Dennis J. Preato, Master of Divinity, magna cum laude is a
graduate of Bethel Seminary San Diego (June 2004). Dennis has authored various
articles on gender related topics. The substance of this paper was presented at
a recent Evangelical Theological Society meeting on April 23, 2004 under the
title: "Empirical Data in Support of Egalitarian Marriages: A Theological
Response." A condensed version of his paper entitled "Junia, A Female Apostle,
Resolving the Interpretive Issues of Romans 16:7" was published in Priscilla
Papers Volume 17, Issue 2, Spring 2003. The full text is now available on
our website. To view click here
Empirical Data in Support of Egalitarian Marriages and A Fresh
Perspective on Submission and Authority
by DENNIS J. PREATO
There is a serious problem with the institution of marriage in the USA. Many
marriages, and particularly Christian marriages, don't seem to last. They fall
short of God’s ideal that marriage should be permanent as long as the two
partners live. A 2001 national study conducted by Barna Research Group
highlights this reality. The chart below summarizes divorce rates among various
Christian church denominations. Barna says that 33 percent of born again
adult Christians have experienced a divorce. That statistic is comparable to
non-born again adults. Also "more than 90% of the born again adults who have
been divorced experienced that divorce after they accepted Christ, not
to Barna, these results raise "questions regarding the effectiveness of how
churches minister to families." It challenges "the idea that churches provide
truly practical and life-changing support for marriage." Dallas therapist Dr. Roy Austin agrees with Barna's findings. He states that fundamentalist or
evangelical couples base their marriages on "very irrational and unrealistic
principles," and he adds that problems occur when some men, as head of the
household, become "cruel dictators" who "expect their wives to become
By religion, Jewish and born-again Christians have the highest divorce rates at
30% and 27% respectively, followed by other Christians at 24%. Even more
revealing and disturbing is the finding that atheists and agnostics have the
lowest incidence of divorce at 21%. Why is this? Spokesperson Ron Barrier for
American Atheists offers some reasons why he thinks this is so. He says,
"Atheist ethics are of a higher calibre than religious morals," and "with
Atheism, women and men are equally responsible for a healthy marriage. There is
no room in Atheist ethics for the type of 'submissive' nonsense preached by
Baptists and other Christian and/or Jewish groups. Atheists reject, and rightly
so, the primitive patriarchal attitudes so prevalent in many religions with
respect to marriage."
This paper maintains that the permanency of marriage is God's intended will;
therefore, churches have an ethical responsibility to promote healthy marriages
that are best achieved by presenting the empirically supported egalitarian
model. To fulfill this responsibility churches must have a clear understanding
of the Scriptural basis that permanency of marriage is God's will. Beyond this,
they must recognize the social, economic and ethical implications of promoting
healthy marriages. Churches can benefit from exploring existing empirical data
on marriage and the input of professional marriage and family therapists. Finally, churches need a fresh perspective on submission and authority in
general and in marriages in particular.
Permanency of Marriage Is God’s Will
Old Testament Basis
In Genesis 2:24, the man leaves his father and mother and clings or cleaves to
his wife. To cling or cleave means to be faithfully devoted to as in But you
are to cling to the Lord your God (Jos. 23.8). The word cleave is an old
English word meaning keeping the troth. This means that the husband and wife are
to count on each other, give their utmost, share deeply from inside, and stick
together through thick and thin. Thus marriage is viewed as a lifelong
commitment where the two become one flesh. They share an intimate relationship
based on love, fidelity, mutual respect and trust. Marriage is also viewed as a
lasting covenant relationship. The prophet Malachi warns the husband not to be
faithless to the wife of his youth as she is your companion and your wife by
covenant (Mal. 2.14). According to God, marriage is intended to endure:
For I hate divorce says the LORD, the God of Israel (Mal. 2:16).
New Testament Basis
In Matthew 19:4-6, Jesus responds to a question from the Pharisees regarding the
circumstances under which a man can divorce his wife. After quoting Gen. 1:27
and Gen. 2:24, Jesus states: Therefore what God has joined together, let no
one separate (Matt.19.6; Mark 10:9). Christ is stating that it is God's
intention that marriage is to be a lasting covenant and that God does not
approve of divorce. Scripture uses marriage as a metaphor to illustrate the
relationship between Christ and the Church (Eph. 5:23; 31-32). In this regard,
marriage is viewed as an inseparable union. In 1 Corinthians 7, the apostle Paul
provides advice concerning the authority that each marriage partner has over the
other's body (vv. 3-4) and that a Christian couple should not divorce (vv.
10-11). Also the writer of Hebrews states: Let marriage be held in honor by
all, and let the marriage bed be kept undefiled (Heb. 13:4). To be held in
honor means that marriage is viewed as precious, valuable, of great worth,
highly respected, and priceless. Both Testaments emphasize that marriage is a
life long commitment which is valued by the entire community.
While permanency of marriage is God's will, there are cases in which divorce is
justified. For example, in Matthew 19.9 Christ appears to give immorality or
being unfaithful as a valid reason for divorce, however, other reasons may
exist. Physically abusive behavior leading to injury of the spouse or children
is a valid reason for divorce particularly when such behavior continues with no
indication of a willingness to change. Whenever a marriage breaks down beyond
any hope of restoration, churches should respond in the spirit of grace and
Reasons To Promote Equality in Marriages
Apart from Scripture, there are social, economic, and ethical reasons why
churches should be involved in promoting marriages based on equality. For
example, marriage carries with it certain legal ramifications, rights, and
obligations under our present judicial system. When marriages fail, there are
emotional and monetary costs. This impacts not only the individuals involved and
any dependent children but also affects the body of Christ and society at large.
Statistically about half of all those who currently marry can be predicted to
divorce within seven years. Approximately 60% of marriages experience stress and
high levels of dissatisfaction in their first year of marriage. Divorce has
significant detrimental effects on a child's performance in school including
emotional or behavioral problems and an increased risk of accidental injury and
Sexual and physical abuse is prevalent in our society and Christian marriages
are no exception. This abuse can occur in any marriage. For example, one pastor
tells how a Christian woman felt obligated to obey her husband "by engaging in
sex with him and another woman at the same time." Obviously for her being in
God's will meant being submissive to her husband. The pastor counseled that she
should have disobeyed her husband; but that she was to still remain under his
authority. Not understanding what biblical submission really means brings
great pain and suffering to Christian relationships, marriages and to women in
Churches have ample reasons to encourage marriages based on equality. These
marriages benefit all family members and the body of Christ. Promoting healthy
relationships and eliminating unhealthy attitudes about marriages should be a
top priority. But what do healthy marriage relationships look like? Where do we
find the answer? Marriage is defined from two divergent theological viewpoints.
Defining Marriage Relationships: Egalitarian vs. Traditional
The New Dictionary of Christian Ethics and Pastoral Theology defines
marriage as a co-partnership of equality where "neither may lord it over the
other." This represents an egalitarian view of marriage. Egalitarian
marriages are described as mutual partnerships without forced roles, and
characterized by a high degree of intimacy. In contrast, a traditional
hierarchical view of marriage has distinct roles with the husband on top in
authority over the wife.
Traditionalists claim their view "should find an echo in every human heart."
The root problem in marriage, they say, "is the unwillingness of each to accept
the role for which he or she was designed." If these traditionalists’
statement were true, then marriages based on hierarchical relationships should
be the happiest and most intimate of all marriages and have the lowest divorce
rate. Yet born-again evangelical Christians have the highest divorce rate.
Both views of marriage have been argued by scholars from a biblical prospective
for years and this debate will probably continue into the future. However, the
relevant and immediate issue for the church and the parties involved is
recognizing which relationship results in a happier, healthier, more intimate,
meaningful long term, and permanent marriage. Isn't this what God really desires
for our lives? What's missing? Discovering this key represents both a challenge
and an opportunity for the church. Churches will need to move outside their
comfort zone, examine the evidence, and implement change.
Review of Empirical Marriage Data
Promoting healthy marriages will require that churches look beyond their limited
and somewhat biased understanding of how marriages should function and discover
how healthy marriages really function in our society. Professionals who
work within the field of marriage and family therapy, sociologists, researchers,
and demographers provide this necessary insight and empirical research data.
Dr. Howard Clinebell, Professor Emeritus of Pastoral Psychology and
Counseling, Claremont School of Theology and author of Basic Types of
Pastoral Care & Counseling, characterizes a healthy marriage as one
evidenced by mutual care and support that allows for the growth and fulfillment
of each person's God-given potentialities. Clinebell writes in 1984 that based
on personal experience he and his wife, Dr. Charlotte Ellen, "can attest to the
fact that an egalitarian marriage is potentially more fulfilling for the woman
and the man." Conversely, sexism Clinebell states, "is a central cause of
diminished and destructive marriages."
Drs. Alan Booth and Paul Amato, Penn State sociologists and demographers
agree that egalitarian marriages are happier. They interviewed and followed the
lives of two thousand men and women and some of their children over a 20 year
period between 1980 and 2000. The subject individuals were personally contacted
six times each year during the twenty year study. In the year 2000, at the
conclusion of their twenty year study, the research team interviewed an entirely
new random sample of 2,100 married couples. Amato explains, "So we can look at
two different kinds of changes: how individual marriages change over time, and
how the population of married couples has changed between 1980 and 2000." Dr.
Amato makes this conclusion: Equality is good for a marriage. It's good for
both husbands and wives. If the wife goes from a patriarchal marriage to an
egalitarian one, she'll be much happier, much less likely to look for a way out.
And in the long run, the husbands are happier too. While some
traditionalists may argue that working wives cause divorce, Dr. Booth refutes
this notion. Based on the results of this long study he says emphatically that
"women working does not cause divorce."
Dr. David H. Olson, Professor Emeritus, Family
Social Science, University of Minnesota, compiled a national survey based on
21,501 married couples using a comprehensive marital assessment tool called
ENRICH. This national survey, published in the year 2000, represents one of the
largest and most comprehensive analyses of martial strengths and stumbling
blocks. Couples were asked to complete 30 background questions and 165 specific
questions that focused on 20 significant marital issues. This survey identified
the top ten strengths of happy marriages and the top ten stumbling blocks for
married couples. This data is summarized in the attached Appendix.
Using these top ten strengths, it is possible to discriminate between happy and
unhappy marriages with 93% accuracy.
A significant discovery was made in relation to marital satisfaction and role
relationships. It discovered that (81%) of equalitarian (egalitarian) couples
were happily married, while (82%) of couples where both spouses perceived their
relationship as traditional (hierarchical) were mainly unhappy.
This means that only 18% of traditional marriages were reported as happy. In
relation to intimacy 98% of happy couples feel very close to each other, while
only 27% of unhappy couples felt the same. The inability to share leadership
equally (couple inflexibility) was the top stumbling block to a happy marriage.
Drs. David H. Olson and Shuji G. Asai of the University of Minnesota,
published a survey on spouse abuse in 2003. This study examined spousal abuse
dynamics using data from a national sample of 20,951 married couples that took
the ENRICH couple inventory during 1998-1999. A clear association was found
between the marital health of the couples and the level of abuse. For
example, vitalized couples, that is, couples with the highest level of
satisfaction, had the lowest incidence of abuse at 5%.
Traditional couple types experienced spousal abuse in 21% of marriages, a rate
more than four times higher than in vitalized marriages. This study confirms
what has been known by many marriage and family therapy professionals. That
higher marital abuse exists in traditional marriages in comparison to equal or
Dr. Diana R. Garland, Professor and Chair of the School of Social Work
and Director of the Center for Family and Community Ministries at Baylor
University, discusses marriage relationships in her book, Family Ministry: A
Comprehensive Guide. She points out that research conducted in the mid-twentieth
century revealed the following:
Wives, in traditional marriages, suffered
significantly more depression and other mental disorders than men, working
married women and unmarried women (Bernard 1982).
In traditional marriages, wives had been beaten at
"a rate of more than 300 percent higher than for egalitarian marriages
(Straus, Gelles and Steinmetz 1980)."
Violence is more likely to occur in homes where
the husband has all the power and makes all the decisions than in home where
spouses share decision making (L. Walker 1979).
Garland cites numerous research studies since the
1950s that have "consistently revealed that egalitarian couples have more
satisfying marriages than traditional marriages (Bean, Curtis and Marcum 1977;
Blood and Wolfe 1960; Centers, Raven and Rodrigues 1971; Locke and Karlsson
1952; Michel 1967)."
Drs. Pepper Schwartz and Philip Blumstein, University of Washington
sociologists published the results of a decade long research study in 1983. Their extensive survey of 15,000 American couples revealed that "equality and
shared power" significantly contributed to happiness and was the reason couples
chose to stay married. Conversely, "the inequality experienced by women was a
primary cause of unhappiness leading to the break up of marriages."
Ashton Applewhite, author of Cutting Loose: Why Women Who End Their
Marriages Do So Well addresses the personal and sociopolitical aspects of
marriage. Citing a 1995 survey of 4,000 women, she notes that women in
egalitarian marriages are by far the happiest. Stephanie von Hirschberg senior
editor of the New Woman Survey writes that shared power and
responsibility "seems to be crucial to a woman's happiness in marriage."
Summary of Empirical Marriage Data
Extensive studies and research have been performed by marriage and family
professionals, sociologists, and demographers. Over the last 50 years these
studies reveal that significant numbers of egalitarian marriages are happy in
comparison to traditional hierarchical marriages. A recent study quantified
these results revealing that over 80% of egalitarian marriages are happy while
less than 20% of traditional marriages can say the same. That represents over a
4:1 ratio in favor of egalitarian marriages. Spousal abuse continues to be more
than 300 percent higher in traditional marriages than in egalitarian marriages.
These research studies accomplish the following: First, they effectively
discredit any traditionalists’ notion that dismantling hierarchy destabilizes
marriage and that the root problem in marriage is the unwillingness of each
spouse to accept the role for which he or she was designed. Second, they prove
that hierarchy actually destabilizes and harms marriages. Third, they provide
objective data that egalitarian marriages produce the healthiest, happiest, most
intimate, and stable of all marriage relationships with the least amount of
A Fresh Perspective on Submission and Authority
As these research studies and surveys consistently indicate, the primary problem
in marital happiness centers around equality, shared power, and leadership
issues. Additionally, the divorce statistics, as Barna points out, question the
notion that churches properly support or effectively minister to married
couples. These issues should force us to reexamine our understanding of certain
long held beliefs about marriage. These beliefs relate directly to the biblical
concepts of submission and authority in general and in marriages in particular. Misconceptions about these subjects are harmful to the body of Christ and to
Submission: What Does It Mean?
Submitting yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ (Eph. 5:21)
represents a horizontal interaction that takes place between believers. It is
difficult to comprehend and live out. Why? Because I believe "submission" is
often misunderstood and misapplied. First of all submitting is not a command. Submission is passive in nature and results only within the context of being
continually filled (saturated) with the Holy Spirit (Eph. 5:18). Second,
submission is mutual and applicable to all believers in Christ (Eph. 5:21). This
means that submission applies to both husbands and wives equally (Eph. 5:22). Third, submission is not something you do but is something you receive. It is
not an action to be attained but an attitude of the heart to be maintained.
The Greek word, hupotasso, is often translated as "submitting to" or
"being subject" in Ephesians 5:22. However this Greek word has more than one use
and a range of meaning that is quite different from what people today generally
think. "Hupotasso" actually has two uses: military and non-military. The
military has a connotation of being "subject to" or "to obey" as if you are
under someone’s command. Most people would probably think of this meaning. However the non-military use means "a voluntary attitude of giving in,
cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden".[21(a)] In ancient papyri the word hupotasso commonly meant
to "support," "append," or "uphold."
Some Bible translations recognize that hupotasso has more than one use. For example: The Message Bible translates Eph. 5:21 as be courteously reverent. The New Century Version translates hupotasso as "cooperate" rather than
"submission" in 1 Tim. 2:11 and 3:4). Andrew and Judith Lester, authors of It
Takes Two: The Joy of Intimate Marriage suggest a better translation is "be
supportive of," "tend to the needs of," or "respect the needs and desires
In the context of Ephesians 5:18-23, Christians are cooperating, supporting,
upholding, and respecting one another as one result of being filled with the
Holy Spirit. Doesn't that make sense? And here are some compelling reasons. First, verse 21 states the reason: because of our reverence for Christ. Christ is our example. Did Jesus Christ come as a military commander to rule and
give orders over his Church? No! In fact Christ warns us not to exercise
authority over anyone (Matt. 20:25-27; Luke 22:25-27). Jesus came as a servant
to give his life for us. Second, maintaining a mutual attitude of cooperation
and support reduces disunity and promotes harmony in the Church. This is how
the body of Christ is suppose to relate to one another. And that fulfills God’s
desire for us to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Eph.
4:3) and in our marriages as well. Also the church is referred to as the body of
Christ. Picture the physical body. How do the various members, the hand, brain,
heart, lungs, feet work? They cooperate and work together to support the entire
system. In the same way, we as members of the body of Christ, both need and must
support one another. Third, why would Scripture need to command Christians to be
filled with the Spirit in order to be subject to, follow orders, or be under
someone’s authority. A person does not need to be filled with Spirit to follow
orders for even nonbelievers demonstrate this fact when they "submit," or obey
The phrase: Wives, to you own husband, as to the Lord (Eph. 5:22) expands
this relationship of mutual support to include the marriage relationship. Unfortunately bible translators elect to present verse 22 as a new sentence with
an added verbal command such as: Wives, be subject (NRSV, NASB, REB); submit
(NIV, NKJV); submit yourselves (DNT, KJV, ISV); yeild (NCV); will submit (NLT);
must submit (TLB) to your own husbands, as to theLord. This is regrettable
because there is no verb in the Greek text. No command is given that wives are
to submit to their husbands. Only a few translations use italics or brackets as
a way to indicate that the words be subject etc. are not found in the Greek
manuscripts. In addition, verse 22 is not even a separate sentence. It is a
phrase, a continuation of verse 21, that must be understood in light of the
context of verses 18-23 which is really one long sentence in the Greek.
Wives or husbands are not commanded to submit, be ruled or dominated by their
spouses. Both are meant to cooperate and support one another in the spirit of
love and unity. Marriages based on egalitarian concepts of equality, shared
power and leadership are happiest of all marriages. The research
independently affirms these marriages and supports the egalitarian view of
We should also remember the culture and law of that day gave men supreme control
of their entire household. Women had no rights and were under the authority of
either their father or their husband. The apostle Paul is not advocating nor is
he repeating this cultural reality. What Paul is presenting is the results of
being filled with the Spirit and this result produces a counter cultural
transformation in the lives of believers. Christians are now to cooperate and
support one another regardless of the class, race or gender prejudices that
permeated the culture in which they lived.
Does the Kephale "Head" Metaphor Mean Authority?
Some people abuse or misconstrue the concept of authority. Traditionalists claim
that because the man or husband is referred to as the "head" of a woman or his
wife means that he is "in charge" over her (1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:23). They miss
the whole point that husbands are commanded to love their wives sacrificially
(Eph. 5.25). Husbands are not commanded to be in authority over their wives. Even the early Greek Church exegetes and theologians tell us that the "head" (kephale)
metaphor means "source of life, origin," not authority. Here are some examples:
Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria (A.D. 376-444) commenting on 1 Cor. 11:3
defines the head metaphor as source: Thus we say that the kephaleo of every
man is Christ, because he was excellently made through him. And the kephaleo of
woman is man, because she was taken from his flesh. Likewise the kephaleo of
Christ is God, because he is from him according to nature.
Theodore, Bishop of Mopsuestia in Cilicia (A.D. 350-428) interprets the
metaphor as "source or origin of life" He "held that just as Christ was
considered head of all who had been born anew in Him, so the woman has man as
her head ‘since she had taken her being from him.’"
John Chrysostom, Bishop of Constantinople (A.D. 347-407) commenting on 1
Cor.11:3 said the head metaphor does not mean that one has authority over
another or one is under subjection to another. Dr. Joe E. Trull, editor of
Christian Ethics Today, quotes Chrysostom: "If you think 'head' means 'chief'
or 'boss,' you skew the godhead!" Dr. Catherine Clark Kroeger, adjunct
Professor of Classical and Ministry Studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological
Seminary, confirms that Chrysostom interprets the metaphor to mean "source" or
"point of origin" and declared as a heretic anyone who proclaimed that "head" in
this context denoted superior power or authority!
In critiquing Dr. Kroeger’s article on "Head", Dr. Wayne Grudem, a
traditionalists and Research Professor of Bible and Theology at Phoenix
Seminary, says: "Concerns will also be raised about the level of care and
accuracy with which evidence has been quoted" and that "the article is troubling
at its core, not only for what is claims, but for the model of scholarly work
that it puts forth. Grudem says: "But Chrysostom does not say this all. Rather he assumes that kephale does mean ‘authority over.’" Grudem
further claims that Chrysostom agrees with the heretics that kephale
means "authority over" because "the Son is obedient to the Father" and "is also
subject to the Father." Grudem totally misrepresents what Chrysostom
actually said and meant! He bases his argument on pure assumptions. If anyone is
guilty of exhibiting a lack of scholastic integrity it is Grudem alone, not Dr.
Kroeger. Grudem fails to include specific comments that prove Chrysostom does
not agree with the heretics’ claims that Christ is "under subjection." For
Chrysostom, in his homily on 1 Cor. 11:2ff, quotes the heretics as saying:
"Nay," say they, "it is not His being of another substance which we intend to
show from hence, but that He is under subjection." While Grudem quotes this
verse he fails to disclose how Chrysostom ridicules the heretics with these
words: "Tell me, how thou intendest to prove this from the passage [v.3]?"
Chrysostom goes on at length refuting the heretic’s notion that Christ is under
subjection to the Father by saying: "And who could ever admit this?" .
. . "many
absurdities will follow" . . . And who will endure this?"
Chrysostom also clearly states that the term "head" must be understood
"according to the occasion." Grudem fails to mention this fact nor does he
disclose that Chrysostom made the following statement demonstrating that "head"
does not mean authority over another. Chrysostom said: For had Paul
meant to speak of rule and subjection, as thou sayest, he would not have brought
forward the instance of a wife, but rather of a slave and a master.
In the same homily, Chrysostom also refutes the heretics’ claim, just as the
traditionalists (complementarians) claim today, that "Adam’s headship in
marriage was established by God before the Fall, and was not a result of
sin." Chrysostom contradicts their claim by saying: She was not subjected
as soon as she was made; nor when He brought her to the man, did either she hear
any such thing from God, nor did the man say any such word to her; he said
indeed that she was ‘bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh:’ (Gen. 2:23)
but of rule or subjection he no where mentions unto her.
After the Fall, Chrysostom said of her future: "thy turning shall be to thy
husband" (Gen. 3.16). Notice that Chrysostom did not translate this
Greek phrase as your desire will be for your husband, as most modern Bibles do. The emphasis and significance of turning means that "Eve is turning away from
God to her husband, and, as a consequence of that deflection, Adam will rule
over her." Chrysostom clearly states that the subordination of women
occurred as a result of the Fall. However, this condition no longer exists for
it was lifted as a result of the atoning work of Jesus Christ who has
redeemed us from the curse of the Law (Gal 3:13).
Chrysostom’s homily is delivered as an interpretation of Paul’s letter to the
Corinthians in the context of the first century. He is not making a statement or
defining "head" only in the context of the fourth century as Wayne Grudem
asserts but is clarifying that Christ is not subordinate to the Father. Nor is
Jesus Christ eternally subordinate to the Father as Grudem claims.
Furthermore, Chrysostom’s comments regarding "head," "subjection," and the
effects of the Fall are remarkable especially when one considers that he was no
egalitarian, and from the very earliest times the attitude of the "church
fathers" toward women could hardly be described favorable.
Jesus Christ is our example. Scripture helps us to define the word "head"
in a well known passage about Christ. New Testament passages speak of the stone
which the builders rejected. Christ has become the kephale gonia (Matt.
21:42, Mark 12:10; Luke 20:17; 1 Peter 2:7). This Greek expression is translated
in various Bibles as the "head of the corner, "the cornerstone" or "chief
cornerstone." A cornerstone was the most important stone and was placed at the
foundation of a building. It was the stone upon which all others stones were
placed. In this sense, Jesus Christ is the beginning of all things, the first,
the origin, our source of life.
Jesus also voluntarily laid down his life that we might obtain eternal life. And
in doing so, Christ became the kephale "source of life" of the Church,
(Eph. 5:23; Col. 1:18). Being obedient unto death does not, as some
traditionalists claim, mean that Jesus Christ is eternally subordinate to the
Father. Speaking about His death, Christ said: I lay it down of My own
initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up
again (John 10:18). Remember, Jesus was fully God and fully man. He came for
the express purpose of redeeming humanity. His act of surrender and dying on the
cross in no way implies that He is somehow subordinate to God, the Father. Scripture and the early church fathers make this abundantly clear.
Authority: Who Really Has It?
Scripture tells us that both husband and wife have "exousiazo," meaning
"authority" over each other. In fact, the only place Scripture uses the common
Greek word meaning authority "exousia" in relation to a husband and wife
is found in 1 Corinthians 7:4. This deals with the couple's sexual
responsibility to each other.
Furthermore, one could argue that the wife is the real "master" of the home
since she is to "oikodespotein." Wives are the ones who are to actively
"manage their homes" or "the household" (1 Timothy 5:14 ISV, NCV,
NIV, NKJV, NRSV). She is to "rule the house" (AVS, DBY). The Greek verb "oikodespoteo"
is one of the strongest terms used to express exercising authority in relation
to the home. It literally means "to be master (or head) of the house; to rule a
household, manage family affairs" (Thayers Greek Lexicon #3616-17). The
noun oikodespotes is variously translated either as "master", "owner,"
"head of the house," or "head of the household" (Matt. 21:33, 24:43; Luke 12:39,
13:25, 14:21). Thus Scripture is really affirming that wives "rule" the home. They are the house-despots!
Christians should remember that the real spiritual "head" of the home is Jesus
Christ alone, in whom all authority rests (Matt. 28:18). The point is that
marriage was never meant to be a struggle over power or who is "in charge."
Rather, the male and female are meant to exist in a covenant commitment in which
the "two become one" through mutual love and support (hupotasso).
Implications for Church and Society
Dr. Clinebell notes that in our educational process children need to be raised
free of sexism. This should be a goal for all churches as well. Churches
need to realize that healthy marriages do not happen in a vacuum. Developing
healthy relationships is dependent on having a proper attitude and respect for
members of the opposite sex. This process begins at an early age. Churches can
implement educational and participatory opportunities where members are able to
develop free from class, gender, or racial prejudices. These principles benefit
everyone: those who marry and those who remain single.
What a great injustice and tragedy that so many Christian marriages end in
divorce and many who remain together live in unhappy marriages. Numerous reasons
are offered: some blame "no fault" divorce, economics, and stress from living
and coping in a materialistic society. People point fingers at something or
someone else. Yet the root cause is always sin and deception.
Churches can become a motivating force for change. They have a responsibility to
promote healthy marital relationships. Strong and healthy marriages are built on
loving and equal relationships. Marriage relationships grow best and flourish
within the context of egalitarian ideals. Extensive empirical data has
demonstrated this reality. Theologians may continue to debate this reality, but
the people have already spoken. Christians should hear what the Holy Spirit is
saying and live in the full redemptive life of Jesus Christ, our Savior and
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