Thursday, September 30, 2010

open question

Does affirming a "principle of male spiritual headship" logically imply that men are inherently better equipped to be spiritual leaders?

Yes or no, give me a thumbnail sketch of the reasoning. Am curious about the consensus/dissensus on this point.


Brad East said...

Strangely, I would say it does logically, but not always practically. It's hard even to argue the former point; more than hard propositional logic, it's simply the inner sense to it: the language and practice, day after day, context upon context, of reinforcing and enacting "spiritual headship" entails a way of ordering the world that simply implies having been "better equipped."

However -- and thankfully -- often the bare facts of the matter testify otherwise, and I have personally known marriages who would affirm headship but whose practice reflected both an equal partnership and a clear rejection of any notion that the man was "better equipped" (at anything!) than the woman.

Unfortunately, such examples are few and far between; moreover, they aren't necessary if the so-called principle is given up altogether.

Anonymous said...

Some scenarios...
I'm a first century believer. Nero is my emperor. He's morally and even possibly mentally defunct. Do these facts even slightly change my obligation to honor his headship and authority, provided the laws he passes do not violate my conscience? What happens when he raises taxes? Can I say, "That man is an imbecile, I'm not going to pay him more taxes. It's only arbitrary that he is our current ruler. Phooey on him."

Established authority is authored by God and often has nothing to do with qualifications.

"Children, obey your parent, for this is right." Jesus said, "If you being EVIL know how to give good gifts to your children..."

How many parents are truly GOOD parents? In comparison to God, Jesus called us parents EVIL. Yet, a child has no right to disregard a command from its parent just because there are better parents or because God is so much better a parent. On the contrary, again, except for violation of conscience, a child must obey "for this is RIGHT."

Employee Doe is smarter than the boss. The boss asks for unreasonable hours. Does Doe have the right, from God's perspective, to just ignore the boss?

Paul says the relationship between man and the woman is reflective of Christ and the Church. It is a living parable. It is not arbitrary. He had something in mind. Does this mean that the man will always lead perfectly or always make the best decision? No. He is NOT inherently better or worse than his female counterpart. But Father did establish it so that each could learn specific lessons. He also prophesied, from the very beginning, that the female would wish it were different (Gen 3:16). But it is what it is.

In the end, all that is being asked is the lesson we all need to learn:
Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider EQUALITY with God something to be grasped or held onto, but made himself nothing. -a

JJT said...


apologies but all I can see in the comment above is a series of examples of mundane authoritarian relationships being justified by biblical texts and tied to a view of the trinity that also reflects those unequal power relations.

I know that we just honestly differ on this and both of us are doing our best to seek in the biblical text indications of God's intent for humanity. My current working conviction is that dominant/subordinate hierarchical, unequal power relations are not God's intent for the way human beings relate to each other--in any context: parent/child, boss/employee, emperor/subject (an odd example for a citizen of a democracy, that).

But that's a bit far afield from the specifics of the question, which I'm asking just b/c I'm curious to know how other people process it.

SteveA said...

I suppose it does imply it. But I don't agree with it. I'm not sure what it is supposed to mean for our day and time. In our every day life our relationships are a complex web of commitments, obligations, roles, and responsibilities. To break down the relation of any two people to a simple head/subordinate description is too simple. Why does this supposed headship not apply in the workplace or politics. It seems ironic that some who support and affirm having a female president or senator would disallow that same person from speaking or teaching in church.

JJT said...

Okay, so the follow up question, of course, is:

If being male does not imply better inherent fitness to spiritually lead, is this relevant?

If the answer is no, then God is arbitrary and also somewhat unconcerned whether spiritual leaders actually manage to lead their followers into spiritual maturity.

That just doesn't fit with what I read everywhere else in the NT about leadership and spiritual growth and the desirability of spiritual maturity. If God desires these things, then it seems a reasonable thing to assume that God would nudge us toward a system which actually fosters these spiritual outcomes--not a system which favors one gender over another for no particularly relevant reason and to the spiritual detriment of the opposite gender.

And yes, I meant that last part; I think it is by and large to the detriment of women to be told that they are categorically subordinate, for no particular reason, even if there is no overt conflict. It is a second class status. Just knowing that makes you feel less valued, less important, less capable, less trusted and less trustworthy. Got a call from God? Get the fellas to verify it, because your word isn't enough. And, of course, the whole thing that started this round of conversation is that the fellas (often) don't verify it...putting women in an impossible spiritual crisis, requiring them to trust someone else, always a male, to be the spiritual discerner of their call and their gifts--and this thread of conversation has affirmed that these male others are not necessarily better equipped to do so. Which means that to be "righteous," even if these women know better, they must submit to the flawed judgment of their male spiritual heads, knowing that their discernment is flawed.

Am I going crazy, or is this just insane?

ellen said...

I went to all Summit (@ ACU) classes on gender inclusivity; found them all extremely interesting & so very necessary right now; also found them heart-warming & heart-breaking. As I have followed Mike's blog on this subject & read ALL 200+ comments,(including your brilliant ones, JTB) I've wondered: what if an eldership decreed that they "gave" equal authority to women & women serving in all roles would NOT be considered to be "usurping" authority over men. Do you think we'd all be OK with this????

JJT said...

At least one church (reportedly) has done exactly that--I remember KH talking about it awhile back.

Two thoughts: one, if a once-and-for-all pronouncement, it might lead to egalitarianism in practice with just an initial hangover of subordination language--in which case, eventually that language would disappear because it didn't describe the reality of the community. (It still rubs me the wrong way, but best case scenario is, the hangover disappears.) Or, two, it might mean that women actually continue to be "second-class" in that all gifts/callings have to be case-by-case verified by men, and permissions continually sought and granted. If the second, then I would see it as very unsatisfactory. (It's almost as if God has to get the elders' permission before God can call a woman to lead singing or something. How frustrating would that be for a deity? ...Again, it just seems obviously whack to me.)