Tuesday, August 24, 2010

My Critique of the Danvers Statement, Part III of VI (Affirmations 6 -10)

Here, I offer my own response to the Danvers Statement, but I also draw from Dr. Wright’s response to the Danvers Statement as noted in the Journal of Biblical Equality.

Link to Part I HERE  (Affirmations 1 & 2).
Link to Part II HERE (Affirmations 3, 4 & 5).

Responding to CBMW’s Danvers Statement Affirmations:
  • CBMW’s statements are noted in DARK BLUE.
  • Dr. Wright’s commentary or references to his work are noted in PURPLE. 

6. Redemption in Christ aims at removing the distortions introduced by the curse. In the family, husbands should forsake harsh or selfish leadership, and grow in love and care for their wives; wives should forsake resistance to their husband's authority and grow in willing and joyfull submission to their husband's leadership.

  • In the church, redemption in Christ gives men and women an equal share in the blessings of salvation; nevertheless, some governing and teaching roles in the church are restricted to men.

As previously mentioned under my critique of Affirmation Four, CBMW “Begs the Question” regarding what specific distortions were introduced by the curse and what restrictions preceded the curse.  (Please refer back to that previous critique.)  Also, there is the Begging the Question issue concerning the assumption of what kind of authority a man had over a wife or whether it exists at all.  Women are called to submit to their own husbands, but does that mean that they are exempt from loving their husbands as Christ loves the Church?  Does the fact that a woman submits to her husband trump and eliminate the requirement that all believers should submit to one another in love?  Is he not then permitted to also submit to his own wife as a fellow believer?   What if a person refused the concept of kephale as authority and views it as source and as nurturer?  Submission and leadership do not necessitate an authoritarian rule.

The leadership and submission issue sounds reasonable, but in terms of the bulk of other writings that take much study and time to decipher, the term is not at all light or benign.  The basis for authority and submission is based not upon Christ and as the mutual submission that Paul speaks of in Ephesians 5 but upon the ontological subordination of women.  That is not clearly stated.  They can load the statement with as many nice sounding pleasantries suggesting love and sweetness, but the underlying principle actually says something quite disturbing, again drawing on the false dilemma of extremes.  This is something Robert Lifton called Loading the Language.

I also find it strange that if God gives husbands true authority over women, why does it seem like that authority is predicated on the "lesser" woman?  It seems that under the paradigm, they actually argue that a woman had greater power than a man and can trump his true authority through her lack of proper submission.  That just always seems odd.  This fosters an external locus of control that makes women the scapegoat for all failures in the system, and men can always claim that their own shortcomings can be blamed on the wife.  Women actually control men’s behavior, giving men a perpetual “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Concerning the secondary statement, Dr. Wright notes the problems very well:

This last sentence produces a curious logical dilemma;
either some "governing and teaching roles" are not "blessings of salvation,"
"an equal share" in the blessings is the same as some blessings being "restricted to men."  

I recently read Cheryl Schatz’ discussion of 1 Timothy 2  as related to “governing and teaching roles,” and the English translations make Paul’s very complicated and advanced Greek one of the most difficult passages in the Bible to rightly discern.  Many people fall prey to what Jocelyn Andersen aptly names “Gender Biased English Translation Theology.”  The meanings of this text as well as Paul’s complicated grammar and punctuation in Corinthians 14 very difficult to discern for all Christians.  From my own study of the original text, I am convinced of the Egalitarian arguments.  This statement from CBMW presumes that these passages are clear and definitive as opposed to unclear and open to many interpretations.  We should then follow the call to love and liberty toward those who have different understandings of these texts as intramural doctrine.

7. In all of life, Christ is the supreme authority and guide for men and women, so that no earthly submission --- domestic, religious or civil --- ever implies a mandate to follow a human authority into sin.   

This is a safety clause, a disclaimer added so that they can’t be accused later of being at fault for telling women to sin if their husbands direct them to do so.  It is also vague, however.  The group has already established sins that the Bible does not clearly define as sin through their Demand for Purity according to the paradigm.  It gives the group a wider plausible deniability so that they can feel that they are not accountable for the subjective nature of their broad statements regarding submission.   

What constitutes usurping a husband’s authority and lack of regard for authority?  Buying the wrong kind of toilet paper?  I know women who have been disciplined for such a thing and CBMW’s teachings were used to justify the husband’s anger and lack of self-control.  If a woman always bears the ultimate cause for the primary disruptions in the marital relationship because of her position due to her lesser essence and her lesser authority, does this not suggest that she is somehow contributing the first offense in any discord?  The burden of discretion and discernment always weighs most heavily as the lesser creature.  Men also rely upon their greater insights and presumed higher moral fiber as not given to deception like women.

Dr. Wright notes:

The problem remains, that if a wife must always submit to her husband (and never vice versa, since Eph. 5:24 says "in everything",) in the same way as she (and he) submits to Christ, how can it be argued that she can ever disobey him?  It has often been taught (e.g., by the Jesuits in the past) that the grace and merit of obedience absolves one of other (lower?) responsibilities.  Some Evangelicals teach this today in the shepherding cults, and this is all based on the unquestioned assumption of Chain-of-Being hierarchical notions of how things have to work.  But if these structural assumptions are questioned at any point, the whole fabric collapses.  Ethical structures tend to necessitate the corresponding ontological structures required to support them, and the presupposition of a hierarchical ontological structure of “reality” will inevitably affect the way we relate ethically.

8. In both men and women a heartfelt sense of call to ministry should never be used to set aside Biblical criteria for particular ministries.  Rather, Biblical teaching should remain the authority for testing our subjective discernment of God's will.

Here again we have another disclaimer that also presumes that everyone must agree with the presuppositions of CBMW.  “Biblical criteria” and the definition of what that means specifically remains vague and ambiguous.  It suggests that men and women are inclined to set aside Biblical instruction, allowing the end of ministry to justify impure means.  (Is this a bit of projection here?  This is something that CBMW should have taken to heart when they drafted their leading statements making use of so many informal logical fallacies to reach their own desired end.)

What is meant by “subjective discernment.”  The first part of the statement implies that Biblical criteria clearly defines ministry, so what exactly constitutes the subjectivity they mention?

Dr. Wright  notes:

Article 8 is another disclaimer intended to obvert the objection that if God does not want women in leadership, (i.e., in pastoral or teaching positions), why does he so consistently give them the gifts invariably necessary to fit them for such positions? 

9. With half the world's population outside the reach of indigenous evangelism; with countless other lost peoples in those societies that have heard the Gospel; with the stresses and miseries of sickness, malnutrition, homelessness, illiteracy, ignorance, aging, addiction, crime, incarceration, neuroses and loneliness, no man or woman who feels a passion from God to make his grace known in word and deed need ever live without a fulfilling ministry for the glory of Christ and the good of this fallen world.

I understand this as a statement meant to minimize the significance of the entire women in ministry issue.  Why, with all of the great need in the world do people feel the need to push the boundaries of ministry?  Why pursue a man’s work when there is plenty of woman’s work to be done that will facilitate the sharing of the Gospel with a dying world?  Why seek out formal ordination for a particular ministry when the Great Commission can be accomplished through lay ministry?  

This is a CLASSIC Red Herring logical fallacy.  It appeals to consequences by claiming that good ends can be reached by following the limited “roles” they have established, so this is offered as proof of the validity of their argument.  It proves nothing.

 10. We are convinced that a denial or neglect of these principles will lead to increasingly 
destructive consequences in our families, our churches, and the culture at large.

My first and immediate response to this is that it is blackmail.  “If you do not do as we say, you will be culpable for the destruction of not only your own family but the church and the culture.”  

This is no different that the tactics used in the aberrant Shepherding and Discipleship Movement, a threat of harm for failing to “get with the program.”  If you exit your covering (here, the covering is CBMW’s dogmatic paradigm), great harm will befall you.  In some sense, this implication is worse, as it also dooms other people to harm because of lack of action.  It reminds me of a Word of Faith Televangelist who opened his daily program with the story that God showed him all the millions of people who would go to hell if he did not become an evangelist.  

Those these men who penned the Danvers Statement claim Calvinistic faith in God’s Sovereignty, why does it seem that they argue for the potency of free will in this assertion?  (Though I pose this as a rhetorical question, I will answer it with “the traditions of men” account for the disparagement.  They demonstrate that they have more faith in the works of the law and flesh through their extra-Biblical traditions than they do in God’s loving care and sovereignty.)

I love Dr. Wright’s summary statement here:

Let me state flatly that I not only deny the traditionalist stance as both unbiblical and unChristian, but that I am conscience-bound not to neglect it, either.  Rather, some of us will probably spend the rest of our lives trying to reform it one way or another, in terms of the whole counsel of God, and let God take care of the consequences.

Robert K. McGregor Wright, "A Response to the Danvers Statement:  Part I". The Journal of Biblical Equality, July 1992; (copyrighted revision, Aquila and Priscilla House Study Center, Johnson City, TN, 1995):3.

My Response to the Rationales coming soon.

Also of Interest:     What the Danvers Statement Really Says (per Shirley Taylor of bWe Baptists for Women's Equality