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…..