Monthly Archives: October 2007

Egalitarian Flummery No. 2

Is this a manly woman?  Or, what?In the comments section of the previous blog (“Godly Men and the Manly God”) Sue challenges the idea that manliness is something women lack.  I thought her observations were worth highlighting, so I’ve promoted them to a separate blog.  Here’s how Sue put things:

Curiously, for over 2000 years the Bible said that woman was manly. In Latin, in Gen 2:23 woman was called “virago”, for she was taken out of “vir.” At that time this word meant a woman who was manly, courageous and heroic. Only later men thought that a manly woman was domineering. But the Bible says that woman was created courageous and strong.

This, of course, is the meaning of the woman of Proverbs 31, that she too was manly, courageous and heroic. She was the “eshet hayil” in Hebrew, the mighty woman, and in Greek it was translated as “andrea,” courageous and manly.

The woman of the Hebrew scriptures is named by God as manly, a fit companion for man, one who resembles him because she is of the same species.

It is time to read the Bible in its original language and understand once again what God says in the Hebrew language. How much has been lost by those who do not read the scriptures in the light of 2000 years of interpretation.

First, let’s explode a bit of lexical legerdemain.  Sue wrote these words about Eve: “The woman of the Hebrew scriptures is named by God as manly, a fit companion for man, one who resembles him because she is of the same species.”

A couple of corrections here:

(1) God did not name the woman.  Adam did, and he did so because God told him to name things, including the woman.

(2)  While Adam does indeed recognize the woman as “a fit companion for man, one who resembles him because she is of the same species,” this does not make her manly.  Sue’s application of the word “manly” is the sort of lexical slight of hand that egalitarians use to hoodwink the unwary.  “Manly” means “to have qualities traditionally or customarily ascribed to males, pertaining to or suitable for males.” 

Hairy chests and thick beards are manly.  Having two feet is irrelevant to manliness.  So, when women have two feet, they are not for that reason manly.

Otherwise, Sue’s fantasies of interpretation arise out of the “etymological root fallacy,” an interpretive error common among the amateurs and those with special agendas.  Sue’s musings on manly women – as this notion is supposedly conveyed in the passages she cites – are a good example of this. 

For an explanation of the root fallacy, click here .  Also on this page is an explanation of an error dubbed “the overload fallacy.”  It looks very much like what D. A. Caron has styled “the illegitimate totality transfer fallacy,” and Sue’s comments might well be an example of this interpretive fallacy as well.

The vir/virago vocabulary of the Vulgate obviously seeks to reproduce the euphony of ish/isha vocabulary of Genesis 2.23, rather than to impute masculine qualities to a feminine person.  And the sense of these pairings (vir/virago, ish/isha) is expressly explained in the Hebrew text.  Unless Sue wishes to assert that the Vulgate has the same theological authority as the Masoretic text, the vocabulary pairs express the woman’s raison d’être. As Paul would deduce from this passage centuries later, “Woman was made for the man’s sake, not man for the woman’s sake.” 

But, as Sue must know – since she reads the Scripture in the original languages – the Hebrew ish and isha are from different Hebrew roots, not the same root.  The word ish originates in the root ‘i š, while issha derives from the root ‘n š.  Their similarity in sound does not derive from their sharing the same root.  It is a phonetic feature of Hebrew, suited to express euphonically what is explained by the subsequent words of the Hebrew text. 

So also with the fantasies Sue infers from andreas in the Septuagint text of Proverbs 31:10.  Whatever notions of “strength” or “wealth” or “virtue” may reside in this Greek term, it does not carry the sense of “manly,” viz. “masculine.”  And, once more, the import of the Hebrew term  “chayil” is explicated at length in the subsequent verses.   

Sue, do you wish to assert that the Proverbs 31 Wife is “strong?”  I’ll agree with you!  It so happens that my own mother was one like this.  I married someone like this.  I know her kind well, and I am blessed by them.  And, there isn’t a manly bone in any of them. 

Do you wish to assert that the Proverbs 31 Wife is masculine?  Flummery. 



Filed under Egalitarianism, Flummery

Gender Wars and Worship Wars: a connection

They’re related, right? For some time now I have sensed a living and vital linkage between the “gender wars” and the “worship wars” within Broadly Evangelical American Protestantism (BEAP).  These controversies not only intersect, they seem to reinforce one another.  The problem has been to figure out how and why.  It’s puzzlement.  I suspect many factors are at work.

A one clue may be found in two notices I ran across yesterday about a book by James B. Twitchell entitled Shopping for God.  One notice popped up in a regional newspaper web site in Florida, another  in the editorial pages of the online Wall Street Journal.

Naomi Riley, in the WSJ piece, summarizes Twitchell’s thesis as follows:

Choosing a religion, [Twitchell] argues, is much like choosing any other product–from breakfast food to beer. He sets out to determine why the “spiritual marketplace” in the U.S. seems so hot right now, and, more pointedly, why evangelical megachurches have become, well, so mega. His theme can be summed up in one of the book’s smug chapter titles: “Christian Consumers Are Consumers First.”

So far, Twitchell’s book appears to be the latest, and perhaps most thorough, analysis of a feature of BEAP’s adoption of commercial marketing as the starting point for advancing the Kingdom of God.  Riley (reluctantly?) acknowledges that “… in fact there are churches out there self-consciously engaged in marketing. They hire consultants and public-relations experts to ‘grow’ their flock, and they obey a market discipline.”  From my perspective, those churches that don’t hire consultants are avidly aping those that do.  Why pay for what you can mimic for free? 

But, then, Riley quotes Twitchell to a point that intrigues me:

Mr. Twitchell explains: “Men are the crucial adopters in religion. If they go over the tipping point, women follow, children in tow.” So now megachurches sponsor sports ministries and groups whose members ride motorcycles together. The language of prayers and sermons has moved away from a condescending lecture tone and taken up sports metaphors instead, asking congregants, for instance, to step up to the plate and help the team. In such a way are men induced to buy the megachurch product.

Twitchell, therefore, argues that there is (or, we should expect there to be) a “gender factor” in BEAP’s marketing of Christianity to the masses.  Certainly there are some overt attempts at this as far as marketing Christianity to men are concerned.  There is, for example, The Gospel in the Men’s Room, a deliberate attempt to make a church appealing to men by making a men’s toilet within it redolent of Harleys, Pennzoil, and NASCAR paraphrenalia.  We think, also, of Church for Men  and the virile fellows at God-men.   All these latter are whining, plotting, and campaigning for men in church to get their fair share of the bennies. 

But, consider … except for where individual congregations are big enough and rich enough to do niche-marketing to men (i.e. they’re mega churches already), Twitchell has given us a plausible reason for the female-friendly cache of contemporary Christianity of the BEAP variety, namely that every congregation you can find within BEAPdom is predominately female.  Churches that want to maintain their size, much less grow, cannot afford to displease the majority of their market.

What is the chicken and what is the egg here?  Who knows?  But, if Twitchell is right about BEAP, its female-heavy demographics and its programmatic appeal to feminine tastes obviously reinforce one another.


Filed under Gender wars, Worship wars

Godly Men and the Manly God

Like father, like son The blog entitled Dangerous Book for Men has gotten some attention from some of my readers out there in internet-land.  In one case, questions posted in that blog had to be passed by for a bit, as I was buried in prior commitments.  Now I wish to bring Bethany’s questions to the front page, so I may attempt an answer. 

In the comments to that blog, Bethany offered the following, which she announced as honest questions.  I receive them as such.  They are:

1.) I’m sure you would say that I (I am a woman, by the way) would have something to gain from reading both Psalms and Proverbs. But would you say that it is unnecessary for me to do so? Since it was not written for “me” or, I suppose, my gender I can read it to gain insight into males perhaps but not really to profit myself in any way.

2.) If the adjective for a good God is “manly” and the adjective for a good man is “godly” does that make them the same thing?

3.) And what does that make me? If I seek to be godly should I therefore also seek to be manly?

Here, then, are honest answers, in the order Bethany asked for them:

To question No. 1, I say …

Of course, you have much to gain from reading both Psalms, Proverbs, and anything else in the Bible, no matter to whom it was originally written.  I think this must be true of any written text, no matter to whom it is written.  I think you must know this.  I cannot think of any text – can you? – that is utterly without some conceivable profit to those for whom it is not addressed. 

In the case of the Scriptures, of course, its value for any believer is huge, even for those believers to whom the Scripture was not originally or primarily addressed.  Consider Genesis, for example.  There are a great many details in the book that show us that Moses’ audience was the generation of Jews who came out of Egypt.  In a derivative sense, that same audience incorporates all those who were participants in the Old Covenant, even centuries after the death of that generation of the wilderness. 

Was Genesis written to me or to you as participants in the New Covenant?  No, but … Paul, referring to a Mosaic statute, states this:  “For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain.” Is it oxen God is concerned about?  Or does He say it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, …”  

Paul also says this about an episode in the wilderness:  “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.”  In other words, Scripture has value, even purpose, with respect to those to whom it is not originally or directly addressed. 

Proverb 19:25 says “Strike a scoffer, and the simple will become wary …”  The punishment was never directed at the simpleton, but he profits from seeing it! 

Is this splitting hairs?  No, for several reasons.  Acknowledging that Proverbs, for example, is written by men, to men, to mature young men into masculine adulthood … all this helps us avoid misunderstanding Proverbs.  To acknowledge that the Psalms were the hymns, prayers, praises, laments, and thanksgivings of men is critical for understanding  them, and it in no way diminishes their value for women, their capacity to instruct women, to edify and encourage them. 

But, there’s even more involved than a basic hermeneutical premise.  When most — if not all — of the OT is written to men, when it speaks to men as men, even when it is speaking about women, we’re justified in noticing this and wondering why.  And, Scripture — in the way it orders marriage, family, society, and the day-to-day relationships within the community of faith — tells us why it is so thoroughly patriarchal.  For that, finally, is the reason all these texts are presented by men to men.  This is even the case when the teaching (in the case of Proverbs 30) is candidly reported to be the teaching of a mother to her son!

By the way, you may indeed learn much about womanhood from reading the Scriptures, for they speak to the nature and life of womanhood, even if it be addressed to men.  In most places where the Scripture talks about women, it does so by speaking to men about women.  You, as a woman, would be foolish to ignore these places in Holy Writ.  And, I do not think you are foolish.

To question No. 2, I say …

I never said that “the adjective for a good God is “manly.”  If you think I have, please note that I repudiate the idea you’ve ascribed to me.  I do say – because the Scripture says so – that God’s “face” in the Scripture is manly, that we know Him (not Her) to be masculine.  And, so I confess, teach, and defend (because the Bible also does this) that God is masculine. This is what’s required of us to believe.  To say that God’s masculine face is a mere condescension, something arbitrary, is to make God a liar about His own revelation of Himself.    

Yes, “godly” is a proper adjective for a male who is “good” insofar as goodness and godliness overlap.  But it is also a proper adjective for believers generally (including females), and it is used in this collective sense many times in both Old and New Testaments. 

Mary Daly is famous for charging that “If God is male, then man [the male] is God.”  In the sense that Daly intends her charge, she is liar, for she knows that orthodox Christianity confesses only one human man who is God.  But, I fear, that’s Daly’s problem:  after the incarnation, God is not only as masculine as He ever was, He is additionally male.  And, He remains male for all eternity (ala The Book of Hebrews). 

About question No. 3, I say …

If you are to be godly, you will be godly in ways that are meet and right for women to be godly.  None of that requires a woman to be manly.  My eldest daughter, far more than my other three daughters, bears my image in striking ways – her face, her complexion, even the way one of her eyes is ever so slightly lower than the other.  The “shape” of my personality is found all over, in, and under her own personality.  Her sense of humor, various character strengths and, alas, weaknesses too – these she bears because I am her father.  But, in no way is she masculine, and the ways in which she most strikingly resembles me, these are not ways in which I am feminine. 

If you know a godly woman, you can see her Father within her, just as easily as you can see me in my daughter. 


Filed under Man, the glory of God, Patriarchy

Like a Horse Smelling the Barn

Don’t you just hate it when something like this happens?

Yes, the title of this blog and the photo below it are mixing metaphors.  Maybe.  When one is like a horse that smells the barn, one’s apt to do things like you see in the photo.  Fortunately, I avoided mimicking the photo.  Just barely.  But, I did learn how a horse feels when he smells the barn. 

Just about ten hours ago, Barbara and I returned home after traveling 3,382 miles in 17 days.  We’re already thinking about a trip about twice that length next fall.  Our wee lassie will, Lord willing, be out of high school, established in a university somewhere, and (if we can figure out a way to provide for the two dogs and the cat), we’d very much like to connect with folks in the south-east and along the Eastern seaboard whom we know only via the internet and the use of the curricula we research, write, field-test, and distribute. 

After this trip, several projects loom:

The Anglican jurisdiction I belong to will hold its annual synod at the campus of the parish I pastor, St. Athanasius Anglican Church, week after next.  So next week is full of preparations.

Did King David ever play anything like this?I’ve ordered a dulcimer from a craftsman I met on this recent trip – a retired missionary to Russia – who teaches music as well as building and/or repairing a variety of stringed instruments (dulcimer, violin, cello).  My goal, after learning to play the instrument, is to explore how to deploy it to accompany the singing of English psalm texts to Anglican chants.  David’s psalms were written to be chanted, with accompaniment to a stringed instrument – a lute or a lyre – and I’ve never heard this combination before.  All the CDs of Anglican chant I’ve ever uncovered accompany the singers with an organ, which amounts to adding one more artificial voice to the human chorus.  I don’t know how it will sound to accompany chants to plucked strings; but, I intend to find out.  Anyone want to recommend internet resources for this project?

After conferring with the original group of men in our Men at Worship project, I’ve got a few more projects: to compile a collection of collects (no put intended!) for easy reference as the men prepare their prayers before meeting to worship with other men.  Also, I’ve almost finished pointing the New King James version of the Psalms of David for the same men for the same purpose.  And, they have suggested several topics, issues, and Biblical/theological subjects for short men’s studies (6 to 10 weeks in length). 

Meanwhile, I’ve kept tossing things into my blogfodder folder.  This fall I plan to post far more here than I have been able to do this past summer.  Thanks for all you who keep checking back. 


Filed under Dulcimer project