Wednesday, March 25, 2009

“The Biblical Hook” (Using Nancy Campbell’s Ontological Subordination of Women as an Example of Sloppy Rhetoric)

From pages 41 -42 of “Scripture Twisting" by James Sire:

When Scripture is quoted, especially at the beginning of an argument which turns out to promote a cult doctrine or point of view, it may be that it is being used primarily as a hook to grasp the attention of readers or listeners. “The Bible says” gets the attention, but what follows the quotation may be far from traditional Christian teaching and far from the intention of the Bible itself.

We use shortcuts to help us sift through the tremendous amounts of information that we are bombarded with every day, and we do not have time to search out the truth about every fact. Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” presents one of the best reviews and descriptions of this “rule of thumb” we use to help us get through daily life. For instance, when we see a person in a police uniform, we tend to assume that the person wearing the uniform is actually a policeman. This is a reasonable assumption to make, and we automatically respond to the person in the uniform as though they are with the police, but we may learn that they are only wearing the uniform as a costume or could be trying to be deceptive.

I believe that this also happens to us on a very subtle level when we hear the use of the word “Biblical” as it is applied to religious concepts and doctrines, though unless we go to the work of examining the actual details, we risk deception. Cults use specialized language as a “shortcut” for followers, using terms to communicate lengthier concepts using only a few words. Specialized areas of study also develop specialized terms that are unique as means of communication “shortcuts,” but in those instances, there is no ambiguity about meaning. In contrast, manipulative groups use specialized language to establish the group as more advanced, and generally, the specific meaning of that language is poorly understood outside of the group’s culture. Such terms are used to connote emotional meaning as well as enhance the sense of “specialness” that the group promotes. This language enhances the sense of an elite status that the group imparts, secret language only shared by those who are perceived to be more enlightened.

I believe that this also happens with the use of the word “Biblical” itself, giving the listener the impression that the material proves to be truly Biblical without question or contest. Any reasonable believer in the concept of sola scriptura or Biblical Authority will identify anything truly Biblical as something that cannot be challenged. Sometimes this is an honest error, sometimes the term is used to communicate a particular group’s interpretation of what is Biblical, but often it might represent a disputable intramural doctrine. Other alternatives may be considered just as Biblical, but the term is used to subtly sway the listener into accepting the speaker’s premise as THE only possible Biblical alternative or interpretation. Unfortunately, deceivers also use the terminology to twist and obscure truth, advancing their own ideas. When the term “Biblical” seems to be over-applied to everything as a modifier, the term itself can become a “thought stopping cliché.”

When this manifests in a manipulative or idealistic group, the thought-stopping cliché becomes part of the specialized language of a group that actually serves to suppress critical thinking or problem solving in their followers. All contingencies have already been considered and offered to the group, often in the form of the thought-stopping cliché. Robert Lifton called this technique the “loading of language,” one of the hallmark techniques or characteristics of idealistic and totalistic groups. Sadly, in many Christian groups, the term “Biblical” can become part of this loaded language used by the group to bypass discernment in order to communicate its ideas with a low likelihood of scrutiny.

I recently read of another example of the “Biblical Hook” that would be obvious to a knowledgeable believer in New Testament Scripture in the new book, “Quiverfull” by Kathryn Joyce. She quotes Nancy Campbell who articulates her understanding of woman’s essence, a statement that defines her concept of the ontological subordination of women. I happen to think this statement is riddled with hermeneutical errors that speak more of Campbell ’s presuppositions than of Scripture, and I missed that part in Genesis that describes in this detail how God made the male and female genders of each animal.

From page 49, quoting from an interview with Nancy Campbell, in "Quiverfull":

“’She is flesh of my flesh, bone of my bone,’ said Adam. ‘She shall be called women, because she was taken out of me.’” Campbell repeated the oldest story with starry-eyed wonder. “Adam recognized that, of all the animals, she was not a new creation. Every single thing God created was a new creation – the stars, the sun, the moon. Adam and the animals were dust of the earth. Eve wasn’t. She wasn’t made from dust. She was not a new creation. She was not some independent, new creation who could do what she liked. She was part of man. Out of man. Made for man.”

Though I take great issue with the concept and this quote in particular, my point here is not that Campbell maintains that Eve was not made from the same substance, but Campbell’s use of the term “new creation.” We are not told this in Genesis, and the term “new creation” refers to the Gospel of Reconciliation that Paul lays forth to us, describing that all who become washed in the Blood of the Lamb become a new creation in Christ. This is a subtle use of a similar term that I find to be disturbing and confusing for anyone who is familiar with this passage in 2 Corinthians, something that should be familiar to all mature Believers. For the Biblically literate, this becomes a higher level of another type of “Biblical Hook.” Please refer to this previous post that explains how these types of linguistic snares predispose the audience to the fallacy of equivocation and ambiguity.

By Campbell's use of Paul's term, using it as a reference to woman being made for man in an argument that defines woman as a part of man, it carries some very subtle implications that are actually believed in certain patriarchal circles and within some Family Integrated Churches. First, there is suggestion that women must be under the care, direction, service and physical protection of a man at all times, something I call the mysterious salvific man belief within the so-called "Biblical patriarchy." If a woman is defined as part of a man, and she was never created as a new creation (but as recycled man parts?), does this not mean that her salvation process differs from the man? She can only realize salvation through a man in the spiritual sense as well as the physical because she is not really her own creature apart from man?

The other subtle and related implication by extension here is one that also applies to the complementarian/egalitarian debate. The subtle message conveyed here by vague reference and unstated assumption (informal logical fallacies) suggests that women never really become new creations in Christ. And regardless, 2 Corinthians 5 tells us that even if a woman was not a new creation and was uniquely a dependant part of man, anyone in Christ becomes a new creation anyway. The old rules no longer apply, I would think, as woman would be specifically made a new creation on this new level as a consequence of redemption. (I suppose that the next progression in this aberrant doctrine will maintain that this Scripture only applies to the male gender, further supporting the woman’s need for a male intercessor and overseer. Read that way, all women would need some individual male intercessory priest in order to be reconciled unto God.)

2 Corinthians 5:17-20:
Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God.
This goes hand in hand with the ambiguous interpretations held by some in patriarchy and the Family Integrated Church that men are mediators for their wives before Christ (another concept also vaguely suggested elsewhere in “Quiverfull”). Many teach ambiguous descriptions and others state openly that Paul calls husbands to sanctify their wives in Ephesians 5:25 -27. By ignoring Paul’s reference to the Hebrew language regarding sanctification and presenting Christ to us as our Sanctification through His Sacrifice, they further perpetuate this doctrine of sacerdotalism (the need for an individual to have a mediator in order to approach God).

So here is an example of another very subtle type of “Biblical Hook” which references another well-known Scripture that is essential to Christian doctrine used in a way that is not true to the text in order to support an unrelated doctrine. Such uses of Biblical phrases without careful attention to these implications create confusion and foster beliefs in false doctrine that the text does not support in context.