Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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


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It's easy to talk about the outdated view of Women As Property, thinking it an old concept, long gone along with Napoleon--- something we've outgrown through modernity's logic.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.