Scott on his new blog writes about Politely challenging Church leaders.
From what I’ve seen in my discussions with “egalitarians” about marriage they tend to fall into a few categories.
- The belief that authority itself as a structure is a bad thing. God wouldn’t allow a husband to have authority over the wife because that’s bad. A fundamental misunderstanding of authority because of our cultural disrespect of authority.
- Jesus came to break curses. Authority/headship was a curse in the garden, and it’s broken so now husbands and wives are equals (Greek: “exousia” versus “isos”).
- Men and women are equal. This is a bit different than #1 and it’s a fundamental misunderstanding of “respect” versus “honor” (Greek: “phobeo” versus “timao”).
- The belief that “serving” and “submission” are the same thing. Obviously, they aren’t. Jesus served His disciples, the Church. Jesus does not submit to the Church. (Greek: “diakonia” versus “hupotasso”).
- The belief that headship is not authority (Greek: “kephale” versus “exousia”).
Sometimes egalitarians will argue many of these points together, but you need to understand that distinguishing between these arguments helps substantially to understand where people are coming from.
For example, one of my test questions if I want to know what someone thinks about authority especially in marriage is along the lines of asking “Do you believe that Adam had headship over Eve before the fall.”
The correct understanding of authority, headship, and other power structures is that they are inherently good as they are created by God. However, being placed within a particular structure is neither good or bad. They have their own value and cannot be compared to each. Thus, positions are intrinsically good and their extrinsic value is incompatible with comparison.
Even the hint of thought about “comparison” of positions within such a structure is sinful in respect because they all lead in evil thoughts and expectations such as covetousness or favoritism. Those under authority want the authority for themselves because they believe that the position above them is “better” or “superior.” Those in “higher positions” are looked upon more favorably than those in “lower positions.” The Scriptures condemn both of these.
Women, in general, I think tend to fall more prey to this because their sin tendency is hypergamous. They want the fame, power, status, or monetary value associated with such “positions.” Hence, they place a “superior” value on being in a position or claiming it for themselves. Obviously, men are not exempt but this is where women tend to struggle more.
The reason why I have been denoting specific words with quotation is that language matters a lot. We use certain words to convey the value that we place on certain positions. Namely, in the above paragraphs the value words that denote our thoughts on what is “better” and what is “worse” are the ubiquitous terms such as “higher” and “lower” and “inferior” and superior.” We also denote things according to our belief of intrinsic value such as “good” and “bad” which is similarly an incorrect value judgment.
The very fact that wives become dissatisfied with their place in a marriage means they invariably have become deceived or deluded in their understand of the value of the role of the wife. God created wives to be helpmeets, and God created humans to be very good. Thus, the roles he created for us are also very good. It follows naturally that wives who are dissatisfied with their roles or usurping the role of the husband clearly do not understand the inherent value to which God has assigned to their role in the family.
This is not unlike many other modern Christian women who want families but decide to put them off for the careers, for travel, for missionary work, and the like. It is clear that either misunderstanding, deception, or delusion that the do not place a high value on the family. Obviously, that is their choice, but from what I have seen many often regret their choices for not actively attempting to find a husband when they were younger as they remain single into their 30s and 40s.
Parsing the rationaliziations
Parsing out the semantics that egalitarians use for their arguments is extremely annoying unless you pay extra careful to the wording that they use. It’s quite obvious that none of their positions are supported as a whole in Scriptures, yet it is easy to pick out versus such as mutual submission when cherry picking.
In general, egalitarian Christians use emotional arguments instead of Scripture and logic just as feminists and other leftists do. The reason for this is typically because in their pasts they have encountered situations that have left a bad impression on them of authority or other related power structures. I discussed how some of this may occur in behavior cycles and identity.
Essentially, what happens is that if someone has a bad experience with authority they typically come to believe that authority is implicitly bad. Emotions and feelings are more instinctual than logic and thoughts, so the emotions and feelings tend to overpower the logic and thoughts. When this happens the brain naturally rationalizes everything in the context of the base feelings.
For instance, let’s say Jack and Jill both grew up in a so-called Christian household but their father was an angry drunk. Our fathers tend to influence how we understand our heavenly father, so Jack and Jill may believe that the Christian God is often uncaring and angry with them. This also leads them to believe instinctively that both “fathers” and “authority” are naturally bad. This leads to two diverging paths given the different sexes of Jack and Jill.
Jack naturally does not want to grow up to be like his father. Hence, he will try to be in every way like his father was not. He may succeed or fail as there are two paths for him. One path leads to him repeating the same patterns as his father. The other path leads him to totally changing. Obviously, if he repeats the same patterns then he passes it down like a generational curse: he becomes an angry drunk to his kids too. However, if he avoids the cycle it is likely he believes in his heart that “authority” and “fatherhood” are bad. Hence, he becomes more passive and is very unlikely to become a man that walks in his masculinity with women. Such men are likely to marry a dominant woman and get steamrolled in marriage.
Likewise, Jill will end up naturally diverging on two similar paths. If she has stockholm syndrome and cannot escape the cycle then she will tend to end up married to a man like her father. She will end up married to a man that is an angry drunk or is like an angry drunk. On the other hand, she may decide that she never wants to marry a man like that and will thus become untrustworthy of men that she is interested in. She will only want to marry a man she can control because she couldn’t control her father from being angry to her. Hence, she will be dominant in the relationship and end up acting in a masculine manner. Eventually, she will wonder how she ended up in a seriously unhappy marriage, and she will most likely divorce her passive husband.
Coming to an understanding is more important than arguments
It is rare that you encounter a so-called “egalitarian” who actually listens to rational and logical Scriptural arguments. I’ve discussed many of them before and how they can be countered in the above links if you want to go that route.
However, in regard to discussing those entrenched in emotional rationalizations the true key is to keep going deeper. You don’t argue the belief that “egalitarianism is good and headship is bad.” Instead, you ask why they believe that. If they say one of the arguments above then ask them why do they feel that way about it? Chances are if you can dig enough to the memories and experiences of those who are egalitarians you can help them come to terms with why they believe the way they do. This can allow them to ponder and potentially “exorcise” their past demons so to speak.
In reality, it’s not really about them understanding an argument but understanding themselves better. The interesting compounding effect is that because you are actively trying to understand them they know you care about them, and it should in most cases bring you both closer together. If it doesn’t perhaps you have planted some seeds that God can work with.
From my experience those who truly will be convinced solely through rational arguments are very few and they’re usually men. They are typically ones who know that their true identity is in Christ, and are humble and want to learn and understand better. This type of person can be rarely found within today’s society.
Obviously, in the context of Church leaders there are a few additional things to consider. Namely, how much do they care about God versus man (or women in this case) and how much do they care about money. These are the main two overriding factors which may cause many Church leaders to crumble:
- If they are afraid of the reaction of the men and women in their Church more than the truth in Scripture.
- If they are afraid of families leaving their church and hence tithes going down more than the truth in Scripture.
In both of these cases, you can really only point out the obvious even when they agree with you and hope God works. That is the duty of Christians through Matthew 18. Otherwise, it may be best to leave if they continue to be disobedient to the Word and find a Church that is obedient to God.