leadership” used in relation to gender roles – to mean that only men assume leadership positions in the church, only men make decisions in the home, only men discuss Scripture in mixed groups, and only women keep the nursery and make casseroles. :-)
I agree that, ideally, “spiritual leadership” would be synonymous with “servant leadership” and that both men and women would use such a model.



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Mike M

posted June 15, 2009 at 10:43 am


Good point Peter (5). God help me if I should tell my wife how to be submissive!
Once again it goes back to M. Scott Peck’s definition of sin as any action or word that kills another’s spirit. Quoting scripture and getting support from our former pastor, we have a friend who prevented his wife from trying out for the Olympics because he is “the head of the household” (yes, he left out “spiritual”) and what he decides is final.



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BenB

posted June 15, 2009 at 10:44 am


This is funny because I just had a long conversation last night/this morning with a woman in a bar who asked me a question about this. I wish I had read this first, I think many here put it better than I did.
I think, with many others, that if we want to think of leadership we must think of servanthood.
I agree with RJS too, that this concept, paired with the verse in Ephesians 5, must retain a positive call to Christian men.
If men read what the verse says to men (thank you Peter for your comment)… then we should be serious about responding to that call. We should “desire” to know our Bibles better than our wives, so that we can serve her. It is not an authority issue, but an issue of service. It is hard work to learn our Bibles, and to be able to explain them to anyone. We should never view it as authority or a competition, we should just so desire to know our Bibles well enough, and serve our wives enough, that somehow we might be construed as the leader.
Also, on Ephesians 5, I had an undergrad sociology professor who talked about this passage. He knew sign language quite well. He demonstrated what it would look like if we took universal signs, and sign language signs, to explain what the husband and wife are doing in this passage. Both were in positions of having their hands up in surrender.
He said that when both people are in this position, authority and conflict are not an issue. I thought this was a wise illustration.
What that means for her response is directed at her, not me. My job is to seek to serve her with everything I am and have.



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RJS

posted June 15, 2009 at 11:01 am


Rachel –
only men discuss Scripture in mixed groups, and only women keep the nursery and make casseroles.
I’ve never (ever) been particularly good at this — something that shouldn’t surprise anyone here.
BenB
We should “desire” to know our Bibles better than our wives, so that we can serve her.
Doesn’t this make it something of a competition – and a competition that may need to be won by “suppression?” It seems to me to be related to the view that a woman can only marry a man smarter (and better educated) than she is.



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BenB

posted June 15, 2009 at 11:15 am


RJS,
Sorry, i didn’t do a good enough job of explaining what i meant then. That’s why I used quotations around “desire.”
We shouldn’t want a competition. It also should not be our goal to be “smarter” or whatever. It should just seriously be a goal to strive to know God and the Bible well enough that we might be able to serve our wife. Regardless of what she does. It made sense to me, guess i didn’t do a great job explaining.



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Peggy

posted June 15, 2009 at 11:52 am


I’ve said enough about these issues around “County Blogdom” lately that I won’t repeat them here, but I would like to reiterate that those who follow the Jesus Creed really don’t need a lot of other complicated or convoluted thinking. Each one of us is to love God with our entire being — all of it — and to love others as we love ourselves.
When Jesus said that there is no commandment greater than these, I believe him.
As much as, if not more than, The Galatians 3:28 passage, we need to remember this and work at this — all day, every day.
Neil Cole talks about not educating beyond obedience. I think that would be an interesting concept for the Jesus Creeders to ponder — in light of the first verse in I Corinthians 13, eh?
Without this foundation of love of God and love of others, what value does anything else have?



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Corinne

posted June 15, 2009 at 11:56 am


All I know is that there are times when my husband steps up as spiritual leader in our home, and others where I assume the role. My husband is an incredible introvert and I an extrovert. I teach our Sunday School class (both men and women), something he has never felt led to do. However, he does guide our family in finances and how we give to the Lord, along with other spiritual decisions in our family. We are a team, working together.
I think the whole “man being the spiritual head of the household” thing sometimes is overblown. Look at how many women are credited with spiritual guidance in scriptures (Timothy’s mother and grandmother for example, along with Ruth and Naomi to list a few).



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Nora

posted June 15, 2009 at 12:03 pm


I guess I don’t understand the conflict between the leadership in the home and the leadership in the church (even if you want to adhere to a strictly complementarian reading of Ephesians 5). Is the assumption that the wife is somehow “ruling over” the husband if she is making decisions about church life without his input?
I’ve served in these types of roles before in my own church, but there has never been a conflict within my marriage because of it, and that is because my husband and I serve where we are gifted and called. He is a musician (I am not). I have gifts of administration; he does not. I don’t try to play in the band, and he doesn’t try to administrate because we would both be miserable if we did. Gender and marital status are nonissues when we try to decide where we are best called to serve. But in our marriage we work as a team, so maybe this is more of a conflict in marriages with a different structure?



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ScottL

posted June 15, 2009 at 12:14 pm


I guess you could always point them to the last few chapters of your book, The Blue Parakeet :)
I do think we have to start in the beginning, in Genesis. Then, you move on to a discussion about the new creation in Gal 3:27. I think we usually start with passages like 1 Tim 2:8-15 or 1 Cor 11:2-16. These are passages that must be discussed, but probably not the first ones. And, though I am biased, I sense we usually approach these ‘secondary’ passages with our view already formed. Nah, we would never do that. :)
Interestingly enough, with study of some writings by Gordon Fee, yourself (McKnight), Millard Erickson, and a couple of others, I have recently shifted from a more complementarian view to a more egalitarian view.



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Enlightened Golfer

posted June 15, 2009 at 12:22 pm


It has been great reading the comments. As a Christian man, I have never really liked all the religious stuff very much. After reading most of the comments here, I am so glad I don’t have to worry about leading my family in that area. I have always felt that playing golf with my buddies on Sunday mornings was a better spiritual activity for me than going to church with my wife and kids. Now I know that my previous feelings of responsibility were just due to a misreading of Ephesians 5:25ff. My wife will be a better spiritual leader than I will anyway. She will be delighted at her new opportunity to lead. And now I won’t feel as much of a disconnect with the dominant culture in America and all the other men who don’t really like all that religious stuff.
Thanks!



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Phil

posted June 15, 2009 at 12:25 pm


These issues are creeping into our church at present as well. They haven’t been on the radar for years. But now it’s women in ministry, praying, wearing a head covering, working outside of the home. No sense of mission for the lost, it’s about pleasing Jesus by upholding the letter of Scripture. What I found interesting was a comment read on a blog about head coverings…
http://blog.ashleyweis.com/2009/04/first-negative-reaction-to-head.html
“When Not Covering…I am way more susceptible to spiritual attacks and I FALL into them. This is the most serious thing I have noticed. When I’m not covering, it’s so much easier for me to get depressed about ANYTHING, fall into traps, disobey God, not submit to my husband, get annoyed with my kids. It’s like I’m 10 times more irritable when I’m not covering. I can’t explain that, only that it’s true. And it’s something I never noticed until I started covering.”
It’s like treating the covering as armour. When you wear this thing, you’re protected. I just don’t get this stuff right now. And I’m finding it’s the women that are more into pressuring others into this then the men.



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Dan Martin

posted June 15, 2009 at 12:40 pm


RJS @#1:”If leadership is enforced by suppression something is wrong and the church suffers for it.”
Amen, amen! This one point, if adhered to, would solve most of our issues!
And I’ll add my stamp to Peter @#5 as well. I’ve found that principle to work pretty well in my own marriage.
But in answer to the original post, I suspect if we had a healthier notion of eldership in the church, perhaps the conflict your correspondent faced would be less of an issue. How does serving as an elder compromise the spiritual leadership of the family? The church elders have no more business dictating to the family, than a husband has dictating to his wife. Once we understand leadership as fulfilling a needed task, rather than as a position of “power over” authority (to borrow Greg Boyd’s phrase), the issue will become moot.



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Dave Leigh

posted June 15, 2009 at 1:02 pm


In my many readings of the Bible I have never seen a passage where an individual was turned away from a leadership role or position on the basis of gender. Rather, the Bible presents a host of women leaders who rise up not as exceptions but as examples to be followed and imitated.
The claim that a husband is “head” (kephale) of the wife (nowhere does it say family) is a claim also made of God in relation to Christ, indicating Christ’s unity and equality with the Godhead, just as it says Christ is the head of every person (indicting his full humanity and unity with us). Nowhere is the term “Arche” used in gender relationships. And nowhere is Christ hindered from leading just because God is his “kephale.”
To suggest that a man’s leadership in the family means a woman cannot also lead in the family and/or community suggests the following:
1. That she is not a full partner with her husband in family leadership; and this would be false (Mal 2:14 NIV; 1Pe 3:7 NLT).
2. That she cannot lead her husband in areas where she is especially gifted or Spirit led; and this would be false (Ro 12:6-13).
3. That his leadership impedes his wife from fully serving God to the fullest of her potential using the gifts God has given her; and this would be not only false but a contradiction of his leadership. Leaders do not impede, they equip and empower!
For me the most powerful image of a husband’s role in elevating his wife’s role as a leader comes from Ephesians 2, where we see that Christ has raised his bride up with him to sit with him in the heavenly places. As his bride, we are told, she will rule with him and be his co-hier.
Those who oppose the full and uninhibited ministries and leadership of women advocate an unbiblical and unnecessary obstacle to the spread of the gospel, the work of the church, and the advancement of the Kingdom of God. This is not only wrong but it creates the possibility that such advocates may inadvertently find themselves cooperating with the enemies of the gospel.
Rather, may it be as Psalm 68:11 says: “The Lord gives the word [of power]; the women who bear and publish [the news] are a great host.” (Amplified)



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Kirsten

posted June 15, 2009 at 1:06 pm


To the asker of this question:
I agree with another post where they stated that leadership in the home and leadership in the church are two different things. Our culture has very narrow and authoritarian views sometimes as to what a “leader” or “head” looks like. But, Scripture says that the husband is the head of the family as Christ is the head of the church. (So, in regards to church, a “man” is not the leader there, anyway). Christ became like us to reach us. Christ gave up His life. Christ led as a servant, and a compassionate, merciful friend. Christ empowered people to heal, teach, serve, and LIVE! If you, as the head of your family, feel that women should be free to serve as God has gifted and called them… I think it sounds like you are leading like Christ does. :)



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Dave Leigh

posted June 15, 2009 at 1:09 pm


P.S. If we rightly separate the idea of authority from ‘kephale’ then we we are left with only one passage that speaks of authority in the marriage relationship. And it is 1 Corinthians 7:4, where Paul says:
“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”
Note how Paul makes it clear that authority in the marriage relationship is mutual and not hierarchal.



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Dana Ames

posted June 15, 2009 at 2:05 pm


BenB @21
“It should just seriously be a goal to strive to know God and the Bible well enough that we might be able to serve our wife.”
May I gently suggest that we need to strive to know God to simply live (the bible helps is know God, don’t get me wrong here…)-
and to strive to know *our spouse* well enough to serve him/her.
Christians have not always had their own copies of the text of scripture, but we have always been among other people and have had the opportunity to love our neighbor, especially our “nearest neighbors”- our family.
Kirsten and Dave just above, those are the points exactly.
Dana



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Your Name

posted June 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm


Kirsten, (#30) – May I gently suggest that nowhere in Scripture does it say that the husband is the “head of the family.” I think we sometimes assume that it does, but it doesn’t. I think we comingle the Pauline statement that the husband is the “head of the wife” with the governmental phrase “head of household.” My husband and I always laugh and tussle over who gets to sign their name after the phrase “head of household!”
This idea that the husband is the “spiritual leader of the family” is never overtly stated in the Scriptures. Of course, it would have been implied in the culture during the writing of the Scriptures … but it is never stated.
Again, I advise reading Sarah Sumner’s great book on men and women where she very clearly (more clearly than me!) drives this point home.



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alice

posted June 15, 2009 at 2:26 pm


your name = alice



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Ted

posted June 15, 2009 at 2:49 pm


I think many of the arguments here against men as “heads” of the home are quite persuasive. Yet most of the arguments are philosophical or familial in nature.
As much as it may rub some of us the wrong way (and it is not until scripture rubs against our preferences that we find out how much we are willing to believe and follow it) the word Kephale in Eph. 5 clearly and absolutely means “head.” Egalitarians have been trying to forcefully argue for over 20 years now that it means “source” but the evidence is virtually nil.
I would encourage us all to keep asking what the text actually says and not how we can fit it to say what we want. Grudem has now written extensively on Kephale and had a nice follow up in the recent JBMW on the debate over the meaning of Kephale.
The word study definitively reveals that men are supposed to lead their homes as head in the manner in which Christ loved the church (Mk. 10:45). It would be devastating to see this Biblical truth dismissed as along with it has to go chivalry and men putting the needs of women and children before their own.



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Tim

posted June 15, 2009 at 4:14 pm


I dug myself in a very deep hole about a year ago wrestling with all this. I read both of the “Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” books, and ‘Recovering Biblical Equality”. Then I thought I’d get into the commentaries more, and in the Word Critical Commentary on 2 Timothy, found 5 or 6 pages of Bibliography before the commentary on chapter 2 even started. I was completely overwhelmed.
I found the arguments from both sides impressive and persuasive… both were sincerely trying to honour Christ and the Word of God, both saw their position as an expression of the gospel, both argued from the Word of God. I was stymied.
The thing that raised the biggest red flag for me with regard to the hierarchical/complementarian position was that it just seemed to dig deeper and deeper into pharisaical safeguards. If their interpretation of the passages was true (i.e. the positions of men and women are written into creation as a parable of Christ and the church), then where was the limit? One colleague of mine even heard one proponent of this view (a very respectable preacher and teacher of the word) as saying that he disobeyed Scripture every day, because the inventor of the traffic light was a woman, and he had to submit to its power. It just didn’t seem like you could be a moderate hierarchalist, if that interpretation was true. And this lead to legalisms that just didn’t jive with the gospel.
I have landed as a cautious egalitarian, because I think that both sides have a bit of speculation in their arguments (as to cultural factors, linguistic factors, etc.) that isn’t possible to verify completely. Egalitarian seems to me to lean more closely toward the spirit of the gospel. And it is not necessary to buy the slippery-slope claim that any move toward egalitarianism is a move toward the affirmation of same-sex unions and all that.
Anyway, I recommend reading the good resources that come out of both sides, with the warning that you could find yourself buried in arguments that waste a lot of time that could be spent actually doing fruitful ministry. Enter cautiously.



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Dave

posted June 15, 2009 at 4:30 pm


I agree with Ted about the meaning of the word in Eph. 5. I think it is also worth noticing that Paul grounds his statement in theology. As Christ is head of the church so the husband should be the head of the wife. There seems to be a misunderstanding on the part of some of the concept of submission. It seems as though many think that because one submits to another it diminishes his/her worth. And yet our Lord regularly submitted to the Father and surely no one would say that He was less God for having done so.
I know many dissagree with Paul on this issue. But why should we force our 21st century notions into the text? Why not just say that Paul was wrong on this point? We know what he said and we don’t agree with him.



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RJS

posted June 15, 2009 at 4:38 pm


There is a book (dates from 60’s or so) in the church library here that talks about missions and couples in ministry and men and women preaching the word on the mission field. The section ends with an admonition to the wife that she should be careful to never preach better than her husband.
Is this what submission means?



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Dave

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:02 pm


RJS,
Why would it matter if we don’t take this passage and others in the NT at face value? Before we can talk about what submission means shouldn’t we establish it as valid?



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RJS

posted June 15, 2009 at 9:38 pm


Dave,
Isn’t submission to one another, to God, to masters (even unreasonable ones), to governments – a theme that runs through NT ethic?
Isn’t denial of desire and rights and power and honor also such a theme?
Isn’t the ruling theme of relationships within the body of Christ (and even with those outside the body) to love one another as we love ourselves? (and in Ephesians this includes both husbands to wives and wives to husband)
Doesn’t James say that jealousy and selfish ambition are earthy, natural, and demonic?
What submission actually means – for both parties is a key part of this discussion.
And this issue – not women submitting to husbands – but women in leadership in the church – is one I struggle with because I know enough of my own desires and personality to always wonder if “self” and “pride” are a part of the issue for me. I am much more comfortable with the issues of science and scripture because on those I am prayerfully secure that I am speaking from conviction – not wishful self pride.



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Rachel Neftzer

posted June 15, 2009 at 11:10 pm


It really depends on which Scriptures you begin with in this debate. It seems that the Complementarians begin with the letters; the admonitions to wives and women, etc. These are the ‘women should remain silent’, ‘wives should submit to their husbands’, etc. texts. But they often overlook the women in the narrative texts. The Bible contains several examples of women leading and teaching. And the NT writers seem to support this. What you have to determine is if some of Paul’s admonitions are universal or exceptional. That’s why context is so important. We have to understand the worldview of Paul and his audience in order to better understand his message. We also have to understand his pastoral concerns for particular churches. I would second Tim’s suggestion to read material on both sides of the debate and to recognize that there are good, humble, and deeply-thinking Christians on both sides. This debate, in my opinion, also rests on methodology which is why the dialogue is so difficult. Exegetical and hermeneutical method is another place to explore. William Webb’s “Slaves, Women, and Homosexuals” deals with how method affects our understanding of some of these topics. He suggests what he calls a “redemptive-movement hermeneutic”.
The most unfortunate thing that plagues this debate is the amount of pain and hostility it has caused. Remember humility and grace as you speak on it, no matter which side you are on.
Blessings



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Rachel Neftzer

posted June 15, 2009 at 11:23 pm


I realize I should rephrase a couple things and expand on them. My question is which are exceptional: Paul’s admonitions to wives/women, or the women that are shown in leadership. Is Paul addressing exceptional situations in his admonitions (I think this is true in some cases, though not all). If so then they are meant for exceptional situations. Or, are the women in leadership exceptional. Are they in exceptional situations or do they have exceptional qualities? For me, the burden of proof seems to be on the complementarians. If seems there is more evidence that some of Paul’s admonitions are exceptional.



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Ted

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:12 am


Rachel thanks for your comments I found them interesting to consider. I have to say though that I disagree with the starting point you claim complementarians start with.
I will go back to Eph. 5 and the Greek word used for describing men as “head” as Jesus is “head” of the church is kephale. The Greek word always means “head” and not “source” as some have wanted to make it mean. Instead of dealing with exegetical strategies of where we think others begin lets deal with what the text actually says. As Grudem has clearly demonstrated this is not a matter of interpretation, the Greek in Eph. 5 is teaching headship of men over the home as Christ is head of the church.
Yet let me state again this headship is not one of dominance or ordering around; rather it is Mark 10:45 servant leadership in which the man is first to die to self, sacrifice and give for the sake of his family.
Headship is taking responsibility and a willingness to serve.



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Dana Ames

posted June 16, 2009 at 1:23 am


I’ve been trying really hard not to get involved with this discussion, for several reasons, so this will be my only comment.
I know there are plenty of men, who operate from a hermeneutic that would restrict women’s ministry, who love their wives genuinely and sacrificially. The love this way *in spite of* their hermeneutic. I am not trying to demonize, only report what I observed and how I felt over 30 years.
So- yes, kephale means head.
Now, how does Paul use this word? In *every* instance where it is used in conjunction with “body” as a metaphor, including by extension Eph 5 (Christ the head of the church, His body) it denotes UNION. Not who submits to whom, who is in charge of what, whether women have permission to do ministry, or any related nonsense. When people are united in that way, all they truly want to do is to know one another deeply and appropriately, and be a community of self-giving love- just like the Trinity.
Any other basis of relating is not worthy of being called “Christian”.
The bible does not exist for itself. It points to something much, much larger than itself. The fact that we are stuck in this argument over interpretation and meaning, and cannot yet live in that larger reality, shows how widely we are missing the mark.
Dana



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Da

posted June 16, 2009 at 7:21 am


RJS,
Yes of course submission is at the heart of this debate. But shouldn’t we establish the interpretation/application of these passages regarding who should submit to who before we get into the application of what it means to submit?
I think you’re definately onto something by quoting James 3:15 which culminates in 3:16 with James asserting that wisdom from the world leads to disorder and every evil thing. Wisdom from above on the other hand results in peace. Self-examination in light of these verses should result in all of us being able to tell whetehr we are subscribing to the wisdom fo the world or the wisdom that coems from above. Am I characterized by peace or conflict when I look at my relationship with God/others?



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Dave

posted June 16, 2009 at 7:34 am


Dana,
I totally understand your reluctance to comment. I tried to stay out of it too but felt compelled to comment. This too indicates the passion many of us feel about this debate. Feeling strongly and even discussing a point with passion isn’t necessarily wrong as long as we are working hard to discuss the point without attacking the person. That being said I understand if you don’t continue to coment.
I just have to take issue with your point about the bible pointing to something much large than itself. While I think this is true I think that some can allow that kind of thinking to devolve into a statement of, “Let’s just all love Jesus and our dissagreements will go away.” Human sin/pride and human history teach us that even the best are going to dissagree. Besides that, while it’s important to love God we have to be willing to ask the question, “How do we do that?” I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume that we can all just make up our own way of loving God. I would probably come up with some very different ways of loving God than you, some which you may take issue with.
So, doesn’t there have to be some standard for loving God and loving one another? If God prescribed how we should love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind I think we should take note of that. Now I know some will take issue with my statement about God prescribing how we should love. But at some level the scriptures contain God’s truth for our lives. We wouldn’t even know about the great commandment without it.



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Brandon

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:16 pm


RJS:
If Paul’s teaching in Ephesians is transcultural then, like you mention, husbands possess a unique servant-leader role that wives do not. Flip over to the Pastorals, and Paul (or the Pauline tradition) writes that a male elder must “manage his own family well…[for] if a man does not know how to manage his own family, how can he take care of God’s church?”.
The crucial connection here seems to be that there is a link between “men” managing home and churches. That is to say, if men are the spiritual leaders of the homes then it seems they are also the spiritual leaders of their churches. However, this implies that women are not spiritual leaders in the same way in the home and church (Hence the complamentarian argument). They have a different but not “lesser” position.
Im not arguing this view but simply stating that I think male leadership in the home (even servant-leadership) = male leadership in the church.



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Stickler

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:18 pm


“My wife’s question was, if the husband is to be the spiritual head of the family, doesn’t a wife being in leadership conflict with that?”
“If the husband is to be”. First it needs to be proven that “the husband is to be the spiritual head of the Family”. This cannot be done. End of argument then.
Why believe and bother with what cannot be proven from the scriptures? The things that are taught in scripture are PROVABLE. Those are the things that we need to know about.



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Stickler

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:21 pm


Take for example the so-called “prohibiton on women in ministry” taught by Paul in, 1 Tim 2. WHAT prohibition? NO scholar can even Prove that Paul was talking about women in general! Why do any continue to see things that Don’t exist?



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Scot McKnight

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:22 pm


Brandon, let me speak up and RJS can speak for herself:
The word “male” you are using is your emphasis and not something Paul said. It can be inferred from the gender of a noun but it is never said that an elder/bishop must be a male. It can be assumed, but we dare not make it more explicit than what it says when we are pressing that very issue. It the emphasis you giving to gender that is not clearly taught in these texts.



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Scot McKnight

posted June 16, 2009 at 12:23 pm


Brandon, yet another way to put this: Had Paul wanted to emphasize that only males can be leaders, he could have said “I permit only males to be bishops.” He didn’t say that.



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Dana Ames

posted June 16, 2009 at 1:15 pm


Dave @46,
The “standard” is Jesus.
“Love one another the same way I have loved you.”
There’s nothing in this statement by Jesus, or its context in the gospel, that differentiates love shown by males from love shown by females. It’s all about sacrificial self-giving.
There is no conflict with Paul: Paul is describing sacrificial self-giving in his own social setting. And what Paul enjoins is actually the *undoing* of patriarchy from within that social setting. “Husbands, *love* your wives” was not on anyone’s radar screen in the 1st century. It was profoundly revolutionary, just as “Philemon, receive Onesimus *as a brother*” was profoundly revolutionary and the undoing of the slavery system from within.
I think we can agree that everyone is called to sacrificial self-giving love. Thank you for your kind response. God bless you.
Dana



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Your Name

posted June 16, 2009 at 1:39 pm


Keeping women out of ministry, teaching, serving, leading ect within the body cannot (be sure of it!) be justified scripturaly. This is a FACT. There is NO proof. Personaly, I’m worn out by all the interpretations and perspective. I think everyone involved needs to keep with the basics which are the facts (evidence) and proofs and go from there. That’s the solution since no body’s opinions and theories on the matter are going to solve anything. When comp theology is put to the TEST, it fails. That’s the reality of it. Take it to court! lol!
And Hi, Scot! Thanks for letting me drop in! :)



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Your Name

posted June 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm


Whoops, that last comment was me, Stickler!



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Your Name

posted June 16, 2009 at 2:09 pm


I left a comment on another blog about Schreiner’s review of “Parakeet”, but apparently it was moderated out. I won’t say which blog. :) (Maybe it’s an embarrassing thing…) The comment I left in effect said the same thing as I’m going to say here, in this comment.
I read a review by Thomas R. Schreiner of “Parakeet” the other day. He ended it with this:
“The prohibition is grounded in God?s created order. Facts
are stubborn things, and the argument of 1 Tim
2:11?14 is like a blue parakeet. McKnight doesn?t
succeed in explaining the parakeet away, and neither
should we.”
Before Schreiner can claim, from 1 Tim 2 some prohibiton being grounded in creation order, he first needs to prove that there is one against women teaching men. There really is NO point then in his closing without it, because it is based on a presupposition. Facts are stubborn things, and everyone needs to start facing them. :)
Cheers!



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Rachel Neftzer

posted June 17, 2009 at 8:30 pm


to Ted in response to 43
Thank for your comments. But I don’t think this passage in particular is the most helpful in the debate about women in ministry. I found it interesting that you disagreed with my comment that complementarians begin with Paul’s letters at the expense of the Gospels and then yourself used Ephesians 5 as your text. I understand your point that kephale means “head” rather than “source”. Let’s assume that you are right. What does that have to do with women leading in ministry? If we’re taking Scripture at face value where in that passage does it say that a woman can not, or should not, lead?



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Marilyn

posted June 20, 2009 at 2:18 pm


I self-identify as a soft complementarian. One of the earlier comments on this thread dismissed out of hand, the “slippery slope to homosexuality” argument offered by so many complementarians. I find the argument to have merit, and I would appreciate seeing it addressed here, rather than dismissed.
I’ve talked with lots of CBE-style egalitarians and find them unwilling to articulate meaningful gender differences other than the obvious biological differences (women give birth; men are, on average, physically stronger).
If a) there are no significant differences in how a husband relates to his wife versus how a wife relates to her husband; and b) if the decision to have children is a choice versus a Biblical mandate, than what is the difference between a marriage and a homosexual relationship?
Please know that I’m not posting to be inflammatory. I truly don’t understand why egalitarians are so quick to dismiss this concern.



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Kirsten

posted June 22, 2009 at 11:46 pm


To Alice (#33),
You are correct, it does not say that the husband is the head of the “family”, but rather head of the “wife”. I did not mean to focus on this point, rather to just encourage the asker of this question (whose wife asked the question regarding “head of the household”) that he is leading like Christ to desire to empower women to serve as God has called and gifted.
I guess I also consider the union of husband and wife to be a family, so if a husband is the head of the wife, I infer that he is the head of the family. I guess the government calls a family a household? I didn’t see too much difference there, but perhaps that is just my perception of things.
Since the topic of headship has been broached, I will share my personal thoughts:
I grew up with a poor picture of christian marriage. I was taught that a wife should submit to her husband and then I watched my authoritarian father have little respect for my mother who let him have his way – even when he was hurtful to the entire family, apologize when she did nothing wrong just to try to maintain “peace”, and receive silent treatment for being an annoyance. Yet he was still revered as the one with all the Biblical knowledge to whom we (or at least my mother) looked for spiritual guidance. I knew there was something wrong with this picture, so I just wrote off marriage altogether. I believed the Bible, but somehow just couldn’t swallow those verses in Ephesians.
Then I read this, from “Reforming Marriage” by Douglas Wilson (disclaimer: I don’t agree with everything he has to say in this book – a bit conservative for me overall, but this excerpt helped me understand why I was so frustrated):
“The BIble says the ‘husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is the head of the church’ (Eph. 5:23) Paul most emphatically does NOT say that husbands OUGHT to be the heads of their wives. He says that they ARE. In this verse, the apostle is not telling us how a marriage ought to function (that comes in verses following). Rather he is telling us what the marriage relationship between a husband and a wife IS. Marriage is DEFINED in part as the headship of a husband over a wife. In other words, without this headship, there is no marriage.
This does not mean that God gives no imperatives to the husband. In the verses following we find a very basic imperative need – husbands are commanded to love their wives as Christ loved the church. But nowhere is the husband commanded to be a head to his wife. This is because he already is the head of his wife, BY THE VERY NATURE OF MARRIAGE. If he does not love her, he is a poor head, but a head nonetheless…
In this passage of Ephesians, Paul tells us that husbands, in their role as head, provide a picture of Christ and the church. Every marriage, everywhere in the world, is a picture of Christ and the church. Because of sin and rebellion, many of these pictures are slanderous lies concerning Christ. BUT A HUSBAND CAN NEVER STOP TALKING ABOUT CHRIST AND CHURCH. If he is obedient to God, he is preaching the truth; if he does not love his wife, he is speaking apostasy and lies – but he is always talking. If he deserts his wife, he is saying that this is the way Christ deserts His bride – a lie. If he is harsh with his wife and strikes her, he is saying that Christ is harsh with the church – another lie. ”



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