Archive for June, 2009

Frank and Beatrice, Keely and DN

Tuesday, June 30th, 2009

I think the comment I left responding to Dontbia Nass’ most recent harangue is worth highlighting (could it be that people don’t find my words sufficiently compelling that they decline to hang on to every post and the comments that follow? The mind boggles . . . ). In a comment on “Die, Patriarchy, Die!,” he defends all sorts of ideas and doctrines about gender relations. Here’s my answer to his comment:

DN (who evidently has a great deal of free time on his hands), regarding women’s Biblical submission and men’s charge to love their wives, writes:

“There are no mirror-image verses for the husbands.”

Well, yeah, there are. The verse in Ephesians 5 that he and other patriarchs rely on is preceded by an admonition for ALL IN CHRIST to submit cheerfully one to another. I believe that the problem in the Church is too little submission, not too much, and that the deference and sacrifice Christ’s people are to offer one another in love ought to make a comeback; it’s been absent for far too long, or, more accurately one-sided for far too long.

Further, he makes the very odd application that the Ephesians 5:22 woman will “submit” to her husband, while he, in the same passage, will “love” his wife — with no reciprocity, no mutuality. She has her job, he has his. Yikes.

Let’s imagine the bizarre scenario in which a Christian thinking like DN would counsel a married couple:

“Hey, Frank — Love your wife.”

“Beatrice, submit to your husband.”

“Frank, you can ignore 5:21, which requires mutual submission with no qualifiers. Just love her. Forget the idea of submitting to her.”

“Beatrice, you’re off the hook. No need to love your man. Whew! Just submit. See, he loves, but doesn’t submit. You submit, but you’re not called to love.”

“Now, be careful that you both stick to your own stuff here, and we’ll see you at Doug Wilson’s upcoming conference on Father Hunger. Oh, wait — Beatrice, darling, it isn’t for you.”

(Fade to Doctrinal Confusion . . . )

I would suggest that Beatrice and Frank would leave with the matrimonial harmony parts of their brains more than a little muddled.

On another note, Adam is the father of the human race because he was created first. As we see with, say, Jacob and Esau, birth order doesn’t guarantee primacy in God’s plan. Heck, his plan doesn’t even require much faith, never mind a penis. And Adam was not given a headship role over Eve in creation. Both were given the stewardship mandate. His sin was to defy a direct command of God’s, not to listen to his wife, and no amount of appeal to creation order will change the reality of a loving, mutual, co-equal Adam and Eve in the Garden pre-fall.

Finally, Jesus’ obedience to the Father in the Incarnation is clear. It is not at all clear that the Trinity is a center of anything other than complete, mutual, self-giving, self-realized, voluntary, loving, co-equal submission and love. The idea of the Father “parenting” the Son in the Trinity, or exercising a “boss” position therein, is repugnant.

Really, DN, I’d like to move on. I think my readers kind of get that we disagree, and surely you have other things with which to occupy yourself. Perhaps you have a blog on which I can comment?

Die, Patriarchy, Die!

Monday, June 29th, 2009

From “Mutuality” magazine, Christians for Biblical Equality, vol. 16, issue 2:

“I hope in my lifetime that we will see the patriarchal viewpoint die and that biblical equality will one day prevail. In the meantime I will continue to share my views and to use the platforms God gives me to fight for this cause; a cause to rally all troops in God’s army — men and women, side by side, together. Deborahs arise, Esthers arise, Huldahs arise, Phoebes arise. Women and men arise into (the) calling — go forth and conquer together. (Donald Guffey, Jr.)

Free! An Exciting, One-Time Offer Only For . . .

Monday, June 29th, 2009

. . . Only for Dontbia Nass, my brave, anonymous Covenant critic.

I am offering Nass a free, one-year membership to the evangelical egalitarian ministry Christians for Biblical Equality. With it, he’ll receive every other month the magazine “Mutuality,” with a plethora of articles on Biblical equality, as well as the academically-oriented “Priscilla Papers.” Both are award-winning publications, and both are extraordinary sources of Bible teaching and social application.

I know DN doesn’t choose to use his name, but that’s not a barrier to his becoming a member. All he has to do is email my friend and Membership Coordinator Megan Greulich at mgreulich@cbeinternationa.org or call 612-872-6898, tell her he’s “Dontbia Nass,” and accept my free gift. Gosh, he’ll even get something like 10% off the registration fee for the 2009 CBE Annual Conference, “Are Men from Mars and Women from Venus? A Biblical Response to Gender Differences,” as well as a pocket-sized Today’s New International Version Bible, the TNIV translation that was the subject of grossly unfair slander — I call it “bearing false witness” — by the conservative World Magazine a few years ago. It’s my favorite translation, respected by conservative and mainstream Christian scholars for its gender-accurate commitment. I’m not able to attend the conference this year, but perhaps he’ll find July in St. Louis a fab idea.

So, it’s a free, no-strings-attached offer just for DN. No, he doesn’t get a Sham-Wow, Eagle-Eye Sunglasses, or Oxy-Clean with it, but my sincere hope is that he’ll avail himself of my support. I’m willing in this to put my money where my strident feminist mouth is, and I think he’ll be blessed beyond measure when he studies CBE material.

So, DN, let me know; better yet, let Megan know. I presume you to be an honest student of Scripture, so please let me help you as we continue our dialogue.

OK, Here’s The Point

Sunday, June 28th, 2009

My debate with Nass about subordinationism — a doctrine that says Jesus, while ontologically of the same nature as the Father, is eternally subject to him (functionally) in the hierarchy of the Trinity — has indeed been darned close to fascinating, since he preaches a Trinitarian hierarchy I don’t believe Scripture demonstrates. I’m sure it’s kept all of us on the edge of our seats . . .

Nonetheless, subordinationism itself isn’t my focus. It’s when subordinationism is used, regardless of its doctrinal correctness, to perpetuate gender inequality. The doctrine purportedly is evidence that men and women, ontologically equal, nonetheless exist in a perpetual, God-ordained hierarchy involving the functional subjection of wife to husband. This is the error I believe Nass, like others, wrongly uses to justify the functional, eternal subjugation of wives to husbands. I think he’s wrong.

So while I reject that — which you may have picked up on — I only want to say that, like Anglican Vicar Kevin Giles, I believe it’s frighteningly close to arguing that women and men are ontologically not equal, not equally created in the image of God, when women’s permanent, unequivocal subjection to men in marriage is asserted. If women are always “functionally” subject to men in marriage, then there is something about women ONTOLOGICALLY that must demand that. It’s a damaging application stemming from a doctrine that’s shaky at best. I don’t intend, however, to devote this blog or my time to exhaustive debate about doctrine; I intend to keep my focus on whatever things interest me and edify others, denouncing what requires denouncing and defending what needs defending. It’s a big world out there, and there’s lots to talk about.

So we’re going to move on here. Stay tuned for a free, one-time offer from Prevailing Winds, and, until then, I hope all of you have a lovely Sunday in the Lord.

To Clarify (File Under "Avoiding The Appearance Of Evil")

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

I think I made the mistake of assuming that people reading my Farrah Fawcett/Michael Jackson have read most of my previous ones, but that’s likely not the case.

And so I realize that it might raise even a non-Confederate eyebrow or two that I’ve renewed correspondence with another man, so let me explain that Raymond is the one I wrote about two weeks ago, the childhood friend I recently tracked down and who is serving time in an Arizona prison for murder. Please know that my husband encouraged me to write him, rejoiced in Raymond’s belief in Christ, and has every intention of supporting my continued correspondence with him. He even included a note, too.

That Raymond is African-American is enough to incense the neo-Confederates among us, and it’s irrelevant to much of anything here, but it does introduce something about Craig Keener. Keener is the theologian whose name DN raised in our argument below, and is not only an evangelical feminist, but an Anglo man married to a Black African woman. He is ordained in a predominately Black Baptist Church. And so I’m delighted that DN offered, in rebuttal of my non-subordinationist theology, a Christian feminist man beautifully free of the racism that chokes so many of DN’s apparent friends and colleagues. If Keener himself accepts subordinationism, he doesn’t do so in the service of denying the use of women’s spiritual gifts and keeping them out of leadership in the Church, unlike Wayne Grudem.

“Confederate,” another critic, must be apoplectic at this point, and I continue my prayers for him and all in Christiandom choking on the hate and bile of racism. Be assured that my husband is as happy with my friendship with Rudell as I am, and as free of sexist, racist and hierarchical tradition as I would want the father of my children to be. I praise God for him every day of my life.

Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Me

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

While I’m not sure where either of them stood on subordinationism in the Trinity, I do feel the loss of both Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett. Really.

I write this with a blog post I read on a good Kirker’s blog shortly after the death of pop icon Anna Nicole Smith. It gave a breezy account of why her life was a waste of oxygen. I can see how this fits in with a Kirk/CREC disemphasis on personal evangelism, but it seemed mean nonetheless.

Actually, it was tragic. Her death was tragic to the people who loved her, and if she died without Christ, her death ought to be tragic to all of us as well. See, I don’t believe that God deliberately creates some people — wasting oxygen and carbon, as it were — solely to destine them from all eternity to a fiery hell. As, Calvinists say, for his good pleasure. I believe that the atonement offers true salvation in Christ to all, and I reject with all my heart that God snickered with glee at her death. I wouldn’t mind if he smacked the nasty blog author upside the head, though.

Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson were the two biggest stars of my youth, with David Cassidy, who turned down my offer as a 12-year-old to go out with him, a possible third. I had a crush on Michael Jackson and his posters on my wall; my brother had a serious and academic interest in the lithe and buxom Farrah, and had her poster on his wall, no doubt so he could commune with her very soul and intellect. While I disliked Jackson’s later solo music, I loved the Jackson 5, and learned to dance — badly, but enthusiastically — under the tutelage of Ruby G., Tammy W., Amy T., and Kim P., who conducted lessons under the ramada on the northeast side of Mary Lynn Elementary. I danced with Raymond at a jr. high party to “I Want You Back;” he’s the man I’ve recently renewed correspondence with. And Farrah was the reason I kept my boring center part as I tried, in vain, to feather my hair like hers. I obsessively brushed, flossed, and cornered the market on Pearl Drops so that I could have her dazzling smile.

Trust me when I say that there was nothing else Farrah had that I ever had any hope of attaining physically. Sigh.

But regardless of their effect on me, they were important to the culture, beloved by millions, and cherished by their families and friends. Yeah, Farrah turned weird. Michael turned weirder, possibly criminally so. But the grace and reach of God is never too short for the criminally weird and commercially silly, and their lives mattered.

Their deaths, if without the knowledge of Christ as Savior, ought to matter to us.

The Heresy of Subordinationism — Was Jesus Eternally Subject To Yahweh?

Saturday, June 27th, 2009

Nass argues that as Jesus, ontologically equal in nature to the Father, is nonetheless subject to him in the Trinity, so are women, ontologically equal to men, in Biblical church, family, and society.

But this is a wrong conclusion based on an errant understanding of the nature of the Trinity. It is the ancient heresy of subordinationism, and is contrary to both Scripture and the creeds built from it. Here’s my response to him on this very serious matter:

“No, no, no!!!!

You are committing what has traditionally been referred to as the doctrinal heresy of intra-Trinitarian subordinationism. This is what Athanasius attempted to correct in the creed that bears his name. The Church has always taught that there is no hierarchy in the eternal Trinity and that Christ was only subjected to the Father in the Incarnation.

The Trinity is a bond of co-equal Persons in mutually loving relationship; the hierarchy implied by “Father and Son” stems from an unfortunate literalness of what is clearly metaphor — again, Jesus wasn’t the kid who was fathered by the Eternal One, appearing in the Trinity from a begottenness expressed in time. The pre-existent One who is the second person of the Trinity is described, imperfectly and humanly, as Son because he was “begotten” of Yahweh while existing eternally alongside him. It’s not “father and son” as we think it; our God graciously describes the incomprehensible through metaphor, and I’m dismayed that you think of the Trinity in terms of what is described as a human “father-son” relationship. In the eternal, non-Incarnation Trinity, there is no hierarchy — something the Church has taught, and fought against, for two millennia. This can be confirmed by a survey of the creeds, the councils, and church history, and I hope you explore it.

I recommend to you Anglican Vicar Kevin Giles’ Book, The Trinity And Subordinationism. Complementarians of late have nabbed subordinationism from the mangled jaws of aberrant doctrine to present it as a lovely model for male-female, God-Christ relations, but any male-female construct based on a false idea of hierarchy between Father, Son, and Sprit is as dead wrong as the heresy behind it. You can argue for complementarianism, but you cannot rightly argue for it from a theologically heretical basis, such as subordinationism in the Trinity. The conclusion then is just as wrong, and just as damaging, as its seed.”

Defining The Terms — What is "Egalitarianism" And Why Should We Care?

Friday, June 26th, 2009

THE CONDENSED VERSION:

EGALITARIAN: Leadership and roles in Church based on Spirit-gifting

COMPLEMENTARIAN: Leadership and roles in Church based on gender.

ONTOLOGY: Who you are from and at birth

FUNCTION: What you do, how you serve

BUT, IF YOU’VE JUST POURED A CUP OF COFFEE AND YOU’VE GOT SOME TIME:

There’s been quite a discussion locally and on Prevailing Winds regarding the role of women in the Church, something that anyone who’s known me for five minutes knows I’m passionate about. But somehow the waters here have gotten a bit muddy.

When discussing evangelical Biblical feminism, or EBF (hey — my little fingers are arthritic; I need an acronym here), it’s important that specific terms be denied so that they are understood not only for what they represent, but for what they don’t.

Egalitarianism, for example, does not mean “equal before the law.” That may spring from it, but equal rights is not the same as “egalitarianism.” Further, egalitarianism has two uses in the debate surrounding women and the church. In a sociological sense, egalitarianism is that philosophy that denies that there are God-ordained, or man-ordained, natural hierarchies or stations that result in greater privilege and access to power for some than for others. It’s a rejection of the philosophy of the League of the South, for example, which contends that God has ordained certain people to occupy stations or hierarchies in life over others. This idea is rejected by egalitarians; the view that God has ordained eternal and irrevocable stratification of persons is repugnant. It naturally places some people (white men) in a social position or hierarchy that by intent and definition results in others (black men, women, immigrants) being in a lower strata. It differs from racism but always encourages it; arguing that God has naturally and eternally set some groups in a hierarchical position over others inevitably leads to identification, privilege, or subjection based on ontology.

Egalitarianism, sociologically, rejects that there exists a God-ordained, necessary, and eternal stratification or hierarchy of persons. Egalitarianism is the philosophy that all human beings are intrinsically valuable, that no one is essentially “more valuable” because of his gender, race, or ethnic origin, and that necessary social hierarchies must be grounded in individual merit, organizational efficiency, and social equality. It recognizes the ontological uniqueness and inherent worth in persons and rejects any social hierarchies that deny or confer power to an individual or social group based on ontology, not merit. Egalitarians are vehemently opposed to racism, sexism, and other social views that elevate or denigrate an individual or group of individuals solely on their gender, race, or origin.

Egalitarianism is the social theory that comes from, and most perfectly expresses, the unity of all people in the covenant with our Lord Jesus — “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). The Gospel of Jesus Christ does not eradicate gender, social, and racial differences — it renders them irrelevant to full fellowship within and service to the Church and the world around it in Christ’s name. The Christian faith makes no accommodation for hierarchies based on gender, race, or other ontological factors, and it is blasphemy for anyone to contend otherwise.

So let’s talk about what DOES rightly result in the correct social order of our times. The egalitarian rejection of stratification based on essential, unchanging traits — gender, race — doesn’t mean that there is no place for law and order, authority and submission. It simply rejects that ontology is never, in and of itself, a criteria for membership in the hierarchy or access to its power, and differentiates between proper function and ontology. What is ontology, though? Ontology, loosely described, is that which is essentially “of” a person — her race, her gender, her ethnic origin. Function describes a role, occupation, position, or vocation. It’s the difference between “Keely being” (ontology) and “Keely doing” (function). So I am ontologically an Anglo female human being; functionally, I’m a mom, wife, writer, and lousy tennis player. And you wouldn’t call me to fix your plumbing.

When “egalitarianism” is used by Christians, it’s the application of social egalitarianism to the Gospel, reflecting Galatians 3:28, for example. It argues, Biblically, for full access to fellowship, leadership, service and authority to all who are in Christ Jesus — based not on race, not on gender, not on ethnic origin, but based on the work of Christ in establishing his church and his covenant relationship to his people, and on the gifting of the Holy Spirit to those believers. That gifting then results in proper service and order in the Church and is a gifting that, Biblically, is never based on gender. Nowhere in the Bible is even a hint that the gifts the Holy Spirit bestows on the Church is based on gender. Therefore, I not only reject all service among and authority over the Church that comes not from Spirit-giftedness, but from gender. The Lord requires that I graciously submit to all around me; their gender is not a condition for nor grounds for the denial of my lovingkindness to them.

Those Christians who oppose women’s full service in the Church and who deny them functional roles, regardless of giftedness, simply because they’re women, are called “complementarians.” The word comes from the belief that while men and women are ontologically of equal value and equally bear the image of God, they are always, inherently, unchangeably, given different roles or functions that complement each other. Complementarians believe that God has ordained men, as a characteristic inherent of their being men, to leadership over women, and has created women, as a characteristic solely of their being women, to serve in positions always under the authority and position of men. The necessary stratification the complementarian implements in the Church is one based on ontology, not function realized by merit or giftedness, and one that egalitarians reject based on our understanding of Scripture.

Women, ontologically, can bear children. To deny them access to Church leadership, and then to insist that they are ontologically equal to men, is a fallacious argument. If ontology — being a woman — is in and of itself the reason I can’t be a pastor, then I am not rejected on the grounds of “proper function,” but because there is, to the complementarian, something in my essential being that prohibits me from serving thusly. If function is consistently denied on the basis of ontology, then, logically, it is difficult for the Christian man to argue convincingly that I am ontologically, essentially, equal to him. Most complementarians don’t say that women are inherently inferior, and probably don’t believe they are, but the insistence on conflating function with gender comes very close to a conclusion that there is something about men that’s just different — but different in ways that perennially, perpetually, keep them in hierarchy over women. That’s the crux of the debate, and those are the definitions that I hope we can stick to when discussing it.

In other words, let’s stick to EBF and its proponents, who are numerous and whose scholarship reflects a deep reverence for Scripture. In other words, if they all had a party, Mary Daly wouldn’t be at the top of the guest list.

The Good Stuff In The Small Print

Friday, June 26th, 2009

Quite an exchange going on between me and Dontbia Nass, who, for the moment, has toned down his more glaring displays of snottiness and is, instead, offering a more subtle brand of commentary in the form of numerous citations, quotations, and observations, very few of which have much to do at all with the subject at hand — this time, feminism, women, ordination, and Scripture.

Now, he knows that. He has yet to engage with me regarding the plethora of male and female evangelical feminist, or egalitarian, scholars, but vomits a gushing stream of secular nutcase Mary Daly’s works my way. He either doesn’t understand the definition of “egalitarian,” or he doesn’t care, but he argues something along the lines of “well, men can’t have babies,” and how that, incredulously, explains by analogy that women can’t take the pulpit. For those who are still squinting and shaking their heads at that one, I’ll toss in his analysis of how the NBA shouldn’t have to lower its hoops in the name of “egalitarianism” to accommodate him, a shorter man less skilled than, say, Magic Johnson.

Yeah, my head hurts, too. But I trust, charitably, that convoluted logic like that suggests he wasn’t educated in a Wilsonian Classical Christian College, although perhaps he teaches at one. In Japan, maybe?

Anyway, why spoil it for you? Read the comments bunched together in the last few posts, and then stay tuned for my firm but gentle attempt to explain to Nass what “egalitarian” means, both in discussing evangelical feminism and as a larger social concept. It’ll be hard work, since both the Magic Johnson/NBA and “men can’t have babies” arguments have already been taken.

Perhaps I could borrow a flannel board . . .

Why?

Wednesday, June 24th, 2009

Because the misogyny pouring out of Wilson lately has to be confronted, and confronted as sin.

Because he spews disregard for women in defending our oppression by our own brothers in the Church.

Because while he mocks women, he also spatters sincere, decent Biblical complementarians with the rhetorical sewage he spews.

Because his followers march in lockstep, and following Douglas Wilson leads believers off the way of not just right doctrine, but righteousness.

And because, at the Judgment Seat of Christ, I will not have to confess in shame that I was silent when evil blossomed in my own community in the name of my only Savior.

That’s why.