Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

***Working to be a safe place for all sides to share.***


Friday, December 28, 2007

Masculinity and Feminity: Definitions?

I'm starting to feel like this is the Molly Blog. Did everyone else run away? Has the experiment (getting comps and egals talking?) failed? Is it just experiencing the beginning of birth pangs (I hope so)? What?

In the meantime, a quote from a feminist thinker:

"Women's liberation is the liberation of the feminine in the man and the
masculine in the woman." (Corita Kent, LA Times, July 11, 1974).

And a question to go with it:

Where do we get our definitions for what is masculine and what is feminine? Is the author of this quote speaking sacrilage, or is she pointing out that perhaps our ideas of what masculinity and feminity are have been too narrow, too stifling, therefore harmful for both sexes...?

Are your current definitions of masculinity and femininity purely cultural (from your childhood experiences and/or from your culture at large), are they individually defined, or are definitions for masculinity and femininity something that we find in the Bible (clearly or veiled).

Please support Biblical claims with references.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Considering the Roman Household Codes

As a patriarchalist, I didn't know there were any Household Codes, and this includes three full years of studying Bible and Theology at a Bible College.

The first time I heard about the Codes was after I'd begun questioning some of the presuppostions of a patriarchal interpretation of Scripture. I was shocked and, admittedly, felt I'd been lied to. Why are so many unaware of what seems to be a rather important "cultural norm" during the time the Epistles were penned?

When it comes to interpreting the instructions to wives, slaves and children in Ephesians and Colossians, the Household Codes are an incredibly important piece of background information. The Codes don't necessarily prove or disprove any side's position, but I'd say they are a necessary parcel of cultural information for all who study these areas, in the same way that it's helpful to know what leprousy is in order to better understand why it was meaningful for Jesus to heal lepers (much less touch them).

Michael Kruse of Kruse Kronicle writes,

Writing instructions for the proper household management was a common
practice of Greek social philosophers. These “household codes” usually
instructed the father in the household to “rule” over his household wisely.
Instructions were not given to the wife, children, and slaves. The
husband/father/master was exhorted to bring his wife, children and slaves into
submission as his duty in preserving the social order. (1)

The Roman household (familia) structure was very similar to the Greek
household structure. The ruler of the Roman household was called the
paterfamilias. His wife, children and slaves were subject to him until his
death. It is important to understand that the household code in Ephesians is not
referring to three separate sets of relationships. (husband and wife, father and
children, master and slaves) It is referring to the relationship of one person,
the paterfamilias, to the rest of the household. (2)

[Molly adds: Please read the full post (very recommended) here, an insightful and informative article on the Household Codes and how understanding them helps us understand what Paul may have been communicating to his audience. Peter Kirk also comments on this subject and provides more articles Kruse has written on the Household Codes here.

Primal Subversion muses here on the impact the Household Code must have on the way we view Ephesians and Colossians, and I appreciate their questions. Why do we assume that Paul was being subversive about slavery, but yet making foundational arguments for the continuation of patriarchy? Isn't that an inconsistant hermeneutic?

Whatever the case, the Household Code needs to be addressed by both complementarian and egalitarians alike. It is an important piece of the puzzle, particularly if our goal is to understand the words as they would have been read by the original recipients of the letters, as that probably remains our best shot for obtaining an accurate interpretation.

The complementarian handbook, "Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood," responds to the Household Codes thusly (1995, p.204):

"As for the "household codes," there were lists of expected behavior for
husbands and wives, parents and children, and servants and masters in the
ancient world, but close comparison of ancient lists with those in the New
Testament shows very few exact parallels except that these various
groups are named. The form (if the New Testament authors were even
conscious of using such a form) was extensively "Christianized," so that few
similarities remain. And at any rate, what we have in Scripture now is the
morally binding authority of God's own words. If we say that no unique
authority or leadership for husbands in marriage was the ideal, but that Peter
gave in to cultural expectations and failed to teach that ideal, this would
seem to impugn Peter's courage and integrety, because it implies that Peter (and
Paul, too!) to command Christians to follow a sinful, sub-Christian pattern of
behavior in their homes---a most unlikely course of action for those accustomed
to running against the tide! Moreover, it implies that God would command
Christians to follow a sinful pattern of marriage just to attract unbelievers to
the gospel--something inconsistent with God's won pattern of telling His people
to use morally righteous means to achieve righteous ends. We may
conclude that both of these attempts to avoid the force of Peter's directions
today fail to be persuasive.

A few immediate questions popped into my mind as I read this. If we follow the complementarian hermeneutic above, it appears we must conclude that Peter and Paul were advocating slavery as God's design for living in a fallen world. Why? Because we're now required, if we submit to the complementarian explanation, to believe that if slavery is not God's design, then Peter and Paul were cowards for not openly condemning slavery. I mean, the above argument declares that it is only godly to openly buck the tide, whereas only cowards are quietly subversive, doesn't it?

So we must conclude that slavery is currently blessed by God. After all, since it was written down and canonized, it's now a "morally binding authority," right?

While I am sure that many complementarians will not agree with this sort of argument, it appears the complementarian handbook is using the "morally binding authority" argument as a way of shutting down the validity of considering the Household Codes as a helpful means toward interpreting the meaning and intent of Paul's words.

Isn't the complementarian argument above essentially saying that we must take Scripture literally as a command-for-all-time, no matter what the context is (so who cares about a thing called Household Codes? It has no bearing on interpretation).

If not, what else is meant by the statement, "And at any rate, what we have in Scripture is now the morally binding authority...?"

I appreciate the complementarian attempt to address the Household Codes, but I think the Codes deserve more thought and attention than they've been given. (Perhaps that level of attention has been given to them, and I'm just not aware of it yet. If so, I'm very interested to hear a complementarian response).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Husbands and Wives are as Gardener and Soil (and should LIKE it)

In the name of Holding Tight to Scripture, I have a request.

Equality for women? That is madness. Women are our property; we
are not theirs. They give us children...and belong to us as the
fruit-bearing tree belongs to the gardener."
In the Words of Napoleon, p. 104
It's easy to talk about the outdated view of Women As Property, thinking it an old concept, long gone along with Napoleon--- something we've outgrown through modernity's logic. The education of women has provided us with a myriad of practical examples, armies of thinking talented females exposing the age-old lie of women's natural inferiority.

But hear the words of a Christian leader and champion of patriarchy (who, so that I will not be accused of misquoting, also believes that men and women are equal image bearers, and that men should rule lovingly):
As Peter teaches, women need to understand they are being led by a lord. "As Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, whose daughters you are if you do good and are not afraid with any terror" (I Peter 3:6). Unfortunately, many women are led (if it can be called leading) by men who believe themselves to be nothing more than walking, talking, living, breathing impositions. How many Christian women today can be considered as daughters of Abraham? How many of them could imagine calling their husband lord with a straight face? Him? But a husband is one who cultivates with authority.

...Husbandry is careful management of resources---it is stewardship. And when someone undertakes to husband a woman, he must understand that it cannot be done unless he acts with authority. He must act as though he has the right to be where he is. He is lord of the garden, and he has been commanded by God to see to it that this garden bears much fruit. This cannot be accomplished by "hanging around" in the garden and being nice. The garden must be managed, and ruled, and kept, and tilled."

Douglas Wilson
Reforming Marriage (pg. 78-79, emphasis author)

Wilson would probably disagree that he views women as property (or then again, maybe he wouldn't). But if a person is teaching that a wife is made for her husband (as in, she is made for his use) and that a wife is to be managed and ruled in a way similar to a farmer plowing and sowing a field (deciding what it will grow and when), then how different are Wilson's words from those of Napoleon, other than that Wilson throws God into his reasons?

I appreciate that the complementarian handbook, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, disagrees with the patriarchal view of a husband "sanctifying" his wife as a farmer tills the ground, in that the complementarians do not teach that a husband has been "commanded by God to see that [his wife] bears much fruit." In fact, in reference to Ephesians 5:26, 27, the complementarian handbook says,
"Yet the uniqueness of the redemptive work of Christ means that these aspects cannot be imitated precisely by the husband." (Chapter 8, p. 172)
At the same time, however, the handbook also teaches things like this,
"The important thing for the wife to know is that she should submit to her husband "in everything," that is, that her submission is coextensive with all aspects of their relationship." (p.170, emphasis mine)
So if a husband felt that he was to cultivate fruit in his wife's life, to manage her affairs and to require her to ask permission before making decisions, etc, then (according to comp. teaching) she really has no choice but to obey him "as unto the Lord."

Some complementarians may scoff at this, saying, "Most Christian men would do no such thing," but it's a fair question, as history shows that humans in power tend toward corruption, not to mention the dismal record of abused wives. To clarify, let me share that I fully believe, had God made women physically stronger than men, the ratio of abused husbands would be much higher than it is. Point being, high ratios of abused women are a normal sight on this fallen planet. If someone is going to teach women that they must submit in all aspects of their relationship, somebody needs to be there when that submission is taken advantage of.

The handbook also says things like this,

"Surely God confers upon them equal worth as His image-bearers. But does a wife possess under God all the rights that her husband does in an unqualified sense? As the head, the husband bears the primary responsibility to lead their partnership in a God-glorifying direction. Under God, a wife may not compete for that primary responsibility. It is her husband's just because he is the husband, by the wise decree of God. The ideal of "equal rights" is an unqualified sense is not Biblical.

Second, the "natural outcome" of godly male headship is female fulfillment, not a denial of female rights."

(Chapter 3, p. 105, italic emphasis authors, bold emphasis mine)

I try to post quotes because I want to be very careful to NOT to put words in the mouths of my complementarian and patriarchal friends. And I sometimes wonder just how much the complementarian and the patriarchalist differ---if they do, it seems like not in the majors, but only in the minors. Both believe that men are to lead women. Both feel that God has both decreed it thus, and designed men and women in ways that complement said heirarchy.

What's worse, though, is that both complementarian and patriarchalist camps say that in these roles, men and women are to be happy.

Piper says, in his little book, "What's the Difference?" that
"Biblical submission for the wife is the divine calling to honor and affirm her
husband's leadership and help carry it through according to her gifts.
This is the way of joy" (p 48).
A woman who is submitting to her husband in all things (in an unreciprocal way) should feel completely fulfilled, according to the complementarian books and patriarchal books alike. If she's not, then something is wrong with her heart, not with the system. Which makes the unhappy women say, "What is wrong with me? Why am I so sinful for not loving this?" Women might learn to smile through the pain, so as not to be rebellious against what they believe to be God's will, but that does not deny the pain.

Why would anyone think that women would love being led "in all things" by a fallen sinful human being? Why would someone think that women want to be tilled like a garden, thought of like a plot of land owned by a farmer? Why would a group think that a woman would find fulfillment in being permenantly subordinated from birth to death, whether through patriarchy or (the slightly gentler) complementarianism?

Might it be for the same reasons that while 99.9999% of all slaves long for freedom, the master (through-out all time!) thinks his slaves happy and well-treated, thinks of himself as a kind and benevolent ruler, the kind anyone would be happy to serve under? "Who wouldn't want to revolve their life around me?"

As an aside, I have met men, when patriarchy crumbled, who were shocked to learn that their wives were unhappy the entire time, but were stuffing their feelings down in order to be obedient to what they thought was God's plan for marriage. (This was true for my own marriage as well, prior to our exodus from patriarchy ala Douglas Wilson style). What is it about us, as humans, that makes us tend to think rulership is good and righteous, as long as we're the ones ruling?

Joy is found in Christ, not in marriage roles or the lack thereof. Tell your women they must obey, if that is what your theology dictates. But don't add to the literalist interpretation of Scripture by telling her she must feel fulfilled in her subjection, and don't fool yourself into thinking that she is.

Monday, December 17, 2007

1 Peter 3:6, Amplified Version

It was thus that Sarah obeyed Abraham [following his guidance and acknowledging
his headship over her by] calling him Lord (master, leader, authority).
And you are now her true daughters if you do right and let nothing terrify you
[not giving way to hysterical fears or letting anxieties unnerve
you]. 1 Peter 3:6 Amp

Just how accurate is this "amplification" in your opinion (as a complementarian or an egalitarian)? What are areas you agree or disagree with, and why? How would you amplify it? Please use Scripture to help explain your answer.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Assumptions, Ezer, and the Pyramid Game

As a non-complementarian, I would like to share something complementarians teach that I do not see as being either Biblical or logical. Perhaps a complementarian can help explain the concept below better for me.

"On the other side of the paradox, the woman is the man's helper. The
man was not created to help the woman, but the reverse. Doesn't this
striking fact suggest that manhood and womanhood are distinct and
non-reversible? Doesn't this make sense if we allow that, while the man
and the woman are to love each other as equals, they are not to love each other in
the same way? The man is to love his wife by accepting the primary
responsibility for making their partnership a platform displaying God's glory,
and the woman is to love her husband by supporting him in that godly

So was Eve Adam's equal? Yes and no. She was his spiritual
equal and, unlike the animals, "suitable for him." But she was not his equal in
that she was his "helper." God did not create man and woman in an
undifferentiated way, and their mere maleness and femaleness identify their
respective roles. A man, just by virtue of his manhood, is called to lead
for God. A woman, just by virtue of her womanhood, is called to help for

(Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, 1991, Chapter 3, p

I will freely share that I believe the argument above is founded on deep underlying assumptions.

First, it assumes the concept that "help" implies the absence of leadership on the part of the helper. Help is seen as a subordinate helping a superior.

Secondly, it assumes that the "help" needed was that of assisting Adam as he did his work.

But help (ezer) does not con notate subordination or the absence of leadership. The English word, "helper," certainly does infer a support role, but the Hebrew word, ezer, emphatically does not (unless we say that God takes up a subordinate role when He flies on the wings of the wind to ezer/help mankind). In fact, Hebrew men seemed to think the word indicated warrior-like qualities, certainly not subordination, as they seemed to enjoy naming their sons with the word!

Also, to shoot another assumption in the foot, the above quote assumes the kind of help Adam needed---that woman was made to help Adam with Adam's unique task (as a subordinate helps by assisting a superior officer). But where in the text do we learn that Adam's problem is that he needs a secretarial staff?

We know from Genesis 2 that God said the problem was that, "It is not good for man to be alone."

The help of the woman, then, it seems would solve the problem of aloneness. That much we can infer from Scripture without being in danger of assuming something that is not in the text. CBMW's assumption of the problem, unfortunately, is not supported in the text but something that must be read into it.

Also, assuming that the work was Adam's and that the woman was there to assist him in his calling is not only an assumption, but it also ignores Genesis 1:28, where the calling of God was given to both male and female, not to one gender alone.

The real question is then what is it that makes us assume these things? Why do we automatically assume that "help" is subordinate? What is it in us that is always seeking rank and position, jostling for place, trying to figure out who's on top ('cuz Lord knows, someones gotta be or how can we have functioning relationships...right)? We humans are always looking to scale the pyramid and/or maintain everyone elses place on it so that they won't threaten us by rising.

Jesus showed us what to do with a higher rank: He came and ezer-ed us, let the creation He'd formed from dirt nail Him onto one of His own trees. Jesus showed us how to view a higher status position: He poured out that others might live.

But Ortlund, the author of the chapter quoted above, says,

"It is the word "helper" that suggests a woman's supportive role...
Subordination is entailed in the very nature of a helping role." (p.104).

By this logic, we can "prove" that Jesus is subordinate to humanity. After all, He took on the role of a subordinate by helping us, didn't He?

I have a request: when speaking in terms of "facts," let's try to stick with the Bible. Sure, we will grapple through whether or not man was made to be superior in rank to woman, and there's good Scriptural argument on both sides, proving that in this argument, how we are interpreting said Bible is key. I realize we all have to interpret at some point, interpretations that we may never all agree on, but it's important that we maintain a posture of humility, taking great care that we present our underlying assumptions as assumptions, not Biblical facts.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Apologies for comment delays

Apologies for the delay in moderating some comments on this list. This is because Wayne is away from home, and was very busy just before he left. With Wayne's permission, I have just accepted the comments submitted in the last couple of days. I will look again tomorrow. (I don't receive e-mail notification of comments for moderation, but as a blog contributor I can view and approve them.) Wayne should be able to get back to this on Monday.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Complementarianism: Sola Scriptura or Sola Traditio?

David Kotter has completed his three part series "Sola Scriptura is Essential to Complementarians" in response to Molly, mentioned here: part 1; part 2; part 3.

Molly has written a reply to the first two parts.

And I have just posted a reply to all three parts, with the title Complementarianism: Sola Scriptura or Sola Traditio?

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Gender Blog and Molly

One of our co-bloggers, Molly, is featured in today's post on the Gender Blog. Molly has told me by email that the blogger, David Kotter, treated her nicely, including sending her his post ahead of time. Sounds like he is not only a Christian but also a gentleman.

Suzanne (sometimes Sue, depending on which computer she is using) has responded to the Gender Blog post on her own blog.

It's too bad that the Gender Blog doesn't have comments enabled. If it did and David Kotter treated everyone as graciously as he treated Molly, we might not have had a need to start this blog. It's so good when "brethren [I suspect it means sisters also!] dwell together in unity" (Psalm 133:1).

I am thankful for how much you all here try to discuss together "in unity" even though we have different interpretations of Bible passages relating to gender issues.

Wouldn't it be great if complementarian and egalitarian leaders could gather at a blog like this one, where we have both complementarian and egalitarian bloggers, and discuss their different interpretations of Scripture passages and we could all interact with them. Maybe someday something like that will be possible somewhere. I think God would be pleased.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Authority - What Is Its Place in the Church and Home?

I think most of us agree that power can corrupt. Shakespeare said it well in Measure for Measure (1604), writing,

But man, proud man,
Drest in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he's most assured,
His glassy essence, like an angry ape,
Plays such fantastic tricks before high heaven
As make the angels weep.

In the name of authority, those with power can be crushingly oppressive, something true of both genders (as abuse of power is not born of gender but from a selfish self-focused heart). Yet we must also admit that there have been gentle life-giving shepherds who have cultivated life, not squelched it or used it for their own aims. These great leaders can be found both in spiritual realms and earthly. Names like St. Paul, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and others quickly come to mind, people who led both with authority and with a deep and obvious love.

Authority is something that we post-moderns tend to distrust, and not without good reason. Blind obedience and unquestioning acceptance, favored concepts in Modernity's "follow-the-formula-and-it-will-all-work-out-fine" mantra is what made a little man named Hitler become Fuhrer of a nation that went on to turn a blind eye to policies of gold stars and ghetto packing.

It is good to question authority, if only for the purpose of ascertaining whether or not a claim to authority is an actual one or merely a power play to gain followers. Some authority ought not to be obeyed. Jesus questioned the authority of the religious leaders, for example. Blind obedience to them equalled, "the blind leading the blind." I recently wrote a post about an experience common to many exiting abusive churches and ministries, in fact,that of the anger an abusive authority displays when someone dares to question them. Their raging response does not mean that questioning their authority is wrong---if anything, it likely proves the validity of the original questions!

However, it's also good not to question authority, if in fact the authority figure is truly placed in charge (and/or if we do not want to pay the price for rebellion). If I want to question the value of a speed limit, for example, I have every right to do so, but I need to be willing to accept the consequences of a speeding ticket handed down from an authority placed over me to see that I obey. Jesus paid taxes to Cesar, for example. If I want to question something considered to be an authority, I need to be prepared to pay the price.

Also, when an authority is established as something right and good, like God, it is not wise to ask the sort of questions that stem from rebellion and mocking. Satan questioned God's right to the Throne, questions that were birthed out of pride (a created being thinking itself higher than its Creator). Jesus did not question the authority of the Father when he walked on earth as a Man, and encouraged us to do likewise. To rest in Christ is to believe in His authority over sin and death, among other things, not to question it.

In summation, authority exists in the world, for better and for worse. And authority, in and of itself, is not a bad thing----Satan has a measure of authority, but that doesn't make authority bad, because Jesus has authority, too. What matters is who is using the authority, what they are doing with it and for what purpose.

Can we use the Scriptures to find some sort of base for comprehending authority's purpose in a New Covenant relationship?

What is the place of authority in Christendom? What is that authority for, based on what we can see in the Scriptures? If a person is a leader in the Church, why? How does one "get" authority in the Body? What and/or who are they to lead? Why and how? What does a Spirit-filled leader look like? Does it always feel good to follow one?

Note: Let's steer clear of gender in the comments of this post and concentrate mainly on authority in the relationships of the Church. Many think the family is a microcosm of the Church. Maybe it is, maybe it isn't, but the concept of the place of authority in the Church (based on Scripture) may help us discuss authority in a less loaded context.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Christmas presents for the TNIV translation team

Someone mentioned the TNIV Bible version in a recent comment on this blog. I appreciated the honesty in that comment. Whether we like it or not, the TNIV Bible has become part of the gender debate. I do not wish for debate about the TNIV to appear on this blog. In fact, since this blog is now being moderated, I would likely not approve comments which continue the TNIV debate, because they are not directly related to the focus of this blog. The comment already posted did not continue the TNIV debate. Comments about the TNIV are appropriate to post on the TNIV Truth blog, where I also hang out.

But here's something which I do encourage people to do, especially those who enjoy good English and can spot when English writing could be better. If you have been reading the TNIV, and have spotted any wordings which seem to you could be improved, there is a webpage (created by me) where you can post that wording and a suggested revision.

You do not have to a Bible scholar to spot wordings which need revision. You just need to be an English speaker who can sense when something is not written quite right for normal English.

Let me give you a couple of examples:

Proverbs 31:30 of the TNIV has "a lion ... who retreats". Can you sense a problem with this? I did and suggested that the proper way to word this would be "a lion ... which retreats."

1 Samuel 19:4 of the TNIV says, "Let not the king do wrong to his servant David." The words "let not" are in reverse order from what most English speakers have said for a long time. It would be better to say, "Do not let the king ..."

We shouldn't enter the TNIV debate on this blog, but we can do something constructive and help the TNIV translators improve the TNIV.

Further directions will be found on the TNIV revisions suggestion page. If you don't have a TNIV, there are directions there for downloading a free copy of the TNIV.

Oh, if you decide you would like to check an entire book of the TNIV (there are several Old Testament books which have not been checked by non-TNIV translators yet), please note which book you will check in the survey with the green background on the TNIV Truth blog. If you do not have time to submit revision suggestions by the January 1 deadline, you can still submit them. It is an annual deadline. Your suggestions would just need to wait until the annual meeting of the TNIV team to be considered if they are submitted after January 1, 2008.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This post is apolling.

Several have commented that it would be helpful for us to zero in more closely on specifics of differences among us. To help us do that, I'll create a poll (with others to follow) to see where we differ.

To keep things as clearly focused as possible, I will deal with just one Bible passage (Eph. 5:21-33) and only one question about that passage. Please answer the poll question as best as you can. If I have not thought of an option that fits your position, feel free to choose the "Other" option. The poll is totally anonymous. There is no way for me or anyone else to know who voted which way.

Also, I want to assure each of you that this poll is not a contest. I do not know the theological or ideological demographics of this blog's visitors. If we have more visitors from one side of the gender debates, then that side will get more votes on the blog. Please do not interpret that as an indication of anything other than that more people voted that particular way at this particular time in this particular poll. The results of this poll will not at all be scientific. The poll is only intended to help us see the diversity of understandings. And I hope that these results can lead us to discuss, graciously, and without condemnation of other viewpoints, our different understandings of the biblical passage.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Biblical submission illustrated

I owe you all a followup to my preceding post on biblical submission. This is it. It turns out that I probably have less to say in this followup than I would like, but I have been known to use many words and not say a lot so we'll see what happens as I write.

What does biblical submission look like? As I have tried to answer that question for myself, I have concluded that the Bible actually says very little about what the submission it asks of us looks like. But we do have some outstanding examples.

The greatest example of biblical submission that comes to my mind is that of Jesus, praying in the Garden of Gethsemane, only a short time before he would be crucified:
39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. (Luke 22:39-44 TNIV)
Jesus knew how much he would suffer and would have liked not to have to suffer like that. But he submitted himself to his heavenly father: "not my will, but yours be done."

It seems to me that another example of submission is found in Mary's response to the angel who told her that she would bear a child, Jesus, the Son of God:
26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”

38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:26-38 TNIV)
Mary's final response is one of submission to God's plans for her.

Notice that in each of these two examples, the one who submitted discussed the matter. Jesus was open and honest when he prayed, "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me." Mary was open and honest when she asked the angel, "How will this be ... since I am a virgin?"

I can't prove that such discussion on the part of one who submits is an integral part of biblical submission, but it seems to me that it does indicate that God is not displeased when we honestly question something. Neither Jesus nor Mary were doormats when they submitted. They chose to submit. That aligns with the fact that biblical instructions to submit are typically in the middle voice of Greek: we are to submit (or subject) ourselves to the desires of another. It is not blind obedience. It is a voluntary choice.

Let's review who the Bible specifically states are to submit to whom:
  1. Believers are to submit to Christ and God (Eph. 5:22, 24; Heb. 12:9; James 4:7).
  2. Believers are to submit to each other (Eph. 5:21).
  3. Wives are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Titus 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1)
  4. Slaves are to submit to their masters (1 Pet. 2:18) as well as obey them (Eph. 6:5).
  5. Young men in the church are to submit to older men in the church (I Peter 5:5).
  6. We are to submit to governmental institutions (1 Peter 2:13).
The Bible includes some additional notes on submission. When God's commands conflict with human ones, we are to follow God's commands (Acts 4:19; 5:29). God intends for submission by a Christian wife to her Christian husband to be within the context of his sacrificial love for her (Eph. 5: 25).

We are not told specifically what it means for believers to submit to each other, but there are many instructions which might come under that umbrella, including:
  1. Humbly consider others better than yourselves (Phil. 2:3).
  2. Lovingly serve one another (Gal. 5:14).
  3. Be humble toward each other (1 Pet. 5:5).
  4. Be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32; 1 Thess. 5:15).
  5. Honor one another (Rom. 12:10).
  6. Love one another (John 13:34; Rom. 12:10).
  7. Be at peace with one another (Mark 9:50).
  8. Put up with each other (Col. 3:13).
  9. Live in harmony with one another (Rom. 15:5).
  10. Forgive one another Eph. 4:32).
  11. Bear one another's burdens (Gal. 6:2).
I find no biblical evidence to believe anything other than that these mutuality instructions are to be followed by both males and females within the Body of Christ. And I find no biblical evidence that any of them are no longer to be followed when a male believer marries a female believer.

What are some other biblical examples that you can think of that illustrate submission?

What else would you like to add to this post?

blog focus

Taylor commented:

I have been following this blog for some time, but have not really discovered what its ultimate purpose is...

A bit of history may help. One of my biggest passions in life is Bible translation, both for Bibleless peoples (this is my official job) and for those who speak languages which already have Bibles, but for which those Bibles can be improved. For the second category, I blog at the Better Bibles Blog (BBB).

As often happens in forums, BBB, which attempts to focus on a "narrow" topic, in that case, how to improve English Bible versions, often has gotten posts and comments which are not focused on that narrow topic. This occurred so often for so long that I would not only be frustrated about it, but I would receive email messages from others frustrated about it. So I decided to create this Complementarian blog to try to handle one of the topics which came up most often on the BBB, namely issues about women's roles in the home and church. I simply created this new blog. I believed, and still do, that it should be a "safe" place, that is, a place where no one should be judged for believing differently from others, especially if what they believe is based on their understanding of what the Bible teaches.

That is how this blog came to be. Now, as with any new thing, there are often bumps in the road. We have experienced those. I already knew it was difficult for comps and egals to talk to each other and about each other. Perhaps I was naive in my hope that if I interviewed each blogger on how they would deal with disagreement, and if I would post guidelines about sharing what you believe without putting the beliefs of others down, this blog could function without imploding. I based my hope on my own understanding of what it means for Christians to interact with each other including when they disagree.

It has been difficult for peaceful discuss to continue on this blog in spite of pleading on my part in posts and posting clearer guidelines. Both comps and egals have felt hurt here and some have left.

Perhaps narrowing the focus of this blog even more would help, but I doubt it. Frankly, the issue of the role of women in the home and church is an issue that concerns conservative Christians to the very core of their being. I hope that someday we can discuss this topic on this blog: Why is it that we find it so difficult to talk about gender issues?

Perhaps a more narrowly defined statement of purpose would help contributing bloggers and commenters. Is the purpose to expose areas of similarity, areas of difference, or something else?

Yes, these were some of the topics we started with when the blog began a couple of months ago. Many of us recognized that it would be helpful to find out what beliefs about the gender issues we hold in common and on what issues we differ.

Is it a forum for one side to convince the other?

My own opinion is that this blog should not exist for this purpose, however it is natural for humans to try to promote their views in a way that they hope that others will agree with them. After all, we don't usually promote views that we disagree with. No one that I can recall has put words on this blog which are simply there for the sake of discussion. Everyone seems to have a stake in what they say, and there is nothing wrong with that. I would guess that the majority of people blogging and commenting here do so because they want to believe and act in reference to gender issues as God wants them to. Many of these primarily look to the Bible to discover how God wants them to believe and act. Others, however, find spiritual guidance not only in the biblical canon, but also from the authoritative teachings of their church, or from insights from the Holy Spirit revealed within a faith community. So, some topics we could cover could touch how one's views on gender issues might differ depending on which sources of spiritual authority one considers it necessary or important to follow.

Is it meant to be a bridge to bring the sides together, or to promote healing?

That has been one of my personal desires. I have hoped and prayed that this blog might help each side understand the other better and even bring some healing. I don't know if this has happened yet. I do know that there has been anger and hurt. Perhaps it is necessary for us to work through anger and hurt before we can experience healing. That is often true in the case of personal trauma.

What do you hope to accomplish through this site?

One of my biggest hopes is that we can learn to listen to each other. There are so many sites and discussion forums on the Internet which take either the comp or egal position and condemn the other side. I was hoping not for compromise of beliefs at this blog, but that those who visit here might be willing to listen to each other, to try to understand what the other is saying, maybe even respect the other's position even if we don't agree with it. Maybe my hopes are not worthwhile. Maybe they are not biblical. Maybe we should go through life choosing only one option when people of faith are divided, and believing that that option is the only possible way to understand the Bible correctly. I do believe in absolute truth, but I believe that humans often do not grasp it because we are human. Yet, God often helps us get closer to his truth, if we are humble and willing to work in community (the Body of Christ) together, even though it is difficult and even though we start with widely differing viewpoints.

Perhaps just picking one central focus would help.

It might, but I, for one, do not know what that one central focus would be. I would very much welcome suggestions from you and others what it should be. This is not my blog. It was created to try to remedy a situation at another blog. This blog is intended to serve people who love God and his son and their written word.

For what it's worth, I would be most interested in reading (and/or contributing to) a discussion on exegetical and hermeneutic principles regarding the topic of gender differences/roles in the Bible. Because I want to embrace God's heart on this matter, other people's conclusions are not as important to me as how they came to those conclusions.

I, too, happen to be very much interested in this topic and have been for more than three decades. I have many books on hermeneutics, and some on the hermeneutics of gender issues.

Obviously, there are biblical interpretational issues at play in the comp/egal divide. But, for the most part, most of the people who have come to this blog share the same basic hermeneutic, a fairly traditional conservative hermeneutic which might be labeled the historical-grammatical hermeneutic. I know that the best known authors and scholars promoting both the comp and egal positions follow this hermeneutic. But other hermeneutics are possible, including feminist hermeneutics and others. I also know that if we were to focus on the hermeneutics of the comp/egal debate, we would probably broaden out to focus mostly on hermeneutical issues themselves and lose a focus on the comp/egal debate. And if we focused on hermeneutics, our discussions could travel a long ways here and there.

We humans are so very human when it comes to discussion. And that is perfectly normal. In the words, often repeated, of my dear mother, "People are the funniest people in the world."

Well, I hope there is something helpful here. If not, please follow up.

This has gotten long enough that I think I'll turn it into a blog post.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Evangelical Theological Society: Between the Gender-Debate Booths

I've been relatively quiet lately. Since the Complegalitarian blog first started, I think I've posted just twice. That's not because I feel "unsafe" or "unwelcome" here; it's just that I've been frantically busy at work. Every year at this time, the company I work for releases new Bible study products at the annual conferences of the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) and the Society of Biblical Literature (SBL). At these conferences, Bible scholars and students gather to attend sessions, network, and shop for books and software in the exhibit area. That's where I come in. I'm there every year working my company's booth and demoing the Bible study software we develop.

This year at ETS, our booth was situated across the aisle from Christians for Biblical Equality (a group which promotes an egalitarian understanding of gender roles), and catty-corner to the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (a group which promotes a complementarian understanding). Here are a few of the observations I made over the course of the conference.

First, neither booth seemed to draw much of a crowd, which led me to question whether this debate is really as much of a hot-topic as those embroiled in the debate seem to imagine. Complementarian authors sometimes write as if egalitarianism is sweeping over the evangelical church like a flood, while egalitarians tend to paint complementarianism as an immovable juggernaut which is far too deeply entrenched. The anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that the complegalitarian debate is fairly marginal, and of little interest to most people.

Second, I noticed that the CBE booth was "manned" only by women. Likewise, for much of the conference, the CBMW booth was manned only by men. I wondered how much these staffing decisions actually served to reinforce the stereotype that egalitarians are mostly "gals" and that complementarians are primarily men. Later, I was glad to see that one young woman was working the CBMW booth. If I were them, I would have tried to staff the booth primarily with women. Likewise, I think CBE would be wise to have their booth staffed by a man every now and then.

Every year I go to these conferences, I fight the temptation to buy books, knowing that those books will likely just remain unread, gathering dust on my shelves and serving as a tell-tale-heart-like source of guilt. This year, I went deliberately intending to buy some egalitarian books so I could better familiarize myself with egalitarian interpretations. I purchased Discovering Biblical Equality and Women, Authority, and the Bible. These books are now, you guessed it, sitting on my shelf and gathering dust, but I hope to be able to crack them soon and begin interacting with them here.

The complegalitarian debate can be a real quagmire, and mud certainly can and does get slung. I can therefore sympathize with those ETS attendees who prefer to pass by the CBE and CBMW booths and skirt the debate altogether. As a man whose marriage is relatively free of power struggles and whose wife would rather sing than preach in church, I could easily choose to do so myself. I believe, however, that these questions of what the Bible has to say about gender do need to be explored, and that both sides are guilty of misunderstandings which need to be cleared up. I'll therefore do my best to contribute to the discussion wherever I can.

Monday, November 26, 2007

free books, from CBMW

CBMW's Gender Blog announces a list of books available as free e-book downloads from the CBMW website. Several of them have been listed on this Complegalitarian blog's Bookshelf for several weeks.

Apology; let's try again

I have continued to struggle over how both sides in the gender debates have felt negatively impacted by posts or comments on this blog. As many of you know, I have pleaded with us all to try to speak to each other in ways that do not hurt people. I believe that everyone has tried hard to do so. Yet we are losing people here who once posted and no longer feel welcome.

This weekend I considered closing down this blog. Yet I still believe in my heart that there is a need for a place where both sides in the gender debates can express their ideas safely. As far as I know, this is a unique thing on the Internet. There are egalitarian blogs where complementarians are put down and do not feel safe. There are complementarian blogs where egalitarians do not feel safe. There are gender blogs where comments are not permitted.

We're trying to do something different here. I personally believe that it is something our Lord Jesus wants. He is not asking us to give up our deeply held beliefs. But he is asking us to be "like-minded" (Phil. 2). We can disagree and still be like-minded. We can present our interpretations of gender-related Bible passages and still allow room for discussion from other points of view.

I apologize for not being able to find a better way to keep people from giving up on this blog and leaving. I especially feel bad that complementarian bloggers and commenters have felt put down and are not participating as equally as I had hoped.

I have agonized over what to do about all this and I have prayed about it.

I believe that our original dream for this blog can be realized, but it is going to take more work on the part of all of us. This morning the Lord reminded me that we still have the option to use moderated comments. So that is what we now have. All comments are now moderated. I hope to approve (or disapprove) comments as quickly as possible. When I am home I can do so because my fulltime job keeps me at my computer all day long, where my email is regularly checked by my email program throughout the day.

Please note that I have added to the masthead at the top of the blog.

I also an re-inviting complementarian bloggers and commenters to try again. I will do my best to make this blog safe for you, as well as egalitarians. I am an "F" (Feeler) on the Myers-Briggs test, so I really do feel the pain of each of you.

My fulltime job does not leave much time for blogging, so I expect only to approve or disapprove comments. If I disapprove comments I do not expect to have time to explain why. All I can do is continue to point each of us to our comment guidelines.

Let's re-group. Let's learn from each other. Let's do it safely. Let's do it wisely. Let's do it lovingly. Let's not put anyone or any idea down. Let's try to demonstrate that it is possible to discuss one of the most contentious issues in the church today without driving off either side.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

godly husbands and the matter of authority

The most recent post on Cheryl Schatz' blog is about godly husbands and the matter of authority. I recommend Cheryl's post for each of us to read.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

equality for us guys

OK, I'm irritated! I just read an email in which someone referred to this as the Complegal blog. Now I realize that Complegalitarian is a big word. Blogger John Hobbins has even called it an unpronounceable name. I know that those who actively participate in gender debates often abbreviate, referring to people on the one side as comps and on the other side as egals.

But we need to think twice about the impact of some of our abbreviations. Yes, men have domineered for far too long. But aren't egals and complegals over-reacting by abbreviating as they do?! Shouldn't they at least give some kind of verbal equality to males? Why not use the parallel to "he/she" and "him/her" and abbreviate to complegals/compleguys? Or at least footnote "complegal" with some indication that that abbreviation is not intended to be sexist?

And while we're on the topic of sexism and language, have any of you women ever been put off because so many churches call their songbooks "hymnals". Wouldn't it be nice to have at least an equal number of "hernals"? And that car rental company, should they be sued for discrimination for calling itself "Hertz"? Why don't they have a division called "Histz? And universities, which have some fairly strict gender non-discrimination codes these days, continue to have "history" majors. Don't women deserve to have their stories told also in "herstory" departments?

Sorry, folks, this is the best I can do today. It's quite sorry, isn't it?! And, yes, I know, I remember that I owe you all another post on Biblical Submission. I will get it written and posted, one of these days. In the meantime I'm still a little groggy under the influence of turkey tryptophan. I wonder if tryptophan influences females and males equally?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Christian Submission----What Is It?

Author and homeschool leader, Stacy McDonald, recently posted her views on submission---views that are fairly accepted in conservative circles and found in many popular books written from a complementarian/patriarchal perspective. While we wait for The Great Leman to post his thoughts on Biblical submission (hint, hint, Wayne!), I thought it might be helpful for us to begin discussing what submission is and isn't.

She gives her definition of submission here:

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary gives us this definition of submission: "Resignation; a yielding of one's will to the will or appointment of a superior without murmuring. Entire and cheerful submission to the will of God is a Christian duty of prime excellence."

And here are some examples of what she both teaches and practices:

Many people picture an unsubmissive wife as one who angrily stomps her foot and says, “No, I won’t do it your way!” May I present a different picture; one I am much more familiar with myself because I have sadly fit the image too many times? Imagine the wife who says with her lips that she will do as her husband asks, but then pouts, is disapprovingly quiet, whines, or even resorts to tears of frustration. All of these tactics are called, quite simply, “manipulation.”

Many times, I deceived myself into thinking I was submissive. After all, I never said I wouldn’t agree to his decision. I never disobeyed or went against his wishes. However, my secret (or not so secret) unsubmissive attitude turned me into a contentious, rebellious, woman.It can happen to you too. Beware of a manipulative and controlling nature. The Lord will work mightily through your obedience to Him.

You may ask, “What if my husband makes a foolish mistake?” Be in prayer for your husband’s decisions, but submit joyfully, trusting God for the outcome. Remember that God is right there in the midst of the situation, working things out for your ultimate good and His glory. It may not be the outcome you would have chosen, but again, remember that His ways are above our ways (Isaiah 58:8-9).

“Let the wives be to their own husbands in everything….” (Ephesians 5:24) Not just those things in which we agree.

Read entire post here.

These are some discussion questions below off the top of my head, but please feel free to add more in the comments box if you think of any. This subject fascinates me, having once had such a different view of submission than I do now (my former view agreeing wholly with Stacy's above thoughts, actually). I currently reject much of the patriarchal paradigm I formerly swam in (and am in radical disagreement with Stacy's thoughts in her post that only those in rebellion would deny her interpretation of Scripture), yet I equally find myself wondering if I may be "throwing the baby out with bathwater," per se.

As Christians, what is our definition of submission?

Do the words of Christ tell us anything about submission?

What does it mean when we are told to submit one to another (does that mean whoever yells the loudest gets their way)?

Is there such a thing as a wifely submission that is not to be reciprocated by a husband? How does wifely submission, for example, differ from a husband who loves by serving (Eph.5)?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Jesus was Pro-Male Rule (Since He Made Man That Way)?

Suzanne McCarthy, in the comments section of the previous post, said,

"As you know, I believe that the teaching that women was created in paradise to be a submissive and man the leader is wrong. To teach that the ideal human dyad is composed of a submissive and a dominant is diametrically pposed to every single recorded teaching of Christ."

Here are Grudem and Piper's thoughts in a complementarian response:

"...Where does Jesus say or do anything that criticizes the order of creation in which men bear a primary responsibility to lead, protect, and sustain? Nothing He did calls this good order into question." --John Piper and Wayne Grudem, quoted from Chapter Two (Question 18) of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

1. Does the creation account clearly teach what Grudem and Piper claim it does, or would it be more accurate for the complementarian position to say it may imply it?

2. Do the teachings of Christ support or refute the idea that in the original community of humans (male and female) and therefore in the ideal, God designed one to be ruler and the other to be ruled? [Insert preferred terminology: dominant/submissive, leader/submissive helper, etc].

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Grudem on the State of the Gender Debate and the Way Forward

Wayne Grudem presented a paper on the gender debate and the way forward at the recent annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in San Diego. During his talk he said:
I am surprised that this controversy has gone on so long. In the late 80's and early 90's I expected that this would probably be over in 10 years by the force of argument, by the use of the facts, by careful exegesis, by the power of the clear Word of God, by the truth. I expected the entire church would be persuaded and that the battle for the purity of the church would be won. I still believe that will happen because Jesus Christ is building his church and purifying it so that he might present it to himself without spot or wrinkle. But, it is taking much longer than I expected.
The logical fallacy in Dr. Grudem's statement, of course, is the assumption that his interpretation of the scriptures concerning the role of women in the home and church is the only possible biblical interpretation. He equates following his interpretation of the scriptures on gender issues with having a high view of scripture and its infallible truth.

A strong case could be made for the claim that the reason the gender debate is taking so long is that it truly is a matter of how Bible-believing Christians understand the scriptures about gender differently. It is not a matter of whether or not they believe the Bible and seek to have it transform our lives.

It is entirely possible that just as there were Bible-believing Christians on both sides of the issue of whether or not slavery was biblically justified, and each side felt the other side was biblical wrong, we have the same situation with the gender debate. It took many years for the Christian church to sort through the issues of whether it was part of God's design for people to own slaves. Christians have differed on modes of baptism, whether or not charismatic sign gifts are for today, and many other issues without questioning each other's commitment to scripture.

There are Bible-believing complementarians and Bible-believing egalitarians. And there are complementarians who do not believe the Bible just as there are egalitarians who do not. Dr. Grudem is mixing commitment to the Bible as our highest rule of faith and practice with commitment to a specific interpretation of the Bible with regard to gender issues.

HT: Gender Blog

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Living Bible - Wife to Husband as Believer to God

The Living Bible paraphrases Ephesians 5:33 to read,

"So again I say, a man must love his wife as a part of himself; and the wife must see to it that she deeply respects her husband--obeying, praising, and honoring him."
Two questions:

1. We are often told that "patriarchal" theology (father/male rule) encompasses only a small minute portion out of all complementarian Christians. Does this particular verse, found in a widely-accepted mainstream Bible (during the time I was growing up, anyway) support or refute that view?

2. The action Kenneth Taylor describes as appropriate for wives---obeying, praising, and honoring--seems to more accurately describe a Believer's actions/thoughts toward God. If so, is a marriage relationship supposed to reflect the Believer's relationship to God in the wide range of these ways, a wife taking the part of the Believer and the husband taking the part of God---therefore obviously including obedience, praising, and honor?

If so, please explain. If only to a certain degree, please explain to what degree and why. If not, please explain.

When possible, please use Scripture to help explain how you have arrived at your personal view.

Monday, November 12, 2007

A Wrong Turn

I know, I've been hogging the blogging lately, but I felt compelled to share what I read today in the outstanding book, God's Word to Women, specifically Lesson 96.

This lesson begins with scriptural backing for the idea that one factor that may have been delaying the Lord's return is the muzzling of women. Paragraphs 791 and 794 read:
But woman will emerge-- in fact, is now emerging-- from obscurity. It is amazing that certain men most insistent on the doctrine that Christ is coming soon, are blindly zealous in delaying that coming as much as possible, by hindering the emancipation of woman, and her ministry in the Gospel. They refuse to see that the express order of development in Christ’s kingdom on earth was given by Christ Himself in the two parables of the Kingdom; and by the Apostle Paul in the symbol, “Adam was first formed, then Eve” (1 Timothy 2:13).

On the days of Pentecost Peter said: “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel . . . I will pour out of My Spirit upon all flesh: and your . . . daughters shall prophesy . . . and on My handmaidens I will pour out in those days of My Spirit,” Acts 2:17-20. That prophecy has, as yet, been only partially fulfilled. It is yet to be filled out to the full. The sun has not yet been turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, nor has the great and notable day of the Lord yet come. Only a handful of women, as compared with “all flesh,” has, as yet, prophesied. The prophecy must be filled out to the full before “that great and notable day,” and those who stupidly hinder that prophesying on the part of women are placing themselves, as it were, across the path of the fulfillment of God’s Word. Instead of “hasting the coming of the day of God” (2 Peter 3:12, margin), they are hindering the preparation for that coming.

There is much more and I strongly recommend reading the whole book to get context and more scripture references. But who knows how long the Lord's return has been delayed by the silencing of women? This is perhaps the most tragic consequence of so-called complementarianism. Any time half the Body of Christ is "entitled" over the other half, the whole Body suffers (1 Corinthians 12:26).
795. When Christ laid His hands upon the bowed back of the woman, that Sabbath (see Lesson 89), and ordained her to glorify God in the synagogue, it was not precisely to heal her of her bent back. Before that, He had told her, “Woman, thou art loosed from thine infirmity.” but she could not grasp the full import of His words. She was bound in spirit, as well as in body. She had had “a spirit of infirmity eighteen years,” we are told. She could not dispel that spirit of infirmity without Divine aid. After His laying hands on her, however, then she could straighten up and glorify God.

796. “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.” Was ever anyone able to change his or her delusions short of aid from without? We doubt it. A cure of the spirit demands the aid of the Spirit. Who does not understand that the chief difficulty that God and Moses had in delivering the children of Israel from the bondage of Egypt was not the Egyptians, but the spirit of slavery and the spirit of bondage to pagan gods, to which those Israelites were likewise enslaved? God easily disposed of the Egyptians in the Red Sea, but He could not, in the same easy fashion, drown the spirit of bondage in the Israelites which they had acquired under slavery. Just so with women of today. Except for a mere handful of mistaken men, who could easily be put aside, the men of Christian countries constitute no longer an obstacle to woman’s freedom and preaching of the Gospel.

797. The vast majority of men would welcome woman’s freedom in everything worth the name. In the past such was not the case, and, as a consequence woman has acquired that spirit of infirmity of which God prophesied when He pointed out to Eve that her “turning” would be to her husband— in other words, she would turn away from God to him, placing herself in dependent relations to him such as she ought to hold toward God alone. This tendency Eve bequeathed to womankind and it has been fostered throughout past ages, and only Christ can cure the spirit. Pagan and godless women, as such, with all their struggles and often offensive efforts towards emancipation, will never get free. There is no freedom for women excepting escape into Christ the Emancipator; because the bondage is not really of the male’s creation, but of Satan’s; and the reason of that bondage is because Satan knows that “the seed of the woman” will yet completely destroy his seed.

798. And when will the Church come out into the “glorious liberty of the children of God” (Rom. 8:21), which is its rightful inheritance? When the free Spirit of God descends upon it again as on the day of Pentecost. And when will that time come? If I read aright, when the women of the Church become free, or not at all— for the prophet Isaiah has said: “Rise up, ye women that are at ease; hear my voice, ye careless daughters; give ear unto be speech . . . Tremble, ye women that are at ease: be troubled, ye careless ones. . . Upon the land of my people shall come thorns and briars; yea, upon all the houses of joy in the joyous city. Because the palaces shall be forsaken; the multitude of the city shall be left; the forts and towers shall be dens forever, a joy of wild asses, a pasture of flocks; Until the Spirit is poured out upon us from on high” (32:9-15). Thus does the prophet of old call upon women to leave their careless ease, and come and wait on God with all the rest, for the outpouring of His Spirit upon them, as well as upon men, that the way may be opened for the restoration of Jerusalem, and for “the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). Let us women, then, hasten to our Lord, and beseech Him to lay His hand upon us, dispel this “spirit of infirmity” with which Satan has bound us, “lo these eighteen” centuries, and then lift our voices in the synagogues and churches, and glorify our God.

But the main point I wanted to share today is concerning Christ's "headship" and what it really means to the church. Let's hear Dr. Bushnell again, from Lesson 37. This is absolutely breathtaking. The "head" is to bring up the "body" to equality!
282. The "head" in the symbolic language of the Revelation (where alone it is used in pure symbolism in the N. T., aside from the headship of Christ and of the husband), does not signify rule. The red dragon has diadems on his seven heads to signify rule (Revelation 12:3); the Beast has diadems on his horns (not on his heads) to signify rule (Revelation 13:1); the diadem, not the head, is a symbol of rule in these instances. The heads in each case signify divisions; the diadems, rule. The teaching is that all divisions of rule unite in the dragon, and in the Beast, in turn; they obtain universal sovereignty. In Revelation 17:9, 10, we read: "The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth: and they are seven kings" (R. V.). This refers to the Beast and the Scarlet Woman on the Beast. Here the symbolism is support. Seven mountains support the foundation of this great city, and seven kings support her rule (Revelation 17:18). The Woman rules these "heads;" they do not rule her.

283. "Head" (kephale), in the N. T. is used in the same way as "head" (rosh) in the O. T. for "chief,” in speaking of Christ as the "head of the corner" in six different passages; but these are quotations of, or references to, Psalm 118:22, "The stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner." The head or cornerstone gave support to the entire building and was usually of immense size for this purpose; it also bound the sides of a building together. So Christ is the support of His church, and binds its members together into one (Ephesians 4:15-16; Colossians 2:19).

284. We have shown (pars. 248-250) that St. Paul is not teaching the subordination of wife to husband, in 1 Corinthians 11:3-16, unless it be implied in the one phrase, “of a wife the husband is a head;” and we waived the discussion of this symbolism until the present time. As we have already said, the only other place where it is stated that the husband is head of the wife, is Ephesians 5:23, and there we are told in what sense he is head,--as Christ also is Head of the Church" (R. V.). Christ is the cornerstone of the church,--its support, Builder. For Christ is no mere stone; He lives, and Christians are represented by St. Paul as growing "up into Him in all things, which is the Head, even Christ" (Ephesians 4:15). And Colossians 2:19 describes Christ as "the Head, from which all the Body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God.” Neither of these two passages refers to Christ's government. They represent Him as the support, nourisher and builder of the Body, its Savior.

285. But Ephesians 1:22 does speak of Christ's Headship as a reign. God "hath put in subjection all things under His feet" (R. V.); and the preceding verse informs us that this means that all "principalities and powers" are put under Him. But where is His church? The opening verses of the next chapter tells us. We have been quickened, and raised up with Christ. The Church is not, therefore, under His feet, in this headship of governments; it is designed that the Church share His rule,--Revelation 1:6; 3:21; 20:4, etc. We are taught that God gave Him "to be Head over all things to the Church." He is God's gift "to the Church" that we might share His headship over all things; as Dean Alford says here: "He possesses nothing for Himself . . . but all things for His Church, which is in innermost reality Himself,"--speaking, of course, of the mystical Body.

286. Christ began to found that Church when He said, "Tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high," then, "Go ye into all the world ". . . preach . . . teach . . . baptize." (See Luke, Mark and Matthew). Men and women listened to the command; women tarried and got the power as well as men (Acts 2:3-4); but men said: "No! Paul teaches that woman is merely a symbol of the Church; man a symbol of Christ. Therefore woman must not preach; must not teach; nor have power, or she will destroy the symbol.” Symbol of a strange church this! Woman with no message for the world; no converts to baptize; veiled like Judaism; stripped of power...

288. No church can long survive the silencing of its women. The church which silences women will be found to silence the Holy Spirit. A sect, or sex, or race which attempts a monopoly of the Spirit's voice and power, will find that the Holy Spirit will flee far from it. Woman is destined to have a very large share in the preaching of God's messages, and in bringing souls to Christ, for did not God promise, long ages ago, as regards woman, that her seed should bruise the Serpents head?

289. No teaching of the New Testament has ever been more cunningly perverted than this concerning the "headship" of the husband. Does Christ jealously keep the Church from rising into His power: or does He say, "Behold I give you power?" Does He say, "This is My throne, keep away!" to the Church; or does He say, "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me on My throne?" Christ's delight and His constant exhortation is for us to share His throne-life with him. If we fall short, it certainly is not because He has ever shut the door to our attainment of it. He is not jealous of His own exaltation; He only secured it (for He had it before He came to earth), in such a manner that He might bring it within our grasp also.

290. But are we not to obey Christ? Yes, most certainly; obey Him because He is God, because He is King of kings; and these a husband is not, and he should not usurp Christ's prerogatives. Christ said: "Be not ye called Rabbi: for ONE is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren.". . . "Neither be ye called masters; for ONE is your Master, even Christ." Woman's spiritual Head is also her King; and so is man’s spiritual Head. But woman's matrimonial head is not her king,--he is only a fellow-disciple and fellow-servant of the King; and the King has laid down His rules as to the conduct of fellow-disciples towards one another: "Ye know that the princes [rulers] of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister: and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant" (see Matthew 20:25; Luke 22:25).

291. When the Word says, "the husband is the head of the wife," by the pen of St. Paul, it merely states a fact; those where the conditions under which women lived at that time. The husband was, in those days, the head of the wife simply because he held the superior place. In days when a man could divorce his wife "for every cause" (Matthew 19:3; and even Christ's own disciples demurred when Christ declared this was not right), there could be no doubt that women were compelled to be ignorant, inferior and very cheap. The rabbis taught that it was lawful for a man to divorce his wife if she even burned his food. Hence the Apostle says: "Be a head, as Christ is a Head of the Church,--to help your wife upward to your own level,"--for it is only as man imitates Christ in his conduct that he can remain in the Body of which Christ is Head. Therefore the woman should "imitate" (1 Corinthians 11:1, R. V.) St. Paul, and the others in worship. And the man has certain duties to perform toward his wife which are analogous to what Christ purposes to do for His Church, for its elevation, until it shall "reign in life with Christ Jesus." This is the headship of the husband that Paul speaks of. He would never encourage the husband to imitate Adam and Antichrist in trying to be "as God," to woman, and to interfere with Christ's authority over His own servant,--woman.

Wow. Christ is building up his Body and making it equal to him, sharing our humanity and then making us rise with him. That is how the husband is to be as "head" to his wife.

Biblical submission

I want to try to move the debate over biblical submission forward by observing what the Bible actually says and does not say about submission. I enjoy inductive Bible study and I hope that this post will come across as a humble set of observations about what the Bible teaches on submission. Where I have observed incorrectly, please correct me. Much of this post will be a repeat of things I have said in earlier posts and comments and I apologize for being repetitious, but perhaps you can forgive an aging man who repeats himself.

First the words "submit", "submission", and "be subject to" do not appear in the Bible. Whoa! At this point many of you could think, "Has this blogger gone completely unorthodox and now is even rejecting what the Bible clearly says?!"

The answer is "No." My point is simply this: the Bible was not originally written in English. The words "submit", "submission", and "be subject to" are not in the biblical language manuscripts of the Bible. The biblical word translated as "submit" and "be subject to" is Greek hupotasso. The English word "submit" is probably about as close as we can come to an accurate translation of that Greek word, but we always need to remind ourselves that we must get our understanding of that Greek word from the Bible itself, as well as from extra-biblical documents in which the word appears, not from our understanding of the English word "submit" as it is found in English dictionaries or commonly used. It is entirely possible, and I suggest it is sometimes true, that we include some manmade (unbiblical) meanings in the concept of submission when we teach about it or discuss it.

So let's look at what the Bible does not say is biblical submission, as well as what it actually does teach as being biblical submission.

The Bible does not teach that submission is obedience. The authors of the Bible, inspired by the Holy Spirit, use different words for submission (hupotasso) and obedience (hupakouo). The Bible teaches that we are to obey God (Lev. 26:3; Deut. 13:4; Rom. 15:18; 16:26). The Bible teaches that children are to obey their parents (Eph. 6:1; Col. 3:20). The Bible teaches that slaves are to obey their masters (Eph. 6:5). The Bible never says that wives are to obey their husbands. A wife who obeys her husband is not necessarily being unspiritual, but she is not being biblical, if we understand "biblical" to refer to what the Bible actually teaches.

I realize that many people believe that the Bible teaches that women are to obey their husbands, but they are mistaken, just as I have been. My wife included in her wedding vow to me that she would obey me. Today I feel shame that we followed the traditional wedding vow
and included obedience in my wife's marriage vow to me. At the time I thought it was biblical for a wife ultimately to obey her husband, although I did not view myself as the boss of my wife. And my wife did not object to that part of the vow. I thought that a husband had the "final word" about decisions made within a marriage, a concept which I have learned never occurs in the Bible. Since we were married, nearly 35 years ago, we have continued to study the Bible and have come to discover more of what it actually teaches and what it does not teach. Again, as a reminder, the Bible teaches that a wife is to submit to her husband; it does not teach that she is to obey him. The biblical language words for "submit" and "obey" are different. I assume that there is an important truth here. I do not understand it all, but from what I have observed so far in biblical usage of the terms for "submit" and "obey", obedience is something done by someone who is a subordinate to the one being obeyed, while submission is something a person does to an equal. I hold this observation lightly and humbly because it may be that I have missed something in the Bible which is counter to this summary of my observations. Please do correct me, with specific biblical teaching, if my observations are incorrect.

The Bible teaches that we are to submit to God (Heb. 12:9; James 4:7). Christians are to submit to each other (Eph. 5:21). A wife is to submit to her husband (Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; 1 Peter 3:1). Young men in the church are to submit to older men in the church (I Peter 5:5). We are to submit to governmental institutions (1 Peter 2:13). Egalitarians understand the teaching on mutual submission to apply to husbands to their wives. Complementarians, on the whole, disagree with this understanding, and believe that only a wife is to submit to her husband, not a husband to his wife.

The Bible does not teach that a women is to be led by her husband. The Bible never calls a husband a leader or shepherd of his wife or of his family or home. The Bible does teach that church elders are leaders of their church. And there are other leadership relationships which are taught in the Bible but that of a husband to his wife is not one of them.

The Bible does not teach that a husband has authority over his wife. There are authority relationships taught in the Bible but marriage is not one of them. The Bible teaches that governmental institutions have authority over us (1 Peter 2:13, 14). Yet the Bible also teaches that when human institutions require us to do something which is against God's teachings, we must obey God rather than other humans (Act 5:29). As far as I can tell, an authority relationship is one in which, for that particular role, one person is subordinate to the other, as in the case of an employee to an employer. Also, I cannot think of any place in the Bible which teaches mutual authority. I think that authority is always a unilateral relationship. This does not mean that two people cannot have different authority relationships depending on what their different roles are at different times. For instance, a Bible college professor is under the authority of the elders of his church, but if one of those elders is a student of that professor, that elder is under the authority of the professor while they have the student-teacher roles.

The Bible does not teach that a wife is to be disciplined by her husband. Most of you probably wonder why I would even mention this since it is never mentioned by mainstream conservative complementarians or egalitarians when they attempt to teach biblically about submission. But I must mention this because some people believe that a husband has the authority to discipline his wife. I have heard of some husbands who spank their wives to discipline them just as they spank their children. But there is no part of the Bible which supports a husband disciplining his wife.

A marriage is a relationship between two people who are equals in God's eyes (Gal. 3:28). Complementarians and egalitarians agree about this. "Generous" or "soft" complementarians as well as egalitarians believe that biblical teaching about mutual submission applies within a marriage as well as within other relationships within the Body of Christ. However, many others, perhaps most, complementarians believe that biblical teaching about mutual submission within the Body of Christ does not apply to marriage. They believe that since the Bible does not explicitly tell a husband to submit to his wife, but it does tell a wife to submit to her husband, that that silence about a husband's submission negates the teaching about mutual submission within the Body of Christ applying within marriage. Dr. Grudem's teaching about the "myth" of mutual submission within marriage is shared by many, probably most, well known complementarian Bible teachers. It is not an extreme position of complementarian teaching. (BTW, I believe that Dr. Grudem errs in his understanding of the Greek of Eph. 5:21 in narrowing the meaning of submission from "one another" to submission of "some" to others.)

So, what is biblical submission? And, biblically, who is to submit to whom?

Fortunately, teaching about submission occurs fairly frequently in the Bible and there is little disagreement about the meaning of the passages which teach biblical submission. Disagreement arises when we try to relate marriage to what the Bible teaches about submission.

In my next post I will review what the Bible teaches about submission.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Logical Fallacies as an Impediment to Communication

Part of the reason people have difficulty communicating is that most are unaware of the logical fallacies they and others commit. This Link is a good introduction to fallacies in general. You can also find other articles there on each specific fallacy (e.g. Ad Hominem).

Ad Hominem is probably one of the more common. When a person makes a point and the other person responds by questioning the first one's motivation, attitude, background, intelligence, or expertise, that is an ad hominem fallacy. Instead, the second person should address the issues or points and provide counter-arguments. Example: A says "These studies show women are as intelligent as men". B says "You only say that because you hate me for being a man." B should have questioned the studies instead of aiming at A's motivation.

Another is guilt by association. For example, "Liberals and subversives believe women are equal to men. Egalitarians believe women are equal to men. Therefore egalitarians are liberals and subversives".

A good exercise would be to go through some of the conversations here and see if you can spot the logical fallacies that shut down communication. But of course, don't take those findings and commit more fallacies by attacking the people who use them (which is probably everybody). Try only looking at your own posts so you can see your own areas needing improvement.

Added: Another great site is Christian Logic.

Friday, November 9, 2007

The Thing That Made Patriarchy Difficult to Question

Note: This post entails a personal sharing, namely, a small part of my experience with female rank-subordination. I say this to forewarn readers that my experience is predominantly from a "hyper"-patriarchal perspective, though CBMW played a role as well. It is important to note that I am not suggesting that my experience is shared by all complementarian women--many of them would not agree with the interpretations we had concerning what Scripture said about a woman's place. I share the following simply to help explain *some* of the reasons why it is so hard for women to evaluate the Biblical validity of patriarchy when they are fully enmeshed within it.

All good detectives go back to the crime scene before going further, which is exactly what a gender study requires. Only, in this case, it’s not a crime scene because (despite what some Church leaders have taught) the making of woman wasn’t a failure on God’s part but a purposeful and powerful choice—an action that solved a problem, no less, not caused one.

I have gone through an interesting volley of conclusions from Genesis myself. There was a time when I felt that being a woman was shameful—that something was inherently wrong with me for being one, a deep failure that I could never erase because the failure was who I was as a female, not something I actually did. (It's fair to say my relationship with my father played a big role in this, a man who was very scary and domineering in my early years, though he would later meet Yahweh and begin to change).

It was God who helped me see otherwise. In fact, I would say that (providentially) reading Elisabeth Elliot’s, “Let Me Be A Woman,” in my tiny dorm room in Bible College changed my life fundamentally. For the first time in my post-pubescent existence, I realized that my femaleness was something God did on purpose. It wasn’t a cosmic accident or a cruel joke—it was a deliberate action on the part of the Creator.

And yet what did being a woman mean? Did it mean I ought to naturally be drawn to Victorian style furniture, lace and jewelry? Did it mean I was purposely created to be in a support role as opposed to a leadership position, permenantly second-place in a God-ordained gender hierarchy? I exulted in my newly discovered femininity (though still eschewing Victorian d├ęcor), yet still did not understand what exactly it meant to be a woman.

Being fairly literal in my approach to the Bible, I considered it to be speaking point-blank when it came to gender. Suspect were those who would look at cultural background instead of taking the “plain meaning” (er, as it appeared translated into English for a 21st century mind, of course). And because that "plain meaning" appeared to be speaking boldly for the superiority of males over females, I came to believe that my purpose for living was to assist a husband—my husband, to be exact.

The way I read 1 Corinthians 11, it appeared to be saying that my husband reflected God’s glory, whereas I, a woman, was a reflection of my husband’s glory. (Books we read on the subject tended to completely agree). Another way to put it was that women only reflect the glory of God second-hand, but I didn’t think about it that way, or if I did, didn’t dwell long on the ramifications of such a statement. I was too busy trying to figure out the puzzle of a woman’s place, and the literal rendering of a few key passages helped me understand that my place was behind-the-scenes, that my purpose in life was not to have my own vision but to trust and obey my husband’s. Which might have even gone okay, since my husband is a good man and worth commanding a following, if only I’d been a natural follower. But, I wasn’t.

Though follow is what I did—and with passion that can only come from delighting in obeying a much-loved God, so it’s not that I was rebellious. It was more that I had to stuff down part of who I was in order to take on the role of a permanent subordinate. Let’s just be honest—permanent subordinates do not lead. They take orders and execute them—they follow another’s plan, not sit and think of their own, and when they do operate in authority, it is only because they’ve been given permission to do so.

That is all well and good, if you’re a soldier in an army, or if one doesn’t have a vision of their own (and/or a desire to ever have one), but what if one was born a leader, born full of ideas and the spunk to see them carried out? I had taken the role of a permanent subordinate—my femaleness deciding my lower rank for me—and yet trail-blazing was in my blood, passion found in leading charges, being on stage or behind a lectern, forging new roads in minds and hearts. Unfortunately for this Lewis-and-Clark-wannabe, my definition of womanhood said that trail-blazing was only acceptable in womanly fields (which were valuable fields, to be sure, but limited—learning new dinner recipes, coming up with home-schooling ideas, or rearranging furniture, for example, instead of those things that made my heart beat with passion).

Without taking away from the beauty of a good meal or a great educational discovery, those trails only go so deep into the woods, and it goes without saying that I soon felt like an absolute failure as a woman. My ideal was the Hidden Woman, but my experience was a slow-growing deep depression, hidden under smiling enthusiasm, and it was eating out the core of me. I lived the outward rule of godly femininity—a supportive helpmate, a stay-home homeschooling mother of many, a silent participant in church meetings (usually volunteering in the nursery), active in a home business, yet at my deepest level, I felt entirely unfulfilled and confused, and as such, was drowning in condemnation. How could I not love these things that were supposed to give me my greatest joy? How could I not be fulfilled when I was doing everything in the Proverbs 31 mandate? What was so terribly wrong with me for not finding great depths of satisfaction there?

Deep down, I would quietly admit that I hated this “role” my womanhood forced on me, and yet that role was given me by God, right, so essentially, I was hating what God wanted for me—and isn’t that what Lucifer did, and what caused him to become Satan? I chastised myself for such rebellious considerations and gave myself a quick inward lecture of what dangerous ground I was treading on. I put on my smiley face and continued to act the part, hoping that eventually the activity would fix the obviously sinful thoughts I was having. No small wonder that I hardly ever allowed myself to consider what my heart was saying. It was too frightening a place. Better to just concentrate on what to fix for dinner.