Headship and Submission

C an complementarians and egalitarians peacefully co-exist? Is there that much that divides us? Sarah Sumner, a professor at at the Haggard School of Theology at Azusa Pacific University, thinks not. On the Christianity Today site, she writes on Bridging the Ephesians 5 Divide: A fresh look at what this controversial marriage passage says—and doesn’t say. I think she makes some important observations about Eph. 5:22-33, particularly about misreading it, and about the gender role debate in general… although I think that there is more that divides the two camps than a paragraph division. She writes in part:
bq.. Three couplets are presented in the passage:
1. SUBMISSION/SACRIFICE: The wife is to be subject to her husband in everything, and he is to sacrifice himself for her. The dynamic is for her to submit and him to sacrifice (vv. 22, 24, and 25).
2. BODY/HEAD: The wife is the body, and the husband is the head. Together they form one flesh (vv. 23, 28, and 31).
3. RESPECT/LOVE: The wife is commanded to respect her husband, while the husband is commanded to love his wife (vv. 28 and 33).
Yet the majority of Christians have been taught to believe that submission correlates to headship.
p. Sarah ponders the correlation between our view of marriage and the way we approach divorce:
bq. I can’t help but wonder if the divorce rate in the church might decrease if we would recognize the mystery of God fusing a husband and wife into “one flesh.” It’s not very disturbing for a leader to break up with his assistant, or for two equal individuals to decide to go their own ways. But it is utterly disconcerting to imagine a bloody rupture between a body and its head. That’s why God hates divorce (Mal. 2:16), and that’s why he commands every husband to cleave to his wife.
I think it’s worth your time to read the whole article. Props to Better Bibles Blog: Heads, leaders, and submission in Ephesians 5 for the link.

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