I recently came upon a post called “The Most Pro-Woman Text in Scripture,” by pastor and homeschool leader Scott Brown, who is on Vision Forum’s board (for more on Vision Forum, see Rethinking Vision Forum).
Last weekend, I was glad to participate in another wedding and to have the joy of giving a message. It was the wedding of Jordan Muela and Sarah Mendenhall in Indiana. As I was meditating on Ephesians 5:22-33 before the wedding, it struck me again that this passage is the most pro-female document ever drafted.
This text is so powerfully one sided that it is hard to understand why it has been so roundly criticized and rejected by feminist thinkers. On the contrary, I have always thought that the biblical teaching that describes the role of a husband towards his wife is the most pro-female writing ever published.
So let’s look at the Ephesians 5 text, shall we?
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body.31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.
I guess the pro-female bit is the part where husbands are to love their wives rather than the part where wives are to submit to their husbands in everything? See, there’s nothing here that’s one-sided—each party is given a command, one to submit, and one to love. And if Brown doesn’t know why feminist thinkers would have a problem with a text that commands women to submit, he hasn’t read many feminist thinkers.
Scripture is unparalleled in tenderness towards women, for it calls a man to first of all give up his life, and then to follow the example of Christ and even die for his bride. God must so very highly value his daughters, because he calls their husbands to such a high standard – the sacrificial love of Christ. If you searched the libraries of the world, I doubt that you would find any that would contain writings which call men to such heights of passion and devotion and self sacrifice.
In articles like this, an emphasis on the sacrificial love of Christ is used to cover up the fact that women are commanded to submit to their husbands in everything. That’s not okay. Ever. No one should have to submit to anyone in everything. So husbands are supposed to love their wives? That sounds a bit like being a beloved slave. The love thing is nice, the whole slavery thing is not. I don’t want to be anyone’s beloved possession. I want to be their beloved equal. I don’t care how tender and sweet and lovey someone is to me if they expect me to submit and keep quiet and follow without question.
Also, is it even possible to require person to love someone? If a man’s wife turns out to be a horrible terrible toxic person, isn’t it possible that his love for her might disappear—and for good reason? I don’t see love as unconditional, to be honest. You can’t be forced to or required to love someone.
The teaching here highlights the importance of order and authority in all relationships, and particularly the way that love works through God’s human authority structure in the family. But there is nothing more prominent in this text than the high bar God that husbands are to clear in their love for their wives.
I don’t know, I think the whole women have to submit to their husbands in everything part is pretty prominent too. But as for the rest of this paragraph, it just sounds like words to me. “Highlights the importance of order and authority in all relationships”? How? “Particularly the way that love works through God’s human authority structure in the family”? That may sound all pretty, but what does that actually mean? Does Brown honestly think it’s not possible to love an equal partner? Does he honestly think that authority and love go one way? Does he really think that order and authority is necessary for family formation? I’m guessing Brown’s answer to at least some of that is probably “yes.” But what I’m struck by is how very out of touch he is with how people like me view things like love and family. As well as, of course, his apparent complete lack of understanding of the very foundation of feminism.