Category Archives: Flummery

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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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. 

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More Egalitarian Flummery

Nanny nanny boo boo to you too!A commenter who styles himself “Stenides” left a comment under the blog “Compromised Complementarians Repent!” below.  It raises  issues that deserve more exposure than they would get buried in the comments.  For completeness, here’s the entirety of the comment, followed by my additional comments:

Concerning Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s dismissal of Sheri Klouda from its theological faculty, Stenides writes,

 All in all, a good result.

The woman, who was highly competent, has proceeded to another institution who appreciates her talents and will hopefully treat her more honorably than the chivalrous males of Complementarianland.

Dr. Patterson has distinguished the complementarian cause and his institution by firing an employee who was hired in good faith and executed her job well.

Whether he agrees with his predecessor’s choices or not, he was responsible for treating the employees he inherited with decency and fair practice. Even the heathens do that, which is why they’re so disgusted by this story.

I love it when this stuff happens, because it is a warning to women that complementarians are more attached to their idea than they are to treating other Christians with any semblance of fairness or respect.

Stenides’ comments are an excellent example of egalitarian flummery, and so I take this opportunity to elucidate how this is so (Stenides’ comments below are in red:

All in all, a good result.

I agree on this point, as far as Stenides says anything.  But, we get to “a good result” by very different routes, and I’m pretty sure what each of us thinks is “good” is very different.

The woman, who was highly competent, has proceeded to another institution who appreciates her talents …

The implication, of course, is that SWBTS did not appreciate her talents.  This is Flummery.  Her talents were most certainly appreciated by the officials who hired her and set her on a tenure track.  And, when officials who succeeded those who employed her retracted the Seminary’s commitment to her, it had nothing to do with her talents or anyone’s appreciation of them. 

and [her new place of employment ] will hopefully treat her more honorably than the chivalrous males of Complementarianland.

Again, Stenides would have us think that Paige Patterson and the SWBTS Board was unchivalrous and treated Dr. Klouda less than honorably.  Of course, this judgment leaves aside the express reason for the Seminary’s repentance from earlier commitments to Dr. Klouda, namely that they were in conflict with Apostolic guidelines for the training of pastors.  If you’re given a choice of having Dr. Klouda ticked off at you and Jesus ticked off at you, what is the righteous choice?  I guess Stenides would rather dismiss Jesus and his Apostles.   

Dr. Patterson has distinguished the complementarian cause and his institution by firing an employee who was hired in good faith and executed her job well.

Again, no one denies that the offer was made in good faith and that she did her job well.  The original good-faith offer was also an offer made in conflict with the Seminary’s historic policies, policies which are rooted in Biblical mandates, and from which the Seminary’s leadership prior to Dr. Patterson had strayed. 

Let’s imagine that I receive a gift for my birthday from an old school chum, a fine, electric rotary saw.  Let’s say I build a profitable hobby by deploying it skillfully.  And, one day, the police show up and confiscate it.  It seems my school chum had stolen it, and though he gave it to me in good faith and I used it in good faith, it was not his to give, nor mine to retain.  It belonged in another setting entirely, for the use of another – its genuine owner. 

A place on a theological faculty, training men to be pastors, was not the Seminary’s to give to Klouda, and it was not hers to retain, if the officers of the Seminary wished to repent of the earlier mistake. 

Whether [Patterson] agrees with his predecessor’s choices or not, he was responsible for treating the employees he inherited with decency and fair practice. Even the heathens do that, which is why they’re so disgusted by this story.

I wonder if Stenides read the following from the Dallas Morning News article:

Dr. McClain, the trustee, defended Southwestern’s treatment of Dr. Klouda.

“The administration was patient with her and allowed her to teach a full two years after she was told that she would not have tenure,” he said.

“During that time, she looked for a job, and the seminary even agreed to continue her support after her teaching responsibilities were over, so her family would have financial support. The seminary went far beyond anything that could be expressed as its duty or responsibility.”

This is not fair practice?  This is not chivalrous?  Heathens treat people they dismiss better than this?  More flummery.

I love it when this stuff happens, because it is a warning to women that complementarians are more attached to their idea than they are to treating other Christians with any semblance of fairness or respect.

To which I respond, I love it when egalitarians like Stenides write things like this, because it is an example of how egalitarians love to run rough-shod over the facts, over any reasonable interpretation of the facts, and especially how they value their own offended sensibilities over the guidance of the Holy Spirit in Scripture. 

That, finally, is the issue here:  What does the Scripture say (if anything) about how Christ’s Church is to be led, and how those leaders are to be prepared for their ministry of leadership?  SWBTS under the leadership of Patterson and its Board give different answers to these questions than do Stenides or Dr. Klouda.  Patterson’s convictions and behavior comport with Scripture; Stenides’ and Klouda’s do not, in the matters pertaining to her departure from SWBTS.

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A Case of the Vapors

When smelling salts are not enough, try this.Anthony Esolen, recent translator of Dante’s Inferno  and contributing editor of Touchstone has delivered on a promise  to write “a little bit about the linguistic controversy surrounding NT Greek anthropos, which is now translated as ‘person’ or ‘one’ or ‘human being’ or ‘[null]’ or ‘fellow’ or ‘telephone pole,’ but never simply ‘man,’ lest somebody in the pews faint and have to be revived.”

Providing rule-of-thumb definitions of anthropos (“man,” ranging in meaning from an individual male human to humanity conceived of as a unitary being) and aner (“man” when you wish to emphasize his sex or other qualities peculiar to maleness), Esolen then provides a wide range of examples drawn from ordinary contemporary speech, providing alongside them similar uses in the gospel of Luke.  For example (see Esolen’s blog for more), consider these:

“Once upon a time there was a man who had two sons.”  Anthropos; he’s a man, but we’re not focusing on his manhood; cf. Luke 15:11.

“Daniel Boone was a man, he was a real man.”  Aner; the idea is that he was big and strong and brave.

“I saw a man walking down the street.”  Anthropos; unless it’s a really unusual man, as in

“I saw a man in a polka-dot dress, walking down the street.”  Aner!

Esolen’s point is two-fold.  First he is exploding a welcome lie among egalitarians that anthropos means “human being” or “humanity” or “person” or “telephone pole” or the like.  Second, he gives plenty of collateral evidence for the intelligibility, commonality, contemporaniety, and understandability of the “inclusive masculine” in modern English, contra another bit of egalitarian flummery that asserts such usage to be vastly beyond the comprehension of modern women.

Further evidence for the intelligibility of the inclusive masculine is documented at the website of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).  Their illuminating examples show immediately why use of the inclusive masculine is still to be found everywhere, including a prescription for its use in standard style manuals for journalism and academia.  Among these examples are:

“… two people with herniated discs can lead radically different lives: one spends his days popping painkillers, the other waltzes through life like Fred Astaire.” (Newsweek, April 26, 2004, p. 45; in a section discussing herniated discs)

“…everyone we saw was holding up his blue-tipped finger with broad smiles on the faces while walking out of the center.” (Wall Street Journal, January 31, 2005, p. A18, discussing the election in Iraq in which both men and women voted)

“When one person dies, his money goes to pay the others in the pool.” (USA Today, February 11, 2005, p. 3B; in an article about annuities)

“…that man and forest were fated to be not enemies but partners.” (Newsweek, February 16, 2004, p. 44; in an article discussing economics and the rain forests)

“ASU archaeologist honored for research on early man” (The Arizona Republic, headline, February 26, 2005, p. E1)

With uses of the inclusive masculine so pervasive, so common, so … well, so understandable after almost 60 years of feminist whining, it is amazing that religious feminists such as Mimi Haddad can say  (with a straight face too!) something like this:

Until perhaps fifty years ago, it was somewhat common in America to use male pronouns when speaking of both men and women. Women, however, constantly needed to ask themselves, “Does man , men, he, or him include me?”

My goodness!!  What pathetic sorts of women is Ms. Haddad thinking of here?  Do such women really exist?  What does Ms. Haddad think women did earlier than 50 years ago?  How about 500 years ago?  How about 20 centuries ago?  Have women been wandering in a miasma of gender confusion for that long? 

Of course, another take on this is that Ms Haddad thinks women are really that stupid (except herself, of course). 

Anthony Esolen’s advice is simply to translate the Bible using the inclusive masculine in English (which is still a common and widely understood grammatical feature of the language) where the Bible uses the inclusive masculine (which it does just as much as modern English). 

And what about those grammatically-challenged women, those lexically-handicapped women, who can’t figure out when “man” or “men” or “him” or “his” includes them? Esolen has a solution for them too:  “We can always keep some smelling salts in the back, next to the incense, should any feminist suddenly catch the vapors.”

In the comments at Esolen’s blog, you will find one of those women Mimi Haddad must have been thinking about.  For her, I fear, smelling salts wouldn’t be enough to bring her around.  For her kind, I recommend something stronger, the odor of a truly manly world, where she won’t be confused about how her own gender relates to the gendered environment around her, or how ordinary people talk about it.

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Flummeries Pious and Putrid

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

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

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

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

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

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

[snip]  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Flummery No. 1

FLUMMERY: 
–noun, plural -mer-ies.
1. oatmeal or flour boiled with water until thick. 
2. fruit custard or blancmange usually thickened with cornstarch. 
3. any of various dishes made of flour, milk, eggs, sugar, etc. 
4. complete nonsense; foolish humbug. 

flummeryI’ve loved the word “flummery” ever since first encountering it in Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe novels.  Wolfe usually applied the term to expositions of a crime made by Inspector Cramer.  Wolfe’s culinary obsessions almost guarantee (though I do not recall this from my reading of the novels) that Wolfe had actually eaten flummery, at least in the sense of items 2 and 3 above.  Mostly, however, he deployed the term to name nonsense and other foolish humbug.

The term came to mind as I reviewed a report from a young man, newly enrolled in a Christian college somewhere in the upper midwest.  He had studied our Five Aspects of Man curriculum and deemed it both Biblical and illuminating for the world around him.  But, then he found himself in conversation with a Resident Advisor in the dorm he inhabits.  From their conversation about gender-specific roles, he reported this:

My RA, who has been a really oustanding guy who I really respect, has taken some classes on this and read some books and he really questions the whole idea of subjugating men and women into roles.  He said that if men are placed into the leadership role, that by itself devalues women; just saying that they cannot be leaders makes them feel inferior.

Where to begin?

First of all, the Bible does not say that women may not be leaders.  Titus 2, for example, expressly encourages older women to be leaders of younger women with respect to their roles as wives and homemakers.  The church for centuries has acknowledged and affirmed women as leaders.  Leadership is not the issue.  Who is leading whom — that is the issue.

The Bible explicitly places men as leaders of women in two spheres:  marriage and church.  Ephesians 5:22ff is the locus classicus for the former, 1 Timothy 2-3 for the latter.  Other places in the NT add Apostolic weight to these two principles:  men are heads in marriage and in the Church. 

What this means is that women are not to lead men in marriage and in the Church.  But, this is precisely where egalitarians insist that (1) the Bible isn’t really saying what it actually says, or (2) the Bible is wrong. Which egalitarian you consult determines which of these spins you will get. 

Please note, however, that women are not excluded from leadership.  It is expected that mothers will genuinely lead their minor children, including their male children.  And, women may lead other women.  Again, the issue is not whether women may lead, but whom they may lead.

Second, the idea that “roles” subjugate men or women arises from the recent notion that individual persons are “free” in principle to be anything they choose.  Yes, for most people, there are opportunities to improve their health, wealth, influence or their economic, social, and educational conditions.  Along with these opportunities — whether they are great or only minor opportunities — is a corresponding opportunity to see these conditions deteriorate.

But it is a falsehood to suppose that we are a blank slate on which only we may write.  By the time we can begin to contemplate altering ourselves in even trivial ways, others have written extensively on our slates.  This is not an evil thing.  And, much of what is written by others is construed as roles, some of which are gender-specific.  Were it not so, there would be no civilization, no wisdom, no continuity with our past.

Finally, the alleged harm — that someone excluded from leadership shall “feel inferior” — is nothing more than folk psychology elevated to an ecclesiastical standard of behavior.  It is the very nature of leadership that leaders are significantly, sometimes vastly, outnumbered by non-leaders.   Yes, leaders may be far too few in number (e.g. Moses before Jethro offered him advice).  But, they also can be far too many in number (consider in this regard any modern governmental beauracracy, including the denominational structures of most Protestant churches).   A body in which all members were leaders would be leaderless.

Finally, the gender-specific leadership prescribed in the Bible has nothing to do with gifting or talents. Leaders may be taltented; they may have fewer talents than those whom they lead.  But the leadership of fathers, husbands, elders, and bishops — these are responsibilities laid on the shoulders of males, who beyond their sex must qualify for leadership according to objective criteria specified by Apostolic mandate.

The pitiful thing about this young man’s report is that he indicates his RA, and those who have trained the RA to despise the leadership God has laid upon the men in the Church are bent on training their followers to despise the same responsibilities laid upon them by the Lord.   

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