Monthly Archives: November 2006

Welcome Lie No. 2

James Taranto and his side-kicks at the Wall Street Journal turn up some amazing stuff on the web.  In “Best of the Web Today” for November 22, 2006, Taranto links to a Daily Mail photo feature  extolling the technological advances that allow us now to see inside the wombs of animals, to observe miniature elephants, dogs, and dolphins. Directing our attention to these things, Taranto exposes another welcome lie, this time concerning the nature of the human baby in utero.

The feature begins with these words: “An unborn elephant, tiny but perfect in every way. A dolphin swimming in the womb, just as it will have to swim in the ocean the moment it is born. An unborn dog panting. Each one amazing and now, thanks to these remarkable pictures, they can be seen for the first time.”

The photos truly are amazing.  Consider, for example, the tiny elephant shown below. 

 elephant in the womb

We are told at the Daily Mail that this baby elephant is six months along its 24 month gestation.  No problem at all understanding that this is an elephant in the making, not an eggplant or a centipede.  Moving along some further months,we see the next photo of a baby elephent. 

 another elephant in the womb

Here, the Daily Mail does not tell us this baby elephant is in the 24 month cycle.  But in the following photograph, we’re told that this baby elephant is at 12 months, that it weighs 26 pounds, and that It can use its trunk, and can curl it right up into its mouth and over its head.

 yet another elephant in the womb

In the photo below, we see a dog in utero at 52 days with a full coat of light cream hair.  Its whiskers are forming.

 dog in the womb

At day 63 (see below) we’re told that the pup is armed with the tools necessary to survive, including a highly acute sense of smell and the ability to hear sounds far beyond our human range of hearing.

 ‘nuther dog in the womb

Finally, below see the open-eyed dolphin baby, swimming in its mother’s womb.  These and many more photos are slated to be shown on the National Geographic Channel December 10, 2006.  See further photos from this upcoming presentation by clicking here.

 dolphin in the womb
One commenter at the Daily Mail says this: “It’s amazing to see that technology has developed so far and graces us with a gift such as these pictures. I am amazed at how alike human and animal embyos are! What a beautiful discovery.” 

human lurking in wombBut, as Taranto notes, this point of view must certainly be false!  By way of pointing to the Welcome Lie concerning humans in the womb, Taranto says, “”By contrast, as we all know from reading the newspapers, there is no such thing as an unborn human being. We develop by a little-understood process in which a clump of cells, similar to a tumor or a fingernail, miraculously becomes a baby at the moment the entire clump is exposed to air. That humans and animals come into the world in such radically different ways pretty much demolishes the notion that we are the product of Darwinian evolution, doesn’t it?”

Indeed.

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Filed under abortion, Welcome Lies

Rise Up, O Men of God!

A man of God rising upSome egalitarians remind me of parrots.  Their stock of phrases were taught to them by Betty Friedan and Kate Millet 30 or 40 years ago, and their constant repetition is getting pretty stale.  Never more so than when you find one of them railing against hymns that – by their lights – denigrate women.

Case in point:  this blog which complains bitterly about a hymn by William P Merrill entitled “Rise Up, O Men of God.”  For purposes of discussion, here are the offending lyrics:

1. Rise up, O men of God!  Have done with lesser things.
 Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the King of kings.

2. Rise up, O men of God!  The kingdom tarries long.
 Bring in the day of brotherhood and end the night of wrong.

3. Rise up, O men of God!  The church for you doth wait,
 her strength unequal to her task;  rise up, and make her great!

4. Lift high the cross of Christ!  Tread where his feet have trod.
 As brothers of the Son of Man,  rise up, O men of God!

Now, this hymn, like many from that era, plausibly takes sides in a controversy.  Merrill unashamedly sets forth a clear-sighted post-millennarianism in this hymn, an eschatological view that had considerable favor among the liberals of Merrill’s day, and still finds favor among some streams of orthodox Calvinism today.  Fault-finders will hail from amillennial or premillennial camps.  It’s a controversy about our route to the heavenly city.

As an inhabitant of the premillennial camp (yes, Anglicans can be, have been, and still are premillennialists; Dallas Seminary was founded by one of these, though the school today strives to ignore this), I’ll give Merrill a pass, for premillennialists ought to travel a very long way down the same road as postmillennialists.  They may find themselves together on that road for different reasons, but that should only invigorate their fellowship while they advance toward the New Jerusalem. 

However, the hymn is not controversial at all in its view of the sexes and their relationship to one another.  On that score, Merrill is locked arm in arm with Chesterton’s awful mob known as The Church, which has championed the Bible’s view on this matter for the previous 20 centuries.  The complaints lodged by the blogger above provide a fascinating study in the doctrinal myopia of modern egalitarians and the foolishness this condition inflicts upon its victims.

Her criticisms (yup, this blogger’s a woman), are three.   Let’s examine them in turn.

First of all, this hymn reeks of “this text doesn’t apply to me” when sung by the female half of the congregation.  Why?  “…  an unescapable [sic] fact of the English language is that it is changing. Women no longer consider themselves part of ‘men.’ ”

This kind of challenge sounded revolutionary and daring back in the Seventies (!), but now it just sounds whiney.  The use of the masculine in English to comprehend both male and female is as common as ever, except (perhaps) in some highly rarified departments of English, sociology, and women’s studies in the intolerant corridors of academe. 

No littering allowed!For what’s going on in the real world, consider the sign at the left, found in an international airport.  What does it mean?  As an ideograph, it informs people who may actually speak dozens of different languages about an airport policy.  By using pictures, the sign  communicates something like this:  “No Littering Permitted!” or “Do Not Litter!”  or the like.  The figure in the picture is the figure of a man, not a woman, but no one seeing the sign mistakes the sense of the male figure displayed.  He is not the “generic” man, so much as he is the “inclusive man.” 

Women must not litter!Consider, now, this hypothetical sign at the right.  How would people read this sign?  The only difference from the previous sign is the substitution of the “woman symbol” for the “man symbol.”  But, now the meaning communicated is different, perplexingly different:  “Women may not litter!”  or “No Littering by Women Permitted.”  And the befuddled onlooker would be wondering, “Why do men get to litter, but women don’t?” 

Paul Mankowski discusses these very signs and a great many similar features of the use of “man” and the “inclusive masculine” in his article “Jesus, Son of Mankind?” in the October, 2001 edition of Touchstone.  You may (and should) read the whole article by clicking here.  The point:  when feminists and religious egalitarians express this kind of complaint, they tell us far more about their own neuroses than they do about language or literature.  And, with respect to Merril’s hymn, they tell us nothing more than how consonant his hymn was with classical modes of expression, and how out of synch with their own culture his detractors are.

Wrapping up this complaint, the egalitarian blogger complains “… this hymn never really means to address women. So do we really need to use a hymn that excludes (over) half the congregation?”

But, hymns do not need to address everyone.  Many of them address only God.  Others, like Merril’s, address subsets of the Church, in this case men.  As a hymn, this one fits well within the mouths of all Christian women, who by this hymn call on men, whose allegiance is to God, to  … well, to rise up and to accomplish a variety of tasks that belong to them to do. 

And, this brings us to the second complaint:

“[The Church’s] strength unequal to her task/rise up and make her great” simply isn’t true. The Holy Spirit’s power makes the imperfect Church equal to whatever task God calls us to do. It is not the strength of the male half of the church that will make the church great, it is the strength of the Lord Jesus himself.”

Well, … uh … of course.  But that’s not what’s at issue here.  Merril, following Scripture, understands that Christ has laid on the shoulders of men in the Church the task of guarding the deposit of faith, teaching it faithfully as Christ’s under-shepherds, and defending it against interlopers who deny it.  Merril isn’t calling upon the men of God because their masculine strength is equal to the task.  Rather, he is calling upon those whom Christ has appointed as under-shepherds, to act as shepherds are supposed to act when the flock is threatened. 

Of course, egalitarians hotly deny that this charge is laid solely on the men.  That’s why they insist that women be made elders, pastors, priests, bishops, and so forth.  It’s not a question of who can do what, for women can and do teach, pastor, and evangelize.  In the catholic communions (Romans, Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and those like them) women may even baptize in exigent circumstances, though in more ordinary situations this sacrament is administered by the Church’s officers.

Nevertheless, Merrill, following the Church which has followed Apostolic teaching received from the Lord, understands that if the Church is to advance in her mission, she shall do so only insofar as those whom Christ has charged with her leadership fulfill their destiny.  For this they were created and those who qualify take up the offices in Christ’s household which Christ appointed for  … well, for men of God.

Finally, the egalitarian faults Merril for this:  “… this hymn reinforces the church’s historical error of thinking that men can more fully conform to the image of Christ than women can. … Women obviously cannot be ‘brothers of the Son of Man.’ ”

What lies beneath this complaint is nothing other than vexation at the incarnation of the eternal Son of God as a human male.  Because of that fact of our faith, it is inescapable that men have a capacity to resemble Christ in ways that women do not.  Christ is the Bridegroom, never the bride.  He is our brother, never our sister.  He is our King, never our queen.  He is the Son of God, never the daughter of God.  God is Christ’s Father, never Christ’s mother. 

When the egalitarian protests that the Church errs by thinking in these terms, we learn from this that it is the egalitarian who knows neither the Scripture, nor the power of God – a power which stamps the human race with a shape, actually two shapes (male and female) which in their relationship to one another mimic the most fundamental relationships of all, that between God and His creation, between Christ and His Church. 

And, this is why the Bible, and the Church, and William P. Merril sing “Rise up, O Men of God!”  The entire hymn is rooted in the Bible’s ancient sexual polarity, which itself springs from God’s very good design at the beginning of all things, and which moves to the glory of the wedding of the Lamb and His bride at the end of all things. 

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Feminism

Breeding for God

babyThis week the National Center for Health Statistics reported that out-of-wedlock births in the United States have climbed to an all-time high, accounting for nearly four in 10 babies born last year.  As long as the link lasts, here’s an AP report published in the online edition of the Atlanta Constitution. What’s interesting is that this surge in unwed mothers does not appear among teen-aged girls, whose out of wedlock births dropped last year to the lowest level on record.  “Instead, births among unwed mothers rose most dramatically among women in their 20s,” Mike Stobbe, AP Medical writer reports. 

Most of the commentary I’ve seen so far among conservative Christians focuses on how these statistics point to the continuing diminution of the nuclear family.  This statistic joins another one that mom-dad-child households have now dropped below 50 percent of all households in America and, both together show that those chicken-littles who predicted such an outcome for the sexual revolution of the previous generations were not, after all, exaggerating.

On the other hand, I do not find anyone speculating on  how these statistics point to the wholly unknown territory of a nation populated by people whose “cradle culture” informs their own expectations of family life (or its absence).  In family life, as in other areas, like begets like.  Weak families have begotten weaker families, which beget broken families, which beget no families at all.  For reasons expounded by an increasing number of both conservative and liberal commentators, the end of all this is death not the killing of people already living (though, of course abortion does that by the millions each year), but in the simple failure to have any children at all.

Among conservative commentators, Mark Steyn has engagingly made this case numerous times, as in his C. D. Kemp lecture  in August 2006, in which he summarized the demographic statistics of secularist Europe with these words:

Seventeen European nations are now at what demographers call “lowest-low” fertility – 1.3 births per woman, the point at which you’re so far down the death spiral you can’t pull out. In theory, those countries will find their population halving every 35 years or so. In practice, it will be quicker than that, as the savvier youngsters figure there’s no point sticking around a country that’s turned into an undertaker’s waiting room. So large parts of the western world are literally dying – and, in Europe, the successor population to those aging French and Dutch and Belgians is already in place. Perhaps the differences will be minimal. In France, the Catholic churches will become mosques; in England, the village pubs will cease serving alcohol; in the Netherlands, the gay nightclubs will close up shop and relocate to San Francisco. But otherwise life will go on much as before. The new Europeans will be observant Muslims instead of post-Christian secularists but they will still be recognizably European: It will be like Cats after a cast change: same long-running show, new actors, but the plot, the music, the sets are all the same. The animating principles of advanced societies are so strong that they will thrive whoever’s at the switch.

Are there any counter-currents?  Yes, and you will find this discussed on the cover-story of Prospect Magazine for November 2006.  Eric Kaufmann, in “Breeding for God,” points to the demographics of faith, viz. that those who have a stable, forward looking faith reproduce, while secularists of no faith at all stop reproducing. Among the sociologists of religion he cites is Rodney Stark:

In his remarkable book The Rise of Christianity, the American sociologist of religion Rodney Stark explains how an obscure sect with just 40 converts in the year 30AD became the official religion of the Roman empire by 300. The standard answer to this question is that the emperor Constantine had a vision which led to his conversion and an embrace of Christianity. Stark demonstrates the flaws in this “great man” portrait of history. Christianity, he says, expanded at the dramatic rate of 40 per cent a decade for over two centuries, and this upsurge was only partly the result of its appeal to the wider population of Hellenistic pagans. Christian demography was just as important. Unlike the pagans, Christians cared for their sick during plagues rather than abandoning them, which sharply lowered mortality. In contrast to the “macho” ethos of pagans, Christians emphasised male fidelity and marriage, which attracted a higher percentage of female converts, who in turn raised more Christian children. Moreover, adds Stark, Christians had a higher fertility rate than pagans, yielding even greater demographic advantage.

Stark, of course, is not the only one to point to the demographics of faith.  Phillip Longman has riled the liberal establishment by pointing to the same factors at work in the American electoral system, where blue-state liberals are failing to reproduce, while red-state conservatives are having more babies and generating more conservative voters.

So far as we can tell at this point, the future is mixed.  If the Church and its householders continue to embrace the values and lifetyle of the world, America too will begin its demographic death spiral in the next generation or two.  On the other hand, if those with faith in the future and a God who guides it do as the demographers report they have always done, there may be a renaissance of Christian orthodoxy in America by the end of this century.  

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Filed under Complementarianism, Feminism, Woman, the Lifegiver

What to do about the bad husband?

We often get questions that go something like this one we recently received:

On pages 114-115 in section 2.2 [of your work Five Aspects of Woman] you talk about Christ suffering under human authority and you urge wives to submit to “bad husbands.” You ask that they “be patient with them by recognizing Christ’s authority over and beyond their husbands.” … someone who is currently in an abusive relationship married to a “bad husband” could construe this section to mean that they should stay with their husband even if he beats them to death. Just as Christ is our example, he was beaten and crucified. I do not with any of my being believe that Christ has called us to do the same.

bad husbandThis correspondent is in numerous company with her question, for to judge by feminist and egalitarians generally, married men are neanderthals unless they happen to be Alan Alda wannabees instead.  Even the ostensibly Christian egalitarian will speak as this women spoke, to render the Apostle Peter flatly wrong in what he counseled women to do in 1 Peter 3. 

I am not concerned here to expound 1 Peter 3 in its broadest scope, except to say that a very large company of martyrs in heaven would have a thing or two to say about what Christ did or did not call upon them to suffer for His name.

The question posed, however, almost never turns on a potential martyrdom. In my own pastoral experience of some 25 years, and in onsulting with other pastors across several denominations, I do not find the husband who beats his wife to be more than a small minority of bad husbands.  Far, far more common are husbands who abandon their husbandly responsibilities rather than abuse those in their homes.  Yes, the latter exist, but the measures applicable to them are not applicable to husbands whose faults are the kinds characteristic of sluggards.  In any event, what do we say — what should any Christian say — to a woman with a “bad husband?”  What we say turns on what is meant by the term “bad husband.”

I thought my wife’s answer to the question was a good one, and so I reproduce it here:

Dear Mrs. M…,
 
You ask me to provide clarity on what I consider a “bad husband.” Let me respond with two answers.
 
I. Bad Husbands Don’t Do What They are Supposed To Do
 
One way to define a bad husband is this: one who does not fulfill the work that God gives him to do as a husband either because he abandons the responsibility or he abuses it.
 
I would list the following as basic kinds of responsibilities for husbands:

  1. provide—work to earn a living
  2. lead—provide overall direction for family practically and spiritually (I Cor. 14:35 indicates that women should be able to ask their husbands their spiritual questions. If he does not know anything spiritually, how will he answer?)
  3. love wife—kindness, affection, personal interest in her, spend time with her
  4. be a father to their children: strong, attentive, loving in discipline and care 

Now when a man abandons or abuses any of these areas he is a bad husband because he withholds something from his wife or children that they truly need, or he puts upon his wife something that God did not design her to bear.
 
For example, there are men who will not work. They abandon their responsibilities as breadwinners. They put upon the wife the weight of providing for the family. Now no man is a perfect husband because no man provides and leads and loves flawlessly. However, most women consider their husbands “good husbands” when they see a sincere effort in the above areas. However, when a man is simply passive or abusive in any of these areas, a woman will have a great need to read and meditate on I Peter 2-3 in order to gain grace from Christ to forgive and be patient, not retaliating in kind, giving evil for evil.

For example, Sue may be married to Joe who is a pretty good guy. He is not a criminal. However, he never spends any time with the children, nor does he take any initiative whatsoever in their guidance, discipline or care. Sue is going to feel hurt, angry, and disappointed, and she has reason to. It hurts her to see her Children neglected. She will need to apply I Peter 3 in patience and in prayer for Joe to grow in love for their children. She will also need to refrain from retaliating in kind, e.g., by withholding her affection from Joe because he is withholding his affection from the children.
 
II. Bad Husbands Who Are Criminals
 
Now there are men who are criminals. They are a different category of “bad husband.” Assault and battery are crimes which can and should be prosecuted by the State. Paul tells us that government is for the punishment of evil-doers.  I know that criminals exist and that mentally-deranged people exist who can make life literally impossible. In these cases, the wife should seek help from the state or the church or family or friends. It is not our duty to take beatings that we can escape. Jesus himself spoke up when He was struck unlawfully (John 18:22-23) and Paul asserted his rights as a Roman citizen, rather than take an unlawful beating from Romans (Acts 22:25-29).
 
To summarize, I believe almost all women find their husbands letting them down in key ways over the time of their marriage. These failures are real and cause true suffering for the wife. She should be patient, she should model the faith, and not retaliate in kind. In this way she will strive to “win him without a word.” If a woman is married to a criminal or a madman, she should seek help as her situation allows.
 
I hope this provides some helpful background on the passage in question.

I would only add to this by way of urging church leaders to plan, train, and rehearse interventions for those situations in their flocks where an errant spouse (including women!) are bringing harm to the rest of the family and scandal to the flock.  I remember long ago when I led my elders in confronting two men in the congregation who were involved in adulterous affairs.  Both situations eventually turned out well, as the husbands repented.  But, I found tremendous reluctance for the elders to join me in admonishing the errant husbands.  And, in these situations, the state has no interest in punishing evil-doers at all, beyond encouraging the offended spouse to terminate the marriage.

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Filed under Man, the Husbandman, Patriarchy

Flummeries Pious and Putrid

pious flummeryThe scandal the broke out in Colorado Springs on Wednesday November 1 has generated many things, among them entire oceans of flummery (especially the kind noted in definition No. 4 here).  There are two flamboyantly flummerious concoctions I’ve come across, egregious in the sheer concentration of pure humbug their creators have incorporated into their concoctions. 

In general, I hear flummery-makers presenting us with this idea: “If Ted had believed what we believe, that wouldn’t have happened to him.”  

Their assertions have some formal plausibility, for faith produces behavior.  But, what I see floating to the surface in many places fails miserably to connect Haggard’s failures with what are alleged to be aberrations in his faith.  Even worse, Ted’s failures are routinely discovered in men of widely varying faiths, or with no faith at all. 

At Tim Bayly’s blog we find a comment, from which I quote its relevant parts [typos are the commenter’s, not mine]: 

Well, his [viz., Haggard’s] views are classically baptistic, premillennial, conversionist views.  

This is why i never claim the moniker “evangelical” in any way at all. The only thing that Evangelicalism has produced is alot of schism and sects. It is all based on personal opinion and denies the proper authority of the Church itself.  

[snip]  

… we have deluded ourselves into thinking that we’re better because we’re more “conservative.” But our conservatism means nothing as long as the PCA is filled with “evangelicals” like Haggard. No, what we need is some real churchly men, willing to do the work of the Church. We just don’t have them today. What we have is a bunch of moralists. Nothing more.  

Yes, there is a connection between morals and theology, between orthodoxy and orthopraxy. The truth is that good action and morals flow out of good teaching and theology, and not the other way around. All of evangelicalism is bankrupt because of this very fact.  

subsequent commentator observes that she expected she “would find people arrogant enough to elude to the fact that if you are ‘reformed in theology’ there is less of a chance of this happening.”  

So, this Reformed analyst finds Haggard’s fall rooted in his “baptistic, premillenial, conversionist views,” though it is not at all clear how any of these touch a person’s morals, much less his sexual morals.  He also faults Haggard’s lack of a reformed ecclesiology.  This last is very odd, since the ecclesiological machinery that managed this crisis at New Life Church is the very thing that Haggard himself put into place from the foundation of that ministry, and one which operated with great dispatch and effectiveness.  I wonder if the commentator would prefer that New Life Church had mimicked the endless nit-picking litigiousness so characteristic Reformed communions?  

But the greatest error of this Reformed analyst is found in these words:  “The truth is that good action and morals flow out of good teaching and theology, and not the other way around.”  While good teaching and theology promote, or facilitate, or foster good morals, they do not guarantee good morals.  The demons believe and tremble. The Gnostics insisted that if you knew the secrets, you would be holy.  In this commentator’s world, you can substitute the Westminster Confession of Faith for the Gnostics’ secrets and achieve the same end. 

A different recipe for this sort of flummery is found at Ben Worthington’s blog.  Unlike the Reformed fellow who faults Haggard because he does not believe as the Reformed believe, Witherington says faults Haggards supposed patriarchal culture of leadership: 

The culture of patriarchal Evangelical leadership involves a lot of power and isolation at the top. Too often it involves a cult of personality kind of scenario, with the “pastor-superstar” model, and the pastor put way up on a pedestal– from which he is almost bound to fall. The isolation from normal accountability structures and peer correction leads to all sorts of abuses of power. It is quite simply too much power in too few hands. The minister begins to feel he is bullet-proof, can do no wrong. And if there is something not right in his personal relationships with his wife or family, then moral slippage tends to happen in various forms. One of the reasons, though not the only one, for this is that the patriarchal culture of male leadership isolates men from the critique of the opposite sex, and often it is the opposite sex which will first see the early warning signs of sexual trouble. Any sort of local church accountability or pastor-parish relations committee should involve both men and women, and not those hand picked by the pastor. Men watching over men when it comes to sexual matters is too often like the fox watching the hen house. 

For someone who professes to “not know how much of this applies to Ted Haggard,” Witherington’s pronouncements are breathtaking in their arrogance and audacity.  He is, of course, committed to egalitarianism in church leadership, piously quoting Ephesians 5:21 as the starting point for evangelicals’ reformation of the patriarchal culture of leadership which, according to Witherington, lies at the root of Haggard’s demise.  As if egalitarians were immune from failures of accountability, or impervious to pastor-superstar modes of leadership. 

putrid flummeryIf celebrity egalitarians were caught in homosexual scandals (and, in the recent past, it has happened), would this prove that such failures are the result of the egalitarian culture of leadership?  In such a case in which InterVarsity Press had to withdraw a book because of the homosexual scandal attaching to one of its prize egalitarian authoresses, would Witherington blather on about female menopause and other psycho-babbly speculations?   

What Witherington does here is seize upon the fall of one who he thinks is a paragon of the patriarchy Witherington despises, to advance his egalitarian agenda on the back of a fallen brother.  This goes way beyond flummery.  What Witherington serves up is a much, much fouler dish. 

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By Women, For Women, and a howler

The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood has hit an almost homerun with their Fall 2006 issue of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (JBMW, Vol. XI, No. 2).  Subtitled “By Women For Women,” this issue features the following articles, all by women: 

  • “Women Against Public Blasphemy,” by Rebecca Jones

  • “The Womanliness of Deborah: Complementarian Principles from Judges 4-5,” by Barbara K. Mouser

  • “Women’s Ministry in the Local Church: A Covenantal and Complementarian Approach,” by Susan Hunt
  • “Motherhood Matters,” by Mary K. Mohler

  • “The Undivided Heart: Committing Ourselves to God’s Design,” by Sally Clarkson

  • “When You Don’t Have A Better Half: Encouraging Biblical Roles as a Single Woman,” by Carolyn McCulley

  • “Future Homemakers,” by Nicole Whitacre

  • “Homemaking Internship,” by Carolyn Mahaney

  • “Equal, Yet So Very Different: Understanding a Man’s Sexuality and His Inherent Struggle,” by Mary Farrar

  • “Into the Mainstream,” by Mary Kassian

  • “Practicing Biblical Hospitality,” by Patricia A. Ennis

  • “Who’s Captivating Whom? A Review of John and Stasi Eldredge’s Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul,” by Donna Thoennes

  • “A Review of Does Christianity Squash Women?” by Mary K. Mohler

Light from womenIn the future, I will likely blog on various issues and ideas in these articles.  For now, I note that of the dozen women who contribute to this issue, eight of them are described by the term “homemaker.”  Their claim, at face value, is that a homemaker is not, by virtue of fulfilling this role, excluded from a life of study, reflection, and writing. Many add, as well, the terms “author” and “speaker” to the descriptions that follow their names, invariably after mentioning the term “homemaker.”  It is refreshing as well as encouraging to see these women address a broad range of issues — Biblical, theological, pastoral, and practical — in the life of women commited to the complementarian view of the sexes. 

This issue of JBMW would be a complete homerun, except for a lamentable lapse in its bibliography. This edition of JBMW, like earlier editions, tends to soft-pedal the irreconcilability of the Bible’s teaching on the sexes with the positions of today’s religious feminists, including those who style themselves “evangelical.”  This is most easily seen in the Review section at the end of the journal. This section of JBMW is always helpful, and CBMW does the evangelical Church a great service in monitoring what gets published in this subject area, and providing an ever-growing annotated bibliography of the literature, egalitarian as well as complementarian.

However, JBMW’s characterization of some books is both puzzling and disappointing.  The chief flub in this edition is JBMW’s categorization as “undeclared” when annotating their notice of Carolyn Custis James’ Lost Women of the Bible: Finding Strength & Significance Through Their Stories. This characterization is so off-base as to provoke one to speculate about why JBMW has declined to peg a major egalitarian work as egalitarian. 

To their credit, the JBMW reviewers zero in on James’ hilarious and tendentious assertions that ‘ezer means “strong warrior.”  But how JBMW can acknowledge that James sees this concept “as the essence of biblical femininity” while declining to characterize her work as egalitarian is simply breath-taking.

My speculation is that this wildly mistaken characterization of James’ work stems from the good-old-boy network within the Presbyterian Church in America.  CMBW’s current Chairman of the Board is J. Ligon Duncan III, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Jackson MS, and Adjunct Professor at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson.  Carolyn Custis James is the wife of Frank James, President and Professor of Historical Theology at Reformed Seminary in Orlando.

So, if CBMW were to candidly label Carolyn Custis James’ work as the egalitarian cook-book exegesis that it is, it would amount to one PCA pastor’s organization lambasting the wife of another PCA muckety-muck.

Evidently, CBMW prefers not to ruffle feathers on the roosters in their own denominational hen-houses.  It is this kind of thing that makes those outside CBMW wonder if they’re really serious about what they claim to be doing.

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Filed under Complementarianism, Egalitarianism

Richochet

changing-course.jpgThe Wall Street online Opinion Journal, in its Best of the Web posting for November 6, references a story originally posted at Bloomberg.com , headlined Fourth Grader Suspended After Refusing to Answer Exam Question.  Like a tree coasting past your window, it more or less shows you which way the wind is blowing.  In this case, it’s a wind that makes Christina Hoff Summers’ War Against Boys sound as plausible as a New Orleans weather forecast 24 hours before Hurricane Katrina came onshore.  

First, the facts, as Bloomberg reports them: 

Nov. 3 (Bloomberg) — Tyler Stoken was a well-behaved fourth grader who enjoyed school, earned A’s and B’s and performed well on standardized tests.  

In May 2005, he’d completed five of the six days of the Washington State Assessment of Student Learning exam, called WASL, part of the state’s No Child Left Behind test.  

Then Tyler came upon this question: “While looking out the window one day at school, you notice the principal flying in the air. In several paragraphs, write a story telling what happens.”  

The nine-year-old was afraid to answer the question about his principal, Olivia McCarthy. “I didn’t want to make fun of her,” he says, explaining he was taught to write the first thing that entered his mind on the state writing test.

What, pray tell, was the first thing that came into his head?   

 “He didn’t want them to know what he was thinking, that she was a witch on a broomstick,” says Tyler’s mother, Amanda Wolfe, sitting next to her son in the family’s ranch home three blocks from Central Park Elementary School in Aberdeen, Washington.  

Because Tyler didn’t answer the question, McCarthy suspended him for five days. He recalls the principal reprimanding him by saying his test score could bring down the entire school’s performance.  

“Good job, bud, you’ve ruined it for everyone in the school, the teachers and the school,” Tyler says McCarthy told him.

James Taranto’s trenchant comment: “Why in the world did he think she was a witch?” 

A couple of things pop out of this story which neither Bloomberg nor the Wall Street Journal address. 

First of all, note the success of the Aberdeen School District to train a fourth grade boy to avoid anything that might be perceived as derogatory about a woman, even if something else it has taught him (write the first thing that comes into your head) generates a conflict against that pro-feminist value.  “Woman-good, contra-woman bad” has been well-lodged into little Tyler’s conscience.   

Second, note the evidence here that Tyler fears violating this feminist value far more than what he chose to endure, viz. public reprimand, public scorn by the woman he steadfastly refused to offend, and public expulsion from school.  What does he imagine would have happened if he had answered the question as they insisted? 

Finally, note the anti-social behaviors Tyler’s mother reports in the wake of his unjust persecution.  These are the very behaviors which the public schools are supposedly set on engineering out of the little masculine psyches in their charge.  Yet, in this case they have produced the very behaviors for which they now, no doubt, will criticize. 

As with the world, so also with the Church, though the Church in its worldliness typically lags a generation or so behind the world. The difference in the Church is that before the social engineering of the public schools got underway three generations ago, the Church was already heavily tilted in its “market” toward women.  The largely successful push for women to enter the ranks of pastors, priests, and bishops within mainline Protestantism correlates with an even more feminine cast to the face of American Protestants over the same time.  It also correlates to the 800-pound gorilla in the evangelical living room today: the detachment of those men who remain within it.  The Church is fast becoming as appealing to men as the public schools are to boys.   

What all this will produce in another generation or so is anyone’s guess.  We’re in uncharted territory here. 

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Feminism