The real challenge for married Christian men

[For the benefit of those elsewhere in the world, or those who pay no attention to the Sydney Morning Herald, a run of articles regarding marriage have appeared in the newspaper over the weekend. Firstly, a report on updated wording in one order of marriage vows was front page news on Saturday (see Sandy’s comments on this article). Secondly, an article arguing that adultery could be just what a marriage needs to keep it strong appeared on Sunday. Today (Monday), Julia Baird argues in her opinion piece against what she sees as the “deep strain of misogyny in Anglicanism”.  -Ed.]

Regarding Julia Baird’s opinion piece in the SMH today

  1. The views of Caroline Spencer—whom I know personally, and is a fine and thoughtful person—about how women might conduct themselves in leadership in the workplace are not the views of the diocese nor of Moore College. There is no official view on such things. I don’t think the Bible enables us to speak decisively on it either. (Ironically, given the headline, Caroline is quite a spirited woman too, given that she is willing to stick her neck out on this.)
  2. A theological college is a place where reasonable academic freedom of thought is encouraged and on the basis that she’s serving a Bible-based Christian community, her views are worth understanding and engaging with directly, rather than merely refracted through a columnist who has run an extended campaign against Sydney Anglicanism.
  3. I am not sure anyone should be so quick to be snide and dismissive about older views of marriage such as ‘sacrificing and submitting’ given the enormous and damaging failure of marriage as an institution today under more modern approaches. Are people really so sure that the post-modern, individualistic, liberalism, which defines marriage to suit oneself and demands ‘my rights’ has really been so good for family life? C. S. Lewis warned against chronological snobbery which he called “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” Or as J. I. Packer poetically mocked, “the newer is the truer, only what is recent is decent, every shift of ground is a step forward, and every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject.”
  4. As Christians we should not worry too much what the SMH or society in general says on these things. After all, the day before the Herald was suggesting infidelity enhances marriage. And our society has put that book 50 Shades of Grey at the top of its best-seller lists and yet tut-tuts us for our views which would never permit the exploitation of women that apparently occurs in that book. What hypocrisy! Christians do not need to fear the opinions of such people.
  5. The challenge of explaining finer distinctions, such as in our revised alternative marriage vows between ‘submit’ (the Bible’s word) and ‘obey’ (the old Prayer Book word, absent from this context in Ephesians 5, compared to Ephesians 6) is probably and sadly lost on most people in general society who are not willing to listen to a longer more nuanced discussion on such a precious topic. (By the way, anyone who comes to an Anglican church is still offered the choice of completely symmetrical vows if they prefer.
  6. The real challenge for Christians who believe what the Bible says on marriage is to live out the fairly straightforward but culturally challenging distinctives of the biblical marriage model of sacrificing and submitting. That is, for men to properly live out the initiative to love in sacrifice, protection and provision, as Christ loved the church, and so present something wonderful for a woman’s voluntary response. People who see this firsthand will then find it much harder to criticise the theoretical foundation.

(My comments here have been stimulated by reading people’s Facebook posts and comments elsewhere. All thanks, but no blame to Mike Paget, Sarie King, George Athas, Nicole Jameson, Vaughan Smith, Alex Greaves.)

One thought on “The real challenge for married Christian men

  1. In the Channel 7 News story on this issue earlier in the week Peter Jensen mentioned the church was “trialling” use of the word “submit”.

    I’d humbly like to suggest trialling an alternative word “respect” which i believe maintains Biblical integrity and has two significant benefits.

    After much reading, discussion and reflection this week I have noted the Bible says in Ephesians 5:33 “a husband must love his wife and a wife must respect her husband”. While we all need love and respect and ought to give love and respect I believe it is significant that God specifically instructs the husband to love and the wife to respect.

    So that leaves me, and I hope many others, pondering whether it’s possible that, generally speaking, a woman desires love more than respect and a man desires respect more than love. Furthermore perhaps generally speaking men more easily respect and women more easily love.

    God knows us best and I believe it’s possible that in this passage our Creator is giving wise instruction on how to meet the others needs based on the God given attributes of men and women and what men and women desire most from each other.

    The first benefit I believe is that “respect” will remove much of the communities hysteria over the word “submit” and the inequality connotations the community believes that word brings. Now, while we ought never to be influenced by the world I don’t believe changing to, or trialling, “respect” would be doing that, though it might be perceived that way.

    “Respect” is used in Ephesians 5:33 in the NIV, Holman and ESV. The KJV uses “reverence”. Although I am not a linguist I believe “respect” to be an accurate translation. Perhaps others could weigh in here.

    Now if “respect” is an accurate translation and therefore we can use a word that is Biblically sound and at the same time doesn’t alienate the unsaved… isn’t that a good thing?

    (Unfortunately, there may be some reluctance to go with “respect” for fear of being seen to bow to community pressure and perhaps because the community may also falsely believe it can affect the Church’s position)

    The second benefit and the most important one is that the word’s “Respect” and “Love” may actually be addressing core needs of Men and Women. Maybe it is more important and fulfilling for a man to feel respected and maybe it is more important and fulfilling for a woman to feel loved.

    If that is so… and God knows that… and He specifically tells us to relate to our spouses accordingly… then… why don’t we go with “respect”.

    I am confident that using “respect” will make life easier on everybody. Especially young single women and wives who may struggle coming to grips with “submit”. I actually think going with “respect” would make life a lot easier on them and may be a really helpful and loving thing that our Church could do for women.

    Note/Reference: much of my thinking on this issue has been influenced by

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