What Does “Submit In Everything” Really Mean? The Nature And Scope Of Marital Submission -- By: Steven R. Tracy

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 29:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: What Does “Submit In Everything” Really Mean? The Nature And Scope Of Marital Submission
Author: Steven R. Tracy


What Does “Submit In Everything” Really Mean?
The Nature And Scope Of Marital Submission

Steven R. Tracy*

*Steven R. Tracy is Professor of Theology and Ethics at Phoenix Seminary in Phoenix, Arizona.

I. Introduction: Why Another Paper On Marital Submission?1

For several decades evangelicals have wrestled with the issue of gender roles, including marital submission. Thus, the question arises: Do we really need another article on marital submission? An evaluation of the current evangelical literature in fact reveals that very much and very little has been written. In terms of sheer volume, hundreds of books and numerous ministries address the subject of marital submission; in that way much has been written.2 But a closer inspection of the literature and a careful assessment of contemporary culture reveal that very little has been written which addresses the parameters of marital submission in terms of the specific issues that are increasingly confronting Christian women. Some would even argue that the very question, “What are the limits of marital submission?” reveals an unbiblical capitulation to modernity. Stephen Clark, in what for many years was virtually the handbook for traditional gender role theology, makes such an assertion. He argues that modern secular society asks such questions merely to control “the scope of someone’s authority” whereas the biblical

writers place virtually no limits on submission and authority. Hence, “the whole of the woman’s life (everything she does) has to be subordinate to her husband.”3 Other evangelical writers who also place great emphasis on marital submission (even asserting that it is essential to a Christian worldview4) concede that there may be some occasions when submission must be qualified, but argue that this is so rare that it need not be developed or apparently considered. For instance, Mary Kassian argues:

Practically, there may be situations in which submission to authority is limited. However, these situations are few and far between. Our focus should be on humility and obedience to authority in all circumstances. Submission may indeed have limits, but these limits are the exception rather than the rule. Obedience to God generally means obedience to those in authority over us.5

But in actuality, universal human depravity has created a world in which p...

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