What Headship and Submission Do Not Mean
The biblical doctrine of “the husband is the head of the wife” is certainly related to the issue of abuse and domestic violence – especially by abusers hiding in the church. Wicked people take the good Word of God and twist and distort it to their own evil ends.
[Note from Barb: this page was condensed and updated in Feb 2020; new links were added —the articles by Wade Burleson.]
Whatever Scripture means by the husband being the head of the wife, and wives submitting to their husbands (Ephesians 5), we know that it is GOOD, just as Christ being head of His bride, the church is good. The question of course is, just exactly what does Scripture mean by these doctrines? It surely does NOT mean what the abuser takes it to mean.
For many victims of domestic abuse, beliefs about submission and headship within marriage are one of the things that locks them into the abuse, and at some point they want to examine and perhaps re-evaluate these beliefs in order to get free.
But let us state what we embrace as our target mission. Here it is:
Our mission in writing A Cry for Justice, and in maintaining this blog site, is to expose to the church what is happening to victims of abuse who are sitting right here in our own pews, often side by side with their abuser who is parading as a fine Christian. Our purpose is to do all we can to show pastors and Christians what abuse really is, and point out how the church has been giving terrible counsel to abuse victims. All of this we intend to do to the glory of God, for the help and rescue of victims, and for the effecting of justice upon the abuser.
That is our target.
We can all be engaged on fighting against domestic abuse, no matter what position we occupy in the egalitarian / complementarian controversy, or even if we don’t have a conscious position.
For us, the important thing is to keep the fight against abuse paramount, and to never let the “gender-roles” issue take precedence over the fight against abuse.
- We are convinced that there is indeed a woman-unfriendly climate in many of our churches. That is to say, we agree that women are being viewed by church leaders in many cases as secondary to men. And this we believe is in direct violation of Galatians 3:28. This attitude certainly explains, at least in part, the shameful way abuse victims are so often treated by their pastors, elders, and fellow Christians.
We are willing to listen to fellow believers who hold to the inerrancy of Scripture (in other words, they don’t chalk the Apostle Paul’s words up to his being a woman-hater).
But we are going to stay on target. Our mission is to sound out loudly The Cry for Justice on behalf of abuse victims who have been further abused by the ignorance and arrogance in their fellow Christians, and by the wicked deceptions of abusers parading as Christians. To that end we work and call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to join in.
Reading matter for your consideration – not implying we agree or disagree with any of these, but they are more nuanced than many of the writings we have encountered that discuss domestic abuse in the context of the egal / comp¹ gender roles debate.
by Wade Burleson –
I Timothy 2:9-15 — Artemis and the End of Us: Evangelical Errors Regarding Women
1 Timothy 2:12 — ‘The’ Woman of Error in I Timothy 2:12
I Corinthians 14:34-36 — A Free Speech Ekklesia for All Brothers and Sisters
by Camen J Bryant –
by Steven Tracy –
1 Corinthians 11:3 – A Corrective to Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship (scroll to page 17 to read Steven Tracy’s article)
by Nate Spark –
Love and Respect and Proof-Texts discusses the errors of the church’s standard teaching on Headship and Submission. The post is part of a series in which he reviews the book “Love and Respect” by Emerson Eggerich.
by Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse –
The Gender Debate in Domestic Violence: The Role of Data by Australian Domestic & Family Violence Clearinghouse. This page discusses the issues of gender and violence in relationship and the controversy between proponents of gender asymmetry (i.e. men are more likely to be violent and women more likely to be victims) and proponents of gender symmetry (i.e. men and women are equally violent and equally likely to be victims).
Egalitarians (egals) believe in the equality of male-female roles, with role being determined by an individual’s gifts. See Christians For Biblical Equality
Complementarians (comps) believe that male-female role distinctions in the church and the home are ordained by God. See The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood