Weaponizing Scriptural “Authority” In Marriage

We all know the passages. We’ve heard at least a portion of them read at nearly every wedding: “wives submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord” (Eph 5), “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does (1 Cor 7), or “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives.” (1 Pet 3) But what is beautiful, unitive, reciprocal, and blessed by the Lord’s design and in his economy of Ephesians 5:21, “submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ”, is weaponized and used to oppress in certain marriages. Passages meant to be applied to oneself, are turned and used to coerce desired behavior from one’s spouse. And what the Lord meant for mutual blessing and loving, voluntary deference between spouses, is leveraged by oppressors to serve themselves. This is a grievous distortion of God’s plan for how those united in marital union are to humbly care for and serve one another.

What we are speaking about is oppression in marriage. What it looks like from one marriage to the next will be cloaked in many different garbs—constant conflict, a depressed and docile wife, isolation, perpetual walking on eggshells in the home, and the list goes on. But what is central to all of them is the notion that the wife must serve the wants, desires, needs, and whims of her husband. In other words, men who control their wives.¹

In a Christian marriage, such a posture is often “justified” by the Scriptures, and yet another form of oppression is invoked: holding down the woman by an appeal to authority. Horrifically the authority appealed to in this case is God himself! Yet this is not what God has ever had in mind… Read More»

Keith Evans | “Hyper-Headship in Marriage” | December 27, 2022


Heidelberg Reformation Association
1637 E. Valley Parkway #391
Escondido CA 92027
The HRA is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization

Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. “What we are speaking about is oppression in marriage.”

    Oppression in this instance is fear, insecurity and self-reliance disguised as headship. It’s easier to dominate, than truly love, nurture and sacrifice. We are blowing it.

  2. Appreciate this essay. For what it’s worth, it looks to me that the persistent, insistent cries to “recognize my authority, recognize my authority” miss some very basic biblical points about authority in all of God’s social ordinances—meaning that such cries often fail to acknowledge that fulfilling one’s responsibility before God comes first before any authority over others.

    Looking at the marriage ordinance against the backdrop of the Greco-Roman views of husband and wife, it’s remarkable to see where the Apostles were at odds with the ancient world. Students of antiquity have found evidence from the early empire that, despite ongoing expanding societal roles for men and women, the household remained the basic unit that ordered life within the empire. With “places for everyone and everyone in their places,” the household was “the center that shaped the world.” Within the household, the husband’s place was one of head-stewardship (from which stewardship authority derived) and the wife’s place was one of submission to the husband. Strikingly, part of the wife’s submission was to adopt her husband’s religion. The Apostle Peter, in particularly, pointedly defies Greco-Roman cultural expectations.

    Christian spouses are to live a life of moral excellence, respecting God’s marriage ordinance with husbands coming forward to take their place of head-stewardship and wives coming forward to take their place of submission. In issuing these instructions, however, the Apostle makes it clear that he is at odds with the “marriage and family values” of the ancient world. As his handling of God’s ordinances of civil government and labor (2:11ff.) shows us, the Apostle’s larger agenda is to see Christians following Christ’s path of obedience as we take our places within God’s ordinances. With specific reference to marriage, Peter takes exception to his contemporaries’ expectations, and the result is a reformation of conventional conceptions of spousal duties.

    While he continues to affirm that the spouses’ duties are not interchangeable, he defines those duties, as suggested above, within the limits defined first by obedience to God and by the example of Christ. Neither spouse is to abdicate their responsibilities, much less their Christian confession. Thus, wives are to disregard conventional expectations and not to convert to their unbelieving husbands’ religion: they are to remain faithful to God in Christ and to evangelize their husbands by their conduct. Likewise, husbands are to reckon with the fact that their wives are high-value, priority targets in the devil’s war plan and that they, as husbands, need to shore up their wives with spiritual resources. The Apostle’s directions, then, give wives no excuse to adopt servile dispositions and behaviors that yield a withdrawn or blind submission to their husbands, nor do they give husbands a right to adopt authoritarian dispositions and behaviors that marginalize or otherwise abuse their wives. To repeat my point above, the duties of both spouses are consistently to be defined and conditioned first by obedience to God and by the example of Christ. In that light, maybe we’ll stop with the plaintive appeals to authority and give God the obedience He demands.

  3. Dr. Clark,
    Thank you for reposting ‘Weaponizing “Scriptural Authority” in Marriage; it is timely.
    Other helpful resources include Darby Strickland’s books: ‘Is it Abuse’ and ‘Domestic Abuse’.

    We, the Church, must educate ourselves regarding this often frighten, very damaging scourge in our midst. The dominating spouse (most often the male) demands ‘the wife’ and ‘the children’ worship him. If/when the answer is ‘no’ then there is an escalating price to pay. The more elevated the status, wealth, and public persona of the dominating spouse the greater the damage not only to the family but to the ecclesiastical officers. Elders are especially vulnerable to the charm and affluence of the dominating spouse. The dominating spouse uses the authority of the elder to bring ‘his property’, ‘the wife’ and ‘the children’, under his control. The dominating spouse puts himself where God is to be – The One we worship, serve, and adore.

    The book of Jude helps me distinguish between those effectually called and those who have ‘weaseled’ into His Church.

Comments are closed.