Feminism and homosexual activism have been battering both Catholicism and Evangelicalism for the past 30 or so years. Evangelicalism has been pounded harder, if only because it has no Magisterium and has chosen to forgo the divine protection of the Petrine Office.
Still, traditional Evangelicals have mounted impressive resistance to the battering, as can be seen in the work of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW). Founded in 1987, CBMW puts out books, booklets, tapes, and a fine periodical called Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. CBMW opposes the ordination of women, supports the husband’s headship of the family, upholds the masculine ideal for men and the feminine ideal for women (“complementarity,” as both CBMW and Pope John Paul II call it), opposes the homosexual agenda, and — most significantly — sees how all these positions are connected. CBMW is doing important work that Catholics would do well to pay attention to.
For example, its booklet Fifty Crucial Questions discusses the “mutual submission” between husband and wife found in Ephesians 5:21 and upheld by Pope John Paul in his apostolic letter Mulieris Dignitatem (MD). Of course, St. Paul goes on in Ephesians to specify what mutual submission means: “Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church…. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…” (vv. 22-23, 25). Of mutual submission, therefore, the booklet says: “If Paul means complete reciprocity (wives submit to husbands and husbands submit to wives), this does not mean that husbands and wives should submit to each other in the same way. The key is to remember that the relationship between Christ and the Church is the pattern for the relationship between husband and wife. Are Christ and the Church mutually submitted? They are not if submission means Christ yields to the authority of the Church. But they are if submission means that Christ submitted Himself to suffering and death for the good of the Church…. The Church submits to Christ by affirming His authority and following His lead. So mutual submission does not mean submitting to each other in the same ways. Therefore, mutual submission does not compromise Christ’s headship over the Church and it should not compromise the headship of a godly husband.” This seems compatible with what John Paul says in MD #24, but it would be helpful to see orthodox Catholic theologians pursue the question.
CBMW is very concerned to uphold the values of motherhood and homemaking. But CBMW is in danger of losing this battle — and more — because it has, contrary to the original Reformers, taken no position on Onanism (i.e., contraception; see Gen. 38:9-10). That sweet, feminine, godly Evangelical wife has her regulation 1.8 children and her home full of labor-saving devices — and then what?
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