Lies, Damned Lies, and Submission

If there’s one thing American society demonstrates, it’s how much Satan hates marriage & family. He’s all about murdering babies, defiling the marriage bed, amputating spouses from each other, cannibalizing family with government, and so forth.

One of his staples in this endeavor is to try and subvert the relationship between wives and husbands by redefining headship and submission. But as I’ve been pointing out for a long time, these deceits are usually quite easy to identify. In America’s most hated Bible verses, Paul repeatedly likens a wife’s submission to the Church’s submission to Christ. So you should always take the novel explanation of wifely submission and apply it back to our submission to the Lord. Is it still accurate? If not, then it’s a bad explanation.

With that in mind, let’s take a look the Devil’s latest and greatest redefinition–as related by The Jagged Word in its glowing review of MALE & FEMALE: Embracing Your Role in God’s Design by Jonathan & Christa Petzold from CPH:

It establishes God’s good created order as the foundation for all discussions that follow. What is this good created order from God as it pertains to human sexuality? Answer: male headship and female helpership (I made up the word ‘helpership.’ It is not the verbiage of the book). Male headship is defined as, “utter dependence on the Creator” (emphasis original, p, 30), as opposed to a rugged autonomy that insists upon bossing people (i.e., women) around. Female helpership (did I tell you I made up that word?) is defined as, “God’s gift to the head: to advise him on how to better do his job, to offer vital counsel in decision making, and to call out the head should he fail to take adequate responsibility in his role”

Yeah… If that accurately represents the book’s contents, then I am absolutely ashamed that it came from my denomination’s publisher. Doctrinal review has apparently seen better days.

Let’s start with their redefinition of headship as “utter dependence on the Creator.” In a way, it’s clever. Any objection to it can be unthinkingly rebuked with “What, are you saying that husbands shouldn’t be utterly dependent on the Creator?” Of course they should. After all, there’s a strong sense in which every Christian should be utterly dependent on his Creator. There’s also a strong sense in which everyone is dependent on the Creator whether they want to be or not.

That ubiquity is precisely why this is a terrible way to define the headship given specifically to husbands towards their wives. Rather than the many active responsibilities (and consequent authority) that God gives husbands, it subsumes the entire vocation in a wholly generic attitude towards God rather than describing any particular relationship with the wife. As a result, it says nothing at all. And make no mistake, that vapidity is precisely the point: Satan and his feminists want to reduce a husband’s headship to nothing.

So let’s put their definition back into Ephesians 5. Does “utter dependence on the Creator” accurately describe Christ’s headship over his Church? Obviously not. Christ was indeed utterly dependent upon the Father. His headship of the Church, however, is exercised in  the active works of dying for her, sanctifying her, washing her with God’s word, nourishing her, separating her from her spots and blemishes, and so forth. These are, of course, the very same responsibilities Scripture gives to husbands. And as always, responsibility is inextricable linked to authority. Christ was given all authority in heaven and on earth for the sake of his Church. Likewise, husbands possess authority in their household for the sake of their wives and children.

Next, let’s turn our attention to their redefinition of submission: As helpmeets, wives are “God’s gift to the head: to advise him on how to better do his job, to offer vital counsel in decision making, and to call out the head should he fail to take adequate responsibility in his role.” Once again, put that definition back into Ephesians 5 and ask yourself: is that how the Church submits to Christ? Do we advise Christ on how to be better at his job? Do we offer him vital counsel in decision making? Do we helpfully call Christ out should he fail to take adequate responsibility in his role? A thousand times, no. Any Christian would reject such blasphemy in an instant.

This transparently false redefinition inverts headship and submission in marriage just as blatantly as it would with respect to Christ and his Church. The wife is placed as supervisor over her husband: directing his actions, disciplining him, and passing judgment on his performance. Meanwhile, in his utter dependence on the Creator, the husband must subject himself to the Creator’s gift who was sent to micromanage all of his ways. How wonderful that the book avoids teaching husbands to “insist upon bossing people around.” That’s the wife’s job!

No, the truth about headship & submission is precisely the understanding which the Spirit of the Age hates the most: Submission actually means submission. Headship actually means headship. Wives are to be obedient to their husbands just as the Church obeys Christ. Husbands are to love and provide for their wives in all things, just as Christ does for his Church–including providing leadership.

And contrary to the lies Satan uses to scare women and timid men, this arrangement does not destroy women’s agency, well-being, or participation in this earthly life–anymore than the Church’s submission to Christ destroys such things for the Christian. The wife possesses genuine authority in her husband’s household. It is simply her husband’s authority delegated to her in many and various ways. And the husband does need to respect his own authority which he has delegated and avoid things like micromanaging everything or neglecting the grave responsibilities for which it was given to him. After all, his own genuine authority was delegated to him by God for that purpose.

Likewise, wives are invited to make their needs and concerns known to their husbands so that they may act on them, just as the Church is by Christ. It’s just not in a supervisory capacity. The attitude should be similar to that of prayer–a matter of asking our beloved king for his blessings because we know he loves us. And the husband, of course, should address those concerns just as eagerly as Christ does his Church’s. That doesn’t mean the husband never says no. It only means he should love to answer yes insofar as the request is positive or benign towards the well-being of his household and mission.

Far from being a horror, headship is a beautiful image of the greatest love ever shown to humanity: God sending his only Son to die for us that we would become part of his kingdom and leave the devil’s. No wonder Satan hates it. But although our participation in Christ’s kingdom heaps fire on the devil’s head, it is our greatest privilege and honor to participate in these wonderful vocations.

Christians need to act in accordance with this truth no matter how much the Spirit of the Age rages against us. And anyone who tries to rob us of this blessing by obfuscating God’s Word or wresting it away from us should be treated like the false teachers they are.

About Matt

Software engineer by trade; lay theologian by nature; Lutheran by grace.
This entry was posted in Chastity, Ethics, Family, Feminism, The Modern Church, Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Lies, Damned Lies, and Submission

  1. B. Gordon says:

    Best article I’ve read on this topic. Excellent!

  2. Matthew Etzell says:

    The devil hates the Law, but he hates the Gospel even more; therefore, the devil seeks to lead people to reject the Gospel even more than he seeks to lead them to reject the Law. Spreading lies like feminism and libertinism in what used to be called Christendom leads Christians into apostasy, and brings Christianity into disrepute (via guilt by association) among non-Christian traditionalists. While the devil wants to undermine the social and moral order (which even non-Christians have some knowledge of, per Romans 1:18-32) among all societies, he especially wants to undermine Christianity. Thus, the devil works harder to undermine the Law among formerly Christian societies (in an effort to undermine the Gospel) than among non-Christian societies.

    • Matt says:

      That’s interesting, Matthew. It immediately makes me think of Western Christians poo-pooing Muslims for being insufficiently feminist–as though we’ve got our heads screwed on straight on that issue. Stuff like that can lay a huge stumbling block.

  3. jvangeld says:

    ‘Male headship is defined as, “utter dependence on the Creator”’

    ‘Female helpership is defined as, “God’s gift to the head: to advise him on how to better do his job, to offer vital counsel in decision making, and to call out the head should he fail to take adequate responsibility in his role”’

    I can demonstrate that the second sentence proves that they don’t actually believe the first sentence.

    The husbands role, according to them, is just to be utterly dependant on the Creator. So if I see that the garbage needs to be taken out, my wife is supposed to advise me to stop and go do a better job at being dependent on the Creator instead. If I see that the lawn should be mowed, I better not go and mow it! That would be failing to take adequate responsibility in my role. If my wife sees me mowing the lawn, she should call out my failing and tell me to go inside and depend on God.

    Once I go inside, do I need to go to the bathroom? I guess that just depends on my Depends(TM).

    Oh, but they do want me to take responsibility and do things around the house? Well, that proves that they don’t believe that first sentence.

  4. OKRickety says:

    Excellent article. Wondering how to get it widely read.

    Note: This was recommended by a commenter at

    • Matt says:

      Thank you. I’m open to suggestions, as self-promotion isn’t really part of my skill-set. But I’m glad to see it showing up at blogs like Sigma Frame.

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