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, March 23, 2007

Christian Feminism? (VI)

Mixing the Church and Society
We have been seeing how profoundly the mid-1960s and 1970s placed their stamps on both Church and society. It would not be saying too much to state—emphatically—that they were watershed years, but not necessarily in the good sense. During the rise of Feminism a number of views regarding women were put forward and even though they were not accepted in toto by all women and certainly not by all Christian women, there was and there is a traceable connection of thoughts and actions.
As often as not, we far too rarely stop and reflect upon the origins of our thoughts. We simply “have” them—or they have us—and we’re not sure where they came from. When we do pause and reflect, we might very well conclude that they are not derived from any one source but rather are the products of a multitude of influences. This is, in all likelihood, correct.
In the first five installments on this subject, I have chronicled some of the secular and ecclesiastical influences that have propelled us to where we are today. Not all of them have been positive in nature. In fact, it’s safe to say that whether we’re dealing with either the secularists or our ecclesiastical institutions we have been more deluded than we have been dealing with reality and we have followed many rabbit trails. One example will suffice. The secularists tried to teach us that boys play with guns and trucks and girls play with dollies because society has conditioned them to do so. That is to say, they are simply products of their environments.
Yet with all the “research”[1] and the social, do-gooder engineering boys still prefer trucks and guns and girls of feminists still like Barbie. But hardcore activists and ideologues are not satisfied with a few paltry inconclusive results. They want more and more they went after—with help. In the last installment I mentioned what a key role former-President Jimmy Carter and his wife played in the rise of Feminism and the destruction of the family. Here I’ll just reiterate that it was Carter who sponsored, encouraged, and supported various conferences on the “families.” Do you see the subtlety here? Carter was not predisposed to concentrate on strengthening the fabric of the nuclear family—singular—but rather to impose a concept of “families” on the nation that opened the door for much of the nonsense that we’re facing today in our same-sex “unions” and the cultural war about homosexual marriage.
Carter’s support of Feminism has, no doubt, suffered from unintended consequences, but, at the same time, has also caused American society and the Church to suffer from some very intention consequences as well. These intended consequences have harmed us rather than helped us, and yet the ideologues are still pushing their agendas and few are standing up to them and crying “Foul!” Let me give you an example that few like to discuss: women in the military and on our police forces because these two go hand and hand and are only separated by gradations of violence.
In the last issue I mentioned how the Carter administration strategically placed a number of women, who had never served in the military, in our Department of Defense. There was no substantial rationale for such a move other than it suited Carter’s ideology. At the same time, it was Carter who forced—yes, that’s the correct word—into our service academies, the Air Force Academy being the first sacrificial lamb. Prior to Carter’s tinkering with our military academies and our military, General Douglas MacArthur had addressed the corps of cadets at West Point and had said in the course of his address, “Your mission remains fixed, determined, inviolable—it is to win our wars. Everything else in your professional career is but corollary to this vital dedication. All other public purposes…will find others for their accomplishment; but you are the ones who are trained to fight; yours is the profession of arms.” MacArthur delivered his stirring address in 1962, a year before I entered The Citadel.
My grandfather obtained a copy of that speech and gave it to me to read. Even without the certainty that I wanted to make the military a career, I had some recognition that I was about to enter an all-male institution with an outstanding tradition, pride, esprit de corps, and a ton of testosterone. MacArthur’s speech spoke to my heart and senses of pride and masculinity. When I graduated in 1967 El Cid was still an all-male institution. That would not change until the ACLU, social engineers, feminists, and the Carter influence was injected into the system. Slowly, but surely, the male dragons of military service academies as well as The Citadel and V.M.I. were slain. Those bastions of male warriors were infiltrated by “the feminist principles of equality and androgyny.”[2]
The clear intention was—and still is—to feminize our young men by placing women in these academies not caring one whit if America’s males lost their masculine warrior image. In fact, some celebrated the possible disappearance of that image. Even though the feminists would have us believe that the transition of women into the military schools was virtually seamless and received widespread acceptance, the opposite is really the case. “Male students at all of the academies registered overwhelming disapproval of the changes.”[3] The criticisms, carping, and general griping about the inclusion of women took myriad forms, but “The most common complaint heard from male cadets and midshipmen was that integration had lowered the academies’ physical standards. Physically, the women simply could not keep up.”[4] That’s the unvarnished truth.
Now I’m going to say some things that feminists and Christian feminists are not going to like, but I really don’t care. You can call me any name you want, but flattery will get you nowhere. What I’m about to say has been said previously by a non-Christian woman—not that it makes any difference to me—and she has said it quite well. To a number of my PCA colleagues who see no problem with women in the service academies and in the military Stephanie Gutmann and I suggest that “Maybe because civilians are increasingly disconnected from the concrete details of soldiering”[5] is your problem. If you haven’t been in it, you shouldn’t be for women in combat. If you haven’t been in the military I cannot imagine why you would want to speak out on what is so typically and blatantly a feminist agenda that has weakened and continues to weaken our country. Quite simply put, putting women into a place that, by and large, trains warriors goes like this: “A lot of the problems had to do with the fact that we were dropping a softer, weaker, shorter, lighter-boned creatures into a world scaled for the male body.”[6] Yikes! That sounds like there are differences between males and females!
What Gutmann is saying translates into the following cold, hard facts: “The average woman is about five inches shorter than the average man, she has 55 to 60 percent less upper body strength, a lower center of gravity, a higher fat-to-muscle ratio, lighter bones that are more subject to fracture, a heart that can’t move oxygen to the muscles as fast as a man’s (i.e., 20 percent less aerobic capacity), and a rather more complicate lower abdomen full of reproductive equipment.”[7] Nevertheless, the feminists and other social engineers that given enough time and money America can eventually produce a female Rambo.
The late COL David Hackworth—a soldier’s soldier—had an online newsletter called The Voice of the Grunt. His viewpoint was that you do the job—whoever you are or you get out of the proverbial kitchen.[8] He went on to say, “I recollect that almost 80 percent of the injuries (to women) were lower extremity damage, broken and cracked fibula or tibia bones, stress cracks, etc. Many, many claims for foot injuries too. That told me that women don’t have the LEGS to do what soldiers do, haul a** over hilltops, diddy through jungles, carrying ammo and radios, and shooting the s*** out of pursuers.” And yet a number of do-good, feel-good pastors believe that women in combat isn’t a bad thing at all, when in point of fact it severely weakens the unit and its ability to accomplish the mission effectively. This is not to “diss” women, it is simply fact.
Gutmann’s research—by the way, Gutmann served in the military—concludes that “The hospitalization rate among females was more than tenfold than among males. The rate among white, nonhispanic, junior enlisted female soldiers was more than 15 times higher than that of the Army overall.”[9] In order to lessen the instances of these injuries and lowered cases of self-esteem—the Oprahization of America—those Army units mandated to have gender-integrated boot camp allow women to pass the physical tests “with a lower grade.”[10] In a number of cases, the armed services has “created dual obstacle courses, the easier one for the women, and many have shifted emphasis to more cerebral skills like map-reading, first aid, and putting on protective gear.”[11]
When you think about it, this kind of approach makes perfect sense. If you’ve ever visited Normandy where the D-Day invasion occurred, you’ve no doubt noticed that the Germans had special, easier obstacles for the women that accompanied our soldiers along with a special protected map-reading, first aid, and protective gear area designated: Frauen. Right.
The upshot of all of this finagling with those who are the warriors in our land has led to the rewriting of a number of official regulations “to compensate for weaker soldiers and to avoid the spectacle of female failure—a woman attempting to do a task the way it is described in a training manual and failing.”[12] This is patently absurd and yet some in the PCA seem oblivious to the reality of how much weaker we are now after the Carter Oprahization of the military and military schools.
When integration began at Annapolis, surveys of the midshipmen “showed that 81 percent of upperclassmen and 74 percent of plebes still opposed integration.”[13] Moreover, the drop out rate on morning runs was 23% for females and less than 3% for the males. “In the seventh week of training, 26.3 percent of female cadets reported for physical ‘reconditioning’ instead of he morning run, compared to 5.6 percent of men. Women reported to sick call (XM-pooh-pooh)[14] an average of 6.8 times per female cadet, compared to the male average of 1.7 times. They suffered more than ten times as many stress fractures as men…. Even after a year of regular physical training, West Point women in the first integrated class suffered five times as many injuries as men during field training. The following year, the injury rate for women in field training was fourteen times the rate for men.”[15]I tell you all this because many of the edicts of Feminism have filtered into the Church of Christ and are alive and well in our “discussions” on the roles and places of women in the Church. It is the wise denomination that goes to Scripture to decide these matters rather than accepting the tenets of a world that we all agree is going to hell in a hand basket. If society is as bad and immoral as we say it is, why in the world do we insist on following it anyway? In our next installment I’ll flesh what I’ve said here out even more.

[1] See my criticism of “research” in my blog “Whatever Happened to My Country?” at
[2] Brian Mitchell, Women in the Military, Flirting with Disaster, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, 1998), p. 55.
[3] Ibid., 57. Italics mine.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Stephanie Gutmann, A Kinder,Gentler Military, How Political Correctness Affects Our Ability to Win Wars, (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2000), p. 246.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid., 247.
[8] He didn’t say it that nicely.
[9] Gutmann, AKGM, 256. Italics mine.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Mitchell, WM, 57.
[14] The Citadel version of “Excused from military duty” otherwise known as XMD.
[15] Mitchell, WM, 58. All italics mine.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Time to Reflect

What Happened to My Country?
Being on vacation—which I was last week—gives you a lot of time to think and read. Life is substantially more “numbing” when you’re busy and lunging from one crisis and/or deadline to the next; from one item on your agenda to the subsequent one.
Here’s a point that I’ve been rediscovering over the week that I was on vacation: The older I get, the more I find myself asking—either audibly or to myself—What has happened, is happening to my country? This question has several applications.
First, it applies to the entire movement that has come to be known as PC or politically correct. These words come to us directly from Marxism, but we are all too willing to accept them, incorporate them into the fabric of our American life and way of living, and to be bullied by those who want to promote the PC agenda. After all, who wants to be a bigot or homophobe? Just ask Marine General Peter Pace.
Second, there is the application to the U.S. military. The incorporation of women into combat or into potential combat situations has greatly impaired our military’s ability to fight effectively. Moreover, a number of our Congressmen and women have “bought in” to the PC approach and are mandating withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan (read: cut and run) by next year. In addition, these same Congressmen and women are micro-managing what our military’s ROEs (Rules of Engagement) are and actually putting our men more in harm’s way by their ridiculous mandates. If the term “quagmire” can be applied to the Iraqi War in a manner that is analogous to Vietnam, then it is precisely this congressional micro-management that is at the root of the problem. Just as LBJ (Lyndon Baines Johnson) and Robert McNamara micro-(mis)managed Vietnam—in a manner unprecedented in the annals of U.S. military history—and Jimmy Carter micro-(mis)managed the Iran hostage debacle, so people like Nancy Pelosi, John Murtha, John Edwards, John Kerry, and other Democrats and some Republicans are micro-(mis)managing this war. This politicized war—like Vietnam—is the result of not having men like “Black Jack” Pershing, George Patton, and Norman Schwarzkopf in command of a military that is trained for and quite capable of “breaking things” and “killing bad guys” and a Congress that is willing to leave them alone and let them do their job.
Third, my musings cause me to wonder how—in such a relatively short expanse of time—we have become a nation of irresponsible, unpatriotic, dope-smoking, and whining “victo-crats.” It’s never our fault; we’re all just victims. Why is it, as Victor Davis Hanson has so aptly pointed out, that a large number of our able-bodied youth would rather hang out at the mall, play video games, and talk on their cell phones than to get out, get dirty, and learn the value of working (hard) for a dollar?[1] Now, especially with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger more than will to precipitously raise one of the government’s “darlings”: the minium wage, he can aid in ruining our otherwise good and robust economy.
Allow me also to suggest that a portion of our current dilemma is firmly ensconced in certain segments of academia. A few clear examples of what I mean will suffice—for reasonable people. Clayton Cramer has written a book entitled Armed America.[2] After the usual “thank yous” and “I couldn’t have written this without…” he appends a kind of raison d’être to his work. It seems that a certain Michael Bellesiles, a history professor at Emory University published a paper in the Journal of American History claiming that after extensive research he concluded that guns had actually played a minor role in the history of this country. If true, this was groundbreaking research because previous findings pointed in the opposite direction. At the time of the publication of the article, Cramer was working on his master’s degree and thesis in history at Sonoma State University in California. He read Bellesile’s article and was struck how the articles that Cramer had been reading for his research seemed to be one-hundred-and-eighty degrees out of phase with Bellesile’s findings. It is understandable that Cramer questioned his own findings as well as his scholarship since he was merely working on his master’s degree and Bellesiles is a professor with an earned doctorate at a prestigious university.
Four years after the appearance of Bellesiles’ article, the equally prestigious Alfred A. Knopf published Bellesiles’ book based on his article. The book was entitled Arming America, The Origin of a National Gun Culture. Now watch this for additional psychological pressure: In 2001, Columbia University (have I used the word “prestigious” in this article yet?) conferred on Bellesiles the coveted “Bancroft Prize”[3] for his book Arming America. So a professor at a noted U.S. university—Emory—writes a historical work and is awarded a prestigious honor by yet another prestigious university—Columbia. As you might image, a number of academicians—especially those opposed to U.S. citizens bearing or having arms—jumped on the proverbial bandwagon as a kind of reverse “piling on.” Bellesiles was lionized and his work was heralded as both accurate and academically highly respected and, therefore, worthy of the respect and homage of the “children of a lesser god”—like, for example, the rantings of Michael Moore and the ridiculous “documentary” by Mr. Internet: Al Gore.
Fortunately, not everyone drank the Kool-Aid and there were still a few heuristic, sentient souls left in academia. In 2002 the William and Mary Quarterly carried a withering critique of “Mr. Bancroft Award.” The findings of the symposium that contributed the lion’s share of the articles in that particular periodical for that time were that Dr. Bellesiles’ claims and statements in his book were unsupportable and, at times, even contrary to his own sources.[4] That same year, the Yale Law Journal published an article demonstrating “that Bellesiles’ probate record data was mathematically impossible, and his cited sources contradicted him in ways that seemed hard to blame on simple error or carelessness.”[5] That could qualify as the understatement of the year. Dr. Bellesiles cited probate records that were not only fraudulent, but had actually been lost in the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco.[6] Moreover, Bellesiles, when questioned by the Boston Globe about these discrepancies, which certainly carries no brief for conservatism, “acknowledged that he had repeatedly misread descriptions of guns in Vermont records as ‘old’ or ‘rusty’ when those words did not appear.”[7] Oh well, what’s a little academic license and fudging the descriptions when you’re a brilliant professor?
Another possibility exists in this whole sordid case: rather than “misreading” the documents—how do you misread and add words that are not in the text?—Dr. Bellesiles had an agenda and was opposed to guns to America—which is precisely the case—and to make his point, he was willing to be substantially less than truthful, if you get my drift. He intentionally skewed the evidence to fit his predisposition and this not only passes for “research,” it is also lauded by a majority of the academic population. Those of us who live among the “uninitiated” call this “lying,” but that sounds so unprofessional and non-academic. This is not merely my opinion. Within a few months after the appearance of these rejoinders, Columbia took the heretofore unprecedented step of revoking Bellesiles’ Bancroft Prize and asked him to return the prize money, which he had spent on tailgate parties where he drank sangria with an illegal alien named Rosa—I made the part up about the parties, sangria, and Rosa, but the rest is true.
Cramer comments, “Not surprisingly, nearly every historian who reviewed Arming America felt no need to check the accuracy of Bellesiles’ more controversial claims. It is a rare person indeed who checks the accuracy of books with which he agrees—and this is quite unfortunate. It does not say much for the quality of the American academic community that a book so grossly and obviously wrong received such glowing praise. Something went terribly wrong with Arming America. That so many prominent historians defended such an obviously flawed work suggests that there is something terribly flawed in academia today as well.”[8]
Next, the PC movement has done more to hamstring normal conversation than almost anything we’ve experienced in the annals of our country. As I pointed out above, this kind of speech, with the attendant ubiquitous “thought police” normal parlance has left the building. Americans are constantly walking on eggshells never knowing when Big Brother will condemn you of “hate speech,” of being a “bigot,” or a “homophobe.” (Is there such a thing as a “heterophobe”? I suppose not.) People who are principled (ethically) have a rough go of it these days if they refuse to walk in “lock step.” I use this phrase because it is so reminiscent of Gestapo-like tactics.
The clear and obvious double standard goes something like this: Michael Moore gives a speech at one of our “prominent” universities and he is given a polite hearing. If Ann Coulter, Michelle Malkin, or Tom Tancredo try to give a speech or lecture, the jack-booted activists do everything within their power to shout the speaker down and the campus police are oh so slow to arrive at the scene. After all, the cameras are rolling. Sounds fair and balanced, doesn’t it? The step-sister to the PC movement is multiculturalism, which every reasonable person knows is a lie. All cultures and values are simply not the same. If they were, why would anyone want to leave their country of origin and come to the United States?
We have become a country where lying in politics is considered “situation normal;” where for certain people having sex in the Oval Office falls under “bimbo control” or parsing what the meanings of “sex” and “is” are; where illegal aliens smuggle drugs across the boarder—obviously doing a job that many Americans don’t want to do—and we want to grant them amnesty and call them “undocumented workers;”[9] where gangs are tolerated; public schools are a cesspool of social engineering and students of parents in the country illegally; where the celebrity of Anna Nicole Smith, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, and Snoop Dog is celebrated; and where our President goes to Mexico and embraces the leader of a thoroughly corrupt country like he’s the poster boy for
The media would also have us believe that Gonzalez needs to step down because he and President Bush were cohorts in crime in the recent firing of eight federal court judges. What the media won’t tell you—and doesn’t want you to know—is that it is a standard practice for an incoming president to “clean house” with respect to these judges that we appointed by the previous administration. The media also doesn’t want you to remember that when Bill Clinton took office Madeline Albright fired all ninety-plus judges in one day, which was unprecedented in U.S. history. Remember that? I didn’t think so. Neither does the media. Bush is into his sixth year and he’s just now getting around to firing these eight judges, but according to the media his actions require a federal hearing.In 2008, if the Lord tarries, this nation will elect a new president. That man or woman will face difficult issues at home and abroad. I want you to start praying now that God would raise up a principled man who will really lead this country; not one that will squander our hard-earned tax dollars on welfare programs that have been and continue to be dismal failures, who will secure our boarders, who will stop the flow of drugs into this country from South America and other places, who will be strong pro-life and pro-family, who will be a man of faith, a commander-in-chief that our military personnel can respect, and one who wants to win in Iraq and Afghanistan. This country needs a president that will stand up to the thugs abroad as well as here at home. Anything less will take us further down the slippery slope of political correctness and multiculturalism.

[1] Victor Davis Hanson, Mexifornia, (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2003), p. 72.
[2] Clayton Cramer, Armed America, The Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie, (Nashville: Nelson Current, 2006).
[3] The Bancroft Prize is awarded for the best American history book.
[4] Cramer, AA, xv.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.
[8] Ibid., xvi-xvii. Emphases mine.
[9] This nonsensical term is also being coined by a number of PCA administrators. It would not surprise me that very soon we will find PCA churches offering safety in their buildings to illegals just like the Roman Catholic Church is doing now. “Principles that one generation accepts provisionally, in the context of other cultural commitments, soon harden into icy dogmas for a generation brought up on nothing else.” (Michael Novak, Will It Liberate? Questions About Liberation Theology, [Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1986], p. 27.)

Christian Feminism? (V)

Are We on the Right Track?
A question that I’ve been mulling over in my mind lately is this: Are we on the right track in Christianity in general and in the PCA in particular when it comes to our “women’s issues”? My tendency is to think that we are getting it mostly wrong because our emphasis seems quite incorrect. I believe that a case can be made that what Christ’s Church needs is to reassess its emphases when it comes to both women and men.
I’ll begin with the men since I’m part of the problem. There are certain things that are crystal clear regarding the state of spiritual affairs of the lion’s share of Christian men today: They do not lead their homes spiritually. Some have abdicated their responsibilities intentionally while others are confused or befuddled about the “what” and “how” vis-à-vis spiritual leadership. Whatever the case, most males are horribly deficient when it comes to leading and training their wives and children in the home. There are a variety of contributors to this current malaise, but whatever the situation, men really need “to suck it up” as far these matters are concerned.
The clear biblical mandate is for men to lead their families and since this mandate comes from God via Scripture it comes with absolute authority. The command is not negotiable and is equally not dependent upon our status as men economically, politically, academically, or in any other area. For example, President Bush has the same spiritual responsibilities that you and I do irrespective of how busy he is. As often as not, men offer the thin veneer of an excuse that they are busy. Well, duh! We’re all busy! What that statement translates into however is a difficulty to make time for that which is of utmost importance in a marriage and family.
This is one of the many reasons that it is imperative that churches continuously train and re-train (for blond men, especially) their male members to be good, well-equipped spiritual leaders in their homes. This will require those male leaders getting off their “duffs” and getting to church for Sunday School or a mid-week Bible study. Schedules might have to be rearranged and priorities recalculated. In addition, men will have to be willing to put aside the sappy, saccharine studies they’re doing and get into something that contains more spiritual “meat” that they can really sink their teeth into. In short, they will need to become well versed in Scripture and be willing to dig deeply into the Word of God.
Local churches have a huge roll to play in equipping males to be effective leaders in their homes. All of this might very well sound like “breaking in open doors,” but I’m convinced after twenty-five-plus years of pastoral ministry that the Church has not been doing her job and when she has done her job she has not been doing it all that well. In many—far too many—cases, there has not been enough “hands on” training in the local church that can then translate into effective, confident leadership at home. A structure, controlled environment where you can—to some degree—measure the progress and work on the week points of a particular individual seems to be the most effective way to train our men. Think of this, if you will, as “small unit” training comparable to the manner in which a military squad is trained to be an effective fighting team, capable of using each other’s weapons if necessary.
Even though what I’m saying has been around for a while, it seems to have become forgotten in the course of history and in the din of noise that we call culture or pop-culture. Anthony Rotundo describes what he calls communal manhood that was part and parcel of everyday life in colonial New England.[1] Here is how Rotundo describes the concept of manhood in the early years of our country’s existence: “There, a man’s identity was inseparable from the duties he owed to his community. He fulfilled himself through public usefulness more than his economic success, and the social status of the family into which he was born gave him his place in the community more than his individual achievements did. Through his role as the head of the household, a man expressed his value to his community and provided his wife and children with their social identity.”[2]
In Thomas Manton’s letter to the readers of the Westminster Standards that “Religion was first hatched in families, and there the devil seeketh to crush it…. If he can subvert families, other societies and communities will not long flourish and subsist with any power and vigour; for there is the stock from whence they are supplied both for the present and future.”[3] Indeed, “A family is the seminary of Church and State.”[4]
The Preface (To the Christian Reader, Especially Heads of Families) to Standards expressing similar concerns and, as the title suggests, places the burden of leadership squarely upon the shoulders of the male. Fathers and husbands have a special duty regarding those within their immediate families that God has entrusted into their care for spiritual leadership and guidance. This leadership duty is “so expressly commanded, so frequently urged, so highly encouraged, and so eminently owned by the Lord in all ages with his blessing…”[5] Therefore, Christian men are to look to themselves and their walk first and then to that of their respective families.[6]
Modern Christian men would do very well to search the scriptures diligently in order to ascertain what their duties are to their wives and children today. That is my contribution regarding the general state of affairs in Christianity today.

The Wrong Focus
Now I’m going to shift over to my own denomination: the PCA, and discuss where I think we’ve missed the boat in our current setting. This is not a “one-size-fits-all” article, but is “if-the-shoe-fits-wear-it” one. So if you are outside of the PCA, this can still be for you. In point of fact, I believe that a large number of evangelical, Presbyterian, and Reformed churches will benefit by reflecting on what I’m going to say.
What I’ve noticed lately is that our discussions tend to center on women and their role(s) in the modern Church. When texts that seem to hint or state explicitly what the roll of the woman in Christ’s Church is, there are a lot of people doing “the shag,” “barefootin’,” and the “booty green”—three famous dance steps. There are apologies all around and we begin to tippy-toe around on the proverbial eggshells. Why is that? Are we embarrassed by what God reveals in Scripture? Are we convinced that the Church hasn’t gotten it right concerning the role(s) of women in the Church? Are we succumbing to the pressure of pseudo-problems created by seminary students, ivory tower professors, students, some seminary professors, and the pc-minded Christian crowd?
When push comes to shove, I am convinced that we have not yet fully understood the inroads Feminism has made and continues to make in the PCA. I’ll grant that we do not have a bevy of “fire-breathing” feminists, but it is evident that we have our share of those who have been influenced by Feminism as I intend to show. Rather than re-focusing on the need for our men to step up to the spiritual plate, we have tended to bring women into positions that are not biblically suited for them. Some of this has occurred under the mantra of: a woman can do anything an unordained man can do. This is just a short step away from the feminist counterpart of: a woman can do anything a man can do. Both of these statements disavow any distinction between the sexes. For example, putting a woman on a “leadership” team or “worship” team that stands before the congregation and give directives might not be the best idea. Why, for instance, wouldn’t a congregation want the males who will be the leaders in terms of supervision, oversight, and direction as well as worship leading them from the outset?
Part of the mindset in the PCA needs an attitude adjustment. One example will suffice here: women in combat. It strikes me as beyond odd that PCA pastors and Ruling Elders would find the notion of women in combat acceptable. The notion is both unbiblical and unnatural. In all likelihood, few would be able to trace when the first woman entered one of our service academies or who the President of the United States was who gave that appointment the green light. The year was 1976 and the President was Jimmy Carter. In July of 1976 Mr. Carter expressed his full commitment to the feminist movement when he said, “I am fully committed to equality between men and women in every area of government and in every aspect of life.”[7] It was the Carter administration that lent its support to almost any program that White House feminists thought would advance their cause.
Carter favored and supported special federal grants to schools that provided “non-sexist” education and girl’s football teams, “to programs under the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (CETA) that trained and encouraged women to become plumbers and welders instead of secretaries or nurses.”[8] Mr. Carter and his wife “also took a very active role in pushing the states to ratify the stalled ERA…”[9] It was Carter, it should be remembered, whose personal program has become household words for us: affirmative action. There are those today who think of “Peanut” Jim as a kind of “aw, shucks” type of man who is always building houses for Habitat for Humanity. For those of us who lived through the years of his presidency we recall inflation and interest rates in the double digits, a badly bungled rescue attempt of Americans held hostage by the Iranians,[10] and a president that micro-managed who was playing tennis on the White House courts. But what we don’t know or remember about Carter are the appointments he made to the Defense Department. Mitchell gives us this penetrating insight:

Those near the top in the Pentagon included: Kathleen Carpenter as deputy assistant secretary of defense for equal opportunity; Deanne Siemer as Defense Department general counsel; Antonia Handler Chayes as undersecretary of the Air Force for manpower, reserve affairs, and installations; Jill Wine Wolner and Sara Elisabeth Lister as general counsel of the Army; Mitzi M. Wertheim as deputy undersecretary of the Navy; Patricia A. Szervo as deputy general counsel of the Navy; and Mary M. Snavely-Dixon as deputy assistant secretary of the Navy for manpower. None of the above had ever served in the military. Most had no connection with the Defense Department before 1977. All were committed to expanding opportunities for military women even if it meant drafting women for combat.[11]

But this is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg as far as the influence of Feminism in culture and in the Church is concerned. The roots run very, very deep here and it is the unwise congregation that does not give due attention to the profound impact of Feminism upon both.

The Subtlety of Enculturation
It is true that “Principles which one generation accepts provisionally, in the context of other cultural commitments, soon harden into icy dogmas for a generation brought up on nothing else.”[12] Arguably, the feminization of the Church has been moving forward since the Second Great Awakening. Nancy Pearcey has traced this development in the 12th chapter of Total Truth.[13] The dual forces of the SGA and the Industrial Revolution wreaked havoc on American families. It was during this era that America—implicitly, through the subtle influences of culture—that a paradigm shift occurred that centered moral and spiritual leadership among women. Anthony Rotundo writes, “Women took men’s places as the custodians of communal virtue.”[14] There is a double disappointment here: first, that men abdicated their positions so easily and second, that women accepted it.
Fast forward to the late 1960s and early 1970s where we find a watershed of the “icy dogmas” of the SGA and the IR hardened, but not yet finished. The political and cultural unrest of the 60s and 70s was a catalyst to re-formulate—in more radical format—the icy dogmas of the previous century. The rise of secular Feminism during this time was paralleled—albeit at a somewhat slower pace—by the feminization of God and the (further) feminization of the Church.
The feminist agenda crept into music, movies, plays, and TV—and then, finding acceptance, it rushed headlong into every area of life. Granted, not every woman burned her bra, but the infiltration was comprehensive. The Church did not remain unscathed either. The more liberal—in the bad sense—churches began incorporating many of the feminist’s notions, failing to grasp the inherent danger of the mixture of culture and Church. Of course, as with any such movement, who is capable of measuring the implications and far-reaching consequences of such a course of action? Many were so caught up in the ecstasy of the moment and the promises of liberation made by Feminism that they lost their clear vision and direction.
It was around this time that even on the campuses of conservative seminaries and in some conservative churches women such as Nancy Hardesty and Virginia Mollenkott began to hit the speaking tour. In Pasadena, Paul Jewett published Man as Male and Female. Others such a Rosemary Ruether, Letty Russel, Mary Daly, Elisabeth Schüssler Fiorenza, and others plied their trade among the liberals. In both cases, the stage was set for the feminist onslaught and the Church would not be spared. By virtue of the fact that feminist ideology permeated culture, many of their tenets were assimilated in a virtually imperceptive manner. Moreover, what took place in a more “radical” fashion in the mainline liberal churches eventually found its way into a number of the more conservative churches as well.
How was Feminism—in one form or another—able to influence those in conservative churches? There are a number of ways, but allow me to outline just a few. First, my wife has a theory that theologians live too long. That’s a somewhat scary thought because I’ll be sixty-two on my next birthday! What she means when she says that is this: it seems that pastors and other theologians seem to go off the “deep end” when they’re older. They lost their faculties, but much worse, they lose their biblical principles. Or, they read their own press clippings and start to believe that they actually are God’s gift to the Church. In either case, pastors are partially to blame either for their cowardice or for their unwillingness to believe God and to think his thoughts after him rather than to believe society.
Mary Kassian, who once called herself a feminist, agrees that “Many Christians view feminism as an ideology that merely promotes the genuine dignity and worth of women.”[15] To the extent that the Bible teaches that women and men are of equal value in God’s eyes, are both created in his image, and both are saved by faith in Christ alone through justification, then I agree. The qualification that she introduces to the previous quotation is essential to a proper understanding however. She writes, “But the philosophy of feminism adds a subtle, almost indiscernible twist to the basic Biblical truth of woman’s worth.”[16] What is that almost imperceptible twist? “Feminism asserts that woman’s worth is of such a nature that it gives her the right to discern, judge and govern that truth herself.”[17] More importantly, “It infuses women with the idea that God’s teaching about the role of women must line up with their own perception and definition of equality and/or liberation. Feminism does not present itself as an outright affront to the Bible, but it nevertheless contains an insidious distortion that erodes the authority of Scripture.”[18]
These last two quotations, I believe, strike at the heart of the matter facing us in the PCA today. When, for example, a church planter encounters a sister in the Lord with a strong personality and certain convictions about the role of the woman in the Church does he tell her that she is correct in assuming that it’s her right to discern, judge, and govern God’s truth? Is she so concerned to have another member for the worship or leadership team that he doesn’t correct this distorted view? Well, what if she leaves? Then she leaves. As the Germans say, ganz einfach—that’s simple. Better that she leave than cause more disruption in the congregation later.
In the second quotation the reasoning is just backwards, not merely for women, but for all of us. The moment we begin to believe that God’s truth—whatever it may be talking about—must line up with our perception and definition of anything we are being consummately rebellious. What has occurred recently in the PCA is the calling into question of the traditional boundaries taught by the Church at large as well as calling into question the very reason the PCA has the fight over women’s ordination in the first place. I know: some of you are thinking or saying, “Well, we never intend to have women pastors and Elders!” That’s analogous to Hillary believing that even though socialized medicine has been a dismal failure wherever it was tried it would be different with her healthcare program. The PCUSA and the PCUS never intended to have women pastors or Elders either.[19]
Mary Kassian gives us a timely example of this. She writes, “Readers who call themselves feminists may dissociate themselves with the feminist philosophy that has been presented to this point. ‘I am a Christian, and I am a feminist, but I don’t believe in THAT! …and I certainly will not slip into the beliefs of radical feminism!’ The problem is that it is extremely difficult to separate truth from error once you have associated yourself with a particular philosophy. Even if you personally may be clear on the dangers of feminism, your association with the feminist label may lend validity to feminist philosophy for others possessing less discrimination.”[20] In other words, you have to be a very good and very careful apple sorter to keep one foot in both camps—and given the truth of Scripture, why would you want to keep one foot in a camp that has such strong ties to Marxism, existentialism, unbridled autonomy, and crass secularism?
The PCA would do very well to heed Leith’s warning that historically “the left,” ecclesiastically, has been demonstrably ruthless in imposing its will on the church and it will continue to do so. The combined pressures today of political correctness (women in combat; women in leadership) and social orthodoxies (victo-crats; harboring illegal aliens, multiculturalism) undermines the capacity of ministers to think biblically and “to take public stands on issues that are before the church. The consequence is that too many church leaders and ministers are subject to being blown about by every wind of doctrine and every fad…”[21]
Unfortunately, in order to be “cutting edge” and be known as those who “engage the culture” some in the PCA have started down the slippery slope and they are attempting to drag other down with them. Mary Kassian comments on the “slippery slope” or “domino” theory thus: “Slippery slope is a term meaning the provisional acceptance of a faulty presupposition will—if not for a certain individual, then certainly for the next generation—lead to its complete acceptance. Biblical feminists have provisionally accepted the precept of feminism which exalts the importance of personal experience in defining one’s worldview. In doing so, they have stepped over the watershed onto a slope that will certainly lead to total acceptance of radical feminism. The only difference between the conservatives and the radicals is that conservative Biblical feminists have not yet followed their presuppositions through to their logical end. Eventually, however, they may find themselves sliding uncontrollably, down the hill, through the red light, and into the intersection, only to discover when they finally stop that their vehicles are pointing the wrong way.”[22]In our next installment, we’ll delve further, Lord willing, into how Feminism has had and continues to have a negative impact on the Church.

[1] E. Anthony Rotundo, American Manhood, Transformations in Masculinity from the Revolution to the Modern Era, (NY: Basic Books, 1993), p. 2.
[2] Ibid. Italics mine.
[3] The Confession of Faith, (Applecross, Ross-shire, Scotland: Free Presbyterian Church of Scotland, 1970), p. 7.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 3. Italics mine.
[6] Ibid., 3-5.
[7] Quoted by Brian Mitchell, Women in the Military, Flirting with Disaster, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Publishing, Inc., 1998), p. 79.
[8] Ibid., 79-80.
[9] Ibid., 80. Equal Rights Amendment.
[10] The day after Ronald Reagan was inaugurated, the Iranians handed the hostages over, knowing that Reagan meant business and Carter didn’t.
[11] Mitchell, WM, 80-81. Italics mine.
[12] Michael Novak, Will It Liberate? Questions About Liberation Theology, (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1986), p. 27.
[13] Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), pp. 325-348.
[14] Rotundo, American Manhood, 18.
[15] Mary Kassian, The Feminist Gospel, The Movement to Unite Feminism With the Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1992), p. 225. Kassian writes, “…up until a few years ago, I called myself a feminist and would have unashamedly stood with others who did so. There are chauvinistic attitudes in the Church, and there are atrocities and crimes of abuse, degradation and shame to which the feminist movement justifiably calls attention. The difficulty for Christians is to deal with the very real problems and issues without being beguiled by the true impetus and philosophy of the feminist movement” (pp. 225-226).
[16] Ibid.
[17] Ibid. Italics hers.
[18] Ibid. Italics hers.
[19] See John H. Leith, Crisis in the Church, (Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1997). Leith chronicles how both the PCUSA and PCUS went down the proverbial tubes. He writes, “I have also become convinced that the left wing is a greater menace to the health of the Christian community than the right wing was prior to 1960. Certainly the left wing is more, not less, ruthless in imposing its will on the church” (p. x).
[20] Kassian, TFG, 227.
[21] Leith, CC, 6.
[22] Kassian, TFG, 226-227. Emphases hers.

Friday, March 02, 2007

Christian Feminism? (IV)

Women’s Studies: Secular and Seminary
On February 24th, my wife, Sally, and I hosted the Elders and their wives in our home for an evening. It was a wonderful evening filled with the noise of many people talking at once, of boisterous laughter, good wine and cheese, and equally good desserts. The crowning point in the evening, however, was when we all moved to our living room and prayed together.
Our congregation had just elected three Elders that had never served at Grace before and I took a few moments to relate something of the nature of the gravity of the calling as well as the need for confidentiality. After my words, we bowed our heads in prayer and my soul was seared by the prayers that the Elder’s wives prayed for our congregation and for the Session as well as the prayers that the men prayed for such godly wives as well as the other godly women the Lord has sent to us. It was a moving experience, but it also pointed me back to the truth of how being a complementarian is far better than being in a situation where there’s hostility between the sexes or a vying for the 51st percentile of power.
After our prayer time everyone stayed and helped clean up and put the furniture back in place. I tell you this for a number of reasons. First, it is an expression of thankfulness to the Lord that our congregation has been blessed both with biblically qualified Elders, but also that their wives are such women of God. Their godliness transcends vocation. Among those women, a number are or were lawyers, entrepreneurs, bankers, free lance writers, or stay-at-home moms. And yet, their prayers were not about themselves but about others.
Second, I still haven’t had any responses to my request from individuals or churches to send me concrete examples of how men are squashing or abusing PCA women. Until I do, I’m going to believe that the problem does not exist in the magnitude often cited and that this is, in part, a perceived problem either from college/university and seminary students, PCA church planters, who are either afraid of stating what the PCA holds vis-à-vis the roles of women in the local congregation or who refuse to teach what they know is true, and some professors. Those of us who live in the real world of the “crucible of the congregation” are simply not running into anything like what is being described in some publications.
Third, I believe that a case can be made of how a relatively large number of theological students and other women were profoundly—yet surreptitiously—indoctrinated either during their college or seminary days. In fact, some still are being indoctrinated.

Those Pesky Late 1960s and Early 1970s
Ann Douglas (The Feminization of American Culture) that as early as the Second Great Awakening in our country that the Church became “feminized.” That is to say, it lost “a toughness, a sternness, an intellectual rigor which our society then and since has been accustomed to identify with ‘masculinity,’ and instead took on ‘feminine’ traits of care, nurturing, sentimentalism, and retreat from the harsh, competitive ethos of the public arena” (p. 18). Nancy Pearcey (Total Truth) echoes this sentiment and reminds us that during this same time frame “the American church largely acquiesced in the redefinition of masculinity.” She continues, “After centuries of teaching that husbands and fathers were divinely called to the office of household headship, the church began to pitch its appeal primarily to women. Churchmen began to speak of women as having a special gift for religion and morality” (p. 334).
This forms the backdrop for the modern Church. These notions and redefinitions lay dormant for over a century while cultural events wound their way to a more robust, full-orbed expression of what was only a “seed” during the SGA. What initially came to us under the banner of “Women’s Liberation” morphed into the rise of Feminism with its strong emphasis on “consciousness raising” (remember that?), which was a powerful form of women-centered analysis of life and culture, to a women-centered analysis of theology. During the 1960s and 1970s we witnessed a spate of courses being offered in “black studies” with its theological counterpart in “black theology” that were paralleled by “women’s studies” and “feminist theology.”
I find it very interesting to attempt to trace the origin of a number of the cultural terms that become popular, prevalent, and dominant. For example, the phrase “political correctness” is derived from Marxism. The concept of “consciousness raising” is not a home-grown American idea, but can be found as a political technique “used in the late 1940s by the revolutionary army of Mao Tse-tung in its invasion of North China.”[1] One of Mao’s dicta was “Speak bitterness to recall bitterness. Speak pain to recall pain.” The tact that Mao employed to assist the purging to the North Chinese villages of Japanese control was to gather the townspeople “in the town squares to recite the crimes their men had committed against them. The women were encouraged to ‘speak bitterness and pain.’”[2]
In America, early feminists made use of this principle as a form of “psychological warfare” or rather, what they called “reconceptualization.” In general, this took the form of informal small group meetings that were meant to be “discussion groups.” The insidious nature of these meetings was, however, that the group “leader” was a trained, jack-booted, walking in lock step feminist. The participants were ignorant and like sheep being led to the slaughter were slowly, gradually indoctrinated in the edicts taught by the feminist agenda. What transpired on those sessions is described by Maren Carden this way: The participants would “exchange accounts of personal experiences, identified shared problems, and interpret these problems in terms of the movement’s ideology. Having examined all aspects of their lives from this new perspective, they eventually reconceptualize their thinking and accept that perspective as the correct way to interpret women’s experience.”[3] It is safe to say that this procedure relied quite heavily “on emotional group dynamics and pressure, which was most instrumental in convincing women that the feminist perspective was ‘the correct way to interpret women’s experience.’”[4] It is also safe to say that many of the participants in these groups then went out and disseminated what they had “learned” to neighbors, friends, and family.
The upshot of the consciousness raising groups is that feminists encouraged a woman “to change her behavior patterns, to make new demands in her interpersonal relationships, to insist on her own rights, to convince other women of their oppressed status, and to support the women’s movement, thereby consummating her new awareness with personal and political action.”[5]
It would be a very naïve person who thinks that this type of indoctrination was limited to secular society. It wasn’t. There were also Christian women who became both involved in and influenced by these groups. It is more than coincidental that while this was transpiring in the secular realm in the late 1960s and early 1970s something similar was occurring in the Church and in some seminaries. In 1970 the Guide to Current Female Studies chronicled about one hundred courses on American college and university campuses (or campi. Whatever.) that would qualify as “women’s studies.” By 1971 the number had exploded to six hundred; by the late 1970s the number was approximately 30,000—and these courses were offered on all college campuses except for nine states. At the tail end of the 1970s it was possible to receive a B.A. (it should have been a B.S.), Masters, or Ph.D. in women’s studies.
But the “SS” was not content to go after only higher education. Organizations such as the “National Women’s Studies Association led to the introduction of feminist theories into all areas of education. Educators modified grade-school curricula, continuing education course, and courses in technical schools. Eventually the values and beliefs of feminism were found in newspapers, periodicals, newscasts and television programming. By the end of the 1970s, it was difficult to find any medium of communication not influenced by this trend.”[6] In other words, the indoctrination was pretty much a fiat accompli.
Feminist Gloria Bowles (Theories of Women’s Studies) opined in words that are easily recognizable from the Emergent Church Movement and postmodernism that “…everything I know is open to challenge, there are no absolutes, meaning is socially constructed…. Accepting the arbitrary nature of everything has necessitated a reconceptualization of right and wrong” (p. 28).
Here we are able to discern the confluence of two powerful structures: the media and philosophy. While it is patently true that not every woman in America was equally influenced by these forces it would be more than naïve to believe that everyone escaped from this propaganda deluge unscathed. Without a doubt many were touched in a negative manner by some of the major feminist tenets.
Running parallel to this secular phenomenon was an ecclesiastical counterpart. While Helen Reddy received a Grammy Award in 1972 for her song, “I Am Strong, I Am Invincible, I Am Woman” Betty Friedan was busy out predicting that the great debate of 1972 would be: “Is God He?” She was right. As the turmoil of the Vietnam War reached a fever pitch and people began an exodus from mainline churches, pastors began to speculate how to do damage control by keeping the sheep they had and, simultaneously, how to bring the disenchanted and disenfranchised back into the Church. A leading figure in this attempt was Bill Hybels, who in 1974 was a youth pastor who patterned his ministry on “loud cutting-edge Christian music, the gritty realism of dramatic skits, and the use of multimedia…wrapped around Bible studies delivered without Christian jargon on topics young people could relate to.”[7]
Combine this with the popularity of female Roman Catholic Mary Daly, who averred that “To exist humanly is to name the self, the world, and God”[8] and we can begin to gain some insight into how we got to where we are today. People such as Casey Miller and Kate Swift jumped on the bandwagon with Daly and all of them imported a buzz-word employed by their secularist counterparts: patriarchal. Miller and Swift argued: “Since the major Western religions all originated in patriarchal societies and continue to defend a patriarchal worldview, the metaphors used to express their insights are by tradition and habit overwhelmingly male-oriented.”[9]The evangelical Church was ill-equipped—with notable exception—to deal with such an onslaught. For years evangelicals had prided themselves on being anti-intellectual in spite of people like Carl Henry, Harold John Ockenga, Ed Carnell, and other Neo-evangelicals. Everything was in place for feminism to enter Christ’s Church—and it did. More on this, Lord willing, in our next installment.

[1] Mary Kassian, The Feminist Gospel, The Movement to Unite Feminism With the Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1992), p. 61.
[2] Ibid.
[3] Maren Carden, The New Feminist Movement, (NY: Russell Sage Foundation, 1974), p. 33. Emphasis mine.
[4] Kassian, TFG, 65.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Ibid., 120-121.
[7] D.G. Hart, Deconstructing Evangelicalism, (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2004), p. 167.
[8] Mary Daly, Beyond God the Father: Towards a Philosophy of Women’s Liberation, (Boston: Beacon Press, 1973), p. 8.
[9] Casey Miller & Kate Swift, Words and Women—New Language in New Times, (NY: Anchor Books, 1976), p. 64. Italics mine.