In part one, (click here to read) we discussed whether God created the woman as needed or needy. In this continuing discussion we ask whether God has ordained that a woman must have a priest in the home to represent her to God and God to her? The complementarian view is a strong “Yes” when asked this question, but is this a biblical view or a view passed on by tradition?
The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) makes their view available through an on-line book called “Building Strong Families” by Dennis Rainey. (Dennis is on CBMW’s board of reference.) Chapter 4 of this book is called “The Husband as Prophet, Priest and King” and this chapter is authored by Bob Lepine.
Mr. Lepine states that it is God’s design that the husband is the priest of the home. To prove his point, he produces the patriarchal rule of the Old Testament as proof that God wants men to act as priests in home today. He says, “The patriarchs, who were the family and tribal leaders in ancient Israel, knew they had a duty to lead their wives and children into God’s presence for worship, to remind them of God’s grace and mercy in forgiving their sins, and to intercede on their behalf. Husbands today have the same priestly assignment.” While Mr. Lepine states this as a fact, he gives no New Testament scriptures that say that the Christian husband is the priest of the home.
While there are no New Testament scriptures on the husband being “the priest of the home”, there are also no Old Testament scriptures that show that God ordained the husband to be the priest of the home either. In fact the only reference there is in scripture to a “priest of the home” is in Judges chapters 17 & 18. Micah, an idol worshipper had stolen eleven hundred pieces of silver from his mother and after he returned the silver to her, she made a graven and a molten image with part of the silver and gave them to her son for his use as an idol. Micah made a shrine where he placed his household idols and he consecrated his son as his own household priest.
In Judges 17:8 the story goes on to say that Micah found a young Levite and he also requested that this young Levite be his household priest.
Judges 17:10 Micah then said to him, “Dwell with me and be a father and a priest to me, and I will give you ten pieces of silver a year, a suit of clothes, and your maintenance.” So the Levite went in.
Judges 17:11 The Levite agreed to live with the man, and the young man became to him like one of his sons.
Judges 17:12 So Micah consecrated the Levite, and the young man became his priest and lived in the house of Micah.
Judges 17:13 Then Micah said, “Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, seeing I have a Levite as a priest.”
The book of Judges does not say that this was God’s way of ordaining that every home should have a “priest of the home”, but rather noting that there was wickedness and idolatry in the land, Judges 17:6 says “In those days there was no king in Israel; every man did what was right in his own eyes.”
So contrary to the tradition promoted by CBMW, there is no instance of a “priest in the home” arrangement set up by God and only one example in the entire bible of such an arrangement and it was set up by an idolator named Micah.
According to Lepine, the husband’s priestly duties in the home start when the spiritual responsibility for a young woman is passed from her father to her husband and these priestly duties are a “necessary function” of being called a husband.
Where are the scriptures for this spiritual role passed from father to husband? Where does it say that a husband must take on a priestly duty for his wife? I would respectfully say that this is a tradition that may sound Christian, but it isn’t biblical. I would also respectfully say that this tradition can be harmful in several ways. Let me explain as I go through Bob Lepine’s explanation of what the husband as priest in the home is responsible for.
Lepine says that the man is to “assume responsibility to oversee the spiritual condition of his wife.” The husband is responsible as a priest and prophet of God to hear from God and then as a “bearer of the word of God” pass these words on to his wife. He must be the resident theologian because it is his responsibility to teach the Bible to his wife. The husband, Lepine says, should tremble at this assignment because they should recall that false prophets in the Old Testament were stoned. With all of these responsibilities, a husband must “determine for his wife and his family what is right and true.”
The first harm that comes as a result of the view that makes the husband fully responsible to hear from God on behalf of his wife, is that this is a heavy burden forced on the man which is not found in scripture. Where does scripture say that the man is responsible for hearing what God has to say to the woman? What a heavy burden to think that one may be severely punished by God (think about the picture that Lepine gives of stoning) if they fail to be a correct “bearer of the word of God” to his wife! This burden is not one that God has laid on the shoulders of the husband.
This tradition has also been responsible for many men concluding that God does not speak to women directly but only through the man. No wonder so many men feel a spiritual superiority to women. There may also be a temptation to a spirit of pride with the man thinking that he has been set up as a type of intermediary between God and his wife. While Mr. Lepine states that “there is no intermediary between man and God except for the man Christ Jesus” his continual emphases that the man’s responsibility as “one who speaks for God” to his wife in essence makes the wife a needy spiritual person who must have a prophet/priest speak to her on God’s behalf. How many women have been harmed thinking that they are not capable of hearing from God on their own? The greatest harm that I see from this is that women will not grow up in Christ as fully mature Christians, but will stay under the limits placed on them by the highest level of spirituality that their husband attains to.
A fully mature Christian will not be dependent on another person’s hearing from God, but will hear God’s voice for herself. When we keep a woman dependent on the spirituality of her husband, we are treating her as a dependent child all her life. Her sons may grow up and be spiritually mature, but somehow she is treated as one who cannot be depended on to hear from God on her own. One of the most harmful “fruits” of this faulty tradition follows with Bob Lepine’s advice to the husband regarding his wife’s sins.
Mr. Lepine says the husband has been given God’s call to be the one who confronts his wife’s sin and the one who calls her to repentance even if it rocks “the domestic boat” and even if it incurs his wife’s wrath. Pointing out his wife’s sin may seem harsh and judgmental, but Lepine assures husbands it is not unloving and is a necessary part of the priest/prophet function of the husband. Lepine says that the husband must not “fail to confront his wife’s sin because he has a soft view of what it means to love her.” As a priest/prophet the husband “will not think it loving to ignore or overlook our wives’ ongoing patterns of sinful behavior.” Instead he suggests that one of the keys to a happy marriage is confronting sin in your mate and he quotes Proverbs 27:6 “the wounds of a friend are faithful”. Ultimately he suggests that even if this does not produce happiness in marriage, that happiness in marriage should take a back seat to the “higher calling” of a husband and that is making sure that the wife is conformed to Christ’s likeness. Lepine does concede that many men struggle with their priestly duty of representing God to their wives because they are afraid “we’ll be exposed for what we don’t know, or for the shallowness of our own spirituality, or that we’ll be convicted of hypocrisy by a wife who knows too well that we don’t always practice what we’re preaching.”
Is this what scripture teaches? What Mr. Lepine is suggesting here the husband taking the place of the Holy Spirit and the confrontation that he says is a “higher calling” is nothing less than emotional abuse. Scripture does not tell husbands to “confront his wife’s sin” but to be gentle, loving and patient. Paul tells us in Colossians:
Colossians 3:19 (ISV) Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Peter tells us that love “covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8) and neither Peter nor Paul tell husbands that it is their duty to be confronting their wives over their sin. Instead Paul tells men to love and cherish their wives as they do their own body.
Ephians 5:28 So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself;
Ephians 5:29 for no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ also does the church,
And James tell us that mercy and gentleness are wisdom from above:
James 3:17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.
Instead of confrontation, Peter tells husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way and nowhere does he say that husbands are to be responsible for confronting their wife’s sin. Instead Peter says that if a husband does not treat his wife in an understanding way that his own spiritual life may be jeopardized.
1 Peter 3:7 You husbands in the same way, live with your wives in an understanding way, as with someone weaker, since she is a woman; and show her honor as a fellow heir of the grace of life, so that your prayers will not be hindered.
Peter goes on to encourage husbands as well as all others to be harmonious, kindhearted and sympathetic:
1 Peter 3:8 To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit;
1 Peter 3:9 not returning evil for evil or insult for insult, but giving a blessing instead; for you were called for the very purpose that you might inherit a blessing.
1 Peter 3:10 For, “THE ONE WHO DESIRES LIFE, TO LOVE AND SEE GOOD DAYS, MUST KEEP HIS TONGUE FROM EVIL AND HIS LIPS FROM SPEAKING DECEIT.
1 Peter 3:11 “HE MUST TURN AWAY FROM EVIL AND DO GOOD; HE MUST SEEK PEACE AND PURSUE IT.
Is a husband to be a spiritual overseer for his wife, keeping watch to continually expose her sin? Scripture gives no such instruction and those who follow CBMW’s advice through Bob Lepine may find unnecessary conflict and stress in their home. Instead of the man called to be “the priest of the home”, the scripture is clear that he is called to something far different. The husband is called to give of himself for his wife and be the one who joins himself to her.
Ephesians 5:31 FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND SHALL BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE, AND THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.
It is the husband’s responsibility to give himself up for her and to come to her to join himself with her. The result of a biblical view of scripture will be harmony, gentleness and oneness. The result of the doctrine of the “husband as priest in the home” is a heavy burden on the husband that the scripture never lays on him. It also results in a childlike reliance of the woman on the man for her own spirituality.
For further reading, click here to read an earlier post on the husband as the priest in the home. Or click here to go to part three of this series.