The Abuse of Women

Guinn and Faith

When you hear the word theology, what comes to your mind: dry, boring, irrelevant, abstract, books two inches thick? The word theology actually means the study of God, and by extension, how God relates to the world. But isn’t all that too confusing. If you’ve ever cracked a book on theology you will have noticed a specialized vocabulary with very intimidating words. What’s up with all those big words? You may think, “Something so boring, difficult, and confusing really can’t be that important, can it?” And what can theology possibly have to do with wife abuse anyway? Theology Determines How We Live

The fact is, we all have a theology and atheist or not, we all worship something. What we ascribe supreme value to is our God and what captures our admiration, esteem, and devotion is what we worship. To the statist, government is god and their theology comes complete with a doctrine of predestination (government planners) and salvation (in every crisis government is looked to as the solution).To others, the individual is god and they value self determination and the right to decide right and wrong for themselves. They are the ultimate authority in all things. But to the true Christian, it is the God of the Bible who we esteem, and it is what we believe about him that determines the way we live. You see, who or what our God is is ultimately who or what we obey. Your God is the one with the right to dictate morality. The statist’s morality is shaped by the government, and if the Supreme Court says that murdering babies is legal, then that is all the justification they need. Those that look to the individual as the ultimate authority just do whatever seems right to them at the time. Christians, on the other hand, look to the Bible as their infallible rule of life. As you can see, theology is basic to all of our lives, even when we don’t realize it. What we believe determines how we live, so it follows that what we believe is important.

Women Regarded As Inferior

Why is it that many men treat their wives badly? He barks out orders as if she is his personal slave. He berates her as if she is his gun shy Labrador retriever. She is scolded and belittled, and then he wonders why she is cold towards him. Their relationship is held together more out of necessity than true love. She needs him because of his paycheck, and he needs her because she takes care of him. There are many reasons why some men treat their wives this way, one of which is that they are selfish and use their power to be served rather than to serve. However, there is another fundamental reason for this, and it has to do with what they believe about women. These men do not believe that women are their ontological equal, that is, they believe that women are inferior as persons. Many men look at differences physically and emotionally as reason that they are superior, her more sensitive nature and weaker body seem to translate to him that she is of lesser value. This is the way of the world; might makes right. He can impose his will on her therefore he looks at himself as superior.

Equality Of Men And Women

In Christian doctrine we find a theological basis for the equal value of women that has, historically, had the effect of elevating their position in society. In the history of the world women have generally been seen as inferior, a lesser class, and commonly relegated to little more than slaves. In societies impacted with Christian doctrine we have seen this trend improve, the status of women elevated somewhat from the lower position they once held. The theological foundation for equal value of men and women is found in the book of Genesis. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” Genesis 1:27. (Of course the words man and him in this verse are generic and refer to mankind) We see in this verse that men and women share equally what it is to be human: we are created in the image of God. Consistent Christians have always recognized that being created in the image of God gives people inestimable value and this translates into better treatment of people, women included. This also explains why Christians are the main opponents of abortion.

Complementarianism?

Some who have read thus far will conclude that I am an egalitarian. That is the belief that men and women have identical authority and responsibility in the different spheres of life including the family and church. I am not an egalitarian. Equal value does not translate into identical roles. A word that better describes my position on gender is complementarianism. This is the idea that men and women are equal in value, yet are created by God with complementary roles. The man is supported by the strengths of the woman, and the woman is supported by the strengths of the man. Egalitarianism rejects the idea that God has made men and women to have complementary roles but rather with no legitimate difference. For instance, an egalitarian would have no problem with women pastors in churches, or with women in combat. The complementarian, on the other hand, would see it as the man’s role to lead churches or to fight in combat. The egalitarian tends to see any restriction based on gender as an attack on the equality of women. They look at the complementarian view as degrading to women. But is this true? This is where theology comes into play. The doctrine of the Trinity will help us answer this question.

What Does The Trinity Have To Do With It?

I am not going to attempt to prove this doctrine here, but merely state it. Otherwise this blog would be too long. If you want the doctrine proved, dust off a good book on systematic theology and read the section on the Trinity. The doctrine of the Trinity asserts that there is one God in three persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. The Westminster Confession of Faith states the doctrine like this. “In the unity of the Godhead there be three persons, of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost: the Father is of none, neither begotten, nor proceeding; the Son is eternally begotten of the Father; the Holy Ghost eternally proceeding from the Father and the Son.” (WCF chapter 2, paragraph 3.) Scripture views this doctrine of the Trinity from two perspectives. The first is ontologically. This is God viewed in terms of his essence or being. Viewed from this perspective there is no subordination between the Persons of the Trinity. But Scripture most often views God in terms of his works of creation and redemption. In the tasks of creating the world and redeeming his people there are specific roles that each member of the Trinity takes on, and in these roles there is a voluntary subordination in the Trinity. The Father promised the Son a people to worship him forever. The Son agreed to submit to the will of the Father, to take to himself a human body and soul, and redeem his people by way of the cross. While the Spirit is sent forth as the active agent of salvation, working to regenerate the hearts of those the Father has called, and the Son has redeemed.

The Real Issue

Okay, what does that have to do with gender roles? Everything. You see, in the Trinity you have a model of equality in being (ontological Trinity), yet subordination in reference to a task (economic Trinity). The same is true of men and women. We are both equally created in the image of God, yet in the economy of life, God has designed different and complementary roles for men and women. Specifically God has determined that in the family and church, men would have the leadership role and women a supporting role. But we have a problem. Men are prone to abuse their authority. It is all around us, men taking advantage of their position of power for their own pleasure, and mistreating those in their charge. This is the catalyst that has brought about the dominance of egalitarianism in our culture. But a reaction to a problem is rarely the solution. It is not the complementary roles of men and women that is the problem. It is not male headship that is the problem. The problem is what the problem always is, our sinful refusal to submit to God. If husbands loved their wives like Christ loves his church as he commanded, wives would have no reason to seek liberation from men. Feminism and the women’s liberation movement are reactionary movements that would not exist if men would obey God. There would simply be no reason for them.

Solution

Husbands and fathers, are your wife and children reacting to your leadership? You may need to reassess your theology, and begin to live in obedience to the truth. Christ said that his yoke is easy and his burden is light. Is your family laden with a heavy yoke and a burden hard to be borne? This is not the yoke of Christ. If you find yourself as a man in leadership that has abused your authority, it is time to learn of the gentle Lord Jesus Christ. Though he was Lord of all, he made himself the servant of all. He did not break the bruised reed, or quench the smoking flax. Instead, he laid down his life so that we may be saved.

Question: Are you an egalitarian, complementarian, or other? What has been your experience in your family? Leave your comment below.