Ordinary life,mutual submission & decisions

 

In 42: Decision making, mutual submission and God's call I responded to a question that came in a comment on my post "How to do theology?" where "Priest" wrote:

 

I'm keen to know how you work 'mutual submission' out.

The particular challenge related to decision making in response to God's call.

I am concerned though that it might be seen as a cop out situation. After all major life decisions about responding to God's call don't tend to come around everyday.

So this post is more about how we work out decisions in ordinary life.

Again the same ground rules apply.

First, the framing of the question is important, so something like:

How does decision making work in general life for a married couple who see each other as equals without fixed roles defined by gender.

Second, I am certain that every couple will have their own way of doing this. The way that Jane and I do things won't be right for everyone, what works for us comes from our personalities, particular gifts & experiences, our family backgrounds, culture etc. So this is not a set of instructions for how others should make their decisions but instead reflections on what works for us.

Third, this is inevitably neither complete nor accurate. We don't have a fixed decision making process, things have evolved over time and circumstances vary. One of the beauties for us is the flexibility that equality gives – decisions don't have to wait for the "right" person, the one with authority.

Anyway given all the caveats, how do we make decisions?

Now we get to the hard part. I have spent a good part of the evening thinking about that and in one sense I am a bit stumped.

How we approach things is generally straightforward, we talk about them and we plan them. We involve our sons in many decisions (like obvious ones such as where we go on holiday, which appointments for ministers go on the short list, choosing a car).

But when it comes to the actual decision it just isn't very clear. I think that we just reach a point where one says to the other "Ok shall we decide to do X" and the other says "ok". It is definitely not always the same person and sometimes if things are tight for time or one of us is eager we just go ahead and decide for us both (again I can think of many examples when each of us has done this). We don't really have many areas where one of us always makes the decision. Certainly we always share decisions in major areas like finance, home, education, holidays etc.

I guess when it comes down to it the whole thing hinges on the related issues of mutual submission & mutual trust. I know that both Jane and I are comfortable with the other making decisions, I know that we both trust the other completely in both making decisions but also in discussing with us. We know that the other is always looking out for us so we don't need to worry about whether we have been "consulted" or not. Does that mean the other would always make the same decision as we would – of course not, but that just isn't important to us.

I look back over 23 years of marriage and I can't think of decisions that Jane has made that I am unhappy with, I can't think of things that I wished I had been consulted on. Maybe we discuss more things than I am always interested in (I would be quite happy to abdicate from all decisions about gardening for example) but on the other hand the bonus is that I enjoy Jane's company and enjoy talking with her.

When things have gone wrong (and of course they have) there has not once been a situation where one of us has blamed the other for a decision.

We had a major financial crisis after we had been married a few years that was caused by a combination of falling house prices leaving us with lots of negative equity (our flat with a 95% mortgage nearly halved in value), at the same time Jane was made redundant and the freeholder of the block of flats invented legal costs that gave us a bill of 10's of thousands of pounds. We had lots of sleepless nights and it took us over 10 years to get things sorted out (with several job changes each on the way to achieve that), yet at no time did we have a problem with how decisions had been made or what decisions needed to be made.

Another critical factor for us is the way that one of us can step in and help the other out when their decision making is impaired. That can happen in lots of ways from simple tiredness (with Jane a morning lark and me a night owl there are plenty of times when one of us is not very awake and it is better for the other to make decisions that might affect our safety such as when driving).

However, it also works in more significant ways. When my Mum had just died and Dad was terminally ill with cancer I was suffering from depression and so Jane took over all the things I could not cope with (basically anything that involved making a decision). That meant stepping in as Managing Director of our business, it meant running the family, our finances and home while I moved in with Dad to care for him. I never had any fear that she was taking over or anything like that, she acted as a kind of safety buffer for me and did it so well that many of the people around us never even knew that I had been unable to cope and had run away from everything.

I have read many claims of the need for a final decision maker from those who believe in Male Headship, but I just don't get it. I look back on our marriage (and also my parents) and I cannot see a single instance where Male Headship would have been a better way to make decisions. However, I can see countless occasions when Male Headship would have resulted in worse decisions.

Why would I choose to have a system that would reduce the ability of my best friend, my partner and the person I love above all others to contribute all her gifts, skills and commitment to our lives?

Even more to the point why would the God who loves me so much want me to do that?

33 thoughts on “Ordinary life,mutual submission & decisions

  1. sally

    :-) after 30 years of marriage I can echo much of what you are saying, we do not have a set pattern, but after discussion and prayer decisions just seem to unfold, sometimes I am not sure who made them!

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  2. God Loves Women

    Thanks for this! Really good! I think it is also about having equal power and believing the other person to be as capable as yourself.
    I remember someone once saying “Well surely someone *has* to make the decision, there *has* to be one leader, or it all falls apart.”
    The reality is that is completely untrue, like you say. If we really love eachother then we will work together until we are both happy with the decision.

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  3. Dave

    God Loves Women,
    Thanks :-)

    “I think it is also about having equal power and believing the other person to be as capable as yourself.”

    Power is an interesting one. I suspect there is also a need to act as if you have equal power even when you don’t (for example when one of you earns more than the other, or has better knowledge/skills).

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  4. Priest

    Dave,
    Great post! Well articulated! But this is what i’ve been taught in the complementarian church that I go to. I don’t see how male headship undermines this sensible decision making process.

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  5. Tractorgirl

    Dave thanks for posting that. As somebody near the start of a life long relationship where the whole gender thing gets way more complicated the simple good advice on making decisions as a couple is really useful.

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  6. Dave

    “Priest”,
    Sorry but the fundamental basis of this is absolutely opposite to complementarianism.
    This process happens and works because Jane and I are equal and neither has final say in anything. Neither of us as any more authority than the other.
    The buck always stops with us both.
    Hence, this is mutual submission which is absolutely rejected at the heart of complementarian teaching.
    See the paragraph right at the beginning:

    How does decision making work in general life for a married couple who see each other as equals without fixed roles defined by gender.

    That is not valid for a complementarian view point.
    You appear to be referring to some kind of “soft complementarianism” which aims to be a more comfortable sell. It is still not equality though.

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  7. Priest

    I don’t think you’ve understood how complementarianism outworks then. There is a difference between making decisions and taking responsibility. I’m not surprised that you’re dismissive of the possibility of complementarians making decisions like how you’ve just outlined because you probably haven’t met complementarian couples/families.
    ‘The buck always stops with us both’ is not a biblical view either. Leaders have to give an account for what they do (heb 13).
    Instead of calling it ‘soft complementarianism’, your impression would be more dictatorial!

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  8. Dave

    “Priest”,

    “There is a difference between making decisions and taking responsibility”

    No, not for us there isn’t. This decision process works because we both take responsibility.
    I wonder how much complementarian reading you have done or how much reflection on how your saying “There is a difference between making decisions and taking responsibility.” is understood and experienced by a wife.
    So let me make clear again there is no individual leader in our relationship.
    Hebrews 13:7 is not a continuation of the previous verses about marriage. Instead it refers to the people (plural) who spoke the word of God to you. So verse 17 is not about marriage.
    This view of leadership in marriage is consistent with the Scriptures in a way that the complementarian view is not. The complementarian view depends on a few “clobber” verses but has to ignore many others.
    As soon as you have one partner in a marriage as the designated “leader” due to their gender you have lost any hope of this style of decision making, you have lost equality and you will end up with some element of dictatorial decision making. For some that may be minimal but some wider reading will show how often that takes over and becomes the norm.

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  9. Priest

    Hebrews 13:17 refers to leaders within a church setting. I gather you are a leader in your church? So you do undertand that you are not of higher value or worth then the rest of your congregation. But God will hold you to account for the affairs of the churches you are responsible for.
    “This view of leadership in marriage is consistent with the Scriptures in a way that the complementarian view is not. The complementarian view depends on a few “clobber” verses but has to ignore many others.”
    For example..
    “As soon as you have one partner in a marriage as the designated “leader” due to their gender you have lost any hope of this style of decision making, you have lost equality and you will end up with some element of dictatorial decision making. ”
    You make some pretty big claims. This has not been my experience.
    I do not doubt that you have a great marriage. But you constantly assume that my view of male headship will lead to a destructive marriage. I have met 100s of married complementarian couples in healthy, God honouring marriages.
    If your issue is with equality, then how come you don’t attack the leadership structures in churches?

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  10. Dave

    “Priest”,
    Again when your arguments fail you switch subject. Church leadership is a whole different issue. However, our understandings of Church Leadership are clearly also different. The Methodist Church does not support autocratic leadership by the ordained ministry. The only relationship to the present discussion is that the Methodist Church does not support any distinction based on gender (and ethnicity etc) in the leadership of the Church.
    As for the scripture passages that complementarians use to oppress women I would have thought they would be well known to you. Examples of how to interpret this in the light of the wider picture in scripture abound in other posts here and are far too long to repeat here.

    You make some pretty big claims

    No, not really. The logic about what makes for equality is simple and straightforward. Hence it is easy to refute your claims that you can combine an equality based process with male headship are

    This has not been my experience.

    And how much experience do you have as a woman in a complementarian relationship to say that women in that situation understand themselves as equals. You are writing from a position of power not from a position of experience or understanding. There are huge numbers of women who are clear that in their experience complementarianism has not meant equality. Typically men who believe in complementarianism deny this.

    I do not doubt that you have a great marriage. But you constantly assume that my view of male headship will lead to a destructive marriage. I have met 100s of married complementarian couples in healthy, God honouring marriages.

    Actually you are mistaken on several accounts
    a) According to Complementarianism my marriage cannot work, in fact more than that it is damaging the gospel. See the group “Together for the Gospel” and their article XVI that I wrote about back in 2006 (plus lots more I have written on them).
    b) I try to be clear that first Complementarianism cannot lead to a marriage of equals (that being the foundational belief) and second that all forms of male headship open the way to abuse (which does not mean there will always be abuse). That is quite different to saying all such marriages are destructive so please don’t put words in my mouth.
    c) You say that a number of healthy God honouring marriages justify complementarian thinking but as always you ignore the large number of complementarian marriages that have gone wrong (and which far too often Churches have failed to act upon and which too many Church leaders, like John Piper, have said is ok). How many abused & hurt women does God want in marriage? It is not the evidence for good complementarian marriages that is the issue you need to respond to, it is the evidence of many destructive complementarian marriages that you need to justify and explain why God thinks this is a price worth paying.

    If your issue is with equality, then how come you don’t attack the leadership structures in churches?

    This is amusing given how many times I get in trouble with some for attacking Church Leadership structures over equality. Just look back at some of my posts on the subject.

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  11. Tel

    All fascinating stuff, Dave, and as a fellow Methodist, I am with you pretty much in what you say.
    But I do wonder, not for the first time, why you continue to single out New Frontiers for your criticism. Maybe not specifically in this post, but there is no doubt that NF is your main target.
    What about the Roman Catholics? I may have missed it, but I do not recall you making similar attacks on their structures and beliefs, yet they are far more deep-seated in their opposition to women in ministry, never mind leadership.
    And even our covenant ‘partners’, the Anglicans, who still retain an exclusively male leadership in the UK.
    This is not a criticism so much as a genuine question. What have NF done to you that you seem so ready to attack them publicly and have so little to say about the other elephants in the room?
    In love and friendship, as always.

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  12. PamBG

    I don’t think I’ve ever criticised New Frontiers on my own blog, but if I criticise anyone, it’s usually the Roman Catholic Church. The reason for that is that half my family is Catholic and I feel that I have some investment in Roman Catholicism, although it would not be apparent to the casual reader.
    However, the problem with movements like New Frontiers is the restorationist element. The present as simultaneouly contemporary, edgy, hip and spiritual as well as “going back to the roots of Christianity”. But they are shoveling the SOS as Constantinian Christianity. At least most people – including most Roman Catholics – know that it is retrograde.

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  13. Dave

    Tel,
    We have had a discussion about Newfrontiers more than once before. My views are unchanged. As is often the case Pam puts it very well.
    However, the interesting things is that nowhere in this post or in the comments did I mention Newfrontiers or anyone from Newfrontiers.
    Are you seeing what isn’t there?
    This post was written as a follow on to the previous and both are responding to comments from “Priest”. I don’t know who “Priest” is and have no idea which if any Church he (I assume he is male) attends.

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  14. Tel

    I understand that you have not mentioned NF in this thread, and I made that clear in my comment.
    I am making a general point, and asking a reasonable question. You have not provided an answer.

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  15. Dave

    Tel,
    I was not trying to avoid answering, merely to say my answer has not changed from the last time you asked the question :-) I refer you to your comment in July 2010 and my response
    As I said Pam puts it very well when she said:

    However, the problem with movements like New Frontiers is the restorationist element. The present as simultaneouly contemporary, edgy, hip and spiritual as well as “going back to the roots of Christianity”. But they are shoveling the SOS as Constantinian Christianity. At least most people – including most Roman Catholics – know that it is retrograde.

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  16. Priest

    Dave,
    The reason I switch my comments is because I find your arguments weak and emotional. Your main (and often only) point is that complementarianism is ‘treading a slippery slope’ which leads to all kinds of abuse. This is a basic error in any discussion. You prove the ideology faulty and not simply the outworking.
    I’m not convinced by your angry rants and sarcastic responses to comments. Whilst I do respect your passion, sadly, it’s outworking is flawed (!)
    Scripture teaches us that women are the weaker vessels who need to be treated with respect. It teaches us men to lay down our lives as Christ did for His bride. We take responsibility for our lives and our families. Your offensive teaching undermines this as you try and fit in to what society demands. I’m glad that men like Piper and Driscoll an Virgo and such are growing in their influence whilst you..

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  17. Tel

    Sorry, Dave. I had rather hoped that you had moved on, but clearly not.
    Pam puts it very well?
    I’m sure you and she speak the same language, but if you’d like to put it into ‘street English’, that would be appreciated.
    Priest, I shouldn’t bother, and please don’t take this personally. Dave’s views on this are pretty much set in stone on this subject, and no amount of argument or reasoning is going to shift him. For what it’s worth, you and I would probably not agree on the issue of women in leadership in the church, but that’s OK. After all, I wouldn’t agree with the Pope on this subject either ;) I do believe, however, that within a Christian family, the role of mother and father is different, and that they are expected to work in love and harmony for the blessing of the family. That may well make me a ‘complementarian’ to some, but I’ll cope.
    I have many friends in NF churches, and I recognise that God has done great things through that particular part of the church.
    May God bless us all.

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  18. Dave

    Tel,

    I had rather hoped that you had moved on, but clearly not.

    I am under the discipline of the Methodist Church. T%hat does not allow me to move on from a position of gender equality as it is a key focus of the Church.
    I can see I need to write some more on the theology and include more exegesis of scripture in this area. Clearly people are neither reading many of the excellent books around on this not old posts I have written on this.

    I do believe, however, that within a Christian family, the role of mother and father is different, and that they are expected to work in love and harmony for the blessing of the family. That may well make me a ‘complementarian’ to some, but I’ll cope.

    You are not a complementarian in your teaching (for those not in the “know” Tel was my minister for several years) or in your understanding.
    Complementarian is simply a marketing term invented to make Male Headship more acceptable.
    You do not believe in Male Headship as is very obvious given that you are married to a very lovely Ordained Methodist Minister. Male Headship (and therefore also Complementarianism) does not permit women to hold such positions.
    I suggest you read Wayne Grudem’s book “Evangelical Feminism & Biblical Truth” in which he lays out Male Header / Comnplementarianism that is very similar to the position held by Newfrontiers.
    You will discover which roles in the Church and home it is appropriate for Dawn to take on. You will discover that your example as a couple does not fit in anyway with their views.
    Given the teaching you have properly shared with me over the years I would also be very surprised if you were comfortable with the hierarchy that Grudem reads into the Trinity.
    Please do not fall into the trap of assuming that complementary roles in marriage is the same as Complementarianism – that is not the case.
    Jane and I strongly believe that we complement each other in our marriage. We have very different strengths and gifts. As Mother and Father we are seen differently by our sons. This is not complementarianism. It is the normal view of egalitarians. We do not believe equality means being identical.
    The key difference is whether you believe that God has separated leadership and submission by gender in the home and in the Church. Unless your views have changed I do not believe you think this to be the case.
    I am not denying that God has and is going great things through Newfrontiers. God has always worked through flawed human beings (because with only one exception all human beings are flawed). That does not mean we should ignore or encourage such flaws.

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  19. Dave

    “Priest”,

    This is a basic error in any discussion. You prove the ideology faulty and not simply the outworking.

    I think you may have mistyped something there.
    Can you re-phrase as your meaning is unclear to me.

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  20. Rhea Flanery

    I have read many claims of the need for a final decision maker from those who believe in Male Headship, but I just don’t get it. I look back on our marriage (and also my parents) and I cannot see a single instance where Male Headship would have been a better way to make decisions. However, I can see countless occasions when Male Headship would have resulted in worse decisions.”
    I think that male headship simply makes things easier. You don’t have to really talk about things with your spouse…b/c ultimately, whatever the dude thinks is best is what happens. So you can discuss it for 5 minutes, then just do whatever the husband thinks is best. It’s a cop out, I think.

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  21. John

    having been married for 3 years in a ‘complimantarian’ relationship (which my wife pushes more than me, a real chauvanist she is!) It seems we have started on a very similar road to you.
    All (important) descions are spoken about, we each have imput, and more often than not the desicion is made together, with both of us happy.
    Of course, it seems in both of our lives we have not had a descion to make that has seriously split our marriage – that is where, i feel, the rubber would hit the road in this discussion.
    If the descion only takes a bit of compramise on either side, of course both can make it together, most descions are like this of course, i would be a bad husband if i refused to compromise and make my wife happy.Or what if the descion is of little importance (gardening for exaample) it doesn’t matter if my wife doesn’t consult me! What if, however, there is a severe disagreement on an important issue – and we cannot compromise? This must happen from time to time. who then makes the call?
    I think The bible calls me the head of this relationship, me the one who will take responsibility for it. What would you do in this hypothetical Dave? Divorce? Live in resentment of one another?

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  22. Dave

    John,

    “Of course, it seems in both of our lives we have not had a descion to make that has seriously split our marriage – that is where, i feel, the rubber would hit the road in this discussion.”

    Not sure I understand you.
    We have never faced a decision that has split our marriage because we don’t give decisions that power. I don’t think it is about the “importance” or “difficulty” of a decision but about the approach.
    Our belief is that we are married for life. No need for a decision can change that.

    I would be a bad husband if i refused to compromise and make my wife happy.

    Equality & Mutual submission mean that we have an equal responsibility (and desire) to compromise and make the other happy. That is good for us both!

    “What if, however, there is a severe disagreement on an important issue – and we cannot compromise? This must happen from time to time. who then makes the call?”

    Look again at the last 3 paragraphs that I wrote.
    I believe this argument to be faulty in every way. It comes from a mistaken understanding of mutual submission and of decision making.
    As I said in an earlier comment a married could is “one flesh” and the buck always stops with us both.
    Until we both make a decision (and as I outlined there are lots of ways in which that happens) we don’t make a decision. Neither one of us “makes the call” – it is not necessary.
    To suppose that it is necessary for one person to “make the call” would reduce our marriage to a military hierarchy.

    I think The bible calls me the head of this relationship, me the one who will take responsibility for it.

    I disagree, I think you have missed elements of great significance in scripture (creation in Genesis 1, nature of God and of the relationships in the Trinity, nature of Christs headship, what one flesh means, …).
    We take equal responsibility for our marriage which makes it twice as strong.

    What would you do in this hypothetical Dave? Divorce? Live in resentment of one another?

    Neither. they are not options, both are incompatible with Christian Discipleship which is focused on the fruits of the Holy Spirit, on a journey towards Christian Perfection.
    Of course we are not yet perfect (well some of us anyway). So until then we have need of grace, mercy, forgiveness & reconciliation when we get things wrong. All these mean there is still hope and new life even when couples divorce or live in resentment.

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  23. John

    I’m afraid your comment of ‘if there is no joint decision then no decision is made’ can simply not always be true!
    My mother moves in in distress. Wife wants her out, cramps the marriage, unhelpful with children, gets in the way of our relationship. I want her to stay as i feel a duty to my family she has nowhere to go. No compromise possible….what next.
    Of course a hypothetical – but the truth is sometimes a decision needs to be made to ‘come out’ of a situation and if it isn’t made, you stay in it – make sense?
    This has not happened in my marriage – it clearly has not happened in yours – but that doesn’t work as an argument that it never happens.

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  24. Dave

    John,
    Sorry I don’t have a problem with your example and I don’t see any way in which Male Headship makes that decision any easier Actually easier is not the right word – giving the husband the freedom/responsibility for the decision will make it easier to decide but much harder to live with.
    My Father-in-law died 7 years ago and Jane’s Mum has had some health problems. So I can relate at least in part to the hypothetical situation. One of the issues for many people is that care/support of parents often needs to involve other people (typically their spouse and any other children & their families). So again the idea of Male Headship is unhelpful for a decision making process that has to involve other people (especially including the parent involved).
    Your suggestion that compromise is impossible in such a situation is naive and simplistic. There are always possibilities depending on the situation (sharing with siblings, rejigging the home, granny flat, professional carers, respite care, residential care) all dependant on open sharing, mutual respect & submission.
    In our marriage we look ahead at potential scenarios and how we could respond. Jane’s Dad fought cancer for 5 years and while we respected their choices to not discuss some things it did not mean we didn’t think about them ourselves.
    As I keep saying mutual submission is a complete process, it is not something that you can try just for some decisions. When you take this seriously your dilemmas simply don’t exist (which is very different from claiming that life won’t sometimes be shit – we lost 3 parents to cancer within 7 months).

    Of course a hypothetical – but the truth is sometimes a decision needs to be made to ‘come out’ of a situation and if it isn’t made, you stay in it – make sense?

    I am not sure I understand.
    If you are referring to ‘coming out’ as one person deciding they have to leave the marriage then again that demonstrates a failure of male headship which theoretically takes away that right from the wife.
    Obviously, if one partner in an egalitarian marriage decides that they need to “come out” of it for some reason then the possibility or mutual submission within one flesh cannot continue and has clearly failed.
    Note that there will often be a need for decisions through and after a divorce. In such a situation Male Headship gives no basis for making any decisions, at this point there can only be negotiated compromise or resorting to the courts.

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  25. john

    Hello again!
    by ‘come out’ i was not referring to divorce – i was infact referring to descions that need to be made to ‘come out’ of a situation where one person in the marriage is not happy. So in the mother in law example, if a descion is not made (as you said, if it cannot be made, it isn’t) then it still technically is – By not making a descion one half of the marriage is still upset with the outcome. So in those situations the ‘just leave it till we compromise’ simply cannot always be true.
    I compeltely understand and agree that compromise can be found in almost every situation, and I pray that my wife and I never find ourself in that truly hard and difficult place. but to say comprimise can be found in every situation is simply naive and simplistic.
    The biggest issue i have with your posts and comments dave is that you seem to assume that in male headship relationships the husband simply makes all the descions all of the time never consulting the wife or caring abouther feelings. As a reformed charasmatic I jknow many marriages which subscribe to male headship. As guys we pray for one another in our role as head of the home. Never have i known one of those guys to be tyranical in their descion making – in fact, never have i known them to not compromise and find a joint descion. They love their wives, and follow Jesus’ example of leadership, laying down their own lives and own comforts in order to build up, encourage and love their wives.
    I have no doubt, that you can find many examples of male abuse in marriages where male headship is practiced – of course you can, we are fallen humans. I would put cold hard cash on finding abusive males in egalitarian relationships – probably not as many, but probably only because most of the ‘males headship’ abuse examples you would find would be in america – and the issue their is hardly relegious it is instituational. The religious teaching of male headship their is often abusive and wrong in itself – not the biblical principle.

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  26. Dave

    John,
    I think you are exaggerating (for effect) the possibility of a decision not being made when it is made together. To imagine that within a one flesh, egalitarian, mutual submission relationship either person is going to want to put off a decision when the other is hurting is ridiculous. The phrase “just leave it till we compromise” is an unhelpful caricature.

    “but to say comprimise can be found in every situation is simply naive and simplistic.”

    We are not talking of every situation here. In the great world issues between countries you are of course right. But here we are talking about a loving relationship between two people who have committed themselves to each other for life. In this situation mutual agreement is always possible (compromise has many negative vibes which are just not appropriate for a one flesh couple).

    The biggest issue i have with your posts and comments dave is that you seem to assume that in male headship relationships the husband simply makes all the descions all of the time never consulting the wife or caring abouther feelings.

    That is one of the dangers of the slippery slope that is male headship, there is no safety net to stop a man from going this way, no obvious landing place before the bottom.
    However, that is again a caricature of what I stand against. Equality is a simple absolute. When one party has a trump card then that has to affect every interaction, every decision. Your whole language gives this away as it is up to the man to initiate consultation etc.

    They love their wives, and follow Jesus’ example of leadership, laying down their own lives and own comforts in order to build up, encourage and love their wives.

    OI am not denying that many men who believe in male headship love their lives. In these posts I was addressing the specific challenge that it is not possible to make decisions without male headship without a final arbiter, a head.
    More generally I am concerned that your description here, like every other in support of male headship ignores the injustice and inequality when a woman is seen as needing the man to “look after her”.

    The religious teaching of male headship their is often abusive and wrong in itself – not the biblical principle.

    I don’t agree with the Biblical Principle.
    You are accepting that male headship has dangers for women. Please explain to me where Jesus supports the idea of a divine requirement to put people made in the image of God in danger? You might find my older post The dangers of power in Male Headship interesting (and the linked articles & comments).

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  27. John

    I am accepting that the very world we live in has dangers for women because the men they marry are fallen – as of course are the women, so there are dangers for men.
    There are many possible dangers in many of the situations i would believe the bible teaches us to live in – not because they are wrong, but because they are watched over by flawed humans.
    And i can’t show you a place where Jesus speaks about male headship – I can however show you Paul speaking very clearly about it, and my understanding is that the words of Paul hols as much weight in my life as the words of Jesus – you disagree?
    I also can’t find Jesus talking about homosexuality, but can quite safely assume, given his love of the law and the entirety of the NT and early church teaching that he would have believed it to be a sin (i have a feeling we may disagree on this) – I think i can safely do the same with male headship.
    Jesus calls his people to pay taxes to Caesar – you think the tax system of Cesar was never abusive or dangerous for them?

    Reply
  28. Dave

    John,

    I am accepting that the very world we live in has dangers for women because the men they marry are fallen

    You have not explained why God would tell men to submit to God (completely safe, God never lets us down) but tell women to submit to men (very unsafe as men are fallen).
    Other situations of vulnerability to fallen humans are generally shared and don’t depend solely on gender. They can be changed through peaceful action.

    And i can’t show you a place where Jesus speaks about male headship – I can however show you Paul speaking very clearly about it, and my understanding is that the words of Paul hols as much weight in my life as the words of Jesus – you disagree?

    Something I struggle with. I love Paul’s writing and I fully respect the canon of Scripture. However, yes I do have a soft soft spot for the teaching of the Son of God – because he is rather special!
    I don’t think Paul speaks about it as clearly as you think and certainly not in the way it is taught by complementarians. Paul frequently works with Women in positions of authority over men and encourages them. The Complementarian reading of Paul is very selective and overly focused on proof texts rather than his overall teaching and practice.
    Yes you are correct we also disagree on homosexuality. You seem to be quite willing to ignore the times when Jesus challenges the law and the way it is applied. Given that the modern understanding of homosexuality is not very old you seem very certain of what Paul means when he uses words that translators struggle with. Whatever else they mean it is unlikely that they refer to two consenting adults entering a lifelong committed, loving relationship as that was unknown at the time. I quite agree that temple prostitution, abusive gay relationships etc are all wrong and are condemned.
    When you say it is safe for us to disagree can you tell me how it is safe for women who are forced to submit to their husbands?
    Maybe you can tell me what to say to the next woman who comes to our Church feeling suicidal because of the way her husband has abused her through male headship. Can I say to her that it is safe to disagree on this issue?

    Jesus calls his people to pay taxes to Caesar – you think the tax system of Cesar was never abusive or dangerous for them?

    So that is all you take from the reply Jesus gave? Please take scripture more seriously to start to glimpse how brilliant the response of Jesus is. How subversive it is and how in a wonderfully non-violent way challenges the authority of the Romans. Jesus stood up against all systems that were abusive. Sadly testosterone based male headship ignores these because Jesus was clever and non-violent.

    Reply

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