February 10, 2016

Inequality of Headship

Did you grow up playing Simon Says or Follow the Leader? What was the best part of the game? Wasn't it earning the right to be the next Simon or the next Leader by wining the last round of the game? Imagine a game that never ends, one where only boys may be Simon, the Leader and girls must always follow them and do exactly what they say, all day, every day, until they die. That's called Male Headship. It's rooted in 1 Corinthians 11:3, which says: "But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God." Depending on the translation, some might use 'wife' in place of 'woman' and 'husband' in place of 'man' as the words are interchangeable - which would destroy the authority of male headship and replace it with husband headship. Some prefer the former though, as all husbands are males and most males are future husbands - so males have authority over females just as husbands have authority over their wives. Male Headship extends beyond the limits of one household and into one's church. Men may teach women, women may not teach men. Single men may lead classes, but single women must defer to single men without submitting to them. Which is difficult given that the definition of defer is to submit.

Men are the protectors and providers, women are the protected and the provided for. Men are the pastors and teachers, women are the congregation and the taught. Men are the head and the leaders, women are the body and the followers. Men are the speakers and the women are to be silent. So when I see a statement like: "Submission to authority doesn't equal inferiority. Otherwise you must say Jesus is less than the Father (1 Cor 11:3)" paired with another like: "if that subordination [of Christ to the Father] does not imply inferiority of nature, no more does the subordination of a woman to her husband imply it." - H.L. Goudge

So let's explore this idea and see what we get. H.L. Goudge's First Epistle to the Corinthians dates back to 1903 - that's right, at just over a hundred years old, it predates my life time, that of my parents, and that of my grandparents. It pre-dates the statehood of Oklahoma, New Mexico and Arizona. It predates the Civil Rights movements of the 1960s and the subsequent formation of Complementarianism, Biblical Manhood, and Biblical Womanhood. So that should give us reason to consider the book as a product of it's time and not as an authoritative source of infallible wisdom. It's also old enough that copyright violation isn't a concern and it's likely somewhere out there for free. The citation indicates the latter quote is somewhere on page 95, which I kindly screen-shotted and have posted so that we can see it in it's original:

Hm. It's not there. Here. Anywhere on this page. Maybe it's from another edition? or a creative re-working of the explanation about the principle of subordination? Perhaps the author didn't expect anyone to find page 95 of that book online and hoped that we would take his word on it that it's in there as he quoted it? It could also be that when translated from 1903 English to 2015 English it gets slightly updated and tweaked for our modern usage. Even the search wizard indicates that the word 'inferiority' is nowhere to be found in the entire book.

Wait a moment - Page 97 is supposed to have a quote that's something to the effect of:
So the aforementioned quote is absent and the original quote that got me into this mess in the first place is verbatim. Oh well. Now that we've discovered the source material - let's consider the argument:

"Submission to authority doesn't equal inferiority. Otherwise you must say Jesus is less than the Father (1 Cor 11:3)" & "if that subordination [of Christ to the Father] does not imply inferiority of nature, no more does the subordination of a woman to her husband imply it." - H.L. Goudge

Consider that back in H.L. Goudge's day, racism and sexism were norms - inequality was the way things were. Look at the book itself for proof - he uses the word equal twice, the first time to say that Christianity was equally tolerated by the Romans because it was considered to be a form of Judaism. The second time was to point out that he didn't consider everything he delivered with apostolic authority to have equal authority. Equality has one appearance - you can see it in one of the screenshots. Subordination and Superior are used 5 times each. Henry was born in 1866 and died in 1939. Only extraordinary persons would have considered not going with the flow - odds are he thought as most people thought. The way things were was God's order. God ordered the white men to be superior to men of color. God ordered men to be superior to women. Equality looked a lot more like this:

In short, women were never equals - not equals in the same way that Mr. Goudge would have been equal as any other white man. Women didn't have the right to vote (1919-1920), they didn't have a fair wage or very good working conditions. It was just a fact of life that women were not the equals of men in any meaningful sense. Everyone was either a superior of another or an inferior of another. That's what you get when you try to use a hundred year old book to prove your favorite verse is true.

We could do that with any number of treaties, arguments, or sermons from the south about the Biblical and proper condition of slavery - there are bound to be hundreds of hundred or so year old documents that will say exactly what we want them to. But that doesn't lent support to the idea that it's the right thing to do - to bring back slavery just because it was Biblically defended for centuries. Nor does it mean that using a hundred or so year old text to prove that women ought to wear head coverings is just as valid because back in the day, women would have worn them anyway. It was, after all, a hat culture so even the men would have worn them as well.

Back to the original thought: if that subordination [of Christ to the Father] does not imply inferiority of nature, no more does the subordination of a woman to her husband imply it." - H.L. Goudge

Is the subordination of Christ to the Father? The verse itself uses the terms "The Head of Christ is God" - in general, God consists of Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit and Christ is also the Son.  Just because we use the terms interchangeably it doesn't mean that we should - and if we do then we're misreading these verses. Is inferiority here implied or outright stated? A subordinate is placed in an inferior rank or or position. To say that Christ is subordinated to the Father it is to say that Christ is placed in an inferior rank or in an inferior position to the Father. Isn't that why we almost always refer to them in this order: Father, Son, Holy Spirit? First and foremost, the Father, who is always in the position of absolute authority and is never subordinate to another. Secondly, the Son, who is subordinate only to the father, but the superior of the Holy Spirit. Thirdly, the Holy Spirit who is subordinate to both The Father and the Son. If subordination doesn't imply inferiority, then why is the Father never a subordinate? Doesn't it suggest some superiority in him that doesn't exist in either of the other persons? The qualifier here is "of nature".  When a qualifier like that is used, it just suggest that one particular kind of inferiority is off-limits while others may still be valid. But what exactly is meant by nature? He doesn't say and I couldn't guess.

Which brings us to the other quote: "Submission to authority doesn't equal inferiority. Otherwise you must say Jesus is less than the Father (1 Cor 11:3)" In most senses, one who is subject to the authority of another is the inferior of that person - this was true all over the world for centuries - it was true when this book was written in 1903. People of color were subject to whites as they were considered inferior and treated as inferiors. Women were subject to men as they were considered inferior and treated as inferiors. Subjects were subjects to kings and queens and considered their inferiors. As long as we view the world as one of inferiors and superiors, then whomever isn't the superior must therefore be inferior in some way that disqualifies him or her from being a superior or one who is equal to or the same as the superior. One cannot be an inferior and not be inferior at the same time because humanity has never succeeded in living in a world of two or more classes where the superiors do not oppress their inferiors. In that sense they are not equal. So I will say it because it's what's the result of this teaching: Just as Jesus is less than the Father, women are less than men in such a way that Jesus must be eternally subordinate to the Father and women must be eternally subordinate to men, therefore, neither Jesus and the Father is equal nor are women and men equal. That's what male headship is. And that's why I don't subscribe to it.

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