Wednesday, 23 July 2008

2 years...

It seems odd that all the harsh criticisms of people who err on the side of male headship when discussing gender roles I read often involve a portrayal of nasty power hungry chauvinists keeping overpowered and undervalued women in some sort of religious and emotional slavery.

Yesterday marked Esther's 24th Birthday and our 2 year wedding anniversary.

So having done a bit of research and a bit of saving off we went to Saracen's in Hadnall followed by a lovely stay at the Albrighton Hall Hotel.

What struck me was just how happy my wife was.

I find it difficult to reconcile the growing trend to harshly criticise the complimentarian position with my own experience. I don't see it as a massive issue and wonder why newfrontiers gets bashed on that issue alone?

It seems to me that we live in a world where there is still such a clear and unmitigated subversion and abuse of womanhood and women within society. From average salaries through to pornography through to absent fathers - it is there for all to see.

How can it help any woman to give up on a form of masculinity that demands being willing to lay down everything for the sake of the woman? Surely they are the net beneficiaries from a masculinity that deems its very role, its very nature to be the loving and honouring of the woman and providing an environment for her security, protection, betterment and fulfillment?

If headship is a God given service responsibility then why should it lead to any inequality? Do we assume governance involves power or service? If biblical authority is a voluntary decision for both parties, based in relationship with each other and God, and on trust, looking to scripture, looking for godliness and demanding a selfless desire for service from those holding it then what is to fear for anyone other than being selflessly served?

Oh well, enough of such matters, I think I will just continue to do everything I can to love my wife.

14 comments:

Phil said...

Congratulations on 2 years by the way. I'm enjoying your blog, keep it up

Jongudmund said...

I think there are three reasons why 'complementarianism' becomes an issue and New Frontiers gets 'bashed' on it.

1) NF make it an issue by insisting on it. Church history (sadly) shows that in any area of orthopraxis/orthodoxis if you insist on something it will become a sticking point. Doesn't matter what it is. Christ's divine nature was controversial for a number of centuries.

2) While the way you say it makes complementarianism sound great and liberating for women, the kind of things said by many complementarians have been used to subjugate and disempower women over the centuries. So you've got to deal with all that baggage.

3) It's an easy concept to submit to 'reductio ad absurdum'. Here are two - "For complementarians God is more interested in genitalia than ability, commitment, service, obedience, holiness etc" and "What does a man do if his wife is clearly more gifted? If he loves her the way Jesus loves us, does he 'release' her into leadership/ministry?"

Okay technically that second point is less reductio than positing a non sequitur, but you get my point.

Also I have a natural aversion to any position which suddenly gets summed up using a technical name in the public sphere, e.g. "complementarianism", as if giving it a technical name automatically makes a concept okay. But hey that's just me.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

Good post Jon

1) If you believe something I guess you do stick to it, or at least you should.

2)That argument can be used of almost anything. Every theological position has baggae, whether it is paedobaptists drowning the anabaptists or anabaptists falling into sexual deviance. Overseas mission should be long dead thanks to the evils of the crusades and the empire.

3)A comp. would probably look to the qualifications for leadership lists in scripture rather than the contents of someone's underpants! But good try all the same.

Complimentarianism is only used as a term here to distinguish it from egalitarianism - otherwise we'd be here forever trying to decide what we were discussing!

Even within that viewpoint there are thousands of things said and done I don't agree with, but it is useful for background in the same way "evangelical" or "reformed" give clues but leave the details wide open.

jongudmund said...

Your comment on the reductio in point 3 underlines the real issue here, which is the same as for most 'controversies' in contemporary evangelical churches.

Namely, it boils down to a) how you interpret the Bible, and b) whether your interpretation becomes the rule/limit, or the stepping off point for what you do.

If someone disagrees with your interpretation there's not much hope of resolution, because we don't have a Pope to rule on the 'correct' interpretation. Basically if you don't like the way a particular church interprets Scripture, go somewhere else, or start your own church (the essence of protestantism...)

Point b about limits versus starting points is most clearly seen in the debate over homosexuality. The Bible's pretty clear, but do you take that as defining how you act now, or do you take it into consideration when you act now?

Personally, I'm not sure the Bible's stance on gender is as black and white as on sexuality, so I'd be very hesitant of using what the Bible says in a defining way. But, hey that's me.

DaveW said...

Congratulations on your anniversary.

Ok now for the bun fight :-)

"I don't see it as a massive issue" surely you don't expect it to count for anything that someone with power does not see that as being a problem.

"It seems to me that we live in a world where there is still such a clear and unmitigated subversion and abuse of womanhood and women within society."

Yes and how can a Church that does not treat women as equals in it's structures and which teaches male authority at home be helping this situation?

"How can it help any woman to give up on a form of masculinity that demands being willing to lay down everything for the sake of the woman?"

Why would you think that seeing my wife as an equal would mean I was not willing to lay down everything for her? Just as I know (and have experienced) her being willing to do the same for me.

"Surely they are the net beneficiaries from a masculinity that deems its very role"

That is the point. Why should an person who is equal need to be given these things by someone in authority over them? Why are they not taken for granted for all people? Why can't they choose and make decisions for themselves.

"If headship is a God given service responsibility then why should it lead to any inequality?"

Well let us start with some obvious ones

a) because humans are sinful not perfect.

b) because history shows that forcing people to be subject to others with no escape promotes abuse.

c) because experience shows us that leadership and wisdom are not gender based qualities

d) because there are so many examples where it has done so and continues to do so

"Do we assume governance involves power" by the very nature of course it does.

"If biblical authority is a voluntary decision for both parties,"

Can we not use the phrase "biblical authority", we absolutely believe we have biblical authority for our marriage that is not based on male headship.

What was the alternative? Did you offer Esther an opportunity for equality? And I mean a free offer - not constrained by being within a Church that would not accept that equality, not constrained by a biblical interpretation that would condemn her for choosing equality. Where is the choice for someone who loves a man in New Frontiers?

"then what is to fear for anyone"

Well given there are plenty of examples:
- of women trapped under abusive male headship who are not supported by their church,
- of women with a call to be an elder/minister/pastor/priest/bishop in their church which is denied,
- women who have husbands with alzheimers who struggle because they have not been permitted to make decisions before
- ...

Oh and women who want it recognised that they are equals - because they are equals.

Of course with all this I would want to encourage you to continue to love your wife and together find the best relationship for you both.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

Thanks Dave.

Why would you think that seeing my wife as an equal would mean I was not willing to lay down everything for her?

I don't. I have not said that. We agree on it.

That is the point. Why should a person who is equal need to be given these things by someone in authority over them?

That is an interesting question. We need to give these things to each other. That is the basis for the outworking of both positions as I see it.

not constrained by a biblical interpretation that would condemn her for choosing equality

Condemn? Bit of a strong word there sir. Esther was a small group leader in a newfrontiers Church before she loved me.

When you describe the essence of your marriage it sounds remarkably similar to mine. From different angles we come to similar, although not identical places. The heart attitude is the same.

None of your examples of problems with this position (a-d) can be found in what I would see as a true representation of it - your question about the wife of an Alzeimer's sufferer is just bizarre to me. "permitted to make decisions"? That sounds more like something out of a Bronte novel than anything I have ever seen in practice.

Reading your post it feels like someone attacking my position on stewardship and generosity on the basis of the excesses, weaknesses and abuses of the prosperity gospel. (i.e. your offences seem so far from my reality that I struggle to see the links, other than guilt by association adding weight to a particular argument. A bit like me listing all the liberal theologians and pro-homosexual groups who hold an egalitarian line, as though that in some way discredits the testimony of people genuinely trying to work out scripture for themselves)

I hate any abuse as much as you do. You believe they are the result of a false understanding of scripture. I believe that they are the result of a misuse of a correct understanding of scripture. We both oppose them and it does not make either of us more "right" than the other.

If the Church remained silent on every issue people had abused for their own gain then we would not have much to say. We wouldn't talk about money, we wouldn't talk about sexuality, and we would not do mission. What we can all do is just go back to scripture and try to work it out in our own lives.

DaveW said...

Bwahoa,

I really don't think there is a huge difference between us in the way we work out our own marriages.

But the basis is very different. Within a male headship perspective you are taking a very soft stance on a spectrum that stretches to Churches that will not allow women to speak in Church, that do not allow any woman any authority over men.

To me there is a huge danger in accepting a view that at the heart (of even the most soft version) says that authority for one gender has restrictions.

To me all forms of inequality based on race, gender, ethnicity, ... are very slippery slopes that have led to huge injustices in many many cases.

As soon as you start teaching male headship in any way some are going to get carried away with it - because we are sinful and because they will believe they have been given permission for it.

I have seen the results in damaged women and children and had to walk alongside them as they try to re-build shattered lives.

That is why I stand so firmly even against soft male headship supporters who are never going to hurt their wife.

I do not believe that Jesus supports the institutionalisation of a structure that makes women this vulnerable to men.

I do not want to see any more women damaged by power hungry men who claim the support of the Church (churches whose teaching is similar to that of NFI). I do not want to see any more churches keeping silent about abuse by men in the church because they do not take women seriously.

Those things are not of the Kingdom (and I am sure you agree with me) so I will continue to stand against every view that does not condemn inequality and that does not destroy this slippery slope entirely.

N

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

I do not believe that Jesus supports the institutionalisation of a structure that makes women this vulnerable to men.

Neither do I: but "as Christ is head of the Church" would be the clue that it should never be, as His role in the Church never makes us "vulnerable" to Him in a negative sense.

I do not want to see any more women damaged by power hungry men who claim the support of the Church

Being "power hungry" has no place alongside the gospel, regardless of gender or theology.

I do not want to see any more churches keeping silent about abuse by men in the church because they do not take women seriously.

"just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" - and Jesus was not silent on the abuse of his Church, as Saul himself knew when he asked him why he was persecuting Him!!!

As I say in the post above: if we think scripture is clear on an issue, then whether that position has been abused in the past, then we still have to honour it. I just do not buy the "people have used it for their own ends so we have to fight it" reasoning because otherwise we could never talk about money and possessions and we could never do overseas mission, especially in Africa or India (from a British Protestant perspective) because of the abuses done in the name of the gospel in those places.

I think the quest for a true representation of these values has to come from people "within" the theological position, as those who hold the position can't just do away with it on the account of the excesses or the abuses of others.

It is just not enough to say "It hasn't worked, let's scrap it", otherwise the excesses and indeed dreadful abuses of fringe elements of the Charismatic movement would lead me to shy away from seeking to exercise the spiritual gifts God has given me. I won't do that, because I want to exercise them in a godly way and in a way that honours my understanding of scripture and models a grace filled, humble attitude to them.

In the same way for the less conservative branches of evangelicalism, (the position you hold I believe), renewal from the pitfalls and difficulties encountered by people in those churches can only really come from people like yourself, who see the bible as they do but will stand up against elements of it being taken too far. Anyone else speaking into that environment will just get written off because they are not on the same page on so many issues.

DaveW said...

Bwahoa,

I am sorry but I am clearly being unclear so that you do not catch what I am trying to say.

a) I remind you that I do not accept male headship is mandated in scripture. I am therefore not turning away from scripture because a correct understanding has been abused.

b) I do think that high levels of abuse are a good indication that scripture has been misunderstood, just as the suffering of slaves ought to have alerted us sooner to slavery being a mis-understanding / mis-application of scripture.

c) I think I understand what you mean about the need to question from within, but I do not agree that is all that is needed. I also fully accept that my own tradition can learn from others (something that I have certainly benefited from in the past).

d) I urge you to spend some time in a womens refuge to see some of the results of male authority. I hope that you never have to experience some of the horrors that I have seen in the last few years that have resulted from men abusing male headship, taught by their churches.wshfo

PamBG said...

NF make it an issue by insisting on it.

This is an important reason to me.

Who would sign a contract with a business partner who said: 'Look, here's how it works. We'll both put our life-savings into this business. And we'll both take 50% of the profits. I give you my solemn promise as a Christian. But the written contract will state that you must invest everything you own but that I can invest what I feel like. The written contract will state that I have a right to 100% of the profits and you have a right to nothing. But I give you my solemn promise it won't actually work that way. It will be 50/50. What's the matter? Don't you trust me as a Christian brother?'

Wouldn't any sane, reasonable person wonder why that potential business partner was not willing to make a public contract of what he says he is prepared to do before God?

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

Thanks Guys - Dave, happy to disagree on this one, but do appreciate engaging with it.

I think I will look to continue discussions on this other blog, which appears to be designed for the purpose, and I know you both use.

http://complegalitarian.blogspot.com/

Pam - that analogy is so far from what I understand or see.

When I play 5 a side football with my friends there is always a goalkeeper, someone who stays back and someone who stays up front. We are all equal in value, but we enact different roles as agreed in advance voluntarily, or in the case of the keeper as when the rules were laid down. Everyone benefits equally from any success, everyone relies on each other for that success, everyone plays their role within that success, and everyone sees that their role strengthens the chance of success.

Anyway, thanks for engaging, it is very useful, especially to make sure the terminology used is clear.

DaveW said...

Bwahoa,

The 5 a side analogy is not a good one as the roles are voluntary.

Under male headship the role for the woman is not voluntary. They do not have the option to be the team captain even if suited by gifts and calling from God.

PamBG said...

The 'role thing' is an issue because complementarians make it an issue.

'Bill, you have all the skills to be a striker, but you can only exercise these skills in a team of people with brown hair. God mean blonds to be strikers in teams of mixed hair colour.'

What baffles me is that, unlike old-fashioned male headship, you don't actually try to argue that women are not given 'leadership' skills. Only that we may not exercise them with men. Then when we protest at this inequality, complementarians ask what's wrong with leading women? Well, precisely. And what's wrong with women leading?

I honestly don't get the whole 'creation/role' thing and how it gloriously points to God.

I could use the same argument, by the way, that after 16 years of an egalitarian marriage, my husband says that he's the luckiest man in the world. He seems pretty happy to me too. Even though we haven't apparently figured out God's glorious purposes for our gender-based selves.

Blue, with a hint of amber said...

I am sure your husband thinks he is the luckiest man alive, and he should think that!

I have never said you can't have a happy marriage unless you hold this view.

I have never said you will have a happy marriage if you do hold this view.

We all know that a marriage is about so much more, personalities, intimacy, teamwork, circumstances, communication styles, commitment etc etc that are way beyond a theological construct.

All I am saying is that I am trying to live out what I see, and I don't appreciate being victim of guilt by association. I don't actually see the heart attitude of many christians being disimilar, whatever direction they come from.

It is also becoming increasingly clear that hardline elements of either camp are muddying the waters for people like us who apply a bit of brain power and a bit of conscience to the situation.