Is Ephesians 5:22 a Reason to Reject the God of the Bible?
According to The Telegraph of London, one of the “top 10 worst Bible passages” is Ephesians 5:22, in which Paul taught, “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”1 In his book God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, Dan Baker titled chapter nine simply “Misogynistic.” Barker alleged: “Women are second-class. Because of Eve’s insubordination, she was forced to become dependent on man. From then on, all women are inferior, so the bible says.”2
Is God really misogynistic? Does the Bible teach that women are actually inferior to men? And do women, according to the Scriptures, have to “submit to their husbands”?
Before answering these questions (which we are happy to do), let’s pause momentarily to ask what value atheistic, Darwinian evolution places upon women? The fact is, Charles Darwin himself wrote in The Descent of Man that “[t]he chief distinction in the intellectual powers of the two sexes is shown by man’s attaining to a higher eminence, in whatever he takes up, than can woman—whether requiring deep thought, reason, or imagination, or merely the use of the senses and hands…. [T]he average of mental power in man must be above that of woman…. [M]an has ultimately become superior to woman.”3 The Bible never teaches that men are more valuable than women, or that men should use their “intellectual powers” and physical strength to force women to do whatever they want. Yet, when atheistic evolution is taken to its logical conclusion, then “might makes right” and the “fittest” survive and excel to dominate and exploit the weaker to their own pleasure. Atheists simply have no logical moral grounds upon which to make a rational argument for why men should treat women with love and respect.
On the other hand, if God exists and the Bible is His Word, then a faithful man of God will love and cherish women. After all, the God of the Bible loves women. He loves “the world” (John 3:16), which is full of men and women. He created women (as He did men) “in His image” (Genesis 1:26-27). When God put on flesh and dwelt among mankind, He showed great compassion upon women (Luke 11:11-15; John 4:1-42; 19:25-27). He loves women so much that He freely offers them (as He does men) eternal life through Jesus’ sacrificial death (John 3:16; Luke 24:47; Romans 1:16). “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:29). Christian husbands and wives are “heirs together of the grace of life” (1 Peter 3:7). In truth, men and women are equal in their worth to God.
Furthermore, God not only loves women, He commands men to love, cherish, protect, and honor women. To the church at Colosse Paul wrote: “Husbands, love your wives and do not be bitter toward them” (Colossians 3:19). To husbands in Ephesus he commanded: “[L]ove your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her…. So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself…. [L]et each one of you in particular so love his own wife as himself” (Ephesians 5:25,28,33). Peter wrote that husbands are to dwell with their wives “with understanding, giving honor to the wife” (1 Peter 3:7).4
So what is the main problem that atheists and skeptics (especially in the 21st century) have with the biblical teachings about men and women? Largely that God created two (and only two) different sexes to have different roles in the home and in the Church. Yet, the omniscient, omnipotent, perfectly holy, loving, and just Creator of the Universe has every right to define the roles of His creation. A man may dislike that he was not created with the anatomical and physiological ability to carry a child in a womb for nine months, to give birth to a baby, or to nurse a newborn. He may prefer to be a follower in the family rather than the courageous leader God expects him to be (1 Corinthians 11:3). He may wish that he wasn’t assigned the role of selfless protector (Ephesians 5:25). If he was given the choice, he might rather take what he perceives (however so naively) to be the “easier role,” and just “submit” to his wife, and let “the buck stop” with her, and not feel the pressure of being the leader of the family.
Children may cry that their Creator is unfair because they must “obey [their] parents” (Ephesians 6:1). Teenagers may think it quite ignorant to have to submit to older people (1 Peter 5:5) “who don’t even know how to use a smart phone.” An unmarried man with no children may disdain God for detailing in the Bible that he’s not qualified to be an elder or deacon in the local church (1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9)—even though he’s a billionaire and the CEO of a Fortune-500 company! “How could a poor, married farmer with 10 kids be more qualified to serve as an elder of a local church than a billionaire bachelor?!”
Similarly, a woman may dislike that Paul wrote that “the head of every man is Christ” and “the head of woman is man” (1 Corinthians 11:3). She may claim that the biblical teaching of man’s headship over women (Genesis 3:16) and the command for wives to “submit to” their husbands “made her an atheist.” She may openly despise Christianity, since, in the church, the apostle Paul taught, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet.5 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor” (1 Timothy 2:12-14, ESV).6 Yet, none of this proves that God doesn’t exist or that the Bible is not His inspired revelation to humanity. It only demonstrates what has always been the case—most people do “what is right in their own eyes” (cf. Judges 17:6; 21:25). Like spoiled children who are angry at their parents (whose rules they deem “unfair” and do not understand the wisdom of), prideful people become angry with their “Father” in heaven. Most people refuse to bow to the will of their Creator. Most of humanity fails to “humble [themselves] under the mighty hand of God” (1 Peter 5:6). It should come as no surprise then that the same souls who refuse to “acknowledge God” (Romans 1:28, ESV) and to submit to Him, will also belittle His Word, especially those passages requiring humble, respectful submission of wives to their husbands.
1 “Top 10 Worst Bible Passages” (2009), Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6120373/Top-10-worst-Bible-passages.html.
2 Dan Barker (2016), God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction (New York: Sterling), p. 99.
3 Charles Darwin (1871), The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex (New York: The Modern Library, reprint), pp. 873-874, emp. added.
4 For more information on “The Biblical View of Women,” see Kyle Butt’s 2011 article by this title at https://apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=13&article=3654.
5 First Timothy 2:12 was also included in the Telegraph’s list of “Top 10 Worst Bible Passages,” https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/6120373/Top-10-worst-Bible-passages.html.
6 For further reading on the role of women in the church, see Dave Miller (2014), “Male and Female Roles: Gender in the Bible,” Apologetics Press, https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=11&article=5007&topic=389.
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