Archive for the 'Women' Category

Complimentarianism in the SBC

Spending several years in Bible college introduced me to many different theological positions, views on the kingdom, the will, evil, salvation, the millennium, etc. One of the most contentious issues of all was, and is, the complementarian / egalitarian debate. Essentially, at the heart of the debate is the question of what roles are and are not permissible for a woman to hold in the church and family. Complementarianism is the doctrine that there is a hierarchy in the church and family and that man is the head of both. Egalitarianism is the doctrine that there is no such hierarchy and that men and women are equal in their right to fulfill leadership roles. Both of these definitions are very rough, but work well enough for the purpose of this post.

The purpose of this post is to reject a form of complementarianism, not to promote egalitarianism. Some may say that this post is simply attacking a straw-man. It isn’t. I doubt that the content of this post will be affirmed by many (if any) complementarians, but experience tells me that there are times when our actions will do the assenting in the face of our mouth’s dissent. I will call this form ‘Southern Complementarianism’ (SC). From my experience there are unnecessary, but consistent tenets of complimentarianism in the south and particularly in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Those tenets are:

  1. The only suitable roles for women are wife and mother and all other pursuits or talents should bow to these first priorities.
  2. From 1, the proper role of a woman as a wife is to support her husband in his endeavors, goals, etc.
  3. A woman’s opinion is naturally inferior to a man’s since the man was created as leader of the woman.
  4. From 3, a woman should never question her husband’s judgment.
  5. Women (in general) should submit to men (in general)- similar to the way children (in general) should respect their elders (in general).
  6. A woman’s education is generally less important than her husband’s and she should simply be able to trust his opinions and learning.

Premises 1 and 2. Part of the problem is thinking that our primary aim is to ‘be fruitful and multiply’ and, after all, the only way to do this is for men and woman to submit to their teleological role of baby-making. Since someone has to take care of the kids, and the man has to be out providing, it falls to the woman to stay in the home and raise the children. Thus, premise 1. This is also propagated by ‘the role’ talk (according to this ‘the role’ of a woman is premise 1) . For instance, reading through this post (by the editor of the Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) and the comments might give you an idea of the kind of thing I am speaking of. So that everyone knows (as Bertrand Russell pointed out over a 100 years ago in On Denoting) the word ‘the’ implies at least one and no more, that is, singularity. But does the Bible really point out one such role for a woman, to be a wife and mother? What if she isn’t one or both? Is she a failure to the Kingdom? It is my belief that the command to be fruitful and multiply is not for us. The command is given 12 times in the OT but only three of the times was it given to humans: to Adam, when there was no one else on earth, Noah, when there was no one else on earth, and Jacob- who is Israel- when the nation of Israel was being formed), and it is given no times in the NT. Our command is not to multiply babies, but according to Jesus, disciples. And Paul’s charge that it may be better to remain single seems to fly in the face of all of this ‘the role’ nonsense (despite the title, Mother Theresa was neither a mother nor a wife).

Premises 3, 4, and 5. Back in the garden Eve was deceived, this shows us that women are more likely to make bad decisions and this somehow shows us that men are more likely not to make bad decisions (though the former in no way implies the latter). So, pre and post fall (lapse), the woman was and remains inferior in her decision making abilities. Thus, premise 3 and 4. And, it seems, the principle from these premises has been extrapolated to denote a general relationship between men and women. Thus, premise 5. However, if the complementarian position is right, the submission of the wife to the husband is for the purpose of pointing to the relationship between Christ and his bride, not something that happens as a result of a lack on the woman’s part. And, if this is the case, the wife is submitting to but to a position, not a gender. I believe that 3 – 5 result in a general degrading of women. Though many complementarians in the SBC claim that the ‘forbidden fruit’ for women is the teaching of Christian doctrine, this fleshes itself out by disallowing them to participate in most positions. I can’t remember the last time, in a Baptist church, I saw a woman pray from the front, read a passage of scripture, or even help with the tithe collection. This is a moral catastrophe and failure on the part of churches. “The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you…”

Premise 6. In the south, especially in the Christian south, most get married much, much younger than the rest of the western world. As a result, Bible colleges are full of married kids training for the ministry that can only afford for one to attend university. Thus, the result is that since the man is going to be ‘the preacher’ he is the one that needs the education. Four years or more go by, the kids have kids of their own and the woman never gets a shot at being educated. Some women don’t care, some do. The attitude is that a woman’s education is less important than a man’s. In fact, I’ve noticed that some male Bible students have a real aversion to their wives being educated. I can only guess at why this might be.

Before my wife and I moved to England (after we had both finished an undergraduate degree) we were sitting in the office of a man who worked for a Southern Baptist institution and we were discussing our options. We informed him that we were both interested in more education. He asked what we were interested in. I told him philosophy and my wife said she was still considering her options. He looked at my wife and said with a scoff, “Do you really want to get more education? I mean, come on, you’re pretty, you’re taller than a lot of men, and you already have one degree…” I don’t think I really registered what he said until after we left, or perhaps I was just too in the middle of the SC dust cloud to even recognize that he was being a chauvinist. I simply want to note that true Christianity is not chauvinistic and Jesus’ heart and actions toward women was completely different to the one modeled by SC.

Moving to another country has help me view this situation with slightly different eyes and see this to be the problem it is. Pastors and men should help identify SC and do away with it because it is harmful to the gospel, chauvinistic, and altogether shameful.

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What is Gender?

Adam & EveI have read a number of posts recently on the topic of the Gender. Some on the gender of God (here and here) and even more on the theological issue of gender surrounding the complementarian vs. egalitarian debate (one blog I surveyed had nearly 25 entries on this topic alone!). Now, I’m not really interested in arguing whether the Bible actually does speak of God in masculine terms- It certainly does. Furthermore, I’m not interested in arguing whether the Bible means what it says or whether there is a gender-biased writing of scripture that is in need of correction, my beliefs about the Bible limit that kind of a conclusion. What I am interested in is the notion of gender itself. What is it?

The word ‘sex’, when used to refer to a person’s gender, is a biological notion- male or female anatomy. The word ‘gender’ seems to function in an analogous, but not exactly similar way, which is why it can be hard to associate particular characteristics, especially non-biological ones (like anger, joy, tenderness, kindness, or perhaps the way one dresses, etc.), with either men or women alone. That is to say, it would be hard to make a statement like: ‘it is the case that all women and no men have such-and-such personality traits’. Defining things in this way can be extremely difficult.

So, then, while one society may try to anchor gender down by associating it with its understanding of masculinity or femininity, it isn’t the case the ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ take the same form from society to society. So, in the end, that doesn’t help either.

As a result of this description difficulty, the easiest anchor for ‘gender’ seems to be a physical one. So, maybe a certain gender is simply synonymous with a certain physical description. But, here is where the theoretical rubber meets the road, what if we can soon operate to completely change, inside and out, a man’s body to a woman’s? Does this change the man’s gender from ‘male’ to ‘female’? The physicalist, at pains to even have to answer such a trivial question, it would seem, would answer ‘yes’. But, what about Christians or, for that matter, even those philosophers who believe in universals? Is there some sort of ‘manhood’ being instantiated by men and ‘womanhood’ exemplified by women that isn’t solely dictated by one’s physical description? Or, maybe more simply, does God view individuals as male and female regardless of physical procedures?

So, Christians? Platos? What do you think?

Women’s Salvation Dependent on Child Bearing?

My friend Emily will be doing a series of posts on women in ministry, or more particularly, women in scripture. You should check it out. She has started the discussion with a post on her presuppositions and experience. In the comments section this verse came up (1 Tim 2:14-15):

“Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

 

This is my take on the verse (which I posted on Emily’s site). Let me know if this makes me a heretic:

Women, whether in the kingdom or outside of the kingdom, will bear children. That seems to be a given. So, there are women who will bear children, die, and and not know Christ (not ‘delivered’) and there are women who will bear children, die, and be in the presence of the Lord (or ‘delivered’).

In addition to being ‘delivered through childbearing’ Paul gives us a big ‘if’. That is, ‘IF she continues in faith and love and holiness with self-control’ (NET).

So, the constant seems to be bearing children while the determining factor of ‘being delivered’ seems to be faith, love, etc.

My guess is that ‘saved through childbearing’ is a reference to the line through which God’s promises and salvation came. God said to Eve after the fall “And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and HER SEED; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel.” (Gen 3:15)

Moreover, through salvation history, time and again, God opened the wombs of BARREN WOMEN to fulfill and establish His covenants: Sarah (Gen 16:2), Rebekah (Gen 25:21), Leah (Gen 29:31-from which came the tribe of Judah> King David > Joseph the father of Jesus), And, last but not least Mary, the mother of Jesus, who having no sexual union with a man, gave birth to the Christ.

So, back to the verse you quoted: 2:14b-15, “Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet women will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control.”

My dynamic equivalent (hopefully non-heretical) INTERPRETATION (I emphasize this word): It wasn’t Adam who was tricked, it was the woman, and because of this, she became a law-breaker. Don’t worry though, women aren’t stuck being law-breakers, they will be saved, because through their childbearing came salvation, which in turn comes by faith, love, holiness and self-control.

Paul is addressing women alone in these particular verses (for whatever reason that might be). We all know that Adam also sinned, but that’s not what Paul is addressing so he leaves it out. So, I think one could even possibly say that men too will be saved through [women’s] childbearing.