UPDATE 9/19: “On Self Efficacy, Spiritual Efficacy, and Another Danger of ‘Male Headship’”

Phyllis Beveridge Nissila

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9, NIV)

UPDATE: Back in 2014 I wrote a commentary on the concept of “male headship.”  I am featuring it again,  below, with an update (additional commentaries) due to a resurgence of views.

I continue to track this neo-Gnostic, legalistic brand of teaching which is growing very fast due to the popularity of the TLC programs crafted around the lives of the Duggar family and similar families who follow and promote the teachings of one VIP, Bill Gothard, and others like him  who are modern proponents of the above. 

For this update, I have linked to a sampling of other commentaries and analyses of the movement. There are many others online and in print formats that may be of interest, particularly by “survivors” of such teachings that were part of their early spiritual and behavior training. Sadly, some have forsaken Christianity altogether due to their experiences, which is not uncommon among former cultists and victims of cults and cult-like organizations.

My original emphasis and continuing concern has to do with the negative effects of this kind of male headship on women, but there are many other ramifications.






https://midwestoutreach.org/a-matter-of-basic-principles-bill-gothard-and-the-christian-life/ (book review)


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

Original posted December 14, 2014


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 [versus by human effort alone], 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.

[Edited] for update.

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2 Responses to UPDATE 9/19: “On Self Efficacy, Spiritual Efficacy, and Another Danger of ‘Male Headship’”

  1. Well said, we have been running into this teaching the past couple of years and both of us are shocked at how many still believe this, women included. Mike and I have found several good videos that speak to this and we have read some excellent books that get to the heart of the Scriptures that are twisted and mangled to create this doctrine. Greatly appreciate you pointing out the gifts of the spirit. Thanks and blessings, great article and still very much needed for today.


    • pbn says:

      Thank you, Mike and Pat,

      I am so glad there are many now coming out against this genre of false doctrine. When I first began looking into it, several years ago, there wasn’t that much. I understand the families that are caught up in it now number in the thousands, in part because of the squeaky clean Duggar family image curated for TLC. I pray for them because many are likely sincere in their belief system, knowing none other. However, in the meantime, how much damage is done and how many girls and women are harmed by the teachings.

      If you want to send links to any of the resources you’ve found, that would be great.

      Cheers and blessings,


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