Because Christianity is bigger than Biblical manhood or Biblical womanhood (Blog of Retha Faurie)

(To simplify quoting in this article, I will put Denny Burk quotes not in quotation marks, but in red. Something he quoted will be in blue and quotes, something else I quote beside Burk in normal black and quotes.)

Actress Candace Cameron Bure said recently that she submits to her husband and “his desire to have the final decision on just about everything.” 
Sarah Bessey answered with an understanding of submission that does not make the woman smaller, but enables both partners to grow. 

Denny Burk answered Sarah Bessey – and made generalizations about egalitarianism in general.

Central to Burk’s argument is this:
… there was one line in her post that jumped off of the page at me. It stood out not because it is new, but because it is “Exhibit A” of what is wrong with egalitarian exegesis. Here’s the sentence:

The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.

The unblushing error of this statement is breathtaking. It is a stark denial of the straightforward teaching of scripture. That is why Bessey spends the better part of her post trying to prove that Bible verses contradicting this statement don’t really mean what they appear to mean. Here are just a couple of texts that she brushes aside with a waving of the hermeneutical wand:

1 Corinthians 11:3, 8-9 “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ… For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; for indeed man was not created for the woman’s sake, but woman for the man’s sake.”

Ephesians 5:22-24 “Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything.”

Bessey denies that headship is a concept rooted in scripture, yet here are verses from scripture that teach about headship. She further denies that headship is rooted in the order of creation. Yet here are verses that appeal specifically to the original creation of man and woman in Genesis 1-2.
Burk confuses two things here:
1) Home/wife: Bessey denies the ideas that a man is head of the home. Burk answers with text that say the man is head of the woman/ the wife. The wife is not the home. See more in the note at the end of this blog entry. 

2) Head: Head in “head of the home” and “head of the wife” are not synonymous:

a)There are places where people in the Bible are called heads (masters) of homes. These texts use the Greek word oikosdespotes, from oikos=house and despotes = ruler (origin of the word “despot”). The English word “head” in these texts stands in for a Greek term meaning ruler. These texts never say the man should be the head of the home. 1 Tim 5:14 calls younger widows – women – to oikosdespoteo, the verb of being head of the home. Younger widows – women – are the only people who, by the Bible, are told to be heads (rulers, despots) of homes.

b) There are 2 places where man/ the husband in the Bible is called the head (Greek kephale, not despotes) of woman/ his wife. Nowhere in the Bible does those texts, or any other, say the men should lead. It uses, in the Greek, words very unlike the “head of the home” texts. It uses a word that mostly mean the body part above the neck (literal head), and may have no meaning of ruling in un-translated Greek.

As such, Bessy is correct: The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.

The creation order has to do with man being kephale (seldom if ever a leadership term) head of the woman, but not with him being oikosdespotes head of the household.
Confusing “head of the home” – the point of her assertion – with “head of the woman” is a very easy mistake if you are not careful with scripture, but it is a straw man. (I have to admit, at my first read of Sarah’s article I had to do a double take – it sounded wrong to me too, so I understand Burk’s confusion.)

She claims that the text from Ephesians is merely Pauline cooperation with first century error about gender roles and patriarchy (the so-called Haustafeln), and we now know better than Paul did.

That is a straw man of Sarah Bessey’s/ the egalitarian claim. The claim is not that Paul cooperated with the wrong ideas and we know better than him, but that Paul turned it on its head, by quoting parts of the well-known Aristotelian codes in such a way that you expect the rest of it – and then saying nothing like you would expect. It is somewhat (except that Paul is Christianizing, and this example is secularizing) like:

“the meek shall inherit the earth – once everyone else is finished with it.”

The speaker quotes the idea to put it in a completely different context. He does not go along with the original idea, but makes it the butt of his “joke”.

I am reminded of Ligon Duncan’s remarks in this regard:

The gymnastics required to get from “I do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” in the Bible, to “I do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” in the actual practice of the local church, are devastating to the functional authority of the Scripture in the life of the people of God.

Actually, the hermeneutics to go from “I (Paul) do not allow a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man,” (1 Timothy 2:12) in the Bible, to “I (current egalitarians) do allow a woman to teach and to exercise authority over a man” is pretty much like the hermeneutics to go from:
a) “Greet each other with a holy kiss” to “it is not needed to greet everybody at church (including other people’s spouses) with a holy kiss.” (Rom. 16:16)
OR the hermeneutics to go from:
b) “Give to all who ask of you” to “I am welcome to not donate to every charity whose plight lands in my mail/ email/ a magazine I read/ is mentioned in my church.” (Luke 6:30)

By the way, this is one reason why I think we just don’t see many strongly inerrantist-egalitarians… Inerrancy or egalitarianism, one or the other, eventually wins out.

Is Rom. 16:16 and Luke 6:30 inerrant, or are you just pretending to find the Bible inerrant? If you say greeting others with a holy kiss is part of that culture and we do not have to obey it, are you saying our culture is superior? These things bring up the same kind of interpretational issues as egalitarianism.

We are not playing games here. The hermeneutics of egalitarianism are serious error and are harmful. That much is on full display in Bessey’s article.

Here, Burk tells us egalitarianism is harmful, presumably to a view of scriptural inerrancy. But he comes to this conclusion by combining 2 different terms both translated into English as head, and which does not even refer to the same thing (wives are not households). That is like saying that temperatures in the South African town Bethlehem was rather low because something cool happened in the Bethlehem in the Gaza strip (Palestinian area, Israel).
(Two places that are named by the name Bethlehem is here compared to two ideas both named with the English word head, and low temperature/ another meaning of cool is here compared to households/wives which are not the same thing.)
This is really not games we are playing. I find the hermeneutics of complementarianism a careless approach to scripture, which firstly often leads to real world abuse and injustice, and also often reads things into the text which is not there. Like reading “head of the household” into a text that mentions “head of the woman.”
That not only presupposes things about the text, but also about culture (1 man per household, one woman per household) that rarely fits the real world which God wrote the Bible for. If there are, for example, an aging father, his daughter and his son-in-law in one house, Denny Burk style complementarianism say one of the men should be the head of the household. But what about the other man? Is he disobeying his Biblical calling by not being the head of the household? No, because the Bible really never say men should be heads of households.  As Sarah Bessey accurately pointed out:

The idea that a Man is the Head of the Home has its roots in secular ancient culture, not in the Word of God or the created order of humanity.

Comments on: "Was Sarah Bessey right with this claim? I understand why Denny Burk is confused" (8)

  1. Well reasoned, as always, Retha. You have a way of cutting to the heart of the matter that I really appreciate!


  2. greghahn4 said:

    Very good points! It is Burk being careless with Scripture, not Sarah. And Sarah was right.


  3. Love your points, Retha. Comps are picking which scriptures they want to dismiss and which they want to be rigid about–and they twist the passages they choose to be rigid about, making them say the opposite of what they actually say. Why don’t they make as big a fuss about practicing the holy kiss? (BTW I came from a group that did practice the holy kiss, men with men and women with women. So it is NOT unheard of to do that in the 21st century.) To continue with your argument, I keep wondering how complementarians can get from ‘husbands love your wives as Christ loved the church’ to ‘husbands take authority over your wives and make the final decisions.’ Talk about opposites. They dismiss the sacrificial love side of Christ they are supposed to copy and focus on husbands copying His lordship side instead. And its all based on an inference in Paul’s statement to wives?? Even worse, husbands are commanded to submit in the verse preceding. And unlike egals who have numerous references to women in leadership and prophesying positions in the early church,and Paul’s approval of the women, complementarians have no similar Bible references to husbands ruling and wives obeying in the early church along with Paul’s approval. I guess they see and emphasize what they want to see & emphasize.


  4. I particularly love this because I first took a long hard look at egalitarianism many years ago when i heard a comp pastor explain that ‘greet one another with a holy kiss’ meant “a hearty handshake”. That amazing exegetical leap made me question all the literalism I had been taught, because it showed me how inconsistent their applications were


  5. Burk affirms that a husband is the head of his wife. It is a logical move to go from the husband-wife relationship to the household. If a husband is head of his wife then he is by extension head of his household (kids, servants, etc). The main point of this article is moot. To make a radical distinction between “head of household” and “head of wife” is illegitimate.

    Would Bessey (or you) agree that a husband is the head of the wife? If so than we can talk about authority of scripture and actual exegesis. However talking about holy kissing is hardly relevant to the discussion.


    • You seem to think the whole world in all eras went by the western middle class norm of one adult man, plus his wife, per home. As I type this, I sit in a house with two adult men living in it – my brother and father. The only child currently among the visitors here live in a house with among others two adult men. Another of my brothers also, as a married man, shared a home with another married couple at a stage. (Several families living in one home is cheaper.) Not every man in such a home can be “head of the home” even though he can be “head of the wife.”
      In the time that it was written that a husband is head of his wife, homes usually had several adults, who often included a father and adult sons or sons in law, and male servants who live in the same household. All of them could be husbands and be head of a wife, but the meaning of “head of a home” is that only one of them could be head of a home.

      I can’t speak for Sarah Bessey, but I admit a husband (even the most hen-pecked husband) is head of his wife. He don’t have to lead to be head. He is head even when in a coma, or when she leads, or in situations where no leader is needed.
      It is just that kephale (head) did not mean leadership, the text do not call him a leader or authority figure.


  6. I thought “head” in this case, meant “source of”, not “leader of”…


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