Dr. Quinn Was Not Very Good at Submission

November 16, 2011

Hiya, hi.

My mom has been watching old episodes of Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman lately. It’s set in Colorado Springs, you know. Where feminist doctors and white men who dress like Native Americans abound.

Byron Sully you were the very best part of that show. Please move back to Colorado.

I used to love Dr. Quinn when I was little. Not as much as Little House, of course, but since it was about olden times and the women wore long dresses, I was in. Living a life on the prairie with homemade cottage cheese was my dream when I was little. I thought wearing long skirts all the time would’ve been so awesome.

Exhibit A: I loved this outfit.

Sad. True.

You guys, I would not have done well on the prairie. Can you imagine me plucking a turkey or eating the meat from the wolf Pa had to shoot so that it wouldn’t come through our quilt door? Exactly. I think it’s best for me to remain right here in 2011. But Sully can still come to visit.

OK, so let’s talk about 1 Peter 3:1-7 and what it has to say about submission.

Before Peter addresses wives, he has been writing to believers who are suffering under persecution from others. He encourages everyone — male and female — to submit to authorities for the Lord’s sake. He then goes on to tell slaves, out of love for God, to submit to their masters. After that we get into chapter 3 in which Peter tells wives to “submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives.”

During this time in society, women had absolutely no rights. Greco-Roman men often wrote about how women had poor judgement and were prone to wickedness and immorality. Because of this, they were expected to obey their husbands so that they didn’t mess up their lives too much. Women were also expected to follow whatever gods their husband believed in. There was no freedom of religion for women — if their husbands worshiped Zeus, so did they.

So, 1 Peter 3 is interesting because of this cultural context. Peter, in a way, is encouraging wives to be subversive — not submissive at all — because he wants them to remain Christians, no matter what their husbands think of it.

In the midst of this subversion, Peter tells these women, who he recognizes are in tough situations, to submit to their husbands so that they might be won to Christ after seeing the behavior of their Christian wives. He is basically telling these wives (and previously, slaves) not to “rock the boat” when it comes to cultural norms because 1) they already stand out as Christians, and 2) the goal is to win people to Christ through the service and humility that he showed when he was here on earth.

Most of the commentaries I read understood the passage as Peter recommending submission specifically for wives with unbelieving husbands. Scholars like Wayne Grudem and Warren Wiersbe acknowledged this as well, but also saw it to be a universal command for all marriage.

I think it’s kind of a tough one to figure out because some of it depends on how you read “in the same way” in verse 1, and if you think Peter’s advice only related to women with unbelieving husbands. From what I read (and I don’t know Greek, so I’m really not an expert), it seemed to me like Peter qualified submission in this case. But I don’t think this negates any other commands for women to submit in other areas of Scripture — each of those passages would need to be studied separately.

All the commentators I read — egalitarian and complementarian — stressed that submission is always important for believers in Christ. We are all to submit and humble ourselves because that’s the example Christ set for us through his life. And if we have to submit in unfair situations for the sake of the gospel and the glory of the Lord, then that’s OK. It’s worth it for the Lord’s sake.

Anyhoo. I still feel kind of undecided about the passage. And my brain is still kind of broken from trying to understand Greek. What do you all think? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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13 Responses to “Dr. Quinn Was Not Very Good at Submission”

  1. Becca said

    Sully. Yes!

    Pretending to live on the prairie. Yes!

    “…each of those passages would need to be studied separately.” Yes!

    “We are all to submit and humble ourselves because that’s the example Christ set for us through his life. And if we have to submit in unfair situations for the sake of the gospel and the glory of the Lord, then that’s OK.” Yes! Yes! Yes!

  2. Rebekah Largent said

    Very appropriate that Peter talks about wives’ submission just after he talks about persecution….;)

    I also loved imagining I lived on the prairie, but I have to admit that I didn’t like either of those shows. I watched some Little House on the Prairie, but for some reason Pa gave me the creepies. Maybe it was the afro.

  3. Laura said

    1. I love Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. And Sully is hot. And Dr. Quinn kinda rocked the boat, but still loves Sully. I kinda wish I was 8 all over again and watched DQMW on primetime TV.

    2. This passage is hard, but in it’s context I totally agree… I think Peter was specifically addressing the persecuted population and offering help and guidance with what to do. When I studied this passage for NT the thing I found most amazing, was his address to Husbands in verse 7. His command to them on their lives to live in a way that showed love and respect to the wife, something foreign for the time. Verses 1-6 were almost old news, or more so just helpful reminders and encouragement, but verse 7 changed the way men thought about women, and especially their wives.

    3. I liked your summary. I think submission is just a difficult piece for all humankind. No exceptions. Thank you sanctification for refining us. It ain’t easy!

  4. It’s also interesting to note that Peter was addressing the wives and not the husbands – as in “Wives submit to your husbands” NOT “Husbands, your wives should be submitting to you” or “Husbands, are your wives submitting to you?” or even the big ol’ “Husbands, make darn well sure your wives submit to you.” (also *not* included here: Neighbours, have you noticed if so-and-so is submitting to her husband sufficiently?)
    Nope. None of those. Just a simple (haha) address to the wives. It’s like a really early version of those relationship books, called something like How to understand men: For women’s eyes only…

  5. denisemorris said

    Becca — yes!!

    Rebekah — I loved Pa!!! Except that he cried in every single episode.

    Laura — Yes, I didn’t get into it, but verse 7 is very counter-cultural. These were Gentile men who would have had no concept of treating women with respect. It’s a very cool verse.

    LGR — Yes, in the submission passages, it’s definitely something we have to voluntarily do. All of us — we have to choose to submit ourselves to the Lord, husbands, whatever it might be. And it’s all for the sake of the gospel.

  6. Beth said

    I have been struggling with this passage as well… I found a great book on the topic that I recommend highly it is called Why Not Women? by Loren Cunningham

    If you get the chance to read it, you should! 🙂

    I also love DQMW… & Sully.

    Thanks for the thought provoking post!

  7. kerry said

    The “S” word still makes me feel like someone is scratching their fingernails against a chalkboard but maybe it wouldn’t if I was married to Sully. Plus, I am not happy I read this tonight because I was very crabby to my husband and in no way did I “S” word and now I feel convicted and should probably apologize. Again, probably made easier if it was Sully. But since my husband is not Sully, and God was good enough to give me a husband who loves Him, loves his family, and is a faithful, committed, unselfish, kind, and gracious man(which he needs to be to be married to me) I will work on “S” AND apologizing. AND I do not think you should be dwelling on the “S” word or I will have to take a break from your blog.

  8. denisemorris said

    Kerry, don’t be silly. You know you can’t stay away from my blog. 😉

  9. Anonymous said

    Two thoughts:

    1. It’s helpful (and humbling) for me to remember that I, as a wife, am not called to any greater humbling of self or sacrifice than that which Christ submitted himself to when he “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but came in human likeness” to die on the cross (Phil. 2). It kind of puts the whole concept of submission into perspective when I remember that a) my Savior was not too good for submission and b) I will most certainly never suffer at the hands of my husband the things Christ suffered and submitted himself to. So I think that I Peter 2:21-25 is also key, contextually speaking.

    2. John Piper has some of the most applicable, awesome thoughts on I Peter 3 in his book, “This Momentary Marriage: A Parable of Permanence.” It may have “marriage” in the title, but I think EVERYone should read it – it’s rich in theology and application no matter what your relationship status.

  10. Anonymous said

    Oops, that “Anonymous” post was me. Not trying to be all shady and covert; I just apparently forgot the detail of filling my name in. 🙂

  11. Anonymous said

    Um…”me” being “LeAna.” I DID fill my name in this time, and it apparently wants me to be shady and covert.

  12. denisemorris said

    hahah! Thanks, LeAna! Yes, I think it’s important to remember that Jesus submitted — he wasn’t too good for it. And when we follow his example, we should be more than willing to submit to one another. All the time.

  13. […] of the things we talked about this semester was the role of women as discussed in the Bible. I already talked a bit about the things I discovered about women and submission in 1 Peter. We also discussed different views that people have related […]

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