Monday, January 14, 2008

Submission, Mike Huckabee, and the Bibliobloggers

Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee's recent comments in a South Carolina debate have reopened an old, old debate in the Church: namely, how to deal with the family code passage in Ephesians 5. Huckabee is paraphrased in the following way by Susan Milliagan of the Boston Globe:

The former governor went on to say that the quote was taken out of context and that the Bible says both a wife and husband should be submissive to each other and to God, each giving 100 percent to the marriage. [SOURCE]

Huckabee was responding to a question about the statement in the 2000 Baptist Faith and Message which says that "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband even as the church willingly submits to the headship of Christ" (BFM, XVIII. The Family). Huckabee's interpretation of Ephesians 5 and by proxy the BFM has been interacted with by a whole host of bibliobloggers.

Jim West used Huckabee as a jumping off point to offer a new translation of the word in question in Ephesians 5 and to give his fundamentalist opponents a solid jab, Tim Richchuiti has offered many defenses of the traditional translation, Owen Weddle thoughtfully disagrees with Jim, and Chris Spinks points out that in some older blogs he and Jim are in basic agreement.

Last night I was talking to my wife about her book that she has been studying for her women's Bible study group. It is called Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict and is co-authored by Tara Klena Barthel and Judy Dabler. In the chapter entitled "Romantic Love" the authors write about "biblical womanhood and manhood" and utilize Ephesians 5 extensively. They follow a strictly traditional interpretation of the text. Their basic position is that a wife should give way to her husband's "servant leadership." Naturally, all of the blogs and comments I had been reading recently on them came to mind.

She and I then had a long conversation over dinner in which we tried to grapple with many of these tough issues. I really am lucky to have such a thoughtful and articulate wife! I think that my problems with the interpretation offered by the book she's been reading revolve around two issues: 1) their use of the adjective "biblical," as if their interpretation is the only one possible, and 2) their failure to fully grasp the metaphors used in Ephesians 5 (submission to Christ and loving like Christ).

In follow-up posts to this one I hope to do two things: 1) Counter Jim West's translation of the word in question as "cooperation" rather than "submission," and 2) Explore in some detail the metaphors used in Ephesians 5 and offer my own interpretation of this troublesome text.

[UPDATE: I have just found an interesting blog by The Big Daddy Weave, in which he accuses Huckabee of intentionally changing his theology from 1998 to today. While I might not go so far as to assume to be able to crawl inside Huck's head and think his thoughts after him, I do agree that Huck's position is not in line with the traditional SBC stance.]

Click here to read other post that I have written on this issue.


Jim said...

I look forward to this Matt.

J. Matthew Barnes said...


I imagine that I will get around to writing "new" content either this evening or on Wednesday.