First off, for those of you who don’t know me, the one thing that bothers me most in Christian circles is when a man preaches or teaches in such a way that sounds lofty and erudite, but is nothing more than a liberal screed (think N.T. Wright). I believe the loftier, the more dangerous a man’s speech. Jesus, Paul, Peter, and Stephen would not have fit in the erudite circles of the church today.
Secondly, I’ve been told that I’m very blunt when I preach and teach. To me, there is no greater compliment. Show me from scripture one sermon that was not in someone’s face, drawing a line in the sand, or calling out sinners to repentance, as opposed to what is set forth today in many circles, lofty words that tickle our intellectual fancies.
The point is that, when I read Mark A. Garcia’s post After Patriarchy, Part 1, I couldn’t help but think he was trying to bamboozle us with his lofty words. For the first two paragraphs, he was obviously writing for the inner circle, no, more like the inner sanctum of the high priestly elites of Christendom. He was much like Dennis Miller, dropping names and references to things that only six people in the country really know anything about, and laughing endlessly because only they get the inside joke. So needless to say, I wasn’t impressed with Garcia from the beginning. I didn’t know where he was going and it didn’t look like he did either. But that is because I don’t know the inside joke, and he does.
But he did finally meander his way to a point. He is making the poorly supported case for a more broad understanding of a woman’s role in marriage, with the usual calls to be broader in our thinking, and more claims that scholarship supports this gradual and more enlightened movement from a more conservative approach to a woman’s role in the family. He is working his way to saying that patriarchal complimentarianism is dead, and the ones who don’t know that are foolish.
But before we go deeper, let’s try to clarify. Granted, when it comes to the patriarchy/complimentarianism debate, I’m hardly an expert. But neither is anyone else as far as I can tell. Everyone seems to be talking past each other and if you are not careful, you will be called a member of one side or the other in a way that really is meant as an insult.
On the patriarchy side of things, there are people like Douglas Wilson who hold that a man is the head of his household and that the woman is there to serve her husband. Since he clearly states what he means by this, I will quote him:
Patriarchy simply means “father rule,” and so it follows that every biblical Christian holds to patriarchy. The husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church (Eph. 5:23), and fathers have the central responsibility to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4). Children are required to obey their parents (both of them), and since the wife is to follow the lead of her husband in all things (Eph. 5:24), this means that the father is responsible to provide for and protect his family. Father rule. That’s the good part.
This seems reasonable enough. The problem (which Wilson also identifies) is that fallen men are called to marriages and often abuse this position of authority. They tend to think it means “little dictator” and end up becoming…well, I can’t say where that thought ended up.
This is why strong elders are needed in the church. When someone is abusing their position given to them by God, they need to be confronted. Because there is this lack of confrontation, those who hold to patriarchy tend to be metaphorically tarred and feathered by the more “enlightened” corner of Christianity.
Now, as for complimentarians…It is really hard to pinpoint what they actually believe. I read in the New Geneva Study Bible the footnote for Genesis 2:20 that uses the phrase “comparable to him,” the following: “this expression assumes a complementary relationship; what he lacked she supplied and vice versa.” I can live with that. My wife certainly compliments me in this way, and I’m truly grateful.
But after that, it becomes much more fuzzy and I get the impression that many complimentarians are nothing more the feminist in disguise. Well, I shouldn’t say that. I should say that Garcia is nothing more than a feminist in disguise.
Allow me to define what a feminist is: a feminist is a woman or a man, that want to erase the male/female distinctions in the family, workplace and all of society. On some level, they also want to tear men down and subjugate men. There are really varying degrees of feminism, but I think the best way to understand it is in light of the curse in Genesis. Feminists are women living out the curse: “Your desire shall be for your husband, and he shall rule over you” (Genesis 3:16). The desire here is not sexual desire, but a desire to rule and control their husbands. That is not a good thing.
With that background, let’s move forward with Garcia’s post. What he starts out doing is calling us to go back to all the theologians of the past and re-read them with the intent of finding out what they actually believed about women and their roles in marriage. He asks us if we have read Gregory of Nyssa on the Trinity. And if we have, then we should go back and read Gregory on women. He is making the assumption that Gregory was as confused about the role of women in marriage as he is.
Realize that when you look throughout church history, you don’t find a lot of women leading their husbands or women’s ministries because they understood their role in the family. Yes, the struggle of the curse was always there, but for the most part, men understood their role in the family and women understood their role. After all, it was quite obvious. With women giving birth to children, the most noble of all callings, they didn’t have time for worldly pursuits, or making a name for themselves.
Feminism has so saturated the church today, that we cannot see these clear distinctions in calling. We raise our daughters with the idea that they can be anything they want to be and if pregnancy gets in the way, that’s OK, we can kill the child in her womb. In fact, even in Christian homes, girls are raised with the idea that they need to go to college, get a career, and then after they have been satisfied in all the worldly pleasures, then settle down and have one baby, maybe two. I have heard from women raised in the church, while in college, tell me quite simply that they didn’t want the “burden” of children. I pointed out that this was a feminist view of the world, and was shortly thereafter “unfriended” by them. Never mind the directive: be fruitful and multiply.
The confusion in our day has become so pronounced that in the next few years, our daughters and wives can also go off to war. I believe this is because the church has clearly abdicated its place in reminding the women of our day that their greatest calling is giving birth to the next generation. Their calling is not to be all they can be. It is not to climb the corporate ladder. It is not to serve in any role just to prove their worthiness. As long as we continue with the charade, the importance of children will continue to be overlooked, and our society will see them only as the political footballs that they are now.
So when I read the liberal diatribe by Mr. Garcia, you can see that it gets my blood boiling. He is most erudite, and wordy. He says a lot, without actually saying a thing. He defends, not a biblical position, but being more biblical without actually referring to the Bible. He makes allusions to the fact that there have been abuses in patriarchy, and then makes the false assumption, that since there have been abuses in patriarchy, then all those who hold to the patriarchal position must be wrong.
We see this when he writes:
To avoid the dangers of reactionary error, the most responsible and well-informed voices need to be clear that, for example, our rediscovered sensitivity to the dark reality of spousal abuse does not mean we do not need to be very careful in identifying spousal misconduct as “abuse.”
Just look at his language: “the most responsible and well-informed voices…” that is code speak for, “those who agree with me are the most responsible and well-informed voices. Everyone else is daft.” Mr. Garcia, please just say what you believe: that everyone who disagrees with you is a backwards rube. And thank you for your nod in the direction that you, have discovered, that spousal abuse actually exists. We have known this for quite some time. Glad you are with the program.
He goes on to give a nod toward “submission” which is the closest to Scripture he actually comes and writes:
Our most responsible reading of what “submission” does and does not mean should not somehow entail, for our thinking or our rhetoric, that Scripture does not in fact teach that wives should “submit” to their husbands in the Lord. The fact of nuances and richness in biblical teaching on the grounds for a valid divorce does not mean divorce has limitless grounds (it does not), that divorce is no longer a significant problem in our day (it is), or that divorce ever takes place without the serious sin of at least one, though maybe only one, spouse (it only ever does). In these examples and many others, we must be painstakingly careful not to confuse our rejection of a bad idea or framework with the acceptance of every possible opposing one.
In other words, unless we see “submission” as Garcia & Company say it is, then clearly we are not being reasonable and fair minded in our approach to Scripture. Whenever scholars start throwing around the phrases like “nuances and richness in biblical teaching” you can count that not much biblical teaching will follow. And it doesn’t. In fact, the word “submission” is about the only Bible verse, nay word, that Garcia quotes.
Garcia is referencing Ephesians 5:22 to try and show us he understands the biblical teaching, but then quickly changes the subject and moves on to divorce to tell us what a problem it is. Notice the glaring non-sequitur in his argumentation. He brings up divorce because he has already said far too much about submission for his own comfort. This is because he cannot hold to his position and give us an honest reflection on what the verse actually says. Liberals never can. We know the word of God doesn’t change, and the biblical idea of submission will not change even with “a vast amount of solid biblical and theological scholarship over the last several decades.” Garcia is trying to lead us to believe that new discoveries have been made, which mean that submission, doesn’t really mean submission.
So allow me to do what Garcia won’t do: actually look at the verse.
Ephesians 5:22 reads Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the LORD. The idea of submission is a military term that was used of those in the lower ranks, submitting, aligning under, placing themselves under their commanding officers so that the command could be successful in warfare. It is a voluntary act of the woman. It is not something that man can command. Yet, for a woman not to submit to her husband is to be in rebellion against the LORD. She is to submit to him, and serve him, as she would the LORD.
Peter, in his treatment on wives submitting to their husbands, even unbelieving ones, gives us an example of what this submission looks like:
Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— 4 but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. 5 For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, 6 as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening (1 Peter 3:3-6).
Notice the example we are given. It is Sarah, who obeyed her husband, even when he told her to lie about their marriage (twice), and she is commended for obeying him. She didn’t argue with him, usurp his authority, tell him how wrong he was, but obeyed him.What she did was right and glorifying to the LORD, which is in stark contrast to the people of our day who will jump through all kinds of rationalizations in order to not obey God’s word.
Yet, if our families are to function as God intended, we cannot continue on in this disobedience. The family is the most sacred institution that we have in society, and our LORD guided the apostles on how we should live in this institution. Christ does so because it is honoring to Him for us to do so. This is actually an act of kindness on part of the LORD. William Hendriksen writes in the New Testament Commentary on Ephesians:
Now in his kindness toward womanhood, the Lord, fully realizing that within the family much of the care of children will rest on the wife, has been pleased not to overburden her. Hence, he placed ultimate responsibility with respect to the household upon the shoulders of her husband, in keeping with the latter’s creational endowment. So here, through his servant, the apostle Paul, the Lord assigns to the wife the duty of obeying her husband. This obedience must be a voluntary submission on her part, and that only to her own husband, not to every man. What will make this obedience easier, moreover, is that she is asked to render it ‘as to the Lord,’ that is, as part of her obedience to him, the very One who died for her (p. 248).
I wonder if Garcia would agree to Hendriksen’s scholarship.
But you get the idea. This is what it means for women to submit to their husbands. All the modern scholarship in the world is not going to change it and, since this is so, patriarchal complementarianism will continue, just like there are those of us who will never ordain women as deacons or elders in spite of increased pressure from denominational progressives to do so. The Bible doesn’t change, even when the culture around us changes.
I must give Garcia credit. He finally does get around to saying what he means. In his closing paragraph, he writes the following:
Next in this series, we will look at what has happened to the idea of marital and societal “patriarchy” in biblical and historical scholarship, its origins and elusive meaning, and why patriarchal complementarians are apparently the last to realize that this social-scientific convention has been abandoned (and rightly) by just about everyone else.
What absolute arrogance on Garcia’s part. He is so caught up in his progressive mindset that he cannot see that what scripture commands us to do, God actually expects us to do. The God who never changes, is not changing His word for men like Garcia, or any other progressive to come along, even with their erudite scholarship.
There is a lot more to comment upon, but I think we have given Garcia enough attention. One final point, as I was reading his article, I kept thinking that the way in which he wrote it, could have been used to make the argument for gay marriage. The same tactics were used by proponents of ordaining women in the ministry, ordaining gay men in the ministry, and accepting the oxymoronic gay marriage. Just use lofty words, an appeal to broader scholarship, and you can make the Bible say anything you want it to say…except, of course, what it actually says.