Is the husband’s role parallel to that of God the Father, and the wife’s role parallel to that of God the Son?
(1 Corinthians 11:3) But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
Professor Wayne Grudem interprets 1 Corinthians 11:3 as follows:
just as the Father has authority over the Son in the Trinity, so the husband has authority over the wife in marriage. The husband’s role is parallel to that of God the Father and the wife’s role is parallel to that of God the Son.
— Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, chapter 14
Wayne Grudem is notorious for pushing the idea that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. That idea is commonly referred to as ESS — Eternal Subordination of the Son.
ESS is a fallacious doctrine which has compounded the entrapment of women who are abused by their husbands.
The ESS interpretation of 1 Corinthians 11:3 gives the wife the role of being the self-sacrificing suffering servant under the headship of her husband. That means it contradicts Ephesians 5.
Brad Mason exposes how just fallacious and un-biblical the ESS interpretation is:
[The ESS reading of 1 Corinthian 11:3 is] that the suffering Servant role of Christ toward God is the role of the wife to her husband. On that fallacious reading, the wife’s co-equality is realized in her self-sacrificial servant role under the headship of her husband.
On the contrary, in Ephesians 5 we see the husband bearing the self-sacrificial role of loving service on behalf of his wife.
In the ESS analogical reading of 1 Corinthians 11, headship implies rule over the self-sacrificing servant wife; in Ephesians 5, where an actual and explicit analogy is present, headship implies self-sacrificing service on behalf of the wife.
Take home message
The husband’s headship means he ought to self-sacrificially serve his wife. Jesus the suffering Servant, who serves and builds up the church*, is the model for the husband sacrificially serving his wife.
*The church / the congregation / the people of God means all the people whom God has been, is and will be making one with and in Christ.
Articles by Brad Mason
For further reading
This post from James started out as private correspondence (which I, Barb, was privy to) between James and a mutual friend of ours. It focussed on “Power corrupts”, what gets corrupted and how.
When politicians and pastors exercise extreme control, they use their authority to mislead, coerce, micro-manage and oppress people. In this post, James discusses the kind of defective thinking which breeds extreme control. He examines the roles of the two hemispheres of the brain and what happens when the left hemisphere becomes overly dominant.
James wrote this letter before Covid-19 and our various reactions to it. Much has changed for us in our religious, social, economic and political lives since then but the corrupting effect of power remains the same.
So, with James permission, here is his letter.
Dr. Iain McGilchrist, a psychiatrist and former teacher of literature at university, spent twenty years of researching to write his book, The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World. (In case you’re curious, ‘The Master’ is the right brain and ‘His Emissary’ is the left brain – the logic part.) He claims that Western Civilisation is captured by Left Brain thinking and this capture will be our collective undoing.
Our major institutions, governments, legal systems, corporations and media are all driven by this Left Brain thinking and its maxims beginning with, “We are in Authority, therefore We know best”!
Our institutions have demonstrated major short comings in integrating today’s decisions with the long term survival of our culture and perhaps our existence.
Left brain thinking includes logic which some, but not all, people can use. But this left hemisphere also caters for self interest and short-term solutions which can be a problem if the left brain operates without the holistic-minded right brain. This unbalanced brain displays a crass certainty about itself. Prompting the expression, “Power Corrupts”.
Tragically, the institution that has the capacity and the teachings to reverse this suicidal direction of society, the Christian Church, has also been captured by this same distorted perspective. It is a short shortsightedness which I hope to explain in the following paragraphs.
When talking about left and right brain functions it sounds like there is a very clear demarcation between the hemispheres and the functions. In fact, both hemispheres are usually involved in most functions but one hemisphere will be dominant. So for our purposes it is easier to talk as if they are completely separate and exclusive. While not accurate, this makes for a useful metaphor. (I will use the words ‘hemisphere’ and ‘brain’ interchangeably.)
Having said that, I will illustrate the differences using the example of a bird. A bird does, in fact, have completely separate functions between left and right brains or hemispheres. The essential difference between the hemispheres is one of focus or attention; one is ‘far sighted’ and one is ‘near sighted’. Or one sees the overall picture and one see the particular detail.
In a bird, this far and nearsightedness is literally true rather than metaphorically true as it is for humans. Each eye is wired to the opposite hemisphere in the brain and each eye serves completely different functions which reflect the different functions of the hemispheres.
A bird’s right eye is wired to the left hemisphere and it uses this eye to search for seeds or worms to eat and twigs to build a nest with. While it is doing this, the left eye which is wired to the right brain is scanning the environment for threats and opportunities. This arrangement allows the bird to search for lunch while avoiding becoming the someone else’s lunch.
From memory, the above illustration comes from Dr Iain McGilchrist. To give another illustration of how the left and right brains differ, I’ll use the experience of watching a movie. This is my understanding, so if it proves to be wrong you can blame me and not Dr McGilchrist.
Imagine you are watching a movie on DVD or online and you are enthralled in it. You are totally drawn into the story. You are watching the main characters and how they are relating to each other. You are involved and experiencing the drama with them. You are using your right brain to do this.
There are lots of details in the background set and the actors have costumes. You are somewhat aware of all this but as it all blends into the story you don’t find any particular detail a distraction. Your subconscious mind is taking in all these millions of bits of information which you are hardly aware of but they are registering somewhere in your brain never-the-less.
Then suddenly something alerts you to something wrong with the movie. What was it? Something is not right. Something doesn’t fit with the story. The spell is broken. We have a contradiction somewhere.
So you stop the movie and rewind it a little to see what it was. There it is! Was that a motor car in the background in this Roman times historical movie? Now you advance the movie one frame at a time to be sure that it was a car you saw. Now you are using your left brain to focus in on a problem just like the bird does using its right eye and left brain to pick out the seed on the ground.
I will make a small diversion here to explain the role of the subconscious. The subconscious cannot think in negatives, only positives i.e. what exists and not what doesn’t exist. It doesn’t understand “Jim Blogs is not a paedophile”. It thinks ‘Jim Blogs’ and ‘paedophile’ and puts them together.
Neither can it deal with abstractions because abstractions do not exist in the physical world. They exist in the mind to help understand the world. The subconscious learns by association. A major function of the subconscious mind is to keep watch on the world to see that all is well. When all is not as it should be, when there is a contradiction in the information coming in, the subconscious mind communicates with the conscious mind through the body. These communications are sometimes called ‘gut reactions’ or ‘intuitive feelings’. They are very real reactions to very real information, albeit subconscious information. The purpose is to engage the right brain which has been looking at the overall picture and to convey that something is wrong with this picture.
The right brain (McGilchrist’s “Master”) engages left brain (“His Emissary”) to look closely at whatever it is that is causing the subconscious to react through the body and report back to the right brain. The left brain is able to determine what is going on in reality through using logic. The particular form of logic used in this case is Inductive Logic, otherwise known as the Scientific Method.
The left hemisphere, having deciphered what is wrong and what is the reality of the particular situation, then conveys the conclusion to the right brain which then integrates the new information into its overall understanding of the world (or the movie) and then makes whatever adjustments are necessary. So, the left brain is a very useful tool of the right brain in a properly functioning brain or mind.
But sometimes the left brain gets enamoured with its own ability to determine truth in particular situations and thinks it can determine the truth of everything all by itself and does not hand the reins back to the right brain. Delusions and certainty about those delusions follows.
Now, to appreciate how the left and right brains differ in the way they process reality, imagine watching that movie again one still frame at a time and analyzing the changes frame to frame. This is what the left brain does using its analysis. By the time you got to the end, you would not be able to tell anyone what the story was about, what emotions the characters experienced or even the point of the movie at all. But you would know an awful lot about the costumes, the settings, the lighting, the changes in location — all the details. And if it is an unbalanced left brain, it will think it knows all there is to know about the movie. It is not aware of what it is not aware of. (Dunning-Kruger Effect)
To be able to talk about the movie as a story and talk about why you spent the time and the money to go and see it, you have to see it rolling. It needs to be animated and moving. It needs to come alive, in other words. So it is with right brain thinking. We can only really appreciate life, emotions, and meaning from experiencing life at ‘rolling’ speed taking in a deluge of information but picking out the important stuff; the ‘life’ as it were.
But if after stopping the movie to examine each frame, the left brain does not hand control back to the right brain to resume watching the movie in ‘play’ mode, we have a major problem. The left brain thinks, “I had better keep control to make sure there are no more problems with the rest of the movie.”
The ‘life’ in the movie dies and the whole point in watching it disappears. So it is with controlling politicians and pastors with our societies and churches.
For further viewing, reading and listening
The Divided Brain Documentary featuring Iain McGilchrist with actor-comedian John Cleese of “Monty Python”, neuroanatomist Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor of TED Talks fame, pioneering neuroscientist Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, neuroscientist Jurg Kesselring, Aboriginal elder and scientist Dr. Leroy Little Bear, neuroscientist Onur Gunturkun, and – brains!
The Master and his Emissary: the divided brain and the reshaping of Western civilisation – interview with Iain McGilchrist on ABC radio.
Related posts at this blog
We can learn a lot about wise reconciliation by comparing and contrasting our own situations to that of Joseph
1. When Joseph tested his brothers so stringently, he came from a position of robust health, self-confidence and social approval.
The abuse Joseph suffered, whilst grave, was not so extreme, soul-destroying or prolonged that he was permanently damaged. Joseph’s trauma was relatively light compared to the trauma of long-term domestic abuse, repeated rape, child abuse, being tortured for a prolonged time, being a concentration camp victim, or doing slave labour on starvation rations as Japanese a prisoner of war.
Joseph had not been manipulated for years into thinking that ‘it was all his fault’. He had not been so systematically traumatised and manipulated that he had bonded with his abusers as the only way of coping with the untenable.
Even during Joseph’s years in prison, his good character had been acknowledged and valued. In contrast, the good character of a victim of domestic abuse is rarely acknowledged and valued by her friends, family, church and church leaders. Her abuser only pretends to acknowledge her good character when he is at the stage of the cycle where he is ‘treating her like a princess’ and is trying to manipulate her to get things such as sexual favours.
Unlike most victims of abuse who are considering reconciliation, Joseph the Governor had not been living with his abusers for many years. It was about twenty years since he had been subject to the original abuse by his brothers; and it was seven years since he had been released from prison and elevated to the position of Governor (five years of plenty, two years of famine). He had well and truly recovered from whatever ill health the abuse had caused in his body, and the damage it had caused in his soul. His life was in order, his housing secure, he had no family court matters pending or judged against him, he was in a well paid, high status job, his children weren’t abusing him or out of control, his family life was stable, and he was not lonely.
Furthermore, Joseph had no circle of acquaintances who were likely to collude with his abusers’ point of view. These Egyptians didn’t know Joseph’s brothers, nor did they know any of the history of the relationship. They did not have any doctrinal agendas which might incline them to put pressure on Joseph to reconcile quickly.
Joseph had many years of no contact with the family of abusers before he was inadvertently placed in the situation where he had to test — he didn’t go seeking it.
— comment by ACFJ reader (link)
In addition, Joseph did not have children with his abusers. His kids were not putting pressure on him by saying to him “Daddy, can’t we let them come and live with us?” If and when he did choose to reconcile with his brothers, it was most unlikely he would be living under the same roof with them.
Therefore, Joseph was in no fear of his former abusers; having contact with them put him under no risk. No one was colluding with his abusers and he was in no desperate straits in other departments of his life.
This should be a lesson to the church which, having listened to and believed an abuse victim, is trying to support her. If she can be helped to gain control and security in all the departments of her life — basic safety and protection from ongoing abuse, housing, finance, health, bringing up children, employment, legal stability, friendship, emotional recovery (which includes looking at and understanding the abuse in all its details), then she is likely to be in a position of strength from which she can with safety and wisdom consider the path of reconciliation. If she is not helped with these things, she is more likely to make poor choices… poor choices of unwise reconciliation, of unwise re-partnering, of neglecting or even abandoning her faith — the list could go on and on. And so could the abuse.
2. We do not have the powers of the State, as Joseph had.
We are not rulers of the land. We do not have the power to imprison, to set free, to ‘set up’ and accuse, to shower gifts and favours. We probably don’t have the power to demand the production of ‘evidence’ (Benjamin), or to withhold the basic food that keeps body and soul together. But if we do desire continuing relationship with the offender, we can, like Joseph, purposefully refrain from reconciliation until it is proven safe. We can withhold reconciliation until the abuser genuinely demonstrates reformation of character, and this has been proved by testing the abuser under pressure, in situations where temptations offer an easy way out.
I’m not advocating entrapment — engineering situations where temptation is so great that the abuser is almost guaranteed to fall into the trap. I’m advocating that the tester creates situations of pressure where temptation is present, where the choice the person makes will clearly indicate their character and integrity (or lack thereof), yet if the person succumbs to the temptation no one will suffer serious harm.
If you are currently separated from your abuser and you desire wisdom to be able to test your abuser in this way, I suggest you pray for that wisdom. God may give you ideas about how to test your abuser. You might have friends or counselors who can assist with devising tests. The counselors need to be wise to the deceptions of abusers and the counterfeit reformations of abusers. You might like to ask your friends and counselors to read this series.
Above all, I encourage you not to be afraid of seeming cold and heartless. Remember Joseph — use him as your model.
If people misjudge you as cold and calculating, take courage! God looks on the heart, not on outward appearances. God knows the difference between sham reconciliation and true reconciliation. God does not want sham reconciliations, and He certainly does not want dangerous reconciliations where the abuser will turn again and rend you to pieces.
3. Joseph’s maturity of character
Perhaps some of Joseph’s strategic brilliance came from divinely imparted wisdom, but some also came from his own maturity of character. I venture to suggest that this is one of the differences between us and Joseph. What Joseph had is what we so often lack. Let me make that personal: What Joseph had is what I so often lack. Allow me to show you what I mean.
When his brothers first presented themselves to him, Joseph’s heart was ready to burst with joy for the impending reunion, but he hid his emotion. He kept under control his need for reunion; he was strong enough to set that need to one side while he put into effect the series of tests. Are we victims that strong? Often we are not. We fall with relief into the open arms of our (un-reformed) abuser, glad for his enfoldment of us, happy to drop whatever half-hearted boundaries we might have been forming, ready to ‘forgive and forget’ in naivety rather than wisdom.
Of course, our cultural and church conditioning trains us to take this approach. And our position in society is far less powerful than Joseph’s was in Egypt. So it is not really fair to compare ourselves too unfavourably with Joseph. But I know that for me there was a weakness in my personality and in my understanding that contributed to the sliding back into the unchanged relationship with my abuser. The personality weakness came from the sexual abuse I suffered in childhood; the weakness in understanding came from the lack of good counsel I had received on the subject of abuse and reconciliation with one’s abuser.
It is my prayer that abuse will cease, that misunderstanding will be no more, that suffering will end. However, the Bible tells us that only in the new heavens and the new earth will there be no more tears. If there must be tears, let us seek to promote the tears of godly separation from ungodly perpetrators, rather than the weeping of the prisoners who believe they are condemned forever to imprisoning relationships. Let us help rebuild lives, let us examine the bridges we build to others, and if there could be reconciliation, let us promote only the careful, wise, well-tested reconciliation of Joseph and his brothers.
Posts in this Joseph series
Part 3: Reconciled with his brothers
Part 6: Is this post
I have updated my post Joseph’s treatment of his brothers — reflections and applications. Click that link to read the updated version. I altered the post after receiving constructive criticism from one of my readers. The address (the URL) of the post is unchanged.
I am taking a partial break for the next couple of weeks. I will still be checking the blog and publishing posts. During my break I may not be as quick at responding to communication from my readers as I usually am (which admittedly is not very fast). I will also be doing less than I usually do on Facebook and Twitter.
Here’s my plan for what I will publish next —
- Part 6 of the Joseph series (the final in that series).
- A guest post by James about how the right and left brain hemispheres think differently, and how that relates to church leaders spiritually abusing their congregants.
- Several more digests:
- Joseph Series Digest
- Grounds for Divorce Digest
- SBC’s ChurchCares Program Digest
This post is closed to comments. I would love you to comment at the post Joseph’s treatment of his brothers — reflections and applications.
Here is a list of the posts in my series on blindness.