FAQs on Men, Women, and Sexuality

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  1. Would you call yourself an advocate of patriarchy or an advocate of complementarianism?

I would want to call myself patriarchal. Complementarians want to honor the teaching of Scripture on submission, but they tend to restrict that understanding to keeping women out of the pulpits of churches, and by teaching male headship in the home. But arguing for patriarchy means an understanding that nature itself teaches us that male leadership is to be more extensive than that, and in healthy societies “father rule” will be seen across the board.

2. Does this mean that you believe that a “woman’s place is in the home?”

I believe that a woman’s priority is the home. She is called to be “busy at home”(Tit. 2:5), but once her duties there are discharged, she is free to be productive elsewhere, in any way that blesses her husband and family. The woman in Proverbs 31 is considers a field and buys it, is active in philanthropy, and is like a merchant ship bringing goods from afar.

3. Do you believe that a woman can hold political office?

Not ordinarily. There are sometimes exceptions, as we see with Deborah (Judg. 4:4), but a society is under judgment when it is common to find women in leadership (Is. 3:12).

4. Do you believe that women can serve in the military?

In combat roles, absolutely not. Scripture prohibits women bearing the “gear of a warrior” (Dt. 22:5). But there is no restriction on women serving in support roles, of the sort you find in field hospitals.

5. Do you believe that a woman is require to bear as many children as physically possible?

No, I do not. I do believe that husband and wife should make their decisions about children in the confidence that children are a blessing from the Lord (Ps. 127:3), but that they are not an automatic blessing. They need to be fed, clothed and educated, and this requires resources. Having said this, certain common forms of birth control are abortifacients, and hence unlawful. After that, it is a matter of worldview and motives.

6. Must any given woman submit to any given man?

No. The biblical teaching on submission requires dependent daughters to submit to their fathers, and wives to submit to their own husbands (Eph. 5:22). This actually precludes them having to submit to other men.

7. Do you believe a husband has the right to discipline his wife until she submits?

No. A husband has true authority, but it is to be exercised as a moral authority.

8. Should daughters be educated?

Yes, daughters should be educated, just as sons should be. The teleology of their education is aimed at a different end, but it is an end that requires a full-orbed Christian education. And it should always be remembered that the level of education reached by your daughters is likely to represent the level reached by your grandsons.

9. Do you believe women are inferior to men in essence?

No. Scripture teaches that man and woman together bear the image of God. “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them” (Genesis 1:27). Asking whether women are inferior to men in essence is like asking which is superior, the violin or the bow.

10. Are there any circumstances in which a woman could legitimately direct men, or exercise authority over them?

Sure. In a healthy society, this will be located within a larger patriarchal framework, but it will certainly happen. And when it happens, it will be completely normal. “Then called Esther for Hatach, one of the king’s chamberlains, whom he had appointed to attend upon her, and gave him a commandment to Mordecai, to know what it was, and why it was” (Esther 4:5). Lydia was a wealthy merchant—she was a seller of purple, which was a luxury good (Acts 16:14), and she and her whole household was baptized. If her household were of typical size, it may have had a couple hundred members in it, slaves included. So if Lydia told a male cook to prepare a roast a certain way, that would be fully appropriate. It is her house, after all.

11. Do you believe it to be necessary for daughters to remain in their father’s home until they are married?

No, that is not necessary. But as a general pattern, however, when older daughters move out, I believe they ought to maintain a close relationship with their parents, such that authoritative protection remains a possibility.

12. Do you believe in courtship?

Yes, depending on how it is defined. I have outlined what I believe the biblical principles to be in my book Her Hand in Marriage. But I also think that some fathers have used the “courtship” pattern as an excuse to domineer over their children, which is not right.

13. Can women hold leadership roles in the church, pastor/elder excluded?

They cannot hold any leadership roles that involve exercising authority over men in the congregation. They must not be ministers, elders, or deacons. The early church had a separate office of deaconess (Rom. 16:1), but this was not an instance of women sitting on the deacon board. Their service in the church was strictly limited to women and children or, in Phoebe’s case, delivering a letter to the Roman church.

14. Do you believe that women should have the right to vote?

No, but I also don’t believe that men as men have the right to vote either. In our church constitution, we vote by household, and the one who casts that vote is the head of the household. This is normally the man, but in those cases where the household is headed by a woman, as it was in the case of Lydia (Acts 16: 15).

15. Do you believe that women must wear head-coverings in worship?

Yes and no. I believe that God has given women long hair to serve as a natural covering (1 Cor. 11:15). But the specific requirement that a woman be covered is not a requirement for life generally, or even a requirement for every moment of the worship service. It is necessary for a woman to be covered if she is praying publicly, or when she is prophesying.

16. Are women “sex objects?”

If the question is asking whether women should be reduced to the level of being simply and solely sex objects, the biblical answer is of course no. But we should at the same time remember that we were created male and female, as sexual beings (Gen. 1:27). Sexual attraction, in both directions, is therefore a creational good, so long as it is not abused in any way contrary to God’s law. One of the ways that we violate God’s law is by reducing the complexities of married love to a sexual attraction divorced from all the other aspects of life that should go with it—like children, and meals together, and building a home.

17. Do you hold to “the permanence view” of marriage?

No. In line with the teaching of the Westminster Confession, I hold that Scripture allows for divorce under certain strictly defined conditions. Those conditions would include sexual betrayal by spouse through infidelity, or simple abandonment. I would also be prepared to consider the lawfulness of divorce in cases of felonies that had the death penalty assigned to them under biblical law. And in such cases, the spouse who was sinned against is free to remarry, as though the offending party were dead.

18. What constitutes sexual immorality which is severe enough to justify a lawful divorce?

The answer here is “it depends.” Sexual intercourse with another person certainly qualifies, but there are certain occasions in which a judgment call will be required, which is one of the reasons why the church should have elders who are men of discernment. The Westminster Confession (WCF 24.6) wisely says that individuals are apt to “study arguments,” and hence should not be left to their “own wills and discretion in their own case.” That said, there are times when things like porn use or phone sex or using a sexbot should be considered legitimate grounds for divorce.

19. What constitutes the kind of abandonment which justifies a lawful divorce?

This answer is much like the one about the line where infidelity becomes actionable. When a spouse packs the bags and runs off with another, the case is an easy one. But there are instances of true abandonment even though everyone is still under the same roof. In such cases, the spouse who is being sinned against should seek out the wisdom of the pastor and elders.

20. Do you believe a wife must stay in a marriage even when her husband physically abuses her?

No, I believe that is lawful for an abused spouse to move out of range. This ties in with the previous question because physical abuse is a species of abandonment.

21. Do you believe it is lawful for a Christian couples to practice BDSM in their marriage?

No. The desire to make things kinky is a value that is imported from the world. Paul teaches us that a man should learn to possess his vessel in “sanctification and honor” (1 Thess. 4:4), and not the way that pagans in heat do. Lovemaking should be civilized, which is not inconsistent with it being highly charged, as the Song of Songs attests. But intense and dirty are not synonyms.

22. Do you believe people should marry as young as possible?

No. That said, I believe that earlier marriages are as a general rule happier and more fitting, but each case is dependent upon the maturity and wisdom of the couple. At the same time, I believe a healthy average age for getting married would be in the early twenties, and view the fact that people are marrying in their late twenties with dismay.

23. Do you believe singleness is a gift?

No. Scripture never talks that way. Paul tells us that there is a gift of celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7), but undesired singleness is not in that category. To be unmarried with a deep desire to be married is an affliction, not a gift. Like all afflictions, God can use for His glory and our good, but there is no sense pretending that it is something that it is not.

NB: This set of questions and answers was inspired by something Michael Foster did, which I commend to you. The answers above are all mine, but some of the questions are taken from Michael’s list.