Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A Critique (on CBMW's Claims Regarding Who Taught the Concept of an Eternally Subordinated Son)

The CBMW gender blog claims that these thinkers taught a model of the Trinity that includes an eternally subordinated Son:
  • Hilary of Poitiers (c. 291-371), who was widely known as the Athanasius of the Western tradition. His work on the Trinity, De Trinitate, clearly expresses order and ranking in the Godhead.
  • Athanasius (c. 296-373) argued against Arianism at the Council of Nicaea in 325 and saw his view emerge victorious. Yet, in his Orationes contra Arionos (Orations against Arius), he articulates the eternality of the Son and expresses a clear order within the Godhead.
  • St. Augustine (354-430), famed bishop of Hippo, whose theology undergirded the Reformation. In his classic work On the Trinity, Augustine emphasized the unity of the Trinity and also reflected on the eternal subordination of the Son.
  • Gregory of Nyssa (c. 335-394), Basil of Caesarea (c. 329-379) and Gregory of Nazianzus (c. 330-390), the great Cappadocian Fathers, whose teachings on the Trinity were formative for the nascent Christian church, expressed order or ranking within the Godhead.
  • Thomas Aquinas (1224-1274), a profoundly important philosopher and theologian in the scholastic tradition. In his classic work Summa Theologica (Sum of Theology), he argues that, as the Father is not from another, it is in no way fitting for Him to be sent, but only for the Son and the Holy Spirit.
  • John Calvin (1509-1564), a father of the Reformation and author of the first systematic theology, the Institutes of the Christian Religion. Calvin adopted Augustine's view of the Trinity...
Personally, I would like to see some quotes instead of a list of names, because expressing a belief in Trinitarian order is not the same thing as expressing a belief in the permanent subordination of the members of the Trinity.

For example, the above list of names from CBMW included Athanasius, yet it is the Athanasian Creed that says,

25. And in this Trinity none is afore or after another; none is greater or less than another.

26. But the whole three persons are coeternal, and coequal."

The CBMW blog also includes Gregory of Nyssa, yet in so doing demonstrates a misunderstood comprehension of "eternally begotten." Yes, the Nicene Creed says that Jesus is begotten of the Father, but we must take care to understand the words of the Creed as the writers intended, not as we see them fitting into our pre-existing conclusions.

"And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (├Žons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father…"
But "begotten" is not an indication of a permanently subordinated Son, and therein lies the rub. An explanatory footnote (found in full here, emphasis below mine) adds the following important information,

Arius said that if the Father has begotten the Son, then the Son must be inferior to the Father, as a prince is inferior to a king. Athanasius replied that a son is precisely the same sort of being as his father, and that the only son of a king is destined himself to be a king. It is true that an earthly son is younger than his father, and that there is a time when he is not yet what he will be. But God is not in time. Time, like distance, is a relation between physical events, and has meaning only in the context of the physical universe.

When we say that the Son is begotten of the Father, we do not refer to an event in the remote past, but to an eternal and timeless relation between the Persons of the Godhead. Thus, while we say of an earthly prince that he may some day hope to become what his father is now, we say of God the Son that He is eternally what God the Father is eternally.

In other words, the Fathers considered "begotten" to be indicative of a relationship, not a hierarchical position.

But in Grudem's Systematic Theology, he clearly says the opposite,

“This is why the idea of eternal equality in being but subordination in role has been essential to the church’s doctrine of the Trinity since it was first affirmed in the Nicene Creed, which said that the Son was “begotten of the Father before all ages” and that the Holy Spirit “proceeds from the Father and the Son.” Surprisingly, some recent evangelical writings have denied an eternal subordination in role among members of the Trinity, but it has clearly been part of the church’s doctrine of the Trinity (in Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox expressions), at least since Nicea (A.D. 325).”
No, it has not. Permanent hierarchical subordination can only be seen if one defines the word, "begotten" in a way that differs from the meaning given to it by Gregory of Nyssa and Athanasius.

Unfortunately, most readers at CBMW are not going to take the time to see if the CBMW blog is speaking the truth. For the typical reader, it will just looks like "big names" are on CBMW's side.

The problem, as this post shows, is that it's not necessarily true.

I would like to see quotes, not just names. Sure, stating that John Calvin believed in permanent subordination within the Trinity is one thing, but actually showing us (or citing for us) where he did so is quite another.

In closing, I offer a small portion of the Second Helvetic Confession which deals specifically with the concept of permanent subordination within the Trinity (emphasis mine):

God Is Three. Notwithstanding we believe and teach that the same immense, one and indivisible God is in person inseparably and without confusion distinguished as Father, Son and Holy Spirit so, as the Father has begotten the Son from eternity, the Son is begotten by an ineffable generation, and the Holy Spirit truly proceeds from them both, and the same from eternity and is to be worshipped with both.

Thus there are not three gods, but three persons, consubstantial, coeternal, and coequal; distinct with respect to hypostases, and with respect to order, the one preceding the other yet without any inequality. For according to the nature or essence they are so joined together that they are one God, and the divine nature is common to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

We also condemn all heresies and heretics who teach that the Son and Holy Spirit are God in name only, and also that there is something created and subservient, or subordinate to another in the Trinity, and that there is something unequal in it, a greater or a less, something corporeal or corporeally conceived, something different with respect to character or will, something mixed or solitary, as if the Son and Holy Spirit were the affections and properties of one God the Father, as the Monarchians, Novatians, Praxeas, Patripassians, Sabellius, Paul of Samosata, Aetius, Macedonius, Antropomorphites, Arius, and such like, have thought.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Are Christ and women eternally subordinated?

In the fourth century a church council denounced the belief in eternal subordinationism of the Son to the Father within the Trinity, and called that belief a heresy. Eternal subordinationism claimed that the Son was unequal to the Father both in value (not as fully deity as the father is) and role. Today some teach that while eternal subordinationism is heretical, it is not heretical to believe that the Son is eternally subordinate to the Father. CBMW's Gender Blog begins a series today promoting the eternal subordination (not subordinationism) of the Son to the Father. From this starting point, our brothers and sisters at CBMW believe that God has designed a hierarchical pattern in the Trinity which is reflected elsewhere in relationships. In this hierarchy some individuals are equal in value but different in roles from other individuals. In this hierarchy wives are subordinate to husbands.

Three years ago Bible scholar Ben Witherington blogged that there is no eternal subordination for either Christ or women.

What do you think? And why?

HT: Mike Aubrey

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Gender roles blog series

Last year Jeff Borcherding wrote a series of blog posts on gender roles. Jeff is seeking truth and has not made up his mind about some of the issues concerning gender roles. He seems to have an open mind as he looks at the claims of complementarians and egalitarians on how gender roles should be understood in the light of Bible passages.

I recommend this series to you. Feel free to comment here on anything you read in Jeff's series.

Friday, February 15, 2008

A Few Questions for Both Sides

Mike Aubrey asks some important questions for each of us in the gender debate or any debate for that matter. He concludes:
Often also, the other side does not feel as if you’ve been at all fair to them in understanding and also representing and criticizing their perspective. Many times people on both sides feel as if certain evidence and argument is simply ignored by the other. Finally, if you cannot dialog well and have a calm discussion, if you are quick to getting angry and have very little patience. Then you would do well to go back and reread your Bible. You may think that you have gotten one text figured out, but clearly you have plenty of others to work on.
I sense that we have been listening to each other better on this blog recently. May it continue. Clearly, careful listening and respect for the other are biblical, even when we do not agree on how to interpret the Bible on some other points.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Tilting in the Lists

This may seem an odd title for a blog post, and for anyone who didn't grow up reading stories about knights in shining armor, it may take some explaining. "Tilting" is another term for jousting, and the "lists" were the roped off lanes through which the knights would charge at each other. What's this got to do with the complegalitarian debate? Well, it strikes me that there is a lot of verbal jousting taking place over the subject of "lists."

Consider the following comment on a recent post:

I believe that if the man has any kind of authority, then he needs a rule book the size of the laws of any civilized country to define this so-called authority. The wife needs something to appeal against. It should define the freedom to vote for whoever she likes, the freedom to exit and enter the house, the freedom to communicate with others, the freedom to choose her own reading material, etc.

In fact, the list would be so demeaning that when it is done, the woman must ask how she can respect a man who requires a list like this. But, then how to live without the list?

Many egalitarians request, or even demand, that complementarians define exactly in what respects a man has authority in the home. This is a perfectly reasonable request, especially given the extent to which abusive husbands claim "authority" over every aspect of their wives' and children's lives. Not only that, but such men tend to be extremely capricious, constantly changing the "rules" so that their wives and children can never succeed in satisfying their demands. This is part of the abuser's strategy, because it keeps those he is abusing confused, unstable, and at the mercy of his every whim.

Complementarians absolutely detest such abuses and are eager to make it clear that this is not the kind of "authority" they affirm. So they sometimes respond with lists of right and wrong exercises of authority.

It's not just egalitarians who ask complementarians to produce lists of dos and dont's. Someone in the comments once wrote insightfully about "immature" complementarians who want to know exactly where to draw the lines in their attempts to live out their respective gender "roles." In response to such well-intentioned inquiries, complementarian authors often oblige with pastoral attempts to lay out what "proper" roles generally look like.

While I understand both reasons why a complementarian author might be tempted to make a list of dos and don'ts, I think it's generally a mistake to do so. First, specific lists of dos and don'ts are incredibly easy to pick apart, which is exactly what egalitarians do with such lists. Second, even if the "list" is presented as a general set of guidelines based on the author's individual experience, such lists typically get received (both by egals and comps) as hard and fast "rules." The inevitable result is that egalitarians will take exception to some of these "rules" and point to people for whom such "rules" would clearly be oppressive. Likewise, immature complementarians will do their best to observe such "rules," even when those "rules" simply do not fit their particular situation. Thus, what may have been intended as guidelines and working examples becomes received as commandments written in stone.

Lists of specific dos and don'ts, no matter how well-intentioned, will ultimately encourage legalism. As 2 Corinthians 3:6 tells us, "the letter kills."

Contrary to what some egalitarians seem to think, complementarian husbands and wives do not generally spend a lot of time dividing up roles and coming up with lists of what's allowed for him and what's allowed for her. In fact, I think many complementarians imagine egalitarian husbands and wives doing that! After all, if every role is nebulous and every decision must be negotiated, there seems to be tremendous potential for bickering and monitoring and drawing lines in the sand.

I think the reality is that most couples, whether they define themselves as egalitarian or complementarian, deal with these kinds of questions whenever some point of contention arises. We don't sit around making lists, nor should we, since "the letter kills."

On the other hand, "the Spirit gives life." As a husband and father, I understand the Bible to be teaching me to love my family and do them good. My goal is their holiness and their happiness. I also see myself as answerable to God for my treatment of them. There's no place for abuse in that kind of understanding of marriage and family life, and it is that understanding which keeps whatever "power" I have in check.

Whether egalitarian or complementarian, we need to stop jousting over our lists of specific dos and don'ts. The "letter kills." Instead, we need to teach both men and women to stop resorting to sinful tactics in order to get their own way. How is that possible? Only by the power of the Spirit, who "gives life."

Monday, February 11, 2008

Questions of Intimacy in Relationship Styles

Of Jonathan's love, David said it was better than "the love of women."

Was that because the intimacy [non-sexual] between David and Jonathan was shared between equals? (The love of women cannot be the love of an equal in a patriarchal society where one has a harem of wives, something complementarians and egalitarians would likely agree with). I would posit further, however, and suggest that when one is under a philosophy of marriage that requires hierarchal relationship, there can be no equal-to-equal intimacy such as shared between Jonathan and David. [Intimacy being described here].

There can be intimacy in heirarchal relationships. A parent and child can have great intimacy---the bond between mother and babe is an excellent example. But it is an intimacy of the sort that a dependant has upon a nurturing leader. It is an intimacy and it is deep, but it is not the deepest kind (and it is not the ideal----rather, it is a transient kind of intimacy. The newborn babe suckling at breast is beautiful, but if the babe grows to be a thirty-four-year-old woman who still wants to drink her mother's milk, the whole world agrees that there is a serious problem with the kind of intimacy being practiced).

In most cases (if not all), the equal-to-equal relationship has the potential of reaching greater depths of true intimacy than relationships between a superior and inferior.

A President and Vice-President can enjoy an intimate relationship, but it can only reach certain levels of intimacy when forged outside of heirarchy. The depth and maturity of a beloved friend-to-friend intimacy [like David and Jonathan's] supercedes that of a parent-to-child intimacy. After all, the hope of the parent is to, one day, grow into that sort of deep friendship with their adult child.

Hence my musing. Can there be a deep intimacy between a husband and wife when the relationship is predicated on heirarchy? Note, this is not to ask whether or not intimacy can exist, because it can and does. Rather, it is a question of degree. When the two cannot relate as equals, can a full and mature intimacy ever be reached (and/or is it even supposed to be)?

I know that the complementarian reader is probably groaning at the computer screen at this very moment, pleading with me to remember that, "Comp's do believe that a husband and wife are equals!" Yet CBMW states,
"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." Recovering Biblical Manhood and
Womanhood, 1995, pg. 170

In a relationship where female submission is coextensive with all aspects of the relationship, can there ever be the deep level of intimacy that can only grow between two equals (like David and Jonathan)? Or is the egalitarian wrong for suggesting that, ideally, such depth of intimacy should be given the freedom to grow at all?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

wedding vows

Tonight I discovered a webpage with sample wedding vows. These vows are on the bible.org website, on which there are many resources produced by professors at and students of Dallas Theological Seminary.

Notice how many of the vows include that the woman will "obey" her husband. I was surprised that the word "submit" was not used, instead. I know that there are different words in New Testament Greek, one (hupakouw) translated as "obey" and the other (hupotassw) traditionally translated as "submit". In the Bible women are never told to "obey" their husbands. They are told (Eph. 5:22) to hupotassw to their husbands.

How do you react to these wedding vows?

Do you know of any webpages which give wedding vows from a Christian egalitarian viewpoint?

Friday, February 8, 2008

domestic violence, again

Periodically, the question comes up about what do complementarians and egalitarians agree upon. One point that has become clear in posts and comments on this blog is that both sides agree that abuse of a spouse within marriage is absolutely wrong. Complementarians make clear that abuse of a wife is completely wrong and does not follow from any of their views on headship, authority, or male leadership. When abuse occurs in the context of such teachings, they insist, it is a distortion of those teachings.

I am guessing that DV (domestic violence) occurs in approximately the same percentages in the homes of those who at least nominally espouse either comp or egal beliefs as they do in homes of those who claim no religious affiliation. I say this based on studies which have shown that DV occurs approximately in the same percentages of marriages in Christian homes as it does in non-Christians homes. I sincerely hope that my guess is wrong. Remember, it does not require physical beatings for there to be abuse. Abuse can be verbal and emotional. I cringe whenever I hear one spouse in a Christian home berating the other, even in ways which they think may not be very harmful.

I have been struck by the number of people who have mentioned in comments that they experienced DV. I myself grew up with it in our conservative Christian home. It was repeated, frightening, dangerous, and demeaning.

I thought it would be interesting to poll visitors to this blog to see how many have experienced marital abuse in one form or another. It doesn't have to have been enough to cause physical bruises. The bruises may be emotional.

There is a new poll in the margin of our blog asking about DV. Your answers are completely anonymous and no one can discover your email address when you respond to the poll.

My hope is that results from surveys like this will cause churches from either side in the gender debate to include more preaching against abuse domestic abuse and provide safe resources and referrals for those experiencing it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

What is Mutual Submission?

In response to my last post, Wayne asked how my views are different from the idea of "mutual submission." I would say that depends on what you mean by mutual submission. I am perfectly comfortable using the term mutual submission to describe my marriage, but that term means different things to different people.

In the "Myth of Mutual Submission," Wayne Grudem admits that there is a use of the term "mutual submission" which does not "nullify the husband’s authority within marriage," but he goes on to say, "egalitarians mean something so different by this phrase . . . that I think the expression 'mutual submission' only leads to confusion if we go on using it." In my opinion, Grudem surrenders a perfectly good term to the egalitarians, allowing egalitarians to define what it means.

This is akin to Calvinists squirming whenever they hear the term "free will," as if "free will" was not something they believed in. Calvinists absolutely believe in free will, as long as we understand in what sense the will is free (namely, that the unregenerate sinner is free to choose what he wants) and in what sense it is bound (because the unregenerate sinner's desires are evil, he will inevitably make sinful choices and is therefore unable to save himself). Just as Calvinists can affirm a belief in a form of "free will," I think complementarians can affirm a belief in "mutual submission," as long as it is clear what we do and do not mean by the term.

Egalitarians tend to define "mutual submission" as meaning that sometimes the husband leads and the wife submits, while at other times the wife leads and the husband submits. The analogy often used is of two friends walking side-by-side, each alternately helping the other along. In my view, this understanding of marriage simply does not resonate with the various Biblical descriptions of marriage.

Grudem describes an alternative understanding of mutual submission as follows: "If mutual submission means being considerate of one another, and caring for one another’s needs, and being thoughtful of one another, and sacrificing for one another, then of course I would agree that mutual submission is a good thing." My problem with his description of this kind of mutual submission is that he seems to trivialize it. Yes, he says, complementarians believe that husbands should defer to their wives, put their wives' needs first, etc. but he thinks it creates confusion to call that "submission."

I would push this idea of mutual submission further. As I see it, "submission" in its broadest sense means dying to oneself for the sake of another. "Dying to oneself" goes beyond merely "being considerate," because there is no limit to how far such self-mortification can go. Philippians 2 describes Jesus as making himself "nothing," taking the "form of a servant," "humbling himself," and becoming "obedient" to the point of death, even the most shameful, humiliating, agonizing death imaginable. He is our model of submission, because he spent himself for the needs of those who gave him nothing in return, all in obedience to the Father who has ultimately placed all things under his feet and given him the "name that is above every name."

As believers, we are to exhibit this depth of love and willingness to die for one another. In that respect, dying to oneself or "submission" is to be "mutual." Ephesians urges us to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (5:21). Then it describes how that submission works itself out in various human relationships. As a complementarian, I do not see this passage as abrogating the underlying structure of these relationships. Rather, I see it as calling us, no matter where we fit into that structure, to follow Christ in letting go of our "rights" and laying down our lives for the "other" in those relationships. This is anything but easy, which is why the passage concludes with a call to "be strong in the Lord."

Laying down one's life requires strength, as Jesus demonstrated when he said, "No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord" (John 10:18). Likewise he said to Pilate, "You would have no authority over Me at all if it hadn’t been given you from above" (John 19:11). As a man who wants to be strong, Jesus' strength in laying down his life inspires me. As a complementarian, I do see myself as having great responsibility for, and some measure of authority over, my family. Yet if I see my "position" as "something to be used for [my] own advantage" (Philippians 2:6), I am not exhibiting Christ's strength but my own sinful weakness!

My wife, Lisa, is an incredibly strong woman. She dies to herself for my sake and the sake of our children every day. (And if you had to live with me, you would know how much strength that requires!) She does this because of her devotion to Christ, not because of some sense of marital or motherly duty. I want to show that same kind of strength, and that same depth of devotion to Christ, in my relationship with her and our children. Ultimately, that's what I mean by "mutual submission." I see it not as a retreat from "Biblical manhood and womanhood," but as the ultimate expression of it.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Can a Complementarian Man Submit to His Wife?

I'm a complementarian, and after I divulge the following secret, I'm likely to be seen by some as one of the most dangerous kinds: the kind that doesn't believe in the use of birth control. Now, with that one statement I probably just lost all of the egalitarian readers of this blog and ninety-nine percent of the complementarians! Don't worry, I'm not writing to promote my radical vision, but to give an example of how I think servant leadership plays out in a complementarian relationship.

My conviction about birth control has nothing to do with any particular notion about Biblical manhood or womanhood. Rather, it dates back to a conversation I had in high school with a young Christian teacher who was about to marry a local minister. One day, this woman happened to mention that she would probably become pregnant right after she got married. When asked why, she stated that they were not planning to use birth control. When asked why she would consider anything so ludicrous, she answered simply, "We just don't see it as trusting God." At the time, I thought she was nuts, and I told her so in no uncertain terms. Yet over the course of the next several months, I found myself unable to get around the simple logic of her statement. After much prayer, I concluded that whatever God's will for others, his will for me did not include the use of contraception.

This unusual stance played a major role in my dating life throughout college. Would any woman in this day and age marry a man whose personal convictions could potentially lead her to bear and raise lots and lots of children? I was always very up front about my convictions so that the women I pursued would have ample opportunity to count the costs of a life spent with me.

Lisa and I had our first child a couple months after our first anniversary. Our second was born just sixteen months later. Our third, a girl who was particularly demanding, was born sixteen months after that! So there we were, with three children under three, and a conception rate which, when projected into the future, had us rivaling the Gilbreths well before there could be any hope of Menopause!

We couldn't say that we hadn't considered the possibility of this situation, but counting the cost of a conviction and actually living it out are sometimes two very different things. Physically exhausted, stressed out, worried about the future, and probably more than a little Post-Partum, Lisa began asking me about the possibility of using birth-control. At first, I tried to give her perspective and reassure her, I made it clear that I still believed this was God's will for our family, I pointed out the need to follow God's will even when it proves personally costly, and I generally tried to get her to see things my way. I also prayed repeatedly that if this was truly God's will for our family, he would change Lisa's heart. Conversely, I prayed that if I had gotten it wrong all these years, God would change mine.

As time went by, I saw my wife become more and more desperate. It was clear she was feeling trapped by my convictions and frustrated by my stubbornness. So I went for a long walk, during which I prayed, "Lord, I can cling to my convictions and destroy my wife, or I can show her that she means more to me than my convictions." When I returned home, I told Lisa that we could begin using birth control, and we did so for the next nine months.

During that time, I continued to believe that God's will for our family did not include contraception, and I continued to pray that God would either change Lisa's heart or change mine. Eventually, Lisa came to her own conclusion about God's will for our family, and we have not used contraception since. Our fourth child was born a full three years after the third. She is now almost seven, and we have not conceived again. Lisa is now eager for another child and we are praying that God will enable us to conceive once more.

My point in telling this story is not to get us hung up on the issue of contraception, but to give a real practical example of complementarianism in action. In some respects, I "submitted" or "yielded" to my wife's need to use contraception, even when I did not believe it was "God's will" for us. Some complementarians might see this as a breakdown of male leadership, an abdication of husbandly authority. Egalitarians on the other hand might see this as an example of practical egalitarianism and "mutuality" in action. Personally, I see it as the best example in my own life of male headship done right.

You see, just as I believed it was God's will for our family not to rely on birth control, I also believed that my marriage to Lisa was God's will. If he truly gave me this woman to be my wife, then I had to take seriously my call to take care of her. If she was truly my "co-heir of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7), I had to take seriously her sense of what God's will might be. And if I truly believed that God is there and that he is not silent (to borrow a phrase from Francis Schaeffer), then I had to trust that he would ultimately make his will known to both of us.

I know egalitarians tire of complementarians using military analogies, but no one questions the leadership of a general who refuses to lead his troops into a situation they're not ready for. The guy who led the "Charge of the Light Brigade" might have thought he was boldly exercising his leadership, but in reality he was stupidly sacrificing his men. In much the same way, I could have pushed my wife beyond what she could bear for the sake of clinging to "my" convictions, and I have no doubt she would have "submitted" to me. Yet in the process I would have deeply wounded her trust in my leadership and her security in my love. Instead, I set my own vision aside and trusted God to lead both my wife and myself in the direction he saw fit. In the end, Lisa had the opportunity to make sure that this was a calling she had received from God, rather than one which had merely been dictated by me. Likewise, I had the opportunity to see God's faithfulness to communicate his will to both of us, so that leadership is not burdensome and submission is not forced. For all these reasons, the decision to love my wife more than my convictions is one of the few "leadership decisions" I've made which I've never regretted.

Monday, February 4, 2008

comments on "After Patriarchy, What?" by Russell Moore

Many thanks to commenter lin for posting a url in the combox to this paper by Russell Moore from Southern Baptist Theological titled "After Patriarchy, What? Why Egalitarians are Winning the Evangelical Gender Debate." Click the link to read the entire paper.

To begin, Moore discusses a book in which its author points out that conservative Christian homes exercise a "soft patriarchy" and fathers have a certain "softness" about them that is, from what I gather, a big plus in the lived-out harmony of the family. Moore goes on, however, to then point out studies that accuse "softness" of being the result of influence by society's pervasive secular feminism.

"One of the most important pieces of sociological data in recent years comes from the University of Virginia’s W. Bradford Wilcox in his landmark book, Soft Patriarchs, New Men: How Christianity Shapes Fathers and Husbands. Wilcox’s book describes how evangelical men actually think and live. He brings forth the demographic statistics and survey results on issues ranging from paternal hugging of children to paternal yelling, from female responses about marital happiness to the divisions of household labor. In virtually every category, the most conservative and evangelical households were also the “softest” in terms of familial harmony, relational happiness, and emotional health."


"evangelicals have integrated biblical language of headship with the prevailing cultural notions of feminism—notions which fewer and fewer evangelicals challenge. He ties this “softening patriarchy” to specific feminist gains within evangelicalism—gains that few evangelicals are willing to challenge"

I'm a little confused. Either Moore is equivocating on the use of "softness" in reference to fatherhood, or he views "softness" negatively. What does being soft on "familial harmony, relational happiness, and emotional health" mean in his example?

Moore further criticizes our modern and contemporary evangelical views and headship and leadership in the family as being overly influenced by secular feminism, psychotherapy, and liberation theology. He cites:

"In Evangelical Feminism, University of Virginia scholar Pamela Cochran identifies concessions to the therapeutic and consumerist impulses of American culture as what led to the “egalitarian” gender movements within evangelicalism in the first place. Tracing the “biblical feminist” movement from its early days in the 1970s through the contemporary era, Cochran shows that the dispute between “complementarians” and “egalitarians” was not simply about the interpretation of some biblical texts, no matter what evangelical feminists now say. To make the feminist project fly, she argues, evangelicals needed a more limited understanding of biblical inerrancy and an embrace of contemporary hermeneutical trends, such as those that had made possible the liberation theologies of mainline Protestantism. The therapeutic and consumerist atmosphere of evangelicalism enabled this process because it displaced and external, objective authority with an individualistic internal locus of authority. Thus, for the leadership of the evangelical feminist movement, “the primary community of accountability was feminist, not evangelical.” The question was not whether evangelicals should be accountable to this feminist community but how much."

I'm not so sure about the scope of this argument. To be fair, there is an amount of truth to grounding some elements of egalitarianism in feminism and liberation theology. However, I find this a far cry from bumping off biblical inerrancy in favor of an "internal locus of authority" over the authority of Scripture or even being wholly accountable to the feminist movement, which presto--led to egalitarianism or even to the practice of pragmatic egalitarianism, as Moore references elsewhere in the paper.

But what is good is now suspect? Moore quotes again,

"Likewise, in her Evangelical Identity and Gendered Family Life Oregon State University sociologist Sally Gallagher interviews evangelical men and women across the country and across the denominational spectrum and concludes that most evangelicals are “pragmatically egalitarian.” Evangelicals maintain headship in the sphere of ideas, but practical decisions are made in most evangelical homes through a process of negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus.

That’s what our forefathers would have called “feminism”—and our foremothers, too."

I guess what is good is now suspect. In a backhanded fashion, Moore takes aim at a common Christian marital dynamic, which seems reasonably balanced to me at face value. So what then, if A=B, B=C, then A=C, and balance becomes a secular violation of Biblical principles?! I feel as though I'm doing theological yoga, where Moore is instructing everyone to s-t-r-e-t-c-h respectable behavior between couples into sour symptoms of sinister secularism designed to undermine the Christian faith itself. Well, I don't have to insinuate, for Moore says so plainly:

"For too long, the evangelical gender debate has assumed that this was merely one more intramural debate—on our best days along the lines of Arminian/Calvinist or dispensationalist/covenant skirmishes and on our worst days as an theological equivalent of a political debate show with a right- and left-wing representative. And yet, C.S. Lewis included male headship among the doctrines he considered to be part of “mere Christianity,” precisely because male headship has been asserted and assumed by the Christian church with virtual unanimity from the first century until the rise of contemporary feminism."

I agree that male headship ought to reflect an essential part of Christianity, but to characterize relationships that operate with "negotiation, mutual submission, and consensus" as lacking said male headship is ridiculous.

Then, in a gutsy move, Moore seeks to revive the use of the word "patriarchy" and apply it in a truly Biblical fashion, as he sees it. Now, I understand that "patriarchy" is not necessarily a negative term. It has only been made so by all the negative associations we have placed on it, none anymore negative than "matriarchy" could have associated with it. Nevertheless, patriarchy nowadays is viewed similarly to "marxism," "despotism," and "radical Islam." We'd best use that word very very carefully.

But while I may question the use of the word "patriarchy," I don't oppose male headship. Moore makes the effort to draw theological pictures for the strength of the Fatherhood of God and the role of God the Father in the Trinitarian relationship. We would indeed miss a lot of meaning in our earthly relationships if were to overlook or ignore this design point in our marriages and church roles. But what does Moore say about the postive case for Biblical patriarchy/headship? Very little. It is not enough to merely claim that it's 'in the Bible' with the Trinitarian theme of Fatherhood and the warning that our very orthodoxy is at stake. Moore must provide a working example of such a headship, beyond the "male headship is not about male privilege" line that we hear so frequently (and I often state myself!). We know what is is not; please tell us what it is.

In light of the broader C/E debate, Moore's paper demonstrates that the Complementarian-camp has ill-defined boundaries of complementarianism. Not only does he not say what patriarchy truly is, he does not outline what this looks like in practical life. Although in my opinion, to define patriarchy in particulars is an undertaking that is nearly impossible to realize. Not only would it open a bottomless pit to nitpick at the minutia of daily life, it will impose on the marriage relationship a trap of legalism that runs counter to the freedom in Christ that we enjoy as believers under grace.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Should women be silent in church? (an egalitarian view)

In a short article T.L. Ruonavaara-King summarizes some of the main interpretations of 1 Cor. 14:34:
Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. (TNIV)
T.L. raises five objections to a strictly literal interpretation of this verse that women must never say anything in church. Here is the fifth objection:

However, the rest of verse 34 is confusing, because clearly women are permitted by Paul to speak, there is no obvious relationship to speaking and being submissive, and there is no Scriptural Law that addresses this issue. It is possible that there is a local cultural law, but would seem unlikely for Paul to site it. However, it is possible that he is referencing some local laws relative to the respect of women toward their husbands, of which there were numerous, both by the Greeks and Jews. Honor and Shame in the World of the Bible by V. H. Matthews et al, is supposed to discuss many of these.

There are two other possible interpretations being considered by present day theologians. A. C. Thiselton (in his new NIGTC) [1] suggests that the questions could be regarding sifting and weighing the words of the prophets, i.e. judging the prophets. While this is a good possibility, I think one needs to remember that the general congregations are not the ones to judge the words of the prophets either, but the prophets as a group, possibly including other anointed leadership.

Another possible interpretation is that verses 34 and 35 are another¹s words that Paul is quoting and actually repudiating in verse 36. Or did the word of God come originally from you? Or was it you only that it reached? Paul has quoted others and then responded to them in other places. I believe this is called an interpolation and that Fee argues this in First Epistle. [2]

The first makes sense since women were coming out of a place of ignorance and most needed to learn more before they could offer informed constructive discussion. The second makes sense if Paul is addressing those who would think only men would ever be capable of discernment since it is the Holy Spirit who inspires and brings truth.

What do you think? Was Paul refuting an extrabiblical "law" against women speaking in church? If not, what kind of silence did he want from women, given that he had already written about other kinds of women's speech in church (e.g. 1 Cor. 11:5)? Was Paul addressing a local church problem only or stating a rule for women's speech in church services for all time?

Friday, February 1, 2008

complementarianism and domestic violence

Today's post at the CBMW Gender Blog states that there is no room for domestic violence under the complementarian view of headship authority of the husband:
Complementarians have no tolerance for beating because we believe the Bible to teach that headship and submission are willing and loving acts, not oppressive patriarchy. Truly biblical patriarchy is a call to die, not to beat. It is a call for husbands to sacrifice for the good of his wife and family. It is a call for husbands to protect from oppression, not administer it.