Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Defence of Male Headship Clarified ...

Thanks to a couple of links I have read a very useful article that sorts out a lot of my concerns with the exultation of male headship to a doctrine of primacy. Bruce A Ware wrote:

"I am not saying that Scripture’s teaching on an all-male eldership in the church, or male headship and wifely submission in the home, is central and primary doctrinally. No, I would reserve doctrinal primacy for such cardinal Christian beliefs as the triune nature of God, the substitutionary atonement, justification by faith alone, the bodily resurrection of Christ, and Christ’s literal and physical return to earth one day yet future—doctrines, that is, that impinge on the very truth of the gospel itself ... But, while biblical complementarity is connected to central Christian doctrines, it is not itself central doctrinally. This is why I believe it is wrong to charge evangelical egalitarians qua egalitarian as heretics.".

But ...

"I believe this doctrine is central strategically in upholding the Christian faith within a culture all too ready to adopt values and beliefs hostile to orthodox and evangelical conviction ... Complementarianism, then, is central and not peripheral, primary and not secondary—not doctrinally but strategically. Where the church is called on to withstand cultural pressures and maintain its commitment to counter-cultural revealed truth is, for us today, on issues of gender and sexuality".

That makes perfect sense and I buy.


James B said...

Thats an excellent comment - and you are right, it definately clarifies the whole male headship thing a bit better. Not doctrine - but strategic. Yep. I get it. lol.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this. It is a sensatively written article (for once) and I really dont see why that couldn't have been clarified beforehand. It would have fitted much more comfortably into the Gospel picture.

Hugh Griffiths said...

I understand the need for sensitivity in teaching this whole area and I also agree that it is vital that headship is central strategically. However, one of the main reasons for its centrality is that it has doctrinal significance - although this is not always apparent in the way it is taught. Often it is presented simply as a set of social rules from Scripture and teachers sometimes neglect to show its root. Ultimately it is grounded not just in biblically taught marital or family standards, it is also embedded in the creation account, reflects the relationship between Christ and the church, and finds expression in the Godhead.

A comment is not an easy place to describe this in just a few words, but to show the immense doctrinal significance of headship probably the best place to start is Eph.5:22-33. Although this is probably familiar, it is worth looking again at the revelation in v.32 - the husband/wife relationship is part of the same 'profound' mystery' as Christ and the church.

Without doubt, complementarianism is a crucial issue where we live in a society that is steadily eroding previous standards of marriage, family, gender. However, for me, the strength of complementarianism is that it does find deep doctrinal importance - I can only stand on this issue with such confidence because it also relates directly to a wider biblical view about the nature of God and also the relationship between Christ and the church.

I don't know if this would be any help but if you liked Bruce Ware he has some other materials available - you can take a look at chapter 2 of the great resource 'Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood' available free of charge as a PDF on the www.cmbw.org website. Alternatively, there is a more detailed article here http://www.cbmw.org/resources/articles/trinity.pdf which talks about the impact on trinitarian doctrine.

I agree that a proper perspective on these issues is vital - however, I do feel passionately that Christian convictions about order within social structures such as marriage are not secondary. For all their strategic significance, we cannot afford to soft-pedal their basis in central doctrines. Particularly since they affect profoundly how we live our lives in our families, the church, society and before God I would be very cautious about ever calling them secondary.

Baxter's Boy said...

Thanks for those links Hugh and for what you wrote.

I couldn't agree more with what you said. I think sometimes I may come across as a "Cautious Complimentarian" because of abuses that I have witnessed within the whole sphere of complimentarianism. I was raised in a large family with six sisters and so women are an extremely important part of my life! And it really does something right "there" to me when I see women being supressed, quenched, squashed or misused among people who should know better.

Furthermore it really bothers me when I hear that verse in Ephesians being quoted again and again "Wives submit to your husbands" but the men quoting it conviniently miss out the first part "Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church". Well how did Christ love the Church?? He gave up His life for her!! And quite frankly I have seen men expecting submission from their wives when the love they are demonstrating doesn't suggest they would lay down their lives for her.

I know that I shouldn't really alter my theology due to excess - that's something very important. But I do wonder whether if the very excellent theologians who defend complimentarianism so well spent more time teaching men how to love their wives as Christ loved the church, whether they would find women having less problems with the idea of male leadership in church and home?

Sheila said...

High five, Dan. (holding up my hand across the pub's coffee table)

"Put 'er there." Ahem. Sorry. I'm forever imagining myself as C.S. Lewis, smoking stogies and drinking...well, coffee - in the pub, and discussing some STIFF 'ologies and 'isms.

In our circles of ministry, there are MANY churches who call the pastor's wife the "assistant pastor" or the associate pastor. We even have one church with a female pastor. I confess to choking mightily over all of it. I am Tim's WIFE...not the associate pastor. Though by grace I am gifted, and I teach a few times a year both inside and outside my church, I have no need or desire for a title. I have even LESS desire to be in any way, shape or form, part of the governmental aspects of church leadership. Sounds to me a bit too much like walking through a bonfire holding a can of hairspray in each hand. ("explosive")

I stay away from "official" leadership - my husband leads, he casts vision, he - through prayer and collaberation with his leadership team - establishes direction. I am there to be his asset, feed him great meals, keep him rolling in helpless laughter when it all seems far too ominous.

But I concur with you. Every time some boob (sorry...) goes on and on about submission, it has always been an issue of insecurity. That man wouldn't know how to love a woman if his life depended on it. Sadly - his life DOES depend on it. You don't treat the wife of your youth badly and think your prayers will be heard.

I'm blessed. Tim is easy to submit to - he loves me sacrificially.

Baxter's Boy said...

You ARE blessed! And I think you hit the jackpot right there ...

"Tim is easy to submit to".

I'm no Greek scholar but surely the context of the passage suggests that submission actually SHOULD be easy. And that is the responsibility of the man, to make it easy for his wife to submit.

Or is that just me?