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Men and Women in Ministry: The Analogy With Slavery

Is not the argument for why wives should submit to husbands the same as the argument for why slaves should submit to masters? If we insist on the abolition of the latter, should we not also insist on the abolition of the former? Again, the answer is No.

There are several reasons why we can insist on the abolition of slavery while retaining the submission of wives to their husbands.

1.                  Scripture is known to regulate undesirable relationships without condoning them as permanent ideals ( see Mt. 19:8; 1 Cor. 6:1-8). Paul’s recommendations for how slaves and masters relate to each other do not assume the goodness of the institution.

2.The institution of slavery is not grounded in creation but is a distortion resulting from the fall. Marriage and male headship, on the other hand, are part of the original created order that antedates the fall.

3.On several occasions the seeds for the dissolution of slavery are sown. See Philemon 16; Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1; 1 Tim. 6:1-2. Nothing in the NT, however, suggests that the same was envisioned for the relationship between husbands and wives.

4.If the argument from slavery is used to invalidate a wife’s submission to her husband, would it not also invalidate a child’s submission to his/her parents? Observe how the relationship between husbands and wives, parents and children, and bondservants and masters are all addressed by Paul in Eph. 5-6.

5.No permanent moral command or moral absolute is used with reference to slavery in Paul’s instructions to slaves.

6.Paul explicitly envisions and endorses the possibility of a slave obtaining freedom (1 Cor. 7:21). He never says anything comparable to this with regard to wives and submission to their husbands.