Friday, January 18, 2008

The vow to obey

I am shocked. Don't ask me why? I thought that with the association of controlling authority with the husband's role, I had seen it all. But, no, look at this.

I believe that the vow for a wife to obey her husband should be made illegal, as slavery was made illegal. This is just plain stomach-churning evil. Here are some excerpts from a set of Christian marriage vows.

    Male: "Always will I perform my headship over you even as Christ does over me, knowing that His Lordship is one of the holiest desires for my life."

    Female: "loving you, obeying you, caring for you and ever seeking to please you."

      Male: I promise to love, guide, and protect you

      Female: I will love, serve, and obey you

        Male: I promise to guide and protect you

        Female: I promise my faithfulness, to follow you

          Male: to provide for your needs through His enablement, and to lead you as He leads me,

          Female: I promise my faithfulness, to follow your leading submissively, loving you and serving you

        And so on. Where did the servant-leader go? The relationship once was described as submissive follower and servant-leader. Now it is simply obedient servant and master.

        Okay, I may have given the impression that I am a Christian. Now, I will have to qualify this. I am not "this kind of" Christian.

        Can Christianity be redeemed from these terrible teachings of bondage?

        Here is Paula's take on this,

          Of the twelve they list, nos. 1,2,4,5, and 12 have expressly stated the husband’s alleged “headship over” his wife. They leave nothing to the imagination as to what they think “head” means, combining it with “over”, and that the wife is to “obey” her husband (never him obeying her). Especially repulsive is no. 12. For the man it says “I will look to Christ as Head of our home as I have looked to Him as Head of the Church.”, but for the woman it says “I will look to you as head of our home as I have looked to Christ as Head of the Church.”

          Sorry,, but that makes the husband a blasphemer (taking the place of Christ in the life of another person) and the wife an idolater (looking to a man instead of Christ). This abominable trend in the churches has infected influential leaders in the Christian community, and it’s spreading rapidly. Those men love to “keep their place” and to be “head over” someone, especially women. We women are expected to spend our lives stroking their delicate egos, making them little gods over us, and believing it’s God’s divine order.

          I pray that will “redesign” more than their website, and “rethink” their acceptance and promotion of Spiritual Formation. And those wedding vows don’t need just a redesign, they need to be thrown out. They can practice idolatry, blasphemy, and the spiritual adultery of Spiritual Formation, but they can’t make us join them.

          “Come out of her, my people, so you will not take part in her sins and so you will not receive her plagues” (Rev. 18:4, NET).

        Amen, Paula.


        Anonymous said...

        they had a pretty good bible study on marriage to which I linked on my blog. But I looked at the homepage and those bad vows are very prominent. As one who operated under a bad vow like that, I know how dangerous they are.

        I renounced the "obey" vow out loud to God and came out of agreement with it. When we repeated our wedding vows recently at the 25th anniversary, I left out the unbiblical part.

        Suzanne, I left a comment on your dog house post as well...

        I am not erudite enough to comment on your deeply scholarly posts but keep up the good work! ;)

        Suzanne McCarthy said...


        Thank you. It means a lot to me to have you share your views on this. Not everyone recognizes how dangerous this is.

        I think a lot could be done to make complementarian views on marriage less dangerous. They could be, in a sense, reChristianized, by stressing mutuality and the full roles of fatherhood and motherhood. These roles are both so important, but both need to operate with full authority.

        Suzanne McCarthy said...

        I am not erudite enough to comment on your deeply scholarly posts but keep up the good work! ;)

        Pffft. I am pretty impressed with your blog and have learned a thing or two there!

        Bob MacDonald said...

        I created a liturgy a couple of years ago - I wonder if I kept any implied promises balanced -

        If you have the time. I just realized on rereading that I have implicitly redefined the second death! Oh-Oh - but I take our first death to have been our baptism into Christ - no wonder no one understands me.

        Anonymous said...

        Thanks for the plug, Suzanne. ;-)

        I just couldn't believe my eyes when I read that trash at They want people to not just give lip service to this but make it binding before God. The clear God->Male->Female line is drawn, leaving nobody to wonder how they view women. Were they to change the topic to race, people would scream.

        (And you gotta be careful with that Pfft, you know! <:-0 )

        Suzanne McCarthy said...

        Since I read the article on Biblical Gynecology on the website, I have called it the "splayed legs" theology of women.

        I wonder what God thinks.

        Anonymous said...

        Who'd have guessed that "you are all one in Christ Jesus" could be considered "extreme"?

        I looked at part 1, especially the chart, and that's the first thing that stood out. The rest of the chart seems to assume that there are such things as pulpit supply, asst. pastor, administering sacraments only by 'clergy', etc., none of which is even hinted at in the NT.

        I also noticed the "grounded in creation" entries for comps only, regarding "Biblical Basis", while egals only have "implication". And in light of the conversations at complegalitarian, we should note the Eternal Subordination teaching is only in the comp columns.

        Yep, splayed legs theology. Now evangelicals can take their place beside Muslims, Jews (traditional rabbinical views), Mormons, and Jehovah's Witnesses in making women truly subhuman.

        Can't wait to read Part 2.

        Suzanne McCarthy said...

        Oh, you actually went and read it! I can't believe you will read part 2.

        And now do you wonder that I have such difficulty reviewing the Bible put out by those charming people. The same ones who have decided in their wisdom that Junia is not an apostle.

        Psalmist said...

        Anybody else notice that only a few of these many examples include the husband promising to be faithful to the wife? And no, not all of them include the wife promising to be faithful to the husband, either.

        Self-written vows often do turn out to be pretty crummy ones. Rely on these folks to give you boilerplate vows, and they're even worse. It wouldn't be so bad if they'd stick to actual Scripture, but they add in the wife-only obedience and other unilateral nonsense, and people are deceived into thinking they're oh so spiritual if they use vows like these.

        Where is DISCERNMENT in this age? Do people not WANT to use their brains?

        Ugh! I agree with you, Suzanne. Neither Christians nor secular people have any business incorporating "obedience" into marriage vows. Obedience is a matter for children, household pets, and the military, not for civilian adults supposedly mature enough to enter freely into marriage.

        Anonymous said...

        Oh, you actually went and read it! I can't believe you will read part 2.

        And now do you wonder that I have such difficulty reviewing the Bible put out by those charming people. The same ones who have decided in their wisdom that Junia is not an apostle.

        If I really do read all the parts, I'll probably post about it in my blog. I'm already thinking up a good title.

        Oh, I have no doubts why it must be an awful chore to try and make yourself read their Favored Male Bibles. Even the TNIV has its "moments", as well as the NLB. Not even some of the more liberal translations are exempt.

        Doug said...

        Aaaargh! These vows must be among the most cringeworthy and vomit-inducing ever - never mind the truly awful theology.You've made me be very rude about them on my blog too!

        Anonymous said...

        Okay kids, here's the "poop" on "Biblical Gynecology":

        Bible Dot Arrrgh!

        Couldn't actually finish part 2, but my Drammamine was wearing off.

        Anonymous said...

        Dear Sue,

        Please click my handle and skim the post. I have linked to this post and quoted our exchange from complegalitarian on renouncing bad wedding vows and I want to make sure that you have no objection to the quotes and links (for the sake of the burden we share to sound the alarm about deadly wedding vows!).

        Suzanne McCarthy said...

        I read it and I have no objection. I like the way you have preserved the conversation.

        We agree on the main thing, the rejection of male authority as a wrong in our lives. I feel that at a certain point women should seek freedom. Especially after the children are grown and have left the house. I felt called to do what was right for my children at every step and that is what I have done. I have put their interests first. This meant that now that they are of adult age their parents live separately and they can see each of us on their own time. I have always considered their safety and lack of conflict, and other values.

        That is what each parent has to assess in deciding whether to leave a marriage. At which point is the conflict of divorce more difficult than the conflict of living under the same roof. I believe that answer will be different in each case, but circumstances will make it clear.

        Suzanne McCarthy said...


        Even Paul, who endured great physical suffering, did take advantage of the opportunity to escape.

        If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, who is to be praised forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 In Damascus the governor under King Aretas had the city of the Damascenes guarded in order to arrest me. 33 But I was lowered in a basket from a window in the wall and slipped through his hands.

        1 Cor. 11

        I don't think a woman should be ashamed of leaving an abusive situation of any kind. Or a man either. This is not about just women, but, of course, the "law" says for a woman to obey her spouse not a man. But the real bondage could go either way.

        Suzanne McCarthy said...

        I you have a 5 year old, you are probably a couple of years younger than me, but not much. :-)

        I do think that until the children are adults, they are the basis of all decisions. I understand your position and I am glad that you have some way of reconciling the difficulties.

        I have blogged about Instone-Brewer somewhere, but I didn't realize that that was his blog. Neat!

        Anonymous said...

        On a personal note of encouragement, it was very good for me to review our exchange from complegalitarian. I had mentioned in there that I had learned to listen to the Lord rather than the voices of "authorities" and I need to re-claim that ground in the counseling room with two men "against" me. I have been tongue tied and feeling like the pastor is "on my husband's side". My mentor reminded me that the pastor is male (no female intuition), fallible, and I need to stop putting him on a pedestal and thinking he and my husband are right. She told me "they are wrong. God knows that and it will come out in the end..."

        Suzanne McCarthy said...


        My former pastor was extremely sympathetic when I spoke to him. I want to retell a little of it so you can see how some of it was very useful and helpful and some of it was terribly destructive. So often when we get mixed responses like this it is hard to sift out the good from the bad.

        First, he told me that from the studies he had read, someone who is abusive rarely completely gets over it, and that he does not personally know of a case where the relationship has survived and become permanently non-violent. He therefore would give the general advice that in the case of violence, it is not useful to attempt reconciliation.

        I think this is a little pessimistic but that is what he said. He is angrier over abusive husbands than I am because it makes his belief in male authority look bad.

        He then asked me if there was any way that he could help. I said that since he had preached unilateral submission of women he had done enough damage already, but thank you.

        Then he told me that he still believed that headship meant male authority and that it was Grudem's study which had confirmed him in this belief. At that time I had not examined Grudem's study of kephale, and I was not aware of how Grudem had reworked his examples in order to make them conform to his predetermined conclusions.

        I really don't know how many people are aware of Grudem's deceit. I consider it to be quite serious.

        The difficulty here is that my former pastor seemed very modern and sympathetic, eager to take my side. However, he is himself in bondage to the false teaching of Grudem. Many godly men, in spite of wanting to be merciful to women, are enslaved by their own desires for male power.

        I seriously think that you need another counselor for yourself.

        Anonymous said...

        Dear Suzanne,

        It occurs to me, upon reading through your index, that our precious Lord has not wasted one ounce of your pain. Can you see the connection between how you were personally and directly so hurt by this bad doctrine and how you now have the annointing to cut through it like a knife?

        In an odd sort of way, its encouraging... because I still feel so in the middle of pain and hurt... but you show that it can be redeemed, used for good, to help others avoid the pitfalls.

        May the Lord lift you up, may you be a city set on a hill, a candle in the darkness, a light which will not be covered under a bushel.


        Suzanne McCarthy said...


        I think of you often and pray for you. Please stay safe. My mother had 8 children. She was a strong and lovely person. She died many years ago, when my children were very young.

        I have been very impressed with all the work you have done. You have pointed out things to me that I had not thought of. Katherine Bushnell wrote her book on these things too and now we have to work through it all over again, recreating the studies.


        Kiy said...

        I disagree!

        I will have the word "obey" in my wedding vows! I'm in my 30s but have traditional views of the role of men and women. I believe, as is stated in the Bible, that if the man is submitted to the Lord, I should be submitted to him. The man that I am in courtship honors me in every way and I consider it an honor to have him now and in the future as the headship of our relationship and, therefore, I will not only honor him, but will also be obedient--which I believe is beautiful. What you're not understanding is that there is signficant strength and beauty in submission--but not just to any man, but only to the man that was given to you by God.

        Suzanne McCarthy said...

        It is not be beautiful to stand beside the hospital bed of your child and find that your husband demands from you silence and submission. Nothing can make the destruction of the mother and child relationship beautiful.

        A woman without children may be free to sacrifice her will but a mother has responsibilities.

        What needs to be understood is that I look back on this life of mine and you look forward. I wish you well.