Christianity: Doctrine and Ethics

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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Christian Feminism? (III)

The Fraud of Some Ideologues
It has been a quiet week in Yorba Linda. Either everyone hit the “delete” button on the last Ethos I sent out or no one was able to come up with any cold hard facts about our discrimination of females in the Christian Church in general and in the PCA in particular. For the present, I’m going to take the lack of response as an indicator that even though we’re still struggling with our sinful natures that things are relatively harmonious and biblical in our churches. Again, I’m not saying that things are perfect, but it’s becoming increasingly evident to me that some of the instances of the “squashing” of our sisters in the Lord is somewhat contrived.
The other thought that keeps rushing into my one functioning brain cell is that this issue might be located more in academia than in the local congregation or it might very well be the product of church planting and a lack of willingness on the church planter’s part to lay his cards on the table up front about what Scripture says even to intelligent women. I find this phenomenon surprising in that I have been married to an awesome woman now for almost forty years. She has a B.A degree and, until we moved from Toronto, was a 4.0 GPA student at Ontario Theological Seminary in a Masters program. My wife is well-read—for a woman—, highly competent, a financial genius, a godly woman, great speaker, and a strong personality.
Granted, there are times when we have intense fellowship, but her gifts are not a threat to me or the members at Grace and she knows full well—and accepts it as biblical—that there are role differences between men and women. So with all the hoopla in the modern Church about the roles of women it seems to me that Yogi Berra hit it on the head when he said, “It’s déjà vu all over again.” Are we now being required to go back and fight the same battles we fought back in the early 1970s? What is all the more intriguing to me is that some of very pastors who had to endure the “consciousness raising” battles “back in the day” seem to have less problem with women’s roles in the Church today. Or, maybe the whole thing is just a hoax or one huge exaggeration. We certainly know that ideologues can be given to that. One example will suffice.
In 2005, one of my personal favorites, Katie Couric (she’s right up there with Diane Sawyer and Rosie O’Donnell), checked in with feminist guru(ess) Ms. Gloria Steinem. The thrust of the interview was to ascertain how feminism was faring thirty years down the road. As you might expect, Steinem “lamented that women still faced gross wage discrimination.”[1] What made Steinem’s comments doubly funny was that Couric makes $13 million a year with NBC. I wouldn’t mind a little of that discrimination. What Ms. Couric might have said to Ms. Steinem was something along the lines of, “Well, you know, Gloria, sex discrimination in salaries has been against federal law for over forty years now in the United States as well as the hard fact “that average wages don’t reflect the number of hours worked or relative experience or the laws of supply and demand.”[2]
But the Couric/Steinem debacle was just another piece of fraudulent disinformation living under the guise: If it’s on TV it must be true. In actuality, that interview was little more than the culmination of decades of indoctrination and brainwashing. Unfortunately, many of the tenets of Feminism taught or otherwise disseminated through the culture have found their way into the modern Church so that few ever stop and ponder the presuppositions of why we are having the discussion about the role and place of women in the Church today. In fact, the modern discussions about “women in the church” is pretty much the same old rigmarole that we had in the mid-1970s. Again, one example will suffice. I have a copy of Dr. John D. Crocker’s article, “How Much Does Gender Matter Here?” It seems that the good doctor wants to present his congregation with some insights into the matter. Predictably, the same old worn-out, hackneyed mantras from the 1970s “hermeneutical discussions” are trotted out and dusted off under the guise of being “fresh” and “new.”

Dr. Crocker’s Crock
Dr. Crocker can do no better than to deliver the screeds that 1) certain texts in the Bible are culturally-bound or culturally-conditioned; 2) What about Deborah?; and 3) Galatians 3:2,8 [sic] obliterates the distinction between males and females.[3] Dr. Crocker also reminds us that “Hermeneutics is one of the most important courses in an evangelical seminary for those who would become pastors.”[4] This is true and it would have behooved Dr. Crocker to have paid closer attention to those lectures.

Culturally Bound/Conditioned
First, all of the Bible is culturally conditioned if we mean by that that it was written in particular Eastern languages (Hebrew and Greek), to particular people, and in particular times. In this sense, not only is the Bible “culturally conditioned,” but everything ever written is. Of course, Dr. Crocker has a (hidden) agenda. What he wants to do is to get us to the point where we place greeting each other with a holy kiss is on par with Paul’s prohibition against women teaching. It is really quite amazing how Dr. Crocker is willing to jump through all kinds of inconsequential hoops to make his point. His method qualifies him as a finalist as King of the Non Sequitur.
What do I mean? Let me explain. Dr. Crocker—and a whole lot of others like him—want us to believe that if we can locate one text—greet each other with a holy kiss—that we can apply the principle of culturally bound to any text we want. Wrong. For example, Paul’s text in question (1 Timothy 2:8-15) is considered to be culturally bound based on the “kissing” principle. Since his text is 1 Timothy 2:8-15 it is to the text we shall go. What is the reason that Paul gives for a woman not teaching or exercising authority over men? Is it culture? No, it is creation (cf. vv. 13-14), but Dr. Crocker is either dishonest or has not read the text carefully. His agenda is located in his heading about this text where he claims that “The responsibility of teaching in the New Testament era was different from today.” For those who have not been to seminary and taken advanced courses in hermeneutics, this approach is known as the “truth by declaration” hermeneutic. Dr. Crocker has given us no convincing reason why we should suppose that the responsibility of teaching in the New Testament was different from now nor has he demonstrated from the text that his thesis is actually the case. This is irresponsible interpretation.

I thought we had actually beaten the Deborah story to death, but apparently Dr. Crocker wants to “pile on” just one more time. Two of the best expositions of Deborah’s case are located in books still available to Christian readers. The first, edited by John Piper and Wayne Grudem is entitled Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood[5] and of more recent vintage Rebecca Jones’ work Does Christianity Squash Women?[6] I only have time to touch on these valuable works briefly, but I’d encourage you to get them and read them carefully. In addition, I’d also recommend that you visit the web site of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood ( on a regular basis. The resources there will enable you to cut through Dr. Crocker’s (and his ilk’s) superficiality.
Dr. Crocker’s brand of “just mention the example” hermeneutic hardly does justice to God’s redemptive-historical dealings with his people. Back in the 1970s people were clamoring about Deborah (and Huldah) as prophetesses. Thomas Schreiner has written an article (“The Valuable Ministries of Women in the Context of Male Leadership: A Survey of Old and New Testament Examples and Teaching”)[7] where he observes that it is clear that women prophesied in both testaments. Looking at 1 Corinthians 11:2-16, Schreiner asserts that this text is “absolutely crucial for rightly understanding a woman’s relationship to man as she prophesies.”[8] The thrust of this text is “that women who prophesy do so with proper adornment. Why is Paul concerned about how they are adorned? Because a woman’s adornment says something about her relationship with men.”[9] (We need to hold on to this last sentence because it will come back into play when we assess Crocker’s interpretation of the 1 Timothy 2 text.)
At the same time, however, it is essential to note (hermeneutically) that “Both Deborah and Huldah (2 Kings 22:14-20) exercised their gift of prophecy differently from the men who possessed the gift. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and other male prophets exercised a public ministry where they proclaimed the word of the Lord. But note that Deborah did not prophecy [sic] in public.”[10] Huldah “did not publicly proclaim God’s word. Rather, she explained in private the word of the Lord when Josiah sent messengers to her. She exercised her prophetic ministry in a way that did not obstruct male headship.”[11]
Moreover, when you do a comparison (hermeneutically) of the other judges in the book of Judges, we are explicitly told that they were raised up by the Lord.[12] The case of Deborah was different. There “is no explicit statement that the Lord raised her up.”[13] Why is that? Rebecca Jones believes that “Deborah appears in the book of Judges, which describes the moral degradation into which God’s people slide when each man does what is ‘right in his own eyes,’ and there is ‘no king in Israel’ (Judg. 21:25 ESV).”[14] Dr. Crocker would have served us all better had he mentioned some key aspects of Deborah’s function as judge.
First, he could have easily pointed out that in the book of Judges “Deborah is a special case because she seems to be the only judge in Judges who has no military function. The other judges also lead Israel into victory in battle, but Deborah receives a word from the Lord that Barak is to do this (Judges 4:6-7).”[15]
Second, “It is instructive to note in the Old Testament that some women were prophets, but never priests.”[16] It would be very helpful in order to interpret this text properly—within its context—if Dr. Crocker—and others like him—would be willing to point such matters out, even if they do not fit with their agendas.
I want to make three more observations and then move on to other things is subsequent installments.
First, Dr. Crocker instructs his readers that in 1 Timothy 2:12 that he does not permit a woman to teach “he had a different kind of teaching in mind from what we envision today.” Moreover, “The tense of the Greek word which Paul used for ‘permit’ should be interpreted in the sense of ‘permit for now’. Literally ‘I am not permitting,’ which does not imply a timeless principle. Okay. Let’s deal with his assertions in turn.
It is very interesting (hermeneutically) how Dr. Crocker concludes from the text that there was a different kind of teaching envisioned in the text than what we experience today. Another possibility is that Dr. Crocker is intentionally attempting to blunt the thrust of Paul’s words. A possible answer would go like this: “A third attempt at blunting Paul’s teaching is to give the Greek word translated here ‘to have authority’ a negative meaning such as ‘to domineer’ or ‘to control.’ Thus Paul would be prohibiting a patently negative activity—‘I do not permit a woman to teach or domineer a man.’ This would allow women to teach and exercise authority over men as long as it is not done in a controlling, domineering way. Though the word could mean domineer in some contexts, it cannot mean this here. The reason is that the word ‘or’ (oude), which connects ‘to teach’ and ‘to have authority,’ always requires that both words be either positive or negative. If they were negative, the phrase could read, ‘I do not permit a woman to teach error or to domineer over a man.’ But this cannot be the translation here because ‘to teach’ is always viewed positively in the New Testament and in its many uses in 1 and 2 Timothy.”[17]
Another attempt to set the impact of Paul’s words aside in this text is precisely the argument that Crocker employs. That is to say, when Paul writes that he does not permit a woman to teach “it is in the present indicative and not in the imperative, and that he is therefore speaking personally about a temporary arrangement.”[18] Generally speaking (hermeneutically of course), if this were true of the text in question, it would be true of all New Testament texts where we find the present indicative. Therefore, the New Testament would be full of “temporary arrangements.” But Dr. Crocker does not desire that all texts be treated this way, although he has not given any sufficient grounds or reasons why he wants this particular text to be treated in such a fashion. Indeed, his approach ignores “the fact that Paul often used present indicatives to give universal and authoritative instruction (cf. especially Romans 12:1 and 1 Timothy 2:8). Also, to argue that Paul’s instruction is temporary ignores the context because in the next verse he immediately rests his prohibition against women teaching and exercising authority on the unchanging order of creation. Paul’s prohibition here is universal and enduring.”[19]
This being the case, it would appear that Crocker has neglected the present indicative in 1 Timothy 2:8 (part of his text) and has applied his hermeneutical principles quite selectively.

One in Christ
Finally, as far as the Galatians 3:28 text is concerned, I thought Crocker’s assertion (Paul makes it clear that in Christ the distinction between males and females in Christian life is obliterated—emphasis mine) passed out of existence among thinking people a long time ago. Apparently, it did not. At face value, this is a ludicrous, ridiculous statement. Thankfully, the distinction between males and females is still alive and well. What does Dr. Crocker mean by the word “obliterated”? If we limit ourselves to dictionary definitions, we are left with the following: “to erase,” “to blot out,” “to efface,” “to cancel,” “to render imperceptible,” “to destroy,” or “to leave no clear traces of.”[20]
But that can hardly be the meaning of the apostle in the context of Galatians three, which deals with the notion of justification by faith. Martin Luther interprets the text not to mean that all distinctions are obliterated, but rather the various offices that God has ordained for us do not affect our standing “in Christ” as justified sinners.[21] This is precisely what a “normal” reading of the text gives us. Few would come away from reading what Paul wrote in Galatians 3 with the idea that every distinction known to man is now obliterated. All you have to do is look around you and understand that as much as the social engineers and utopians would like it, there will never be a “level playing field.”
The Dutch New Testament scholar, Herman Ridderbos, writes concerning Galatians 3:28: “This is not to maintain that the natural and social distinction is in no respect relevant any more (cf. e.g., Eph. 6:5, 1 Tim. 6:1, Titus 2:9, 1 Peter 2:18, 1 Cor. 11:3ff., 14:34ff., and 1 Tim. 2:11ff.). From the point of view of redemption in Christ, however, and of the gifts of the Spirit granted by Him, there is no preference of Jew to Greek, master to slave, man to woman.”[22]
Theodor Zahn (a commentary with teeth!) agrees that Paul’s words are descriptive of the believer’s union with Christ and not with the obliteration of distinctions.[23] In fact, Zahn believes that an “unpacking” of the words “to put on Christ” is a commentary on what Paul is saying in Galatians 3:28 and is concentrated on bringing “in Christ” into relationship with being a member of the Church of our Lord in the very first place, taking precedence over all other “offices” to which we are called.[24]
Of course, all of this has been known for quite some time. The problem is that there are those who insist on disregarding all of this research and rush headlong into “domino-like” ground. We need to keep in mind that not only is Dr. Crocker operating—consciously or unconsciously—under a clearly discernible set of presuppositions, but others like him are as well.
The question is: What are those presuppositions precisely? And even though we might not be able to delineate each one of them individually, we can certainly get a good idea of what they are by going back into history. The early to mid-1970s were a watershed for both secular as well as “Christian” Feminism. It is a fascinating cultural phenomenon to trace how secular Feminism and its tenets not only infiltrated our secular universities with “consciousness raising” and the advent of various “Women’s Studies” curricula, but also how this same phenomenon, with many of the same presuppositions, crept into local churches as well as our theological seminaries. In our next installment we will, Lord willing, begin to trace the rise of Feminism in the mid-1970s and begin to ask ourselves how this impacts us today.

[1] Kate O’Beirne, Women Who Make the World Worse, (NY: Sentinel, 2006), p. 48. Italics mine.
[2] Ibid., 54.
[3] Dr. John D. Crocker, “How Much Does Gender Matter Here?” Inside First Free, (Winter 2007), p. 3.
[4] Ibid.
[5] John Piper & Wayne Grudem, Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1991).
[6] Rebecca Jones, Does Christianity Squash Women? A Christian Looks at Womanhood, (Nashville: Broadman & Holman, 2005).
[7] Schreiner, RBMW, 209-224.
[8] Ibid., 215.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid., 216.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid. Comp. Othniel (3:9), Ehud (3:15); Gideon (6:14), Jephthah (11:29), and Samson (13:25; 14:6). Schreiner goes on to comment: “Less prominent judges are only treated with a summary of one to three verses: Shamgar (3:31), Tola (10:1-2), Jair (10:3-5), Ibzan (12:8-10), Elon (12:11-12), and Abdon (12:13-15). The author devotes more attention to Abimelech (9:1-57), but he was clearly wicked and there is no indication that the Lord empowered or called him.” (p. 504, note 4.)
[13] Ibid.
[14] Jones, Christianity, 74.
[15] Schreiner, RBMW, 216.
[16] Ibid., 217. Italics mine.
[17] R. Kent Hughes & Bryan Chapell, 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2000), p. 67. Italics mine. Comp. George W. Knight III, The Pastoral Epistles, in the series The New International Greek Testament Commentary, (W. Ward Gasque & I. Howard Marshall [eds.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), p. 141. See also, William Hendriksen, Thessalonians, Timothy and Titus, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 19865) and Herman Ridderbos, De Pastorale Brieven, (Kampen: Kok, 1967).
[18] Hughes, Timothy, 67.
[19] Ibid., 67-68.
[20] From the Latin oblitero, erase.
[21] Martin Luther, Der Galaterbrief, Vorlesung von 1531, (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1980), p. 208 where Luther comments: “Denn in Christus sind alle Stände nichts, auch wenn sie von Gott verordnet sind. Mann, Frau, Knecht, Freier, Jude, Heide, König, Untergebener etc. sind zwar alle gute Kreaturen Gottes, aber in Christus, d. h. wenns um das ewige Heil geht, sind sie mit all ihrer Weisheit, Gerechtigkeit, Religion und Macht nichts.”
[22] Herman Ridderbos, The Epistle of Paul to the Churches of Galatia, in the series The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (F.F. Bruce [ed.] & Henry Zylstra [trans.]), (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953), p. 149. Italics mine.
[23] Theodor Zahn, Der Brief des Paulus an die Galater, (Leipzig: A. Deichertsche Verlagsbuchhandlung Dr. Werner Scholl, 1922), p. 187 states, “Durch den Glauben sind sie Söhne Gottes geworden, und sie sind dies, sofern sie in Christus sind.”
[24] Ibid., 188 where Zahn writes that the words "put on Christ" comprise “…das große Wort von der Aufhebung jedes nationalen, socialen und geschlechtlichen Unterschiedes unter den Menschen, sofern es sich um sie als Glieder der Gemeinde, als Personen im Verhältnis zu Gott handelt.”

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Christian Feminism? (II)

Underlying Presuppositions of Feminism
I am arguing that it is both wrong and spiritually harmful for modern Christians to speak about “Christian Feminism” or being “Biblical Feminists.” As we progress I hope to make it abundantly clear why I’m taking the stance that I am. To gainsay these well-accepted mantras is tantamount to touching one of modern evangelicalism’s “sacred cows,” but it needs to be said and repeated. Fortunately, there are a number of conservative Christians who have not bowed the knee to this “Baal,” and we can all be thankful for their untiring efforts for the Church.
A couple of disclaimers are in order. First, I’m not saying that any and all who hold to Christian Feminism are not Christians. I do believe, however, that they are misguided and that their exegesis of the pertinent texts is not only inaccurate, but, more importantly, is often filled—consciously or unconsciously—by some of the major tenets of secular Feminism.
Second, no one is denying that abuses have and still do occur. In the history of the Church, up to and including our time, some men have misused or abused their God-ordained positions. Such is the nature of sin. Just to level the playing field a little I would hasten to add that some women also have abused their position and have demanded their “rights” based on the implicit or explicit influence of secular Feminism in their lives. Both are wrong; both are unbiblical. I am condoning neither of these practices.
As we progress, I will use examples of how men have misused their authority and abdicated their positions as male leaders in the home and in their local congregations. I will also point out that some of the tactics that women have used to seek to change a perceived “patriarchy” in the Church were fueled by secularism more than by the Bible. As we begin this installment, I would like for us to concentrate on two key isms that are the foundational pillars of Feminism: Existentialism and Marxism.

One of the early leaders of modern Feminism was the mistress (read: fornicator) of Jean Paul Sartre, Simone deBeauvoir. Her groundbreaking volumes The Second Sex (Le Deuxieme Sexe) appeared in French at the end of the 1940s and the translated editions arrived on American shores in 1953. DeBeauvoir’s many theses lay dormant until the United States rushed into the mania and irrationality of “Hippie Movement” and the anti-war sentiments surrounding U.S. involvement in Vietnam.
DeBeauvoir was a “smart cookie.” She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, where she met Sartre. (In one sense, she wasn’t all that smart, because if she were, she would not have become an unpaid prostitute, but of such stuff intelligentsia can be susceptible.) Their relationship was somewhat tempestuous, but their common ground was not merely philosophy but a particular brand of philosophy: existentialism. Perhaps Sartre summarized existentialism best when he reminded us that man is a useless passion. He worked that thesis out in many of his works and plays, but probably most completely in his book Being and Nothingness. One can only wonder why it took him 798 pages to explain his point! Existence, then, for Sartre—and deBeauvoir—is concrete, individual being here and now. Moreover, existence always possesses a subjective quality when applied to human reality.
R.C. Sproul explains existentialism this way: “In its most basic definition existentialism is a philosophy about human existence. It views man not so much in terms of his mind or his soul, but of his will, his feelings.”[1] The paradigm shift brought to the life of 20th century man/woman by existentialism was a re-emphasis on feelings—in the first place. Again Sproul writes, “The accent has changed from thinking to feeling. Feelings have become the new standard of human ‘truth.’ Even our ethics are decided by the litmus test of passion.”[2]
Granted, not everyone is going to slug or plough through Being and Nothingness Sartre had to come up with a way to get his thoughts to the popular culture. What made Sartre’s philosophy so palatable were his plays—the medium is the message. By means of this popular medium, Sartre could “spoon feed” an otherwise unknowing audience his philosophical ideas. After all, it’s just a play; it’s just entertainment. When the Baby Boomers who did not fry their brains on drugs during the 1960s and early 1970s reflect a little they’ll recall that one of the mottos that was heard everywhere was Sartre’s philosophy: If it feels good, do it!”
A major tenet of existentialism is therefore, “the individual is entirely free, and must therefore accept commitment and full responsibility for his acts and decisions in an uncertain and purposeless world.”[3] But clearly there was a great deal more that deBeauvoir wanted to get across in her philosophy and worldview. Women needed to organize (get organized) and declare war on women being “the second sex.”[4] How was this to be achieved? According to deBeauvoir a twofold plan of attack was necessary: First, to dismantle the notion of male superiority and second by refusing to succumb to the traditional roles that had been handed down to women.[5]
Those traditional roles of wife, mother, and sweetheart were a prison for women rather than their liberation.[6] Her solution was that what truly favors a woman’s liberation is comprised of “all forms of socialism” and “wresting woman away from the family.”[7] What I just quoted needs our undivided attention. DeBeauvoir opted for a world in which the State “assumed responsibility for the maternal functions that burdened women and restricted their participation in the work force.”[8] It is clearly evident that our modern society has echoed deBeauvoir’s words and has made good inroads in their implementation. Universal day care is a political bone of contention and by many is considered a “right.” A number of social engineers have created a mindset that there is nothing wrong and everything right with dropping your kid off at a State-controlled day care center while both parents merrily go off to work.
If you want to hear something chilling, listen to deBeauvoir’s words written in the late 1940s and ask yourself how they fit into our contemporary culture. She wrote, “A world where men and women would be equal is easy to visualize, for that precisely is what the Soviet Revolution promised: women raised and trained exactly like men were to work under the same conditions and for the same wages…maternity was to be voluntary, which meant that contraception and abortion be authorized and that, on the other hand, all mothers and their children were to have exactly the same rights, in or out of marriage; pregnancy leaves paid for by the state, which would assume charge of the children…”[9] Eerie, eerie, eerie.
Mary Kassian says it so well: “DeBeauvoir viewed departure from the role of wife and mother and the establishment of economic and professional independence as the key to women’s equality with men. Her model was socialist. It demanded the revolt of the ‘bourgeoisie’ of women and encouraged state-regulated laws to overcome social mores and patterns of behavior.” [10] Even in some Christian circles today “professional” women, i.e., career-oriented women in the “work force” tend to get more kudos and are, by some, deemed more valuable than the “stay-at-home-mom.”

Liberation Theology
In 1971 the Roman Catholic theologian, Gustavo Gutiérrez, wrote Teología de la liberación, Perspectivas.[11] Gutiérrez desired to have the world re-think the relationship between theology and liberation. He traced the process from the critique of developmentalism to social revolution and included a section of material on man, the master of his own destiny. Gutiérrez concluded that liberation “expresses the aspirations of oppressed peoples and social classes, emphasizing the conflictual aspect of the economic, social, and political process which puts them at odds with wealthy nations and oppressive classes.”[12] It does not take a rocket scientist to observe the Marxist leanings in Gutiérrez’s comments. He continues, “At a deeper level, liberation can be applied to an understanding of history. Man is seen as assuming conscious responsibility for his own destiny. This understanding provides a dynamic context and broadens the horizons of the desired social changes.”[13]
It wasn’t long before Letty Russell (Human Liberation in a Feminist Perspective: A theology [1974]) and Rosemary Radford Ruether (Liberation Theology: Human Hope Confronts Christian History and American Power, [1972]) took Gutiérrez’s concepts and tailored them to what at one time was called women’s liberation. A parallel was drawn between the plight of the Third World countries, especially the Latin American people, and the condition of women. It was a ridiculous parallel, but as we shall see, Feminism became the queen of the non sequitur. Kassian remarks that “Feminist scholars claimed the domination of women by men was ‘the most ancient and persistent form of the subjection of one human being to a permanent status of inferiority because of sex.’”[14] These feminist scholars firmly believed, therefore, that sex discrimination was the root cause of all other forms of oppression. Even though the early feminist scholars borrowed rather heavily from Gutiérrez, they also modified his thinking in the sense that liberation meant so much more than “mere social and political change.”[15]
Just to give you an idea of how far off these scholars were they actually believed that the liberation of women “would induce the end of poverty, racial discrimination, ecological destruction, and war.”[16] It’s hard to imagine how burning your bra would be such a social panacea. At the same time, more than three decades down the road, with all the freedoms women now have, we’re still stuck with global warming (although in their day the main concern was global freezing. I’m not kidding. You can look it up.) unless you live in Chicago or Minnesota where the temperatures continue to plummet to thirty below zero!
Their arrogance is second only to their ideology. They were prepared to make these extravagant predictions if they helped the cause and if people were willing to embrace their outlandish, non-scientific claims. Apparently, a representative number of Americans were. It’s quite likely that the man or woman on the street has never even heard the names of Letty Russell or Rosemary Radford Ruether—probably a number of theologians have never heard of them either—but they certainly helped shape what has come to us at the front end of the twenty-first century in the name of Christian Feminism. They planted the seeds, helped sow the discord, and succeeded in pitting the sexes against each other. The late Francis Schaeffer once observed that whatever was happening in secular society would be within the walls of the Church in approximately seven years. He was correct.
The early feminist theologians borrowed from Gustavo Gutiérrez and modified his dualism between the wealthy and the poor and transposed it into a male-female one. In 1974, “a group of Biblical feminists founded the Evangelical Women’s Caucus (EWC).”[17] Around the same time (mid-1970s) the National Council of Churches U.S.A. established a task force on sexism in the Bible.[18] As you can see, a number of forces and movements were beginning to converge—secular and ecclesiastical—that would lend themselves to a parallel growing disenchantment among women both in society as well as in the Church. New female scholars appeared on the scene such as Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza and Mary Daly.
As “consciousness raising” became vogue in secularism so did a movement within Christendom to eliminate “sexist” language from the Bible.[19] If the 1950s were guilty of seeing a “commie” behind every tree, the 1970s were guilty of finding sexist language at every turn. Letty Russell opined, “The type of Biblical and theological language used in church services of worship, discussion groups, educational institutions, and publications still tends to exclude women from the Christian community. More and more, women are becoming conscious of their social exclusion reflected in that language and are resisting these subtle and not so subtle forms of discrimination.”[20]

Clearly, that was then and this is now, but with only slight modifications being made, the same mantras that were chanted along with Jefferson Airplane in the halcyon days of flower power are making a comeback. After having lived through and gone through the questions and debates in the 1970s it appears that the same or very similar questions are being put again. Ironically, some of the unrest is coming from PCA quarters. To hear some people discuss it, there have been few, if any, changes made in the PCA or in the attitudes of men since the time of those initial discussions.
As I stated at the outset, there is no doubt in my mind that some men—some PCA men—have abused their God-ordained spiritual leadership/headship. Some have not led their wives and families spiritually, have neglected their spiritual duties, and will answer to God for that neglect. At the same time, I find it very hard to believe that it is as bad as some people make it out to be. I’m not a person who puts his head in the sand and pretends the problem is not there. My major concern is that after twenty-five years plus of pastoral ministry I have not seen instances of what I keep hearing is going on.
That is to say, are we looking at an exception or the rule when we are confronted with these transgressions? If the tables were turned—and we need to confess that sometimes they are—would we be having this same discussion? For example, if we knew that PCA wives were verbally or physically abusing their husbands, would the cry be as loud and would we be as concerned? There is, contrary to popular opinion and conventional wisdom, adequate data to show that women do, indeed, engage in and, at time, initiate family violence. Kate O’Beirne writes, “According to a recent Department of Justice study, 27 percent of victims of family violence between 1998 and 2002 were men.”[21] Or perhaps we should change our strategy and go after PCA single-parent households, since “The rate of child abuse in single-parent households is nearly twice the rate of child abuse in two-parent families.”[22]
Thankfully, no one would consider doing any such thing, although we would be and should be attuned to the possibly of husbands and fathers neglecting their spiritual duties, wives refusing to submit, and children showing up at church with black eyes and bruises. So where is/are the origin(s) of the complaints that PCA women are being mistreated, neglected, and underused? Is this coming from established PCA churches? Is the origin colleges, universities, and seminaries? Are church planters running up against women who are disgruntled? The short answer is undoubtedly: all of the above. Nevertheless, we should be circumspect about what information we’re receiving, where that information is coming from, and the percentage of people we’re actually dealing with in the accusations.
A few easy examples will suffice. What is the precise content of the information we’re receiving about women in the PCA being mistreated or ignored? To my knowledge, no one has put together a comprehensive study that clearly and precisely delineates what the “problems” actually are. In addition, we desperately need to pinpoint where the information is coming from. Is the origin the theoretical discussions of college—PCA college or otherwise—and seminary students? Are any of the accusations grounded in reality or are we dealing primarily with theory? Are church planters dealing with a number of women who are coming out of secularism and are filled to overflowing with secular notions of what women should and should not be able to do? Are these people well versed in Scripture or are the opinions coming more from the world than from the Bible? This needs to be determined because we need to know as accurately as possible what we’re dealing with. And even though this is directed to the PCA, it also has clear implications and applications for the Church of Jesus Christ in general. I don’t want the “reporting” of what is considered to be a problem being done from the “green zone” of the PCA.
In Iraq a bunch of “perfume prince” reporters, firmly ensconced behind their state of the art laptops, wearing their Blackberries are reporting on the progress—or lack thereof—of the Iraqi War. It is an established fact that a number of those “reporters” are biased against the war and use such “buzz words” as “quagmire” on a regular basis to describe what’s happening in Iraq. Cal Thomas wrote an interesting piece on Real Clear Politics (2.13.07) that was part of an email exchange with Army Sergeant Daniel Dobson, age 22, serving his second tour in Iraq. His words run counter to what the mainstream media would have us believe. Sgt. Dobson writes, “It is our overwhelming opinion that we have not been allowed to conduct the war to the fullest of our capability; neither do we feel that we should pull out because of lack of ‘results.’ War is not a chemistry set with predetermined outcomes or complications. With a great army matched with an equally cunning enemy, we find ourselves in a difficult, but winnable fight. We do not seek results; rather, we seek total and unequivocal victory.”[23] There is an obvious variance between what the “green zone” reporters are telling us and the information we’re getting from the “boot on the ground.”
My point here is this: there are a number of spiritual “boots on the ground” in the PCA called pastors. I’d very much like to hear from them—and others—about real, documented episodes of mistreatment of our sisters in the Lord. I do not, however, want to hear unsubstantiated claims of perceived neglect/abuse from those who are not “boots on the ground.” I will listen to seminary professors, students, and others, but I’m serving notice that what you say to me must include cold, hard facts, which, according to John Adams, are stubborn things. If we have bona fide problems then let’s get them out on the table and discuss them. If not, let’s stop the carping and sniping.
What also concerns me the most are some of the “exceptions” that I hear some of my colleagues taking when they speak about the use of images in the church or the place of women. I would wager that a majority of pastors in the PCA are as thankful as I am to be surrounded by such talented and gifted women. I talk with women, laugh with them, discuss with them, listen to their innovative ideas, teach them, and preach to them. I’m always looking for ways to use the gifts of women in our congregation, but always within the confines of what Scripture teaches, what our Book of Church Order lays out, and what generally comports with being PCA.Next week we continue, Lord willing, and trace more of the presuppositions of Feminism and make some preliminary forays into the exegesis of Galatians 3:27-28.
[1] R.C. Sproul, Lifeviews, Understanding the ideas that shape society today, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1986), p. 43. Emphasis mine.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Mary A. Kassian, The Feminist Gospel, The Movement to Unite Feminism With the Church, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1992), p. 17. Italics mine.
[4] Simone deBeauvoir, The Second Sex, (NY: Random House, 1952), p. 797.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., 126.
[8] Kassian, TFG, 19.
[9] deBeauvoir, TSS, 806.
[10] Kassian, TFG, 20. Italics mine.
[11] Gustavo Gutiérrez, A Theology of Liberation, History, Politics and Salvation, (Sister Caridad Inda & John Eagleson [trans.]), (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 197310).
[12] Ibid., 36.
[13] Ibid. Italics mine.
[14] Kassian, TFG, 54, quoting Russell, p. 29.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid., 215.
[18] Ibid., 136.
[19] For example, in 1976, the National Council of Churches published a book entitled The Liberating Word: A Guide to Nonsexist Interpretation of the Bible with a number of female feminist scholars contributing articles.
[20] Letty Russell (ed.), The Liberating Word, (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1976), pp. 16-17.
[21] Kate O’Beirne, Women Who Make the World Worse, (NY: Sentinel, 2006), p. 18.
[22] Ibid., 15.
[23] Cal Thomas, “A Letter from Mosul,”, (Feb. 13, 2007), p. 1.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Christian Feminism? (I)

A Brief History Lesson
Those “silly savages,” David and Tim Bayly, over at the BaylyBlog ( recently got things heated up by re-hashing the issues of egalitarianism vs. complementarianism. I haven’t seen such a firestorm since Dr. Roy Taylor wrote his article for ByFaith magazine. It seemed pretty clear that some in the “blog-o-sphere” that wrote in were not “Presbos,” but for whatever reason, they also believed that they had a dog in this fight. Without question, the issues of women’s ordination—either as Elder or Deacon—and the place/use of women in the local church are interesting and very emotive discussions. In fact, the issue of women’s ordination kept many of us from being ordained in the PCUSA after seminary in 1975. (What a blessing!) We held debates at Gordon-Conwell with R.C. Sproul and Andrew Lincoln (back in his conservative days) squaring off against David Scholer and Gordon Fee in a public forum on the divisive issue. We also had Lisa Scanzoni and Nancy Hardesty come and address our student body on the “women’s issue” my senior year at GCTS.
So here we are in 2007 and we are still discussing these issues with a relatively high degree of intensity. One of the coming battles (the proverbial camel already has his nose well under the tent flap) is to supplant the PCA Women in the Church organization and to ordain “deaconesses.” Even though it’s not explicitly stated, the attitude seems to be that WIC is a dinosaur and is not attractive to the modern, hip, and professional working woman. How can those who are “professional” women (yes, I believe that’s the adjective that’s used. It is definitely not to be confused with the “professional” women that can be found on the street. These “professional” women have corner offices with prestigious firms and are important. They are not to be confused—at any time—with the tawdry, boring stay-at-home-mom, who doesn’t do much important) be expected to be attracted to something that is so ‘70s, ‘80s, and ‘90s. Old school; old hat.
So what we are witnessing in the PCA is a kind of “paradigm shift” that’s been brought about by cultural contextualization away from WIC and towards the more cutting edge “Deaconness.” What seems to be missing in this all is that Deacons, who are truly performing their calling, do—quite often—have to address members of the congregation in an authoritative manner. But that’s probably just me. Right.
This is almost as bad of an indictment as the length of time it took the PCA finally to make a pronouncement about women in combat. But both the issue of the place/use of women in the church as well as the matter of women in combat are still very much alive and kicking in the PCA. I was shocked at last year’s PCA General Assembly to be sitting in an area where a number of my colleagues dissented from the NAPARC’s denial of combat roles to women. If those brothers had served in the military then I thank them for their service, but cannot see any biblical wisdom in their vote in favor of putting women into combat. Such a move is definitely PC, but certainly not biblical. If those brothers have not served then they should have abstained for they have little knowledge of a combat zone and what occurs in the “fog of battle.” The battlefield is definitely no place for women, but that’s a subject that I intend to address in detail in different issues of Ethos.

The Look of the Sensitive Complementarian
So as I begin this series on “evangelical feminism,” let me lay my cards on the table from the outset. I am a complementarian,[1] but a very sensitive one. A couple of examples will have to suffice. Recently, when my wife, Sally, was having trouble washing my car because the grass got too wet and she starting slipping—and actually fell a couple of times—so I went out to Big 5 sporting goods and bought her a pair of football shoes with deep cleats. She doesn’t slip or fall anymore. One more example: three weeks ago Sally came down with a pernicious bronchitis that hit her really hard and caused her to run a very high fever. I sacrificed going shooting with the guys and took time out from my schedule to hold her up at the sink every night for a week so that she could wash the dinner dishes. Now that that’s out of the way, let’s move on to discuss what is dreadfully wrong with the time-worn(out) phrase “evangelical feminism.”
In a book released in 2006, Wayne Grudem asks if what has come to be known as “evangelical feminism” might be, in actuality, a new path to liberalism.[2] He is not accusatory, but does ask if the Church’s acceptance of the terminology might have caused it to suffer from the problem of unintended consequences. I intend to argue that it did and, in fact, still does. For those of us who engaged and were engaged by the movement known as feminism, the books that appeared from Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Germaine Greer, and others had to be digested. As for as “Hanoi” Jane Fonda (who has now morphed into “Jihad” Jane), we just knew that she was a disgrace to the country, so we neglected her and concentrated on the “heavy guns.” Now more than thirty years down the road some seem intent on hanging on to a name that has all types of negative baggage, but also then attaching it to the gospel; hence evangelical feminism, but the emphasis must still be placed on both words. What is evangelical feminism (how does it differ from its secular, non-Christian counterpart?) and what is evangelical feminism?
What I want to do in this introductory installment is to go back in time and allow some of the founding “sisters” of feminism pass in review. I want to do this because there are some evangelicals who, as I mentioned, are insisting on holding on to the word “feminism” to describe what they are saying. I found the following comment by R.C. Sproul to be both helpful and instructive when we’re dealing with any –ism, but particularly with “evangelical feminism.” Here is Sproul’s disclaimer: “Ism is a suffix added to the root of a word. These three letters, when added to a root word, change the meaning dramatically.”[3] Sproul proceeds: “As soon as we put the suffix on the word it changes the word into a system of thought, a way of looking at things, a world view. Philosophers use the German word Weltanschauung to describe it. A Weltanschauung is a systematic way of looking at the world. It conditions how we interpret the meaning of daily life.”[4]
Before we move on, however, I want to issue my own kind of disclaimer. When I read some of the blog answers to Dr. Taylor’s afore-mentioned article in ByFaith, I concluded that I must be living in some kind of parallel universe. Since a great deal of the PCA is concentrated in the Southeast of the United States, I was forced to surmise that the wheels must have come off the South after I left. I was born in Charlotte, NC, attended university in Charleston, SC, and served as a tank commander and instructor of tank gunnery at Ft. Knox, KY. Listening to the rantings of the bloggers, it seems as if all chivalry and decorum departed the area when I left. Men must have turned into ogres and PCA men, in particular, must have grown hair on their teeth and become Neo-Neanderthals. It sounded like PCA women were being beaten, beaten down, abused, undervalued, and treated like second or third-class citizens, not to mention Christians. Although I would not be totally surprised that things went downhill after I left the South, I still find it a little hard to believe that PCA men are so boorish; so un-chivalrous; so un-Christian. Were matters being exaggerated in those blogs? Was there some agenda at play? I read words on the ByFaith and Bayly brothers’ blogs like “tyranny,” “tyrannical,” “patriarchy,” and “patriarchal”—all of which seemed to have some connection with feminism in its various forms and variations.
It was, therefore, more than a little surprising to me to find such words cropping up in a PCA dialogue. Now maybe I live in a bubble—(I really don’t believe this; it’s just a literary thing), but I’ve been around a lot of Christian men as a pastor of three different churches in three different countries (trying to keep one step ahead of the creditors) and even though I’ve encountered men who did not exercise biblical headship perfectly—myself included—I have not run into men that were as bad as those described by some of the bloggers. I came away with some preliminary conclusions. First, I am convinced that some of the accusations are exaggerations and/or straw men. While I understand that there may be some men who misuse the biblical admonition to exercise biblical headship/leadership, I am not convinced that anywhere near the majority of PCA men, husbands, and fathers are anywhere near these alleged travesties. Hear me well: I am not saying that there are no offenders. I am saying, however, that I am convinced by experience that there is both a qualitative as well as a quantitative difference in the “stats,” numbers put forward.
Second, I’m also convinced that a number of the angry bloggers are college and university students, with a smattering of seminary students thrown into the mix. Now anyone with a brain knows once these dauntless defenders of things intellectual enter the fray we can expect a high degree of rationality. It’s a given that college or university students have solved most of the world’s and Church’s problems over a designer coffee at Starbucks. What they missed was solved by seminary students who are at least in their “middler” year.
Third, there are some in the PCA who are more PC than they are PCA. I mentioned the matter of women in combat above, which is a very good example of what I mean. Of all these three, I consider this group—young and/or old—the most cantankerous and most dangerous to healthy spiritual growth, nurture, and communication. I say that because for them the biblical message always has to pass through the secularist filter before it’s acceptable. These are the people who see a one-to-one relationship between the ways of the world and God’s plan for his Church. For example, some people in the PCA cannot understand why a woman can be a CEO and cannot be an ordained Elder or Deacon or a woman who teaches men on a regular basis. This is one of the reasons, I’m convinced, that a number of PCA people find no problem with Beth Moore, even though she teaches Scripture—in an authoritative fashion—to men on a regular basis. Another mantra that many are chanting—rather unreflectively—is “women should be able to do anything an un-ordained man can do.” Really? Do role distinctions and differences simply disappear for un-ordained men and women? How might that occur? Are there no gender-related distinctions in the local church after the offices of Elder and Deacon?
In the book that Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt co-authored we read the following: “The crisis of womanhood is too critical for the church to be passive. Scores of evangelical women are functional feminists because the world’s paradigm for womanhood is the only one they have heard.”[5] I would alter that slightly and apply it to some PCA women as well. But who are the feminists that have shaped what we have come to know as feminism and why is it highly dangerous and questionable to follow them? Obviously, I cannot discuss every feminist that has come down the pike, but I do want to take a few moments—and issues—to discuss what were and still are part of their “agenda.” It is a very detrimental agenda and rather than delivering the promised liberation it is really a movement that will enslave its adherents. To parody of the words of a once-popular song: As it pulls you closer you can feel its disease. I’m convinced that what we need now in the PCA—more than ever—is a biblical balance between scriptural doctrine and scriptural ethics. To paraphrase Jochem Douma, “Doctrine without ethics is empty; ethics without doctrine is blind.”[6]
That being the case, why is it that there is such intense discussion in the PCA about an issue that formed one of the reasons why the PCA left the PCUSA and PCUS? Is it because this type of thing has to be discussed by every new generation? It is because a number of men and women have bought into some of the notions of feminism and are now attempting to import them into the local church? Is it really the case that PCA men are, by and large, tyrannical, patriarchal (in the negative, unbiblical sense), and people who want only to squash women?
I believe that we need very much to reflect on these questions in a biblical fashion. That is why I was surprised to read blogs where the words “patriarchal” or “tyrannical” appeared. Granting that the word “patriarchal” can have various meanings (biblical or unbiblical), my concern was more that the tone sounded vaguely—or clearly—like that of feminism. When feminists use the term, it is not in a positive vein. And that is precisely why I believe we should leave off taking about evangelical feminism.
Each variant of feminism—and it is certainly not a monolithic entity—has some very negative baggage that has slipped into the church and is closely related to any number of unbiblical comparisons about men and women, too. As we close off this installment I want to take just a few moments and remind you who the leading figures were at the advent of full-orbed feminism as it came down to us in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Some of this will be fairly blunt, so be forewarned. But if you have no stomach for the truth, but are more concerned about your squeamishness then we’ve got another set of problems. I’m going to be very dependent on Kate O’Bierne’s research for what you’re about to read.

Betty Friedan
The author of the popular The Feminine Mystique was/is one of the gurus of modern feminism. In her own words, Friedan’s mother had “a complete inability to nurture” and reportedly made her feel unwanted and ugly. Friedan entered psychoanalysis to address and attempt to control her rage at her mother.[7] She is also the guru babe who “told American women there was only one way to avoid being a nonentity when she wrote, ‘But even if a woman does not have to work to eat, she can find identity only in work that is of real value to society—work for which, usually our society pays.’”[8]
In her memoir, published in 2000, she charged her husband of over twenty years with abuse. Obviously, to her mind he was both patriarchal and tyrannical. She claims that Carl “smacked her around.” In her own words, “It seemed as though I never went on a television show in those day without a black eye I had to cover with makeup.”[9] Well, who wouldn’t feel sorry for some poor woman—even if she were a rabid feminist—getting slapped around by some thug-like husband?
The eighty-year-old kick boxer Carl had had enough and set up a web site to defend himself against these accusations. He wrote, “I have not lived 80 years of an honorable life to have it trashed by a mad woman…. I’ve been divorced from her for 30 years and still she haunts me and disrupts my life.”[10] When the web site went up, Friedan’s accusations went south. Her recantation reads this way: “My husband was no wife beater and I was no passive victim of a wife beater. We fought a lot, and he was bigger than me.”
In short, Betty Friedan lied. But, of course, it was for the cause so therefore it was okay. Isn’t it nice to know that one of the founding “sisters” of feminism was a bald-faced liar and would even falsely implicate her “patriarchal, tyrannical” husband, who was, by the way, also a feminist, if she thought it would help? If she would about her husband, what else do you think she might lie about? We’ll find out in subsequent issues.

Once Hanoi Jane Fonda; Now Jihad Jane Fonda
Jane Fonda is one arrogant piece of work. Some of us who are old enough remember her in the movie Barbarella wearing her shiny, fake leather Fredericks of Hollywood boots and top. O’Bierne reminds us that in Ms. Fonda’s—Ms. Traitor would be better—autobiography, “…we learned that the men in her life never failed to fail her.”[11] Hold on to that thought. Here we have a woman who has been repeatedly disappointed with the men in her life—and their names are Legion for they are many—and she is a driving force behind the feminist movement.
Fonda laments that her father, Henry, was distant and cold. Her first husband, actor Roger Vadim, “demanded group sex with Jane and women she recruited to please him.”[12] Very, very nice touch. Her second husband, left-winger Tom Hayden, announced to her on her fifty-first birthday that he was in love with another woman.[13] Another nice touch from a very moral man. She really knows how to choose them, doesn’t she? No wonder she’s such a good advisor to those considering marriage or shacking up. Her third husband, Ted Turner, drove her to become an evangelical. She caught him cheating on her within a month of their wedding. Yep. Jihad Jane is certainly an authority on the subject of marriage—just not a good one. At least prostitutes get paid. Fonda is a despicable, immoral feminist activist. Did I mention that she was a traitor to her country?

Germaine Greer
The Australian author of The Female Eunuch—ouch!—described “her childhood as filled with pain and humiliation, with an abusive mother and father she later said she never really knew.”[14] Apparently, her dad completely rejected her and almost categorically refused to touch her or be affectionate in a fatherly manner.
As sad as this is—and it is sad—can you imagine that she might have a bone to pick in her writings? In all likelihood, she combined ideology, venting/ranting, and her utter disdain for the traditional family in each book. She was, in fact, a bitter woman, which means that her books were not going to be balanced. In fact, as we shall see later, much of the feminist “research” qualifies at best as “junk science” and at worst as…well, you know.

Gloria Steinem
Another matriarch of feminism is Gloria Steinem. In all of her earlier photographs it looked like she had swiped Peter Fonda’s Easy Rider sunglasses. But we would be wise to realize that Steinem, like many of her “sistas” was the proverbial iron fist in the velvet glove. What we didn’t realize at first about Steinem was that her “father abandoned the family, and she was left as a young girl to care for her mentally ill mother.”[15] Her dysfunctional childhood eventually led her to conclude that if you get married you become a “non-person.” She is also famous for such quips as “a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle.” As O’Bierne observes, “Thousands of her acolytes adopted the defiant slogan born of misery and abandonment.”[16] True, and I would be willing to wager that some PCA and other evangelical women picked up on this theme directly or indirectly, not to mention the evangelical women who took courses in feminism in university. In 2000, at age sixty-six Steinem married an anti-apartheid activist in a Cherokee ceremony. “Him plenty hen-pecked, kemosabe.” By the way, the reason the Lone Ranger finally shot Tonto is because he found out what “kemosabe” really means.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg
One of our illustrious Supreme Court judges, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, is a consummate feminist. She explained to the uninitiated, “Differential treatment on the basis of sex was rationalized with a kind of romantic paternalism, which didn’t put women on a pedestal, but in a cage.”[17] She has been indefatigable in her vigilance “to see the elimination of any and all sex differences in the law and culture…”[18] David Wells asks—in a yet to be published article—the following question: “The only question we need to consider is really quite simply: will Christianity engage the culture or will it be engaged by the culture.” In terms of the condition of the modern Church I think the answer is clear and I furthermore believe that quite a bit of our current debates about men and women are more centered on secular ideology than on biblical truth.

Eve Ensler
Ms. Ensler is best known for her blatantly anti-male play The Vagina Dialogues. Those seeking roles in this grotesque, crass play include Susan Saradon, Melanie Griffith, Glenn Close, and—you guessed it—Jihad Jane have all “eagerly sought roles in the obscene performance.”[19] Ms. Traitor apparently “swooned after she performed in the play.”[20] Yeah, I’ll just bet she did. Who wouldn’t swoon when you’re cast typed as a human sexual organ? According to the geniuses behind and performing in this piece of rubbish believe that the female sex organ was “reduced from power to romance by centuries of male dominance.”[21] Yep. Besides, isn’t far better to go from being a sex object to being a sex organ? You’d certainly think so!

Something to Ponder
In this first installment I simply wanted to bring some pertinent matters to the forefront. I really believe that these data give us something to think about; to ponder. It is more than quite possible that there is not a lot of direct influence among evangelical men and women by these feminists, but there is, no doubt, some indirect influence.
I challenge PCA men to reflect on their roles as biblical men and to do some soul-searching to see if there are not areas where we can improve and be more biblical men, husbands, and fathers—not to mention biblical role models for our covenant children in the local congregation.At the same time, I want to challenge women to perform an inventory of their “presuppositions” in the ongoing discussion and ask yourself if your views are derived from Scripture, from a combination of a little Scripture and a little of the world, or from the world.

[1] My position is clearly defined in: John Piper & Wayne Grudem (eds.), Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991); J. Ligon Duncan & Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006); Rebecca Jones, Does Christianity Squash Women? (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005; as well as the web site on the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (
[2] Wayne Grudem, Evangelical Feminism, A New Path to Liberalism? (Wheaton: Crossway, 2006).
[3] R.C. Sproul, Lifeviews, Understanding the ideas that shape society today, (Old Tappan, NJ: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1986), p. 30. Emphasis mine—RG.
[4] Ibid., 31. Emphasis mine.
[5] Duncan & Hunt, WMLC, 42. Italics mine.
[6] Jochem Douma, Responsible Conduct, (Nelson Kloosterman, [trans.]), (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2003), p. 41.
[7] Kate O’Bierne, Women Who Make the World Worse, (NY: Sentinel, 2006), p. xxii.
[8] Ibid., 24, quoting Friedan, Mystique, 346.
[9] Ibid., 20.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid., xxii.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid., xxi.
[18] Ibid.
[19] Ibid.
[20] Ibid.
[21] Ibid.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Increasing Our Troop Size in Iraq and Minimum Wage

Harmonizing Disparate Elements
At first blush it does not readily appear what the relationship is between raising the minimum wage and the new “surge” of troops into Iraq announced by President Bush. But when you reflect on these two disparate elements for a while certain affinities do show up. If we’re planning to send more than 20,000 more troops to Iraq—and we are—how can that possibly be related to raising the minimum wage? I want to answer that question in this issue. In addition, I want to comment briefly on our Rules of Engagement and how this war is being politicized by our politicians (I suppose that politicizing things is what politicians do best) as well as by ultra Left-Wing organizations like Code Pink and individuals like Sean Penn, Jihad Jane Fonda (with a new war to demonize, she’s been forced to change her name from Hanoi Jane to Jihad Jane. It’s the ravages of this war where we’re so bogged down that forced her hand), Susan Sarandon, Tim Robbins, Barbra Streisand, Alec Baldwin, etc.

Minimum Wage and the War
Armchair generals have guess-timated that the surge of troops into Iraq will not help. This is akin to the Super Bowl office pool. For the longest time I’ve been thoroughly convinced that guessing the outcome of sports events is, at best, guess work. You can look at all the stats, but at the end of the day the game has to be played and from the start of that game innumerable variables enter the equation. If you’re lucky enough to guess right you win. I remember watching and listening to the “experts”—and these were sportscasters and those who had played the game for a long time—state emphatically that the New Orleans Saints would thump the Chicago Bear—in spite of Brian Urlacher.
If the generals on the ground in Iraq believe that more troops are needed to quell the fighting, then I say we give them an opportunity to prove their theory. After all, they are there and they are the experts. Moreover, our armed forces are volunteers. They knew when they signed up that it was possible that they would have to fight. That goes with the turf of a combat arms unit. No whining! While I’m on this point, let me make something crystal clear. I have never seen an episode of the TV program The View. I have seen clips and bytes from the show, however. One of the Left-Wing info babes recently talked about sending our “children” in the military to Iraq. Excuse me! Children? Just for the record: the United States armed forces are the best trained and best equipped military in the world. Those who go and fight are not children! They are men who are trained to protect people like the foolish woman who called them children. I am sick of hearing all the pundits referring to our men and women in uniform as children. That is a horrible insult and the woman should make a public apology for denigrating our troops that way, but some liberals, as loving as they want us to think that they are, are above apologizing—ever; for anything.
But my point here is this: I have heard people in our federal government prognosticating that the “surge” cannot possibly help. How do they know? Are they convinced by Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) “fact finding” trip to Baghdad recently? One can only wonder what kinds of military facts Ms. Pelosi returned with. We don’t know what the surge will do until we try it, anymore than we know that the new hike in the minimum wage will help the economy. Actually, we have more reason to believe that the hike in the minimum wage will harm the robust economy we’re experiencing rather than help it. Historically, raising the minimum wage has caused the economy to become more sluggish, but the Democrats seem hell-bent on flying in the face sound economics. I often sit and wonder if any of them has read a book on economics—ever! But why would we be so cock-sure that raising the minimum wage is a good thing and sending more troops to Iraq unless we are just opposed to the war in the first place.

Rules of Engagement and a Politicized War
One thing is certain Iraq is not Vietnam, but there is one valid analogy between these two wars. Vietnam was possibly the most politicized war in U.S. military history. One of the greatest problems in Vietnam was that politicians would not let the soldiers, sailors, and Marines fight the war the way it needed to be fought. Our politicians were so inept that they did not even see a correlation between the bombing of Hanoi and the North Vietnamese returning to the negotiating table, but that is precisely what happened. Up until that time, the North Vietnamese had mooned us repeatedly. Nixon made the decision to bomb Hanoi and lo and behold there are warm bodies at the negotiating table again. The correlation was completely lost on a large number of our politicians.
Something similar is happening in Iraq with our namby-pamby, limp-wristed, linguine-spined rules of engagement. Knowing your enemy is important. As far as the Islamo-fascists are concerned kindness, being Mr. Nice Guy translates into “weakness.” Our soldiers have a stomach for this fight so that they can protect us and our freedoms over here. Our politicians don’t seem to have a stomach for the fight, however, and our latest, newly elected crew in Washington comprise a group that could be the poster-politicians for the “Cut-and-Run Club.”
Rather than pulling out—like the debacle in Somalia and Vietnam—we should have realistic Rules of Engagement. If hospitals and orphanages are hide-outs for the bad guys and they fire on us from there, they are now legitimate targets. The same holds true for an imam or a mosque. An imam with an AK-47 or a Rocket Propelled Grenade that takes a shot at our guys is fair game. It will be God’s place to forgive him or not; it is our place to arrange the meeting. Just kidding—sort of. Seriously, when we turned the Marines lose in Fallujah, they did what they were trained to do. In the middle of that operation, we pulled them out, let the enemy regroup and rearm, and then sent the Marines back in and it was much tougher the second go round.
While I’m on this, I’m also sick of our Left-Wing Fonda, Penns, and their ilk accusing us of killing civilians. The U.S. military bends over backwards to avoid civilian collateral damage. Not a word has come from these people about the civilian casualties brought about by IEDs and suicide bombers who on strap C-4 and detonate themselves killing as many civilians as possible. One of the reasons “smart bombs” were invented was to avoid collateral damage, but the likes of Jihad Jane hasn’t bothered to notice that. She’s been too busy criticizing the country that made her rich and famous.

Is It the Number of Dead or the Cause for which They Fight?
I keep hearing about the high number of American deaths in this war and I conclude that those who buy into this propaganda are brain dead. They have imbibed of the Kool-Aid and now constitute the “Chick Littles” of the modern era. We have been fighting this war since March 20, 2003. We were in Afghanistan earlier. In that period of time, we have lost over 3,000 of our country’s fine men and women. We mourn the death of each one of them. At the same time, there has never been a time in the annals of U.S. Military history where the losses have been so low! Last year, which was supposed to be a landmark year in terms of insurgency, the U.S. lost 821 service men and women. That figure is unheard of in a year’s military fighting.
But even though these numbers are very, very low we need to get some perspective on loss of life vis-à-vis importance of the cause being fought for. For example, this nation fought a war over the issue of slavery. It was a bloody war, but apparently some believed that the cause was noble, just, and right. Therefore, in two days at Gettysburg more than 20,000 Americans died—two days. At Cold Creek, 7,000 Americans died in less than an hour—which is still the record for most Americans dying in that time frame. In World War I more than 1,000,000 Germans died in less than a year; 6,000 died on the beaches of Normandy, 7,000 died on Iwo Jima, and the list could go on and on because it is long.
How precious and important are our freedoms here in the United States? Are we going to have to face another 9/11 before we come to our senses again? Not too long ago I re-watched footage from 9/11/01. There were looks of horror on people’s faces as they fled the carnage, ravages, and collapsing of the Twin Towers. The point then is the point now: The terrorists did not care if you were black, white, Hispanic, Asian or what. They didn’t care if you were male or female, heterosexual or homosexual, young or old, Democrat, Republican, Greenie, Libertarian, or Independent. We were attacked because we are Americans, the Great Satan.It is really time to wake up, smell the roses, coffee, or whatever you like to smell—within reason of course—, and realize that the terrorists are not going to go away. They will stay around until we kill them or they kill us.

On Churches and Church Plants and Being Presbyterian (PCA)

A Rising Concern
How long should it take before a Presbyterian Church in America church or church plant actually ends up looking Presbyterian? That’s an open-ended question that is not easily answered, but there is an answer out there somewhere. I raise the question for a number of reasons. One of the truly marvelous aspects of being a pastor is that you get to meet so many interesting people and have them in your home. While I served a Dutch-speaking congregation in Holland, a Canadian congregation in Toronto, and now being out here on the Left Coast, Sally and I have had the distinct privilege of being in the presence of some very wonderful people of God.
Sitting around the living room, outside by the pool, or just hanging in the kitchen I have had some of the most fascinating conversations imaginable with ordinary people who have the privilege of serving an extraordinary God. Lately, some of those conversations have given me cause, I think, for concern. My home church is in the midst of planting or helping plant three churches. Our church planters are very gifted men who share our desire to read the Word, preach the Word, sing the Word, and pray the Word. They also are thankful to be “Presbos” and yet realize that church planting is not the easiest thing on the planet—maybe not even the second easiest thing on the planet.
When you’re planting a church, you might begin by doing certain things that, down the road, you will jettison. Planting involves a large number of “baby steps,” set backs, and most especially prayer. Even though we keep telling ourselves that we are not numbers driven, somewhere in the backs of our minds we hear a voice saying, “How many did you have out on Sunday?” When new faces appear we’re elated; when those who have attended for a month or so disappear and won’t return phone calls, we tend to be crestfallen. But as the old adage puts it: It goes with the turf. As I have listened to our church planters, advised them, and prayed with them it has become increasingly evident that church planting is definitely not for the faint of heart.
Moreover, living on the Left Coast complicates matters—exponentially. If PCA church planting is a “go” or “no go” within three years in the East, it takes longer—sometimes substantially longer—in the “Wild West.” We are still in the fledgling stage as far as our established churches are concerned, let alone our church plants. Out here we have some different “special” and unique circumstances. For example, the Crystal Cathedral ends up often being part of the Disneyland tour, even though it’s not advertised as such. Besides, we have Rick Warren just down the road and who wouldn’t want to see what Saddleback is all about, especially when you can attend a hula service? (That’s true; I’m not making it up.) Personally, I have several of Rick’s autographed aloha shirts. (I am making that up.) They’re a little on the large size but they make nice tents. Not all that long ago, you could also attend the Melodyland Church near Disneyland or one of John Wimber’s Vineyard churches, where you could engage in holy laughter and witness slayings in the Holy Spirit.
How can a “youngish” church planter even begin to compete with the state of the art technology that exists in these well-known, established mega-churches? What specifically will be the “drawing card” in such a church planting setting? What, specifically, would cause a Californian to forego the luxuries of Saddleback for a “church in a box” in a local high school cafeteria?
Of course, we are all aware of how much we want to reach out to the lost and this must play a role. Our problem seems to be that the “lost” is an abstraction, so we must tailor our church plants to our community. For the recent seminary graduate this constitutes not merely a challenge, but also an opportunity to put “cultural contextualization” into practice. The dilemma, however, is that it is never as easy as seminary has told you that it’s going to be or as easy as you thought it might be. How far should our accommodation be to the ways and comforts of “the culture”—whatever that is—and the appetites/dictates of the unchurched? It can legitimately be asked if those who are not of the faith should have any say in the way our worship services are conducted. In the previously-cited unpublished article Wells asks, “What does it matter that some have attracted two, five, then, or twenty thousand to their ‘worship’? It is no more significant, culturally speaking, than that there are twenty, thirty, or fifty thousand present at a ballgame.” That’s a good question! What does it ultimately matter—unless, of course, you’re trying to build a little kingdom?
Clearly, Wells is prepared to give real, substantial content to the term “worship.” It is not anything and everything, but has a particular form and content. There is a decided difference between worship and entertainment; between worship of the Lord God Almighty and satisfying a consumer-driven (although purposely so) desire to have one’s needs—real or perceived—met. And this has been the precise spiritual malady of many modern “community” churches. Either in the mega-church or Emergent formats, the problem has been pretty much the same. The only real difference is that the so-called “worship” pile has been re-stacked. For example, where Bill Hybels, Robert Schuller, Rick Warren, and others marketed the church to the “Boomers,” who, culturally, were part of modernity, the Emergent “conversation” is marketing to Gen Xers who are, culturally, more attuned to postmodernism. The bottom line with both is that they are spiritually bankrupt and give people stones for bread. So why would any PCA church plant—or PCA church for that matter—want to look anything remotely like these types of “community” churches? While it can be argued that there are gradations—which is true—it still seems as if the Presbyterian and Reformed churches have substantially more to offer in terms of biblical life and worldview than either the mega-church or Emergent aberration could ever offer.
Yet, for some reason, there remains a “remnant” in the PCA that is convinced that hippy-dippy, happy-clappy is still needed if we are to reach the lost and edify the saved. The perennial problem for those who are constantly focusing on the lost, however, is that the saved rarely progress beyond square one. If the sermons have to be geared to the lowest category of knowledge and spiritual maturity then eventually the product will be spiritual midgets, who lack the requisite spiritual maturity. Again, stats can assist us here. Isn’t it clearly evident that during the days of the mega-church movement and the consumer-driven “worship” that the major casualty was biblical truth? For anyone who has “engaged” the culture, they know this to be true. The stat reads this way: Only 7% of those who call themselves “born again” manifest even a modest, elementary, and fundamental knowledge of the core essentials of biblical faith.
A recent example sticks in my mind. I don’t live all that far from a renowned coastal town between where I live and San Diego. About two years ago I received an email from a brother in Lord from a different denomination informing me that he was starting a church plant in San Clemente. The man told me was that he was Reformed. Although we never actually met, we did email back and forth quite a few times. The concern that I expressed to him as he told me about how he intended to “do church” (modern “ecclesial” language that involves being “missional” as well) was that he would be “catering” rather than “worshipping.” We agreed to disagree although he was intrigued how a traditional church like mine could exist, let alone thrive, in Southern California. Via the miracle of Al Gore’s Internet, we conversed about a number of things churchly as well as the Inconvenient Truth of worship according to Scripture. According to the cultural contextualization textbooks he had done everything in a, well, textbook fashion, but there was a gap between the theory and the practice. Just before Christmas of last year I received an email from him that the plant was closing its doors after only a year-and-a-half.
Another example that came close to home came close to my home in the form of a visitor from a PCA church plant outside of California. We had a delightful visit and in the course of our conversation our guest explained that in over ten years in a PCA church plant she had heard nary a word about the Westminster Shorter Catechism. Her comment was precipitated by the fact that I am teaching through the shorter catechism in our Adult Sunday School (for those who would like to get a couple of the lessons email me and I’ll send them along) at Grace. She said, “I’ve never heard things like that before.” Here’s my point: If she had told me what she told me about a new church plant that was recently up and running her statement would have been fully acceptable; but after ten years such a confession on her part is a travesty. I’m not looking for someone to hang the blame on, but it does seem plausible that somewhere along the line, the “leadership” or “leadership team” would have found it prudent to start talking about things Presbyterian. In keeping with a number of PCA church plants, the word Presbyterian never appears in name of the church—as it did not in this woman’s home congregation. It was just a generic, garden-variety community church like so many others.
Are we never to acknowledge differences among, say, Presbyterian, PCUSA, Methodist, Baptist, and Pentecostal? All we all just the same? Do differences actually matter? To my mind being Presbyterian means something. It was a conscious choice for me to change from being a member of a Reformed church to being a specific Presbo. I chose against going into a liberal denomination and for being a conservative Presbyterian. It meant something then and it still means a great deal to me now. In his very worthwhile little book D.G. Hart makes a convincing case for abandoning the name “evangelical” since it has come to be such an elastic, all-inclusive term that it currently means everything and nothing.[1] Hart cites David Wells blockbuster critique of modern evangelicalism, No Place for Truth,[2] that caused quite a stir when, in Hart’s words, “Wells blew the whistle on the hollowness of American evangelicalism.”[3] In addition to this book by Wells, I would highly recommend his other works: God in the Wasteland, Losing Our Virtue, and Above All Earthly P’wers. In a yet to be published Preface Wells wrote, “This is a remarkable moment in which we are living. Here in the West, in the very moment in which our affluence is growing, Christian organizations are multiplying, and Christian presses are in high production, Christian faith itself is departing. At least, that is the story the statistics tell us.” To the same point Mark Noll’s comment in his well documented work, The Scandal of the American Mind, which is located on the first page, states: “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.”[4]
Central to Hart’s critique of modern evangelicalism is that it has become too all-inclusive, too non-discerning about important and essential matters. In his own words, the point of his book is this: “Instead of trying to fix evangelicalism, born-again Protestants would be better off if they abandoned the category altogether.” This might sound a little on the harsh side, but we should reflect for a moment on the truth contained therein. When Presbyterian and Reformed Protestants went along with evangelicalism they seemingly forgot their own tradition. To make matters worse, evangelicalism—both in its mega-church and Emergent forms—manifest almost utter disdain for tradition, doctrine, and the solid church fathers. For example, when was the last time you heard an evangelical pastor/teacher mention St. Augustine, Calvin, Bullinger, Luther, Owen, Turretin, Bavinck or Kuyper?
When was the last time you heard an evangelical speak favorably about a Protestant confessional statement or catechism? How many “evangelicals” encourage learning biblical doctrine, with the possible exception of the Rapture or the tenets of Dispensationalism? Even though there is an almost constant cry in evangelicalism about practical Christian living, it seems to be all but completely lost on modern evangelicals that—to parody Jochem Douma—doctrine without ethics is empty; ethics without doctrine is blind.[5]
Even though evangelicalism “borrowed fragments from historic Protestantism, its design was to affirm a lowest common denominator set of convictions and practices.”[6] Some things don’t change. It’s one thing to analyze the intentions of what has come down to us in the evangelical movement, it’s quite another thing to incorporate the spiritual “lowest common denominator” approach in our church plants. When it comes down to being a “shaper” of tradition or an aid in the development of a Christian life and worldview, evangelicalism is an utter failure. “Its breadth has come with the price of shallowness, while its mass appeal has generated slogans more than careful reflection.”[7] Hart summarizes his position vis-à-vis evangelicalism as follows: “At its best, it is a sentiment. At its worst, it is a solvent of tradition because religious traditions are too narrow for evangelical purposes; they are too dogmatic and therefore too confining. In other words, Christian traditions, unlike evangelicalism, rely on structures of succession and accountability that run counter to popular sovereignty.”[8]
For Hart, “Evangelicalism, then, has provided a valuable service for believers, academics, and retailers. It has supplied a collective sense of identity to religious adherents and yielded a scholarly perspective on American religion with more nuance than previous interpretations. But as useful as evangelicalism may have been, its usefulness is no longer obvious. In fact, its harmfulness may be what has become most apparent.”[9]
Armed with these facts, the question is begged: Why then are some PCA church plants intentionally dropping “Presbyterian” from the name and promoting themselves are “community” churches? If it is true that both the mega-church and Emergent conversations are bankrupt, why are some church plants and church planters still chasing after what has long since proven to be ineffective and unproductive in terms of imparting a real spiritual legacy? The short answer is: I don’t know. Perhaps church planters are overwhelmed by the conventional wisdom of our time or are taking a pragmatic approach that goes something like this: if it works, do it! The caveat, of course, depends on the meaning of “works”—to be a bit Clintonesque.
If the intention is to begin by being “Presbyterian under the radar”—a phrase that sadly is employed in some PCA church plants, then when do you get around—if ever—to telling your congregation the truth, namely that this is a Presbyterian church plant and as such it holds to certain biblical truths, the Westminster Standards, and a Book of Church Order? When do you spring it on the unsuspecting congregation—if ever—that you’ve been surreptitiously training them for something else? Wouldn’t it be better—not to mention more honest—to lay your cards on the table from the outset and trust God’s sovereignty, which, the last time I looked, was still on the PCA agenda/radar?
Are we really connected or is each church planter “doing his own thing?” I have observed church plants in my neck of the woods where the church planter ended up being “the show,” with no real accountability or help. That is to say, he was “turned loose” without a wise, biblical Elder to help him and in some cases he was discouraged to even training Elder candidates for five years and then only if those candidates shared his “vision” for the plant. His vision for the plant? I rather thought that we were aiming at God’s “vision” for the plant.Is it time that the PCA rethought its church planting policy? Is it time that our MNA committee in Atlanta communicated better, more often, and more effectively with churches where church plants are being considered rather than parachuting them into the back yards of existing PCA churches? I think so.

[1] D.G. Hart, Deconstructing Evangelicalism, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004).
[2] David Wells, No Place for Truth, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1993).
[3] Hart, DE, 14.
[4] Mark Noll, The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1994), p. 1.
[5] Jochem Douma, Responsible Conduct, (Nelson Kloosterman [trans.]), (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 2003). The actual quote on p. 41 is: “Dogmatics without ethics is empty; ethics without dogmatics is blind.”
[6] Hart, DE, 183.
[7] Ibid., 187.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid., 178.