Archive for July 2012

Are Women Created in the Image of God?

July 26, 2012

Sadly whether implicitly or explicitly, many people’s view on the roles of men and women force them to argue that women aren’t made in the image of God in the same way as men.  My good friend EMSoliDeoGloria who writes blog posts for comments cites a number of current Christian authors in making this point.  The following is the text of a comment she posted on my last blog article.  As she asks in the end, is this belief true?  If it isn’t are there some assumptions that are related that need to be rethought?

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Yes, Carolyn Mahaney also teaches (women, of course) here: ”That is why God created Eve from Adam. She was created to be a helper suitable to him, to complement him, to nourish him and to help him in the task that God had given him.”

And, likewise Doug Wilson: ”He needs a companion suitable for him in the work to which God has called him. He is called to the work and must receive help from her. She is called to the work through ministering to him. He is oriented to the task, and she is oriented to him.”

Bruce Ware seeks to explain 1 Cor 11:8-9 (but without considering verses 11-12):
”His point, I believe, is this: because man was created by God in his image first, man alone was created in a direct and unmediated fashion as the image of God, manifesting, then, the glory of God. But in regard to the woman, taken as she was from or out of man and made for the purpose of being a helper suitable to him, her created glory is a reflection of the man\’s.[20] Just as the man, created directly by God is the image and glory of God, so the woman, created out of the man, has her glory through the man. Now, what Paul does not also here explicitly say but does seem to imply is this: in being created as the glory of the man, the woman likewise, in being formed through the man, is thereby created in the image and glory of God. At least this much is clear: as God chose to create her, the woman was not formed to be the human that she is apart from the man but only through the man. Does it not stand to reason, then, that her humanity, including her being the image of God, occurs as God forms her from the man as \”the glory of the man”?”

I don’t read any of that in the Scriptures, where man and woman are given dominion over all of creation, to steward it and cultivate it on God’s behalf.

Genesis 1:26-28
”Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness, and let THEM rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the livestock, over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”
So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created THEM.
God blessed THEM and said to THEM, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” ”

I do read it in Milton, who describes in Paradise Lost the created woman as “resembl[ing] less His image who made both” The man is like the sun and the woman like the moon – ”He for God and she for God in him,” says the author. For Milton, sin began with the ”effeminate slackness” of man, rather than with the rebellious decision of woman, then man, to eat what God had forbidden.

It’s not a new concept. It’s not a rare concept. But is it a TRUE concept?

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A Biblical Case for Women to Have Careers

July 24, 2012

Many conservative evangelicals believe the Bible teaches a woman’s responsibilities in the home must be so consuming that it is her only sphere of action.  They indicate that a woman’s worth ought to be so related to the roles of “wife” and “mother” caring for husband and children it is wrong for her to have a career (except possibly if she has no children or after all the children are out of the house).  There are many variants on this perspective-some more restrictive and some less restrictive.  While the question of a woman having a career could could be viewed as an issue of Christian liberty, some would want a clear command or example for women to be “permitted” to do this.  I believe a biblical case can be made for this from at least two passages.

The first passage to examine is Paul’s command to Timothy concerning widows. (I Timothy 5:3-8)  Here Paul commands children and grandchildren of widows to provide for their widowed older family members v.4 .  This command is not gender specific, but rather is a universal command to all children and grandchildren.  If Paul meant that only males should provide for their widowed parents or grandparents he could have made the command to sons and grandsons.  He chose to make this a gender neutral command.

The conclusion of this passage is a very famous verse which is very often read and applied out of context.  Verse eight says, “But if anyone does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  People often read this verse as proof that men must be the sole providers for their immediate family.  This interpretation disregards the critical hermeneutical duty to interpret a verse in context.  Only by reading a passage for the author’s meaning can we avoid the temptation to use it to justify the beliefs we already have rather than allowing it to shape our beliefs.

In context I Timothy 5:8 concludes Paul’s command to children and grandchildren to provide for their elderly parents and grandparents.  In this context a child or grandchild refusing to provide for their widowed relations “has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”  The verse five carrots of this being a way “to show piety” and something that “is good and acceptable before God,” combined with the substantial stick in verse eight make this a command to take seriously.

Now if women are to provide for their elder widowed female relations, how are they going to do that without money?  You could argue well they can just get their husbands to provide for them. Does passage say that? The initial command does not distinguish between male in female in their duty or in how they will fulfill that command.  The passage could have said men should provide, and women should get their husbands to provide.  It doesn’t.  Instead it makes an equal command to men and women by using the gender neutral term “children and grandchildren”.  Now if a woman has a duty to provide in the same way or at least a similar way men do, how will they do this without money and a job to earn that money?

This analysis is not meant to say that husbands should not help their wives fulfill this command, or that women are breaking this command if they do it through the support of their husbands.  This is simply an effort to point out that this command from Paul does not distinguish between the genders.  As Paul does not distinguish between the genders in issuing this command, there can not be a problem if the genders fulfill it similarly-with money they earned in the normal course of their careers.

I am also not denying that women should get married and raise children.  Paul very clearly commands young widows to do this in an effort to keep them from being idle a few verses later in verse 14.  However, the command to become wives and mothers does not exclude working in or out of the home for income.

Maybe I am forcing my interpretation on the text, and finding gender neutral language to prove what I want to prove.  I admit this would be an understandable response to my interpretation.  Twisting scripture to make it fit a desired interpretation is wrong.  So, does the scripture ever praise and lift up a woman who works hard providing financially for her family?

The Book of Wisdom concludes with the king’s mother’s description of a “virtuous wife” whose “worth is far above rubies.”  (Proverbs 31:10)  ” Her children rise up and call her blessed; Her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, But you excel them all.'” (Proverbs 31:28-29) Clearly this is a woman we should take note of and examine as a model.  (Proverbs 31:10-31)  If the Christian conservative view of what a woman should be is true, this woman should be one who stays home and spends her days taking care of the children, cleaning house, and submissively obeying her husband.  Interestingly the description does not describe the work she does training and raising her children.  Yes, there are a couple references to her doing domestic things like “holding the spindle” (v.19), and “making tapestry for herself.” (v.22)  She even “makes linen garments” (v.24).  However, the purpose of this sewing is to sell them and profit.  (v.24)

The concept of the woman as a hard worker engaged in economic activity comes through more than any other idea.  She engages in at least ten different types of economic activity.  This woman is a business manager with servants under her who tirelessly runs a well oiled economic engine that provides the bulk of the financial revenue and material needs for the household.  “She seeks wool and flax, And willingly works with her hands.  She is like the merchant ships, She brings her food from afar.  She also rises while it is yet night, And provides food for her household, And a portion for her maidservants.” (Proverbs 31:13-15) Interestingly she doesn’t just cook food for her household, but actually provides it.  This woman earns enough money and has enough business knowledge to purchase property and have a vineyard planted.  (v.16)  She makes sure she her “merchandise is good.” (v.18)  “She makes linen garments and sells them, And supplies sashes for the merchants.”  (v.24)  This woman exudes independence and takes initiative.  She works harder and is just as profitable as any modern business owner.  Interestingly the only references to her husband are that he trusts her (v.11), and “he sits among the elders of the land” (v.23), and as one who praises her (v.28).  He is not described as the breadwinner and she does not seem financially dependent on him in any way.  While I am not arguing that this must be normative, the passage seems to describe the relationship of this exemplary husband and wife as one where the wife runs the economic engine of the household while the husband is involved in the affairs of the community.

You have to work to read Proverbs 31 without seeing a woman who runs a financial enterprise with workers under her that is independent of her husband and provides a substantial amount of the revenue for the household.  How can this be held up as the virtuous wife, while the idea of a woman with a career or business violates scripture?  The Bible contains both a command and example that seem to support rather than condemn the idea of women being productive members of the workforce.  A Biblical view of scripture supports rather than opposes the idea of women having careers.

This article is simply meant to push back against the idea that it is wrong and unbiblical for a woman to have a highly successful career.  It is not meant to say they must have a career or that they shouldn’t be a homemaker.  They should be free to choose to do what is best for them and their families without feeling condemned or questioned by scripture for having a highly successful job or career outside the home.

A Time to Mourn and a Time to Depoliticize

July 22, 2012

Almost as tragic as the Aurora Theater massacre was the response.  When a senseless act of tragedy occurred, people immediately made it about politics.  In one of the first reports that morning, ABC news tried tying the tragedy to the Tea Party.  People on both sides of the gun control issue tried using the tragedy to further their argument.  Some argued that allowing people to carry weapons into the theater would have stopped or lessened the tragedy, others argued tougher gun control laws could have prevented it altogether.  Amidst the questions of could a gun stopped a surprise 90 second rampage in a dark smoke filled room, and whether a criminal would have obeyed the law when purchasing his arsenal, something important was forgotten.  Innocent people were suffering and needed our prayer, care and support.  Also law enforcement was still trying to understand what had happened that day.  Hours after a tragedy that took the lives of about a dozen and wounded dozens more, is making your political point really the most important thing to do?  At a time when law enforcement is still trying to figure out critical parts of the tragedy, is it really the right time to decide what could have prevented it?  We still don’t know how a broke grad student can afford and purchase a shotgun, automatic rifle, two pistols, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, full body tactical gear, canisters of tear gas, and explosives?  We also don’t know why he simply turned himself in without a fight right after the shooting spree.

I hope some day people will realize the insensitivity and irresponsibility of politicizing a tragedy as soon as it happens.  Let us also start praying that Colorado will be spared this kind of tragedy for quite a while.  In the meantime there are things that can be done to help.  The cost from medical bills related to this tragedy are going to add up, and the family of Petra Anderson are rallying to help raise money for these unforeseen expenses.  Please watch the video by Chloe Anderson and watch, share, and donate to help the families of the victims.

http://www.indiegogo.com/readytobelieve
https://twitter.com/HopeRisesRelief
https://www.facebook.com/HopeRisesReliefFund
#ReadyToBelieve?

Where is God During Senseless Evil?

July 22, 2012

The senseless evil that occurred in Colorado this past Thursday during the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises forced many to ask one of the age old questions, how can a good God allow evil to exist?  People have wrestled with the answer to this question for years.  No one will be able to answer this question fully.  As you wrestle with this question again, I would encourage you not to immediately jump to saying that this is probably a form of God’s judgement.  There are many possible explanations.  Jesus even makes a point of saying that judgement of sin is not always the reason the cause of tragedy. (Luke 13:1-5)  While tragedy should be a reminder of the brevity of life, no warrant exists to assume that tragedy is necessarily an act of God’s judgement.  Quickly jumping to this conclusion also needlessly burdens the victims of a tragedy.

However, I would like to point you to two people who wrestled with the question of evil when they experienced terrible evil in their own lives.  The author of the first article, Where is God in Tragedy, dealt with the brutal death of his young newly married cousin.  The author of the second article lived through the Colorado shooting.  I hope these two articles help you as you question the existence of evil in the world in light of the recent tragedy.

Doug Wilson and the Danger of Male Authoritarianism

July 20, 2012

Wednesday night I published an article on how women could look to Christ as an example of submission just as men can look to Christ as their example of headship.  The following morning I woke up and watched a firestorm erupt over a long quote from Douglas Wilson published in a prominent blog on the topic of wives submitting to husbands.  Much of the discussion focused on the opening lines.

“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.”

Wilson’s defenders argue that people are simply getting bent out of shape by the colorful language in the second two sentences of this paragraph.  However, there is a more dangerous concept which lead Wilson to pen those two sentences.  It is the concept found in the last sentence of this paragraph and which blossoms in the final paragraphs of the passage.  Authority and submission run through the fabric of the universe, and men should be in authority while women should be in submission.  He believes this concept applies to the bedroom.  Excluding the marital rape discussion, Wilson advocates extending male dominance and female submission into the bedroom as if that were God’s will when scripture actually focuses on mutuality and unity there.

While others like Quivering Daughters have been exposing what male authoritarianism cloaked in Christianity has done to daughters in terms of spiritual and emotional abuse,  Wilson shows us the twisted view of sexuality this idea leads to.

The passage begins with “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.”  The conclusion of this passage, and the conclusion of a very insensitive chapter 7 on Rape in his book Fidelity reads,

“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.”

Here he  takes the Ephesians 5 analogy of marriage representing Christ’s headship over the church and stretches it to say that men have authority in everything and women should be submissive in everything.  Making an analogy an overarching principle is dangerous.  Stretching this analogy into the bedroom robs the most intimate act of marriage of the mutual love and enjoyment it is supposed to contain.

This brings us to a crucial passage in the Bible for understanding the how and purpose of sexual union, I Corinthians 7.  Internet Monk succinctly and accurately applies this passage to the Wilson controversy.

“The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does” (1Cor 7:4, NASB)
Even if we were to grant the point that God’s design is for husbands to be the authorities in the home, and women are to submit to their leadership, nowhere, nowhere does Scripture link the sexual relationship to these concepts. From the beginning, Genesis 2:22-25, the sexual relationship is about complete mutuality, about cleaving together, about two becoming one, evidencing that a man and woman are “bone of bone and flesh of flesh.”

The Song of Songs, an entire book of erotic love poetry, bears this out. Those who’ve commented on the TGC post have pointed out that there is no “authority and submission” in Song of Songs, but two people who take turns initiating and responding to the other with passionate sexual feeling.

No clearer statement of this can be found than Paul’s words in 1Corinthians 7:4 — “For the wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.”

The Wilsons are simply wrong in stating otherwise.

Sadly when Wilson deals with this passage we see how his authoritarianism impacts his hermeneutics.  Chapter 12 entitled “Sexual Solutions” serves as his commentary on the passage.  His view of sexuality keeps him from seeing the plain meaning of the text which is that both husband and wife possess equal authority and the focus should be on serving and pleasing each other.  The husband does not have more of a right to be fulfilled than the wife.  Instead out of love, their deepest desire should be to delight and please each other.

His view of headship and responsibility keep him so focused on the word “authority” that he misses the word “llikewise.”  This leads him to make interesting statements in exploring the passage like “He is responsible for his authority over her, but he is also responsible for hers over him.” (p.128)  Later he makes an extremely self centered statement by saying, “This means he must love her sexually as he wishes.” (p.134)  In between these comments he speaks of the man’s authority being one of teaching her how to be creative in the bedroom to please and serve him sexually.  Her “authority” means he must tell her if he looks at porn or has an affair.  There is no mention of serving and pleasing his wife, and no idea that she should or could take initiative or authority and lead in the bedroom to enjoy her husband and lead him in delighting her.

Paul clearly equivocates between the authority a husband has over his wife’s body and the authority a wife has over her husband’s body.  Missing the equality and mutuality that should mark a couple’s lovemaking misses the point of the passage.  Sadly Doug Wilson’s authoritarianism permeates his book Fidelity and leads him to impose his view on scripture rather than let scripture speak to him.

Jesus Christ: The Example to Wives of Submission

July 19, 2012

In almost every aspect of life, Jesus Christ and His work on the cross give us our ultimate examples.  Even when trying to understand the idea of a wife’s submission to her husband, we can look to the cross.  Ephesians 5:22 commands wives to submit to their husbands.  However, throughout the passage Paul compares husbands to Christ in their headship and in how they should love.  People even talk of the importance of husbands being examples of Christ to their wives.  This comparison of husbands in their headship to Christ makes some women wonder how they can be Christ like in their submission, or even worse if they are somehow inferior because headship is more Christlike.

However, when we turn a couple pages over to Philippians 2 we see Christ set forth as an example of submission.  Philippians 2:5-11 displays the submission of Jesus Christ to God the Father.  This describes Jesus Christ choosing to humble Himself to the point of death in obedience to the father, and then His great exaltation which resulted from His submission.  Even though Christ was never a wife, He remains a “High Priest who can sympathize with us in all points” including with women as they understand the idea of submission.  His submission cost Him greatly.  This was also a submission of His own choosing, and of one equal to another.  The doctrine of the trinity teaches that all three members of the Trinity posses “equal power and glory”. (Westminster Catechism Q. 9) While there is order and authority within the trinity, no member is inferior to another.  Philippians also emphasizes that Christ chose to enter into a relationship of submission.  Christ was the one who took on the form of a bondservant, humbled Himself, and was obedient.  Jesus Christ shows that He is not commanding any wife to do more than He has done in the call to submission.  Submission is also something women choose to do when they become wives, and is a submission of an equal to another equal.  It is not a submission based out of inferiority.