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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.

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.

6 Comments:

Blogger cindyu said...

Ron,
A dear brother (and your roomie at Twin Lakes)recently pointed me to your new blog after I came to him with some questions about women in the church (spec. the PCA). I have found these posts to be quite interesting and informative. I'd like to ask you a question about some areas you deem out of bounds for women in the church. Our church (Jack also attends my church)is currently in a huge season of change and there has been much change in the worship service. Most of it I see as good (more prayer, more scripture reading, more use of the confessions, catechisms, and creeds)but one change that concerns me is one you mention - women reading scripture in the worship service. I'm not comfortable with it but I'm not sure I see the scriptural case against it. Could you help me with this?

8:19 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Dear Cindy,
Thanks for writing. We had a lot of fun with Jack, except I still cannot figure out where Clemson is. I've never heard of it!
When we Presbos speak of the "regulative principle" we tend to speak of it differently than, say, the Lutherans. The latter contend that whatever Scripture doesn't explicitly condemn is "kosher." Presbyterians believe that unless God commands it we should not be doing it. Granted, some areas are still discuss-able, but I don't think this is the case with women leading in prayer and reading from Scripture in the worship service. I'm more convinced than ever that this notion springs from the secular concept: A woman can do whatever a man can do, but has been "christianized" to read: A woman can do whatever an unordained man can do.
I believe this is fallacious and dangerous. Role distinctions matter greatly. Moreover, as one who went through the whole women's ordination question in the PCUSA in 1975 and would have been denied ordination because I was opposed to it, I don't want to see the PCA heading down that old time-worn path.
If this doesn't help all that much keep pressing your point as long as you want. Thanks again for stopping and commenting.

2:28 PM  
Blogger Randy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:14 PM  
Blogger cindyu said...

Randy,
In this case, my feeling uncomfortable with this change in our worship service (women reading scripture) is largely due to the strong feminist leanings of some in our church. I do not think they represent the majority, but they are vocal and active. Another reason is that we are located in a university town and so have the pressure that comes with so many being immersed in academia.
I would disagree with you about official corporate worship being no different than any other worship. God gives me the authority to lead and teach, even preach to my own children in my home, yet He forbids me to do so in the church. To say that something is not allowed in certain contexts is not to call it wrong in and of itself.

7:41 AM  
Blogger cindyu said...

Let me further clarify something I said.
I said: God gives me the authority to lead and teach, even preach to my own children in my home, yet He forbids me to do so in the church.

What I meant was that I, as a woman, am forbidden to do so in the corporate worship service.

7:46 AM  
Blogger Rattlesnake6 said...

Cindy,
Just for the record, Randy is a bitter, overly-sensitive theological liberal. He disdains me because I disagree with him. In the past I have supplied more than sufficient scriptural grounds for various cases, but it really doesn't matter. Randy has an agenda, has imbibed of the Kool-Aid, and generally insists on making a nuisance of himself. Few of us take him seriously at all. Lately, he has taken to being especially vitriolic towards me.
He didn't read what you said properly because he was so intent on saying something negative about me. This is all done, of course, in the names of liberal love and toleration.

9:21 AM  

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