Women Should Submit

15 Mar

I’m assuming you know this already, but just in case you don’t, the New Testament clearly teaches that wives are to submit to their husbands.  I don’t read Greek, but I’ve been told that the actual word for submit could be rendered as obey…yes you heard me, wives are to obey their husbands just like children should obey their parents and slaves their masters.  This is the type of marital advice common to the New Testament.  And this issue of women being commanded to obey their husbands, is probably the one issue that has led me away from faith…..but maybe not the way you’d expect.

You see,  even though I had read most of the Bible by age 12….I certainly didn’t understand all of it.  The passages about Wifely submission had gone over my head.  Later, in my college years, I struggled to understand what these passages meant, but I took the position that if the Bible teaches it, than it must be the proper way for married men and women to relate.  I remember telling a room-mate that I believed in submission, but I wasn’t sure why or what that really looked like in the real world.

The fact that I took the Bible on face value about women in the church and marriage, caused my mother to worry.  Being that she was of the gender that would be on the obey side of the equation, she had some serious misgivings about this teaching and the way it had played out in church history and in her own life.

My father was not the type to insist obedience, but my mom’s cousin had been in an abusive marriage, and subjected to scrutiny by her church when she dared to try to leave her abusive husband.  They were part of a network of house churches, and the apostolic leaders made her go before the church and swear to God, that she was not lying about the abuse.  She also had to call down a curse, that God would strike her dead, if she was lying.  You can imagine the shame, the intimidation of having to do this publicly, just in order to keep her good name and divorce her husband.  She went through this trial by ordeal and was given the blessing to divorce.  However, the church allowed her husband to take the children, before custody had been resolved, and he hid the children among different house churches to keep them away from their mother.  It was heartbreaking and I’m not sure my Mom’s cousin ever fully recovered from the abuse and the loss of her children’s childhood years.

I listened intently and agreed that this was a travesty…but in my mind, it wasn’t because of the teaching, it was because the teaching had been misapplied.

I soon started attending a new church, and one of the first series they preached on was the roles of Men and Women.  I was impressed, because they did not try to minimize what scripture taught, but instead embraced the vision of male headship and female submission.  I was given a copy of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood by Piper/Grudem and began thumbing through its many articles and scholarship on the subject.  At last, a church that teaches gender roles without veering into abuse…..but guess what.  I was dead wrong.

I had begun attending a church affiliated with PDI (People of Destiny), which later changed its name to Sovereign Grace Ministries.  Let’s just say, if you google Sovereign Grace and cult, you’ll get way more heartbreaking posts then you’ll ever want to read about abuse, including the abuse of wives and children.

What I HEARD sounded so good; so much promise of God’s blessing if men and women would just agree to do it God’s way.  What I SAW was that this system made a woman powerless to object, even in the face of abuse, just because she was a woman.

And seeing that this idea from Scripture (men lead/women obey-submit) was fraught with abuse, led me to wonder why it was in Scripture to begin with, which led to many years of study about Church history and the history of the Bible.  Which eventually led me to conclude that Scripture is nothing more than a man-made book.

That’s the short version for now…..

16 Responses to “Women Should Submit”

  1. Debra Baker at 1:32 am #

    When we were in that patriarchal system, it wasn’t pretty. I was always at fault, husband was never at fault. I was created to service him, after all.

    Now, now that I would’t put up with that crap, husband has risen to the occasion.

    I am a full time grad student and he has taken up the slack at home.

    I have seen no good fruit in the whole Grudem, Piper CBMW (just keep the BM and you get the just of it, full of brownstuff.) treating half the population like they are subhuman doesn’t bring out the best in the other half of the population.

    • christianagnostic at 5:50 am #


      I glad to hear you decided “enough was enough” and that your husband was able to adjust. For a system that promises marital bliss, it sure seems to screw up a lot of marriages….

      Glad yours wasn’t one of them.

  2. Scarlett at 3:53 pm #

    This is a tough issue, and unfortunately, often abused. All too often we’ve seen women spiritually abused by using scripture, (misapplied), to keep a wife “under the thumb” of an abusive husband. Common sense and a large dose of godly wisdom in regard to this would be the best counsel. If a woman feels she is being spiritually abused by her spouse, she may very well be. Women were never created by God to be abused or a doormat…no, not in a godly marriage according to God’s will.

  3. christianagnostic at 7:20 pm #


    Thanks for the comments…I guess I’m not sure how to rescue scripture from it’s oppressive outlook on women and submission. Lord knows I’ve tried…but the plain reading of scripture seems to assume the submission of women (and slaves for that matter) as a given.

  4. randallslack at 2:20 am #

    Actually, it does say “obey,” but not in the sense you might think. In other places the word means to “rank under,” and is speaking of military rank for the purpose of order. NOWHERE in the Bible is any reference to the wife being inferior to her husband. She is to be his helpmeet. And he is commanded to love her just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her.

    If a husband is loving his wife as Christ loves the church, he will never need to tell her to “submit.” Most men have forgotten this. Most men fear being dominated by a wife, so they pull the “submit” card and in doing so, abuse their wives.

    When something that a man is teaching from the Bible seems goofy, its not the Bible that is wrong; its the man. Only an ignorant neanderthal would demand that his wife “submit.” I know; I did it three times in 38 years of marriage and was wrong all three times. For years now, I have sought to love and serve my wife and she has no problem with me taking responsibility for decisions. A wife can only really submit to a man who she knows is loving her like Christ loves the Church. If he isn’t, then she is not to submit to him at all.

    He MUST humble himself and serve her, just as Jesus did when he washed the disciples feet.

    • christianagnostic at 3:13 am #


      I believe you that you love your wife and appreciate your candid admission about being wrong all 3 times when you demanded it. I admit I did it only once…my wife just about hit the roof! I never did it again, nor did I need to. We treated each other as equals, with equal say in the marriage.

      My bone of contention with the military example of rank, is that only a Superior Officer can give orders and must be obeyed. By definition, if you are of a lower rank, you have inferior authority.

      In marriage, if only Superiors have authority (the men), then women are outranked 100% of the time. Again, if God did not want men to “pull rank”, then why make it so unclear?

    • Lisabette at 11:53 pm #

      This is wrong. That’s the whole point, giving power to the husbands promotes abuse. Emphasizing that the man is supposed to LOVE their wives doesn’t promote respect for women because it is still like saying women are not capable of leading themselves. A marriage should be more of an “iron sharpens iron” relationship.

      I too came from a fundementalist background like CA, and my ideas about God, Jesus and the Bible have changed. But I haven’t lost my faith in God through this, I just don’t feel the need to have organized religion tell me what to think. I believe in a loving God that loves all people and doesn’t reject people because they don’t have the “right” belief system. That idea seems silly to me now.

      But I digress. What I wanted to say is this: I still believe the Bible has a lot to teach about God and spiritual matters, but I ALWAYS keep in mind when something was written and who wrote it. For example, the parts of the New Testament that talked about wives submitting, also talked about slaves obeying masters and children obeying parents. Why were these three groups addressed at the same time? The setting was a deeply patriarchal culture, similar to the Muslim cultures in that area now. The man had ownership, and the three groups that were addressed were the powerless groups in that society. These were those in society who belonged to a man (unlike widows and orphans, another set of groups often addressed together), but had no personal rights or autonomy, in fact, didn’t have personhood at all. They didn’t have a CHOICE about obeying, and the letter writer was translating, in a way, the new spiritual truth being taught that there was no difference in spirit between slave and free, male and female, Greek or Jew, — Into the actual culture they had to live in day to day. When viewed in this light, the teaching is deep and full of freeing teaching. In fact, this passage ELEVATES the woman and is a humbling message to the husband. However, NOW this SAME passage is used to SUPPRESS women and elevate men! We now live in a culture where women have status as equals with men, and scripture shouldn’t be used to devalue women any more than these same passages should be used to justify slavery. (Which is how they were used at one time)

  5. randallslack at 2:22 am #

    Debra – good for you and your husband. His hands fit a vacuum cleaner as well as yours. I have often told men that if they truly want to bless their wives, clean the toilet once and a while without being asked. But most are just too lazy (or stupid) to do it.

  6. randallslack at 2:54 pm #

    CA – You are right, it is not the best example. There is, in the same chapter of Ephesians, the command to “submit to one another.” Also, Peter warns men to “give honor” to their wives so that their prayers many not be “hindered.” There are other passages that encourage the husband to treat his wife properly.

    Now, the intention of my previous post was to convey that the husband is responsible for the decision making in the household before the Lord. He is NEVER to “Lord over” his wife. If he is a wise man he will discuss everything with his wife so that all decisions are mutual. He is to give 100% and she is to give 100%. He will find, if he is a wise man, that his wife is a source of wisdom and understanding (often so much wiser than he is!).

    I counseled a couple one time that were in serious financial straights. They were going in the hole every month. His wife broke down and said that her husband was lousy at managing the money and was an impulsive spender. I asked him why he didn’t let her manage the money. He replied, “Because I am the man!” Honestly, I looked at him and told him that he was foolish. Here he had a wife who, along with being a nurse, also took accounting classes in college. Fortunately, he saw the “error of his ways” (so to speak), and along with some other prudent steps, let his wife manage the money in the household. Within 4 years they had paid off all their debt (except the house) and had money left over each month.

    This is an example of what I am talking about. Usually the husband is weak where the wife is strong and the wife is weak where the husband is strong. A wise husband will recognize that and act accordingly. Unfortunately, foolish men have taken that which God intended for blessing and made a law out of it because they fear being dominated by women. May I say that along with being foolish, they are just plain stupid.

    (I just posted an article on my blog http://aputtinginmind.wordpress.com/ dealing with the subject of submission).

    • christianagnostic at 1:04 am #


      Well, I’m encouraged about how fair minded you seem in the counsel you gave that couple concerning their finances.

      At my old Sovereign Grace church, the first thing they would ask a couple facing financial hardship was who was handling the finances. If it wasn’t the man, they would instruct him to take charge of the finances as a matter of principal. Their other question was to ask whether the couple was tithing or not….

      Looking back, I can’t think of any more irrelevant questions to ask a couple in financial hardship.

      I’ll take the time to check out your article……

  7. randallslack at 11:42 am #

    CA – The husband was insisting that, even though they were going under, they tithe 10% (talk about bondage! – Something God never intended). I showed them on paper how they were wasting $400 a month. I advised them to reduce their giving to 1% until they got out of debt, then increase it to the amount they believed God would have them give.

    It is amazing to me how many people are in bondage to tithing. Good intended it to be a blessing, and men have made it a curse. I suggested the same thing to another couple and the wife said, “Oh, if we don’t tithe, I get a flat tire” (the Lord punishing her for not giving). I asked her if she tithed. “Yes,” she said. “10%.” I then asked her if she ever got a flat tire. She said “Yes.” “So, you tithe even though you are behind on your bills and struggling, and you still get flat tires? What is wrong with your theology?”

    Jesus said that, “the Sabbath was made for man.” Man for the Sabbath. The Sabbath was intended for blessing. But men made it a burdensome law (bondage). They have done the same thing, not for blessing, but so that they can build their kingdoms while many in their congregations struggle. Should we give? Certainly, as God instructs us, 2 Corinthians 9:7.

    • christianagnostic at 6:31 pm #

      You Said

      “It is amazing to me how many people are in bondage to tithing.”

      Agreed….tithing was such a big issue for me at SGM. When I finally got around to researching it, I realized we had been sold a bill of goods. Even as a Christian, I hated how pastors manipulated this teaching to squeeze people for money.

      I think tithing will get it’s own post in the near future…

  8. Freedom at 1:51 pm #

    Women submitting is an interesting topic. Jesus was about freedom from the law. Women followed him around. After Jesus died, the first recorded sightings of him where by a woman (according to John) or multiple women (the other Gospels). Pick your version of the events you want to believe, but they both taught that a female was the first to see a Risen Jesus, not a man.

    Yet, after that the men of the time quickly went back to Judea tradition and wanted women under a man’s control. Paul followed much of Mosaic law, while he relaxed some of the dietary and ritual rules, he still followed the law. Since the vast majority of the first Christians where a sect of Judaism that believed the Jesus was the Messiah, that makes sense. It wasn’t until Christianity came into its own as separate from Judaism did much of the following of the law go away.

    Much of Paul’s writings are from the perspective of a Jewish Christian, and that is where is view of how women are to be treated comes from – cover their heads, submit to men, etc, etc.

    Much of the early church teaching on women and submission runs counter to what Jesus taught. The very early church teaching was coming from a Jewish perspective. As the Church grew these teachings continued.

    I’ve read The Bible a few times and I guess I missed the parts where Jesus told Mary Magdalene and his other followers that were women to go back home and submit to their fathers until they grant permission for someone to marry them. I guess I also missed the part where he told them if their dads where dead, to go submit to a Rabbi and they will act as their dad and make sure any potential suitors go through them.

    Even after Jesus died, Peter didn’t send the women back home to get under the authority of a male.

    I consider myself a follow of Christ and I am by no means part of the evangelical sect of Christianity (thank God I left it LONG ago!) nor do I buy into the evangelical interpretation of scripture. I see Paul’s writing about women as an extension of his following of Mosaic law. Somethings Paul was able to let go, others not so much.

    It didn’t take long after Jesus died for the early church to want to put women back in their place of Jewish tradition.

    As for the CBMW, it is a control tactic – the leaders control the men, the men then control the women and children.

    • christianagnostic at 6:27 pm #

      “As for the CBMW, it is a control tactic – the leaders control the men, the men then control the women and children.”

      This is so true…nothing more, nothing less, just a control tactic.

  9. randallslack at 12:36 am #

    Freedom, I respect your view but I do disagree with it somewhat. If you believe in the plenary inspirational of Scripture, then, while Paul was the vessel, the Holy Spirit was the author (2 Peter 1:21). Also, Paul (by inspiration of the Holy Spirit) wrote much that was in direct opposition to Jewish Law and tradition.

    Every morning a “faithful” Jew would pray, “God, I thank you that I wasn’t born a Gentile, a woman, or a slave.” Paul wrote, “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:25, 28, NKJV), in direct opposition to Jewish Law and tradition.

    He taught that women are equal to men, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28, NKJV). Now this was heresy to the Jew of Paul’s day.

    Paul even taught the idea of mutual submission, Ephesians 5:21, “submitting to one another in the fear (reverence) of God.” In a day where women were considered the property of men, teaching this was antithetical to Jewish tradition.

    You have every reason to be upset and suspicious of men who demand that you should submit. Men love power and pastors often are no different from those they teach. Unfortunately, in my experience, most pastors I have met are this way. But there are some out there that are genuine and humble; they are just getting harder and harder to find.

    Men in “authority” that seek to control others are proud, knowing nothing. Fools, ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. I have had more than one conversation with these fools that hasn’t went too well (for them – I have no problem telling the truth). I hate bullies, no matter who they are. The are cowards, only picking on those who are weaker than themselves or those who don’t know better.

    I hope I haven’t offended you by disagreeing with you. I wholeheartedly support your right to disagree and would defend your right to do so.

  10. Freedom at 2:33 am #

    Hey Randall – no offense at all. As an FYI – I don’t agree with the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy. I am a Christian, but I am not an evangelical. Infallibility? Possibly – I would more agree with that position where at least it allows for the belief that the historical, scientific and geography of The Bible may not be 100% accurate. And I don’t think those things are 100% accurate. Even the different Gospels don’t tell the same story – if you read the synoptic Gospels, Jesus’ ministry was for 1 year. According to John, it was three years. And the writer of John didn’t use the same source materials as the writers of the synpotic Gospels, so it makes sense that it would be different.

    Most of Paul’s letters were indeed written by Paul, some may have been written by other authors. He still wrote from a Jewish Christian perspective. In fact, the theology of Paul seems to be inconsistent between the letters attributed to him and the Paul of acts. As I mentioned, Paul had some flexibility in his views but he still practiced Mosaic law. He did speak of husbands loving their wives yet he still told the women to submit.

    I agree with you that there are some pastors who are genuine, but they are few and far between.

    And once again, you didn’t offend me – Discussions are good! I’d much rather discuss my ideas and my faith with someone how can talk about it. I don’t have those conversations with someone whose sole purpose is to convert me to their way of thinking. Those conversations are pointless.

    An unquestioned and untested faith is not one worth having in my book.

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