Sunday, March 30, 2014

CBMW's Problematic Doctrine of Man (It's not just traditional patriarchy.)

9Apr14 Addendum:  Visit the Junia Project to read Bob Edwards' post on this topic as well.

A recent post examined the teachings of the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW) concerning the Doctrine of God and the ways in which it deviates from traditional, orthodox Protestant teachings. Complementarianism (a neologism for CBMW's version of patriarchy) builds upon them, and understanding them will be helpful when trying to grasp the true nature of the inherent problems with their teachings regarding man and woman. I don't intend to cover all of the beliefs in this post. I'd just like to highlight some of CBMW's teachings that I find most troubling.
It is my hope that those reading here will realize that underneath the pleasant sounding packaging of “equal but different” (the primary slogan that CBMW chose for their organization) exists a whole worldview that in fact demeans women and elevates men to the status of demi-godhood. I then hope that the reader will voice their discontent by signing the Freedom for Christian Women's petition demanding an apology for the harm many have suffered as a consequence of these teachings. (Read more about the history of the petition HERE.)

What exactly does CBMW teach

concerning the Doctrine of Man?

Since men enjoy the primary benefits of their crafted worldview, CBMW didn't have to deviate much from the traditional view concerning their views about the essence and basic traits of man. The problems in their teachings do really shine through in the playing out of the relationship between men and women, however – the subject of upcoming posts.

Some are More Equal than Others

Though CBMW repeats the mantra of “equal but different,” with the exception of the mantra, everything else that they teach belies the statement.
  • Different” is defined as not only a functional difference but is primarily taught as an ontological one.
  • Most people trust the mantra as genuine, believing the disclaimer instead of considering the actual substance of these teachings. 
  •  Kristen Rosser recently examined this issue in this excellent post.
  • Jeff Crippen recently explained HERE and HERE how John Piper uses a plethora of interwoven informal logical fallacies to allow him just enough plausible deniability to claim that “different” does not amount to a spiritual “lesser” concerning women. I explained some of these fallacies in this previous post. Note that John Piper was very instrumental in crafting CBMW's positions and co-edited the publications that defend the Danvers Statement.

Headship as Hierarchical

CBMW grounds their concept of male headship in their Doctrine of God as the primary justification of their view of man as overseer. CBMW looks to the subordination of Jesus to the Father to clarify what headship means in terms of gender roles.
  • The term “head” from which the concept of headship derives has been defined as “authority” only as opposed to “origin/source” (akin to “cornerstone/the head of the corner”) as noted in 1 Corinthians 11.
  • Man's authority, male preference, or male headship is rooted in man's essence.
  • CBMW's concept of headship is not just merely a matter of a God-ordained chain of command for the sake of order as is traditionally maintained by Evangelicals who do not support women in ministry.
  • Headship as a rule of order falls within the pale of orthodoxy and is a matter of intramural debate. Headship as a function of identity which derives from a problematic Doctrine of God as a functional or literal consideration of ontology/essence is not traditional among Evangelicals.
  • The Fall of Man is not responsible for the relationship between men and women after they were banished from the Garden of Eden.  CBMW teaches that it creates extremes of abuse and passivity.  (Their version of Patriarchy which one achieves by following their prescribe gender roles overcomes these consequences of the fall.)
  • Man's essence itself is one step closer to God than that of woman's, laying the foundation for man as a spiritual intercessor.

Creation Order

Man was created first and was given dominion over all the other animals and plants. …including woman.
  • Citing 1 Corinthians 11 and Ephesians 5:23, CBMW teaches their twist on the principle of primogeniture (the state of being a firstborn child). They claim that creation order bestows Adam (and thus all men) with dominion and authority over Eve (and thus all women).
  • Though Eve apparently named at least one son in Genesis Chapter 4, it is claimed that since Adam named Eve, the event affirms man's authority over woman.

Original Sin?

Adam was blamed for original sin but didn't actually commit it, or some variation on the theme that Eve was really to blame.
  • In Covenant Theology, this understanding is articulated by the concept of federal headship. (See this previous post for more information and an explanation of the term.)
  • His primary sin was abandonment of his leadership responsibilities through a failure to micromanage his wife's activities.
  • Adam bore the penalty for original sin in Eve's place, affirming his authority over Eve, another concept that sets man up as an intercessor for women concerning salvation.

A subsequent post will examine CBMW's teachings concerning the Doctrine of Woman as well as their teachings concerning marriage.


For more information and documentation concerning CBMW's complementarian view, review the embedded links, visit CBMW (starting with their Danvers Statement position on gender), and download Recovering Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

For more information and documentation concerning the criticisms of CBMW, just start googling if you cannot find information on this blog or through recommended links (particularly those dealing with domestic abuse and women in ministry). I also recommend the following books as introductory ones that will help the reader understand the teachings pertaining to the issues that most concern me personally.