Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dever, women and slaves

I have just finished reading three blog posts, Adrian's, Justin's and Dever's.

Dever writes the following.

    ... those older than me who are complementarian generally want to downplay this issue, and those younger than me want to lead with it, or at least be very up front about it.
Please read his post for context. He continues,

    The older group is among peers who see women's ordination as an extension of civil rights for people of different races.
May I simply ask someone to let Dever know how wrong he is. The truth is,

Civil rights for people of different races was an extension of the recognition of equal spiritual authority for women.

No matter what Dever's assessment is of the Quaker movement today, let him know that Quakers acknowledged the right of women to speak in the assembly before their anti-slavery thrust.

In a post that I wrote in March, I mentioned Women Speaking 1666., written by Margaret Fell, the wife of George Fox, founder of the Quakers.

Here is the beginning of the Quaker Testimony to Equality.
    The Quaker testimony to equality stems from the conviction that all people are of equal spiritual worth. This was reflected in the early days of Quakerism by the equal spiritual authority of women, and by the refusal to use forms of address that recognised social distinctions. Equality is also a fundamental characteristic of Quaker organisation and worship, with the lack of clergy and any formal hierarchy.
And here is a little history from Quakers in the Anti-slavery Movement,

    Before the eighteenth century, very few white men questioned the morality of slavery. The Quakers were among these few. The doctrines of their religion declared an issue such as slavery to be unjust. By 1775, the Quakers founded the first American anti-slavery group. Through the 1700s, Quakers led a strong-held prohibition against slavery.
    The Quakers’ fight inspired growing numbers of abolitionists, and by the 1830’s abolitionism was in full force and became a major political issue in theUnited States.The Quakers were radical Christians. They believed that all people were equal in the sight of God, and every human being wascapable of receiving the "light" of God’s spirit and wisdom. They also were against violence.
    Quakers were known for their simple living and work ethic. Therefore, to the Quakers, slavery was morally wrong.It was as early as the 1600s that Quakers began their fight against slavery, and thus the beginning of the abolitionist movement.They debated, made speeches, and preached to many people. By 1696, they made their first official declaration for abolitionism in Pennsylvania, in which they declared they were not going to encourage the importation of slaves.

How dare Christians of other denominations wrest the anti-slavery movement out of its rightful origin? Does no one remember how the Quakers were persecuted by other Christians for their anti-slavery actions?

How long before those of us who are over 50 come to see the younger generation as revisionists and ideologues with no respect for fact?

How many errors will it take before someone signs a few preachers up for History 101?

Dever also writes this about the older group who wish to downplay complementarianism.

    Normal for the older group is evangelicals as upstanding members of the society. They are mayors and bankers and respected persons in the community. The tendency is natural to do what would be culturally acceptable, as much as is possible (parallel to John Rawls and his idea of publicly accessible reasons).

Dever does not consider the other possibilities. That those who are older have a better grasp of history, they have a sense of continuity with an honourable past, and they have lived longer as men and women. Those who are older, have this going for them, that they are older.

Update: My apologies to Dever. I have rethought this post and now admit that older complementarians are probably equally ignorant of the Quaker origins of the abolition movement.


Adam Omelianchuk said...

I found Dever's article interesting in several ways.

1) It offers an explanation of why traditionalists are so vehemently opposed egalitarianism by,

2) conjoining things like homosexuality and theological liberalism with the ordination of women.

3) It explains why it is the bigger issue than baptism by,

4) calling it a breach of biblical authority, all the while

5) paying honor to a person who hold those very views!

Dever pays special homage to Roger Nicole telling of his deep respect for him and a close relationship they have, yet in the next paragraph says his views undermine the authority of Scripture.

Putting the post hoc arguments aside (women's ordination happens before homosexual ordination, therefore egalitarianism causes homosexual affirmation), this is all too typical of traditionalist "draw-a-line-in-the-sand" literature in that evangelical egalitarians are good Christians who believe heretical things at the same time.

But I suppose if you believe that women are equal in their essential being yet subordinate by virtue of that same being, holding to contradictory positions is easy.

Peter Kirk said...

I posted this comment on Dever's blog, which is moderated and so this may well not appear there. So I also posted it on Adrian's and Justin's unmoderated blogs, so at least some complementarians will get to read it. And for good measure I will post it again here:

Mark Dever was correct when he wrote that "having a certain skin pigmentation is to the glory of God; having a sexual partner of the same gender is sin." But surely being a woman is not sin, but is to the glory of God. Therefore the older generation is correct and the younger is not: women's ministry parallels civil rights for people of different races, not gay rights. So, if he and I agree in opposing both racism and gay rights, we should be able to draw a clear line here: we should not allow practising homosexuals or anyone else continuing in sin to serve in the church; but we should allow all people who are turning away from sin to serve in the church according to their gifts to the glory of God who made them, regardless of race or gender. Surely there is no doubt which side of this line women's ministry lies.

Ben Martin said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Ben Martin said...

Ironic, I hadn't read Mark Dever's blog before that I recall but I just did today, and then I see the same post I read today show up over here. Small world, I guess...

Yeah, I was, naturally, thinking exactly of the Quakers when I saw his post. I was also thinking of my other old stand-by the Salvation Army, though granted they haven't been around nearly as long, but 150 years surely puts them before the civil rights movement.

I hadn't gotten around to posting a response yet. I have to admit I sort of wondered if the Quakers would be sufficiently orthodox for Mark Dever - I kind of had my suspicions. But they're certainly worth a mention.

Peter Kirk said...

It occurred to me that the position that Dever explains is similar to that of Rehoboam in 1 Kings 12. In Solomon's time a heavy yoke had been laid on the people of Israel (v.4), and similarly a heavy yoke has been laid on Christian women. When Rehoboam became king he was asked to lighten the yoke. The elders who had served Solomon advised him: "If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favourable answer, they will always be your servants" (v.7, TNIV). The advice was not to surrender, but to act wisely with the aim of perpetuating the situation. But Rehoboam ignored this advice and instead followed that of "the young men who had grown up with him": he answered the people harshly and threatened them with an even heavier yoke (vv.8-14). The result was that the situation spun out of control into a disastrous schism, with the schismatics falling away from the true worship of God. And, similarly, if Dever's younger generation calls for a harsh response to egalitarians, the result will again be a disastrous schism. I hope this is not what Dever wants. If he doesn't, he should seek for a reconciliation between complementarians and egalitarians, in which each side recognises the other's right to exist. But if the complementarian party will not accept this there is a real danger of a deep schism which will not be to the glory of God.