Sunday, January 22, 2006

Headship of men, submission of women, and the myth of mutual submission

In the area of relationships and marriage, there cannot be a more explosive and divisive issue than that of the headship of men and the submission of women.

Sometime in the late 1990’s, I think, the Southern Baptist Convention issued an official statement asking women to “graciously submit” to their husbands. Needless to say, that statement was greeted with controversy, scorn and ridicule from different sectors (and even from within the SBC itself).

Feminist groups have been saying all this time that the Biblical injunction for women to submit to their husbands is an open invitation for spousal abuse.

(For a discussion of the rights and obligations of husbands and wives under the Family Code of the Philippines, please surf over to my Legal Updates weblog at

If you want a thorough discussion of the Biblical doctrines of the headship of men and the submission of women, I recommend the following books to you:

[1] “Strike the Original Match” by Chuck Swindoll; Multnomah Press © 1980; specifically the chapters entitled “Let’s Repair the Foundation” and “Bricks that Build a Marriage.”

[2] “The Grace Awakening” also by Chuck Swindoll; Word Publishing, ©1996; specifically the chapter entitled “A Marriage Oiled by Grace”

[3] “Together Forever” by Anne Kristin Caroll; Zondervan, © 1982 by Barbara J. Denis); specifically the chapter entitled “Who Wears the Pants?”

[4] “Rocking the Roles” by Robert Lewis and William Hendricks; NavPress, ©1991; specifically the chapters entitled “The ‘S’ Word” and “The Masculine Counterpart to the ‘S’ Word.”
For more relevant articles, please surf to The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood website.This ministry offers free resources like articles, journal articles, sermons, book reviews, conference audio, online books, questions and answers, evangelical feminism and Biblical truth; with multi-lingual resources in Arabic, Chinese, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish.

What stands out in my mind with Swindoll’s book “Strike The Original Match” is his statement on page 12,

The wife must come to terms with her role and ask, “Do I love my husband enough to live for him?” And equally important, the husband must come to terms with his role and ask, “Do I love my wife enough to die for her?” Searching questions. But they put the issues in the right perspective.
In “The Grace Awakening,” Swindoll rephrases his thoughts in this way (pages 149-151):
[1] “The wife’s primary responsibility is to know herself so well and to respect herself so much, she gives herself to her husband without hesitation.”

[2] “The primary responsibility of the husband is to love his Lord so deeply and to like himself so completely he gives himself to his wife without conditions.”
Lewis and Hendricks, while maintaining the traditional view of the headship of men and the submission of women, clarify however that submission is not a wife’s role. Rather, they say, submission is the wife’s loving response to her husband’s loving and sacrificial headship.

“Roles” and ‘responses” may sound like only semantics to you, but I encourage you to read “Rocking the Roles.” The most striking statement in this book about submission is found in page 135: “A biblically submissive wife’s focus is not on enabling wrong behavior, but in empowering her husband to pursue right behavior – to become the man God wants him to be, and the leader God wants him to be.”

I remember something Dr. James Dobson wrote in his classic book (highly recommended!) “Love Must Be Tough” about submission. Dobson said, “Being a spiritually submissive wife doesn’t mean being a doormat.”

Caroll, who writes her book out of the crucible of the pain of her divorce (and remarriage to the same guy) says on page 126, “Submission is freedom.”

The myth of mutual submission

One time, I was browsing through the bargain books section of PCBS Cubao, when I came across Stu Webber’s book, “The Four Pillars of a Man’s Heart” (Multnomah Books, © 1997; reprinted in the Philippines by OMF Lit Inc).Webber is my kind of guy! He first joined the US military with the Airborne division. He then went into the Rangers, and then finally into the Special Forces, the elite Green Berets. During the Vietnam War, while crunched in a foxhole in a Special Forces “A” Camp, waiting to engage the Viet Cong in bloody combat, God called him into the ministry.

(Decades ago, I and a dozen other Rizal High School students out of hundreds who started the training, completed a yearlong, Saturdays only Junior Ranger training. There, we learned how to assemble and disassemble a Garand M1, a carbine, a 30-caliber machine gun, a Browning Automatic Rifle, an M-16; go through the obstacle course, etc. It was great learning all these things but the only time we got to apply these skills, besides the Military Stakes, was during a rumble between about two hundred guys from Fort Bonifacio High School and only about fifty of us from Rizal High. When rocks started raining down on us, the valiant guys from Rizal High did all the right things – run, escape and hide until night fell and our enemies had to leave unless they wanted their mothers to scold them for coming home late. Who was it who said that prudence is the better part of valor?)

Anyway, enough of nostalgia.

What immediately attracted my attention in Webber’s book is his discussion of “The Myth of Mutual Submission” on pages 75 and 76. Webber says that submission is “always singular in direction when it refers to authority. It is never ‘mutual.’” The words of Scripture simply cannot be turned sideways and twisted to force the reverse. Nowhere are husbands told to be subject to their wives. Everywhere husbands are told to take the lead.”

Lest you begin thinking that Webber is just reacting on the basis of his military background, he states in page 79, “There is no room in biblical headship for self-inflated big shots.” Webber also cites approvingly Pastor John Piper’s discussion of what mature masculine leadership is. Among other things, Webber quotes Piper as saying that a mature man “serves and sacrifices for the woman’s good.”

(In a lot of Filipino families, the father merely makes occasional decisions in order to show everyone who is boss in the family. But it is the mother who actually runs the household and keeps the family together. A lot of Filipino men are passive when it comes to family matters, and the women are forced to take up the spiritual leadership of the family. One common complaint that author Joyce Landorf, I think, hears from women is that the man doesn't want to take spiritual responsibility for the family.)

Webber includes in his book a chapter entitled “A Woman Among the Pillars” and I assure all of you women out there, if you practice what he says in this chapter, you wouldn’t find it difficult dealing with men.

(You can find an interesting review in of Dr. Laura’s ‘The Proper Care and Feeding of Husbands.” Dr. Laura says that women don’t understand or realize the power they have over their husbands. She says that husbands are putty in the hands of the women they love!)

If you want to find out what the four pillars of a man’s heart are, go to the nearest bookstore and get a copy of Webber’s book. And all the books I mentioned above. Right now!

1 comment:

  1. Great. There's also a very good booklet from Bro. James Know at

    The best part's free!!!


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.