Headship is not authority in marriage

Ballista recently commented on some of my posts in regard to what I have written on headship, authority, and the like in terms of treatment of rebellious wives.

My defense is Jesus and the Church is Husbands and Wives. There is a difference between headship (kephale) and authority (exousia).

The command of the husband to love is exemplified in what the Scriptures are used for, since in marriage the husband and wive become one exemplifying the Jesus and the Church, and since they are also part of the bride of Christ they are also to be conformed in the likeness of Jesus. Thus, Jesus and the Church are one. All Scripture is God breathed and is useful such actions as how Jesus instructs His disciples:

1. Teaches — His disciples asked Him the meaning of parables (Mark 7; Luke 8, 18; Matthew 13).

2. Reproofs/rebukes — Rebukes Peter (“get behind me Satan” Matt 16; Mark 8), Disciples hinder the little children and Jesus rebukes (“Let the little children come to me” Matt 19; Mark 10; Luke 18), James and John for wanting to call down fire on the Samaritans (“You do not know what kind of spirit you are of, for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” Luke 9).

3. Corrects — Jesus chastises His disciples for their lack of faith. Jesus calms the storm (Matt 8), walks on water (Matt 14), unbelief (Matt 17), lack of understanding discipleship (John 4, 6)

4. Trains — Jesus instructs them on discipleship and sends out the 70 (Luke 10).

I am not saying, in any of my linked posts on Ballista’s blog or mine, that “love” is to cater to the wife or only “good.” I know the difference. Although I can see how it can be read as such. I think it’s a general mischaracterization of my posts.

However, based on the Greek word study I did it seems that the headship-submission model puts both husbands and wives in a position where they must fully trust in the Lord and not rely on “authority” or “consequences” or the “state” in order to win their spouses to Christ even if they say they are Christian but don’t act like it.

Just as we don’t see “abuse” (of any sort) as a legitimate reason for divorce for wives, we also don’t see the ability to impose direct consequences on wives as the husbands as the headship model does not confer such authority. The OT Scriptures patriarchy did based on dominion, but the NT model does not. Paul would have explicitly mentioned “exousia” instead of “kephale” in terms of husbands and wives if he did mean that. Thus, what happened was:

  1. Prior to the fall, the relationship between the husband and wife (Adam and Eve) is that of headship-submission
  2. After the fall, the Eve was cursed to be under the dominion of her husband hence the so-called feminist “Patriarchy relationship” where the husband rules over everything in the house. This is the authority-submission model.
  3. Jesus fulfills the law through his death and resurrection such that we are not bound by the law but called to the law of liberty in Christ. That is the restoration of headship-submission as shown in 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5.

The Father isn’t interested in compelling those who are adult — husbands and wives — to obey as one might a child. He is interested in those who are under such circumstances to love as he would (which means teaching, correcting, rebuking and training as husbands) and winning husbands without a word (1 peter 3) as wives. I disagree with most of the red pill mantra coming out of the secular manosphere that has bled over to the Christian manosphere to treat women like children as a means to an end here. The goal is to be a disciple of Jesus and disciple her to be a disciple of Jesus so she can make correct choices of her own free will.

The New Covenant restoration analysis

I get the sense from the Christian manosphere that it should not be this way. However, if you think about it logically, then it is considered freedom for the husbands to be in a headship-submission relationship rather than an authority-submisison relationship.

For example, the husband is not bound by the actions and thus consequences of the rebellion of his wife. In the OT, the husband is responsible for the actions of both his children and wife and has to bear the consequences when they act out. But with the restoration of headship-submission if the wife gets herself into consequences of her own choosing the husband does not have to bear the burden of such responsibility. This is how it is supposed to be from the beginning.

Each spouse has free will to act and bear the burden of their own consequences: Eve is cursed for choosing to eat the fruit, and Adam is likewise cursed for listening to his wife and choosing to eat the fruit.

This is one the critical errors I have made in the past with analysis of husbands and wives, and I have been finally able to discern this. You can’t have it both ways.

Essentially, if you place authority (“exousia”) upon the husband in accordance with the old covenant (“the law”) then you will be living under the law and not under the new covenant (“grace through Jesus”). If this authority is true, then the husband must bear the consequences of the wife’s actions in accordance with the old law. More authority delegates more responsibilty.

Because headship does not have the burden of authority to directly punish, this also logically follows that the husband is therefore not responsible for the wife’s actions. A wife cannot both be responsible for her own actions, and also simultaneously be under the authority — as opposed to headship — of her husband. This is a conflict of God ordained free will, and thus is therefore null and void.

What Jesus has done through his sacrifice is set us free from the law. This has set us free from being judged by the law and allowed us to come under grace. There was nothing we could do before that pleased God; however, through the sacrifice we come under the law of liberty which allows us free will again. We can choose to sin, or we can choose to partner with the Holy Spirit to do what is good. We are not conformed to the old covenant, but instead act under the new covenant. With this comes the responsibility of both the husband and the wife to act in accordance with grace in the marriage. They are responsible for their own actions.

This is not to say that the husband has no influence over the wife — he is still tasked with headship and thus responsibility of the home and possessions. If the wife abuses or goes against that then he can do with them as he sees fit in order to manage the household correctly.

Either way, lack of authority or not, under the law of this current government the husband can be called out for “abuse” on this. However, this is inconsequential as the husband can already be divorced out of nowhere anyway. It’s quite a trifling matter the reason of divorce. The bigger problem is that anyone who is choosing divorce as an option and making an excuse for it is not acting in a way that pleases God. You can’t make others please God.

You can only control your own actions. Yes, sometimes the consequences of other actions bleed over to us. Yes, this is injustice and God sees it and judgment is His. No, that does not change the specific roles and responsibilities in marriage.

I fully suspect that we may have to have another debate with many comments over this. This is a subtle paradigm shift that has far reaching consequences on how those of us in the Christian manosphere understand Biblical marriage.

Also, I may not be able to reply for a while as I’m working on the post on identity, and I will be away for the next week or two.

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10 Responses to Headship is not authority in marriage

  1. donalgraeme says:

    This approach squares with my understanding of Sacred Tradition. I’ve linked to Chrysostom’s interpretation of the relationship between husband and wife before on your blog, and it basically states the same thing. If either party in a marriage fails to uphold their end of the bargain, that is on them. The virtuous spouse must maintain their own duties as best as they are able until the recalcitrant spouse mends his or her ways.

  2. @ Donal


    And this is to say that “love” in the terms of husbands should involve rebuke and correction especially if the wife is a Christian or says she is a Christian. However, it must be approached with the proper attitude (kindness and humility) otherwise it will have the opposite effect.

    “Love” is not give in to whatever she wants, especially if it’s sinful or destructive to the relationship, finances, possessions, etc.

  3. Pingback: Headship in Marriage Implies Authority | The Society of Phineas

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  5. Peter says:


    “Headship” is by its nature, derived from the analogy of the relationship between the head and to body of a single organism.

    What do we call someone whose body does not obey their head? Clumsy, crippled or quadriplegic are words that spring to mind. Involuntary obedience to the head is implicit in the term.

    Yes, you may disobey Christ and not be immediately stoned by the Church or struck down by lightning from heaven, but you will not remain a part of His body and will face the judgement of God as consequence.

    The weakness of word-study is that ignores context and relies on the argument from absence – hat because something is not affirmed, it is denied.

  6. @ Peter

    Jesus’ John 15 dissertation on the vine and the branches is pretty clear on that:

    John 15:1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He [a]prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 You are already [b]clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4 Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit [c]of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so [d]prove to be My disciples. 9 Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10 If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. 11 These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.

    To note, we are not the vinedresser or pruner in this instance. The Father is.

    It would be the husband’s duty as the head of the wife to warn his wife she is walking down the path of unrighteousness and steward that which he is responsible for such as the household to counteract that. But it is not his duty to cut her off (in divorce, directly punish her, etc.) nor bear the responsibility for her decisions.

  7. Pingback: Headship is not authority in marriage Part 3 | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

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  9. Pingback: Identity Part 2 | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

  10. Pingback: Headship is authority in marriage Part 4 | Reflections on Christianity and the manosphere

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