A review of Does Christianity Teach Male Headship?. Edited by David Blankenhorn, et. al.

Eerdmans, 2004.

The issue of the relationship between men and women is a vexed and complex issue. Plenty of volumes have been written on this contentious debate. Does Scripture teach a patriarchal model, or an egalitarian model, or indeed, some other model? Should men rule in the home and women submit, and if so, to what extent? Can men and women be fully equal yet have different roles and functions?

These questions have been dealt with extensively over the years, with volumes on all sides of the debate appearing on a regular basis. Many deal just with the theological, biblical and hermeneutical issues. Others deal more with the social, historical and philosophical questions.

This volume tries to do a bit of each. It features theologians, to be sure, but also has sociologists, family experts, and others entering the debate. Catholic and Protestant voices are both heard. And social issues, such as the honour-shame culture of the Greco-Roman world, early household codes, and contemporary concerns about father absence, are all featured in this spirited collection of essays.

The first half of the volume features six proponents of the “equal-regard marriage” which rejects the concept of male headship. Five critics of this position are then given equal time, in which they reaffirm a male headship model as the biblical norm.

An introductory essay by David Blankenhorn and a concluding essay by Don Browning round off this collection of important articles. New light is shed on a long standing debate, with various innovative perspectives brought to bear on the discussion. One suspects that many people will come to this volume with their minds already made up, but the volume’s new insights and approaches may result in some new thinking on the issue.

The editors are to be congratulated for bringing together this collection of informed and cogent essays. The debate will not be resolved here, but it will be made more clear and further advanced by this helpful book.

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