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.