More on Roles

October 19, 2007

I read carefully through Eph 5/6 last night to get a better perspective on this issue, coming up tangentially as it did. Here’s what I came up with. The submit passage is negligible, because it is offset by “submit to one another”. The real problem is “the man is head of the woman as Christ of the church.” I have an interesting response to this, though.

It says, “the man is the head”, not “the man should be the head”. A little different, but this is definitely description. Now, you may think I am falling into my own fallacies (dissection) here, but let me explain. The focus in the passage is entirely on men’s command to “love their wives sacrificially” and women to “respect their husband”. That, however, does not encompass the claims made by CBMW and etc. They say stuff like “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.” As if being the head was something that was commanded. The only command there is to love sacrificially. Or else, “Men need to be leaders in their homes.” That’s not there either. What do you think?


21 Responses to “More on Roles”

  1. Tato Says:

    I am late to the discussion… and don’t have a bunch of time to catch up on what has happened… there are a few things that I have found interesting to this discussion…

    I recently listened to a sermon of a pastor whom I respect and enjoy listening to who was talking about the role of Men as husbands. He developed a theology of Men being the cultivator (based on the role of Man in the garden and the nature of the curse of the fall). He mentioned Ephesians 5:29 – the idea of nourishing and cherishing being a reference back to the idea of providing and cultivating the woman and the home. Essentially it came down to it being sinful if the wife earned more than the husband since she would be the primary provider for the family.

    Now, given my situation being in ministry I doubt I will ever make more money than Pamela (if she is working full time forever – which is unlikely). So we are left with a few options: we can quit and move, sell our home and live a more “meager” lifestyle, or we can ignore “this” as being sinful.

    Personally I don’t think that it was intended to be communicated so harshly. Pamela and I both believe that we have been blessed in this situation to provide the opportunity for me to serve in ministry. So are we delusional and living in sin since she pulls back a bigger paycheck?

    I actually e-mailed the church to get clarification on their stance and they referenced the fact that a lot of people have women work instead of cultivating the home in order to drive better cars (a lexus instead of a ford – to use their words).

    The reason I bring this up is because a lot of people take the “Men need to be leaders in their homes.” to an extreme that would call my position in church service sinful.

  2. Lee Says:

    Ben – yes, everything flows from the first, general reference to submission – but I don’t understand how your distinction (is vs. should be) works out practically. Doesn’t headship play a part in the sacrificial loving/submission, on the part of a husband, and the respect/submission, on the part of a wife? How else do you make use of the analogies to Christ/church, Father/Son?

    I believe that when the CBMW people talk of “recovering” Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, they are taking on the damage done by the incursion of radical feminist thought in the church, as well as the general marginalization of husbands/fathers in today’s society which has also negatively affected the church. (And here I mean both the church body as well as individual families within it.) In light of that, they are trying to re-establish how they believe Bible describes the family to be organized. How do you believe it should be organized?

    Tato – that sermon seems to be drawing a very odd conclusion concerning relative incomes. Sort of a weird compromise between the positions of women being “allowed” to work outside the home at all vs. not.

  3. Ben Says:

    Alas, Lee, how far you have fallen. Only last week you were decrying my system of “teaching by implication”. Now you are defending a system based heavily on implication.

    My point with this interpretation of Eph 5/6 was this: though roles are indicated in the passage, the force of the passage is on two things only: sacrificial love on the part of men, respect on the part of women. It relates the headship to Christ and the church, but it’s 100% unclear on what aspects of that relationship are preserved, other than the commands (love and respect) as above. I’d imagine that the bulk of their teachings that I disagree with are drawn from other passages, but this is an interpretation of Eph 5/6, not a systematic theological system. In that passage, the roles carry no other weight than to bring about the command: love sacrificially. No “command to lead” or “be in authority” or even “be the Spiritual leader in the home or church”. To use this passage to support their definition of roles is to read implications into the passage — ones that I believe are not there.

    I can only hope that by “radical feminists” they aren’t talking about “women bus drivers”.

  4. Ben Says:

    Actually, I’ve been thinking and I have decided to adopt some of their strategy for my own group, the Council on Biblical Kinghood and Queenhood (CBKQ). We’re planning on publishing a book, Recovering the Biblical Divine Right of Kings Theory. I’m really hoping to counter the influence of radical roundheads, and the general marginalization of Kings, Queens and Subjects in our society today. The good thing about my group is, though, that there’s a lot more evidence for the divine right of kings than the “great chain of being” type manhood and womanhood roles that CBMW is trying to assign, so I should have an easier job.

  5. Lee Says:

    Hmm… How’s that? Because I want to use the analogies? How are those connected implicitly? Seems to me like they are directly connected here. Why? “(Even) so ought husbands also…” Can husbands do exactly what Christ did (26-27)? No. But can they not attempt “in this manner” to do everything they can, in a loving way, to encourage the sanctification of their wives?

  6. Ben Says:

    I’m not confident that you’re following my train of thought here, Lee. Personalities will clash, of course.

    When I say you are interpreting by implication, I mean that when you attach meaning to roles that are not sufficiently described (in Eph 5/6), you are using the same method of interpretation that I was advocating for arguing against complete moral determinism earlier. That is, Eph 5/6 makes no direct statements about the nature of men’s and women’s roles in marriage, apart from what I said.

    In a general sense, do I disapprove of husbands encouraging their wives in the sanctification process? Of course not! Neither do I disapprove of wives encouraging their husbands in that same process.

    The question at hand is a little different, though: “What is directly stated in this passage regarding the roles that men and women have in marriage?”

    Answer: In marriage, the only command, really the only concrete information, is that men are to love sacrificially. This falls far short of “leadership” in the sense that CBMW mean it. Once again, I would probably have to go to other passages to vanquish that ideology utterly, but we are only talking about the interpretation of this passage. Or at least, I am.

  7. Lee Says:

    Hmm… I’m sorry, Ben, but I still don’t see how I’ve stretched beyond the passage. Doesn’t the passage directly say that wives should (using command-like language here) submit/subject themselves (or “arrange themselves under “- see the other thread for the link to the definition) “in the manner of” the church to Christ? And this because the husband is (not “should be”, as you pointed out – so this is not qualified) the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church? And that “in this manner” (beginning of vs. 28), husbands should love their wives? Or is this where you think I’ve gone off track – what verses 26-27 mean?

    (Feel free to jump in, Danny/Tato/Nathan, and help me to see where Ben is coming from, and/or Ben to see where I am coming from!)

  8. Lee Says:

    BTW, how’s the CBKQ coming along? I wonder if you could get that guy from the Burger King commercial to help w/ publicity… 😉

  9. Ben Says:

    Yeah, I don’t think there’s much chance of anyone defending me on this one.

    Submit/subject can be explained in reference to submit yourselves to one another. Thus, “wives submit to husbands” contains no role information, but only the command given to every person, one to another. I don’t think 23 or 24 has any role information, because it’s not clear what aspects of Christ and the church are preserved. The thrust of the passage (and to my perspective, the explanation of what is meant in 23 and 24) is in the command to love sacrificially (25-29). The summation in 5:33 reinforces my interpretation … Paul summarizes this passage with reference only to “sacrificial love” and “respect”. There’s no “woman is at no point to exert authority over a man” here, neither is there “leadership” per se, except in the sense of, as I said, sacrificial love. There are a few points that are unclear and could be interpreted a different way, such as 26 and 27, but Paul’s statement “but I am speaking of Christ and the church” may mean that those verses are not strictly about marriage, and thus not an active prescription for the marriage relationship.

    Is my interpretation starting to make sense? I realize that it is at least as minimal as CBMW’s is “expansive” (?), but I think that my interpretation is not less likely to be true.

  10. Ben Says:

    … seriously … the Restoration begins with Fast Food!

  11. Tato Says:

    This was one of the passages in our Exegesis class and just to point it out… there were a lot of “exegetical issues” surrounding this passage – especially the 5:21 verse…

    Anyways the point is that we were assigned passages that had some serious exegetical issues that were not very “straight-forward” in the Greek. So, any sort of quick Greek reference may not be the best way to go. I can look around at some commentaries that deal with the passage a bit if you want some exegetical insight, but Danny may be better suited for that than I – he definitely has a better hold of the language than I do.

    Lee, it is possible/probably that it is command language… but it looks like “to submit” is a participle… Bible works adds that it has an “imperitival sense”, but I would need to do some research to look into that more fully. I don’t know if that helped… but anyways I am a little strapped for time at the moment.

    FYI… Ben is right about Husbands loving your wife being a straightforward command – it is definitely an imperative. I would need to do some more looking, but it definitely seems like that is the major command of the text. Which may be why Bible works sees the submit participle in v.21 as a command as well… figuring that it must imply imperative… but again I am not sure and may be reaching at straws here.

    My opinion, is that both sides go to extremes… one to limit the woman’s involvement completely in the worship setting/the home and the other to try and counteract it in extremes as well. I can add more to this conclusion, but am strapped for time and would rather discuss in person since written words can be taken out of context so easily… and because I am already pegged as the “liberal”… just kidding.

  12. Ben Says:

    How did that happen anyway? How come you get to be “the liberal” … I’ve been trying to get that label for years. It just isn’t fair.

  13. Tato Says:

    Ben, it is because I have made a “shift” in theological stance and because I am employed by a church that would be deemed thus… too bad for you!

  14. Lee Says:

    Well, hopefully we’re just trying to get at what exactly this passage says, minus the overtones from either side…

  15. Lee Says:

    As far as understanding your interpretation, yes, I believe I do. I do think it’s too minimal, however. And I’m definitely not trying to take the “next step” with the passage and say that women shouldn’t do this or that because men are the head – I’m just trying to understand this passage, and I (still) think that includes headship.

  16. Ben Says:

    Yeah, I guess the minimal interpretation is a bit of a balancer, in the sense that it shouldn’t operate without its corollary. The question is, I guess, where is the happy medium, that is a correct perspective on the passage? In the CBMW camp, or somewhere between that and the minimal interpretation?

  17. Lee Says:

    BTW, I don’t think your quest for the label of “liberal” will be able to survive the hit of your turning to Orthodoxy, if that happens 😉

  18. Ben Says:

    Yeah, you’ve got a point there. It’s quite the dilemma.

  19. Lee Says:

    Have you read much by the Christians for Biblical Equality? I wonder if you see yourself aligned with their positions….

  20. Ben Says:

    Too dangerous. If I read their stuff, I’ll probably end up as a complementarian.

  21. Ben Says:

    That sounds pretty much in line with what I think … though of course, putting verses on your page and having a doctrinal statement (though comprehensive) does not necessarily mean that your arguments won’t fall apart under real biblical scrutiny. These are deep waters.

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