In my last post I pointed to USA Today’s editorial that challenged complementarians who are willing to accept a woman as the Vice President of the country, that they should admit that they are full fledged egalitarians in the realm of society, the workplace and public life.
Doug Phillips of Vision Forum, an organization that believes the bible forbids women from voting, has taken CBMW (Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) to task saying that Dr. Gushee is right in his USA Today challenge that people like CBMW have experienced an historic change in their theological position. He writes:
Dr. Gushee’s point was essentially this: Christians must formally acknowledge that a historic change has occurred in their theological commitments and policy objectives, or reasonable observers must conclude that that their position lacks intellectual integrity.
While I do not agree with Doug Phillips at all regarding his very legalistic interpretation of women’s “roles”, he is right in pointing out that if one interprets the distinctions between male and female as rooted in the creation order itself, then it is inconsistent to not apply that principle to all three realms – marriage (home), church and society – instead of just in marriage and the church. If we are going to remove the realm of society and civil government, then we need to rethink our interpretation of Paul.
CBMW states that they are being consistent and that:
God’s design for male headship in the home and the church does not require the exclusion of women from leadership in public life, where spiritual headship is not involved. Such extrapolation carries the biblical teaching about the role of women beyond the Bible’s own application.
The apparent inconsistency according to CBMW only comes when one overlooks the priority of the church:
Complementarians only seem to be inconsistent if one overlooks the priority of the church and misses the distinction between the church and and civil government. This confusion is resolved when one understands that complementarians simultaneously hold a high view of Scripture, a high view of women, and a high view of the church.
I think it is time that we test CBMW’s claim to consistency and see what they have taught in the past regarding the role of men and women in Society.
Point 1 under Rationale, CBMW lists a concern:
The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;
Note that the concern is not just about the home and the church but about “our culture”. Did CBMW believe in 1987 that the difference between masculinity and femininity would necessitate different roles in society? Their Danver Statement affirmations make it clear that they believe the “created order” that was ordained by God and it goes past an application to Christians because it is to be found within every human heart:
Distinctions in masculine and feminine roles are ordained by God as part of the created order, and should find an echo in every human heart (Gen 2:18, 21-24; 1 Cor 11:7-9; 1 Tim 2:12-14).
We find in CBMW’s 1991 book “Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood” that there is a “breaking point” of femininity that makes some “roles” for women inappropriate, unproductive and unhealthy:
One or more of these roles might stretch appropriate expression of femininity beyond the breaking point. (pg 50 RBMW)
But as I said earlier, there are roles that strain the personhood of man and woman too far to be appropriate, productive and healthy for the overall structure of home and society. Some roles would involve kinds of leadership and expectations of authority and forms of strength as to make it unfitting for a woman to fill the role. (pg 51 RBMW)
Notice that in 1991 it was not just the home and the church, but there were limitations on women also in society. These limitations revolved around authority and leadership. What is the principle that CBMW claimed would controvert God’s created order?
To the degree that a woman’s influence over man is personal and directive it will generally offend a man’s good, God-given sense of responsibility and leadership, and thus controvert God’s created order.
A woman may design the traffic pattern of a city’s streets and thus exert a kind of influence over all male drivers. But this influence will be non-personal and therefore not necessarily an offense against God’s order. (pg 51 RBMW)
An offense against God’s order (and presumably an offense against God himself) would be if a woman exerts directive influence.
All acts of influence lie on the continuum between personal and non-personal. The closer they get to the personal side, the more inappropriate it becomes for women to exert directive influence. … It would be hard to see how a woman could be a drill sergeant over men without violating their sense of masculinity and her sense of femininity. (pg 51 RBMW highlighted text is my emphasis.)
It is clear from CBMW’s book that women are to carry forward a subordinate role to men even in society as a whole. In fact according to them, men will not flourish under the leadership of a female superior.
The God-given sense of responsibility for leadership in a mature man will not generally allow him to flourish long under personal, directive leadership of a female superior. (pg 52 RBMW)
Let me ask, would being a VP of a country put a woman into the position of giving personal, directive leadership over men? The answer is a resounding yes! What has changed in CBMW’s mindset?
In 1991 CBMW allowed women to lead in society as long as a woman gave signals to the men that she endorses his mature manhood and she does not exert directive influence.
There are ways for a woman to interact with a male subordinate that signal to him and others her endorsement of his mature manhood in relationship to her as a woman….Her demeanor – the tone and style and disposition and discourse of her ranking position – can signal clearly her affirmation of the unique role that men should play in relationship to women owing to their sense of responsibility to protect and lead. (pg 50 RBMW)
Even back in 1991 CBMW realized that this appeared to be a contradiction.
It is obvious that we are on the brink of contradiction – suggesting that a woman may hold the position of leadership and fulfill it in a way that signals to men her endorsement of their sense of responsibility to lead. But the complexities of life requires of us this risk. (page 50 RBMW)
But now in 2008, it is okay for a woman to exercise directive influence and leadership in society as long as it is not in the home and not in the church. Praise God that CBMW has come a long way. But they should be honest about the change in their view. They have not been consistent as they have claimed:
Complementarians hold a consistent view of the role of women in the church, home, and political office by keeping in mind the priority of the church with respect to civil governments.
It is not a consistent view if one claims that God created a difference in the roles that men and women are to have because of creation. The change from things “unfitting” for women back in 1991 according to CBMW are now no problem as “fitting” in 2008. Is it a “timeless” command that a woman cannot have directive authority over a man in society and in civil government? In 2008 the answer must now be shown to be “No”. I applaud CBMW for seeing that this issue is not a “timeless” law of God. Their move towards allowing women like Sarah Palin to be nominated as Vice-President, shows that they have thought through the contradictions of their former position and have moved towards a more biblical approach. There is more work to be done but their words below show a good start:
Even though the Bible reserves final authority in the church for men, this does not apply in the kingdom of this world.
CBMW is now one step closer to being full egalitarians. It is now time for CBMW and other like-minded complementarians to publicly renounce their old view as Dr. Gushee challenged them in USA Today.
Is it now your view that God can call a woman to serve as president of the United States? Are you prepared to renounce publicly any further claim that God’s plan is for men rather than women to exercise leadership in society, the workplace and public life? Do you acknowledge having become full-fledged egalitarians in this sphere at least?
The three spheres of the subordination of women have now shrunk to two. It is time to rethink the rest of the involuntary submission “eye-glasses” that we have used to read the hard passages of scripture.
I end with questions from a quote on CBMW’s web site:
Government has been instituted since the Fall, whereas manhood and womanhood, marriage and family, and the fellowship of all true believers are part of the design of creation.
If manhood and womanhood was instituted before government was instituted because male and female are a “part of the design of the original creation”, then wouldn’t government have to be subject to the “rules” of manhood and womanhood since creation order came before government? How does a secondary institution circumvent creation? And lastly how come the discussion of “manhood and womanhood” overlooks the fact that in the original creation God created the male and female and gave them the exact same rulership over creation?