Sara Horn on being a ‘Biblically Submissive Wife’

June 23, 2014

I first met Sara Horn a decade ago when I was a communications intern at LifeWay and she was writer. She had just returned from her second trip to the Middle East, serving as a war correspondent for Baptist Press. I knew I could gain much from her professional experiences and wisdom.

As a military wife, author and speaker, she has accomplished much since then. Ten years later, Sara is still sharing her knowledge, but in a very different sphere of life: marriage. Never afraid of controversial topics, Sara decided to begin a one-year experiment, seeking to live as a biblically submissive wife and chronicling her journey in her book, My So-Called Life as a Biblically Submissive Wife.

Why did you decide to write this book? Why did you write it as a personal narrative?

For the majority of my 16-year-marriage to my husband, I avoided the whole idea of biblical submission. I considered myself an independent woman and viewed the idea of biblical submission as outdated and in direct conflict with my dreams and desires for what I perceived as success. But I love God's word and respect it as the authority for my life. I need to include even the things that, in my own selfish perception, I don't like or I want to avoid. 

I chose to write this as a personal narrative, instead of some kind of self-help type of format, because I don't think every woman can wake up tomorrow and declare she's going to be a submissive wife. I think each of us has to work through our own experiences, backgrounds, convictions and learned beliefs as God walks us through all of that.

How do you think the culture around us views the concept of “submission”?

Oh, our culture hates it! Biblical submission is viewed as putting a woman under a man's thumb–that she's a doormat or a robot with no ability to think or speak for herself. Or worse, it sets her up for a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse by a man.

And the latter is a very real concern, because the sad truth is that many men have exploited these scriptures as permission to dominate or be demeaning toward their wives. Even sadder, there are women who have allowed those situations to continue, convinced they're just doing what the Bible says they have to do. But men are called to love their wives as Christ loves the church. Nowhere in Scripture does it say husbands are supposed to force their wives to be submissive to them.  

You describe in the book how culture sends confusing messages to women. How do you think that has affected our marriages?

As women, we have been told we can be anything we want to be, raise kids, have a successful career—with or without a man by our side. In media around us, women are lifted up as heroes, and men are often put down or characterized as less responsible, not that bright or not that needed. 

Men seem increasingly hesitant to be who God made them to be as men, less they get accused of being chauvinistic or thoughtless toward women. Then, as women, we get upset when they don't seem to care or engage in anything. I believe our husbands have learned from culture to pick the path of least resistance, and so they give their wives a wide open space in which to operate. But, as a result, I believe a lot of women are finding more unhappiness than contentment. 

How do you think the world has taught us theology?

The world has convinced many of us in the church that this idea of biblical submission is wrong because it doesn't feel right. We've bought into the political correct viewpoint: “If I don't agree with it, then I shouldn't have to follow it.” Or, we can rationalize another truth for ourselves—that marriage can and should be 50/50 or a partnership.

Instead of following God's plan for marriage, we follow the world's—the plan that says do what makes YOU happy, and if your spouse isn't making you happy, then you're better off without that spouse. When we follow that plan, we miss the valuable lessons God wants to teach us through our marriages: lessons about love, grace, forgiveness and selflessness, which reinforce what Christ did for all of us. 

How does honoring your husband honor God?

Do you know why I think as women we struggle with this idea of submission? Because we struggle with the idea of obeying God. We want to obey him and follow his lead, but our natural tendency is to do what we want to do. We're not very good about saying no to ourselves. God created man and woman to bring important, distinctive and beautiful traits to the marriage relationship. The roles of the husband and wife are equally important, but also different in important ways. 

Most of us agree it's always a good idea to have a leader when it comes to a company, ministry or an athletic team, but we resist it in the form of a marriage. I honor my husband because God's word asks me to do so. It's a voluntary decision to put God first and to reflect his love by showing love and respect toward my husband. The more I understand what God has called me to do as a wife, the more I realize the enormous impact I have, for better or worse, on my husband. So when I intentionally honor my husband, I honor God, because I'm reflecting him in my actions and words.

What does a submissive wife look like to the watching world?

A biblically submissive wife isn't a doormat, and she doesn't look like someone who's been walked on. She's also not mute. She sees the value in her husband and the value in herself. She reflects a quiet confidence (but I don't mean she's quiet or mousy), and she passes on that confidence to her husband when she encourages him. She doesn't talk negatively about him; she doesn't call him names or put him down, but she makes it known that she's his biggest cheerleader. She uses the wisdom God gives her to help counsel her husband when it comes to decisions for their family, and she also uses that same wisdom to know when to give her husband room to lead. She might be the president of a company or a homeschooling stay-at-home mom, but she is confident in her relationship with God and fiercely committed in her relationship with her husband.

What changes did you see in your husband over the course of your experiment?

The biggest change I saw in my husband was his willingness to lead and take more responsibility for our family. Instead of saying “whatever you want,” he started making more decisions, partly because I stopped running over him in those decisions. I was more willing to step back and give him the time to make those decisions.

The biggest blessing in the entire experience was realizing we were more often on the same page with him leading than when he wasn't. We realized that before this experiment one of us (usually me) would lean toward a decision and the other person (usually my husband) would just go along with it. But with him leading and me asking questions during the decision-making process, we are more often on the same page.

Also, I have never felt more deeply loved by my husband than I do now. He understands and realizes the weight of responsibility God has given him as the leader of our marriage and our home.

Sara never claims to have all the answers, but in My So-Called Life As A Submissive Wife she paints an honest picture of two people who are seeking to bring their marriage under the authority of Scripture, trust in God’s plan for their life, and love each other to the end of their days. Every wife and every marriage could learn something from her commitment and authenticity.

Article 12: The Future of AI

We affirm that AI will continue to be developed in ways that we cannot currently imagine or understand, including AI that will far surpass many human abilities. God alone has the power to create life, and no future advancements in AI will usurp Him as the Creator of life. The church has a unique role in proclaiming human dignity for all and calling for the humane use of AI in all aspects of society.

We deny that AI will make us more or less human, or that AI will ever obtain a coequal level of worth, dignity, or value to image-bearers. Future advancements in AI will not ultimately fulfill our longings for a perfect world. While we are not able to comprehend or know the future, we do not fear what is to come because we know that God is omniscient and that nothing we create will be able to thwart His redemptive plan for creation or to supplant humanity as His image-bearers.

Genesis 1; Isaiah 42:8; Romans 1:20-21; 5:2; Ephesians 1:4-6; 2 Timothy 1:7-9; Revelation 5:9-10

Article 11: Public Policy

We affirm that the fundamental purposes of government are to protect human beings from harm, punish those who do evil, uphold civil liberties, and to commend those who do good. The public has a role in shaping and crafting policies concerning the use of AI in society, and these decisions should not be left to those who develop these technologies or to governments to set norms.

We deny that AI should be used by governments, corporations, or any entity to infringe upon God-given human rights. AI, even in a highly advanced state, should never be delegated the governing authority that has been granted by an all-sovereign God to human beings alone. 

Romans 13:1-7; Acts 10:35; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 10: War

We affirm that the use of AI in warfare should be governed by love of neighbor and the principles of just war. The use of AI may mitigate the loss of human life, provide greater protection of non-combatants, and inform better policymaking. Any lethal action conducted or substantially enabled by AI must employ 5 human oversight or review. All defense-related AI applications, such as underlying data and decision-making processes, must be subject to continual review by legitimate authorities. When these systems are deployed, human agents bear full moral responsibility for any actions taken by the system.

We deny that human agency or moral culpability in war can be delegated to AI. No nation or group has the right to use AI to carry out genocide, terrorism, torture, or other war crimes.

Genesis 4:10; Isaiah 1:16-17; Psalm 37:28; Matthew 5:44; 22:37-39; Romans 13:4

Article 9: Security

We affirm that AI has legitimate applications in policing, intelligence, surveillance, investigation, and other uses supporting the government’s responsibility to respect human rights, to protect and preserve human life, and to pursue justice in a flourishing society.

We deny that AI should be employed for safety and security applications in ways that seek to dehumanize, depersonalize, or harm our fellow human beings. We condemn the use of AI to suppress free expression or other basic human rights granted by God to all human beings.

Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-14

Article 8: Data & Privacy

We affirm that privacy and personal property are intertwined individual rights and choices that should not be violated by governments, corporations, nation-states, and other groups, even in the pursuit of the common good. While God knows all things, it is neither wise nor obligatory to have every detail of one’s life open to society.

We deny the manipulative and coercive uses of data and AI in ways that are inconsistent with the love of God and love of neighbor. Data collection practices should conform to ethical guidelines that uphold the dignity of all people. We further deny that consent, even informed consent, although requisite, is the only necessary ethical standard for the collection, manipulation, or exploitation of personal data—individually or in the aggregate. AI should not be employed in ways that distort truth through the use of generative applications. Data should not be mishandled, misused, or abused for sinful purposes to reinforce bias, strengthen the powerful, or demean the weak.

Exodus 20:15, Psalm 147:5; Isaiah 40:13-14; Matthew 10:16 Galatians 6:2; Hebrews 4:12-13; 1 John 1:7 

Article 7: Work

We affirm that work is part of God’s plan for human beings participating in the cultivation and stewardship of creation. The divine pattern is one of labor and rest in healthy proportion to each other. Our view of work should not be confined to commercial activity; it must also include the many ways that human beings serve each other through their efforts. AI can be used in ways that aid our work or allow us to make fuller use of our gifts. The church has a Spirit-empowered responsibility to help care for those who lose jobs and to encourage individuals, communities, employers, and governments to find ways to invest in the development of human beings and continue making vocational contributions to our lives together.

We deny that human worth and dignity is reducible to an individual’s economic contributions to society alone. Humanity should not use AI and other technological innovations as a reason to move toward lives of pure leisure even if greater social wealth creates such possibilities.

Genesis 1:27; 2:5; 2:15; Isaiah 65:21-24; Romans 12:6-8; Ephesians 4:11-16

Article 6: Sexuality

We affirm the goodness of God’s design for human sexuality which prescribes the sexual union to be an exclusive relationship between a man and a woman in the lifelong covenant of marriage.

We deny that the pursuit of sexual pleasure is a justification for the development or use of AI, and we condemn the objectification of humans that results from employing AI for sexual purposes. AI should not intrude upon or substitute for the biblical expression of sexuality between a husband and wife according to God’s design for human marriage.

Genesis 1:26-29; 2:18-25; Matthew 5:27-30; 1 Thess 4:3-4

Article 5: Bias

We affirm that, as a tool created by humans, AI will be inherently subject to bias and that these biases must be accounted for, minimized, or removed through continual human oversight and discretion. AI should be designed and used in such ways that treat all human beings as having equal worth and dignity. AI should be utilized as a tool to identify and eliminate bias inherent in human decision-making.

We deny that AI should be designed or used in ways that violate the fundamental principle of human dignity for all people. Neither should AI be used in ways that reinforce or further any ideology or agenda, seeking to subjugate human autonomy under the power of the state.

Micah 6:8; John 13:34; Galatians 3:28-29; 5:13-14; Philippians 2:3-4; Romans 12:10

Article 4: Medicine

We affirm that AI-related advances in medical technologies are expressions of God’s common grace through and for people created in His image and that these advances will increase our capacity to provide enhanced medical diagnostics and therapeutic interventions as we seek to care for all people. These advances should be guided by basic principles of medical ethics, including beneficence, non-maleficence, autonomy, and justice, which are all consistent with the biblical principle of loving our neighbor.

We deny that death and disease—effects of the Fall—can ultimately be eradicated apart from Jesus Christ. Utilitarian applications regarding healthcare distribution should not override the dignity of human life. Fur- 3 thermore, we reject the materialist and consequentialist worldview that understands medical applications of AI as a means of improving, changing, or completing human beings.

Matthew 5:45; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57; Galatians 6:2; Philippians 2:4

Article 3: Relationship of AI & Humanity

We affirm the use of AI to inform and aid human reasoning and moral decision-making because it is a tool that excels at processing data and making determinations, which often mimics or exceeds human ability. While AI excels in data-based computation, technology is incapable of possessing the capacity for moral agency or responsibility.

We deny that humans can or should cede our moral accountability or responsibilities to any form of AI that will ever be created. Only humanity will be judged by God on the basis of our actions and that of the tools we create. While technology can be created with a moral use in view, it is not a moral agent. Humans alone bear the responsibility for moral decision making.

Romans 2:6-8; Galatians 5:19-21; 2 Peter 1:5-8; 1 John 2:1

Article 2: AI as Technology

We affirm that the development of AI is a demonstration of the unique creative abilities of human beings. When AI is employed in accordance with God’s moral will, it is an example of man’s obedience to the divine command to steward creation and to honor Him. We believe in innovation for the glory of God, the sake of human flourishing, and the love of neighbor. While we acknowledge the reality of the Fall and its consequences on human nature and human innovation, technology can be used in society to uphold human dignity. As a part of our God-given creative nature, human beings should develop and harness technology in ways that lead to greater flourishing and the alleviation of human suffering.

We deny that the use of AI is morally neutral. It is not worthy of man’s hope, worship, or love. Since the Lord Jesus alone can atone for sin and reconcile humanity to its Creator, technology such as AI cannot fulfill humanity’s ultimate needs. We further deny the goodness and benefit of any application of AI that devalues or degrades the dignity and worth of another human being. 

Genesis 2:25; Exodus 20:3; 31:1-11; Proverbs 16:4; Matthew 22:37-40; Romans 3:23

Article 1: Image of God

We affirm that God created each human being in His image with intrinsic and equal worth, dignity, and moral agency, distinct from all creation, and that humanity’s creativity is intended to reflect God’s creative pattern.

We deny that any part of creation, including any form of technology, should ever be used to usurp or subvert the dominion and stewardship which has been entrusted solely to humanity by God; nor should technology be assigned a level of human identity, worth, dignity, or moral agency.

Genesis 1:26-28; 5:1-2; Isaiah 43:6-7; Jeremiah 1:5; John 13:34; Colossians 1:16; 3:10; Ephesians 4:24