Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Complicated Problem of CBMW: Heterodoxy and Heteropraxy

I find it interesting the various ways I have been characterized online this past week after a mention of isolated comments that I’ve made were recently quoted on the Associated Baptist Press website.  I’ve been called everything across the continuum in terms of gender.  I’ve been called something of a bra-burning egalitarian (I assume in terms of Christians for Biblical Equality’s [CBE] defining statements) and I’ve also been told that I’ve confused the whole issue because I’m a stealth “comp” for using the “code language” of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Biblical Womanhood  (CBMW) and am against mutual submission/functional equality of all believers.  I contend that all of these stereotypes are inaccurate.  (Late Addendum:  I do not think that CBE advocates "bra-burning," but this is a reference to how their critics attribute them to demean them.)


The Evangelical Church allowed CBMW to dominate the discussion with their terminology so that if you agree with them on some points, you are complementarian, even if you reject most all of their foundational ideas.  For those who have called me a “comp,” I believe you have acquiesced to their devices and allowed them to dominate the discussion.  I believe that it is very possible to accept qualified male headship in church and home yet reject CBMW’s definition of male headship.  I also believe that a Believer can reject CBMW’s terms and definitions and not be a formal egalitarian (in terms of what is stereotypically understood in the Church in terms of this gender discussion).  

CBMW has cornered the market on the discussion and framed out the terms in such a way that most people will not allow you to escape their definition of terms.  (A well-known “comp” says that “He who defines, wins.”)  The way most people now accept the debate, any answer given is rather like asking, “Do you still beat your wife?”  (Plurium Interrogationum) There is not right or wrong answer, because either way, you affirm that you beat your wife, whether you do or not.  No matter your answer, you’re in a no-win situation.

To Those Who have Wrongly Called Me Egalitarian
If you’ve called me an “egalitarian,” you’re in error, though because of the way previous opposition to CBMW has played out, I can well understand the confusion.  Please note my comment under the Associated Baptist Press article from earlier this week:

A bit more info     written by Cindy K,     July 27, 2010   
Hello everyone,

I'm Cindy Kunsman, one of the women mentioned in this article. If anyone is interested, I happen to follow male headship in marriage and the local church, though I believe strongly that the gender debate is an intramural one.

In Chapter 13 of Jocelyn Andersen's book, "Woman this is War" (derived from John MacArthur's statement about marriage), she describes the beliefs of C.S. Cowels who teaches that women "voluntarily subordinate themselves to men for the sake of congregational order." My beliefs actually conform somewhat to his own. I don't believe that women should submit to all men, but I do embrace male governance in the local church (though for reasons other than Cowels does, deriving his concept from 1 Cor 11:3). I do not share his interpretation of 1 Cor 11:3. (I have a thorough review on Amazon if anyone wants to read more.)

In the absence of qualified men and conservatively interpreting 1Tim 3 and Titus 1, I believe that the senior role of governance within the LOCAL BODY should fall to men because the female governance argument is made from silence. But because there are no prohibitive statements excluding women, I believe it is an intramural argument. CBMW defines gender issues as essential doctrine which is applicable to all Believers, and upon that point, I disagree.

I also follow male headship within my marriage, and my sole vow to my husband 20 years ago was to submit unto him as unto the Lord, approaching that vow with the same sober reverence that I do my vow to serve my Savior and Lord. I have only ONE Lord. And I am blessed because my husband has honored his vow to love me as Christ loves the Church by treating me as well as he treats his own body. In twenty years, he's never had to "pull rank."   

You might be interested to know that when my husband was very ill a number of years ago, I worked by his side for more than 2500 documented hours in his workplace, helped him with research, and dropped out of a graduate program in order to help him.   For about five years, when he was too ill to drive, I was also his chauffeur.  He even suggested that I note here that when he goes to a professional meeting, people come up and ask where I am, for part of his reputation as a good husband has been evident by the devotion I’ve shown him as a good wife.  In fact, there are colleagues that still greet him when I don’t go with him to these annual meetings that admonish him to take good care of me because of how supportive and selfless I’ve been with him.  So the accusations that I am some kind of feminista that has forsaken family and the home is laughable.  I haven’t worked outside the home in many years and help with my husband’s consulting business.

 To Those Who have Wrongly Called Me Complementarian
It might be helpful to read a recent post that I’ve offered here, repenting of my prior use of the term “complementarian” to describe myself.  I reject their definition concering the ontology and teleology of Jesus Christ and of women, and since most of the rest of their doctrine builds on those core assumptions, I believe I was wrong to have used the term which they define.  They have many other doctrines that I find troubling, and I find their tactics to be spiritually abusive as well.  They use propaganda techniques, fear mongering, informal logical fallacy, thought reform, and other aspects of spiritual abuse without the informed consent of the listener, and their system does match the criteria of Spiritual Abuse as defined by David Henke.

I believe that it is possible to accept male headship as an intramural doctrine and reject CBMW’s definition and qualification of it.  But many believe that it is wrong to accept male headship, no matter how it is qualified.  I wholeheartedly disagree, and I believe that the term can and should be “redeemed.”  That does not mean that I reject mutual submission or that I think that women are any less equal than men in any way.  In other words, a person can accept some doctrines that have similarities to those espoused by CBMW as part of intramural discourse and still be orthodox and Christian.  Using these terms does not make me a spiritual abuser by default.

What Am I?
I have been asked this question this past week, and in terms of understanding what I believe personally, I can only say that I am a “Blood-bought Berean.”  I do not find either complementarianism (as is specified by CBMW) or egalitiarianism (as is specified by CBE) -- the terms and stereotypes accepted by most Evangelicals -- to be adequate or applicable to me.  And I believe that this is entirely possible.

Sadly, perhaps a new term is called for, but I am at a loss as to what to call myself.  I’m very comfortable with the dictionary definition of “egalitarian.”  In terms of politics, I am Libertarian, so perhaps that might also be a perfectly good term to describe my view of liberty in Christ.  Call me a “gender libertarian.”  (And I don't mean to affirm clearly defined sin, only non-aberrant intramural doctrine.  The more appropriate words and terms have been hijacked!)

Augustine made this statement, and I strongly affirm the concept:
In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity (love).
My Personal Issues with CBMW
I likely do not share the same views on many such issues with any other living soul on this planet, so it may be hard for people to understand my willingness to stand along side others who do not share my beliefs and affirm their different beliefs.  I am able to do so because I embrace what Augustine stated so well when he said that concerning intramural doctrine of gender, we are called to liberty.  As many black and white thinkers have a hard time understanding my views, I would like to summarize my problems with the heterodoxy and hereropraxy of CBMW.

  • Making Intramural Doctrine Essential Doctrine
This past week, I have been wrongfully accused of a desire to force views of egalitarianism on other sectors of the Church.  Quite to the contrary, what I have asserted is that it is wrong for CBMW to redefine intramural doctrine concerning gender as essential doctrine.  All believers are free to believe what they want concerning women in leadership, so long as it is considered an intramural issue and do not go making cruel and vitreolic statements about their fellow Believers.  Even if they want to redefine the debate as essential doctrine, if they showed due respect in Christian love to those who do not share their position, it would not be that great of an issue. (Please see this related discussion HERE.)  But the organization has been so aggressive, seekin to dominate Christian Brethren, to conquer them, and correct them in a paternalistic/authoritarian manner that is devoid of Christian love and accountability.

I believe that what they’ve done was precisely what Jesus said of the Pharisees in Matthew Chapter 23:
2 The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat:  3All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.   4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on men's shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. . . 13But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven  against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

  • Spiritually Abusive Tactics
For those interested, the presentation that I offered at the Seneca Falls 2 Convention spells out the basics of Spiritual Abuse.  Feel free to view the power point presentation online, but also refer to the monograph of Spiritual Abuse noted on Watchman Fellowship’s website.  (Those of you who disagree that CBMW does not exhibit the criteria of spiritual abuse, please do not hold Watchman Fellowship accountable for my assessment.  I support their organization, but I certainly only speak for myself.)

Perhaps the most disturbing element of CBMW’s behavior is the wholesale declaration that those who do not ascribe to their paradigm do not qualify as true Christian believers and are damned to eternal hell.  This is a hallmark sign of a cult and thought reform, demonstrating what Robert Lifton described as “Dispensing of Existence.”  From affiliates’ teachings that proper submission causes barenness and will cause death to their claims that those who do not agree with them are “open theists” and therefore not Christian at all, the group behaves exactly like a mind control cult.  Those who do not comply are called names which helps enhance the milieu control that they work to establish, and they control their membership by employing “reductio ad Hitlerum” by calling folks like me “lesbians,” claiming that those who do not live by their standards are living in “same sex marriages.” (a 9 Marks broadcast entitled Feminism in Your Church and Home with Russell Moore, Randy Stinson, and C.J. Mahaney)   These are also tactics uses by cults.  For those who are unfamiliar with these tactics, a good place to start might also be Ron Henzel’s article, “They told me if I left.”

  • The Exploitation and Twisting of Scripture
Perhaps the most disturbing element of all of this concerns the redefining of Jesus Christ and His position within the Trinity, and doctrine referred to now as Eternal Subordination of the Son.  Kevin Giles and many other believers recognize this doctrine as semi-Arianism, an heretical doctrine.  I’ve written much about my personal view on the topic.

I believe that the group wrongly objectifies and subjugates women ontologically and teleologically through their doctrine of submitted sonship for women.  This leads into a whole host of practical problems of praxis, whether the Council intends this or not.  Though I believe Scripture has been twisted to redefine women and though I believe this ideology leads to abuse, Believers have a perfect right to believe whatever doctrine they like.  Though this is a very problematic doctrine because I do not believe that Scripture supports it.  I affirm a person’s right to believe this under the liberty concerning intramural doctrine, but I attest that I find the belief to be heterodoxy that leads directly to heteropraxy.  (Note that individuals at CBMW assert of me personally that as a Believer and perhaps because I am not a Bible professor or because I am a woman that I have not right to an opinion on their doctrine.)  They are wrong.  It should be enough alone to call for submission without arguing that women are of lesser essence.

My other great issue with their teaching concerns the vague and implied teachings that not only facilitate abuse through tacit approval, but the other implied doctrines that declare men as priest of the home and an intercessor for the sins of their wives.  Dorothy Patterson has stated in Christianity Today that "When it comes to submitting to my husband, even when he’s wrong, I just do it. He is accountable to God." notes my experience at Midwest Baptist Seminary when several young students asked me to comment and explain how they would give account for the sins of their wives before God at the Judgement Seat.  I believe this sacerdotalism that declares that husbands are spiritual mediators for their wives.  These ideas have been taught to Believers by Baptist seminaries, and as a consequence, many men and women believe that husbands are demi-popes who provide spiritual intercession.

I would call this Roman Catholic doctrine (fine if you are Catholic if we agree on and affirm essential doctrine), but this would be an insult to the Catholic Church!  What is even more outrageous concerns the fact that this doctrine is largely preached by those who claim to follow the Reformed Christian Faith.  I discuss this problem in a soon to be released article in “Fidelity:  Biblical Faith in Home, Church and Culture,” a new publication of the Center for Cultural Leadership.

In Conclusion
I do not share all the beliefs of any one Christian or group, including the belief’s of my husband.  I am Evangelical, Reformed, and I am committed to liberty among my fellow Believers within the Body of Christ, largely conforming to New Covenant Theology, but not entirely.  Though the declarations made at the Seneca Falls 2 Convention may not have been ideal in the eyes of some, and though many may criticize the effort as something that has made sweeping statements that are too broad, I believe it is a good start toward righting only some of these wrongs that the group, CBMW, has fostered.  The Demand Letter addresses a wide variety of problems with CBMW, all of which deserve their own individual discussions, many of which take place on this blog.  

I hope that in days to come, Believers will be challenged to reject the label of “complementarian” if they reject the core and foundational teachings of the ideology, empowered by the power of the Spirit and the Word to challenge the doctrine.  My husband says that what should have been included in the Demand Letter (a document that I support but did not help to draft) is a demand for the group to disband.  Along with this, he has said that the leaders who have made money through the organization should give back seven fold of the sum of their total earnings to charities that provide practical help to abused women.   I wait with anticipation to see what God will do and how He will bring us together into unity concerning our understanding of the truth of the Word of God.