Volume 8, Issue 2: Husbandry
Several issues ago I wrote on the problem of masculinism, which I defined as
the problem of seeing women generally having to submit to men generally. In contrast,
the biblical pattern is that particular women are to be in submission to particular
fathers and husbands. This prevents their submission to other men, which, considering
some of the men out there, is a good thing.
I wrote further that a particular noble woman could in many respects be the
superior of a particular man. She would not be his weaker vessel. This would
be an excellent reason for her not to marry such a man; because, from that point
on, Scripture would require her to be a respectful and dutiful wife to him. He
is able to be a biblical head to some women, but not to all. She is able to submit
joyfully to some men, but not to all. Understanding this will take us back to
the biblical pattern of complex hierarchy in society, and also bring us to reject
the simplistic hierarchy of "Me, Tarzan; You, Any Given Female."
C.S. Lewis once commented on this pattern as he contrasted the station of a
very great woman (who was a submissive wife) and the station of a common man:
"But I should feel sorry for the common man, such as myself, who was led by this
speech into the egregious mistake of walking into Belmont and behaving as though
Portia really were an unlessoned girl. A man's forehead reddens to think of
it. She may speak thus to Bassanio: but we had better remember that we are
dealing with a great lady." 1 Anyone familiar with the writing of Lewis knows how much he detested feminism,
but this passage shows that he also was embarrassed by men who think more highly
of themselves than they ought. He recognized that God had made a world hostile
to isms , and friendly to humility.
In that earlier column I had mentioned in passing that an elder of a Christian
church who is committed to one woman, as Paul says, will soon find that his wife
has a great deal of influence in the churchmore perhaps than many of the individual
men in the church. In response, one reader wrote with a legitimate concern which
requires some careful consideration. "Is not this kind of conjecture just the
sort which opens the crack for pushy preachers' and elders' wives to become de
facto 'Eldettes'? You might have unwittingly legitimized an opportunity for 'influence' and
thus authority for women in the church which Scripture expressly prohibits."
The first point to be made is that this pattern is not really conjecture. An
elder who is married, and who has the kind of helper he must have if he is managing
his household as Scripture requires, will be a far more effective elder because
of the influence of his wife on him. This help is not limited to having his
children and preparing his meals. At the same time, her influence on the church
is indirect and is wielded through her ministry to him . Esther, a submissive
wife, had more influence than all the elders of Israel. Given the nature of this
influence, no scriptural fault can be found with it. Mordecai was even prepared
to blame her if she tried to get away from her influence through submission.
In a similar submissive way, a godly pastor's wife will be a tremendous blessing
in the church. "How do you think John is doing? Do you think you should give him
The second point to make is that truth can always be distorted, and until the
resurrection, it always will be. When those who distort it are pushy women, it
can be distorted in remarkably destructive ways. Scripture does not establish
a separate office called "married to an elder," giving the bearer the right to
be offended if anything in the church does not go her way. Certainly, no woman
may have any personal authority in the government of the church. And certainly,
an unsubmissive woman may grab and run off with any comments here indicating
that some women must have influence in the church. But she could also justify
her behavior by pointing out the unbiblical behavior of reactionary males, who
cannot defend their doctrine of blanket male superiority from Scripture and whose
only defense for their behavior is that feminism is unscriptural, and that their
position is "not feminism."
The real issue is whether or not a particular teaching is true . If it is true,
this will certainly not prevent distortions. After all, Peter tells us that ignorant
and unstable people twisted Paul's writingsdifficult to understand as they were.
And Paul himself tells us people mangled his words, but went on to add their
condemnation was just. The question is therefore not, "What could so-and-so do
with this?" but rather, "Is it scriptural?" If those women who want to run the show
can get around the Scripture, they can also get around anything else.
My objection is that the masculinist position is just as unbiblical as the
feminist position. Men who are not leaders in the home, where Scripture requires
it, are commonly tempted to make up for this abdication elsewhere. This is sometimes
found in the comfort of knowing that "men" have it over "women." But this is no-cost
authority. A generally diffused masculinist bluster is no substitute for the
godly authority which flows from consistent service in the home.
In the final analysis, the problem of women who overstep their bounds in a church
is not their problem. The difficulty is with the men who let them.