Assignment 7


REL3851.E1 Family Relations

Read Balswick, Fourth Edition, Part 7 (chapters 19 and 20) and answer the following questions. Single space acceptable, but leave a space between questions. 

1. What do you think the authors mean by “the erosion of biblical truth” in their title of Chapter 19?

2. What is “modernity” and why is it challenging? What is the meaning of “post-modern?” Pages 339-341

3. Define and summarize the four dimensions of sociocultural life. Pages 342-343

4. Explain the dilemmas and false hopes that modernity often brings upon the family? Pages 346-352

5. Discuss whether and how a family might escape the bondage of commodities. Pages 352-359

6. Explain the possible reconstruction of community in relationship to family life. Pages 360-361

7. What is the importance of revitalized communication and consciousness? Pages 361-362 

8. What support structures are helpful to ensure solid family life? Pages 363-369.

9.  Traditionally, most churches have taken a very hard stand on the subject of divorce and remarriage, even forbidding remarriage and denying membership to people with “tainted” marital backgrounds. In a previous chapter (pages 311-312) the authors make a statement on the Christian approach to divorce. Discuss how Christians and churches as communities should respond to divorce, both among their members and those seeking membership. (This answer should be longer than the others)


The Bible as a whole was written in a male centered cultural context, and there is much in both Old and New Testaments that represents and teaches the ancient concept of male dominance and female subordination. The seven classic “female subordination” passages in the New Testament are: I Corinthians 11:1-16, 14:34-35; I Peter 3:1-7; I Timothy 2:9-15; Titus 2:4-8, Ephesians 5:22-24, and Colossians 3:18. Some of these clearly reflect the Genesis story of Adam and Eve. Read them carefully.

However, the general tone of the New Testament message has values that counter and overturn injustice of all kinds. The idea of “mutual submission” in marriage, although hinted in Ephesians 5:21-25, has not been the teaching in the Church until very recent times. Equality of the sexes is suggested in Galatians 3:28, along with overcoming slavery and racial distinctions. Paul says there is no distinction in Christ. Those were ideals for life in the church, but not recognized as socially attainable until recently.

The subordination of women has been the norm in nearly every culture of the world all through history, and has only shifted toward equality in the last 150 years (beginning in the west). And it is worth noting that while these changes are evident in society, very few Christian denominations today support female equality in home and church. The largest denominations (Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, and among Protestants the Southern Baptist churches), as well as most conservative Protestant churches, still support the traditional model of marriage (wife subordinate), and reject female leadership in the church. Some have softened their stance but have not accepted full gender equity in church and home.

Slavery itself was supported by the church for centuries because “it is in the Bible” and it was viewed as “God’s way.” In the 1800s slavery was defended by many church ministers in America based on some of the same texts that teach the subordination of women.

For those churches that see the Bible as authoritative and inerrant, the concept of gender equity is a major problem. Consequently, many who have recognized a need to change have found a way by reinterpreting key passages, to make them mean something other than what they have always been understood to say. Thus change is allowed within the authority of scripture. In reality, that is not academically honest because it intentionally promotes a false interpretation of relevant texts. Without a doubt, the writers of those New Testament texts meant what they wrote. But the real question is whether what they wrote should be considered binding universal rules.

There are a couple of simple but solid illustrations. In I Corinthians 11 Paul suggests that a woman must have a covering on her head to pray in church. That has been a Roman Catholic policy for centuries, but Protestants ignore it because “it is simply a cultural matter.” The same is true of Paul’s suggestion that it is a shame for a woman to cut her hair short. Likewise in I Peter 3 the writer speaks against braided hair, gold jewelry, and expensive garments. Most Christian women ignore that because “it’s merely cultural.” So, ignoring culturally based teachings in the New Testament is not uncommon. But for some reason, for many Christians the status of women in the church and home, which are rooted in the ancient patriarchal paradigm, remains sacred and set in stone.

Suggested reading:

Fiorenza, Elizabeth Schüssler. In Memory of Her. London: SCM, 1983.

Massey, Lesly F. Women and the New Testament: An Analysis of Scripture in Light of New Testament Era Culture. Jefferson: McFarland, 1989.

_______ Daughters of God-Subordinates of Men: Women and the Roots of patriarchy in the New Testament. Jefferson: McFarland, 2015.

Scanzoni, Letha and Nancy Hardesty. All We’re Meant To Be. Waco: Word, 1975

Witherington, Ben. Women in the Earliest Churches. Cambridge: University Press, 1988

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