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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4 Comments

Filed under Complementarianism, Egalitarianism

4 responses to “By Women, For Women, and a howler

  1. Kamilla

    Hi Fr. Bill,

    I’m of two minds on one aspect of your post here. First, I think women who whine about not getting any intellectual stimulation staying at home with their children aren’t taking the enterprise seriously and not being wise stewards of their “down” time when the children are occupied with school, lessons, sports, etc. On the other hand, I think women with the privileges and intellectual millieu of a Mary Mohler or a Carolyn Mahaney have an extraordinary position in society and we shouldn’t compare them staying home to the average mother changing her life to stay home. They have privileges most women can only dream about. It reminds me of the time, some years ago, when I heard F. Carolyn Graglia speak against the evils of working mothers. She was remarkably disingenuous about her own working habits while she was “staying at home” raising her children. Not many women have the privileges and access these women have and I wish we in the church would spend less time grousing about the evils of working mothers and more time making a place where they can feel comfortable staying at home while having access to the tools for a life of study, reflection and writing.

    Kamilla

  2. Tim Bayly

    No question that CBMW is softpedalling the errors of Carolyn Custis James. During the years I served as Exec. Dir. of CBMW, I regularly dealt with such political pressures as you here suspect, and so I can testify that you’re spot on in wondering what relational dues are being paid when Custis James is cut slack.

    Of course, CBMW would counter that they didn’t say Custis James was complementarian, and that this action alone is tantamount to criticizing her work.

    Yes, but in this case CBMW is damning themselves with faint criticism. After all, her books are sold by Christians for Biblical Equality–the left-wing evangelical feminist organization–and CBE recently had Custis James as a speaker at their national conference.

    Ding dong!

    Well of course, somehow these facts don’t quite rise to the level of impeachable offenses, so CBMW mischaracterizes Custis James as neutral.

    Anyone who knows who Custis James’ husband is would be foolish not to wonder what part her reformed blue blood played in cutting her a deal in CBMW’s bibliography. Also in getting her invited (with her husband, of course) to Covenant College to preach to the students for a weekend on the subject of “Women in the Church.” Also in getting her to be invited to Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia to address the annual meeting of “Women of Westminster.” Also in getting her to be invited as a speaker to the national annual conference of Ed Welch’s Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation this November (of 2007). And the beat goes on.

    Meanwhile, appreciate your wisdom, Bill, and faithfulness with your wife over many years, now. You’re truly a brother for adversity. Also appreciate your wisdom, Kamilla, evident here as always.

    With deep affection,

  3. Truth Unites...and Divides

    “No question that CBMW is softpedaling the errors of Carolyn Custis James. During the years I served as Exec. Dir. of CBMW, I regularly dealt with such political pressures as you here suspect, and so I can testify that you’re spot on in wondering what relational dues are being paid when Custis James is cut slack.”

    Hmmmmm, if true, this is not good. Sometimes there can be an extension of too much grace, a giving of too much grace. This could be an example of that where it crosses over into integrity-compromising cronyism.

    But it’s correctable. Just have CBMW issue a genuine mea culpa and resolve not to have it happen again in the future.

    This is kinda minor in the overall scheme of things. But leaven should no doubt be dealt with.

    Pax in Christ.

  4. Dear Brother Tuad,

    With respect to James’ book, CBMW’s reviewer (or editor, whoever approved that review) blew it. A genuine mea culpa would fix this, if it were simply a lapse.

    What I and others (Pr. Tim, but he’s not alone) note is this: the error with respect to Mrs. James’ book is more a symptom of something deeper — a dismaying failure of nerve that is at the root of modern egalitarianism’s cat-bird seat within evangelicalism.

    I know, brother, that you’ve seen this all before within the Anglican communion generally, and the Episcopal Church generally. It’s why I continually hold these up as poster-children for how to sell your birthright for a mess of pottage. The Anglicans have forgotten more about shilly-shallying than modern evangelical “conservatives” have even attempted.

    But, that’s the problem, you see. From the git-go, they have failed to recognize the toxicity of feminism and its baptized offspring that goes by the name egalitarianism within the Church. From the git-go, the collegiality of the academy has been a sacred cow for complementarians, who everyone knows styled themselves in this way to avoid the opprobrium attached to the term “patriarchy,” a wonderful, Biblical feature of the universe which feminists beginning with Millet successfully besmirched.

    What’s instructive about CBMW’s characterization of James’ work as “neutral” in this controversy is this: they can make such a judgment with a straight face, expecting everyone else to sagely rub their chins, and to credit CBMW’s reviewer with even-handedness, fairness, niceness, and all the rest of the stuff that is more important than telling the truth about egalitarians and their gospel-poisoning “expositions” of Scripture.

    The mea culpa that would really help, that would really energize beleaguered defenders of the faith would amount to this:

    1. A candid admission that their characterization of James’ book was flat-out wrong;

    2. A candid acknowledgement that their “niceness” toward egalitarians was a straining at gnats and a swallowing of camels; and,

    3. A repentence from idolatry of the academy shown forth in deeds meet for such repentence.

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