If this post doesn’t make any sense, don’t be too concerned. If I wrote something that looks horribly offensive or condescending, it wasn’t intended and I apologize. This post was really just to sort things out in my own mind (and to see where y’all are at …it’s been kind of quiet around here). I could later expand this to talk about other issues where my worldview has been challenged –my main point here is that I find it difficult to maintain the balance between being eager to learn, and reading too much. What should our source of wisdom be? What does “Sola Scriptura” look like with legs on it, especially when we all interpret it differently (think the parable about the three blind men and the elephant –same elephant, different impressions).
Mister Wendal, that’s his name
No one ever knew his name ’cause he’s a no one
Never thought twice about spending on an old bum
Until I had the chance to really get to know one
Now that I know him, to give him money isn’t charity
He gives me some knowledge, I buy him some shoes
And to think blacks spend all that money on big colleges
Still most of y’all come out confused.
from Mr. Wendal, a song by Arrested Development
As of late, I’ve been doing some internet hopping and skipping (I could call it “research,” but that would sound more serious than I intend it to be) concerning the latest dilemma in my mind and in one corner of Christendom, that being [some would dub it hyper-] patriarchy vs. “egalitarianism.” And I feel like I’ve just been witness to a domestic dispute. As a matter of self-disclosure, I tend more to the patriarchal side of the argument, having had a loving and God-following set of parents who didn’t complain a bit about having a strict division of labor. Dad worked outside the home and brought in the funds, Mom was the home-keeper who worked at home raising my sister and I and providing support and a haven for Dad. Submission? Not a problem to me –my examples of authority were firm, consistent, and loving people. Not that I didn’t have moments of disagreement or disgruntlement, it was just that by age 16 (maybe sooner, although I wouldn’t have admitted it), I discovered that mom and dad not only loved me, but were actually were right 99% of the time, and I’d be wise to listen to them.
So, the whole idea –indeed, the whole need for egalitarianism seemed kind of weird to me. My reading of scripture seemed pretty clear –God made women to perform certain roles, and men to do others. Men are designed to be leaders, women are designed to be nurturers. Again, that’s the model I had growing up, so those are the glasses through which I read the scriptures regarding womens’ roles in the church. As to Deborah –I discerned for myself (without having watched the “Monstrous Regiment of Women” or even being aware of their oft-quoted verse about “women and children shall lead them,” and it NOT being a good thing) after reading the story that Deborah’s leading was meant to be a kind of wake-up call to Israel. Their men couldn’t even muster up enough courage to lead, so a woman had to step out of her usual role and take over. I still have a hard time understanding how that isn’t supposed to be an insult. Now, Deborah was a good leader, but she wasn’t designed to do that job. I think it’s a case of God working despite and through our failings. (yeah, gonna get letters on that one…)
So, when in college, the CRC’s issue of whether to ordain women became and issue, I was completely intrigued. How on earth could they not read “husband of one wife” as meaning MALE? I talked and listened to a few people who held positions on both side of the fence, and just came out more confused, but still holding to my own original position because it just made more sense. I still couldn’t really get a good exegetical defense for it. …And I still can’t, but I do have more understanding that when one hasn’t had a good role model of loving authority and willing submission, it is nigh unto impossible to easily embrace such an idea as patriarchy. I have more empathy for my sisters who are struggling to understand this strange call to “submit” to a husband who shows them no concern or love or even is abusive. I now know a lady who is ordained into the CRC who is an undeniably gifted minister. Now that was quite a dilemma, as I’d never met a woman I thought was gifted or qualified to lead both men and women spiritually. I still think she wouldn’t be wasting her gifts if she used them in other places, but I digress.
All this reading back and forth between Vision Forum (visionforumministries.org) and the True Womanhood (truewomanhood.wordpress.com) blog and the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (cbmw.org) and a lot of my friends at Gentle Christian Mothers (gentlechristianmothers.com/mb), and all I really am is confused …and a little disgusted that some of us still haven’t learned the difference between intelligent discussion of opposing IDEAS, not assassination of CHARACTER, and the difference between gently and discreetly telling someone when they’ve crossed the line and calling them liars and slanderers. This is where I feel dirtied for even having read the conversation. I guess if we’re the Family of God, you could maybe expect a little sibling rivalry from time to time, but it still disappoints me to see it actually (and publicly) happen.
Long story short (and the reason I posted the song excerpt, because the title was going through my mind), I’d like to believe I can learn from listening to other people, but, honestly, I haven’t ever really been able to without much difficulty. Books are just so much easier to deal with. One Sunday morning about three months into being at Dordt and taking Theo 101, (my baptism by fire into the Reformed tradition) I sat in church and listened to the pastor of the local little Evangelical Free church passionately upset that people in “this town” believe that “God elects people to go to Hell.” Now, I’d only had three weeks of instruction on Reformed thinking, but I knew this was at best, a misunderstanding, and at worst, untrue. I remember being frustrated and conflicted, annoyed with my own home church’s lack of theological and doctrinal discipleship, and at the same time, frustrated and kinda offended at my professor’s head-on assault on the weak points of Arminian Dispensationalism. I sat with my Bible on my lap and prayed, “you know, God, this [the Word] is all I have left to build on!” My foundational Christian worldview was completely destroyed by that point, and I had the opportunity to rebuild it, stronger, and more skillfully. I still am doing that to this day.
I don’t even know if I’ll post this publicly –some of you may notice I’ve removed the True Womanhood blog from my blogroll, mainly because I was kind of embarrassed that the comments that followed a discussion on the Botkin sisters’ book were just one more example of Christians not being able to intelligently discuss without character assassination and stereotyping, and after I read Stacy McDonald’s blog (yoursacredcalling.com –I read often and enjoy, although I may not be in complete agreement all the time) reflecting her feelings of offense and hurt over what was happening there, I didn’t feel right about directing people to a discussion that was causing someone pain.
My stand in a nutshell remains pretty much where it was before, but I am not quite so dogmatic or unbending with my idea of submission any more. I still believe woman was meant to support her husband and nurture her family and be a quiet Godly example, but it disturbs me that I see the idea of being a SAHM being put on a pedestal on one side and somewhat misunderstood on the other. Basically, I hold to the complementarian view of things –separate designs, equal value as Imago Dei.