This post is not going to be in any way exhaustive. There have been books written on this subject that are thicker than the Bible itself discussing what the Bible has to say about it. I am only going to give some very brief definitions of each camp as it pertains to my thoughts in this particular post. Mostly this post is about authority. In that sphere of thought authority according to a complementarian rests fully in the hands of the husband and the egalitarians believe that it can be either the husband or the wife or even a mutuality in decision making between the two.
There is only one place I have found where the New Testament mentions authority in the marriage. The passage reads as follows:
The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. Likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.
(1 Corinthians 7:3-5 ESV)This passage makes me think that authority is mutual, especially in the physical nature of the relationship. So why would anyone contend that this mutual authority is granted only for physical matters? Why wouldn't a man and wife devote themselves to prayer regarding every decision in their lives and then come to a consentual agreement?
Another place I found the same word for authority was in Luke. It says:
And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.
(Luke 22:25-26 ESV)Now this really makes me think about authority differently. Leadership is not about authority but rather about serving one another. How would this understanding apply to the marriage relationship?
Then there are the scriptures that compare man and wife to Christ and the Church. Surely Christ has authority over the Church and so a man has authority over his wife, right? I'm not so sure. Again, Christ demonstrated what leadership is by giving his life for the Church. This can be seen also as he washed the disciples feet at the last supper. Well we have scriptures that say that Christ is the head of the Church and man is the head of his wife like this one:
But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.
(1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV)
Doesn't this assume authority? Yes, it does seem to. But if headship meant authority wouldn't that skew the Godhead? But...if head doesn't mean authority, what does it mean?
I don't know what to think right now. I'm really confused. The whole issue seems to be a paradox. I'll keep reading.
Challenging traditional teaching is good for building up our understanding but... my, my, my ... it is sometimes quite burdensome. Have you thought about these things? What has helped shape your understanding the most?