Sticky Wickit?


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Well, some don’t see in these verses (from I Corinthians 11, see prior post) a temporary cultural significance to the covering/uncovering of the head. They insist that because Paul referred to the order of creation, his directive isn’t restricted to his time. Following this argument, women of all times should wear a head covering.

Others find a lasting principle in the passage requiring wives, in all ways, to show respect for their husbands by submitting to their authority. Still others see these verses not as a mandate for all marriages, but as reflecting marriage relationships at the time in Corinth and therefore giving a reason why women there should have covered their heads. Members of this camp point to verses 11 and 12 as a contrast, emphasizing equality and mutual dependence between men and women who are “in the Lord” (v. 11, see Gal. 3:28, I Peter 3:7).

Some argue that this passage speaks about the order of creation (see verse 8 and Genesis 2:21-23), rather than who was “created for” whom. Others take the phrase to refer to the man’s authority as properly recognized by the woman in her head covering. Still others render the phrase “have authority over her own head.” Verse 10 is understood by many to refer to the woman’s authority as co-ruler with man in creation (Gen. 1:26-27), in which case the Wisdom paradigm falls apart at the knees.

Whatever the case, this passage isn’t nearly as cut-and-dry as Wisdom makes it out to be. Coupled with the author’s second question – with its underlying assumption(s) regarding “roles” and “changes” – I’d argue that Glenn’s “either/or” dichotomy misses the point, evidenced in verses 11 and 12.

Glenn closes out this section on A Wife’s Role with a “reiview (of) our role as wives, based on I Corinthians 11:7-9. According to this paradigm, a wife is to be:


– The glory of her husband, reflecting her husband “just as the moon reflects the sun.”

– Wives were “created from man.” Wives “are his rib – his helpmeet.”

– Wives were “created for his sake.” (p. 108)

“We’re to be his companion,” writes Glenn, “not to leave him alone but to be a helpmeet and to submit to him. This is what the Word of God says about us. (Does it?) This is our role and our function. (Is it? ) It is a blessing and a privilege.”

Because I don’t want to spend the next millennium bogged down in the “submission” issue, a quick note: Glenn neglects the full context of the famous “wives submit to…” passage of Eph. 5:22-33. The passage actually begins in verse 21. If you check, the context is mutual submission.  For more on this theme, check out Christiane Carlson-Thies’  Singing Adam’s Song.

In tandem with the I Peter 3:1, Eph. 5:22-33 passages, Glenn repeatedly urges a wife to “submit her will to his” (husband’s) pp. 106, 108. A curious hermeunetic, explored in Alan Johnson’s A Christian Understanding of Submission.

Glenn’s paradigm of marriage/wife roles presents an interesting question: Did God create woman with a free will? Why? If a wife’s “role” is to “submit her will to his” – as in, give up, surrender, acquiesce – why bother to endow a woman with the capacity to exercise her free will in the first place? Why not just create an automaton? It’s almost as if Glenn is urging women to check their brains at the altar.

This should not be misunderstood as advocating or excusing a shrill, combative, bellicose, belligerent “my way or the highway” wifely attitude every time her will goes one way and her husband’s goes another. Or vice-versa. But aren’t respect and submission a two-way street? How about cooperating?  Mutuality?  Shouldn’t husband and wife both be respectful, courteous, self-sacrificing and gracious toward each other? If the question or issue at hand revolves around an area where the wife has more expertise or experience than her husband (which may happen), might “submitting” to her will be the wiser course action?

Take it a step further. Does a man have superior leadership skills simply by virtue of his gender? Conversely, are spiritual gifts such as leadership, shepherding and pastoring limited by gender? Does a husband always have “God’s inner ear” simply and solely because he’s a man? Can God speak to a husband through his wife, rather than always the other way around? (We know of at least one elderly couple, married over 50 years, who maintain that in all their years of marriage, “only once or twice” did the husband “pull rank” on the wife in the decision-making arena. “Dumbest thing I ever did,” Frank cracked.)

In other words, rather than laying aside her will in favor of her husband’s – which seems to at least implicitly urge a wife to switch her brain into neutral – why not press forward together, as a unit, mutually? Why not combine strengths, shore up each other’s weaknesses, be patient and forgiving of one another’s foibles and failures, and link up together rather than in the typical complementarian hierarchical pecking order? In short: why not teach what the Scriptures do in this area – mutuality?

++ For another look at this section of I Corinthians, check out: Grudem on kephale, followed by a lively discussion here.

See the original, An Open Letter to Egalitarians.

“Disclaimer”: Posting of any links does not necessarily imply endorsement of all sources cited. The goal is to provoke and stimulate original thought and encourage your own deeper “digging.” There’s TONS more out there! Visit your local library for starters.

Up next: Begging Another Question

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