Monday, July 28, 2008

Losing Sight of Our Purpose (Part II): Subtly Veering Off Course

In the previous post, I discussed how we can have a worthy goal in mind, yet loose sight of that goal when we loose sight of charity and God’s Spirit of Love. We teach our children and aspect of this in the Apostle John’s simple yet profoundly true statement that “God is love.” Paul teaches that without it, our most profound wisdom becomes nothing but noise, and our valiant works of self-sacrifice lack meaning. Yet we can have knowledge and wisdom apart from God’s Spirit, something that quickly becomes a discipline all of its own, a tradition of men. How ironic it is that one can proclaim truth, even the Truth of the Word of God, yet be divorced from the indwelling power of it when tradition weighs more heavily than the Spirit of God Who is love. We must have both components, both sound doctrine and God’s love, working in concert in order to realize the presence and power of God in our efforts.

There are some examples in history that remind me of this type of thing that I see often in Evangelical Christianity. One is the example of the men who labored on the Manhattan Project in order to produce an atomic bomb, the single most destructive weapon ever created in order to win a war, all to advance the interests of peace. And for months, I’ve pondered the story of Robespierre. He was a far more complex character than I have cause to discuss here, but he did start out with the noble cause of freeing the French from tyrannical rule. But he found that despite early success, he needed very drastic methods in order to bring about his own version of the greater good. His Reign of Terror and the Cult of Reason soon followed, and tyranny was necessary to bring about his concept of tyranny-free government. In an irony that we rarely get to see in life, he died on his own guillotine, the use of which he originally and presumably sought to extinguish. I suspect that losing sight of our intended goal is the inevitable outcome in many of our spiritual endeavors.

I’ve struggled with this in my own life, so I can appreciate the difficulties. Particularly in my younger years and having been raised in a very Arminian Christian culture, I sought God’s will, feeling a great deal of stress as a consequence. This theology in combination with my own youth and personality promoted my tendency to essentially say “Tell me what You want of me, Lord, so I can undertake these efforts in my own earthly strength.” Once I believed that I had discerned God’s intended will, the temptation to devise my own plan based on my interpretation became tremendous. I devised a plan to do the right thing, but by the wrong method. I can only imagine that with great power and resources at one’s disposal that this tendency proves to be an even greater temptation.

I see much of this reflected in patriarchy, patriocentricity and even the gender agendas of groups such as the CBMW. Declaring to champion Biblical gender roles which include the care of wives, I believe that in many ways, they neglect the care of women. Although I do not share in the “Affirmations” of the Danvers Statement (a foundational document of CBMW), I am concerned about a number of the “Rationales” that the document identifies as disturbing indicators of secular cultural decline. The Danvers Statement not only prefers a Calvinistic view (an intramural view) as indicated by the language chosen in the Affirmations, but it is divisive by presupposing that those who do not hold to their interpretations or views on this intramural issue of gender have abandoned the concept of Biblical inerrancy. (No middle ground exists in CBMW's definition of what is actually continuum of Biblical beliefs about gender.) The open rhetoric flowing from the group has changed flavor over the years, becoming much more openly condemning and confrontative. Under it’s current leadership, the writings of Wayne Grudem from years past now seem tame in comparison to commentary by Russell Moore that most Christians are in “same sex marriages” and do not even realize it (Feminism in Your Church and Home, May '07).

I would like to examine a recent, confusing statement that Bruce Ware made at Denton Bible Church last month as an example of this losing sight of aspects of the primary goal of honoring and protecting women. I believe that Ware introduces the possibility of abuse as one of two natural, expected options available to a husband when faced with a perceived threat to his authority within marriage:

"And husbands on their parts, because they're sinners, now respond to that threat to their authority either by being abusive, which is of course one of the ways men can respond when their authority is challenged--or, more commonly, to become passive, acquiescent, and simply not asserting the leadership they ought to as men in their homes and in churches."

The Danvers Statement lists the concern of “the upsurge of physical and emotional abuse in the family,” as a rationale, but it does not specifically define how this abuse should be confronted. Dr. R. K. McGreggor Wright finds the Danvers Statement regarding this concern of abuse inadequate:

“Wife-beating is a heathen wickedness much encouraged by false religion (e.g., it is countenanced by Islam in the Qu’ran) and is universal in male supremacist societies; the more male supremacist, and the more hierarchical, the more powerless and helpless are the women. A fully redemptive community hears God's prophets on the subject of justice, and will lift up the disadvantaged and oppressed, and will actively seek justice for them, not just pigeon-hole them and keep them back.”

Bruce Ware’s own denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, also makes statements that denounce abuse in several of their own documents. The SBC's North American Missions Board, in a web article entitled “Breaking of the Cycle of Abuse” frames abuse within marriage much differently than Ware:

“The most harmful rationalization for woman abuse is the tactic of blaming the woman herself... The fact is that battering occurs under any circumstances where the man wants to show that he is ‘the boss.’ He may be upset about something that has nothing to do with her, which is why a wife's efforts to please, to placate, and to avoid trouble usually are pointless.”

The SBC statement regarding the Family (1998) states that a husband has “the God-given responsibility to provide for, to protect and to lead his family.” The SBC Statement regarding Children (2007) states that abuse “has occurred too often in churches and homes – which ought to be places of shelter and safety” at the hands of those who “ought to be trusted persons of authority.” These examples of the SBC position strongly denounce abuse, however both the Danvers document and Ware make much weaker statements, defining abuse as an understandable outcome that can be anticipated when people fail to follow their model of marriage hierarchy.

In a subsequent post, I will explain precisely why I take issue Ware’s statement. In a zealous attempt to establish one standard that Ware deems worthy, he actually undermines some of his own primary causes.

Link to "Losing Site of Our Purpose":

Hat Tip to Kate Johnson and Bob Allen.

Read More About Commentary about Bruce Ware's Presentation at Denton Bible Church in June 2008 HERE: