On Self Efficacy, Spiritual Efficacy, and Another Danger of “Male Headship”

Phyllis Nissila

SEE UPDATE, 9/10/19 (for more resources)


Self efficacy, or, “the extent or strength of one’s belief in one’s own ability to complete tasks and reach goals,” [1] is a key element of success in “the natural,” as it were.

I’ve been thinking about “spiritual efficacy,” i.e., to coin a definition, the ability of the believer’s belief in his/her ability in Christ Jesus, to complete (spiritual) tasks and reach goals.

What prompts my faith-side definition is what is written in the anthology of religious works called The Bible that is saturated with “spiritual efficacy” passages. A few well-known examples are:

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed (2 Corinthians 9:8).

I can do all things through him who strengthens me (Philippians 4:13).

These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him (1 John 2:26-27).

(Note the absence of gender specificity.)


 With regard to the third topic under consideration, so-called “male headship,” specifically, that which teaches that men are as christs in the home, saviors, so to speak, women (linked with children) are as the church in the home, subordinates, so to speak, subject to their christs, there are neither overt nor covert implications in the example passages, above, nor elsewhere, that men have all “spiritual efficacy,” women, limited, making them thus dependent spiritually upon men.

This, of course, implies a spiritual hierarchy which is, in fact, what Jesus came to expose and address. Indeed, the spiritual hierarchy of His day is the body of religious leaders used by Satan to cause His death. (Such teaching is also, of course, heresy by the implication that there is another mediator besides Jesus between a woman and God.)

For hierarchies, whether spiritual or secular, imply different levels of knowledge, authority, and power.

The Gospel message, on the other hand, is intended for “whosoever wills,” not “whosoever wills but if you are female, you must first check in with your ‘male head’.”

This presumed role assignment is not, by the way, related to the callings and ministries gifted believers by the Holy Spirit, “to each man (hekastos—each person) severally as He wills” (italics mine), 1 Corinthians 12:11.

Nor is it related to the appropriate biblical submission all believers have to one another, indeed, we are all called to serve, no matter what other status we might have.


 So why the concern? We deal with secular hierarchies, why not spiritual?

The short answer: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

The longer answer: once we step back from our freedom in Christ Jesus to a man-assumed gradation of spiritual identities, we run the risk of not only quenching the works of the Holy Spirit by limiting the callings and ministries of our co-heirs in Christ based on reproductive body parts but also the danger of stunting the “spiritual efficacy” of half of the Body of Christ by virtue of their physicality only.

Taking this thought further into the realm of reality, what happens when one feels lesser-than or subordinate-to another due to a factor beyond their control, in this case, because of the luck of the genetic draw? Consider the following possibilities, for starters.

  •  Doubt
  • Second-guessing
  • Frustration
  • Resentment
  • Uncertainty
  • Fear

And for the well-meaning men caught up in this belief system, consider :

  • Doubt
  • Second-guessing
  • Frustration
  • Resentment
  • Uncertainty
  • Fear

…for entirely different reasons.

But of course there are those who have other reasons for keeping women subordinate, if they can.


Fortunately, we have a spiritual standard, if you will, benchmarks to look to when studying this and all other teachings and movements within the Church.

We can look to its “fruit”, listed here: “…love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

And this is not “mandated fruit” where if subordinates are not presenting “cheerful countenances” at all times they are “dishonoring” their “head” (husband/father) as some cults teach.

Rather, the fruit born of each individual’s relationship with Jesus Christ who came to set captives free, whether they are bound spiritually—or physically—by some actual or contrived factor or factors, the true fruit born of the understanding that “(if) the Son makes you free (and He did, by dying for each of us on the cross), you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

It is this (spiritual) efficacy that strengthens believers and encourages them not only to accomplish those desires God has placed in their hearts but also to dispel the darkness of dangerous teachings that serve to restrict, not build up, the Body of Christ.

UPDATE: God is not doubt.


[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-efficacy

This entry was posted in abuse, Christian Women Topics, cult and occult, most recent posts, Patriarchy/Complementarianism and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to On Self Efficacy, Spiritual Efficacy, and Another Danger of “Male Headship”

  1. pbn says:

    Coming back to this after almost 8 years! How the world has changed!

    Lest some think I am rebelling against the biblical “job description” of either role in marriage (between a man and a woman), let me reiterate: “He whom Christ has set free, is free indeed”–free to enter the gates of heaven “with thanksgiving in (his or her) heart” because of salvation through Jesus Christ, free to serve, love and respect others–against which there is no law–so that, if they so choose, they will come to the cross, for Jesus also said, “If I be lifted up I will draw all men unto me.”

    God provided a helper, “meet” (“suitable,” kə·neḡ·dōw, Genesis 2:18, 2:20) for Adam, not a servant.


  2. Carl Gordon says:

    Someone should contact wordpress and suggest a different animation. The “snow” falling is distracting while trying to read your blog…


  3. Carl Gordon says:

    I hope the Duggar children get the opportunity to read this!


    • pnissila says:

      Me, too. And the sooner the better. The Duggar children’s mind- and spirit-control stems from early childhood, but with God, all things are possible.

      As I continue to think about self efficacy and spiritual efficacy, I realize these are foundational to success both in the tasks we have here on earth and in developing in the GRACE of all that God plans for us because “we are complete in Christ Jesus.”

      There are a lot of “gifts” to unwrap, as it were, from the Original Gift Giver, like the awareness of our spiritual efficacy through the power of His Word and the sacrifice of His Son. I think there is more to this topic for me to unwrap, as it were, too.

      Merry Christmas :).


  4. krwordgazer says:

    Good point! The implications of male headship for women really are quite severe, relating to their very being in Christ. Either we are in Him able to do all things, or some of us in Him are only able to do what males allow. Which is it?


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