Tag Archives: submission

R.C. Sproul on The Role of Man and Woman

I often say that we need to listen to others who are not like us, and in that spirit, I read complementarian articles and I tune in to complementarian sermons on marriage and gender roles.  Having been raised in a comp church tradition, I know the point of view intimately, yet am still surprised every time I hear comp teaching.  The idea of gender roles was once so clear to me, but now I feel as though scales have fallen off my eyes.  I can see how my socialization in patriarchy led me to read the Bible through that lens and to accept these kinds of sermons as being Good News.

rc sproulLast week, I listened to a sermon on gender roles by Dr. R.C. Sproul, a Calvinist pastor and Reformed theologian, author of more than 60 books, and the founder of Ligonier Ministries, which broadcasts his sermons around the world. This is a theologian with a lot of influence within Christianity, so I believe it is worthwhile to test his teachings.  The Apostle Paul told us to follow Jesus and not this preacher or that preacher, because it is human nature to adopt a favorite minister and tune into their voice religiously and not balance their influence with diverse voices.  It takes diligence to wrestle with differing perspectives, panning for the nuggets of truth.  There is no perfect teacher besides Jesus – we are all prone to error.  And ideas have consequences. Compelementarian theology has consequences that often endanger women. 

For example, Dr. Sproul’s son, R.C. Sproul, Jr., was a Calvinist minister and advocate of Christian patriarchy, even rumored to have practiced “wife spanking”.  He was found to be subscribed to Ashley Madison when that scandal broke several years ago.  Their motto was, “Life is short.  Have an affair.”  There is a slippery slope between “purity culture” and the sex industry.  Patriarchy objectifies women.  Period.  I am not sure if there is an official connection between the Sprouls and the puritanical Head Covering Movement, but there is obvious respect for their voices in that community, as these memes suggest.

Below, I am offering egalitarian rebuttals to Dr. Sproul’s sermon, point by point.  I am doing this to explain the egalitarian point of view that Dr. Sproul misrepresents for those who may be in the midst of a shift away from complementarianism.  It is when we are in a period of transition that we are most open to new ideas, which is a truly humble stance. Otherwise, we respond to new ideas by becoming defensive, even more locked into our ideology.  This is the power of confirmation bias – we dismiss information that contradicts what we already believe, and give extra weight to information that supports our ideas. Let’s bear this in mind as we pan for God’s Good News on the topic of gender roles.


Here is the sermon description from the “Renewing Your Mind” website:

In an age when the women’s liberation movement has reached all corners of society, the concept of a woman submitting to the authority of a man finds disdain. Now, more often than not, there is misunderstanding of the roles men and women have in marriage. Dr. Sproul looks at the issue in this message entitled “The Role of Man and Woman.”

Formerly, I would have read this statement and pictured  a sinister darkness spreading across a map.  In actuality, the women’s liberation movement was initiated by Christians who were offended by the marginalization and abuse of women and children by patriarchal society.  (I once responded to the assertion that feminism is devoid of God here.)  Going even further back, women flocked to the early Church because they were treated as equals there.  I challenge you to reread the New Testament, being attentive to the stories of women prophesying, preaching, teaching, and there was even a female Apostle, named Junia. “Celsus, a 2nd-century detractor of the faith, once taunted that the church attracted only ‘the silly and the mean and the stupid, with women and children.’ His contemporary, Bishop Cyprian of Carthage, acknowledged in his Testimonia that ‘Christian maidens were very numerous’ and that it was difficult to find Christian husbands for all of them. These comments give us a picture of a church disproportionately populated by women.” [source]

The sermon was broadcast on February 20th, 2017 on the Renewing Your Mind program:
The Role of Man and Woman – Dr. R. C. Sproul

I thought this was a current sermon, but I found a video which places it decades ago:

http://cdnapi.kaltura.com/p/1916491/sp/191649100/embedIframeJs/uiconf_id/29017082/partner_id/1916491?iframeembed=true&playerId=kaltura-player1&entry_id=1_arw4a6jd&flashvars%5BstreamerType%5D=auto

Dr. Sproul is preaching on Paul’s household codes of Ephesians 5.  I was happy to hear Dr. Sproul begin in verse 21, as most complementarian teachings on this passage begin in verse 22 after the heading. In the original letter, there were no chapters, verse numbers or headings separating topics.  Paul had been talking about how Christians are to walk out their faith in their day to day life, and in verse 21 tells everyone to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, then continues the sentence to say, “wives, to your husbands” like this, and husbands, like this.  “Wives, submit to your husbands” does not exist in the original Greek.  “Submit” occurs in verse 21 and applies to both the husband and the wife. I recommend reading Rachel Held Evans’ post, “Submission in Context: Christ and the Greco-Roman Household Codes.”

Dr. Sproul calls the idea of mutual submission an “exegesis of despair” without any explanation of what he means.  I have searched and cannot find this term anywhere.  Who despairs under mutual submission?  If you start Googling, you will find many women despairing under legalistic, authoritarian gender roles. Start at A Cry for Justice and Spiritual Sounding Board or this post from Diary of an Autodidact on why complementarians cannot actually condemn spousal abuse.

Dr. Sproul goes on to say that you would have to apply the idea of mutual submission across the entire passage, causing confusion and disorder.  You would have to say that parents must submit to children, and that Christ is the head of the Church just as the Church is the head of Christ.  My response to these assertions:

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I love Brene Brown’s Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto

First, I believe that reading the Bible with an authoritarian view (complementarianism is all about a hierarchy of authority) leads parents to, mostly unintentionally, teach their children conditional, strings-attached love.  This does not resemble God’s love for us.  It has also led to abusive treatment of children. Physical abuse is certainly rampant, but coercive control of others is abusive and might never be physical. Obedient, docile children are trophies in authoritarian comp cultures, objectified for their behavior. If you teach your children to recite Scripture and play an instrument and never talk back, you will be given honor in your complementarian church. Brene Brown would describe parenting like this as coming from a mentality of scarcity and shame rather than from worthiness and wholeheartedness.  Brennan Manning tells us that God loves us just as we are and not as we should be, because nobody is as they should be.  In this way, egalitarian theology honors children’s individuality, gifts and callings. Egalitarians do not clip their children’s wings by forcing them into prescribed roles that may frustrate them if they are not naturally inclined to fit into those boxes.  We watch our children to see their natural inclinations, we understand that their behavior is tied to their developmental stage and reveals real needs that we can meet.  Yes, correction is needed on a daily basis, but it should be about developing character, honesty, generosity, and kindness, not perfect behavior.  No parent is doing a perfect job (we need grace too!), but our theology deeply impacts how we respond to and guide our children. Young people are fleeing churches nowadays, and I don’t believe that would be the case if the ethos of the culture is worthiness and grace rather than power and control.

Second, Dr. Sproul brings us to the topic of headship.  In our modern context, we read “head” and infer “boss,” “CEO,” “authority.”  This was not the understanding of “head” in ancient times.  We now understand that our brains are in our heads, but then they thought the function of the head was as the place that food entered to nourish the body; it was the source of the fuel to run the machine while the gut was believed to be the seat of knowledge, etc.  In a patriarchal society, the father was the source of financial security for the family except in some cases where a single woman of means ran her own household. Men had nearly all of the privilege, education, financial control, and social power, and Paul is instructing men to care for their disenfranchised wives, to use their privilege for the betterment of his family, just as Jesus gave up his position in heaven to give his life for us. In this way, egalitarians understand “head” to mean “source.” Marg Mowzcko’s blog is full of insightful egalitarian exegesis, and her post on Paul’s use of “headship” is excellent.

“Rather, I think, as the consensus historically of Biblical interpreters has been…”

Yeah, let’s talk about the consensus of Biblical interpreters.  Bob Edwards provides a fascinating overview of the roots of male authority in the church here.  It is no coincidence that patriarchal theologians infused their translations and commentaries with patriarchal thought.  Edwards’ talk includes translation errors by patriarchalists that have influenced complementarian teaching.  In our post, “Quoting the Founding Fathers of Complementarian Theology,” we list some examples of sexist quotes by Augustine, Calvin, and others.  For example:

“It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater…. This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power.” (St. Augustine, Questions on the Heptateuch, Book I, § 153)

Next, Dr. Sproul says that he sees women raging about Paul’s teaching as being chauvinistic and arrogant.  He says that all authority was given to Christ, then Christ gives that authority to his apostles.  This is the law of God.  What is so controversial, Dr. Sproul asks?  Women are willing to submit to the authority of Christ, so why not to their husbands in the same way?  Dr. Sproul says that God has given a significant level of authority to husbands as the heads of the home.  If a woman resists her husband’s authority, he says she is resisting God.

Again, this comes down to different interpretations on the meaning of headship. Complementarians believe headship means “authority” and egalitarians believe headship means “source.”  Yes, Christ has all authority over heaven and earth (Matthew 28:18) and he gives authority to his followers, but that includes Christian women as well as men (Galatians 3:28).  And Jesus is still the ultimate authority.  There is no human that has authority equal to Christ.  In an egalitarian marriage, the husband and the wife submit to one another out of reverence for Christ, and Christ alone is the final authority.  Both are always seeking to honor Christ and follow Christ faithfully as the true leader of the family.

Dr. Sproul goes on to clarify that women do not have to submit if their husband is asking them to disobey the final authority of God on a subject.  If a husband tells his wife to prostitute herself, she doesn’t have to obey.  If a husband tells her to stop going to church, she should disobey him on Sundays because God commanded us to keep the Sabbath holy, but she doesn’t need to go to the Wednesday night service.  I would say that a Christian husband should not be controlling the freedom of his wife. Living in the mystery of oneness does not necessitate losing any aspect of your God-given identity.  I do appreciate Dr. Sproul’s distinction here though, as I’ve read other complementarians who say women should never disobey their husbands.

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Run away from this book!!

For instance, Elizabeth Rice Handford has said a woman should never voice her opinion to her husband unless he asks for it, and she should have an abortion, participate in sexual activities that she does not want to do and tolerate physical abuse even to the point of death if that is how her “head” directs her (in her book, “Me? Obey Him?“).

Dr. Sproul tries to lighten the burden of his teaching to women by pointing out God’s sense of humor in the translation of “submit to your own husband,” the Greek word idion being the root of “idiosyncrasy” and also “idiot.”  He offers this loose translation: “Wives, submit yourselves to your idiot husbands.”  Again, I say submit is absent from verse 22, so the Bible never says, “Wives, submit to your own husbands.”  Second, I understand his point is to say that men are not superior to women, but I don’t believe it is ever appropriate to make gendered jokes, period.  It is not OK to make fun of men or women from the pulpit, not to mention that this is not a true translation of Paul’s meaning.  Egalitarianism avoids stereotyping of men and women, leaving space for both to become their best selves apart from socialized gender expectations.  Many men do not feel freedom to live emotionally healthy, sensitive lives because complementarian culture rewards toxic masculinity and machismo.

Next, Dr. Sproul decries the 50/50 myth of marriage, saying “I can’t think of anything worse.”

umbrella-graphic-by-amber-dann-picottaEgalitarians do not teach that marriage requires 50/50 from each spouse.  In fact, we teach 100/100.  Bring your whole self to the marriage–there is room for two callings and two perspectives.  Decisions can be made together in loving, mutual submission.  It isn’t necessary to demote one half of a marriage to assistant status in order to function.  In every other context, we understand that “two heads are better than one” and that iron sharpens iron.  I personally have never witnessed an egalitarian marriage that seemed to be stuck in a “perpetual power struggle to get control,” even though Dr. Sproul believes this is inevitable.  Authoritarians worry about control, not egalitarians.  Egalitarians seek mutual submission to each other and ultimate submission to Christ.  Disagreeing with Dr. Sproul’s interpretation of marriage roles does not equal “vilifying” a teaching of the Bible.

Dr. Sproul says God settles the “perpetual power struggle” by vesting all authority and leadership in the man, and he doesn’t see this as a privilege as much as it is a “weighty, weighty responsibility.”  Women have been “bleeting” about this interpretation, but they need to understand that subordination never equals inferiority.  The Son is subordinate to the Father, the Spirit to the Son, but none are inferior.

Complementarians see subordination within the Trinity while egalitarians see mutuality. In Marg Mowzcko’s “Seperate Spheres & Distinct Roles in the Trinity and Marriage,” she says,

When Jesus came to earth as a human being, he voluntarily laid aside his divine privileges (Phil. 2:6-8) and became completely dependent on the Father’s and the Holy Spirit’s guidance and power. Jesus submitted to, and obeyed, the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Some Christians believe that wives are to display this level of dependency, submission, and obedience towards their husbands. However Jesus, in taking human form, had become ontologically inferior and thus, subordinate, to the Father and the Spirit. He was even “a little lower than the angels” (Heb. 2:9a). Jesus had temporarily lowered and limited himself by taking human form for a very particular purpose and a vitally important reason: to save the world!

Wives, however, are not ontologically inferior to their husbands. That is, women are not lesser creatures than men. So it is unhealthy for wives to emulate the same degree of dependence and submission towards their husbands that Jesus had towards the Father and Spirit while he was on earth.

After describing women as raging and bleeting about wifely submission/male headship, Dr. Sproul says we should listen to women’s cries and men should not tyrannize their wives. Great.  “But we also need to hear the cries of men” who have five times more nightmares than women and feel tremendous pressure in their role of provider.

I believe egalitarianism does in fact listen to the cries of men.  We see how patriarchy harms men too, how hierarchy privileges a few at the top and tramples on women, children, and most men.  We believe a husband and wife are a team, sharing equally the yoke of responsibility of caring for their family, trusting ultimately in our Great Provider who cares even for the sparrow and the lily in the valley.  Rather than pressuring men to be Providers, Protectors and Priests, churches should encourage us all to surrender our lives and our money to Jesus.  A couple excellent books came out in the last two years addressing the very real plight of men under patriarchy: Man Enough by Nate Pyle and Malestrom by Carolyn Custis James.

Dr. Sproul correctly blames culture for imposing these pressures on men, but does not recognize that it is the culture of patriarchy that he is in fact advancing.  He goes on to explain that it has been like this since the beginning, when woman was created as man’s helpmate.  In the original Hebrew language, Eve is describes as ezer kenegdo, which has been translated (by patriarchalists) as “suitable helper” (Genesis 2:18).  In the other instances when ezer appears in the O.T., it is referring to God as a helper to Israel, often in war.  For instance,

“There is no one like the God of Jeshurun, who rides across the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty…Blessed are you, Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD? He is your shield and helper and your glorious sword. Your enemies will cower before you, and you will tread on their heights.” (Deuteronomy 33:26, 29; NIV).

I recommend reading God’s Word to Women’s word study on ezer kenegdo in which they begin,

Usages of ‘ezer in the Old Testament show that in most cases God is an ‘ezer to human beings, which calls to question if the word “helper” is a valid interpretation of ‘ezer in any instance it is used. “Evidence indicates that the word ‘ezer originally had two roots, each beginning with different guttural sounds. One meant “power” and the other “strength.”

And conclude,

The woman was never meant to be an assistant or “helpmate” to the man. The word “mate” slipped into English since it was so close to the Old English word “meet,” which means “fit to” or “corresponding to” the man which comes from the phrase that likely means “equal to.”

What God had intended, then, was to make a “power” or “strength” for the man who would in every way “correspond to him” or even “be his equal.”

The Torah Study for Reform Jews says, “From the time of creation, relationships between spouses have at times been adversarial. In Genesis 2:18, God calls woman an ezer kenegdo, a “helper against him.” The great commentator Rashi takes the term literally to make a wonderful point: “If he [Adam] is worthy, [she will be] a help [ezer]. If he is not worthy [she will be] against him [kenegdo] for strife.” This Jewish study also described man and woman facing each other with arms raised holding an arch between them, giving a beautiful picture of equal responsibility

Dr. Sproul says he believes women have the easy role within this complementarian doctrine.  He wishes that “all he had to do was submit.”  At the same time, he recognizes his leadership ability and chooses “precious few” others to follow.

e4c2e61dc0186b4ebe317ab0bcc67f33We are socialized to associate stereotypical masculine characteristics as leadership qualities, i.e. decisiveness, assertiveness, even lower vocal registers; whereas, the same qualities in a female are not recognized as leadership identifiers.  Girls are in fact socialized away from these qualities.  Again, egalitarians avoid stereotyping.  Each person is an Image bearer imbued with authority since the beginning in the Garden, when God gave both Adam and Eve the command to rule creation (Genesis 1:28).  Singling a few out as leaders and ignoring the gifts and voices of the majority is the common practice of churches but this does not best advance the Kingdom.  Throughout the New Testament, the message is to submit to one another, to consider others greater than yourself, to avoid lording authority over others but to become a servant of all. Serving others involves giving others opportunities to use their gifts and to follow God’s calling on their life, and having the humility to follow others.  We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

Dr. Sproul says that having a husband that loves his wife as Christ loves the Church, who is willing to give his life for his wife, liberates women.  Jesus never exploits, tyrannizes, abuses or batters his Bride.  Amen to that, but would Dr. Sproul feel liberated if he was never given opportunities to follow his call to ministry?  He then says that in living out “your own part” of the passage, things naturally work out – if husbands love their wives, wives submit; if wives submit, husbands love their wives.  Then he says something I find particularly dangerous and offensive: “I think if she dedicated herself to being a helpmate, that would be returned with sacrificial love and she would never be tyrannized.”

Patriarchy fuels abuse, and our churches are steeped in a silent epidemic of hurting, hopeless women.  I believe awareness is growing, through the work of Leslie Vernick and Boz Tchividjian and many others, but pastors have been remarkably ignorant of the plight of many women in their congregations.  Dr. Sproul is placing a millstone around the necks of victims of abuse, blaming them for their own victimization.

Divorce is the ultimate evil in many churches, and when women seek advice about controlling and abusive husbands in complementarian churches, pastors frequently direct them to stop complaining about their husbands and start submitting more, essentially silencing them so that they do not ask for help again until they are in real danger.  Gary Thomas posted a powerful article about this, “Enough is Enough” that has gone viral.  We shared a Facebook post from Naghmeh Abedini exhorting the Church to face the epidemic of domestic abuse, along with several resources for victims here.

One way for a woman’s voice to find a platform in complementarianism is for that woman to tell other women to make themselves small.  Dr. Sproul gives a shout out to a “woman who understands men,” Marabel Morgan who wrote “The Total Woman.”  In this book, which is written with advice to wives on how to keep their husbands happy and faithful (as though that is a wife’s responsibility), she says, “Women, here’s a secret. Your husbands don’t want your advice.  They want your admiration.”  Dr. Sproul points out that men have fragile egos, and that may very well be true for a man who is saddled with dangerous messages about masculinity and manhood, not only from our sexist, patriarchal society at large but also from his spiritual leaders in churches touting complementarian theology of gender roles.

Dr. Sproul wraps up by saying that “this isn’t a battle, this isn’t a competition for authority.  This is that place God created where the two become one flesh.  Paul goes on, this is the mystery.  My job is to nourish her.  In that, Christ is honored and marriages are made whole.”

safe_imageAs an egalitarian, I believe that Christ is honored when we love one another and submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.  I disagree that God has given husbands alone authority over their families and men alone authority over the Church, not because I rage or bleet against teachings on submission but because following Jesus with integrity means obeying him, and he has never told me to not use my God-given authority for the sake of the Kingdom.  In fact, I believe I would dishonor Christ by living in the box that complementarians give to women, and I do not want my husband to live in the box that complementarians give to men.


Sheesh, that was long!  Thanks for hanging in there to the end!  Kate Wallace wrote a beautiful poem, They gave me a box, that you will love.  If you belong to a tradition that teaches gender roles, I pray that you find freedom in Christ to live out your true identity and calling.  You are a gift to the world and God has prepared good works for you to do.  God bless!

Oh, and you can find us on Facebook if you’d like to read all the links we find from around the web concerning gender equality in the Church.

Naghmeh Abedini’s New Year’s Exhortation to the Church

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“I have come that they may have life and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus

On New Year’s Eve, Naghmeh Abedini (who we posted about here and here) shared this exhortation on her facebook page:

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The full message says,

Happy New Year! May this be the year that the daughters of the Most High and the church rise up in one accord and say “Enough is Enough.”

May this be the year that we discover who we truly are in Jesus and that the knowledge of His Great Love for us sets us free and brings much healing to us and to the body of Christ.

I implore you church leaders to stand up for the abused and oppressed and say that it is not acceptable for daughters of the King to be used and abused in such a way . I implore you church leaders to stand up and keep leaders and heads of families accountable and say in one accord that it is not acceptable for those who call themselves Christians to be in such bondage to pornography, adultery, control and abuse. I implore you church leaders to bring back the discussion and the importance of repentance. I implore you church leaders to call the church to repentance and that we would turn from our wicked ways, and turn to God.

May this be the year that as the church of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ we show the world what a true model of marriage looks like and that many would see the light and beauty of Jesus in our transparency and brokenness and that many would be saved.

Love you all! We serve a mighty King and He is in control.

 

Amen!  May it be so!!

Naghmeh links to an article by Gary Thomas, “Enough is Enough,” in which he denounces the abuse many women face in Christian marriages.  For instance, he says,

Another woman told me about putting up with her husband’s appalling behavior for over forty years. I was invited to look in her face, see the struggle, see the heroic perseverance, but also be reminded that counsel has consequences. So when I talk to a young woman in her third year of marriage and it’s clear she’s married to a monster, and someone wants to “save” the marriage, I want them to realize they are likely sentencing her to four decades of abuse, perhaps because of a choice she made as a teenager. When these men aren’t confronted, and aren’t repentant, they don’t change.

Jesus said what he said about divorce to protect women, not to imprison them. Divorce was a weapon foisted against women in the first century, not one they could use, and it almost always left them destitute if their family of origin couldn’t or wouldn’t step up.

How does it honor the concept of “Christian marriage” to enforce the continuance of an abusive, destructive relationship that is slowly squeezing all life and joy out of a woman’s soul? Our focus has to be on urging men to love their wives like Christ loves the church, not on telling women to put up with husbands mistreating their wives like Satan mistreats us. We should confront and stop the work of Satan, not enable it.

Physical, emotional, sexual, psychological and financial abuse are a silent epidemic in our country and around the world.  In the comments under Naghmeh’s post, she elaborates to say she believes that 70% of Christian wives are living with one form of abuse or another in their marriages.

10653672_540932686036868_4005151008959911077_nUnfortunately, most pastors are unequipped to respond appropriately to abuse.  My husband and I went through seminary and hardly heard a word about domestic violence in our classes.  Because women suffer in silence, trying trying trying to pacify their controlling husbands with submissive and meek obedience, pastors may never hear anything from a woman until she is reaching hopelessness and desperation.  And he will likely encourage her to do more, be more, suffer more for the sake of saving her marriage.  He will not understand the psychological impact of living in an abusive relationship for years.  He may bring both in for couple’s counseling, without personal expertise in abuse, and further damage the woman through treating this as a marriage issue rather than as the husband’s sin.

In conservative churches, where headship and submission are taught, women can be subjected to abusive relationships with no hope of relief.  Men have full reign to lord authority over their wives, controlling them rather than living as one with them.  The stigma of divorce leads to shunning of women who leave abusive marriages, and traditional gender roles leave women financially dependent on their spouse, unable to leave without a way to make a living.  The teaching that headship and submission image the relationship of Christ and the Church leads husbands and wives to strive harder to achieve cultural constructs of gender roles rather than becoming more the individuals that God created them to be.

In Rachel Held Evan’s post, “Is patriarchy really God’s dream for the world?”, she says,

If scripture is not enough to convince you that patriarchy is a result of sin, you need only look at the world to observe its effects.

  • Worldwide, women ages fifteen to forty-four are more likely to be maimed or die from male violence than from cancer, malaria, traffic accidents, and war combined.
  • Every 9 seconds, a woman  in the US is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime. I wish I could say that all complementarians categorically condemn female submission to male violence, but John Piper has said that, in order to model godly submission, a woman may need to quietly “endure verbal abuse for a season” or “getting smacked one night” before “seeking help from the church.” (He says nothing about contacting authorities). Similarly, in Created to Be His Help Meet, Debi Pearl advises a woman whose husband pulled a knife on her to “stop complaining” and focus instead on not “provoking” her husband’s anger. This is destructive advice and reveals something of an assumption that the preservation of male hierarchy is more important than preservation of a woman’s dignity.
  •  At least 3 million women and girls are enslaved in the sex trade.
  • Study after study shows that societies characterized by the subjugation of women are more violent, more impoverished, and more unjust than societies that empower women.  In their excellent book Half the Sky, Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn argue that “in this century the paramount moral challenge will be the struggle for gender equality in the developing world.”  Empowering women increases economic productivity, reduces infant mortality, contributes to overall improved health and nutrition, and increases the chances of education for the next generation. Several studies from UNICEF suggest that when women are given control over the family spending, more of the money gets devoted to education, medical care, and small business endeavors than when men control the purse strings. Similarly, when women vote and hold political office, public spending on health increases and child mortality rate declines. Many counterterrorist strategists see women’s empowerment as key to quelling violence and oppression in the Middle East, and women entering the workforce in East Asia generated economic booms in Malaysia, Thailand, and China. (You can find all of these studies cited and analyzed in Half the Sky, which I highly recommend.)

Interestingly, John Piper discussed the unhappy dynamic of much of his marriage in October.  Piper is one of the most influential proponents of complementarian theology (the belief that God designed strict gender roles for men and women), co-founding The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and The Gospel Coalition, a massive coalition of churches which holds complementarian ideology as a core aspect of their beliefs.  In my experience and observation, couples that treat each other as equals (whether they are complementarian or egalitarian) are far happier than couples that function as a hierarchy with the husband at the top.

unsafe relationshipI truly believe that mutual submission between husbands and wives is the correct Biblical teaching.  Giving husbands authority over households rather than all living under the authority of Christ as equals leads to unhealthy and ungodly dynamics and often, abuse.

If your marriage is emotionally destructive and you need to establish boundaries as you work toward healing, here are some resources:

Immediate Help:
National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-7233.  Crisis help or to develop a safety plan.
Family Renewal Shelter: 1-253-475-9010 (24-hour crisis line) or 1-888-550-3915 (toll free).  A Christian resource for crisis help and assistance developing a safety plan.
American Association of Christian Counselors

Support Resources:
Document the Abuse: Assists women who fear for their safety in developing an Evidentiary Abuse Affidavit.
Women’s Law: Provides state-specific legal information and resources.
VINE (Victim Information and Notification Everyday): Allows crime victims to obtain timely and reliable information about criminal cases and the custody status of offenders.
Lighthouse Network: 1-877-562-2565.  Assists individuals and their loved ones in finding effective treatment for drug, alcohol, psychological or emotional struggles, 24/7.

Books:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage: How to Find Your Voice and Reclaim Your Hope – Leslie Vernick
Why Does He Do That?  Inside the Minds of Angry and Controlling Men – Lundy Bancroft

Other:
The Emotionally Destructive Marriage:  Free resource page
Self Centered Spouse:  Series of blogs by Brad Hambrick
A Cry for Justice: A blog addressing the needs of the evangelical church to recognize and validate the reality of abuse in the Christian home.
Myths about Domestic Violence


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Q&A on Christian Feminism

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On Christmas Eve, I received a comment on a post I wrote in 2015 responding to the Girl Defined article, “Why Christianity and Feminism Can’t Mix,” and I noticed this morning that I had received another comment on the same post that I promised to respond to and never did.  So I will post these two comments, my replies, and links to more resources.  I am very grateful for this opportunity to engage with women who come from different perspectives and want to say first of all, thank you, Nancy and Cassidy, for reading my original post and for taking the time to ask your questions!


Nancy

The ending quote was: “My advice to Christian women is to marry a man who will be a friend, not a ruler.” Why must it be *either/or*? Why not marry a man who will be a friend AND a ruler. After all, earthly marriage is the very image of the ultimate marriage which is between God and His bride, the church. God is our ruler AND our friend. Works beautifully. He, laying down His life for His bride, edifying His bride, lifting her up, purifying her, etc. While ruling the union with love, truth, grace, and strength… while she sees Him worthy of her love, trust, respect, service (help) and submission. Why not allow the earthly image God created (human marriage) truly reflect the ultimate heavenly reality? That’s the way it was designed by Him after all.

Nancy is quoting a pastor’s wife, Andrea, who had commented on the Girl Defined article and then I pasted her words at the end of my post.  After years of counseling Christian women in abusive marriages, she began to study the Bible to better understand God’s design for gender roles, and came to the conclusion that God designed men and women to be equals.  My initial response to Nancy was to share a link to this excellent article by Bob Edwards to learn more about the origins of the headship/submission marriage model:

Seeing Male Authority as God’s Design: Where Did This Idea Come From? 

Edwards shows us how Plato influenced Augustine, who influenced Calvin, who influences complementarian theologians today, like John Piper.  The pipeline of patriarchy in Christian scholarship.  Many are unaware of the Platonic lens that they are reading their Bible through, and the inferences these gender teachings come from rather than clear Biblical directives.  I highly recommend reading more of Bob and his wife Helga’s work!

Egalitarians believe that husbands and wives are created equal and are both called to love and submit to their spouse.  This involves treating each other respectfully, helping each other, trusting each other and all the other “one another” directives that Paul gives to all believers.  In the Ephesians 5 passage that pastors often teach “Men need respect, women need love” from, it is all part of a larger section that involves instructions to love one another and submit to one another, “…wives to their husbands” (the verb “submit” does not occur in verse 22 as a directive to wives but the idea is linked from the earlier verse saying “submit to one another”).

In the creation narrative, God created mankind (both man and woman) in His image and gave both dominion and authority over creation.  “Help” is an inadequate translation of the Hebrew word ezer, as it connotes a subordinate position in our English language but more literally means something like “counterpart”  God is often referred to as Israel’s ezer throughout the Old Testament, and is clearly not a subordinate in relationship to His people.  It is in the curse in Genesis 3 that the Bible says men will rule over their wives.  As Carolyn Custis James says, “Patriarchy is the cultural backdrop of the Bible–not the message of the Bible.”

umbrella-graphic-by-amber-dann-picotta

Love this image from Amber D’Ann Picota

Another word that is misunderstood in English is kephale, translated “head.”  The problem with this translation is that “head” has more than one meaning.  In modern English, we hear “head” and immediately think “CEO,” “boss,” or “authority.”  But in ancient Greek, kephale did not connote authority.  On a body, the head did not appear to have any use except as the place where we put food, the source of life.  In ancient Greek culture, husbands were the “head” in the sense that their households were completely dependent financially and socially on the patriarch, just as a body is dependent on the head to receive food.  The body metaphor also teaches mutuality rather than authority/submission because every part of the body is dependent on each other, and directives come straight from the head, who is Christ, and is not channeled from one part to another.  Jesus is our “umbrella” and women have direct communication and covering from our Messiah, not from any male human.  Marriage is often elevated as the glue of the Church but in fact, Paul teaches us not to marry for the sake of the Gospel.

There is a great podcast on mutuality in marriage by Nick and Allison Quient that I recommend checking out:

Split/Frame of Reference Podcast: Episode 4: Ephesians 5:18-33, Mutual Submission, and the Mystery of Marriage

And an article by Egalitarian scholar Marg Mowczko that I link to all the time on women as ezers:

A Suitable Helper (in Hebrew)

As Nancy points out, it is a common teaching in complementarian

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Um, no.

churches that Christian marriage is meant to mirror a heavenly relationship between Christ and His Church, so that the world can better understand the Gospel with this tangible metaphor.  We are taught by complementarian pastors that wives’ submission to their husband and to “Biblical gender roles” point the secular world to the Good News.  But the early Church was striking to ancient secular society as counter-cultural by defying patriarchal gender roles.  In a society where women were property, Christian husbands treated their wives as equals and loved their wives as their own bodies.  Women were elevated to equality in the early Christian Church and ministered alongside the men.  The modern conservative Christian Church has swung back to patriarchal teachings in reaction to the growing egalitarian values of our Western culture, who now look at the Church and do not see anything “good” in the way Christian women are subjugated.

Here are the “Biblical gender roles” for women that are actually in the Bible:

25 Biblical Roles for Biblical Women – Marg Mowczko

And an excellent article from Kristen Rosser:

Is Marriage Really an Illustration of Christ and the Church?


Cassidy Shooltz

I must ask a question; you make an interesting statement at the beginning of the post:

“This is a testament to the diversity of thought within Christianity and how beliefs are shaped by personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, socialization and more.”

Do you believe it is God’s will for the foundation of our lives to be built upon personal experiences, relationships, community, cultures, and more? I believe it is God’s intent for us to build our lives solely upon His word. If you are living and believing based on the whims and ideas of others opinions, then how are you distinguishing between right and wrong?

You stated in this post that you and the girls from Girl Defined are both followers of Jesus, but it is very clear that the core of feminism is self – not Jesus Christ. I really can’t see how someone can live a life that is both feministic and Christ-centered – because feminism is about the exaltation of the female (and not Jesus). The Christian life is all about Jesus, and no movement that works to defy His design will be able to stand before His word – the concept of feminism literally falls apart at the seems when our hearts are aligned with His word.

I would not be surprised at all if the “Christian” feminists one day wake up and decide that they no longer agree with anything the Bible says. Someday y’all may very well wake up and go pro-abortion, fight for gay rights, and leave your walk with Him behind. Of course, I pray so very much that such will not be the case for you girls, and that you will instead turn to Him in this area of your life.

First of all, I am not saying that it is God’s will that we base our beliefs on things like the cultural norms of our “tribe.”  It is just a fact that this is how we come to most of our beliefs.  I have heard Tim Keller say this same thing.  The Bible is an ancient book that is not clearly and perfectly understood by any flawed human being.  Scholars fluent in Hebrew and Greek who study the Bible faithfully have different opinions on doctrines and the meaning of difficult passages.  I believe we should come to theological conversations with humility and grace for those who have different perspectives.  I am not saying that all perspectives are correct.  I am saying that your perspective and my perspective and our favorite pastor’s/theologian’s/author’s perspective is flawed in some way.  And so beyond core doctrines (i.e. The Apostles Creed), we ought to be gracious in our discussions.  Of course we should all seek faithfulness to orthodoxy and orthopraxy.  But we should also bear in mind that in issues like gender roles, we have been socialized to infer certain beliefs into the text because of the culture of patriarchy that we live in.  My biggest beef with the Girl Defined post (and honestly, your comment), is the demonization of Christian brothers and sisters who see things differently.  I was attempting then and now to demonstrate that a Christian identifying as a feminist probably is doing so out of love for those who suffer the most under the darkness of patriarchy.

I have already linked to Bob Edwards in my reply to Nancy, but here is another link to a transcription I did of a video he shared, and an excerpt of his description of the process of socialization:

Bob Edwards’ Fascinating Discussion on the Origins of Male Authority in the Church

Bob discusses how gender socialization impacts our perception/understanding of the bible.

Socialization is a process that occurs throughout our lives.  We are socialized by the cultural norms present in our environment.

People are socialized by three essential processes:
1. cultural norms are modeled for us
2. overt instruction
3. reinforcement – reward/withhold rewards, encourage/discourage behavior

Put these together, and people are socialized to make the norms of their environment their own internal norms.

Socialization takes place in regards to gender.  We have role models that show us what it means to be a man/woman in a particular society (leadership may only include men).  Often we are taught overtly (in Christianity, we are taught that men are leaders, protectors, providers, and that women are supposed to be helpers of men.  Men have authority and women do not, and must submit themselves to male authority.)  And there is reinforcement (if you don’t do what is expected of you in this environment, we’ll make that painful for you).

Socialization is sometimes affected by people who act as if certain things are simply true.  People may act as if women are less capable of leadership and decision making.  They act like that simply by not allowing women to make leadership decisions.

The end result of the socialization process is that the norms that exist in the culture around us become the norms that exist in our own minds.  The external norms become internal norms.

Some researchers, particularly in the field of social sciences, cognitive psychology and the psychology of perception, talk about cognitive lenses by which we make sense of the world around us.  If I’ve been socialized to believe  that men lead, women follow/submit, if I’ve been socialized to believe that men are more fit for certain positions in the church and home, then I am going to internalize those norms and I will automatically assign certain meanings to the word “man” and to the word “woman.”  And we do this by association.  I may automatically think “leader” when I hear “man” and “helper” when I hear “woman.”

These associations we make take place in the brain (according to researcher Milo Fridga) in .00007 seconds.  That’s fast.  And so, we don’t always realize that socialization is at work when we’re looking at the world around us.

In fact, socialization affects how we see, how we perceive, and how we make sense of the Bible.

Secondly, I do not believe that Christianity and feminism have to be at odds.  Certainly there are extremist feminists just as there are extremist Christians who I do not wish to be associated with.  I do believe that I did a decent job explaining this in my post.  Here are a couple pertinent quotes:

Christians can partner with environmentalists, humanitarians, economists, social workers, politicians, educators, health professionals, counselors, scientists, and even feminists, in the work of redeeming God’s creation to it’s pre-curse state.  A feminist, atheist, Democrat, you-fill-in-the-blank is a person created in God’s image and loved dearly by God…I personally couldn’t call any imago Dei “devoid of God.”  There is common grace among all of humankind.   And has the Bible already solved all of the world’s problems and restored us to God’s design and will for humanity?  Clearly there is much work to be done, and Christ has given us that work to do.  Do I agree on all issues that all feminists tout?  No.  Do I agree that patriarchy is from the curse and has no place in Christ’s redeemed Kingdom?  Yes.

I didn’t come to feminism through a desire to usurp the authority of men.  I came to egalitarianism (I believe through God’s direction) and some of my conservative Christian friends began cautioning me about the slippery slope that I was on, and began jokingly referring to me as a feminist.  Not because I was arguing for abortion rights or burning my bras, but because I was asking questions about gender roles in the Church.  “Feminist” is a slur in the context of my upbringing.  Looking back, I understand that this negative response can be a powerful deterrent to keep group members from challenging the status quo of patriarchy.  It didn’t take me long to adopt the title feminist, as I couldn’t shake it and I was becoming more and more impassioned to see change in the world for women who are marginalized and abused by systems of patriarchy.

President Jimmy Carter says that gender inequality is the greatest humanitarian crisis of our generation.  I am posting these two links again for more information on the desperate need of feminism to liberate women and girls around the globe from the worst forms of patriarchy.  I would love to see Jesus’ followers at the forefront of this battle:

Christian Compassion or Complicity: The Abuse and Gendercide of God’s Daughters – Dr. Mimi Hadad
We Need Feminism – Rachel Held Evans

Thirdly, is Christian feminism about elevating women?  Certainly.  Because women have been down-trodden and denied equality, justice involves elevating them to their dignified and rightful place alongside their brothers in Christ.  Is Christian feminism anti-male?  Certainly not.  God made men and women for dignity and dominion.  We bear His image as His representatives on earth, ushering His Kingdom in by shining a light in the darkness. Not as “girls” and “boys” but as Beautiful Kingdom Warriors.

I thank you for your prayers and leave off with a prayer for you as well:

love-may-abound


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Twitter sheds light on non-physical forms of abuse

The Twitter handle #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou, started by the BBC, has given victims of emotional, spiritual, financial and other forms of abuse a platform to share a glimpse into their experiences.

Often, the pain and trauma of non-physical abuse is dismissed or ignored.  Because the bruising to a victim’s psyche and soul are not visible, they do not receive the help and healing needed or the support to leave.  Slowly, they are beaten down to a place of low self-esteem and self-doubt and they begin to believe the lies of their abuser.  They experience symptoms of PTSD or anxiety or other conditions from their distress and this gives their abuser the added ammunition to claim they are the crazy one, they are the cause of the abuse.

Sadly, these types of abuse are very common in patriachal, fundamentalist religions, and pastors typically respond poorly, disbelieving the “allegations” and giving preference to the man’s reputation over the woman’s well-being.  Women in abusive marriages are urged to remain with their abusers rather than escape the abuse and begin the journey to healing and wholeness.  For example, John Piper, a prominent leader in Evangelicalism, gave this advice to an abused woman:

John Piper first giggles at the question, then diminishes the severity of non-physical abuse.  I can only imagine how the abuse would ramp up if this wife turned to her church leadership to intervene.  Abusers insist on keeping the family dynamic a secret.  Therefore, she would rather remain silent so that the abuse does not escalate, as she will not be given the support needed to leave the relationship.  “Emotionally abusive people are very concerned with their public image,” counselor Amanda Perl is quoted in the BBC article. “They are often extremely charming to the outside world in order to undermine any case you might have to discredit them or bring a spotlight on their behaviour.”

And don’t even get me started on sexual abuse in Christian marriage, where a woman’s body is not her own and she is taught to never say no, to submit in everything.

There are some excellent resources on the internet for Christian women in abusive relationships.  I recommend the blogs A Cry for Justice and Spiritual Sounding Board as well as the books and blog by Leslie Vernick.

Here are a few examples of #MaybeHeDoesntHitYou tweets:

And my own contribution:

EDIT:  After receiving the following excellent comment, I changed “non-violent” to “non-physical” throughout this post.

I take exception to labeling these actions as “non-violent.” I think that specific mislabeling is part of why these forms of abuse are dismissed out of hand.

These forms of abuse are not *physical*, but they are very violent. If I hold someone at gunpoint and take his money but never lay a hand on him, my actions will be called “ASSAULT with a deadly weapon.” The tongue is also a potential weapon, and anyone who thinks it cannot be deadly should research how many suicide notes mention something someone *said* (not did) to the victim before he or she chose suicide.


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#GodHatesAbuse #AbuseIsGroundsForDivorce #YouAreWorthyOfLove

Around the Web – Posts on Spanking, Domestic Violence, Patriarchy and More

With the departure of summer, “people from away” are slowly filtering out of Maine and life is balancing out once again for those of us whose livelihood is impacted by the tourism industry.  The last four months have been insanely busy for me and Becky.  There hasn’t been the space in our lives to write, but that will change over this fall and winter.  We look forward to getting back in the swing of blogging and vlogging for you!

I promised to share my Imago Dei presentation from our women’s retreat earlier this month, and I will get to that later this week hopefully.  I am always checking in with my favorite blogs and keeping track of important conversations that are happening, so today I want to share some links with you to posts that have had me thinking.  I’m whetting your appetite with a quote from each post, and I hope you are able to read some of these in their entirety.

ON SPANKING

Why Jesus Wants You to Stop Spanking Your Kids – Benjamin Corey (also, you can listen to Ben talk about spanking, domestic violence and ISIS on That God Show: Episode 7)

When one considers the fact that studies overwhelmingly show that spanking is seriously harmful to children, that it damages their brains, lowers their IQ’s, reduces their ability to make good choices, increases their aggression/violence, and leads to a pattern of negative behaviors that simply require more violence on the part of the parent, the scientific evidence against spanking should be clear. When a Christian couples that scientific evidence with the nonviolent teachings of Jesus from the New Testament, along with a warning from Jesus himself that it would be better to be thrown into the sea than to harm a child, there aren’t many arguments left to support the old way of doing things.

I love you, therefore I hit you…er, SPANK you. {How Christians conflate love with violence} – Elizabeth Esther

Now, let’s talk about “hostile attribution bias.” This means you live your life expecting people to be mean to you. UM. WHOA. Hi, self. My ingrained response to the world is that people are mean and scary and out to get me. I am constantly surprised when people love me–and I have to repress the urge to be suspicious when they are kind.

Here’s my default thought process: What do they want from me? Why are they being nice? They must have an ulterior motive! Don’t they know I’m a bad person? I can’t trust them! BLOCK THEM OUT.

The hardest thing for me to do is receive love. There, I said it. I have a huge fear of intimacy because I just don’t trust people. This is my trauma wound.

I can’t go back and change my past. But I can change my future. I don’t have to perpetuate the cycle of violence. I can do something different. You can, too. Our children deserve it.

In which I talk about spanking – Sarah Bessey (she lists great resources for further reading)

The short list of why I don’t spank

  1. Personally, I believe it’s morally wrong to strike a child. Also, it isn’t Biblical.
  2. Hitting teaches hitting as a solution.
  3. It creates an adversarial relationship between parents and children – Us vs. Them.
  4. It can easily lead to abuse.
  5. It doesn’t work over the long term.
  6. It promotes anger or gives place to anger in both the parent and the child.
  7. It doesn’t teach inner discipline.
  8. It creates a behavioural response out of fear instead of love.

ON GENDER EQUALITY IN THE CHURCH

women, men & church: what hurts, what helps – Kathy Escobar (here are her “what helps,” but you should really read the whole post and consider “what hurts.”)

Here are some tangible and practical “best practices” that can help us move toward greater equality in the church:

  • Friendship. This is a core practice that opens doors to equality. We’ve got to find ways to practice being true friends together.
  • Be intentional about inviting, including, empowering, and releasing women into all levels of leadership. It won’t drop out of the sky so needs to be clear and strong message–“we need you, we want you, and here’s how we can make this happen.
  • Pay properly and equally. Period. Figure it out.
  • Avoid gender-biased comments (on both sides) about looks, athleticism, feelings, and other stereotypical ways of viewing both sexes.
  • Create intentional and brave conversations about gender in our communities–places to share, evaluate, process, adopt new practices together.
  • Ask at every table of leadership: how can we make room, make this table more balanced, who’s missing?
  • Recognize the realities of childbearing and honor it completely. That means keeping positions open, building flexible schedules, re-thinking the plans for advancement in churches & ministries.
  • The older generation of both men and women mentoring, supporting, encouraging, calling-out the younger generation of female leaders. Not just women supporting women but men and women supporting men and women.
  • Consider how to support women practically and tangibly through seminary and then ministry related to childcare help, books, mentorship, and financial support.
  • Start naming the elephant in the room before certain meetings and planning sessions get started–“We know women haven’t had an equal voice in this before. How can we shift that dynamic in here right now so everyone is heard?
  • Conference organizers and local have a solid and clear list of female speakers to draw from and use them; intentionally work toward balance.
  • Men showing up for gender equality conversations as much as women do (I added this one).

Women Like Me Are Abused Worldwide.  Here’s Why. – Anne Graham Lotz

If you doubt that sin is the root of the discrimination of women, look at Jesus. He was raised in a religious culture where people were taught that women, at the very least, were much less then men. As a rabbi (as his disciples called him), he should have discriminated against women as every other man did. But there was a significant difference between Jesus and everyone else. He had no sin in his heart.

As a result, we see him. . .

honoring women as he did when Mary anointed him with oil during a dinner in Simon’s home,

singling women out for praise as he did the widow who placed her “mite” in the temple treasury,

caring for women as he did the desperately ill woman who reached out to touch the hem of his garment,

protecting women as he did the one caught in adultery who was in danger of being stoned to death,

giving women new purpose and elevated status as he did the ones who were the first to encounter him after his resurrection and were commissioned by him to go tell the men what they had seen and experienced.

The New Wine of the Kingdom: Equality in the Church – Brian Wiele

You drink what the host is pouring… but unfortunately, within a short period of time after the New Testament era, church leadership rudely refused to drink what the host had poured, and declared, just as Jesus had predicted, that the old wine of patriarchal dominance would serve the church just fine.

Catholic, Orthodox, Evangelical Protestant – the majority of the distinctive church families have continued to trot out their preferred vintage – sometimes with new labels on it like complementarian – and then audaciously decreed it to be the blend that Jesus preferred and recommended. They control the cellar, and their hierarchical vintage is thus the only one poured. As a result, anyone advocating that the church drink of the new spirit of equality is at best considered suspicious and liberal, and at worst divisive and heretical.

I’m convinced that Jesus poured a new wine – men and women, both created in his image – into new wineskins, a Trinitarian model of shared leadership.  Throw whatever labels you like at me, the refreshing blend of gender equality will continue to be served in my congregation. I’m drinking what was poured for me in order to honor the one who poured it, Jesus Christ.

ON MISOGYNY, DOMESTIC VIOLENCE AND PATRIARCHY

Changing the Culture that Enabled Mark Driscoll: 6 Ways Forward – Rachel Held Evans (read Rachel’s fantastic elaboration on these 6 ways forward:)

1.  We must educate Christians about abuse, bullying, and misuse of power in church settings.
2. We must value and preserve accountability.
3.   We must take misogyny and homophobia seriously.
4.  We must measure “success” by fruit of the Spirit, not numbers.
5.   We must protect people over reputations.
6.  We must treat our pastors and church leaders as human beings–flawed, complex, and beloved by God.

The Spin of Patriarchy – a podcast with Aimee Byrd and Rachel Miller (with links to related posts).  They discuss these questions:

On the surface, Patriarchy families may look very harmless and even attractive. Everyone wears a smile, they tend to have a quiverfull of obedient children that they homeschool, and they present to you a formula for success. But what exactly does the husband and father’s “authority” entail? Should a husband be a mediator for the family, acting as a priest between them and the Lord? Is a college education wasted on daughters, because they are being raised to be homemakers? What’s the deal with stay-at-home daughters? Can women work outside of the home, alongside other men? What happens if you don’t have a happy disposition that reflects positively on your father or husband? Is a woman’s worth tied to the number of children she has? Do you believe that women are always prone to rebellion and satanic deceit and therefore need to be directed into submission? Is it a sin to educate your child through a different avenue than homeschool? And how does this all play out politically?

Why I Won’t Watch #RayRice – Angela Denker

Biblical traditionalists often forget to mention that the language of submission in the Bible is grounded in mutuality. For each instruction to women, Paul has an instruction to men as well. Relationship—love–is meant to be sacrificing, loving, and kind. Violence, vengeance, of any kind is condemned from the Old Testament to the New. Vengeance is mine, says the LORD.

Jesus himself says this, in his first sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me … to proclaim liberty to the captives … to set the oppressed free,” (Luke 4:18-19, quoting Isaiah).

Jesus died so that no person might lose her personhood. So that no one would be controlled, manipulated, and abused. The love Jesus practiced and preached was a love that lifted up those who were brought low; a love that set people free from the roles society gave them and left them identified by an eternal life, an eternal light that could never be extinguished.

Domestic violence puts out that light. As Janay Rice-Palmer crumples to the ground in that video, she is reduced to something less than human.


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Linking You Up.

I have been home alone this week – kiddos have been visiting with their grandparents.  It all came about suddenly and before I knew it, they were off on their trip and I was home alone.  I had a million things on my “must-do list”, the least of which was to write some thoughtful (no little ones interrupting my train of thought!  yay!!!) blog posts.

But I have had the startling experience of unproductivity in the face of all this independence.  Yes, I still had my job to do every morning for several hours.  Yes, we managed to shop for and purchase a second car.  Yes, we’ve moved Abbey’s bedroom out of our walk-in closet and into the boys’ room (this required a lot of painting).  Yes, we are still trying to get the boys’ room ready downstairs.  Yes, Logan and I went out to celebrate our tenth anniversary (I thought for sure I would have a sentimental blog post about how our relationship has grown and changed and beautifully improved over the years).  But I have been lonely and uninspired without my entourage.  I’ve also avoided everyone else in my life and turned into a hermit this week!

So I decided today it was the least I could do to share some of my favorite posts from other bloggers this week.  When I have my little posse back, I’ll be eager to be having adult thoughts again and won’t be zoning out to “White Collar” episodes every night.  Without further ado…

This week, Jon Huckins wrote about “Raising Girls In a World Where They are Less Than Human.”  I would encourage you to email this powerful post to the fathers of daughters in your contact list.  I did.

The Junia Project shared the “10 Best Sites for Egalitarians (+5 more).”  Check them out!

Esther Emery explained “What Feminists and Complementarians Have in Common (Let Me Be a Woman).”  In a similar vein, Marg Mowczko wisely taught us “How to Keep Friends and Influence People” when sharing our Egalitarian views with others.

Tim and Anne Evans share a third post in their marriage series on The Junia Project, “Co-Leadership in Marriage: Who’s In Authority?”  Earlier posts in the series: “Co-Leadership in Marriage: Let’s Talk about Submission” and “Co-Leadership in Marriage: What about Headship?”

I loved this piece by Rachel Held Evans on modesty for Q: “Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means.”

Sarah Bessey wrote this beautiful piece for The High Calling: “Rethinking Scarcity: A Legacy of Abundance.”  Here are a couple quotes to whet your appetite:

The myth of scarcity tells the powerful to accumulate and take and dominate, to be driven by the fear of Not Enough and Never Enough. We make our decisions out of fear and anxiety that there isn’t enough for us. These core beliefs can lead us to the treacheries of war and hunger, injustice and inequality. We must keep others down so we can stay on top. We stockpile money and food and comforts at the expense of one another and our own souls. Throughout Scripture, we can see the myth of scarcity’s impact on—and even within—the nation of Israel. The prophets wrote and stood in bold criticism against the empire’s myth of scarcity that built on the backs of the poor and oppressed….

…But it’s within the life of our Jesus that we see it most clearly: Jesus was the full embodiment of what it means to be human in the way that God intended. He uplifts instead of tearing down, he heals instead of kills, he lays down his life instead of fighting to survive, he chooses compassion instead of numb acceptance, he is water to a thirsty soul, bread to the hungry, oil of joy for mourning. And instead of death, he is life. Life!\

And The Work of the People posted a new video with Sarah Bessey that you should not miss: “Detoxing From Not Enough.”

Here is a link to a free ebook by Oscar Romero: “The Violence of Love.”  I will definitely be reading this.  He was martyred while he was the archbishop of San Salvador, assassinated for his work on behalf of the oppressed.

Ann Voskamp’s weekly “Multivitamins for Your Weekend” always bring a smile.

I wholeheartedly agree with Elizabeth Esther on parents who use home schooling as a means to abusing their children.  Makes me furious.  Gotta love her title: “Protecting Christian homeschooling’s reputation vs. protecting abused kids, slam poetry for menstruation, children of Christian narcissists and books I’ve been reading.”

I really love Kathy Escobar.  This week she has been sharing a helpful series on grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.  We’re all grieving something, so this is powerful stuff.

And don’t miss the CBE links: “The Scroll Links Up 6/27/14”.


Thanks for stopping by, and don’t forget to follow us on Facebook!

 

 

Bob Edwards’ Fascinating Discussion on The Origins of Male Authority in the Church

I wanted to share this discussion on the origins of male authority in the church, made by social worker, psychotherapist, and professor Bob Edwards.  Bob is a frequent contributor to the wonderful Egalitarian website, The Junia Project.  I would encourage you to press “play” and listen.  I am always looking for videos like this to watch while I’m working (I highly recommend subscribing to CBE, Christians for Biblical Equality, on YouTube.  They have lots of great videos on their channel).  I also took notes, below, for easier reference to the material.

Bob discusses how gender socialization impacts our perception/understanding of the bible.

Socialization is a process that occurs throughout our lives.  We are socialized by the cultural norms present in our environment.

People are socialized by three essential processes:
1. cultural norms are modeled for us
2. overt instruction
3. reinforcement – reward/withhold rewards, encourage/discourage behavior

Put these together, and people are socialized
to make the norms of their environment their
own internal norms.

Socialization takes place in regards to gender.  We have role models that show us what it means to be a man/woman in a particular society (leadership may only include men).  Often we are taught overtly (in Christianity, we are taught that men are leaders, protectors, providers, and that women are supposed to be helpers of men.  Men have authority and women do not, and must submit themselves to male authority.)  And there is reinforcement (if you don’t do what is expected of you in this environment, we’ll make that painful for you).

Socialization is sometimes affected by people who act as if certain things are simply true.  People may act as if women are less capable of leadership and decision making.  They act like that simply by not allowing women to make leadership decisions.

The end result of the socialization process is that the norms that exist in the culture around us become the norms that exist in our own minds.  The external norms become internal norms.

Some researchers, particularly in the field of social sciences, cognitive psychology and the psychology of perception, talk about cognitive lenses by which we make sense of the world around us.  If I’ve been socialized to believe  that men lead, women follow/submit, if I’ve been socialized to believe that men are more fit for certain positions in the church and home, then I am going to internalize those norms and I will automatically assign certain meanings to the word “man” and to the word “woman.”  And we do this by association.  I may automatically think “leader” when I hear “man” and “helper” when I hear “woman.”

These associations we make take place in the brain (according to researcher Milo Fridga) in .00007 seconds.  That’s fast.  And so, we don’t always realize that socialization is at work when we’re looking at the world around us.

In fact, socialization affects how we see, how we perceive, and how we make sense of the Bible.

Then Bob discusses the cognitive lenses of the most influential theologians throughout history.

St. Augustine
A Roman Bishop that lived in the 4th century A.D.  The church had just become the official state religion of the Roman Empire – significant because the Roman Empire was dominated by men.  “The Rule of the Fathers” was the cultural norm – the father of the household had absolute rule over his wife, children and slaves.  Slavery was prevalent and normative, to own other human beings who would do all the labor for us.  Also, the dominant philosophy of the day was rooted in the thinking of prominent Greek scholars like Plato and Aristotle, and there were some neo-Platonic philosophers that were popular, like Plotinus.

St. Augustine once said that when he became a Christian and tried to make sense of the Bible, it was very difficult for him.  It came across to him as almost nonsense.  And so, he read from a number of books written by philosophers that followed the train of thought begun by Plato, and went as far as to say that this helped him to make sense of the Bible.  So in other words, the work of Plato and later Plotinus, became the lenses through which Augustine made sense of the Bible.

Plato in The Republic:

“Let me further note that the manifold and complex pleasures and desires and pains are generally found in children and women and servants….  Whereas the simple and moderate desires which follow reason, and are under the guidance of the mind and true opinion, are to be found only in a few, and those the best born and best educated.”

“Very true.  These two, as you may perceive, have a place in our State; and the meaner desires of the [many] are held down by the virtuous desires and wisdom of the few.”

“Seeing then, I said, that there are three distinct classes, any meddling of one with another, or the change of one into another, is the greatest harm to the State, and may be most justly termed evil-doing?  This then is injustice.”

“You are quite right, he replied, in maintaining the general inferiority of the female sex….”

The worldview that is preferred by Plato is that a just state is made up of a hierarchy of classes and that the highest class is made up of the best born and best educated, exclusively made up of men, and that the particular needs and desires of the many (women and servants) need to be held down and kept in check.  Your blood (ethnicity, family line, race), your gender, and your education contribute to this sense of intellectual and moral superiority.  Women were considered inferior and so needed to be ruled over.  Any mixing of these classes was considered by Plato to be an injustice.  So when St. Augustine read the Bible through this lens, this is what he saw.

St. Augustine in Questions on the Heptatuech, Book 1, Section 153:

“It is the natural order among people that women serve their husbands and children their parents, because the justice of this lies in (the principle that) the lesser serves the greater…. This is the natural justice that the weaker brain serve the stronger. This therefore is the evident justice in the relationships between slaves and their masters, that they who excel in reason, excel in power.”

So we see the same concept here in the work of St. Augustine, in 4th century A.D. and he is seeing through the lens of a philosopher of ancient Greece, 4th century B.C.  Justice is a class-based society, men are in the superior class and must rule, and women are in the inferior class and must be ruled over and serve.

He says repeatedly in his Confessions, (for example Book 8 Chapter 2) that he was influenced by Plato:

“Simlicianus congratulated me that I had not fallen upon the writings of other philosophers, which were full of fallacies and deceit, “after the beggarly elements of this world” whereas in the Platonists, at every turn, the pathway led to belief in God and his Word.”

John Calvin (16th century A.D.)
A theologian frequently referred to by present-day Complementarian teachers,  pastors, and scholars.  In the seminal Complementarian work, Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, edited by Wayne Grudem and John Piper many authors cite John Calvin and his commentary work, particularly on the Epistles.  John Calvin made sense of the relationships between men and women on the basis of his understanding of the Creation account in Genesis.

What’s interesting about John Calvin, he admits to seeing the Bible through the lens of the work of St. Augustine.  So you have this worldview being passed down through literature, teaching, and modeling through culture and context – gender socilization.  In Europe during Calvin’s lifetime men were seen as superior and women as inferior.

“Augustine is so wholly with me, that if I wished to write a confession of my faith, I could do so with all fullness and satisfaction to myself out of his writings.”

“Let the woman be satisfied with her state of subjection, and not take it amiss that she is made inferior to the more distinguished sex.”

Same language as Augustine and Plato.  Many of the authors of Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, and many of the members of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood identify themselves as strictly Calvanists in their theology.  John Piper, for example, is incredibly enthusiastic about John Calvin and his work.  On his blog, http://www.desiringgod.org, he identifies himself as a “7 Point Calvanist,” and there are traditionally only 5 main points to the theological system.

And so we have the case that lenses of the 4th century B.C. are showing up in present-day commentaries of the Bible.

St. Augustine and Calvin attempt to make sense of the problem of evil, both attaching great significance to their view/understanding of Adam and Eve.  There are assumptions made by Augustine that because Adam was made first and Eve second, that Adam was in charge.  It is interesting that the Apostle Paul, when he writes about this in 1 Corinthians, he points out that although Adam was made first, all men are born of women, and both come from God.  And so I’m not sure that the order of Creation as it is referred to is an indication of leadership/authority/male-dominated hierarchy.  It certainly is not explicitly spelled out.

St. Augustine also makes a particularly Platonic assumption about the verse in Genesis in which Adam describes Eve as “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”  In the text, Eve is taken from Adam’s side.  Adam is acknowledging that this person is made of the same “stuff” as himself.  But when St. Augustine saw the word “flesh,” he automatically assumed that meant something lower than intellect, something more vulnerable to temptation.

He explains this in On John, Tractate 2, Section 14:

And how are they born? Because they become sons of God and brethren of Christ, they are certainly born. For if they are not born, how can they be sons? But the sons of men are born of flesh and blood…The apostle puts flesh for woman; because, when she was made of his rib, Adam said, “This is now bone of my bone, and flesh of my flesh.”   And the apostle saith, “He that loveth his wife loveth himself; for no one ever hated his own flesh.”  Flesh, then, is put for woman, in the same manner that spirit is sometimes put for husband. Wherefore? Because the one rules, the other is ruled; the one ought to command, the other to serve. For where the flesh commands and the spirit serves, the house is turned the wrong way. What can be worse than a house where the woman has the mastery over the man? But that house is rightly ordered where the man commands and the woman obeys. In like manner that man is rightly ordered where the spirit commands and the flesh serves.

So that’s how St. Augustine makes sense of Adam saying “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”  His automatic perception of the woman being referred to as flesh is that she must be ruled and that there is something not quite right with her.  And that the man equals the spirit, and the spirit must rule over the flesh (which isn’t quite right), and so the man must rule over the woman.  What I find interesting is that the man is never compared to the Spirit.  Augustine projects that onto the text, seeing something that is not there – but he is seeing what he already believes.  And he believes this because he agrees with the philosophical writings of Plato from the 4th century B.C. 

It is also the case that St. Augustine had male-leadership modeled for him in the culture of Rome but also in his own home, in which his father dominated his mother, including physical beatings which his mother blamed herself for, and St. Augustine agreed that was right. 

So we have role modeling of male domination reinforced in the home through violence, specific teaching of male-dominance through the philosophical work of Plato, and we evidently have St. Augustine internalizing this gender socialization so that the norms of his society became the norms in his mindset, it became the lenses through which he read the Bible and understood God’s revelation.  But we can see that his reasoning is flawed, because the man is not compared to the Spirit and the woman is not compared to flesh in the sense that she is somehow evil or less-than a man.  That is not, I believe, what Adam had in mind when he referred to Eve as “bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh.”  Adam obviously historically precedes Plato and does not seem to have a Platonic view of his wife.  That’s being projected onto Adam just as it is being projected onto Paul in his Epistles.

These norms have also been internalized by present-day teachers/commentators, and have also been internalized historically by Bible translators.  Here are some discrepancies we can find in our translations of the Bible, in which some are clearly coming from a profoundly Patriarchal lens is beign used to make sense of the text.  One of the most prominent comes from Isaiah 3:12.

As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. King James Version

Women ruling over Israel is apparently a bad thing.  We see this despite the fact that Deborah was a judge.  People went to Deborah seeking wisdom, and she would render judgment.  She was also prophetic and this was good, this was of God.  She gave instructions to a man who was to lead an army into battle.  She was a leader with God’s blessing to fulfill this function.  So why would it seem to suggest that women ruling over Israel is a bad thing?

In the Greek Septuagint, this same verse gives us a completely different understanding.  Translated into English directly from the Greek, we have:

Oh my people, your extractors strip you and extortioners rule over you.

So we have different translations with additions made by scribes, many generations after the text was originally written.  Depending on these small marks added by scribes, you could read that children and women are being oppressive, or you could read that extractors and extortioners are oppressing Israel.

The King James Version was translated all by men, during a period of history when male-domination was normative in the culture, and the theological work of St. Augustine was prominent, from the 4th century on and particularly through the Middle Ages. 

The work of St. Augustine and the translation work of St. Jerome – this work was incredibly influential when it came to making sense of the Bible in the Middle Ages, and that explains why the KJV would say that women ruling is a bad thing, in contradiction to the Septuagint.

We find other discrepancies between the KJV and the Greek New Testament.  Phoebe was referred to in the Greek as a deacon, diacanos, and in the KJV, as a “servant” rather than “deacon” (where sometimes diacanos is translated “minister”).   Later, Phoebe is referred to with a noun in Greek, prostatis, and a verb form is used repeatedly throughout the New Testament to indicate positions of leadership and ruling, and yet the KJV translates prostatis in Phoebe’s case as “helper.”  There is no suggestion that Phoebe could have been in a position of leadership.

Here is a link to an excellent article that expands on this in great detail by Elizabeth A. McCabe.  She does an excellent job describing how the words used to describe Phoebe are the same words to describe Paul, Timothy, and elders.  Some argue that the difference in translation is due to context, but in Romans 16, Paul is simply introducing Phoebe and commending her for her work.

Another example of problematic translation occurs in Ephesians 5.  We’ve got the oldest known translation for Ephesians talking about “submitting one to another out of reverence for Christ.”  That’s in 5:21.  There is one instance of this verb translated “submit.”  In later manuscripts, we have another instance of this verb added to text by scribes, in 5:22 – a specific command to wives, “Wives, submit to your husbands”, also translated, “Wives, be subject to your husbands” (NASV).

It’s one thing to say “Be subject one to another” and then provide examples of how that might apply to wives and then to husbands, but the additional command, “Husbands, be subject to your wives” is not present.  Husbands are asked to love their wives as Christ loves the church.

What is interesting is that is it not the relationship of Christ as Lord and head of the Church that husbands are commanded to emulate, it is the example of Jesus taking upon himself the form of a servant.  Philippians 2 tells us, “Jesus did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but rather took upon himself the role of  a servant and was obedient even to the point of death on the cross.”  And this is the example given to husbands in Ephesians, how husbands are to serve their wives.  “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve and became a ransom for all,” and “The greatest among you will become a slave of all.”

This is powerful language.  Jesus is trying to teach his followers  that there is a different way he wants them to relate to others, different from the rest of the world where people are trying to rule over others and be the one in charge.  Jesus was telling them, forget that and focus on serving.  He modelled that when he washed his disciples feet, dressing himself as a slave and performing the function of a slave in washing their feet.  John Piper writes that the disciples still knew who was in charge, but that doesn’t fit their reactions.  Peter’s first reaction was to forbid it, “No Lord!  I won’t permit it!  I won’t accept you functioning as my slave!”  And Jesus replied, “If you want to be clean, if you want to be mine, you have to allow me to do this.”

There is this incredible example being role modeled for his disciples, and he says, “As I have done for you, do for one another.”  And later he says, “A new commandment I give you, that you love one another.”  One translation of Philippians 2 says, “In all your relationships, have the same attitude as Christ Jesus, who didn’t see God’s authority as something to be grasped and used to his own advantage, but rather he took upon himself the form of a servant and served with love.”

And so looking at Ephesians 5, and when we don’t add in the additional command to wives to be subject to your husband, we get a picture of Christians submitting to one another, serving one another in love.  It’s a beautiful picture.

Another Bible verse that is problematic in terms of its translation is 1 Timothy 2:12-15, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” and then Paul makes reference to the Creation account with Eve being deceived and Adam not being deceived, and also to being saved in child-bearing, which has puzzled the church for centuries.

One of the main verbs used in this particular portion of the Bible, is authentein, an infinitive Greek verb, used one time in the New Testament.  Most of the other times “authority” occurs in the NT, it is translated from excousia, which has a clear indication of authority.  Authentein, however, can’t be found elsewhere in the Bible unless we look at the Wisdom literature in the Septuagint, specifically the Wisdom of Solomon, in which there is a noun form almost identical to authentein, authentas, and it referes to people who commit murder in the ritual sacrifice to a false god or idol.  There is no sense of positive authority with authentas in the wisdom of Solomon in the Septuagint.

So why do we have ritual murder for authentas on the one hand, and exercise authority on the other hand in Paul’s epistle.  The word authentein became associated with “authority” through the work of the early Church Fathers, Greek and Roman, who began to use it in this sense almost exclusively.  There are a few references to some form of the word authentein that does seem to equate to “exercise authority,” so I’m not saying its an impossible use of the word.  But it is certainly not the most common use.

A book was published in 2010 that does an extensive study of all the variations of the word, authentein from 200 B.C. to 200 A.D., with the Biblical era as the intentional center of this range.  William Willshire made use of an online database of every instance occurring in writing from that range, with the following definitions:

– “doer of a massacre”
– “author of crimes”
– “perpetrators of sacrilege”
– “supporter of violent actions”
– “murderer of oneself”
– “sole power”
– “perpetrator of slaughter”
– “murderer”
– “slayer”
– “slayer of oneself”
– “authority”
– “perpetrator of evil”
– “one who murders by his own hand”

(Polybius, Diodorus Siculus, Philo, psuedo-Clement, Appian of Alexander, Irenaeus, Harpocration, Phrynicus, as cited in Wilshire, Leeland, “Insight Into Two Biblical Passages: Anatomy of a Prohibition”, University Press, 2010).

If we’re trying to decide which meaning is the best, we need to look at the context of the letter and the context of the intended audience of the letter.  Paul was writing to Timothy who was pastoring in Ephesus and Paul was incredibly concerned about false teaching.  He was concerned about people who were forbidding marriage and sexual activity, and were commanding people to abstain from eating certain foods.  They thought their lifestyle of self-denial gave them special knowledge about/revelation from God which made them teachers of the Law.  Paul says to Timothy, “Guard against these teachers of the Law.”

We talked about some of the uses of authentein being from historians like Diodorus Siculus, and others, and these historians not only make use of the word authentein repeatedly, they also describe the culture of Ephesus.  They describe it in these terms (Diodorus Siculus):

“Beside the river of Thermadon, therefore, a nation ruled by females held sway, in which women pursued the arts of war just like men…. To the men she relegated the spinning of wool and other household tasks of women. She promulgated laws whereby she led forth the women to martial strife, while on the men she fastened humiliation and servitude. She would maim the arms and legs of male children, making them useless for service in war.” (as cited in Murphy, 1989, p. 58).

Another historian from the 1st century B.C., Pompeius Trogus, supplies us with additional information about this “nation ruled by females”:

“They also dismissed all thought of intermarriage with their neighbours, calling it slavery rather than marriage. They embarked instead upon an enterprise unparalleled in the whole of history, that of building up a state without men and then actually defending it themselves, out of contempt for the male sex…. Then, with peace assured by their military success, they entered into sexual relationships with surrounding peoples so that their line would not die out. Males born of such unions they put to death, but girls they brought up in a way that adapted them to their own way of life….

After conquering most of Europe, they also seized a number of city-states in Asia. Here they founded Ephesus.” (as cited in Yardley, 1994, p. 29).

More recent historians have also studied this culture where women were dominant and men were maimed as children.  Historians Neal and Ferguson describe the spiritual teaching of this culture in Ephesus.  Women were seen as good and the source of life, and men were seen as evil.  In Ephesus, the deity that was worshipped was known as Cybele, and when Greeks immigrated they called her Artemis, and the Temple of Artemis became world-renowned.  If you wanted to become a priest in the service of Cybele, you had to be castrated.  Men castrated themselves so that they would be acceptable to the goddess, because male sexuality was seen as a source of evil.  These women wanted to bear children, so they would mate with surrounding people, so they would at times get pregnant and give birth, and women frequently died in child-birth, and they would call on Cybele to save them in child-bearing.

Paul wrote abut salvation in child-birth because of this culture, and he writes to Timothy about Adam also being a source of life, because of their views on women as the source of life and men as the source of evil.  It is also important to look at authentein in light of this culture.  Is it referring to simply exercising authority or some sort of violent domination?  If Paul is writing to a context where the Goddess Cybele is being worshipped, that sees women as dominant, male sexuality as unacceptable, that encourages men to be holy through doing violence to themselves through ritual emasculation…Is it really likely that Paul is saying that all women should not have authority over men in the church, or is he saying that women should not teach and practice ritual violence against men?  Frankly, the repeated use of the word authentein to describe ritual violence and because of the spiritual cultish practices occurring in Ephesis, it makes more sense to translate authentein to describe violence or abusive domination.

Why have Bible translators seemed to overlook these prevalent understandings of authentein and the Ephesian context of female-domination?

Leeland Whilshire looks at St. Jerome’s 4th century translation of authentein in terms of leadership rather than violence.  He says that authentein can be translated to the Latin dominari, referring to domination over men.  This is one of the first instances of translation from Greek into another language, and the notion of violence is lost in the translation.  Later translations also lose sense of the sense of domination.  In the Reformation, Bibles translated into German and later English, simply talked of authentein in term s of exercising authority.

All this to say that the mindset of the translator plays a pivotal role in this process.  If someone doesn’t believe that women can have authority over men – if they’ve already internalized that cultural norm, if its become their cognitive lens through which they make sense of the world and the Bible, and you see this word in the Bible, how are you going to translate it?  They make these decisions in translation on the basis of their own socialization.  There is mounting evidence that our gender socialization does impact the cognitive lenses through which we make sense  of the world around us, and that includes how we make sense of the Bible.  We may see what appears to be a male-dominated gender hierarchy in the Bible, but we may be seeing what we’ve already internalized to be normal, but that might not be an accurate reflection of the original language or the original message of the Bible as it was intended by the author in his original context. 

For reflection/prayer:

What are my cultural lenses?

What has my role modeling been?

What has my teaching been?

What has my reinforcement been?

Have I been raised in a patriarchal family structure?

Have I been raised in a patriarchal social culture?

Have I been raised in a patriarchal church?

Am I reading translations of the Bible in English that add verses/headings that do not occur in the original Greek that encourage female submission?

What is my gender socialization and how is that impacting how I read the Bible and what God is saying about the role of women in the church and home?



Once again, here is the link to the video on Youtube, and Bob Edwards’ blog.

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