Christian Musician Says Complementarianism is “Oppression”

Vicky Beeching is a British contemporary Christian musician and worship leader who has recorded five albums since 2002. If you have never heard of her before, then chances are that you have heard at least one of her songs. She co-wrote the popular anthem “Glory to God Forever,” and churches across the country routinely include this song during worship services.

Recently Beeching posted a critical remark about Complementarianism on her Facebook page (see below), and then invited readers to respond with “BIBLICALLY BACKED UP, theologically well explained” responses. So I’ve decided to take her up on her invitation in this space. I thought this would be a great opportunity to introduce readers to the basics of Complementarianism and to clear up some common misconceptions that people have about it. Here’s what Beeching wrote on her Facebook page:

“Anyone thinking the ‘women in ministry’ battle is over & done, we still have a long way to go. Complementarianism, even when delivered with trendy clothes & a cool haircut, is still merely the oppression of women. My heart aches to see younger women grow up free from this teaching, so they don’t have to doubt their leadership gifting, their equality in the Body of Christ, or their equality within marriage.”

Well, at least she’s clear where she stands! But even so, her description of Complementarianism is less than helpful, though it may accurately reflect the way she feels about it. It is simply a mischaracterization to say that Complementarianism equals the oppression of women. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Complementarianism is term that we use to describe the Bible’s teaching on gender and gender roles. The concept stems in part from the biblical account of the creation of the first woman in Genesis 2:18, in which God says, “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” In this text, God Himself declares that the first woman would be a “helper” to the man, and that she would be “suitable for him” or “corresponding to him.”

Correspondence speaks to equality. Adam had just surveyed all the newly created animal kingdom and found no creature that “corresponded” to him (Genesis 2:20). But the woman was different from any of the other animals that Adam named. She shared in the very same humanity that he himself had. Indeed, both the man and the woman were equally created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27). Eve alone corresponded to Adam in this sense, and in this sense she was his equal.

Helping speaks to difference. The text says that God created her to be a “helper”–a role that involves aiding and supporting the leadership of her husband. God did not assign this role to the man. He assigned it only to the woman. Thus before there is any sin in the world, God creates man and woman to be equal with respect to their humanity (being created in the image of God) but to be different with respect to their roles. The woman is to be the helper.

In keeping with what we see in Creation before there was any sin in the world, Complementarians believe that man and woman have different but complementary roles. When a woman comes to the aid and support of her husband’s leadership, she is not being “oppressed.” She is fulfilling the purpose for which God created her.

We learn in Ephesians 5 the deepest meaning of the different roles that are given to husbands and wives. Paul says that Adam and Eve’s marriage set the norm for every marriage that would follow. Marriage is designed to show the gospel mystery, that Christ loved His church and gave himself up for her; and that the church is called to submit to Christ. Christ has his role—to lead and to serve his wife, the church. The church has her role—to submit to Christ. Husbands and wives bear witness to the gospel as they fulfill their distinct roles.

God does not call unisex disciples. He calls us as men and women. And in that call he delivers a mandate to embrace the roles that He established for us at the very beginning. If we would bring “glory to God forever” as the song says, then we would delight in His purpose for gender as it is revealed in the Bible.

Ephesians 5:22, 25, 31-32 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord… Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her… FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH. This mystery is great; but I am speaking with reference to Christ and the church.”

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For more resources on Complementarianism, see Piper and Grudem’s classic work, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. For a variety of other resources, including a free online version of Piper and Grudem’s book, visit www.cbmw.org.

57 Responses to Christian Musician Says Complementarianism is “Oppression”

  1. yankeegospelgirl August 9, 2011 at 4:47 pm #

    Sigh, sigh again…

  2. Allie August 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm #

    I don’t know how this conversation goes forward until egalitarians are willing to stop misleading and falsely framing the debate as a matter of “equality.”

    This is tiresome, but a debate tactic on their part to confuse equality to must mean “same in function.”

  3. Dave Miller August 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm #

    What is sad is that most complementarians today are willing to engage in discussion and dialog about biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. But the egals I run into simply address us in this kind of dismissive and derogatory tones and refuse to engage in debate. Maybe we did the same to them 20 years ago, i don’t know. But it is hard to have a productive discussion today.

  4. Tom1st August 9, 2011 at 6:02 pm #

    C’mon…let’s stop acting like one side or the other is fully to blame for misrepresentations and stereotypes…I’ve seen many misrepresentations on this very page of Egalitarians, Feminists, Arminians, and many others.

    It goes both ways, friends. Both ways. We’ve all got planks in our eyes…until we’re all willing to admit it, we cannot truly love each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    • Allie August 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm #

      Please refrain from highjacking the thread/discussion Tom. When people try to address everything they end up talking about nothing.

      My comment was about this specific topic. If you want to address past grievances about Denny’s blog do so with him personally or on your own internet forum.

  5. Henry August 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm #

    I wonder whether such basic issues as God’s distinct roles for men and women should form part of the Gospel’s call to repentance? We would not easily accept a practising homosexual’s profession of faith, why would we with a music singer who rejects something so basic as God’s decrees for men and women?

    I know there is such thing as ignorance (not sure it applies in this case though), but I guess I just wonder how much unrepentance we can get away with and still be saved? One wonders if this is not a case of the music singer holding so tightly to the idol of her ‘ministry’ that she feels is being threatened by what is actually God’s call to repentance.

  6. Donald Johnson August 9, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    I am egal as I understand the Bible in its authoritative entirety to teach it and furthermore that Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc. were egals.

    There is not a hint of hierarchy in Gen 1-2 when it is read in ancient Hebrew cultural context, as it should be.

    God is called an ezer (help/helper) to Israel so there is simply NO idea of subordination inherent in the word, contra comp reading.

    Also, if someone claimed that because of another physical trait, like black skin, a person is always to be functionally subordinate, it would today be immediately seen as racist. So it at least possible that comp teaching that a woman is functionally subordinate because she is a woman is sexist.

    • Allie August 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm #

      So Don is is sexist to point out the difference between you and I in that I can bear a child and you can not?

      This is a function I clearly possess and you don’t, are you therefore inferior to me?

      That is my whole point. Just because men and women are different (which is obvious to even the secular world around us) does not imply or mean inequality.

  7. donsands August 9, 2011 at 6:53 pm #

    “If we would bring “glory to God forever” as the song says, then we would delight in His purpose for gender as it is revealed in the Bible.”
    Amen. But pride shall always be fighting in us to overrule the Word of truth. Need to fight our pride, and ask God to humble us, so that we can hear His Word, and do His will, not our own.

    The culture (the world and the devils in it) surely will influence the Body of Christ as it always has. And those who are mature and strong in the truth need to speak up. Thanks for speaking up Denny. I pray this young sister will hear.

  8. Tom1st August 9, 2011 at 7:05 pm #

    Allie, my comment was made in sincerity and love. There was not attempt to hijack, just to promote mutual understanding…the very thing you were aiming for in your original post. I merely said it in a different way.

    With that said, I will now bow out of this convo. No need to appear as if I’m hijacking a conversation I care nothing about (except that all have a fair hearing).

    Cheers.

  9. Sue August 9, 2011 at 9:24 pm #

    I am amused that David feels that egalitarians are not open to debate. 😉

    Denny,

    I appreciate that you have said that kenegdo means “corresponding” or equal. But ezer is elsewhere used for an equal ally, or for God as the rescuer of those who are faithful to him. The Greek translation boethos is used for Christ as our advocate or defender

    Here is a paper which I wrote on the topic.

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1758-6623.2008.tb00680.x/pdf

    Many women my age are indeed in roles of support. They are the full time financial supporters for husbands, parents, and children. The nature of the support role often means being the full time provider as we see in 1 Tim 5:8.

    Thanks. I look forward to a futher discussion of ezer. (I would personally put Eph. 5 aside for any who are not married.)

  10. Donald Johnson August 9, 2011 at 9:30 pm #

    Physical attributes of the genders are given by God. I am glad my wife is different than me in physical ways. Only a woman can birth a baby and nurse it, only a man can impregnate a woman. Other things can relate to these fundamental differences as generalities. But there is a basic Kingdom principle of freedom so a couple can put together the responsibilities of marriage in ways that suit them and not to necessarily fit into a pre-formed box.

  11. Allie August 9, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

    Your dodging Don. Either functional differences mean the sexes are not equal, or they do not.

    If God has given the gift of bearing a child to women, and that does not make men inferior to them due to this difference. How can you argue at the same time that God giving men the function of leading their homes makes women unequal?

    • Ryan August 10, 2011 at 9:53 am #

      @Allie:

      That depends on what you mean by “equality.” There are numerous different ways that equality can be defined and applied. It seems that, particularly in this debate about complementarianism and eqalitarianism, everyone get hung up on equality (and everyone has a different definition of what equality means) so everyone ends up not talking about different things while accusing the other side of dodging the question.

      You are trying to argue with Don from a point he does not recognize; namely that there is an analogy between a woman giving birth while a man cannot AND a man being the leader of his household while a woman cannot. The analogy makes sense in your eyes, but Don rejects the underlying premise as unscriptural.

      • Allie August 10, 2011 at 11:09 am #

        I think your making the same point I made originally. Egals routinely frame the debate to be about equality of function, rather equality in ontology.

        In order for the Egal to tenably hold this position they must eventually give adequate defenses for the blatant differences that God has bestowed upon men and women. As I said before, God made it so that only women can have bear children, does this mean he designed us unequally then? Bearing children is a function that simply cannot be fulfilled by men, and makes them different from women. So the egal either has to acknowledge a clear, God-given, functional distinction between the sexes, or continue on pretending that men and women are exactly the same.

        I am listening keenly for Don to tell me how God making the sexes different does not violate the standard of equality that he has set up. In order for egalitarianism to be true, there can’t be functional difference from God without violating their understanding of equality.

        • A.B. August 11, 2011 at 1:53 am #

          I can’t speak for Don, but as an egalitarian I would respond to this point by saying that, to me, this concept truly is comparing apples and oranges. It is one thing to be *physically unable* to fulfill the same function as the other person, e.g., only women have the capacity for childbirth, and only men are equipped to make a woman pregnant. It is not any kind of dire injustice for someone of one gender to be *able* to do something that is simply not possible for the other to do.

          What egalitarians take issue with is the idea that someone would be *disallowed* to participate in something that they are *perfectly equipped to do*, with no other basis for dismissal than their gender. Egalitarians don’t mind *difference*, but they do mind *inequality*. To an egalitarian, it is not right that a woman who is a skilled communicator, a deep and orthodox theologian, and a gifted teacher, should be automatically relegated to a subordinate position to, for instance, a male teacher with less skill / shakier theology.

          The question is not “are women ABLE to preach / lead” (and, last I checked, the CBMW affirms that they are capable of both), but the question is “OUGHT women to preach / lead, regardless of their ability?”. While both questions technically deal with function, the first one is based on actual physical/mental/emotional capacity, and the second one ignores it entirely.

  12. Andrew Lindsey August 9, 2011 at 11:52 pm #

    Tom, re: “I’ve seen many misrepresentations on this very page of Egalitarians,”

    -Assuming that you mean by Dr. Burk, and are not just referring to some random commenter, could you provide an example?

  13. Tom1st August 10, 2011 at 12:19 am #

    Andrew, unfortunately I do not have the time to search back through the 3 or 4 years worth of Dr. Burk’s blogs. I wish I did have such free time, so I could provide you examples.

    With that said, I also understand that Dr. Burk is not responsible for how others on his page act and react. But there have been times when I, as an Egalitarian and Arminian did not feel fairly represented by either his blog posts (such as ones that tie Egalitarianism in with liberalism…explicitly or implicitly) or those who comment here.

    Because of this relatively frequent feeling, I decided a few years ago to stop commenting with any frequency. There were some who were good dialogue partners. Others were not.

    I do appreciate your desire for an example, but I hope you can understand why that’s a difficult thing to ask – Dr. Burk has hundreds of blog posts.

    In the end, I hope I have communicated myself in love. I do not wish to cast anyone in a dark light, nor do I wish to ‘hijack’ this conversation any further with something off topic. I am merely communicating that BOTH SIDES of these discussions are guilty of stereotyping, refusing to understand, and misrepresentation. I’m NOT accusing anyone in particular in this comment…I’m accusing ALL OF US for what I believe is a rather ineffective, unethical, and sinful mode of disagreeing with each other – And I’m not letting myself off that leash, either. I have been just as guilty as anyone else. God is doing a work in me, but I am still not ‘there’ yet.

    In deepest respect,
    Tom

  14. samuel August 10, 2011 at 5:32 am #

    whats in the heart is always manifested by your outside actions what you weare and what you do . you just look like a worldly rock star , my bible says if you love the world and the things of the world the love of god is not even in you . no such thing as christian rock music its the devil has them deceved . there is just one rock thats gods word , thats the problem i dont blame you i blame the organised chuch denomonation they have let all the bars down and let the world into the church totaly compromised with the world . revelation says jesus is outside the church knocking trying to get back in , so if jesus is not in the final church age who is , as revelation says that apostate carnal church headed up by the pope their ecuminical one world church syestem they are building , its got evrey foul bird in it thats symbolisim its full of evrey foul demon spirit thats why its full of the world today , why they rejected gods humble word and holy living . come of her my people and be not a partaker of her sins and unbelief .that great hore church syestem gods about to destroy it .you all missed malichai chap 4 verse 5 @ 6 when it came turned it down flat . thus saith the lord thousands of times not one failure . william marion branham cheeck it out you can see the piller of fire photographed over his head .science the camra cought the picture george g lacey of the fbi verified their scientific authentisity ,. the camras dont lie.

    • Scott August 10, 2011 at 10:07 am #

      Denny,

      I think you’ve got a troll. There’s a guy doing the exact same kind of thing over at Kevin DeYoung’s blog. It gets worse.

  15. Donald Johnson August 10, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    God did not give the gift of husbands being the sole leader of the home. This is a misreading of Scripture as I understand it.

    In terms of a family, a husband and a wife are the co-leaders of the family according to the Bible as I read it in context. Each spouse is to live with love, respect, service, and submission to the other spouse. Except for the physical constraints, they can carve up the responsibilities of the family as they decide is best for them, in many cases this may be a husband working outside the home and a wife staying at home; but the point is this is not a box to fit into, rather it was their decision based on each spouse’s gifts, talents, skills and desires. It is actually quite freeing.

    • Allie August 10, 2011 at 11:16 am #

      Even the physical design of women seems to disagree that there is not a design of difference Don. Until very recently in human history babies were breast fed for their primary source of nutrition for the early period of their lives.

      The fact that once again, women alone can bear children, and then also women alone could provide physical nourishment for babies demonstrates a greater nurturing and caring role of babies by women then men. Does this mean men have no role at all? Of course not. But to pretend that a woman and a man could have historically switched roles and a baby would have been just as well provided for in nourishment is just foolish.

      Sure technology has taken down some of these hurdles, but roles and design from God still remain.

      And yet here in breastfeeding is another role that men can’t do and only women can…does that make men inferior to women in the function of parenting? It starts to make you wonder if there might be some roles that men are exclusively meant to fulfill…

  16. Kelley Kimble August 10, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    I’ve studied the egal/comp question a lot and I can’t decide which camp I fall into, or if I just don’t know the answer. I don’t think we can know if Paul thought his writings would become canonized and would be preserved for thousands of years. Could he have envisioned a far future world where women would have a completely different role in the culture than they had in his day? If we could somehow call him up, and allow him to see that women in today’s culture can obtain degrees in Theology from universities such as Oxford (as Beeching has), would he say the same things apply today? We all know there have been plenty of male preachers and theologians who are heretics. Is this one of those theological points that distract us from real Christianity? I don’t know. I guess maybe I am an egalitarian, because I would have no problem with a qualified woman delivering a sermon. In a day and age where there is so much sin inside the church, to the point where volunteers working with children must be fingerprinted and background-checked, I don’t know why we argue over this.

  17. donsands August 10, 2011 at 10:59 am #

    “Could he have envisioned a far future world where women would have a completely different role in the culture than they had in his day?”-Kelley

    The Holy Spirit, who is our dovereign God could, and did envision. He wrote the Word, the truth through Paul His minister. The truth is pure and simple, and God’s will is revealed in His Word. We need to pray we can abide in, and by His truth. Until He takes us home in death, or He returns. How I long to be with our Savior even now! To die is gain, but for me to live is Christ, and to eat not only bread, but every Word of His Holy Word.

  18. Kelley Kimble August 10, 2011 at 11:21 am #

    Yes, Don, I agree that we believe the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write. But we also know that there were women actively working in Paul’s ministry whom he held in high regard. The Holy Spirit chose not to fill in the blanks between the statements commanding women to be silent and the details showing us that they were not necessarily so. Were they just there to cook and do laundry? All throughout the Bible we see God doing things that took people by surprise, especially when they thought they had Him all figured out. We see women with the title “prohpetess.” What good would a silent prophetess be?

  19. Donald Johnson August 10, 2011 at 11:49 am #

    Equality does not mean sameness. A person can be short or tall but both are equal in God’s sight. The Kingdom is built on diversity in unity under God.

    God made both the male and female body types and said all was very good. Each body type has specific physical capabilities and does not have some capabilities the other has. This is a perfect picture of the genders needing each other and is as God designed.

    Do these body capabilties and constraints carry over into the division of labor in a family? Sure they can, it is a wise couple that realizes a pregnant wife has some physical limitations in the later parts of pregancy and works to compensate for them, striving for the best outcome for everyone including the baby. But it is up to the spouses on what makes the best sense for their specific situation on how to best do that division of labor.

  20. Allie August 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm #

    Your trying to make a subtle shift there Don between “sameness” and equal in function. My point were to the fact that men and women are in their very nature not equal in function. This is not the same argument as tall vs. short.

    So my question still stands Don. How do you account for women having functions given by God that only they can do? By your understanding of equality, this would make men inferior to them. Unless you are willing to concede that equality is not grounded in functions and roles.

  21. Sue August 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm #

    Allie,

    Breastfeeding had its low point in the 1950’s and has been on the rise since then. Women were on the way to giving up breastfeeding under the influence of male doctors and large companies which produced formula. But with the rise of feminism breastfeeding increased.

    Breastfeeding was a metaphor for leadership for both Moses and Paul. What women do naturally for their own babies, is a concrete enactment of the love and nuturing that both men and women can give others in their role as Christian leaders.

    Men are physically strong, but Paul was not. Physical strength, the strength of men, is a metaphor for the strength of character of both men and women, However, the woman in Proverbs 31 was also strong in her own right.

    • Allie August 10, 2011 at 12:34 pm #

      Sue I am not talking about the variance of strength from one man to another.

      But universally there is a design in the anatomy of women to provide nourishment and food for babies. This is the function and design of breasts.

      Up until recent human history this was not an elective decision for women to make, but a necessity for babies to be fed.

      The design also dictates that early on babies must be fed every few hours, dictating the ongoing proximity and closeness of a mom to a baby. As I said before these things have now been altered in Western society, but that does not change the design and function that is solely given to women.

      With this being said, throughout much of human history it would NOT have been possible for the husband and wife to just switch roles of provider and nurturer. I could only imagine the fields that needed to be plowed a couple of hundred years ago and the mom needing to stop every two hours to go breast feed…does that sound feasible?

      Bottom line is breast feeding, like the bearing of children is part of God’s physical design of humans. It also draws a massive difference in role and function between men and women. Therefore, I don’t know how Don and other egals can logically argue that equality must be defined as being equal in function and roles.

      • Donald Johnson August 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm #

        God gives people various gifts, some gifts to some and some to others and some gifts are related to gender by God’s design.

        What I as an egal see the Bible teaching is that believers are to use their gifts for helping others. That is, it is a gift-based decision for who is to do what. That some gifts are tied to gender does not thwart the basic principle.

        As a male, I will never know what it is really like to carry another human life inside me, but I do not regret this lack, it is how God made me.

  22. Donald Johnson August 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm #

    Allie,

    By my understanding of equality, what you wrote means the genders are different in physical ways and that this is by God’s design and is a good thing. These physical differences result in SOME functional differences, which I have stated as a woman can bear and wet nurse babies versus a man impregnating a woman.

    What is not the case is that these few functional differences NECESSARILY translate into a gender hierarchy. It is true that the Bible was written in patriarchal cultures with polygamy and slavery, etc. Lots of things are in the Bible as descriptions but are not proscriptions. But the Bible does not actually give God’s endorsement of patriarchy.

  23. Sue August 10, 2011 at 2:57 pm #

    Allie,

    I am a mom and an avid proponent of breast-feeding. But now I am in my fifties and many of my friends and myself, in a variety of situations, are the main providers for husbands, parents and children. That is just how it is.

    You say,

    I could only imagine the fields that needed to be plowed a couple of hundred years ago and the mom needing to stop every two hours to go breast feed…does that sound feasible?

    This is, in fact, reality. Globally more women than men cultivate the fields. In countries in Africa with the highest birth rates, women plow the fields. It doesn’t sound just. Perhaps it is not just. But women are equipped by design with the ability to provide for and lead a family.

    Ideally, I think there should be two parents, who share the work according to their physical and intellectualy abiities, and make sure that the babies are fed and nurtured. But this in no way requires that the husband be the major decision-maker. Making the husband the one who makes decisions, does not in any way protect breast-feeding as a practice.

  24. Sue August 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    Allie,

    I am an old-fashioned, breast-feeding, baby-loving homebody. But I have only been able to be that as an egalitarian. Well, I don’t have babies now, but my inner nature hasn’t changed. 🙂

  25. Noah August 10, 2011 at 3:53 pm #

    Allie,
    Donald won’t acknowledge your argument based on philosophical grounds. He’s shown he has different definitions of equality and roles than you do. It may be better to ask him to defend his position based on the text given in Ephesians 5. He’s already said he disagrees with the usage of “helper” ‘in Genesis 2, but the burden of proof is still on him to explain why the rest of the Bible teaches complementary roles for men and women, husbands and wives.

    Therefore,

    Donald,
    How do you explain the husband being the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the Church as fitting an egalitarian paradigm? I’ll head you off beforehand if you decide to go the “kephale” as “source” route and say to do some research on the meaning of “kephale” and address the implications of a “source” definition before you respond with that answer.

  26. Sue August 11, 2011 at 11:54 am #

    Denny,

    Would I be permitted to engage with Noah on this topic and discuss kephale with him? My comment on this topic has been deleted but peraps that was accidental Thanks.

  27. Donald Johnson August 11, 2011 at 8:36 pm #

    On Eph 5, this is a big subject. The very first thing to see is that we today are NOT members of the 1st century church in Ephesus and therefore need to be humble in doing our best to discern what Paul meant, recognizing that we MAY make mistakes. In other words, Ephesians was written FOR us but was not written TO us, we are looking over the shoulders as it were of the original readers of the letter which most certainly are not us.

    Another aspect is that the Bible gets to define and refine the words it uses, the culture of the time provides the normal meaning(s), but the Bible can clarify how a word is to be understood.

    One big question is on head/kephale as used in Eph 5. The main normal meaning is physical head, but this is not what it means in Eph 5, so we KNOW it is used as a metaphor. The question is what does the metaphor mean?

    The mapping in Eph 5 is head/husband/Christ with body/wife/church. A husband is “head” of his wife (as a metaphor) like Jesus is “head” of the church. Right here is where many make a mistake: they teleport the 21st century metaphorical meaning of “head of” meaning “leader of” and read it that way with no thought that this may be wrong. This is a bad way to interpret the Bible, I did it myself before I learned it was a mistake.

    A better way is to ask what does Christ as “head of” the church do in the Bible? These are the types of things that a husband is to do for his wife. Relevant verses are Eph 1:22-23, Eph 4:15-16, Eph 5:23 primarily (esp. the latter as it occurs in the same teaching unit (pericope) and the other 2 occur in the same letter), and secondarily Col 1:18-19 and Col 2:19. If you read and study these verses, you will find that Christ as head of the church is doing serving and support functions for the body and is not doing any leader functions. Of course, Christ IS savior and leader of the church, but the question is not to map husband to Christ in all of Christ’s functions (we all would agree that is impossible and would be heretical) but rather what does Christ as “head of the church” do?

    So we see that the 21st century metaphorical meaning of “head of” leads us astray of the meaning of “head of the church” in Paul’s 1st century letters. A husband as “head of his wife” is to serve and support her emulating Christ’s sacrificial love, going beyond that is going beyond the Scriptural mandate which a believer is not to do.

    • Noah August 11, 2011 at 10:25 pm #

      Donald,
      So an interpretation from your position of husband as head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church is not based so much on what Ephesians 5:22-33 says about the wife being subject to the husband and its overall context of what being filled with the Spirit looks like (5:15–6:18), but how Christ as head supports the body and that is what a husband should do. Is this correct? How does the wife being subject to her own husband come into play in this interpretation?

      No doubt, you are correct that a husband ought to love his wife as Christ loves the church. However, I am not certain you are correct about the complementarian importing a 21st century definition of headship into Ephesians 5 when the context of the immediate passage concerns marriage being a picture of the relationship between Christ and the church, namely, the church is subject to Christ, so also the wife is subject to her own husband. All I have to do to cause your claim to stumble as it has to do with the definition of headship is look at how the passage has been interpreted throughout church history and see if interpreters from the second century to the present time had the same kind of definition for headship. Therefore, I point out for your consideration the website for Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and search “Ephesians 5”. There is a pdf there that will provide this information.

      Overall, I believe you did answer my question as how Christ’s headship fits an egalitarian interpretation and it is my fault that I directed the interaction to focus on Christ’s headship and not how Paul compares Christ’s headship and the church’s submission to the husband’s headship and the wife’s submission. Therefore, if you are willing and Denny doesn’t mind, could you explain what Paul means by the wife submitting to her own husband as the church submits to Christ from the egalitarian perspective and why that interpretation should be considered to be what Paul meant?

      I am encouraged by your desire to interpret the Bible in such a way as to understand the original meaning. I appreciate your interaction and pray that you are blessed by it as much as I am.

  28. Donald Johnson August 12, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    OK. There is a LOT on the Eph 5-6 pericope that needs to be worked thru.

    As with any text, we do not want to take the text out of its immediate context, that is, out of its pericope or teaching unit, as that is a way to totally distort the meaning. One bad way that we see too much among believers is verse stringing, where someone stitches one verse from here with 2 verses from there and another verse from somewhere else. This is a HORRIBLE method as the end result depends on the stitching more than the actual text, even if the end result is plausible, the method is bad and should not be used.

    The pericope is Eph 5:15 to 6:9. The question is what does it teach as a whole. If you agree that this is the pericope, we can continue, else you can state what you think it is. (I am going to a class all day and will be back tonight.)

  29. Noah August 12, 2011 at 3:00 pm #

    6:9 or 6:18, whatever you like. Though, I hope you are not implying that I am stringing verses together since I included nothing outside of Ephesians 5 and 6, though in this comment I will because of the helpful cross-references. I may have more ground to imply that you strung verses from your previous comment since you went outside of Ephesians 5 to produce a definition of headship when Paul provides his intention and meaning in that chapter itself. I included 6:10 through 18 because of what prayer is and its inclusion into what it means to be filled with the Spirit (5:18), which to my understanding is the theme of this part of Ephesians and is seen in the similar passage of Colossians 3:12-4:6.

    I simply want you to explain an egalitarian understanding of what it means for wives to be subject to their own husbands as the church is subject to Christ, and if I may add how your understanding of the mystery that marriage is a picture of Christ and the church is reflected in Christ’s headship and the church’s subjection to his headship, having already established that headship/leadership is not a 21st century definition but how it has been the predominant interpretation throughout church history.

    Since you invited me to do so (though I do not want you to react to my position, but state your case from the text as an egalitarian would see it without regard to any complementarian understanding), here is what I believe is a correct interpretation of marriage from a complementarian understanding: this subjection makes the headship of Christ as one of leadership over the church, so also the husband as head over a subjected wife and this headship and subjection out of love and respect is what marriage is given as a picture of, namely with reference to Christ and the church. The rest of the passage testifies to this understanding as children are to obey their parents, and slaves are to obey their masters. In all three cases we have one person or group in subjection to another person or group, and in all three cases the person or group that is over the other is to perform his or its role out of love, not provocation. And in all three cases we’re given some practicality as to what it means to be subject to one another in reverence to Christ.

    It’s also interesting to see a strikingly similar passage in Colossians 3:12–4:6 that includes verse 18 of chapter 3: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord.” 1 Peter 3:1-7 testifies to the same understanding of the husband being head and the wife being subject or submissive. In all three of these passages (Ephesians 5, Colossians 3, and 1 Peter 3) we are given what the role of the wife is in a marriage AND we are given what the husband ought to do as well, namely to love his wife. Specifically, in Ephesians 5 this love is patterned after the love which Christ displayed for the church. Therefore, as a husband I know that I have the more difficult role in my marriage because I am to love my wife with the same kind of love that Christ loved the church. So my role of headship is not one that is lorded over my wife, but I am to love her despite her response. Likewise, she is to be subject despite my display of love. If we are both being filled with the Spirit in these things, then our marriage will be an accurate picture of what marriage is, which is a picture of Christ’s relationship to the church and the church’s relationship to Christ.

    I must add that just as you warned me not to bring in a 21st century understanding of headship, you also must not be scared away by the false impression that wives being subject to their own husbands means wives oppressed by their own husbands, which in my experience is something that egalitarians do not wish to consider.

    Finally, I believe your response will exhaust our time here. Therefore, I thank you in advance for your time and pray that we continue to seek hard after the Lord Jesus Christ with the desire to come under his authority in every area of our lives according to the word he has given us, which is sufficient for our pursuit of godliness and holy living. I look forward to your response.

  30. Kelley Kimble August 12, 2011 at 6:17 pm #

    And then to further complicate matters, there are women like me who have no husband.

  31. Donald Johnson August 12, 2011 at 9:14 pm #

    I did not think you were stringing verses, I just used that as a bad example of what not to do.

    The mapping of functions in Eph 5 is wives submit and respect and husbands sacrificially love. The comp reading therefore depends crucially on the meaning of the “head of body” metaphor, which I have shown has no leading/ruling aspect in Paul’s writings. In other words, one can do a magic trick on oneself and misread the text and not even know it has happened.

    That 2nd century (or later) believers thought it meant something is some evidence but is not conclusive for prots as we do not believe in an infallible Church Magisterium, or teaching authority. What matters is what it meant in the 1st century to the Ephesian church. The basic reason was the 2nd century gentilization of the church along with persecution and separation of Jews from Christians so there was a loss of context in understanding NT texts written by (1st century) Hebrew thinkers when read by (2nd century) Greek thinkers. This in turn gave rise to the allegorical method where a text might mean something else via allegory.

    What Paul is doing in the Eph 5-6 pericope is giving a general Kingdom principle of mutual submission (via the use of “one another”) and then giving six 1st century applications of the principle applying to the household structure of the time. That is, the husband’s sacrificial love is an example application of submission for him to do in that culture, as is the wife’s submission and respect for husband in that culture. The one another verses are critical to living the Christian life, such as love one another, etc. Comps like Grudem damage the meaning of this mutuality verse in their interpretation, using his interpretation consistently in all mutuality verses would result in an Orwellian version of Christianity.

    Another items comps tend to conflate is hupotasso/submit with hupakouo/obey; that is, they fudge this important distinction. Obey can be an example of one method to work out submission, but Paul is careful to not use it in relation to wives, even tho the civil laws told the wives they needed to obey and the culture via Aristotle taught that they needed to obey. So in this case, Paul’s deliberately choice to NOT use the obey term SHOUTS that he is NOT saying obey since that would be expected by the laws and culture of the time and which any 1st century reader/hearer would know since they lived it.

    Daniel is an example of submission without always obeying in his relation to the king, he always submitted but did not always obey.

    There are other verses that discuss the household, one needs to study all of them to form a comprehensive 1st century teaching on the household and then apply it to today.

    P.S. The only place that authority is used in relation to the genders in the NT is in 1 Cor 7 where Paul again says it is mutual; in relation to sex, each has authority over the other’s body, a picture of mutuality.

    So why is there a debate on gender hierarchy? From my perspective, I think comps wear blue lenses that finds gender hierarchy where it actually does not exist. The solution is for them to remove their blue lenses. I did it and it is wonderful. I recommend it for all.

    • JohnnyM August 13, 2011 at 8:15 am #

      Does Christ ever submit to the Church? If so, where?

      • Anne October 20, 2011 at 9:22 am #

        No, but he served his disciples and helped the people. Empowered people and treated them with love.

        Note that Paul tells men to love women like Christ loved the church, not to lead women like Christ led the church. Christ called himself a servant and a good shepherd, which in those days would have cared for the sheep: protected them, fed them, led them not because of ‘authority’ but to take them to good pastures and springs. Jesus submitted to meet the needs of the people over his own. THAT is a husband’s role. To submit to the needs of his wife. To care for her. Yes, it does require a degree of leadership and submission, like a hospital patient would submit to a doctor. But it never ever in the Bible says that men can dictate to their wives or suppress their talents, personalities and desires. “Rule over them” in Genesis was NOT permission from God, or an ordination of the way things should be – it was a description of what sin would do. Christian men must fight such sin in their own flesh, where and if it exists.

        Most importantly, Jesus freed the people from the slavery of an oppressive law. He allows everyone to be themselves, encourages them to voice their requests, and out of love (unless those requests are harmful) he fulfils those requests. The problem I have with complementarianism is that it boxes men and women into ideals of how they should live and declares that the Scriptures idea of authority and submission is one of full authority and full submission. It’s not, (nor is it ‘natural’). Context in the Pauline texts is drastically ignored, even ignoring the verses surrounding the key verse in question. Husbands and wives are to treat each other how they want to be treated (love thy neighbour) just in different ways. Husbands are to love her, honour her, meeta her needs and take care, wives submit by accepting that care and yielding to meet his needs like he yields to hers. “Yield to obey each other” – mutual submission and compromise. It’s not about one being the leader and the other being subject. Not about one having the final say and the other following, even if it’s against her will.

        Complementarianism is LEGALISM. Placing the letter of the law above the happiness of others. Enforcing a belief that women should always serve and submit puts them in chains as to how to behave. Jesus didn’t die for that. Saying that women are equal to men but should live in a submissive role is another way of saying that women are equal to men but shouldn’t act or be treated that way.

        • yankeegospelgirl October 20, 2011 at 10:00 am #

          “He allows everyone to be themselves…”

          Anne, could you explain a little more about what you’re going for here? Thanks.

          • Anne October 21, 2011 at 6:23 am #

            Sorry if it wasn’t clear. What I meant was, Jesus allows everyone to express their talents, desires and strengths, to ‘be themselves’ in full. To box women into a role of submissive housewife, as some complementarians seem to suggest, squashes her talents and her voice and replaces them with a way of life created by people, who then tell her it’s ‘natural’ and her highest calling. Only God can say what we’re best at, and he gives people gifts regardless of gender. Yes, complementarianism boxes men into a role as well, but by giving them authority in the home and permission to follow their dreams outside of the home they are given significantly more legroom than their wives.

  32. Erick P. August 13, 2011 at 7:43 am #

    I have read all the posts so far and I must say that stimulating arguments have been articulated persuasively from both complimentarians and egalitarians. They have been edifying and thought provoking.

    That being said, I do think that complimentarian position has good exegetical evidence as well as theological and thematic evidence. I see a leadership/authority hierarchy all over the Bible…from the top down. It Starts with the loving and holy authority exercised by (and within) the Godhead, extends to the redeemed authority of the Church and her leaders (Matt. 16, 18, 28; Heb. 13:17) by Christ’s delegated authority/leadership, also extending down to the family unit that was created good and re-created in Christ to mirror the gospel and God’s loving, holy, life creating “author”-ity. I use the word authority because that is what we are really talking about right (even though the word comes with baggage)? The function of authority in the home and in the church?

    I think there is less cultural baggage to wade through in Ephesians than say a letter like 1 Corinthians. That being said, I believe the household codes in Ephesians should be seen as more normative rather than merely culturally bound (I don’t think we need to draw an either/or). I mean, if mutual submission is woven through the text of Eph. 5-6 then we would expect that Husbands and Wives should also submit to their children, or masters submit to their slaves. Granted, slavery is not an institution that is in mainstream practice (and not the same as it was in the 1st century context), but Paul’s point is clear: Christian’s in God’s new society are to submit to God-ordained authority (cf. Rom. 13:1) i.e. in civic life, on the job, in the church, and in the home. I am so thankful that the Scripture is corrective and transforming, since through the fall, humanity is tempted to (and inevitably does) exercise tyrannical and abusive authority.

    I guess my point is this:
    God has called Christians to exercise and submit to God-ordained authority that has fallen and been redeemed by Christ. This giving and receiving of godly authority is what shines the light of the gospel in the church when members submit themselves to godly leaders and the congregation (Eph. 5:21; Heb. 13:17). It also shines the light of the gospel in the home when husbands exercise life-creating leadership/authority (as Christ does for the church) and wives help them to exercise life-creating leadership/authority (as the church does for Christ).

    It’s beautiful. As the church submits to Christ they help him extend his holy, loving authority throughout the earth just as a wife’s submission to her husband helps him to extend his holy, loving Christ-imaging authority throughout the home. Eventually, the church (God’s house) will image God’s authority throughout the whole earth.

    Of course, we live in-between the times and we fight to joyfully obey the authoritative commands of Scripture by exercising and submitting to godly authority, but the blueprint has been authored into creation (Gen, 1-2) and redeemed into reality for those who belong to God’s kingdom.

    As for women exercising authority in the church, Paul also grounds their limits to authority in the creation blueprint (1 Tim. 2:12-13; cf. 1 Cor. 11:1-10).

    Although our democratic ideals may shudder inside of us, God has laid out his order in the cosmos, especially in the pinnacle of his creation–human beings created in his image to reflect him as ‘author’ and extender of his domain.

    • Donald Johnson August 13, 2011 at 9:20 pm #

      The ONLY time the word authority/exousia is used in the NT in terms of the spouses in a marriage is in 1 Cor 7:4 when it is mutual authority. The pagan culture told the husband that he was in authority over his wife, but not the Bible without it being mutual.

      Submission does not require an authority to be submitted to, this is a common mistake that comps make. As a father I submitted to my baby when I changed his diaper, because that is the service he needed. Even in pagan groups, Greek soldiers submitted to one another by each taking their place in the formation that they were trained for, like a phalanx, this is the way the term was used.

      In Eph 5 all 6 examples of submission in the household after Eph 5:21 are in grammatically subordinate clauses to Eph 5:21 in the Greek, this shows various examples of submission, else they would not be subordinate clauses to the general mutual submission principle. One can see the subordinate clauses in Magill’s Transline New Testament and he is not even egal, but he does know how Greek grammar works and its implications.

      For example, the reason what a master is told to do by Paul is a form of submission is that these were NOT restrictions on the master in the civil laws. The civil laws did not restrict a master from threatening a slave, for example.

      The Trinity has always been explained as each person in the Godhead having the same power and authority and I see that is what the Bible teaches.

  33. Donald Johnson August 13, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    Jesus submitted to the disciples when he washed their feet. In cultural context, this was the job of the LOWEST status member of a household, as feet in sandals got dirty from animal excrement particles in the dirt streets of the time, so it was not a nice job. So Jesus upended the status hierarchy of the time in the most direct way possible.

    Also, in dying on a cross to save me, Jesus did for me what I could not do for myself. This is a wonderful form of submission for which I am grateful. This is what creates the church as each person accepts the costly to God but free to us gift.

    • JohnnyM August 13, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

      washing the feet was not Christ submitting to the disciples. Peter rebuked Jesus for His act of servitude, so if Jesus was submissive to Peter then he would not have washed Peter’s feet.

      The Cross was Jesus submitting to the Father’s will out of His love for the Church. Jesus’ death on the Cross was not Jesus submitting Himself to the Church. Once again, Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus told him that He would die.

      Submission is yielding to the authority or will of another. I cannot submit unless there is authority in place. Pure submission is what Jesus prayed in the Garden. Not my will, but Thy will be done. So for Jesus to submit to the Church would be for the Church to say “Not your will, Jesus, but my will be done”.

      • Donald Johnson August 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

        The reason Peter rebuked Jesus is that he could not conceive of Jesus taking that low status of a job. It WAS a service to Peter and therefore was an example of Jesus submitting to Peter and his needs. There is no requirement for a hierarchy for some person to submit to another, all that is needed is for it to be some form of service or support for the other.

        Mat 20:25 But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.
        Mat 20:26 It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,
        Mat 20:27 and whoever would be first among you must be your slave,
        Mat 20:28 even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

        • Erick P. August 14, 2011 at 5:28 am #

          Thanks Donald and Johnny for the dialogue.

          Donald, I think you are committing some exegetical fallacies here. You might want to check 1 Cor. 11:10 for another use of ??????? with wives and husbands in mind with no mutuality. It seems as though you are using the meaning of a word in one particular passage to formulate doctrine and thereby inject its meaning into other passages. I thought you did this with “ezer” toward the beginning of this thread. Just because God is said to be Israel’s helper and is not subordinate to any man does not mean that “ezer” should always be interpreted as “non-subordinate helper.”

          Second, as JohnnyM pointed out, I also think you are mixing the definitions of submission and service. They do not mean the same thing. I would argue that you were not submitting to your child’s demands by changing his diaper but exercising submission to God AND exercising a loving, God-delegated authority to serve and care for your child. Cool how gently changing a rancid, stinky diaper correlates to washing the disciples grimy feet. I have changed many with an 18 month old and a 2 month old doing their thing! What love and service.

          Third, my Greek is a little fuzzy so correct me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t see the syntactical connections that extends the participle of ???????? in Eph. 5:21 to v. 25 for husbands (like in v. 22 for wives). Paul uses the present tense of ???????? in v. 24 to solidify and conclude the analogy of wives imitating the church’s submission to it’s head, namely Christ, by their submission to their husbands. In v. 25 Paul commands husbands to love their wives using the imperative of ??????, which I do not think is connected to the participle of ???????? in v. 21 but to the flows into the next verb, an aorist form of ??????????. Christ loved the church by giving up himself for her. This illustrated his love, and functions as an illustration of the type of self-sacrificing love husbands should have for their wives.

          This brings me to my last point, Jesus was not speaking out against authority in general in Matt. 20:25-28, but a specific kind of distorted, sinful, worldly, and exploitative authority, which was at odds with the loving, serving, holy, life-creating authority of Christ and his kingdom. He was checking the disciple’s heart attitude, teaching them that they should be seeking to serve one another rather than seeking to grab for power like the unbelieving world.

          Now, I don’t want to be reductionistic either. In one sense Christians in the church should exercise submission to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21) and defer to one another (cf. Rom 14). But in another sense, they are to submit to godly leaders and the authority of the church congregation as they are ambassadors of God’s delegated authority (Heb. 13:17; Matt. 18:15-20). In a similar way, husbands serve as ambassadors of God’s authority in the home.

          Now let me be honest, I do think that there is some merit to a kind of submission to my wife as another believer and member of the church. She has been endowed with God’s Spirit and wields his word. I yearn for her counsel and she is accountable to address sin issues in my life with grace and gentleness (like believers should) and even practice Matt. 18:15-20 on me if need be. So as she wields the sword of the Spirit and petitions godly authority to invade my unrepentance she is asking me to submit to God’s authority on earth, the church. She is not required to submit to me asking her to sin for she obeys God rather than men. But as it concerns the direction of our family, with no blaring sin issues apparent, God has called her to submit to me. I would be a fool if I did not listen to and pray through her concerns but crassly put, the buck stops at here. God’s command to love her sacrificially and her joyful submission should cause me to examine my heart concerning decisions where she may have concerns and I pray the Holy Spirit would root out any sin that may be lurking to assert my own ambitions above the good of my family and Christ’s glory.

          On a side note, I have been reading Jonathan Leeman’s “The Church and the Surprising Offense of God’s Love.” My posts might be inundated with concepts and thoughts from his book. I can’t say enough about how it has illumined my mind and corrected my worldview concerning God’s love, Christ’s godly authority, and the local church.

          • Erick P. August 14, 2011 at 5:34 am #

            Ah man! I should have transliterated the Greek.

            1st word-exousia
            2nd-hupotasso
            3rd-hupotasso
            4th-agapao
            5th-hupotasso
            6th-paradidomi

          • Donald Johnson August 14, 2011 at 2:40 pm #

            A fundamental concern with comp doctrine is that YOU as husband supposedly get to decide. YOU get to decide when the spousal discussion stops and a decision needs to be made which then you get to make. According to 1 Cor 13 love/agape does not insist on its own way, but the way you read Eph 5 as a comp somehow gets to where you think it means that sacrificial love/agape DOES get to decide its own way. If you do that kind of thing to enough verses, you end up with a very different form of following Jesus than is taught in the Bible.

            Paul says that ANYTHING that does not come from faith is sin, so again the comp idea that a wife is not to obey her husband when asking her to sin, but only if it is a clearly sin, is not what is taught in the Bible about sin. If a wife cannot in faith (for any of a variety of reasons) go along with her husband’s supposed final decision, then for her it would be a sin for her to try to do it and she should not do it. And furthermore, her husband should not request her to sin against her own conscience and do it anyway. This also aligns with the basic Kingdom principle of freedom, which I see comp doctrine as subverting in some cases.

            I do not see ezer as always implying “non-subordinate helper” I think it does means a strong and effectual help, able to help the one needing help and not be ineffectual. But some of the meanings of the word “helper” in English misleads us. A wife is not like a “helper” in some of its connotations in English. We need to use the Bible to help us see what the word ezer means. The other word used is kenegdo which means corresponding or appropriate, so the woman in the garden was a help to the man (who needed help) and furthermore was a corresponding/appropriate help, even daresay an equal but (wonderfully) different help to him. That is, in the Bible there is NO assumption of subordination for an ezer and most often it is a superior or equal. So if you or other comps think ezer IMPLIES subordination that is simply a misreading. Comps need to be more Biblical.

            1 Cor 11 is yet another of Paul’s puzzling teachings that are far removed from the 21st century. And it has words in it that scholars are not sure what they even mean. A basic principle of prot Bible interpretation is to NOT base any important doctrine on unclear parts of the Bible and to try our best to let the clearer parts help us understand the less clear parts. Yes, kephale is used in 1 Cor 11 and that is a different discussion, but the order of the terms is NOT in the form of a hierarchy, so it is highly suspect to think it MUST be converted into one. I cover all of these puzzling verses when I teach, but this is not that kind of forum. But I can assure you there are egal understandings of 1 Cor 11, just like there are for Gen 1-3, 1 Cor 14, 1 Tim 2-3, Eph 5-6, etc.

            Nowhere in the Bible is the husband said to be God’s sole ambassador, any believer is an ambassador for Christ, even kids.

  34. Erick P. August 14, 2011 at 9:06 pm #

    Once again, I thank you Donald and others for your helpful discussion. Donald, thank you for taking the time to help me better understand the egalitarian position. Even though we don’t agree I am thankful that we can edify one another and think deeply together about issues that are important to our Christian lives for the purpose of honoring the Savior in our homes.

    Grace and peace to you brothers and sisters.

  35. Donald Johnson August 15, 2011 at 11:48 am #

    Another thing to see is that gender hierarchy affects women much more than it affects men.

    Kings and their advisors found ways to interpret the Bible to claim that kings were the only form of government sanctioned by the Bible and slaveholders found ways to interpret the Bible in their own self-interest also. This is always a concern for prots or at least it should be, to interpret the Bible in a way that means a group that I am in is on top in a hierarchy and that that is the way God wants it.

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    […] >   Helping speaks to difference. The text says that God created her to be a “helper”–a role that involves aiding and supporting the leadership of her husband. God did not assign this role to the man. He assigned it only to the woman.  –Denny Burk, who also posts on the CBMW site, here. […]

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