Sunday, July 29, 2007

Submission

Is Christianity a male-chauvinist, sexist religion? Has God really given Christian husbands military-like authority over their wives?

New Testament Men & Women are Equal
In the New Testament book of Galatians, Chapter three verses 27 and 28, we read that God sees no status difference at all between male and female Christians. The scriptures plainly say we are all equal ("one") in Christ. We read in 1 Peter 3:7, that men and women are heirs together of the Kingdom of God.

New Testament Women Can Preach
We read in the book of Acts, that God’s daughters as well as his sons will prophesy. In some churches prophesying is limited to preaching. But preaching is preaching, so obviously, in spite of the many obvious chauvinistic and sexist interpretations of scripture, the New Testament places no prohibition on women preaching.

Although some men abuse the scriptures and use them against women in an oppressive way, Christianity, as the Bible clearly reveals, is not a male-chauvinist, sexist religion.

The "Authority" of Husbands
The entire Issue of the "authority" of husbands hinges on only one verse in the entire Bible. That is Genesis 3:16.


The very popular Matthew Henry Commentary, leading evangelical leader John MacArthur, and many other evangelical writers and leaders unfailingly refer back to this verse as the last word to any and all arguments on the subject. The general interpretation of Genesis 3:16 is based on the assumption that the married male was endowed by God with authority over his wife and given the right to demand submission from her.

Does the passage in Genesis 3:16 which says "and he shall rule over you," really mean that men were given a promotion in status within the marriage relationship because of sin? If that is what it means, then it would be the only verse in the entire Bible that definitively gives males authority over females.

Submit, Subject, Obey
Other verses which some hold to validate that interpretation of Genesis 3:16 are Titus 2:5, Ephesians 5:22, 1 Peter 3:1 and 1 Corinthians 14:34 where wives are commanded to obey their husbands, be in subjection to their husbands and to be silent in church. These are verses which are also widely believed to bestow authority on the husband over the wife.

However, a close look at both the context and the Greek they were originally translated from quickly dispels any such notions.

All Christians are Commanded to Submit to One Another
The same Greek word, Hupotasso, that commands wives to be subject to their husbands in Ephesians 5:22, is used in Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 5:5 to command all Christians to be subject to one another.

Has every Christian really been given a military-like authority over every other Christian?


Absolutely no one claims that to be the case. Indeed, it is ludicrous to even consider such a thing. Yet that is exactly how these passages are interpreted when it comes to the husband and wife relationship.

The very same Greek word translated, “submit,” in Ephesians 5:22 in reference to wives, is also used in Ephesians 5:21 and 1 Peter 5:5 in reference to all Christians, who are commanded to be “subject to” and to be in submission to one another.


That means the Christian husband is commanded in scripture to also submit and “be subject" to his Christian wife.

Have All Christians Been Endowed With Authority Over All Other Christians? Do All Christians Have the Right to Demand Submission From All Other Christians? As we have shown, the command to submit and be subject to one another applies to husbands, wives and extends to all Christians. This command for all Christians to submit to one another in no way gives any Christian the authority to demand submission from any other Christian.

There is absolutely no implication of authority being conferred on wives over husbands in Ephesians 5:21 or 1 Peter 5:5, and it is both interesting and very telling that virtually no one argues this fact. So why is it that so many claim that Ephesians 5:22, which uses the very same Greek word as verse 21, bestows a mystical, unquestionable mantle of authority over wives on Christian husbands?

Be Fruitful Multiply and Have Dominion….
The original biblical mandate, found in Genesis 1:27-28, was for all mankind (both male and female) to have dominion over the land creatures, the sea creatures, and every living thing that moved upon the earth. No mandate was given to either the man or the woman to exercise dominion over the other.

Old & New Testament Mandates After the Fall of Man
According to Jesus, in Matthew 22:36-40 the entire body of Old Testament writings can be summed up in two commands, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourselves.


The New Testament mandate for mankind is to place ourselves unselfishly at the disposition of one another—to prefer one another before ourselves, to refrain from thinking to highly of ourselves. Christian leaders are warned not to Lord it over their flocks. Jesus said in John 13:35 that all men would know we are his disciples because of our love for one another.

Demanding Submission is a Violation of Scripture
In light of those mandates, to demand submission from anyone (other than legal, judicial authorities) clearly violates the biblical command directed towards every Christian to be “subject to” (accountable to, at the disposition of, defer to) every other Christian. Therefore, the same limitations placed on wives and every other Christian in regards to submission, must be placed on the Christian husband in regards to his wife.


The marriage relationship is not exempt from the general biblical instructions Christians are given regarding all relationships—one of which is to submit ourselves one to another.

Women Keep Silent
The passage in 1 Corinthians where women are forbidden to speak in church is clearly in reference to a wide-spread local custom of the time and no longer applicable today. There are very few, if any, churches in existence today that, in actual practice, adhere to that custom. So there is no good reason to defer to that verse in defense of the authority of the husband.

Keep it in Context
It can be argued that the same Greek word, Hupotasso, translated obey, submit, and be subject to, also applies to children, to slaves and to government authority, so obviously this word has a variety of applications including a connotation of strict obedience and subjection in some usages.

All this tells us is, that the context in which this word is used, must be taken into careful consideration before coming to a conclusion as drastic and consequential as giving husbands the unilateral right to demand a lifetime of subjection from their wives, thereby depriving them of all autonomy and personal freedom.

Evangelical Views Converge
It is interesting that the various schools of evangelical thought disagree about whether or not males and females were originally created equal and given dual authority over the earth and over all creation. Some believe the Bible teaches this is the case and some do not.

Most evangelical views converge, however, in assuming that after the fall—because of sin, the man was given authority over the woman. It is generally agreed that the woman’s curse included more pain in childbirth, increased frequency of pregnancies /multiple births—and that her husband would rule over her by being promoted to the status of “head of the house.”

The man’s curse, it is generally agreed, had to do with working hard. He was told he would eat his bread by the sweat of his brow, because the ground was cursed as well.


Was Adam Given a Mandate To Rule?
No one can deny that the scriptures say, “…and he shall rule over thee.” But is that a solid basis for interpreting Genesis 3:16 to mean that Adam was given a promotion within the marriage relationship and received a mandate from God to rule over his wife?


It cannot be proven from scripture that Adam was given any such mandate.

The scriptures simply say that one of the consequences Eve would have to pay because of sin being introduced into a previously sinless creation, was that her husband would rule over her.

Adam’s ruling over his wife was a perversion. It was a curse. It was a consequence of sin—not a reward for it, and certainly not a command.

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