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 Introduction to The Kyrios Dialogue
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The Kyrios Dialogue is a Socratic Dialogue that was drawn from my experiences using the Socratic Method in conversations about the nature of authority.  The Kyrios Dialogue is, to the best of my knowledge, the only Socratic dialogue in existence that applies the Socratic Method to a modern issue with a dialectical style and effectiveness comparable to the early dialogues of Plato.   I used the Socratic Method in conversations with members of the Christian men's organization called Promise Keepers and Christian men from various church denominations. 

The Kyrios Dialogue confronts conservative Christian men, who believe they have total God-given authority over their wives with a process of Socratic questioning.  These men embrace what some denominations believe is a biblical doctrine to an extent that makes them over controlling in their relationships with their wives.

Karen Grasse, of the University of Pennsylvania, summed up the most negative results of Christian men believing they have God-given authority over their wives:

"I know many men who have taken 'Christian' teachings and used them as their God-given authority to 'keep a woman in her place and maintain their male-leadership role. They refuse to let their wives get a job, to go to college, have her own friends, dress the way she wants to, etc. They want to control a person in order to be the 'leader.' And guess what a lot of Christian men do when their wives won't do what they tell them to -- a little verbal hollering, a few slaps, a little hitting, to show them who's in charge because God said so in the Bible."

I found the use of the Socratic Method to be vastly superior to the traditional forms of discussion in its effectiveness at engaging conservative Christian men on this dialogue’s subject.  The dialogue's title, Kyrios, comes from a Greek word which was used as a title for Jesus.  It can be translated as “lord” or “master.”  The Christian men I spoke to believe they have a God-given role of leadership over women.  They seemed to be particularly attached to the idea that a man should be the sole leader and decision maker in the home, over his wife.  A common idea many of them shared is, “as God is over man, so man is over woman.”  In these conversations, I found that I had to ask the same question multiple times, because no one seemed able to give an answer.  I have yet to hear from anyone, who believes he has total God-given authority over his wife, that can answer the question that is pursued in the Kyrios Dialogue.   Perhaps one day I will meet someone who can explain the wisdom of male domination. 

The dialogue's question is actually very answerable for people who have a more egalitarian view of the role of men in family life.  Since those answers involve admitting that authority in the family is shared between husband and wife, the Christian male authority bunch tend to not want to embrace the obvious answers.  Conservative Christian men, in particular those who have a love for control, seem to consistently put their theological foot in their mouth when it comes to defining the authority they believe they have over their wives.  By firmly placing the issue in a non-theological framework, the Socratic Method eliminates the possibility of glib theologizing and draws these men into a more thoughtful conversation about the nature of authority.

The dialogue is an abridged composite of the real conversations.  A fictional narrative context was created to connect various questions, which were asked in these conversations.  The real conversations were messier and longer, but had the same basic result as the Kyrios dialogue.  The Kyrios Dialogue employs the Two-Phase Freestyle mode of the Socratic Method.  Read the article on the home page for more information about the Two-Phase Freestyle.  This dialogue was written about 6 years prior to my current Socratic Method research project, and was re-edited for publication on the web.

Max Maxwell

Click to read the Kyrios Dialogue