Starting with Headship: Chauvinism, Culture, and Service, we began a look at the Biblical concept of headship. In this post, we discuss the “Cultural view” of headship, where it comes from, and some of the problems associated with it.
At the other end of the spectrum (as two related heresies so often are) is what I would call the cultural view. The cultural view of headship says simply this: That headship as laid out in the Bible is a cultural issue. Living in a more advanced culture two thousand years later, we have transcended traditional gender roles. Like chauvinism, this is by no means a new idea.
In modern times, we can tie it to the rise of feminism and the “sexual revolution.” In the name of “liberating women” and “giving women freedom over their own reproductive choices”, our society has discarded traditional gender roles in favor of the “empowered woman.” And the church, sadly, has not only acquiesced – it has largely embraced feminism. In fact, as some might point out, feminism really had its start in the church long before it became accepted in the workplace.
For the last sixty years, there has been an almost implicit assumption on the part of our culture that the church is for women – that it is the woman’s domain. The active membership of most churches today is overwhelmingly female. American preaching and theology has been progressively feminized, and men are told that in order to be good “Christian” men that they need to be more sensitive and less assertive. Recoiling from so many historical examples of masculinity out of control, the church swung to the other extreme and demanded that men become more like women.
With so many machismo-pumped alternatives vying for our weekends, is it any wonder that the last half-century has seen a mass-exodus of the church on the part of men? The tragic result of this is men who don’t know how to be the spiritual heads of their homes and women who (and pretty reasonably so) don’t look to their husbands for spiritual leadership. They step into the perceived gap in leadership, which to their husband’s mind justifies the forfeiture of the responsibility.
But this, of course, leaves the church with a difficult question: what about headship? The Bible seems to leave very little room for argument in stating that the husband is the head of the home. And so we are faced with one of three options: we are wrong and our society is fundamentally broken, or; biblical command regarding headship are really only cultural and we’re at a different place now as a society, or; our particular family is an exception to the rule because of some extenuating circumstance.
Luckily for us, the society around us and pop psychology in particular is more than willing to validate the second of those three options. The problem, of course, is that it isn’t cultural. Men are the head of the home, Paul says, in the same way that Christ is the head of the Church. There’s a direct correlation there. Paul’s statement can only be culturally limited in the same way that Christ’s headship over his church can be culturally limited. And if it isn’t about Jesus, we may as well pack up, close our doors, and go home.
The husband is the head of the home. Whether or not the head is succeeding or failing at his job is another matter. And this (as our last post should make very clear) isn’t a justification for the man who tries to rule his home with an iron fist. It’s not meant to enable men who demand respect without being respectable. But what it does mean is that men are called, biblically, to step up to the plate and lead. Whether or not it is culturally acceptable.
In the next and final post in this series, we’ll take a look at the third and biblical model of headship: That of the servant-leader.