Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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


Friday, November 2, 2007

Mary, Mother of Christ, Submitted to God, and Female Rebel

Edit 11/05 to better represent the context of one of the quotes, in order to more accurately reflect the position of CBMW on original sin.

One of the first things that caused me to stumble over my orderly patriarchal ducklings was the mother of Messiah. Yes, humble and gracious Mary made me squirm, in that she made me wonder about whether or not the patriarchal ideal was actually the same thing God had in mind when He designed women—which is funny, considering she is the patron example of feminine submissiveness.

Mary is a woman who pushed the patriarchal envelope, not so much directly (by purposeful choice) but indirectly (by obeying God).

Male headship-as-rulership took a big dive for me when I looked at Mary and the way God interacted with her. God did not ask Mary's male authorities for permission to impregnate Mary. He did not go to Mary's father, nor did He go to Mary's espoused. He asked Mary, as if Mary's yes or no was all that mattered.

Interestingly, many complementarians teach that the first sin was not Adam and Eve eating from the tree, but was rather Eve not asking Adam's permission before she acted. In other words, the first sin was a woman acting without first getting male approval. CBMW, for example, says,

Because Adam was created before Eve, he held a position of higher rank as
far as functional authority is concerned. Verse 14 illustrates the importance of
maintaining the hierarchy which God established. When Satan tempted Eve, she
disregarded the implications of the order in which she and Adam were created.
Eve removed herself from the safeguarding environment that God designed and,
consequently, fell into transgression.
(Click here
for full article).

This idea is not spelled out in Scripture, so is theory, however it is a popular one and usually taught as truth. Old Testament scholar Ray Ortlund Jr. seems to concur, teaching,

Satan struck at Adam’s headship. His words had the effect of inviting Eve
to assume primary responsibility a the moment of temptation… Eve usurped
Adam’s headship and led the way into sin. ---Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 1991, Chapter 3, 107

The temptation given to Eve is said to not be deceived into doubting God, but rather Satan tempting woman to lead without male oversight.

Eve usurped Adam’s headship and led the way into sin. …Her calling was to help Adam as the second-in-command in world rulership. If the roles
had been reversed, if Eve had been created first and then Adam as her
helper, the Serpent would doubtless have approached Adam. So Eve
was not morally weaker than Adam. But Satan struck at Adam’s headship. His words had the effect of inviting Eve to assume primary responsibility at the moment of temptation: “You decide, Eve. You lead
the way. Wouldn’t you rather be exercising headship?” --Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 1991, Chapter 3, page 105

Everyone likes Mary, though. Touchstone Magazine contributor and friend of CBMW, scholar Folke T. Olofsson writes in his article, "God & the Genesis of Gender: The Trustworthy Biblical Design of Man and Woman," that,

It is not possible to understand the Christian view of man’s
grandeur and misery if one does not focus on Mary, the Mother of God, as
contrasted with Eve. Mary is the representative of mankind, as is also Eve, and
in a human sense Mary reverses the disobedience of the Fall. She is more like Christ and unlike Eve when she does not try to grasp equality with God on her
own terms. Mary does not set her own life projects and personal plans for
self-fulfillment before the will of God. She listens to the word and promise of
God, she is willing to become God’s servant, and she believes. Eve, by her
actions, said no to God. She did not accept her position in the God-given hierarchy; she perverted her role as a helper by luring her husband to transgress God’s command and thereby brought ruin upon herself and mankind.
[emphasis added].

And here Olofsson quotes another subordinationalist as he writes,

Original sin is understood as “the woman taking over authority from the man, and
the man saying and doing nothing to stop it” (Michael Harper, Equal and
Different, London, 1994).

Olofsson later makes it clear that he doesn't fully agree with Harper in that, while he thinks Harper's view could be true, he personally thinks original sin is wider in scope than simply woman taking authority from man. In other words, Olofsson believes that original sin happened precisely because woman didn't go through the proper authority channel [i.e. a woman's failure to obey male authority is what brought about original sin]. Harper, however, represents a fairly vocal section of complementarians who do believe that original sin had very little to do with eating the fruit and everything to do with female insubordination . Either way, both assertions, as can be seen by the quotes above, blame the Fall on a woman not submitting to her rightful place, whether directly (Harper) or indirectly (Olofsson). But to both assertions, all I can say is, "Waaaaait a minute. Is this view clearly spelled out in the Bible?

To be clear, I agree with Olofsson in part. I personally believe that Mary is the New Covenant's version of Eve in one sense---Mary being the new woman, the woman who said yes to God instead of no, who trusted instead of doubted.

But, herein lies the rub. Mary did not ask male permission.

According to mainstream complementarian teaching regarding the fatal flaw of Eve's behaviour, Mary should have been submitted under a male authority and should have run like the flames of Hell were after her when tempted to make a leadership decision apart from her male authority. After all, wasn't the first sin a woman acting as an authority in her own right? And wouldn't a God who set up strict gender roles refrain from asking a woman to do something apart from her male authorities approval? (Why would God break His own rules?).

When it came time to make a choice that would assuredly effect her husband and their future family plans, Mary did not ask the angel to wait until she had time to let Joseph pray about this and get his decision and then let God know what her male authority decided. Mary simply said yes. And her yes effectively ruined their honeymoon, their reputations, and made them have to take an emergency detour to Egypt, no less.

Interestingly, God did not act like it was odd for Mary to make a life-altering decision without male approval. In fact, God seemed to leave Mary's male authorities out of the picture entirely, until Joseph got so fed up that he contemplated divorce, that is. God seemed to think it was perfectly acceptable to ask Mary to make a major decision all by herself, without male oversight, without the "covering" of male authority to protect her.

God asking a woman without going through male authority and a woman saying yes to God, all on her own, is how the New Covenant started. To me, this proved to be a stunning blow to my patriarchal theology. Even more so when I was told that Mary's name means, "rebel."

My name is a derivative of Mary, and I aspire to be a rebel in the same grace-filled submissive way she modeled. May we all rebel against the demands of this fallen sin-dominated world and help, through both our prayers and actions, to bring God's will "on earth, as it is in heaven."

For discussion:

Is the complementarian position on Eve's temptation, either the one taught by Michael Harper (stating female insubordination as the true original sin) or Olofsson's view that sees female insubordination as the root cause of original sin, clearly spelled out in Scripture? Support or refute your answer with Scripture.

How was Mary similar and how was she different from Eve?

Why did God not choose to go through Mary's male authority figures (her father and/or Joseph, her legally betrothed husband)?