No, your congregation does not preach “biblical headship”

I’m still here but have a lot of real life stuff going on.

The creator of the RPC recently posted on this, so I’m sharing a part of it. Definitely give it a read if you have time as it’s good.

“Headship” as a concept is given a lot of lip service, but few people actually practice it the way Christ does with the Church. I can’t count the number of people who tell me how “red pill” their church congregation is, or how “biblically grounded” the teachings are on marriage and relationships, while being exactly the opposite.

KNOWING THE STRUCTURES

I believe a large reason for this stems from inappropriately understanding the views on marriage expressed by different congregational structures. Here they are:

  1. Headship: The view that the man is the head of his household. What he says goes.
  2. Complementarianism: The view that God has given men and women different roles to fill. Among the man’s roles are the right to have the final say on disputed matters in the home.
  3. Egalitarianism: The view that husband and wives are on equal footing with regard to all roles, including decision-making authority.
  4. Feminism: The view that women should be empowered in the home to do as they please and that men should support them in the direction the woman chooses to go, unless it would otherwise amount to direct sin.

Very few congregations actually claim the title of “feminist” when it comes to discussing marriage roles, as they realize this cultural ideology is in direct opposition to Scripture, so most of them will take the feminist agenda and mask it in the form of egalitarianism or complementarianism. Egalitarian-feminists will push the notion that a wife’s equality with her husband prohibits him from exercising authority over her, empowering her to have an equal say, which is virtually always interpreted that her “equal” say should win because if he wins then he’s just a patriarchal monster. Complementarian-feminists will pay lip-service to male authority in the home, but instead redirect that authority in ways that serve the wife. If there’s a dispute, the husband would be “ungodly” if he were to exercise his authority in a way that displeases his wife or fails to give her what she wants. As such, the man’s authority in the home is merely that of a puppet figurehead, while the wife truly runs the show. Feminist structures incorrectly reflect to the world that the bride (Church) has authority over her husband (Christ) either by direct authority or obligational exercise of authority.

True egalitarianism (of the non-feminist variety) is still unbiblical and dangerous. Jesus directly preaches that no kingdom can have two leaders, or else it will be divided. Married people are meant to be ONE, not divided. The only ways true egalitarians can resolve conflicts are: (1) by compromising, which inherently means that even if one party is right, the right answer must be set aside for the compromised conclusion, or (2) taking turns (usually couched in “loving the other enough to let him/her have this one”). Egalitarianism incorrectly reflects that Christ and the Church are equal in authority in the relationship.

True complementarianism (of the non-feminist variety) is another beast entirely. Even up to 3-6 months ago I would have identified as a complementarian purist (meaning: the feminist expressions of it are eradicated). But I have since come to realize that it is flawed even in its fundamental ideology, which is that God has assigned certain roles for men and women to follow. While many complementarians will focus on the authority dynamic as the “hot topic” to discuss, and thus use the word “headship” to describe aspects of their theology, the reality is that the full doctrine of complementarianism insists on many other role distinctions that men and women must align with. These roles are often not found directly in Scripture as obligations; rather, they are cultural norms that have an imputed theology about them, such as the man going off to work his 9-5 job while the wife stays at home to cook and clean. The complementarian view looks at the way men and women are created and attempts to deduce what God must have intended for men and women to do with regard to the family unit and within the body of Christ, while ultimately having little Scriptural support for the conclusions reached.

There’s another 2/3rds that isn’t quoted, so go check it out.

Overall, I’ve been harping on this for a while. Complementarians are a covert hybrid of feminism and the Bible, while egalitarians are more overt. Complementarians think they are doing exactly what the Bible says, but in reality they are deceived. One only needs to actually look at the Ephesians 5 analogy between Christ and the Church which contradicts a lot of complementarianist beliefs. Christ is not a “final decision maker if the Church disagrees;” we follow Him in everything.

His post does a good job of explaining in a different way than I’ve done in the past which can be helpful for some.

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23 Responses to No, your congregation does not preach “biblical headship”

  1. afirefox says:

    I completely agree. One thing though that I get stuck on though: the Bible explicitly states that a wife has authority at least over the husband’s body in conjugal rights and they can only stop making love for a time if mutually agreed on. Is this just an exception or can this infer that maybe some things are to be mutually agreed upon?

  2. @ afirefox

    I completely agree. One thing though that I get stuck on though: the Bible explicitly states that a wife has authority at least over the husband’s body in conjugal rights and they can only stop making love for a time if mutually agreed on. Is this just an exception or can this infer that maybe some things are to be mutually agreed upon?

    That seems to the be the only exception of which I am aware. Conjugal rights are also mentioned in the OT as well.

  3. Brad says:

    Thanks for talking about this. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the archives here and on Dalrock’s blog. It is crazy to me how feminism has crept in and is now taking over the church, espousing these complimentarian and egalitarian positions. I can understand why they do since church is very feminine-centric. My church, which has almost 3,000 people is 65% women!! I can definitely say, I’m a firm believer in biblical headship.

  4. fuzziewuzziebear says:

    None of this is good news for secular men. I have more bad news. Over the last few years, I have been paying attention to a business that does romance tours to Ukraine and the owner once suggested that men should soft pedal their enthusiasm for Christianity when there. The problem is that the Church Ladies have taken over the Russian Orthodox Church and they don’t want to see these motivated women remarry. It is my guess that if the Church Ladies aren’t having sex, they don’t want anyone else to either.

  5. @ Brad

    Thanks for talking about this. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the archives here and on Dalrock’s blog. It is crazy to me how feminism has crept in and is now taking over the church, espousing these complimentarian and egalitarian positions. I can understand why they do since church is very feminine-centric. My church, which has almost 3,000 people is 65% women!! I can definitely say, I’m a firm believer in biblical headship.

    Not really that crazy. Paul and the disciples wrote the letters to the Churches because they were going off track in the first place.

    The same letters apply to the Churches today as they did then, but you can see how it’s still hard for Christians to be the ekklesia (“called out”) rather than conforming to the world.

  6. Novaseeker says:

    There are vanishingly few marriages that practice actual headship in 2020 — i.e., where it is not a kind of “figureheadship” whereby the wife, in case of conflict over any issue that matters deeply to the wife, gets her way in substance, even if the husband makes the “final decision” in form. It is just very hard to avoid this, because men are generally acculturated to act this way, even if they do not think that the decision is the best one — the few men who don’t are almost universally (inside the churches and out of them) considered to be controlling, abusive jerks who deserve to be left, and the women friends of wives who are treated this way generally won’t be shy of providing this advice to her immediately upon hearing of a husband behaving that way.

    Most of the time, even in the most biblically-compliant households, it’s actually a combination of (1) figureheadship in appearance, (2) complementarian role leadership in practice (often under the ruse of “delegation” — guys, it’s hard to delegate authority over something you never exercised authority over to begin with, just saying …). In fact, there are many such households where the wife has “de facto delegated authority” over the house and kids and so on such that she makes decisions about these things for the most part without the husband being involved, and he prefers this under a delegation theory (even though he was never the chief decider in these areas at all to begin with and has never actually exercised authority over them at all other than in a theoretical or “appellate”/veto way), with only major expenditure type decisions being participated in by the husband (and where he typically will still defer to his wife’s ideas, given her de facto primacy in these areas). This is de facto complementarianism masquerading as headship because it has a headship wrapper — in substance it’s complementarianism.

    That’s ok, if that’s what people want, but the guys should be aware of the potential problems that can arise. It is often the case that when a wife is the main decider (under a delegation theory or otherwise) in the home and child area, that the husband is, de facto, under the wife’s rule when he is in the house and/or relating to the kids. This is very significant because, as we know, most of the time spouses spend together is in the home, and around the kids (if there are kids) … if the wife has de facto decisionmaking authority over these areas, even by delegation, there isn’t that much in the day to day where the husband is actually making decisions as the head. It’s the wife and he is acting her decisions, even though she is deciding in theory under authority that he delegated as the head.

    When you step back from the theory, in reality the husband is submitted to the wife for 70%+ of the time they are together, because those contexts are contexts where the wife has “delegated authority” and are her “delegated authority areas”. If a man cedes the domestic realm to the wife, either under an open complementarian theory or a headship delegation theory, de facto the wife has decision making authority most of the time the couple are together, over most of the space and activities that are taking place. It very easily morphs into de facto husband submission most of the time, even if he considers himself the head and lip service is paid openly to his headship in very specific ways. Over time, women become discontented with this for reasons that should be obvious to the readers of this site, but this issue can creep up on Christian men because they think they are doing the right thing, even the biblical thing, by keeping their headship, but delegating authority to their wives in the areas where nature seems to indicate that they should have delegated authority … just so happens that these are 70% or more of the space and time in married life, and therefore the actual husbandly headship becomes quite hollow quite quickly. Be careful about this, gentlemen.

  7. Sharkly says:

    Excellent point, and quite true, Novaseeker. Husbands are encouraged to agree give their wives more of their real authority, and submit to serving their wives, via the false teaching of “servant-leadership”. Church leaders were told to serve the bride of Christ, because Christ is the real Husband and they are only His servants. Jesus foot washing example and instructions to the disciples, who were to be the future leaders of the church, were not intended to be dodged by church leaders and instead wrongly foisted onto everything husbands do within their families.

  8. feeriker says:

    @ Novaseeker and Sharkly:

    This aspect of modern “Christian” marriage is THE ultimate piece of evidence to suggest that the overwhelming majority of those who call themselves Christians have not truly separated themselves from the World and, dare I say it, are not wholly reborn in Christ. Were they fully reborn in Him, they would not hesitate to live their marriage in a manner that reflects Christ’s relationship to His church (sinful human nature resulting in inevitable occasional lapses notwithstanding). Would couples fully reborn in Christ view headship through the lenses of the World? Would their brethren in Christ do so if they too were fully born again? I would assert that the answer is no.

  9. Joe2 says:

    I appreciate the discussion of the congregational structures.

    I think some of these structures may be a reflection of what actually can be implemented in the day to day on a practical basis in today’s world. In other words, they serve as a rationalization of of the ideal because the ideal may not be possible to implement.

    As an example, where the husband is working at a job outside of the home it may not be possible for him to get involved in the day to day where he is actually making decisions. He may be unavailable for a good portion of the day when decisions need to be made or even if he were available he would be making decisions based on what his wife tells him (which could be biased) rather than deciding based on his own assessment of the situation. Needless to say, employers expect employees to be working rather that spending their time conducting personal business. Therefore, delegation seems to be a practical solution to this dilemma.

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  11. Brittany Reimer says:

    These are really interesting thoughts. I have been wrestling with my stance on this issue for quite sometime and I appreciate the perspectives presented here. I think I need to keep praying, thinking and discerning. Blessings to you!

  12. Elspeth says:

    I like what Joe2 had to say. So much of the commentary seems to imply that a man has the time to micromanage every household decision. Or that it’s an automatic abdication of headship to delegate particular domains to his wife. To have the responsibility of working, doing “manly chores”, making the major decisions, spiritual leadership, economic responsibility, and God knows what I left out, as well as supervising every minor sphere of family life seems to me like the man married a dolt for a wife.

    My dad was a very strong man who was not a figurehead in our house. But there were areas that he trusted to my stepmother because he worked 50+ hours a week. It’s the same in our house. When it comes to things such as educational choices and programs for example, I research, choose, and administer it (after getting his okay). Every spring, I account to him the efficacy -or lack thereof- of whatever path we took. But he doesn’t micromanage me throughout the school year or week-in, week-out.

    I bothered to read the entire piece, and the author had a lot of thoughts I agreed with. For instance, the idea that mowing the lawn is the man’s domain while cooking meals is the woman’s domain as some kind of bedrock Biblical truth. It really isn’t though. It’s complementarian projection of Western traditional sex roles as Biblical truth. Two of our girls have really enjoyed learning from their father about how to fix things and make things. Over the years, they’ve exhibited a bit of skill. Is it not possible for one of them to marry a man who is more skilled in the kitchen (thankfully they can all cook, too) yet still have a marriage in which Biblical headship plays out?

    My position has always been that a particular wife’s job is whatever her husband tells her it is. At least, that’s what my husband told me back in the early years (“Your job is what I say it is, not what anyone else says it is, no matter how well meaning they are”) To the effect that this is the way a marriage works, with the wife obeying and respecting the husband, then it’s a Biblical marriage regardless of what any self-righteous busybodies have to say about it.

    I’d argue that a man who has to micromanage every decision out of fear of losing his positional authority is either painfully insecure or has married extremely poorly.

  13. Anonymous Reader says:

    Elspeth
    I’d argue that a man who has to micromanage every decision out of fear of losing his positional authority is either painfully insecure or has married extremely poorly.

    Or something changed over the years. That happens too.

    In the more general or abstract sense: what does “helpmeet” or “help meet” mean? What does it really, really mean?

  14. Elspeth says:

    @ AR:

    Or something changed over the years. That happens too.

    Yes sometimes things change. Sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse.

    In the more general or abstract sense: what does “helpmeet” or “help meet” mean? What does it really, really mean?

    Help meet is translated helper suitable to a specific man. What one man has determined is “suitable help” in his domain might be different from what another man concludes is “suitable help” for him.

  15. @ Elspeth

    I’d argue that a man who has to micromanage every decision out of fear of losing his positional authority is either painfully insecure or has married extremely poorly.

    I disagree to a certain extent.

    I think I wrote this into the book, but if a husband likes things done a certain way (micromanager) and a wife likes doing things his wife (being micromanaged) more power to them. Both he and she married well.

    Who am I to criticize a marriage that is clearly operating in God’s framework of headship and submission and love and respect?

    A wife who doesn’t want to be micromanaged shouldn’t marry a micromanager, and husband who wants to micromanage shouldn’t marry a woman who doesn’t want to be micromanaged.

    Neither are right or wrong, but it is our tendency to call some of these things negatively (“controlling” and “abuse”) when it is not in some cases, and butting into people’s marriages in a bad way in other cases.

  16. Elspeth says:

    I actually agree with you, DS. It has always been my position (see my above comment) that it is up to each individual husband how his marriage functions. I have also repeatedly said that if a man’s leadership style is one where he genuinely prefers his wife to take point in major areas, then That is his business. We agree.

    That, however, is not how the scenario iwas framed in these discussions and it wasn’t so here either. The overarching presentation is that if a woman has been delegated dominion over any area other than dinner and diapers, then she necessarily wears the pants.

    That is the context i was commenting from.

  17. Anonymous Reader says:

    Elspeth
    Help meet is translated helper suitable to a specific man. What one man has determined is “suitable help” in his domain might be different from what another man concludes is “suitable help” for him.

    Thanks. Now, in the context of Deep Strengths’ OP, how do you think the average modern church ladies Bible study would react to that? What about the pastors and other leaders?

    In fact, when was the last time you or anyone else heard an exposition in a church on this topic at all; that a man needs a helper that is “meet and fit for him”?

    I’m being rhetorical here for a reason.

  18. info says:

    Its ironic that what the feminist screech about: “Patriarchy” is an accurate labelling of what the Model of Christ and Church demands.

    The headship of Husband over Wife is Patriarchy in the household sense. Which is also why the Church Leadership is restricted to Elders/Deacons who rule their households well (1 Timothy 3:4-5). Hence modelling the proper way to rule his house to his congregation.

    By definition excluding Henpecked Husbands or Figureheads. Because they make a farce of the Model that God through Paul commands.

  19. Brad says:

    Good morning friends. I had commented earlier when this post went live about my church being very fem-centric and opening the doors for feminism and now, more of the woke culture. Our pastor has been very vocal about racial reconciliation and has seemed to be tip-toeing around the Black Lives Matter movement….yesterday, our church posted this conversation about “Racial Reconciliation” that was met with tons of negative comments the church deleted. I wanted to share this here and see what y’all had to say. My wife and I are convinced, that if this is the road our church wants to go down, we need to bail.

    Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/V2FcXcdbTLQ

  20. Novaseeker says:

    I recently came across a relevant article on this conflux of issues at Mere Orthodoxy (not an Eastern Orthodox site!).

    The basic idea of the article is that American society has gradually become matrilineal rather than matriarchal. Not matriarchal because, unlike in a matriarchy, men continue to hold most of the outward facing positions of public power, in both politics and business. But matrilineal in that it is women, their activities and their prerogatives that form the social priorities of the entire society and life — including especially family life but also all of the rest of social life which arises from family life in the community and also most churches — are completely dominant. It argues that this has happened precisely because men’s roles have been largely relegated to provision outside the home, while women dominate in every other sphere of life, which has resulted in a de facto massive shift of power and prioritization of values in favor of women, even as this has happened under the facade of patriarchy which is maintained by men maintaining the ourtward trappings of publicly-facing power (and, I would maintain, in many “conservative” Christian households, in the outward idea that the man is still the “head”, while the woman actually makes most of the decisions in the family, de facto, meaning that, de facto, her power and priorities actually are dominant).

    I don’t agree with everything in the article, and most particularly its tone (which is squinting very hard to maintain a neutral stance, and towards the end essentially seems to blame men for changes which, for almost all men, were foisted upon them by cultural and economic changes that they had no say in). But, despite these shortcomings, it is a very interesting article which cites a lot of data, and is very relevant for the discussion here, at this blog in general, and specifically this post.

    Some key quotes:

    The data supports America’s matrilineal status. In the book The Boy Crisis, Warren Farrell and John Gray highlight a Pew Research Center report that reinforces what most people experience in America, namely that “women still run the home that men financially support.” Even in dual-income households, the woman has more say in the decision-making regardless of whether or not she earns more or less than her husband.

    Perhaps it was not in the 1950s but later, say in the 1990s, especially as wealth and sedentary life increased in the suburbs and kin networks were more disrupted as parents moved around the country chasing careers and dragging their children behind them, that many churches developed a matrilineal expression.

    Therefore, matrilineal dominance was simply a matter of time, especially in the modern home. By the time we reached the 1970s and 1980s church planting boom in sprawled cities, it meant that women had to increasingly rely on each other in schools and churches, in a matrilineal fashion, to make life work. As women cooperated more in education and religious life, men were less and less present. Some might argue that as life grew more sedentary, men became less and less needed in terms of their physical strength at home and in the community.

    It is important to remember that matrilineal societies can exist while men are placed in outward-facing leadership roles (say, pastor or elder), but the community’s internal life would implode without women’s authority as mothers. Matrilineal societies are about who does what to sustain life rather than merely looking at who holds which outward facing job title or role. Without women sustaining life, the community dies no matter who has what title in a matrilineal society.

    In church life, by extension, there are no children’s services without moms. Moms primarily determine teen presence at church on Sunday morning. Women working with other women do most of the program planning and execution for major church events, such as Christmas, Easter, potlucks, prayer meetings, children/youth trips, and so on. It is the mothers who sustain youth ministry by providing services like food and local transportation. There is no Christian homeschooling without mothers.

    In matrilineal Christianity, parents will evaluate churches based on programming and services for children. Doctrine, sacramental practices and beliefs, and so on, are usually secondary. This is why churches will advertise and grow based on children’s and youth programming offerings. Churches will not grow without children’s and youth ministries to assist mothers.

    The post-World War II South is a matrilineal society deceptively masquerading as patriarchal because too much of the focus has been on the titles and jobs that men have in the marketplace. In reality, the marketplace is the only place where men have obvious social status. In all other areas of life, the place of the man in the life of a community is uncertain and ill-defined. Truth be told, as in all matrilineal societies, the South would implode without women and mothers holding family, church, and school life together. The modern South is nothing more than a matrilineal society with a patriarchal façade.

    The article is here: https://mereorthodoxy.com/evangelicals-matrilineal/

  21. @ Brad

    Not surprised some in the Church are easily deceived away from the gospel to worldly things.

    It’s important to always go back to what Jesus says about different topics (e.g. who was your neighbor when the Jews hated the Samaritans, love your enemies and do good to those who persecute you).

    The moment you bring worldly “wisdom” and “values” it’s easy to get sucked into the lies of the world which sound right but are often profoundly wrong.

  22. @ Nova

    That does seem a bit more accurate than saying matriachy as it’s not overt. It’s an under the surface ruling while claiming to be oppressed in a lot of cases.

  23. Pingback: Placing the Marriage Structures within the Archetypical Models | Σ Frame

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