Subduing or Training?


I’m reading Womanly Dominion by Mark Chanski, per the suggestion of Carolyn Mahaney. I recently read through chapter 2, in which Chanski theologically unpacks woman’s creation mandate to subdue and rule the earth.

…And God blessed them. And God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth” (Genesis 1:28, emphasis mine).

Chanski goes on to explain, using an example of a mother he knows, that women are to see their children as “God-assigned spheres for subduing and ruling.” The problem I see with this line of thinking is that God didn’t give Adam and Eve the mandate to rule in this way over their children. The context is specifically over what God had created: animals, fish, birds, creatures. I understand that our children are created by God as well; however, unlike the animals, our children are created in God’s image. As such, they also carry the creation mandate to multiply, to rule, and to subdue.

Our responsibility as parents is to train them to fulfill the same mandate. And I think scripture bears it out that we are to train up our children, rather than dominate and rule over them.  We are called to love and nurture and show the way, to help our children understand the ways of God and to love Him. But to write that our children fall under the purview of our mandate to rule and subdue creation may be incorrect. 

I understand that parents hold a position of authority over their children, but it is not a position of domineering authority.  I’m having trouble reconciling Chanski and, say, Tripp’s books on parenting and discipline, which encourage parents to enter in to the struggle with their children, to lovingly point them to the Savior when they go astray. 

Then again, perhaps I’m getting ahead of Chanski.  After all, this is just chapter 2.  I see that he has two chapters called, “Womanly Dominion in Child Rearing.”  For now, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope that he fleshes out exactly what he means when he says that children are within our spheres of rule and dominion.  It may be that a mother cannot effectively train until her children have been subdued.  But that smacks of Debi Pearl, and I don’t like that.

What do you think?

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4 thoughts on “Subduing or Training?

  1. Leslie,I too am reading this book. I think the chapter could definitely use a little more fleshing out. Genesis 1:28 reads that we are to subdue the earth and have dominion/rule over every living thing. So, God did give Adam and Eve the mandate to rule over their children (and subsequently, we are to rule over ours). However, you are right in pointing out that we must be careful in how we fulfill this mandate. The modern notion of dominating would not be consistent with God's character. I think Tripp's teaching about lovingly training our children and nurturing them would be in line with dominating the world as God's representative. The dictionary definition of dominate is to rule or control. We do rule and control our children for a time, but our goal is to train them to also rule and control as God's representatives. I think the study note in the ESV Study Bible is also insightful. Hope this helps!Warmly,Elizabeth

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  2. The Debi Pearl comment made me chuckle….we are of the same mind with her.The pastors wives at our church are reading this book together. I quickly glanced through a copy at one of there houses the other day I'm kinda waiting for our church book store to get them but might just get one online.I would have the same reservations you do.

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  3. I'd love to comment on this in person rather then typing it. I have lots of thoughts. I haven't read the book so I won't go too far here. I'm wondering if Chanski has children. My 2nd born wouldn't be ruled or subdued by anyone who was out to rule and subdue him. He responded a whole lot better under Loved and nurtured.

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  4. I'm all for training and discipline with a wooden spoon or something, but the way Pearl writes about it (spanking infants with a switch as young as 7 months) is too extreme for me. But I think most women can filter between the good and bad advice in her books.I think I understand what you're saying ellen b. Each child is different and it's the responsibility of parents to tailor their upbringing.

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