Contrary to the assertions of Sarah Bessey and her Egalitarian friends, Jesus was not in fact, a feminist. Last year Candace Cameron was in the news for proclaiming her unashamed beliefs about the Biblical idea of male headship. This sent a chill down the back of every feminist and egalitarian who heard her words, and Sarah Bessey, one of the most prominent of Christian feminists, just had to respond to this defense of this archaic and patriarchal worldview that has held women back for thousands of years.
Let me first state before I continue, that while Candace Cameron and I would agree on many issues when it comes to Biblical male headship and submission, Candace does not go far enough in many areas and tries to soften these teachings to make them more acceptable for a modern audience. She also appeals to the idea of complementarian marriages working better than egalitarian marriages.
Complentarian marriages are not perfect
I agree with Candace that there are many Complentarian marriages that work beautifully. But in the Complementarian marriages I have seen that do have problems – there are one of two problems that are the major causes:
Problem #1 The controlling husband
One reason complementarian marriages sometimes have problems is that the husband is not being a servant leader as Christ was, but is instead abusing his God given headship and is brow beating his wife with it(either mentally or physically), he tries to control every thought and action his wife has and this is not what God intended.
Problem #2 The rebellious wife
But in our modern era of full blown feminism, that vast majority of complementarian marriages that have problems are due in large part to the rebellion of modern women. Modern women (Christian or otherwise) have little to no concept of what respect and submission toward their husbands looks like. Many Christian women, while giving lip service to male headship and submission, actually attempt to dominate and manipulate their husbands and they constantly fight for control, until their husband finally gives in, or the woman seeks a divorce (70% of divorces today are filed by women).
Egalitarians like to paint this ugly and untrue picture that all Complementarian marriages have at their core mentally, or physically abused women. They believe that any relationship that calls on one person to be subject to the other could never in their view be a healthy one.
But Egalitarian marriages aren’t so perfect either
The dirty little secret about Egalitarian marriages and why they often “work”, is because the women actually run these homes. I have seen some of these relationships, and have talked with many Egalitarian couples online in Christian forums, as well as in person. What they all have in common are that the women actually dominate the men.
This domination is not always overt, but is often subtle. Egalitarian wives often go out of their way to fool the people around them, and even themselves into thinking their marriage is truly a 100% mutual relationship. They may even “allow” their husbands to get their way on an issue from time to time, so they can convince themselves of how “mutual” their relationship is.
The fact is the men in these relationships have surrendered their God given position of leadership, and their wives have “graciously” stepped in to fill the void. These husbands then get to pat themselves on the back and their wives can show them off for the “evolved” and “sensitive” men that they are.
Now let’s take a look at some of the attacks against Biblical male headship and patriarchy as well as Sarah’s defense of Christian feminism (or Egalitarianism as it often referred to).
Sarah Bessey’s full response to Candace Cameron can be found at http://sarahbessey.com/disagree-bure-biblical-marriage/
Just because it works does not make it Biblical
Let me begin with a statement by Sarah that I partially agree with:
“I believe that Candace Cameron Bure is wrong here. Of course, even simply scientifically, we know that there are millions of egalitarian marriages that “work” very well. But also, biblically, there are problems with her words.
This method or strategy may well be how her marriage works – and if so, lovely – but it’s not necessarily biblical”
Sarah is absolutely correct that just because something works, does not necessarily make it Biblical – Amen! I recently wrote a post on this subject of “if it works” in marriage called “What does a successful Christian marriage look like?”
I completely agree with the concept that just because the complementarian model works well in some marriages and the egalitarian marriage model works well in others, does not make either the correct model.
What makes something right, is whether it is Biblical or not. This is where my agreement with Sarah Bessey ends and where my disagreement begins.
Sarah then makes a statement that would make any Christian who holds to Biblical inerrancy and a literal interpretation of the Bible have their mouth fall open in disbelief:
“The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.”
I guess these Scripture passages must be figments of our imagination?
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
“But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God.”
I Corinthians 11:3(KJV)
“That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.”
“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands”
I Peter 3:1(KJV)
“Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as it is fit in the Lord.”
“And the idea that, as a wife, I would need to “become passive” or smaller or somehow less in order to make my marriage work is damaging and wrong.”
Sarah’s idea here is one of the great flaws of feminist and egalitarian philosophy. Basically the philosophy goes, if one person (the wife in this case) has different rights, different privileges or must submit to the other person that somehow makes them less of a person.
Another way of stating this is, Egalitarians believe that unless all people have exactly the same rights and privileges, then those who have less rights or privileges are being treated as less than human. You will see this theme throughout most of her writings.
Feminists never consider the fact that in many adult relationships adults are required to submit to and follow the leadership of other adults. In the military, is an officer more of a human being (or “larger” to user Sarah’s logic) because he has authority over the officers and enlisted men in his command?
Is it “damaging” to a solider that he has to submit to his higher ranking officers?
Is it “damaging” to an employee that they have to submit to their manager?
Equal rights and privileges have nothing to do with equal personhood. A woman is just as much of a person as a man, even though God created woman for man, and calls on wives to submit to their husband’s headship in marriage and in the home.
Sarah then says:
“But don’t get me wrong: I believe in submission.
I just don’t believe that our call to submission in marriage is restricted to me.
I submit to my husband. And he submits to me, too. And together, we submit to Jesus.”
This false concept of “mutual submission” is another one the central tenants of Egalitarian teachings. Their teaching comes from a wrong interpretation of Ephesians 5:21:
“Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God.”
Paul said this statement right before he said this in Ephesians chapter 5:
“22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife, even as Christ is the head of the church: and he is the saviour of the body. 24 Therefore as the church is subject unto Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in every thing.”
So Sarah and her Egalitarian friends say “See! Paul was telling husbands and wives to submit to one another, submission is not specific only to wives, but husbands are supposed to submit to their wives too”.
I would ask Sarah this question – you talk about how you submit to your husband, and your husband submits to you, and together you submit to Christ – does Christ submit to you and your husband too?
Because if we follow Paul’s logic in Ephesians 5 that a woman is to submit to her husband as the Church submits to Christ, then Christ must also submit to his church too then right? In other words Christ submits to you and your husband in the same way that you submit to him right?
Later Bessey has to basically admit that Peter and Paul actually did teach male headship, but only for this reason:
“Peter and Paul worked within imperfect systems because any outright challenge to the law of the land would bring persecution down upon the Church in great number. In fact, the Apostles “advocated this system, not because God had revealed it as the divine will for Christian homes, but because it was the only stable and respectable system anyone knew about” at the time, according to Carol A. Newsom and Sharon H. Ringe of the Women’s Bible Commentary.”
Oh ok – so really a wife submitting to her husband was not a beautiful picture of the God’s people submitting to him, but instead was because Peter and Paul did not want to challenge the social laws of their time for fear of persecution?
Is any other student of the Bible, or even Christian history in general, not falling out their chairs at such a ridiculous statement? Or maybe the Apostles Peter and Paul were not as advanced as modern Christians like Sarah and other Egalitarians who know better than to have these outdated patriarchal systems right?
These kinds of statements from Christian feminists and egalitarians prove their own very weak view of the Scriptures. After all, the Bible is just a bunch of men’s opinions steeped in cultural bias and ignorance right? Oh except for the few parts of the Bible Christian Feminists and Egalitarians decide really are the inspired Word of God right?
“Not only is the idea that wives alone are to submit to their husbands poor exegesis, it is damaging.
It is damaging to the image of God carried in women and in men. A woman who is held back, minimized, or downplayed is not walking in the fullness God intended for her as an image bearer”
Is it “damaging” for Church members to submit to their Church leaders?
“Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.”
Is it “damaging” for children to submit to their parents?
“Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right.”
If the answers to both these questions are no, then somehow it is “damaging” for a woman to submit to her husband even though the God’s Word commands this multiple times?
But then we have the supposed “image bearer” problem Sarah presents. I just wrote an article “Is God more like a man, more like a woman, or a combination of the two?” on this topic of “image bearing”, and let me just summarize it, there is no problem with image bearing here for women. Woman was created in man’s image, not God’s image. Woman was created for man, not man for woman. So don’t worry Sarah, there is no minimization of a woman’s image when she obeys God’s command for her to submit to her husband.
In fact a woman “maximizes” the image God created her with, when she does what God designed her to do, and that is when she serves her husband to the best of her ability.
“For a man indeed ought not to cover his head, forasmuch as he is the image and glory of God: but the woman is the glory of the man…Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man.”
I Corinthians 11:7 & 9(KJV)
In the end Sarah closes with this statement:
“In a Christian marriage, Christ is meant to be the head of our homes, and within marriage, we are meant to submit to one another – even as Candace Cameron Bure rightly defines it, “so, it is meekness, it is not weakness. It is strength under control, it is bridled strength.”
Yes, yes, it is. For both men and women.
My husband and I submit to one another as we both submit to Christ. We learned that from our Bibles.”
It is interesting how Sarah says she believes Christ is the head of her home which the Bible does teach, but she rejects another teaching of the Bible that Christ has given her husband leadership over her (“For the husband is the head of the wife” – Ephesians 5:23).
Also if you know the whole “head” argument of egalitarians it also kind of funny that she uses the term “head” in reference to Christ being head of her home. Whenever the Bible says man is head over woman – it just means “source”, but has nothing to do with leadership, or so Egalitarians would have us believe. But apparently when it comes to Christ, “head” actually means leadership.
In closing – Sarah, no you did not learn this false idea of mutual submission and lack of headship in marriage from your Bible, you learned it from the false teachings of your charismatic church and the many women in those charismatic churches who have in fact “usurped authority over the man”(I Timothy 2:12).