Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Michael Kruse on the Household Code in Ephesians

Michael Kruse continues his series on household with three posts on the Household Code in Ephesians. (Update, 11th October: Michael has added a fourth post on 6:1-9, the parts of the code about children and slaves.)

He finds in the first part of the passage (5:21-33) the central paradigm which he uses for understanding it, that the "head" and "body" metaphors relate to the underlying unity between husbands and wives, as he explains in the second post:
Paul is making the combination of "head and a body” parallel to the “two becoming one.” There are two visually distinguishable entities united into an inseparable whole where the nature of the functioning is so thoroughly melded you can’t isolate distinct functioning.
Here is how he concludes the last of the three posts:

Now we see Paul’s answer to the problem of how to work out the fictive family status-neutral relationship of siblings in Christ in the context of the husband wife relationship. Mutual submission captured in the metaphor of being an organic unit. The husband with power submits to his wife and makes sacrifice his mission, while the wife who was previously without status and now has it places her status in service of her husband and the Kingdom of God.

In one sense, the surface behavior of the wife may not look very different. However, she is enormously empowered. No longer does she submit as one of inferior rank, forced to obey. Now she chooses to submit as a full missional partner in the Kingdom of God. I think we can imagine what changes in attitude would accompany her actions.

It is the husband for whom we might expect to see some observable difference and he is the one who must actually part with something for this new perspective to work. He no longer gets to play the status card to get his way. But imagine what other men in this culture would think when they observed the loving respectful attitude this man’s wife showed him as he lived out sacrificial love toward her. And imagine what other women would think when they observed the love and care extended to this woman by her husband. This is missional stuff!

What we don’t have here is a command to husbands to be the “head” (read “ruler” or “authority over”) their wives. We do not have a teaching on maintaining a divinely ordained family hierarchy. We have an injunction of mutual submission and then a metaphorical teaching on how that looks in a first century Greco-Roman household.

What we also don’t have here is a teaching of egalitarian family decision-making. There is still a patriarch and there is a wife. But neither do we have a teaching of a divinely ordered patriarchy. That the “two become one” in marriage is a culturally transcendent reality. Paul is applying it to the Greco-Roman context of patriarchy. I’m not sure if Paul had a specific vision in mind of exactly how his teaching could change patriarchy into something else but I am thoroughly convinced he had a vision that patriarchy would radically change.