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A View from the Altar / Stomping the trip wire
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Stomping the trip wire

I hate to do this but…

This is about the fifth total re-write of this post.  Reason: This is about gender roles, and the subject of gender roles really is a minefield.  You can die on the gibbet for preaching this.  But that’s not because the biblical view is abstruse.  In fact it’s quite clear, which is part of what makes it troublesome.  The Secular Man looks on the biblical home like so much barbarism, and certain Christian brethren who covet the Secular Man’s esteem feel awkward under his contempt and tend either to explain it all away or object angrily.  So I kept looking for a smooth, sugary way to get the medicine down.  Time was when no sugar would be needed.  But in Our Time, this is like asking people to swallow a pine cone whole, and sugar doesn’t help that. 

General principles

God created people with certain roles in mind.  The fact that there are roles at all is what makes this issue prickly.  Roles are prescriptive.  Roles limit.  Roles command.  Roles hand us a map with the route and destination already marked.  And these roles descend from an authority that won’t budge.

There’s a reason for the roles, which for the most part is conveying truth about God and the Gospel of his Son.  Consider the order in which God created male and female.  The man came first, then the woman, and while in a “deep sleep” the man received the woman through a wound in his side.  Even dense guys like me get the picture of the Gospel in that.  The New Testament then presents Christ as the gracious head over his bride, the church, and this is modeled in the Christian home.  He humbled himself, became a servant, washed feet, even died for the church — all things a self-sacrificing husband would do for his wife.  It’s also true that Christ is the head.  And Paul says the Christian home must model this aspect of the relationship between Christ and the church.  Yes there is grace, a servant’s heart, and sweetness all over the place, but there is also a head.  Bella Abzug, peace be upon her, would not approve of that.  If you want the esteem of the Secular Woman, don’t use the word submissive.

Swallowing that pine cone

Once we accept the principle of divinely assigned roles, everything else is easy.  The ideas of the husband in the principal role of provision and the wife in the principal role of management look, well, obvious.  The idea of the husband in the role of protector with wife and children being the protected is, well, that’s pretty obvious too.  Submissiveness and gracious, self-sacrificing headship are complementary roles.

Alvin Toffler retro

The megatrend in the West is for the sexes to either switch roles or abandon certain responsibilities to entities outside the home.  The most prominent role-swap is in the area of provision.  In many homes, the primary provider is the woman.  Since the primary wage earner tends to take on the role of headship, the long term trend is the loss of male headship in the home and the loss of female management in the home.  The kids are mostly raised by the government.  Sometimes the dad becomes the homemaker.  When I was a child, nobody had ever heard of a Mr. Mom family, but they’re actually pretty common nowadays, and chances are you know of somebody who’s doing this.  But don’t tell me it’s working out okay because its pragmatic outcome is not the issue.  The issue is that God designed the Christian home to be a living picture of the Gospel church.  A female provider presiding over a subordinate male does not present the Gospel to the world.  It replaces the Gospel with autonomy and rebellion, and like Oscar the Fish says, “I’m not fo’ dat.”

Quick review of data set

Sifting through the biblical info on the subject, we learn the man should be the head of the wife just as Christ is the head of the church (Eph 5:23), and the man should be willing to sacrifice himself for his wife (and presumably his kids too).  A male who isn’t a provider is the object of divine scorn. (1 Tim 5:8)  A woman is to be a keeper at home (Titus 2:5), and the one who abides not at her house is bad. (Prov 7:11, 1 Tim 5:13)  Even in church, women are not to teach or usurp authority over men.  (1 Tim 2:12)  In decorum pertaining to worship, men ought to take off their hats while women should have a covering of some kind, and the apostle reminds us that this is in view of the angels. (1 Cor 11:5-10, Eph 3:10)  Switching roles by cross dressing is abominable.  (Deut 22:5)  The Bible even says men should have short hair and women long. (1 Cor 11:14-15)  A virtuous woman is permitted to work for pay (Prov 31:13-16) but only to the extent that her primary duty to the home and its Gospel pictogram is safeguarded.  A man is to treat his wife with grace and never bitterness because this is how Christ treats his bride.  (Col 3:19)  A wife is to love and respect her husband because that’s how the bride should regard Christ.

So there are roles.  No big surprises here: The roles look very staid, very traditional.  Worst of all from the perspective of modern Western thought, there is no discernible evidence of any attempt to be cool or respectful toward the mores of this present world system.  Biblical sex roles do not beckon to yuppie DINKS (double income, no kids) on their upwardly mobile path to penthouses, BMWs, and financial glory.  Neither do they synch up with the redneck penchant for shiftless men, fierce women, and ignorant children.  But the tetchiest trip wire on the whole bomb is this one:  You can’t reconcile the biblical data with the modern tendency for women to promote secular ambition above responsibilities at home.  These are the textual data, and having laid this out for you with a modicum of interpretation, I’ve done my duty.  You now have a decision to make on what to do with it.

Broadcasting embarrassment

Preachers, there’s no need to stomp the trip wires on this.  All you have to do is just get up there and say it, and you’ll get all the reaction you can stand.  However, it’s better not even to preach this subject than to tiptoe around it as if you’re embarrassed by what the Bible actually teaches.  It says what it says, okay?  You’re just a deputy serving papers on a generation that has a court date with the Judge.  Don’t act like you set the rules or wrote the summons, and don’t apologize for what it says.  Just serve those papers.  Sometimes the deputy gets shot in the line of duty, but hey, those are just the breaks.

otherbrothersteve@gmail.com

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