Adj. Pertaining to complementarianism and egalitarianism.

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


Monday, September 29, 2008

Biblical male leadership

Do any passages in the Bible teach that men, not women, are to be spiritual leaders in houses of worship and in the home? Be sure to quote specific Bible passages to support your answer in support of a yes or no answer to this question.

If you include references to headship, be sure to give biblical evidence for your claims about headship.

In other words, we want all comments on this post to be grounded in actual biblical teaching, specific words of the Bible, not simply systems of logical thought that have been built up that interpret what the Bible means by what it says.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Ware's summary of egalitarian and complementarian positions

Bruce Ware has summarized his understanding of the egalitarian and complementarian positions.

A High-Profile Conversion to Egalitarianism

One of the articles in the most recent issue of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) is A High-Profile Conversion to Egalitarianism, by blogger Denny Burk. This article should be of special interest to those, like myself, who have spent a lot of time in church and Bible school contexts which have connections to Dallas Theological Seminary.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

prayer request

I realize this is a little unusual to post a prayer request, but I believe it is appropriate. Please pray for a member of this blog's community who is having a very difficult time right now with a family crisis. Thanks.

UPDATE (Oct. 1): There has been some progress, but there is a long ways to go. Please keep praying.

Moderation reminders

This is a reminder that comments on this blog are moderated. Moderation has significantly helped the atmosphere of this blog to be more Christlike. I never like to disapprove a comment. I only disapprove a comment if it breaks one of our posting guidelines in the upper left of this blog.

If my work load can allow it, I try to communicate with those whose comments have been disapproved so they can know why they were not approved and can revise them so them can be re-posted and approved. But many of you do not have your email addresses attached to your posting link, such as on a blog you may have. I have tried as hard as I can googling for some of your email addresses, but am unsuccessful.

So, if you do not see a comment of yours posted, please do feel free to contact me off-blog so I can email you about that post.

Believe it or not, I do not take sides when it comes to moderation. I know that some of you do not believe this and I have to live with that. I do make mistakes in moderating, but I try very hard to following the posting guidelines as my moderating guidelines. And other co-bloggers here, I am sure, do the same when they approve or disapprove comments on this blog.

I am especially on the lookout for sarcasm and similar communication breakers. Any comment such as "See, I told you so. A leopard can't change its spots" or "Fellow blog member, don't even try to get your point across. It won't work. It's a lost cause," will not be approved. You may feel it is a fact when you are sarcastic or in the ballpark of sarcasm, but it is really just a statement of opinion. And it is a statement which does not build up the Body of Christ. Yes, Paul the Apostle was, at times, sarcastic. But as you all know by now, I am not Paul the Apostle. And my writings are not inspired as his were, so I try not to be sarcastic and I try to disallow comments from others which are, as well. Maybe I should add that I come from a family where there were many cruel putdowns. I was often sarcastic myself. But my dear wife helped me understand that my sarcasm was hurtful instead of helpful. By God's grace it stopped essentially immediately, because I love my wife. I'm still working on some of my other sins, which haven't stopped immediately.

We really do welcome all viewpoints on this blog. I appreciate so very much the different comments as well as blog posts from all of you when they are written with graciousness toward those with whom you disagree, especially others on this blog.

Oh, another thing which I do not approve on this blog is airing dirty laundry in public. If you have a private grievance against someone else on this blog, you need to use the biblical approach and email them privately. If you do not have their email address, you can ask me if I have it and I can give it to you if I have it. Or you can post a comment asking that person to email you privately.

Thanks, as always, to each of you who try to help this be a safe place for discussing divisive issues.

Christian bookstores hide magazine

Lifeway bookstores has decided to hide behind the counter the latest issue of Gospel Today magazine because the front cover features women pastors. Click here to read the story.

Lifeway is the same chain of Christian bookstores which participates in the boycott against the TNIV Bible translation. It does not sell the TNIV because it says its gender language is not accurate, although it does sell other English Bibles which have the same gender language.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Ware to Find the Image of God

Several egalitarians on this blog have repeatedly accused complementarian spokesman Bruce Ware of arguing that women are not fully created in the image of God. As a complementarian, the idea that Ware would argue such a thing is indeed disturbing, since the Bible is unmistakably clear that both male and female are completely and equally the image of God. So I dutifully went to the CBMW web-site and found an article by Ware entitled Male and Female Complementarity and the Image of God.

Does Ware teach that women are not created in the image of God, or that they are somehow less fully the image of God than men? Here are a few statements from that article:

both male and female exhibit full and equal humanness as the image of God

all men, both male and female, are fully the image of God

Man and woman, then, both are fully the image of God and together share the responsibility to steward the earthly creation God has made.

the creation of male and female as the image of God indicates the equal value of women with men as being fully human, with equal dignity, worth and importance

As is often observed, since this was written in a patriarchal cultural context, it is remarkable that the biblical writer chose to identify the female along with the male as of the exact same name and nature as "man." Male and female are equal in essence and so equal in dignity, worth, and importance.

Another clear biblical testimony to this equality is seen in the position of redeemed men and women in Christ . . . These New Testament passages reflect the Bible's clear teaching that as male and female are equal in their humanity (Gen. 1:26-27), so they are equal in their participation of the fullness of Christ in their redemption (Gal. 3:28)

Scripture clearly teaches the full human and essential equality of man and woman as created in the image of God

the full essential and human equality of male and female in the image of God means there can never rightly be a disparaging of women by men or men by women. Concepts of inferiority or superiority have no place in the God-ordained nature of male and female in the image of God

Nowhere in Scripture is the differentiation between male and female a basis for the male's supposed superiority in value or importance, or for female exploitation. All such attitudes and actions are sinful violations of the very nature of our common humanity as males and females fully and equally created in the image of God

From all this, it seems clear that Ware affirms that women are no less the image of God than men. In fact, he repeats that affirmation at every possible opportunity.

Yet Ware also wants to emphasize the distinction between male and female, and it is his effort to do that in connection with the image of God which leads to statements which seem to undercut his assertion of full ontological equality.

while God did intend to create male and female as equal in their essential nature as human, he also intended to make them different expressions of that essential nature, as male and female reflect different ways, as it were, of being human. Now, the question before us is whether any of these male/female differences relate to the question of what it means for men and women to be created in the image of God.

I will here propose that it may be best to understand the original creation of male and female as one in which the male was made image of God first, in an unmediated fashion, as God formed him from the dust of the ground, while the female was made image of God second, in a mediated fashion, as God chose, not more earth, but the very rib of Adam by which he would create the woman fully and equally the image of God. So, while both are fully image of God, and both are equally the image of God, it may be the case that both are not constituted as the image of God in the identical way. Scripture gives some clues that there is a God-intended temporal priority bestowed upon the man as the original image of God, through whom the woman, as image of God formed from the male, comes to be.

Much of what follows is relatively standard complementarian fare. Ware points to passages which speak of man's temporal priority in creation and the fact that Eve was taken out of the man (1 Timothy 2:13 and 1 Corinthians 11:8). He makes much of the fact that both male and female are called adam, a word which is grammatically masculine (a weak argument, but one which many complementarians still insist on using). He wrestles with the statement in 1 Corinthians 11:7 that man is the "image and glory of God" while woman is the "glory of man." In essence, Ware's arguments in this section boil down to this: the order of creation points to a God-ordained male headship. Not something most egalitarians will agree with, but a fairly typical complementarian view.

Ware then discusses the fact that Genesis 5:3 speaks of Adam having a son in his own image and likeness, pointing out the obvious connection to the creation of mankind in the image of God in Genesis 5:1-2. Ware makes much of the fact that Adam only is mentioned here rather than Eve, and essentially argues that the image of God is passed to children through the fatherhood of the man.

This argument is, in my opinion, clearly a stretch. Why is Seth mentioned as having been born in the likeness and image of Adam only rather than Adam and Eve together? The most obvious answer is that Seth was male as Adam was male, and so more closely resembled Adam than Eve. There is no need to postulate some notion that the image of God is transferred via the fatherhood of the man rather than the parenthood of man and woman together.

Ware then connects Genesis 5:3 and 1 Corinthians 11:7 to make the point that both women and children are made the image of God through the prior existence of the man as image of God. He then draws the following conclusion:

What this suggests, then, is that the concept of male-headship is relevant not only to the question of how men and women are to relate and work together, but it seems also true that male-headship is a part of the very constitution of the woman being created in the image of God. Man is a human being made in the image of God first; woman becomes a human being bearing the image of God only through the man. While both are fully and equally the image of God, there is a built-in priority given to the male that reflects God's design of male-headship in the created order.

In a footnote, Ware again asserts that by pointing to this "built-in priority" he does not intend "to communicate any sense of greater value, dignity, worth, human personhood, or sharing in the image of God that the male possesses over the female."

In all this, Ware seeks to establish the notion that male headship is part of the created order and a fundamental aspect of our nature as male and female. That, again, is a fairly typical complementarian assertion. Yet his linkage of this assertion to the image of God is disturbing, in spite of the fact that he repeatedly asserts that men and women are fully and equally image of God. Ware wants to say that while we are both image of God, we express the image of God differently as male and female. But by using terms like "mediated" and "derivative" to describe how woman reflects the image of God, he sounds too much like earlier theologians who asserted that "the woman herself alone is not the image of God" (Augustine) or that "as regards the individual nature, the woman is defective and misbegotten" (Aquinas).

Once again, Ware clearly and repeatedly repudiates such notions of female inferiority, but he still wants to affirm some measure of male priority in the image of God. In essence, he is coming dangerously close to making an ontological distinction between male and female.

Yet even as I write that, I'm not sure Ware would see the distinction he is making as an ontological one. After all, he might protest, we affirm the full ontological equality of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; yet we also affirm that the Son is "begotten" of the Father and that the Spirit "proceeds" from the Father and the Son (or just the Father in the Eastern tradition). If these distinctions do not negate equality of essence, then perhaps it does not follow that Ware's emphasis on Adam and Eve's distinct origins necessarily negates the essential equality of the sexes.

At one level, Ware is doing what theologians often do: namely, affirming two seemingly paradoxical notions without necessarily resolving the paradox in detail. Just as we affirm that God is completely sovereign, yet in such a way that he is not the author of sin or one who does violence to the will of his creatures, so Ware is trying to affirm that man and woman are both fully and equally the image of God, while nevertheless asserting that the distinction between men and women is somehow rooted in our very nature and the way we bear the image of God.

The challenge for me is that I can accept that Ware means what he says about the full ontological equality of women, but I'm not sure what to make of his distinction. Saying that man and woman bear the image of God in different ways certainly goes beyond "functional subordination," and it's hard to see how it is anything less than an ontological distinction. Is there some middle category between ontology and function? Or is this a working out of Ware's assertion that "function always and only follows essence"?

The first half of Ware's article is a long and somewhat abstruse discussion of different views of what the image of God is. Ware begins with "structural views," which identified the image of God as some attribute which was unique to humanity (such as reason or the possession of a soul). He then moves on to "relational views," which saw the image of God being reflected in the nature of our relationship to God and to each other. Ware then discusses and promotes a view he calls "functional holism," which sees the image of God as expressing the totality of what humanity is, what we do, and how we relate to one another. Ware summarizes this view as follows:

The image of God in man as functional holism means that God made human beings, both male and female, to be created and finite representations (images of God) of God's own nature, that in relationship with him and each other, they might be his representatives (imaging God) in carrying out the responsibilities he has given to them. In this sense, we are images of God in order to image God and his purposes in the ordering of our lives and carrying out of our God-given responsibilities.

I think this notion is the key to understanding the distinction Ware is trying to make. He is essentially trying to affirm that men and women are both fully human and fully image of God (ontological equality), but that we cannot accurately represent God ("image" God) unless we are rightly related to him and to each other. Thus, Ware's emphasis on the distinction in the way men and women have been created is meant to show that "functional subordination" is just as much a part of what it means to be made in the image of God as is "ontological equality." This view also relates to his view of the Trinity, which I haven't even begun to examine yet.

So where does that leave us?

First, I think we can safely say that Ware does not, in fact, teach that women are any less created in the image of God than men. When he uses terms like "mediated" and "derivative," he does not mean "diminished."

Second, I think we can all agree that Ware is arguing that gender distinctions go beyond mere differences in role, and are rooted in the created order. Most complementarians believe that to some degree or other, and most egalitarians view that notion as incompatible with ontological equality. Ware's view is that ontological equality and functional subordination are both fundamental to the nature of the Trinity, and that being created in the image of God means that they are both fundamental to the nature of humanity.

Third, Ware seems to have a knack for saying things in a way that is sure to offend the sensibilities of most egalitarians. When Ware uses "mediated" and "derivative" to describe how women bear the image of God, does he not see how most egalitarians (and many comps for that matter) will naturally hear "diminished"? Is Mr. Ware so obtuse that he does not understand how inflammatory such terms will be to his theological opponents? Or does he simply not care? Whenever I read Ware, I do not come away convinced that egalitarians are reading him accurately; but I do come away feeling like Ware has framed things in a way which is sure to infuriate them. If Ware wants to communicate with egalitarians, he needs to stop trampling over their hot-buttons.

In the end, Ware's teaching about the image of God is a highly nuanced theological argument which, frankly, is easily misunderstood. To me, this is the greatest area of concern. It is too easy to assume Ware's language of derivation implies some kind of diminishment, and few people will really take the time to analyze all of Ware's caveats and qualifications. As a theologian, Ware crafts his arguments carefully, and clearly repudiates what most egalitarians accuse him of affirming. Unfortunately, Ware seems to be a poor popularizer of his own theological views, and much gets lost when he tries to communicate with non-specialists. He does not seem able to anticipate how some of his arguments will be understood by the average pastor or layperson, much less by the average egalitarian. The end result is that some comps may misunderstand his teaching on the image of God as implying that men are inherently superior to women; while some egalitarians will use it to prove that comps in general and CBMW in particular do indeed teach that women are less "image of God" than men.

In this post, I've tried to interact with Bruce Ware's teaching on men and women in the image of God carefully and critically. Ware has become such a polarizing figure for some egalitarians that I don't expect them to be very satisfied with my critique. Some will no doubt think me too sympathetic or naive to see the clear implications of Ware's teaching. But reading between the lines is not the same thing as reading critically. Judging from what Ware has actually written, egals and comps should be able to agree with Ware's affirmation that women are fully the "image of God." Where all egals, and some comps, will disagree with Ware is in his affirmation that male headship is an important aspect of what it means to be created in the image of God.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Wow, this blog is something else!

I'm wrung out. I've worked hard this week. I had a sugar slump (hypglycemic) tonight. And I had a number of private email exchanges today with a member of this blog's community about things I was not aware of but needed to become aware of, even things I have said of done with a pure intention but came across hurting others. Those exchanges were draining, but necessary. We really do need to listen to each other. We need to hear where we are hurting. We need to be quick to listen and slow to, hmm, I forget, my brain is so drained, what comes next, slow to anger or slow to answer?

Anyway, I want to affirm each one of you who are trying so hard to help this blog be a place where we can express our differences and still love each other. Well, we hope for the love, anyway. We may not always like each other, but we can choose to love each other. I believe that's a biblical position.

I appreciate John Hobbins' repeated reference to practicing 1 Cor. 13 in a marriage, regardless of whether the marriage is comp or egal. That really is what Christ has called us to, a life of love for each other in the Body of Christ, and especially toward each other in the most intimate relationship, that of marriage.

Sometimes I almost feel despair about this blog, wondering if I have been quixotic in my hopes that it could be a safe place for different sides in the comp vs. egal debates to express their feelings and biblical (and other) support for them. And then I see some comments that give me hope again that our efforts, with all of our mistakes (mine included), may make this a safer, or at least healthier, place than ones where only egals get to post or only comps get to post.

And then there are those who are hurting so deeply. Do they belong here in this blog company? It's a serious question. I would hope that someone they can find a place of refuge and comfort here, the loving shoulder of Jesus and his followers to lean upon. And when they make over-arching statements that we want to question logically, what are we to do? Should we try to logically reason with someone who is in deep pain due to a family crisis, to try to get them to see that an ideological or theological is not to blame for everything. Spouses make choices. They may refer to their ideology to bolster their choices but if their choices are unbiblical, no matter how much they cite their idealogy does not make their abusive behavior righteous. All leaning comp teachers that I know of have, at least more recently, recognized that they need to speak out against abuse. And egal teachers need to speak out about the sins which tend to crop up in egal contexts. (I didn't do a very good job on that one in my post awhile back, even though I tried hard to show the possible problems that can associate with either ideology.)

I think that egals outnumber comps here, altho I am not sure. If we judged only by answers to poll questions in the margin, it would appear that comps are in larger numbers. But I think that comps don't feel very welcome here. (I know so, actually, from a variety of evidence, including public comments and private email I receive.) Egals might--I only say might--not feel much compassion for comps here since there are comp blogs and discussion groups which are very mean to egals. I know. I've tried to enter their discussions and even though I have not argued strongly for either position, any questioning of the comp line can be enough sometimes to be banned from their territory. But that kind of treatment does not justify retaliation in kind. We are not called by Jesus to even the score. Instead, he calls us to love, yes, love our enemies, and sometimes comps and egals do become enemies. Jesus didn't call us to like our enemies, but he did call us to love them. And I'm guess that if spend enough time trying to listen well to our enemies and respond lovingly, we might even find that we can like some of them!

OK, it's a rambling post tonight, but I felt such a need to share these things on my heart.

I am sorry to each of you for not being a perfect blog host. I have tried hard to help this be a safe place to post. We moderate comments now. And that helps. But things still slip through the cracks and will continue to do so. I won't be perfect but I will continue to try to make this blog a place where you can say what you believe. And I can only appeal to each of us to try to be as gracious as possible toward those with whom we disagree.

Let us be slow to try to win a logical argument. Let us be quick to try to hear the heart of the person who is writing. Let us risk speaking more in "I" terms rather than "you" terms. I know it hurts when you are criticized for sharing your story in "I" terms. I know that pain very well. But I believe that a fair number of people will respect "I" stories and not shoot you down, but will empathize even if they disagree with an ideological connection you believe is part of your story.

I admit that sometimes I wonder if it is worth keeping this blog going. But if I were to shut it down, it would be giving in to the belief that Christians can't love other enough to hear each other, and, then, loving state where we disagree but do so with great respect. I still want to hold on to the belief that it is possible for the world to know that we are followers of Jesus because we love each other.

Good night, sisters and brothers. I must get some rest.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Why I'm cool with it

In formulating an explanation to the questions on my previous post, I discovered that it was getting lengthy. Rather than put it in the combox, I've posted it below as a separate blogpost.

To sue, bonnie, lin, and molly,

You all seem to be asking the same question, so I'll respond with the best answer that represents my viewpoint. A caveat, though: most of you already know I'm not the CBMW kind of Comp. I take a position that is much more generous towards women's roles in life than, say, Wayne Grudem. I don't believe that one must be as strict as he to be a Comp. Therefore, my views only represent me and not the more famous Comps out there...at least not yet.

The question is, 'in the Complementarian view, if creation roots male authority over females, which then prohibits women from having spiritual authority over men, then why would Complementarians accept women in civil authority, which seems contrary to the creation design?'

I think this question contains some erroneous assumptions.

1. Creation roots male authority over females,

1A. One assumption is that this "authority" encompasses all of existence, specifically that females are under the direction of males in every aspect of life without limits. In which case, that's a form of omnipotence, not authority. I cannot find any evidence where such unlimited power is mandated in scripture as God's will. Indeed, you know the well the examples to the contrary where women are in authority, so I don't need to list them here.

1B. "Male" authority? I've said this in a previous post as well that God didn't create a female for Adam, but a wife. I hope the meaning of this is not lost on anyone, that Eve was created married. There is no male and female as two separate entities that eventually got married only because there was no one else around. We cannot assume, therefore, that such a thing as "male authority over females" applies as a general state of affairs. The so-called "authority" that we often speak about in creation exists primarily in a marriage relationship (if it exists that way at all; see 1C), and I believe that it should only apply within marriage-related contexts (more on that later).

1C. Authority. This word has never been defined for the comp/egal debate ever to the point where both sides agree what it entails and encompasses. I think we all just assume that it means
- the husband is the boss/calls the shots for all decisions
- the husband is in control of the wife (and the rest of the family)

I believe that our assumptions are only partially true, but whether we can genuinely call it authority remains to be seen, when I'm done with it. In general, I prefer "spiritual leadership" or "head" (it's entirely biblical) to describe the relationship. Take Eph. 5:22, "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord." Here's the breakdown:

- the husband is not the Lord, but God commands wives treat their husbands with the kind of submission as if they were submitting to the Lord (which is also true)
- a relative position of respect and deference that wives should give their husbands as a moral act, not a compulsory act
- such deference is not given to any other man
- a position that does not entail a right a husband must maintain by force in general; indeed, it is not an inherent right to leadership but one based on the context of Christ and a wife's moral submission (and only under these circumstances)
- a position where wife and family are under a huband's care, not under his control; having said that, there are instances where a husband can and should act in the best interest of his family to avert danger or harm and to promote godliness.

(If you think this last one is a loophole, it isn't. If a husband chooses to abuse those under his care, that is not acting in the best interest of his family, which means there is no support from God for his actions. What to do about it is a separate issue we can discuss some other time.)

2. which then prohibits women from having spiritual authority over men,

2A. I don't think the argument can be made this way. Indeed, when we get to this content, it is usually 1 Tim. 2 that gets whipped out (not Genesis 2-3). Paul doesn't say that women shouldn't have any authority whatsoever over men, but in a leading/teaching capacity in the church. Greg Koukl from Stand to Reason points out that our translation of "man" and "woman" in this passage is in other places rendered "husband" and "wife." I think he makes a good case that women can, indeed, lead, teach, and have authority in some capacity in church, so long as that authority doesn't trample on the marriage relationship as I've described above. That is a principle.

The actual context in 1 Tim. 2 is sketchy. Why did Paul say what he did? Why didn't Jesus say anything like that? Why does he talk about braided hair and jewelry right before that? Why, why, why? I think we are not answering "why," so we are not arriving at an agreeable hermeneutic on this passage. In my mind, Paul is addressing 'problem women' in the church where Timothy is leading, and that his solution is for such women to get silent and show that their husbands should set them straight. Such should apply to all problem women, yes?

2B. So can women lead Bible studies in mixed company? Yeah.

2C. What if a woman's husband is in the Bible study? I think we take this business of Bible studies too seriously/formally. Everyone is learning together in an informal setting which isn't a uniquely church activity. A better question is 'Can a woman be her own husband's seminary professor?' which is a true authoritative position. We simply use other words, like conflict of interest. For every situation between these poles, I think Christian freedom should dictate what each couple does.

2D. So can women be pastors? If, by that, we mean the official person with ultimate responsibility for directing a congregation spiritually, organizationally and personally into the lives of churchgoers, then no. However, I wouldn't exempt women in being a part of the process by which all of that takes place. I know you must be asking why, so here's my rationale:

Eph. 5:22Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. 23For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. 25Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her

According to this scripture, Christ's relation to His Church is pictured in the husband's relation to the wife. Scripture specifically names the husband (not the wife) in the place of Christ in the picture. The marriage unit picture is, therefore, foundational to the makeup of the Church (afterall, the family is a microcosm of the Church). So, the human people that must lead and direct the Church should be men--they are a type of husband figure for the church body. Wives and women occupying this particular position in church do not fit this biblical picture. It is not that there is anything wrong with women so much as having a woman take directive leadership of the Church changes the image of the Church that God wants to portray. It is undeniable that a woman head pastor of a congregation changes the picture given to us in Eph. 5, not to mention that such a position of authority would throw her marriage into conflict of interest with her husband (if she were married).

3. Why would Complementarians accept women in civil authority?

This is a fair question. On the surface it seems to make sense that if our theology of men and women were universal, then it would naturally extend from the Church arena into all other arenas in life. This is the view that Patriocentrists take, and so they oppose any position where a woman might find herself in authority over men. But I've already made a case that it isn't really a theology of merely "men" and "women." However, besides being impractical to the level of absurd in some cases, it ignores the fact that no other arena besides the Church is built on a relationship between husband and wife and what it means (Christ redeems His Church), at least none other came to mind. That is why I said in my previous post that we do have separate realms on an existential level. Even with something as big as government (some would say especially the government), the primary function of which is not about and does not speak to the unique marriage dynamic that is set up by God to reflect Christ and the Church).

So back to Sarah Palin being a governor and possibly VP. I am way cool with it. As bonnie commented, "the fact that many complementarians are endorsing Sarah Palin for VP indicates....At the very least, [Complementarianism] is facing redefinition." Yeah, I'm cool with that too.

/big grin

Sunday, September 14, 2008

the dangerous middle ground where Palin, Mohler, and I occupy

This is hardly a cheering endorsement from Mohler, though it certainly is an acknowledgement that not all wives and mothers are called to stay at home. It is, however, a clear admonition to not view her as a normal women. She is an exception, like Esther or Deborah, period. She is not so much an example to be followed as she is an exception to the general rule. (molly)
Mohler has a consistency problem with this one because Palin professes to be a Christian. Mohler/CBMW teach that Christian women have a 'role'and all that entails that we have discussed here ad nauseum. :o) However, they are also saying that we can separate the civil and spiritual realms for women in leadership. That does not seem to be a problem except that Palin is a Christian woman. Is anyone else not seeing this conumdrum for CBMW? How can they separate the civil and spiritual realm with a Christian woman? You can't. Christians don't have 'realms'. (lin)
It is clear that the non-egals want to have their cake and eat it too. (don)

Is CBMW being inconsistent, many ask?

I think it depends on the person speaking. Doug Phillips seems to believe he is more consistent than Al Mohler, but I don't think that matters in light of his views. When you believe that a woman is created for no other purpose than to be a babymama-housekeeper, you've effectively dropped out of reasonable conversation altogether.

Is complementarianism in trouble because of Sarah Palin?

That's funny, and the answer is no. Let me point out that Richard Land (complementarian) was one of the first people to propose naming Sarah Palin for McCain's VP early on in the campaign.

Do I have a problem with consistency as a complementarian?

Well, if I make the kind of errors I've read so far from both egals and patriocentrists, yes. But I haven't. In this previous post, I argued that it is perfectly consistent with my views on Complementarianism that a woman could be a leader in any civil realm she chooses.

To the issue raised that Christians (and certainly complementarians) don't have separate realms, vis a vis a Christian/spiritual realm to a secular realm (and the accusation that complementarians are trying to split life into these two realms): I would contend that this is an incorrect framing of the issue, which is then, incorrectly trying to expose inconsistency in complementarianism.

The idea, 'There is no separate spiritual realm and secular realm for the Christian,' is a theological proposition about how we should conduct ourselves with Christlike integrity wherever we are (not an existential proposition). Al Mohler is not making a contrary theological claim to that. Instead, he is making a simple modal distinction brought up by the case of Sarah Palin. In short, she can wear that hat (whether governor or VP or whatever). As to whether or not there exist separate realms, of course there are--we don't live under a theocracy afterall, and we don't demand that our government be ruled by the Church. This is an argument against a position like Doug Phillips'. That anyone can construe this to be a problem of complementarian proportions is ridiculous.

Is Gov. Palin the exception? Yes, in the sense that I think most women don't have the ability to do what she is doing, including myself. I can hardly find time to read a book much less occupy a public office. But also no, in the sense that she is an exeption because she is exceptional, not because she's bending some rule somewhere to get where she is (which is otherwise closed to women). There is no such rule that prohibits women from exercising public office. Any woman who has the skills to govern effectively and still regard her husband and family properly should be afforded the opportunity to exercise those skills, regardless of whether she is a Christian or not. (I would add, especially if she is a conservative Christian, but that is my bias that we don't need any more liberal pro-abortion politicians hostile to Christianity here in this country). Marilyn did make this point in the combox (much better than I, I think).

For those of you who are salivating at the idea that the issue of Sarah Palin proves that complementarianism as a system of thought is wrong need to aim your guns elsewhere, because you've really missed the point. Some hard complementarians/patriocentrists, like Doug Phillips, are certainly wrong in their views, but their problem isn't complementarianism. It's the refusal in their own hearts to see the full humanity of women.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Sarah Palin is a Christian feminist. What is a Christian feminist?

This question was asked in a recent comment on this blog:
What is a "Christian feminist"?
I am by no means an expert on feminism or Christian feminism, but I'd like to write down a few thoughts trying to define what a Christian feminist is. And then the floor will be open, as always, for comments.

Words often mean different things to different people. That's one reason why dictionaries often have more than one sense listed among the meanings for a word. If we look up the word feminist in a dictionary we typically get definitions such as these:
  • of or relating to or advocating equal rights for women; "feminist critique"
  • a supporter of feminism
  • wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn

  • Feminism comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and moral philosophies concerned with gender inequalities and equal rights for women.
  • en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Feminist

  • A person who supports the equality of women with men; A member of a feminist political movement; One who believes in the social, political, and economical equality of the sexes; Relating to or in accordance with feminism
A feminist, then, is someone who believes that men and women should have equal rights. The definition does not say in what areas of life there should be equal rights. The struggle for women to have equal rights has taken different forms depending on what was the focal inequality at any particular time in history.

It wasn't too long ago that women did not have the right to vote (suffrage) in the United States. Women who marched and campaigned for the right to vote were called suffragettes. They fit the definition of feminists since they wanted to be able to vote as men did.

Even before then women did not have the right to own land. Eventually laws were passed that allowed women to own land.

Women have sometimes and in some places not had the right to read or attend school, or at least the right to a higher education beyond, say, the 6th or 8th grade. Today in many, but not all, countries, women have the same right to an education that men do. Feminists call for women to have equal access to education, including higher education.

In many countries, including the United States, women are often not paid the same wages for the same work. Feminists believe that a woman should receive the same wage as a man for the same kind of work.

What, then, would a Christian feminist be? I think the answer would be that a woman who believes in equality for women and is also a Christian would be a Christian feminist. This would not necessarily mean that a Christian feminist would believe that women should have exactly the same jobs as men. I'm sure that there are the same differences of opinion among Christian feminists as there are among the Christian public over whether or not women should be able to have the same roles in the church and home as men do. Some Christian feminists believe that women should be able to be ordained and pastor churches. I assume that some do not.

Sarah Palin is receiving a lot of public attention these days, from the MSM (mainstream media), the Christian media, and bloggers, both Christian and non-Christian. Some, including CBMW, apparently, believe that it is permissible for a Christian woman like Sarah Palin to hold public office, because that is a secular ("civic") job, not a ministry job. Others believe that a woman should have not job at all where she would have any authority over men.

Sarah Palin has been a member of Feminists For Life (FFL) for many years. FFL promotes equality for women as well as the sanctity of life for unborn babies. FFL members seen no contradiction between those two positions, unlike many other people who assume (wrongly, in my opinion) that being a feminist includes the belief that a woman has the right to abort her unborn baby. Sarah Palin is a Christian feminist. Sarah Palin is delighted to break the glass ceiling for the highest offices in the United States, as she mentioned in her speech at the Republical National Convention. But Sarah Palin is strongly pro-life (anti-abortion) and gave testimony to that belief by carrying her Down syndrom son to term this year and valuing and loving him as she loves each of her other children.

When some people hear the word "feminist", the image that comes to mind is of women who called for equal rights for women while some of them made symbolic gestures, such as burning bras, to indicate that they did not want to be restricted by men to "women's work" or roles. They wanted the freedom to do anything a man could do that was physically possible for a woman. Some feminists denounced men, making it sound like they had little need for men in their lives. That, it seems to me, is a distortion of the biblical idea that God has created men and women for each other, to enjoy each other's companionship, to procreate, and to nurture their children together.

Today some people refer to feminists who burned bras and downplayed the need for men in their lives as radical feminists. It may be that any use of the word "feminist" has become so pejorative that some will question whether Christian feminists should call themselves "Christian feminists." If so, what would be a better term to use for someone who is a Christian and believes that women should have the same civil rights as men? I am sure that many Christian feminists are complementarians, believing that husbands have authority over their wives and that women should not have positions of authority over men in the church.

In summary, it seems to me that a Christian feminist is someone who is a Christian and who believes that women should have equal rights to men. Here are some of those rights for which many Christians would agree that women should have equality:
  1. voting
  2. land ownership
  3. protection from abuse
  4. equal pay for equal work
  5. education, or, in particular, higher education
Some, but not all Christians, believe that women should have equal rights in the following areas:
  1. military service
  2. church ministry
  3. civil authority over male employees
Do you have any other ideas about how to define what a Christian feminist is?

Does the term Christian feminist sound like an oxymoron (contradiction in terms) to you?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Kotter and Mohler in Trouble With Patriarchalists, Sarah Palin Raises the Woman Question to a New Height

It has been interesting to watch and read reactions on Palin's candidacy for the VP ticket, particularly because vehemently negative opinions have arisen from both the Far Left and the Far Right. Consider the words of Doug Phillips (of Vision Forum), via an excerpt from this post, which includes chastising Kotter and Mohler for being "semi-complementarian, semi-egalitarian" (because they have said it is not necessarily sinful to vote for Palin).

...The examples used by David Kotter and Albert Mohler to support their contention that female magistrates are according to God’s will are not only an inconsistent and selective use of Scripture and an elevation of the authority of experience, but are also a fundamental violation of biblical hermeneutics. [Full post here]

Scott Brown (of the National Center for Family Integrated Churches [more info on the FIC movement here) continues along the same lines, challenging those who would vote for Sarah Palin when he writes,

People say, “My vote [for McCain/Palin] is a vote against Obama.” But we must remember [voting for Palin is] also a vote for a curse, for blasphemy, for mothers to leave home, for wives to submit to another man, for women to rebel against the authority structure of the universe, for positions scripture limits to men. [full post here]

Interestingly, not all of the patriarchs are against voting for Palin. Douglas Wilson of Credenda Agenda is one who supports Palin and authoritatively says she is not sinning against the Word by pursuing a political calling. Ornaments of Grace, generally behind Vision Forum's thoughts, writes about being called a "so-called Christian," all because she is not sure that Palin is truly in sin. Truly the candidacy of Sarah Palin has stirred up issues of gender roles, period. Is America behind the curve, as In This Storm, a former patriarchalist like myself, suggests, when it comes to being slow to put women in positions of leadership? It would seem so. This CNN video claims that while American men seem to be in support of Palin, American women, by and large, are not. It appears that the radical feminist and the extreme patriarchalist have something in common, whether they like it or not.

Personally, I am thankful for the discussion I hear all over the place, amongst my friends, family, and community members, as well as in the blogosphere. Underlying currents of belief are being forced into the open, and we are all having to deal with our own culturally-derived, personally-derived and Biblically derived presuppositions---more often, a messy mix of all three--- and examine them carefully in the light of day and in the flesh and blood realities of life on planet earth.

----Hat Tip to the Fine Commenters at on this comment thread (at True Womanhood blog) for some of these links.

Colossians 2:19 -- What does the head do for the body?

Today I am checking the translation of Colossians in a tribal language. Right now I am checking Col. 2:19. The translation for this verse communicates the idea that the head tells the body what to do. As a translation consultant, I am required to raise a flag whenever a translation says something that doesn't seem to be in the original text. It seems to me that this verse is focusing on how the head nourishes the body.

Do you agree?

Is this verse relevant for helping define the relationship of the head to the body other times in the New Testament such as in Ephesians 5, and 1 Cor. 11-14?

How might marriages be different if a husband viewed one of his roles as nourishing his wife? Wives, what would you like your husband to do for you that would be nourishing?

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Marriage Advice From Dr. Love

Jolly Blogger, a self-described complementarian and a pastor for many years, just hit the ball out of the park with this post on Ten Things I Think About Marriage and the Marriage Relationship.

Yes, I am a Christian egalitarian. Yes, I am recommending a marriage post from a complementarian. Write that factoid down somewhere and keep it safe.

Fighting the deep urge to cut and paste his entire delicious post, I humbly offer a few snippets:

...the Scriptures show that God is comparatively unconcerned about your
marriage and not focused on it much at all.

Granted, I know that you are supremely concerned about your marriage and many
are very focused on making it a good one and my guess is that, if you surveyed
most Christians and churches they would say that the crisis in marriage and
family is one of the most important issues facing the church today.

But a reading of the New Testament doesn't reflect an overwhelming concern
with marriage and the family on the part of it's author (God!).


...And for my first thought I'll use the book in the New Testament that gives us the most extensive marriage advice as a basis. That book is Ephesians and it gives us two whole paragraphs on the marriage relationship, along with a very short paragraph on how to be a good Christian kid and one sentence on how to be a good Christian parent. This is a veritable encyclopedia on marriage and family compared to other books in the New Testament.

5. I think I think the first thing to notice is that all of this marital advice comes at the tail end of a long series of expositions and explanations of vital Christian doctrine. The marital advice is just kind of tacked on at the end as one application of the crucial doctrinal matters that precede it. I think it is not too big a stretch to infer from this that understanding all of this doctrine is foundational to understanding our roles in marriage.

Ergo, while it is ok to read a marriage book and/or go to a marriage conference, your time would be better spend reading expositional and theological tomes and going to bible/theology conferences. Again, the marriage stuff is good, but without the extensive biblical/theological grounding you need to apply the marriage advice. Going straight to the marriage advice without taking the extended time to understand the biblical/theological basis will be like putting the proverbial bandaid on cancer.

In closing, here is just one more set of stolen paragraphs:

9. I think I think that many Christian marriages could be enormously
more happy if the spouses would put aside the fact that they are married to one
another and just treat one another as if they were Christians. Galatians 6:10
tells us to do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household
of faith. In other words, of all the relational duties we owe to each
other as humans, as neighbors and as enemies, we are to be especially careful to
fulfill these duties to fellow Christians.

If you are claim to be a Christian and are married to a Christian you owe
your spouse all of the things you owe any other human being, just more so.
In my pre-marital counseling and marriage counseling I try to tell people
that there is no special category of counsel called "marital counseling" it's
all about basic Christian discipleship. This takes me back to my first
point where I say we are missing the boat in marriage and marriage counseling.

[Molly Adds: Read the full post here. Hat tip to Amy at Humble Musings for the recommendation].

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

David Kotter on women in public office

David Kotter of CBMW's Gender Blog has just blogged about whether or not it is biblical for a woman, such as Sarah Palin, to be in a high public office, such as that of Vice President of the United States. David concludes, as most evangelical Christians in the U.S. seem to be doing:
Therefore we must be careful to not go beyond the teaching of the Bible. The Bible calls women to specific roles in the church and home, but does not prohibit them from exercising leadership in secular political fields.
I agree with David that the Bible is silent on whether or not a woman can hold political office. I also agree with David that the Bible presents examples of women holding political offices. I happen to come from Alaska where we are proud of Sara Palin's public service and convictions.

The connection is even closer for me: my middle brother is the only politician to have ever defeated Sarah Palin in a campaign. He bested her by a few votes in the primary election for Lieutenant Governor of Alaska a number of years ago.

I agree with Governor Palin that there needs to be a great deal of political reform in the U.S. I am glad that she and her family are consistently pro-life, including Sara's not aborting her own Down Syndrome baby and she and her husband supporting their unwed daughter deciding to carry her own baby to term. I suspect that Sara and Todd Palin's convictions about the sanctity of life helped influence that decision. Their daughter made a wrong decision that resulted in conceiving a baby. But it would have been even more wrong, in my belief, to destroy the life produced from that wrong decision. By the way, my brother and Sara are now friends and he is encouraging people to pray for Sara at this difficult time in the life of her family and as she runs for political office. Perhaps you would like to join me in praying for her, as well.

Feel free to comment on Kotter's post here since there is no public commenting on Gender Blog.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Knowledge Puffs Up; Love Builds Up

When I was in college, I was a Religion major at a state university. I was also a conservative evangelical, which meant that I spent a great deal of time contradicting the views of my liberal professors. In the process, I found that their arguments were never particularly convincing, but their most effective weapon was the sardonic sneer with which many of them would dismiss me as a mindless fundamentalist. No one wants to be looked at like they're stupid, and I saw many students succumb to these professors' liberal views not because they had been convinced intellectually, but because they had been intimidated emotionally.

Throughout college, therefore, I saw the truth in Paul's statement that "knowledge puffs up" (1 Corinthians 8:1). As I entered seminary, I wondered if I would ever see an example of an intellectual Christian who exemplified the truth that "love builds up."

My first class in seminary was "Theological Foundations," which was essentially an exposition of the five points of Calvinism. If ever there was a subject which could generate more heat than light, it was this one; and indeed, there was a student in the class who was an ardent Arminian. The class was taught by Dr. Roger Nicole, a charming older French Swiss scholar (and egalitarian!) who addressed every student as "Brozer" and "Seester".

As Dr. Nicole carefully explained the Reformed understanding of divine sovereignty, human freedom, and how they relate to creation, redemption, and all of life, our class's token Arminian would get frustrated and raise a variety of objections and counter-arguments. Now, I knew Dr. Nicole had heard every one of these arguments a thousand times before, and that he could easily have blasted this student out of the water. Yet I watched in amazement as he graciously and lovingly dealt with this young man's objections as if it were the first time he had ever heard them. Dr. Nicole readily admitted the possibility that he could be mistaken in his understanding of the doctrines of grace, he acknowledged that the student's questions were important, and he lovingly constructed arguments which completely demolished those objections.

Dr. Nicole's demeanor was loving and respectful even when the student's comments came across as disrespectful and insulting. Dr. Nicole honestly seemed more interested in winning his brother than in winning an argument. I have no idea whether the Arminian student was ultimately persuaded, but I do know that Dr. Nicole had made it as hard as possible for that student to hate him. Dr. Nicole had shown me the other side of the coin: "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."

In a comment on my last post, Wayne wrote "I suspect that God cares far more about our heart attitudes in these debates than he does about whether or not we can 'win' arguments." I would agree, and I would add that God isn't the only one who cares about our heart attitudes in these debates. The people on the other side care about our heart attitudes, and if we become abusive and insulting, we simply hand them an emotional justification for rejecting our intellectual arguments. The people on our own side, and those who are still undecided, also care about our heart attitudes, and if they see us heaping abuse on our "opponents", they are more likely to sympathize with our opponents' views.

Dr. Nicole had no idea that the way he was dealing with an argumentative student would earn him the respect of someone who would later disagree with his egalitarianism. When I interact with Dr. Nicole's arguments for egalitarianism I do so with the utmost respect, not because of his considerable intellectual stature, but because of his loving demeanor toward a hostile student some sixteen years ago.

Dr. Nicole's winsomeness stands in stark contrast to much of the bile and vitriol I see expressed in this particular debate. Ideological comps and egals often caricature each other's views, indulge in sarcasm and ridicule of the other side, pretend that the truthfulness of their own view should be self-evident to all, and justify their own intractability by pointing to how they've been treated by the extremists on the other side. Such an approach merely makes the extremists on the other side feel justified in their vilification of us, while failing to persuade those in the middle who might otherwise be willing to listen to us. We would all do well to learn from Dr. Nicole (and Scripture!) that "knowledge puffs up, but love builds up."