December 15, 2017

Another Look: The NT “Haustafeln”

Family procession, Augustus' Altar of Peace, 13 BCE

Family procession, Augustus’ Altar of Peace, 13 BCE

Note from CM: This post was originally written in 2011. Recently, I’ve been following a sermon series that has been going on in a church with which I’m familiar. They are dealing with some of the passages mentioned in this post in typical conservative evangelical fashion. The fact that I put it that way will tip you off that I have come to a different understanding. Rather than view Paul and the other apostles’ instructions to the early Christians as supra-cultural “absolute truths” that apply in the same way to all Christians in all historical and cultural settings, I believe they were trying to help these early believers develop a Jesus-shaped wisdom about how they might live out their faith in various societies so as to present the best witness to the gospel. This would involve both conforming to current social norms as well as living in such a way that would ultimately transform them. The apostles were not social revolutionaries, but the wisdom they encouraged Christians to develop would plant living seeds of change.

• • •

In this post we will look at one way the apostles taught the early church to live out their faith in the home.

Some of the primary instructional passages in the New Testament regarding family life are the “haustafeln”. This is the German word for house-tables or household codes; a word used since Luther’s time to describe Biblical passages detailing family duties.

For example,

  • Ephesians 5:22-6:9
  • Colossians 3:18-4:1
  • 1Peter 2:18-3:12

P.H. Towner gives an overview of these household codes and related NT texts:

Colossians 3:18-4:1 and Ephesians 5:22-33 represent teaching addressed to the various members of the household. What distinguishes these blocks of teaching as a special form is the tendency to address church members according to household role and status (wives/husbands, children/parents, slaves/masters), reciprocity (each member being addressed), the delineation of appropriate behavior with a verb enjoining subordination (hypotasso) or obedience (hypakouo). These two passages represent the fullest expression of the NT household code. But 1Timothy 2:1-15; 5:1-2; 6:1-2, 17-19; Titus 2:1-3:8 and 1Peter 2:13-3:7 also contain teaching very similar in tone and form. And shorter sections of related teaching in 1Corinthians 14:33-35 (cf. 1Corinthians 11:3-16) about men and women…and in Romans 13:1-7 about the church’s posture toward the government appear to come from the same basic source.

• From Dictionary of Paul and His Letters, Hawthorne/Martin/Reid, eds.

These forms of ethical and relational instruction can teach us a great deal about how to think and teach about family matters in the church.

FIRST, teaching about family matters is done in the context of congregational instruction.

Household relationships are not viewed as a separate category to be dealt with through specialized teaching. Relationships within the family are treated by appealing to the same motivations and moral instructions that should guide all Christians in their behavior. In a very real sense, there is nothing different about the family — little additional instruction is required beyond the Gospel.

What is expected of Christians in their households is that they will behave like Christians!

For example, in Ephesians, the household code follows and grows out of this context:

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Eph 5:15-21, NASB)

And in Colossians, the following congregational exhortations precede and lay the groundwork for Paul’s household instruction:

So, as those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved, put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you. Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father. (Col 3:12-17, NASB)

The apostles did not “focus on the family,” they focused on the church, the community of believers. What they taught wives, husbands, children, parents, and other members of the household to do was of a piece with their moral counsel to the entire congregation.

We also see this within the codes themselves. Members of the household are exhorted to behave toward one another “as is fitting in the Lord,” in a manner that is “well-pleasing to the Lord,” and that exemplifies “fearing the Lord” (Colossians). In Ephesians, the motivations are similar: wives, husbands, children, parents, slaves and masters are to relate to one another “as to the Lord,”and to practice love “as Christ…loved,” etc. In the Ephesian household code, in fact, Paul goes so far as to say that what he is saying to husbands and wives isn’t really even about them — it is about Christ and the Church! (5:32)

SECOND, NT instruction for the family is designed to enhance the reputation and witness of Christians in their society.

I will not go into depth regarding the background of these household codes except to say that this form of instruction did not originate with the apostles; it was common in the Greco-Roman culture of their day. Though there is disagreement and many questions as to the exact sources of the apostolic haustafeln, it is clear that they were building on cultural models readily available to them (see the Towner article for more discussion of this).

That they both used and went beyond these codes is also clear. These NT house-tables present a fascinating example of Christianity both conforming to and transforming cultural norms for various purposes.

In terms of form, the apostles take a conservative approach here. The haustafeln portray role patterns that would have been recognized and considered status quo by most non-Christians in their society. As Towner writes, “What can be said is that through them the NT writers reflect sensitivity to the expectations of society at large and seem to encourage Christians to live according to patterns that were widely accepted as respectable.”

There is no radical departure from the family patterns of the Greco-Roman/Hellenistic Jewish world — husbands were head of the home, children were subject to their parents, masters ruled over their slaves. Christians are exhorted to conform generally to the ethos of their society.

However, the apostles also added enough Christian innovations to plant seeds of transformationin the family and society.

For example, in the standard instructions of the day, only those in authority were addressed and treated as responsible agents, whereas in the apostolic house tables, those in subordinate positions are addressed as equal and capable human beings, brothers and sisters in Christ, who share the calling to live in love as Christ did.

In addition, the instructions given to those in positions of authority are not what one might expect — directions about leading, making decisions, and keeping order in the household. Instead, they are called to follow Jesus’ example of willing subjection and self-emptying love as they relate to those society considered lower in rank.

These examples show that the house-tables are not about reinforcing particular roles in the family! Instead, they emphasize how members of families may show each other the kind of Christ-like love and respect that will prove redemptive and spiritually beneficial to fellow members of the household.

The haustafeln thus represent a “seed-planting” or “salt and light” approach that lay the groundwork not only for the transformation of households but also the broader society.

THIRD, each generation must exercise wisdom in applying the teaching of these household codes so that Christians may gain the respect of their own societies and serve as salt and light.

I do not believe that the NT haustafeln represent a supra-cultural “Biblical model for the family” (in terms of roles) that is meant to apply to all Christians in all generations and in all cultures. Rather, these household codes are given to increase the wisdom of Christians as they live among their neighbors, so that believers will (1) win their respect by fitting in with patterns of society that may be lawfully employed, and (2) get their attention by demonstrating an extraordinary love that goes beyond anything society has to offer.

One clear indication of the culturally dependent nature of these house-tables is their inclusion of instruction to masters and slaves.

Let’s think about this for a moment. When preaching and teaching on Ephesians 6:5-9 or Colossians 3:22-4:1, how should one approach the following texts? —

Slaves, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart, as to Christ; not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart. With good will render service, as to the Lord, and not to men, knowing that whatever good thing each one does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether slave or free. And masters, do the same things to them, and give up threatening, knowing that both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no partiality with Him.

Slaves, in all things obey those who are your masters on earth, not with external service, as those who merely please men, but with sincerity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve. For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality. Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.

The answer is, in our culture (at least here in the United States where I live), we should recognize at the outset that these passages do not address us. At all. They speak to a cultural situation that does not exist in our society. We should handle these instructions the same way we might a passage like Paul’s advice to Timothy, “No longer drink water exclusively, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” (1Tim 5:23, NASB) In preaching on that text, I would explain why Paul might give such practical counsel in his day, and leave it at that. Paul is not our doctor! We’ve made a few medicinal advances since the first century! These words no longer apply to us.

Nor do Paul’s household instructions to slaves and masters. The apostle’s teaching reflects issues that his society faced, not ours. It is therefore problematic, for example, to apply these passages to contemporary employer/employee relationships, as many do. Paul is writing about acting as a Christian within ancient household arrangements that involved ownership of people as legal property, with rules and obligations that pertained to those arrangements. The context bears no resemblance to the free marketplace in which employers hire workers who are able to choose and apply for jobs, and in which employees as well as employers have rights and legal protections. Paul is addressing those involved in an official system that was profoundly contrary to Christian ethics, not only because of the cruelty of its practices but in the very nature of its existence. Thankfully, though slavery in various forms still wreaks far too much havoc in today’s world, it is no longer institutionalized as the status quo and is universally recognized as evil.

My point is that we cannot simply take these ancient household codes and interpret them simplistically as supra-cultural models for family roles in all times and places. Whole sections of them don’t even apply anymore!

And, in context, it is clear to me that the other role descriptions in the haustafeln should be read with wisdom and discernment in the light of our current cultural norms as well.

For example, how do we apply apostolic instructions about husbands and wives in societies where men and women are not viewed in terms of “rank” and “subordination,” which was the view in the Roman empire, reflected in the language of these passages?

Or, how do we apply teaching about parents and children that reflects societies which did not have the category “teenager,” and in which there were entirely different rites of passage from childhood to adulthood?

It is not the purpose of this post to answer such questions. However, my goal is to encourage us to be better, more thoughtful, wiser readers and practitioners of Biblical teaching, that our reputation and witness in our world may be enhanced.

What is clear from these house-tables is that Christians are to be people of wisdom and, most of all, Jesus-shaped love — in their homes as well as in the church and world, and that this marks the primary difference between us and the way the world works. Our families may resemble other families in our culture and function according to patterns that are similar to those of our neighbors, but with regard to Christ-like love, self-emptying, and mutual service, we are called to excel the world’s ways at every turn.

Our lives, families, and churches are to be shaped, ultimately, by the Gospel — by Jesus.

Comments

  1. I do not believe that the NT haustafeln represent a supra-cultural “Biblical model for the family” (in terms of roles) that is meant to apply to all Christians in all generations and in all cultures.

    THAT’s the one that’s gonna get you in hot water. As far as much of evangelicalism (and pretty much all of the Reformed side) is concerned, these passages are all about the the transcendent truthy supra-cultural. So much so, that they will shoehorn culture into the passages to make it fit. Case in point – one textbook I had on Christian Ethics stated that (based precisely on the Ephesians 6:5-9 and Colossians 3:22-4:1 passages you quoted above) that the employer-employee relationship is an exact parallel to the master-slave relationship described in the NT, and that employees should consider themselves the “slaves” of their owners. FWIW, the author was a southern Presbyterian, so draw your own conclusions…

    • “Owners” should be in quotations too, for the record. Don’t want to make a bad example even worse than it was…

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      It is a conceptualization that works out very well for the privileged class.

    • flatrocker says:

      So do you have anything written by a northern Presbyterian so we can draw more enlightened conclusions? How about an Eastern or Western version while we’re at it?

      • Rick Ro. says:

        Good questions. I’m still trying to figure out how to pronounce “Haustafeln”, though.

        • Dana Ames says:

          “hows-tah-felln”, with the accent on the first syllable.

          At least you remembered to capitalize the first letter of this German noun 🙂

          Dana

        • The beauty of German (and Spanish) is that words are pronounced the way they are spelled. It’s an amazing advantage.

          English and French — fuggedaboudit.

          • Another beautiful feature is that German (except for gender – uggh!) is much more consistent than English. Why do we say ‘I teach’ and ‘I taught’ but don’t say ‘I preach’ and ‘I praught’?

    • StuartB says:

      And now I have terms and a framework to describe my utter rejection of this thinking.

      Thanks for posting this!

    • The point that slave cannot simply be translated into modern employees needs to be emphasized. First there is the obvious point that slaves (in almost all cases) had no choice and did not get paid. But beyond that, these are called house rules for a reason. These codes had to do with households. On the roman estate the pater familias (dad) had complete control (in theory). He had complete control over his family (wife, children, slaves). The slaves were part of the estate. Outside of nannies, some tutors, and a few others, how many employees live with their employer? How many of these people who try to make slave = employee would want to live in the household of their employer. And, if we do not believe that slavery is a God ordained institution (I don’t know a lot of Doug Wilson adherents), how do we make these passages apply rigidly to our culture?

  2. Mike, in my church there’s been a class in Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, based on material by Piper and Grudem. The Ephesians, Colossians, and 1 Peter references that you’ve cited have come up, and in fact this past Sunday we talked about the Ephesians and 1 Peter verses.

    Too often, the Ephesians verse starts at 5:22, “Wives, submit to your husbands…,” and I see that that’s what you’ve cited as what’s often used. But, as always with Paul, there are two sides to the coin. To the credit of our class leader, he began at verse 21, “Submit yourselves to one another…” (I see that you have included it in the second blockquote, verses 5:15-5:21, giving context).

    Be wary of any discussion that does not include verse 21; and if verse 25 is omitted too (Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the church…), know that there is an agenda that goes beyond good biblical exposition. I’m afraid that a study of Ephesians 5, etc, is often about power, not truth or grace, and we need to speak truth to that.

    Thanks for the cultural context. I’m with you, as usual.

    • Excellent point.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      CM’s reading of statements like “Wives, submit to your husbands…,” also – wonderfully – avoids having to go deep into the weeds concerning what we ‘really mean’ by “submit” – where a sentence requires paragraphs of delicate explanation, all of which ends up sounding pretty sketchy.

      • In fact, in the original text, the word “submit” is not even there in the instruction to wives, but is picked up from the previous thought:

        “…submitting yourselves to one another in the fear of Christ; wives, to your husbands…”

        • !!!???!!

          So if they omit verse 21, aware of the Greek, it’s downright dishonest—or at least really sloppy scholarship.

          • StuartB says:

            Ends justify the means.

            Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, bro.

          • Don’t know if you’ve heard my story, but it was my time at seminary that drove me right out of the fundagelical camp. The giant gap between what the Bible actually says and what they said it had to mean was insurmountable. I’ve never done well with cognitive dissonance or intellectual dishonesty.

          • StuartB says:

            Dr, it’s my time out of seminary (world) and Christianity that is driving me out of the fundagelical camp, lol.

          • In one sense, v22 does shift the discussion to more specific people, but those people are only to be understood as members of the broader faith community addressed in the previous context. In other words, Paul’s “household” teaching is merely adding specific focus to the instruction he is giving the whole church.

            The English versions “westernize” the text by dividing off “family” teaching from “community” teaching.

          • Mike, my Greek interlinear does have “subject yourselves” in verse 22 (hypotassesthe), reading “The wives, to the own husbands (andrasin) subject yourselves.” This follows verse 21, “being subject (hypotassomenoi) to one another.” I’ve been told that I don’t have the best Greek edition, though. How does yours read?

            I don’t want to end up with egg on my face if I bring up minutiae like this. In defense against the minutiae of others (I mean, can’t we all just get along?).

      • Rick Ro. says:

        I’m still trying to figure out what we “really mean” by “love”.

    • Danielle says:

      “Mike, in my church there’s been a class in Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, based on material by Piper and Grudem.”

      “Nooooooooooooooo ……..!”

      OK, you can continue now. 🙂

      In all seriousness, I don’t think your point can be over-emphasized. Even if you think some of the “rules” may port across cultural context, the household codes are applications of a larger and more important principle. This is the controlling principle. The codes should not be the lens through which the main principle is interpreted, much less rules to which it is made captive.

      • In fairness to the class leader, who is also an old friend of mine, he’s being very fair in the presentation. But there’s definitely an agenda, and it ain’t egalitarian.

    • Dana Ames says:

      Ted,
      I once had coffee with Scot McKnight at a conference (this was before I had set my feet on the path to enter the Orthodox Church) and I expressed to him that the Piper/Grudem reliance on Eternal Subordination of the Son in the Trinity as the justification for female submission essentially made Christ not-God, and therefore, following this reasoning, made women not-human. Scot said he had brought the ESS up in general terms with an Orthodox scholar-friend, and the latter said, “But that’s Arianism!”

      I left my Evangelical church because *I* was changing, not because my church was changing, but it’s tough either way. I have a lot of respect for you.

      Dana

      • StuartB says:

        …that’s a really poignant point. Wow.

      • I wasn’t aware that Piper and Grudem held to ESS. Thanks for the warning. If that rears its head in this class I’ll denounce it as heresy as Scot’s friend did.

        • Dana Ames says:

          Grudem is the one who first gave it “theological” traction; I read his defense of it years ago. Piper usually goes along with him.

          Blessings-
          D.

    • I’m becoming increasingly wary of the adjective “biblical”. More and more it seems to mean “this is what we believe and here are the prooftexts to back us up and if you don’t believe this way you may be unregenerate; at the very least, you’re in danger of heresy so you’d better get in line.”

  3. Thank you CM. You (as usual, with a few exceptions 🙂 ) are exactly on target. Not to change the subject (but hopefully to highlight it), I think this points to a deeper problem that is even more controversial. This points to the issue of what is Scripture and how do we interpret it. Those who see these things as ‘a supra-cultural “Biblical model for the family” (in terms of roles) that is meant to apply to all Christians in all generations and in all cultures’ usually read the Bible as though it were written directly TO us and that we can read it as though it were written directly TO us and that the Spirit will mysteriously reveal its meaning directly to us as we read it, the so-called ‘magic book syndrome’. (My typical response to that idea is ‘then why are there Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Mormons, or Baptists, or …? Apparently the Holy Spirit can’t make up his mind what ‘truth’ to reveal.) I have often told people that to understand the Scriptures we have to become ‘time travelers’, and transport ourselves back in time two, or even three, thousand years to understand what the Bible said to those to whom it was actually written (NOT US). I have become so sensitive to these kinds of cultural issues that I think I’m going to start telling people we have to become ‘space travelers’ since it’s almost like visiting another planet!

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > ‘magic book syndrome

      I am less and less of the opinion that this is a Theological issue at all; it is not about how this slice of humanity thinks about “The Bible”. It is about how they think – full stop. I witness the correlation over and over again – where Life is not Lived – it is Thought About. Results, consequences, data, etc… are all discarded, it is about orderliness and proper concepts. Clearly this reaches way beyond Scripture – as they range out into sociological, political, and economic issues that old Scripture can never reach [unless it is being silently aggregated with an entire storehouse of other ‘proper’ concepts]. I doubt that Fundamentalism – which is what this is really is – has much of anything to do with Religion – Christian or otherwise – or The Ideology – it is all about the Fundamentalist.

      It is very difficult to engage with this kind of thinking; and I increasingly suspect it may just a waste of time to try. People may be shaken out of it – but it seems to require life to deliver a good slap upside the head.

      At this point I find it profoundly sad – it used to make me angry. You point out all kinds of things – like real actual things – … and the response is always always some form of yeah-but-underneath-all-that-it-must-somehow-be-terrible. There is no ‘understanding’ this kind of thinking, it is an intellectual illness, it is intellect not used to grapple with the world around them, but intellect turned in on itself.

      • StuartB says:

        Absolutely.

      • StuartB says:

        See also people’s utter reliance on *needing* an absolutely true inerrantish rule book on how to live there life.

        Otherwise, chaos, both personally and world wide. Somehow.

      • StuartB says:

        but intellect turned in on itself.

        Which is any theological study over centuries that starts and ends with “inerrancy”. Wheels within wheels, never getting out.

        • StuartB says:

          When was the Chicago Statement drafted and distributed? Which generation is becoming none and done?

          Nah, no connection.

      • Yes, yes! I see over and over that those drawn to conservative evangelical Christianity–and are able to “do well” in it–are those who desire and need a system that provides structure and certainty and feel comfortable within those systems, whatever they may be. Furthermore, those who are successful at progressive “sanctification” will be successful at most every endeavor they undertake simply through force of will; it is most often their personality that shapes “spiritual” growth. I simply cannot will myself to live that way any longer.

        Yet I refuse to accept that I am some type of second class Christian because I will not; l no longer believe I must bear the burdens of men’s traditions nor do I believe that my unwillingness to do so or to force myself to be “upright” is a result of rebelliousness or disobedience to God’s word. What I have come to accept is that I am a sinner and a broken reed and Christ came not for the righteous but for the unrighteous–he came for those like me.

        • Oops. Forgot to close italics. Man, I was on such a good rant, too.

        • StuartB says:

          those who are successful at progressive “sanctification” will be successful at most every endeavor they undertake simply through force of will; it is most often their personality that shapes “spiritual” growth. I simply cannot will myself to live that way any longer.

          Ironically, I was never this person in the IFB and evangelical world, but I’m becoming that person once I reject christianity and the idea of ‘sanctification’ and instead focus on improving my life. You know, through practical means like mental health, working out, finances, etc.

          Funny how that works.

          • Adam Tauno Williams says:

            Oh, man, YES!

            Strip the “Spiritual” off of Discipline and they work much better. Strange that. Just do it because it is better, and don’t dwell on it. Don’t constantly measure, just keep looking forward.

            And it is much more fun!

            I find it eerily similar to all the current madness concerning fitness apps and devices – counting steps in a day, etc… Much like “Spiritual Discipline”. Analysis missing the point and obsessing on the process rather than the consequence.

    • Yes.

  4. Adam, I agree. I and a good friend meet each week to discuss church, books we are reading, politics, business, catching fish, old cars, etc. We often lament the uphill battle to, as he puts it, get people to ‘think rightly’. I’m afraid it is largely an aspect of our culture (not just about the Bible, as you note). Os Guiness, in a little book he wrote years ago (‘Fit Minds, Fat Bodies: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think And What To Do About It’), points out that the anti-intellectualism found in evangelical circles is largely a reflection of popular culture (which, in itself, should be an indictment against the ‘spiritual’ aspect of ‘sanctified ignorance’ – it is no different that much of the culture at large – e.g. the infatuation with people like the Kardashians).

    • Christiane says:

      so, in spite of all the rhetoric against ‘the culture’, a hallmark of the fundamentalist-evangelical community is that it reflects the culture’s anti-intellectualism . . . I can see this, yes . . . but there also a deep mistrust of those who are ‘different’ and whose ways are unfamiliar . . . I suppose a lot of traits feed into the control aspect of ‘exclusivity’ among fundamentalist-evangelical communities . . . and it seems that more emphasis is placed on ‘fellowshipping’ than on ‘communion’ (ie. ‘the Lord’s Supper) . . . lots to think about . . .

      are we talking Christian ‘faith communities’ OR mainly ‘cultural and sociological sub-groups’ when we talk of fundamentalist-evangelical entities ???

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        > are we talking Christian ‘faith communities’ OR mainly ‘cultural and sociological sub-groups’

        The later.

        Compounded by the ethic and economic homogeneity of *most* congregations – or in the case of the megas – how they have partitioned their congregation(s).

  5. StuartB says:

    Related similar topic –

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eight-hour_day

    Besides “greed/sin”, that vague catchall excuse to justify any excess or ill, how much of the Puritan work ethic, “if you work you get paid”, X hours a day only Sabbath off, actually comes from a supra-cultural “Biblical model for the worker” (in terms of roles) that is meant to apply to all Christians (ALL people in a “judeo-christian nation”) in all generations and in all cultures.?

    And besides family, and workers…how many other things fit this?

    Am I basically describing the conservative position in a nutshell?

    • StuartB says:

      this message brought to you by reading too many bernie sanders threads on reddit

      #feelthebern

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      > Am I basically describing the conservative position in a nutshell?

      Loosely speakng. But under our cultural moniker of “conservative” dwell distinct groups. Some are Conservative [as in Burke], some are Traditionalist, and others are Pragmatists [capital-P]. You don’t have to move very deeply into the political sphere to begin to see the sharp contrasts among these “conservatives”. The implications of these three streams don’t end at the shore of the political waters, they just get harder to discern, they get muddled in the cultural space.

      In the Religious realm conservative ~= Traditionalist [it doesn’t matter if that Tradition is largely imaginary]. The fissures explain a lot.

  6. Stephen says:

    Friends is it relevant to the discussion to point out that very few non-fundamentalist New Testament scholars are of the opinion that Paul actually wrote these proof texts in the first place? Ephesians and Colossians?

    • Probably not. There are many non-fundamentalist scholars who believe Paul wrote Ephesians and Colossians (e.g. N. T. Wright, Luke Timothy Johnson) but that really doesn’t change the basic issue: these passages reflect the family structures and expectations of the first-century Greco-Roman world (with the caveats that CM notes). Failing to recognize that and applying them as timeless models for ‘biblical family values’ is to do violence (I know that is a strong term) to Scripture, and making it say something that probably was never intended.