Mutual Submission, Part 2

This is part of a series on patriarchy, headship, and submission. See this index.

NOTE: For a much longer version of this post, see Part 1.

Mutual submission can be seen in the following observation: it is good for husbands and wives to be humble, respectful, courteous, kind, loving, deferential, honoring, and understanding towards each other, aiming towards unity. Any marriage in which either husband or wife fails at this is not one characterized by a submissive attitude. It isn’t about authority or roles, whether equal or not.

There is a certain type of critic who thinks that long-form writing—what I do on this blog—is not legitimate. It is too long to be useful. Frequent commenter Sharkly cited Occam’s Razor on this very point.

So I’m going to reprise Part 1 by responding to FMP’s article“Wayne Grudem Destroys ‘Mutual Submission’” in full, but only responding to each point in 280 characters, the size of a single message on Twitter, or less. I will also not provide any distracting or overwhelming citations of any of my claims, nor any footnotes.

Do you think my critics—who won’t engage with me (but there is still time)—will be convinced? Or were all the cries a while back for “write fewer words” just a smoke screen to say “shut up and go away.” After all, shouldn’t I be actually persuasive if I write concisely? Let me know in the comments, especially if you now see the light.

Critics mock any suggestion that Paul taught mutual submission. But English translations (and punctuation) of Ephesians 5:21-22 don’t match the Greek. There are at least ten arguments supporting the claim that Paul described mutual submission. It isn’t unreasonable or unusual.

Grudem
wives are to be subject to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-23), children are to be subject to their parents (Eph. 6:1-3), and slaves (or bondservants) are to be subject to their masters (Eph. 6:5-8).

Grudem falsely equivocates two different Greek words with the English “be subject.”

Grudem
These relationships are never reversed. He does not tell husbands to be subject to wives, or parents to be subject to their children (thus nullifying all parental authority!), or masters to be subject to their servants. In fact, Paul does not tell husbands and wives generally to be subject to each other

In the original Greek, Paul does not use any verb—he elides it—when speaking to wives. The verb is merely implied. Paul uses different verbs and grammatical senses between the husband/wife relationship and the parent/child and master/slave relationships.

Grudem
He says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph. 5:22)

False. It is a snipped sentence fragment that says: “the wives to the husbands as to the Lord.”

Grudem
Therefore, what Paul has in mind is not a vague kind of mutual submission where everybody is considerate and thoughtful to everybody else, but a specific kind of submission to an authority: the wife is subject to the authority of her own husband.

Grudem mocks what Paul said and the early church implemented. The belief that Paul is talking about authority is a medieval novelty.

Grudem
Similarly, parents and children aren’t told to practice mutual submission, but children are to be subject to (to “obey”) their parents (Eph. 6:1-3), and servants are told to be subject to (to “obey”) their masters (Eph. 6:5-8).

Exactly. Parents/children and Masters/slaves are a different category than Husbands/wives. The former is based on obedience, the latter on respect, love, deference, propriety, and order.

FMP
What I like about this quote especially is when Wayne Grudem specifically mentions commands for children and slaves to “be subject to” those in authority over them. It means “to obey”. Clarity like this is absolutely vital for any Christian man who wishes to teach on this subject.

The Bible tells children and servants to obey. It never commands wives to obey.

Grudem
The absence of any command for husbands to submit to wives: There is one more fact that egalitarians cannot explain well when they propose mutual submission as an understanding of this verse. They fail to account for the fact that while wives are several times in the New Testament told to be subject to their husbands (Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-6), the situation is never reversed: Husbands are never told to be subject to their wives. Why is this, if Paul wanted to teach mutual submission?

Grudem is just wrong. Nowhere in the Bible are husbands or wives commanded to submit.

Grudem
The command that a husband should be subject to his wife would have been startling in an ancient male-dominated culture.

Yes, it would have: Paul was replacing the Roman Household Codes with Christian Household Codes! There is nothing wrong with that and other writers agree with me.

Grudem
Therefore, if the New Testament writers thought that Christian marriage required husbands to submit to their wives, they would have had to say that very clearly in their writings—otherwise, no early Christians would have ever known that was what they should do! But nowhere do we find such a command. It is surprising that evangelical feminists can claim that the New Testament teaches this when it is nowhere explicitly stated.

It was explicitly stated very clearly in Ephesians 5:21. Just ask John Chrysostom, the native Greek speaker of the late 4th century who espoused the same position.

FMP
This is an excellent point. Ephesians 5:21 is the immediate fallback verse that is twisted to nullify the force of the command to wives to submit to their husbands in the verses that follow.

It is not a command. Calling it a command twists and nullifies what Paul actually said.

FMP
However, there is no such verse in Colossians 3, Titus 2, or 1 Peter 3.

In Colossians 3:18, Paul was concerned with marital propriety (re: love, respect, deference, and honor), not authority. Only children and servants obeyed. The same is true of Titus 2:5 versus Titus 2:9.

Re: 1 Peter 3, Genesis and John Chrysostom say that Abraham obeyed Sarah.

FMP
There is no “to one another” fragment that can be mis-used to try and muddy the issue by saying both husbands and wives must do X.*

Peter uses the word “in the same way” to show the mutuality and universality of his teaching.

FMP
That’s quite a glaring omission if the intention of the NT authors was to communicate that husbands should also submit.

There is no glaring omission. Peter’s words that Sarah obeyed Abraham only make sense with reference to Genesis which says that Abraham obeyed Sarah.

FMP
Why would there be so many verses telling wives to submit and only one telling husbands to also submit to their wives?

There is not a single verse commanding wives to submit. It’s not an imperative. Neither English translations nor Grudem are making this clear. Both seem to want Paul to have been written “more clearly” according to them. But Paul really isn’t being unclear. To wit:

FMP
And why is there not even one isolated passage where it only addresses the husbands and tells them to submit to their wives? Why do wives only receive such treatment?

Paul wasn’t obligated to address only husbands. What Paul and Peter said was not confusing or incomplete. John Chrysostom easily understood Sarah’s obedience in light of Abraham’s obedience, so too can we understand Paul’s mutual submission without an explicit statement.

Grudem
I agree, of course, that teachings in one part of the Bible can modify or refine our understanding of teachings in another part of the Bible. In this way the teachings of the different sections are complementary. But in the egalitarian claim that mutual submission nullifies a husband’s authority…

Nowhere in the Bible is a husband prescriptively given authority over his wife by God, except in one instance when Paul tells husbands and wives that they share mutual authority over each other’s bodies. What irony!

Grudem
…and gives an entirely different sense to submission, we are talking not just about a complementary teaching in another part of the Bible but about something that fundamentally denies and even contradicts the meaning of these verses in Colossians, Titus, and 1 Peter. Even if we were to grant Bilezikian’s claim that the addition of “to one another” to hypotassø “changes its meaning entirely,” that would not help him in Colossians, Titus, and 1 Peter, where there is no statement about “one another,” but just “wives, be subject to your own husbands.

Colossians, Titus, and 1 Peter do not stand in contrast with Ephesians, but support it.

Grudem
One other fact warns us that the egalitarian claim of mutual submission should not be used as a magic wand to wave away any claims of male leadership in marriage: There is no statement about “submitting to one another” in the context of Colossians 3:18, Titus 2:5, or 1 Peter 3:1. Yet, as we saw at the outset of this chapter, those verses also explicitly teach wives to be submissive to their husbands. And they say nothing about husbands being submissive to their wives.

This leaves egalitarians in a dilemma. Nothing in these letters would have even hinted to Paul’s original readers in Colosse or to Titus and the church in Crete or to Peter’s readers in hundreds of churches in Asia Minor anything like the mutual submission that egalitarians advocate. But that means (from an egalitarian standpoint) that these three letters would have taught a wrong idea—the idea that wives should submit to the authority of their husbands in marriage. Did the letters of the apostles Paul and Peter then lead the church astray? Would it have been sin for the original readers to obey the letters of Paul and Peter and teach that wives should be subject to their husbands? This would contradict our doctrine of Scripture as the inerrant, absolutely authoritative Word of God.

FMP
Exactly. What if a church received a copy of Paul’s letter to Colosse, but not a copy of his letter to Ephesus? What would they do without Ephesians 5:21 to inform their understanding of marital submission? Surely they would have been led astray if mutual submission were a true, biblical doctrine.

This argument fails. Mutual submission is described in the example of Abraham and Sarah in the Old Testament. No New Testament books were required for Peter to bring that up.

Colossian husbands would submit by loving their wives, the same as Paul told the Ephesian husbands.

Grudem
“When we look at the word that Paul used when he said “submitting to one another” in Ephesians 5:21, we find that this word (Greek hypotassø) in the New Testament is always used for submission to an authority. Here are some examples:“

Most of Grudem’s examples are in a different grammatical voice and are not directly comparable. Others lack the independent context to support his claim.

Grudem
What this list should demonstrate clearly is that to be “subject to” or “submissive to” someone in the sense that is signified by the word hypotassø always means to be subject to the authority of that other person. In all of these examples, there is no exception. The subjection is one directional, and the person who is under authority is subject to the person who has authority over him or her. The relationships indicated by the word hypotassø simply do not envision relationships where the authority is mutual, or where it is reciprocal, or where it is reversed. It is only one-directional.

More to the point, in the Luke 2:41-52 example, Jesus’ obedience is contrasted with his disobedience. Grudem’s argument is invalid because this counterexample exists.

Grudem
How then should we respond when people say they believe in “mutual submission”? We need to find out what they mean by the phrase, and if they do not wish to advocate an egalitarian view, we need to see if we can suggest alternative wording that would speak to their concerns more precisely. Some people who hold a fully complementarian view of marriage do use the phrase “mutual submission” and intend it in a way that does not nullify male leadership in marriage. I have found that some people who want to use this language may simply have genuine concerns that men not act like dictators or tyrants in their marriages. If this is what they are seeking to guard against by the phrase “mutual submission,” then I suggest trying this alternative wording, which is found in the Campus Crusade for Christ statement:

In a marriage lived according to these truths, the love between husband and wife will show itself in listening to each other’s viewpoints, valuing each other’s gifts, wisdom, and desires, honoring one another in public and in private, and always seeking to bring benefit, not harm, to one another.

Grudem doesn’t mention obedience. Submission is “listening to each other’s viewpoints, valuing each other’s gifts, wisdom, and desires, honoring one another in public and in private, and always seeking to bring benefit, not harm, to one another.” That’s submission in Greek!

listening to each other’s viewpoints, valuing each other’s gifts, wisdom, and desires, honoring one another in public and in private, and always seeking to bring benefit, not harm, to one another

Where does Grudem derive this? He gets it from the words of Paul, which include “…submit yourself to one another in fear of Christ…” Grudem describes what “mutual submission” means to Paul.

…to be “subject to” or “submissive to” someone in the sense that is signified by the word hypotassø always means to be subject to the authority of that other person…

He can’t have it both ways. If submit always means being subject to the authority of another person, then Paul must be talking about husbands and wives mutually being subject to each other’s authority. A simple examination of scripture proves that Grudem’s statement…

The relationships indicated by the word hypotassø simply do not envision relationships where the authority is mutual, or where it is reciprocal, or where it is reversed. It is only one-directional.

…is false.

NOTE: FMP’s original article contained 1,710 words. I used 811 words above, less than half.

10 Comments

  1. Pingback: Mutual Submission

  2. professorGBFMtm

    ”There is a certain type of critic who thinks that long-form writing—what I do on this blog—is not legitimate. It is too long to be useful.

    ”but only responding to each point in 280 characters, the size of a single message on Twitter, or less. ”

    At least those critics admitted that their writing was poorly written, confusing, needlessly voluminous, and inconsistent.

    They just have gotten used to all their fave effeminate heroes on Twitter/x saying quick sound bites that get them doing high-fives and saying ”oh yes they did say that homie” and ”no you’re a great American bro”

    ”Do you think my critics—who won’t engage with me (but there is still time)—will be convinced? Or were all the cries a while back for “write fewer words” just a smoke screen to say “shut up and go away.””

    Of course, it’s just “shut up and go away.” they think you are challenging their claim to the ”only real MANtm in the room”😉 . They should have that as in their head the Dalrockian successors- even though he never added them to his blogroll nor helped him much other than Hiney kissed him a lot.😉

  3. professorGBFMtm

    Heres something for those critics that don’t like success but swinger mike failure!

    Here an American catholic is being an American Puritan as he first encountered the first commenter on Dalrock to overwhelming tell what Game and the Redpill was.

    van Rooinek says:
    July 24, 2012 at 12:35 pm
    GreatBooks….. your confused style and your lewdness, detract from the valid points that you make. Especially the endless
    comments about butt$#*… Sodomy is an abomination, even if heterosexual, and I for one prefer that it not even be
    mentioned.

    He didn’t mind the half-truths Dalrock told to Christians of what Game actually included, that too many women lusted of actually included.

    Feminist Hater says:
    July 24, 2012 at 12:36 pm
    VR, it’s his modus operandi, not much you can do about it I’m afraid.

    Yeah, this is when Feminist Hater had a prob with the Truth of reality being widely told too!

    Great Books For Men GreatBooksForMen GBFM (TM) GB4M (TM) GR8BOOKS4MEN (TM) lzozozozozlzo
    (TM) says:
    July 24, 2012 at 1:06 pm
    van Rooinek says:
    “GreatBooks….. your confused style and your lewdness, detract from the valid points that you make. Especially the endless
    comments about butt$#*… Sodomy is an abomination, even if heterosexual, and I for one prefer that it not even be
    mentioned.”
    Yes, I agree.
    So why do all the modern Christians allow and exalt sodomy in their churches? Technically speaking, sodomy includes
    blowjobs, handjobs, and “heavy petting,” which churches embrace and sanctify these days.
    When was the last time a Christian Book came out lamenting the desouling and debauching of our culture and currency
    (Dante placed the counterfeiters in the same level of hell as the sodomites), of our women–our wives and daughters?
    My style is fairly plain, when compared to the confused, contradictory style and lewdness of the modern church, which exalts
    divorce, debauchery, sodomy, theft via the inflation tax, marxist feminism, and even butthext. lzozozozozozlzoz

    I know those who complain of them not getting their proper word count should approve of that comment in full.

    Dalrock like most of his contemporaries i.e.Vox and his supposed successors didn’t want to tell the full extent of what Game, so the GREAT BOOKS FOR MEN had to do the job supposed real MENtm, wouldn’t do.

    & more classic criticism for the Truth of life.

    ar10308 says:
    July 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm
    He’s like South Park; simultaneously brilliant and disgusting

    Great Books For Men GreatBooksForMen GBFM (TM) GB4M (TM) GR8BOOKS4MEN (TM) lzozozozozlzo
    (TM) says:
    July 24, 2012 at 1:12 pm
    “ar10308 says:
    July 24, 2012 at 12:39 pm
    He’s like South Park; simultaneously brilliant and disgusting.”
    Actually I am the exact opposite of Southpark.
    southpark mocks christianity while hiding the fiat butthxting of the fed.
    i exalt christianity while shining a light on the fed and its desouling of our women

    1. Derek L. Ramsey

      Professor,

      The secret to a great comment is that “lzozozozozozlzozlzozozozozlzo” counts as one word. Harder to hit the word limit that way. 😉

      Peace,
      DR

    2. professorGBFMtm

      Saint theDeti said this today.:

      thedeti says:
      7 June, 2024 at 5:20 pm
      On the state of “conservatism” in the United States:

      Most people who call themselves “conservatives” want one or more of the following

      –economic prosperity with none of the social, moral, and fiscal constraints, guardrails, and limits that tend to allow that prosperity. In other words, they want perpetual growth with no pain, no discipline, and no work. They want a free lunch.

      They want an ever expanding economy but they don’t want to do the work. They don’t want to take the pain of absorbing bad debt. They can’t be bothered even to save up some money and pay cash for things. When you have people financing smartphone purchases over 2 years you know there’s a problem. When you have people financing $80,000 pickup trucks on 8 year payment plans, that’s a problem.

      –a conservative, restrained social order that everyone else has to live by openly, while privately breaching that order by doing what they want

      –a universal moral code that everyone pretends to live by while privately breaching that code, especially sexually

      –the ability to do whatever they wish while not having to accept any negative consequences or ever be judged negatively by anyone.

      In other words…. they all want to live like modern Western women.”

      See how it goes along with the voice of the GREAT BOOKS FOR MEN here in that above 2012 comment?:
      ”So why do all the modern Christians allow and exalt sodomy in their churches? Technically speaking, sodomy includes
      blowjobs, handjobs, and “heavy petting,” which churches embrace and sanctify these days.
      When was the last time a Christian Book came out lamenting the desouling and debauching of our culture and currency”

      saint theDeti just answered it correctly nearly 12 years later.

  4. Lastmod

    Well, you could pee all over the bed and think its “funny” I suppose to teach your wife a “lesson”

    Most of what you write in matters like this and discussions is way over my head, I’ll look at what I know and try to get context but I’ll let you smart guys hash stuff like this out 😉

    1. Derek L. Ramsey

      Lastmod,

      “Most of what you write in matters like this and discussions is way over my head”

      I know. It is difficult that so many people need simple answers to the point of being simplistic (I’m not talking about you), when the simple answer…

      “Most of Grudem’s examples are in a different grammatical voice and are not directly comparable.”

      …isn’t clear. Do you understand what this means? It requires explanation, which requires words. More words. And more words.

      How is a person supposed to respond to a claim such as this one by Grudem?

      “When we look at the word that Paul used when he said “submitting to one another” in Ephesians 5:21, we find that this word (Greek hypotassø) in the New Testament is always used for submission to an authority. Here are some examples:“

      I can explain it, but it takes extra words to do so. But simply talking loses people’s attention!

      Most people do not understand the difference between the active, passive, and middle grammatical voices. But here is a perfect example, in English, how the middle voice is not directly comparable to the active voice.

      First, the active voice:

      “I killed for my wife”

      Next, the middle voice:

      “I killed myself for my wife”

      Can you use the first sentence to interpret the second sentence? Hardly. One is murder, the other is suicide. Despite being the same word, these are very different actions with dramatically different connotations and overtones.

      Yet Grudem is willing to take unrelated usages and say they are “always used for submission to an authority.” It is completely unjustified, and any person can understand how you can’t just compare the usage in different voices directly.

      But this isn’t well known. It has to be explained. With many different words, or no one will understand. There is no way to avoid this.

      Peace,
      DR

  5. Lastmod

    Reminds in way of how “shrinks” speak.

    Yes, Im guilty, decades ago I went to see a therapist / psychologist because I was slipping into depression. Waste of time and money. Yes, I did see a man.

    Shrink: “so how are you this week.”

    Me: “Im okay, pretty good”

    Shrink: “So, its been rough then?”

    No. I said pretty good. Im okay. The over educated jerk doesnt want to HEAR that. Instead of probing into why that I perhaps was “pretty good” or “Im okay” must mean that its been rough. After six session and over $600.00 dollars (1996 dollars) I figured I could get better advice from the fortune at the bottom of a “Cracker Jack” box.

    Over the ensuring decades, I slowly learned this is how pompous and arrogant people speak to the masses in just about everything. I’m still learning to keep most of them out of my life. Something is always wrong with me, they however have a dep seated notion of themselves of “if only the world was as perfect and smart as I am, there would be no problems”

    Its worse now than 1996 for sure, but the ‘sphere and others wonder “we just have not got our message out / the Feminists are srcubbing our material off the Internet (as if women…esp feminists have the knowledge and know-how to do this) / we need more training and bootcamps and podcasts and books and v-blog saying the same exact thing with the same exact methods / all these men are blinded by ‘blue pill thinking’

    The faceless Internet front is callous. I mean, before I met Scott in person. I thought he was your atypical “know it all jerk” and when actually meeting him, well….not that at all. I can say with confidence, he thought differently of me when we did meet. He does have a place to stay if he ever finds himself back in LA. He would be welcome in my home anytime. I dont just offer that to anyone.

    The church COULD really fix much of this. They wont. It will take people in that church to indeed walk deeper. Teach, get to know, fellowship and grow with a person / realtionship. Exactly how Christ did it eons ago. That takes work. Time. It also takes humilty….which most dont have. And never could have with their Ego.

    Anyway. Have a good weekend all. Road trip up to Sacramento for a gig, leaving early Saturday morning!

  6. Lastmod

    Comic gold. This is my neighbor (well, he lives two floors up from me). He’s a lawyer and this clip of him ranting about “cheating spouses” here in LA is hilarious. I dont know him too well, but his practice is here in Pasadena. He is like this in real life. Spoke to him here and there in the elevator of our apartment building. Was shocked when I saw this clip this morning!!

    https://www.youtube.com/shorts/8ZeOEiopP2g?feature=share

  7. Pingback: Mutual Submission, Part 5

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