Sunday, August 22, 2010

My Critique of the Danvers Statement, Part II of VI (Affirmations 3 - 5)

Link to Part I HERE  (Affirmations 1 & 2).

Responding to the Council on Manhood and Womanhood's (CBMW) Danvers Statement Affirmations:
  • CBMW’s statements are noted in DARK BLUE.
  • Dr. Robert K McGreggor Wright’s commentary or references to his work are noted in PURPLE.

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.

3. Adam's headship in marriage was established by God before the Fall and was not a result of sin.

The problem arises here because CBMW does not define headship.  I understand headship quite differently from CBMW and define it differently.  Many others in patriarchy mingle male headship with the doctrines concerning “federal headship.”  Adam was our covenant representative, the head of mankind, who lead us into sin.  (We derive the English word “federal” from the Latin word for “covenant.”)  This concept differs from male headship, a separate doctrine, which can be interpreted several different ways.  

Though I understand that the New Testament does establish male headship, I deny the CBMW concept of it.  I see it in terms of nourishing, supportive, and origin, bearing a great weight of responsibility as opposed to a position that demands and commands authority based on some Old Testament or cultural law.  In her book, Women this is War, Jocelyn Andersen points out that the Septuagint uses the Greek kephale in Old Testament passages referring to cornerstone.  This also supports the idea of care, nurture and foundation as opposed to authoritarian rule which is not promoted in the New Testament and is not demonstrated in practice by exemplars in the New Testament.

4. The Fall introduced distortions into the relationships between men and women.

  • In the home, the husband's loving, humble headship tends to be replaced by domination or passivity; the wife's intelligent, willing submission tends to be replaced by usurpation or servility.        

  • In the church, sin inclines men to a worldly love of power, or an abdication of spiritual responsibility, and inclines women to resist limitations on their roles or to neglect the use of their gifts in appropriate ministries.

On the surface, this initial statement seems consistent with what egalitarians maintain.  Any issues that arose between men and women including paternalism and hierarchy requiring submission came as a consequence of the Fall of Man and did not predate it.  So this first statement is actually misleading, because CBMW maintains that these dynamics existed prior to the Fall.  It appears to be a reasonable and soft statement, at first.

In the first conclusion regarding men and women in home and marriage draws two false dilemmas for both men and women.  “Humble headship” and “willing submission” are poorly defined and deceptive.   The headship CBMW promotes is far from humble and promotes tyranny and entitlement.  Their concept of submission for women is far from willing, and failure to submit to the authoritarian and rigid paradigm defines the worst of sins.  

The word “intelligent” in regard to a woman’s submission evokes what Cialdini calls the tendency to defer to the human pressure of “Commitment and Consistency.”  Everyone wants to be perceived as intelligent, so this appeals to women to demonstrate that they are intelligent.  It is no different than a manipulative salesmen telling a prospective buyer that “Intelligent consumers will only settle for my product, and they do not settle for less.”  If you want to prove to yourself and the salesman that you are an intelligent consumer, you feel great pressure to buy the product.  It is CBMW’s way of saying that “Only idiotic fools decline our paradigm, and you certainly don’t want to be thought of and an idiot.”  In terms of though reform, this tactic demonstrates what Lifton called the Dispensing of Existence.  Those who are not intelligent are denied a degree of personhood and suffer both rejection and loss of Christian status by extension.

If one does not measure up to the CBMW standard, all possible alternative responses are oversimplified into two false alternatives of black and white thinking (another informal logical fallacy).  (Read more about Black and White thought by linking HERE.) A man who rejects or fails to meet CBMW’s standard can only be guilty of domination or passivity.   A woman who rejects or fails to meet CBMW’s standard can only be guilty of usurping her husband’s authority or obsequious servility.  According to the paradigm, there is no place of grace or stops in between these extremes, when in fact, there are many possible alternatives.

Bruce Ware demonstrated an excellent example of this informal fallacy and false dillemna when he mentioned domestic abuse in his June 2008 sermon at Denton Bible Church (Read more HERE   and   HERE.).  When women fail to properly submit to husbands, a husband has only two alternatives:  he can extravert his frustration through aggression, or he can become passive which suggests that he should internalize his frustration through passivity.   Not only does it suggest that the wife is responsible for the husband’s behavior and his sin, it ignores the truth that a man has many other alternatives available, and a wide variety of them do not constitute sin or failure.

The statement regarding behavior in the church also presents rigidly defined dillemnas in very all or nothing terms, with no place of grace in between.  A man can also wrestle with pride, love of power, and a desire to shirk responsibility without actually sinning as he grows in maturity in his Christian walk.  Does this also presume that CBMW’s model can make men and women immune to sin if its legalistic standards are achieved?

Women are also subtly saddled with the charge to deny who they are, tactics consistent with what Lifton called Doctrine over Person.  All personal qualities and experiences that do not meet the demands of the group must be forfeited and denied in order to meet the desired standard.  CBMW does not tolerate exceptions and essentially defines exceptions as sin, not because they are actual sins in terms of the Bible but because they do not fit the demands of the group’s ideology.  Whether they have been actual feminists, women are required to repent of all that does not meet the group paradigm.

CBMW establishes standards that are narrow and hard to attain, consistent with the dynamic that Lifton called the Demand for Purity.  Anything outside of the group ideal is declared sinful, when it may not actually be a sin in terms of Scripture.  Man made rules determine what constitutes purity and perfection, and followers are manipulated quite heavily with guilt and shame.  Everyone has a certain amount of shame that can be tapped into, and by attaching so much to one’s gender and deeply personal qualities within the context of such intimate relationships, the influence becomes quite profound.  People find themselves trodding like horses shamefully behind the promising carrot that hangs on the end of a stick, but there is actually very little carrot and a whole lot of stick, as Janja Lalich has stated.

Concerning Affirmation Four, Dr. Wright notes:

The concept of "roles" is a nest of problems, and the wise will not treat it as a mystical clue in answer to the exegetical understanding of personal relationships. . .

As for "In the church . . .", once again there is no verse in Scripture to justify the notion that males and females have distinct and immutable "spiritual responsibilities" based on sex, although there are several verses which have been so interpreted traditionally, in violation of the plain statement in Gal. 3:28. 

5.  The Old Testament as well as the New Testament, manifests the equally high value and dignity which God attached to the roles of both men and women.  Both Old and New Testaments also affirm the principle of male headship in the family and in the covenant community.

First, as someone familiar with Dispensational, New Covenant, and Covenant Theology, this statement is strongly biased toward a Calvinist view of Scripture and might be complicated by a Covenant Theology bias as well.

Within Dispensationalism, the New Testament Church did not begin until the Book of Acts at Pentecost, and Believers from the Old Testament had to be grafted into the Church.  In New Covenant Theology, the Old Testament Believers that were faithful to God were a foreshadowing of the Church, but they also maintain that Christ built the Church and could not be built until Jesus completed His redemptive Work on the Cross.  Though faith credits Old Testament Believers with righteousness through God’s grace, the Old Testament was not under a “Covenant of Grace.”  Covenant Theology does maintain that Adam and the Faithful in the OT did have recourse to find saving grace, and it sees the Church as active and existing under the “Covenant of Grace” that was offered to Adam after the Fall when the “Covenant of Works” ended.  For those who follow Covenant Theology, there is a stronger tie to Old Testament Law and tradition, though it is not salvific.  

Those who do not follow Covenant Theology attribute the Old and New Covenants very differently, attaching a different significance to the Old Covenant.  This statement favors not only a Calvinistic Theology but also a Covenant Theology perspective.  Male headship holds a different significance as does what constitutes and always constituted the covenant community.  I am not familiar with the theology followed by those men who drafted the Danvers Statement, as some of these ideas could lend themselves to some New Covenant Theology concepts.  It is, however, of great concern.

Dr. Wright also points out his issues with the ongoing trappings of the term of “roles.”

On the contrary, the OT and NT never give roles any "value" or "dignity."  Only persons can have such qualities if the question is the status of men and women.  It is humanness which has dignity, not the abstractions of masculinity or femininity . . .  Rather, numerous exceptions to it are found throughout the Bible, from Sarah and Deborah in the OT, to Phoebe and Phillip's daughters in the NT.  The mere existence of these exceptions shows that God recognizes no rule of "roles" in this matter.  "Roles" considered simply as patterns of behavior grow out of the obedient use of gifts by individuals led of the Lord, and are never presupposed by themselves as if they were to be adopted as standards or patterns of conformity.  Gifts, and not abstract "roles," determine paths of obedience.

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.

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

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