In Exactly What Does it Mean for the Wife to Submit to Her Husband, pastor and Christian life coach Dr. Raymond Force explains that the reason women bristle at the New Testament verses on submission is that they mistakenly think the verses mean they are to submit to their husband, who is the head of the marriage. Force assures them that the husband’s job is serve his wife, and only in the most rare occasions should he try to lead:
Some have an Unbiblical View of these Biblical Verses
In other articles, I talk about what biblical headship actually means, and I accentuate that headship is 99% service and 1% decision making. However, some seem to assume that headship means that the husband lords over the wife. I do not find that to be the spirit of these teachings at all.
This has always been my impression of the term Servant Leader. While it sounds biblical, in practice it is a term used to deny headship. However, I’ve never seen a complementarian put numbers to it like this before. Note that 1% is the absolute smallest number he could assign to leadership without adding a decimal point, and this is what he is really communicating. From this perspective, he could have just as well said headship is 99.99% service and .01% leadership, or 99.999% service and .001% leadership, etc. No one is going to actually do the math, as the point is that leadership is to be portrayed as insignificant as possible while still claiming headship includes leadership.
This 1%, or .01%, or .001% leadership (in theory) is what distinguishes complementarians from egalitarians, so it is extremely important to complementarians on a philosophical level. But from a practical perspective, for complemetarians headship is always suspect and guilty until proven innocent of being abuse just as Force has framed it above. In Force’s framing above, if you believe that headship is from a real and practical perspective about leadership, you are one of those people who thinks headship means lording over your wife. Force reinforces this frame later in the post:
Everyone has met religious abusers that use the Word of God as a form of control over people. Because of the presence of people as such in the world, some have thrown the baby out with the bath water and followed their own ways and feelings rather than the Word of God.
When it comes to the above mentioned verses, we all know men that have abused these teachings. However, this does not mean that we should refrain from following these biblical precepts.
Having set the table to deny that headship means leadership/decision making in practice, Force can then explain that in theory it means the husband leads without risk of his words actually resulting in leadership. At some point, in theory, after weeks, months, or even years of discussion, a wife should ultimately let her husband make a decision:
I see couples that will fight for weeks, months, and even years about where to move, financial decisions, what to purchase, et cetera. At some point, someone will have to pull the lever, and, from a biblical perspective, it should be the husband.
This in turn frees Force to present himself as the only real man/pastor in the room:
I know the temptation to play it safe, but, as a teacher of the Word, I am not called to keep the ship afloat. My responsibility is to please the Father. Though I preach to the masses, I still have an Audience of One, God the Father.
When it comes to verses on headship, I do believe that pastors are often afraid of teaching on these verses. Maybe it is because they are afraid of women (this is a consideration), or it is possible that they do not know how to articulate the true meaning of these verses. However, these verses are just as inspired as John 3:16 or Ephesians 2:8-9. And, if pastors are going to be true to their calling, they should be careful of conveniently omitting their responsibility to teach the whole counsel of God.