Beyond Authority and Submission

This next excerpt from my upcoming book explains the title Beyond Authority and Submission. Authority and submission are important aspects to some of our relationships, but they shouldn’t be the whole of our discussions about women and men. A hyper focus on authority and submission can cause us to lose sight of important biblical themes.

Beyond Authority and Submission: Women and Men in Marriage, Church, and Society will be available September 3. You can click the links to pre-order on Amazon or Barnes and Noble. A Kindle version will be available on the release date.


In conservative Christian circles, many conversations about women and men start and end with authority and submission. Who’s in charge? Who’s allowed to do what? These are reasonable questions to ask. At the same time, the Bible doesn’t start and end with authority and submission—it is Jesus’s story from first to last. If we miss that message, then it doesn’t matter what else we believe. No good deeds or proper understanding of women, men, and gender will save us.

That doesn’t mean that authority and submission aren’t important. We shouldn’t dismiss them—but they aren’t the focus of the Bible. When we concentrate on maintaining a hierarchy—or on overthrowing it—we forget our unity and interdependence and our call to mutual service. Women can become completely dependent on men and devoted to serving their interests; men can forget their need for women and can focus more on enforcing submission than on serving their wives and families.

Contrary to what popular culture states, women and men are not from different planets. We’re complementary—more alike than different. Without denying the differences, we need to stop defining women as the polar opposite of men and vice versa. Such divisive definitions create and encourage unnecessary conflict and set up unrealistic and unbiblical expectations for how women and men should behave.

Paul frequently refers to fellow believers—both men and women—as his co-laborers. The word he uses, sunergos, means “a companion in work.”[2] As we will see in the next sections, co-laborer captures the sense of what we were created to be and what we are called to be in Christ.

[1] Michelle Lee-Barnewall, Neither Complementarian nor Egalitarian: A Kingdom Corrective to the Evangelical Gender Debate (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2016), NOOK, addresses the biblical themes of unity (see 24–25) and leading through service (see 108–9).

[2] Thayer’s Greek Lexicon, s.v. “sunergos,” available online from Bible Hub, accessed June 18, 2018, http://biblehub.com/greek/4904.htm, Strong’s number 4904.