A Biblical View of the Marital Roles: Seeking a Balance -- By: A. Duane Litfin

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 133:532 (Oct 1976)
Article: A Biblical View of the Marital Roles: Seeking a Balance
Author: A. Duane Litfin


A Biblical View of the Marital Roles:
Seeking a Balance

A. Duane Litfin

[A. Duane Litfin, Assistant Professor of Practical Theology, Dallas Theological Seminary.]

Should husband and wife maintain distinct gender-based roles in marriage? Twenty years ago this question could scarcely have been raised in conservative Christian circles. Today it leaps out again and again from the pages, pulpits, and podiums of the evangelical world, and has become a major bone of contention even among those who claim allegiance to an authoritative Bible.

A quick survey of the battlefield seems to indicate that those who would answer the above question with a no (the feminists) have gained a current advantage against their well-entrenched opponents by a bold and daring foray into the realm of the Bible and theology. The most notable leaders of this attempt to gain the initiative are Letha Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty in their book, All Were Meant to Be,1 and Paul King Jewett in his text, Man as Male and Female.2 Both books were listed high on Eternity magazine’s 1975 list of most significant books3 and have received a wide reading.

Those who would answer the question with a yes (the traditionalists) seem to have been caught off guard by this attack and have perhaps not yet regained their composure. Some angry reprisals have been given in book reviews and articles, but a comprehensive counterattack has yet to be mounted. The fact is that the traditionalists have not shown themselves eager for battle in this particular arena. Some of their reservation may be attributed to a desire to

avoid another battleground whereon evangelicals spill each other’s blood. There are too many of these already. Others may be holding back simply because, to advocate the traditional, hierarchical view in the current climate of opinion is unpopular. For espousing such a heresy, ministers are being denied ordination in some groups. Few relish being viewed as “against women.”

Yet it seems that the deep concern of the traditionalists over the feminists’ handling of the Scriptures will eventually crystallize into some sort of significant response. Hopefully, this response will involve not only an argument-by-argument refutation of alleged feminist errors, but a positive, balanced treatment of a hierarchical view of the marital roles. Perhaps the key word here is “balanced,” for in refuting an opponent’s position the tendency is often to allow the pendulum to swing past midpoint to an opposite ex...

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