Premarital Counseling: Hierarchical And Egalitarian -- By: Carey McGrath

Journal: Priscilla Papers
Volume: PP 26:4 (Autumn 2012)
Article: Premarital Counseling: Hierarchical And Egalitarian
Author: Carey McGrath


Premarital Counseling: Hierarchical And Egalitarian

Carey McGrath

Carey McGrath has a BA in Christianity and culture from Trinity Western University and is working on an MA in counseling at Colorado Christian University. She is on the board of the Northern Colorado chapter of CBE, where she serves as program coordinator. Carey and her husband have four small children ages 1, 3, 5, and 7.

Evangelical Christians can agree: marriage is a foundational relationship ordained and blessed by God. It is the beginning of healthy, stable families and forms the groundwork for children navigating through the world. It provides the basis for their worldview and even for learning about God. Evangelicals also agree that premarital counseling can be a good way to start off a strong marriage. Jack and Judith Balswick explain that the premarital stage is the stage of differentiating from the family of origin: “The goal of differentiation is to develop a clear sense of self that enables one to relate to and interact with others in interdependent ways. . . . Success in differentiation gives one the best chances for a mature marriage.”1

Evangelicals do not always agree, however, on the roles of each marriage partner and how each partner should interact in the family to create healthy family relationships and to please God. The debate is widespread and ongoing. It evokes emotions and challenges deep-rooted beliefs, teachings, and traditions. The purpose of this article is to compare two different doctrines within evangelicalism in regard to premarital counseling. While there are many different theoretical approaches to counseling, I have asked for premarital counseling referrals from gender hierarchists and egalitarians, compared them to each other, compared them to their doctrine, and have come to conclusions based on the findings.

Hierarchists And Egalitarians

Male hierarchy and egalitarianism are considered generally to be opposing views; however, they are not opposite of each other. If the views were on a line diagram with husbands dominating over wives on the left and wives dominating husbands on the right, male hierarchy would fall about three-quarters of the way to the left. Egalitarianism would be in the center. The opposite of male hierarchy, then, is a relationship in which the woman has the God-given authority to make the final decisions and lead her family, and her husband must submit to her leadership. The online Wikipedia describes the views this way:

Christian egalitarianism (derived from the French word égal, meaning equal or level), also known as biblical equality, is a Christian form of the moral doctrine of Egalitarianism. It holds that all human persons ...

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