Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Should I be the head of my wife?

Ok, so a couple of posts from Dave Warnock (and the ensuing comments) got me thinking about the volatile subject of male headship (YOU MUST CLICK HERE BEFORE READING ON).

The original posts can be read here and there.

Dave basically equates male headship with forms of malicious discrimination, like racism. I don't agree, because my definition of male headship is based on this bit from Ephesians 5:

Wives and Husbands
22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church— 30for we are members of his body. 31"For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh."[c] 32This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.


I find it hard to see how a relationship based on mutual love can be equated with racism, but it might depend how you define "submit". Either way, you can't just ignore this whole passage, or can you?

I can't avoid the issue because in six months I will be a husband. Me and Lis have talked about what headship means and how it'll be worked out. Basically, these are our conclusions:

I will love Lis sacrificially, honouring her and putting her before myself.

Lis will love, honour and support me.

We will take joint, although not entirely equal* roles in:
Providing financially *(I earn less)
Housework
Raising children
Serving in our local church
Developing our marriage
Making decisions
...and anything else that we are involved in as a couple.

Over all these things (here goes...) I will have ultimate responsibility. Time for another one. In our team of two, I will be the team leader. Is it unfair that I get to be the leader just because I'm a man? Well, that question assumes that it's clearly better to be the leader, which isn't true.

Male headship is not about domination and control. It's about taking responsibility for the marriage unit with an attitude of sacrificial love and giving.

Male headship isn't, "you are my wife, do this for me!"
It's, "you are my wife, what can I do for you?"
In this context, Lis will be able to submit to my headship, knowing that I'm trying to bless and free her, not control her.

But in everything we are "one flesh", so the emphasis is on working together.

These are my ideas so far. If you think they sound ridiculous or fantastic then you can say so.

11 comments:

DaveW said...

"I don't agree, because my definition of male headship is based on this bit from Ephesians 5:"

a) What about Ephesians 5:21 that you conveniently ignore, that sets the whole context for the rest of the passage?

b) Ephesians 6:5-9 is in the same section of text and is about how we treat slaves. How do you apply this today? Do you support slavery? If you no longer see this text as binding on your behaviour then why would you not do the same with Male Headship?

c) In taking this view of Male Headship you have to ignore a huge amount of Paul's actual practice where is praises women for leadership without any reference to their husbands.

I confess I find it scarily comical when someone from a position of power ("I will have ultimate responsibility.") says how difficult it is to have all that power and responsibility.

Try looking again at the example of Jesus who gave up power and humbled himself, who became a servant( and told us to do the same), who came so that we all may have life in all its fullness, free from sin. Then tell me that Jesus will be pleased by Male Headship.

Oh and finally tell me how this will help Liz in her discipleship? Who is her Lord, who is her master? To whom has she given her life? Is it Jesus or you? There should be no confusion, you are not a replacement Jesus for her and should not be claiming to come between her and Jesus.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

I think you have nailed most of that.

for me the big wedge within the viewpoint seems to be whether you see it authority as control or responsibility.

I also think lots of the teaching on the subject Dave riles against, you or I would rile against too.

Andy said...

DaveW,

As you've noticed, I talked about Ephesians 5:21 in my later post.

I don't know about Eph 6:5-9, that is, I don't really know how to deal with it. I don't support slavery. I don't see Paul directly advocating slavery either, but he does encourage masters to treat their slaves well, so we shouldn't put Paul in the same category as slave traders and traffickers.

My view of male headship views women as equal autonamous individuals whether they are married or not, so I don't ignore any of Paul's actual practice.

I think that Jesus example of servant leadership is a good model of male headship. Jesus had more authority than His followers, yet was willing to serve them. This is what I think Paul is getting at when he says, "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her."

Maybe I shouldn't have used the phrase "ultimate responsibility" - I mean that in human terms, but still acknowledge God's authority of both our lives. You are absolutely right that I am not a replacement for Jesus! Thank goodness! One of my responsibilities is to encourage Lis in her walk with her Lord. It is possible to submit to two people at the same time.

Phil H said...

Great post Andy, I know we've had a few discussions about this.

I think a lot of people freak out when they see the word submit, so that it clouds their judgement. Nowhere in your blog did i see a view of domination or selfishness, just of love and care. Obviously in an imperfect world this can and has been turned into dominance and selfishness, but this is'nt what is being talked about.

"What about Ephesians 5:21 that you conveniently ignore, that sets the whole context for the rest of the passage?"

If you are going to talk about context you should maybe consider the previous 20 verses, or even better the previous 4 chapters, so I believe that where it says "submitting to one another" it implies that there has been a challenge (hopefully in a loving way) to someone's sin, so if you accept what is said then you are in a way submitting.

This I believe is a general submitting, using the bible as final authority, whereas the verses following are specific submission

"b) Ephesians 6:5-9 is in the same section of text and is about how we treat slaves. How do you apply this today? Do you support slavery? If you no longer see this text as binding on your behaviour then why would you not do the same with Male Headship?"

as has been pointed out in previous replies, Paul is not advocating slavery (have a read of Philemon) and even though slavery isn't a moral issue for us (ie we are against slavery, not that it isn't an issue)we can use it in terms of employer and employee.


"In taking this view of Male Headship you have to ignore a huge amount of Paul's actual practice where is praises women for leadership without any reference to their husbands."

As andy said, women are individuals, so to only refer to them in context with their husbands would be degrading to them and nowhere does it describe this practice anywhere in the passage

I noticed that for children and slaves it said to obey, but not for wives, just submit, surely that is a huge difference.

DaveW said...

"One of my responsibilities is to encourage Lis in her walk with her Lord."

And if that is not mutual (ie Lis has responsibility to encourage you in your walk with your Lord) then

a) Going by my personal experience over the last 21 years you are missing something wonderful in your marriage

b) You have forgotten Ephesians 5:21 again

I would not trade my marriage between two equals with mutual submission and no headship for anything. My faith and my life would be immeasurably diminished if it were not for Jane and the freedom being an equal partner gives her to support, lead, encourage, kick :-), cuddle ... me just as I do the same for her.

I am sorry for the loss you will have in your married life.

Andy said...

And if that is not mutual (ie Lis has responsibility to encourage you in your walk with your Lord) then

a) Going by my personal experience over the last 21 years you are missing something wonderful in your marriage

b) You have forgotten Ephesians 5:21 again


Yes it is mutual. I shouldn't say it's my responsibility as head to disciple her, because that makes it exclusive. I'll amend that to: it's one of my responsibilities to ensure that we are both discipling each other.

Phil H said...

"I am sorry for the loss you will have in your married life."
I actually find that quite offensive as i'm a good friend of Andy and about to get married as well.
Is it really that difficult to understand what the bible instructs us to do. Men are just called to be like Jesus, if there is anything wrong with that then I really must be following a different Jesus. Women are called to be like the church. Imperfect i know at the moment, but that does not mean they are just a door matt.

Have a read of proverbs 14 v1 and 31 v10-31. This is how I view women, but doesn't in anyway contradict my view (just as it reads) of Ephesians 5.

Btw I am neither Egalitarian or complementarian but Bible believing

DaveW said...

"Btw I am neither Egalitarian or complementarian but Bible believing"

Nicely implying that neither of the others are Bible believing. Thanks.

As for your Bible believing state please explain for me

a) where is it that your bible says that it is only men that are called to be like Jesus?

b) where does it say that women are to be like the Church?

Certainly not in the Ephesians passage we have been discussing. Nor supported by either of the texts from proverbs (and interesting how you take Proverbs 31 to support submission when the woman is incredibly powerful).

DaveW said...

Phil H,

For another view of those same passages from Proverbs see A Strong (Black) (Woman) Translation of Proverbs 31

Phil H said...

I'm sorry that you misinterpreted my comment, I was merely stating that I don't want to be labelled as either;

a - because I don't know enough about either viewpoint, so i think that siding with either would be foolish for me (don't want to appear to agree to something i don't actually know about and actually would disagree with)

b - i find that having labels can cause division and can prevent different groups to come together to discuss other things and find common ground.

Nowhere does it say only men should be like Jesus, it was just my lack of clearly stating things.

lets for this moment ignore verses 22-24 and just read about husbands loving there wives, now if a husband does all that is stated in these verses, now read verses 22-24, i think it is reasonable for a woman to be ok to submit to her husband, because the husband has her best interests in mind, not in order to stifle her but to encourage her to reach her full potential (which is why I have no problem with the proverbs passage). If a husband does not allow this, then he is not adhering to my interpretation of scripture. I can fully appreciate your concern of husbands abusing their position, I would agree with you on this as that is counter productive.

It is a shame you haven't apparently seen a solid loving marriage based on the views I have shared. I would hope that if you viewed my marriage you would realise that it is possible.

many thanks for this discussion

Phil

DaveW said...

Phil H,

" I would hope that if you viewed my marriage you would realise that it is possible."

Of course it is possible, never said it is not. But that does not mean it is the best thing.

See the recent posts on my blog for many of the reasons why it is not the best thing. When I see all the problems that result from submission to male headship I am forced to question whether that understanding of scripture can be correct.