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, May 18, 2007

Christian Feminism? (XI)

The PCA in Urban, Egalitarian Environments:

I really had planned to start a new subject after the last installment, but something important was drawn to my attention so I thought it should be addressed and since it fits in with what I consider to be the baneful way that evangelicals talk about “Christian feminism” I thought it would be profitable to write about it.

A PCA pastor, Rev. Sam Downing, in Denver, CO has written an article entitled, “The PCA and Gospel Ministry in an Urban, Egalitarian Environment: Toward a Theologically Accurate, Culturally Appropriate Apologetic.”[1] In his Introduction Rev. Downing reminds us that since the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, “to deny a woman any position on the basis of her gender is considered bigoted, narrow-minded and a violation of her civil rights. Though the more rural and conservative regions of the United States have been slower to adopt this worldview (at least in the realm of religion) this is certainly the case in the major cities and urban areas” (p. 1).

This analysis is perhaps accurate, but Rev. Downing spends no time explaining the ideologies that now under gird this “worldview.” In the past ten issues I have been pointing out how Feminism, just to use one example, has played an integral role in developing this jaundiced view of women being able to do anything a man can do. Most understand either through reading or through experience—or both—that this is de facto the current situation.

It is also patently true, as Rev. Downing points out, that the lion’s share of the “mainline” denominations “have shifted to an ‘egalitarian’ perspective of ordaining women to church office”[2] My initial response when I read that was: And your point is? But it’s better to allow Rev. Downing to make his own points.

Rev. Downing describes the Presbyterian Church in America’s Polity this way: “The Book of Church Order (BCO) of the PCA expressly forbids the ordination of women to the office of Deacon or Elder. This position is derived largely from two sources: Primarily, from the PCA’s interpretation of Scripture; secondarily, from the historic tradition of the Church catholic”[3] He continues, “Though women are not allowed to be ordained as church officers in the PCA, they are nonetheless seen as spiritual equals to men.”[4] He directs our attention to the fact that within the last twenty-five years this definition best describes what has come to be known as the “complementarian” position. What is that? It is “the view that although women are equal to men in significance and gifting for ministry, they are not equal in calling—men are called to exercise authority in the Church and in the home; women are called to submit to and support men in their roles of leadership and authority. (Men are likewise called to support women in their submission through love and sacrificial service.)”[5]

As I read this, I couldn’t help but think that pretty soon the “But Monkey” was going to show up. Why would anyone take so much time to break down an open door? Was Rev. Downing merely attempting to remind us of what we already know? I didn’t think so. Before we pass on, I would add that the complementarian position as it is explained and defended by organizations such as the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and books like Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood[6] have aptly defended this (relatively) new position, which, by the way, isn’t really new at all, but according to what Rev. Downing has previously explained is, in fact, the position of historic Christianity as well as the PCA, being a part of historic Christianity. So Rev. Downing has given us the descriptions so now we’re going to move on to the applications.

His next section is where the “But Monkey” makes his appearance: The PCA: Culture and Practice. The opening salvo reads: “Within the PCA there is no serious debate over the legitimacy of the complementarian position.”[7] Really? Did I miss something at the outset of the birth of the PCA. When I graduated from Gordon-Conwell in 1975 I was PCUSA. I realized that there was no way that I was going to get ordained in the PCUSA due to my view on the ordination of women. I chose, rather, to go to the Free University of Amsterdam to work on my doctoral studies. I followed the discussions from across the ocean and it seemed to me that the PCA came to some solid, biblical conclusions at the outset of its existence. If since around the 1980s the term complementarian has been in use and its use has created no problems or confusion why do we need to have this discussion now?

Question: If the complementarian position is commensurate with the PCA’s interpretation of Scripture, which is also in line with the historic position of the Church catholic, what’s the point? I suppose it could be argued that it’s a good thing to re-think and re-consider your position from time to time, but I cannot help but wonder what new piece of biblical information or insight do we have now that we didn’t have previously? For example, when I talk to my Baptist brothers and sisters about Baptism, I’m more than willing to go back and look at all the texts another time. In my discussions, however, no one thus far has really brought forward anything new as far as the usual scriptural texts are concerned. For whatever reason, you either end up on the Baptist or paedo-baptist side of the coin.

Rev. Downing seems to be saying that we really should have a serious debate about what hasn’t been a source of consternation—by his reckonings—since the 1980s. Now recall that he is aiming at bringing the gospel to an urban, egalitarian environment. He acknowledges that rural and conservative regions of PCA-land have a different set of circumstances. Are we to assume then that all who are in favor of the complementarian position are PCA rednecks? Are we to assume that our biblical and confessional principles should operate on a sliding scale contingent upon where in the fruited plain we live? Let’s continue to listen. Rev. Downing believes that “Those who disagree with that position have generally either left the denomination of their own accord or have been forced to leave due to noncompliance with the BCO.”[8] Well, that’s not entirely accurate, is it? Let me, as they say in Spanish, “esplain.” First, those who have left the PCA over “the women’s issue” have not left because they were not card-carrying members of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, who had drunk the “complementarian” Kool-Aid. Personally, I’m not aware of a large number of churches that fit Rev. Downing’s category here, but of the ones that have left the PCA I think it’s a stretch to assert that they left for purely complementarian reasons. They left because of the PCA’s interpretation of the pertinent biblical texts and because their views were not in keeping with the Westminster Standards and the BCO.

Second, each one of us is required at our ordination to answer this question in the affirmative: “…and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow?” (BCO-21-5.2) As far as I know, no one has answered Yes at gunpoint. Freely and willingly we have given our word. What is another problem that Rev. Downing doesn’t touch on is when pastors do have a change of heart or of their views on women’s ordination and don’t inform their Presbytery. This is tantamount to breaking their word, which is a serious matter as well. I’m also not aware of people being forced to leave the PCA because of non-compliance to the BCO. It would seem that both conscience and reality would dictate that it’s time to move on. Why would you want to stay in a church with whom you disagreed on key issues? For example, if you became convinced that predestination was not true and that free will was, why would you want to stay PCA? Leaving by your own volition would seem the prudent thing to do. If, however, you insist on staying and teaching that which is contrary to the stated beliefs of that denomination, I really don’t see the problem with being asked to leave. In fact, in the history of Presbyterianism there have been clear times (for example, Charles Finney) when the dissenting party should have been asked to leave and if they had said no, then they should have been required to leave.

According to Rev. Downing “there is indeed a serious and growing debate surrounding the culture and practice of the PCA in regard to the role of women.”[9] Yes, I believe he is correct. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with debate and discussion. I do want to ask those who are initiating this “serious and growing debate” if their views are true reflections of what they promised at their ordination. If they are not, then the requisite step before the debate begins is to go back to your respective Presbytery and explain your change of view. It is imperative that we are sticklers on this point. There is a need for ethical propriety and if someone has been in the “closet” on this matter, they need to do what they promised first and then we can have the debate.

What Rev. Downing says next baffles me: “A growing number of PCA pastors, elders, and laypeople are recognizing that there is much more latitude in regard to the role of women in the church, beyond the traditional ministries women are given access to, such as keeping the nursery, teaching children, singing in the choir, teaching within gender restrictive ministries such as Women in the Church (WIC) etc. These younger generations of PCA leaders and laypeople are not taking issue with the theology of the PCA as much as the culture (emphasis his) of the PCA that goes beyond restricting women from holding church office to limiting a woman’s ability to use her spiritual gifts meaningfully (emphasis mine) in any way that even appears (emphasis his) to be usurping male leadership.”[10]

So let’s see if we can unpack this. These “younger generations” seem to be assuming that the “older generations” did not have this fight before, which they did. They also seem to be assuming that the only kinds of thought that were given to the issue were of the stodgy, traditional sort, not the fresh, creative, insightful, and new perspectives of the younger generations. This is a perennial problem, but I would suggest to the younger generations who have not been in the trenches that they do not succumb to the Rehoboam Syndrome. Moreover, and more importantly, I’m not convinced that the younger generation agrees with some of the theology of the PCA. If, for example, the younger generations are moving in a more secular egalitarian way, then I contend that they are taking issue with the theology of Scripture.

It would also have been highly helpful if Rev. Downing would have explained to us precisely what the culture of the PCA might be, as he sees it and how, precisely, the PCA—across the board—is limiting a woman’s ability to use her spiritual gifts. I’ve been a PCA pastor for twelve years in southern California. Before that I was a Reformed pastor in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and before that I was a Reformed pastor in The Hague in Holland, which is next door to The Netherlands. As I read Rev. Downing’s assertion I kept asking myself what precisely he was talking about when he and the younger generations talk about limiting a woman’s ability to use her spiritual gifts. The kind of vagaries he’s using is not helpful. But we’ve had this dilemma before. I’ve asked both on my blog and in these issues for PCA people to give me specific examples of what they’re talking about and to date the response has been nil. In addition, one has to wonder what it means for a woman to use her spiritual gifts meaningfully. Clearly, this is not in opposition to her using her spiritual gifts meaninglessly. What exactly would constitute an act where it would appear that a PCA woman is usurping male leadership? If Rev. Downing is going to enlighten us and explicate what constitutes a theologically accurate, culturally appropriate apologetic for the gospel in an urban, egalitarian environment he should have done a much better job. As it stands, he has only clouded the issue with generalities and vagaries.

Undaunted, he continues: “One serious consequence of this is that the vast majority of PCA churches continue to be populated almost exclusively by politically conservative Anglos. Minorities and political liberals are noticeably absent.”[11] I’m pondering to what the word “this” refers in the sentence. Does Rev. Downing mean that a serious consequence of the PCA not allowing women to use their gifts in a spiritually meaningful fashion is why the PCA is made up of politically conservative Anglos? Furthermore, political liberals (read: Socialists. Political liberals you can talk to, whereas what constitutes the far political Left today is more akin to Socialism) will, in all likelihood, not feel at home in a congregation that is outspokenly pro-life, anti-euthanasia, pro-death penalty, adverse to the deleterious effects of radical Feminism, and other such things will not and should not feel comfortable with biblical preaching when it comes to these issues. Of course, it’s possible to avoid preaching about such matters—for a time—but it would seem that eventually your colors will show either there or through casual conversation. I concur with Rev. Downing that a great many non-whites and political liberals need to hear the Gospel of Jesus Christ, but this has been true down through the centuries.

Rev. Downing states that there are also “a growing number of evangelical Christians who are politically moderate-to-liberal (socialistic? RG) and are finding it increasingly difficult to find a church where they ‘fit.’”[12] I can believe that, but maybe for different reasons. Barna has argued that there are evangelical Christians today who have trouble with absolute truth, cohabitation, homosexuality, cheating, fraud, adultery, divorce, and a number of other ethical, biblical issues. How does a biblical church that is trying to live a scripturally obedient life help such people “fit?” Shouldn’t they/we rather call them to repentance and obedience to the Lord? It is assumed that most of these moderate-to-liberal types are egalitarians (that’s easy enough to believe) who are not interested in fighting over women’s ordination, but here is the caveat: “…so long as the gifts and calling of women are taken seriously in the church and women are given meaningful (there’s that word again) opportunities to use their spiritual gifts.”[13] So who ultimately determines when women are using their gifts in a meaningful manner? Is it the moderate-to-liberal misfits or is it the church leadership? How is all this determined? What are the biblical criteria by which this is judged? We are not told.

To Rev. Downing’s mind, “it is often not the theology of the PCA but the culture of the PCA which causes many people outside the traditional PCA demographic to look elsewhere for a church home”[14] Maybe, but also maybe not. My own congregation is quite ethnically diverse, economically diverse, and age diverse—more so than many other PCA congregations. My findings are that when people come and “check us out” that it is not the culture of the PCA in Yorba Linda, CA that troubles them, because there is no one monolithic culture. Some people wear suits and some come in flip-flops. Some have children, some don’t. Some are Anglo/Gringos and others aren’t. By and large the reasons they leave are not cultural but theological, although we have quite a few Calvary Chapel burn-outs.

Southern California is thoroughly secular. It is all about the image and living in “the O.C.” And yet it is even here that God has his people. My congregation is made up of stay-at-home moms and “professional” women as well. They are treated all the same: like dirt. Just kidding! We are blessed with wonderful godly women—the real distinction is between godly and ungodly and not some secular cultural substitute—who serve the Lord and their covenant family from their heart. These women would be the same whether they lived in Orange County, California or in “heartland” America. Given traditional (read: biblical roles) they’re convinced they use their gifts meaningfully. More next time.

[1] You can find this article and download it for yourself at

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Wayne Grudem & John Piper (eds.), Recovering Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, A Response to Evangelical Feminism, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 1991).

[7] Downing, UEE, 1. Italics mine.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.. In footnote 1 of his paper, Rev. Downing has this to say about his assertion: “This assessment is based largely upon anecdotal evidence, yet is generally understood as being accurate.” (Emphasis mine.) If, when I was growing up, I had known the difference between anecdote and antidote, some of my friends would still be alive.

[12] Ibid., 2.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Christian Feminism? (X)

Those Halcyon Days of the 1970s

In 1974 a group of women that called themselves “biblical feminists” founded the Evangelical Women’s Caucus. At the time, few seemed to be concerned. After all, what’s wrong with a biblical feminist? In the course of time the answer to that question has become increasingly evident: biblical feminists tend to be more feminist than biblical. This particular group had as one of its goals to present “God’s teachings on male-female equality to the whole body of Christ’s church.”[1] Of course, if what they meant was that both male and female are created equally in God’s image, then there would have been no debate.

What the supporters of so-called biblical feminism seemed to overlook was that the founders of the EWC were discussing much more than the biblical notion of the imago Dei. It was their contention that the Bible supported the basic equality of the sexes.[2] In keeping with the then current tenets of Feminism it meant that a woman can do anything a man can do. Jimmy Carter set out to prove that two years later when the first woman entered the Air Force Academy. That same thesis is alive and well today both in culture and in the Church. There are a number of Christian women today who have “bought in to” the notion that a woman can do anything a man can do and also a number of male Christian leaders who believe that a woman can do anything that an unordained man can do. I contend that this type of thinking both muddies the biblical distinctions between male and female (there are still gender differences) and is a vestige of feminist indoctrination.

The EWC’s aim was “to share the good news of Biblical feminism with the oppressed as well as the oppressors with the hope of bringing about both individual and institutional change.”[3] First, notice the Marxism language employed. This statement, with the necessary changes being made, could have been extracted from Gustavo Gutierrez’s book A Theology of Liberation. In fact, it probably was. Moreover, the EWC crowd was not merely aiming at individuals, but also institutions, and one cannot help but believe that one of those institutions was the Church. Feminism had made its voice heard in the public square and now it found its allies in the Church as well. It wasn’t until more than a decade later (1987 to be precise) that a number of “biblical feminists” withdrew from the EWC because of its endorsement of lesbianism.[4] This splinter group came to be known as Christians for Biblical Equality. While this group had jettisoned the endorsement of lesbianism, their new document “also presented the belief that the Bible taught the full equality of men and women (this is, monolithic equality—role-interchangeability). This was also EWC’s stance.”[5]

Mary Kassian correctly points out that conservative biblical Feminism is “no longer advance by those who initiated it. Writers such as (Lisa) Scanzoni, (Nancy) Hardesty, and (Virginia) Mollenkott have left evangelicalism to join liberal religious feminism.”[6] In other words, while these female religious leaders were plying their trade from 1974-1987 they were “in process”; they were changing theologically. One can only speculate how much of their transition from broadly evangelical to decidedly liberal rubbed off on those females who stuck it out until the “lesbian showdown” in 1987. To think that there was little or no influence on them is naïve and tantamount to sticking your head in the sand.

While the evangelical community was being infiltrated by many of the tenets of secular Feminism/Humanism the Reformed world was not immune either. Those sending their children to Calvin College in the 1990s might have been in for a rude awakening in the form of Mary Stewart VanLeeuwen. In 1990, InterVarsity Press released her book entitled Gender & Grace. VanLeeuwen worked in the areas of psychology and “interdisciplinary studies” at Calvin and sought to present “a ‘new’ model for insight into sexual identity and the relationship between male and female.”[7] Of central importance for our purposes is that VanLeeuwen saw the “role of women as equal, that is undifferentiated from men.”[8] To her mind, women and men are “equally saved, equally Spirit-filled and equally sent.”[9] She also believed that after the fall into sin, man’s sin would be to dominate the woman and woman’s sin would be to let him.[10] Her “research” led her further to conclude that the Church suffered from patriarchy and the abusive nature of the traditional family structure.[11] It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to conclude that VanLeeuwen was more feminist than biblical and yet she trained a cadre of students who passed through her classroom.

The upshot of this is that the primary focal points of so-called biblical feminism have not shifted significantly. In the early 1970s as now their “issue” was the ordination of women. A number of mainline denominations have caved and the “remnant” is being assaulted. The assault, however, is not always a frontal attack. As often as not, it is a diversionary or oblique move. Lessons have been learned about going head-to-head with those who are opposed to the ordination of women. With these people, more subtle maneuvers are in order. Rather than starting with the ordination of women to the roles of pastor/teacher or Ruling Elder, the choice is made to begin at a lower echelon if you will.

Americans are—in general—both suckers for psychological warfare and naïve about it. For example, during the Vietnam War many TV viewers were convinced that all the “protesters” they saw on their screens each night were actually students. Some were; others were anti-war activists shipped in for the purpose leading the “sheep.” Still others were “hired” communist “guns” brought in to win the hearts and minds of the American populace. And win them they did! The ploy now being used against those churches that are resistant to the ordination of women is to state that that never was the intention, so why can’t they be Deacons? After a few years and another generation it can be said that women have functioned well—indeed, admirably, wonderfully—as Deacons so why shouldn’t they be allowed to function in other capacities of leadership in the local congregation? Already, women are leading in prayer, reading Scripture, and the leaders of the praise team or praise band. If history is any indicator—and it usually is—it’s just a matter of time before we face the women’s ordination issue again in the PCA.

Some Men Aren’t Helping

JD Wetterling sent me a link today (5.10.07) to Al Mohler’s blog. Dr. Mohler posted an article entitled “‘The Army We Have’—Young Men, Responsibility, and Leadership for the Twenty-First Century.”[12] I have argued for quite some time that the Church is a great deal like the military. Mohler opens his article with these words: “Inevitably, the armed services are a mirror held up to the nation. When we look at our soldiers, we see the profile of a generation.”[13] In light of what I’ve been writing in this series on Christian Feminism that is a very telling comment. People like Stephanie Gutmann and Brian Mitchell—just to mention two—have warned us about what the feminization of the military has led to. How has the feminization of the Church affected it?[14] The short answer is: substantially more than we know and are willing to admit.

I’m not referring to its effects upon the females in the Church but also the males. Mohler’s blog post in question has as one of its pillars an article in The Atlantic by Brian Mockenhaupt. Mockenhaupt laments the fact that “Young people are fatter and weaker. They eat more junk food, watch more television, play more video games, and exercise less. They are more individualistic and less inclined to join the military.”[15] This easily translates into the modern Church situation that caters to the young and old alike. Modern evangelicals are spiritually “fatter” and “weaker.” They consume spiritual junk food by the truck loads that pass itself off as “worship.” They devour fluff and have little stomach for substantial spiritual meals. Modern Christians tend to exercise themselves in spiritual matters little, are the quintessential individual, and have little or no stomach for spiritual warfare, even though they are engaged in it up to their ears.

Mockenhaupt and Mohler point out that with regard to our military “standards have been lowered, expectations have been altered, and basic training has been transformed.”[16] When we turn our attention to the Church of Jesus Christ, something quite similar can be said. Pastors no longer want to preach doctrine, but would prefer to preach through Rick Warren’s simplistic, if not simple-minded, Forty Days of Whatever. Instead of expository preaching of the Word of God, the modern “disablers” as David Wells calls them, dish out a steady diet of self-help talks, examples and illustrations from the current movies or music, and general “feel good” self-esteem builders. The standards have been lowered—substantially.

Expectations about Church have been lowered as well. Many churches have banished crosses, hymnals, and anything that might upset politically correct, unchurched Harry and Harriet. They no longer have to worry about being harangued by drooling pastors with spittle running down their Calvin Klein designer suits, but can be sweetly and calmly reassured that they will never hear the word “sin” pass from their lips. As expectations have been lowered spiritual readiness and preparedness have been the first casualties. Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount about faith in time of crisis. Many modern Christians can’t wait for the sermonette to be over so he can go to the Starbucks located on the premises of the church and get a latte-(dah).

Basic training has been transformed too. In the military there are precious, precious few bases or posts where women are not integrated into basic training. The results have been—at best—disastrous. The Marines still have non-integrated training and they’re doing well. Ft. Benning, GA is the only Army post that does not have integrated training. The net result is that our military has come face to face with problems it never would have had if basic training was still segregated.

We cannot and must not lay all the blame at culture’s door, but I believe a solid case can be made that Feminism, so-called biblical or Christian Feminism, liberalism, and political correctness has created a society that is incompetent and incapable of understanding male and female roles and the place of the warrior—Christian or otherwise—in culture. Mohler asks us to ponder this surprising and disappointing statistic: “Consider that in the age group 17-24, 7 of 10 young men are ineligible for military service—that’s 70 percent.”[17] More than 50% of that 70% is disqualified for “moral, mental, or medical reasons.”[18]

Are we surprised? This is a generation that has grown up surrounded by knotheads who think it’s a bad thing to keep score. What incentive is it for me to teach my wrestlers to go out and pin their opponent if the referee is going to raise both their hands in victory? “You both won. Don’t you feel good about yourselves?” And all the soccer moms go away happy. “Wasn’t that wonderful? They both won!” Yeah, well tell that to the guy who was on his back counting the lights on the ceiling, while he was getting pinned. Morally and mentally the Church is in deep weeds.

COL Kevin Shwedo is the director of TRADOC.[19] Mockenhaupt and Mohler quote him as saying that today’s military recruits are the products of a society that can’t quite figure out how to raise its children.[20] That’s a tragic thing to have to admit, but I concur that far too many parents today don’t have a clue how to raise their children, many women cannot cook—thinking that when the smoke alarm goes off that means that the food is ready—, and are more concerned about their own entertainment and amusement than they are raising their kids. By any standard, this is tragic. But—but—hasn’t the modern Church behaved in a similar fashion?

How has the Church raised its “children” during the church growth debacle? How is the Emergent conversation/church/whatever raising its “children” now? I believe that a large number of those who call themselves Christians today have never been “parented” by the Church. They have not received the guidance and instruction necessary to grow up to mature manhood and womanhood. They have been basically left to themselves and have been allowed to dictate to the “parents” what they will and will not have; what they will and will tolerate. As I talk to a number of young men and women today I see a glaring lack of understanding of the roles of men and women, hence the rise of the TV shows, music videos, and movies flaunting homosexuality and presenting it as a viable, alternative lifestyle.

Shwedo adds that other problems in recruiting young people into the military today are that “Most kids coming into the Army today have never worn leather shoes in their life unless it said Nike, Adidas¸or Timberland (Timberland?—RG.) They’ve never run two miles consecutively in their life, and for the most part they hadn’t had an adult tell them ‘no’ and mean it.”[21] That sounds like the designer, yuppie modern Church. They are dressed to the nines—or they are dressed ten steps below casual—, they are not required or encouraged to exert themselves spiritually, and they don’t understand that there is a definite, specific Christian life and worldview and Christian behavior that says no to the ways of the world and to other sinful behavior.

Mockenhaupt reminds us of this important truth: “For all the evolution in military tactics, weaponry, and organizational structure, the basic aim of military training—producing strong, disciplined soldiers, skilled with their weapons—remains constant, and the core methods are simple.”[22] Isn’t there a parallel here for the Church as well? With all our advancement in technology and given the changes that have occurred since the Second World War are the spiritual needs of modern men and women all that much different from 1945? For that matter, is sin any different now than it was immediately after the fall? Has the Redeemer changed because culture has changed? Isn’t it true that contextualization is over-rated?

Is the Church producing—by God’s grace—strong, disciplined Christians that are skilled and thoroughly conversant with the sword of truth the Word of God? Sadly, I believe it would be more than a bit of a stretch to answer that in the affirmative. The ADD Christians have been given spiritual Ritalin instead of being taught spiritual disciplines. Right now, this is the spiritual Army we have. Can it be better, different? Yes, of course it can be, but it won’t happen overnight and it won’t be an easy task. The time to change course is right now, today. Pastors need to begin leading from the front and by example as do their Ruling Elders/Consistories. If anything our current challenge in the Church is far greater than that faced by our armed services in recruiting military personnel. The stakes are far higher. Like it or not, we’re already on the battlefield and the war is raging. What will we do?

[1] Cited in Mary Kassian, The Feminist Gospel, The Movement to Unite Feminism With the Church, (Wheaton: Crossway, 1992), p. 215. The document to which Kassian refers is as follows: Evangelical Woman’s Caucus, “Statement of Faith,” Evangelical Women’s Caucus International Introductory Brochure.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid. Italics mine.

[4] Cf. “Christian Feminists Form New Organization,” Christianity Today, Vol. 31 (October 16, 1987), p. 44. Cited in Kassian, TFG, 216.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 212.

[8] Ibid., 213.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid., 214.

[11] Ibid.

[13] Ibid., 1.

[14] Comp. Nancy Pearcey, “How Women Started the Culture War,” in Total Truth, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2004), pp. 325-348.

[15] Mohler, 2.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

[19] Military abbreviation for Training and Doctrine Command.

[20] Mohler, 2.

[21] Ibid. Italics mine. Timberland? Never heard of it. Oh well, I’m a parent, so I wear designer jeans and shoes from Costco.

[22] Ibid.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Christian Feminism? (IX)

Today’s “Charmed” Forces
I was informed by some 20-somethings recently that they needed to go talk to a male friend of theirs who was considering going into the Air Force. After the usual jocularity—“Oh, he couldn’t get into the military, huh?”—I proceeded to ask what the particular problem was. It seems that the young man was struggling with life because his pet bird had flown out of the window that day. For a moment, I stood slack-jawed. This does not bode well, folks. You can only wonder what this young man will do if he ever has to face a real problem.
Of course, given the current state of our military we shouldn’t be totally surprised. Simultaneously, we should not be surprised since I have been chronicling for you how feminists have all but ruined our military preparedness, morale, and unit cohesion. Instead of a warrior mentality in our armed forces, we are experiencing—with notable exception—a thin gruel caused in large part by Feminism and political correctness. Way back in 1980, Charles Moskos wrote: “The main fault stems from the economists’ assumption that the armed forces are just another part of the labor market, and from an unwillingness to grasp the essential distinctions between military service and civilian occupations. It is this faulty theoretical underpinning, not the end of conscription, that has brought the American military to its present plight.”[1]
Here is something that will probably shock the sensibilities of a lot of Americans today who have swallowed the PC Kool-Aid, but I’m going to say it anyway. In the quote from Moskos above it is evident to anyone with a modicum of common sense (do such people still exist today?) that those economists missed “the importance of the military’s masculine character in attracting men.”[2] Mitchell rightly views men in the military as positive, constructive indicators of a healthy society. He writes, “Young men can be persuaded to endure years of dirt, danger, and drudgery in occupations whose only attraction is their manly character. Military service has always been considered the most manly of roles and therefore has always been able to attract recruits, despite its abundance of detractions.”[3] To Mitchell’s mind these are “constant truths.”[4]
Judith Stiehm concluded what a lot of feminists and PC Kool-Aid devotees don’t want you to know, namely that at the outset of the All-Volunteer Forces the American feminist movement was very successful at destroying sex roles, denigrating masculinity, and integrating civilians occupations. Her research led her to believe that the “military could have capitalized on the movement’s success by offering military service as a refuge for men who still wanted to be traditional men—and, at that time, there were still some, who weren’t lamenting their parakeet leaving the building.[5] Branches of the armed forces such as the Marines kept asking for “a few good men” and those with the requisite testosterone responded positively. In fact, “The service that made such a request increased its share of the high quality male manpower pool and got all the men it needed; the services that advertised an integrated force saw their shares of the same pool decline and their billets go unfilled.[6]
It is precisely this approach that has not only weakened our military, but is part and parcel of the dilemma of masculinity in our world today. Mitchell states: “Young American males know enough to profess socially acceptable opinions, but at heart, they are no more feminist than young men were twenty years ago, only more confused about what it means to be a man.”[7] When I first read this quote I wrote in the margin of the book: “use for the Church also.” While it is generally true that contemporary males are confused about what it means to be a man, my main concern is not with society or culture in the first place, but with the modern Church.
In my church affiliation (the Presbyterian Church in America) it is almost a foregone conclusion—and you hear the mantra quite often—that a woman can do anything an unordained man can do. I’m not at all certain where that particular sound-byte might be found in Scripture. In 2006, Ligon Duncan and Susan Hunt co-authored a very helpful little book entitled Women’s Ministry in the Local Church.[8] In that book they brought up the issue of what women can and cannot, should and should not do in the local congregation. They write, “Some churches assert that women can do anything that unordained men can do. The proponents of this approach say that since women are mainstreamed into the total ministry of the church, a women’s ministry is irrelevant or redundant. The vulnerability of this position is that it denies the uniqueness of woman’s design and role and leaves men and women susceptible to egalitarianism.”[9]
They are, in fact, right on the money. What a number of modern churches fail to take into account is that “Biblical womanhood and worldly womanhood are radically different, just as everything about the Christian life is countercultural and counterintuitive.”[10] Trying to make women in the church similar to women in the world is an egregious error on the part of the modern Church. Duncan and Hunt conclude that “the denial or the twisting of the Bible’s clear teaching on manhood and womanhood is one of the central ways that biblical authority is being undermined in our times.”[11]
There is a “trend” in the PCA today to allow women to read Scripture, lead in prayer, and lead on the “praise team.” I can imagine that some are thinking, “So what’s the big deal if a woman reads Scripture in a worship service?” As Bruce Ware from Southern Baptist Seminary aptly puts it, “To compromise on a little thing will pave the way for compromises on much that matters.”[12] Any student of Church History or anyone who observed the wheels coming off the Christian Reformed Church has to know that Ware is correct. Like it or not; believe it or not, there is a domino effect and the Christian Church is susceptible to it. That is why Duncan and Hunt emphasize the following truth: “The church has been called to shape culture, not ape it.”[13] As true as this is, there is no shortage of voices in the PCA encouraging us—naively—to engage the culture. This “engagement” is rather amorphous and ill-defined, if defined at all. It seems to be assumed that we all know what we’re talking about and that we all know how to do it effectively.
In our own tradition, the Westminster Larger Catechism (156) asks, Is the Word of God to be read by all? and gives the following answer: “Although all are not to be permitted to read the Word publicly to the congregation, yet all sorts of people are bound to read it apart by themselves, and with their families: to which end, the Holy Scriptures are to be translated out of the original into the common languages.”
Perhaps I’m misreading this—I really don’t think I am. I’m using this as a literary device—but it is clear that women are not to be reading Scripture and that allowing them to do so is in clear violation of our Westminster Standards. Just how important is this in the grand scheme of things? Some might think that it isn’t all that important at all. When pastors are ordained in the PCA, however, they are asked a series of questions. According to our Book of Church Order (21-5.2) they are also asked the following question: “Do you sincerely receive and adopt the Confession of Faith and the Catechisms of this Church, as containing the system of doctrine taught in the Holy Scriptures; and do you further promise that if at any time you find yourself out of accord with any of the fundamentals of this system of doctrine, you will on your own initiative, make known to your Presbytery the change which has taken place in your views since the assumption of this ordination vow? (Italics mine.) That same BCO clearly states in 50-1: “The public reading of the Holy Scriptures is performed by the minister as God’s servant.” Some point to 50-2 as a contradiction: “The reading of the Holy Scriptures in the congregation is a part of the public worship of God and should be done by the minister or some other person.” This is only a contradiction or an apparent contradiction for those looking for loopholes. In its historical context and setting the common sense rendering is that another Elder may read Scripture as well.
What is known as evangelicalism in the U.S. is facing a serious crisis. Doctrine has been watered down and ridiculed until about the only semblance of anything doctrinal among the evangelicals is whether you’re pre-, post-, or mid-trib. You know you’re in deep weeds when the Left Behind series is one of the most popular evangelical books on the market, along with The Purpose Driven…Whatever. The upshot of this is that there is also a crisis of womanhood. Indeed, this crisis “is too critical for the church to be passive.”[14] Why is that? The short answer is this: “Scores of evangelical women are functional feminists, because the world’s paradigm for womanhood is the only one they have heard.”[15] My only criticism of the previous quote is that instead of “scores” I would substitute “tens of thousands.”
And if the functional feminist evangelicals are not hearing what the Bible says from their pastor because his canary flew away or because he’s fearful of losing a “warm body” if he tells the truth, then where are they going to hear it? We all know the answer to that question. There are some interesting parallels between the military and the church, which are often lost on those who have never served. For example, Brian Mitchell says of the military, “It places some in authority over others, it distributes...responsibilities unequally, and it demands that all serve not themselves but a higher common good.”[16] The type of worldly Feminism which has influenced so many functional feminist evangelicals is “rights-oriented, egalitarian, and egoistic. It elevates the rights of individuals above the exercise of authority…. Feminism and the military are at odds…”[17]That’s correct. But Feminism and the Word of God are at odds with each other as well. That needs not only to be stated clearly, but also put into practice in the local congregation—boldly and biblically. In 1979—only three years after Carter rammed the first female cadets down the Air Force Academy’s throat—a West Point study group concluded: “There is nothing inherent in what the Army does that must be done in a masculine way…” That feminist-driven statement is not all that different from someone saying, “A woman in Christ’s Church should be able to do anything an unordained man can do.” It is patently true that our military has been rather thoroughly feminized and the results are not pretty. More important to me, however, is that the Church seems inclined to follow suit. When will we be aroused from our spiritually lethargic slumbers and realize and put into practice the truth that just about everything in the Christian life is countercultural and counterintuitive?

[1] Charles Moskos, “How to Save the All-Volunteer Force,” The Public Interest, Fall 1980, pp. 79-80.
[2] Brian Mitchell, Weak Link, The Feminization of the American Military, (Washington, D.C.: Regnery Gateway, Inc., 1989), p. 217.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Judith Stiehm, “Women and the Combat Exception,” Parameters, June 1980, p. 56.
[6] Ibid.
[7] Mitchell, WL, 218. Italics mine.
[8] J. Ligon Duncan III & Susan Hunt, Women’s Ministry in the Local Church, (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2006).
[9] Ibid., 32.
[10] Ibid., 33.
[11] Ibid., 41.
[12] Cited by Duncan & Hunt, WMLC, 41.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid., 42.
[15] Ibid. Italics mine.
[16] Mitchell, WL, 220.
[17] Ibid.