I am severely troubled about the current plight and inevitably continual demise of the family unit as God designed. Fathers will continue to be emasculated, women will continue to assume more dominance and children will continue to blur the lines of submission and it will be principally an inside job. The world has always been in rebellion to God’s exquisite plan for human flourishing. The Evangelical community is naively embracing and promoting many of the practices that are eroding the beautiful design established by God for the family. I will not apologize for born as a male and masculinity is still to be cherished as a good gift from the Creator.
Human flourishing begins in an institutional manner for mankind via the family (there are only three God ordained institutions: family, government and the Church). The Man and the Woman would procreate and fill the Earth. After the Fall they would be expected to teach each new generation the fear of the Lord. Led by a strong male figure, whose primary responsibility would be to provide and protect. Assisted by a female counterpart who would assist her male partner in successfully completing God’s mandate to subdue and rule over His creation as stewardship partners. Women were designed to willingly accept and enthusiastically embrace their essential role as subordinate partners. All one would need to do is look no further to see this is exactly what we witness in the Godhead. Jesus Christ, God the Son is always presented as subordinate to God, the Father and orthodox Evangelicalism understands Jesus Christ to be equally and fully God as much as God, the Father. The same is true for God, the Holy Spirit.
I have written previously concerning the Doctrine of Subsidiary which reveals it will always be at the lowest level to achieve the greatest good. This pushes back against the secularist belief it takes an entire village to raise a child. No, what it takes at the most organic level are a faithful mother and father being the primary agent to raise a little one in the fear and admonition of the Lord. This is not to say the nuclear family, the extended family and countless others are not important ancillary players because they most certainly are. My only contention is it is more akin to inner/outer dynamic rather than an outer/inner one.
As one example, a major problem in the African American community is the high incidence of paternal abandonment. You can have all of the nuclear and extended family assistance one could hope for, but it will never take the place of the father in the home. In fact, studies show even when the relationship between the husband and the wife is not ideal it is still better for the child’s well-being than having no father in the home. Brothers and sisters, I find that one fact alone as startling. Of course, anyone would prefer a more positive environment, but the data shows there is still something profoundly beneficial just by having Dad in the home even when his presence is not idyllic.
So, we have the Godhead intentionally and strategically creating Adam first. This was not some flip of the coin. It was to Adam that the federal headship for all humanity was granted. Creation did not fall into transgression when Eve disobeyed God. We do not die because of Eve’s transgression. We die in Adam because it was to Adam who was given the principle stewardship of the Earth.
You will find no attempt at addressing or even speculating the “why” question as I have frigging clue. That is not our concern so it will not be mine. Thomas Campbell is credited with saying, “Where the Bible speaks; we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.” My job is to understand the revelation of God, not to be necessarily able to explain it. God is not embarrassed or squeamish when He speaks about what makes best for human flourishing so neither should will I be. I abhor weak-spine preachers in the pulpit who pussyfoot when they are confronted with the applicable Biblical texts concerning the roles of men and women. It is evidently part of God’s plan for human flourishing so if it is good enough for Him why wouldn’t it be good enough for little old me. Why should I feel pressured or embarrassed from boldly proclaiming this part of God’s Holy Writ?
So, by God’s design for human flourishing the man has a unique role and the wife, as his helpmate, has a unique role. There is some certainly some overlap in their responsibilities. For instance, while the man’s role is primary to provide and protect that is not to say the woman has no part in that endeavor. Conversely, while the female has primary oversight to nurture every father knows he plays some part in that never-ending pursuit. Yet again, we see the same very thing within the Godhead. Each member of the Trinity can be understood as playing a role in every aspect of the human experience. In creation all the members of the Triune God are understood to be Creator. The same is to be said for the doctrine of salvation (Soteriology).
Yet, we see maleness under constant attack, both externally (which should come as no surprise) as well as internally (which is a surprise and a cause for grave concern). I believe the biggest internal culprits are Evangelical males. I see way too many Evangelical families where I am not sure who is the leader of the family. I have sat in Bible studies where the wife spoke more and evidently knew more. I have been around enough couples where I got the feeling the wife is the principally decision-maker in the home. It is not an indication of toxic masculinity to definitely assert there is one principal leader residing at 5614 Devonwood St. I know that is not a statement many male Evangelicals would even dare to state publicly and even more tragically do not even believe or understand.
Let there be no mistake. My thesis is not the wife is to have no input or voice in the marriage covenant. If this is your charge you are wholly ignorant and off base. The Bible is replete with examples (both in the Old as well as New Testaments) of the male out-sized level of authority and accountability. We even have Sarah presented in addressing Abraham as Lord in the New Testament Epistle (1 Peter 3:6). The mere presence of this revelation being found in the Epistle signals to the reader this precept is not cultural, it is timeless. That means as long as there is something called Time & Space it is necessarily to be the case. It is not a relic from an antiquated Old Testament system of sinful patriarchy as the feminists are so fond of alleging.
Yet, we have feminists as well as some males endorsing the ordination of women to roles that the Bible clearly and explicitly forbids. We actually have men who casually make reference to statements like “let me check with the boss first” or “Happy wife, Happy life.” Two statements I guarantee will never be uttered from the lips of your truly, even in jest (we all know most jest contains some semblance of truth within). Could one every imagine God the Father, even in a moment of levity, every making such a reference? Additionally, in my limited experience many of the males who are comfortable making this statement home life is consistent with the appearance their wife runs the show.
I believe it to be no small matter every time the New Testament provides didactic (teaching) instruction for the ordering of the family it does so in the same order. First wives, then husbands and lastly: children. Wives submit, husbands love, and children obey. I believe the reason become clear when we revert back to the Fall. It is there where God reveals something that was not part of the original plan will now become part and parcel of the human experience.
God reveals in Genesis 3:16, “I will surely multiply your pain in childbearing; in pain you shall bring forth children. Your desire shall be contrary to your husband, but he shall rule over you.” Here, God reveals that the woman’s natural desire would be to compete for headship and equal functionality within the home. Please note the difference between essence and functionality. This theological distinction is crucial to a proper understanding so let me spend a few moments dealing with these terms.
Again, using the Trinity as a perfect illustration. Each member of the Trinity is equal in essence. Essence speaks to one’s inherent nature, it describes their being. So, what one member of the Godhead possesses in essence the other two members possess in the same, exact manner. God, the Father is Omnipresent, so the God, the Son, and the God, the Holy Spirit, must be as well. The Son (touching his Deity) is Omnipotent, so the Father and the Holy Spirit must be Omnipotent as well.
Regarding functionality that is where we see subordination and a distinct difference in functionality within the Trinity. The Son never sends the Father. The Holy Spirit never sends or directs the Son. There is a Divine Hierarchy within the Godhead and that relationship has been an eternal reality. Thus, while the Son is equal to the Father in essence the Son is not equal in function to the Father. It can never be stated in any other order as anything other than the Father, the Son & the Holy Spirit.
So, when God orders the family He always begins with submission, due to the course of the Fall. Woman’s natural inclination would be to contend for headship in the home. That is why God always deals with that thorny issue first. God knows that is where the Adversary will use to disrupt God’s design for human flourishing. How do you plunder the goods of the strong man (Mark 3:27)? You must overtake him, by force if necessary. But here is where the issue becomes even more vexing.
Instead of diligently protecting the valuable assets man has been given as Divine Stewards who is guilty of willingly giving away the assets. MEN! The very people commissioned by their Creator to as they say in those Under Armor commercials, “Protect this house.” Like most events in the human experience we live on either side of the divide. First, history leaned too heavily on the abuse and oppression of men towards women end of the spectrum. Now, it seems the pendulum is swung to passivity and abandonment. Where are the strong, decisive men that were once championed and celebrated?
Can you remember the AT&T commercial that vividly illustrates my thesis? It shows a husband out and about with his wife. His best friend calls and informs the husband he has two movie tickets and wants to know if he wants to tag along. The husband immediately asks his friend to hold on so he could presumably check with his wife to make sure there were no conflicts that he was not aware of. The wife immediately acquiesces, and the husband happily informs his best friend he was in. So far, so good. Now, there is nothing evil or tawdry with a husband showing respect to his wife when making commitments with individuals outside the home.
The problem becomes as the rest of the conversation shows the husbands constantly changing his plans based on his wife’s repeated change of mind. It became clear the husband’s freedom to engage was contingent upon the whims of his wife. Even as a male affirming that males need to maintain a strong leadership presence in the home I do not expect my wife’s freedom of movement to be tied to my whims. Frankly, I appreciate my space, so I freely grants that same privilege to my spouse, Monique.
I want to spend the remainder portion of this blog post looking at the Biblical command men have as their role in the promotion of human flourishing: males, when married (which is the default expectation for most men) are to “love their wives.” There are four Greek words for love in the New Testament. They are storges (empathy bond), philia (friend bond), eros (romantic love) and agape (unconditional “God” love).
Additionally, Evangelicals are to understand the love of the Husband for his Wife is to be parallel with Jesus Christ’s love for His Bride, the Church. One who is thinking Biblically must ask themselves in which manner does Jesus Christ love the Church and what does that look like in time and space? Well, it is clearly not eros so we can quickly cast that aside. While the Bible does indicate Jesus is our friend in some sense that is not the word the Apostle ever use in the household codes. How about storges? Jesus Christ boldly invites us to cast our cares upon Him and that is a promise that is glorious and to be cherished, but again, falls short of the mark.
That leaves with the obvious answer. Evangelical husbands are to love their wives with agape type love. Well, what does that look like in time and space? Let me first cover what that does NOT look like.
It has nothing to do with being romantic
It has nothing to do with Happy Wife, Happy Life
It has nothing to do with bringing roses or other symbols of affection
It has nothing to do with giving compliments
It has nothing to do with complimenting her aesthetics
Yet, when you hear from the average female, to include Evangelical females, their chief complaint concerning their husband’s lack of fidelity of love concern topics like the ones mentioned above. Hopefully, as we consider how Jesus Christ loved the Church you will understand His love was not concerned about any of these temporal considerations.
It must be said these considerations are very important to any functional relationship but none of these considerations require or demonstrate agape love. A rank pagan, a rank heretic can and does perform many of these considerations to a higher degree than an Evangelical male does. How do I know this? Because I know full well there are countless men bound directly for Hellfire who are more romantic than I. They happily ascribe to a Happy Wife, Happy Life motif for their relationship with their spouse. They outshine me with constant gifts of appreciation and gratitude. They put me to shame with the volume of compliments they impart on regular basis. They wipe the floor with me with their never-ending refrain of compliments about what they appreciate about their wife’s physical feature.
Yet, I can confidently declare they do not come close to loving their wife with agape love. Agape love is love pattern after the love that Jesus Christ displays for His Bride. It is never self-serving; it does not seek to give to ensure something is received in return. The love of Jesus Christ is always based on pure motive. There is never any pro quid quo attached to the actions of Christ.
You are gravely fooling yourself if you believe for one second, for one iota, that any husband, imagined or real, has for one nanosecond ever loved his wife with 100% fidelity. That is why Christ can state so emphatically that all of our righteousness is only filthy rags. John MacArthur, famed Bible teacher and Pastor, coins it as good, bad. Even the good we do is always tinged with some elements of bad.
A husband loving his wife according to the tenets of Agape love can do so by vetoing her desire, by refusing to take her counsel, by insisting they follow his course of action, by not going in a particular direction she prefers. In short, a husband can best demonstrate his agape love by emphatically saying NO. I emphasize the word can, it is not my contention they must. Husbands must desperately seek God’s wisdom in their stewardship of the home. They must equally remember they will be held accountable for all that happens or fails to happen. God will look directly to the husband for the administration of the home.
Why do I make such an apparently absurd declaration? How do I make such an absurd declaration? I do so because countless mature women in the faith readily confess the best thing their husband did to facilitate their spiritual formation was to love them with agape love.
Susan Hunt, former director of women’s ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America, recounts at a Ligonier Ministries conference the story of Betty Linton. Mrs. Linton was the wife of a missionary serving in Korea. Her husband’s duty required him to be away for long periods of time. Mrs. Linton admitted she did not always respond with patience or with support. She grew to appreciate her husband refusal to placate her. She grew in maturity to understand the best thing that happened to her spiritually was a loving husband who had the strength to tell her ‘no” when it was necessary. Mrs. Linton went on to say, “I am glad he did not give in to my whining and complaining, but he did what was right and I think I am more secure because of it.”
Jesus Christ does the same thing for us. Jesus Christ is not our celestial genie in Heaven, ready to serve at our beck and call. He is ultimately concerned with our best and often times that necessitates the need to say no. Susan Hunt reveals husband are not to coddle their wives (which I submit many males are guilty of doing to keep the peace in the home), they are to love their wife by sometimes making the tough decision. We need more Brother Linton leading the family as well as more Sister Linton learning to grow in spiritual maturity by delighting in her role as helpmate.
I love Monique when I lead with conviction and seek her spiritual best. Sometimes that means because of the role I have been given as a stewardship will entail me coming to a decision that is contrary to her desire. Think of how different things could have been if Adam would have overruled Eve when she brought up the idea to eat from the tree forbidden by God.
There is much more I can say but space and time does not permit but let me say a few things so there is no misunderstanding. Monique has considerable input in the decisions that are made in our home. We live in Cibolo, Texas primarily because of Monique’s desire. I wanted to return to Chicago. As the head of the home I know full well I had the authority to insist we do so and at the end of the day Monique would have been biblically bound to follow my decision.
Yet, wisdom and the desire to love my wife motivated me to serve Monique by yielding to her desire. A decision on where to live will not be revealed in the Word of God. Decisions like this are part of the things which we are free to decide because there is no inherent requirement a person can point to that God demands. So, if you wanted to live in Timbuktu, then there is no prohibition to do so if you have the resources. Conversely, Monique possessed no similar biblical warrant to veto my decision if I would have insisted we return to Chicago after I completed my military service.
I will stop here and pick it up in the next blog. So far, what do you think of my thesis?
Let me know but until then Keep Your Hands to the Plow by Seeking to Serve for an Audience of One.