Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

All-Male Eldership, Part 2: Two Common Objections

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Conclusion.

Neither Male nor Female

Galatians 3:28 in no way abolishes gender distinctions, but rather, the false assumptions that value or worth could somehow be attached to the simple identification of an individual as a slave, free man, Jew, Gentile, male, or female. (After all, if it really did abolish gender distinctions, then how could homosexuality be wrong?) Rather, the text says that in Christ, all were purchased at the same price (the context of the book is obviously justification), and in creation all were equally made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).

Mutual Submission

Mutual submission, as presented by egalitarians (so as to abolish the existence of an authority within a relationship), does not fit with the flow of Paul’s argument in Eph. 5 (wives to husbands, children to parents, slaves to masters). Moreover, it does not fit with the established meaning of hypotassō which is always indicative of submission to an authority. The use of allēlous (“one another”) does not necessarily convey the idea of “everyone to everyone” in its common usage. Although it sometimes can indicate this (cf. Mark 9:50; John 13:34; Phil. 2:3), full reciprocity is sometimes obviously not even possibly in view (cf. Matt. 24:10; Luke 2:15; 12:1; 24:32; 1 Cor. 11:33; Gal. 6:2; Rev. 6:4; etc.). In light of the particularly odd construction (“submit unilaterally to one in authority to one another”) it must be deemed best to allow the context (the ellipsis in the original undisputedly indicates a continuation of thought from 5:21 to 5:22) to determine exactly what Paul means. Given the explanation and examples that follow, the best understanding of hypotassō allēlous is “be subject to others in the church who are in positions of authority over you.” In other words, even though you are all one in Christ, do not use this as an excuse to forsake all authority relationships (which are shown elsewhere to be established by God; cf. Rom. 13:1-7), but continue to submit to one another, where authority relationships exist. This is the best meaning linguistically, since it stays the closest to the invariably attested meaning of hypotassō and the contextually interpreted allēlous. It is also the best option contextually because it moves best with the flow of thought in Eph. 5, moving from the whole corporate body to specific application in the home life.

Furthermore, if the idea of mutual submission was the original intent of Paul, then it must also be applied to Christ and the church (Paul’s own divinely inspired illustration). This is a concept that is never attested to anywhere in the Bible and seems illogical at best and blasphemous at worst.

It is also notable that in the explanations of authority relationships that follow Eph. 5:21, Paul takes care to indicate how, in each relationship, the one in authority is to carry out that authority properly, in a God-glorifying manner. The husband loves his wife (vv 25-33), the father does not provoke his children (6:4), and the master desists from threatening and remembers that he too has a master (6:9). This is further proof that Paul clearly has in mind relationships with a source of unilateral authority and does not desire the abolition of those authority structures.

The idea of mutual submission overruling a wife’s submission to her husband as one in an authority position is also inconsistent with other instructions on ordering the NT home (Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1). None of the other passages which carry such instructions for the authority of the husband include any statement that would even vaguely suggest “mutual submission.” Moreover, writing to the culture that he was, Paul would not have needed to tell the wife to submit to the husband (if mutual submission was his intent), but rather, he would have had to make it very clear that the husband was now to submit to the wife. “Husbands submit to your wives” would have been the newest revelation and is what would have needed clarifying and emphasizing. Nowhere in Scripture is such a statement even hinted at. Nevertheless, the commands for wives to submit to husbands are multiple. The classical complementarian position is established therefore by allowing Scripture to interpret itself (as Eph. 5:22ff; 1 Cor. 11:3; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1 all clarify Paul’s meaning in Eph. 5:21). This is much preferred over the egalitarian argument which pits a false Greek construction of Eph. 5:21 over against the rest of the NT teaching on husband-wife relationships.

20 Comments

  1. “(After all, if it really did abolish gender distinctions, then how could homosexuality be wrong?)”

    1. Homosexuality is not a gender.
    2. There is no reason for homosexuality to be used as a weapon against women in the issue of gender roles.

    “Rather, the text says that in Christ, all were purchased at the same price (the context of the book is obviously justification), and in creation all were equally made in the image of God (Gen. 1:27).”

    The retarded were also made in God’s image. However, we all recognize that the retarded have limitations on their life roles. They are not likely to be brain surgeons or rocket scientists. We take care of them and make decisions for them because they are often, as a class of people, unable to do so for themselves.

    So by your definition, “equality” really only means that a class of people is made in God’s image and capable of being saved by Jesus.

    Otherwise that class of people may be considered to be inferior in discretion, intellect, wisdom, fortitude, discernment and so forth.

    My developing understanding of complementarianism is that women are viewed as a similar class of “limited” individuals.

    Complementarians are not opening an old wound in this regard. It is just more of the same old thing.

    “The use of allēlous (“one another”) does not necessarily convey the idea of “everyone to everyone” in its common usage. Although it sometimes can indicate this (cf. Mark 9:50; John 13:34; Phil. 2:3), full reciprocity is sometimes obviously not even possibly in view “

    Somehow you manage to make the phrase “one another” mean “ones in authority”. Apparently, this is because you are unable to conceive of the idea that there could be submission between all believers. You chose instead to reinterpret the phrase “one another”.

    In fact, these two phrases are too divergent in concept for you to do this. If the bible says “love one another” will you then reinterpret this to mean “love the ones in authority”?

    Are there other examples in Greek that would attest that “allelous” can be interpreted as “your superiors” rather than “each other”?

    If so, I would love to see this evidence.

    “This is much preferred over the egalitarian argument which pits a false Greek construction of Eph. 5:21 over against the rest of the NT teaching on husband-wife relationships.”

    “Preferred” is a good word choice. I can see that you prefer to interpret verses that imply mutuality as actually confirming hierarchy.

    At what degree of female submission will men be happy?

    Will men be happy with women who simply play their role, or is a deeper internal subordination necessary? How do women accomplish this?

    Is there a place for authentic personality in women, or is all of that subordinated to acting out our position in the hierarchy? How do we do this? There’s a difference between playing dumb and being dumb.


  2. 1. Homosexuality is not a gender.
    2. There is no reason for homosexuality to be used as a weapon against women in the issue of gender roles.

    No one said it was. He said that id the verse completely abolished the distinction of gender (there are no boundaries on the words, right?) then that interpretation also undoes all Scripture that condemns homosexuality. Look at Romans 1:27 “And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.”

    Now if there is no longer male and female then how can two men do that which is unseemly? The concept no longer exists…

    So by your definition, “equality” really only means that a class of people is made in God’s image and capable of being saved by Jesus.

    Are you suggesting that there is a way of looking at men and women and saying that they are equal in every single way? Cause I gotta tell you, I’ve never heard anyone try to argue that. You put a picture of a man and a woman side by side and a little kid can tell you that they are not the same. So, of course the question is in what ways are men and women equal, because it’s clear right off the bat that God chose to make some things different. And we know that He could have made them exactly the same. But how is it reasonable to assume that because the physical is different, that everything else must be the same?

    Anyway, that’s all I’ve got for the first half of your comments.
    Take care,
    Charles
    http://thepreacher.cac2.net

  3. Julian Freeman

    25 May, 2007 at 1:40 pm

    Thanks for jumping in, guys.

    Great insights, Charles, thanks!

  4. “Now if there is no longer male and female then how can two men do that which is unseemly? The concept no longer exists…”

    1. No one, including egalitarians, is claiming that male and female human beings are not distinct. The question is whether the distinction between the two requires women to perpetually take subordinate, submissive and passive roles and whether the distinction implies that women are derivative of men.

    2. Homosexuals are, at best, 3% of the population. You will enforce a set of limitations against 50% of the human race using this small percentage of people as your excuse. The 50% of people who will sacrifice themselves will be almost exclusively heterosexual, and have no involvement in homosexual issues at all. Does this make sense to you?

    “But how is it reasonable to assume that because the physical is different, that everything else must be the same?”

    1. Everything else may not be the same. However, when it comes to establishing differences, women usually find themselves debased in some way. Usually generalizations are quickly changed into norms and become the defining factors of femininity and women are soon pressured to conform in spite of personal diversity.

    2. For example, Wayne Grudem says: “God gave men, in general, a disposition that is better suited to teaching and governing in the church, a disposition that inclines more to the rational, logical analysis of doctrine and a desire to protect the doctrinal purity of the church, and God gave women, in general, a disposition that inclines more toward a relational, nurturing emphasis that places a higher value on unity and community in the church (v14)” (72)

    Translation: men are rational people who protect truth, women are emotional nurturers who cannot be expected or permitted to perform in roles that involve intellectual or logical rigor.

    We all know this is fiddle-faddle, since women are currently doing surgery, building bombs, flying jets and doing other things that require analytical and cool-minded thinking.

    The message from complementarianism is clear: those women are freaks and usurpers. Open a daycare, bake a casserole. Nurture somebody. Fake it.

  5. 1. Everything else may not be the same. However, when it comes to establishing differences, women usually find themselves debased in some way.

    Yes…the reality is that we are totally depraved and that depravity touches even that which is right or good.

    I reject the premise that we must throw out everything that is good and Biblical because people sin and sin touches everything, including gender roles.

    If husbands treated wives the way Christ loved the church and if wives submitted to their husbands as unto the Lord – how is there debasement in that? There is not. That debasement enters into is is sin, and should be treated as such.

    If a person feels that a proper view of gender roles is “debasement”, that’s between them and the author – but then again, Christian life in general is a call to deny oneself in order to be a bondservant (slave). Is that also debasement?

  6. Open a daycare, bake a casserole. Nurture somebody. Fake it.

    Stenides, some of us believe that caring for God’s children (opening a daycare; I have worked in a Christian daycare), baking a casserole (feeding the flock in a physical way; I have taken casseroles to those in need) and nurturing are actually quite Godly things to do.

    Some of us don’t have to fake taking care of others in a supportive role.

    In fact, some of us see being the keeper of the home as a very noble position. I bet it doesn’t mean what a lot of people need for it to mean in order for it to be an insult.

  7. No one, including egalitarians, is claiming that male and female human beings are not distinct. The question is whether the distinction between the two requires women to perpetually take subordinate, submissive and passive roles and whether the distinction implies that women are derivative of men.

    That is the question you are asking. But this verse doesn’t speak to that at all. It is talking about salvation. And it isn’t changing anything. It’s reminding us what has always been true. Jesus Christ has always been the way to heaven.

    What I’m saying, is that Egalitarians have a very hard time interpreting this verse in a way that matches their viewpoint without having significant implications (like homosexuality becoming ok). In other words, why does saying “there is neither male nor female”, mean that women are no longer subject to their husbands, but that there is still the concept of male and female? What is the hermeneutic that puts that scope on the interpretation?

    You will enforce a set of limitations against 50% of the human race using this small percentage of people as your excuse.

    You assume that anyone who does not see eye to eye with you is insincere. The question is what scripture means. If I see that interpreting a verse in a certain way clearly contradicts other scripture then I know the interpretation is flawed. That is my excuse.

  8. Regarding Galations 3:28 : “But this verse doesn’t speak to that at all. It is talking about salvation.”

    I know that this is the complementarian interpretation of this scripture, but that does not mean that it is the right interpretation.

    If the outworking of this verse is that Christians treat women, slaves and foreigners in essentially the same way as they did before salvation, then Paul needn’t have said anything.

    There is no need to state something to the effect of “Subordinate them, but remember they’re equal in salvation”. Men already have a desire to rule over and subordinate women from the time of the fall. They don’t need encouragement or justification to do it. It comes naturally.

    “The question is what scripture means. If I see that interpreting a verse in a certain way clearly contradicts other scripture then I know the interpretation is flawed.”

    This is because you have already determined that your pet scriptures take interpretive precedence over other scriptures in the bible and drive how they are interpreted.

  9. “Stenides, some of us believe that caring for God’s children (opening a daycare; I have worked in a Christian daycare), baking a casserole (feeding the flock in a physical way; I have taken casseroles to those in need) and nurturing are actually quite Godly things to do.”

    I believe that it is the task of both male and female Christians to serve, nurture and provide for the needy and vulnerable. There is no distinction in roles, because we are all commanded to do the same thing in helping others.

    Men with a capability for food preparation should be making food and taking it to the needy, if that is their calling.

    Men with a calling to work with children should be working at daycares, Sunday schools or other programs that serve and care for children.

    Some men and women will be called to do other things, and they should do those things as their talents and gifts incline them to do.

  10. There is no distinction in roles, because we are all commanded to do the same thing in helping others.

    Uh…no. Paul said, “Wives submit…husbands love.” Those are different roles.

    Elsewhere in Scripture, wives are told to be the keepers of the home. Titus 2 addresses men and women in different ways – because they have different roles.

    I realize you don’t LIKE it. But Scripture addresses men and women differently. It does.

    And until you can prove Scripturally that “submit to your husband” doesn’t mean submit and that that “hupotasso” doesn’t mean “hupotasso” and “oikouros” doesn’t mean “oikouros” – it’s where I stand; on Scripture.

    You can try to pit Paul against culture and to pit creation against human depravity. But Scripture is still Scripture and the overwhelming pattern is husband as leader, wife as helpmeet.

  11. Men with a capability for food preparation should be making food and taking it to the needy, if that is their calling.

    Men with a calling to work with children should be working at daycares, Sunday schools or other programs that serve and care for children.

    I forgot to add…these tasks have nothing to do with the authority structure. I work in a very special place with very special people that does involve care-taking and food prep. It has nothing to do with who is in authority and who submits at home or in the church.

    It’s an intentional blurring of the line between task and authority. What we are talking about is the authoritative leadership and imparting of spiritual leadership.

  12. Julian Freeman

    30 May, 2007 at 10:51 pm

    Hi everyone, thanks for your continued thoughts and discussion. I’ve been away for a few days, so I’ve been slow to jump in here. Here are a few thoughts.

    1. Stenides said, ‘Are there other examples in Greek that would attest that “allelous” can be interpreted as “your superiors” rather than “each other”? If so, I would love to see this evidence.’

    Here are a few examples: Matt. 24:10; Luke 2:15; 12:1; 24:32; 1 Cor. 11:33; Gal. 6:2; Rev. 6:4.

    2. Ellen makes a good point in noting the role that the sinful heart plays in feeling ‘debased’ by differences in roles. In the first post in this series I noted how the confusion of the gender roles was a result of the curse. That woman would desire to be ‘against’ her husband (ie to usurp his authority over her) and that the man would desire to rule over his wife by physical force or dominance (as you point out elsewhere) is because of the fall… because of sin. Man’s authority over creation and the wife’s role as helper and mother are honourable tasks… it is our sinful heart which tells us they are not.

    3. Stenides said, This is because you have already determined that your pet scriptures take interpretive precedence over other scriptures in the bible and drive how they are interpreted.

    I think we need to be careful here. I know it is impossible to accurately determine the tone of comments when they are strictly written on a computer screen, but the conversation here is between brothers and sisters who Christ bought with his blood. Let’s all try to remain cordial here. ‘Smart’ remarks hinder good, true, helpful conversation.

    Thanks again to all of you for your contributions. Please do read on in the series and hopefully we’ll be able to grow in our understanding of these issues together.

  13. Ellen says: “Uh…no. Paul said, “Wives submit…husbands love.” Those are different roles.”

    Uh…yes. Actually the vast majority of commands in the Bible are applicable to both men and women.

    The command to love one another is given to all Christians. Husbands loving their wives is not a distinct role, since wives are to love their husbands since he qualifies as a “neighbor”.

    You have chosen to alter the meaning of the command of Christians to submit to one another so that it doesn’t include married men to their wives, but I hope that you are not taking the same liberties with Christ’s command to love one another, are you?

    “I realize you don’t LIKE it. But Scripture addresses men and women differently. It does.”

    I don’t like the manipulation of scripture which creates an emphasis on gender roles based on a very small and debatable part of the New Testament as a whole.

    “What we are talking about is the authoritative leadership and imparting of spiritual leadership.”

    Once again we must BALANCE one scripture with another. Christian women are part of the priesthood of all believers. Whatever the relationship between a Christian husband and wife, one of the wife’s spiritual roles is as a “holy priest” in the words of Peter.

  14. “Ellen makes a good point in noting the role that the sinful heart plays in feeling ‘debased’ by
    differences in roles.”

    Women are consistently regarded as a baseline for human frippery, sentimentality and lack of real substance in the complementarian world view.

    Douglas Wilson explains:
    “For well over a century in the American church, the norms of spirituality have been the standards set by a saccharine Victorian feminism.”

    More Wilson:
    “It explains why Promise Keepers, a masculine renewal movement, was so easily diverted into a maudlin and weepy sentimentality.”

    More Wilson:
    “We cannot resist the demand to let pretty women lead us for the simple reason that we are currently being led by pretty men.”

    The horror about female teachers in churches or seminaries is that men will be shamed and tainted by femininity and all rigor and masculine virtue will be lost as men are debased by the presence of equal women.

    Now, I am not the smartest person on earth, but I know when I’m being insulted.

    “I think we need to be careful here. I know it is impossible to accurately determine the tone of comments when they are strictly written on a computer screen, but the conversation here is between brothers and sisters who Christ bought with his blood. Let’s all try to remain cordial here. ‘Smart’ remarks hinder good, true, helpful conversation.”

    I was completely sincere in my remark that complementarianism puts a narrow interpretive focus on the entire bible.

    My comment was not intended to be smart or sarcastic.

  15. Stenides, your entire reply was based on “female” appeal to emotion. No Scripture.

    For the entirety of the Bible, and for nearly 2,000 years (until Doug Wilson’s “well over a century”, it was understood that male headship, in home and in church, was right and Biblical.

    Given that fact, the responsibility is on those who wish to change the Bible that Paul did not mean what Paul said, that hupotasso does not mean hupotasso. From Scripture, not appeal to “appeal to belief” (everybody knows…”, not appeal to common belief (most churches have changed…), not appeal to consequenced (if we do this, then women will feel…), not the rest of the list of logical fallacies that are so commonly used.

    Show me in Scripture that Paul didn’t mean what Paul clearly taught.

    Now, I am not the smartest person on earth, but I know when I’m being insulted.

    Ah…but what if they are right?

  16. The command to love one another is given to all Christians. Husbands loving their wives is not a distinct role, since wives are to love their husbands since he qualifies as a “neighbor”.

    Are children to submit to their parents? Do parents submit to the need sof their children (I can attest to the fact that being a parent involves a lot of submission to the needs of another person.

    Please – proof from Scripture that the direct statement to women,hupotasso doesn’t mean what it says.

    Loving one another doesn’t rule out submission. Submitting in love, leading in love, submitting to the needs of the other person. That is the message in Scripture. I enjoyed the fifth post, on submission within the Trinity – it proves this point.

    If you cannot prove that “hupotasso” doesn’t mean “hupotasso” and “oikouros” doesn’t mean “oikouros” that you cannot make your point from Scripture. And I still stand on Scripture.

  17. Ellen says:
    “Stenides, your entire reply was based on “female” appeal to emotion. No Scripture.”

    Good. Either list the verses in the bible that state that women are emotional and sentimental or retract your claim.

    Doug Wilson’s comments were not biblical, they were claptrap. There is nothing in the bible that states that women who enjoy an equal status with men destroy the masculinity of men or make them homosexuals.

    If you find a verse to that effect, let me know. Otherwise, stop accusing other people of manipulating scripture while complementarians snatch ideas out of pagan misogyny and present them as biblical truth.

    I said: “Now, I am not the smartest person on earth, but I know when I’m being insulted.”

    Ellen says: “Ah…but what if they are right?”

    Right about which insult? Or are you referring to all of them?

    The fact that complementarians feel the need to insult and degrade egalitarians is a simple statement of animus.

    Ellen says: “Loving one another doesn’t rule out submission. Submitting in love, leading in love, submitting to the needs of the other person. That is the message in Scripture. I enjoyed the fifth post, on submission within the Trinity – it proves this point”

    1. Reread my post. You missed my point.

    2. The perpetual submission of Christ within the Trinity can be disproved using scripture, and I therefore no longer give it any of my time. It is a minority doctrine, and people are entitled to have it. However, it is not very defensible.

  18. Stenides, again, no Scripture.

    I meant (and I choose to believe that you didn’t miss it) that if a statement is true, then what makes in an insult is the attitude of the hearer, not the words. The church IS feminized. Statement, not insult.

    Good. Either list the verses in the bible that state that women are emotional and sentimental or retract your claim.

    I didn’t say it was Biblical…you are, however…appealing to emotion.

    The fact that complementarians feel the need to insult and degrade egalitarians is a simple statement of animus.The fact that complementarians feel the need to insult and degrade egalitarians is a simple statement of animus.

    uh…you are reading into statement of authority a perceived statement of ability and then use that as an argument in a debate. Sorry, but that doesn’t make your point.

    The point remains that if you are making a doctrinal plea, and one that is going against the entirety of Biblical and church history (except for Douglas Wilson’s last couple of centuries), then appeal to Scripture. It really is that easy – either you have Scripture behind you or you don’t.

  19. Julian Freeman

    31 May, 2007 at 11:07 pm

    Stenides, I think Ellen was being sarcastic when she said you appealed to a ‘female’ appeal to emotion.

    Also, please do not think that all complementarians are lumped in with Doug Wilson’s comments. It would be neither fair nor charitable for us to find some ridiculous quotes from some extreme egalitarians and employ them against you as some sort of straw man. That does not contribute to good conversation.

    With regard to the submission of the Son to the Father, I humbly submit that whether or not you agree with the doctrine, you must either admit that your comments with regard to it being ‘minority’ and ‘not very defensible’ were (a) overstated for the sake of making a point, or (b) that you are not very well read, because what you’ve said is patently untrue. Good, published Christian scholars with good reputations for their academic work argue vehemently (and I think rightly) for this position.

    Again, I do want to thank you for you comments and insight… it is appreciated, and we do learn best from engaging with people from other positions who challenge us and make us think and rethink through the tough issues. I only ask that we do please continue to try to be patient with each other as we learn and grow, and that we treat each other as genuine brothers and sisters in the Lord.

  20. “With regard to the submission of the Son to the Father, I humbly submit that whether or not you agree with the doctrine, you must either admit that your comments with regard to it being ‘minority’ and ‘not very defensible’ were (a) overstated for the sake of making a point, or (b) that you are not very well read, because what you’ve said is patently untrue. Good, published Christian scholars with good reputations for their academic work argue vehemently (and I think rightly) for this position.”

    I was given a mainstream evangelical education and I have never heard of this idea.

    It is either a minority opinion or an extraordinarily minor doctrinal point that is not considered a significant enough element of evangelical theology to teach to the average layperson.

    My initial reaction to the doctrine, having been taught the equality and unity of the Trinity, was that it was some sort of new heretical semi-Arian idea that had suddenly popped up in evangelical circles.

    I have ONLY seen this doctrine as a prop for complementarianism. It is used exclusively, as far as I can tell, by scholars associated with the CBMW or others of their thinking. If your scholarly sources are people like John Piper, then I would not be surprised. He has used this doctrine to promote his complementarian ideas.

    Because the Trinity is unique, the comparison between the Father and Son and human spouses is inapplicable. It is absurd to compare the relationship between two fallen humans with the relationship between God the Father and God the Son in the Trinity.

    For one thing, the implication would be that the Father and Son can diverge in their thoughts and plans and come into conflict with each other. In fact, as God, they are in perfect agreement.

    Submission occurs in two separate beings in which an independently thinking individual subordinates his or her will to another.

    Other than during the incarnation, this is not the circumstance under which the Trinity functions.

    Trying create a parallel either debases many mysterious and complex features of the Trinity, or promotes an idea of married people that is unrealistic and unbiblical.

    Because I dismiss the idea of using the paradigm of the Trinity as a model for human marriage, I am free to worry about how the doctrine of the perpetual submission of Jesus is being ferreted into evangelical doctrine where it does not belong.

    The emergence of the doctrine of perpetual submission in the Trinity AND the insistence that it is a basic evangelical doctrine is one of the most disturbing trends that I have seen in the last ten years.

    It robs the Trinity of a complex and mysterious companionship, and leaves in its place a lockstep, Gothardite chain of command. You are entitled to do so, but I am not playing along when the integrity of the Trinity is at stake.

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