Tag Archive: source


COMPLEMENTARIANISM – A FORM OF PATRIARCHY

Complementarianism is a belief that limits the roles of a wife to those that won’t infringe on her husband as head ‘over’ her. As such, Complementarianism is a form of patriarchy, but, unlike full-blown Patriarchy, which has women subject to men in every area of society, this version is restricted to how it effects the spousal relationship. The basis for this belief is their interpretation of Biblical passages like Eph 5:23, 1 Cor 11:3, 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35. (Click on the references for an Egalitarian/Mutualist view of these passages).

CHURCH LEADERSHIP

In a nutshell, Complementarian wives cannot take on any leadership roles in society where they are ‘over’ their husbands. And so, fueled by a common misconception that church leadership roles are hierarchical, despite Jesus commanding to the contrary (Matt 20:25-27), Complementarians restrict women in church roles too, in order to prevent them from violating their concept of male headship in the home. In fact, when it comes to church leadership, Complementarians are especially quick to implement this practice, believing that Paul was addressing the possible violation of this spousal headship structure in passages like 1 Tim 2:11-15 and 1 Cor 14:34-35.

HEAD – AUTHORITY OR SOURCE?

What is clear is that this belief hinges on the principle of hierarchical headship in the home. However, even though Ephesians 5:23 certainly does speak of the husband as head (Gk. kephale) of the wife, the biblical era meaning of ‘head’ (Gk. kephale) means source and not rank headship. Also, to note, is that the text says that ‘the husband is the head of (not over) the wife, even as Christ is the head of (not over) the church, which also fits with that era’s use of ‘head’ as source and not authority.

But, someone might ask, what of 1 Corinthians 11:3 that reads: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Here, the term “head”, from the Gk. kephale, is also to be understood as “source” or “origin”, without the idea of rank, and carrying  the idea of chronology and not hierarchy.

To further substantiate this, the sequence in 1Cor 11:3 shows that hierarchy wasn’t the meaning. The sequence in the text is: Man – Christ, Wife – Husband, Christ – God

If hierarchy was the meaning, then it would have had this order: Wife – Husband, Man – Christ, Christ – God

Thirdly, hierarchical interpretation of this passage begs the question, is the ascended Christ, the Son of God, under God? As the Word, having been equal to God, He relinquished His equality for our salvation, but isn’t He restored to equality with God with ALL authority in heaven and earth? And, only at the end will He subject Himself to God again (see 1 Cor 15:28).

ORDER BY CHRONOLOGY ACCORDING TO ORIGIN/SOURCE

The source of every man is Christ (ADAM was made by Christ)

The source of the woman is the man (Eve came from Adam; also descriptive of that time when a husband was the main provider of physical resources and spiritual food which he could access more easily and from which she was often deprived access)

The source of Christ is God (Christ from God, Begotten of God, God became flesh to be the Christ)

Consider Cyril of Alexandria (5th century): “Thus we say that the kephale of every man is Christ, because he was made through Him and brought forward to birth…. And the kephale of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh and has him as her source. Likewise, the kephale of Christ is God, because He is from Him according to nature.”

MUTUAL SUBMISSION

Furthermore, Eph 5:21 says ‘submitting yourselves one to another’, which clarifies that the male headship spoken of in Eph 5:23 must be understood within the context of mutual submission and not rank leadership, even if men had this kind of authority through state legislation or culturally. In fact, the term ‘submit’ in Eph 5:22 is not in the Greek, which clearly shows that wives were being directed to the same ‘submitting…one to another’ of Eph 5:21, and not another.

Even in the unlikely event that ‘head’ did mean rank headship in this passage, it should be seen as being descriptive of a husband in New Testament society, who automatically acquired legal authority over his household by virtue of his gender, but as prescriptive of how he ought to behave, given his position, for the sake of his wife and not primarily his own. Understood this way, Paul was being prescriptive within the confines of Roman society’s boundaries, just as he was with slave owners and slaves.

NO CHURCH HIERARCHY

Ironically, neither the meaning of source or rank for ‘head’ would preclude a wife from becoming an elder or pastor in a church and thereby interfere with the supposed spousal rank ‘headship’ principle, because there is no hierarchy in the Church where anyone is ranked ‘over’ another, except Jesus as Lord. That said, it is evident that the passages on Jesus being ‘head of’ His body also have to do with Him being the source rather than being about rank leadership, though it is clear from other contexts that He has this too.

SUBMIT TO HUSBAND

Also ironic is that if one takes a Mutualist (Egalitarian) or Complementarian view here and considers the likely scenario where a husband agrees or allows (depending on the view) his wife to be a pastor, elder, governor, or the country’s president, either by mutual consensus or authority over (again, depending on the view), then the outcome would be that she may, for Eph 5:23 says that it is to her husband that she is supposed to submit. And so, no church or any other man has the authority to stop her.

COMPLEX, BEYOND BELIEF

The Complementarian narrative centers around subordinate roles of a wife in relation to her husband, but the exact parameters for women in general, and each woman in particular, appears to be subject to the discretion and influence of male church leaders who claim Biblical authority for their exclusively male role and their varying interpretations. Furthermore, the application of their belief becomes so tricky, given their various interpretations, that it is hard to imagine that God would have given us something so difficult to pin down. Not to mention that the complexity of applying their belief increases and varies even more when we step out of the spousal relationship and consider leadership for single women or widows that don’t fall under these headship passages.

Photo: scottsnyde (Scott Snyder) Rgbstock.com

Photo: scottsnyde (Scott Snyder) Rgbstock.com

Biblical texts are often used as proofs for our own particular set of Christian values. Among those are texts which appear to subject women to men and wives to their husbands. But do these texts mean what many have ascribed to them?

Clarity for these texts are found in careful consideration of each passage in its own context and by avoiding transferring our own ideologies into the text. In the next posts I will cover two passages that speak of a husband’s headship in order to give some idea of their original meaning in context.

The first text, 1Corinthians 11:3, reads: But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

Here, the term “head”, from the Gk. kephale, is to be understood as “source” or “origin” without the idea of rank and has as its meaning the idea of chronology and not hierarchy.

To further substantiate this, the sequence in 1Cor 11:3 shows that hierarchy wasn’t the meaning. The sequence in the text is: Man – Christ, Wife – Husband, Christ – God

If hierarchy was the meaning, then it would have had this order: Wife – Husband, Man – Christ, Christ – God

Thirdly, hierarchical interpretation of this passage begs the question, is the ascended Christ, the Son of God, under God? As the Word, having been equal to God, He relinquished His equality for our salvation, but isn’t He restored to equality with God with ALL authority in heaven and earth? And, only at the end will He subject Himself to God again (see 1 Cor 15:28).

Order by chronology according to origin/source:

The source of every man is Christ (ADAM was made by Christ)

The source of the woman is the man (Eve came from Adam; also descriptive of that time when a husband was the main provider of physical resources and spiritual food which he could access more easily and from which she was often deprived access)

The source of Christ is God (Christ from God, Begotten of God, God became flesh to be the Christ)

Consider Cyril of Alexandria (5th century): “Thus we say that the kephale of every man is Christ, because he was made through Him and brought forward to birth…. And the kephale of woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh and has him as her source. Likewise, the kephale of Christ is God, because He is from Him according to nature.”

Someone may ask, “But, isn’t the husband meant to be the leader if he is the head?” and cite Ephesians 5:22-25: Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her. This is the second text that I want to reflect on.

Firstly, it is key to note that just prior to these verses, verse 21 says “…submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” This is important because, in order for all the parts of the body of Christ to function properly, submission needs to be universal in the kingdom of God.

Secondly, the term “head” (kephale) has the meaning of “source” and not rank. The focus is on husbands being the source of care for their wives as Christ is for the Church.

Consider that coming out of darkness and oppression is both instantaneous and progressive. So, while we are instantly changed spiritually, we often take time to change behaviorally and it usually takes even longer for the effect of the gospel to change society, even Christian society.

So, just as masters and slaves were prescribed certain behavior in the New Testament and yet slavery was not being endorsed as a Christian ideal, so too, husbands and wives were prescribed certain behavior toward one another in their current context, which was not an endorsement of the status quo where husbands were the main providers and sole leaders and where their wives were heavily dependent and often the only “partner” in submission.

Slavery and subservient wives were the context, but not the ideal to which Christianity was pointing. God-breathed prescriptions were given into these circumstances in which those saved found themselves, which, if carried out wholeheartedly, were a means to a greater end – the emancipation of slaves and women.

Essentially, husbands and wives who came to Christ, were on a journey back to mutuality. On this road, wives were not to use their freedom in Christ to become reactionary, domineering or rebellious, but to remain in submission, a Christian trait for all. And, husbands, who according to verse 21 were to submit too, as the main providers at the time, were to use their circumstantial benefits to help lead toward spousal relationships of equality.

As for us today, while we can all draw from the many truths in this passage, only those who are saved within the highly patriarchal societies will experience a direct correlation with this scripture. Husbands in general have always been the head, being the main source of provision and, by default, since the fall, the leaders. However, if they carry out their role in Christ properly, they would be able to help lead their marriages (and eventually society) to experience mutuality with regards access to resources and the opportunity to lead.

In our modern world where women enjoy a lot more liberty in church and society, husbands are still to provide support for their wives to fully flourish. But, with the opportunities that many wives have, it’s now more of a mutual support of one another than ever before. In some societies we can taste the pre-fall dream of mutuality that was lost at the fall. Certainly Christianity in most places should have moved far from the sad years of men having sole access to the many resources that made them the primary providers and also, sadly, often dominate their wives and women in general. Yet, this is not the case because of narrow views of what certain Scriptures really meant. Worse still, is the modern trend to again enslave women in emancipated Christian society through the ideologies of Patriarchy or Complementarianism.

Pre-fall Mutuality:

Gen 1:28: And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

Mutuality Lost and Post-fall Dominance:

Gen 3:16: To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

Mutuality Restored:

Gal 3:28: There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

In Christ, husbands and wives should be joint providers, especially of an environment for mutuality. There, Christ is their provider and alone is preeminent in every area.

Rob

New Life

Concerning remedying your sinful behavior, don’t focus on being right-and-wrong-conscious, but rather be sold out to God with all of your heart and mind. Being right-and-wrong-conscious can put the emphasis on behavior where you might try to rectify things yourself and not fix the real issue of living from the wrong source. You see, when living from the Spirit, you won’t be occupied with wrong things anyway, because He automatically does what is right.Now, while it has been said that sin and addictions are best resolved by replacing the negative activity with better ones, unless I am living from Jesus as my source, it’s inevitable that I’ll succumb to further sin or addiction. Ultimately, there’s only one satisfying and meaningful way of life and that is living in a Spirit-filled relationship with God.

In believing in Jesus, the issue of righteousness (standing acquitted before God) is settled at the cross once and for all and no amount of error on my part can untangle that. Not only am I acquitted for life, but I am placed into Christ’s death and resurrection, immediately dying to sin and to God’s law, and rising again to a new life. I am born again and made into a new person. And, what’s more, I am joined irreversibly to Jesus. The Holy Spirit comes to live in me, giving me the ability to do what I used to fail to do. He also comes teach me and enable me to live the life that Jesus has planned for me.

Jesus’ death, resurrection and ascension have made forgiveness of our sins, re-birth to a new life and His empowering of us possible so that we can have productive lives for God’s kingdom. Only, I need to remember that I cannot live apart from Him as my source. In actual fact, living from Jesus as my source is my sole purpose in life. It’s in Him that I get His vision for my life and His strength to carry it out.

So, focus on building your relationship with God as your new source of life. Then, if you should sin, and you probably will, simply recognize that you have lost touch with God as your new source of life and start relying on Him again. Remember, as far as our sin is concerned, both God’s wrath and the law have been satisfied through Christ’s death so that we can be free to enjoy life by the Spirit. No matter how often you fail don’t let your errors stop you. Rather relish in the abounding mercy and grace that there is to pick you up and empower you to succeed again.

So, living in the Spirit is the Bible Code for Life.  “…we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code” (Rom 7:6 ).

(If you haven’t yet, THE GOOD NEWS is that you can receive Jesus as your savior. He is God’s free gift to acquit you from sin and give you a new life in the Spirit. This, despite the life that you have led, because He loves you!  You see, the Bible says in 1Timothy 1:15, “…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners …” Go to God and ask to be forgiven and for a new life in Him).

(Go here for part 1 and part 2)

Rob Morley

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