Monthly Archives: July 2012
Over the weekend I caught up on some of the current thought on complementarianism and read through the comments on the posts I linked to by Mary Kassian. I keep hoping that she will answer the direct questions being put to her and perhaps this week she will. If not, I see nothing more than lots of confusing rhetoric that only makes it more difficult to understand this topic, both in thought and in application. Particularly confusing is Mary’s insistence that complentarianism does not equal “hierarchy,” that it does mean “mutuality” but not “equality.”
I have written a lot about this subject over the past couple of weeks and know some people are wondering “why in the world does this stuff matter?” I want to share one example of why these things are so important, especially for homeschooling moms who are often exposed to teachings that can have huge ramifications.
Last week I saw this picture of the umbrella shared by a homeschooling curriculum supplier. Immediately I thought of Bill Gothard’s “umbrella of protection” and wondered if that was what it was supposed to be. According to Gothard, the benefits of proper authority are represented by this chain-of-command picture of hierarchy within the home. He instructs his followers that when you stay under your proper authority, the protection is like that of an umbrella, the “rain” that glides off symbolizing anything bad that can happen to you. His premise is that bad things can be traced to sins we have committed against authorities. To demonstrate this, he shared how if you go over the speed limit you are coming out from under your God-given authority and getting a ticket or having an accident is Satan’s attack for getting out from “under your umbrella of protection.” I am quite familiar with this teaching and believe it to be not only manipulative and teaching a works based salvation but also reflects the blessing/cursing mentality of so many within the patriarchy movement.
So, when I saw this, I asked the homeschooling vendor if it is a picture of Gothard’s umbrella of protection. I was told that it “represents God’s plan for the family and shows the sin of gay marriage.” Immediately he said to me: “So you don’t believe there are consequences for usurping God’s design for the family?” Why in the world that would be the conclusion after I asked my ONE question? I proceeded to explain that I had never seen this diagram used in any other way. He went on to tell me that he had never heard of Gothard, which is hard to believe given that he is a homeschooling vendor who promotes Voddie Baucham along with other patiocentrists and that the Duggars, who are watched by millions of viewers each week, are very openly associated with Gothard. So, again, understanding the importance of sound theology in life application, I asked the man outright “what does the rain represent in your picture?”
His response: “I have no idea.”
Did you catch this? A man who is brought in to speak at homeschooling conferences and who markets and sells materials for homeschooling families to use for instruction with their children has no qualms about presenting a doctrinal “truth” that he cannot explain, of sharing a picture to represent that truth not knowing what key elements of the picture even mean.
Does it matter that he doesn’t know what he is teaching? Am I causing trouble by asking for clarification? Are there consequences if we don’t get it right? Let me share an example from my own life.
When one of our sons was 2, we had missionaries who stayed in our home for a week one fall. The wife was Indian by birth and still wore the traditional clothing. My son was enthralled with her long, flowing skirts and wanted to run in and out from under them, wanting her to play. Over the next year, he exhibited more and more aggressive behaviors and didn’t respond to the type of corrections his other siblings had responded to.
That next summer, we attended a Gothard homeschooling seminar where we were taught that the Satanic spirit of foreign gods could come into our home through inanimate objects, using the now infamous Cabbage Patch kids story, and immediately I thought of the foreign dress our houseguest had worn and how I had seen our son’s behavior begin to change the week they had stayed with us. The teaching then went on to warn us that we had violated the umbrella of protection somehow if we saw disobedient behavior in our children. Of course I was convinced that this is what had happened and began to think that there was unconfessed sin of rebellion (witchcraft) somewhere. You can only imagine the other thoughts that this led to. Someone along the chain of command had opened the floodgates for Satan to attack us!
Of course, years later we realized that our son was suffering from learning disabilities and perhaps he could even be placed somewhere along the Asperger’s spectrum; all of his symptoms and behaviors are consistent with what we have learned. Oh how I grieve when I think of the spiritual burdens I carried for several years because of this teaching and the pressure I felt to examine every thought, every action, every motive of not only myself but those I saw as “under my umbrella” and to look with suspicion at those above me in Gothard’s (not the Bible’s) chain of command.
There can be lots of big words used to explain the dogma of family relationships and, sadly, the reckless assumptions being tossed about when it comes to complementarianism have consequences in real life. Do all complementarians teach hierarchy? In my opinion, yes they do. Do they all take it to the extreme of the umbrella of protection? No.
Those who claim to be “complementarian” and who influence homeschooling families need to be sure they are teaching sound doctrine and that what they are saying is what others are hearing, using clear words and answering questions with honesty and integrity. They need to recognize that this is a nebulous term that changes with each convention or each pastor who preaches and owns this label. Most importantly, those of us who live within real relationships need to set aside the labels and identify ourselves in ways that reflect something real and true and full of grace.
This week we will be discussing Chapter One of The Grace Awakening. I will be posting thoughts each day and some discussion questions. Please add any other thoughts or questions you would like us to consider as we go along! And also, please feel free to “participate” even if you don’t or can’t comment!
Grace Awakening ~ Thoughts of the Day
There were several points that Chuck Swindoll made in the first few pages of the chapter that resonated with me and have given me pause each time I have read them. In talking about the “grace killers,” he says
“They kill freedom, spontaneity, and creativity; they kill joy as well as productivity. They kill with their words and their pens and their looks. They kill with their attitudes far more often than with their behavior…..Strangely, the same ministries that would not tolerate heresy for ten minutes will step aside and allow these killers all the space they need to maneuver and manipulate others in the most insidious manner imaginable. Their bullying tactics continue unchecked. And their narrow-mindedness is either explained away or quickly defended. The bondage that results would be criminal were it not so subtle and wrapped in such spiritual sounding garb.”
“Grace received but unexpressed is dead grace.”
Does anyone else have thoughts or stories that come to mind when you read these quotes?
A while back a friend sent this touching film my direction and asked me if I see in it what so many are seeing and what has been promoted by John Piper….a picture of a man loving his wife as Christ loves the church, of sacrificial leadership and true complementarianism. What do you think?
“A complementary angle is two angles that add up to 90 degrees.”
After last week’s explosion over at the Gospel Coalition and Jared Wilson’s article consisting of that dreadful quote by patriocentrist Doug Wilson from Credenda Agenda, it is interesting to see the slurs flying every which way. I see patriocentricity pouring into mainstream evangelicalism and wonder how much flood damage will occur before one of the self-proclaimed leaders of complementarianism will speak out. I am not holding my breath. It is difficult to write about something so nebulous, especially if you make your living having an opinion that plays well to your sycophants. At this point, I am hoping beyond hope that Mary Kassian will address the teachings of Doug Wilson and now the ideas that have been put forth over the weekend by the Bayly brothers. It would take a lot of stamina because these guys are just plain mean bullies but if anyone in the original complementarian camp could do it, it would be Mary.
Religion researcher, George Barna, startled the evangelical world last summer when he reported the latest findings on the changes in religious activity in the lives of women during the past twenty years. He found that church attendance had dropped 11%, meaning that for the first time in American history, the majority of women, 56%, no longer attend church services during any given week. He discovered that 10% less women read their Bibles during the week with just four out of ten now doing so. This comes as no surprise since the number of women who believe the Bible to be a reliable resource for life and practice has dropped to 42%. And though Barna says women “have traditionally been the backbone of volunteer activities in the church,” there has been a whopping 31% reduction in the non-paid female work force in churches!
What does this all mean?
A friend of mine and I have been discussing this subject for months now. This is where we both are:
We are born again Christians who trust in Christ alone for our salvation. We believe that God’s word is inerrant in the original manuscripts. We are conservative and pro-life. We are homeschooling moms. We adore our husbands and are recipients of that same adoration! We purpose to daily practice the one anothers in our relationships. We have a heart for those who struggle and know the Gospel is the only means for life and godliness. We both have experienced spiritual abuse at the hands of legalistic patriocentrists. We both have chosen grace over man-made rules. We are both are strong, articulate women who speak and write with passion and have been gifted in many areas, including leadership and administration. So what is the problem? We are conservative so the churches and denominations that are inclined to open their doors to women and these sorts of gifts also are pro-choice and some are now even opening their arms to homosexual relationships. Conservative churches typically straight-jacket women and even the good, solid evangelical ones are slip-sliding further down the patriarchy/patrioentricity path.
Where do we fit into the body of Christ? The Barna research tells me that we are not alone in asking that question.
Last week this story was left on my FB page where I linked to my article on which view of complementarianism is correct and the more I have thought about it, the more I think it needs to be discussed! The writer, my friend, Ilene, asks if her parents were complementarian? What do you think?
Very interesting blog post. So what is it? Anyone’s guess (opinion). My parents were complementarian, in that Dad was the head of the household, but Mom was the neck that turned the head, or so they used to joke. In the church, my parents were both licensed ministers, and Mom acted as Dad’s assistant. She ran the children’s, mission’s, and women’s ministries. She played the piano and directed music in churches where that was a need, and she also sang special numbers and played the accordion. No one had to be hired for those jobs, because she ministered at Dad’s side…two for the price of many, a real asset in times of a tough economy. She frequently spoke from the pulpit, and I have a book of her sermon notes. She also went with Dad on most hospital and pastoral calls. Pastoral calls, what were those? They were visits to the homes of all the parishioners. I didn’t like those pastoral calls because I had to go along, and I was taught appropriate behaviors for those situations. I remember that I could not ask for candy from a candy dish unless it was offered, and I recall looking longingly at many a candy dish. I became an avid reader, as I most often went “calling” with a favorite book under my arm. If the weather was nice, I got to stay outside and play. Mom never had a paid job outside the home but never criticized those who did. She took joy in her service to family and church, and Dad joyfully whistled his way through each day. “Whistling girls and crowing hens will always come to to some bad ends,” he used to laugh, while teaching me to whistle. I still whistle, and recognize that the rhythmic breathing required has a calming effect. They grew churches differently back then, but they did grow and thrive under that form of leadership. Do you think they were complementarian?
“For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.” ~ John 1:16
Today we are beginning a study of Chuck Swindoll’s book The Grace Awakening. Please feel free to participate even if you only want to read through our discussions in the comment section. I want this to be a stress free time and I know how busy life can be. If you want to get a copy of the book, there are many available online, new or used, and it comes in Kindle form as well. I know you will be blessed by the book if you can read it.
My goal is to take us through a chapter each week beginning with an introduction today and then Chapter One on July 30. I will be posting the week’s study here every Monday morning and will add some thoughts through the week in the comment section as we discuss and make application. I am so looking forward to hearing your thoughts! Please feel free to invite friends along if you like, too!
The Grace Awakening ~ Introduction
When the new state prison was built in our town and before prisoners came to live there, the warden hosted an open house. Visitors could either tour the facility and leave or they had the choice of spending the night locked up in the state of the art facility, unable to leave until morning.
One of my friends, who was a criminal defense attorney, decided to spend the night. In telling us about his experience later, he said that he had never imagined the sense of dread and helplessness someone could feel in that situation, even though he knew he would be a free man in the morning; those 12 hours were some of the longest of his life.
Over the years I have heard many stories from homeschooling moms who feel trapped, not in their families or in their marriages, not in their homes or in their homeschooling choice. Rather, they are being held prisoner by the performance expectations of others and the lists and rules that tell them what “godly womanhood” looks like.
My heart has grieved with each of those conversations because I have been there! I have often placed those heavy burdens on myself and sometimes I still struggle with that. And worst of all, to my shame, I have placed those same burdens on others.
It wasn’t until our family experienced walking through some truly deep waters of spiritual abuse that I began to understand how deadly and costly legalism can be. And it wasn’t until I took a good, long look at Jesus and His expectations that I began to understand what living a grace-filled life might look like and it began with this promise:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)
I began to ask myself what burdens I was carrying that prevented me from enjoying rest in Jesus. What was keeping me in spiritual prison?
One day as I read through the book of Jonah, this verse jumped out at me and I could not get past it. The Lord was impressing on me the answer to my questions:
“Those who follow worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs.” (Jonah 2:8)
There were so many things in my own life that had become idols, things that were taking the place of truly enjoying Christ and my salvation in Him. It affected my expectations on myself, on my family, and on the family of God. It caused a storm cloud to hover over any meaningful worship. It prevented me from enjoying the Bible. It kept me from wallowing in the joy of one anothering and trusting the sovereignty of God in everything. When I realized I had chosen to forfeit that grace, it was a wake-up call to living!
This week, I encourage you to consider these things and, if you feel comfortable sharing, leave your comments and thoughts here.
What are those burdens that weigh you down, those things that are always with you, sitting in the back of your mind? How did they get there?
What are those things in your own life that are worthless idols?
What scares you about living a grace-filled life?
Tomorrow I will add some more thoughts.
For next week, we will discuss Chapter One of The Grace Awakening.
Just a reminder for those who are interested is working through this book together, we will begin on Monday. If you have the book that is great and there are plenty of used copies out there if you want to get a one. But I don’t want anyone to feel pressure at all as we go. I will be posting the material I will be writing about each week in advance along with some thought questions. Then we will be discussing together in the comment section each week. Please feel free to invite your friends to join us. I can’t wait to get started! Here is the something to think about over the weekend in anticipation of week number one:
“Picture this: you’re clearing the table after a rushed Monday morning breakfast. Just as you round the corner to collect the last sticky plate, you catch your 5 year old leaving two quarters on the table. “Does this cover my share of the pancakes, Mom? I’m saving the rest of my allowance to pay Dad for driving me to kindergarten.”
The contents of Junior’s piggy bank could never cover the cost you incur while raising him. and even if he could one day pay you back, you wouldn’t wqant him to. You wash his favorite T-shirt, cut the crusts off of his PB&J sandwiches, and taxi him to Y-ball out of love, not out of obligation.
Just as you’d likely feel insulted if your family and friends tried to repay you for your love, our heavenly Father feels insulted when we try to pay Him back for His grace. When grace appears in Scripture, the recipient never deserveds it! When we come as sinners before God, we come with nothing to commend us before Him. God accepts us into His family, not because we deserve to be his sons and daughters, but because He desires us to be His children.” That’s grace!
(excerpt taken from The Grace Awakening workbook)
“Neither a title, a degree, nor desire makes someone a leader. Being a leader is based upon three elements: a calling from God, character that honors God, and the competencies that enable the person to effectively pursue the vision God entrusts to them.” ~ George Barna
In the midst of reading and thinking about genuine complementarity the past couple of weeks, especially how it looks in its application, I was hit with yet one more example of “mainstream complementarianism” that has been wading in patriocentric waters. This time it is the Gospel Coalition, one of those websites I read often because they frequently offer insightful articles on applying the gospel message within our culture.
A week ago, GC writer, Jared Wilson, ignited a firestorm when he quoted patriocentrist Doug Wilson (no relation) while trying to explain why Christian women are reading 50 Shade of Grey. Basically, he thinks it is because we don’t understand Biblical authority and submission in the marriage bed and he goes on to quote from Fidelity: What it Means to Be a One-Woman Man:
“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.
When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. 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.
But we cannot make gravity disappear just because we dislike it, and in the same way we find that our banished authority and submission comes back to us in pathological forms. This is what lies behind sexual “bondage and submission games,” along with very common rape fantasies. Men dream of being rapists, and women find themselves wistfully reading novels in which someone ravishes the “soon to be made willing” heroine. Those who deny they have any need for water at all will soon find themselves lusting after polluted water, but water nonetheless.
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.”
– Douglas Wilson, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man (Moscow, Idaho: Canon Press, 1999), 86-87.
To say many Gospel Coalition readers were stunned is to put it mildly. After several big name bloggers reacted and women who had been sexually abused responded, a collective appeal to remove this piece was sent to GC but to no avail. In fact, both Jared Wilson and Doug Wilson responded with their take on the situation: everyone who read and had a problem with these paragraphs is basically too dumb to understand their deep wisdom and obviously we have reading comprehension issues.
I see two aspects to this that I find very troubling:
First, these guys obviously have some weird ideas about sex. (My reading comprehension is just fine.) My college psychology professor would label it “sessual hanup” (imagine his pronounced Chinese accent for the full affect) and I agree. Any man who feels the need to declare the sexual relationship between a husband and wife to be one of authority and submission needs more Motown.
He also needs a better understanding of the Word of God:
“Now concerning the matters about which you wrote: It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman. But because of the temptation to sexual immorality, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband. The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. 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. Do not deprive one another, except perhaps by agreement for a limited time, that you may devote yourselves to prayer; but then come together again, so that Satan may not tempt you because of your lack of self-control.” 1 Corinthians 7:1-5
Wilson has already been coming under the scrutiny of the Wartburg Watch ladies this past week for a variety of reasons, including his pro-slavery stand and involvement with the courtship of a pedophile in his congregation. But Wilson is not the only complementarian/patriarch who has some pretty weird views of marital sexuality. The Bayly brothers (PCA pastors) once wrote about their aversion to birth control, describing the need for men, the “piercers” to “unsheathe their swords” when having sexual relations with their wives, the “piercees.” Gets me in the mood.
And then there is James McDonald’s Valentine’s Day quoting of Victor Hugo in describing the bride in her wedding night chamber as “gently alarmed and sweetly terrified” by “the husband the priest.” Perhaps in other circles, this would be merely a literary contribution but coming from patrios who teach the concept of the husband as “prophet, priest, and king” of the home, and in the context of Wilson’s Fidelity book, which McDonald promotes on his church website, it goes far beyond literature.
My second concern, however, proves just why Doug Wilson and others, including anyone at the Gospel Coalition who supported this article, should not be regarded as leaders of anything. Refusing to answer sincere questions put to them in a straightforward manner, declaring those questions to be the lack of ability people have to read with intelligence, and being so culturally unaware of how someone might react to these words, especially a woman with the burden of sexual abuse in her past, shows, once again, that the paradigm of manly men and their authority structure is more important than “being kind, one to another.”
I am waiting for someone who is a true leader and who holds to complementarianism to take on this recent nonsense. Cue crickets.
Earlier this week, popular Christian blogger Tim Challies examined and reviewed Created to be His Help Meet by Debi Pearl. I am glad he has done so because it demonstrates the alarming fact that these books have moved from homeschool convention halls onto the bookshelves of evangelical, Bible-teaching churches. Indeed, to the horror of some of my friends, one of the stalwart standard-bearing churches in our area has offered “Bible” studies for their ladies with this book featuring and promoting the Pearl method of “heavenly marriage.” And one cult awareness group I am familiar with regularly hears from pastors whose members have introduced Pearl’s teachings, causing not only division in the ranks but an added marriage counseling load to pastoral staff. No longer can the Pearls be dismissed as “right wing fanatics” or “fringe.”
But, as insightful as Tim’s thoughts on Debi Pearl might be, I was chagrinned to see his list of recommended reading at the bottom of his second Pearl article include writers who also promote extra biblical agendas resulting in even more confusion for husbands and wives, men and women in the body of Christ. Here are a just a few thoughts:
Nancy Leigh DeMoss, who is recommended by Challies, has said the following:
“There is no greater measure of a woman’s worth or success than the extent to which she serves as the heart of her home.” (Really? Let’s run that up Glady Alyward’s flag pole and see who salutes.)
“Anything that hinders or discouraged women from fulfilling their God given calling to be bearers and nurturers of life furthers Satan’s schedule and aids his efforts.” (same mantra found all throughout Passionate Housewives Desperate for God by patriocentric leaders Jennie Chancey and Stacy McDonald.)
“God created man to be the initiator and woman to be the responder.” (Hello, Margaret Thatcher, what think ye?)
Ms. DeMoss also recommends the following books:
Me? Obey Him? by Elizabeth Rice Handford which is an extreme fundamentalist version of patriarchy and has the distinction of being the second book I read in my early years of marriage that was a true patriarchal threat to the great mojo we had going during those years. (The first one was The Total Woman, which I read while in labor, a discussion I’ll save for another day.) Handford, by the way, is the daughter of John R. Rice, fundy evangelist whose book Bobbed Hair, Bossy Wives, and Women Preachers features centerfolds of his wife and daughters, including Elizabeth, with hair that reaches their mid-calves.
Full Quiver by Rick and Jan Hess, which is the most radical quiver full book on the market that assures couples that using birth control for any reason, even if a woman’s life is at risk, is certainly not God’s will.
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp, the leading adversarial parenting book among evangelicals that says choosing to not spank a child is disobedience to Scripture (sin).
And then there are the myriad of patriocentrists that Challies has promoted on his website through the years. Currently, scrolling down from the Pearl articles, you find a recommendation for Voddie Baucham. Perhaps he is a bit more refined that the Pearls but he is squarely in the center of patriocentric dogma with his insistence that daughters are to stay home until given in marriage and that men need the attention of younger women so that is why God gave them daughters.
I could go on and on but let me say I am glad Tim Challies has brought up Debi Pearl. Challies was recently named #1 Christian blogger and because of that alone, he needs to figure out what is complementarian and what is not. As long as he defends and even promotes other patriocentrists, no one can take his own claims of rational complementarity seriously. No one believes Tim’s own definition.
Following up this post Will the Real Complementarian Please Stand Up