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Leadership and Submission in the Home

This post originally gathered a massive amount of dialog and controversy, as the comments under the post suggests. Many good and kind people from the were so kind as to follow my blog not only for the duration of this debate, but also for many upcoming months. A few became good friends. You may follow the highlights of the debate as it unfolded by reading this post, then Follow-up Post to “Leadership and Submission in the Home” then The Christian Gender Debate: Understanding the Four Perspectives, then Fighting Over the Pants, or the Crown of Thorns?. If you would like, you can also read my two research papers on this topic.

I am no longer actively participating in this debate, but you are free to read the comments, and I would love to hear your perspective and research.

I preached a sermon in which I expressed my final and mature thoughts on Christian Gender roles: I hope to have that published on this site soon.

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Someone recently responded to my post “From ….emergent to …conservative” by saying that my decision to “step up to the plate” in my home did not sound very much like the “servant-leadership” of Christ. In response, I have responded – in fear and trembling – with a post which touches on the hallowed battle-field of the gender wars.

Before I begin, I feel the need to clarify: this post does not come from a need to be right, but a need to become right. I desperately to build my home on the firm foundation of a marriage done God’s way. Having been married only four short years, I seem to have more, rather than fewer questions the longer I am married.

This leads me to my next point – which is a request. Are there readers who have been married for fifteen, twenty, twenty-five (or more?) years? I would so much appreciate your feed-back! Don’t feel shy about posting “too much” – take all the space you need! I would so much appreciate some seasoned advice on this topic! Perhaps the responses to this post will prove to be more fruitful than the post itself!

I have done a fair bit of study on this topic, but still feel like I am just scratching the surface. I have written two research papers (“Gender in Genesis” and “Gender in the Church”). In writing these, I have found the resources of Bruxy Cavey (especially Can Women Lead the Church, Learning Together as Church, and Supplemental Podcast to ‘Learning Together as Church) on the one hand, and Mark Driscoll (Marriage and Women, and Marriage and Men) on the other to be extremely helpful. The materials from The Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood are an excellent presentation of the traditional view of marriage, and The Council for Biblical Equality has some good resources from the egalitarian side.

Okay, now on to my thesis:

I believe there are three possibilities for a Christian home: there is “served-leadership”, “servant-equality”, and “servant-leadership”.

Jesus said that in the secular world, leadership is all about “lording over” (Matt. 20:24) those under you, and receiving benefits from them. We have all seen marriages like this. The husband who demands his wife give so much for him, while he channels all the family resources into his own hobbies, pleasures and addictions. The father who demands his grown daughters return home to serve his needs – sabatoging his children’s careers to further his own. As one speaker said, “The common idea of family headship is, ‘honey, bring me my chips and massage my feet.’ In Christian community, the idea is often, ‘honey, bring me my chips, massage my feet, and then let us pray.'” Some people go so far as to teach that women are slightly less human than men, and were made to serve. Although these people are generally kind and gracious, the implications of their beliefs sound frighteningly similar to the old Christian advocates of slavery, who said that blacks were slightly less human than whites, and were thus made as “helpers” to them.

We all want to avoid this extreme. What needs to be recognized, however, is that male leadership is not the problem! The problem is sexism, arrogance, self-centeredness, shoddy exegesis, etc…in a word, sin. Sin distorts all that it touches: by itself, however, leadership is not a sin. In fact, it may be a sin not to be a leader, when one has been called to be one. (Cf. Gen. 3:17).

This point is often over-looked by my generation. Many over-react against “served-leadership” dysfunctionality into a model (potentially) just as dysfunctional – that of “servant-equality.” Bruxy Cavey is a big advocate of this kind of marriage – which is called “egalitarian marriage.” The marriage which Bruxy describes is a marriage where nobody is really “in charge.” Things are done by consent, by agreement. Bruxy wants to make sure things are completely fair: he thinks the way to do this is to make sure that nobody is in charge, and all roles are shared. A big part of Bruxy’s idea is that Christians are first siblings in Christ, and only secondarily father/mother, husband/wife, pastor/lay-person. No matter what prestigious place one may have “out there in the world,” when one comes home to a family gathering (i.e. the church or the Christian home), the masks are dropped and we are all just brothers and sisters.

After toying with the egalitarian concept for a year or two, I have to say that in my experience, equality sounds like a good idea but leads only to frustration and distance.

I still vividly remember the intense emotions from a missions trip being lead by a very kind, very equality-based, very “non-leadership-oriented” person. One particular night stands out. The task for the evening: drive the group downtown, select a restaurant, eat. Simple….right?

During the twenty-minute drive, we discussed which restaurants to go to. Naturally people had preferences. Cases were made for this restaurant or that. The leader was silent. We arrived at the central parking lot, and a consensus was forming – but as we approached the restaurant, we could see it was quite busy. A person who did not prefer that restaurant loudly complained that his restaurant choice would be less congested. Others agreed. Other options were presented. We piled out of the van, but didn’t know where to go. Some people left on their own initiative to scout out the congestion-status of various restaurants. Still we couldn’t make a decision. We ended up standing in a circle for fully twenty minutes – talking, debating, presenting and counter-presenting options. Adrenaline and blood pressure were rising by the minute. Finally, the leader began trying to do his job. He asked opinions of those silent. He tried to rephrase opinions given in a way which would unite. He tried convincing those he saw as minority voices. All to no avail. No consensus could be formed. No matter what, somebody would be disappointed. What was he to do? He was stumped. A true egalitarian, he simply refused to take a stand in a divided group. Somebody finally pointed out that after all this bickering, most of the restaurants would be well into their supper-time, and unable to serve us quickly: we should just return to our hotel and get takeout from nearby fast-food joints. We all agreed, and the leader gave his rubber-stamp approval.

You could almost see the steam rising from the van as we arrived back at the hotel and scattered to find food. Everybody was feeling distinctly the loss of a precious hour in our busy day, and exhausting schedule. Most people were nursing wounds from the heated debates, some were struggling with bitternesses. None were singing the praises of this wonderful “egalitarian” leader.

An alternative is presented by Mark Driscoll. He gives a compelling illustration:

Think of a president, sitting at the head of a long table, filled with the brightest and best his nation has to offer. Is the president the smartest person in the room? Probably not. So what should he do?

The “served-leader” will ignore his advisors, shout over his assistants, and make selfish, egotistical decisions based on his own needs. Foremost in this bully’s mind will be a need to over-compensate for his lack of intelligence, to be “right” at all costs, to make sure that his decisions pass, irregardless of consequences to others.

By contrast, the “served-equal” will do nothing. He will sit back in silence as people present, counter-present and argue long into the night. He will try to make jokes and give out-of-place compliments to make people like him. At times, he will try to summarize what has been said – but usually, he is present but absent. Such a leader always prays for a unanimous decision, or for a de facto leader to arise: he just doesn’t know what to do otherwise.

The “servant-leader” is the only really good option. He will come to the meeting prepared, open the meeting on time and with a clear agenda, then state the issue at hand and ask for input. He will arbitrate the discussions and ask relevant questions. A servant-leader is not independent or aloof from the group – he draws people out, follows the logic of the debate, and presents tentative possibilities for consideration. At the end of the meeting, when he finally presents his position, people are not surprised at his perspective. In many ways, it is “their” perspective – they have made it together. Those in disagreement submit (they are consoled at least that they have been really heard, and given the chance to influence the proceedings), and the group is able to move forward in consensus under his effective leadership.

A true servant-leader gives freedom to his those whom he leads. He provides a context where people can object to the established norm, where they can propose alterations, where no person is without voice, and where no loudmouth rules the day. In leading, a true servant-leader actually allows others to lead – because each person is given a voice, and decisions are made for the good of the whole.

By contrast, an “egalitarian” leader demands that someone else take on his role of leadership

And this has been my experience with egalitarian leadership of the home: at the end of the day, it becomes a feminist marriage – a marriage where the woman leads the home.

Let us think of an example. The man comes home tired from work, and his wife has some family decisions to present to him. He listens, but he is not really paying attention. She weighs one option against another, and goes into details about the pro’s and con’s of price, functionality and style. Trying to be a good husband, he works hard to stay focused. He knows that his wife processes things verbally, and so he is trying hard to say, “uh huh” and “yes, honey” at the correct times, and (this is the hard part!) to follow her words adequately to repeat back to her what she just said from time to time. All the while, he is just waiting to hear her opinion hidden behind her words, so that he can say, “Well, it sounds like you want to do ‘x,’ so why don’t you just go ahead and do it?” Problem solved – now, let’s move on..

The man already knows he does not have a deciding vote. He knows that he is not an expert. His presence in this discussion is completely superfluous – it is duty, and duty alone which make him remain present, until he can finally rubber-stamp her decision and move on.

According to Driscoll, men who are in marriages like this will tend to pay less and less attention to their wives and households, and wives put less and less effort into obtaining his meaningless rubber-stamp. Gradually, the husband and wife drift into parallel, separate lives – she handles household concerns, he handles work and finances: sometimes they share a bed.

Juxtapose this model against the one which (I think) is clearly presented in Scriptures.

A man comes home from work. He is tired, but glad to be coming home. His wife meets him with a pressing matter. He sits down and pays attention. Why is this matter pressing, why does he pay attention? Because he needs to make a decision about it! He understands that his wife is the expert here, and so he listens carefully to her opinion. Feeling the weight of leadership on him, he does not want to make a snap-decision, but is motivated to spend deep time in prayer, to do research, and to seek out godly council. Finally, he comes back to his wife and says, “Well, honey, I am leaning towards ‘x’ – is that what you think?” He is not lying. He is not just reflecting her mind back to herself – he actually has an opinion! Now that her husband has presented his side, she has an opportunity to add to that, to correct it, to present an alternative. Together, they can almost always come to an agreement. The key is at the end, however: after all is said and done, he makes the call, and she supports him. It’s his call, and she submits. He is the head, even if they make the decision she wanted in the first place.

At the beginning of this paragraph I mentioned that a man is “glad to be coming home.” Why is a husband glad to be home in this second scenario? The answer is simple: he has a place in this home. In an egalitarian home, a man is neither an expert nor a leader: by default, he slips into the only role available – the follower. The man becomes the servant, the “fill-in-the-gaps” man, the “laborer” – trying hard to do his job and stay out from under foot. Some metro-sexual men excel in this role: most despise it. Suddenly, work and sports, entertainment and “the guys” become so much more important than the home. Here, the deep needs for respect, competence and value are fulfilled: at home, he is just made to feel like a child. At this point, the family begins that journey towards a distant marriage.

Love covers over a multitude of sins (1 Peter 4:8), and a marriage with much love and a little confusion over headship will probably do okay: however, I still believe that Driscoll is right: Servant-leadership role is the role which God has designed for men to fill in the home.


  1. I am a member of CBE (Christians for Biblical Equality) and their website offers many resources that offer the opposite position, that marriage is a partnership, not a hierarchy and that church ministry leadership is based on gifting from the Spirit, not gender.

    If you wish to discuss anything, I can try.

    • Yes, I came across this site in my research. (You are referring to, right?) This seems to be the main egalitarian site on the web today…but….am I missing something? It seems that there is virtually nothing here for free download. (I am sorry, but in this day, I refuse to pay money for content off of a website. A book, maybe, but stuff online should be paid for by advertisements on the site, or funded by people who believe in the content). By contrast, the CBMW site has literally days worth of audio content (including conferences, sermons, lectures, etc.), countless free articles from reputable journals, and entire books for download in pdf. I don’t mean to compare…but in comparison, there is no comparison.

      Maybe I just couldn’t find my way around on this site. Can you help me out? Where are the free resources, open to the public?

  2. The first recommendation I have is that between two people who love and support one another and are deep friends, one does not need to lead the other. I agree that when you have a large group, then someone needs to moderate and find direction. However, the purpose of marriage is for two to become as one, not A + B to become A. In order for this to happen something much more important than one deciding for both of them must happen.

    • There is a quote my wife and I joke about (from fiddler on the roof?) “the man may be the head, but the woman is the neck that turns the head wherever she wants it to go!” Well, yes – this is true. What good husband would NOT listen to his wife, especially when she has excellent advice on topics, and a better understanding of things? But if he never “steps up to the plate,” if he never has an opinion or tries to lead, how can she influence him? In that case, you end up with two “necks” – two people trying to influence each other, with neither taking the lead.
      Can this work? Probably. Is it best? I don’t THINK so…but I am still figuring this stuff out, too…

    • Yes, there is. It is called “complementarianism” – or, as in my post – “servant-leadership.” A hierarchal marriage is a marriage where the husband thinks he is BETTER than the wife. She exists to serve him. In a complementarian marriage, the husband regards his wife as “more important than himself” (Phil. 2:3), and seeks out fresh and creative ways to lay down his life for her, in loving sacrifice (see previous post “the peter-pan syndrome”).

      I know that some people are not going to be able to appreciate the middle-ground in this debate. Because of personal history, they may hear what I am describing as “patriarchal/heirarchal,” no matter what I say. This is unfortunate, but it’s the reality of the world we live in. If I had to chose, I think I would choose an egalitarian marriage over an extreme, patriarchal marriage – although I think neither is “best.”

      • No, a hierarchical marriage is where someone is the finall decider, has a trump card, has 51% of the vote or a 1000 other ways of saying they get to “break ties”.

        This is what it means to be in a hierarchy.

  3. My husband and I have been married 21 years. We tried the complementarian way, but we like the egalitarian way better, and it works better for us.

    Here’s where I think Driscoll’s scenario errs: he takes the three roles, expert, leader and follower, and assumes that no matter who is expert, one person will always be leader and one will always be follower. But what about each person leading in his or her own sphere of expertise? Proverbs 31 says the wife “considers a field and buys it, and from her earnings she plants a vineyard.” She does not, apparently, feel the need to consult her husband about every decision she makes. Why? Because “the heart of her husband trusts in her.” He knows she will “do him good and not evil all the days of her life.” So he lets her make decisions in her areas of expertise, and she feels free to make them. He also makes decisions in his areas of expertise, and she yields to them. This is mutual submission in action.

    I would redo the home scenario you presented, like this: the husband comes home from work after a hard day. (I assume we’re presuming the wife is at home full-time in this particular setup.) His wife, knowing he’s had a hard day, has already made decisions about pressing matters that needed immediate attention; he isn’t worried about this because he trusts her judgment. He relaxes, then plays with the kids, lends a hand clearing the table, and helps enforce the rules about which kid does what after-dinner chore. He is a member of the husband-wife team, and he feels needed and important.

    The next day is Saturday. In the morning the wife shares the decisions she made the night before. The husband also shares decisions he had to make during the course of the day that were pressing; she trusts his judgment as well. But there has been another matter that has come up during the week that really needed a joint decision– so the wife told the third party who asked the question, “I can’t give you an answer on that till this weekend, when my husband and I can discuss it.” She now brings up the matter and presents her point of view. He listens, and presents his. Each of them being willing to yield to the other, and each being direct and honest about his or her own needs, they find consensus fairly easy– and if they don’t, they withdraw from one another to pray and seek God’s will. They also, if appropriate, ask the kids how they feel about the matter, and consider their needs and wants too.

    This is how two Christian partners would act in a joint-venture business, which is how this husband and wife view the management of their home. In addition to home management, they also maintain a best-friend relationship where they spend time doing things together that they enjoy. There is no drifting apart, though both feel free to spend time apart doing their own thing, too. But neither one views their relationship in terms of one partner always in charge and the other always following.

    Yes, this is pretty much what my marriage looks like. My husband and I are better friends and partners now than we ever were when the model was authority-subordination.

    I hope this helps.

    • Thank you very much for your story! It is very helpful to hear your perspective!

      As I was reading I was thinking, “This sounds so much like the kind of marriage I am describing.” It seems almost like a hair-splitting distinction, to say that the husband is the “head” of the home, when practically speaking I also believe that both should be very involved in the home, should trust each other to make smaller decisions, and should make big decisions together. I recognize that in my post I was squishing the two concepts of “husband-participation” and “husband-leadership” together. This can be a false conflation – I can see how you are safeguarding against this, and I can see how that could work. I added the second-last clause in my post (about there being many types of marriages, and that love covers over many sins) as an after-thought, but I am glad I did. I know there are many marriages of all stripes and shapes that somehow “work,” because love and a commitment to “make things work” has amazing power.

      I am still struggling, however, to find “the right way.” Maybe I am just old fashioned, or a perfectionist – but this is my quest. I want to know how God wants us to do marriage.

      There is one thing I still find strange about the egalitarian position. When listening to Bruxy, for example, he talk for hours about the gender differences which science tells us. He will have his congregation rolling on the floor in laughter over all of those “it’s funny because it’s true” moments about how women are just SOO different from men. And yet when it comes to marriage, he is firm: gender makes no difference. Neither should be the leader, neither the follower. In a single-income home, the husband should be just as likely to stay at home with the kids as the wife. In the church, women have just as much of a prerogative to lead as men do.

      …really? I have a number of tools in my garage. Some do big jobs (sledge-hammers, axes, etc.) some do fine, delicate jobs (finishing hammers, files, pliers). When you look at a tool, you can tell what it is for. More importantly, when you read the manual, you can tell what the designer INTENDED for each tool to be for.

      I have never understood this discrepancy in Bruxy, and other egalitarians. We know men and women are different – so why treat them like two androdgynous equals? Maybe you could help me on this one…? Also (although this is getting into a different post) I would be curious what you do with the Scriptures which seem to say the husband is the head of the home (1 Cor. 11:3), that wives are to “submit to” and “obey” their husbands like Sarah (Pet. 3:5-6), that women are not to lead or teach men in church (1 Tim. 2:11-15), and that women are to be workers at home (Titus 2:5). I have heard lots of “explanations” of these passages, but they all seem to break down into non-arguments like: 1) These verses are confusing in the Greek, so let’s pretend they don’t exist, 2) That was for then, this is now, 3) Paul (and Peter) were sexist, 4) YOU are sexist, if you are taking Paul and Peter literally! Are there better arguments than these? Maybe I have just been digging in the wrong places. Be interested to know what you think!

  4. “What needs to be recognized, however, is that male leadership is not the problem!”

    That is exactly the problem. One reason is because it is not true. Patriarchy was a result of the fall and sin. It was not instituted by God. Where do you find male leadership in a ‘one flesh’ union? Genesis 3:16 was understood early on to mean that Eve would turn toward her husband (away from God) and as a result he would rule over her.

    “Sin distorts all that it touches: by itself, however, leadership is not a sin. In fact, it may be a sin not to be a leader, when one has been called to be one. (Cf. Gen. 3:17).”

    If you are saved, you are called to be a servant. Take the word ‘leader’ out of the dynamic because it distorts everything. I know it is hard…it is how we have been taught but it has nothing to do with God’s economy. There are no servant leaders. That term was ‘coined’ back in the early 80’s by Blanchard for use in mega churches. Just think of Jesus Christ as the leader and through the Holy Spirit HE leads both you AND your wife is she is truly saved. She does not need a mediator or human leader between her and Christ.

    Eph 5 is not about authority/follower. It is about unity and mututality. Men in that era had more rights and Paul is teaching them to elevate the wives with them in Christian love. Do not ignore Ephesians 5:21. Husbands are not exempt. Telling a 1st Century woman to submit (which is voluntary) was a step up from the civil law that said she was chattel.

    “I have never understood this discrepancy in Bruxy, and other egalitarians. We know men and women are different – so why treat them like two androdgynous equals? Maybe you could help me on this one…?”

    The biological differences are obvious. Tell me how we are different in intellect, emotions, etc. And if you can do that, then tell me which is nature or nurture?

    Now, tell me how physical differences in terms of strength matter today when it comes to this focus on leadership?

    Where do we see non biological differences pronounced before the fall? Do we read it into the fall? Adam was more evil and sinned on purpose while Eve was deceived and then admitted it? Is that read into the differences between men and women? Yes, for centuries, it was taught that ALL women are more easily deceived. Driscoll teaches this. But even if that were true…which it isn’t…it would mean that men, because of Adam, are less qualified to lead anyone because they ALL would be treacherous.

    • You are confusing the concepts of “leadership” and servant-heartedness. Again and again in Scriptures, God appoints leaders (2 Sam. 12:7-8), and tells them to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6, 7, 9, 18, etc…) in that role. He commands and for those under them to submit to authority in one’s country (Romans 13), to one’s church (Hebrews 13:17), and in the home (1 Pet. 3). He promises harsh punishment for those who do not submit to authority (Romans 13:2, Numbers 16).

      No, I cannot remove “leadership” from the equation. Leadership seems very much a part of God’s economy.

      This is NOT saying that God sets leaders up with “servants” or “slaves-chattel” under them. The purpose of leadership is not for a leader to be served, but for a leader to serve those he leads (Deuteronomy 17:14-20, Matt. 20:25, Mark 10:42, Luke 22:25).

      Jesus is a leader: he is a shepherd. Shepherds lead their sheep. Shepherds do not get down on all fours and ask their sheep “where do you want to go today?” The analogy of the shepherd is one of leadership. Jesus is not a cruel shepherd that abuses and devours his flock, however, but a self-giving shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. In being a servant, however, he is still the leader. He is still the shepherd.

      Are you following me? To be biblical, you need to separate these two issues: leadership and selfishness. I know “servant-leadership” is not in the Bible, but it very perfectly encapsulates the attitude of Jesus (for example in Phil. 2), who lays down his life and priveledges for others, and thus is the best of leaders. You can be selfless and Christlike while still being a leader. I still think this is what Scriptures are commanding husbands to be.

      • I do not dispute that some in the body of Christ are called to lead others, or that leaders should be servants, or that the home (which includes resources that need managing and children who need guidance) needs leadership. However, there is nothing whatsoever in the Scriptures that demands that only one person be leader, or precludes joint leadership. Husbands and wives can easily be joint leaders of the home.

        But as far as needing leaders, the husband-wife relationship itself is a different thing entirely. There is no reason to believe that any relationship between two equals requires one of them to be in charge. Best friends don’t have leaders– each supports the other and each steps forward in the event of the other’s weakness. To say one is always the leader and the other always the follower compromises the friendship.

      • 1. We are in the New Covenant now

        2. Hebrews 13:17 is a horrible translation. If I take the “plain reading” that means I have to follow Jim Jones to Guyana and drink koolaid because I go to his church.

        3. Agree about governing authorities but disagree about authorities in the Body and marriage. We are not like the Gentiles that lord it over. We have tons of “one another’ passages. And we are described as humble lowly servants if we want to be great in the Kingdom.

        4. If a leader only serves then he/she is a servant. Why the need to call yourself a leader? For example, an elder is going to look more like Matthew 5 Beatitudes than a celebrity Christian with lots of followers.

        5. The ‘sheep’ know HIS voice and follow him. Jesus Christ is OUR Shepherd.

        “Are you following me? To be biblical, you need to separate these two issues: leadership and selfishness”

        To be biblical you need to give up your position and the glamour of ‘leader’ and be a servant. It is a huge sin trap for men as we see by how hard they will twist the word (even translators laboring under a king) to keep their preeminance.

        Men are depraved sinners saved by grace just like the women in the Body or marriage. They are not given more Holy Spirit than women.They are not more saved than women.

      • So..because some men “blow it” in, and they use their role as leader to cause harm, the entire role must be thrown out? Even someone who really WANTS to be a Christ-like leader must be battered to the dust for even THINKING about calling himself a leader…?

      • The thing is to see that ANY adult can be a leader, altho I agree that some translations obscure this and some teach that only males can lead.

      • First of all, you have to presume there is a role at all before it can be “thrown out”. That would be circular reasoning.

        As for leading, remember that the kingdom of heaven is “upside down” to the world: the ‘greatest’ are found at the bottom. You can call it “battered to the dust”, but I call it humbling oneself. To desire to boss (which is not the same as lead) is the opposite of what believers are to have. Leading, on the other hand, is all about serving, and lifting others up. That’s how Jesus led: he stooped down to our level and lived the example, rather than dictating it from above.

        Again I ask: why fight over who is the lowest? Why haggle over who is given which spiritual gift? It’s all about God, not us or our flesh.

  5. “I would be curious what you do with the Scriptures which seem to say the husband is the head of the home (1 Cor. 11:3), that wives are to “submit to” and “obey” their husbands like Sarah (Pet. 3:5-6), that women are not to lead or teach men in church (1 Tim. 2:11-15), and that women are to be workers at home (Titus 2:5). I have heard lots of “explanations” of these passages, but they all seem to break down into non-arguments like: 1) These verses are confusing in the Greek, so let’s pretend they don’t exist, 2) That was for then, this is now, 3) Paul (and Peter) were sexist, 4) YOU are sexist, if you are taking Paul and Peter literally! Are there better arguments than these? Maybe I have just been digging in the wrong places. Be interested to know what you think!”

    Scripture never says the husband is the head of the home or that women cannot teach, etc., etc. The WORD IS TRUE and inerrant. But translators are NOT inerrant. And why would men who benefit from bad translations want to dig any deeper? It is much easier and personally rewarding to work on the ‘roles’ that others teach than to Abide in Christ. That is much harder. So, we have millions of Christians running around trying to play a ‘role’. Which turns out to be a work.

    The above questions you have about why scrpture teaches the above (it doesn’t) would take a zillion comments to exegete each passage in context. I would recommend Cheryl Schatz DVD series on Women in Ministry. She goes through each passage and shows the translation error or interpretation.

    And remember, 1 Corin 11 is used for everything from authority over others to teach ESS. It is one of the most misused passages around. To get an idea of how bad translations can be…tell me…is it really a sin for men to have long hair?

    • Why does it take so long to “exegete” a passage? John 3:16 is very easy to exegete: God loves us and sent His son to die for us. You just read it off the page and apply it to life. Why is it so hard to apply these passages?

      If the translations are so corrupt, how do you know what to trust? Maybe it’s all a hoax, like the Davinci Code suggests. Doesn’t this give you a ‘carte blanche’ to take your scissors to any portion of Scriptures you don’t like?

      I have done a little bit of work with the original languages, and it seems like our English translations are just doing their job – translating what is there. (The KJV had some mistakes, but these have been fixed in modern translations.)

      • Calvinists would dispute your assessment of the clarity of John 3:16, saying that it only means “all without distinction, not all without exception”. I disagree in this instance, but the point is that people don’t always agree on what is clear or “plain reading”.

        As for corruption, you seem to be confusing the text itself with its interpretation. There are a few instances where the original language text is in question, but that is not where the comp/egal debate lies. It lies instead on how one interprets the words. And I’m sure you know that it isn’t just comp/egal that disputes on that basis.

      • Yes, there is probably a controversy about every verse in the Bible. If you want to go down that road, you could say that nothing in the Bible makes sense, unless you are a Greek Scholar/big-time theologian. And then, since those people never agree, maybe there really is no way to know…?

        I think the Bible is pretty clear on these passages, but I am open to arguments to the contrary.

      • No, I’m saying that people disagree on interpretation. Scholars can present evidence for a range of possibilities, but beyond that we each have to go as we are personally convicted.

        I too think the Bible is very clear om many controversial passages, this one included. I think it clearly states that we are all one in Christ Jesus, and that there is to be no lording over among us. I also think it’s clear that it is impossible for anyone to be permanently subjugated to another on the basis of the flesh, yet considered fully equal.

      • Again…if leadership = “subjugation,” then you are right. I think it means something different.

        Whatever name it’s given, rule is rule; final say is final say.

        There can be benevolent dictators, but the question is not the ***quality*** of rule but the ***fact*** of rule. Either there is rule/hierarchy or there is not, and I see no other Head but Christ in his Body. The right hand cannot kindly and benevolently take charge of the left; it cannot take charge at all.

        If you, as an adult, have to get your father’s permission to do anything, then you are still a child to him regarding authority. But in a healthy relationship, grown children are independent. Though the parent/child relationship endures, the hierarchy does not.

        I think you would agree that your father would not be able to say that because the Bible puts parents over children then he still has final say over you, because you are an adult now. Conversely, it follows that anyone who still answers to their parents is still a child. That is subjugation, even if it is a kind and benevolent relationship.

        Likewise, any grown woman who has to get some male’s permission is not being treated as an adult. By virtue of her flesh alone, she is forever under another’s authority. And regardless of the quality of that authority, it is inherently wrong. She cannot be equal in being while playing an involuntary and permanent role based upon the flesh alone.

        Either women are equals or they are not; there is no such thing as “separate but equal” as the old slave argument used to go.

      • If leadership is a Biblical command, however, we need to understand how to work within the Structures which God has put in place, not to discard them as “unethical.”

      • Yes, I know that is your position. As you know, I still cannot agree with you until you help me with Eph. 5:22, among other verses.

      • I posted on Eph 5:22 elsewhere. The verb carries down from v. 21, so it MUST mean the same thing and v. 21 applies to every believer.

      • What structures has God put in place? That’s the question we’re debating, not a plank in your argument. You can’t put the conclusion in the premises.

        Again, leadership is a gift, and whoever has it should use it humbly, to serve and lift up. It is not a position of authority, because a servant is not a boss; those two are mutually exclusive. Yes, bosses can do kind things for their underlings, but they can also give orders, and that has no place between one part of the Body and another.

      • Then you agree that ‘office’ is in the Greek? And authenteo means ‘authority over’. YOu must also believe that a plain reading of scripture teaches that women are saved by bearing children, right? Oh, and there is a NEW law in the new covenant that says women must be silent in church? Because we cannot find that “law” in the Old Covenant

        You probably also believe that teshuqa means the wife desires to rule the husband, right?

        I could go on and on….

        The HOLY SPIRIT translates the Word. Without the HOly Spirit illuminating truth the Bible is either a history book or a club to beat folks with. The Holy Spirit uses the Word to convict us of sin and our need for a Savior.

      • Yes, of course the Holy Spirit helps us translate. The problem arises when one “spirit-lead” reading conflicts with another.

        Your assumptions make it clear that you do not know me, and you have not read my heart, in my post. I have no desire to beat anybody with a club. My only desire is to follow Christ.

      • Your argument is for hierarchy, which necessarily includes enforcement of one’s will over another. It is this argument that is being challenged, not your heart. That’s God’s business.

        All we egals ask is that we are extended the same courtesy.

  6. One more thing…as to women not teaching men..a few questions:

    1. There is no prohibition in the OT about women teaching or leading men. So why would there be one in the NT?

    2. Why is the Joel Prophecy in Acts ignored? Why would Peter preach that prophecy at Pentecost and women prophesy but then Paul write that women should not teach men?

    It is not the Word. It is the folks interpreting the Word.

    • Prophecy is allowed. Hence the commandment to pray/prophecy with one’s head covered (1 Cor. 11). Complementarians would say that this is not a problem to their theology, since prophesying is different from teaching/leading.

      • There are several issues to consider:

        1- Prophecy carried authority, because the prophet spoke for God. There were several female OT prophets who said “thus saith the Lord” as any male prophets.

        2- Teaching is not described in the NT as inherently authoritative, and it appears after prophets in 1 Cor. 12:28

        3- Col. 3:16 says believers teach each other

        4- Acts 2:42 implies that the only authoritative teaching was that of the apostles

        5- As for leading, women were seen as such in both Testaments. Phoebe was a prostatis, which means leader and provider.

      • Yes, I am aware of these arguments for egalitarianism. So…are you saying that the egalitarian position is so strong because of all these arguments, that they “over-rule” 1 Tim 2, 1 Pet. 3?

      • Are you saying that the very few proof-texts that can be made to support male privilege overrule the many all-encompassing scriptures about our unity, our equality, our being all brothers and sisters with one Father, and our treating others as better than ourselves?

      • Again and again it becomes evident that we are not understanding each other. For me, the concept of leadership is not contradictory to the concept of treating others as better than one’s self. In fact, it is the true outworking of it – it is the shepherd who lays down his life who is really “leading” – not the one who crawls along with the sheep and says, “don’t look at me for decisions – I’m just one of you.”

      • I think we’re misunderstanding one another in that you think I’m talking about leadership per se, when I’m not.

        I’m talking about the teachings in the Epistles– ANY teaching in the Epistles– being turned into commandments to be obeyed– ie., Law. For example, let’s just take the “greet one another with a holy kiss,” statement. One reason we need not follow this literally is that the kiss is cultural, and the timeless principle actually being conveyed is, “greet one another warmly.” But the other reason we need not follow it literally is that we shouldn’t take the external action of giving a kiss, and turn it into a law or commandment, rather than an outworking of the law of Love in our hearts. If Christians all kissed one another upon meeting, out of a sense of duty and obedience to a command– then the kiss would become law. It would no longer be simple evidence of love in our hearts that makes us WANT to greet one another warmly.

        That’s all I meant about not wanting the “husbands lay down your lives for your wives/wives submit to your husbands” type passages turned into commands– as if the act of sacrifice or submission, and not the heart of love that makes us desire to sacrifice and submit, were the point of the passage.

        That’s what I meant when I said the only commandment for marriage is “love one another.” If we don’t understand that love is what marriage is all about, and we focus on obeying the “commands” of Paul (or Peter), we turn our Christian love into a shell made of empty acts. And “sacrifice” and “submission” can lose their true meanings altogether.

        But my issue in this particular part of our discussion was not about leadership, as leadership, at all. My objections to husband-leadership as the interpretation, are different from my objections to reading the Epistles as if they were setting forth new Law.

      • “Love one another” – this is the core. How does that get worked out? Is the measure of “love” how long you spend smooching, how little you fight, etc.? How do you know HOW to work out this very broad commandment, unless you use Scriptures?

      • Personally, I don’t see what’s so complicated about “do unto her as you would want her to do unto you.”

        By all means, use the Scriptures for good teachings on how to apply the law of love. But I wouldn’t advise turning them into a rule book. And I would definitely take the historical, cultural, and literary contexts of each passage into account.

        My own experience is that insisting there’s one “right” way to do everything that is God’s way, and trying to fit your marriage or anything else into that box, leads only to grief.

        I’m afraid I just don’t understand why complementarians think everything comes down to leadership, leadership, leadership. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude. It’s just that thinking this way has caused me so much pain in my past. All the focus on who’s in charge and who’s supposed to be submitting to whom– I just can’t do that anymore. I can’t serve two masters– it’s not Jesus-and-my-husband, or Jesus-and-my-pastor. It’s just Jesus. My husband is my friend, my companion, my partner. My pastor is my teacher and spiritual advisor. But Jesus is my only Master.

        I agree wholeheartedly that marriage is not an organization. Running a home is– and some sort of structure has to be set up to make that happen smoothly. But marriage is a relationship– a best-friend, one-flesh relationship. It just isn’t about who’s in charge.

      • So it’s all about finding out what are the right rules, and following them?

        I just can’t live my faith that way.

      • KRW,

        Freedom is one of the basic principles of the Kingdom.

        P.S. I just posted today but for some reason it is imbedded among posts above. Why does not the system sort things by date and time?

      • The Puritans said prophesying is preaching. They even wrote a book on it.

        There is NO command for women to cover while praying or preaching. That is a horrible translation.

        There was NO law in the Old Covenant prohibiting women from teaching or leading men. So, you say there is a NEW one in the New Covenant.

      • There are many new commands and principles in the New Testament, such as monogamy, and sins of the mind. These commands were there in seed-form in the Old Testament, but not made explicit in the New.

      • The way I would word it is that Jesus and later the authors of the NT correctly interpreted Torah, after all, they constantly refer back to the Tanakh/OT.

  7. I’ve been married 20 years to the same guy, and we have two wonderful sons. We have been fully egalitarian from the start and have rarely had a fight. Our kids are encouraged to be independent and we are careful to give the underlying rationale for whatever rules we give them. They comply willingly because it makes sense, not because mom and dad have an authority complex.

    My husband is good at home improvement and electronic repair; my forté is in academics, research, and web development. He leads where he is more qualified, and I lead where I am more qualified. If we can’t come to a consensus on anything, we get other opinions or sometimes even flip a coin.

    So over 20 years of deferring to the other based upon expertise instead of the flesh gives me the right to claim that an egal marriage and family is healthy, godly, and fulfilling. We get along because we are friends and believers who aren’t more concerned with artificial roles than practicality.

    I have spent more than a few years digging deep into scripture on many issues, this one especially, and can say without reservation that all the NT teaches can be summed up in Paul’s words: “you are all one in Christ Jesus”. But for those who want detail, I also have some free writings at my downloads page. The Scribd link there will take you to a site specializing in presenting documents online.

    There are documents there specifically about women in the church and home, but if I would recommend one above others its the book called Nicolaitan, because it deals with hierarchy not only between male and female but also clergy and laity.

  8. Some free resources from CBE are at:

    The Bible never says a husband is head of the home or priest of the home, altho some Christian teachers teach this. One needs to discern what the Bible actually does teach and what some just teach it teaches, by being a Berean. It does say a husband is head of his wife, as a metaphor and one needs to figure out the metaphor. We know it is a metaphor as head/kephale is NOT discussing the thing on one’s neck in some verses in Eph 5, for example.

    • Thank you for those resources! Clumsy me – I must have missed them before. These would have been very helpful when writing my papers!

      I take it you made a typo? You start off by saying that the Bible does not say a man is the head of the home…then you say that scriptures say just that. I am aware of the argument for kephale as “source” instead of “head.” It seems to be grasping at straws, however, especially considering the context. But then that’s just my subjective judgment – although my Greek/New Testament teacher agrees.

      Just curious – what do you do with 1 Peter 3?

  9. Josiah, you seem like a really nice guy who loves God and respects his wife. A few thouhts in response to your questions:

    You said:

    “I am still struggling, however, to find “the right way.” Maybe I am just old fashioned, or a perfectionist – but this is my quest. I want to know how God wants us to do marriage.”

    My Reply:

    I don’t think there is a one-and-only-one “right” to do marriage, or that God wants all marriages to look exactly alike. People are individuals with individual traits. A marriage, being first and formost a dynamic relationship between two individuals, is going to be individual, too. As with all relationships, the only command for Christians is “love one another.” Treat your wife the way you want to be treated. As a great Jewish scholar once said, “All the rest is commentary.”

    You said:

    “There is one thing I still find strange about the egalitarian position. When listening to Bruxy, for example, he talk for hours about the gender differences which science tells us… And yet when it comes to marriage, he is firm: gender makes no difference… …really? I have a number of tools in my garage. Some do big jobs (sledge-hammers, axes, etc.) some do fine, delicate jobs (finishing hammers, files, pliers). When you look at a tool, you can tell what it is for. More importantly, when you read the manual, you can tell what the designer INTENDED for each tool to be for… I have never understood this discrepancy in Bruxy, and other egalitarians. We know men and women are different – so why treat them like two androdgynous equals? Maybe you could help me on this one…? ”

    My Reply:

    But humans are much more complex than tools, aren’t they? Each and every human is designed for mulitiple, different purposes– and though scientists have discovered certain general trends that make differences between the sexes, they have also discovered that variations WITHIN each sex are greater than differences between the sexes. For instance, look at the Olympic games. There are female weightlifters who, though they can’t outlift the male Olympic weightlifters, could outlift any ordinary man on the planet!

    It’s quite clear that women were designed to be able to carry and nurse babies, and men were designed to be physically able to protect and provide during those vulnerable times when their mates are pregnant or nursing (particularly before the technological revolution). But does this mean a non-pregnant, non-nursing woman could not have provided for herself? Certainly not! Science has proved that women are just as smart and capable as men. Paul talks about Christians having the choice to forego marriage and children for the sake of the gospel, and he doesn’t limit that only to men. This means that women are not required to be wives and mothers, any more than men are required to be husbands and fathers.

    The fact is that the purpose of humankind is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” There is no one earthly role that all women are meant for, any more than there is one earthly role that all men are meant for. God doesn’t create people by using a cookie cutter. Why, then, do we want to force Christians into cookie-cutter roles in cookie-cutter marriages?

    Can you unequivocably say that all men were designed to be leaders, and all women were designed to be followers? What about women who are clearly natural leaders, and men who are happiest going along to get along? Should they not be able to work out for themselves, what works best for them in a marriage?

    One thing that my husband and I discovered during the course of our marriage was that I simply do not seem to be designed to be happy staying home full-time, taking care of children. I’m very intellectual, and I’m a trusted and valued paralegal at a lawfirm where they depend on me. I am very, very happy in my paralegal role, and during my maternity leaves, I could hardly wait to get back among adults, where I could use these talents (though I did go part-time for the children’s sake).

    But that doesn’t mean I think every wife should work part-time, or that it isn’t ok to stay home full-time. There isn’t only one way to do marriage that is “God’s way.” Living our lives in terms of formulas is always a mistake.

    You said:

    “Also (although this is getting into a different post) I would be curious what you do with the Scriptures which seem to say the husband is the head of the home (1 Cor. 11:3), that wives are to “submit to” and “obey” their husbands like Sarah (Pet. 3:5-6), that women are not to lead or teach men in church (1 Tim. 2:11-15), and that women are to be workers at home (Titus 2:5). I have heard lots of “explanations” of these passages, but they all seem to break down into non-arguments like: 1) These verses are confusing in the Greek, so let’s pretend they don’t exist, 2) That was for then, this is now, 3) Paul (and Peter) were sexist, 4) YOU are sexist, if you are taking Paul and Peter literally!”

    My Reply:

    As others have said, these are big questions. One thing I would recommend is getting and reading the book “The Blue Parakeet” by Scot McKnight. He talks about how all of us, in one way or another, read portions of the Bible in terms of “that was for then, this is now.” None of us greets others in church with a kiss, for example. Men don’t lift their hands whenever they pray. Women don’t refrain from wearing pearls or gold. McKnight’s fun, easy-reading book talks about how we read the Bible, and how to read it more effectively and consistently. If you read nothing else in your search, please read that. Another really good book is “How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth” by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.

    Thank you for being so open in this respectful conversation, and thanks for listening to me even though I’m a woman (according to some lines of thinking, you should not be receiving any input from me at all, because I’m “teaching” you!). I appreciate it very much.

    • Yes, thank you as well, Wordgazer! I appreciate your discussions as well. Conversations on this topic so quickly turn nasty (“you are an arrogant chauvenist!” vs. “you are a manipulative feminist”…etc.) I appreciate the open dialogue!

      Something that doesn’t come out in this post is that I really WANTED to be egalitarian for a while. Bruxy was my hero for a couple years, and it just seemed so much more modern to be egalitarian. I just can’t get around those scriptures, however. I will add your book recommendations to my “to-do” list: however, I suspect that they will not convince me. My research on these passages makes me think that although there are ways to muddy the water, the verses on their own are quite clear.

      I don’t interpret 1 Tim. 2 as meaning that no woman can teach any man. Priscilla was likely the leading/teaching member of the couple, with Aquilla taking a back-seat in the relationship. It was likely her who took the primary role in descipling Apollos. The difference is that this is an informal setting. Scriptures seem more concerned with public speaking, and authoritative words. It seems more like the primary leading roles of pastor/teaching elder should be reserved for men. At least this is the best I can understand them.

      It is interesting that you say, “the only command for married people is to love one another.” What do you think about the commands for husbands to, love their wives and lay your lives, and for wives to submit to and obey (1 Pet. 3) their husbands?

      • “The difference is that this is an informal setting. Scriptures seem more concerned with public speaking, and authoritative words. It seems more like the primary leading roles of pastor/teaching elder should be reserved for men. At least this is the best I can understand them.”

        Was there anything else but informal settings in early church? What would constitute public speaking?

        Pastor is mentioned ONCE as a spiritual gift. It is tradition that made it into an office.

        If these ‘roles’ are reserved for men then a plain reading of that passage means they MUST be married. No single men.

  10. Josiah, in what sense are those “commands”? Does not Paul say that all of the law is summed up in “love your neighbor as yourself”? Doesn’t he say that if you walk in the Spirit, you are not under the law?

    In what sense are the words to husbands and wives to be read as if they were whole new laws, rather than examples of how to walk in love to one another? Did Peter and Paul intend to be writing Law?

    Submission is love. Self-sacrifice is love. It’s all about love.

    As for the “obey” thing in 1 Peter 3, look at the context. The whole of the second chapter of that book is about how Christians are to conduct themselves in a world that is hostile to them. (Look specifically at 1 Peter 2:12.) They are told to have the same mind as Christ Jesus, who trusted Himself to God in suffering. Wives are NOT told in any direct, this-is-a-command sort of way to “obey” their husbands. They are told that when they are married to those who “obey not the word” (in other words, unbelievers), they should follow the example of Sarah, who obeyed Abraham even when he was really messing up, and God took care of her. It seems clear from the context of 1 Peter, that the story the author has in mind is the one where Sarah agreed to say she was Abraham’s sister– and God kept her from being violated as a result of Abraham’s foolishness. “You are her sisters if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear.” 1 Peter 3:6.

    Elsewhere in the Abraham-Sarah story, however, God actually tells Abraham (concerning the Hagar-Ishmael problem) to “do whatever your wife Sarah tells you.” Sarah was not alone in her submission to Abraham– God at one point specifically told Abraham to submit to Sarah’s decision. Gen. 21:12.

    The society was patriarchal, and women had very little power. Peter addresses both women and slaves, telling them to work within the society rather than rebelling against it– even if this means they must suffer. But people lift the passage out of its context and act like it means wives have to put up with any nonsense their Christian husbands give them– even though the Scriptures say, without gender qualifications, that we are to “speak the truth in love” to one another and “provoke one another to love and good deeds.”

    The harm that this 1 Peter 3 passage has done to women, because of being taken out of context, is incredible. God never intended that we read these passages as if they were an endorsement of the practices of the societies Christians lived within in ancient times– particularly when the Epistle is written to Christians living in a cruel pagan society!

    My question is this– if you can’t get around the woman passages, what do you do with the slave passages? What about the passages that tell Christians to “honor the king”? How do you get around monarchy as the New Testament system of government? The monarchy verses were used by well-menaing English Christians at the time of the American Revolution, to condemn American Christians for their rebellion against the “divine right” of kings.

    How do you get around the passage where Paul says, “I want men everywhere to pray, lifting holy hands”? Do you lift your hands when you pray? How do you justify interpreting a passage like that liberally when it relates to you, but restrictively a few verses later, when it talks about women teaching?

    Please, read “The Blue Parakeet.” The first half isn’t even about egalitarianism; it’s about how we read the Bible. You needn’t even read the second half (the egalitarian part) if you don’t agree with the first half.

    Thanks for listening.

    • Hmmm….those are good challenges. I am sensing a theme here – I will need to bump “the blue parakeet” further up on my reading list.

      I object (here I am also sensing a theme) against the idea that love and leadership are contradictory. Yes, it is all about love. Part of love can be God setting up one person as a servant-leader, and another as a servant-follower – both equal in the sight of God, and in worth, but with different roles. There does not need to be a contradiction of the principle of “love” here. If you think there IS a contradiction, you are not understanding what I am meaning by leadership, or I am not understanding what you are meaning by “love” (I certainly hope that your definition of “love” is not a touchy-feely, emotionally-based, sentimental idea like our culture portrays it in the movies!)

      Those are good challenges, about verses we do not take literally. I will take this challenge seriously: it is a good question – where is the line between “these verses we take literally” and “these verses we do NOT take literally.” I have a question for you to work on: where do YOU draw the line, and how do you know you are not just using this principle as an “excuse” to get out of commandments you don’t particularly like? (Note: I have heard serious people – at least, they were taking themselves seriously – use this exact same argument to “prove” that immorality was okay, Biblically. How do you guard against this? Just curious…)

      • Egals don’t have a problem with leadership, but only with assigning it on the basis of the flesh. People should only lead in their areas of expertise or gifting, not have “final say” because of their reproductive organs. And the fact is that not all men are born leaders, and not all women are born followers. If they were, there’d be no need to enforce all this role-playing. It is those who would have all men to be “this” while all women are “that” who homogenize people into boxes God never made and ignore personality and gifting.

        As for consistent literalism, we can ask this question of everyone, not matter what the topic. Everyone has an agenda, a bias, a problem with only seeing what they want to see. Many are biased toward male rule/leadership and see it everywhere, even to the point of insisting that the Greek be changed to reflect English when it seems to favor males.

  11. Don said:

    “The Bible never says a husband is head of the home or priest of the home, altho some Christian teachers teach this. One needs to discern what the Bible actually does teach and what some just teach it teaches, by being a Berean. It does say a husband is head of his wife, as a metaphor and one needs to figure out the metaphor. We know it is a metaphor as head/kephale is NOT discussing the thing on one’s neck in some verses in Eph 5, for example.”

    You replied:

    “Thank you for those resources! Clumsy me – I must have missed them before. These would have been very helpful when writing my papers!

    I take it you made a typo? You start off by saying that the Bible does not say a man is the head of the home…then you say that scriptures say just that.”

    And my response:

    Josiah, Don said that the passages say the husband is the “head” of the wife. But you keep saying that means the man is the “head of the home.” The home and the wife are not synonymous– I’m sure your wife would agree!

    As for being head of (as in “in charge of”) the home, look at 1 Tim 5:14 (“I desire that the younger widows marry. . . manage the house”) and look at that word translated “manage” in the original Greek. What that word actually means is “ruler of the house.” In that society, the home was considered the special sphere of the woman. Though Jesus also uses the same word in noun form, apparently referring to a man, when he mentions “the householder” in various teachings, it cannot be disputed that women are being told in 1 Tim. 5:14 to be in charge of their homes. “Head of the home” does not just mean the man of the house. The woman is a “head of the home” too.

    But the Scripture does say the husband is the “head” of the wife– and she is his “body.” To us, “head” implies “headship.” But we don’t use the word “bodyship,” nor does that word have any meaning in our language. If the word “head” is being used in conjunction with the word “body,” and we don’t have a a meaning for “bodyship,” maybe we’d better check whether “head” really means “headship” in this passage.

    I agree that using the word “source” as the sole meaning of this word word “head” in Greek is problematic. But though “head” (“kephale”) doesn’t always mean “source,” neither is “leader/ruler” the primary meaning. Often the meaning is “prominent one” or “the one on top.” Please have a look at this research about various Greek words, including “kephale.”

    I believe the point of the Ephesians 5 passage is this: “Husbands, you have the prominent place– but since you are the one on top in your society, you should view your wife as your own body. As Christ Jesus laid down His place of prominence and came down to the church’s level so He could raise the church up to be glorious with Him, even so should you lay down your place of prominence and raise your wives up in oneness and unity with you.”

    This flies directly in the face of the household codes in place at that time. The household codes of the time told husbands to rule their wives and masters to rule their slaves. The passage in Ephesians 5 begins instead, in verse 21, with an admonishment to Christians that all should submit to one another in Christ– and then goes on to say that husbands should love their wives like their own bodies, and that masters should remember that they have a Master in Heaven who shows no partiality (Eph 6:9).

    The Kingdom of God is not about “headship” and obedience. It’s about love and sacrifice. The purpose was never to endorse ancient societies as being “biblical,” it was to show Christians how to be different from those ancient societies.

    In turning away from capitulation to modern culture, are Christians endorsing capitulation to ancient culture?

    • That is an interesting discussion on headship. I still think you are forcing a meaning on that passage, but that is just my opinion.

      No, we are not capitulating to an ancient culture, which saw women as “less than” men. Neither are we capitulating to the modern culture, which thinks the only way to have equality is to have nobody in charge. In radical rebellion against both, Scriptures teach that men are to be leaders over their wives (and the husband and wife over their children…I take your point about headship only being over one’s wife), but that this leadership is to take the form of service, of putting other first, of taking the lead in dying for other.

      Not SERVED-leadership, not servant-EQUALITY, but SERVANT-LEADERSHIP.

      This makes such wonderful sense in my own mind…why can’t the rest of the world agree with me!!? ; )

      • “Neither are we capitulating to the modern culture, which thinks the only way to have equality is to have nobody in charge.”

        If you both are saved and seeking the kingdom first…then why does someone have to be in charge of an adult believer? Is your wife spiritually immature? Will she need to stay that way in order to always be your follower so you can be in charge?

        Are you her daddy or her husband? I think comps see a more daddy/husband kind of role. It really is a bit strange.

        Jesus Christ wants us to mature in the Lord. Demanding a mediator between Jesus Christ and a married woman believer, negates the work of the Cross.

        And all because you translate ‘head’ as authority when that is not what it is communicating.

      • No, I do not see myself as the “daddy” of my wife. I see myself as her servant. Her gentleman. The one on a shining horse, come to sweep her off her feet. At least, that is what I hope to aspire to. I see this as my duty because this is what I see Christ doing for His church, from cover to cover in the Bible.

      • The crux comes down to: do you have the trump card, the ability to overrule your wife’s will?

        If you think you do, you are a dictator, perhaps mostly benevolent, but still a dictator. And because you are not God, and can be selfish, sinful, have blind spots, etc. you can make mistakes which your wife will pay for.

      • The question is whether YOU can support having a trump card with Scripture. You are the one asseting God gives you it.

  12. I just got a clear reminder of the male only leadership mantra again Sunday. My husband and I attended A Holiness church for 10 years but, had to leave based on a failure of the Pastor to communincate with me about this issue and public rebukes directed at me from the pulpit. Now, after 3 months at a new church I was once again reaquainted with the “All Male Meetings”. I find this odd as I have been used in nursing home ministry, singing specials, cleaning, cooking and just recently asked to teach the the Adult Sunday School Class. I can do all these things but I still can’t attend a Church meeting or have a voice in the decisions made in the Church. Once again I came home frustrated and confused and once again, I am made to feel like (I) have a problem with submission, authority, etc. Like I told my husband when you call an “all male” meeting and ask them to vote on whether women can attend the meetings, do you really have to guess what the outcome of that vote will be? Of course, only my husband, his friend and an elderly gentleman voted to allow women at the meetings with these three being quickly outnumbered………but I do thank God for the three!

  13. The word in the Bible is kephale/head, NOT headship. The use of the term “headship” assumes too much, as it assumes one specific choice among many for what the head metaphor means in any particular verse. Be careful of human traditions, as they can end up negating the word of God and it is a tradition to use the terms “headship” or “head of the family” or sole “priest of the home”.

    1 Peter is the ONLY gender text that uses the term “obey”, so one needs to be careful in exegeting it. NOWHERE is a wife told to obey, not even in 1 Pet. She might be REQUIRD to obey in some circumstance in that 1st century culture and is to look at Sarah and how God protected her in similar circumstances. Both the laws and the culture said that a wife was to abandon her baby if the husband told her to do so, which is something that we today do not even think of, but was very real back then.

    • Traditions shape language. The two are inseperably intertwined. One common use of “headship” in the time of the NT was that of the Empire. The emporor was the “head” and the empire was the “body.” Paul picks up on this in his mataphore where Christ is the head, and the church is the body. He also uses this metaphor to say that the husband is the head, and his wife is the body.

      What does headship mean in these other contexts? The head makes decisions. The head takes prime responsibility for the actions of the whole. The head takes care of the body, and serves it. I don’t think I am reading into things here…

      Yes, I understand that a woman must obey God rather than her husband. This much should be a given. I understand that 1 Peter 3 is only one verse..but then 1 Tim 2 is only one chapter…1 Corinthians 11 is only one chapter…you hear where I’m going. At some point, you need to deal with these passages.

      I guess your argument is the same as I have been hearing elsewhere – that “that was for then, this is now,” and that ‘blue canary’ book will explain how this works. Is that correct? (Note: I have also read Web’s book ‘slaves, women and homosexuals’ – is that kind of the same thing?)

      • Please see this link for a thorough, scholarly examination of the Greek word “kephale” and its use in literature of the era.

        Trying to say that one verse is as good as one chapter or book is, IMHO, a last-ditch effort to support male privilege. Context depends on many things, not the least of which is the immediate topic and the habits of the writer. Paul himself cited the belief that the head was the source or origin of the body in Col. 2:19 and Eph. 4:16. His body metaphor is a prominent one in his writings, and it’s always about unit of substance and cooperation of EQUAL parts. One part still cannot say to another “I have no need of you”, and neither can any part demand that another part go through it instead of directly to the brain.

        “Not so among you” still holds true; “not lording it over” still applies. No believer of any sex, race, or class is exempt.

        I’ve even seen male supremacists try to sugar-coat their lust for preeminence with “oh, I must carry this heavy burden!”, yet Jesus’ burden is light.

        And if you agree that leadership in the Body means taking the very lowest position of servitude, then why all the objection to women holding this lowly, humble, non-authoritative place? Male supremacists are, in fact, arguing this very thing; they call themselves servants but act like bosses. They try to call leading/ruling just another form of following/serving, but that’s doubletalk.

        Lead where you are gifted; follow where another is gifted. Do not judge by the flesh, since not even God does that (1 Sam. 16:7). If you are serving, then serve.

      • What does IMHO mean?

        Your interaction with my thought seems clouded by my suspicions about my intentions. I am just trying to sort through this as a follower of Christ. I have no need to push my wife around: I have no “lust for power,” that I am aware of. Actually, my version of “egalitarianism” seemed like the path of least resistance to me. I think (and my wife agrees) that my concept of “stepping up to the plate” is something which she will see as very positive to our home and lifting a burden off of her.

        I think we could make better progress in this discussion if you gave me the benefit of the doubt, as I am trying to do with you.

      • Sorry, IMHO means “in my humble opinion”.

        Also, I was speaking in generalities, as I’ve been over this topic many times before. And my point was that the arguments used to support male privilege are not much different than those against it when it comes to each side believing the other is erring at some point.

        But the fact remains that any sort of privilege is inherently a position of power and control. To have the final say is to wield power over another adult and fellow believer, and I am convinced that scripture teaches plainly against this at many points.

        “Stepping up to the plate” is a matter of maturity and character, not a matter of the flesh. So sometimes it may be you that needs to step up, and sometimes it may be your wife. Listening to her advice but stamping it with “husband approved” does not hide the fact that there is rank or authority between two adult believers.

        I actually see many condescending tones in your writing, so please understand that I am not reacting anywhere as strongly as I could. I think, overall, Christian communication would be better served if we all stop trying to police each other and just say things in whatever manner seems best to us.

      • 1 Peter 3 is talking about wives living with unbelieving husbands. It is not like she was free to do down to the women’s shelter in Ephesus if she was mistreated as his property. Which she was in that century. Paul’s advice was wise

      • 1 Peter 2 is talking about Christians growing in Christ-likeness, then chapter 3 begins, “In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives…” It almost seems like submission is a natural outworking of our Christianity. Also, it seems like the conversion of unbelieving husbands is just one perk among many (notice especially the use of the word “even if”). Maybe if I read “the blue parakeet” and do some very involved Greek studies, I will learn that the NASB translators made some mistakes here…?

      • Love is the primary mark of a believer. But submission is another mark. This includes EVERY believer, husbands and wives.

  14. I think it is a critical experience to see that one can misinterpret some text, even tho one is trying one’s best to get it right.

    Just in these comments we see an example of the original poster misunderstanding what I wrote that the Bible does not say the husband is head of his family, but rather says he is the head of his wife. All of us have well-worn pathways in our brain and part of being a believer is allowing God to correct us and refine us, to reject the human traditions that negate the word of God and to accept the truths that God meant for us to hear.

    I believe the Bible is inspired by God and this means the grammar is inspired. A big way to misunderstand some text is to not understand the context in which it was said or written. And there are MANY ways to not know something that would be obvious to Timothy, or the church at Corinth, etc.

  15. Paul gives us applications of what he means by Christ as head of the church and they are all SERVING examples in Eph 5. Going beyond serving, including the claim of servant leadership, is simply not warranted by the text.

    Yes, Jesus is many things, Jew, rabbi, prophet, Messiah, etc. but Eph 5 just uses examples of serving, there simply are no leading examples given in the text for

    • Well, if you are making the assumption that service is incompatible with leadership, then you must be right. Jesus is not a leader. If, however, it is possible for a leader to lead as an act of service, the problem evaporates.

      • Jesus is a leader, but that is not what is being discussed in Eph 5 with husbands using the head metaphor. The problem is that in the 21st century the head metaphor almost always means boss, but not necessarily in the 1st century when the text was written.

      • Jesus is in charge, but that is NOT what is being discussed in these verses.

        If Paul had wanted to map the husband to Jesus as Lord, he could have written that, instead he refers to Jesus as savior, a serving function, NOT a leadership function.

        It is essential to NOT ADD to the text of Scripture. Do not see what is not there.

  16. Josiah, in all the times I have had this discussion with people, I have never yet had anyone give me a direct answer to my questions:

    What about slavery? Isn’t it biblical?

    What about having a king? Isn’t that biblical?

    Why don’t men raise their hands when they pray? Isn’t that a clear mandate from Paul with apostolic authority? What about greeting one another with a kiss?

    Why does “that was for then but this is now” apply in all these areas, but never to the power of men over women?

    Until I get a direct answer to these questions, I will not accept the argument that taking the cultural and historical context into consideration (in the sense, when applicable, of “that was for then, but this is now”) is not a valid way to read the Bible– including the passages on women.

    “The Blue Parakeet” is only about 250 pages long, btw, and written in a fast, readable manner. Reading only the first half would probably not take more than two hours. On such an important issue as how to understand the intended meaning of the Scriptures, isn’t it time you could afford, brother?

    • Oops! This “Reply” function in these comments is not what I’m used to. I’m used to the most recent responses being at the bottom of the comments. So I missed your earlier reply which I will quote the relevant parts of here:

      Hmmm….those are good challenges. I am sensing a theme here – I will need to bump “the blue parakeet” further up on my reading list.


      Those are good challenges, about verses we do not take literally. I will take this challenge seriously: it is a good question – where is the line between “these verses we take literally” and “these verses we do NOT take literally.”


      I had missed this post when I replied as above. Sorry about that. I will give my answers to the very valid points you raise later today. 🙂

  17. PS. I want to know more about the context of this “the emperor is the head, the empire is the body” quote. The head as the nourisher/sustainer of the body was a common idea in that age– but that doesn’t mean that leadership authority was the point of this particular metaphor. They didn’t actually know at that time that the mind was in the brain. They thought the mind was in the heart, and the brain was the source of life for the body.

    Though no one is disputing that the emperor was the leader of the empire, or that Christ is Leader of the church– is that what was meant specifically by the head/body metaphor? I’d need to see the context, and clear references to the emperor’s power/authority (not just assumptions!) in order to grant the point.

  18. Hmm. On second thought, I might not grant the point even then, unless the passage was written in Greek. One of the common meanings of “head” in Latin WAS “authority over,” just as it is in English. But not in Greek. (BTW, in French, even today, the word “head” does not contain the meaning “authority over”. So French Christians just aren’t going to read “head” in Eph 5 and assume authority is implied in the very word. It’s an issue for us English speakers, not for them.)

  19. Ok, to answer these points you raised, Josiah:

    You said:

    I object (here I am also sensing a theme) against the idea that love and leadership are contradictory. Yes, it is all about love. Part of love can be God setting up one person as a servant-leader, and another as a servant-follower – both equal in the sight of God, and in worth, but with different roles. There does not need to be a contradiction of the principle of “love” here. If you think there IS a contradiction, you are not understanding what I am meaning by leadership, or I am not understanding what you are meaning by “love” (I certainly hope that your definition of “love” is not a touchy-feely, emotionally-based, sentimental idea like our culture portrays it in the movies!)

    My Reply:

    No, my definition of “love” does not define love in terms of emotion.

    And no, I don’t think love and leadership are contradictory– but I think that very often, living in Love and living under Law are entirely contradictory. When passages in the NT (other than “love one another”) are turned into commands and laws, that’s when my warning flags go up. I was in a spiritually abusive Christian organization in my younger years, and I will never go back to living under Law now that I’ve found Grace.

    You also said:

    No, we are not capitulating to an ancient culture, which saw women as “less than” men. Neither are we capitulating to the modern culture, which thinks the only way to have equality is to have nobody in charge. In radical rebellion against both, Scriptures teach that men are to be leaders over their wives (and the husband and wife over their children…I take your point about headship only being over one’s wife), but that this leadership is to take the form of service, of putting other first, of taking the lead in dying for other.

    My Reply:

    Paula made a very good point about this. When leadership is not according to character, not according to training, not according to wisdom or experience– when it is solely and completely given BY BIRTH and birth alone– then it is logically contradictory to say that the one born to be under authority and power is “equal” to the one born to be in authority and power. This is the whole premise under which the United States’ founding fathers eliminated aristocratic rank. They believed all men were created equal (all white males, anyway, but that’s another matter), and therefore, one person could not by virtue of genetics (noble blood) be born to be in charge over those with “common” blood. Similarly, if males are born to lead females purely on the basis of the Y chromosome, then it follows logically that women are indeed “less than” men.

    Bible scholar Rebecca Groothius elaborates on this very persuasively here:

    So I maintain that the complementarian position does indeed capitulate to ancient culture, even though it claims not to. It’s a matter of the logical consequences of a set of beliefs.

    Finally, you wrote:

    Those are good challenges, about verses we do not take literally. I will take this challenge seriously: it is a good question – where is the line between “these verses we take literally” and “these verses we do NOT take literally.” I have a question for you to work on: where do YOU draw the line, and how do you know you are not just using this principle as an “excuse” to get out of commandments you don’t particularly like? (Note: I have heard serious people – at least, they were taking themselves seriously – use this exact same argument to “prove” that immorality was okay, Biblically. How do you guard against this? Just curious…)

    My Reply:

    The only way to make sure to not be inconsistent in this principle of reading the Bible in its historical and cultural context, is ALWAYS to so read it. We should ALWAYS take into consideration the customs and history of the writers and readers, in order to try our best to determine what was the intended meaning, and the meaning that would have been received by the original listeners. When we do this, we will discover that certain passages (such as those related to eternal salvation) are indeed timeless, and read as timeless even when the historical background is considered. Comfortingly, it is these timeless passages that are the most important to us, and it is these passages that are the easiest to take at face value and draw the “pure milk” from.

    It is my strong opinion that historical-cultural context is one of the things that every Christian leader ought to take very seriously, study and preach on– because not everyone has the ability to do this research, and we select our Christian leaders in part to teach us properly from the Bible.

    But our Christian leaders should be those proven by character and experience– not just granted leadership by birth– or denied it because of their birth either.

    • PS. It’s important to remember that we are not talking about “dismissing” portions of Scripture as being “only cultural.” What we are talking about is finding the real message, the timeless principles, that the author intended and the hearers would have heard, in the context of their shared cultural understanding.

    • What do you mean by not living “under law”? I agree that we do not earn our way to Heaven by obeying a set of rules. However, we do have a sort of code that we follow. Adultery is bad. Fidelity is good. Why do we know this? Well, 1 Thess. 4 has some “principles” (laws?) about right conduct in sexuality. 1 Tim. 2 seems to have some guidelines about conduct of genders in the church. Yes, I understand there are arguments for contextualizing these commands…at what point do you stop? I am not even arguing you here – I just want to know where you stop, and what your criteria are. I could send you a link (but I don’t want to, because that hot-head already gets far too much cyber-attention) to an idiot that thinks he can prove that immorality is okay, using exactly your argument. I am not accusing you of this, I am just curious: how do you define what is “for then” and what is “for now,” in Scriptures?

      For the record, I don’t think human sexuality has changed in the last 2000 years any more than our standing with God has changed.

      Finally – if you need to be a Bible-scholar to understand the Bible, are you saying that the average person shouldn’t read it at all? Again – where do you stop, and why? This is the same line of reasoning which validated the “Jesus Seminars,” and other such higher-critical attacks on Scriptures.

      • Josiah, do you read Greek or Hebrew? Then you are already relying on Bible scholars.

        Today, all across the internet, we see people living at the same time who have great difficulty communicating, even when they speak the same language and grew up in the same country. We have common experiences and expressions which we use freely, but which make no sense to people of other languages and cultures and times.

        How, then, would someone in the distant future understand what we’re saying without the help of scholars who studied our time and culture and language?

        And who needs teachers and preachers if the Bible is that clear? 😉

      • Okay, that last comment got me – lol. You win.

        There needs to be some balance here. Yes, some passages are difficult to understand. However, it is easy to go the other way as well. “The original context” can be an excuse to muddy the waters so much that it is impossible for Scriptures to speak for themselves.

        I trust scholars. I do not trust “a scholar” – but I trust “scholars.” I trust the consensus of scholars, in translating works such as the NASB, NIV, or TNIV. I do not trust myself, because even though I have a basic understanding of the original languages (very basic), I do not think I know them well enough to compete with “real” scholars. I also don’t trust an individual “scholar” that thinks that based on their understanding of the original languages, they can contradict the consensus.

        I have not heard convincing arguments which disprove the simple meaning of the Bible, in the english language.

      • The ESV was done by scholars who believe that in male hierarchy in the home and church. They make word choices that fit their worldview, just as ANY translator does. ALL translation involves interpretation, it cannot be helped.

      • “The original context” can be an excuse to muddy the waters so much that it is impossible for Scriptures to speak for themselves.

        This aims at motive (“can be used as an excuse”). And neither side is immune from ulterior motives.

        I trust scholars. I do not trust “a scholar” – but I trust “scholars.” I trust the consensus of scholars, in translating works such as the NASB, NIV, or TNIV.

        I trust evidence. Anybody who’s aware of “climategate” knows better than to trust anyone on the basis of their credentials alone! 🙂 And I have seen evidence of the untrustworthiness of scholars who are unaccountable. But most importantly, when scholars disagree, as is the case in translation, we still are left in the end with picking the view that makes sense to us.

        We cannot shirk our responsibility as Bereans and just park our brains at the church door, but must examine everything. That’s why were here right now, to argue various positions in order to bring weaknesses in the other’s argument to light. Again, if we can just blindly trust committees of fallible men in spite of all the scandals surfacing about such closed groups, then there is no need for any of us to think independently. I find that though truly frightening.

        I have not heard convincing arguments which disprove the simple meaning of the Bible, in the english language.

        I have. 😉

        Are you advocating the “plain reading”? If so, do you apply it across the board, such as when Jesus said to gouge out your eye if it causes you to sin? Seems really clear to me, without all that silly context business, eh?

  20. Josiah asked if egal arguments over-rule 1 Tim 2 and 1 Pet 3. First one needs to determine what those verses mean and then one sees that there is no over-ruling involved.

    • Okay, this is valid. I have often heard the egalitarian position presented as “the force of our argument is such a tidal-wave of evidence, that those few puny verses are crushed under the weight of our evidence.” I find this approach very unsatisfactory, obviously: glad to see you actually deal with these passages.

      • I recommend Bruce Fleming’s book: Familiar Leadership Heresies Uncovered, it is as Amazon. Quirky title but a lot of good info.

  21. For me, the concept of leadership is not contradictory to the concept of treating others as better than one’s self.

    And again, we’re ***not*** saying leadership is bad. We’re saying that leadership carries no authority and is based upon gifting and talent, not the flesh. The shepherd leads instead of pushing or dragging. The sheep follow willingly because it’s in their best interest and they recognize the true shepherd. Likewise, a true spiritual leader never has to say “you must follow me because…”; people will recognize those gifted to lead in a particular area and follow them because it’s in their best interest. That is the gist of Heb. 13, which has no words for rule or authority but only example.

    • “We are not saying leadership is bad. We are saying that leadership carries no authority….”

      So you are okay with leaders leading, as long as they have no authority? How is this leadership? I thought a leader was, by definition, a person who had some authority over those whom he/she is leading…? If not, what exactly are you meaning by “leader”?

      (Note: your point about not forcing people to follow is well noted. I think a husband needs to take the initiative in loving his wife, and let God do His work in instructing the wife to respect her husband – Eph. 5:33. Christ does not demand submission – although He does give clear leadership to those who choose to follow Him)

      • I have used the example of a survival camp for military pilots. The expert is outranked by his students! Yet they follow him willingly because he is the expert in survival. He has no authority over them at all, but they would be fools to pull rank on him.

        And the word in Eph. 5:33 is not respect but fear– phobos. I wrote about the meaning of phobos here. FWIW (for what it’s worth)

      • ahhhh…cool. another lingo term to tuck into my belt.

        Paula, you’re not talking about leadership. A group of people which nominates a “leader,” but only follows her/him so long as they like what that leader is saying is not really following. This is mob-rule, group-think. It is not leadership.

        If you want to beat the democratic drum, that is fine – but I think you are wrong to call that “leadership.”

      • Many turned away from Jesus when he didn’t say things they liked. Was he a poor leader because he didn’t pull rank on them?

        Yes, I am talking about leadership. Leaders lead and bosses boss. The best leaders are those who people recognize as such, and the poorest are those who rule over people.

        You can prefer a dictatorship over a free democracy, but don’t call it leadership. 😉

      • “You call me lord and teacher; and you are right, for so I am”

        Jesus was the leader because the Father made Him the leader, from birth. Before birth, even – to fulfill a divine plan. Jesus’ authority did not rest on the assent of his followers, but on the command of God.

        I fully prefer a dictatorship. I pray and yearn for the day when the perfect ruler will come to “strike down the nations with the sword of His mouth, and rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15).

        Democracy is the best system we fallen humans have come up with for keeping our politicians in line – but let’s not read this messed up system back into Scriptures, as though it is “the divine way to do leadership.”

      • Are you saying that John 6:66 is not in your Bible?

        Jesus led ***by example*** and told his disciples to lead as he did: by being the lowest of slaves, who came “not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”. Either these scriptures contradict “You call me lord and teacher for so I am”, or you have to concede that Jesus’ divine qualities cannot be arbitrarily mixed with the human example he lived. And there is ***nothing*** in scripture to say that males are to take on Jesus’ divine attributes while females take on his human, humble, subservient attributes. We ALL are to model the servanthood of Jesus.

        This is supposed to be a Body, not a military unit or a business. Think about why Paul used the body metaphor.

        And let me say that I am a fierce defender of the honor of God as the only Authority. And because of that, I will never let anyone else try to usurp that glory and rank, but will oppose it at every turn.

      • Just wanted to clarify that my comment was in response to Josiah, not wordgazer.

        Also, if the Holy Spirit is the leader, and he does so thru spiritual gifts, then we cannot call it anarchy or “democracy” when we follow only gifted leaders.

      • Democracy is the best answer to leader-idolatry– to kings and emperors setting themselves up as gods.

        Jesus, on the other hand IS God, and so is divinely qualified to lead. His very nature qualifies Him to lead– which only supports my earlier point. Being born to lead, qualified to lead because of Who He was at birth, necessarily implies that other humans are not His equals.

      • He is God, we are not. He establishes authority structures in the ways He sees fit:

        “There is no authority except God, and those which exist are established by God.”

        This God really seems, on face value, and in a plain-reading of the Bible, to be stating that He has set up an authority structure in the home, based on gender.

      • Nobody disputes that God has set up governments as authorities to keep public order.

        But how to you leap from that to marriage? And how do you defend it when God expressly stated that he does not judge by appearances, and that he is not a respecter of persons?

        “Face value” is inconsistently applied, as I said before regarding the eye that causes you to sin. There are several items still waiting to be addressed on your part.

      • “Face value” and “plain reading” are very good ways of reading our own cultural assumptions into the text. I strongly believe that the way to read the Bible in a way that gives it the honor it is due, is to set aside “face value” and “plain reading” and work to understand the original authorial intent, “studying to show ourselves approved” that we may “rightly divide the word of truth.”

        In any event, we have not established here that the Bible shows God’s intention of an authority structure in the home, as opposed to God’s intention to show Christians in His budding church how to act within an authority structure which the culture had already put in place, in such a way as to bring about gradual change for the better.

      • In short, no mere human should claim a “divine right” to lead purely on the basis of the accident of his birth. The “divine way to do leadership” is to have God as Leader. Keeping humans in check through balances of power is not a “messed-up system” — it’s the best way to keep us from lording it over one another until He returns.

        A balance of power in the home is desirable for the same reasons. As I stated elsewhere in this discussion, this balance of power doesn’t mean NO leadership– it means JOINT leadership. No one has yet given me any Scriptural or practical reason why joint leadership is not viable. Ask any two business partners who have a successful business. They’ll tell you joint leadership can work just fine.

      • Well, joint leadership sounds like a good idea, but in my experience it leads to distance. Also, we need to ask whether this is what Scriptures are teaching?

        I am not claiming any rights. I’m just trying to understand…help me if I am wrong!

      • I don’t understand how “joint” leads to “distance”. Hierarchy, on the other hand, has distance built into it.

        And we egals have done a fair amount of appealing to scripture.

      • If joint leadership leads to distance in your home, are you placing enough emphasis on mutual interdependence within that joint leadership? If in the areas you are best at (fixing things around the house, perhaps, as an example), you are the leader and your wife depends on you, and in other areas she is the leader and you depend on her (managing the children’s medical needs, perhaps), then there is mutual submission and interdependence.

        But as for whether “joint leadership” is what the Scriptures are teaching– I believe the Scriptures absolutely teach that the husband and wife are equals, and that he is not in authority over her merely by accident of his Y chromosome.

        However, as I emphasized above– there is not one and only one “right” way to do marriage; in fact, there are as many ways to do marriage as there are individual marriages. If joint leadership, even with mutual interdependence, isn’t working for you, and if you’re a natural leader and your wife prefers to follow– by all means, lead on! Though if you come home with a raging fever at 1:00 in the afternoon, and your wife takes one look at you, leads you to the sofa, puts a blanket on you and holds out a pill and a glass of water and tells you, “Take this!” — I’m pretty sure you’ll submit! lol

        The point I’m making is that I have no problem with leadership that is not based on some perceived “divine right,” but on your individual marriage dynamic, and the mutual give-and-take between you and your wife. This is a good thing.

        The real problem is to say, “Give me a formula to follow so I won’t have to think for myself, and so my wife and I won’t have to do the hard work of figuring out how we best function together!” And the second problem is just like it: to say, “Hey, we found out how we best function together! So now we’re going to teach everyone to make their marriage look just like ours, and if they do it different, it’s wrong!”

        It is for freedom that Christ set us free. Let us not be subjected to yokes of bondage.

      • There are many ways of doing marriage which “work.” In most cases, however, I feel that these marriages are not following God’s design as well as they could. You can run a car on wiskey if you really want to – but why not run it on what it is made for?

        How things work out in the fine details is a preference thing. However, “leadership” is the most fundamental aspect of any organization. This needs to be first, this needs to be built on God’s word.

        Can a marriage still work if things aren’t done God’s way? Sure. I just don’t want to be aiming at second best.

      • Please, please, please… marriage is NOT an organization! It is a union of one flesh, where the man joins to the woman. It is this oneness, this unity, this bond, which is “God’s design”. A husband and wife are partners, and their leader is the Spirit. THIS is “God’s best”.

      • Organization….union….who cares what we call it? It is something that God has designed. Now, either He has an opinion about how “his” creation is to operate, or He does not.

        Our discussion needs to centre on Scriptures, not on abstract, Western concepts.

      • Are you saying that any two people who unite together have to be arranged as an organization?? Wow.

        But as I said, my husband and I are living proof that this is not true.

        And who exactly is bowing to tradition or culture here, if not the male privilege side? Culture and tradition, western or otherwise, has been hugely patriarchal (and, like it or not, practicing homosexuality; there is a much stronger historical tie between and homosexuality and patriarchy than with equality).

        Can you cite any comment in this post which appeals to “western concepts”? Be specific.

      • Paula’s right. What you call a thing DOES matter, because it profoundly affects the way you think about it. We humans think in words. “Organization” connotes external structure and hierarchy. “Union” connotes internal, organic oneness. I sincerely hope, Josiah, that when you proposed to your wife you were not thinking of it as inviting her entrance into an organization.

      • “solemnly charge them in the presence of God not to wrangle about words, which is useless and leads to the ruin of the hearers.” (2 tim. 2:14)

        The distinction between “union” and “organization” is a wrangling over concepts and phonetics peculiar to the English language. We need to focus on Scriptures, not on these distractions.

      • Equality (as defined as everybody involved being treated exactly equally) is not a Biblical term. Not sure where it comes from, but I think it’s something we in the West care far more about than the writers of Scriptures did.

        Also, “Institution” and “union” are western words expressing western ideals, as I have dealt with elsewhere.

      • “So you are okay with leaders leading, as long as they have no authority? How is this leadership? I thought a leader was, by definition, a person who had some authority over those whom he/she is leading…? If not, what exactly are you meaning by “leader”?”

        Go read the Beatitudes. Do you think those salt elements sound like a leader as you picture a leader? Jesus said that the greatest in the kingdom would be like the lowliest servant.

        This is why using the term ‘leader’ when speaking of biblical attributes is dangerous. We have to define what it looks like. And it usually isn’t what most have in mind. it is not glamorous at all. It does NOT have authority except the authority that comes from the truth of the Word. The authority is in the Word…not the person.

      • Yes, “the authority is in the Word”. I think I said it here somewhere too, that the NT writers were the last ones with true authority to speak for God and write scripture. It is their teachings that the early church was devoted to, not to local bosses or committees. Power and truth come from the Spirit, but if the church by its teachings squelches and suppresses the Spirit, not much will happen.

        The disciples are still, to this day, arguing about who is the greatest. 😦

      • YES YES YES!!! You are finally starting to understand me (kind of).

        No, leadership in God’s eyes is NOT glamorous. Being a christ-like leader is taking the role of the lowliest servant. What is the equivalent of washing feet in today’s world? Washing toilets, changing diapers, giving up personal time….etc.

        Leadership is a role of sacrifice. No, I am not saying that a dictator can boss people around, use his role as a means of gratifying his own desires, then moan about “this role is soooo hard…” and that qualifies. A true servant leader DIES for those he is serving/leading.

        The problem here is that you are only able to think of leadership in terms of “the leadership of the world,” Matt. 20:25. Since you know that this type of leadership is not right, you think that NO leadership is possible.

        Have you stopped to consider the leadership pattern of Christ, the humble servant, who EVEN THOUGH HE WAS/IS STILL “LORD,” STILL IN CHARGE, is a servant to those He leads?

      • This isn’t what we’re saying at all. It is we egals who have been saying that the leadership of the church is completely unlike the leadership of the world, and that it is your argument which tries to put authority back into the definition. We have NOT said leadership is bad, how many more times must we say this?

        Yes, Jesus SET DOWN his authority and rank as God (Phil. 2:5-11) and HUMBLED HIMSELF to the point of servitude and death. THIS is the model for ALL believers. If anyone thinks they have rank or authority, let them LAY IT DOWN and humble themselves. That means no bossing, no “final say”, no “you must have my approval”, no “I’m first because I’m male”, etc. etc. etc.

        Do you see it now? The leader among Christians is not an authority but an example and a servant. Period.

      • What if God appoints one person over another as a leader? Is a pastor, or government official, or (gasp) husband necessarily NOT HUMBLE if they really think God is calling them to lead, and they step into that role? Maybe I am mistaken, but I see the Bible as laying out a command for me, a role which I am to fill. This is different from me demanding and imposing, based on my own authority, isn’t it? I mean, I don’t even want this role!

      • You misunderstand, Josiah. We are not saying “leadership — bad, no leadership — good!” We are not saying “Christian leadership is cool and glamorous, and you get to lord it over others, so God shouldn’t have denied to women!”

        We are saying– pure and simple– God did NOT and DOES NOT deny leadership to women! And God’s plan IS NOT for husbands to be the sole leaders in their households, but for leadership in the household structure to be SHARED. And in marriage, God’s design is that CHRIST be the Leader, not husband or wife.

        We have given Scriptural evidence for this position. But please don’t mistake it for some other position that we are are not saying.

      • Okay, clarifications well noted. I am still struggling to believe that you are sincere in what you reject in your first line: I am trying to, however.

      • Josiah, you may not believe this, but I am actually very good at being under authority. I don’t want to brag on myself, but I am actually very respectful and submissive to my bosses at work and very coooperative and respectful to my pastor and elders. I also yield and give in to my husband quite a lot, really.

        I really don’t have a problem with leadership– I have a problem with insistence on being called to leadership based on the flesh. I have a problem with the rich thinking they have a divinely-given right to rule the poor, with the strong thinking they have a divinely-given right to rule the weak, and so on.

    • When “every knee will bow, and every tongue confess” (Phil. 2), will Jesus then overrule people’s will? Just a thought.

      • I read that as saying the only people who exist will be followers at that point. But it was still their choice.

      • Is Jesus presenting an example for any believers in his rule in that verse? No, absolutely not! He is acting as God there, exercising judgment, which is no man’s place.

      • Well, that is the question isn’t it. Husbands are to be like Christ in Eph. 5. I suppose we can each pick and choose which portion of Christ’s relationship to the church we would like to move over into marriage. You say service only, I say service and leadership. Which one will it be? Who wins? Well, personally I think that the fact that Paul says, “wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22) is a tip-off that authority is at least part of what is meant here…but I guess your push-back to that is that this was only a contextual commandment? (Yes, I know I need to read the blue parakeet….)

      • My translation of Eph 5:21-22 … mutually submitting in the fear of Messiah; wives (mutually submitting) to your husbands as to the Lord.

        The parens show where the words are inserted. Whatever is true about submit in Eph 5:21 is true about submit in Eph 5:22, as v. 22 inherits the verb from v.21 as it does not have any by itself, it is not a standalone sentence, despite how some translate it.

      • Is it also true that children submit to their parents in the same way? Although seperated by a chapter-heading, this portion is also under the broad umbrella of “submit on to another”

      • The pericope goes from Eph 5:15 to Eph 6:9, so that is a very valid question. ALL the verses after Eph 5:21 are EXAMPLES of working out the mutual submission principle established in v.21 as they are ALL subordinate clauses in the Greek. This can be seen in Magill’s Transline, for example.

        So the WAY kids work out mutual submission in a family is to OBEY their parents. It is not that submission and obedience are contradictory, obedience is one way to be submissive in some cases, but it is not the only way. It is important to see that a wife is NOT called to obedience, even tho that is what Aristotle and pagan culture and Roman law taught.

      • Husbands are to be like Christ in Eph. 5

        And wives are not? Are women not to be Christ-like?

        Note the context and the fact that Paul is saying that the LOVE of Christ is what husbands need, since he told wives to be loyal to them instead of their fathers, per the “marriage without hand” Roman social code of the time.

        I suppose we can each pick and choose which portion of Christ’s relationship to the church we would like to move over into marriage.

        So men get the divine part and women get the human part? Comps keep trying to map husband/wife to Father/Son, which I find disgusting.

        Well, personally I think that the fact that Paul says, “wives, be subject to your husbands as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22) is a tip-off that authority is at least part of what is meant here

        If a group of kids are playing and one misbehaves, how many kids need a lecture? Only the misbehaving one. Likewise, if men are lacking love then they need a lecture on love, which is NOT to say women can stop loving! Likewise, if women need to be told to be loyal to their husbands, then this does NOT mean men don’t have to be loyal (or supportive, or submissive, or whatever).

        And if the misbehaving kid is told to behave, does that mean the other kids don’t have to? Of course not. Yet that is your argument: that if women are told to submit, then men don’t have to.

        So I think your interpretation here is illogical in that it takes Paul’s instructions to various groups of people as timeless and boundless, as if all men for all time need lectures on love and all women for all time need to deal with a social law about belonging to their fathers.

      • 1. Something that seems unfair in egal presentations is that they make it sound like complementarians make these verses up in their heads, or pull verses out of context to beat women with. I’m just joe-bloe pew-sitter, trying to understand Scriptures along with the rest of you! Here is what I read…

        3But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.

        Now, I know you have a way of interpreting this verse which makes sense to you (It doesn’t make sense to me that Paul is talking about source here, because in the next verse he talks about women having “authority” on their heads…..these are all important issues which deserve their own forum, I know) but please don’t make it sound like I just made this up. Scriptures equate the role of man and wife to that of Father and Christ – this is not a complementarian invention!

        2. We take Paul’s sexual ethics as timeless. We do not take some of his obviously culture-bound instructions literally (e.g. the holy kiss). I know this magic book, the blue parakeet will make this all clear to me – but if you don’t mind…in your own words, why do you see Paul’s instructions on marriage to be on the “discontinued” list, and not on the “permanently relevant” list? I’m not trying to be combative – just wondering if you (or other egals) could give me a concise summary of thought on that one.

      • 1. Something that seems unfair in egal presentations is that they make it sound like complementarians make these verses up in their heads, or pull verses out of context to beat women with.

        We don’t need to make it sound that way; it’s the truth. I can’t read Grudem or Ware et al without being beaten over the head with proof-texts that are cherry-picked to favor males.

        Now, I know you have a way of interpreting this verse which makes sense to you…

        And you don’t? What “makes sense” is to know what “head” meant to the people of the time, and it had nothing to do with authority. Suzanne McCarthy has blown Grudem’s nonsense on this topic right out of the water.

        …in the next verse he talks about women having “authority” on their heads…

        Exactly! Paul uses an actual word for authority here, and the grammar requires that this is self-held authority; that is, it belongs to the woman, not to anyone else. She has authority over her own head, to decide whether or not to cover. The words or implication “a sign of” are in fact made-up words.

        At this point I seriously doubt that you’ve read much egal literature at all, because these are such elementary points. I think you might have read second-hand opinions of egal lit.

        We take Paul’s sexual ethics as timeless. We do not take some of his obviously culture-bound instructions literally…

        The key here is “obvious”. To whom? Surprise, surprise, the “obvious” ones that comps accept never impinge on their presumed preeminence. This is another case of selective literalism. And I have never heard of “blue parakeet”; somebody else mentioned that. No, the “magic book” is the Bible, and it’s time you started getting into the Greek.

        …why do you see Paul’s instructions on marriage to be on the “discontinued” list,…

        Why do YOU see Paul’s instructions on the timeless list only when it benefits your gender, and in spite of all the culuteral issues which are every bit as much a part of context as the words themselves? I’m trying to get you to see that the arguments you use against egals can be turned back on you, because you’re using a double standard.

        And you keep asking us for info, but no matter how many times we give it, you keep asking the same questions. How long will this go on? How many of us must repeat ourselves? I am running out of ways to say the same things.

      • The relation between Father and Son is NOT equate to the relation between husband and wife. Some teach this, but be a Berean and see what is actually taught. What is actually taught is one ASPECT of the relation of Christ and church mapped to husband and wife, in Eph 5. 1 Cor 11 is not doing a mapping of relations, Paul is doing an extended argument about why men CANNOT wear headcovering but women get to choose whether to wear headcoverings or not. But this makes little sense to us today as headcoverings do not mean anything in our culture. So there is a LOT of 1st century context that one needs to know to exegete these verses.

  22. we need to ask whether this is what Scriptures are teaching?

    That’s what we always try to focus on, and all we get is assertions, “plain reading” (but only in certain places), and proof texts. “What scriptures are teaching” is the crux of the debate, and if it were plain and obvious there wouldn’t be anything to debate. The fact that Spirit-filled believers who hold scripture in the highest regard can come to such opposite interpretations is proof enough of the lack of clarity… unless one wishes to judge the motives of the other.

    • Yes, motives play a big part. So do our personal stories.

      Some people have been hurt – very, very hurt – but men who took God’s commandments into directions He never intended them to go. They were “served-leaders” instead of “servant-leaders.”

      People who have been hurt like that tend to not be able to see or understand the beauty of God’s design in servant-leadership, and so they default to “servant-equality.” Since the only model of leadership they know is a hurtful, ego-centric one, they think that all leadership must be bad, and it must be gotten rid of.

      On the other hand, men who have been continually cut off at the knees by women in their lives will find it hard to be a true “servant-leader.” They may think the only way to lead is in harsh, heirarchical patterns.

      Yes, motives can definitely play a role. It is just because of motives and personal stories that it is almost impossible to find that delicate middle-ground in this debate.

      • The middle ground is that NO ONE is a leader due to any physical attribute, only spiritual maturity counts.

        In marriage, egal is the middle ground, neither a husband nor a wife is to be boss.

      • Yes, our own position is always the perfect middle ground between the extremes, isn’t it? 😉 (I know I am accusing myself of the same thing – nothing personal, just laughing at human nature…)

      • This might be hard to see, but Grudem tried to position CBMW comp as the middle ground in an essay, he puts 2 things on each side of it and thereby claims the “middle”.

        Why would he do this? Because he saw value as selling his male hierarchy position as being in the middle. Middle seems fair.

        But he was arguing against egal being in the middle exactly because it is so obvious that it IS the middle, at least once one takes the comp glasses off.

      • “I am in the middle” is another way of saying “I am right.” It is fair enough to present your position that way, since everybody assumes you THINK you are right if you are presenting. It just makes no sense to argue about who is in the middle and who is not, however. These are concepts and words relevant only in our culture, and not at all important in the Scriptures.

      • Right, just being in the middle means nothing. In some cases it might be that being a believer requires us to take an extreme position on something and on another take a middle position. What counts is what the Bible teaches, as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

      • “God’s design” is the point under debate.

        “Servant leader” is an oxymoron. Jesus only lead as GOD, and served as MAN. ONLY HE could ever be a “servant leader” because ONLY HE has two natures. And if you disagree, then show me where women are excluded from his “servant leader” example. When did Jesus tell women not to follow his example?

        And beware of saying “that woman you gave me…”!

      • Ah! Now we are getting somewhere! You admit the contradiction! The concepts of leadership and servitude are contradictary in your mind. They are not contradictory in my mind. We could really make progress here if you worked to understand HOW these two apparently contradictory concepts come together and make sense in my mind.

        We do not mean the same things when we say “leadership” and “submission.” Herein lies the key to understanding one another!!

      • The contradiction is yours, Josiah. I was using your worldly, authoritative understanding of “leader”, because every time you use it, you mean “one who enforces his decisions on others or it isn’t leadership”.

        And as I’ve said, but you conveniently ignored, it is the concepts of RULE or AUTHORITY that contradict “service”. And now you even say they are “apparently” contradictory. Why “apparently” unless you presume that leadership entails authority?

        I agree that we’re not seeing eye to eye here, but what you still don’t see is how often and freely you keep changing your own definitions, sometimes adopting those of your opponent and then arguing against them?

        And it’s comments like this you just made that make me despair of communicating with you. You really need to step back and define all YOUR OWN terms and points before trying to argue them.

        And this threaded format is making it very difficult to see all the comments. Perhaps you should set up an actual formal debate, where you can keep track of your own points and definitions.

      • Yes. That sounds like a really good idea. I am also frustrated with this format.

        I suggested discontinuing it and writing smaller, more focused posts to debate on, but everybody kept posting here and nobody read my other posts. I guess y’all are just linked to this one post?

        I would set up a forum to debate this more clearly, if people would prefer that format.

        PS – see above – somebody finally got this definition thing through my noggin! 😉

      • Well, if we’re going to talk about motives. . .

        I know you said earlier that you once actually wanted egalitarianism to be true, but you decided it wasn’t.

        But– examining your own heart– are you absolutely sure you don’t, deep down, really enjoy getting to be the leader by default? No matter how much of a servant you are, you get to be in charge.

        Have you thought about what your feelings might be if the Scriptures appeared to read in such a way that it was your wife who was supposed to be in charge? That it was you who had to submit, not just to her as a person, as Christians submit to one another–but to her authority over you? Would that make sense to you? Would it seem to fit your understanding of the character of God, that He would arbitrarily assign authority according to the flesh? Would it not seem to simply negate, “In Christ Jesus there is neither Jew nor Greek, neither slave nor free, there is not male and female” — all of which are delineations of people according to the flesh?

        I’m not saying you have any motives of wanting to hold onto your authority. All I’m saying is that motives play a role on both sides of this issue.

      • Yes, well the passion demonstrated in these posts (and the fact that I am still responding to them!) certainly demonstrates that we are well-motivated people. I would tend to think that my discomfort with the thought of being “ruled over” by my wife – as well as her discomfort at that thought – has to do with the fact that God has given us an innate knowledge of how things should be. When we started working out “servant-leadership” as a model for our home, we both had an “ahh…that fits well!” moment. I think that is an allignment of the intuitive sense of rightness, brought in line with the actual practice in real life, by the instruction of the Word.

      • Sorry, I don’t get it. If you don’t mean the same things we do by “leadership” and “submission,” why does it make you and your wife so uncomfortable to think that SHE could be the servant-leader and YOU could be the submitting one?

        I myself don’t think leadership and servanthood are contradictory at all. And what you’re talking about is that you and your wife both want you to be the leader, and that makes you comfortable. And then you’re tying that into an authority paradigm. What I’m not buying is that what makes you comfortable is God’s sovereign plan for all marriage, including mine. We are comfortable with joint leadership; far more comfortable than we ever were under authority-subordination (and no, we never did have a “served-leadership” model in our home, so that’s not the reason.)

      • I would tend to think that my discomfort with the thought of being “ruled over” by my wife – as well as her discomfort at that thought – has to do with the fact that God has given us an innate knowledge of how things should be.

        I’m sorry, but there’s no other word for this but “hogwash!”

        And it cannot explain the number of MEN who are egals.

        People are fallible and sinful, remember? Our views of what “should be” are flawed, which is why we rely on SCRIPTURE, not personal feelings. I thought you wanted to only appeal to scripture. ::sigh::

        But as I said in my other comment today, if you honestly want to debate this topic, pick an opponent and prepare your definitions. It just isn’t working here.

      • If someone came up to you and told you God has told them that they are to make final decisions for your life, would you doubt them?

        What authority do you grant your pastor? I hope it is not to drink Jim Jones Kool-Aid.

      • Well, you (or a different egal?) can appeal to “reading by the Holy Spirit.” Why can’t I appeal to an intuitive sense of how things should be?

        You asked me if I would feel uncomfortable calling my wife the “leader” of our home, making decisions for me. The answer is yes – I would find that awkward. Your push back is “why?” Well, why are we uncomfortable with anything? I suppose God hard-wires us with a sense of what is right and wrong, what should be and what shouldn’t be. I feel uncomfortable with slavery. Enslaving and killing/eating an animal doesn’t bother me. Why? Well, scriptures yes, but also “that feeling inside.”

        Yes, this is a very bad place to go in a debate. My intuition can be flawed and confused, just as your “holy-spirit reading” of the text may be flawed.

        I retract my argument and will return to Scriptures.

      • There are basically 2 choices, accept a Magisterium, an infallible teaching authority to interpret Scripture for us (which is what RCC, EOC and a few prots do) or rely on oneself as guided by the Holy Spirit, knowing we are fallible, acting in faith based on our current understanding and being willing to listen and learn. I am in the latter group.

      • Really? It seems that most evangelicals are more in the middle – learning from tradition, yet also reading for one’s self. I think your options are too extreme. This is a discussion which we will take up in fuller detail when we get to the “Hermeneutics” part of the debate.

      • Yes, sorry for the ambiguity. I hope to make that clear in an upcoming overview post of how I see the gender debate.


    lol – I am only one man here! I just can’t shoot back answers as fast as y’all give me questions!

    I am only a part-time blogger. Today has been my day off. It has been fun, but the day is coming to a close and I have a busy week ahead of me.

    It was rubbing me wrong to let others have “the last word” on MY precious blog…but I see now that is unavoidable (lol – laughing at my petty arrogance).

    Go ahead – post your best, post your worst. I am still reading, but this format of question-answer-question-answer is becoming less than ideal, and unmanageably time-consuming. I will continue reading and thinking about your challenges – and yes, I will try to track down “a blue canary.” In a few days I will write another post in response to all of the important thoughts you all have been raising.

    I have really enjoyed the dialogue! This has been awesome!!

    Goodnight and have fun!

  24. What does “plain reading” mean in practise? It means the way “I” read it and if you differ from me, then it is obvious to “me” that you are not plain reading!

    How can “plain reading” be mistaken? In MANY ways. If an idiom is missed or a technical term is missed or a ref to Scripture missed, etc. And these types of things are very possible due to almost 2000 years and different languages, cultures, etc. I can give examples.

  25. As I understand the Bible, God’s BEST in marriage is a partnership, not a hierarchy, among the spouses. God did discuss ways to mitigate the excesses in a hierarchy-type marriage, he leads people and peoples plural into the Kingdom step by step from where they are at.

    Here are different types of “Biblical” marriages in the sense that the Bible discusses them, this does NOT mean all are God’s best.

    Gen 1-2: Garden-of-Eden (Man & Woman)‏‏
    Gen 4: Polygamy (Lamech & Adah, Zillah)‏
    Gen 11: Free wife (Abram & Sarai) Gal 4:22
    Gen 16: Slave wife (Abram & Hagar) Gal 4:22
    Gen 22: Concubinage (Nahor & Reumah)‏
    Gen 38: Levirate marriage (Onan & Tamar)‏
    Ex 21: Slave marriage (both are slaves)‏

    • God’s best is probably described in the qualifications of an overseer: “A man must be the husband of one wife…able to manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity” (1 Tim. 3:2, 4).

      • That translation fails to recognize an idiomatic phase that applied to both genders.

        Extract from Bruce Fleming.
        The second qualification: “Faithful spouse” (3:2)
        The second qualification in the list deals with the
        overseer’s married life. Careful research has shown that
        this qualification means that whether one is a husband or
        a wife it is important to be a “faithful spouse.” It requires
        that an overseer, if married, be faithful and be “a one-spouse
        kind of person.”

        According to Lucien Deiss (notes to the French
        Bible, the TOB, Edition Intégrale, p. 646, note a), this
        Greek phrase was used in Asia Minor, on both Jewish
        and pagan gravestone inscriptions, to designate a woman
        or a man, who was faithful to his or her spouse in a way
        characterized by “a particularly fervent conjugal love.”

        When I read Deiss’ comment about how this phrase
        was used on ancient grave inscriptions in Turkey, where
        Paul and Timothy ministered, I confirmed it with him
        myself, reaching him by telephone in Vaucresson, France.
        Some might find this insight into 1 Timothy 3:2
        surprising because modern versions of the Bible
        translate this Greek phrase as – “husband of one wife” –
        making this qualification appear to be restricted to men
        only! Instead, rightly understood, this qualification is
        about faithfulness in marriage by a Christian spouse. It is
        not saying that oversight is “for men only.”

        Pages 87-88
        Think Again about Church Leaders by Bruce C. E. Fleming

      • “A man must be the husband of one wife…able to manage his own household well, keeping his children under control with all dignity”, according to your rule of interpretation, must also require him to be married and a father.

      • I would cross-reference with Matt. 19:12 and 1 Cor. 7 to say that celibacy is a high calling within Christianity, and so this passage should not be taken literally (or “literalistically”?), but should be seen in light of the whole word of God.

        there. A wide open door. Go ahead and walk through it! 😀

      • Indeed yes. The passage in 1 Timothy is almost always interpreted very liberally for men (no requirement to be married or fathers, even for senior pastors) but completely restrictively for women (no woman can even be considered).

        Do you know what it’s like to be told you’re “equal but different” as in “nominally equal but functionally inferior”?

      • Ah, so the plain reading isn’t so plain after all!

        This is what I’ve been trying to get you to admit: that something is only “plain” if it helps the position of the one claiming it. I’ve never seen a “plain reading” advocate give a clear, consistent support for this method, and you just showed that you are not consistent with it.

        And before I go on, “go ahead and walk through it” sounds like a taunt. It’s a two-way street after all.

        And it’s interesting that you’d bring up celibacy. Most comps and all patriarchalists insist that the proper role of a woman is marriage and childbirth.

        But you’re still missing the point: that IF we must take “husband of one wife” LITERALLY, then we must also take the rest LITERALLY. Which is it? How can you split one sentence into “this part I personally like is literal, but the rest I don’t like isn’t literal”? Justify this, if you can.

  26. It’s the “threaded comments” feature. I have mixed feelings about it, because while it can help keep specific comments to a person separate from the flow of the blog, it also makes it hard to find any comments made since your last visit.

  27. Don, the embedded comments thing doesn’t seem to be working correctly. I did go back and find your message– and I agree wholeheartedly that an equal partnership is best– in terms of neither partner thinking they are “in charge.” But within that idea of neither partner being the established, official “leader” of the marriage, the individual dynamic of who takes the lead when, and how often, should be allowed to vary with the individuals involved. That’s what I meant by there being no one “right” way to do marriage.

    Allowing one partner or the other to take the lead in individual situations, depending on things like expertise, desire, and temperament, gets around Josiah’s objection that there are situations where having neither partner take the lead, can lead to less than desirable outcomes.

    For example, if the house is on fire, and my husband springs into action and starts organizing us all getting out of the house, I am certainly going to go along with it. And there are other situations where he would simply go along with me.

    • I agree that in a partnership, whoever leads (if there needs to be a leader) can be decided in many, many ways. We can alternate picking which movie to go to. We can defer to the other’s expertise.

      There is a reason the military is a hierarchy and that is by necessity; but a couple is not a military organization or at least it should not be most of the time.

      FWIIW, I DO see there can be times when someone must be in charge, for example, when the other is incapacitated or in an emergency. The goal is to make the family work.

      • This is the argument which the sons of Korah used in their rebellion against Moses’ authority. “We are all holy – why do you exalt yourself over us?”

        …but leadership in God’s eyes is not based on qualifications, but on His choice. He took Moses from the sheep to leading a nation. Most of the people whom God calls to lead are not “qualified” in the highest sense of the word. And yet, by God’s strength, they are able to serve Him in this office.

        As I mentioned in my post, allowing the woman to take the lead in the home (since she is the most qualified) puts the man in a secondary place. Since he is neither expert nor decision-maker, he is just the “rubber-stamp dispenser.”

        in many cases, out there in the real world, I have seen this lead to distance over the years.

      • Here is the thing, we understand the Bible to teach that spouses are co-leaders in the family. You think it is clear that the husband is to be the top leader, but when you get into studying it, you see that scholars are divided on this.

        So one needs to study both sides and be willing to give up priviledge. I used to be non-egal but when i studied both sides, I became egal. And I still study both sides.

      • So– why are women “experts” in the home? Isn’t it because they choose to be?

        If men would step up, as you say, and learn more about how household management works instead of expecting women to do all the work while they watch TV, then men could be experts too. Then husbands and wives could truly be a team. Show me the Scripture that says women are designed by God for household management, and men aren’t.

        As for your idea that leadership has nothing to do with qualifications but only with God’s choice– that works ok when we’re talking about spiritual giftings for specific callings. But there is absolutely no evidence in the Scriptures that God has chosen all men to be leaders. Show me the passage that says so.

        When it comes to externals, do you think God is a God of partiality? The Scriptures say not. How many times in the Bible does God make the obvious choice for leadership and choose the firstborn? Almost never. How about the strongest or tallest? Samuel shook his head when the tallest and strongest of Jesse’s sons was brought before him.

        Ephesians 6 specifically says God shows no partiality when it comes to the ways the world shows partiality. Therefore– no. God’s callings are not according to the flesh.

      • Titus 2:5 says, “women are to be workers at home…”

        I don’t think I need to provide you with verses that would seem to indicate a male leadership/headship in the home. You know which verses all the hullabaloo is about, don’t you? The ones we have been talking about all along…

        You are not coherent with yourself. You start by saying that leadership should be based on skill/talent. Then you say that God does not look at externals. Which is it? Is leadership awarded based on skill/merit/ability, or based on God’s choice?

        God chose an entire nation to serve a specific role. Why not choose a gender to serve a role? Better yet – why not choose BOTH genders to serve complementary roles?

      • I suppose you don’t want to distinguish at all between natural and spiritual callings? I do. It may seem inconsistent to you– but I do believe there’s a difference.

        Natural leadership should be based on skill, talent, character, experience. However, God’s calling to spiritual leadership is based on His choosing. If you must go back to the Old Covenant, which I don’t think applies in the same way the New Covenant does– He chose Israel out of all the other nations– why? Because He had made a covenant with Abraham. The choice was NOT according to the flesh– not based on Israel’s merits, but on God’s choice. But choosing an entire gender– and the physically strongest one!– is something entirely different. It’s based on the flesh. It’s as if you were saying, “God chose the aristocracy to rule the commoners.” I maintain that aristocratic rule, like male rule, is based on the dominance of the strong over the weak. God is notorious for giving His spiritual giftings in direct contradiction to that mentality.

        Either way– whether natural or spiritual– there’s no justification for men having leadership over women and women being subordinate to men. Not unless you’re going to insist that leadership is not based on character, skill, talent, or spiritual giftings, but only on relative physical strength.

        As for Titus 2, what it says in the Greek is, women are to be “guards” of the home. The word has nothing to do with housekeeping. It has to do with having caretaker authority. It’s the same word used when Mary Magdalene thought Jesus was the “keeper” of garden. The word doesn’t mean she thought she was talking to a mere servant, but someone who had authority to move people’s bodies around. . .

        In any event, Titus 2:5 gives the reason why Paul said the women should guard the home. It wasn’t because God designed them to be domestic. It was “so the word of God may not be blasphemed.” In other words, in a culture where women were expected to stay home, Paul was exhorting them not to act in ways that would hinder the gospel among the non-believers.

        But what hinders the gospel today? It’s when the church insists that women are subordinate and should stay home! We are acting against the very intentions for which Paul wrote his message, and turning people off to the gospel in droves.

      • ISV Tit 2:4 They should encourage the younger women to be lovers of their husbands, lovers of their children,
        Tit 2:5 sensible, pure, managers of their households, and kind, and to submit themselves to their husbands, lest the word of God be discredited.

        This was written in the 1st century when a wife was expected to be at home and produce, the home was a factory. What this means after the industrial revolution is a discussion, as things are different.

    • It seems that the system is being over-loaded. I guess there’s a limit to how many embedded posts can be done…maybe. Sorry my blog isn’t working better!

  28. If is like, there should be a place in your admin section to set the depth of threaded comments. If not, it’s probably etched in stone by the software. In that case the way around it would be to only use the form at the bottom of the page for replies, instead of clicking the reply link in the message.

  29. I am looking forward to reading some of the resources which you guys have been throwing my way but realistically, with how my life is set up, I am just not sure when I will get to them.

    Do you have any audio resources that I could download for free? If so, i would greatly appreciate you sharing them with me. I have lots of time to listen to lectures, audio books and the like.


    • I haven’t had any takers yet.

      I really am wanting to learn, and to hear from your perspective! Realistically, that is not going to happen by “beating” me at this argument. If you believe so strongly in your view, why don’t you suggest some audio resources, so I can learn from you?

      Just a suggestion.

      • I don’t know what’s available on audio and what’s not, and with it being Christmastime and all, I don’t think I have time to search and around and find out.

      • I do not know of any free audio resources. CBE has some CDs that are very good.

        This is an area where one MUST study both sides in their own words, one cannot take a summary of another’s thoughts by someone who does not believe in it.

        When I was non-egal it was because ALL the teachers I respected taught it and it also seemed so obvious from Scripture. I went to a Christian counselor and was 100% sure he would side with me, but he asked me to study the other side. That was a VERY strange experience, as I easily tossed away the vast majority of what the book was saying, but there were a few clunkers that I put on the shelf.

        It was only due to the Holy Spirit that I was able to see how incredible arrogant I was in my non-egal thinking and how I was harming sisters in Christ and when I saw that I repented.

        But I did not assess myself as arrogant in any way beforehand, I was simply trying to be true to the word of God. Just as the slaveholders before the Civil War, I had interpreted the Bible for personal advantage, something that we are all tempted to do.

      • Yes, this is very true. I am realizing that my arguments fall wide of the mark at times because I have studied egalitarianism through the eyes of their opponents.

        To my credit…that’s where I find the resources! I work a full-time job, and I am finishing my Master’s in my “spare time” (that is, the time that isn’t devoted to my family and my active involvement in church!) Realistically, reading a book not-for-credit is just not doable.

        Audio sources on the other hand…I have hours and hours to listen while I drive!

        It just seems SOOO odd to me that there are no decent egalitarian sources for free online (audio, I mean). Get two egals in a room talking twice a month, record it, and call it “the egalitarian podcast.” Or something cooler. Whatever. Host debates with complementarians – go crazy! It’s free, it’s easy, it gets your side of the debate out there…or preach a sermon in a church, (you must have people doing that anyways, don’t you?) hit record, post it on the internet. Just like that. Get your ideas out there, guys! I really want to learn, but it’s just hard to do when the sources aren’t available!

      • FWIW, I’ve started podcasting: here. I recommend listening in order by date, as each podcast builds on the previous one. And I never charge a nickel for anything I say or write.

        But your “I’m busy” excuse is wearing thin. Everybody’s busy, and you seem to have enough time on your hands to run a blog and post comments. I’m also tired of hearing about all your “research”. The rest of us have done a fair amount of it too, and we don’t only read what our own side says.

  30. Hi Guys,

    Interesting chat! A couple of observations…

    Josiah, from your post you do not seem to have presented a very fair understanding of the egal position. You mention Mark Driscoll, and he certainly says that male hierarchy is one extreme, egalitarianism is the other extreme, and complementatrianism is the ‘balanced’ middle road.

    You have made several comments that have confirmed this thinking, and Don has responded at least once. I also want to suggest that complementarianism is just a nicer sounding label than ‘male hierarchy’, but that fundamentally they both believe the same things (perhaps to verying degrees) and that it woul be fairer to say that the other extreme would be female hierarchy and that egalitarinaism is indeed the middle ground.

    Also, you example of egal leadership with the bloke who was supposed to decide where you were going to eat on your mission trip was not an example of leadership at all. In fact it seemed to be an example of failed hierarchy leadership as you suggest he was supposed to ‘rubber stamp’ the decision.

    EGals do not understand leadership as being that no one is in control. First and foremost we want to promote the Spirit as in control. Second though is the idea that as one body we are united (through the Spirit) and heading in the same direction. This is certainly the picture of the early church in Acts. Unity, one direction AND joint leadership by those who are gifted.

    With regard to marriage, 1 Cor 7:3-4 is interesting as it suggests that both partners in a marriage have conjugal rights. Why? Because they each have authroity over the others body. This is egal leadership. It is a competition to serve others (for the want of a better word than competition). It is about only one debt that remains outstanding…to love each other.


    • That “bloke” lead very effectively most of the missions trip. For most of it, the schedule was arranged before hand. There were very few decisions to be made in the moment. When they came up, a strong opinion, a de facto leader, or a consensus usually made the decision for him. The problem arose when there were divisions. When he actually had to contradict another’s strongly held opinion, or to state his own strongly, he just didn’t know what to do. In my experience, egalitarian leadership has the built-in flaw of a potential for leadership paralysis – although I will grant that this is a danger very much mitigated by having a very good team.

      Why this concern for the “middle ground”? What if the Feminist position had not yet emerged (such as during the Middle Ages). That would leave egalitarianism on the far left…would you then have been incorrect? I understand your critique of my conveniently placing myself “in the middle” – but I also critique your attempt. The point is to be Biblical, not “in the middle of two extremes.”

      Oh..and by the way….I really am in the middle. On the far right of me are those who see their “leadership” as a chance to be served. Since I see my leadership as a chance to SERVE, I can differentiate myself from them, thus creating a position slightly to the left of them, and to the right of pure egalitarianism. Ha! I win! (lol @ myself!)

      • Josiah, it seems like the ‘bloke’ was a poor leader in whatever model of leadership you wish to place him. I do not think that with the info you have given us that you can say that he reflects poorly on an egal system as you have not described to me anything with regard to leadership that sets him apart as an egal, simply a poor leader.

        I mention the middle ground because your post suggested it. You refer to ‘extremes’ etc. I am happy to agree that the ‘middle ground’ may or may not be biblical and what we want most is to be biblical.

        Egal has been the middle ground since the fall.

        Finally, in regard to your position, if you believe that a male should have authority simply because he is male, then you believe in hierarchy. It makes no difference how you claim to carry out and use your authority, be it to serve or not. I know you said ‘leadership’, not ‘authority’, but from what I have read I am not convinced you know the difference between the two. 🙂

        Josiah, I, like others who have commented, am not fully convinced that you are searching for the truth on this issue. For me this began with your ‘researched’ post that failed to make any real attempt to understand the egal position. For example, your comment, “By contrast, an “egalitarian” leader demands that someone else take on his role of leadership”. Where did you get that from? I have never read or heard an egal say that.

      • I have done research elsewhere, in writing two seminary papers. My opinions do not just come out of the blue, and I actually am on a journey to search these things out.

        You are right to link leadership and authority in my mind. You incorrectly (like all egalitarians on here) are unable to seperate out good authority from bad authority. I fear we will just beat our head against the same wall until you hear me on that one.

        This “leader” I mentioned was a poor leader because HE DID NOT LEAN ON HIS ROLE AS LEADER TO ACT IN AN AUTHORITATIVE WAY. He did exactly what everybody has been saying such a person should do: in every situation, he looked for the most “qualified” person (realistically, the person with the loudest voice, usually), and allowed that person to be the leader. This works fine so long as people are laid-back and get along, but it is a dysfunctional and cowardly way to do leadership, which has many weaknesses built into it.

      • Paul who had apostolic authority wrote to follow him as he followed Christ. He did make decisions regarding the churches he founded, but they or his reps asked for his insights. He confronted Peter and petitioned the church for the decision.

      • You said, “I have done research elsewhere, in writing two seminary papers. My opinions do not just come out of the blue, and I actually am on a journey to search these things out.”

        Then where did you get the idea that egal leaders demand that someone else take on their leadership role? You have said time and time again that we should listen to you, and yet there are more than one of us who have been asking you to listen to us. Egals do not have a problem with leadership and, if you listened to my last comment you might have picked up that we do see a difference between authority and leadership. You, AS YOU HAVE SAID, do not.

        You said, “You incorrectly (like all egalitarians on here) are unable to seperate out good authority from bad authority.” Please show me from my words where you come to that conclusion. You are not listening to me – I have not said that.

        You said, “This “leader” I mentioned was a poor leader because HE DID NOT LEAN ON HIS ROLE AS LEADER TO ACT IN AN AUTHORITATIVE WAY.”

        Now Josiah, if I am listening to you correctly you have linked authority and leadership and so you see this bloke as being a poor leader because he has not acted authoritatively. Yet this can also be a description of a poor hierarchical leader. He had not researched properly what venues were available, he had not gained info as to when they would be busy etc. He was unanble to make a good decision – authority or not. As an egal I believe he should have done the following.

        *Realise that as the leader he has the responsibility (and the gift!) to find the relevant info and bring to the group a plan before they even got on the bus. This would have included dietry considerations of those within his realm of responsibility.
        *He would have notified people before they went for the meal that everyone was invited and they wanted everyone to be encouraged to come so as to build unity within the team and they were going to “_____” restaurant. He might even state the rationale as to why he has selected this place to eat.
        *Because he is known as someone who takes his responsibility seriously, who strives to research and make good decisions, and because those in the group realise that scripture asks them to obey their leaders so as to make life easy for them, they respond positively to his suggestion.

        This is leadership. It is good, thought out leadership. It also has little to do with authority. Authority simply says, “It is my decision where we will eat. Others will not like or agree with my choice but that is not relevant. What is of greatest importance is that I have authority to make the decision.”

        Part of the definition of leadership is the ability to get a group of people moving in a common direction. Good leadership encourages them to do this willingly. Poor leadership often uses manipulation to achieve this goal. Where is the authority in Acts 6:5? I can see the leadership.

        Authority by definition is being greater than someone else in status or power – it is hierarchy. You have said that the two are linked in your mind, and yet they mean very different things. I suggest you need to think about these things before you have much chance of understanding what egals are saying. Otherwise, keep banging that head!

      • My point is that a person who is supposed to be the leader yet does not step up asks for a de facto leader to emerge. In my illustration – if there was a loudmouth in the group, we would be going to HIS restaurant. “Demand” may have been a poor choice of words. Check the context and cut me some slack – I wasn’t meaning it derogatorily.

        What you have described is what I would describe as “heirarchical leadership.” I am not sure how well you read the rest of my post…it really seemed like I painted exactly the picture you just painted. Yes, I agree that a good leader really draws out his group, asks questions and makes decisions for the common good…why am I repeating myself? I said all this. Your version of “authority” corresponds exactly to my version of “served-leadership.” I think that if I pointed to a perfect example of my version of servant leadership, and you pointed to your perfect example of egalitarian leadership, we would find each other pointing at the exact same person/situation.

        I am really sorry if I have offended you. I am not trying to be rude or provocative in my writing. I really am just trying to get to the bottom of this issue, for myself, my family, and those I will teach in the future.

  31. Josiah, based on the tone this conversation, at least between you and I, is taking, I think it’s time I respectfully bowed out of this discussion. It’s a fact that I’m getting a bit hot under the collar– and this discussion has become less than amicable. I want to be at peace with you as a brother in Christ, so I’ll shut up now. (grin)

    I can see from what you’re saying that you and your wife have a loving and respectful marriage. I’m glad you do. So do my husband and I. In fact, he has told me that he never felt comfortable with the male-authority role, when we were trying to live that way– it never fit or suited him, even when we thought the Bible said that’s what our marriage had to look like. He wants me to be his equal partner, to lead the family right alongside him. That’s what I want too. I’m happy to submit to his desire.

    You asked people like me, who had been married for many years, to share about what we have learned, and that’s it. Shared leadership works for us. We feel it’s supported by the Scriptures. You feel happiest being in authority, and feel it’s supported by the Scriptures. As long as we are truly loving and respecting our spouses, and they feel supported, loved and honored– I believe we are following the Spirit of Truth, even if we disagree.

    So be well.

    • What a fantastic way to end a fruitful discussion!

      THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR CONTRIBUTION! Yes, I did really appreciate your telling of your own story, which you began this with. I also appreciate what you just said, and I have appreciated your thoughts and insights throughout. I noticed the conversation heating up a bit, but your words didn’t ever sting, if that’s a consolation. I could tell you (and others here) were/are just expressing yourselves strongly on a topic you feel passionate about.

      As you extended grace to me, I am more than willing to extend grace to you: I am sure that you (and many others here) have wonderful marriages that God is blessing. The really important things are love and faithfulness to God – I am sure that if you have those things down and are working on the others, things are going very well for you.

      You sound like a very decent person.

      God bless and farewell! I hope I bump into you again sometime!

      • I’m glad my words were never stinging.

        Just to be honest, your words did sting at one point– when you said you were trying to believe, but having trouble believing, that I really didn’t think, “leadership– bad! No leadership– good!”

        It seems that so often this is what it comes down to whenever I contribute to these kinds of discussion– complementarian men seem to want to believe something along the lines of “you just have a problem with authority.” And that isn’t fair. My position is Scripturally researched and I believe it’s also logically sound. Though it is a emotional topic for me, my beliefs are not based on emotion.

        My attitude towards authority shnould not be at issue here, and someone who only has spoken to me through the Internet is in no place to judge.

        I’m saying this in a spirit of reconciliation, brother. Thank you for hosting this discussion.

      • Oh, I am sorry! I should have rephrased that! I wasn’t trying to question your heart or your motives in replying as I did. I said I was struggling because I WAS struggling. You are right – my assumption is that egalitarians see leadership in a bad light, and see equality (aka the lack of leadership) as the ultimate good. When you said this is NOT what you felt, I had a hard time reconciling that with what you had said/how I had interpreted you. I spent time asking myself whether I had been interpreting you correctly, or where the inconsistency came from. This is why I said what I said – again, not accusing you of ill intent, emotionalism, or shoddy exegesis.

        I am not trying to draw you back into the discussions – farewell and God bless, sister! 😀

        PS – I am still chewing on your quote from proverbs about the wife considering a field and buying it. I will ponder that. Will also read “Blue Parakeet” – see, you have made a dent in this hardened complementarian!

  32. I’ve often suspected that many young people like the man in authority and the woman yielding to his big strong shoulders. I suspect it is because of the sin nature described in Gen. 3:16. The woman has turned to the man in ways that she should be turning to God for. And the man responds to it naturally by trying to be a bit like a god to her which humanly comes out in some form of domination even benignly. It will work for a while for many, until real life sets in.

    As a couple matures, the woman will often get tired of being controlled. When that happens either the man matures and relinquishes his control and they continue together to become more like Christ, or the woman knuckles under and lives a restricted and subdued life thinking she has to.

  33. You said, ““Demand” may have been a poor choice of words. Check the context and cut me some slack – I wasn’t meaning it derogatorily. “

    I did not think you were being derogatory. If I had I would have said so. I simply thought you were making up an egal position I have never heard of before, and I am egal! I did check the context. “Demand” was a poor choice of words, but your replacement, “ask” is no better. Egals are not asking anyone else to take on leadership. They are simply asking those who are gifted be allowed to take on leadership rather than the assumption that it is only those born with male genitals who can.

    You said, “What you have described is what I would describe as “heirarchical leadership.”

    What part? My description of what the ‘bloke’ should have done? In which case, where is the evidence of hierarchy? I described someone who has taken on a task because he was gifted by the Holy Spirit. I have not said that because he was male he was born into the right to make these decisions. That thinking is at the heart of hierarchy, whether he chooses to make the decisions in a loving way or not. THAT IS THE DIFFERENCE (captials for emphasis, not shouting 😉 )

    You said, “Your version of “authority” corresponds exactly to my version of “served-leadership.””

    What are you referring to? I have not given you a version of “authority” other than to indicate what the dictionary says about it. I have given you a version of leadership. Remember, the two are different in the dictionary, if not in your head!

    Finally, you said, “I am really sorry if I have offended you. I am not trying to be rude or provocative in my writing. I really am just trying to get to the bottom of this issue, for myself, my family, and those I will teach in the future.”

    I have not been offended. It takes a bit more than anything you have said to offend me. I just do not think you understand the argument and I see little attempt by you to listen to what is being said. This really does leave me wondering why you asked for input. If you assume again that authority and leadership are linked, I will be forced to assume that you really have no intention of engaging properly with the discussion!

  34. Josiah, thank you for your very kind words. I’ll be signing off now. But, in case it helps, here is how I would define the terms that appear to be under dispute, from an egalitarian perspective (but not necessarily the ONLY egalitarian perspective):

    LEADERSHIP – the act of taking the lead in a particular situation.
    AUTHORITY – power granted by God, society, or by individual agreement (such as in employer-employee relationships) giving the right to take the lead to a particular person or persons. Usually coupled with some ability to enforce this power (such as that an employer can fire an employee, a church leader can excommunicate a member, a judge can pass sentence on a citizen, etc. It is interesting to note that our society does not give husbands any authority-enforcement powers, nor does the Bible. The Koran, by contrast, authorizes husbands to beat their wives. Divorce cannot be considered authority enforcement, as it is available to both partners.) Christ commanded those in authority to serve those they are in authority over, rather than lording it over the ones under them.

    It seems to me that the issue under discussion is, “are husbands in authority over their wives?” The confusion comes in when the question is instead asked, “should husbands lead their wives?”

    The egalitarian answer to the first question is, “No.” The egalitarian answer to the second question is, “Sometimes.” Because husbands are not in authority over their wives, husbands and wives should share leadership between them as each individual couple feels comfortable. But they are not to look at their leadership in terms of authority, as in one *having a right* to take the lead that the other is *required* to defer to.

    Josiah seems to see the lack of husband-authority over wives as meaning that neither husband or wife can be a leader. Egalitarians see the lack of husband-authority as meaning that either partner can and should be a leader, taking the lead whenever the situation is appropriate.

    As an egalitarian, I do not have a problem with authority in general. Only with authority claimed which I do not agree is legitimate authority.

    Be well, everyone.

  35. “LEADERSHIP – the act of taking the lead in a particular situation.”

    In English thinking it seems that anyone can take the leadership because we have couched it in terms of corporations. In Greek and in Greek thinking I believe, the word used means one who has gone before, been there and done that, and turns to guide others to safety. At least that is my definition of leadership. And such leadership required two things: 1) someone with expertise 2) someone without expertise who needs guiding.

      • You mentioned that egals draw a distinction between “leading” and “authority.” This was helpful because for me they overlap (a leader is one in authority, an authority-figure leads). You gave me a word-key that helped me understand what was confusing before – thanks!


    Just FYI – I will be completely tied up/away from my computer due to travel and… well… Christmas… for the next few weeks. Since I know my weakness, I have made a vow to myself not even to LOOK at the posts on here, until at least a couple days into the New Year. At that time, I will respond to a few comments, but mostly I WANT TO WRITE A FOLLOW-UP POST to my original posting. I have a few apologies to make, and many clarifications, and restatements. You all have helped me think much more clearly about this discussion, and there are some regrets and errors I must right. I think a new posting is the logical next step.

    Also, the late-coming of Dave (and others) has reminded me that this post was NOT written to facilitate a full-blown discussion on the egal/comp debate. You must give me a little grace: I am not used to strangers finding my blog! Since I thought I was writing to a basically complementarian audience, (aka my friends and family) I wrote with certain assumptions as givens, and with a certain tone. I recognize that this felt offensive and unfair to egalitarians, who felt like I was not taking them seriously. I also think it lead to unnecessary vagueness and frustration, since many times it seemed we were struggling to know WHAT we were debating, more than we were debating the issues at hand.

    This is all my fault: my next post (or the one right after that…however I work that out) will contain a clear presentation of the Biblical texts, the major arguments, and the pertinent issues to be adressed. I hope that this will facilitate more profitable and cheritable debate in the new year.

    For those interested, I am looking for CONCISE (does anybody need a dictionary definition of that word? lol) set of answers to these questions:

    In your estimation:

    1. What are the main positions in this debate?

    2. How would you draw lines of distinction between these positions?

    3. What are the major Bible passages which must be considered in this debate?

    4. What major words need defining, in relation to this debate?

    Please post your responses here (

    I hope that you all have enjoyed this discussion as much as I have – I really grew and learned a lot from it all!

    Thank you so much for your contributions – God bless and Merry Christmas Everyone!!

    – Josiah

    PS – I am planning on having my post written no later than Jan. 7. When it is written, I will embed a link HERE.

  37. If you want to study a comprehensive egal book, I highly recommend Philip Payne’s new (2009) book “Man and Woman, One in Christ.” He addresses the major non-egal arguments. His footnotes are incredible.

    For example the discussion on 1 Cor 11:3 how the lexicons and ECF say kephale is to be understood as source, contra Grudem.

  38. Ok, let’s look at the servant-leader concept, created by Robert K. Greenleaf in 1977, which the church adopted later in order to get rid of its somewhat tarnished image. Greenleaf proposed that all leadership ought to be done by servants. I.e. the leader is first of all a servant, only secondarily a leader. Only those who are best qualified to be leaders ought to be leaders, and he did not propose a gender divide here, instead he foresaw that most people will be servants at some point, servant-leaders at another, and often both simultaneously. The problem with the Christian model is that when the church got hold of Greenleaf’s model, it was changed from leading while serving to serving while leading. Hence the Christian servant-leader is motivated to seek a servant to lead instead of seeking to be a servant himself. This is what makes the whole concept so devious since it sounds right, but it is just the same old Roman model which the church has not gotten rid of since it’s marriage to the imperial court.

    What if friends used this model too? “Hey, I’m the leader” is what one of the dogs says to his friend in the Disney movie Aristocats. Imagine that! I don’t think people would have many friends if that was the case since friendship is usually based on mutual trust and love. Why is marriage any different? Why does the man always have to make the decision? To avoid a situation in which a decision is not made?
    Your description of the attempt to choose a restaurant sounds very much like a set of validators who can never make a decision regardless of how much time is given, for they feel that they must always validate the other person’s view point instead of just stating their own and sticking to it. Volatile people act quite differently and are very able to make a decision and stick with it. So the only thing your example shows is that validators may need a leader to help them make up their mind when more than two are present, but it does not apply to humanity as a whole. (I also suspect that it is a very American phenomenon, since everyone is taught to be polite at any cost, for you would not see such behavior in e.g. Finland)

    Christians seem to have a concept in which a leader is a leader just because he is. He may be mediocre, do a poor job and cause more trouble than not, but since he is the leader people better do as he says. On the contrary, Greenleaf stated
    “Why would anyone accept the leaderhsip of another except that the other sees more clearly where it is best to go? Perhaps this is the current problem: too many who presume to lead do not see more clearly, and in defense of their inadequacy, they all the more strongly argue that the “system” must be preserved – a fatal error in this day of candor.” (Servant Leadership, p. 29)

    The modern Christian man argues for the preservation of the patriarchal system due to the fact that his leadership is more often than not mediocre and inadequate. Not every man is born to lead – very few are. But the presumption that one must lead if one is a man causes every man to assume he is a great leader and hence he must defend the system due his own shortcomings which he is very well aware of.

    Does egalitarianism require a lot of work – yes, it does. Dictatorship is easy, equality is messy and demanding, sometimes even maddening, but where in the Bible did God tell us to seek the easy way out? Where are we told to satisfy the flesh and its insistence on ease? The Bible tells us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus who did not seek the easy way out, but accepted the rocky road with all of its sacrifices. Mike Mason wrote that marriage is a union in which we are invited to suffer purposefully, to mortify the ego. Those who seek an easy solution to the difficulties of life do not seek a Christian marriage. They seek something far less, something that will make them feel good for a moment, but that will not yield the perfect fruit of love, peace and patience which only those who have exercised their minds and hearts in humility will posess.

    Complementarism may work for some but it is a far cry from what Christianity is all about. If complementarian marriage model was adequate, we would not see as much divorce, domestic violence and abuse in Christian homes. As it is now, a Christian home cannot be discerned from a secular one.

    • No, the problem was not that there were too few opinions being voiced. The problem was that there were too MANY opinions being voiced, and there was no “authority” to arbitrate, or facilitate discussions. The loudest voice would have won, but since no winner emerged, the discussions went on and on…

      I don’t know much about Greenleaf. It is possible that I am being influenced by his opinions indirectly, but I do not believe I am. Perhaps he did come up with the phrase “servant-leader” – however, I think this phrase captures something distinctly “Biblical,” especially in Phil 2, in Jesus washing feet (yet still, clearly, being the leader), etc.

      I know that my article was not all that it could have been, as far as clarity goes: however, I would urge you to read it again, asking, “What is Josiah trying to say, as the difference between “served-leadership” and “servant-leadership.”?” What you are rejecting, I am rejecting. What I am proposing, you are not hearing.

      I take responsibility for this, however: I know I could have written more clearly. I hope to find time to do so soon!

      • There may be a difference in served-leadership and servant-leadership, perhaps the intent is more enlightened.

        The point is the egals like me are concerned about the “sole” leadership aspect in marriage that these 2 terms both seem to embrace. In some sense, the rest is just flak, which obscures the essential difference between egals and non-egals.

        Consider the situation in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Some of the slave holders were very kind and some were cruel, but they were ALL slaveholders and it is in the supposition of slavery that the author was concerned about and the arbitrariness of it from the slave’s point of view. The defenders of slavery pointed out that most slave holders were kind (no matter if they actually were or not, in their own mind they were). The point of course is that it is not the slaveholders who were the best evaluators of whether they were kind or not, it was the slaves, many of whom wanted freedom.

        I use the slavery example to show that people can have their judgment clouded by their own self interest. Recall that the SBC formed over exactly the slavery issue, so we are talking about Bible-believing Christians that had a blind spot. And the nature of a blind spot is that it is hard to see it yourself, which is why we need others to speak into our lives.

        So let’s assume for a minute that a husband is to act like Jesus in a marriage in a way that a wife is not, where exactly did Jesus EVER make a final decision for someone else? I cannot find it.

      • I am sensing the need, over and over, to just write the posts which I have been putting off. That would make things much more clear than I can do here.

        However, just to answer your question: I think that the type of authority which God calls husbands to is different than what He called kings to (although of course God had special guidelines for His own kings). Does a husband have the authority to boss his wife around, to tell her what to do and punish her if she does not obey? If this is what he is doing, he is approaching servant-leadership all backwards. His “headship” is about a special role of prayer, facilitating discussions, and serving her needs. In whatever circumstance, the man does not have the right to issue commands to his wife, and especially not to dole out consequences. This is authority “as the world does it.”

        I hear what you are saying about slavery – this is the very issue I struggled with, and used to make my own thoughts clearer in the subject. The difference between patriarchy and complementarianism must be more than “being nice,” because there were nice slave-owners, but the relationship was still wrong. I hope I can make this more clear in my coming articles.

        One protest, which might apply more to others than to you: yes, I am aware that my motives can cloud my judgment. Are you aware that your motives can cloud your judgment? In this context, where we don’t know each other well, it seems a little pointless to make jabs at the inner workings of the other’s consciousness. There is more to my affirmation of complementarianism than my “hidden agenda to have my wife under my thumb.” Those who know me well could probably testify that I don’t demonstrate this agenda (but who knows the heart of a man, except the spirit of that man? 1 Cor. 2:11). It seems at times that a major egal agrument is, “The only way that complementarianism functions is that men have this agenda, and it makes them distort Scriptures to support their views.” This seems like a weak argument. There’s more to this than a testosterone-drenched reading of the text.

      • Josh wrote: “His “headship” is about a special role of prayer, facilitating discussions, and serving her needs. In whatever circumstance, the man does not have the right to issue commands to his wife, and especially not to dole out consequences.”

        I do not know what a husband’s special role at prayer might be (since ANY believe is a priest in the new covenant and Jesus is high priest, I do not see room for anything else), but the working out of all this sounds very egal-like.

        Are you saying you do not claim a trump card or whatever else it might be called euphemistically? If so, welcome to egal-land.

        Yes, I am very aware that MY motives can cloud my judgment, this is another reason I am egal, for safety reasons, since I know I am far from perfect. I am a sinner and power can corrupt, so I choose to decline to interpret verses that give me power over another when there is an alternate interpretation. I AGREE that children need to obey their parents, and I am a parent so this applies.

      • (Misc. Comment – what’s with calling me Josh all of a sudden? You and TL both! lol…)

        Women are told to submit to their husbands. Men are never told they have the right/ability to coerce their wives to submit. As Bruxy is fond of saying, “We shouldn’t read each other’s mail.” Men are to so love their wives, respect and honour them that they will want to follow them as they tenderly take initiative, and accept prime responsibility for their homes.

        This is an interesting phrase, “….I am egal for safety reasons….since…I know I am a sinner and power can corrupt, I choose to decline to interpret verses that give me power over another when there is an alternate interpretation.”

        Doesn’t this lead to a blind-spot? What if Scriptures are commanding you to take up a position of authority? Also, it seems like you just admitted that you use an external criteria (your own mistrust of yourself) to determine whether you will take the “most plain reading of the text,” or go fishing for an alternative, if one is there.

        I thought exegesis was all about listening to Scriptures, just like they are. If you give yourself a way out when a verse makes you squirm, how can you be sure you are really giving Scriptures the right to “reprove, teach and correct” (1 Tim. 3:16) you?

  39. Happy New Year , Josh.

    As I’ve been glancing over the comments, I’ve noticed some disparity in your statements. On the one hand you say that leadership is primary. Then when you’ve described what it’s not and what it is, you do not describe leadership but serving. I suspect you may be conflicted yourself between wanting positional notoriety yet also wanting to do what is right. Serving your wife is right and is what Paul describes in Ephesians. Perhaps it is time to be humble as Paul also calls us all to do, and just content yourself with serving your wife and seeking to positively promote her welfare.

    • Service/humility and authority are not necessarily contradictory. For a cheezy example: think Aragorn in Lord of the Rings: he would lay his life down in an instant for anyone in the party. He did not shove his leadership on anyone (indeed, he was consistently reluctant to step into a role of leading). He was a profoundly humble man who recognized (finally) that in order to serve, there was a time and a place to accept the mantle of valid authority.

      • “Service/humility and authority are not necessarily contradictory.”

        I quite agree. In Christian ministry there is an authority that goes along with the gifted abilities to server the body of believers. Humility is a helpful balance.

        However, marriage is shared ministry under the veil of becoming as one entity, one cohesive unit. One sided authority (even if two manage to live in it comfortably) gets in the way of a melting of two souls into one cohesive unit. While it is a somewhat workable choice between two for some people, it is not found required in Scripture. Rather the opposite of mutual sacrificial love and submission IS required. There is no requirement stated to the husband to lead his wife or take authority in any manner over her. But the husband is specifically required to love as Jesus loved, with his whole life. As Don and others have noted, this does not mean the wife is not to love sacrificially because for one place, Paul just finished telling everyone to love sacrificially in verse one.

        It is each couple’s free choice as to how they will arrange their marriage and they will reap or not reap the blessings of each choice. But we do better if we follow Scripture.

      • Oneness is not contradictory to authority either. Christ is one with His church, yet He is still “lord” over it. Yes, autocratic leadership would destroy oneness…but this is not what I am promoting…

      • Christ is many thing and all things to us. We are not Christ. Yes, Christ is one with us, but this does not mean that then half of the body that Christ is one with gets to “take on” all the other characteristics of God such as Creator, Lord, Judge, etc. toward the other half.

        It kinda sorta doesn’t matter what TYPE of leadership you are promoting husbands to have over wives unless you are speaking of leading by being a good example. A benevolent dictator is still a dictator. And there is no common deep union between a dictator and his servant.

      • Whenever you talk about being a good example, I’m right there with you. Men should use their strengths to do good for others especially to fellow believers and family. And I like to think of men as strength creatures. Women have ‘strengths’ but they are not strength creatures like men are. But the minute you bring in authority you transgress into control issues that should not be there IMO. We are to serve from a base of sacrificial love, not seek to control.

      • Would it help if I used the word “leadership”? There was some helpful discussion earlier about how both men and women should be LEADERS, that is, they should find appropriate ways to take initiative, to seek solutions to problems, etc. In my thinking, the man is to be the PRIME leader, or the leader by default. I don’t see his role as one of coersion – but he is to be the initiator, and the leader by default unless he abdicates his role in one area (honey, you handle the books).

      • yes. point taken. If you don’t mind, I will wait to answer that point until I get around to writing my follow-up post. I address this very issue there.

  40. The chaining on my thread bottomed out, so I continue here.

    Josiah, sorry for calling you Josh, that is my son’s name.

    Wives are EXPLICITLY told to submit to their husbands, husbands are IMPLICITLY told to submit to their wives in Eph 5:21. Once you see that the verses after Eph 5:21 to the end of the pericope in 6:9 are all subordinate clauses in the Greek, it makes sense. Paul is not dividing by gender, rather he is emphasizing by gender things that in that culture need reminding.

    Both wives and husbands are to respect their spouse, but wives need to be reminded. Why might this be the case?

    Both husbands and wives are to love their spouse, but husbands need to be reminded. Why might this be the case?

    Similarly, both husband and wives are to submit to one another, but wives need to be reminded, why might this be the case?

    These ARE the kind of questions that can be asked of the text as it interacts with 1st century realities. But it a high on the hokey meter (to me) when some try to make sharp behavorial distinctions between the genders based on Eph 5, the claims simply fall apart on examination.

    EVERYONE reads ANY text based on their worldview and understandings, it cannot be helped. Scripture is special in that after one tries one’s best to figure it out, we are also to let the Holy Spirit change us to conform more to its principles. And this process of changing US can then lead us to read Scripture differently.

    • Hey Don.

      Sorry – my response got deleted a while back, and I just haven’t gotten around to re-writing. To be honest, I am just intellectually exhausted by this topic right now. There are things I could say in response, but I feel like the same ground has been covered many times.

      I have another post mostly written, but am still putting the finishing touches on it and waiting until my emotional batteries recharge to the point where I could handle the backlash it will unload.

      I have enjoyed talking with you, and I hope you didn’t take my lack of a response as anything personal!

      • I did not take anything from you as personal. When ever you are ready we can continue, as you wish.

  41. Cannot find where you put this…. thank goodness for email notification.

    “Would it help if I used the word “leadership”? There was some helpful discussion earlier about how both men and women should be LEADERS, that is, they should find appropriate ways to take initiative, to seek solutions to problems, etc. In my thinking, the man is to be the PRIME leader, or the leader by default. I don’t see his role as one of coersion – but he is to be the initiator, and the leader by default unless he abdicates his role in one area (honey, you handle the books).”

    The only problem is with the concept that Scripture says such. It just doesn’t. Other than that, what you suggest is a very acceptable and reasonable way for two to organize their marriage. As long as neither think they can take the initiative from the other, or think they can demand their way to the other’s distress. As for the books, many women (not all) handle it better than the men. But who should do it should be a matter of mutual agreement. I fear for the couple where neither one of them is any good in that department. 🙂

    • You said, “who [the prime leader should be, or leader by default] should be decided by the couple”…am I paraphrasing you correctly?

      Do you agree that there SHOULD be one person or the other who by default takes the initiative, pushes decisions forward, brings up topics, etc.? Or on every topic should the topic say, “do you want to be the leader this time? Oh, okay…well, I was the leader last time, but sure, I’ll take the initiative this time…”

      • Josiah, have you had any close friends for many many years? When you do things together does there have to be one of you leading or making all the decisions? I would be surprised, maybe shocked, if you said yes. When friends get together, they generally try to do things that are good for both of them. Or sometimes one or the other will go along with what the other wants to do. But they do that from genuine care for one another not from positions of ‘leadership’.

        So, the question is, why would you think that between two who genuinely love one another that one needs to exercise control over the other. Rather both should consider that they have the initiative to bring up things that need done and be considered and decided upon. Both should consider it their responsibility to consider the needs, desires and goals of the other. And both should prayerfully watch over their relationship to be sure they are staying close as they should be and not shrinking away from a possible offense.

        Even in a friendship if one person is better at something, say arranging for tickets, then it’s an obvious choice to let that person do it. Similarly, in a marriage, if one spouse is better at gardening, ironing, paying bills, changing the car oil, doing steak on the barbie, etc. etc. then that person should lead in doing it even though the other might (or might not) give some assistance. ALSO, if one person just really likes doing something, then of course they should be the one doing it … grilling steak on the barbie. But that does not mean that if the other likes doing the same thing also, they cannot take turns or even sometimes do it together, like planting veggies in the garden. The idea that one person has a privilege that the other cannot have, to make decisions against what the non privileged one wants or desires, is a unity breaker. At that point the depth of the relationship stops.

  42. Pingback: Josiah Meyer
  43. “What needs to be recognized, however, is that male leadership is not the problem! The problem is sexism, arrogance, self-centeredness, shoddy exegesis, etc…in a word, sin. Sin distorts all that it touches: by itself, however, leadership is not a sin. In fact, it may be a sin not to be a leader, when one has been called to be one. (Cf. Gen. 3:17).”

    Totally agree.

    You really hit the nail on the head with this article. We need to recognize God’s holy order- He created it with a purpose and reason in mind. And I also think that if “mutual submission” were Biblical, then God would have also said, “husbands submit to your wives” and not just “wives submit to your husbands”. Men are to be servant-leaders in their homes!
    I am so thankful for a father who is a true leader and yet he is also a listener and strives to serve us each day in various ways. He is always there for me; always willing to help me any way he can and I pray that I am always there to help him any way I can. I want it to be the same way with my future husband, Lord willing. My goal is to encourage, support and love; to stand behind my man!

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