Are Men More Accountable to God than Women?

The other day I heard a Christian author say that men and women are assigned different roles in Scripture. “For example,” she said, “men are responsible for their family. That’s in the Bible and I believe the Bible.” She didn’t directly state that women are not responsible for their family, but that was the implication. Nor did she mention where in Scripture she finds this idea. 

Her comment reminded me of the many times and various ways I’ve heard people claim that although women are accountable to God in some sense, men are more accountable. God may call women to account for their personal actions and responsibilities, but men will answer for the overall picture, the larger narrative. A woman may be answerable for her “domain,” but a man is “lord of the earth,” responsible for everything that happens under the sun.[1]

A marriage book on my shelf provides a good example. It asserts that a woman is only answerable to God for her submission to her husband, whereas a man will have to account for all that transpires in the home.[2] Since it’s his job to “build the family,” it’s his fault if the family takes a wrong turn. 

If a wife does anything outside her husband’s preferences she has not only sinned in her own right but has also caused her husband to sin (since he didn’t stop her). The discipline her husband will undoubtedly face is therefore her fault. If the wife submits even when her husband is in error, she will not face judgment because she did the one thing required of her. And if the family endures hardship or even ruin due to her husband’s mistake, a wife can find solace in the fact that by submitting to her husband she was fully obedient to God.

At the same time, although a wife is not accountable for her husband’s behavior, since that would make it necessary for her to exercise some measure of control over him, she may be the cause of it. Why? Because it is likely her bad attitude that is driving him to sin. As soon as she becomes more submissive and respectful her husband will stop being so irresponsible, selfish, and mean.

Another version of the concept argues that men are particularly accountable for the condition of their marriage: Is it happy? Mutually satisfying? Dysfunctional? In this scenario a husband is more answerable for the happiness and satisfaction of his wife than is a wife for the state of her husband. When a wife is sexually unresponsive, lazy, or harsh, it is the husband’s fault. If this man would just do a better job at loving his wife like Christ loved the church, helping out more with the housework and becoming more sensitive to his wife’s emotional needs, she would change.[3]

The Problems this View Engenders

One of the main problems I see with this philosophy is that it implies women get a pass, that somehow when they stand before Jesus all he will consider is how they responded to their man or, perhaps, to men in general. They may believe that as long as they go along with their husband (excepting heinous sin, of course) they need not reflect upon how Jesus may be challenging them in ways that may, in fact, make their husband’s life a bit less comfortable and that he therefore might, at least initially, resist. 

Or a wife may think she carries less responsibility for her marriage and family, that she is not accountable to take some initiative to improve her relationship with her husband or to develop the children. If the marriage and family are the man’s job a woman can be passive, selfish, and even demanding, expecting her husband to solve all their problems. After all, he’s the leader, right?

Another issue might be a husband who responds to the man-is-more-accountable teaching with either domineering control or slavish sacrifice. Since he believes he alone is responsible for the wellbeing and godliness of his family, he assumes all that goes wrong is his fault in one way or another. 

In one scenario a husband does whatever it takes to make his wife and family happy, denying his own needs to an unhealthy extreme. In the other he may become dismissive toward his wife and her suggestions since only he will be held responsible for any missteps. The threat of being disciplined for someone else’s error combined with the idea that God works primarily through men can make it difficult to treat his wife as a co-heir of Christ. 

Do these Ideas Originate in the Bible?

From what I’ve seen, biblical support for these teachings comes principally from the Genesis creation narratives in the Old Testament and the description of the man/husband as the “head” of the woman/wife in the New Testament. 

As far as Genesis goes, what is not stated (the man is more accountable) replaces what is stated (both are held accountable for their sin). From this assumption of greater male accountability all sorts of things are asserted that are nowhere stated. For example, I’ve heard it said that the command was particularly for the man but for the woman only by extension; that the man was supposed to teach and protect the woman yet he allowed her to be deceived; and that the fall was chiefly the fall of the man.[4]

However, if we look at the text God never confronts Adam regarding Eve’s behavior or why Adam didn’t protect her from deception. God doesn’t rebuke Adam for failing to keep Eve from sinning, failing to control what happened in the garden, or for not doing a better job leading Eve or teaching her God’s will. In fact, the text never says that Adam taught Eve the command or even mentions how Eve learned it. God never says the command was primarily for Adam and for the woman only by extension. God never tells Adam that the fall was chiefly his fall.

But God did confront Eve for her sin and Adam for his. God did hold them each accountable for what they did, no matter how they got there or to what extent they tried to place the blame on some other entity. 

Yes, the man was created first; yes, he was given the command before the woman came on the scene; and yes, in the fall of humanity the man retains a representative function as the first human, which Paul later insightfully contrasts with the sinless human JesusAs a result of the sin of the first human being we all struggle to get by and ultimately die. As a result of the perfection and sacrifice of the “last human being,” we receive forgiveness of sin and new life.[5]

Yet the idea that the man is more accountable is simply not found in the text.

Nevertheless, a full-blown system composed of false dichotomies is envisioned and developed that makes wild claims that are nowhere stated in Scripture: men and women are created for different primary purposes; men are made for naming, taming, dividing and ruling; women are formed for filling, glorifying, generating, establishing communion, and bringing forth new life.[6] According to this view:

The woman has to submit to the man’s leadership, not so much because he is given direct authority over her, but because his vocation is the primary and foundational one, relating to the forming that necessarily precedes the filling in God’s own creation activity. She is primarily called to fill and to glorify the structures he establishes and the world he subdues. It’s less a matter of the man having authority over the woman as the woman following the man’s lead. As the man forms, names, tames, establishes the foundations, and guards the boundaries, the woman brings life, communion, glory and completion.[7]

Men lead, women follow; men subdue, women beautify; men protect, women reproduce; man’s calling is primary and foundational, woman’s calling is secondary and supplemental.[8]

If all of this were true, then yes, men would be more accountable.

But it’s not. Not only is there no evidence of this inventive arrangement anywhere else in the Bible, it also directly contradicts Gen. 1:26-28, where the image of God that fully resides in every human being is inextricably linked to ruling and subduing the earth.

Moving on to the New Testament, the same exegetical weakness is evident: what is not stated replaces what is stated. Based on a reading that presumes the metaphorical meaning of the Greek word for “head” (kephale) is the same as for the English term, the assumption that headship means leadership in Ephesians 5 supplants what the text itself asserts: headship means self-sacrificial love. The passage neither states nor implies that husbands are to lead, instruct, correct, or direct their wives, or that men are accountable for the actions of their wives, or even that a man is the leader of the home.

Rather, it simply says love.

In 1 Corinthians 11 the same assumption about kephale leads to the fabrication of a chain of command in which Jesus answers to God, men answer to Jesus, and women answer to men is out of step with a passage that nowhere commands women to obey men but instead assumes that women (and men) will speak the word of the Lord to the gathered assembly (vv. 4-5). It is at odds with a text that presumes a woman’s authority over her own words, actions, and attire (v. 10), her accountability to God for how she employs this authority (vv. 5-6), and the reciprocity of woman and man (vv. 8-12).[9]

What we have to remember about the word kephale is that it doesn’t mean “leader” or “authority” or “boss.” Literally, it refers to that part of the body that sits atop the neck. Every other usage is metaphorical, and for understanding the non-literal sense of a word context is primary. In other words, you can’t argue for a figurative meaning that is not indicated by, or runs counter to, the passage itself.

What Did Jesus Say?

If presuming greater male accountability from these passages goes beyond a careful reading of the text, is there anywhere we can look for insight into possible levels or types of responsibility? Yes. I believe all our theorizing about accountability needs to be grounded in the words of the very One who will one day hold us accountable. That is, in Jesus.

Curiously, one thing Jesus never did was imply a gender-based double standard of accountability. The Son of God never commanded, “men, do this” and “women, do that” or even “you married men, do this” and “you married women, do that.” 

Nothing in the Sermon on the Mount indicates that men are more accountable or women less (Matt. 5-7). When Jesus told us to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves, he didn’t suggest that men should be wise while women remain gullible (Matt. 10:16). When the Son of Man made the terrifying statement that one day each of us will give account for our every word, he didn’t amend it by adding that, well, husbands will also be held responsible for their wife’s words (Matt. 12:36).

When we consider the parables, there is likewise no evidence of gender-based levels or categories of accountability, not even in those that specifically address the topic. The parable of the bags of gold (Matt. 25:14-30), which concerns not only our accountability but also our authority, does not represent our responsibility to Jesus hierarchically. We don’t see the servant with five bags responsible for controlling how the one with two makes use of his bags, who in turn is accountable for the irresponsibility of the individual given only one bag of gold. 

We don’t see any of them being called to task for what the others did with their bags and, importantly, neither do we see anyone rewarded by being granted authority over the others. Instead, the reward for faithfulness consists of increased authority over “things,” which henceforth will be “many” rather than few. The servants neither begin with authority over or accountability for the others, nor do they end with it. The same is true of the parable of the ten minas (Luke 19:11-27). Each individual is responsible for what they do with their mina, and the reward for faithfulness is greater authority. 

Similarly, there is no indication that the wicked manager who beats the other servants instead of feeding and caring for them is in any way responsible for the actions of the others (Luke 12:42-26). The point, hard-hitting though it may be, is that he is accountable for the task assigned specifically to him.

On the other hand, Jesus is clear that:

From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked (Luke 12:48b).

So yes, there do seem to be levels of accountability: the more you are given, the more accountable you are. And what does it mean to be given much? Being born male? Being a husband? 

Well, no. Jesus defines it for us himself: it is the blessing of knowing God’s will (Luke 12:47-48a). 

But perhaps that is the crux of the matter for the men-are-more-responsible crew; maybe deep down they believe that men are more accountable than women because men have been granted a greater knowledge of God’s will.

What If?

What if this teaching leads a woman to behave like one of the wicked servants? What if she stands before Jesus one day making her excuses, explaining that she kept her mina hidden away because her husband didn’t understand it, that he was happier if she focused on hearth and home and him, that he was afraid of being held accountable if she took a wrong turn and therefore discouraged her from pursuing what she believed Jesus was asking her to do? 

What if she explains to Jesus that she believed her primary responsibility was to support her husband, to submit to him and affirm his leadership, to not press a matter if her husband displayed any resistance and to trust that he knew better than she? That this was the only biblical way to live?

Or what if it causes her to become lazy and passive, constantly criticizing her husband for not “stepping up,” for not being the “spiritual leader” she thinks he ought to be? What if it leads her down a path where she takes very little if any initiative to solve their common problems and instead places all the blame upon her man?

What if this teaching leads a husband to behave like the servant who beat those he was to care for? What if he takes advantage of his family, forcing his will and his way upon them, simply because he believes this is his role? 

Or what if it causes a man to hide his mina in the dirt because his wife and children are happier with their life the way it is? What if his wife digs in her heels and, since he is responsible for her happiness, he pushes aside the conviction of the Holy spirit? What if he disqualifies himself from ministry because he never manages to create that “perfect” family, that “godly” home he alone is responsible to “build”? 

What if this teaching causes men and women to stumble in their commitment to follow Christ?

Woe to the world because of things that cause people to stumble! Such things must come, but woe to the person through whom they come! (Matt. 18:7)

Please don’t get me wrong. I believe men will be held accountable for their marriage and family and how they impacted the world at large. But so will women. My discussion here is not to take anything away from men, but rather to consider the validity of claiming different levels or types of accountability based on gender.

Jesus said that each of us will answer for what we do with our mina, with our single or multiple bags of gold, with the knowledge of God’s will that we have been privileged enough to possess. We will answer for how we rule and subdue our domain, for the way in which we manage that arena of responsibility that so often overlaps with that of others, or how we cooperate with these others to cause God’s kingdom to come and his will to be done in those spheres where we have some measure of influence.

And, perhaps unremarkably, Jesus never qualified this accountability according to gender.


[1] Compare the Bible studies Five Aspects of Woman and Five Aspects of Man by Bill and Barbara Mouser.

[2] See Created to be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl. 

[3] See the case study in Gary Thomas, When to Walk Away: Finding Freedom From Toxic People (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2019), 88. It is important to realize that in some Christian circles this teaching may lead to unfairly blaming men for every marital issue, while in others it places blame upon women. In both cases the myth that one spouse’s behavior is the root cause of the other’s actions is assumed. This is the fundamental fallacy here and one reason the teaching that men are more accountable than women is harmful.

[4] Alistair Roberts, “Man and Woman in Creation (Genesis 1 and 2),” 9Marks Journal, December 2019.

[5] Note Paul’s consistent use of anthropos (human being, person) in Rom. 5:12-21. The apostle is focused on the humanity of Adam and Jesus and how that enables them to represent all people, male or female. In the original Greek Paul is neither emphasizing nor even mentioning the maleness of Christ and Adam.

[6] Roberts.

[7] Ibid.

[8] I am not saying that men and women are exactly the same for I do, in fact, believe that general differences in our perspectives and motivations can be identified. Rather, I am simply arguing that such false dichotomies and oversimplifications do not accurately describe those differences. Both men and women reproduce, both subdue the earth, both beautify, both lead, both follow, both protect, etc., though perhaps with different emphases and approaches. In my opinion the gender paradigm as stated above is a construct that arises mainly out of one’s personal experiences that are then grafted into a particular worldview.

[9] Note the addition of the words “a sign of,” as in “a sign of authority,” to many English translations of 1 Cor. 11:10. These words were added because the idea that a woman retained authority over her own head, as the text asserts, did not fit the worldview of the translators. They therefore added words to “clarify” the meaning. The updated NIV is more faithful to the original: “It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head.”

The Double Standard, Men as Victims of Adultery, Prostitution, and Jesus: A Look at Proverbs 6:26

In reading commentaries for my post The Stereotype of the Nagging, Contentious Wife, I ran across an interpretation of Proverbs 6:26 that I’m not convinced is entirely accurate. This is the verse that seems to say it’s okay for a man to visit a prostitute, though he’d better stay away from another man’s wife. I don’t know about you, but it would not be okay with me if my husband dallied with any other woman, no matter who she was or how she made a living.[1]

For a prostitute can be had for a loaf of bread, but another man’s wife preys on your very life. (Prov. 6:26, NIV)

The comparison between the toll exacted on a man for having sex with a married woman versus a prostitute appears to imply that sleeping with the second is no big deal.[2] Even though it’s not entirely clear how to translate the Hebrew (it may mean that a prostitute reduces a man to a loaf of bread), becoming a pauper is not as bad as losing your life.[3]

What’s going on here? Tremper Longman III explains it like this: Continue reading “The Double Standard, Men as Victims of Adultery, Prostitution, and Jesus: A Look at Proverbs 6:26”

The Stereotype of the Nagging, Contentious Wife: Understanding Proverbs in its Original Setting

I’ve come across a couple of sources lately that argue the book of Proverbs teaches that wives have a tendency to be complaining, contentious nags. One author believes that in this ancient book of wisdom we learn about “gender sin,” which consists of anger for men and nagging and complaining for women.

A gender sin is a wrongful action or attitude commonly displayed by one gender as opposed to the other. Gender sin may not be in the dictionary, but Proverbs attributes “anger sin” to men and “nag sin” to women. Of course, wives get angry and husbands gripe, but every time Proverbs mentions a nagging, grumbling, contentious person, it is a married woman, a wife.[1]

Others seem to think, based on the book of Proverbs, that if a woman feels like her husband is mistreating her it is most likely her own attitude that is really the problem.[2] After all, Proverbs never says it’s better to live on the corner of the roof than share a house with a quarrelsome husband, does it? Or that dwelling in the wilderness is better than living with a contentious and angry man? No, Proverbs consistently hangs marital dysfunction on the wife.[3] Continue reading “The Stereotype of the Nagging, Contentious Wife: Understanding Proverbs in its Original Setting”

“Around the House, Women Rule” and Other Marriage Myths

It seems like everywhere I turn these days I’m hearing that women rule the roost. Recently I had a conversation with a Christian leader who said that it’s women who have the power at home. He went on to explain that, for example, men ask their wives for permission before heading out to the golf links on Saturday.

Then I ran across an article at the Love and Respect website where Emerson Eggerichs responds to concerns of wives whose husbands seem less respectful toward them since doing his study. After citing numerous Proverbs that warn about contentious wives, Eggerichs quotes a couple of sources including a USA Today article that claims “around the house, women rule.” Eggerichs goes on to say that the true problem in these marriages may be “a contentious wife who is expressing her disgruntlement over the fact that periodically her husband puts his foot down and breaks the pattern of her getting what she wants.”

And then Christian therapist Kevin Leman, in his book for wives frustrated by their husbands’ irresponsibility and insensitivity, writes that “in the midst of all this struggle for power in a unisex society, guess who rules the roost? No doubt, it’s you women!” Leman references the article Eggerichs cites and another from the same journalist to support this claim.[1]

So here we have three highly influential Christian authors responding to women’s marital frustrations by explaining that wives have misconstrued the situation. In truth, we are told, women have the power in marriage and men are just trying to find a place at the table so they can be equal.

Rooting around on the Internet I found the USA Today articles plus others along the same line. With taglines like “Study: Women Are in Charge at Home,” “Women rule the roost, and that’s OK with men,” “Wives have the marriage power,” and “Women Call the Shots at Home,” one would think wives’ dominance of husbands is firmly established.

Until you look at the research it’s based on, that is.

It turns out that all of these articles are based on the same two studies, one by Pew Research and one from Iowa State.[2] Eggerichs also cites the work of widely respected marriage researcher John Gottman, though he leaves out salient parts of the paragraph and appears to misunderstand the terminology.[3]

I don’t have time to look at all of this in detail today so I’ll focus on the Pew study, a phone survey interviewing couples about who makes more decisions at home, the husband or the wife.

Pew asked 1260 men and women who was more likely to make the decisions in four common household scenarios. Here is the exact wording of the questions: Who decides what you do together on the weekend? Who manages the household finances? Who makes the decisions on big purchases for the home? And who most often decides what to watch on television?

Results showed that in 43% of couples the woman makes more of these decisions, while only in 26% of couples does the man make more. From this arises the idea that “women call the shots at home.”

Frankly, when I read the Pew study I was more perplexed than convinced. Does it really prove that women are “the boss” at home? Does it prove anything? I wondered what the outcome would be if different questions had been asked.

For example, who decides how much personal leisure time each partner gets while the other cares for the home and kids? Is this a decision the couple has worked out together or does one person have the upper hand here? Is the fact that many men let their wives decide what they do together on weekends a function of a mutual agreement they have made – as long as I can play golf Saturday morning, honey, whatever you want to do Saturday night is fine with me – or indicative of an unfair arrangement – I’m playing basketball two nights a week this semester, just so you know – that makes him feel guilty and her resentful, so he pacifies her by going along with her dinner plans? Or is it truly a case of the woman controlling leisure time? It could be any of these, but from the way the survey was set up we have no way of knowing.

Instead of asking who manages the finances, what about finding out who decides how funds are allocated in the first place or, for that matter, who is left with the grunt work of paying the bills and balancing the budget? The women I know who manage the household finances (I am one) do so for one of two reasons: either they and their husbands agreed she would do it (because she is more naturally suited to it or has more time) or their husbands refused so the wife stepped up.

It is true that the person who handles the finances has a better grasp on what the couple can and cannot afford, so a wife managing the day to day finances may result in a husband asking his wife if it’s okay for him to make a purchase. But this may not be about getting permission from his wife, but rather from the budget. In our case, my husband has certain goals for our finances and so do I. We talk about these and agree upon priorities, then I work out the details in a practical plan.

As for big purchases for the home, my question is how things would fall out if the question was about big purchases for the garage. Is the fact that women make more decisions about appliances and sofas related to men’s lesser interest in these items compared to cars, boats and tools? We don’t know since the survey didn’t ask the question. Numerous longitudinal studies do indicate, however, that although men have gained some traction with respect to household purchases women still take the lead in buying toilet paper, cleaning supplies, cooking utensils, and bedspreads.

If that means I call the shots at home, well, I don’t know what to say.

The bias in the methodology here may be comparable to the bias inherent in some studies of who works more, men or women. Some data has indicated that women work an entire second shift compared to men, when total working hours (at home and at a job) are calculated. However, the main study asserting this inequity was based solely on women’s assessments of how much they work compared to their husbands. More accurate research indicates that on average stay-at-home wives/mothers work the fewest total hours, husbands/fathers with full-time jobs work about the same total hours as wives/mothers with part-time employment, and wives/mothers with a full-time job work a total of about one hour more per week than anyone else, varying a bit by country.

When it comes to television I wonder if the survey respondents assumed the couple was watching a show together, since a question about who handles the remote would seem to imply they’re both watching. And when they do, the wife is more likely to decide what they view.

But is that because she dominates, or because he’s fine with what she wants as long as he gets to watch his game on ESPN and play a few rounds of his favorite video game first? And does he even want to watch TV with her, or is she the one looking for some couple time in front of the tube? I don’t know; I’m sure there are couples where the wife is insensitive to her husband’s interests and dominates time spent as a couple, but I don’t think you can prove a general trend by this question.

Beyond these weaknesses, to me the Pew questions seem trivial. Bigger issues in my mind are things like who decides how household responsibilities are divvied up or how much extra work each partner gives the other through their thoughtlessness or selfishness. Is one person tacitly saying, I’ve done my share; the rest is yours? And if a wife manages the family’s social schedule, does that mean she’s dominant or that no one else is willing to do it? Or has the couple agreed that she play this role? It could be any of these.

And how about some questions relating to interpersonal interaction, like who decides when it is okay to be angry and when it is not? Does one partner believe his or her anger is warranted but the other’s is unprovoked? Who decides when a “sin” issue necessities intervention and when it’s “no big deal”? Who decides when something “makes sense” and when it does not, when “this conversation is over” or when it’s okay to say “I don’t need your approval to do this.” I think when either partner dominates does these things it is a much stronger indication that they “rule the roost” and, frankly, that their marriage is in trouble.

Back to the original illustration of a man asking his wife if it’s okay for him to go golfing on Saturday. Is this really an indication of a woman holding power in the home? Or is it simply common courtesy? What else should the man do – announce he’s leaving as he walks out the door, without checking if his wife has an appointment and needs him to watch the kids? And is that what his wife should do as well? Announce her departure as she heads out for a hike with a friend, without asking if her husband needs something first?

Perhaps checking with your spouse about personal leisure time is simply a reflection of the fact that when we live together in family we meld our schedules and priorities with each other, working things out in a mutually satisfying way so that we have time together but also time to pursue individual interests. As Jesus said, if you recall:

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Caring enough about your spouse to consider their needs reflects a fundamental Christian principle, not some sort of dysfunctional codependency.

The bigger question in all of this is simply why. Why do some of our most influential marriage teachers think they need to convince husbands and wives that, actually, women are dominating men at home, especially when the studies they cite do not support this claim?

Yes, some research does demonstrate that women place a higher premium on closeness in marriage while men assign a greater importance to autonomy. So a couple may have different goals for their relationship and different feelings about their relationship dynamics. This is where compromise and the commitment to create a mutually satisfying marriage are needed. But perhaps it explains why a man can view running his Saturday plans by his wife as demonstrating her power over him while she thinks of it as common courtesy.

And yes, it is also true that women are more likely to push for change in a relationship no matter who brings up the problem. Husbands, on the other hand, tend to “demand” (press for change) when they point out an issue but withdraw in the face of their wife’s concerns. However, as Gottman notes, in healthy marriages husbands learn to respond to their wife’s “demands” rather than withdrawing from conflict. Though a wife’s compliance in the face of her husband’s withdrawal can lead to short-term marital satisfaction (perhaps this is why Eggerichs’ ideas seem to work at first), it is also highly correlated with long-term marital dissatisfaction and divorce.[3]

So, no, there is no compelling evidence that, in general, women rule the roost. An individual woman may dominate her home life, of course, just as an individual man may. Those things need to be figured out and worked out on a case by case basis, not by broad, inaccurate brush strokes.

Yet all this talk of women having the power at home is causing a lot of damage in circles where it is embraced as gospel truth. If we’re going to make claims about what is universally true in marriage we need to take the time to investigate the research rather than default to unsubstantiated myths.

We can do better than this.


[1] Have a New Husband by Friday, 29-30.

[2] The Iowa State study is also mischaracterized by the popular media, though it does demonstrate that wives are more likely than husbands to press for change in the relationship. Husbands push for change when it’s an issue they brought up but often withdraw and avoid if their wife chose the topic. Husbands are also more likely to be convinced of their wife’s arguments and agree to changes than the other way around, but this may be a sign of a healthy marriage according to the study’s authors. John Gottman would concur.

[3] Eggerichs drops the part that a wife’s “highly emotional” interaction includes “both positive and negative emotions.” He also leaves out the corresponding assessment of men’s interaction: “Men, on the other hand, have been described as conflict-avoiding, withdrawing, placating, logical, and avoidant of emotions.” Also, these comments are located within a section explaining that male socialization that results in avoidance of emotion “will have serious consequences when love relationships bloom and become serious in young adulthood.” John Gottman, What Predicts Divorce? The Relationship Between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes (Hillsdale, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum, 1994) 283. Gottman also explains that a wife’s push for change is positive as long as the husband responds to her needs rather than stonewalling her. In fact, he has a section entitled “Embrace Her Anger” (p. 131). Gottman also notes that a wife’s agreeableness and compliance in the face of her husband’s withdrawal and avoidance correlate to short-term marital satisfaction but long-term dissatisfaction. That is, the stonewall-comply marital dynamic is a high predictor for divorce (p. 131-135). Eggerichs also gets the page number wrong, so it took me a long time to find the quote. The correct page is 283, as noted above.

In Search of Male Leadership: The Logical Inconsistency of Defining a Man’s Initiative in One Way and a Woman’s in Another

Recently I attended a conference on the theology of marriage hosted by Denver Seminary. Over lunch I had a brief conversation with one of the presenters, a megachurch pastor and chair of the theology department at a school in another state. 

We were talking about whether the differences between men and women have to do with leading and following or with something else. My discussion partner explained that he does lead his wife and that this is a very important aspect of manhood in general and his manhood in particular, since he views himself as the priest of his home. As an example of his leadership, he mentioned that he often says to his wife, “Let’s pray.” She usually does the praying, he noted, since she is better at it than he. But his point was that he is doing the leading by suggesting they pray. Continue reading “In Search of Male Leadership: The Logical Inconsistency of Defining a Man’s Initiative in One Way and a Woman’s in Another”

What I Learned from the “Perfect” Wife: Sarah, Abraham and 1 Peter 3:1-6

I’ve mentioned this here before, but my marriage went through a radical transformation a number of years ago. For a long time my husband and I tried to work out our relationship according to traditional “biblical marriage” teachings, with him “leading” and me “submitting.”

We were committed to this path since we thought it was the only “biblical” way, even though we ended up far more frustrated than happy. Then about ten years ago we went through a crisis that brought all of our unhealthy relational patterns to the surface. At that point we either had to figure out how to change or face the possibility of losing everything we had worked toward for so long.

After a couple of years of struggle we did end up successfully changing not only our marital dynamics but also our fundamental conception of what a Christian marriage ought to look like. A big part of this process entailed my realizing how I had listened to the wrong voices and embraced the wrong ideas. I found it difficult to change, but in the end it was more than worth it. My life, my marriage, and my heart have been transformed in a beautiful way.

Just not in the way you might assume. Continue reading “What I Learned from the “Perfect” Wife: Sarah, Abraham and 1 Peter 3:1-6″

Five Reasons I Don’t See Male Authority in Genesis 1-3

I recently recorded another podcast with Dr. Juli Slattery, cofounder of Authentic Intimacy and author of Rethinking Sexuality. This time the discussion was about husbands and wives who control their spouses. The other guest that day was Dr. Ron Welch, a counseling professor at Denver Seminary and author of The Controlling Husband.

Our topic was prompted by this response to an earlier podcast Juli had done with the Welches about how Ron had overcome his tendency to be a controlling husband.

Juli, I would love to hear you discuss this topic, with the added element of spiritual abuse. My husband sounds so much like Dr. Welch, except he also acts as the voice of God in my life. He accuses me of resisting God, of being unsaved and not the kind of woman God esteems, etc. I’m in counseling and have had a pastor friend reach out to him, but he refuses to consider marriage counseling or meeting with a pastor. He says I’m unempowered by God because I’m seeking outside help.[1]

Continue reading “Five Reasons I Don’t See Male Authority in Genesis 1-3”

Adam and Eve Didn’t Reverse Roles

Some of you who read my post A Bad Decision and the Fallacy of the Role Reversal Argument had questions about the whole idea of a role reversal. What I want to do today is explain how Genesis 3 is interpreted to get the idea and how this position misses the point.

In case you haven’t heard, “role reversal” is basically the idea that Adam and Eve sinned by reversing their God-ordained gender roles. Eve wanted to be in charge and Adam didn’t.

Bingo. Roles reversed.

To help you understand this perspective first-hand, I will refer to what is probably the most thorough defense of the position, “Male-Female Equality and Male Headship: Genesis 1-3,” by Raymond C. Ortlund, Jr., commenting as I go along.[1] Ortlund’s article progresses in two phases: 1) Genesis 1-3 establishes male authority over women; and 2) Adam and Eve sinned by reversing their roles.

In this post I’m going to respond to the idea of role reversal. In my next I will rebut the perspective that headship means authority. Continue reading “Adam and Eve Didn’t Reverse Roles”

A Bad Decision and the Fallacy of the Role Reversal Argument

Now and then my husband and I make a bad decision. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. Sometimes it’s one we arrive at together, sometimes it’s his decision, and sometimes it’s mine.

Recently we made a killer of a bad business decision.

The painful consequences of our fecklessness prompted Jim and me to reflect on our decision-making process and how we can improve it. Our bottom line: we didn’t work together the way we should have. We need to improve our commitment to sharing our gut-level hesitations with each other, to taking more time in conversation before signing on the dotted line.

One thing that never crossed our mind, however, was that our bad decision was due to a role reversal. In other words, we don’t believe that if I would just stay out of it, Jim would make terrific decisions. Continue reading “A Bad Decision and the Fallacy of the Role Reversal Argument”

Domestic Abuse, A Second-Class Wife, and a Bible Horror Story

Sometimes reading the Bible will make you sick. Unflinchingly honest about man’s inhumanity to man, there is more than one narrative that is nearly impossible to stomach. We are left wondering how and why such horrors came to be and, in our disgust, prefer to look the other way. We tell ourselves we don’t need to study these passages, since we would never do such things.

Of course not.

So we move on.

Yet if we skip the ugly stories we miss what God wants to say to us through them, how he wants to warn our minds of their dullness, open our eyes to their carelessness, awaken our hands to their blindness.

The account of the Levite and his second-class wife, found in Judges 19-21, is one of those. I know its general purpose in the Old Testament is to explain what in the world happened to the tribe of Benjamin, once so strong and powerful. But I am convinced its purpose for our hearts goes much deeper than that.[1]

Continue reading “Domestic Abuse, A Second-Class Wife, and a Bible Horror Story”

Rethinking Christian Marriage

Most people I know have an intuitive sense that men and women are equally capable and that in the best marriages they work together as a team. Yet many of these same individuals assume that it is God’s plan for the man to be in charge, based on the fact that the Bible commands wives to submit to husbands in a way that it does not require of husbands.

They believe it was God who established this patriarchal, hierarchical system of marriage.

I don’t fault my friends, though, since I thought the same thing for a very long time. I thought it, I taught it, I lived it. I wouldn’t have couched it in precisely those terms, but I was convinced that the Bible gave men the authority in marriage.

What hadn’t occurred to me was how the Bible’s instructions on marriage compare to the ones about government and employment, how we understand and apply those commands, and how that ought to instruct the way we understand the marriage teachings.

It was time for me to rethink Christian marriage.

Continue reading “Rethinking Christian Marriage”

Is a Husband Supposed to be in Charge of His Wife?

Last weekend I camped out with two of my granddaughters. To pass the time before lights out, we lounged on our sleeping bags and played some games. Everything was going fine until we ran into some difficulties with the second one.

The idea was to work together to make up a story, each person adding a line or two to the plot. The point was to see if we could keep a cohesive story going in spite of having three different authors. Continue reading “Is a Husband Supposed to be in Charge of His Wife?”

A Husband is Not His Wife’s Shepherd

The Bible compares the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and the church, implying that a human marriage is somehow a head-body connection like that of Jesus and his bride. We read that a man is the “head” of his wife like Christ is the “head” of the church, and we assume we comprehend what is intended. Not only do we know how Christ functions in relation to the church, by leading and directing and providing, but we also understand what it means to be the head of a corporation, head of state, or the head of a household.

It’s as plain as day.

Or is it? Continue reading “A Husband is Not His Wife’s Shepherd”

Are Husbands Supposed to Get Their Wives Ready for Jesus?

A recent article on a very prominent Christian website argued that husbands have a unique responsibility to get their wives ready to meet Jesus. The author explained that he had recently been confronted with the fact that he didn’t challenge his wife enough. He went on to say, through Ephesians 5:25-26, that husbands are called to be “instruments of [God’s] sanctifying work in the lives of their wives.”[1]

I try to stay away from commenting on things I read that I disagree with, recognizing that there is a range of ideas on more than one topic that sincere believers adhere to.

But there are times when the potential harm overcomes my reservations.

This is one of those times.

Continue reading “Are Husbands Supposed to Get Their Wives Ready for Jesus?”

How Manhood Teachings Harm Good Men

I used to be a big proponent of manhood studies, once even convincing my husband to undertake one with our son. Now, however, I wonder if there isn’t a dark side to our well-intentioned efforts to aid men in becoming who God intends them to be.

Christian manhood teachings increasingly stress the leadership role of men, telling guys they are the spiritual leader in their home charged with the task of leading family devotions, hearing from God, and making the final decisions. Continue reading “How Manhood Teachings Harm Good Men”

Cheating Wives, the Double Standard and a Bizarre Bible Passage

I don’t know why I have a fascination with strange Bible passages, but I do. They represent a challenge, a puzzle I feel obligated to solve, at least in my own mind. One of these is the ancient Israelite process used to determine whether a married woman had messed around a bit on the side, found in Numbers 5:11-31.

Maybe you’ve read it, though I don’t blame you if you haven’t. Tucked away in a less popular part of Scripture, undoubtedly getting fewer likes than Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we encounter the magical test for the notorious unfaithful wife. What was a husband to do if he suspected his right-hand woman but wasn’t fortunate enough to catch her in the act? Continue reading “Cheating Wives, the Double Standard and a Bizarre Bible Passage”

Should Men Listen to Women?

Some people think it was a sin for Adam to listen to Eve, that he sinned not only by eating the forbidden fruit but also by listening to his wife. From this they seem to surmise that it is not only dangerous but also wrong for a man to listen to a woman, especially if that woman happens to be his wife.

As support for their view they cite God’s words to Adam in Genesis 3:17:

To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you…”

The idea is that Adam fell into a heap of trouble for two reasons: wife-listening and fruit-eating, two equally rash and sinful behaviors. Even though Adam received no prohibition regarding the evils of wife-listening, apparently he should have known. Continue reading “Should Men Listen to Women?”

Our Escape from a Mutually Unsatisfying Marriage

We were supposed to have a happy marriage. We both loved Jesus, embraced a simple lifestyle, and took scripture seriously. I planned to submit in everything and Jim was going to be the spiritual leader. We would have a “biblical marriage,” so we were all set.

Or so we thought. Continue reading “Our Escape from a Mutually Unsatisfying Marriage”

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