by Olive J. Hemmings  |  9 February 2022  |

Jamin Hübner critiques the headship argument in terms I like. He says: “It is an unbalanced, reductionistic, and simplistic approach. And it bears all of the marks of a theology born out of contemporary culture wars, not centuries of scholarship and contemplation.”[1] I would revise that simply by adding: It is not born of the gospel of Christ Jesus. In a podcast Hübner argues:

“This is one of those areas where evangelical culture and media is extremely influential. I have encountered so many Christians who could recite Ephesians 5:22 to you by memory, but if you were to ask them if they have ever heard of Ephesians 5:21, the very previous verse which says that Christians should submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, they’ll say, “Oh, no, Paul said that?”

Gender is one issue in the age-long human quest for domination defined as patriarchy. The gospel preached by apostle Paul and the early church is the gospel of liberation that frees the faith community from obsession with the fleshly identity that Paul describes as “works of flesh.” It subdues the egoistic identity – male versus female, Jew versus Gentile, slave versus free person by the urgent call to be “in Christ.” This is the spiritual vocation that reunites humanity with God and with each other. As such, the entire framework of Paul’s theology, Christology and soteriology is set up against domination. He demonstrates what he teaches – egalitarian collaboration with not only slaves and Gentiles but with female fellow apostles and teachers such as Junia and Prisca. The so-called patriarchal Pauline texts are patriarchal not from Paul’s voice, but from the voice of interpreters, and possibly impersonators and interpolators. Major texts such as 1 Corinthians 11:3-12 and Ephesians 5:21-6:9 interpreted to support male headship ideology are in actuality subversive texts that oppose male headship and concomitant hegemonic power relations of the Greco-Roman Empire. Explicitly misogynistic texts such as 1 Timothy 2:11-15 and 1 Corinthians 14:34-35 do not comport with Paul’s teaching and ministry and thus cannot be in any measure the standard bearers of the early church practice or be allowed to cast a shadow on the brilliant, courageous counter-cultural egalitarianism of Paul and the early church.

Headship theology belongs to an old dispensation in which man plays God and ironically erodes human worth and dignity; for to diminish one half of humanity is to also diminish the other half. We have seen the violence that has been perpetuated by this headship theology of male entitlement to female personhood and space. We have seen it from the shaded spectacles in the suburban American church pew, to the eight-year old female children in Africa forced to marry sixty-year old men after their genitals have been mutilated to control their sexuality. Let us listen to the real Paul and END IT NOW

  1. Jamin Hübner, “Headship Madness: How to Do (and Not Do) Theology (Part 4).” https://www.cbeinternational.org/resource/article/mutuality-blog-magazine/headship-madness-how-do-and-not-do-theology-part-4, retrieved February 8, 2022.

Teacher:

Olive J. Hemmings is a professor of religion and ethics at Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park, Maryland.

Moderator:

Cherri-Ann Farquharson is a fourth-generation Adventist who grew up in Montego Bay, Jamaica. She is a is a certified energy manager and solar PV installer with a passion for sustainability and inspiring the next generation of sustainable energy professionals in the Caribbean. She enjoys AT Sabbath Seminars because they allow her to find congruence with her training as a scientist and her faith.

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Coming up:

  • Katrina Blue
  • Michael Campbell
  • Gerald Winslow

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