Towards A Theology Of Authority And Submission In Marriage -- By: Neville Curle

Journal: Conspectus
Volume: CONSPECTUS 15:1 (Mar 2013)
Article: Towards A Theology Of Authority And Submission In Marriage
Author: Neville Curle

Towards A Theology Of Authority And Submission In Marriage

Neville Curle1


The twentieth and twenty first-centuries have seen a major debate develop over the role of women in society. For the hierarchicalists represented by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood’, male leadership, as raised in Ephesians 5:24, is critical and overrides all other considerations. To the egalitarian ‘Christians for Biblical Equality’, mutual submission—as required by Galatians 3:28 and Ephesians 5:21—constitutes the point of departure.

This article explores the possibility of a bridge between the two moderate positions. To do this, the research focuses on four key areas, namely, (1) what is authority and how should it be applied; (2) how does submission relate to that authority; (3) how does authority work within the Trinity where all are equals; and (4) do Paul and Peter’s eschatological beliefs assist us in building a bridge between the seemingly irreconcilable passages.

The research concluded that via the application of Paul and Peter’s eschatological ‘already’ but ‘not yet’ beliefs operating

in the ‘now’, a bridge opens up to a third biblical alternative. This view operates across all cultures where ‘authority and submission in marriage’ is neither hierarchical nor merely mutually submissive, but mutually empowering.

1. The Current Impasse

Every so often, the Church is confronted by dissension within its ranks over one or other theology. This contestation is, in many ways, healthy for the Body of Christ, since in the process of dialogue, truth is advanced. During the second half of the 20th century into the 21st century, the feministic attack caused the patriarchalistic paradigm to be subjected to greater and greater scrutiny (Cochrane 2005:22-25; Grudem and Piper 2006a:xiv; Pierce 2005:59) as variable understandings of authority in marriage were propagated. These included ‘middle of the road’ understandings that were advanced by two separate groupings, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) (complementarian) and Christians for Biblical Equality (CBE) (egalitarian), who were reacting to the position adopted by Christian feminists (Pierce 2005:61-67; Piper and Grudem 2006a:xiv). In Chapter 24 of the CBMW’s foremost academic defence of a hierarchical interpretation of the Bible, Recovering biblical manhood and womanhood, Piper and Grudem...

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