Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Making Distinctions, Part 2

Between Submission and Submission

Or perhaps, Submission vs. Submission. Now that I've said that husbands can submit to their wives without biblical violations, I can't let that fly without making another important distinction, the distinction between the kind of submission a husband should have to his wife and vice versa. I tend to agree with David's thoughts in an earlier post that men and women are created differently and that those differences need to be respected (and I would also add NOT exploited) in how spouses submit to each other.

I've commented earlier that the question for Complementarians is not how much submitting should be excercised, but what kind. In his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem makes the case that the role of a wife includes a unique kind of submission that wives should afford their husbands that isn't replicated in any other type of relationship. I see nothing wrong with that. After all, my husband only has one wife--me--and logically should receive a unique and designated kind of love and respect (and deference) from me that I don't show to anyone else.

Likewise, a husband should show his wife a unique kind of love and respect (and submission) toward his wife that isn't replicated in any other relationship either.

Is this submission "mutual?" Yes. Is it equivalent? Definitely not. But what is submission anyway? Even in defining submission within the marriage context, there are varying connotations. Complementarianism holds that men and women do not require and are not made to require the same kind of submission from each other, but do require the appropriate submission from each other. Even Egalitarians seem to use the word 'submit' a little differently when referring to whomever is doing the submitting. Again, the issue is about the nature of submitting, not how much or how often or to what degree one should submit to the other and if the other should reciprocate in equal quantities. I realize that this is a rather broad generality, and I think scripturally it is meant to be.

To throw a little more perspective onto things, imagine if wives always contested their husbands. Imagine if husbands continually ignored their wives. (Do we really need to imagine?) Now we can understand why Paul would spend time addressing the marriage relationship in scripture, for it appears that it was because wives were not submitting to their own husbands that Paul makes his declarations.

Perhaps this is where I should have started from the beginning. There is plenty of fear and suspicion to be had without a clear understanding of the motivations of the Apostle Paul whenever Christians talk about any kind of submission. We still have a long way to go to reach clarity, but I hope my making a distinction here contributes in some small way.

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