The Proper Subservience of Christian Women

 Posted by on 18 September 2008 at 11:01 pm  Culture, Politics, Religion
Sep 182008

Some evangelicals are less than thrilled with Sarah Palin’s new role as the Republican vice-presidential candidate. According to them, a Christian woman’s proper place is in the home, raising her family and supporting her husband. While probably a minority opinion at present, such views are worthy of our attention, I think. They represent the leading edge of evangelical Christianity in America. If the Christians win their battle for American politics and culture, these views will become ever-more dominant. Women will be confined to their homes, relegated to a life of supporting husband and children. Women will not be lawyers, doctors, politicians, journalists, or entrepreneurs. They will be daughters, then wives, and then mothers.

If that seems insane, just consider the following quotes collected from Christian message boards about Sarah Palin:

Why is a wife and mother with five children (including a newborn with Down’s syndrome) running for vice president? She has a bountiful amount of work cut out for her by the Lord sitting in her lap and around her dining room table. I can certainly respect her Christian and biblical views, but I am really amazed at Christians leaping to embrace putting a wife and mother into political office–particularly an office that will essentially make her the helpmate of the highest official in the land and practically remove her from her husband and children.

Isaiah 3:12 truly applies: “As for My people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O My people! Those who lead you cause you to err, and destroy the way of your paths.” I can assent to Sarah Palin’s conservative views and even applaud them, but I mourn for a nation whose men have forgotten how to lead their families and their land in the way our Founders envisioned and the way God intended. A wife and mother has already been elected by God to the highest office in the land. She has her own particular husband to help, his calling to make successful, and her children to nurture and train to the glory of God. How could the vice-presidency possibly compare with a task that God has personally designed her to fill?


The home, the family, the raising of children–it is the zenith of human accomplishment. It’s a full-time job, requiring full-time attention if it’s to encompass all God intended. [...]

The message is “women can have it all”…and it is a lie, because they can’t.

The message is “men and women should have equal access to the same roles”. The reality is, that’s not how God created HIS universe to run. He created them male and female, and yes, by their very biological design, nature screams at our dull senses “YOU ARE DIFFERENT”! Created for different purposes, created to compliment one another in their life work.

Such views are not from nowhere: they are actively developed and advocated by Christian intellectuals. For example, some critics of Palin favorable quoted Christian minister William Einwechter’s 2004 essay entitled “Should Christians Support a Woman for the Office of Civil Magistrate?” It argues that a woman ought not hold any public office, based purely on scripture. Here’s the opening paragraph:

With more and more women entering the political sphere and running for political office, the conscientious, biblically oriented Christian is confronted with the question of whether or not he should give his support and vote to a woman. This question becomes more pressing for many when the “best candidate,” i.e., the most conservative, pro-life candidate in a particular race is a woman. A number of years ago, we in Pennsylvania were confronted with this issue when an articulate, pro-life, politically conservative woman (who was also a wife and mother) ran for governor of our state. Many Christians enthusiastically supported her. But not all of us were confident that this was the right or consistent thing to do. The following essay grew out of the concern over her candidacy, and seeks to address the larger questions of the acceptability of women magistrates and the Christian’s responsibility before God in regard to supporting a woman for political office.

His methodology is simple: scripture reigns supreme, reason is dispensable. He writes: “In approaching this matter, we need to first understand that these questions can only be answered from Scripture. Mere human opinion or reason is not sufficient for the Christian. The Word of God is the only infallible, authoritative standard for directing us into the paths of righteousness.”

He considers four scriptural “arguments” against women holding political office. His primary case — with the most far-reaching implications — is found in the first section. Here it is, in full:

1. The Biblical Doctrine of the Headship of Man Disqualifies a Woman for Civil Office.

The scriptural revelation of the creation of man and woman, and the scriptural commentary on their creation establishes the headship of the man over the woman. The text of Genesis 2:7 and 2:18-24 teaches us that man was made first, and then the woman was made to be man’s helper and companion. The Bible instructs us that this order of creation was by God’s design, and that it establishes the positional priority of the man over the woman in regards to authority and leadership. In setting forth the authority of the man over the woman in the context of the local church, Paul appeals to the creation order saying, “For Adam was formed first, then Eve” (1 Tim. 2:13). In another passage, Paul states the divinely ordained order of authority and headship: “But I would have you to know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God” (1 Cor. 11:3). Therefore, the Apostle Paul teaches that God has decreed that the order of authority be as follows: God-Christ-Man-Woman. Each one in this “chain of command” is under the headship (i.e., authority) of the one preceding him or her. Later on in this same text, Paul, as in 1 Timothy 2, calls upon the order of creation to show man’s headship over the woman. He says, “For the man is not of the woman; but the woman of the man. Neither was the man created for the woman; but the woman for the man” (1 Cor. 11:8-9). The Bible explicitly states that the man has headship over the woman, and that this headship is not based on cultural factors, or even the fall; rather, it is based on the created order established by God Himself.

Now it is also plain in the Bible that God has ordained that the order of the headship of man must be maintained in each governing institution set up by God. There are three primary institutions established by the Lord for the ordering of human affairs. These are the family, the church, and the state. Each of these institutions has authority to govern within its appointed sphere. We could say, then, that there are three “governments” in the world: family government, church government, and state government. In each of these governments, God has commanded that men bear rule. The man has headship in the family (Eph. 5:22-24), the church (1 Tim. 2:11-14; 1 Cor. 14:34-35), and also by implication and command, in the state as well (1 Cor. 11:3; Ex. 18:21; see point 2 below).

Could it be that the man has headship only in the family and the church but not in the state? No, this could not be, lest you make God the author of confusion, and have Him violate in the state the very order He established at creation and has revealed in Holy Scripture! If one is going to argue for the acceptability of women bearing rule in the civil sphere, then to be consistent, he or she also needs to argue for the acceptability of women bearing rule in the family and the church. Now it is true that some attempt to do just that; but their denial of male headship for the family, church, and state is really a rejection of the Word of God and is a repudiation of God’s created order. And it is not sufficient to contend that it is acceptable to support a woman for civil ruler when she is the best candidate, unless you are also prepared to argue that it is acceptable to advocate a woman for the office of elder because she is better suited than the available men in the church; and unless you are also prepared to say that the wife should rule over her husband if she is better equipped to lead than her husband is.

Notice that his arguments do not merely concern the proper place of women in politics. He explicitly claims that men must rule over women in the family, in the church, and in politics. Yet his analysis would apply just as well to any endeavor, including business. By his principles, no woman should ever claim any authority over any man in any sphere of life, regardless of her knowledge, skills, experience, and capacities. So a woman doctor ought never order a male nurse to medicate her patient as she directs. A woman police officer cannot rightfully demand a male criminal to submit himself to lawful arrest. A woman professor cannot fail a male student for cheating over his protests. A woman business owner cannot fire a male employee for failing to show up to work on time. God has designed men and women such that men always have “positional priority” over women in “authority and leadership.”

That’s our future — unless we fight for rational values today.

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