Dr. Allen Yeh is at it again. Over at Scriptorium Daily, Dr. Yeh wrote a second article in defense of egalitarianism as a follow-up to his socio-cultural approach. I responded to the socio-cultural article last week, claryifing why it is not inconsistent for complementarians (like myself) to allow for women to teach in seminaries but not in churches.
This time he gets all theological on us, and I should start by saying that he represents his case well. Most of the article consists of responses to common complementarian arguments rather than a positive defense of egalitarianism. For one thing, there is absolutely no mention of Gal. 3:28 (gasp!). Just thought you should know what you're getting into.
Part of that article includes the following comment that reflects a common egalitarian argument regarding the use of Paul's comments about marriage in Eph. 5: "Ephesians 5 calls for mutual submission. It is a case of proof-texting to only point to v. 22 (“wives, submit to your husbands”) but not v. 21 (“submit to one another”)."
Eph. 5:21 reads as follows: "submitting to one another in the fear of Christ,". "Submitting" is a participle in Greek and is dependent on the command to "be filled with the Holy Spirit" in v. 19, where "be filled" is the main verb. This is to say that "submitting" is either the means of being filled by the Spirit, or the result of being filled by the Spirit. I lean toward the former, which I mention only because if I am right, then this is an important issue indeed! What is at stake here is our being filled with the Spirit- I don't know about you, but I'd say that's a big deal.
In any case, Paul continues the "submitting" thought from v. 21 in v. 22, which I'll provide my own translation of: "wives to your own husbands as to the Lord." Hopefully what you notice is that there is no verb in v. 22. There is nothing especially strange about this in Greek, or for that matter in English. Indeed, the second clause of the sentence immediately preceding this one has no verb, but you all know what I'm saying. What it does indicate is that v. 22 carries on the thought from v. 21. Put another way, Paul begins to flesh out what v. 21 means in v. 22, as indicated by the fact that v. 22 has to borrow the verb from v. 21. Still with me?
I hope so. For what this begins to point toward is that Paul explains v. 21 in the passage that follows. The Ephesians will read and say, "Oh, o.k., we are to submit to one another in the fear of Christ- but what kind of submission?" Paul responds: wives to their own husbands, as to the Lord. The husband's role? Quite the opposite: headship. Cruciform, Christ-modeled headship to be sure, but headship nonetheless. Paul not only completely avoids suggesting husbands submitting to their wives here (and everywhere else, I should add), but he says quite the opposite?
So then, how should we understand the call to "mutual submission" in v. 21? I suggest that it basically functions like a section heading for Paul's explanation of the three relationships that follow: husbands and wives, children and parents, and slaves and masters. It is as if Paul put a break in the text, then wrote, "Christian Submission in Human Relationships", then proceeded to say that wives are to submit to their husbands, children to their parents, and slaves to their masters. In this case it is not a call to mutual submission, but a way of introducing the concept of submission, then fleshing out what "submitting to one another" actually means for Christians.
There are a host of other issues here that I am not inclined to get into with this post. My point here has only been to explain why the "mutual submission" that egalitarians are quick to reference in Eph. 5:21 is not something that complementarians avoid because they are, as Dr. Yeh charges, "proof-texting".