Category Archives: Egalitarianism

Meat and Potatoes

avlxyz at flickr.com

Lord willing (and assuming the flesh is not too weak to frustrate things) I’m returning to blogging here after a long hiatus occasioned by (among other things) diminished health. As before, I intend to comment – mostly polemically – against sexual insanity in the world and in the Church as well as against sexual shilly-shallying among those who deem themselves to be guardians of evangelical Protestant orthodoxy in America (and, occasionally, in Europe).

But, to this I intend to add a focus not heretofore present in this blog, namely to begin pounding out something I have long complained was absent within Broadly Evangelical American Protestants (hereafter BEAPERs). When it comes to things sexual, BEAPERs lack the meat and potatoes of the subject. They are like a gaggle of culinary amateurs who stumble upon the Wise Encyclopedia of Cookery (check out the customer reviews!). But, rather than learning from it, they simply display it prominently in their kitchens while they make endless creations out of Jello and Cool-whip.

In this case, however, the situation is worse. The religious feminists are now firmly in charge of BEAPER-land. They prominently display the Bible in their offices of power, but they never learn from it. Instead, they’re taking their cues from the World’s latest fashions tregarding he sexual analogs to Jello and Cool-Whip, as it were.

So, since BEAPERs won’t do serious theology about sex, I’m going to  undertake that project in this blog, toward two ends:

First, whenever I find a serious effort to do theology about the Bible and sex, I’m going to attempt to engage these works in this blog, in blog-sized chunks. Second, I am going to use this blog as a sort of “test kitchen” for my own contribution to the conversation I think has been badly needed for a very long time. That contribution will be to bring to completion a book I’ve had steeping on the back burner for over a decade now: The Masculinity of God.

I think I’ll begin in the next blog by introducing a work by Matthew Lee Anderson in which he attempts a preliminary engagement of a theology of the body. His subject is broader than human sexuality, of course; but, human sexuality must needs be a large idea in his discussion. So, I propose to take his book, chapter by chapter, summarizing what I find in it of significance for the building of a Christian orthodox consensus on sexuality generally, endorsing anything I can support as orthodox and Biblical, and criticizing some things (not everything) I find heterodox or sub-Biblical. Perhaps Matthew may eventually find his way over here and offer his own replies to what I present about his work.

Interested? Stay tuned. You won’t have to wait long.

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Promise Keepers and Crossing Fingers

Special promisesIn 1997, Promise Keepers fielded an event that was supposed to be epoch-making. Stand in the Gap brought together eight hundred thousand men (or one million men, according to PK accounts) to the National Mall in Washington on October 4 th, 1997 to recommit to marriage and family.And the aftermath? Within a few months, Promise Keepers had all but closed its main offices. The collapse of the movement was far more spectacular than the Washington event.

What happened?

David Usher provides a compelling analysis  of the movement’s catastrophic contraction in an article published in Men’s News Daily. Usher’s overview of Promise Keeper’s collapse begins with a widely read article by Bill McCartney on the eve of Stand in the Gap. Usher explains:

The collapse began with the widely-publicized article in the September-October 1997 issue of Policy Review, titled “Promise Makers”, which hit the newsstands just a few days before Stand in the Gap. This article received tremendous national attention.

Many conservatives were quietly expecting this watershed article would signal the beginnings of a real marriage movement. Instead, it was perhaps the most spectacular public display of self-deprecation witnessed in modern history.

The first few paragraphs of Bill McCartney’s Policy Review article were a shocking adoption of knuckle-dragging neanderthal feminist theory. It blamed men for all of society’s problems. In fact, it was so feminist I thought it could have been written by the National Organization of Women.”

Bait and Switch

Bait and SwitchIn the above-linked article by Usher, he demonstrates the radical feminist critique of American Christian manhood with copious quotations from McCartney’s article in Policy Review. I strongly urge you to read all of Usher’s critique as well as McCartney’s Policy Review article, available here online. Certainly McCartney’s article was read by thousands of men who understood it as a form of bait-and-switch. Promise Keepers held out the hope of reinvigorating a Christianity that was unashamedly masculine, that affirmed Christian manhood and sought to promote it. Instead, from its own founder, Promise Keepers became just one more mouthpiece for feminists (whether Christian or not) who viewed male headship in marriage, family, and church as a flaw to be fixed, a disease to be cured, a sin for men to repent of. No wonder Promise Keepers melted as quickly as a snowball in hell.

Since the contraction which Usher explains, Promise Keepers has continued to contract. A careful reading of their own history shows a declining number of men attending stadium or similar events since the 1997 Stand in the Gap and the contraction which followed. By their own testimony (laced with a generous dose of positive spin) they have continued to contract over the past decade. In fact, the contraction has gone far enough that McCartney now candidly speaks of an upcoming Promise Keepers event in Boulder, Colorado with these words  :

Our journey will begin with a stadium event in Boulder, CO, on July 31-August 1, 2009. We’ll celebrate our 20th anniversary as a ministry back where it all began–and where it will be re-launched–at Folsom Field.

Fish or Fowl?

Promise Keepers has always claimed it was a ministry to men. But with the relaunch, McCartney highlights three distinctives that will characterize the re-launched Promise Keepers. Claiming to take his cue for the relaunch from the First Century Church, McCartney claims that this church did three things:

Proverbs 31:31: They celebrated virtuous women at the city gates. We expect men to invite thousands of women to “A Time to Honor.” This will be powerful. We need to rally around women and raise the bar for what it is to be virtuous. The next generation must have a true model for womanhood.

Acts 2:43-48: They shared their resources equally. As the days get more difficult, the church that is truly anointed will be one that opens its arms to the less fortunate. We want to catalyze men to serve the poor, the oppressed and the needy through their local church.

I Corinthians 4:15: Honoring the Spiritual Fathers of the Faith. Paul said that though we may have countless teachers in the faith, we will not have many fathers. And he became our father through the Gospel. We want to honor the Jewish Believers who are the spiritual fathers of our faith.

Apostolic Christianity or Jewish Evangelism?

Concerning Spiritual Fathers: This sounds decidedly quixotic. It is one thing to argue in favor of evangelism of Jews, particulary based on Paul’s “to the Jew first, and then the Greek” statements. Two of PK’s Board members are involved in Jewish evangelism (Rabbi Jonathan Bernis) and encouraging “Gentile believers in Jesus Christ to embrace the Messianic Jewish community” (Dr.Raleigh Washington). But McCartney doesn’t even seem to have evangelism of Jewish unbelievers in view here, but rather “Jewish believers who are the spiritual fathers of our faith.”

It’s unclear who these “fathers” are. Paul evangelized the Corinthians and thus claims to be their father in the gospel. Is Paul, therefore, ipso facto the father of all believers today? Or, perhaps McCartney is referring to the Apostles who left us the New Testament. But, still, while some Christians have become believers by reading the New Testament alone, most have been evangelized by Gentile evangelists. Just what McCartney is talking about here awaits further developments.

Christian Welfare?

Concerning the sharing of resources: why is this agenda singled out as somehow unique, or distinctive? Yes, the sharing of resources marked the communal life of early Christians. But that has more or less been the case ever since. Today, there are scores of Christian aid agencies that are international in scope, alongside countless soup kitchens, second-hand clothing distribution networks, and single-mother ministries in churches across the land. Entire denominations have cast themselves as agents for social justice and aid to the oppressed. Why is this “new?”

It’s Still About Women, Evidently

Thumbs Up But, the first distictive in McCartney’s list looks decidedly like a retread, and a confused one at that. Citing a verse from the poem on the Virtuous Women (who is obviously a member of the aristocracy during the Golden Age of Solomon) in Proverbs 31, McCartney claims that the early church “celebrated virtuous women at the city gates.” So far as I know, the Apostle Paul commends a number of women for their character and works of mercy. But, to say that Christians themselves were “celebrating virtuous women at the city gates” is almost certainly false.

Christians (Jewish and Gentile alike) were mocked and persecuted and schemed against in the city gates. Jews and Pagans alike, threatened by converts to Christianity, persecuted Christians. To imagine the Christians themselves “celebrating” (what, exactly, is this supposed to mean???) in the city gates … it’s a preposterous fiction forced onto the NT and the early writings of the post-Apostolic fathers.

But, this is the 21st Century. The Evangelical Church is now feminist. And, if a ministry to men is going to have a snowball’s chance in hell, it’s going to need to bring the women in. Here’s how the PK website puts it :

1) Why are we inviting women?

The time for Proverbs 31:31 is long overdue! It’s time to bring our wives and daughters so that we can honor them together. They need to stand side by side with us as warriors of the faith.

Hmmmm. Evidently, Christian men don’t praise virtuous women in the gates (hence, it’s long overdue). I’m not sure why the burgeoning population of women in evangelical seminaries doesn’t count here. In another generation, evangelical pulpits will have as many or more women in them than men. Count on it — the seminaries’ Forward Looking Committees have it all figured out. The next generation of evangelical leaders are in today’s evangelical seminary classrooms. Count the division of the sexes and know the future!

I wish PK had been a less foggy about that warrior thing.

Do they mean this: “They need to stand side by side with us men who as men are warriors for the faith?”

Or do they mean this: “They need to stand side by side with us men, joining us to be warriors for the faith?”

You know, in the current climate there’s whole organization of women led by Carolyn Custis James who claims that the Bible calls women to be warriors. Women now populate all the armed forces, including combat units, so it’s a sure thing they can claim to be warriors for the United States. Is PK conforming to popular feminist and egalitarian notions about the warrior-ness of women? Looks like it to me.

Down with Male Headship

seenoevilMeanwhile, the entire, long, and tedious battle for the past 25 years has been whether or not men are heads of their marriages, families, and churches. On that issue, PK is quite clear :

What does PK think the role of women should be?

The role of women is not a topic we address at our events; however, we do believe husbands are called to love their wives just as Christ loved the church (Ephesians 5:25).

I do not know how more studiously Promise Keepers can ignore the Scriptures than this. Paul has a lot of very clear things to say about the role of women in Ephesians 5. On one hand PK urges us to honor our spiritual fathers in the faith — including the Apostle Paul, for crying out loud — and at the same time refuses to quote the Apostle when he gives an answer to a question they themselves acknowledge is “out there.”

Promise Keepers makes a big deal out of integrity and courage. They would be a lot more convincing if they showed more integrity in how they handle the Bible, and less cowardice when facing the spirit of the age.

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The Church thru Egalitarian Eyes

two-thumbsThe blog sponsored by Christians for Biblical Equality can be counted on for showing us the cutting edge of egalitarian thinking, the sort of stuff that egalitarian leaders in academe look for in order to know where to place themselves so they’re at the head of the popular mob.

It is also a way to look at things ostensibly “Christian” through egalitarian glasses. An excellent example of this is found in Trevor’s analysis of how/why we have created “a church of gender division.”

His evidence includes the following:

  • We encourage separate men’s and women’s meetings, rallies, conferences etc.
  • We encourage separate men’s and women’s study Bibles and Bible helps.
  • We encourage the genre of exclusive male to male and female to female authors.

So what? Ministries targeted at women and men, ministries pursued by men in concert with men (and women with women) are hardly new, going back to the very beginning (cf. 1 Tim. 3, or Titus 2). And so it has been for about 2,000 years now. The underlying premise of ministries aimed at either sex is simply that men and women are different, and that this difference should be acknowledged and accomodated by church ministry.

Admitted, the advance of technology (printing, video, travel, etc.) makes the opportunities for such accomodation more frequent. Again, so what? If ministry to men alone facilitates such ministry, as with women (as commenters reluctantly acknowledge), why frustrate this ministry by cutting back on it?

  • We encourage male supremacy and primacy within marriage and family.
  • We encourage marital role separateness when we promote hierarchy as a marriage model.
  • We encourage the language of biological differentiation when we talk of his needs, her needs.
  • We encourage difference between the sexes through accepting the thesis of books like, “Men are from Mars – Women are from Venus.”

Again, such “observations” ignore what everyone has always easily known. Moreover, it ignores the Bible’s own mandate that men be heads of the marriage, family, and church. This mandate has been ground zero in Church conflict for several generations now, and evangelicalism seems to have pretty well settled into camps where compliance with Biblical norms are honored (a minority now), and those where these Biblical norms are flouted, ignored, or mocked (e.g. the so-called egalitarian church communities, whether they be congregations, denominations, or parachurch institutions).

What puzzles me is the “we have …” in these observations. It sounds as if this egalitarian is lamenting that the egalitarian agenda hasn’t been more comprehensively implemented in supposedly egalitarian churches.

We encourage segregation and individualism by all of the above which leads to dissatisfaction and the breakdown of balanced gender relationships, including marriage and family.

Flummery. American evangelicals are the “freest” Christians history has ever seen. Their ecclesiology (actually, their lack of an ecclesiology)  allows them to do what they routinely do as often as they change their socks: change churches to suit their tastes in virtually anything, including how the church handles ministry to men and women.

The NT scriptures are addressed to believers generally, not to genders specifically. While instructions are given to husbands, wives, children, slaves and slave owners these instructions are to be culturally considered.

Here we have egalitarian falsehood and egalitarian flummery in one sentence.

First, the OT and NT Scriptures are generally address specificially to the men, and when context indicates that the entire congregation is intended, it is the inclusive masculine gender that is used in the Biblical text. The Ten Commandments, for example, are addressed to men, because men are the heads of the various social units within Israel (marriage, family, tribe). But, no one ever questions that “Thou shalt not steal” is a commandment women are obliged to follow. Specifically, “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife …” does not leave the women free to covet their neighbor’s husband. No specific prohibition directed at women is needed, because her moral duty is included in the moral duty of her head.

And, what about those Scriptures known to address specific — gender specific — groups, such as husbands (as opposed to wives) or wives (as opposed to husbands)? According to CBE’s blogger, these are to be “culturally considered!” That’s egalitarian code words for “ignored” or “dismissed.” On this score, the entire Book of Proverbs should be dismissed, because it is compiled by men for men as men. Its purpose is to equip young men to take their places in the gates as older, wiser men.

May women profit from The Proverbs? No one ever said otherwise. Does the Book of Proverbs contain exemplary models for women to emulate? Of course it does, primarily Lady Wisdom. Models of women to reject? Of course it does, primarily Woman Folly. But, even those passages are primarily crafted for the express instruction and development of men’s characters and wisdom. In this way, the Proverbs are typical of the Bible as a whole — addressed to the heads of the believing community for the benefit of all.

While some may disagree, it is my belief that many of our differences are culturally adapted rather than biblically mandated.

Yet that’s what the quarrel is all about! Egalitarians take the Bible’s mandates regarding the nature and relationship of the sexes and dismiss them out of hand in favor of some pansexual or asexual inclusiveness.

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Joe the Plumber and First Principles

Tony Esolen’s final (alas!) pondering on Joe the Plumber’s interview making the rounds of the internet focuses on “first principles.”
 
… in that interview, [Joe the Plumber] showed that he rejected the idea that he should vote for a fatter wallet, since even if he had been persuaded that Mr. Obama’s policies would fatten his wallet (and he was not persuaded that they would), they would still amount to what he called “socialism”. That’s what he rejected, as unworthy of American love of liberty.

I think that Joe was right about that, but that’s not my point here. I’m struck first of all that anybody can still talk about first principles.

And, that got me to thinking how “first principles” is a notion that sheds some light on how and why egalitarians go careening off into the theological ozone while mere Christianity has remained more or less stable for over two millennia as far as notions about the sexes are concerned.

Esolen observes:

There are some people who cannot logically appeal to first principles. Utilitarians can’t; all they can do is whip out the happiness calculators, their political equivalent of a magic wand. Materialists can’t; they cannot even recognize the real existence of principles, except as prejudices. Others cannot appeal to first principles, because it would be political suicide for them to do so.

For egalitarians, it would be programmatic, doctrinal, and – yes – political suicide for them to appeal to first principles, for those principles in Holy Writ dissolve egalitarianism as salt dissolves slugs.

Consider, for example, how egalitarians read Genesis 2. Their conclusions exactly contradict the Apostle Paul, writing in the Spirit, who notes that woman was made from the man and for his sake, not the other way round. The man is the woman’s very reason for existing. Say such a thing (he is her reason for being) and watch an egalitarian’s knickers twist tighter than dental floss.

But in all their sputtering indignation, none will ever mention the first principle Paul sees embedded in the Genesis text – “For man is not from woman, but woman from man. Nor was man created for the woman, but woman for the man.”

Another observation by Esolen:

… one of the professors at my school (and Providence College is a paragon of good health compared to most) tells his students that they are idiots for reading anything written before 1950, since none of that matters anymore. Another professor derides students for majoring in English, since there is no real knowledge you can gain from poetry.

Again, we see that egalitarianism is modernism’s running dog, exactly what you’d expect, as egalitarianism is leashed to the World. The World has been enthralled with its own navel for at least the past century in the West, and the attitude reported by Esolen is found in all quarters of modern culture, because it is … well, modern. It scorns the past because it is the past. Modernists insist that they are the people and wisdom will die with them.

So, for example, egalitarians are quite sure that the Church has misunderstood 2 Timothy 2:12ff until sometime in the mid 1970s. Egalitarians are quite sure the pervasive patriarchy of the Old and New Testaments are lamentable errors, or lamentable accomodations to errors, until the Holy Spirit remembered to tell them what He really has in mind. Egalitarians are so confident that “El Shaddai” means “God with breasts” while the LXX translators – more than 2,000 years closer to the culture and language of the Hebrew text – were quite mistaken.

There are, indeed, first principles in God’s Word (cf. Hebrews 5:12). But, these principles cannot be acknowledged by egalitarians, lest they abandon their infatuation with the world.

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Palin and Evangelicals

The following is a transcript of an address by Fr. Bill, delivered in a chapel service at an evangelical seminary on October 1, 2008. Citations for quotes were not provided during the delivery of this address, but are included in hyperlinks below.

Thank you for that welcome. It is a honor to speak with you this evening, about something I suspect you have already been talking about among yourselves for several weeks now: Sarah Palin.

Within a couple of days after Palin’s debut as a vice-presidential running mate, the internet forums that I regularly read and my wife’s email inbox began to fill with anxious queries from those who were obviously conflicted by Palin’s meteoric rise to national fame. For those of us who have contended for the truth of the Bible about the sexes, Sarah Palin has become the perfect storm.

PALIN THE PERFECT STORM

We have watched for someone like Sarah Palin for the past 25 years. Our ministry originated at the end of the 1980s, when secular feminism was consolidating its cultural supremacy in America. By that time, the feminist world-view had its hands firmly on all the levers of secular power: state and federal legislatures and the courts, the public education establishment from kindergarten through graduate schools, the media in all its forms – film, radio, television, newspapers, and magazines.

And at the end of the 1980s, secular feminism presented itself at the door of the church for baptism. From the 1990s to the present day, religious feminism has recreated American evangelicalism in its own feminist image..

In 2006 Wayne Grudem, a founder of the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, published a book entitled Evangelical Feminism: A New Path to Liberalism? I do not know if he meant his title to be ironic or not. When you read his book, you find an air-tight case that Evangelical feminism is liberalism. And at the end of his book, Grudem lays out the evidence for the triumph of feminism in American evangelicalism, a triumph as complete as feminism’s triumph in secular culture by the end of the 1980s.

Today, by Grudem’s analysis, feminism reigns in all the evangelical institutions – its seminaries (this current seminary is a very rare exception), as well as its publishing houses, its mission boards, and its parachurch organizations.

Just a year before Grudem published that book, Russell Moore, the Dean of the Theology School at Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville observed, “Egalitarians are winning the evangelical gender debate, not because their arguments are stronger, but because, in some sense, we’re all egalitarians now.” He is right. With exception of the Southern Baptist Convention and isolated independent congregations scattered about, evangelicals are virtually egalitarian today.

But, even a voice from the Southern Baptist Convention has recently dismayed and confused many by giving away the farm to the feminists who demand surrender.  Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptists’ flagship seminary in Louisville, had this to say on one of his recent blogs  that comments on Sarah Palin’s national candidacy:

The New Testament clearly speaks to the complementary roles of men and women in the home and in the church, but not in roles of public responsibility. I believe that women as CEOs in the business world and as officials in government are no affront to Scripture. Then again, that presupposes that women — and men — have first fulfilled their responsibilities within the little commonwealth of the family.

Mohler – and many evangelical leaders like him, including many leading complementarians such as James Dobson and CBMW’s current director David Kotter  – all unite in what they view to be a silence in Scripture concerning women in the public square, a silence that allows evangelical women to fulfill the feminist ideal – that is, the virtual interchangeability of men and women in social roles and functions. According to these complementarian leaders, the headship of males is something restricted to home and family, the private spheres of personal faith, while outside these spheres women may do anything a man may do, including to lead the most powerful nation on earth.

But why should the little commonwealth – Mohler’s term for the family – why should that little commonwealth limit the roles of men and women, while the great commonwealth liberates men and women to be all they can possibly be? Why should the church organize itself along gender lines when the world insists that a person’s sex is so irrelevant that women should serve in the armed forces, including combat roles?

PALIN AND THE CHALLENGE TO EVANGELICALS

Kotter of CBMW is wrong. Palin poses a critical dilemma to evangelical Protestants in America. On one hand, her pro-life values encourage evangelicals who have fought long and hard since the days of Francis Schaeffer against the slaughter of millions of defenseless children. Sarah Palin’s fecundity encourages those who take the Bible’s opinion at face value, that children are a blessing from the LORD. Her refusal to abort her last pregnancy when she learned that Trig had Downs’ syndrome shows that her pro-life values are genuine rather than politically expedient.

Yet, at the same time, Palin is not like Geraldine Ferraro or Hillary Clinton. Those women entered the contest for political office after their child-rearing days were completed. Sarah Palin launched her political career with children still at home. She completed a speaking engagement after her water broke with Trig, and after the speech she flew back across the continent to Alaska to give birth. Three days after that, she was back in her governor’s office.

But, the most powerful challenge to evangelicals comes from Palin’s ardent feminism. When asked about the care of her children, she replies, “Why not ask the other governors about their parenting?” Of course, she means the other governors who are men. Her retort arises from the premise that fathers and mothers are interchangeable. She further comments that there should be “no doors women should not walk through” and she exulted in her first national speech as a vice-presidential candidate that her election would “shatter that glass ceiling once and for all.”

And, so Sarah Palin presents evangelicals with a tightly packed conundrum. How shall we parse it? What are we to make of it, no matter how we vote on election day?

PALIN IS NO DEBORAH

Before I answer that question, I must dismiss an answer, one that many complementarians offer to justify their delight with Palin’s position on the national horizon. Many point to Deborah as the precedent for someone like Sarah Palin.

But, you do not have to look closely at Deborah to learn that Deborah is no precedent for Sarah Palin.

Deborah did not mince words that it was the cowardliness of Barak and other men in Israel that made her ministry needful in the first place. It was Deborah who praised those men in Israel who finally showed up for the fight, a fight in which she resolutely refused to participate. At Barak’s pleading, she accompanied him as far as the battlefield, but she refused to join him on the battlefield. Deborah did not run around the battlefield in a chariot, as so many starry-eyed feminist evangelicals suppose. Instead, she exhorted the wimpy Barak do his duty as a judge.

Deborah never crowed about breaking glass ceilings. Deborah never demanded that all doors open to men must also be open to women. Deborah was one unconventionally deployed mother among millions of mothers in the midst of a thoroughly patriarchal culture. Sarah Palin is just one more feminist among of millions of feminists in the midst of a thoroughly feminist society. Deborah is a whale in a bathtub, while Palin is a guppy in the Atlantic. There is no parallel, no point of contact between Sarah Palin and the wife of Lappidoth.

PALIN IS THE EVANGELICAL SAMSON

On the other hand, there is a character in the Book of Judges whose career sheds light on a phenomenon like Sarah Palin. That character is Samson, and Palin’s impact on evangelicals parallels Samson’s impact on the Israel of his day. I can see all your eyebrows crawling toward your hairlines, but hear me out.

The significant similarities between Samson and Palin are these:

First, both Palin and Samson embody conflicting values that spring from antagonistic agendas. Samson was the LORD’s anointed set against the Philistines who ruled over God’s people. On the other hand, Samson wallowed in unclean food, unclean sex, and a penchant for sleeping with the enemy and then slaughtering the enemy.

Palin doesn’t hold an office in the Church by virtue of divine commissioning, but she is certainly recognizable as “one of us” who champions values and agendas that evangelicals are known to champion (i.e. pro-life values). And, yet, like Samson who repudiated the holiness God demanded from Israel, Palin repudiates two millennia of Apostolic faith and practice concerning how women should advance the kingdom of God. She would have women move out of the domestic realm into the public arena.

It’s the audience in that public arena that alerts us to Palin’s most long-lasting impact. In Samson’s case, it is clear that the LORD wanted to upset the cozy truce Israel had forged with her Philistine rulers. Samson’s provocations against the Philistines should have rallied Israel to repent of their sins and to throw off the pagan oppressors.

Instead, Israel tied Samson up and delivered him to the Philistines, to protect their own peace and safety under Philistine rule. The only good that Samson achieved was to temporarily discomfit the Philistines. Meanwhile, Samson’s career occasioned a great hardening of Israel’s heart. Israel preferred peace under Philistine rule rather than to rebel against God’s enemies.

In a similar way, Palin is pushing evangelicals to a crucial choice. Today, evangelicals are double-minded in a way that Israel was double-minded during Samson’s days. Evangelicals are enchanted with religious feminism, but they are troubled when a mother of five, four of whom are still at home, leaves her family to rule Alaska, and now America; leaves her compliant husband to raise the kids while she attempts to lead the world’s most powerful nation. The old feminists used to think they could have it all, until bitter experience showed them they were wrong. Now Sarah Palin is declaring that women can, indeed, have it all – or, at least, the trappings of it all.

The outcomes for evangelicals are the same as the outcomes on Israel when it was challenged by Samson’s contradictions. On one hand, evangelicals should look at Palin and repent of their double mindedness about the sexes, repent of their lip service to motherhood and family, to repent of cheering their wives and daughters who compete with men in the public arena.

On the other hand, evangelicals might harden their hearts. Evangelicals might unite with secular feminists in proclaiming that the Bible is wrong, outmoded, and dispensable as far as anything it says about the sexes in marriage, family, church, and society.

Palin presents evangelicals with a fork in the road. One path abandons the faith once delivered to the saints. The other path leads first to repentance, and then to taking up the cross and following Christ through the hatred that the world always aims at Christ and those who follow him.

REPENTANCE FOR EVANGELICALS

If anyone sets out on the right road, the first steps will be steps of repentance. I cannot possibly expound in detail all the areas where double-minded evangelicals and confused complementarians need to repent. Perhaps you can think of some of those areas now. Perhaps the Spirit of Christ is even now showing you areas of repentance especially pertinent to your own double-mindedness or confusion.

However, I wish to quickly note three areas where evangelicals generally are in desperate need of repentance as we face the future that Sarah Palin will usher in, no matter whether she is elected or not.

First of all, evangelicals must repent of the confusion about the struggle within our churches over the nature and meaning of the sexes. One hopeful sign of this kind of repentance was offered by Dr. Russell Moore in February of last year. During a conference in Minneapolis, Dr. Moore said this:*

We have to understand that this [debate about the sexes] is not an intramural debate. Quite frankly, that’s the way we’ve been treating it for too long. We’ve been treating it like the kind of conversation dispensationalists and covenant theologians may have with one another. … That is not what is taking place.

What we have to ultimately understand is that the Gospel itself is patriarchal. It has to do with the Fatherhood of God, a Fatherhood that is not abstract, a Fatherhood that is not theoretical, a Fatherhood that the entire Bible lays out as a God who is giving a covenant inheritance to his Son. It is not just the individual texts; it’s the whole trajectory of Scripture,…

Related to this observation by Dr. Moore is yet another repentance that evangelicals sorely need – to repent of their acceptance of egalitarianism as just another valid form of Christianity. In 1923, Princeton professor G. Gresham Machen published his book entitled Christianity and Liberalism. The book’s very title announced its thesis that Christianity and liberalism were different religions. Today we badly need a chorus of evangelical leaders to proclaim that Christianity and egalitarianism are different religions.

There is no book out there entitled Christianity and Egalitarianism, but you can find a few voices proclaiming this very unwelcomed thesis in the evangelical wilderness. One of them is Dr. S. M. Hutchens, a senior editor of Touchstone and a regular blogger at Touchstone’s blog Mere Comments. Of all Touchstone‘s editors, Hutchens has brought the most trenchant indictment of egalitarianism as a false faith. Recently, he offered these words in Mere Comments:

Because of the relation of God and man in Christ, any anthropological heresy also inescapably infects theology and becomes a theological heresy as well . . . . A Christ who is Human in the egalitarian sense cannot be Man in the orthodox sense, [The egalitarian Human Christ ] is merely the apotheosis of the egalitarian ideal. He cannot be the head of the man as the man is the head of the woman as God is his own head. The ordinal relations of which the Apostle spoke, and in which the Church believes, are utterly broken on the egalitarian wheel. That is why egalitarianism is a heresy and no orthodox Christian can be an egalitarian.

Dr. Hutchens knows, as you and I know, there are many who claim to be authentically Christian and egalitarian, and to their own unexamined hearts that claim appears credible. But, the human capacity for duplicity, self-deceit, and equivocation is almost infinite. That is why such folk must repent if they are to ever see the Kingdom of God. Their doctrine is a lie, and our Lord was shockingly clear that outside the eternal Jerusalem are dogs and sorcerers and sexually immoral and murderers and idolaters, and whoever loves and practices a lie. [Rev. 22:15]

Is egalitarianism a lie? I submit to you that it is one of the most basic of all lies. Egalitarianism is one diabolical answer to Satan’s perennial question: Hath God said …?

Is woman created from and for the man? Or are men to submit to women in all ways that woman submit to men?

Does Paul restrict women from teaching or exercising authority over men? Or, should women serve as elders and bishops, ruling men and teaching them as officers of the church?

Are women a weaker vessel? Or are they warriors, as Carolyn Custis James tells us?

Is a woman’s domain private and domestic, as Paul tells us in Titus 2? Or should she excel as a corporate CEO, or as a president of the United States?

Did God really mean it when he declared it a shame for a nation to be oppressed by children and ruled by women? Or is that idea simply the whining of an ancient patriarchal prejudice?

In another place on Touchstone‘s blog, Dr. Hutchens explains why he is willing to incur the wrath, indignation, and scorn of the evangelical academy, for identifying egalitarianism as the enemy of the gospel. Here’s what he had to say:

There was a time when I was much younger that I hoped all this wouldn’t be so. How much more friendly and comfortable and status-filled life might have been if I had not come to the convictions on this that I did, for believe me, I am an unpopular man, and don’t enjoy being ill thought-of by nice people with whom I would like to be friendly. But to hell with all that: life is short, and I must soon give an account of myself and my teaching to the Lord. I would rather experience some discomfort in this life than to have him identify me as a coward, a toady, and a false teacher.**

And there, my friends, is the third area where evangelicals need desperately to repent: evangelicals simply must repent of their infatuation with the applause of the world. And, the world applauds wildly when those who name the name of Christ repudiate the obvious and expansive patriarchy of the Bible – and not just the Bible, but what the Bible says to bind the consciences of Christians as to their relationships with one another in marriage, family, church, and public society.

And if we repent of this infatuation with the world and its applause, what must we embrace instead? Again, the New Testament is riddled with the answer. We must take up our crosses and follow Christ. We must confess, defend, and believe that those who would live godly in this age will be persecuted. We must believe that our Lord spoke truly when he told us that in this world we would meet persecution. And, we must also heed his exhortation not to fear, for he has overcome the world.

For some of you here, I have said some dismaying things. Sarah Palin and her debut may lead, eventually, to a revival of godliness. Or, history may look back on this election season as God’s judgment on evangelicals for their culpable double-mindedness. Sarah Palin may, in fact, be a strong delusion for a people who had eyes but would not see, and ears that would not hear. Time will show us eventually what sort of legacy Sarah Palin leaves in her wake.

But tonight, I hope you understand that whatever Sarah Palin turns out to be for evangelicals, you have in your hands an opportunity that most American Christians have never seen – the opportunity to obey our Lord in a time of great darkness, in a nation whose Christians are being sifted as wheat. If you can find the grace to be faithful when faithfulness will most certainly cause you to be marginalized and mocked, you can by your faithfulness lay a foundation of righteousness for your children and grandchildren.

We did not come to this situation quickly. And, we will not recover from it quickly. But, absent the Lord’s return, the time will come when the double-mindedness and confusion that characterizes evangelicalism today will blow away – first by the cleansing wind of persecution for righteousness’ sake, then by that same mighty Wind that vivified Christ’s Body at the beginning. The righteous will get more righteous yet, the filthy more filthy yet.

And that future day of spiritual health and cultural vitality is in your hands tonight. The revival of godliness always has a season of preparation, in which the Holy Spirit works through those who are usually never seen, those whose faith and faithfulness are the seeds of righteousness that flourish years, perhaps decades, later.

With Sarah Palin planted at the fork in the road, God grant that you shall choose the right path.  And may he  give you grace to persevere upon it for the sake of the Church in a later generation.

Again, thank you so much for this opportunity to speak to you.

*Moore’s remarks are contained in an MP3 file available here.  A transcription of the relevant portion of the audio file may be found here.

**Hutchens’ talent for speaking straightforwardly in this way may be seen in a recent blog entitled “Naming Heresy” wherein he not only explains why egalitarianism merits the label heresy, but he also takes to task those evangelical leaders who know that egalitarianism is heresy but fail to say so forthrightly in their public communications.

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Filed under Complementarianism, Egalitarianism

Something Wicked This Way Comes

Cooking up something wicked in the kitchen, are we?Over at The Scroll, the blog for Christians for Biblical Equality,  Megan is cooking up something  wicked for the Spring 2008 issue of Mutuality.  CBE’s editors are ambitious to deconstruct two millennia of Christian “home economics” as it relates to the contemporary Christian home and then to reconstruct the whole idea of home economics to suit egalitarian tastes.  No more of this “woman’s place in the home” stuff.  Indeed, it appears they think “home” in the Christian sense needs a full invasion by men, and that men’s work and women’s work ought to be anyone’s work.

Consider (The Scroll’s text is quoted in red; its meaning, provided by my experience in reading egalitarian prose, in black):

Mutuality  is now accepting articles (and discussion surrounding the issue) for the Spring 2008 issue on ‘Home Economics.’ Topic ideas include, but are not limited to:

You see, after trashing that Neanderthal Paige Patterson and his Southwestern Sexist Seminary  for offering a humanities degree with a concentration in home economics for the wives of the men training for pastoral ministry, CBE now wishes to take the next step: to reconstruct what they have mocked along trendier, feminist lines.  Hence the upcoming issue of Mutuality.  From what Megan’s requesting, it’s fairly clear what they’re aiming for.

  • How convictions about biblical equality and gender justice apply to every day home life

You know, if the Biblical equality they’re asserting were really there in the Bible, you’d think that the Biblical men and women would have figured out whether or not “gender justice” has any expression in the home.  But, you see, the Bible is just chock full of the very thing Megan thinks needs to be corrected: women working inside the home, men working outside the home, everyone feeling just fine about gender justice – as far as we can tell from their lives over the 1500 year time span of the Biblical record.

But, no.  Megan will have none of that.  It’s patriarchal, dontcha know.  And we all know that patriarchy is bad, bad, bad.  When it shows up in the Bible … well, it doesn’t belong there, so we’ll just ignore it.

  • Biblical reflections: Christ as the head of our homes; being part of the family of God; Proverbs 31 woman

Let me decipher this for you:  “Christ as the head of our homes” means “nobody else is the head of our homes.”  In other words, this stuff about the man being the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the Church is just more of that patriarchal trash we need to sweep out the door.  To hear these folks, you’d think that a good patriarchal family is denying that Christ is the head of the home!  Of course He is, because the man is the head of the woman and Christ is the head of every man (see 1 Cor. 11:1ff for details). 

Similarly, “being part of the family of God” is code for “there is no set pattern for family.”  It’s sexist and patriarchal to think “family” means a man and a woman and children.  Why, just look at the Church, they say.  It’s got all sorts of folks in it – never marrieds, marrieds, divorced, remarried, widows and widowers.  Any of these, in any combination, can be called family if the Church can be called a family.  Away with this patriarchal narrowness.  Paul was just crippled by his patriarchal bias when he urged the Church to copy the family.  Instead, the family should copy the Church.  And since the Church is so domestically diverse, then we shouldn’t be so narrow-minded as to use the term “family” as it has been used for so long.

And, I will wager the farm on this:  whatever Mutuality publishes on the Proverbs 31 woman is going to validate her professional career as a Realtor outside the home.  In fact, they’ll urge all women to get out of the house and into the world, based on this woman’s purchase of a field.  It’s so easy to cherry pick your way through that chapter, elevating what you find useful and ignoring everything else.  After all, anything patriarchal about that passage is bad, remember?  And, we should ignore that kind of thing.

  • How Christian convictions about women’s equality have transformed culturally-specific family models (e.g. polygamy, female infanticide, education of women and girls)

Here’s an interesting factoid:  Christianity did all of these things for the West.  Indeed Western culture became Christian culture in a way that has never been replicated anywhere else in the world at any time.  And in Western Christian culture, it is Christianity that reformed marriage, abolished infanticide of both men and women, and opened the doors to the education of women.  And, all of this proceeded for the past two millennia while remaining thoroughly patriarchal

So, what’s to complain about, unless it’s the fact that all these advances proceeded in the patriarchal West under the tutelage of those regretably patriarchal Prophets and Apostles?  This section of the Spring 2008 Mutuality ought to be really interesting to read.

  • Examples of sharing responsibility in the home; non-traditional divisions of labor (e.g. men who sew or cook; women who fix the car)

Here where we get closer to the meat of Mutuality’s matter.  You see, traditional divisions of labor in the home must NOT be considered a sharing of responsibilities IF that sharing is determined by a sexual criterion.  And, so the traditional divisions of labor (women cooking, men fixing the car) simply MUST be an evidence of gender injustice and inequality.  In a culture ruled by gender justice and gender equality, there would just as many women fixing cars as men, just as many men cooking all the meals as women.  The only way to measure “justice,” according to egalitariains, is by counting noses and making sure that there is no gender disparity in any activity one finds in a marriage or family.  That’s how the Civil Rights enforcement division in the Federal Attorney-General’s office does it.  So, that’s how it needs to be done in the Church.

You see, it’s not a question of who can or cannot do this or that task.  I’m sure women could be auto mechanics just as well as men.  Men could cook just as well as women. I cook much better than most women, for example; the United States Marine Corps taught me to cook, and they did a far better job than most mothers do for their daughters these days.    

Here’s the rub:  food preparation is a domestic duty if there ever were one, unless you contract out that duty (restaurants, TV dinners, etc.).  And, if a woman’s focus is the domestic scene, then food prep will routinely land in her lap.  If a man’s primary focus is some extra-domestic vocation, food preparation for the family will routinely NOT land in his lap.  One problem perennially debated on the contemporary scene is this very domestic duty when both husband and wife are employed in the extra-domestic workplace 40 or more hours each week. 

May a man cook recreationally?  Many men do.  Which reminds me, I need to bake that pecan-apricot bundt cake this week, so it can be resting in brandy-drenched strips of muslin for the next six weeks before the Christmas Eve buffet.  But, this would not, I’m sure, satisfy those who seek gender-justice in the kitchen.

  • Home economics for singles, roommates, and communal living situations

To request articles under this rubric is just another way to fudge the meaning of “domestic,” so that it loses all anchoring to the husband-wife-children nucleus.  See the similar point above.

  • Critique of the model of husband as head of the home; critique of traditional ‘for women only’ approaches to home economics

Here Megan drops all pretense that her enemy isn’t patriarchy.  Why critique the model of husband as head of the home unless you think such a model is a mistake?  Why critique “for women only” approaches to home economics unless you’re opposed to such approaches? 

  • Faithful Christian examples of stay-at-home dads, working mothers, single parents

Again, the premise is that stay-at-home dads, working mothers, and single parents are as right as rain.  One might produce, of course, any of these who are faithful Christians.  But, that is not the point here.  The point is to say that faithful Christians will applaud, support, promote, and endorse stay-at-home dads, working mothers, and single parents.  Can’t let that old patriarchy – with its stay-at-home mothers, its provider husbands – remain the norm. 

In fact, if you want to check the demographics, it’s not the norm any longer, and the feminist revolution in the West is barely 30 years old!  Still, Paul says older women are to teach younger women to … well, we can’t have that, right?  It’s sooooo First Century.  This is the Twenty-first Century.

Finally!  Gender justice!! If Megan’s view of the Bible’s home economics is correct, we’d do best to rewrite the whole Book, and be done with it.  If, on the other hand, that Book and its persistently patriarchal view of home economics is valid … in that case, from Megan’s kitchen something wicked this way comes.

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Filed under Egalitarianism, Flummery, Woman, Misstress of the Domain

Christianity and Egalitarianism

This man didn’t mince words.Several generations ago, J. Gresham Machen published a book entitled Christianity and Liberalism.  “Liberalism” in this title referred to the newly popular liberal Protestantism that was capturing the hearts, churches, and seminaries of the main-line Christian establishment of the time.  And in this book title, one could easily see what Machen demonstrated inside the book:  Liberalism and Christianity were two different religions. 

Telling it like it is – in the manner Machen did – has not characterized complementarian leaders over the past 40 years.  But, perhaps that is beginning to change. 

In the blog Mere Comments sponsored by the good folks at Touchstone Journal, senior editor S. M. Hutchens notes that The Gospel Coalition has acknowledged , even if timidly, that egalitarianism is a “gospel issue.”  Hutchens quotes them  from their website:

In God’s wise purposes, men and women are not simply interchangeable, but rather they complement each other in mutually enriching ways. God ordains that they assume distinctive roles which reflect the loving relationship between Christ and the church, the husband exercising headship in a way that displays the caring, sacrificial love of Christ, and the wife submitting to her husband in a way that models the love of the church for her Lord. In the ministry of the church, both men and women are encouraged to serve Christ and to be developed to their full potential in the manifold ministries of the people of God. The distinctive leadership role within the church given to qualified men is grounded in creation, fall, and redemption and must not be sidelined by appeals to cultural developments.

I think Hutchens stretches a point a tad.   The Gospel Coalition places the statement quoted above in a section of its doctrinal standards, under a heading styled “”Creation of Humanity.”  This is a good start, insofar as they declare, at least in the case of the Gospel coalition which they have formed, that a criterion for participatinig in that coalition is to affirm, teach, and defend the Bible’s revelation about the nature and relationship of the sexes.  But, I concur with Hutchens that such clarity about egalitarianism is a relatively new thing among evangelical leaders generally, who heretofore seem to have been happy to ignore the egalitarian virus.

In the comments to this blog at Mere Comments, Hutchens provides a succinct summary of American Protestantism’s collapse from the old Biblical Criticism virus of the late 19th Century, and the parallel disaster within 20th Century evangelicalism as it  succumbed to the egalitarian virus.  Concerning the text-critical views of the Bible  – that the Bible is NOT what it presents itself to be: God’s words  – and the liberalizing process that resulted from this errant view of the Bible, Hutchens observes:

The process began in earnest in the 1860s and 1870s in the United States’ mainline denominations, which by the 1930s had become dominated by it. The movement was from a religion in all these groups that would be considered “conservative Evangelical,” to today’s mainline liberalism. In the early 1920s J. Gresham Machen observed, and correctly, I believe, that this liberalism is simply not Christianity, but another religion appearing in Christian habiliments.

According to Hutchens, the evangelicalism of the 20th Century was devastated even more quickly by the egalitarian error:

The same is true of egalitarianism. It is a new religion, as theologically comprehensive as liberalism, and every bit as unChristian. It begins, of course, in anthropology, with beliefs about the equality of men and women, but of necessity reaches from there into Christology and thus to Trinitarian theology, since all are connected at the Christological root. Evangelicalism, which had by the 1970s begun to replace an increasingly moribund mainline Protestantism, at the same time began to absorb egalitarianism, which de-Christianized it as thoroughly as liberalism had de-Christianized the former, and much more quickly.

More quickly indeed.  If the 19th Century demise of evangelical Protestantism ran from the 1860 to 1930 (a period of 70 years), the current wave of egalitarian infection has taken half that time to produce the same result: an evangelicalism decidedly past its theological shelf-life.  What’s even more dismaying is that orthodox evangelicals who ought to have known better back in the Seventies utterly failed to diagnose the disease and its toxic effects. 

This man also isn’t mincing words.So, though it is late, statements like one finds at The Gospel Coalition are welcome.  And even more welcome are words by Dr. Russell Moore, Dean of the School of Theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary at Louiseville, Kentucky:

We have to understand that this is not an intramural debate. Quite frankly, that’s the way we’ve been treating it for too long. We’ve been treating it like the kind of conversation dispensationalists and covenant theologians may have with one another. We treat this as the same kind of discussion that Ligon Duncan and I might have over whether or not infants ought to be baptized. We treat this as the kind of situation where brothers and sisters in Christ who agree on all of the main things now get together and talk about some issues of interpretation where “we just happen to disagree.” That is not what is taking place.

[snip]

What we have to ultimately understand is that the Gospel itself is patriarchal. It has to do with the Fatherhood of God, a Fatherhood that is not abstract, a Fatherhood that is not theoretical, a Fatherhood that the entire Bible lays out as a God who is giving a covenant inheritance to his Son. A story line you see all the way from Adam who gives birth to Seth who is in his image and in his likeness, a Fatherhood you see when God says to Pharoah, “You have my first born son in captivity; let him go.” First Timothy 2 really looks like male headship. . . . It is not just the individual texts; it’s the whole trajectory of Scripture, but the whole trajectory of Scripture leads to patriarchy, it leads to the Fatherhood of God, and it leads to the headship of men, not an evil headship, but a loving, self-sacrificial kind of headship. . . .

These words from Dr. Moore were transcribed from an audio lecture and posted at the blog Immoderate .  The original MP3 file is available online here

Finally, a further encouraging straw in the wind is that Dr. Moore’s comments were delivered at a Different by Design conference sponsored by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, which in the past has often bent over backward to avoid saying the things that Dr. Moore says in this address.  If their sponsorship of Dr. Moore in this regard amounts to a repentence from earlier timidity to acknowledge egalitarianism as an unChristian faith (no matter how many Christian habiliments it displays, or no matter who among the evangelical glitterati are duped by it), such repentence is welcome indeed.

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Filed under Egalitarianism