Saturday, February 20, 2010

Gender Debate in the Blogosphere

At Suzanne's Bookshelf, she points out how and where in the blogosphere "the gender debate has warmed up again."  Unfortunately, Suzanne herself "happen[s] to be quite busy at the moment and ... [un]able to maintain an exchange of comments."  Fortunately, she does note how she does "disapprove of the subordination of women." 

And more fortunately, Suzanne has written several of her own short posts that point out contradictions if not just rather bizarre statements of those who do "approve" of the subordination of women.  The rather bizarre position is by John Hobbins, who lives as a self-identified "egalitarian" but somehow approves of the subordination of women by others (whether bible-interpretation subordination of a wife to her husband or of a female wanting to minister to or to preach for or to teach the males in her congregation).  Go here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here.

12 comments:

halo said...

Hi, I'd like to ask you a question:

What would you do if the Apostle Paul returned today and told you that the writings of his that we dispute are indeed intended to teach the complementarian view of gender roles?

Thanks

halo said...

Would you abandon the faith or admit that you had been blind and ask for grace to see?

J. L. Watts said...

Halo, turn the question on you. What if somehow Paul came back and said that Christ never came to impose female servitude, but instead to end the notion that woman are somehow second class and weak. What if Paul came back, saw what we have used his teachings for - to inflict evil upon Jews, women, children, men, others - and he himself gave up the faith refusing to believe that the God he served would allow his inspired words to be used in such a vile manor?

believer333 said...

The apostle Paul wouldn't know what we mean by complementarian, especially since all the real meanings are extra biblical and assumed. He would likely be upset that portions of Scripture (taken out of their contextual home)have been made into a movement and people haven't really read the full intent of his epistles.

Lydia said...

"The rather bizarre position is by John Hobbins, who lives as a self-identified "egalitarian" but somehow approves of the subordination of women by others (whether bible-interpretation subordination of a wife to her husband or of a female wanting to minister to or to preach for or to teach the males in her congregation). "

I find that John seems to be immersed in cognitive dissonance

J. K. Gayle said...

Joel,
I like your question.

Halo,

"What would you do if the Apostle Paul returned today and told you that the writings of his that we dispute are indeed intended to teach the complementarian view of gender roles?"

Halo,
May I answer you with a related question:

"What would you do if the Apostle Paul returned today and told you that the writings of his that Americans disputed during their Civil War are indeed intended to teach the view that one human being can own another as a slave?"

The motivations for using Paul's intentions to guide our own desire to subordinate one person over another, some twenty centuries later, seem to me highly suspect.

J. K. Gayle said...

Believer333, You make a good point.

Lydia, I read John's bizarre statements as his wanting desperately to be seen as novel, as somehow a unique peacemaker, as assuming a position (albeit an impossible one) from which he can sit on a fence and cast aspersions down on others whom he dislikes, calling them less charitable than he would pretend to be. It's his platform, seems to me.

halo said...

Hi J.K. Gayle,

If the Apostle Paul said that, here is what I would do:

I would refuse to exalt my own personal subjective understanding of right and wrong above Scripture and I would ask him to help me see the goodness of his words.

I think it would be very foolish for me to tell the Holy Spirit that He is wrong no matter how much I disliked his words. I would not make an idol of my present understanding of right and wrong but would submit it to the Lord of the Universe asking for grace to help my blind eyes see clearly.

In other words, I would admit that I could be wrong and be willing to change.

If I didn't do that, then according to what standard would I judge the inspired Apostle to be wrong? My own preference? It would be nothing more than my humanistic opinion of what I personally like/dislike.

Now what would you do in answer to my question?

halo said...

p.s. J.K. Gayle,

I don't think the slavery analogy is a good one.

Nowhere does the Apostle Paul command believers to go and take slaves, but he does command wives to submit to their husbands.

Rather here are some of the things he says on slavery:

Paul says to slaves: 'If you can gain your freedom, avail yourself of the opportunity'. (1Cor7:21)

He tells Philemon to welcome Onesimus back:
'no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother'. (Philemon 16)

He condemns 'man-stealers' or 'enslavers' (1Tim1:10).

And he commands slave owners:
'masters, treat your slaves justly and fairly.' So slaves were justly and fairly treated.

This is like in the OT when a slave would sometimes chose to remain with his master rather than go free:

'if he says to you 'I will not go out from you', because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you...' (Deut 15:16, cf Ex 21:5-6).

This is just indentured servanthood.

Plus, the Old Testament contained these commands:

'Whoever steals a man and sells him, and anyone found in possession of him, shall be put to death.' (Ex 21:16)

'You shall not give up to his master a slave who has escaped from his master to you. He shall dwell with you, in your midst.. wherever it suits him. You shall do him no wrong.' (Deut 23:15-16)

'If a man is found stealing one of his brothers of the people of Israel, and if he treats him as a slave or sells him, then that thief shall die.' (Deut 24:7)

There were times when God permitted slaves to be taken from the surrounding nations, but this is best viewed as God's judgment on them, just like the slaughter of the Canaanites.

This is why the people who abolished slavery did so by an appeal to biblical commands. (E.g Theodore Weld's 1837 book 'The Bible Against Slavery'.)

I do not mean to be unkind to my egalitarian brothers and sisters, but I could just as easily say that egalitarians are like the Christians who in the 19th century used the Bible to defend something widely accepted in their culture (slavery) since egalitarians also use the Bible today to defend something widely accepted in our culture (no gender based role differences), despite it not really being supported by scripture.

Please don't take that the wrong way, it is not personal and I love you guys, but you made that argument first:)

Regards,
Halo

J. L. Watts said...

Thank you, Dr. Gayle

J. K. Gayle said...

Halo,

You said, "I don't think the slavery analogy is a good one."

Let's ignore for the moment the fact that you insinuate that I "exalt my own personal subjective understanding" above anyone else's. I'm sincerely glad that you have your own thinking about "the slavery analogy."

To be clear, and despite my making an analogy in reply to Sue above, I wasn't interested in an "analogy" between slavery and complementarian marriage. Rather, I am interested in the fact that you won't tolerate slavery now. You probably won't tolerate polygamy or bigamy either. You likely don't tolerate easy divorce. My interest is that you can take parts of the scriptures written to specific peoples at specific times in specific places -- and you can meld these all together as something the Holy Spirit has spoken to all of us in all places for all times. You are sifting through what pertains to you and yours as if Paul's intentions were for you.

So let me try to answer your initial question to me. If Paul were to declare his intentions, this is what he might say:

"Of course I intended (what you all in the West, some 20 centuries later) call 'complementarian' marriage. Or maybe that's what I meant. I meant so many things. And there were so many problems back then in so many different places. Corinth, yes. But also Rome, and Galatia, and Macedonia even, and Collosae, and Jerusalem even, where I'd worn out my welcome early.

But don't you here and now understand what I meant, surely intended, when writing to the Corinthians on love? Look, you'd better sit down. This might take some time. Please, would you have a seat?

Didn't you get what Matthew meant by translating what Jesus said (which you have in English as): 'but from the beginning it was not so'?

Let's not get stuck in bad analogies. But would you let me ask you a few questions? What's the divorce rate in America? And in the (so called) church in the USA? Do you really blame that on feminists or egalitarians or civil rights activists?

You're wanting me to talk about what I intended. Which time? When I was a Pharisees? Look, yes I had a lot of help with my writings. The Holy Spirit, yes. My scribes and assistants, of course. I fought the good fight; I finished the race. But I couldn't do it all could I?

Did you Americans fight your bloodiest war over slavery? Didn't you declare a public holiday for Martin Luther King Jr. who had to write many of your resistant ministers from that jail cell in Alabama smuggling out bits on toilet paper before one of you gunned him down for trying to make sure the "free(d)" daughters and sons of your slaves got their civil rights? Haven't you finally let your "free(d)" slaves participate in your government? Yes, I'm aware that your nation is still quite divided over having the child of an African as your leader. But didn't you give the right to vote to your wives and sisters and daughters eventually? Aren't some of you finally allowing some of them to preach and to teach you? Don't you see I was doing as much as I could? That my letter to Philemon was an urging? That "complementarian" marriages were an improvement over what Moses allowed and what he and David and Solomon and Abraham practiced? What the Romans enforced? What the Greek empire had begun?

But don't you here and now understand at least what I meant, surely intended, when writing to the Corinthians on love? Can't you -- yes thinking a bit for yourselves even -- get what Jesus asked when he said, 'how do you read the law' and even 'but from the beginning it was not so'?

J. L. Watts said...

@Dr. Gayle,

So well said that I don't have the words.