Mutual Submission

I tweeted at Rachel Held Evans (a liberal Christian) who was going against patriarchy and complementarianism.

In one of the side threads, the topic of mutual submission came up.

So I am going to quickly comment on it

Mutual submission comes up in Ephesians 5, preceding the part dealing with marital roles:

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(Ephesians 5:18-33 ESV)

Some translations, such as the liberal NIV, make it the mutual submission clause part of the marital roles section. (The KJV includes it in the previous sentence of verse 20). I don’t know Greek, but commenters believe it to be properly linked to the preceding verses.

But even if we go apart from the Greek, it is clear from the immediate context that that submit to one another is an exposition to the church, not the husband. The use of “wives,” shows a clear transition from one thought to another. As well, the duty of wives to submit is explicitly instructed, the duty of husbands is stated to be love.

As well, the exact same commandment, of wives submit to your husbands is also found in Colossians and 1 Peter, there is no mutual submission commandment near either of those.

Traditional teachings have always been wives submitting to husbands, not mutual submission. It is only since feminists of the radical left took over the culture that any one even thought mutual submission might be a theology of marriage. There is no way one can argue that generally anti-church, anti-family, anti-God, anti-child, atheistic, communist feminists are better at interpreting the Bible than 2000 years of Christian saints, scholars, and priests.

Throughout the Bible and church teachings, wifely submission (and the corresponding duty of husbands to love) is taught. You can not overturn these clear teachings through the selective interpretation of a single verse taken out of its immediate context. Mutual submission is an errant teaching that can only be gained through malicious interpretation of scripture. It is the rejection of Christian marriage for feminism.


  1. John Paul II contributed to the confusion by teaching a form of mutual submission. However he also cited the other passages besides Ephesians. At the time Cardinal Ratzinger noted that even if mutual submission is applicable the husband remains the designated head.

  2. How does ‘mutual submission’ even work? Someone has to make the decisions, and the other person submits as soon as they accept the decision. No relationship can exist without leadership of some kind. Can a ship sail by committee? An army fight by voting? This is a nonsensical fantasy, not only in that it perverts the scripture, but also because it isn’t possible.

  3. As Matt said mutual submission is self contradictory. A is less than B and B is less than A is nonsense.

  4. It’s a mistake to regard Evans as some kind of a fellow believer. She’s been pretty open that she takes a “pick-and-choose” approach to what parts of scripture she’s going to follow, and admits she believes Christ is just one of many ways to eternal life. Hell, in her twitter bio she declares herself first and foremost to be a “Doubt-filled Christian.” That’s why it’s a little bit . . . oh, ironic that she’s constantly whining and kvetching about how being a woman shouldn’t keep her from being a pastor, an elder or a church leader. Why would she even want such a role when she doesn’t seem to like advocating for Christian beliefs?

    Rachel Held Evans isn’t a witness for Jesus to unbelievers so much as she is a missionary for feminism to the Christian church.

  5. . . . . Have to add one thing: Your description of her as a “liberal Christian” reminded me of this exchange a female Unitarian minister once had with the famously atheistic Christopher Hitchens:

    Interviewer: The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make a distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

    Hitchens: I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

  6. This point has been made in many blog posts. A lot of bibles clearly separate v.21 from v.22

    Doesn’t matter. They will still use it. It is a low hanging fruit in arguments.

  7. I notice two things about feminist rebellion against plain Biblical wifely submission.

    First, it is Pharisaical. It’s an attempt to split hairs and “lawyer” the issue into its opposite through tortured argument. Christ harshly rebuked the Pharisees for their hypocrisy in abandoning the spirit of God’s commands while preserving superficial, outward compliance. We should read God’s commands with an attitude eager for full compliance, not with an eye to any loopholes we can exploit to protect our vanity.

    Second, it’s ungenerous and hardhearted. It’s a characteristically feminine sin to look at a man who loves her unreservedly, to the point that he would die to protect her, and to feel disgust at the prospect of being under his authority. It’s an attitude rooted not in strength, but in insecurity and weakness (ironically men typically don’t have trouble occupying subordinate positions in a hierarchy). And make no mistake: a hatred of legitimate God-given authority is on some level a hatred of God.

    Conversely there are few things that will inflame a man’s love and devotion more powerfully than the knowledge that his woman trusts him completely and supports his headship. A few months ago I was hanging out with a young newlywed couple, and the woman mentioned she had just got her new driver’s license with her new last name. She cheerfully commented “now I officially belong to you!”, and her husband gave her a look like he’d gladly throw himself on a grenade for her. The greatest irony of all is that a woman who can be comfortable and happy with submission will usually find she has her husband wrapped around her finger, because it’s a joy to do things for someone who loves you and trusts you.

  8. An example of mutual submission is the Roman army at the Battle of Cannae. The Roman Senate compromised and appointed two co-generals. The generals alternated leading the army every other day. The result of this compromise was a devastating defeat for the Romans. It was a slaughter:

  9. This is pure gold, and worthy of much discussion and correction.

    First of all, reading both submission statements consecutively as rebellious women are wont to do, it becomes obvious that the presence of the first statement would render the second one irrelevant.

    Secondly, It is self-evident that the words before the “mutual submission” section are referring to the church, and are *not* referring to marriage.

    Thirdly, rebellious women want this. They want it so badly they will fight for it. They will happily and willingly submit to their corporate overlords, but not to a man who has promised to provide, protect, defend and love them.

    This is one of the two scriptures that “Strong Independent Women” least want to hear. The other is Genesis 3:16 – the word used for “desire” is the same one used in Genesis 4:7, and is a desire to *control*.

    As one preacher put it: “scripture can never mean what it never meant”. Those who seek to “re-interpret” timeless biblical truths should be viewed with extreme suspicion.

  10. Nice discussion, but not much on the realities. Wives in reality, DON’T WANT TO MAKE ANY DECISIONS. Yes they want to influence decisions, and have things done their way, but will usually force the man to make the decision so he will be bought into it. I’m sure there are exceptions, but wives don’t want to be in charge.

  11. Not surprised at commentors pointing out how R.C.C. gets it wrong.

    F.N., most remember that “the wife submits to the husband” because that’s what’s in the Book of Common Prayer. However, the verses do say that both parts submit and so the un-churched wiggle away from a godly understanding of the Book of Ephesians. However, the husband is still the head of the family scripturally, and women aren’t even to be priests as they are to remain quiet in church. I imagine that the pseudo-Christians would perform even more contortions to avoid facing a more direct translation of these of St Paul’s writings. This sort of dance is why I think it often wiser to cut through the Gordion knot with some questions about racial loyalty in order to see if these people are psychopaths right away and leave the nuances to people who have already decided that it’s O.K. for whites to survive and publicly object to “assimilation” as the other races are in fact encouraged to do (whilst the latter set is allowed to do even within the borders of white countries, no less).

    Best regards,


  12. One more thing is that patriarchy isn’t daughters (or Mummies) doing what Daddy tells them, it’s the nationals of a nation knowing who the national fathers are, (from patriots looking to patriarchs). It’s knowing who has a paternalistic outlook for the whole of his nation, not this relatively much pettier nuclear family business.

    If you want the second, it’s Theonomy, which means in this context how much Daddy can knock around his wife and children before the Church intervenes (in the name of God).


  13. Patriarchy, as defined by Scripture, is a very real, and very important, concept: the concept of a lineage-ruler. A man with a multitude of descendants who look to him and give him honor and obedience. It is a concept that has its roots in the very idea of God as Father. To deny ‘patriarchy’ is to deny one of the fundamental metaphors of all creation. It is time we took back and emphasized this important, Biblical word.

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