One of the loudest arguments that have come about within Christian Social Media is the call for a reigniting of an extremist view of Gender roles among Christians called Patriarchy. This view tells women that they are inferior creations, made in the image of man rather than God, & that their worth is tied only to their ability to manage a household & have children. And what’s worse is that this view is not just some weird resurgence of a Toxic Muscular Christianity, but is a Blasphemous movement blaming God for their Abusive Theology which extends beyond the home, oftentimes into their view of Salvation itself. There are two common places that the Patriarchists turn in Scripture to make their claims, that we want to focus on today, Ephesians 5 & Genesis 3. The irony of these passages being used for this argument is that they are two of the clearest passages to show Patriarchy to be a result of sin rather than sanctification.
EPHESIANS 5:22 Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord, 23 for the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. He is the Savior of the body. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so wives are to submit to their husbands in everything. 25 Husbands love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her with the washing of water by the word. 27 He did this to present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or anything like that, but holy and blameless. 28 In the same way, husbands are to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hates his own flesh but provides and cares for it, just as Christ does for the church, 30 since we are members of His body. 31 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
The argument here is for “plain reading of the text” which states that wives are to submit to their husbands. It is a rather simple argument, with significant Theological & Domestic implications, because a simple reading of the text would seem to state that unconditional submission to the husband is God’s design. But this plain reading of the text is void of the context provided by the rest of Chapter 5. Paul is pushing the Ephesians towards Holy living, especially one that imitates Christ Himself. 21-31 is part of this discourse highlighted explicitly in verse 32, where Paul makes it clear that the relationship he is highlighting is not one of marriage, but of Christ & the Church. But there is something else under the surface that we want to unpack, & that is that Ephesians 5 is a complete reversal of what we see in Genesis 3:16.
Genesis 3:16 is where we see the creation of the Patriarchal Hierarchy. God punishing Eve for eating the fruit says this: “Your desire will be for your husband, yet he will rule over you.” Prior to this point in Genesis 1 & 2, Eve was an equal member of the marriage relationship both with Adam & with God. They both are created Imago Dei & given the same commission by God. Now, however, Eve would be ruled over by the one person she desired to be intimately loved by. Patriarchy is a result of the fall. However, Paul in Ephesians 5 shows us what a life lived in service to the cross looks like. A return to the relationship we had in Genesis 1 & 2.
Paul calls for wives to submit to their husbands here in Ephesians, but its no longer out of a desire for her husband, but now it is out of a desire to serve Christ. Wives are no longer submitting in order to receive her worth because her worth is once again found in her Creator. Husbands then are called to Love their wives, which in light of the curse found in Genesis 3:16, is actually an act of submission as well. Husbands now are to return the desire of their wives, not because of the wife's submission, but because we are called to love unconditionally as Christ loves us. The act of love is a laying down of the desire to rule, in order to desire our wives. There are many other problems with the Theological abuses of Patriarchy, but this obvious reversal of the very argument presented deserves special attention because it not only allows for our sisters in Christ to be free from “God-ordained” oppression, but it also again reminds us that Christ has removed the curses of sin, and because of this fact we are all able to find our worth in Him.
For more on Smashing the Patriarchy, check out our interview with Pastor Andie Avrams: https://www.ministrymisfits.com/podcast/episode/7641a610/ministry-misfits-episode-78-smashthepatriarchy-with-pastor-andie-avram
For more information on both the Toxic & Biblical versions of Muscular Christianity, listen to our interview with Dr. Greg Linville: https://www.ministrymisfits.com/podcast/episode/2d15f3f9/ministry-misfits-episode-37-what-is-muscular-christianity-anyway