Saturday, 15 May 2010

Marriage: the model of a mystery

“Holy matrimony,” declares the Book of Common Prayer, “is an honourable estate, instituted of God in the time of man’s innocency, signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.”
The Church of England thus upholds three important truths about marriage. First, it is a good thing — indeed, it is more than a good thing, it is an “honourable” thing. Coming at a time when the Church had for centuries advocated the virtues of celibacy and virginity, this was a profound affirmation of the truth of 1 Timothy 4:4, that “everything God created is good”. As the same passage observes, it is the demons who are behind doctrines that forbid marriage (4:3), for that is to negate something which is part of God’s original ‘good’ in creation.
The latter point is also affirmed by the Prayer Book, for it says secondly that marriage belongs to “the time of man’s innocency”. The first human couple were not merely made by God but, in Jesus’ own words, “joined” by him. In the Garden, God created not just humankind but human marriage. Moreover, as Jesus’ teaching on the subject shows, that original creation was meant to be determinative for the future and to be exemplified in the Church.
This is also, of course, why the gospel standard for marriage is much higher than that set by the law; for marriage originally belongs in the time of ‘innocency’, and is therefore somewhat unsuited for this sinful age. The law allowed for divorce because, as Christ put it, “your hearts were hard” — meaning not that people were uncaring, but that they were unbelieving (cf Mk 16:14). To undertake marriage Christianly, therefore, is to enter into a world were the law is not enough: the world of turning the other cheek or going the extra mile.
And this brings us to our third point, which is that although marriage is made for our blessing, it is not made for our convenience, for marriage finds its origin not in sociology but theology, and not in the doctrine of man (and our needs), nor even in the doctrine of God (and his nature), but in the twin doctrines of creation and salvation.
Marriage, as the Prayer Book says, is a sign: “signifying unto us the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.” Another way of thinking about it is as an image: imaging to us the relationship between the Creator God and his creation, and the Redeemer God and his redeemed.
These two ideas converge in Isaiah 54:5:
For your Maker is your husband — the Lord Almighty is his namethe Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer; he is called the God of all the earth.
And what the Old Testament foretells, the New Testament reveals in the person of Christ:
Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Eph 5:25-27)
In Christ, we experience the ‘new creation’ (2 Cor 5:17), and at the end of time (as at the end of our Scriptures) the new heavens and the new earth are ushered in with the marriage of Christ and the Church. Hence we read,
I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. (Rev 21:2)
Indeed, we have an echo here of the presentation of Eve to Adam in the Garden, for just as the man greeted his bride then with an acclamation, so a heavenly voice hails the arrival of the Church:
Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. (Rev 21:3, cf Gen 2:23)
In Scripture, however, the salvation of humankind is termed a ‘mystery’, and it is so on two levels. There is, on the one hand, the ‘mystery’ of how it will be accomplished — the mystery which, like the grace of God itself,
... has now been revealed through the appearing of our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. (2 Tim 1:10, cf 1 Tim 3:16; Col 4:3, etc)
But there is still the mystery of why. Why did God choose to save us, and to save us this way? More profoundly, why did God create the world in the knowledge that it would have to be redeemed? And why does God love us enough to do this for us?
Indeed, we may say there is a third mystery, which is the mystery of love itself. What is the nature of God’s love for us? But to this third mystery, the Bible, insofar as it gives an answer at all, points us to the “way of a man with a maiden” (Prov 13:19), for our Maker is our husband, says the Lord of Hosts. And although the history of the interpretation of the Song of Songs is littered with imaginative allegorizing, we are surely right to see in it some indication of the nature of the relationship we have with God, insofar as it is paralleled by the relationship between human lovers.
The Bible, however, does not separate such love from commitment and identity. On the one hand, those who are married enter a one-flesh union (Gen 2:24, contra 1 Cor 6:16). On the other hand, the required context for sexual expression is finally, and firmly, marital. When God ‘spreads his garment’ over the sexually mature Israel in Ezekiel 16:8, he enters into a covenant (Heb: berith) with her. And this covenanting is an integral part of marriage (cf Prov 2:17; Mal 2:13). Israel’s unfaithfulness towards God is adulterous, not only because of the change in the object of her affections, but because of her departure from the covenant God has made with her.
Human marriage, therefore, must be ‘covenantal’ — and indeed, unbreakably covenantal — if it is to model the divine mystery of love.
Yet the followers of Christ have a long track record of finding this hard to accept. The response of the first disciples to Christ’s own teaching on divorce was almost one of despondency: “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry” (Matt 19:10). And the Apostle Paul was so conscious of this difficulty that in writing to the Corinthians he was careful to point out that this teaching was directly from the Lord himself (cf 1 Cor 7:10-11).
But today there is another difficulty for us in addition to the requirement of covenant faithfulness, and that is in the imposition of rôles, for in marriage the husband is to his wife as Christ is to the Church, and not vice-versa, and the wife is to her husband as the Church is to Christ, and not vice-versa.
All the arguing (and there is plenty) that Ephesians 5:21a is a call for mutal submission (“Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ”) does not alter this one whit. There is a sense in which we are called to mutual submission, insofar as we are to “honour one another” above ourselves (Rom 12:10). But the husband ‘honours’ his wife in one way, and the wife ‘honours’ her husband in another.
He honours her by exercising a love which is consciously modelled on Christ’s sacrificial love for the Church, giving himself for her so as to give to her.
She honours him with a love that is equally modelled consciously on the Church’s love for Christ, by her submission to her husband in “all things” (Eph 5:24, or as we might say “in all respects”, cf 2 Cor 6:4; 11:6).
To say, however, that Ephesians calls for ‘mutual submission’ between husbands and wives is to subvert the text, which states specifically that the husband is the ‘head’ (as Christ is to the Church), and the wife is the ‘body’ (as the Church is to Christ). These are not simply ‘opposite versions of the same thing’. Nor are they interchangeable. To be a husband is to be the head. To be a wife is to be the body. These rôles are given, not chosen.
A good husband is thus one who loves his wife as Christ loves the Church. But one who does not do this is still the husband of his wife and the ‘head’ in their symbiotic life as ‘one flesh’. And a wife who does not submit to her husband is, nevertheless, still the ‘body’ in that union.
The principle at stake is moreover, nothing less than, as stated in the Prayer Book, that marriage signifies “the mystical union that is betwixt Christ and his Church.” By introducing divorce, we have already vitiated that symbolism. Marriage becomes something we control (what man puts asunder). By denying the Scriptural distinction of rôles — the identification of the husband as the Christ-like ‘head’ who is the object of his wife’s submission, and the wife as the Church-like ‘body’, who is the object of her husband’s self-sacrifice — we assert our control even further, both over marriage and over Scripture itself, and further obscure both the sign and the thing signified.
This issue confronts us today as the Christian view of marriage has always confronted Christians. Like the first disciples (though for different reasons), we are tempted to respond, “If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry.”
Perhaps, however, our problem is not with marriage, much less with understanding the biblical text, but with trusting God.
John Richardson
15 May 2010
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  1. What a wonderful postQ

    There are other levels that parallel/analogy of Christ and the Church applies marriage.

    One of the Hebrew words for male, Zawkar, means to call to remembrance, to bring the edifying cleansing word. This is stated in Ephesians 5:26.

    The Hebrew word for female, Nequebah, means to be pierced (a sword shall pierce thy heart) and a jewel in a bezel setting. The woman/church is pierced to the heart by the word of God. As Mary did, woman/church ponders, ruminates, meditates and reflect upon the word in their hearts. Both woman and church, receive the seed of the Word of God and the seed of the husband, and it is joined to their own seed/flesh to form new life. It is implanted and grows in them and everything about them changes forever. The woman (and church) nurture this new life within their body and together with the man, train and feed it so that it grows up healthy and strong, then presents it back to the man (Christ) as a mature and well-taught male or female (believer).

    The human brain, largely made up of neurons and glia cells, also reflects this male-female parallel. Once scientists thought the neurons did all the important work of transmitting messages (bringing the word, like males) and the glia cells were just there to support and insulate and nourish the neurons and clean up the refuse and remove dead cells and such (like women). Now they have discovered the glia monitor, encourage and direct the growth of new synapses and connections between neurons. They are able to read the environment, assess the needs and move to meet them...glia are relational, like women.

    God's design is truly a source of revelation and wonder.

  2. I'd like to ask you, John, in what sense you/the Bible believes that the "giving" of a husband manifests itself to his wife. The wife can clearly see how she submits to a husband because it is manifest in all kind of pragmatic ways like cooking, cleaning, sexual service, nurturing of babies (that ostensibly belong to both of them).

    However, I fail to see how husbands can "give" themselves for their wives as Christ "gave" Himself for the church. Or is this another "cultural" understanding that only applied in Bible times where war/death/martyrdom was common and is no longer needed or appropriate?

    Beryl Polden (Wirral)

  3. Sibyl, thanks for your comments. Beryl, I'm not sure that the way marriage models the mystery of salvation can be understood in terms of what some friends of mine call the demarcation between 'pink' and 'blue' jobs - the woman cooking and cleaning and the man going out to work and putting up shelves. That may be what happens, but that is not the 'heart' of a marriage (much less the idea that 'sexual services' are at the heart of love).

    How did Christ give himself for the church in a way that husbands can give themselves for their wives? By giving himself up for her. That is not, however, a 'reciprocal' response to submission in a 'quid pro quo' sense. Nor does it depend on his wife's submission (any more than Christ's death depended on our worthiness or willingness). It is just what you do (or are supposed to do) as a husband.

    To try to break it down into specifics, however, is a bit like the lawyer asking, "Who is my neighbour?" If he has to ask, he hasn't 'got it'.

  4. It would be interesting to read a consecutive study on the lives of ordinary husbands and wives over the centuries. Beryl’s letter really only covers recent times. The Industrial revolution made such a HUGE change in the lives of women, because men suddenly left the home and went out to work, rather than them working together on their small holding, providing food for their family, which they raised together and instructed in whatever skill they possessed. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, families were quite different, and roles were quite different. What was prior to that? Should we make any judgements using this particular culture, or perhaps take into consideration other parts of the world where things are quite different? I think we too frequently paint our present culture backwards onto a previous culture where in fact things were unimaniginably different.

  5. Interesting you should say that, Rosemary. I've often wondered whether the "modern" breakdown of marriage began with men in the industrial revolution, and 20th century developments are finishing the other half of the process.

  6. In truth, I was basing my thought processes, not on current Enlightenment views, but on biblical statements themselves. Going to Genesis 3: 16, Eve is told “your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you” – not much “giving” of the husband for the wife there!

    And considering what Christ gave up for the sake of the “church” (remembering that the “church” consists of both men AND women), He gave up His position in heaven, gave up any earthly reputation He might have had and (ultimately) gave up His life – a very real “kenosis”(self-emptying) of Himself. There was no guarantee that the “church” would see this as a “benefit”. In this illustration, there is little to demonstrate to wives how their husbands might actively and practically follow Christ’s example – unless, of course, it was intended that human beings simply obey scripture without question.

    This is why I believe that the “male headship” argument, leans (I believe) more on OT concepts used in both OT and NT, rather than this verse from Ephesians 5: 25-27 “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.” It is amply proved in practice that “male headship” discourages kenosis or self-emptying by the husband rather than demonstrating it.

    It is my belief that Christian wives (and non-Christian women for that matter) have far more amply demonstrated their submittedness (as much by necessity as by will) than Christian husbands have demonstrated their love in the “giving” of themselves.

    Beryl Polden (Wirral)

  7. I prefer the 'submit to one another out of reverence for Christ'. (Ephes 5:21) It seems far more equal, and fair and conducive to a happy Christian marriage. Jesus would expect wives and husbands to honour one another and said nothing about wives 'submitting',and far more about loving one another. Furthermore, it hardly needs to be noted that submission is not a word in common usage today, rather archaic if you ask me! Ephes 6:5 We don't have slaves today either!!(not in that sense of the word anyway) Can we not move forward in our thinking and interpret these passages with 21st Century wisdom?


  8. Beryl,

    As John says I'm not sure you can even begin to outline what it would like in each different relationship. However, just so we have some practical egs, which may be esp. relevant in the credit crunch: if money is really, really tight, the husband should make sure his wife is properly fed and clothed, even if it means him going hungry and wearing tatty shirts. The family has 1 car, it's raining and both husband and wife need it at the same time - assuming there isn't much difference in length of journey, wife gets the car, husband should walk or cycle. Just isolated examples, but may help work out loving headship.

  9. Those are some great examples, Neil, particularly since we are only a couple of generations away from husbands not allowing their wives to learn to drive the family car because they didn’t trust their ability.

    1 John 4 reminds us that (verse 10)“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for[c] our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”

    Since we can never match God’s love for us, much less match His “giving Himself” for us, we need every encouragement we can get to be generous to and for one another, rather than measure out our love according to the reward we think that the spouse deserves.

    It would also be good if those who believe in “male headship” could include some of this encouragement (with practical examples) in their advice to their male brethren. The carrot is so much more worthwhile than the stick!

    Beryl Polden (Wirral)

  10. Briefly on Gen 3: and "desire for him, but he will master you". This is a curse, a curse of marital conflict.

    (1) It's directly analogous to 3:17-19, where the ground now resists the man's labour.

    (2) It's the exact same phrasing as Gen 4:7, where sin "desires Cain, but he must master it".

    Life under the curse is power struggles. Against God, against the land, against each other. It follows naturally from the original sin - when we reject God's rule, when we set ourselves up as bosses, then we must inevitably invite conflict. Eve is being told "You will want to be boss, but he is the stronger.".

    But Christ redeems marriage. The husband "rules" by serving, not force; the wife submits, not usurps.

    Years ago, there was a mini-cartoon in the Sydney Morning Herald. Man is physically over-powering woman, "I only need to love". It shows WHY our culture misses the point so badly, because they don't understand "love". Passion, romance, sex, desire, appreciation, even feeling good - these are on the periphery. Love "as Christ loves the church" is service, considering the needs of the loved above your own.

    (And yes, the Church has often been complicit in not demanding love from husbands. This is a failing of the Church and its members, not of Marriage.)

  11. Our 20th anniv. on 5/26 (or 26/5 for Euro types). Your exposition here makes my eyes a bit misty. Not all been easy these two decades, but what you say here has been the key - trusting God, sometimes against all the evidence.

  12. Beryl (and Alison), I think the core issue is whether we believe that God has given us the privilege of embodying and enacting in marriage the roles of Christ and Church. It is not a case of 'believing in' headship as if it were an abstract principle. Indeed, when we talk about the 'principle of headship' it rather does tend treat it in abstraction from the corresponding 'principle of body-ship' (to which Scripture also refers).

    Scripture presents us with an awesome fact: "the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body".

    We need to acknowledge that the first issue here is how we respond to Scripture. Are we its masters and do we trust that the Spirit is its author? If we do, then we can accept what it says about marriage in an attitude of trusting faith.

    If we do not, then I suggest that (like Saul) we wind up 'kicking against the goads' (Acts 26:14) - resisting what would guide us in the right direction, and struggling with God. That is, of course, the origin of the name Israel (Gen 32:28), but it is a struggle from which we always emerged changed by him.

  13. Beryl, “Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you,” is surely a simple statement of fact. It’s part of God’s curse, and we see it everywhere. It describes fallen mankind. Women after the Fall .. instead of seeing that God is asking them to be ‘helpmeet’ .. desire to be in control. Men after the Fall .. instead of having ‘dominion’ .. fall into the curse of domination. I think there should be much more teaching on these issues so that we can .. in Christ .. try to deal with these facts. There’s no doubt that many women ‘nag’ and manipulate to try and get their own way, and many men use their superior strength to force their own way. We battle instead of helping one another. So that statement doesn’t, in my understanding anyway, have anything to do with the husband ‘giving’ .. but is simply a statement of fact. This is what we are like post the Fall, unless in Christ, we battle to be different, and it IS a battle for both sexes!

    However I think your next paragraph is very interesting, I find myself dwelling on it more and more. Summed up perhaps when Paul said in Philippians 2:5 .. “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus .. who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant .. [and following]” Applied to the gender issue that seems to take up so much blogging space these days, that is really humbling. Jesus HAD equality, but didn’t see it as something He must hang on to. We HAVE equality one with another, but if we wish to ‘serve’ .. ‘help’ then we are not to hang on to that equality either. If we do, we will be unable to take on the nature of a servant of the other. An extremely unpopular concept in many of both genders. Humanity’s ideas for ending the gender ‘battle’ are quite a different concept from this biblical one, [one might almost say the complete opposite], and yet I see them everywhere on blogs considering biblical concepts.

    The other interesting verse you quote is from Ephesians. “Husbands love your wives just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself up for her to make her holy .. [and following]” John it would be interesting to hear what you have to say about that passage if you ever have time.

    I think you go on Beryl to describe Fallen man, rather than the man ‘in Christ,’ when you say that ‘male headship discourages kenosis or self emptying by the husband rather than demonstrating it,’ It’s one of the reasons I think it’s essential that we have more teaching on these issues .. for both genders.

  14. Rosemary,
    I fear that you are being sucked into perpetuating the popular Conservative Evangelical arguement of demonising the woman on account of the Fall. A curse was placed on both, due to the woman being deceived by the serpent Gen 3:13. Therefore God's condemnation is placed on both Adam and Eve. Gen 3:16/17 Adam was quilty too but much is made of the woman's deception. Yet God created them equal. 'When God created man he made them in the likeness of God. he created them male and female and blessed them.'Gen 5:1. It seems you have a genuine problem with women aspiring to be equal, quote 'Women..desire to be in control'. A judgment based on your own values. Women (and men!)should strive for a Godly marriage, but we do not have to be constricted by St. Pauls words written centuries ago, and needing a more modern interpretation. All scripture is God-breathed 2Tim 3:16, but why do we feel men and women need to fit neatly into prescriptive roles? Jesus treated women equally and overturned conventions in this respect..Furthermore he said nothing about issues of submission within a marriage, only that a woman and man will become 'one flesh'.Mark 10:8. Can we please stop majoring on the peripheral issues of domestic interaction which as you say can be a bit of a battleground, and allow the spirit to determine and lead us into holiness in our own marriages.

    In Christ, Alison

  15. Alison,

    You state that in Genesis, God created Adam and Eve equal. Genesis 5 does clearly state that God created them "male and female" but I'm not sure that this is the same as this verse saying that God created them equal. In fact Genesis does not say that He created them equal (although I agree this could be implied).

    My question to you is can you show from Genesis, that God did create Adam and Eve equal and that this is *explicit* in the Genesis text without there being any other inference?

    Chris Bishop

  16. Hi Chris,
    You are right. Genesis 5 does indeed state that God created them 'male and female',but doesn't explicitly say 'equal' perhaps that is what I deduced from the text, although as you say it seems implied.
    Certainly the verse 'When they were created he called them man' implies equality, or at least, oneness. Try 'You are all Sons of God..there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.' Galatians 3:26

    In Christ ,Alison

  17. Alison,

    Ah-now you pose an even more interesting question!

    You are mapping 'equality' to 'oneness'. But is this really what Paul means in Galatians 3? Things can be 'one' but not necessarily equal. You may have passed the same exam but not got equal marks. In one sense people who pass an exam are 'one' since they are united in passing it, but they may have got unequal marks. Male and female are equally classed as being human. However they are unequal at least insofar that one can bear children and the other cannot.

    So another question for you. Does if follow that unity or 'oneness' must automatically mean equality? Could Paul not mean that there no distinction as far as the forgiveness of sins goes. That oneness, means we are all equally redeemed? (much ancient thought took the view that the woman was more guilty than the man in human fallenness and that the Jews were a cut above the rest).

    But what I find notable about the idea of equality in the Bible, is that it is never explicitly stated, but invariably inferred depending on how you wish to interpret the text. I think we have to first go back and understand what is meant by 'equality' in the Bible and whether it bears any relation to modern understandings of the term.

    I think you have a stronger argument in your allusions to Jesus' treatment of women but I think that is more to do with patriarchy than any fundamental Biblical notion of equality.

    FWIW, I think that 'Biblical equality' is linked in some way to the concept of 'firstness' and that this needs to be explored as to arrive at what a proper understanding of what biblical equality means.

    Chris Bishop

    BTW, have you got your own blog off the ground yet? (The Ugley Vicar's Wife).
    We are all looking forward to John posting his comments on it...

  18. Alison, you fear that I’m being ‘sucked into perpetuating the popular Conservative Evangelical argument of demonizing the woman on account of the Fall.” Well thanks Alison. So my biblical understanding is poor [zero .. I’m a slow learner?], and I demonise my fellow women. Does that mean I’m a demon? Or that I have somehow announced that they are full of demons?

    If you’d care to re-read my post you’ll find that I tried to make it clear that the curse was on both genders, but please, I’m not accusing you of being a skim reader or anything!!

    You also accuse me of having a ‘genuine problem with women aspiring to be equal.’ Gosh, I really DID explain myself poorly didn’t I? I thought I had made it clear that I thought we HAD equality, but that I had been thoughtfully considering [for myself only of course] exactly what the pursuit of equality meant when one considered Our Lord’s call to ‘serve.’

    Do you deny that women like to be in ‘control?’ If they don’t, why all the hassle about men being the ‘head’ in the family? You may say that is a ‘judgement made from my own values,’ but I like to think it’s simple observation from such remarks as your own. Maybe I’m wrong.

    As for modern hermeneutics, or as you put it .. “We do not have to be constricted by St. Paul’s words written centuries ago, and needing a more modern interpretation.” You may indeed disagree with me, but I tend to treat Scripture, in this case Paul’s words, as something more ‘eternal,’ and certainly as you say, ‘God breathed’ .. and therefore not in need of ‘modern’ revision. I don’t feel ‘constricted’ by St. Paul’s words, although I freely admit to finding it very difficult to ‘submit’ to some of them. But like you, I’m a ‘work’ in progress!!!

    On one thing you strike a real chord with me. In my over 45 years of marriage, the ‘one flesh’ aspect is something I frequently ponder. What exactly does it mean? And what did Jesus mean when He said that there would be no marriage in Heaven, when we are ‘one flesh’ here? Could it have anything to do with being ‘one’ but with different gifts, different roles to fulfill within that one flesh? You obviously don’t think so, perhaps you could share your thoughts on the matter please. I don’t want my thinking to get bogged down with ‘domestic interaction!’

  19. Rosemary,
    I am just dismayed that in this day and age you seem to be basing your arguement against women's equality on Pauline views of 'headship'. Surely if you want to 'help' you can, but it doesn't make you any less 'equal'! I do agree that we should be helping one another and not battling.
    Yes, the curse was certainly on both gender, I apologize if I misunderstood your inference on that point. I would agree that women like to be 'in control' as you say, but not all men feel threatened by this!! and as you say, we have differing viewpoints on this.
    Yes certainly, the bible contains 'eternal' truths. My point was that St.Paul was writing in a Greco-Roman age, where huge restrictions was placed on women's conduct in society, dominated by patriarchal values. I'm sure you'll agree. I see it that God would foresee and approve changes over the centuries, and a woman's role changing within the family due to economic and societal advance. For myself I feel that marriage is a partnership based on love and mutual respect but do not see how the husband and wife in love, if spiritually mature, cannot guide one another.
    This is what I mean when I say we shouldn't be constrained by St. Pauls teaching. I hope this is clear.
    Chris, Yes maybe the woman was more culpable but the man cannot to exonerated as he allowed himself to be led.
    I agree with you that it is a matter of interpretation. Why are there apparent contradictions? 'Submit to one another' on the one hand and then 'Wives submit to your husband'? I agree that 'equality' is not the same as 'oneness', but see above passage(!) I fully believe that husbands and wives have equality in the eyes of God, although differing roles. Yes not quite sure what you mean by the idea of 'firstness', perhaps you could elaborate?

    PS Re my own blog, too busy with vicars wifely duties and other stuff but, nice idea thanks!


  20. Alison .. sigh .. I am not ‘basing any argument against women’s equality.’ For the THIRD time, I believe men and women are equal. Please try to understand what I believe I have stated quite clearly. However Chris asked a very good question, what does equality mean? In what way are we equal?

    Yes, I do agree with ‘headship.’ Does that mean I’m a pushover? A doormat? A weak woman? Because I’m none of these, but you seem to think I am. When you feel like listening to a person who is usually referred to even by her enemies as a PW [powerful woman] whose biblical thinking does not appear to agree with your own. Do please ask and I’ll share. John has my email somewhere. Until then...

    Because my use of sarcasm in my last post upset my husband, I’m very grateful that you didn’t use the same style back, and I beg your forgiveness for so doing.

  21. Dear Rosemary,
    I am delighted to hear that you do support men and women's equality and I'm sorry if I misrepresented your views.
    We are all free to believe what we choose, and believing in headship does not at all mean that you are a 'pushover' or 'doormat'.
    I believe we are made equal in God's image, and that we are individually free to work out differing roles within that paradigm. Hope that clarifies things a bit.
    I'd be delighted to discuss further in e-mail.

    Yours in Christ, Alison

  22. Alison, I wasn’t going to reply, but feel I must say that you are quite wrong in my humble opinion. We are NOT ‘free to believe what we choose,’ We are members of the ‘Kingdom of God,’ we submit to the Word of the King rather than exercise our own undoubted freedom. The ultimate ‘freedom’ is the freedom to choose to obey. To submit.

  23. I'm sorry Rosemary but we are just going to have to differ amicably.
    We are not a homogenous group of sheep, we are all different with different approaches (just as we have different slants) in a debate and will therefore interpret biblical ideas differently. Yes we are all members of the Kingdom of God, but God gives us free will and the ability to decipher differently. You would choose the word submit, I would say we submit to God our divine authority, but not to man, mere mortal, and I believe St. Pauls words refering to domestic life to be subjective and as such, not rules I (and many christians) would observe and see as relevant for today.


  24. Thank you Alison, I understand. We are to listen and submit to God and Jesus .. but not mere man, Paul for instance.

    I suggest you change your post above that ALL Scripture is God breathed. Your last sentence also implies that our present day culture drives our understanding, that in fact God doesn't know the end from the beginning. Thank you for making that clear.

  25. Rosemary, you obviously misunderstand me. The bible contains wonderful truths that are God breathed but we need to interpret intelligently in the light of knowing its written by men in the Greco-Roman age. I cannot see how you can misunderstand that I clearly state that God knows the end from the beginning as he would foresee changes that happen to women.(but I think I've already made that point!!) St Paul's teaching on rules in Christian households and propriety in worship, I believe are just that and culturally appropriate. Women are enjoined to cover their heads when they worship but who in this day would observe this? Corinthians 11:13. Similarly 1 Corinth 14:34 Surely you do not believe women should be prevented from praying openly since these instructions would seem to restrict this practice.
    1 Corinthians 7:12 St Pauls says 'To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord)..'. so when do we differentiate? You obviously see Scripture as a blueprint for living without using the Holy spirit to guide you into all truth in your interpretation of these passages. Hmmm.


  26. Chuckle .. well as one without the Holy Spirit, to one who believes the Bible ‘contains wonderful truths’ .. how often I’ve heard that from Liberal scholars .. God be with you in your ‘interpretations.’

  27. Except I wouldn't describe myself as a 'Liberal. My husband feels I am 'fundamentally Orthodox' (he's just told me!) but I much prefer the description 'Christian', it's much more loving and inclusive. Just to say I don't feel you don't have the Holy Spirit,and certainly didn't mean to suggest that, but I would want to emphasise Jesus's words 'the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit..will teach you all things'. John 14:25. We are taught by the bible and the 'spirit' essentially, but I would have thought that was obvious?!


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