Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Interesting perspective on feminine submission

From the often-opaque (to me), sometimes-brilliant Douglas Wilson, Piperically quoting himself on his blog:
"Headship in marriage does not mean that women submit to men; it means one woman submits to one man. Her submission to her husband protects her from having to submit to other men. Prior to marriage, her submission to her father protects her from having to submit to other men. There is no overall biblical requirement that women be submissive to men in general. The biblical pattern is that a wife should respond to the initiative and leadership of her husband, and only to him. She is prepared and trained for this in her submission to her father" (Her Hand in Marriage, pp. 12-13)
What think ye?

Me, I'm pondering. Of course marriage does not mean that a wife submits to no other man in any other context. She may have a boss to obey; if a Christian, she will have an elder or elders in church to submit to. But her husband may have the same responsibility in both similar relationships. Neither of these relations has anything to do with her sex.

But sex does weigh in marriage. The two are equally each other's spouse; but God ordains that the husband, the man, be the head of the family; and that she submit to him.

But that isn't because he is a man; it is because he is her husband. She doesn't submit to his maleness per se, but to his office. That office is exclusive to males, however.

Don't we see this reflected in various verses? For instance, I think of 1 Peter 2:18, where slaves are told to submit even to unjust masters; or 1 Peter 3:1f., where wives are told to submit from the heart even to husbands who are disobeying the Word. In neither case is it the sex of the authority that is the issue, but the office. However, in the case of masters, I know of no Biblical legislation barring them from being women; in the case of husbands, of course, there is.

There, perhaps that's enough to prime the pump.


JackW said...

I’m not sure, but my office sure looks like it should submit to some straightening out!

Submission gets such a bad rap. I think that submission is the most prized trait of a servant and a servant the prized likeness of, and object of joy for, the Servant.

I think maybe our confusion is over which office is more important. More important to whom? Mark 10:43&44

Phil Gons said...

Sounds neat and all, but how does her submission to her mother fit into the picture, and to whom does that submission transfer when she gets married? From father to husband, from mother to . . . ?

DJP said...

Hm, good question. My first thought is of the verses in Numbers 30 (away from my Bible tools), where a father can cancel out a daughter's vows, and that veto-right transfers to her husband on marriage. Don't think mom is mentioned. Of course, the father is the mother's head, so he "trumps" mom's authority over the daughter.

Kyle said...

I'm not sure you can make a distinction between the role of husband and his maleness. The word in Greek and Hebrew is the same.

DJP said...

That's correct. Maybe I'm trying to shave too fine; maleness is inseparable from the office of husband and pastor, as it is not from other offices. What I'm striking at is that God's message to the wife is not, "Submit to him because he is a man, and his maleness reflects Christ's maleness," but "Submit to him because he is your man/husband, as Christ is the church's Man/Husband." It isn't the masculinity per se, it's the relationship, the office.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me worth noting that submission is something given, not something taken.

That is to say, I don't think that it's for me to insist that my wife submit but rather it's for her to submit.
I've insisted a couple of times...lets just say that it was unwise and unlikely to happen again...ever. (Ok, scratch unwise, replace with dumber than dumb)

The biblical basis for that would be "love doesn't demand it's own way".

Too often I see men (myself included) more excited about the wife's resonsibilities than their own...bad news methinks.

Kyle said...

Might one say that having a husband protects a woman from false "assertions" of husbandly "prerogative?" From a woman's perspective, all men are aggressive and dangerous - unless the man is your man. Then he's aggressive and dangerous on your behalf.

Unknown said...

Dan, my first thought straight from the flesh of a woman when I read this was more like a leaping at the thought that hey! I don't have to submit to anyone but my husband and pastor. Men perhaps don't understand how powerful the urge to be in headship is for women. To suggest that our choice to submit is only appropriate for a very narrow range of relationships is, I think, dangerous - because I think Daryl understands it correctly, it is given, not demanded - and it is so, so, so hard to do. It would be even harder if I felt like I had free rein to NOT submit to any other men in general, only to my husband.

I have been wrangling with I Corinthians, and the idea of women being silent in church is in my head, as is the command for children (of both sexes) to obey parents (of both sexes), and I'm just not sure that submission for women is as narrow as Wilson is suggesting.

Anonymous said...


I'd offer the caution that just because something is hard to do, in no way means that it is always appropriate to do it.

I'm sure that's not what your saying...just clarifying.

Unknown said...

I understand, Daryl. There is no biblical support for me to submit to my unbelieving nextdoor neighbor, but I'm trying hard to understand the proper role of women within the body of believers, and I see at least a few hints in Scripture that it is often a submissive role. At the very least it is more submissive than what it sounds like Wilson is suggesting. :)

Daniel said...

DJP, I think you are correct in identifying that the submission of a wife to her husband is role specific - even if those roles are subsequently gender specific.

I think when a person overstates the role of gender - they do so because they fail to make this very distinction.

trogdor said...

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Wait just a minute here. How can she even have the opportunity to submit to another man? How can she even meet another man, seeing as how 'submission' means she stays in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant?

Hmmmm. Something about that seems off. But it's what I was taught in college, so it has to be true, right?

Daniel Calle said...

I was reading the book "Recovering biblical Manhood and Womanhood" and in a chapter written by John Piper I came across the following quote:

(He said that in his prayers for women, ha prays that)

"in all your relationships with men (not just in marriage) you seek the
guidance of the Holy Spirit in applying the Biblical vision of manhood and womanhood;
that you develop a style and demeanor that does justice to the unique role God has given
to man to feel responsible for gracious leadership in relation to women-a leadership
which involves elements of protection and provision and a pattern of initiative; that you
think creatively and with cultural sensitivity (just as he must do) in shaping the style and
setting the tone of your interaction with men."

candy said...

I am married to a man who desires to be all the man that God desires him to be. The more he recognizes his responsibility before God, the more I feel blessed to submit to his authority with a glad heart. It is not a burden, but a relief to submit to a man who wants so much to be pleasing to God.

It helps that my husband totally enjoys my personality and is not threatened by my tendency for spirited interactions with other people. :)

Daniel said...

Remember this tune?

Johnny, I said we were through
Just to see what you would do
You stood there and hung your head
Made me wish that I were dead

Oh, Johnny get angry, Johnny get mad
Give me the biggest lecture I ever had
I want a brave man, I want a cave man
Johnny, show me that you care, really care for me

Every time you danced with me
You let Freddy cut in constantly
When he'd ask, you'd never speak
Must you always be so meek?

Oh, Johnny get angry, Johnny get mad
Give me the biggest lecture I ever had
I want a brave man, I want a cave man
Johnny, show me that you care, really care for me

Every girl wants someone who
She can always look up to
You know I love you, of course
Let me know that you're the boss


I don't know why I thought of that, but I did...

Simon said...


Do you think that's the slant of "hAI GUNAIKES TOIS IDIOIS ANDRASIN hWS TWi KURIWi"? (Eph 5:22)

Their own, not any other ones?

It seems to make it click for me.

FX Turk said...

As a prophet of Doug Wilson, gifted with interpreting him to the gentiles/baptists, I think what he means by this passage is that women are not inherently inferior to men -- his point is that we as trinitarian Christ-disciples are not advocating for women to be an underclass when a man walks into the room. We're not Muslims.

The duty of a woman is that in marriage she submits to her husband and not all husbands. She does this not because she is inferior to him but because she is under the authority of God, and that's God's plan for marriage.

You know: it would be stupid to say that a 300-lb tackle or center is inferior to a 200-lb QB -- or the buck-80 offensive coordinator -- just because by design the QB calls all the plays. The lineman submits to the QB, even if the lineman does all the hard work.

And I think this analogy plays very well in marriage, because I am certain that my wife works harder than I do and I need her more than she needs me.

Kim said...

Weighing in a little late here...

How about the situation of a woman working with someone in the local church? For example, last year, the individual who was "in charge" of the youth ministry was a man. I "submitted" to his authority in this area. However, I the submission is not the same. I like the way Frank puts it.

I read that book by Wilson about five years ago; I need to get it out again.

Anonymous said...

the thing about the situation you describe is that you didn't submit to him because you are a woman, you submitted because he was your boss. Any man in that situation would have to do the same. No?