This post is not to debate complementarian vs. egalitarian. I have maintained that there are godly men and women who take the authority of Scripture serious and arrive at different conclusions. I also believe that positions on male leadership are really only pertinent to church and home, which is why I think all the brouhaha in public disagreement is often misplaced.
With that said, Andreas and Margaret Kostenberger have come out with a book on how Genesis to revelation portrays God’s design. In this interview, Dr. Kostenberger makes some good points about the biblical pattern of male headship.
However, I was struck by his response to question if this same paradigm applies outside of the church. His response;
With regard to women in the workplace, we’ve found that a helpful question for couples to consider is: Will the woman, if married, be able to give her best hours and energies to those God has given her to care for in the home and family? This applies to ministry involvement as well. Consider God’s creation design (Gen 1:26–28; 2:18, 20) in conjunction with the primary spheres of ministry given to the woman as highlighted in the judgment she received after the fall, which stands in direct relation to her role in childbearing and with her husband (Gen. 3:16; cf. 1 Tim. 2:15). Consider also the role model of the virtuous woman in Proverbs 31, who is portrayed as centered in her home and fully supportive of her husband. And note Paul’s references to women being workers at home (Titus 2:5), widows being honored who have been faithful wives, having brought up children and shown hospitality (1 Tim. 5:9–10), and younger widows being encouraged to marry, bear children, and manage their households (1 Tim. 5:14). Women on mission for God together with their husbands will be able to rejoice in all God has for them as they’re centered in the home and ready for all he calls them to do individually. Single women, too, unless called to permanent celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7–8), can prayerfully nurture and prepare for this and incorporate some of this in their extended and church family experience.
Regarding political office, there are no direct commands in Scripture encouraging or barring a woman from leadership roles. Again the question is: Will she be able to fulfill her primary God-given role in the home and family? Could she continue to support her husband’s leadership in the areas to which he has been called and to nurture her family if she were to take public office? This isn’t a question of giftedness or competence but relates to God’s design in making people male and female.
Allow me to go on a little rant. Now, I have not read the book so I can’t comment on that. I also realize that he is responding to specific question so this is not about what he should have said or didn’t say. As I wrote about here, I’m really amazed at how much emphasis is placed on male leadership, particularly from Eph 5 and less about loving sacrificially. But what really struck me about this response is how much was placed on the woman to line up. Yet, in the Ephesians passage, Paul gives most of the instruction to the husband to love his wife sacrificially.
This is nothing new. I’ve noticed that whenever the question of responsibility to fulfill roles comes up, the finger is usually pointed at the woman. How often are questions posed to husbands if they take on responsibilities that will diminish their capacity to love their wives? Why is it that the woman is the one who needs to think about how she can accommodate her “role”? Again, I’m speaking broadly because when issues of harmony in the marriage come up, it’s usually the woman who needs to get it together. I think we need to think about why that is the case.
Wendy Alsup pretty much said the same thing in this excellent post, Submission and the Mutual Lust for Autonomy. Like me, Wendy is soft-complementarian and in the PCA (and what that means concerning male headship). Having read several of her articles on the topic, I think it’s safe to say that I’m pretty aligned with where she stands. So this isn’t about women rebelling but asking some legitimate questions. She says;
When talking about men and women in the Church, we sometimes talk about mutual submission. Sometimes we talk about a woman’s desire to usurp authority over the man. But whatever you think about those two subjects, I would like to talk instead about the mutual lust for autonomy that both male and female exhibited in the garden, a mutual lust for independence that is still evident today. The problem with interpreting Genesis 3:16 to teach that women more than men have a desire to control is not that women don’t often act independently of God, but that, first, that’s not what this verse is saying, and two, men struggle with such lust for autonomy as much if not more than women. But who gets rebuked for rebellion in most modern Christian dialogue? Who gets instructed to obey their authorities? Have you heard an argument for submission lately that doesn’t focus on wives to husbands, kids to parents, or church members to elders?
She asks the same question. Why is it that the finger is usually pointed at the woman to maintain a harmonious relationship in the home or church? Women are the ones typically accused of usurping authority. Men are just as culpable and responsible for failure to live out according to the biblical pattern, not just at home but in general. Yet, the onus seems to always be on the women’s submission. I love what one of my Greek professors said when we were going through the book of Ephesians, “notice how Paul does not tell the husbands to tell their wives to submit.” But that’s exactly what it seems so many do.
Also, what does this say to young single Christians? It is inevitably telling men that any disruption in the marriage is because the wife is not submitting and telling young women that they need to make sure they don’t go disrupting the applecart.
It reminds me of how the events of Fall still play out today. It’s that woman, you know, and her disobedience.