Does Submission in Marriage Equate to Slavery?

One of the occasional criticisms of complementarians (those who believe that God created men to be the servant-leaders of their homes) is that it is akin to slavery.

I think it’s time to put this idea to the test.

This is what the Encyclopedia Britannica says about slavery (numerical listing is mine):

…Most of the following characteristics should be present in order to term a person a slave. (1) The slave was a species of property; thus, he belonged to someone else. In some societies slaves were considered movable property, in others immovable property, like real estate. (2) They were objects of the law, not its subjects. Thus, like an ox or an ax, the slave was not ordinarily held responsible for what he did. He was not personally liable for torts or contracts. (3) The slave usually had few rights and always fewer than his owner, but there were not many societies in which he had absolutely none. As there are limits in most societies on the extent to which animals may be abused, so there were limits in most societies on how much a slave could be abused. (4) The slave was removed from lines of natal descent. Legally, and often socially, he had no kin. No relatives could stand up for his rights or get vengeance for him. (5) As an “outsider,” “marginal individual,” or “socially dead person” in the society where he was enslaved, his rights to participate in political decision making and other social activities were fewer than those enjoyed by his owner. (6) The product of a slave’s labour could be claimed by someone else, who also frequently had the right to control his physical reproduction.

Does a Wife’s Submission to Her Husband Make Her a Slave?

Corresponding to the six points delineated above, let’s test whether slavery is an honest and valid analogy/criticism for complementarian marriage:

  1. Complementarian husbands do not consider their wives to be property. They are equals, created in the image of God.
  2. As persons made in the image of God, complementarian wives are responsible for their actions.
  3. Complementarian wives have many rights, not few. No man should abuse his wife.
  4. Complementarian wives have kin. Their families of origin should be respected and honored.
  5. Complementarian wives are not “outsiders,” “marginal,” or “socially dead.” They have the right to engage in political and social activities.
  6. Complementarian wives have control of the works of their hands (cf. Prov. 31:16). They have the right to reproduce physically.

I would add that slavery is usually involuntary. Submission in marriage is always voluntary because that is the nature of submission. There is no such thing as involuntary submission. Why? Because submission involves a willing attitude.

Submission is something that is hard to do. It becomes much easier, though, when the authority in our lives seeks our best and loves us.

 

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