Eph. 5 teaches proper headship of the husband, which is far different than ruling over a wife and demanding submission from her. Christ as the head of God’s household, the church, did what man never could, and now man is restored to lay down his own life in service to his wife and family. Interestingly the language in these verses describes a husband doing woman’s work in service to her. He’s called to take the lowest place to show his love and personal care, and in that way will be blessed in bringing order and peace to his household under God’s mission. This is how the head serves the body.
Brad Mason has been writing some thought-provoking and very helpful articles for his new website, Heart & Mouth. After posting an article on Complementarity Without Subordination yesterday, he tagged a few of us on Twitter, asking about our thoughts on this post and whether we would agree with his conclusions. I’m honored that Brad even cares what I think, much less that he would put himself out there and ask. I’ve been following his posts with interest.
I thought I would leave a comment over at his blog rather than a short tweet. He’s put a lot of good work into the post, which really contributes to the discussion on complementarianism and a tweet response would not do it justice. But then I noticed my comment was getting kind of long, so I’ve decided to just go ahead and respond here. There is so much that I appreciate about Brad’s post, and there is one area where I’d like to add a caveat, and also an added context that I deem important.
First of all, the title alone reveals that Brad is going after this question that has been lurking since the Trinity debate. I just want to thank him for saying this: “it is complementarity as grounded in ESS that produces the metaphysic of oppression.” He explains this well in the article. Amen to that. Also, I appreciate his explaining the distinctions between Adam and Eve in creation, the purpose for creating woman, and that the emphasis that we see in creation is as one flesh union, not authority and submission. “None of this natural complementarity either presupposes or necessitates hierarchy of authority nor an order of right to command and duty to obey. It is only as a result of the cosmic and relational disorder introduced by sin that right to rule and duty to submit are mandated and a hierarchical order of human relationships is introduced.”
Also, the discernment that headship is described for us in Eph. 5, not 1 Cor. 11, that all authority is delegated, that the wife’s submission is “to the Lord,” and the distinction between “role” and “function” are all helpful and good clarifications. Thank you!
Brad’s article works well in conjunction with Sam Powell’s great article, Headship is not Hierarchy. And in reading and being sharpened by both articles, I would ask Brad if he affirms that the order of creation would indicate that there is headship before the fall, and that headship is not hierarchy. Both Sam and Brad firmly state that there is no pre-fall hierarchy where Eve is to submit to all of Adam’s desires. Brad rightly affirms that both the woman and the man were given the cultural mandate:
Adam and Eve were created as complements and were, it must be made clear, together given authority and dominion to rule over creation: “Then God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth’” (Gen. 1:28).
And both Sam And Brad point to the curse in Gen. 3:16, explaining how the relationships between men and women go awry and hierarchy is introduced. They also both demonstrate how Christ’s work restores what we lost, and that complementarianism should never mean that a husband’s job is to rule over his wife. In Christ, we see a complete reversal of kingdom service. Jesus gives us an example of authority in John 13, and tells us to do the same (John 3:15).
One distinction between the two though is that Sam describes Gen. 3:16 as descriptive and Brad describes it as prescriptive: