Chapter 8 - The Beauty of Submission

I thought this was a great chapter! Carolyn Mahaney not only explains and applies the New Testament's teaching on submission in marriage, but also gives a kind of "biblical sales pitch" for the doctrine. This is helpful at a number of levels - because of the collision of values between the Bible and our contemporary culture; because of the debates on this issue within the contemporary church; and because of the struggles that we have in putting it into practice, even when we are convinced that it is what the Bible teaches and that the Bible is our authority. As Mark Twain said (in a line quoted by Elisabeth Elliot, and quoted in turn by Carolyn Mahaney in this chapter): "I have far more trouble with the things I do understand in the Bible than things I don't understand."

Whilst the chapter contains lots of serious argument from Scripture, it also offers help in working out what submission looks like in practice. It's not enough to just say "I submit to my husband" - I have to be careful that my commitment to Scripture doesn't end with what I say in a Bible study group, but continues once I get home. I appreciated Carolyn's description of a "submission moment" in her own life, and her thoughts on "excuses and exceptions" and "applying godly pressure".

And here's a really perceptive section to ponder for a while...
The form and context of the word desire [in Gen 3:16] actually has a negative connotation - an urge to manipulate, control, or have mastery over. Because of the curse, we now have a sinful tendency to want our own way and to resist our husband's authority. This evil desire poses the greatest opposition to our submission.

So we see that the submissive wife - far from being the weak-willed woman our culture portrays - is actually a model of inner strength. By God's grace, she has conquered this opposition within her own heart. It is actually weakness on display when a wife is not submissive; she is only caving in to her natural inclination to usurp authority and demand her own way. That doesn't take any effort at all.

Further reading and listening

If you've got questions about submission which have come from this chapter, then here are some resources you might find helpful:

* Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, by John Piper and Wayne Grudem. You can read this book free online. A few particularly relevant chapters are:

- John Piper's introductory chapter on a Vision of Biblical Complementarity
- Ray Ortlund's chapter on Gen 1-3
- George Knight's chapter on Eph 5:21-33 and Col 3:18-19
- Wayne Grudem's chapter on 1 Peter 3:1-7

* Equal but Different, is a Sydney based group of Anglican women. They publish a magazine 3 times a year and have a website which contains lots of good links and articles.

* Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood is a website that has a huge number of resources on this topic.

* Different by Design - a collection of six talks by Claire Smith looking at the meaning of specific Bible texts about women.
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