One thing all interpreters in this debate have in common, so far as I can tell, is the belief that the respective roles of men and women should be the same in marriage and in the church. Those who call for restrictions on what women can do in the church argue that because the husband is in authority over the wife, men should be in authority over women in the church, and so women should be restricted from assuming roles in which they are in authority over men. Those who oppose such restrictions argue that men and women are equal in the church (appealing, for example, to statements such as, “There is . . . neither male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus”), and that marriage, too, should therefore be “egalitarian” (to use a term I said I wouldn’t use).
What I wrote in my last post about the present age and the coming age suggests, however, that the respective roles of men and women will not necessarily be the same in marriage as in the church. If marriage is an institution of the present age while the church is an institution of the coming age, then even if we do interpret the biblical teaching in such a way as to conclude that the husband is in authority over the wife (and that’s a complicated discussion in itself), we don’t necessarily have to infer that men will also be in authority over women in the church. This is an idea that I will develop more in the course of our discussion.
But doesn’t the Bible itself say that there’s an analogy between marriage and the church? Isn’t marriage supposed to be a “mystery” that reveals something about “Christ and the church”? Yes, but note what specific analogy Paul draws in his letters: husband is supposed to be to wife as Christ is to the church. That is, Christ relates to men and women together in the community of his followers as husbands should relate to their wives (lovingly and sacrificially). What Paul specifically does not say is that husband is to wife as man is to woman in church. So if the institution of the present age, marriage, can shed some light on the institution of the coming age, the church, it’s to show us that we are all together, men and women, the beloved of our heavenly bridegroom. I don’t see a mandate there for restrictions on what women can do to honor and serve that bridegroom.