A Biblical Examination of the Original Doctrinal Statement of the “Christians for Biblical Equality”
The manifesto concludes with a section, called “Applications”which contains three statements on the Family. Points 1 and 2 have already been covered.
Point 3. “In the Christian home, husband and wife are to defer to each other in seeking to fulfill each other’s preferences, desires and aspirations. Neither spouse is to seek to dominate the other but each is to act as servant of the other, in humility considering the other as better than oneself. In case of decisional deadlock they should seek resolution through biblical methods of conflict resolution rather than by one spouse imposing a decision upon the other. In so doing, husband and wife will help the Christian home stand against improper use of power and authority by spouses and will protect the home from wife and child abuse that sometimes tragically follows a hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s “headship.””
This statement confirms that I have neither caricatured nor exaggerated the “Christian Feminist” position on the order God has ordained for the home. Notice the following key words and phrases descriptive of the biblical relationship of husband and wife:
to seek to dominate the other
imposing a decision upon the other
improper use of power and authority
wife and child abuse
hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s “headship.”
Let’s examine each of them, one by one, in their contexts, and the broader context of the teaching of the manifesto, in order to ascertain their true meaning.
“In the Christian home, husband and wife are to defer to each other in seeking to fulfill each other’s preferences, desires and aspirations. Neither spouse is to seek to dominate the other but each is to act as servant of the other, in humility considering the other as better than oneself.”
This creates a false dichotomy between serving each other in love and humility on the one hand, and exercising authority and accepting subordination on the other. But there is no incompatibility between the two. The husband serves by bearing the burden of authority, provision and protection of the family. The wife serves by being his companion and lover, by honoring him, by making and keeping a beautiful home, bearing children, and caring for the young. There is a difference between ruling and domination. One may rule unselfishly; but “domination” implies self-will.
“In case of decisional deadlock they should seek resolution through biblical methods of conflict resolution rather than by one spouse imposing a decision upon the other.”
The word, “impose” can have a negative connotation or a positive one, depending on the context. It is clear that the Feminists, with their theory of “mutual submission” view it as a bad thing for a husband to tell his wife what to do. In their opinion, any time that the husband and wife cannot agree on a course of action, they must take up the matter with some person or persons outside the family!
What then? Does the process of conflict resolution that they envision involve a decision made by the third party and imposed on both of them? Or do they have to go back and try once more to decide on a mutually acceptable answer to the original conflict? Or do they argue about whether to follow the mediator’s recommendation or not? And who chooses the mediator or judge? The opinion of the third party might depend on who that person is. Will the husband and wife dispute the choice of the third party and have one more thing to fight about?
Anybody should be able to see that this whole idea of sexual equality and mutual submission is ridiculous! The natural and biblical arrangement of a husband exercising a sympathetic, considerate authority over the family, under God, and in the fear of God, cannot be improved upon. It is efficient and practical. The godly husband only asserts his authority when it is necessary to do so. He does not arbitrarily impose his will; but there are times when a decision must be made, and there is no time to discuss it. Or it may be that there has been a thorough discussion, and the wife still does not agree with her husband. Then the husband needs to have the fortitude to do what he thinks is best; and she must accept the decision and leave the matter to God.
All the while, she must believe that her husband is trying to do what is right; for “love believeth all things”. And if it turns out that he was wrong, he alone will bear the burden of having erred. There can be no argument about whose fault it was. This is how men learn from their mistakes, and grow.
“In so doing, husband and wife will help the Christian home stand against improper use of power and authority by spouses”
Let’s notice the glaring inconsistency here. If there is such a thing as the “improper use of power and authority”, then there must be a proper use of it. But this whole document contends that there is no authority in the home; only mutual leadership and mutual servitude. How is this explained? According to the document, any use of power or authority is oppression, domination, and imposing upon another free and equal party.
“In so doing, husband and wife will help the Christian home stand against improper use of power and authority by spouses and will protect the home from wife and child abuse that sometimes tragically follows a hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s “headship.”“
Let’s begin with the last phrase, for it is key: “a hierarchical interpretation of the husband’s “headship.”” This is the way the document describes the biblical doctrine of male headship. Notice that “headship” is in quotes. That’s because they have their own definition of headship; and regard our view as unworthy of the name. Now, this view of ours is associated with wife and child abuse. True, it does not say that it causes them (only follows from them); nor does it say that this always happens. But it definitely implies that, if their system were adopted, these things would not happen – that the home would be protected from these evils; which however, our system is at least partially responsible for. Will anyone still dispute that this is a revolutionary document, intended to overturn godly order in our families?
Point 4. “In the Christian home, spouses are to learn to share the responsibilities of leadership on the basis of gifts, expertise, and availability, with due regard for the partner most affected by the decision under consideration. In so doing, spouses will learn to respect their competencies and their complementarity. This will prevent one spouse from becoming the perennial loser, often forced to practice ingratiating or deceitful manipulation to protect self-esteem. By establishing their marriage on a partnership basis, the couple will protect it from joining the tide of dead or broken marriages resulting from marital inequities.”
The paragraph begins:
“In the Christian home, spouses are to learn to share the responsibilities of leadership on the basis of gifts, expertise, and availability, with due regard for the partner most affected by the decision under consideration.”
Instead of the scriptural assignment of primary responsibility and authority, ” spouses are to “learn to share the responsibilities of leadership”.
And this sharing is to be based on “gifts, expertise, and availability”. I take this to mean that, instead of being based on the objective fact of each person’s sex, as the Scriptures teach, it is to be based on the subjective evaluation of multiple factors, of which Scripture makes no mention.
Finally, decision making is not to be based on the fixed principles of the Bible, but “with due regard for the partner most affected by the decision”. This means that, if the wife feels hurt by the decision of her husband, then the integrity of her husband must be compromised so that she gets a pass. The infallible weapons of a woman are two-fold: defrauding her husband and shedding tears. This statement virtually legitimizes them.
Then we are told that “In so doing, spouses will learn to respect their competencies and their complementarity.” It ought to read “each other’s competencies”. As written, it could mean that they learn to repect their own. I only point this out because it is another example of the carelessness with which this supposedly definitive document was drawn up.
But my main criticism of this statement is that it assumes that there cannot be due respect and real complementarity unless sex roles are abolished, and men and women become interchangeable parts in a marriage. This is nonsense. Men and women are different in so many ways – both physical and psychological – that the division of labor according to sex roles is the natural order of things. Men are generally not as good as women at things that women do; and women are not as good as men at what men do. The strength of women is in their femininity; and the strength of men is in their masculinity. There is no such thing as sexual equality: nature is against it, and so is God’s word. For the order of nature was ordained by the Creator.
Further, we are told,
“This will prevent one spouse from becoming the perennial loser, often forced to practice ingratiating or deceitful manipulation to protect self-esteem.”
Wow. So the submissive wife is a “perennial loser.” Who knew that marriage was supposed to be a contest? And God’s order “forces” – forces! the poor “perennial loser” to become dishonest? And she must do this to protect her self-esteem? I thought that the way of blessedness was in submitting to the Lord’s will. I always thought that self-esteem is destroyed when we do things contrary to conscience; when we lower ourselves morally by committing sins, like, for example, a wife stooping to the manipulation of her husband. How that could protect her self-esteem I cannot imagine.
Now, we get to learn a new phrase: “marital inequities”.
“By establishing their marriage on a partnership basis, the couple will protect it from joining the tide of dead or broken marriages resulting from marital inequities.”
It is obvious that by this is meant the inequality inherent in the relationship defined by masculine headship. This is said to be the cause of “the tide of dead and broken marriages”. They have to say “dead and” because the numbers simply don’t support the idea that traditional marriages are more often broken than “partnership marriages”(to use their expression). Dead marriages are of course, something for which reliable statistices are conveniently unavailable. The known causes of dead and broken marriages are such things as easy divorce, women in the workplace (giving them economic independence), pornography and the rampant promotion of the sexual dimension of life, and marriages based on romance rather than wisdom. For thousands of years, men and women have lived in marriage to the same spouse for life. In Christian societies, divorce was a disgrace, and sometimes even illegal. These marriages produced more children per couple than ours do. The economic destruction of both parties that is so often a by-product of divorce was unknown. Children grew up in stable homes, without the sexual confusion that results when parents refuse to accept the sex roles that God has ordained.
Contrary to the dreams of the Feminists, the sure way to destroy marriages is to sweep away the basic and necessary foundations of marriage, namely, the natural order and God’s word, as they do.
Point 5. “In the Christian home, couples who share a lifestyle characterized by the freedom they find in Christ will do so without experiencing feelings of guilt or resorting to hypocrisy.
I object to the use of the term, “lifestyle” when what is being considered is really much more serious – namely, what I prefer to call a “way of life”. A lifesyle has to do with what is superficial, like a hairstyle, or a style of dress. A way of life is really a reflection of culture, the sum total of societal norms. What the Feminists advocate is not merely a change of lifestyle; but of a way of life that has worked well (allowing for the sinfulness of both men and women) for hundreds of generations. The word “lifestyle” tends to minimize the radical nature of the Feminist vision.
These “partnership marriages” are supposed to be “characterized by the freedom they find in Christ”. There is no such freedom to make marriage what we want it to be. This is not freedom, but license. The theological term is antinomianism, which means any teaching that diminishes or destroys the obligation of Christians to keep the moral law of God, either in part, or as a whole. The words of the Apostle Peter apply here: “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage.” (2Pe 2:19) The freedom found in Christ is a freedom from the dominion of sin. Jesus saves us so that we may become holy, sanctified by His word. This is the true liberty, and our highest happiness.
The advantage of partnership marriages, we are told, is that couples who engage in it “will do so without experiencing feelings of guilt or resorting to hypocrisy.” Why would they have feelings of guilt, if the Bible so clearly supports them in it? Following one’s conscience does not cause guilt feelings. When you are a Christian, and the whole world is against you; but you are assured that you are doing what is right, God’s spirit will assure you, and give you peace. If you are oppressed by feelings of guilt, it’s probably because you are doing something that you know to be wrong, or at least, that you don’t know to be right.
Another advantage of the partnership marriage is that the couple is “freed to emerge from an unbiblical “traditionalism” and can rejoice in their mutual accountability in Christ. This is just more of the same stuff – the condemnation of traditional marriage as unbiblical, etc. By now, it needs no comment.
Finally, the manifesto declares that adopting the partnership marriage lifstyle will allow the couple to “openly express their obedience to Scripture, will model an example for other couples in quest of freedom in Christ, and will stand against patterns of domination and inequality sometimes imposed upon church and family.” Yikes! What a perversion of the truth this is!
First, the partnership marriage is “obedience to Scripture”. We have seen already that this is the diametrical opposite of the truth.
Second, it is said to be “an example for other couples in quest of freedom in Christ”. God forbid! One bad apple spoils the barrel. It is too true that sinners (and the saints are still sinners) will be tempted to that which is sinful.
Third, it will allow them to “stand against patterns of domination and inequality sometimes imposed upon church and family.” Once again, headship is equated with “domination”; as if a man cannot be both strong and decisive, and yet kind at the same time! And does not this reflect a fundamental distrust of men, if not a dislike of them? I suspect that this is the reason why so many women are unwillingly to marry men who are manly.
I don’t deny that there are men who are chronic – or even criminal abusers of their wives. It is all too common in our day, and growing worse as our nation moves away from God. Even good men often wrong their wives, because no one is pefect. But – and this is not meant to justify the wrongs of men – is it not just as true that women frequently wrong their husbands? This fact, the fact of human sinfulness, is no justification for abandoning God’s institution; or remodeling it in the attempt to make it perfect. Nothing on earth will ever work as it should while people are sinners. We all sin every day in thought, word, and deed.
This concludes our examination and critique of the Feminist Manifesto, known as “Men, Women and Biblical Equality”. There only remains the postscript, which precedes a list of the authors and then of the signatories to the document.
Howard Douglas King
January 31, 2020