Mutual Submission and “Phobia”

I was discussing the term “phobeo” as it appears in Eph. 5-33, where it tells the wife to revere her husband, the Greek word is “phobeo”. It is generally humorous to see how the “mutual submitters” like to dodge around that word. One even went as far as to cite Gerhard Kittel, the “Nazi” theologian who dances around the word in a very humanistic way. Into the thread I basically “went off” sometimes my best thoughts seem to come when I’m in the thick of the battle. Here is my main thought as it crystalized:

I used to be a “mutual submission” type and I understand full well how it is supposed to work in theory. I have talked to many women who claim to be egalitarian and I see a theme, they conditionally “submit”, they conditionally “obey”, they conditionally “phobeo”. Whatever that condition is points to the place that they haven’t surrendered to Christ.

Nuts and bolts, I want a child but my wife doesn’t. According to mutual submission I should go along with her. According to mutual submission she should go along with me. Deadlock right? Sure, now imagine she accidentally gets pregnant and wants an abortion, you don’t want her to. A deadlock should result in a baby correct? Not if she conditionally “submits” and decides not having a baby is more important than “submitting”. Her condition gets to overrule her submission. Is this mutual submission or just unilateral disobedience? Should the husband leave her or continue to “mutually submit”? He should stay with his wife right? I generally think so (and start getting his mind around what “mutual” really means)

Reverse the rolls, she wants a baby and you don’t. Again this would result in a deadlock (until one or the other changed their minds). Again, what if her submission was conditioned on her pregnancy? What if she decides to sabotage the birth-control? You’re going to have a baby. Should the husband leave or continue to “mutually submit”? He should stay with his wife right? I generally think so, we are supposed to love her like Christ loved the Church, right?

Okay, the husband wants to buy a boat and the wife is against it (as infamously portrayed in “Firepoof”). A deadlock results in no boat. Say he conditionally submits and decides that it is worth the grief to have the boat he has dreamed about since he was a boy. Now what? Is the wife going to submit to the fact that the boat is now bought and payed for? Will she “mutually submit” or does she feel taken advantage of? If she submits to her husbands will doesn’t it just look like he did what he wanted “acted like a child” and ran her will over? Will he hear the end of it? Should the wife leave or continue to “mutually submit” to her husband who she feels is taking advantage of her? She should stay with her husband right, after all she IS called to submit herself as a co-believer? I tell you what why not pose it to the egalitarian women?

I’ll wager that within 5 posts one woman will declare it “financial abuse”, within 9 posts one woman will start suggesting that she start enforcing a budget and taking over the finances, with 15 posts another will suggest giving him an ultimatum and demand that he sell his boat. In theory “mutual submission” seems applicable to marriage, in practice she is running the show.

So say she has a decent car and wants a new one. Deadlock results in no new car right? What if she keeps insisting, and if he loved her like Jesus loves the church he would get it for her, resolving the deadlock right? It’s his job to love her and avoid any potential strife isn’t it? Finances be darned right? The fact that she isn’t submitting at all compiled with the fact that he is obligated to “love” her has the serious potential in leading to their economic ruin doesn’t it?

“Mutual submission” in a church means that when irreconcilable differences are found between brothers and sisters they can simply part company. “Mutual submission” in a marriage inevitably and logically affixes the husband on the horns of a dilemma. If she doesn’t submit, and never had any intention of truly doing so or doing so only conditionally his obedience to the scripture is required, he must love her and submit to her, even if he knows that the submission will result in harm to her, himself or their family. The rebel and tyrant is in control and there is no means by which to remove her, no scripture to point to that results in her unconditional submission, no call to Biblical obedience to prick her conscience, no requirement of her but to lap up his unconditional love. The man as Sisyphus to the woman’s Persephone, trying to make her feel loved enough so that she will conditionally submit. There is an absolute, unchecked power that resides on the woman’s side when you eject the unilateral Biblical requirements that are directed at her. Meanwhile the loving husband is very often seen as nothing more than a failure for the strife in his house.

If a man decides to not love his wife unconditionally, the heel is roundly chastised by the Church, the wife is practically sainted, the Bible is cited and if he is bad enough even the world will join in scorning him. There are a plethora of checks against HIS behavior. Many of them will come to bear and most guys today will wither bolt or bend. The tyrant is condemned (and rightfully so). What check exists for his counterpart? What is likely to wean her from the insecurity she feels that only serves to deepen her discontent and her lack of feeling loved. She may even feel like she is being stalked by her creepy husband who won’t just give her the space she desires, after tiring of toying with his “neediness” she is likely to move on to a greener pasture (if she can find one).


29 thoughts on “Mutual Submission and “Phobia”

  1. Excellent post. Mutual submission is a word they like to use…..thats it, thats all, it is nothing more. Its a word that gets past the part of a conversation that is about submission. They do not think in abstract very well, and what you have laid out is purely abstract what-if thinking. Testing things by plugging in variable inputs and following to the possible outcomes, then coming back and seeing how that sits with the original insistence is good thinking methodology. There is NO thinking methodology behind the banal assertions of the feel good term, mutual submission.

    In fact, it would garner way more respect for intellectual honesty if they would simply admit that it does put the women in power to be a conditional partner. The thing is that power exists under the true model in that as is repeated ad nauseum they are not chattle and not compelled to sin etc etc.

    The whole thing will collapse under its own weight as part of the great ending

  2. Indeed, excellent post. The thing would be easy to see when it comes to an employment situation. No boss or company would allow subordinate employees to equally participate in the decisions a boss would need to make. There may be input from the subordinates, but the final decision always rests with the boss and the subordinate’s only response is to accept it and act upon it if he wishes to continue working there. It is logical common sense that no one in the corporate world or even in small business would accept such an arrangement, even the women that have found their way into supervisory roles.

    So why is it accepted in marriage? To the discerning mind, the answer becomes completely obvious.

  3. A true misrepresentation of the position if I ever saw one. If you ever were, as you say, a ‘mutual submission type’ you would have far more understanding. It’s obvious that you prefer a boss and subordinate model instead which is not biblical.
    btw-my use of Kittle was perfectly justified! Have a good one 🙂

  4. I think my all time favorite twisting of the phobeo word though is that it is the woman being warned to fear what will happen if (when) the husband screws up.

  5. I must be a very odd bird. I have to ask why a Christian woman would marry if she didn’t want children? And I would ask the same of a Christian man. Mutual submission, has nothing to do with a married couple’s relationship to each other but rather their relationship together under God as one flesh. He is, after all, the One in control and not us. The car and the boat scenarios are just plain silly. Marriage requires wisdom and maturity both in faith as well as in life. If you’re not up to it, don’t get into it.

  6. I agree with you, they are silly, but that doesn’t make them near rare. Finances and not agreeing upon goals are some of the largest reasons for problems in many marriages. Where do those stem from? Houses, cars, boats…in short toys for him and her.

  7. This is actually a good post. I like how both view points are addressed and well thought out.

  8. Without a doubt, money matters can be very stressful in a marriage and even the best Christian marriage will have hurdles of all sorts to overcome for the simple fact that sin is still part of the world and no one is righteous. They do have God’s help to call upon however, while secular marriages do not.

    I do have to ask where you get the idea that living quarters and transportation are “toys”?

  9. While I’m at it, let me also mention that no Christian woman “wants” an abortion. This post is about Christian marriage is it not?

  10. I could point you to some “Christian” women who would beg to differ. “Christian” is just a label until otherwise proven.

  11. Most often in Western Civilization, we live way beyond our necessities and our needs. A bigger house, a nicer car, not just housing and transportation. Your average house in the US could house a small third world village. 30 year mortgages? 96 month car loans? Waah?

  12. That the examples are silly is a bit irrelevant. To test a hypothesis you plug things in and see the results. The specifics are actually not important and are not an operative , its the operative aspect is the decision presented.

  13. True. But to state that a hypothesis is false without giving it the time it requires to prove it false is scientifically dishonest. IAL has come out against something that he has not given a fair trial in his own life, except a passing mention of his at one time being a “mutual submission type”. Hardly scientific. That rates about third grade frog dissection in my book…

  14. Not at all. The testing a hypothesis is all about finding conditions under which it fails. His examples show plain failure. If there is an outcome in the scenarios that he paints that is different from the options he sets forth, please reveal it. Take one of his examples and show how it plays out under “mutual submission” and does NOT render the result he shows.
    You are mixing two separate things. Fine if you wish to rebut his personal experience by saying it hadnt sufficient time. If his argument rested solely on his personal experience, you’d have a point. But it doesnt. He sets up hypothetical examples, you could choose myriad others, but what you cannot do is refute his one argument (his experience) with his other argument (his hypotheticals) and use a rebuttal from one against the other. That makes no sense at all

  15. Ultimately it does rest on his personal experience. The trick of a man who has no answer to his critics is to set up the impossible scenario. Much like the atheist who goes to the Old Testament laws to prove there is no God to which he must bow down and asks the Christian the hypothetical “how many times must I flog my servant if he does not thresh the wheat enough times in a day…” on and on….
    IAL has done the same thing here because he has no theological legs to stand on. To know, you would have had to see the original discussion that spawned this little blog post where he comes out white as snow. You have only half the data and, as it turns out, the ‘Global Warming’ myth perpetuates. More intellectual and scientific dishonesty.

  16. So why not ply the Nazi new Testament commentaries again so that we can explain away the word “phobia”? The humanist wants to say that there is no room for “fear” in a modern relationship so the neuter the word without ANY theological legs to stand on, just human reasoning. When I read my Bible and I look at the world I see that a wife has an awful lot to fear if she isn’t covered by her husband/father. The Bible warns women to put power over their heads because of “the angels”, I think the two are related.

    I know that you won’t actually address the word “phobeo” and what it is doing in Eph 5:33 so I’m wondering how much more beating around this bush you are willing to do?

  17. Yeah, you mean the original discussion where you called the Strong’s outdated and then went on to cite Hitlers buddy Kittle? I’m sure your welcome to repeat the non-arguments you made in that other discussion. I suspect that you won’t fair well here either.

  18. Sorry, I cannot convince you and I wont spin wheels, but plugging in variables that exist in the domain of potential solutions and seeing where it goes is scientifically perfect.
    like I said, you must refute those exact examples by offering a mutual submission solution that leaves the vogue of equity standing. Or, propose one, propose your own. I believe he mentioned one about being called to ministry. Thats 100% valid as a hypothesis. Either he accepts the job, or he doesnt, there is no mutual solution available.
    Your other attempts at examples of the type of reasoning he makes are not valid comparisons at all. Show where he went wrong, in the ministry example. Saying they should prayerfully wait is not an answer. Life doesnt work the way egals say it does all the time. There ARE intractable matters. Its far more intellectually honest if you take a side, rather than trying to maintain something that cannot fit all life’s eventualities. You would have to lay out things like – she makes all money decsions, he makes all schooling decisions, she makes landscaping, he makes interior decor….etc etc…all laid in advance. but walking in egalitarianism is easily shown as folly.

  19. For the sake of curiosity I’m wondering exactly what type of “Mennonite” you claim to be? I haven’t bumped into many who are as “progressive” as you are or had your take on “mutual submission”. Seems like it must be a funny type of offshoot to me.

  20. Again with the ‘fear’… ‘Phobeo’ is better rendered reverence and respect. That is where you are wrong in using Strong’s. Any serious student of the bible will point out the same thing to you. But if you insist on having your wife fear you and advocate the same for others that is none of my concern.

    The reason that your scenarios don’t work, my friend, is that in real life these impasses don’t happen, not in marriages that are truly Christian. Let’s take the abortion example. Say the wife says “I don’t want a baby”! The husband and wife continue sexual relations and she becomes pregnant. OOPS! Wife says “I want an abortion and that’s all there is to it”! In your world, there begins an unending process of mutual submitting. She will but she won’t but she will but she won’t but she will but… each side submits and loves in reverence for Christ until baby comes and the applecart is totally upset now.
    But in real life what might happen? This ‘submitting’ goes on ad infinitum until about 18 weeks have passed. Unbeknownst to the husband, she visits ‘Planned Parenthood’ for the procedure. Oh what to do?????! She has sinned. Does the husband submit and say it’s okay, honey, it’s what you wanted? Does he kick her out of the kingdom and immediately divorce her with church blessing? These are the two extremes you have presented so far (mutual submission and husband ‘headship’, right?). Or do we follow what the bible says?
    “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal 6:1-2).
    In a marriage that is truly operating on the values of mutual submission, the husband and wife in the above scenario will be more apt to behave in this manner, even in the case of abortion. Even when there is blatant sin. See, we are not so apt to act out and condemn and kick each other out of the kingdom, dispensing fear and judgement at every turn. In the original conversation, IAL referenced Christ’s admonition to the churches in Revelation. I suggest that those who jump on those passages as evidence of His will to judge sinners look at the spirit with which he admonished believers. Was it out of anger or love for his bride? Was it out of fear or concern for her life? That is the difference between mutual submission and husband headship. Fear and reverence. Shock and awe or love and respect.

  21. Sorry Empath, it was over on the CF Married Men’s sub-forum. This guy is apostolic34 and he obviously is an egalitarian, again skimming past the “phobeo” by suggesting it is better translated as “reverence”? Really? Are we to have “mutual reverence”. Do the people who suggest that Christians are “homophobic” understand what it is they are saying? His recasting of the greek word for fear seems to undermine the English lexicon fairly extensively but he’ll do it without batting an eye because of his predetermined ideology.

  22. @Htspam

    The problem with your scenario is that nobody in it is taking either the God or the Bible seriously from the outset. The entire paradigm of mutual submission in marriage is rooted in rebeliousness. You look at the scripute and excise what doesn’t fit with what you want, instead of being confromed to Christ you try to conform Christ to you. That will never work. Mutual submission is feminism reactionism posturing as the more “Christian” way, when in fact it is simply anti-Christ, it opposes the Gospel, the Scripture and common sense.

    By being obedient to the Holy Spirit a Godly marriage might look like a “mutual submission” marriage, however the inner workings are motivated by entirely different things. I’m not lording over my wife, that isn’t my job and besides the Bible specifically tells me not to and implies in various places that I shouldn’t. That isn’t good enough for the feminists though, they want a rule, a law that delineates their rights. The only right we have is the right to die to self, Jesus died on the Cross to give us that right.

  23. The secular world will always reject God’s world so why would you want to attempt to plug things of man into things of God when the end result of that is already known? That’s just “garbage in – garbage out?” If you’re testing Godly hypotheses, best do it with Godly medium, otherwise, all you’re doing is mixing apples and oranges and getting fruit salad!

  24. I wonder if they will beg to differ before the Throne?
    Yes, Christian is just a label until otherwise proven.

  25. Pingback: Links – First Edition « Quit Playing Church

  26. Just in case anyone thought that I was putting up simply ridiculous anecdotes, here is a thread that shows how submissive some Christian women are when it comes to children and how willing they are to kick over their husbands to get what they want:

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