Thursday, October 18, 2018

Is Authority Absolute?

There is a lot of discussion going on online about the nature of authority in marriage, between the husband and the wife. I'm not talking here about liberal "Christians" who don't take the Holy Scriptures seriously and are fully egalitarian, but about those who still accept God's original design for the family and the idea that the husband is the head of the wife. How far does his authority go?

There is a so-called "complementarian position" which as far as I understand, is getting more liberal with the years. Then we have a "servant-leader" position, with a huge accent on the first word (i.e. the husband leads by basically doing everything his wife tells him to do) and then we have those who claim that the husband's authority over his wife is absolute, and she should "cheerfully obey" in any situation, more like a slave than a spouse.

I think we get all this confusion due to two things: the constant attack of progressives and the desire of certain misguided church leaders to compromise as far as possible in order to appear more modern, and next, the misunderstanding of the nature of authority.

At school, I was taught that in medieval Europe, the King was considered "the first among equals" by the warrior class. He was equal in essence to other nobles, but higher in function. That is the way the Westerners have viewed authority for a long time. That is our traditional way. In the same manner, the wife, unlike the concubine and/or mistress is her husband's equal in essence, but a subordinate in function. I don't care how it was in OT times among the Hebrew tribes (though I suppose it wasn't much different). Being Christians, we live under the NT and that has been our manner of doing things for hundreds if not thousands of years.

Now is the authority of a superior over a subordinate absolute in all the circumstances? I'm not talking about the situation when your superior is telling you to commit obvious sins/crimes. I hope we all agree that one shouldn't follow unlawful commands of one's superiors (even Islam teaches the same thing, the wife doesn't have to obey sinful commands of her husband).

What about when a person in the position of authority is foolish? I remember watching a movie (I think it was one of the Hornblower series), where the ship captain was a stubborn idiot who wouldn't listen to the advice of his officers and nearly lost the ship with all the crew. To save it, his lieutenants had to lock him up and to take over the command. Of course, in the end they were court-martialed, but got off free because they convinced the judges that the captain was temporarily insane or something similar. (I don't remember the details correctly, I think they suffered some punishment, but not a very severe one).

The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes, when the authority figure is particularly unwise, the subordinate has nothing else left but to overrule his decisions (think of Abigail and Nabal, and that was in OT times, so as I've said, there wasn't much difference with a European position).

What situations I'm thinking about? The husband can be very unwise in financial matters, for instance, which can lead to the great damage for the wife and the children. He may engage in other risky behaviours, like driving under influence, gambling, disregarding safety precautions, you name it.

It's not about evaluating your husband's "performance" before deciding if he's worthy of your obedience. This should have been done before you married him. It's just about using your common sense. That's all. 


  1. In Finland we have a saying:"Man is the head of the household and woman is the neck (that turns the head)". :)

    I think that "first among equals" sounds good. Best option is to marry a man you can agree with most of the time. In case like that obedience is just letting your husband have his way on those rare cases you disagree. Usually those matters are minor, at least in our marriage.

    I think it's more like putting your husband first, not about actual obedience.

    I have also noticed that sometimes when I secretly disagree but let him have his way, time shows that he was actually right all the time. Very rarely time has proven him wrong. Men for example usually are more willing to take risks than women, and that's why their wise decision can seem unwise to us.

  2. Yes, I agree, a very wise observation. Also, if things do go wrong, the one who took the decision is fully responsible. I prefer it to be my husband:)

  3. thank you for telling it like it is...not just politically correct

  4. You are welcome, Stephanie!

    I think another problem is the modern blurring of roles. In the the past, when male and female roles were clearly defined, men and women had each authority in their own sphere.

    Most men wouldn't think of interfering with the way the wife ran the household, for instance. On the other hand, the men of the family had the right to come and go as they pleased, without women asking any questions (you can still see it portrayed in Miss Silver books which were written in the 1940s and 1950s).

    In some countries, where several generations lived under one roof, the eldest man of the household was the authority over all other men, while his wife was the chief over all women, etc etc.

  5. I think different people would take it different ways.

    some would say an "unsaved husband" if he is saved or unsaved (drinking, cursing, fibbing as the indicator)

    I don't think extreme patriarchy is biblical. A spouse can be male or female and "unsaved" per say. Those who don't express admiration of "the lamb" will have their character revealed in some way or another no matter the nationality or heritage.

  6. I would say that in general, Christians should seek other Christians for marriage, but there is a caveat, unfortunately. People who call themselves Christians nowadays are often just as weak and materialistic as those "unsaved", if not worse. For some Christians the measure of your salvation appears to be your worldly status. If a woman or a man desire a traditional marriage, it's not enough to date only Christians, they should be asking hard questions of their prospective spouses, to find out their views on the family, role division between the spouses etc.

    I'm not sure what you understand under "extreme patriarchy". I don't believe that authority, any authority for this matter, is absolute and should be obeyed no matter what. It's not in the Bible, not in the NT, not in the traditional church teachings. People of the West never worshiped their rulers, so to say.

    I do believe in the division of labour and male vs female sphere of influence. My problem is with some blogs which teach that women should obey their husbands no matter what.

  7. "It's not about evaluating your husband's "performance" before deciding if he's worthy of your obedience. This should have been done before you married him."

    Very true. I married my husband because I admired him and respected his judgment, not only because he was hot lol. I am not always submissive when I should be, being of a feisty temperament, but I do always apologize afterwards. Not just to keep the peace, but because God always leads me to repentance. I find that it is usually fear that leads me to reject his authority. 1 Peter 3 is a help for me!

  8. Trust is very important in marriage! When the woman trusts her husband, she will follow him no matter what. Unfortunately, sometimes, especially when very young people are getting married, they have difficulty with distinguishing between who is a trustworthy person and who is not...