A Response to the He-Man Women Haters Club

I really wasn’t planning to make a full response to the boys over at that blog that shall remain nameless. My general approach with them is “don’t feed the trolls.” However an astute reader, Kassandra, has written an impressive reply that addresses the brothers and their concerns with my post on Biblical Patriarchy. Here is her reply in full, posted here with her permission.

Kassandra:

Interesting post from Bayly. Completely unresponsive to yours, of course, but the patriarchy set are often like old-fashioned communists. In response to any argument as to the flaws in their theory and its unpleasant consequences, they’ll usually settle for calling you a capitalist, short-hand for self-deluded, power-hungry oppressors of mankind. I find this sort of response unpersuasive, unhelpful, and irritating.

I first got bogged down in Bayly’s spurious “I met this minor theologian that you quoted in passing as making a point with which you agreed, and he was a feminist.” Ugh. No one cares what this fellow we’ve never heard of said at dinner…with nuns (Why mention the nuns? As they say, if there’s a nun over the fireplace in the first act…). Why didn’t Bayly address Bloesch’s thought? He was cited for his idea, not as someone we can all agree is an authority. So what if he’s a feminist? Even a feminist might stumble upon a good idea every once in awhile, like a blind pig. What Bloesch says appears to be true, feminist or not. But labels, and their misuse, are the sin qua non of Bayly’s post.

Bloesch’s claim is pretty modest–some men are tyrants that leave their families in “servile dependence and submission.” A claim that humans abuse power seems modest enough. No one who bothered to read a bit of Proverbs and a minor prophet or two could seriously claim that abuse of the people one has power over is not wrong. It is therefore perplexing that instead of telling us why the patriarchy movement is not subject to such abuse, or no more subject to abuse than usual, Bayly settles for labeling everyone involved a feminist, as if that settles the question.

On this point, I have bad news for Bayly. Outside the patriarchy movement, those of us who think the gals shouldn’t be church officers and should be submissive to their own husbands are pretty much never referred to as feminists. By anybody. Especially actual feminists. Slapping a label on someone that doesn’t suit is the essence of Bayly’s entire post.

Interestingly, Bayly labels Sproul Jr. and Doug Wilson complementarians, while you, with your more generally accepted version of complementarianism, must be a feminist. While I’m sure both chaps claim to be complementarians, they are also leading lights of patriarchy. If they were totally in the camp with the rest of us lesser complementarians, they wouldn’t have to have a separate name. Which they gave themselves. This “have my cake, eat my cake” predilection is also something FV is predisposed to. Teaching something rather different while insisting on keeping the old label is not just confusing, it can be fraudulent. Slapping a Gucci label on a Walmart handbag doesn’t make it a Gucci bag.

I particularly enjoyed Bayly’s nonsense about your being “inconsistent” because you recognize some authority relationships as valid and others as invalid claims to authority unsupported in Scripture. To make this point, he grossly mischaracterizes your argument as one that implies inequality any time an authority relationship exists. This is rather like saying that because I believe I have a duty to submit to the President of the United States that I also have a duty to submit to the local mob boss. Not everyone who claims authority claims it validly. False claims of authority, because they cannot be claimed on the basis of Scripture, are often based on vague references to nature and inherent inequality. Valid claims of authority don’t need the trappings of inequality because they are supported by the text.

If Bayly believes the claims of patriarchy as to all male authority in civil society are valid, he needs to support the claim, not just attack your Reformed bona fides. Again, using labels in a way no one else seems to use them, he appears to imply that you can’t be Reformed unless you agree with Knox and Calvin about everything. The Reformed Baptists would be surprised. Generally, when the rest of us refer to the Reformation, we’re predominantly talking about the radical shift in soteriology and ecclesiology of the period, not haircut regulations (seriously) and not theories on government (in which the Reformers were much-surpassed by their successors a century or two on).

Support for patriarchy’s claims about civil authority would preferably come from Scripture, not the Reformers (medieval theocratic government models haven’t aged well, even the Protestant ones). I’m afraid Knox and Calvin, impressive beards aside, are not our Apostles (or popes). Reformers are not infallible, not sinless, not always right. Luther, also a Reformer with a capital R, said some downright vicious things about, and advocated some downright vicious actions against, Jews. Take from the Reformers what is good, what stands the test of Scripture, or of time and prudence if Scripture is not implicated, and leave behind the wicked, the culturally dictated, and the downright silly (haircut regulation falls squarely in this category).

The most disturbing thing over at Bayly’s blog, though, was not his silly post about how disagreeing with him (or Doug Wilson) makes you a feminist. Far more disturbing was the January 19 post, where he felt the need to point out that women are, in fact, moral agents…twice. In what sort of subculture is this a point worth making and not just assumed without discussion? Perhaps the kind that treats women as less than fully human.

Women in the Workplace: “Simply Supplementing”

Over at the Christian Pundit, Rebecca VanDoodewaard, wife of Professor William VanDoodeward of Puritan Reformed Seminary, has written an article calling for the return of clerks. Mrs. VanDoodewaard is concerned with the number of young men who are unemployed and who lack the experience typically required for most jobs. She believes that if businesses would begin to replace secretaries with clerks, then these men would be gainfully employed and gaining experience to allow them to work their way up in the business world. These men should be given priority in hiring over married women, all other qualifications being equal, because “a man could support himself and maybe a wife with the job that is simply supplementing a married woman’s household income.” Mrs. VanDoodewaard also believes that male clerks would reduce the temptation towards adultery in the workplace:

Think about it: having a woman who is not your wife helping you day in, day out opens up a huge avenue for emotional entanglements which often lead to physical ones. A clerk, while not removing the sin in your heart, will remove the opportunity, and that’s half the battle (Matt. 5:28-30).

I have a few observations I would like to make. Before I do so, I would like to make a disclaimer. I am not a feminist, in any way. I am blessed that my husband’s income provides for us in such a way that I can be a stay at home mom and homeschool our children. In a culture that ridicules men and treats husbands and fathers with such disdain, I believe there is great need to stand up for and show our respect for husbands and fathers. I also think it is important for all women to consider if the work they are doing (both inside and outside of the home) is helping or hindering their family.

That said, I will move on to my observations on Mrs. VanDoodewaard’s article. First, I’m not sure I understand why a new position of “clerk” needs to be created (or brought back). In most workplaces today, “secretary” has been replaced by “administrative assistant.” Can men not apply for these positions? Given that there are male admin assistants in many businesses across the country, I have to assume that men do indeed apply for these jobs and that they are being hired for them.

Second, I am greatly disturbed by Mrs. VanDoodewaard’s belief that women in secretarial jobs are “simply supplementing” the household income. She does note that the income may be needed, but she goes on to say that men should be hired preferentially, all other factors being equal:

But there are women working as secretaries whose income supplements their husband’s. I’m not saying that they don’t need the money, I’m not saying they should not work. I’m saying that where a man could support himself and maybe a wife with the job that is simply supplementing a married woman’s household income, then the man should get the job, competence being equal.

How exactly should businesses go about determining if woman is working to “simply supplement” her husband’s income or working because without her income there wouldn’t be food on the table or a roof over their heads or clothes on their backs? For example, my mother has worked nearly 40 years “simply supplementing” my father’s income so that he could pastor small congregations that had difficulty supporting a pastor. It was not about living a certain lifestyle or having nicer things. My mother’s income made sure we had clothes, food, and other basic needs.

While I’m sure there are women who are working for purely selfish reasons, the majority of women who work low-paying, secretarial jobs are working to help provide for their families. What does Mrs. VanDoodewaard suggest these women do instead? In the current economy, two incomes are often a necessity, not a luxury. Which brings me to my next observation.

There seems to be a desire by some today to return to an ideal society where men outside the home and women take care of all things domestic. I’m not suggesting that Mrs. VanDoodewaard has this desire or even expressed this desire in her article. There is, however, an underlying current in some circles that has an overly romantic view of how things used to be. In an predominantly agrarian society, like the colonial or pioneer eras, men mainly raised the crops and the livestock, and women mainly took care of the domestic chores. But all of the family worked hard to provide food, shelter, clothing, and other basic needs.

Industrialization brought changes, but the main tenet still held: all of the family worked hard to provide for the needs of the family. Only women in the upper classes could stay at home and tend to their families without a thought to providing income. Women of the lower classes worked. They worked as domestic help, in factories, in shops, as child minders, as teachers, as laundresses, and as seamstresses to name a few of the respectable jobs. The income of these women has never been “simply supplement.”

I’m sure Mrs. VanDoodewaard is correct that work place adultery is a serious problem. Given the number of women bosses these days, I’m afraid that male clerks would not necessarily create less of a problem. Men and women have to be careful and use great discretion in the workplace. I’m not sure that simply removing women from secretarial jobs will solve the problem given the numbers of women working professionally in all industries.

Lastly, I noticed that Mrs. VanDoodewaard is also a free-lance editor. Assuming she’s paid for this work, I wonder if there is a man who is unemployed and lacking experience who could benefit from her job?

The Problem with Patriarchy: 50 Shades of Grey, Authority and Submission

[TRIGGER WARNING]: The content of this post contains language and imagery that may be sensitive or harmful to victims of sexual abuse or rape.

One of the problems that I see with the patriarchy movement is that it views all relationships in terms of authority and submission. When your entire worldview is seen through the lens of authority and submission, it’s bound to cause some unfortunate and ill-advised comments on any number of subjects. Yesterday I came across a particularly bad example of this.

Over at The Gospel Coaltion, blogger Jared Wilson started a firestorm when he wrote about the current fascination with the 50 Shades of Grey novel. In case you aren’t aware (and I wish I could say I’d never heard of it) here is Wiki’s short definition:

Fifty Shades of Grey is a 2011 erotic novel by British author E. L. James. Set largely in Seattle, it is the first instalment in a trilogy that traces the deepening relationship between a college graduate, Anastasia Steele, and a young business magnate, Christian Grey. It is notable for its explicitly erotic scenes featuring elements of sexual practices involving bondage, discipline, sadism, and masochism (BDSM).

There really aren’t enough words to explain what’s wrong with these books. Suffice it to say they should be avoided.

Jared Wilson’s original post, which has since been deleted, attempted to explain the appeal that 50 Shades has on so many women. He wrote that women are fascinated by books like this because it is a perversion of “good, God-honoring, and body-protecting authority and submission between husbands and wives.” Thanks to the magic of cached documents on Google, you can still see what he wrote. The part that started the uproar was a quote from Douglas Wilson that he used to support his theory:

A final aspect of rape that should be briefly mentioned is perhaps closer to home. Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts. This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.

But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.

True authority and true submission are therefore an erotic necessity. When authority is honored according to the word of God it serves and protects — and gives enormous pleasure. When it is denied, the result is not “no authority,” but an authority which devours.

– Douglas Wilson, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999), 86-87. (emphasis mine)

What is truly amazing is that Jared Wilson didn’t seem to understand why so many women were upset with Doug Wilson’s language and word choice. Doug Wilson acknowledges that egalitarian women would be offended by his words, but really, shouldn’t all women (and men too, for that matter) be offended by such violent imagery. Both Jared Wilson and Doug Wilson have attempted to explain how there is nothing wrong with what they wrote, and that the problem is with the comprehension of the readers.

While I appreciate that both Wilsons have stated that they do not approve of violence against women, my concern is that they are the ones who have a comprehension problem. The sum total of the intimate relationship between husband and wife cannot be condensed into authority and submission, especially as defined by Doug Wilson above. The language of the Bible is much more balanced when it comes to descriptions of the right relationship between husband and wife. 1 Corinthians 7 states that a husband has authority over his wife’s body, but also that a wife has authority over her husband’s body. This authority and submission is not a one-way street.

The problem I have with Jared Wilson’s post and Doug Wilson’s quote is that the preoccupation with authority and submission leads to social and familial structures that encourage abusive relationships. Not everyone who agrees with the Wilsons will be abusive, but many will see these words as supportive of abuse. When one views all of the world in terms of authority and submission, there are bound to be comprehension issues. Maybe the whole world didn’t misunderstand. Maybe you’re wrong.

What’s Wrong With Biblical Patriarchy

As a homeschooling family, we come in contact with people from a wide variety of backgrounds and beliefs. One of the groups that is fairly common within the homeschooling community is the modern patriarchy movement, or as they refer to it “Biblical Patriarchy.” Some of the big names in this group include, R.C. Sproul, Jr., Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, and Doug Wilson of Credenda Agenda magazine. R.C. Sproul, Jr. and Doug Phillips have put together a list of tenets to help define Biblical Patriarchy. They define the reason for the movement this way:

We emphasize the importance of biblical patriarchy, not because it is greater than other doctrines, but because it is being actively attacked by unbelievers and professing Christians alike. Egalitarian feminism is a false ideology that has bred false doctrine in the church and seduced many believers. In conscious opposition to feminism, egalitarianism, and the humanistic philosophies of the present time, the church should proclaim the Gospel centered doctrine of biblical patriarchy as an essential element of God’s ordained pattern for human relationships and institutions.

While many, especially within the homeschooling and Reformed communities, would agree that feminism, egalitarianism, and humanism are wrong and should be opposed, Biblical Patriarchy is not the answer. It’s not Biblical. It is a dangerous distortion of the truth. It destroys families and can tear apart churches.

As Dr. Steven Tracy, a professor at Phoenix Seminary, wrote in his article,”1 Corinthians 11:3: A Corrective to Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship:”

Donald Bloesch, a complementarian, astutely observes: In opposing militant feminism, however, we must not make the mistake of enthroning patriarchal values that have often held women and children in bondage and oppression. Similarly, in the context of noting the harmful results of egalitarianism, which he says are anarchy or matriarchy, he issues a sober warning: a very real danger in the patriarchal family is tyranny in which the husband uses his power to hold his wife and children in servile dependence and submission.

Biblical Patriarchy is also not the only option in opposing feminism and egalitarianism. I hold to the position mentioned above called Complementarianism. I believe that men and women are equal before God and that husbands and wives are made to complement each other. I also believe that men are called to be the spiritual leaders of their families and that women are not called to be officers in the Church. I believe that I am to submit to my husband’s leadership and that my husband is to love me sacrificially like Christ demonstrated by dying for the Church. I also believe that my husband and I are both to submit to the leadership of the elders that God has placed over us.

Those who hold to Biblical Patriarchy would probably agree with everything I just outlined. However, this is not what Biblical Patriarchy is about. Instead of sticking to Scripture in defining the roles of men and women in the home, the church, and in society, Biblical Patriarchy starts with Scripture and then branches out into culturally biased opinions. It may seem odd to call it culturally biased, but it is. It owes a lot to the cultural ideals of the Victorian Era, especially the concept of separate spheres.

While it may seem like Biblical Patriarchy and Complementarianism are very similar, or even the same thing, there are very important distinctions between the two. One of the best examples of the differences between Biblical Patriarchy and Complementarianism has to do with women working or holding leadership positions outside the home, in the workforce, or in government.

Dr. Steven Tracy also addressed this in his article:

Male headship does not mean that females are not invested with any authority … . While complementarians by definition believe that God has given the man final domestic and ecclesiastical authority, the woman as the man`s equal is given significant and varied authority (the right or power to do something). … [W]e should note that in Scripture, godly women have authority to proclaim the gospel (Acts 1:8), prophesy (Is 8:3; Acts 2:17-18; 21:8-9), run a household (Prov 31:10-31), manage commercial enterprises (Prov 31:10-31), give men corrective accountability (1 Sam 25:18-38; Luke 18:1-8; Acts 18:26), and serve as co-laborers with men in ministry (Judges 4; Rom 16:1-3, 6; Phil 4:2-3).

In contrast, Vision Forum’s Tenets of Biblical Patriarchy outlines the following tenets:

11. Male leadership in the home carries over into the church: only men are permitted to hold the ruling office in the church. A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.(1 Tim. 3:5)

And

13. Since the woman was created as a helper to her husband, as the bearer of children, and as a “keeper at home,” the God-ordained and proper sphere of dominion for a wife is the household and that which is connected with the home, although her domestic calling, as a representative of and helper to her husband, may well involve activity in the marketplace and larger community. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Prov. 31:10-31; Tit. 2:4-5)

14. While unmarried women may have more flexibility in applying the principle that women were created for a domestic calling, it is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.). The exceptional circumstance (singleness) ought not redefine the ordinary, God-ordained social roles of men and women as created. (Gen. 2:18ff.; Josh. 1:14; Jdg. 4; Acts 16:14)

This is where Biblical Patriarchy goes far and away beyond what Scripture teaches. While wives are to be helpers for their husbands, and men are to be the officers of the church, Scripture does not teach that:

A God-honoring society will likewise prefer male leadership in civil and other spheres as an application of and support for God’s order in the formative institutions of family and church.

It also doesn’t teach that:

[I]t is not the ordinary and fitting role of women to work alongside men as their functional equals in public spheres of dominion (industry, commerce, civil government, the military, etc.).

The discussion of the domestic and public spheres of dominion comes not from Scripture, but from secular culture. The concept of men and women occupying separate spheres goes back to the ancient Greeks and Aristotle, but it gained popularity during the Industrial Revolution and Victorian Era. The idea is that men inhabit the public sphere which includes government, business, etc. and that women inhabit the domestic sphere of child-rearing, housekeeping, and education. A popular Victorian Era poem called “The Angel in the House” exemplified the ideal Victorian woman, and the image of the wife and mother who was pious and submissive came to be referred to as “the angel in the house.”

Unfortunately, this has next to nothing to do with the Bible. Aristotle’s idea, which carried over into the Victorian Era, and into modern Biblical Patriarchy, was that women are by nature inferior to men. Is this the picture of men and women who were created by God together in His image? Is it consistent with the Scriptures that teach that men and women are equal before God? Is this consistent with the description of the virtuous woman from Proverbs 31?

The underlying view of women as inferior plays out in very destructive ways. In Biblical Patriarchy, men are given the tools to dominate and rule over women in abusive and heavy-handed ways. One of the big problems, according to Biblical Patriarchy, is that women are prone to rebellion and need to be directed in submission.

Now, I’ll be the first to say that I struggle with sin like all other daughters of Eve and submitting to my husband’s leadership is a challenge at times. By the same token, my husband struggles with sin like all other sons of Adam and loving me sacrificially is a challenge for him. This is not what Biblical Patriarchy is talking about.

Here is an example from an article by Doug Wilson, “Not Where She Should Be.” Wilson explains that husbands may find that their wives are rebellious in various ways:

Most married Christian men are not in this position, but at the same time we cannot say the problem is extremely rare.

The symptoms can of course vary. He may be distressed over her spending habits, television viewing habits, weight, rejection of his leadership, laziness in cleaning the house, lack of responsiveness to sexual advances, whatever. But however the problem is manifested, what should a husband do?

He goes on to explain what steps a husband should take to ensure submission from his wife. After confessing his own sins, a husband is encouraged to sit his wife down and explain to her that things need to change and that she needs to start doing her duties:

[H]is expectations for change should not be exhaustive, but rather representative. He should want to address the problem in principle, not in toto. The purpose of this discussion is not to present a twenty-year-old list of grievances–love does not keep a record of wrongs–but rather to help her learn to do her duty, and to lead her as she learns what is, for her, a difficult lesson. She can learn on a representative problem. She would be overwhelmed with a requirement that she change everywhere, all at once. If, for example, the problem is one of poor housekeeping, he should require something very simple, i.e. that the dishes be done after every meal before anything else is done.

The first time the dishes are not done, he must sit down with his wife immediately, and gently remind her that this is something which has to be done. At no time may he lose his temper, badger her, call her names, etc. He must constantly remember and confess that she is not the problem, he is. By bringing this gently to her attention, he is not to be primarily pointing to her need to repent; rather, he is exhibiting the fruit of his repentance.

He does this, without rancour and without an accusative spirit, until she complies or rebels. If she complies, he must move up one step, now requiring that another of her duties be done. If she rebels, he must call the elders of the church and ask them for a pastoral visit. When the government of the home has failed to such an extent, and a godly and consistent attempt by the husband to restore the situation has broken down, then the involvement of the elders is fully appropriate.

Where in Scripture does it say that a husband is responsible for enforcing his wife’s submission or that it is appropriate to micro-manage her? This is a prescription for abuse. Notice what is included in the list of things a wife might be rebellious about.

Where in Scripture does a husband have any right to tell his wife how much she should weigh? I don’t want to imagine that conversation. “Honey, I realize that it’s my fault for buying the ice cream, but your current weight isn’t attractive enough to me. You need to lose a good 15 lbs, and if you aren’t willing to submit to my authority on this matter then I’ll need to call the pastor and elders in.” It sounds ridiculous and extreme, but that is the sad reality of many men and women caught in the lies of Biblical Patriarchy.

Another example comes from a discussion I was part of recently. The question was raised by a young husband and father: should a husband tell his wife how to vote? I was floored by the question, not so much by the topic itself, but by the underlying assumptions. A wife is assumed to need direction in how to vote. She’s assumed to be rebellious in her choices. She’s assumed to have inferior abilities. Her husband is assumed to have an authority that includes directing her even in this matter.

My thought was that if a wife is voting for a morally bad candidate and can’t be trusted to make a wise and godly choice, there are much bigger problems in the marriage than whether or not her husband has the right to dictate her voting choices.

According to my understanding of Complementarianism, a husband and wife will discuss and make decisions together. A husband will appreciate the insight his wife can give him, and a wife will appreciate the insight her husband can give her. This is the Biblical picture of help-meets.

Biblical Patriarchy is a perversion of the truth. It is not a corrective for feminism, but rather a culturally biased over-reaction. Instead of returning families and Churches to Scripture, it tears them apart. As Complementarians, we should be careful to voice our opposition to both egalitarianism and Biblical Patriarchy. We should not sit by quietly while women are dishonored and mistreated.

Matthew Henry gave a beautiful picture of the Biblical relationship between husbands and wives in his Commentary on Genesis:

[T]he woman was made of a rib out of the side of Adam; not made out of his head to rule over him, nor out of his feet to be trampled upon by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected, and near his heart to be beloved. Matthew Henry Commentary on Genesis 2:22

That is something to remember and to strive for in our relationships.