Is Wife-only Submission God’s Unknown Will? 

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Is wife-only submission a part of God’s unknown? 

Some people believe it is.

A while back, a reader left a comment under a blog post, saying that “husband leadership” and wife-only submission are part of God’s “upside-down Kingdom.”1 

Is wife only submission part of God's unknown

Sometimes, Christians use expressions like “God’s upside-down Kingdom” or “God’s mysterious ways” to explain, define and even bypass aspects of the Divine we don’t understand.

I’ve seen this happen over and over whenever a topic or piece of information requires more wrestling or being open to re-assessing a position: “Well, God is bigger than us: He’s beyond our understanding. We’re supposed to obey, period. He knows best.”

Instead of curious exploration, we shut down our brains (and hearts!) and give up.

So, sure. God is beyond our complete understanding. (And I don’t need complete understanding of the Creator to have faith.)

But there’s a whole lot of stuff that we know and understand, a bazillion choices and approaches that have been made clear to us. See Why the Bible is not an Instruction Manual for Life and Relationships

In other words, most of what we need to live and flourish (in my estimation) is not out there. It’s near and discernable.

When Christians say that wife-only submission is some type of divine mystery to follow without question, we imply that “God’s way” is completely removed from our day-to-day experiences and reality.

We’re saying the Creator is not relatable as far as health, belonging, and quality of life are concerned, and thus, the created should look elsewhere when they need these things.  

Because “God’s glory” and “the upside-down kingdom we’re called to as Christians,” do not look like safety or flourishing for everyone. 

Wife-only Submission Part of God’s Unknown? Mystery and Belonging

I believe it is both: on this side of eternity, the Creator is outside our complete understanding (the mystery) AND He is near. We don’t have to choose one over the other. 

A survey of over 20,000 evangelical women showed men and women sharing power in marriage has good outcomes, and men hoarding power has bad outcomes.  

When couples share power (make decisions together), wives are four times (4.36) more likely to rate themselves among the happiest 20% of marriages than among the least happy 20% and are 67% more likely to frequently orgasm during sex.” “… when women don’t feel heard, and instead feel as if their opinions are not as important as their husbands’, their marriages are twenty-six times more likely to end in divorce…”And when women feel their opinions are not given the same weight as their husbands’, sex suffers and marriages crumble.”

~ Excerpt from The Great Sex Rescue: The Lies You’ve  Been Taught and How to Recover What God Intended, Sheila Wray Gregoire Rebecca Gregoire Lindenbach, Joanna Sawatsky.

To say that “God’s upside-down Kingdom” is where women are unhappy, endure wretched sex, and marriages implode is, in my opinion, tarnishing the name of God. 

The husband acting as the tie-breaker/leader is not what God intended. Human beings are made out of and for love: we flourish in love (safety, belonging, equality) and wither in indifference (distress, estrangement, inequality.) 

Some Christians will bring up patriarchy at this point: “it’s in the Bible” or “God is male and created males to rule.” For the former I encourage you to read this post How Do Christians Feel About Referring to God as “She”? Exploring the Controversy

But as for patriarchy, this is what I wrote in my book Courage: Reflections and Liberation for the Hurting Soul: “Just because it’s in the Bible doesn’t mean it’s instructive. Just because it was formerly doesn’t mean it is presently meant to be modeled after. We’re supposed to be patterning our lives after Christ, not proof-texting Bible verses to justify the broken veins He healed and freed us from. “

Christians must accept that some of our beliefs about God have led to harm, not hope and healing. 

If we can see the harm, “it” is not in the unknown. When we can measure outcomes, it is no longer a mystery and we’re supposed to do something about it, not pass off responsibility to “God’s unknown will.”

Here’s part of my response to the reader’s comment:

“I just want to repeat that I’ve seen the effects of complementarianism in my non-Western culture and many marriages have a spouse acting out on power that has been given to the husband. So to have a situation where we say “The role of head of the household isn’t an opportunity to subjugate others” yet that very statement itself puts him in a position to do so if he wants and gives him the power is well….tragic. If the only way that complementarianism doesn’t harm is if someone doesn’t carry the principles to their logical end, we need to change what we are teaching. Not defend it. Because people’s lives are at stake.”

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  1. Part of the argument was that God has given husbands authority, but it was for serving their wives (as part of God’s upside-down Kingdom), not for lording over them. I was making the point that hierarchy harms, and God wants something different for believers—unity over power-over dynamics.  

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