Submission Doesn’t Mean Submit

This post was inspired by one of Dalrock’s articles in which he takes to task some complementarians who supposedly affirm male headship and female submission, but who in fact, do something close to the opposite. In his article, Dalrock quotes the popular complementarian, Mary Kassian (author of The Feminist Mistake) when she says,

“A husband does not have the right to demand or extract submission from his wife. Submission is HER choice—her responsibility… it is NOT his right!! Not ever. She is to “submit herself”— deciding when and how to submit is her call. In a Christian marriage, the focus is never on rights, but on personal responsibility. It’s his responsibility to be affectionate. It’s her responsibility to be agreeable. The husband’s responsibility is to sacrificially love as Christ loved the Church—not to make his wife submit.”

Sadly, upon a close reading of her words, we see that her teachings rob submission of its meaning and instead embrace a washed-out form of biblical headship. Notice in particular the words in bold. Kassian claims that when and how to submit to one’s husband is totally up to the woman. So basically, if a woman doesn’t feel like submitting, she most certainly doesn’t have to.

There’s just one small problem: that’s not submission. Here is the basic definition: to submit is to “accept or yield to a superior force or to the authority or will of another person.” Obviously, Kassian fundamentally misunderstands (or denies) what submission actually means.

As seen from the quote above, Kassian opposes any “yielding of the will” or “accepting the force” of her husband’s authority. It seems that her (and others’: see first paragraph of this pdf) brand of complementarianism wants to remove the husband’s authority from the headship/submission paradigm. To her credit, this is all to the goal of making submission sound appealing to women. While that is an honorable goal, she and those who share her view are going about it in a backwards way. Instead of teaching the actual doctrine of submission, they insist on teaching its caveats, providing women with every reason and excuse not to submit.

If the woman herself is the only one forcing her to submit, she really doesn’t have to if she doesn’t want to. Her feelings are her own authority. This is NOT what the Bible teaches. Not one bit. It commands women to submit. It does not say that women must submit when they see fit, when they feel like it, or when they want to. The whole idea behind submission is bowing your will to someone else’s. It is precisely when we don’t want to submit that we are actually submitting. 

To be fair, as mentioned above, Kassian did write a book debunking secular feminism. However, I think she – and likely you and me – are largely blind to just how deeply feminism has wormed its way into the Christian worldview.

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13 thoughts on “Submission Doesn’t Mean Submit

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  1. How far must a woman submit to her husband’s demands? Say he demands she engage in law-breaking or sin, or something not illegal but immoral. Some circles would say that she must submit to her lord (Husband) in everything so as to please the Lord (Christ); and when the two disagree, her lord takes precedence over the Lord – which seems to me to be a kind of idolatry to place something before Christ in terms of importance.
    Rashi once wrote that the Ezer Kenegdo role of women was: “to be a help when her husband was doing what was right, to be an opposition when her husband was doing what was wrong” but in this concept of “submission” there’s no check and balance on a husband’s whims or flights of fancy and women are forbidden from saying “no”; because saying “no” is not submitting. So, women must submit to their husbands in everything. Women cannot say “no” when they don’t like or don’t agree with what their husbands demand of them. Does this not make women powerless and put them at the mercy of their husband’s mood? What protections does God install in the marriage relationship for women from their husband’s bad decisions that lead them from bad to worse?

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    1. Of course wives should not follow their husbands into sin.

      Our husbands’ bad decisions are only bad decisions in our eyes. He thinks it’s a good decision. And ultimately, if there is bad fall-out from the decision, it is his responsibility to amend it. It is the wife’s responsibility to support him through both thick and thin. For better or for worse, for richer or for poorer.

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      1. Which brings up issues of a husband’s ability. Take Forest Gump and Jennie – is a wife obligated to submit to a husband whose intelligence or ability is lower than normal? I ask because there was this guy in my family who would announce: “I’m taking up bee-keeping.” He’d buy all the accessories required, leaving 1/4 of the paycheck for his wife to use to feed and clothe and educate all four of their kids. When It didn’t work out, He’d announce: “I’m taking up …” Some new hobby each week or so. The wife didn’t have much to work with, the house didn’t have any plumbing or electricity or easy access to water because it wasn’t a priority to him and he often lived without such things just fine and felt she and the kids didn’t need them either. Ask any of the now grown up kids and they’ll tell you that he was a capricious guy with no sense of money. Was the wife obligated to support him even though he drained their savings and wasted on useless hobbies that he quickly gave up and as result left them in poverty? Or can a wife intervene for the sake of the kids and tell her husband to put their needs first over his own wants?

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    2. The Bible’s teachings on marriage are not in place for the purpose of making wives miserable. God knows the nature of men and of women and gave instructions according to those natures. Do you think the wife telling her husband what to do would have helped or even have made a difference? If the husband is set on doing his own thing, will he not do it, regardless of what his wife says?

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      1. So a husband is little more than a spoiled child, he gets his way no matter what and he’s going to do what he wants without regard for anyone else and nobody tells him “no” ever? Just because they’re not supposed to make wives miserable, it doesn’t mean that it’s not going to happen given that sin is in the picture and selfishness usually means the man puts himself wand what he wants first. That’s why I like a system of “checks and balances” – a “check” on the power of the husband and a “balance” to keep his power from going totally out of control. A wife is that check to measure how much power her husband has and a balance to restore equilibrium and harmony – but only if you don’t take away her “equal but opposite” ability to set things right. If you tell women that they can’t say no, what’s to keep a husband from going out of control? Nothing. So “submission” is often twisted in this way so that a husband always get what he wants and a wife has to obey his desires no matter how foolish or harmful they may be.

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      2. If that’s your view of men, then yes – patriarchy is merely the enablement of overgrown spoiled children.

        You may like a system of checks and balances, and that’s fine, but that’s not what the Bible teaches. It doesn’t matter what we prefer; the Bible’s authority is supreme, and the Bible gives men authority over their households.

        A wife is not intended to be what “keeps a husband from going out of control.”

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      3. Who was the head of Lydia’s household?
        “When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. “If you consider me a believer in the Lord,” she said, “come and stay at my house.” And she persuaded us.”
        She was. She was not a man. She had authority over household. She was mentioned in the Bible. There are exceptions to every rule.

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  2. @Jamie Carter
    The wife should submit because she *chose* that guy to be her husband. I am sick of hearing about the merits of how great you women ate when you consistently pick morons for mates. You American women love the genitals of donkeys. You drink the cum of dogs.

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    1. She had little choice in the matter. She lived before feminism and before complementarianism was a thing in a world of patriarchy – back when tradition was for traditions’ sake alone and a woman’s place was her home. She was a young widow and single mother when she married him; living in a world where there was little work for women and it certainly didn’t pay very well so her best option to provide for herself and her child was to marry. You see, you have this ethereal concept of male headship, but it comes down to living it out in this world, it can often be twisted – and it still is. It’s something that you have no answer for but to blame her. She did the best she could given the options and resources she had at hand in a world that cared more for men then it did for women. To you, all men are special and all women owe them respect on basis of gender alone; but you recognize that not all men are special enough or man enough and yet somehow are still superior to women who marry below themselves when they get involved together. It seems to me your belief system is the more confused one.

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      1. You said: “all men are special and all women owe them respect on basis of gender alone.” This is not true, and this is not what biblical submission teaches. The Bible does not teach that ALL women must submit to ALL men. It teaches wives to submit to THEIR husbands. The woman’s situation in your story was regrettable, but, as mentioned above, she put herself in it.

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      2. Insofar as a woman is under some obligation to obey her father, her husband, and her religious overseers, she’s been instructed to submit to a number of men some of which are not her husband. Men, on the other hand, are not told to submit to their mothers or their wives or their female religious overseers in the same way. So it seems there’s something special about men that is not special about women which creates an inequality by which men are given authority over women; which is why it’s called “Male headship” and not “Husband headship”. Unless you’re saying it’s a misnomer.

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  3. @Jamie
    “She had little choice in the matter. She lived before feminism …”

    That is complete nonsense. Women have had the right to associate with and choose who they want to marry sunce the beginning of the 20th century.

    Look you can’t be the master sex and then complain about how society is unfair. True unfair treatment is to be drafted for an undeclared war like Vietnam. Do have a selective service number? Of course not.

    If you want rhe benefits of manhood, then you have to share in its burdens. Most men accept the fact that life us unfair. They accept those setbacks, learn from them and then move forward. Failures are the signposts on the road to success.

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