The Necessity of Submissional Equality

This week, the Adult Bible Study Guide assails the infamous “wives submit to your husbands” subtextual farce that has launched a thousand shifty sermons. Doing the bare moral minimum, the lesson marshals biblical passages and Ellen White quotes in support of gender equality in marriage. To its credit, in explaining Ephesians 5:21-33, the Bible study also utilizes a variety of metaphors to buttress an anti-abuse, mutual submission message. These include three-in-one trinitarian theological language, comparisons between ancient wedding ceremony traditions with the return of Jesus, and marital sexual union to describe divine-human relationship. But this gender/person equality—which extends from marriage all the way to the triune Godhead—somehow does not include ordained Seventh-day Adventist pastoral and administrative leadership. 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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“Be subject to another out if reverence for Christ.” It’s a tragedy that, when Paul expanded on this statement, people forgot that each relationship needs to develop mutual subordination. Once one party exerts dominance, it is no longer a Christian relationship.


As I’m reading all this, Robert Fulghum’s book comes to mind - All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Out of a long list:
1. Share everything
2. Play fair
4. Don’t take things that aren’t yours
5. Say you’re SORRY when you HURT somebody
6. Live a balanced life
7. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and
stick together.


We need to hear from the General Conference leadership a clear repudiation of “headship” thinking in all its forms. And, dare I say, name the leading “lights” who keep proclaiming it as biblical mandates. There are preachers, theologians, including respected women, whose devotion to this view is like a cancer on the community of faith,


Looking back, it seems almost miraculous that Christianity was eventually able to speak against slavery. At the same time, it is infuriating that the same logic hasn’t been consistently applied for gender equality.

When I recently read Beth Alison Barr’s book on biblical womanhood I realised there are three Christian views on women: the conservatives who see the Bible as misogynistic, and divinely inspired to be so; the liberals who see the Bible as misogynistic, as culturally determined, with no divine input; and a minority third way that sees the New Testament, at least, as affirming gender equality in contrast to a patriarchal milieu.

Our collective resistance to living in mutual subordination runs deep. I learnt the most on this topic by reading John Howard Yoder’s Politics of Jesus. But even Yoder sexually abused female students! Who can deliver us from this body of death!


It’s important to note that Ted Wilson (and his like-minded colleagues) believe that Sola Scriptura requires them to reject interpretations of Scripture that are reasonable. If your interpretations are reasonable, Wilson’s twisted thinking is that what you have done is elevate reason above Scripture. In order to show that you have truly held yourself subservient to the Word of God, your interpretations should either be contrary to or indifferent to reason. This twisted thinking is evidenced and reinforced by his express rejection of Prima Scriptura, which ironically is the necessary corollary of Sola Scriptura, as Scripture sets forth reason, tradition, and experience as secondary and derivative authorities. The ultimate irony of Wilson’s twisted hermeneutics is that he ultimately misinterprets and disrespects what he tries to accurately interpret and reverence. This is the fruit of the fundamentalist mindset in Seventh-day Adventism.

But notice that Ellen White, in contrast, was a reasonable and pragmatic interpreter of Scripture, as illustrated by her comment on Ephesians 5:21-33 shared with us in the Sabbath School Lesson: If the husband “is a coarse, rough, boisterous, egotistical, harsh, and overbearing man, let him never utter the word that the husband is the head of the wife, and that she must submit to him in everything; for he is not the Lord, he is not the husband in the true significance of the term.” The Adventist Home, p. 117.

A similar reasonable and pragmatic interpretation of this text, (together with the entirety of Scripture), is that women who are spiritually gifted to be ministers should be ordained as ministers. What seems so eminently reasonable to even a child should not be regarded in knee-jerk fashion as impious.


Having to teach an Adult class this week, I came to realize in my study, that my historical problem with Ephesians (and the I Peter similar passage), is that I needed to read them out of sequence. If you look first at the instruction given to husbands, it is so shockingly different from the cultural practices of that day, as to be wildly progressive. They were to love, respect, care for their wives as they would their own bodies, be considerate, and consider them equal heirs of God’s grace…how astounding…and with the penalty of having their prayers not heard if they failed to comply! Conversely, wives were not really enjoined to do anything differently than was already required of them.
I had fun imagining the words being heard aloud in one of the home churches when the letters were received and the women saying, “Let’s start the song service now, ladies, because we’ve got a lot to sing about…Woo Hoo”!
Thus, both Paul and Peter promoted mutual submission, love and care, thereby leveling the playing field between sexes, just as Paul had done with the Jews and the Gentiles…no one was to be considered as over another. So sad that we cannot implement that simple construct today in our denomination’s treatment of women. How can we continue to say to our young women, “God may call you to ministry, but He will never call you to leadership”. It is beyond the pale.


@juge, beginning with the term “submitting” : (Verse 21) submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God" - - - -obviously in their social setting - the “church” addressed in the letter - -

    • and then going to submissiveness husband /wife and wife /husband - - -

There is at least one other.

This view holds that trying to find Jesus “good news” in a book is like trying to understand English by running a dictionary through a wood chipper.

Instead, and from this perspective, ALL scripture-i.e., everything ever written, including the Bible-is sifted through the sieve of the Holy Spirit, or divine consciousness, which is also the source of sacred logic.

Using this method, for example, the idea of slavery would have never gained purchase in the Christian ethos as the concept, while once considered biblical, is so blatantly contrary to the idea of treating a person as you would be treated as to be easily rejected out of hand.

This reliance on the morality which our creator has etched into our souls-and which Jesus purportedly said would lead his adherents in all truth-rather than ambiguous literature and easily misinterpreted analogies, would also quickly eradicate a wide variety of assertions made in what are obviously inhumane and unchristian Bible texts, such as the subjugation of women, racism, mistreatment or children and homo odium, just to name a few.

I did not like this quote for it answered a question that was obvious.

What about a husband that is not “course, rough, boisterous, egotistical, harsh and overbearing”? Should he be able to say that he is the head and she must submit to him?

From my reading men need respect even more than love. And from observations, precious little is received.

Must a husband earn respect, or are wives commanded to give it? No one here will say that a wife must earn the love of her husband. He is commanded to love her like Christ loved the church. If so, a wife is commanded to respect her husband.

Is there a double standard here?

What bothers me here is the idea that all must, comply with your thinking. Really??

The church voted down WO. And you say the GC needs to repudiate what was voted? They can’t do that. I think some cultural sensitivity would say that the West should allow the third world which does not agree should be able to have their say. There are legitimate arguments on their side that carried the day when it was voted.

To begin with, no SDA scholar I know would support headship theology and thinking as “biblical.” lt implicates the doctrine of the three co-equal persons of the Godhead, which is an established fundamental belief.
Secondly, Paul is absolutely clear in Galatian 3: “In Christ there is neither male nor female” in a of Jews and Greeks, Slaves and Free–relationships with enormous power differentials that are gone. No differences of importance or power,


Given Paul’s relationship to the boys in Jerusalem, it seems strange that his Christology of equalization should should become in Ephesians an implication of the authority of the Church, for which Christ sacrificed himself to make her holy. This and other statements, stated or unstated, does not lead us to be sure it is Paul’s Christology with its implications for the Christian.


If one does not start from the assumption that Jesus was speaking thru Paul’s pen and/or voice, there is ample room in the NT stories to raise doubt that they would have found much, if anything, in common if they ever had actually meet!


One may begin with that assumption, but we are not Paul, nor did we have his experience. I know people get tired of me using the words metaphor and analogy, but that is what we confront in religion (and in science; if one can purge the anti-metaphor association from scientific realism). Going through life we are confronted by "different intonations through a handful of metaphors. Metaphors are capable of evoking different things, some of them not helpful in reaching a workable conclusion, or in the sense of morality, an ethical conclusion. The use of the metaphors of Christ’s body and the Church, husbands and wives, whatever the writer meant, are examples of later interpreters constructing the unethical idea of subordination and male headship. The identify of Christ’s body with the Church is also a power packed metaphor of metaphors, but it evokes a scenario which disenfranchises women. This does not seem to be Pauline theology which claims that in Christ there is no difference between male and female. Now, what is of supreme interest to me is “where do these things come from?” It is not a necessary conclusion of reason It is more like a flash of insight (moral), or to use another word, which we are confused about to the point we don’t know what it means: WOKE.

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Of course there is a double standard, but there is no reason to think or believe that Paul had any special wisdom or insight regarding marriage or matrimonial relations. Nor is there any reason for men and women in the 21st century to pattern their lives on the ancient oracles.


More to your point: You are raising the issue of the real or historical Jesus compared to the constructed Jesus in Gospels. We simply don’t know where novel ideas or perspectives come from. Paul never met the historical Jesus; if he had, wouldn’t it be another stoning of Stephen-Jesus episode. From the persecution of Christians, Paul’s vision of the Man From Heaven, sent by God to a world controlled by Satan, provided a flash of insight for Paul: “Why are you persecuting me?” Paul took it from there. Obviously my view. But, at least, I’ve provided somewhat of an answer to the question where these things come from?

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I think Doukan was not in favor or WO, but I do not know of his feeling on headship. As far as it being “Biblical”:

Gen 3:18. … Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.
1 Cor 11:3. Now the head of every man is Christ and the head of the woman is man.

I think the first verse is descriptive rather than proscriptive, but the second is pretty clear.

And Gal 3 does not mean that all hierarchies are destroyed, but that we are all the same before Christ. Or how do you reconcile Gal with 1 Cor? (Paul is absolutely clear in 1 Cor as well…)
I am not a big advocate of headship, but do feel that women need to, by command, respect their husbands. Or otherwise you undermine the command of husbands to love their wives. You cannot ignore one, and advocate for the other. I think you go to far your way.

Well, if you are willing and are fine with double standards I could just argue that women would be subservient, and you have no argument, for I just accept a double standard. Accepting double standards just destroys any discussion of the matter. You just show your bias and without a reasonable argument.

I’m certainly not in agreement with double standards, and I don’t know what gave you the impression that I am. But it’s plain as day that Paul (or at least the authors and editors of the writing
attributed to him) was in favour of double standards and such writings advocate for double standards. This is why in my view the Paulian writings ought not to be considered a moral standard.

My only bias is in favour of truth.

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Sorry I misunderstood you.

I agree that Paul sets up a double standard, that is, differing ones for each gender, but moderns reject even Paul’s milder standard for wives.

In Eph 5, Paul seems to be reflecting Jesus’ words to his disciples, in Matt 20:25, 26. “Jesus called them together and said, :You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them… Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great must be your servant.”

Paul gives a long talk to husbands: love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. That is be self-sacrificing. Even humble yourself to accept death on her behalf!

Whereas wives are only called to respect their husbands. But I see resistance to even this idea that wives should respect their husbands even in the light of what husband are required to do. .

The husband’s standard is much higher than the wive’s, by a long shot. Why then should Paul’s ideas be rejected as valid moral standards?

And in 1 Cor 13, he tells us what love is.

But perhaps you do not like the “husband is head of the wife” idea in 1 Cor 11?