Friday, December 28, 2012

Marriage and Submission in Light of Law and Wisdom

A husband may not require his wife (or child) to act contrary to conscience with respect to the moral law as summed up in the Ten Commandments. Only God is lord over conscience and we are to obey God and not man when the two conflict. So for example, a husband may not require his spouse or child to steel, a clear violation of the eighth commandment. Where things can get a bit more difficult for some is over matters of wisdom and discretion. For instance, if a wife thinks it is wisest not to drive during a storm yet the Governor has not outlawed driving as a matter of safety, then if the husband should insist his wife drive the children somewhere during the storm she ought to obey with a clear conscience. Whether such a decision by the husband is tyrannical is not relevant to what God requires. Before the Lord a wife should suppress what she deems most wise (even most safe) and submit to her husband’s desire with a clear conscience (in matters of discretion, not law). The principle to “preserve life at all cost” would carry no weight, for who is to say how much rain, wind or ice is too dangerous for driving? The “preserve life at all cost” card obviously begs the question. To act against a “superior’s” edict when God has not revealed that one must do so is actually to disobey God by not submitting to His structure for ordained authority.

Indeed, one may and should have personal convictions on matters of discretion, but when God places authorities over us we may not regard those convictions as absolute law otherwise God’s chain of authority breaks down. We must hold matters of wisdom-conviction with a loose hand. Otherwise subordinates could never act contrary to what they believe is their better judgment.That’s the reductio.
It should now be a bit more clear why we must maintain a difference between absolute sin (i.e. a clear violation of a commandment) and a violation of one’s personal judgment even when biblically informed as most wise. {Digression: Another way to see that wisdom is not equivalent with commandment is by recognizing that although husbands are commanded to be wise, a husband often does well to act in a manner he might objectively deem less wise in order to accommodate his wife or child in their weakness. Sometimes a husband does well to refrain from doing what he thinks is otherwise most wise due to other dynamics. In such cases a decision to accommodate may include such latitude that when abstracted from the immediate context and considered in isolation (on its own merits as an ideal) is not under good regulation as a general principle yet fitting for the situation at hand. Context is everything in matters of wisdom and discretion. Similarly, the woman’s decision to submit to an unwise decision of her husband’s is not only obedience unto the Lord but is also a matter of true wisdom when done with mature understanding.}

Finally, a wife might be tempted to think that because her husband sins by requiring something unwise of her that she may refuse based upon the principle of not partaking in the sins of others lest she sins. That defense simply won’t do because when God required in Scripture subordinates to submit to their authorities he knew they would have to submit to sinful, self-serving superiors. Moreover, if the wife were allowed to refrain from following her husband in such instances then her role as wife would be obviously undermined given that most decisions are matter of discretion. There would be no authority period. Therefore, we must maintain that the command to act wisely and the requirements of the moral law must be distinguished. Moses is not at odds with Solomon.

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