Yesterday Julie Anne at Spiritual Sounding posted this response to an article at cbmw.org. That’s the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, the flagship organization for complementarian theology. I was alarmed by the excerpts in Julie Anne’s piece, so I read the original article, Relationships and Roles in the New Creation, and wrote my own response.
I think the author, Mark David Walton, has shown us the end toward which complementarian theology is heading. While Walton’s piece is several years old, it’s still out there as a resource and other articles have expressed the same idea – the gendered headship/submission model is not temporal. It’s eternal. Get used to it, ladies.
The post below is satire, but the views represented seem barely exaggerated to me. It’s not “real”, but it’s a lot more real than I want it to be. Maybe I shouldn’t need to add this but I will: this satire is not directed at all men, or all Christian men, or even all complementarian men. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t wear it.
To our dear sisters in Christ,
Greetings to you in the name of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who has bought us with His blood, purchasing for Himself a people reflecting the richness of biblical manhood and womanhood.
It has come to our attention, dear sisters, that some of you have questions about what your place will be in the afterlife, when the Kingdom comes in all its fullness. As you wait for the glorious appearing of our Savior, it’s only fitting that you may ask – “What will biblical womanhood look like in the New Jerusalem? How may I best serve my God and my brothers in that wonderful place?” It is right that such questions should come to us, your brothers who have given our very lives to serving God by explaining what your responsibilities are as women in the created order. The duty to answer such questions and set your minds at ease is part of our responsibility – the great weight which comes from standing before God as biblical men.
For decades we have been teaching you the great gift of hierarchy with which God has ordered his creation. We understand the inflammatory nature of the word “hierarchy”, but we will not insult your intelligence, dear sisters. This word that we proclaim to you, rooted in scripture, is most plainly acknowledged to be a top-down authority in which we, your brothers, carry the heavy burden of headship. And you, in your radiant femininity, have been given the light task of submission. We do not wish to pussyfoot around the issue, using politically correct terminology when we speak of the very will of God. This is why some of our brothers are urging a return to the use of the word Patriarchy to describe the system we promote.
But we digress. Your question, put most simply, is this: “Will I be called to womanly submission to my brothers in heaven, as I am on earth?”
One of our faithful colleagues has answered this question at great length, but to settle your concerns quickly, the answer is “Yes.”
And surely, dear sisters, you can see the logic of this answer. For we have taught you always that your rank as women is part of the divine order, God’s prelapsarian will for the “better half” of his highest creation (if you will permit us a tiny and theologically unsound joke). If submission is God’s will for you in this mortal life, would it not also be His will for you in heaven? Heaven will be a return to the lost edenic dream in which you were created to be helpmeets to the “adams” God has appointed over you, and we look forward with anticipation to the blessings that will come to you when that perfect vision is restored.
But other questions follow. “To whom should I submit?” you may ask. “In heaven shall I return to the status of a child and submit to my earthly father? Or shall I submit to my husband?” Some sister may chime in, “But I was widowed and remarried? To which of my husbands should I submit in heaven? Or may I submit to both?”
Jesus answered a question similar to this, but with enough ambiguity that we will not answer with exactness. Perhaps you will, in fact, submit to your earthly husband(s). Perhaps you will submit to all of the male authorities God granted you in your mortal life – father, brothers, husbands, shepherds. Or perhaps this vision is too narrow. When all of the Bride of Christ is gathered around the throne, enjoying such sweet fellowship as we have never before known, will our connections with those who were strangers on earth be even deeper than anything we’ve experienced with our own kin? Will we truly all be one family, for the first time?
As we’ve already said, we can’t answer the question with perfect specificity, but we think it best if you prepare to submit to all males in the New Jerusalem. It seems the most prudent course.
“But what will I do?” you may ask. “In this life, as a woman of God, my sphere is domestic. What will the jurisdiction of my submission and service be in the afterlife?”
A question well asked, dear sister, but another that requires speculation on our part: the Lord has chosen to let some mysteries remain. Nevertheless, we will attempt to imagine what may be. We do not see heaven as a place of passivity and inaction, and we reject wholly the foolish image of saints on clouds, lazily strumming harps. No! Heaven will be a place of vibrant, joyous, purposeful activity! We will do what God has always intended us to do!
And so, dear ladies, imagine those mansions in which we’ll dwell. Would it not be a blessing to you to exercise your domestic gifts in making your heavenly home a sanctuary within the larger Sanctuary – a marvelous haven and reward for any males who should dwell there?
Will there not be feasting in heaven? We think that many of our own dear mothers are blessed this very moment to be cooking meals fit for the King of Kings.
Another possibility rests on a question that theologians have debated for centuries. Will there be children heaven? We simply do not know, but if there are, sisters, you most certainly may care for them.
And, of course, you will join with the rest of the Bride of Christ in worshipping around the throne – with every nation and tribe and people and tongue. This is the beautiful picture we have been given in the Revelation of John. And we know, sisters, that you will worship with seemliness and modesty, as befits your womanhood. King David may have danced before the Lord in an undignified manner, but he was a man after God’s own heart. Worshipping in humility and meekness is more befitting to daughters of the King.
But we know that what we proclaim as good new is a bitter pill for some of you. We have heard your cries of distress, particularly on divisive “discernment” blogs and so-called “Christian feminist” sites. Some of you say, “But in this life I have sensed a call from God to serve Him in ways that I have not been permitted – in teaching, in preaching and evangelism. I have hoped that in the afterlife I would finally be free to worship and speak and act as the Spirit leads! Was this hope misguided?”
Dear struggling sisters, we know that you are hurting. We think, however, that it’s to your benefit that we be frank. For 90% of you the problem is rebellion, a stubborn self will to “be like God.” It is the same sin to which your ancestor Eve succumbed, setting this ghastly fallen world in motion. Don’t you want us, your brothers, to protect you from repeating the mistake of your first mother?
“But it’s not rebellion!” someone will insist. “I most earnestly want to please and obey God, and I feel His call in my life like a fire in my bones – and yet, I am denied because I am a woman.” We are sympathetic, sisters, but we are also puzzled. How could an unbiblical longing come from anyone but the Evil One? And yet, we do not judge you, for we, too, are sinners and easily deceived (thought perhaps not so easily as Eve). We believe God is good, and we offer you this hope: after tens of thousands of years in the heavenly city, we trust that the “call” you have felt will wear off and be forgotten. In the meantime, your painful obedience will rise up before the Lord like a fragrant offering.
Lest we be misunderstood, we assure you that we do not see you as inferior by virtue of your femininity. We know that some of you are wiser than some of your brothers in the Lord; more knowledgable about scripture; deeper in prayer; more gifted in public speaking. But God’s ways are higher than our ways, and in His eternal purposes He is glorified by your submission to His will and to your brothers. And His will is for your flourishing, too, if only you will trust that it is so. Your place in the divine order is not a reflection of your aptitude. We recognize that you are ontologically equal in worth, even if not in function. (As an aside, we understand that some say this explanation of God’s creative intent has been used in the past to uphold slavery and racial discrimination This seems very strange to us, since there is absolutely no similarity between biblical manhood and womanhood, and a theology of racial hierarchy.)
We hope that this letter has been a help to you, sisters, as you look forward to the reward that awaits you beyond this life. If you have questions about what we have written, we suggest that you speak to your husbands. In the absence of a husband, please go to your shepherd. If you husbands or shepherds are unsure how to answer your questions, please direct them to our website.
Having realized that your feminine submission is God’s will for heaven, we know it will only reinforce your commitment to submission in this life. We know that as godly women you pray with Jesus Himself that God’s will be done “on earth as it is in heaven”. As those given authority in the church of God, our counsel to you is to recognize the created order, embrace your role, and practice what you will be doing for all eternity.
Your brothers in Christ