Christianity,  Theology/Bible

Hiding Baby’s Gender

By now, you’ve probably heard about the two parents in Canada who are keeping their infant baby’s gender a secret (read about it here or watch above). Why are they doing this? It’s not because there is any physiological ambiguity in the baby. They are doing this because they don’t want their child shoehorned into culturally defined gender stereotypes. Rather, they want their baby (whom they’ve named “Storm”) to make his/her own decisions about his/her own gender.

There is at least one item in this story that every Christian parent needs to make a note of. Storm’s parents have made a decision that is merely the logical consequence of mainstream feminist gender theory. If you think I’m exaggerating, please note that there’s a reason that the folks at Ms. Magazine are generally appreciative of this approach and are already trying to conjure up gender-neutral pronouns to account for Storm’s case.

According to their view, sex is a biological category and gender is a sociological one. A person’s sex is determined by their chromosomes and resulting anatomy. A person’s gender is something that one acquires through socialization. For feminists and contemporary gender theorists, there is no necessary connection between one’s sex and one’s gender. If a biologically male person wants to adopt the characteristics of the feminine gender, then that’s okay. This person is merely exercising his freedom to choose by casting off social constraints that would otherwise stifle individual liberty.

Storm’s parents are trying to create a miniature feminist utopia for their child. They want to free Storm from the expectation that little boys should think and act like boys and that little girls should think and act like girls. They want Storm to figure out whether or not to behave in feminine ways or masculine ways, and they don’t want the matter decided by Storm’s biological sex.

Christians need to think very carefully about this case—not only about Storm in particular, but also about the underlying worldview issues in play. Is it true that there is no normative connection between one’s sex and one’s gender? Are there certain roles that God calls Christians to fulfill that are based on one’s biological sex? Biblically speaking, the answer to the first question has to be no, and the answer to the second has to be yes. In other words when God created human beings as male and female, he assigned roles to them that are organically connected to their biological sex.

Men are created by God to be leaders, protectors, and providers for their families (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29; 1 Corinthians 11:3). Women are called to be “helpers” to their husbands and to have a special responsibility in the home (Genesis 2:18; Proverbs 31:27; Titus 2:5). God created man and woman such that they would be peculiarly suited for their respective tasks. We live in a fallen world, and no one is perfect. But this is the order of things as God established it in the Garden before there was any sin in the world (Genesis 1-2).

God’s design for us as sexual beings has implications for how we rear our children. For instance, I have a little boy, and it falls to me to teach him how to be a man—how to lead, to provide, and to protect. It is my responsibility as a parent to guide and shape his character as best I can so that he will be a protector of women, not an abuser of them. I am to model for him that sometimes being a man means going without so as to provide for others. I am to teach him that working and earning a living is a part of what it means to be the provider God has called him to be.

Parents make a grave mistake when they make child-rearing into a choose-your-own-adventure storybook for their children. It falls to parents to shape their children and to direct them in the paths that they need to walk in (Deuteronomy 6:6-7; Proverbs 22:6). That means that our goal as parents is to teach boys to become men, and girls to become women. To miss this is to miss the point of childrearing. To miss this is to miss what it means to make disciples of our own children.

Ideas have consequences. And here is one case in which feminist gender theory has trickled-down into the cultural mainstream. This is why Christian parents need to be vigilant about what ideas are influencing them. Parents, are you raising your boys to become men and your girls to become women? If you aren’t doing that, you’re not “freeing” your children from oppressive stereotypes; you are leaving them to be blown about and shaped by the spirit of the age. God has marked out a clear path for us in His word when it comes to childrearing. We love our children best when we follow it.


  • Mike Gastin

    There is already a gender-neutral pronoun in the English language: ‘it’.

    By decoupling mankind from his gender they are dehumanizing him, turning each of us into a thing, an ‘it’ and stripping us of whatever vestige of God’s glory that remains after the fall.

  • Ted

    I find this logic puzzling and inconsistent with a Darwinistic worldview, which I suppose Storm’s parents hold to.

    Gender is just biological, and therefore to deny it is anti-natural. I could only imagine the prime objective is to turn humans into androgynous beings that are interchangeable and with no distinction.

  • Donald Johnson

    “It” is a genderless pronoun in English, but does not indicate the subject is a person. This is not the case in Greek. Making theological statements based on the way English works is problematical for many reasons. It is true that people who think they are on top tend to make people below them into less than fully human, for example by proscribing roles to them.

  • Jeremy P

    Funny how the parents are trying to make “a tribute to freedom and choice in a place of limitation” by withholding information from the child.

    In order to make the most informed choice possible, and have the most freedom, one needs the most information available to them.

    The mere choice of believing something doesn’t make it true. If our beliefs don’t line up with reality, the outcome can be harmful or even fatal.

  • Nathan

    Thought 1: Denny’s proof texts that he gives for men being leaders and providers (Ephesians 5:25, 28-29; 1 Corinthians 11:3) are really telling people what HUSBANDS are supposed to do. Husband and man are NOT EQUIVALENT.


    Thought 2: Teaching boys to be men and girls to be women means that you have to have a preconceived idea what men and women are. I’m willing to bet that your definitions are narrower than what God has intended.


    Thought 3: Any given human has a blend of masculine and feminine traits. We are that way because “male and female created he them…”

  • Denny Burk


    Thought 1: I think this is a fair critique because it underlines something that is not explicitly stated but that is an assumption in my argument. The assumption is this. Christian boys and young men ought to be preparing to become grown-ups, which for the vast majority of them will include marriage. So Christian parents will have an interest in developing the qualities of manhood and womanhood vis a vis marriage.

    Thought 2: I aim for my definitions to be biblical. I give explicit biblical support for the roles that I listed. Are you disputing the gender roles that are explicitly addressed in the texts I cited?

    Thought 3: They are not a blend of the traits that I listed.


  • yankeegospelgirl

    Please. Anyone with a brain can tell that men and women were created differently for different roles. It’s not rocket science. You don’t even need the Bible to use a little common sense. It’s the same way with abortion. You can oppose abortion biblically, but calling the baby in the womb a baby is simply normal. It’s weird and abnormal to insist on calling it something else.

  • Ted

    Hey Nathan,

    Would love to hear what you think a boy and a girl biblically are?

    Curious since you say that many people’s understanding might be more narrow than what the Bible speaks of.

    The curious part is that I have read countless times on this blog the very simple question put to people like Donald and Sue, “what does it mean to be a man and what does it mean to be a woman?” And there is no real answer that comes forth. A lot of blustering about how both are equal (which no one denies, but is insufficient to explain how they are different).

  • Sue

    Lots of women my age fully provide for their young adult children, and for their parents, and sometimes other members of their family. It is most of all important to meet the tasks that God has given us to do, rather than to ask whether it is our role. My sister is planning a trust fund for her severely handicapped son. She needs to provide care for him after she dies. My friend is renovating a house so she and her parents can live in it together. This is our God given responsibility – to care for our family.


    What is your biblical support that providing for the family is uniquely a male role?

    This is of intense concern to me because of how pressing the care of family is for women my age.

  • Nathan


    Do you teach your son and other young people that they ought to look at singleness as a serious option for their life? Or do you brush right passed it and tell the boys to be leaders and the girls to be subservient?

    Leading a wife is different than being a leader and serving a husband is different than being subservient.

    What you call traits are actually roles within the marriage relationship and they don’t necessarily translate to one’s given traits nor to the roles one must play within society in general.

  • Donald Johnson

    I do not agree with raising a child so that he/she is not aware of their gender. Once the child is old enough to go to school, they will need to know which bathroom to use.

  • Ryan K.

    Whoa Sue! We actually agree on something, actually its really neat to find common ground with people you often do not.

    As a complementarian I cringe when hearing complementarians use 1 Timothy 5 as a text that mandates men to be financial providers for their families or be considered worse than an unbeliever.

    I have even emailed notable complementarians who teach this from 1 Timothy 5 to inform them that the passage does not say “man” but rather “anyone.” Also, it is not speaking specifically of the nuclear family, but rather all of your relatives, as the church in this situation is having to take care of many people while their family members stand by and do nothing.

    Though, I think you can make a normative pattern through the creation mandates to men and women, I think you are stretching the application to say men must bring home the bigger paycheck.

  • Ken Temple

    Thanks Denny for the good biblical grounding on what God says about sex and gender.

    All the gender confusion is a combination of mental illness, rebellion against God, selfishness, self-pity, anger at God.

    The new Gender Political correctness/GLBTQ/ Homosexual agenda started by questioning the Creator and takes the exceptions (some boys have feminine voices, etc. hermaphrodites) and seek to make them the norm, and try and force their immorality and confusion on the rest of us.

    What can be done about this agenda in schools, media, and corporations?

    The liberal media and pro-homo groups shut down debate by their “you’re a homophobe” yelling.

    I have not understood how the homosexuals got so much political power to force companies to accept their demands. I remember when it started with AT & T and now it includes almost every major corporation.

    The thing that those Canadian parents are doing is child abuse.

    Allowing homosexuals to adopt is child abuse; and should never have been allowed.

    Christians should have the freedom to call it sin and the homosexuals should not be able to flaunt their disgusting behavior in public.

    The homosexuals are free to do what they to in the privacy of their own homes(they hurt themselves though – Romans 1:18-26); but they should never be allowed to have any kind of legal union, civil union whatever; and there is no such thing as “same sex marriage”. Even civil unions are wrong and immoral.

  • Ken Temple

    I meant to include Romans 1:27 in the above post; homosexuals abuse their own bodies and the Bible says, they “receive in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

    26 For this reason wGod gave them up to xdishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature;

    27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, ymen committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, zGod gave them up to aa debased mind to do bwhat ought not to be done.

  • Donald Johnson

    Both a man and a woman are human/Greek anthopos/Hebrew adam.

    A man can impregnate a woman and stand up while urinating (according to the Bible).

    A woman can bear a child and nurse a child.

    From these basic properties others things may derive, for example, carrying a child is not conducive to certain activities. A women is more limited in the number of children she may have when compared to a polygamous man. A division of labor in the family can allow specialization and benefit all parties.

    I do not see gender hierarchy, I see both genders as co-regents of earth and co-leaders in the home. It is not the case that the husband is not a leader, but that is a partial truth as both are co-leaders. It is not the case that a wife is not to submit, but that is a partial truth, as each is to submit to the other.

  • Lyn

    The word helper in Gen 2.18 means someone who “saves the day.” It’s the same word used of the Lord in Psalm 121. The issue in Genesis 2, then, is mutual relationship. Without Eve “saving the day,” Adam would be alone – the only thing “not good” in God’s good creation. That is, people are created for relationship and community not isolation. It is in this that we reflect God’s image.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    I once heard it said that if the man is the head, the woman is the neck. This encapsulates what the man/woman relationship should look like perfectly, I think. The man’s ultimate foundation should be Jesus Christ, but his wife is like his earthly foundation. She’s the one who holds him up.

    Paul Washer does a good job describing how a Christian husband should act if he and his wife disagree over something important. If he trusts and respects her, he will “stall” as long as possible to see if an agreement can be worked out. However, if they still cannot come to an agreement, it is the man’s place to cut the Gordian knot and make the final decision, because it must be made. And if he turns out to be wrong, his wife does not come to him and say “I told you so.” And vice versa.

  • Donald Johnson

    Paul uses a metaphor of head/kephale in Eph 5 and other places. The question is what does the metaphor mean. To me, Eph 5 speaks of a head/body metaphor of unity, AKA one flesh. The heart was thought of as the term for the insides of a person, which is why David can say things about his heart that we might think belong in his mind.

    Unless it is an emergency, I see it as violating a wife’s will for a husband to try to make a “final decision.” It can certainly be the case that if they cannot agree, then perhaps they should wait and pray until they come to agreement.

  • yankeegospelgirl

    It’s certainly a good thing to wait and pray. But one can’t wait and pray forever, and when there’s no time left, somebody must take the responsibility, for better or for worse. And that responsibility clearly falls to the man.

  • Donald Johnson

    Where does the Bible say that specifically? I cannot find it.

    Who decides when there is no time left to make a decision?

    Why not defer to the one who is the expert or who has more “skin in the game” (who is affects more)?

    I agree that sometimes there is an emergency where a decision MUST be made, but these are rare. In a fire, if my wife told me to get our son, I would not quibble about it, I would just do it, knowing she would get our daughter.

  • Donald Johnson

    In my second question, I meant, who decides when time is up and a decision needs to be made?

    The way I worded it could be read in 2 ways.

  • Sue


    I really want to speak to some realities that women my age were not well prepared for. More than half of women my age are the major providers for their own family, both children and parents. This is due to divorce, death, injury, unemployment, illness, financially risky behaviour and many other real life factors.

    At the same time, we women, unsupported financially by men, must invest for our own pension, provide major funding for our children’s university education, provide housing for aging parents, create trust funds for severely disabled children, care for spouses and siblings where necessary.

    Being able to provide is a major issue, the most important thing we do. We are all on a crash course, back to work, learning to invest wisely, creating the kind of profile that enables us to provide for those we need to care for.

    Many recently published books demonstrate that this is an international tendency – women provide.

    On the one hand, it is a very necessary message that men need to provide and protect … I applaud that!

    On the other hand, the reality is that women also provide and protect in very real ways, they devote every waking hour to providing for their family in the same way that men to, by providing financially and with guidance and leadership for children, parents, etc.

    We, women who are primary providers, want men to show an understanding of our common humanity, men recognizing women as fellow providers, as fellow human beings,fully responsible leaders in the family, this is what women want – they just want recognition for what they are already committed to doing.

    So, yes, men and women are different. However, we were both created with equal ability to protect, provide and lead.

  • Sue

    I am speaking about the realities of being over 50. I think it would have been a good thing if I had been more aware of this before I got here. I am extraordinarily lucky that I have a job, and I can do what I need to. But I wish that men in the church would offer recognition to women, and there are many of us, who provide in exactly the same way as men do, with leadership and financial resources.

  • Sue


    Thanks for the comment. I just saw it now.

    We agree then that both men and women provide, and this works in favour of men, of course, in this economy.

    But in order to truly provide, to guide, to invest, to make decisions about education, to renovate a house to accomodate parents, to set up a trust fund – in order to do all these things, a woman must have equal decision-making voice. Of course, sometimes she has the only voice, so we assume that God has created woman with this capability, since women do this.

    But then, I look back on my own upbringing, which thankfully was split. I was educated and have a profession. But I never thought about how I personally would bear the entire burden of decision-making for a family. I see women who have many more responsibilities than I do. Nobody mentioned that this was inevitable for at least some women.

    If boys are told that it will be their role to provide then why not girls? It is daunting, but it is reality.

  • KR Wordgazer

    The problem I have with “gender roles” is that they aren’t. A “role” is a hat you wear, a part you play in society. Roles change as the need for them changes. When I was a child I played the role of a child. Now I’m older I play the role of a mother, a wife, an office worker, a church member. All of these roles I will move in and out of at different times of my life.

    But what is meant by “roles” as used here is this: Men are to lead, protect, and have authority, and women are to help, follow, and be under authority. These “roles” are not parts they play, but are considered to be foundation aspects of their being. The word “role” is being used to disguise the fact that men are being treated as intrinsically designed to be in charge of women, who are intrinsically designed to be subordinate. This is not “roles.” This is male supremacy.

    I have no problem with teaching boys to be boys and girls to be girls– as long as one is not told, “you were born to lead, to be in control, to have authority over” and the other, “you were born to submit, to be subordinate, and to follow.” I do not believe the Bible teaches this. I certainly don’t believe it has anything to do with “roles.” This is a “class of being” description, not a “role” description.

    Denny said that if he had a boy:

    “It is my responsibility as a parent to guide and shape his character as best I can so that he will be a protector of women, not an abuser of them.”

    I strongly believe that the very best way to teach a boy not to abuse women is not to teach him that they are some other, intrinsically subordinate class of being– but that they are human, just like him. He needs to see women as part of “us” and not as “them.” This is the very best deterrent to looking at women as objects– because an object that one sees as needing protection, is also an object that can be used.

  • Nate

    “I strongly believe that the very best way to teach a boy not to abuse women is not to teach him that they are some other, intrinsically subordinate class of being– but that they are human, just like him. He needs to see women as part of “us” and not as “them.” ”

    Denny never inferred what you replied. What appears to be the issue with you is that you cannot fathom there are homes where men lead without limiting the woman to a life of servitude.

    Have you ever read Proverbs 31?

  • Kelley Kimble

    I think the idea of subordination is something that developed in cultural circles rather than Biblical circles. The New Testament gives us a picture of mutual submission not only in marriage but in other relationships as well. People have to work things out when they don’t see an issue the same way. Most of the women I have known had no issue with “submitting” to a husband’s leadership until or unless he had a really, really bad idea. If I were married, that would be the dividing line for me. I was not a believer when I was married and I’ve been divorced for 23 years. Had I been a believer it might have made a difference, but there was some absolute craziness going on and I felt I had no choice but to take the baby and go.

  • Sue

    What appears to be the issue with you is that you cannot fathom there are homes where men lead without limiting the woman to a life of servitude.

    What appears to be the issue with you is that you cannot fathom there are homes where women provide without limiting the man to a life of disrespect.

    Have you ever read Proverbs 31? 😉

    Have you ever read Proverbs 31?

  • Donald Johnson

    I think the comp paradigm can work in a marriage so that God is glorified, but it takes a husband that is very mature in Christ. And the sad fact is that most believers are simply not that mature.

    The very mature will lay down their lives on a continual basis and resist the temptation to misuse the power that the comps tell them they have over their wife. But teaching compism to immature believers is a recipe for pain.

  • Donald Johnson

    I have heard from a LOT of ex-comps who are now egals. They will tell you about the pain if you want to listen.

    All of us are sinners, egals do not get a free pass to marital bliss. But the foundational belief of marriage being a partnership rather than a hierarchy tends to help achieve it.

  • KR Wordgazer

    Nate, the interesting thing about the Proverbs 31 woman is how little she resembles the “gender roles” teaching. There is nothing in that section about her husband “leading” her or the household– in fact, she appears to be the main leader of the household. A lot of the words used for her are words usually used for men and warriors elsewhere in the Scriptures. “She makes her arms strong.” “She sees that her trading is profitable.” “She considers a field and buys it.” (My understanding is that the Hebrew in his passage connotes ideas of “taming” or “conquering” a wild piece of land.)

    Nothing about “She asks her husband’s permission and does nothing without his authority.” Nothing about “She follows her husband’s leadership.” Nothing about “She defers to him in every decision.” Nothing about “She gives him the trump card if they ever disagree.”

    The word translated “virtuous” actually means “valiant” or “courageous.” Her husband trusts her to be on his team, and recognizes her full adult responsibility and autonomy. Yes, I have read Proverbs 31. Indeed I have.

  • KR Wordgazer

    Nate, in an egal marriage, each leads in his or her area of strength and ability. If they disagree, they discuss it until they come to a compromise.

    People in joint venture business partnerships have no problem running their companies this way. Why shouldn’t it work for husbands and wives?

  • JohnnyM

    the model for a marriage is not defined by business. It is not defined by egal or comp, whatever they are. It is not defined by culture. It is not defined by nature. It is not defined by sociology.

    The model for marriage is defined by Christ’s relationship with the Church. A marriage that is modeled on that will always succeed.

  • Donald Johnson


    I never said that egal husbands are more mature than comp husbands, in fact my point was the exact opposite.

    I said that all of us are sinners and an egal marriage paradigm is more conducive to marital bliss for most people, that is, those who are not very mature and Christ-like. If both parties are very Christ-like, I really do not think it matters which paradigm is used, it will be a marriage which glorifies God. If it when one or both are NOT Christ-like that it matters which marriage paradigm you use.

  • Nate

    So, only fully mature followers of Christ can get married if they want to be comps, right? But, you aren’t implying a bias against comps?

    Stop while your behind Donald!

  • KR Wordgazer

    Nate, you are reading into what I said. I said nothing of my marriage working just like a business partnership. If you want to go that route, I could insist that your marriage is like a military command model, with one party always in charge and the other always following orders.

    But neither of those is the point. The point I was making is that a marriage can work without one partner always having to lead.

    With regards to Proverbs 31, I assume nothing. I was merely saying what the text said– i.e., what was being considered important about this wife’s relationship to her husband. And the point being made is not whether or not he leads her. The point is how much he trusts her and how much she does on her own. His authority and her submission are simply not the subject matter of this text. Instead, it’s about her strength, responsibility and trustworthiness.

    Johnny, if you will look at how Eph. 5 actually describes Christ’s union with the church as a picture for marriage– it’s all about the one in the higher position giving himself up to raise the one in the lower position up to be glorious– a particularly apt picture for 1st-century Ephesian marriages, characterized by older men marrying younger women who were more or less sold by their fathers. The Eph 5 picture really isn’t a picture of Christ dispensing authority and receiving obedience. It’s a picture of self-sacrifice and mutual submission– or wasn’t Christ being submissive when He “gave himself” to be crucified for the church?

  • Donald Johnson


    I do not think it is acceptable for comp teachers to claim that an abuser is not a true comp, by definition. This is the same debating tactic that communists use when they respond that the (many) communist failures were not really true communism.

    I would counsel against getting married for anyone that was not on the road to maturity in Christ.

    And from what I have read by comps on comp marriage, it is mostly about how a wife needs to do her part (in a word: submit which comps misread as obey) and very little about a husband doing his part (in a word: sacrifice).

    If comps want to claim that sacrifice as Jesus is not some form of submission (even though it is), at least teach a husband’s call to sacrifice.

  • JohnnyM

    @KR – when Christ died on the Cross, he wasn’t submitting Himself to the Church. He was submitting Himself to the Father and sacrificing Himself for the Church.

  • Nate

    Donald: so now abusers are comps? Seriously! Yeah, all us comp are communists!

    Your comments would be laughable if not offensive. As I stated before, I’m fine with you being egal, but to continue with name-calling, demeaning conjecture to prove your point won’t help.

    And the majority of comps I’m around and have read speak of sacrifice by the husband as first and foremost in leading and loving your wife.

  • Donald Johnson

    Using the same false argument as communists do does not make somone a communist, it just means they both are using a bogus argument to avoid the implications of what they teach.

    I have seen the lead aspect of comp teaching given huge emphasis (even tho it is not explicit, merely implied by the way comps choose to interpret Scripture) and the sacrifice aspect (which IS explicit) given barely a mention. And hardly any mention that a husband can make final decisions that avoid his personal sacrifice.

  • Donald Johnson

    Does a comp wife get to point out that her husband is not sacrificing enough like he gets to claim she is not submitting enough?

  • KR Wordgazer

    Johnny, when a wife submits to her husband, she’s also supposed to be doing it as unto the Lord, right? So what?

    The fact is that the people (many of whom would soon become part of the church in Acts 2) yelled “Crucify!” — and Jesus submitted. Eph 5:21 says “submitting to one another in reverence for Christ.” Why are husbands exempt, exactly? I never have received a satisfactory answer on that.

  • Nate

    Donald, I was joking that you were calling me a communist.

    Are there improper ways to teach comp? Yes, and it appears you have been exposed to it. But to lump everybody into that kettle is ridiculous.

    If you are such a true egal you should be more compromising to me. 🙂

    As it is, you are coming off “high and mighty.”

    Your very first comment in this post (a post about hiding a baby’s gender) was to critique a comment regarding an English pronoun and turn it into a comp vs. egal statement. I should have remembered that every post for you is an opportunity for you to spout the virtues of egal.

    Sorry, I played into your hand… I will stop drinking the Kool-Aid now.

  • JohnnyM

    “and Jesus submitted”

    No He did not. Jesus did not submit to the jeering mobs, as if these mobs had any authority. Jesus had the authority to bring down legions of angels to defend Him, but He submitted to the Father’s will. The jeering crowds were just sinners that had no idea what they were doing.

    “Why are husbands exempt, exactly?”

    Your beef is with Scripture.

    Eph 5:24 – Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

    The marriage bond is a picture of our relationship with Christ. If you have a problem with the roles in marriage, it means you have a problem with submitting to the headship of Christ.

  • KR Wordgazer

    Now, don’t go pulling that one on me, Johnny. I could just as easily say that YOUR beef is with scripture, that you simply don’t want to obey the plain sense of “submitting to one another in reverence for Christ.” Any reading of scripture is an interpretation. You don’t get to privilege your interpretation as being God’s own intent.

    No, the marriage bond is not a picture of our relationship with Christ– that’s backwards from what the text actually says. What it says is that the church’s relationship with Christ is the picture– and our marriages are supposed to try to look like that, not the other way around. But obviously a husband cannot be everything to his wife that Christ is to the church. He is not her savior. He is not her lord, either. So the picture the text shows us is the picture we’re supposed to imitate in our marriages– and that picture is of Christ giving Himself up for the Church in order to raise her up. That’s what we’re supposed to make our marriages look like.

    What your interpretation appears to be saying is, “As Christ is to the church, so is the husband to the wife in every way,” meaning the husband is her lord, the husband is her leader– though you stop short, thankfully, of “the husband is her savior.” But most comps do believe the wife needs another mediator between her and God– that somehow the husband gets to be her “prophet, priest and king.” Not so.

    The “in everything” in which the wife submits is supposed to be mitigated by the limitations placed on the husband as to how he is to relate to her. And he is not to be her lord, master, savior, sanctifier, prophet, priest or king. He is to be the one who lays down his power and privilege and raises her up.

  • Denny Burk

    KR Wordgazer,

    You have an astonishing statement here:

    But most comps do believe the wife needs another mediator between her and God– that somehow the husband gets to be her “prophet, priest and king.”

    This is just factually inaccurate. Complementarians believe along with every other evangelical the Jesus Christ is the only mediator.


  • KR Wordgazer

    PS. “Head,” when Paul uses it in Ephesians along with “Body” in a head-body metaphor, means, “the place where the body gets its nourishment and growth.” See Eph 4:13-16. The husband as “head” to the wife as “body” is another of Paul’s intentional limitations on the husband-wife relationship so that it imitates only one aspect, and not every aspect, of Christ’s relationship with the church. This limitation to providing nourishment and growth is precisely why the husband can’t act as if he gets to take Christ’s place in his wife’s life. You will agree he is not her savior or her god. But “head” also means he is not her lord or her master. He is the source of provision for her, and he is to nourish and cherish her. And that’s all. Anything more is putting the wife in danger of idolatry. Paul never uses “head” and “body” together with respect to Christ and the church in Ephesians as a metaphor for Christ’s lordship over the church. Rather, the “Head” raises the “body” up to be glorious beside Him.

  • KR Wordgazer


    I apologize. I have certainly heard the “husband is prophet, priest and king in the home” teaching given by complementarians. Also “if you are obeying your husband, you are obeying Christ.”

    If these are not the teachings of most complementarians, ok. I stand corrected.

    And my name is “Kristen.” I will switch to it from now on.

  • Donald Johnson

    Do not some comps claim the husband is the “priest of the home”? I think that ALL believers are priests, per Peter and John.

  • Kristen

    Johnny, this:

    Jesus did not submit to the jeering mobs, as if these mobs had any authority. Jesus had the authority to bring down legions of angels to defend Him, but He submitted to the Father’s will.”

    Comes simply from a difference in understanding of what is meant by the word “submit.” Since it is used in Eph. 5:21 to describe something mutual, one-to-another, I do not believe it is about yielding to authority per se– it is simply about yielding. The word “obey,” which Paul uses later in the passage to children and slaves, does include the idea that the one obeyed is in authority over the one obeying– but the word “submit” does not. One can submit to someone who is in authority, but submission, in and of itself, does not necessarily convey the sense that the person being submitted to has to be in authority over the one submitting.

    Given this definition, Jesus did indeed submit to those who wanted to crucify him. And “submit to one another in reverence for Christ” means “everyone have an attitude to yield and give in to one another, honoring Christ’s example.”

  • JohnnyM

    “Christ giving Himself up for the Church in order to raise her up”

    I agree with this. The husband is supposed to love his wife and give himself up for her. I also dont believe that the husband is his wife’s Savior.

    A marriage where the husband loves his wife like Christ loved the Church and where the wife submits to the husband as the Church submits to Christ is the ideal marriage.

    The focus seems to always be on the submission part, but few focus on the sacrificial love of the husband. Both husband and wife must die to self.

    But poeple are sinful. We are not perfect, but just because we are not perfect does not mean we can abdicate our roles as husbands and wives. Husbands must be willing to love and sacrifice for their wife, even when she may not be particularly lovable. And wives must be willing to submit to their husbands even when he may not be worthy of such respect.

    Nobody said marriage was easy. It is the ultimate exercise in dying to self. If one party or the other is not willing to die to self, then the marriage is in danger.

  • Donald Johnson

    And what part of Eph 5:21 do you think does NOT apply to you as a husband?

    It is not a case of a list of different things people are to do, as comps present, it is a list with the same things to do for everyone, but which Paul gave differing emphases in dealing with 1st century situations.

  • JohnnyM

    “in dealing with 1st century situations”

    This is not accurate. The Bible does not deal with 1st century situations, as if it is no longer relevant in the 21st century. This passage on marriage is as relevant today as it was in the first century, and probably more so given our culture’s continued disdain for marriage.

    You seem to have two passages of scripture battling each other. As if 5:21 nullifies the following verses. I tend to view 5:21 as dealing with people in general (i.e. my relationship with fellow brothers and sisters in Christ), and the following verses dealing specifically with marriage.

  • Kristen

    Your wife is also your sister in Christ. And in the original Greek, the passage reads:

    “Submitting to one another in reverence for Christ; wives to your husbands as to the Lord.”

    In other words, the part addressing wives does not have a verb of its own; it borrows the verb from the phrase before it. Wives’ submission is not a separate thing, but is part of the submission of all believers to one another. This is why the continuation of the verse addressing husbands, must be read in the same light.

    You said, “The Bible does not deal with 1st century situations as if it is no longer relevant in the 21st century.” Quite true. But these letters were written in the 1st century, and the original audience was a first century audience. We cannot pull it forward into the 21st century piecemeal, without reference to how the original author intended to communicate it to the first century audience and without any understanding of how they would have understood it. This must inform our 21st-century reading, or we are going to be reading our modern mindset into a text that did not contain that mindset when it was written.

    There is a difference between interpretation and application. Interpretation says, “What was the author’s intent and the original audience’s understanding?” Application says, “How then do we apply this text to our lives today?”

    The two should not be conflated, or you end up with an inaccurate understanding of the text.

  • JohnnyM

    the only people reading the modern mindset into the text are the ones arguing against wives submitting to their husbands. Verse 24 is plain in English and Greek.

    The problem here is people defining submission in a 21st century mindset, as if its the picture of a beer drinking slob telling his wife to get in the kitchen. This is not the picture.

    The picture is one of the Church’s relationship with Christ. If a wife should not submit to her husband, then one is essentially saying that the Church should not submit to Christ.

  • Kristen

    I have never, ever said a wife should not submit to her husband. I only said that the husband is not exempt from “submit to one another in reverence for Christ” — and that includes his wife.

    I certainly never defined submission as you indicate above. Quoting myself, I said: “I do not believe it is about yielding to authority per se– it is simply about yielding.”

    Verse 24 is plain– but must not be taken out of its context any more than any other verse can be lifted from the words around it without becoming distorted. Verse 24 is only 3 verses after verse 21. They were meant to be read together, not separately– and as part of a whole section.

    If you read Ephesians 5 without an understanding of the cultural norms, then you will bring your modern mindset to the text. There’s no getting around it. There were things they assumed were normal, that we just don’t get. Today, if I say “You can crash at my place,” you don’t think I’m telling you to drive your chariot through my wall. But that would probably be how Paul’s audience would have understood that sentence.

    And it works the same way for us, reading what they wrote. If you don’t understand, for instance, that slavery was an institution of the surrounding world that the church needed to accommodate, then to be consistent, you will have to read an endorsement of slavery as an institution, as part of Paul’s meaning.

    Male control of the family, in the form of the “pater familias,” was also part of the surrounding culture. To fail to understand this is to fail to see the way Paul’s teachings are actually turning the understood norms of the “pater familias” system upside down.

    In other areas of the Bible, we are excited when a new understanding of culture makes a passage more plain. When the Bible says John reclined on Jesus’ chest during the Last Supper, we are glad to know it was referring to the way people sat when they ate, in 1st-century Palestine.

    So why can’t we bring the same kind of understanding to the passages about women? Wouldn’t that be more fair?

  • Donald Johnson

    It is obvious that a marriage is to be an example of mutual submission, except for those that refuse to see the implications of Scripture. 1 Cor 7 reinforces this idea as it shows many symmetrical ways of relating in marriage and one cannot get more mutuall than symmetrical.

  • JohnnyM

    Let’s try a practical exercise. When should a wife not submit to her husband? When should a husband submit to his wife?

  • Kristen

    Neither partner should submit in such a way as to enable the other partner to use “submit to me!” as a way to indulge their selfishness at the other’s expense.

    Both partners should submit to the other when they perceive that giving in/yielding will best meet the legitimate needs of the other partner or increase the unity of the marriage. There was a Christian leader who moved his ministry to a warmer state because it was the best thing for his wife. If she had picked up and moved for his sake, he would have called it “submission.” But since he picked up and moved for her sake, he called it “leadership.” But it was yielding his own desires for her sake, and thus it was really submission. He just didn’t like calling it that.

  • JohnnyM

    I dont think we are that far off in opinion.

    To me, at the end of the day, if there is decision where neither party can agree, then it is up to the husband to decide.

  • Kristen


    What about a situation like this? The couple’s child falls off the monkey bars and is bleeding steadily from his head. The wife says they need to rush him to the hospital. The husband says it doesn’t look so bad to him and they should watchfully keep the boy home. They can’t agree, so the husband gets to decide, and he decides to keep the boy home.

    Should the wife submit? In the eyes of the law, she is just as responsible for the child’s well-being as the husband is. If she is convinced the boy’s life is in danger, how can she honor her husband’s final decision?

    I believe she should say, “I’m sorry, honey, but I just don’t feel good about this. I need to take him to the hospital, and I’m going.” And the husband should then submit and go to the hospital with her– because his decision is the one with the highest consequences if he’s wrong. Nor should he criticize her if it does turn out it was not as serious as the wife thought.

    At the end of the day, a woman is as fully responsible an adult as the husband. She needs to be treated as such.

  • JohnnyM

    I dont have a problem with your scenario. It is perfectly fine for a wife to not submit if what her husband wants violates the law of God. So if she feels that her childs life is in danger, then by all means do what you can to protect the life of the child.

  • Donald Johnson


    Paul says that whatever is not done in faith is sin. If a husband says he has made a final decision and his wife says she cannot agree with it in faith, can she act in faith and NOT accept the final decision as final?

    The point is the comp doctrine breaks down and is not consistent with other Scripture.

  • JohnnyM

    First, I dont know what the comp doctrine is.

    Second, you need to be more specific. If the husband is doing something clearly in violation of Scripture or God’s law, then she can agree not to do it. There is nothing wrong with that.

    Eph 5:24 is very explicit about the roles within a marriage when it comes to leadership and authority, so you need an extremely good reason with which to deviate from it.

    In the relationship between Christ and the Church, Christ is the Head. He does not submit to the Body. The Church can choose not to submit to Christ, but there will be sin and loss of fellowship in that case.

    Is there ever a case where you should not submit to Christ’s headship or He should submit to the Church?

  • Donald Johnson

    Christ submits to the body. In fact, if you do not allow this, then you have no part in Jesus.

    Joh 13:8 Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.”

    In cultural context, washing feet was the job of the lowest slave in a household. Jesus took that position and calls us to it also.

    The word “headship” is simply not found in the Bible, it is an invented man-made word used to promulgate comp doctrine.

    Eph 5 does not teach roles in a marriage. Every believer is to act like Christ and love sacrificially.

    Eph 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.
    Eph 5:2 And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

    So Eph 5:25 is Paul making a specific application to husbands of the general principle of the Kingdom. He does this because in the 1st century context, they needed to be reminded of this. But it is true for every believer.

    Do you really think a husband is to love his wife, but a wife is not to love her husband? That is crazy talk. There is no role definition there.

    Do you really think a wife is to respect her husband but a husband does not need to respect his wife? That is crazy talk. There is no role definition there.

    And submission to other believers is a general practice, which Paul makes a specific application of wives to husbands in 1st century Ephesus. But submission is to be true for all believers.

    There simply are no roles defined in Eph 5, but some people strive mightily to find them.

  • Charlton Connett


    Should the elders in a church submit to the newest members of the church who have just been saved and know nothing of the doctrines of Christianity if those new members, in their immaturity, say they want to allow unorthodox practices into the church? Should the elders (or the rest of the body) submit to someone who has lived as a Christian within the church for many years when that person says he simply cannot in good faith accept the discipline of the church in a certain circumstance? Could you explain the difference, if there is one, between “serving” and “submitting”? I really am wondering in the absolute “everyone submit to everyone” stance of egalitarianism you have laid out, how you resolve these issues. (Or does this stance only apply to marriage, and if so how do you derive that from the full text of Ephesians?)

  • JohnnyM

    In regards to headship:

    Eph 5:22-24
    Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.

    1 Corinthians 11:3
    But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

    Genesis 3:16
    To the woman he said, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you.”

    Now the case of Jesus washing feet was not one of submission but of sacrificial love. If it had been submission, would not Jesus submitted to Peter and not washed his feet. Christ was showing sacrificial love by taking the low place and serving others.

    If I go home and I do things for my wife to serve her needs, it is not an act of submission but one of sacrificial love. I think this is where the confusion lies. We are confusing sacrifice for submission, and they are two different things.

  • Donald Johnson

    No, sacrificial love is an example of submission, it is one way to practise it. It appears you have a misunderstanding of what Biblical submission is.

    Eph 5 gives a head/body metaphor mapping Christ/church to husband/wife. As in any metaphor, one needs to discern how far the metaphor applies and where it does not apply, where it does not apply is called going beyond the metaphor. We can see that ALL the examples of what Christ as head does for the church are serving examples, there are no leading examples. So a husband is to act like Christ and serve his wife. But some distort this clear teaching and claim that somehow leadership is involved, but they add to the text to do it.

    Gen 3:16 is not a command to the woman as it is not in the form of a command and it is certainly not a command to the man, as God is not even speaking to him. What it is are 5 things that need to be unpacked, but the last one is a warning to the woman about what to expect from being married to the deliberate sinner who tried to blame her for his sin. It is a result of the fall and is something that Christ came to redeem us from, not to sustain.

    1 Cor 11 is not a hierarchy as it is not in the form of a hierarchy (the order is messed up for it to be a top down hierarch), altho it is often read that way because in the 21st century “head” of another tends to mean “leader” of another. But what it means in the 21st century has no necessary bearing on what it meant in the 1st century to the original readers, which is what believers need to care about. If you agree that the inspired order stated in the text is NOT that of a top down hierarchy, we can discuss further.

  • JohnnyM

    “We can see that ALL the examples of what Christ as head does for the church are serving examples, there are no leading examples”

    Are you honestly going to stand by the latter part of this claim? That Christ NEVER leads. Never ever. Not once. Not ever?

    What about the leading of the Holy Spirit? What about John 14, where he speaks of keeping His commandments? What about commanding the disciples to go and make disciples of the nations? What about blinding Paul on the road to Damascus? What about not removing the thorn from Paul’s side? What about rebuking Peter and other disciples on multiple occasions? And the list goes on.

  • Sue

    But for women who live in poverty, it is now recognized by World Bank, World Vision, by funding agencies, that putting resources for the family under the wife’s control is the best way to fight hunger.

    “Our interviews and perusal of the data available suggest that the poorest families in the world spend approximately 10 times as much (20 percent of their incomes on average) on a combination of alcohol, prostitution, candy, sugary drinks and lavish feasts as they do on educating their children (2 percent). If poor families spent only as much on educating their children as they do on beer and prostitutes, there would be a breakthrough in the prospects of poor countries. Girls, since they are the ones kept home from school now, would be the biggest beneficiaries. Moreover, one way to reallocate family expenditures in this way is to put more money in the hands of women. A series of studies has found that when women hold assets or gain incomes, family money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and consequently children are healthier.”

    From Half the Sky by Kristof and WuDunn

    Given these facts, perhaps it would be good to discuss under what circumstances one should put resources under the control of women, and when not to.

  • Donald Johnson

    Hi Johnny,

    Jesus is many things, Lord, savior, teacher, Jew, etc. In the Eph 5 metaphor of head, in the text only serving functions are mentioned. It is not that the other things about Jesus are not true, but they are not a part of the metaphor in the inspired text given.

    Hi Carlton,

    As I understand Eph 5:21 EVERY believer is to submit to other believers. How this worked out in practise will depend on individual circumstances. For a new believer, a way an elder might submit would be willing to teach them the basics of the faith, this is a form of submission as it requires time and some knowledge of spiritual things. And there might be other ways an elder submits to a new believer, being an elder I am assuming they meet the qualifications in 1 Tim and Titus and are able to teach.

    The point is submission can be a way of supporting them and acting in the other’s best interest and helping them grow in Christ by investing one’s God-given resources in them, time, talents and/or treasure, as God indicates. It does not necessarily imply hierarchy of any sort.

  • Kristen

    Johnny said:

    “‘We can see that ALL the examples of what Christ as head does for the church are serving examples, there are no leading examples’

    Are you honestly going to stand by the latter part of this claim? That Christ NEVER leads. Never ever. Not once. Not ever?”

    In the book of Ephesians, when Christ is pictured in the head-body metaphor with the church, this metaphor is not used with images of Christ leading or exercising authority over the body. The “head” was not envisioned as the seat of the will by the New Testament writers, but rather, the heart was the seat of the will, and the head was the place from which life was generated. Technically, they ascribed to the heart what we now know are the functions of the brain, and to the head what we now know are the functions of the heart. This is another area in which it is important to understand the shared assumptions of the first-century writers and their original audiences, so that we don’t misunderstand what is being said.

  • Kristen

    So the issue is not that Christ never leads the church, but that Christ’s function as “head” to the church as “body” is not a leadership function, but a supplier-of-life function. The issue, then, is how the husband is to function towards the wife.

    We have to make some attempt to understand how the original audience would have understood what Paul is saying here. He speaks into a situation where husbands were in complete authority over their wives– in fact, women were the property first of their fathers and then of their husbands. Paul is giving a “household code” here. In the household codes of the time, the women were usually not even addressed. Their male lords were told how best to rule over them, and that was that. Paul is being radical by first addressing the women. He tells them to “submit,” which is a voluntary action– in a world where their obedience was usually forced. Then he tells the husbands, not how to rule their wives, but how to give themselves up for their wives, nourish and cherish their wives, and raise their wives up as Christ raises up the church.

    In a ruler-to-ruled situation, it is not the ruled who has the power to change the dynamic. It is the ruler. The husbands, who are accustomed to be rulers, are being told to radically change the way they think about and relate to their wives. The wives are told to submit because that’s as far as their duty can lie. It is the husbands who have the power– the power to stop thinking of their wives as things to be ruled, and to start thinking of them as people who can be raised up out of their bondage, by the sacrifical act of the husband in laying down his power and privilege just as Christ did.

    To read this as if Paul wrote it yesterday and not in the first century, is to miss the whole dynamic. It is to conclude that Paul is ratifying husband-rule (as well as slavery) as God’s divine plan– rather than radically undermining both institutions from within, through the changed thinking of the ones in power.

  • Charlton Connett

    One clear leading example, as given by Paul, is Ephesians 4:8 where Christ led the captives. Christ leads us out of sin and slavery, he is over all things our head, he is our authority and our guide. To say that Christ is not leading and not in authority, exercising this authority, over us is just misreading the text. How often does Paul describe the work of Christ for us compared to what he says about what we have done? Everything until Ephesians 4 speaks only about Christ’s work for us, and in Ephesians 4 we only see a command on how we are to walk after it is assumed that we are in Christ. Christ is the active one, he is the leader, and all of this is part of his being head over us. (Note also that Christ is called “head over all” in Ephesians 1:22 just as the Father is called “Father over all” in 4:6, in both cases authority is implied.)

  • Donald Johnson


    Of course there are examples of Jesus leading others, after all Jesus is Lord! However, the question is what attributes of Jesus as head/kephale of the church/body does God through Paul intend for a husband to emulate in regards to his wife? This is the mapping in question, not ALL possible mappings.

    We KNOW that a husband is not his wife’s savior, only Jesus is that. But AS our savior laid down his like (as head in the metaphor) so is a husband to lay down his life for his wife.

    In other words, the head of/kephale of metaphor applies to the section of text that uses it and it is problematical to extend it beyond that. And in the inspired text as given, Jesus as “head” does serving functions, and no leading functions and it is going beyond the text to claim it.

    “Head over” can be seen as an authority/leading function, but that is different.

  • Kristen

    Note also that in Ephesians 1, which describes Christ as head over all, with all things under his feet, the church is excepted. As his body, she is beside him in the heavenly realms, with him in his pre-eminence over all things. She is not one of the powers that is under his feet. As the body, she rules with the head. Nothing is said of his rule over her when it comes to this head-to-body relationship. When Chapter 5 speaks of the husband and wife in this head-to-body relationship, what would have stood out to the original audience is the way head “gives himself” so that the body is raised up and made “glorious” by the head. Husbands were (and are) being asked to share power with the wife even as Christ shares his power with the church. Everything in this passage is in line with the general theme of Christianity of the exalted stooping down to raise up the lowly. Christianity as Jesus taught it is not about who gets to be in charge of whom. Ephesians 5 is no different in this regard.

  • Chris

    Kristen I am not so sure that Jesus shares power with the church instead He gives power to the church. Jesus is always in charge!

  • Kristen

    Chris, Jesus is also Lord. There is nothing in the Bible that calls husbands “lords” or tells them to act like “lords.” The closest thing is advice in 1 Peter that if you’re married to a man that is disobedient to God (i.e., an unbeliever), God will protect you if you do as Sarah did, obey him and trust God. This seems to be much more an accommodation of the male-ruled surrounding culture, than any mandate for Christian husbands to get to be “in charge.”

  • Charlton Connett


    Paul commends Sarah’s deference to Abraham in that she called him “lord”. Of course “baal” in the Hebrew could mean “lord” or “god” or even “husband”, depending on the context, but Paul uses the term “lord” and commends that level of respect from a wife to her husband. However, to say that 1 Peter only applies to unbelievers seems a stretch, Paul says that “even if” a husband is an unbeliever. And if a wife should treat her unbelieving husband in such a way, how much more should she treat her believing husband with such respect? In addition, wouldn’t it seem odd to commend Sarah for calling Abraham lord if Paul was referring only to unbelieving men, being that Abraham is called the father of faith?


    I think I’ve actually drawn a bit closer to you than my initial words might make it seem as I’ve reflected more on Ephesians. But, taking from what Paul says, about how Christ loved the church, gave himself up for her, wants her sanctified, wants her cleansed, and wants her totally without blemish, I think this is the head metaphor that Paul intends to apply to the husband and wife. It is the husbands duty in Christ to give himself up for his wife, to help her in her sanctification, to wash her in the Word, to grow her in splendor (in Christ), so that she might live a totally holy life. Thus the husband’s responsibility, as Paul seems to lay out in Ephesians, is to be a spiritual leader in his house so that his wife might reach full maturity in Christ, even as this is the goal of the church in general. So, husbands are to be leaders, but leaders for a specific purpose: the sanctification of their wives in Christ. (Thus a husband who is not encouraging and leading his wife to greater sanctification is not living as Christ would have him live.)

    I think this has further applications as well, so that the husband does become the decision maker in many things, but only so that his wife is unburdened and is able to walk along side him in joy. It does not mean to lord over, but to join to his wife as her head, so that there should never be shame in her following him, because it is all to be done to the glory of God. Therefore, the wife is commanded to submit to her husband assuming these conditions, not because she is inferior, but because her responsibility to her husband is to help him grow to maturity, and part of that maturity should be being a spiritual leader, so that he delights in serving her, and she delights in following his guidance to grow deeper in the faith. (No, I don’t intend this to mean that husbands are always more spiritually mature, in the case of a more spiritually mature wife part of her submitting may be helping him to move to maturity so he can be a better leader, and part of his leading may be encouraging her to study and show him what she has learned so that she continues to grow and he can become mature as well.)

    What Paul intends in this section of Scripture is to lay out some guidelines by which all involved may come to greater spiritual maturity (as a natural progression from what he just finished discussing in chapters 4-5). And he chose the three most common, and abused relationships, in his time when he did so: that of a husband and wife, a parent and a child, and a master and a slave. In each of these relationships the general rule of the time was that the second was totally under the thumb of the first. Paul gives commands of obedience, but also tells those in authority not to impede the growth of those in their charge, but to help them so that all the body may grow into the fullness of Christ. Paul was not saying that the power structures were wrong, that husbands should not be in authority over the wives, or parents over children, or masters over slaves, instead he was saying that the position of power was to be used for the benefit of the one not in power. (Thus I don’t think Paul was teaching egalitarianism, but akin to what Christ taught his disciples, those who would be great must be servants to all. Thus neither Paul nor Christ removed roles of authority, but they both stressed that the one in authority must use that position for others’ benefit: he must be a servant, not a lord.)

    As a side note, though more on subject, in reflecting on Ephesians I was reminded that what the parents of this child are doing is in violation of Ephesians 6:4 wherein parents (fathers) are encouraged to bring their children up in instruction of the Lord. Part of that instruction should include knowing what it means to be a man or a woman.

  • Chris

    Kristen I was responding to what you posted about Christ and the church and how that parallel fails. Wasn’t suggesting that the husband is LORD.

    I see it as the husbands responsibility to empower his wife not restrict her.

  • Donald Johnson


    On 1 Pet 3:1 in Greek the “if” is the 3rd type of conditional, one that assumes the condition. So Peter is discussing what to do if a husband is disobedient to God, either a non-believer or a believer that is disobedient. It is not a stretch at all, it is in the Greek and it is a shame that some translations do not show this. I would translate such a conditional as “when” to better show that the condition is assumed.

  • Donald Johnson


    On Eph 5, I think you should try taking off your blue lenses, that is, your masculinist assumptions when reading this text. There is simply NO authority stated by Paul for a husband and wife, except in 1 Cor 7 where it is mutual and over each other’s body in relation to sex.

    That is, the PAGAN CULTURE did assume that a wife was to obey her husband, but Paul does NOT endorse that idea and in this case, his silence shouts when one sees that cultural context. Aristotle did teach that the paterfamilias was in charge of wife, kids and slaves, but Paul decline to endorse the former, even while giving a command of obey to the latter 2, kids and slaves. This is important to see, that NOWHERE in Scripture is there a God-endorsed command for a husband to lead/rule/have a trump card/have 51% of the vote/(insert masculinist euphemism of one’s choice),etc. There is a pagan king’s claim in Esther 1, but that is hardly an example for a believer to follow.

    We now see that the Southern slaveholder’s claim of a kinder and gentler form of slaveholding was a canard for their selfishness, even tho Scripture clearly tells a slave to obey his master. And such is NOT the case with a husband and wife in terms of obey, except that some teachers claim it is there when it is not really there. You will be able to see it is not there if you take off your blue lenses, that is what I did.

  • Donald Johnson

    Gen 3:16 needs to be understood in the Hebrew. There are 5 things there, each needs to be discussed on it own.

    Yes, childbirth involves labor and pain. Nowadays we can administer anesthetic for the pain, but when it was first invented some taught that doing this for a woman in labor would be against God’s law. How tragic.

    The point is that just as it is not going against God’s law to use farm machinery that reduces or eliminates sweat, so it is not against God’s law to use anesthesia to reduce or eliminate pain.

    I see what Christ instituted in the new covenant as having the idea of “already but not yet” in terms of the Kingdom. So we are to live as much as possible in Kingdom life, realizing that the world is still broken and we still sin.

  • Chris

    Donald you are deflecting a bit. Pain exists whether we mask it or not. Farming is hard work with or without machinery. Pain and hard work have not been redeemed by Christ yet.

    Once again your take on Gen 3:16 does not hold up.

  • Donald Johnson

    I never claimed that pain or sweat went away, so Gen 3:16 still applies. Can you be more explicit about what part of “my take” does not hold up.

    My point above on Gen 3:16 is that the statement “he shall rule over you” is not a command to the man NOR a command to the woman, rather it is a warning by God about what the woman is to expect from being married to the deliberate sinner who tried to blame her for his own sin.

  • Chris

    Donald understood but you used Genesis 3:16 to argue against a husbands leadership role. It is not a command but simply the reality, as stated by God, and will be the reality until the Second Coming.

    Nothing can change that even though some would take on the savior role and try to make those changes.

    You seem to imply that since it is not a command it should not be taken as reality and that’s where I believe your interpretation fails.

  • Donald Johnson


    “he will rule over you” is warning to the woman that as a result of the fall this bad thing can be expected.

    It is to be opposed, just like all the bad consequences of the fall are to be opposed. In the final act, they will all be overthrown, but we can do our part today to do our best to overthrow them and live as much as possible in Kingdom life.

  • Chris

    It’s not a warning but a reality. We are unable to oppose it, we can try but that will bring more problems. Only Christ can/will oppose it successfully when He returns

    Now as I said before a husband should not LORD over his wife however he is and will always be the leader in the marriage.

  • Sue

    I think that the submission of the wife is much more tolerable if it is to be understood as a curse. There is at least some fellow feeling, some sense that it is a consequence of sin, and not a natural state.

  • Donald Johnson

    God’s ideal is for both husband and wife to be co-leaders in a family. Anything less than that is less than God’s ideal according to Scripture.

  • Kristen

    Thorns and thistles in the fields is a bad thing. Pain in childbirth is a bad thing. Man ruling over woman is similarly a bad thing. How hard is that to understand?

    The results of the Fall remain in the Old Creation. But Christ has called us to a New Creation, per 2 Cor. 5. In the New Creation we “regard no one any longer according to the flesh,” for the New Creation is spiritual. We are called to spiritual rebirth into this New Creation. How then, having been set free in the spirit from the Old Creation, shall we continue to live in it in our spiritual relationships? Husbands and wives who are in Christ are more than just fleshly couples; they are brothers and sisters in Christ. Sibling-hood is a state of equality. Christ is our Eldest Brother, and the rest of us are equal siblings with God as the sole Patriarch.

    Let’s walk in the Spirit, and no longer give into the desires of the flesh. The male desire to rule the female is of the flesh, not of the Spirit.

  • Nate

    All, Donald will NEVER bend on his egalitarian opinion. It won’t matter how much you respond, he will always claim that he has the appropriate Greek explanation or Hebrew explanation. There is no use attempting to sway him. His knowledge will always be superior to anyone else.

    It’s fine that he has an egalitarian position, but his refusal to see that a complementarian position is within the bounds of orthodoxy leads him to take any post and turn it into a forum on egalitarian doctrine.

    This was a post on a couple that was hiding a baby’s gender and yet for the last 80+ responses it has been multiple people’s attempt to dissuade Donald of his egalitarian mindset.

    Give up… You would have an easier time attempting to convert Obama to conservatism than Donald to a complementarian.

  • JohnnyM

    “To read this as if Paul wrote it yesterday and not in the first century, is to miss the whole dynamic. It is to conclude that Paul is ratifying husband-rule (as well as slavery) as God’s divine plan– rather than radically undermining both institutions from within, through the changed thinking of the ones in power.”

    Paul and the Bible also said this:
    1 Tim 2:12-14 – But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. For it was Adam who was first created, and then Eve. And it was not Adam who was deceived, but the woman being deceived, fell into transgression.

    So there appears to be a conflict between your interpretation of Paul in Ephesians and Paul’s words here.

  • Kristen

    No, Johnny, there is no conflict in my interpretation. I don’t read 1 Tim 2:12-14 as endorsing husband-rule either– because the example Paul uses from Genesis 3 actually contains no husband-rule until after the Fall.

    I do, however, agree with Nate in principle — this conversation has gone far beyond the original topic and perhaps ought to end. I don’t read the rest of the conversation the way he does, however– far from attempting to dissuade Don, I have been weighing in on his side– and I don’t think attempts to dissuade anyone from a position they are fully convinced of in their own minds, work. I saw the discussion instead as an exchange of ideas, and I was attempting to present the reasons for my position in case anyone not fully convinced, should find them persuasive.

    I used to ascribe to the complementarian position, but I have become persuaded to the egalitarian side. Having researched it carefully, I am not likely to be dissuaded now– nor should I, or Don, be faulted for this. Nor do I fault anyone who has researched carefully and come to the opposite conclusion– though I will maintain that they are wrong. *grin*

    But an in-depth analysis of 1 Tim 2 from the egalitarian view, is probably out of place here. My feeling on the original topic is that it’s probably not going to be productive to try to raise a child with no knowledge of their own sex– but I do agree that trying to avoid squeezing a creation in the image of God into one or the other of the gender “roles” that I believe humans have interpreted far too narrowly, is a worthy endeavor. I disagree with the method and think the parents are going too far– but I can appreciate why they’re doing what they’re doing.

  • Donald Johnson

    I do my best to study both sides in the gender verses debate. I have adjusted my thinking at times based on comp arguments, as iron sharpens iron. It is possible that there could be comp arguments that might sway me, so I continue to study both sides.

    I would hope everyone would be a Berean and do their best in studying this area, including adding to their knowledge of Hebrew and Greek.

    I do not think that acceptance of the comp paradigm means that one is outside of orthodoxy. I do have some concerns when pursuit of comp thinking means OTHER areas get “adjusted” like the Godhead, but I only see that in a few comps.

    Denny is the one that brought up comp doctrine in his initial post, I did not bring it up.

    On 1 Tim, Paul did not write in English and we are not Timothy in 1st century Ephesus. The passage JohnnyM quoted above has MANY interpretation challenges, even accepting that the translation you state is possible, there are other possible translations and interpretations. In other words, these verses are not so clear as to what Paul meant. A basic guideline of protestant Bible interpretation is to decline to base doctrimes on such unclear passages with varying possible meanings, but rather first look to other text that has clearer meaning.

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