Thursday, August 26, 2010

My Critique of the Danvers Statement, Part IV of VI (Rationales 1 - 3)

Link here to a My Response to the Affirmations.

Responding to CBMW’s Danvers Statement Rationales:
  • CBMW’s statements are noted in DARK BLUE.

Preceding the Affirmations in the Danvers Statement, those who drafted it first established “Rationales.”  They note in the short preamble:  “Prior to the listing of the actual affirmations that comprise the Danvers Statement, we have included a section detailing contemporary developments that serve as the rationale for these affirmations.”  As I was unsure that I would be able to make it through very much of this document, I addressed the “Affirmations” first.  I find that there are a few things that do need to be clarified.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve read somewhere elsewhere that people are questioning why anyone would respond to a document that is so dated.  The Danvers Statement was written in December of 1987 and subsequently published in 1988, and it serves as the foundational document of the Council on Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW).  As stated previously on this blog, I’d never heard any reference to this document and didn’t know that it existed until June of 2007 when I began working on research for the 2008 apologetics workshop that ENMR asked me to present on the patriarchy movement.  

Secondly, Wayne Grudem published his Systematic Theology in 1995 and popularized many of these teachings.  Kevin Giles reports in Jesus and the Father: Modern Evangelicals Reinvent the Doctrine of the Trinity that, at the time of the writing of his book, Grudem’s Systematic Theology (ST) text was the most commonly used ST in English-speaking Seminaries and Bible Colleges.  Grudem’s presentation of the Eternal Subordination of the Son Doctrine in his ST has been taught in many seminaries without challenge, so that at this current time, many parishioners have been taught falsely by their authorities that this doctrine is legitimate and above reproach.  

In 2000, the language pertaining to the “priesthood of all believers” was changed in the Baptist Faith and Message (BF&M) statement, the foundational document of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC).   Subsequently, the Danvers Statement gained even more traction, deepening the Roman Catholic Theology related trends in the Baptist Church, as the major push for these trends has come from those also affiliated with CBMW.  As I understand matters, the SBC is a loosely affiliated group of churches who joined together to raise more financial support for seminaries and missions, but the 2000 BF&M and the influence behind it sought to consolidate power in order to make the SBC more authoritarian, being ruled by a group of leaders at the top as opposed to a congregational government with their previously loose affiliation for the purpose of raising funds only.

[To the Catholic friends of this blog, please understand that this discussion concerns Protestant ideas that govern the Protestant Church, a group that is so defined because of their dissent from fundamental concepts of Roman Catholic Theology.  Protestants and Catholics share essentials of the faith but differ in “saving” and “non-essential” doctrine.  Protestants should be very much unlike the Catholic Church in these respect to the denial of a formal priesthood in support of “the priesthood of all believers,” that which defines them as Protestant.  In the current era of the Church, I think Roman Catholic tradition, Vatican II in particular, is actually much more gracious to women and does a much better job of honoring Biblical principles concerning gender.   Protestant complementarianism is far more damaging to women than the Roman Catholic Church has been in my own lifetime, empowering women to serve God through various sorts of ministry by comparison.]

For these reasons, the document deserves to be re-addressed and openly challenged.  Based on my personal experience in the cultic Shepherding Discipleship Movement and in my efforts to combat the effects of thought reform in Evangelical churches, the Danvers Statement and its principles have been used to justify the growing incidence of the physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual abuse of women.  The CBMW continues to ignorantly and staunchly deny that their teachings have had any impact on such abuse, and the group maintains that their ideology is in no way culpable for fostering any abuse.  Based on my personal experiences and the reports of others over the course of my work, I wholeheartedly disagree with CBMW’s claims.

The Danvers Statement Rationales 1- 3

We have been moved in our purpose by the following contemporary developments which we observe with deep concern:
  1. The widespread uncertainty and confusion in our culture regarding the complementary differences between masculinity and femininity;
  2. the tragic effects of this confusion in unraveling the fabric of marriage woven by God out of the beautiful and diverse strands of manhood and womanhood;
  3. the increasing promotion given to feminist egalitarianism with accompanying distortions or neglect of the glad harmony portrayed in Scripture between the loving, humble leadership of redeemed husbands and the intelligent, willing support of that leadership by redeemed wives;

 The Danvers Statement introduced the term “complementarian” and argues that its principles represent the clear implications of Biblical Doctrine, establishing and restating these Biblical principles regarding what they call “masculinity” and “femininity.”  I assert that the standards that they define are culturally biased and that their interpretation of these Scriptures has been read through a grid of their preferred view of culture and primarily reflects these cultural biases.  The Bible does not clearly define these concepts in the way that CBMW would like Evangelical Christians to believe.  (If it did, their organization would be unnecessary, because the principles could be taught directly from the Word of God and they would be established as essential doctrine per the claims of CBMW.  CBMW exists to articulate their ideology because their concepts are contrived and are not clear from Scripture another indication as to why issues of gender classify as intramural or non-essential Christian doctrine.)

I’ve read more reports on the degree of “Biblical illiteracy” in recent years than I can recall.  In surveys, most Christians do not reflect beliefs that support the clear elements of essential Bible doctrine.  Increasingly larger numbers of Christians cannot articulate anything of Bible doctrine or principles.  Could we not say then that the primary problem in the Church concerns this issue of our day?  Well, CBMW to the rescue to tell the poor masses what the Bible really says about it’s contrived concepts of “masculinity” and “femininity.”  The “widespread confusion” in the culture has always been there, but if there is widespread confusion in the church, what is the source of this confusion?  Does Biblical illiteracy not account for the deficit?  How does a Christian deal with “uncertainty” and “confusion”?  Does that Christian not go to the Word itself to seek out the answers?

I have no problems with the concept of the male and female genders complementing one another.  The problem arises when one tries to assert that this complementary nature of gender must also encompass and incorporate the standards established by CBMW in their volumes of writing to articulate what should be clear truths (as they assert).  One doesn’t need a tome to articulate the simple meanings.  One does need a tome to justify a created concept.  Complementarianism as a term hides the dark underbelly of blame and scapegoating of women in order to elevate men to a type of human deity through contrived hierarchy that is also not found clearly and plainly in Scripture.  There is no complementarianism apart from hierarchy, and to support it, the pleasant-sounding facade hides the fact that to accomplish its hierarchical ends, it has compromised and rewritten the Doctrine of the Trinity by ascribing to Semi-Arianism.

Rationale 2 & 3 states that the “unraveling of the fabric of marriage” has occurred because of the effects of “confusion and uncertainty” in our culture, presumably culture outside of the Church.  This statement makes numerous logical leaps that are not even made remotely apparent, and to truly agree with these dubious statements, one must agree to the presuppositions of CBMW about the nature of the Trinity and the ontological subordination that supports hierarchy.  They don’t tell you enough about these “strands” which they call “beautiful” and I call strictly cultural, bordering on heresy, and what others call semi-Arian.  Cults do the very same thing by failing to tell the unpleasant truths about their doctrine, only revealing the plain truths clearly until well after the individual has strongly identified with the group through commitment, a powerful appeal to the human trait of consistency.  Jeff VanVonderan called this power of identification and commitment “sweat equity” in his book, “The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.”  If the Danvers Statement rightly came right out and clearly stated the actual presuppositions instead of burying them in volumes of writing, communicating them through the use of the tricks of rhetoric, informal logical fallacy, and propaganda, most literate Christians would have rejected the Danvers Statement outright.

A few years ago, Russell Moore stated in a 9 Marks round table interview that he prefers the term “patriarchy” over “complementarianism.”  But CBMW and those who contrived the Danvers Statement could not have used the term “patriarchy” because of the negative connotation. They sought to hide the ugly underbelly.  In the same manner, CBMW hides the doctrinal presuppositions that actually support the rationales of the Danvers Statement in order to circumvent and bypass criticism.  It is fine deception and craft.

The flowery and poetic imagery of “fabric” and “strands” presents a Red Herring that uses an emotional appeal to divert the reader away from questioning these presuppositions.  What is the real matter of concern and what constitutes the source of the problem?  They are saying that the Church has capitulated to the culture, and it has allowed the secular culture to permeate the Church with confusion and uncertainty.  Why have they not directly stated this?  They don’t want anyone thinking about Biblical illiteracy but about their ready-made solution to the problem which they have ill-defined.  If the Church has capitulated to the culture, the answer is to teach the Bible.  But CBMW does not want that, otherwise, people will challenge their doctrine based on their knowledge of what the Bible actually says.  They want to provide people with their ready-made solutions that they’ve contrived to combat their ill-defined problem.  We need the new high priests of patriarchy to tell the poor masses what the Bible says, the time-honored tradition of the Roman Catholic Church.  (Please recall disclaimer in the fourth paragraph above, introducing the discussion of the Rationales concerning Roman Catholic Theology versus guiding principles that are appropriate for Protestants.)

Among the many undefined presuppositions that CBMW hides in its many writings or communicates via propaganda techniques of fuzzy logic and unstated assumption which the reader is expected to assume, the term “Biblical Egalitarian” becomes a pejorative with a very negative connotation that intensifies the first two rationales.  Note that the term is undefined by the Danvers Statement, something that the Statement presumes to be sinful.  Without statements establishing justification for the claim, Egalitarianism is blamed for the “confusion and uncertainty” asserted in the previous Rationales, the presumed true source of the problems in the larger secular culture, and by extension, the destruction of marriage.  Yet this is not directly stated in the beginning, because the point needed to be softened in order to be accepted.  It is sin in the culture which rejects God that causes confusion and lack of order, not egalitarianism.  In fact, CBMW wants Christians to remain ignorant of the rich history of egalitarianism in the Church and that the Bible has presented great support to the cause of freedom of all individuals in society as an outward manifestation of the effect of Biblical Principles on the secular culture.

I addressed the remainder of this rhetoric (found in the end of Rationale 3) under my response to Affirmation Four.  (Note that they also evade their theology about how women are really responsible for sin entering the world, that they do not have responsibility under their teaching of primogeniture to bear responsibility, so Paul blames Adam in the New Testament, and that all women are deceived and have greater capacity for sin than men.  They do not clearly state this, but this is the foundation upon which the Danvers Statement rests.)

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