Does God Allow Women to Make Their Own Decisions?

“It seems to me that people who believe in Biblical Patriarchy as you do think that women are incapable of making any decisions.  Why would God give women the human ability to reason as men do if he never intended them to make any decisions for themselves?” This was a question I recently received from one of my readers.

Obviously, the person who wrote me these questions does not believe in Biblical Patriarchy and like many people they have a negative view of it.  So, what does the Bible say about women making decisions? Does it allow women to make decisions?

The Husband is the Head of the Home but the Wife is the Manager of it

The Bible says the following about a husband’s headship over his wife:

“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.”

Ephesians 5:23-24 (KJV)

God has established three spheres of human authority and they are the family, the church and civil government.   And while no human authority sphere is unlimited its power, the husband’s authority over his wife is the most powerful of all human authorities because his authority over his wife extends into the most personal areas of another person’s life.

But the husband’s very personal authority over his wife’s life does not mean she cannot make any decisions for herself.  In fact, a good wife makes many decisions on a daily basis.

The Bible admonishes women to regard their husbands as their earthly lords in 1 Peter 3:6. But one of the primary ways a wife serves her husband, her master, is by managing the affairs of his home. 

The Bible speaks to the woman’s duty to manage the affairs of the home in the following passage:

I will therefore that the younger women marry, bear children, guide the house, give none occasion to the adversary to speak reproachfully.”

I Timothy 5:14 (KJV)

The phrase “guide the house” is an English translation of the Greek word “Oikodespoteo”, which comes from two Greek words “oikos” (house) and “despoteo” (to rule). This literally means to occupy one’s self in the management of a household.  A manager is one who must make decisions.  Therefore, we can rightly say that God does in fact want women to make decisions on a daily basis as they manage the affairs of the home.

In the passage below from the book of Proverbs, the Bible gives us an entire list of examples of decisions that good wives could make on a daily basis:

“10 Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. 11 The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. 12 She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. 13 She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.

14 She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar. 15 She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. 16 She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.

17 She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. 18 She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. 19 She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.

20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. 22 She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple.

23 Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land.

24 She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. 25 Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.

26 She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. 27 She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness.

28 Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her.

29 Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all.  30 Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised. 31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 31:10-31 (KJV)

So, as we can see from the above passage from Proverbs, women can make many kinds of decisions.  They can decide what dinners to make and what kinds of clothes they would like to make or buy for their family on a daily basis.  They could decide to sell at a market, fair or online – things they make in their home.  They could decide to use their wisdom and years of experience to teach other women how to be godly wives and mothers by teaching a woman’s Sunday school class at church or writing a woman’s blog.  They could choose to make food or clothing to help the poor and needy around them.  They could organize meals with other women to assist people in their church that are sick or otherwise in need of help.

They could decide to ravish their husband sexually as Proverbs 5:19 exhorts them to do and invite their husband to feast on their bodies as the wife does in Song of Solomon 4:16.

There are so many good decisions that women can and should make on a daily basis.

Man Can Override the Decisions of Woman

The Bible actually dedicates an entire chapter to the subject of women making personal decisions.  It is found in the book of Numbers.

“1 And Moses spake unto the heads of the tribes concerning the children of Israel, saying, This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded.

2 If a man vow a vow unto the Lord, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;  4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.

5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her. 6 And if she had at all an husband, when she vowed, or uttered ought out of her lips, wherewith she bound her soul; 7 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her in the day that he heard it: then her vows shall stand, and her bonds wherewith she bound her soul shall stand.

8 But if her husband disallowed her on the day that he heard it; then he shall make her vow which she vowed, and that which she uttered with her lips, wherewith she bound her soul, of none effect: and the Lord shall forgive her.

9 But every vow of a widow, and of her that is divorced, wherewith they have bound their souls, shall stand against her.

10 And if she vowed in her husband’s house, or bound her soul by a bond with an oath; 11 And her husband heard it, and held his peace at her, and disallowed her not: then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she bound her soul shall stand. 12 But if her husband hath utterly made them void on the day he heard them; then whatsoever proceeded out of her lips concerning her vows, or concerning the bond of her soul, shall not stand: her husband hath made them void; and the Lord shall forgive her.

13 Every vow, and every binding oath to afflict the soul, her husband may establish it, or her husband may make it void.

14 But if her husband altogether hold his peace at her from day to day; then he establisheth all her vows, or all her bonds, which are upon her: he confirmeth them, because he held his peace at her in the day that he heard them.

15 But if he shall any ways make them void after that he hath heard them; then he shall bear her iniquity.

16 These are the statutes, which the Lord commanded Moses, between a man and his wife, between the father and his daughter, being yet in her youth in her father’s house.”

And now we come to the truth of the matter.    Egalitarians and even many complementarians who hate the doctrines of Patriarchy found in the Bible know that God does in fact allow women to make decisions.  But what they don’t like is that women can and should be held accountable for their decisions by their male heads, whether they be their fathers or their husbands.  They hate that God gives fathers the authority to overrule any decisions their daughters make and especially hate that God gives husbands the authority to overrule or literally void any decisions their wives make. 

Conclusion

While wives can make decisions, they should only make decisions which they do not believe will conflict with their husband’s will in any given matter.

And really, this is a question we should all ask ourselves about each decision we make on a daily basis.  In the book of James, we read the following principle about making decisions:

“13 Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: 14 Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

15 For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”

James 4:13-15 (KJV)

All of us are accountable to the Lord for every decision we make.  As men we can also be held accountable for some decisions by our civil authorities and for other decisions by our church authorities. But in some decisions a man makes, he is accountable only to God.  It is not the same for women. A woman can held accountable for every decision she makes by her father or her husband.   And this is what opponents of the doctrines of Biblical patriarchy hate as it conflicts their humanist ideals of individuality and equality.

The Bible however stands in full opposition to the humanist ideals of individuality and social equality and that is why humanists want to rid it from all areas of our society.

Thankfully though, we have this promise regarding the Word of God:

“For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.”

1 Peter 1:24-25 (KJV)

Doug Wilson Is a Complementarian Masquerading as a Biblical Patriarchist

The unfortunate reality is that there are many Christian teachers out there who claim to embrace Biblical patriarchy, when in fact they are simply complementarians in sheep’s clothing.   Doug Wilson is one of those teachers who claims to be a believer in Biblical Patriarchy but essentially, he is a Complementarian when it comes to marriage. I am not saying complementarians are evil people. I used to be one. And I am not saying Doug Wilson is a bad person, or even questioning whether he is a genuine Bible believing Christian – because I believe he is a good Christian man. But what I am saying is this. If you want to learn about the true and historic Christian views of biblical gender roles which are encapsulated in Biblical Patriarchy – do not use the writings of Doug Wilson as your source of what true Biblical Patriarchists believe.

But before I get into why I believe Doug Wilson is a counterfeit Biblical Patriarchist, I first want to review with you the three systems of Biblical interpretation we see in Christianity today as it relates to gender roles.

Biblical Patriarchy is a belief system which reflects the historic Christian view of biblical teachings regarding gender roles.  Is derived from a natural and literal reading of the Biblical texts of both the Old and New Testaments.  This natural and literal reading reveals that God has designed the family unit as a patriarchy or literally “father ruled” institution.  The children obey their parents, and the wife obeys her husband as her earthly lord as the church obeys Christ.   Also, Biblical Patriarchy accepts the Biblical teachings that men are to rule over women not just in the home, but also in the church and civil society. 

Egalitarianism (otherwise known as Christian Feminism) is a philosophy which fully embraces everything secular humanism teaches, minus the atheism.  Because of this, Egalitarians reject much of the Bible’s teachings on patriarchal order and they claim that Christ came to redeem us from the “evils of patriarchy”.   Many Christian Egalitarians are honest in the fact that they reject the concept of Biblical inerrancy knowing their belief system is incompatible with a belief in Biblical inerrancy.  Some attempt to say they still believe in Biblical inerrancy, but to do so they have to utterly mangle many texts in the Bible from their clear and natural readings.

Egalitarians believe women should have equal rights with men, that that they should be able to be pastors and teachers of men in churches and that they should be able to hold authority over men in civil offices.  They believe that marriage is an equal partnership between a man and woman, not a patriarchy.

In my previous article, “The Complementarian Counterfeit”, I stated the following about Complementarianism:

“Complementarianism was started as a reaction to the false teachings of egalitarianism.  The term “Complementarian” was coined by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in 1988…

John Piper explains that complementarianism was designed to take the “middle ground” between what he and other Christian leaders saw as “two kinds of errors” in the churches…

In the complementarian view, a husband may only lead his wife by example or suggestions to her, but he may never lead her by commanding her or seeking to control her through coercive methods.  And it is precisely because of the denial that male domination of woman is God’s command, that complementarianism teaches a hollow and weak form of male headship and female submission in the home.

When it comes to the doctrines of the Bible concerning gender roles, there is no “middle ground” and no room for compromise with egalitarianism.   Complementarianism is a counterfeit doctrine of male headship and female submission.”

The “two errors” which pastors like John Piper meant to address with their new “Complementarian” approach to the Scriptures were Egalitarianism and Biblical Patriarchy.  In other words, John Piper and many conservative Bible preaching pastors had come to the position that the historic Christian view of gender roles which Biblical Patriarchy espoused, was in error.  That Christians had misunderstood the Bible’s teachings on gender roles for 2000 years and Complementarians finally got it right in 1988.

But the truth is that Complementarianism was simply a new way of interpreting the Bible to make it better placate our post-feminist society without fully going over to Egalitarianism.  Oh, for sure Piper and many other big complementarian evangelical preachers will claim that they oppose feminism.  But when you really drill down into it, they embrace a great deal of feminist values.  And the truth is they believe they had to.  For them to stay faithful to what the Bible actually teaches and what Biblical patriarchy espouses would have cost them dearly in terms of the membership and offerings.

And now that I have shown you the distinctions between egalitarianism, complementarianism and Biblical patriarchy I can now get to the heart of the matter regarding Doug Wilson.

Why Doug Wilson is a Counterfeit Biblical Patriarchist

In the Scriptures, God has established three main spheres of human authority and those are the family, the church and civil government.  And God has granted the authorities in each of these spheres the power and responsibility to discipline those under their authority.  

The methods of discipline which God allows are different for each sphere of authority.  God grants civil government the power to not only use corporal punishment, but also the power to use capital punishment (Deuteronomy 25:1-3, Romans 13:4).  God does not grant the power of corporal punishment or capital punishment to the church, but rather the church has the power of excommunication (1 Corinthians 5).  God does not grant the power of capital punishment to the family, but he does allow corporal punishment within the family sphere of authority.

Many Christians, including Doug Wilson, would not disagree with parents disciplining their children, either through corporal punishment or other non-physical means.   In fact, Doug Wilson encourages parents to spank their children as long as it done in a loving manner.  In his article “Loving Little Ones 1” [Loving Little Ones 1 | Blog & Mablog (dougwils.com) ]Wilson writes:

“Discipline is corrective, and it is applied for the sake of the one receiving it. It is not punitive, and it is not rendered for the sake of the one giving it.

When you are spanking a child, you are either being selfish or you are being selfless—one or the other. You are doing it because you are exasperated, frustrated, beside yourself, and frazzled, or you are doing it as a fragrant offering to the God of your fathers.”

But then we come to an article written by Doug Wilson that was recently sent to me by one of my readers.  The article is entitled “And Now a Brief Word for the Wife Beaters”.  Below is an excerpt from that article:

“I am far from denying the biblical truth that a rod is for the back of fools (Prov. 26:3Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). Nor do I deny that a woman could be numbered among such fools. But such a woman would be far gone in her folly, and the only fool bigger than that would be the guy who married her. So before we beat her for her uppity rebellions, I would suggest we flog him for being such an idiot. If he were to object that this is mean-spirited and unjust, I would reply that it sounds to me that he has been influenced by the spirit of egalitarianism. Must be one of those new softie men.

Since the difficulty was apparently found in my #11, let us discuss that for a moment.

The Bible does not teach husbands to enforce the requirement that was given to their wives. Since true submission is a matter of the heart, rendered by grace through faith, a husband does not have the capacity to make this happen. His first task is therefore to love his wife as Christ loved the church. He is to lead by example.”

The key words here are enforce and make. No mortal can force such a thing. It does not come from right-handed power.”

Wilson makes it clear in the article above that he is completely opposed to a husband disciplining his wife in any way, whether it be physically or non-physically.  He denies that a husband has the right to seek to compel his wife’s submission to him by any means and that he may only lead by example. 

He is teaching exactly what Complementarianism teaches, that the husband is a figure head leader to his wife.  As true believers in Biblical patriarchy, we would agree that husbands should lead by example.  But husbands are also compelled by God to lead by disciplining their wives as well. 

In Ephesians 5:25 the Bible commands husbands to love their wives “even as Christ also loved the church” and Christ said to his churches in Revelation 3:19 “As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent”.    A man that does not rebuke and chasten his wife is not loving his wife as Christ loves his church.  That is clear teaching of the Scriptures.  And that is why Christian husbands who ascribed to the teachings of the Bible for centuries had disciplined their wives both physically and non-physically.  

The Bible may not mandate physical discipline for wives, but it does mandate that a husband use some form of discipline with his wife.  And no Biblical principle or command would disallow a husband from physically disciplining his wife.

We have clearly established from Doug Wilson’s own words that he believes husbands do not have the power to compel the obedience of their wives and that they may only lead by example.  A person who may only lead by example is not an authority at all, but rather they are just a figure head.  Therefore, Wilson has reduced husbands to mere figure head leaders of their wives and not real authorities over them.  And this teaching that a wife’s submission to her husband is voluntary, and may not be compelled from her husband, is a core tenant of complementarianism.  

The Scriptures tell us that wives are to regard their husbands as their earthly lords (1 Peter 3:5-6) and to submit to them “as unto the Lord…in everything” (Ephesians 5:22-24).   There is no other human authority where God commands those under them to submit to them “as unto the Lord” except the husband.  The husband’s authority over his wife is far greater than that of a father’s authority over his children because the husband’s authority is lifelong and he also has sexual authority over his wife.   

The husband’s authority, unlike that of civil authorities and church authorities, is a very personal authority.  No other authority has such control over the personal day to day decisions of another human being.  No other authority has such control over another person’s body.   And that is why the true Biblical teaching of a husband’s authority over his wife is so threatening and scary to Americans and other Westerners who fully ascribe to individualism.

If you talk to Biblical Patriarchists online or in person you will find that a core doctrine they believe in is that of the husband’s responsibility to discipline his wife.  Some might not believe a husband has the God given authority to spank his wife, but they believe that husbands have the right and responsibility to discipline their wives in some form or fashion. 

Doug Wilson, and other complementarians, have taken the husband from being the greatest human authority God ever established (aside from Christ himself) to making the husband the weakest authority.  And in truth, the husband is not really an authority at all, but merely a figure head leader.

I am sure Doug Wilson is a good Christian man just like John Piper is.  But while he may be a good Christian man, Doug Wilson in fact a counterfeit Biblical Patriarchist.

For more on the Biblical case for and historic precedent of wife spanking (aka Domestic Discipline) I would encourage you to read these articles I wrote on the subject:

The Biblical Case for Domestic Discipline

A 19th Century Suffragette View of Domestic Discipline

19th Century Judicial Precedents Regarding Domestic Discipline

The Complementarian Counterfeit

Complementarianism is a counterfeit doctrine, an unbiblical compromise between the false doctrine of egalitarianism and the true doctrine of Biblical patriarchy.  The sad truth is that in many ways’ complementarianism is more dangerous than egalitarianism, because complementarianism proports to uphold the biblical doctrines of male headship and woman’s submission where egalitarianism unequivocally denies these doctrines.

You have to look very close at the teachings of complementarianism and biblical patriarchy, like two bills, to really see the differences between the two teachings. 

Origins of Complementarianism

Complementarianism was started as a reaction to the false teachings of egalitarianism.  The term “Complementarian” was coined by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) in 1988. 

According to John Piper, who was one of the council’s founding members, complementarianism was born out of an effort to address the error of “the negation of gender differences” by egalitarians.   

Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE), an egalitarian organization, lists these egalitarian principles on their website:

“We believe that women and men are equally created in God’s image and given equal authority and stewardship of God’s creation.

Patriarchy (male dominance) is not a biblical ideal but a result of sin.

Patriarchy is an abuse of power, taking from females what God has given them: their dignity, and freedom, their leadership, and often their very lives.

While the Bible reflects patriarchal culture, the Bible does not teach patriarchy in human relationships.

Christ’s redemptive work frees all people from patriarchy, calling women and men to share authority equally in service and leadership.

The unrestricted use of women’s gifts is integral to the work of the Holy Spirit and essential for the advancement of the gospel in the world.

Followers of Christ are to oppose injustice and patriarchal teachings and practices that marginalize and abuse females and males.”

So, as you can clearly see from the list of egalitarian doctrines above, egalitarianism was an all-out assault on the biblical practice and doctrines of patriarchy. Christian egalitarianism was simply a rebranding of feminism for Christian consumption.

While the CBE helped to organize and codify their doctrines in the late 80’s, these doctrines had already been spreading within churches long before that time and this is what prompted the formation of the CBMW.

The CBMW issued the famous “Danvers Statement” in 1987 which included the following key statements below in response to egalitarianism:

“Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).

Adam’s headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of sin (Gen 2:16-18, 21-24, 3:1-13; 1 Cor 11:7-9).

The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women (Gen 3:1-7, 12, 16).

    In the home, the husband’s loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife’s intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.

    In the church, sin inclines men toward a worldly love of power or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.”

So, if you look at the two statements above, it is very easy to see two primary differences between egalitarianism and complementarianism. 

Egalitarianism completely denies the biblical concept of gender roles, while complementarianism appears to affirm it.

Egalitarianism completely denies the biblical concept of male headship while complementarianism appears to affirm it.

But while complementarianism proports to be the genuine article when it comes to the biblical view of gender roles, upon closer examination we will find that complementarianism is actually a counterfeit doctrine of biblical gender roles.

The Complementarian Abandonment of Patriarchy

Egalitarianism was not the only reason complementarianism was formed. In an article entitled “God Created Man Male and Female – What Does It Mean to Be Complementarian?”,  John Piper explains that complementarianism was designed to take the “middle ground” between what he and other Christian leaders saw as “two kinds of errors” in the churches.  The first error which we have already addressed was egalitarianism.

But then there was a second error that complementarianism was designed to address.  And that error, from their point of view, was male domination of women in society, the church and the home.  They believed the terms “traditional” and “patriarchy” were linked with male domination and “the history of abuses of women personally and systemically”.  And it was because of this, that the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood decided that a new term must be coined to replace “traditional” and “patriarchy” in regard to the discussion of gender roles.  So, they coined the term “complementarian”.

Complementarians Limit Male Headship to the Home and the Church

If you look closely at the Danvers Statement from the CBMW, you will notice that they only speak of “headship” in the home and “limitations” on women’s roles in the church.  In other words, the Danvers Statement only recognizes male headship in the spheres of the home and the church but it does not recognize male headship in society.

In 2008, when John McCain was running for President with Sarah Palin as his running mate, John Piper tried to fill in this large void left by the Danvers Statement.  In his article entitled “Why a Woman Shouldn’t Run for Vice President, but Wise People May Still Vote for Her”, Piper wrote the following:

“My convictions about the implications of manhood and womanhood for political life are nuanced and rooted in Scripture. They are also complex and controversial. So they don’t fit blogs well. But I’ll try. The gist is this:

I think that the Bible summons men to bear the burden of primary leadership, provision, and protection in the home (Ephesians 5:21–33) and in the church (1 Timothy 2:8–15). Add to this that these texts (and others, like Genesis 1–3) build their case not on the basis of culture (which changes) but on the basis of God’s design in creation (which does not change).

Therefore, I am not able to say that God only speaks to the role of men and women in home and church. If our roles are rooted in the way God created us as male and female, then these differences shape the way we live everywhere and all the time…

These and other teachings in Scripture incline me to believe that manhood and womanhood are not mere social constructs. They are rooted in God’s design for creation. They are meant to shape culture, not merely be shaped by culture…

And I certainly do not think all of my conclusions should be codified in law. It should not be illegal, in this fallen age, for a woman to be President of the United States. Christ does not implement his revealed will in this age with guns and fines. But all human government (rightly) enforces its laws with guns and fines. So law is not the way to deal with this issue. Christians should not crusade in this fallen age to pass laws to forbid women from the Presidency.”

As you can see from the statement above, complementarians while holding strong to the fact that male headship is God’s design for the home and the church, tend to get a lot more wishy-washy about male headship outside the home and the church.

Look at the way Piper couches his language as if he is sorry that it appears that God’s design might prohibit a woman from becoming President or Vice President.  But then of course he quickly states that he does not believe God’s design of gender roles should be “codified in law”. 

Complementarians Dismiss Patriarchy as a Cultural Rather than Biblical Concept

In the Numbers 30:3-5 we read the following:

“3 If a woman also vow a vow unto the Lord, and bind herself by a bond, being in her father’s house in her youth;

4 And her father hear her vow, and her bond wherewith she hath bound her soul, and her father shall hold his peace at her; then all her vows shall stand, and every bond wherewith she hath bound her soul shall stand.

5 But if her father disallow her in the day that he heareth; not any of her vows, or of her bonds wherewith she hath bound her soul, shall stand: and the Lord shall forgive her, because her father disallowed her.”

Complementarians deny God’s design of the social classes of men, women and children and instead embrace the false humanist social classes of “adult” and “minor” that were invented by John Locke in the 17th century.   They believe that once young women reach adulthood, they have the same autonomy as men to determine the course of their lives and that fathers have no right to override the decisions of their daughters once they reach the social class of “adult”.

Complementarians dismiss Numbers chapter 30 and its prescriptions regarding Patriarchal order with fathers being able to override their daughter’s life decisions and husbands being able to override their wife’s life decisions.   They see the commands of Numbers 30 as well as other examples of Patriarchal order in the Old Testament as temporary and “cultural” and only specifically apply to the theocracy of Israel.

Complementarians Fail to See the Moral Law of God in the Civil Laws of Israel

Exodus 22:16-17 provides a good example of the blindness of complementarians to the moral law of God found in the civil laws of Israel.

Complementarians deny that the right given to a father in Exodus 22:16-17 to allow or refuse his daughter’s hand in marriage to a man was lasting moral law, but rather they teach that it was temporary civil law which was done away with in the New Covenant.

The reason their interpretation of this passage is flawed is because they fail to see that many civil laws in Israel also contained the moral law of God.  In other words, many civil laws of Israel handled the punishment or reparations to be made for violating God’s moral law.

Below is a breakdown of the moral law and then civil reparations to be made for breaking God’s moral law in Exodus 22:16-17:

God’s Moral Law: “And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her”

God’s Civil Reparation for the theocracy of Israel: “he shall surely endow her to be his wife”

God’s Moral Law: “If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him”

God’s Civil Reparation for the theocracy of Israel: “he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins”

So, if we separate the moral law from the civil reparation for breaking that moral law, we can see there are two moral laws presented by God in Exodus 22:16-17. 

The first moral law presented is that God does not allow sex outside of the covenant of marriage. 

The second moral law we see in Exodus 22:16-17 is that of a father’s right to allow or refuse his daughter’s hand in marriage. When a man and woman have premarital sex, they have both sinned not just against God, but also against the woman’s father.  The woman has sinned against her father by giving away that which was not hers to give and the man as well has sinned against her father by taking that which was not his to take.

Complementarians Teach That Male Domination Was A Result of the Fall

Complementarians actually agree with Egalitarians in their belief that male domination was a result of the fall.  In his article “Manhood and Womanhood: Conflict and Confusion After the Fall” , John Piper wrote “And when sin has the upper hand in man, he will respond in like manner and with his strength subdue her, or rule over her”.  And in another article entitled “Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 1“, Piper stated that a husband’s “headship is not a right to control” and a wife’s submission to her husband should not be “coerced” but that it must only be submission that is “free and willing”.

Complementarians and egalitarians say that the word “shall” in the phrase “he shall rule over thee” is not God’s command for husbands to rule over their wives, but rather God predicting that sin would cause men to dominate their wives.

But the complementarian position fails to take into account God’s command to Cain in Genesis 4:7:

“If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted? and if thou doest not well, sin lieth at the door. And unto thee shall be his desire, and thou shalt rule over him.”

The parallels between Genesis 3:16 and Genesis 4:7 cannot be denied.  In both instances God commands that the person should rule over the other person who is trying to control them.  In the case of Cain, God personifies his sin nature as a man that is trying to control Cain.  But God commands that Cain should rule over that man.  And in the same way God says in Genesis 3:16 because of the corruption sin wives would try to control their husbands, but that husbands must rule over their wives.

Complementarianism Teaches a Limited form of Submission for Women

In his article entitled “Lionhearted and Lamblike: The Christian Husband as Head, Part 1“, Piper states the following:

submission is not slavish or coerced or cowering. That’s not the way Christ wants the church to respond to his leadership and protection and provision. He wants the submission of the church to be free and willing and glad and refining and strengthening”

Piper uses three key words which he says are the opposite of Biblical submission and those are “slavish”, “coerced” and “cowering”.  So, let’s look at each one.

A Wife’s Submission is to Surpass that of a Slave

I have previously written an article entitled “8 Biblical Differences Between Wives and Slaves” which details the differences between the wives and slaves in the Bible.  The difference could be summed up as follows.

Biblically speaking, wives and slaves are both owned by masters (Exodus 20:17, Deuteronomy 22:22, 1 Peter 3:6).  Both slaves and wives are told to obey their masters in everything except if they are told to sin (Ephesians 5:24).  Wives are told that their bodies are for their husband’s sexual satisfaction and use (Proverbs 5:18-19, Romans 1:27).  A wife’s submission to her husband is to be even greater than that of slave to their master because her husband has the right to the sexual use of her body for his satisfaction.

So, if a wife’s submission to her husband as her master is to be greater than that of the typical master/slave relationship what is the difference between a wife and slave? The answer is found in the Biblical requirements for husbands in regard to the treatment of their wives.

A husband is required to love his wife as his own body, and to provide for her needs as he would his own body (Ephesians 5:28-29).   He is to be willing to lay down his life to save his wife (Ephesians 5::25).   A husband is responsible for the spiritual discipline and teaching of his wife. A husband is required to give his wife sexual access to his body (1 Corinthians 7:3-5).  A husband is required to allow his wife to enjoy the fruit of her labors (Proverbs 31:31).  None of these things were required of masters toward their slaves.

The Danvers Statement says a woman’s submission is not about “servility” and Piper said in the statement we are examining now that is not “slavish”.  And both of those statements are completely wrong.  Biblically speaking a wife’s submission to her husband is to surpass “slavish” or “servile” submission because unlike slaves, God has created wives to serve their husbands with their lives (1 Corinthians 11:9).

A Wife’s Submission Can Be in Response to Coercion

Piper’s assertion that a woman’s submission is to not come as a result of coercion from her husband is directly refuted by Christ’s statement to his churches in Revelation 3:19:

“As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.”

While it is true that Christ wants his church to freely submit to him, the fact is that Christ will receive submission from his church based on him using coercive means just as God used coercive means with his wife Israel to compel her submission.

And since we know that a husband is to model his love for his wife off Christ’s love for his church and that the wife is to model her submission toward her husband off the church’s submission to Christ – we can rightly say that complementarianism again is absolutely wrong on this.  A wife’s submission can Biblically be coerced from her husband.

A Wife’s Submission is to be Cowering

Piper’s assertion that a wife’s submission does not involve cowering is again directly refuted by the Bible in 1 Peter 3:1-2:

“Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; 2 While they behold your chaste conversation coupled with fear.”

Women should absolutely fear their husbands in both the sense of showing reverence toward them and also fearing discipline if they disobey.  Cowering is a Biblical aspect of a woman’s submission to her husband.

Conclusion

No one would argue that there were not abuses committed against women both by individual husbands as well as systematically by various cultures. And even in post-feminist cultures like America today, some men still abuse their wives.  But that does not mean we throw out the baby with the bathwater.  We can as Bible believing Christians uphold God’s order of patriarchy and at the same time call out the abuses of patriarchy where they occur both at the individual family level as well as the larger cultural systematic level.

In regard to the term “traditional” as it relates to gender roles.  We can uphold traditional and cultural values that do not conflict with the Word of God and especially those which match with the Bible and at the same time set aside some traditional values our culture may have that conflict with the Word of God.

Hebrews 9:1-10 shows us that only the civil prescriptions for punishments or reparations for breaking God’s moral law as well as the ceremonial laws are set aside in the New Covenant.  But the moral law of God remains.  That means we are still under the moral law found in both the Old and New Testaments.

And contrary to what complementarians and egalitarians teach, it is not a sin for a husband to dominate (rule over, control) his wife, but rather it is a sin for him NOT to dominate his wife. 

In the complementarian view, a husband may only lead his wife by example or suggestions to her, but he may never lead her by commanding her or seeking to control her through coercive methods.  And it is precisely because of the denial that male domination of woman is God’s command, that complementarianism teaches a hollow and weak form of male headship and female submission in the home.

When it comes to the doctrines of the Bible concerning gender roles, there is no “middle ground” and no room for compromise with egalitarianism.   Complementarianism is a counterfeit doctrine of male headship and female submission.