Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A question about authority

There have been reading several posts on TC's blog about the practice of authority with reference to different Christian leaders, Mahaney, Driscoll, and Rick Warren.

Here is a provocative paper by Tim Keller on women and ministry. I disagree with Keller's overall position. However, he makes a very interesting observation with respect to authority, which, I think deserves everyone's consideration. I have reproduced a section of Keller's paper, omitting a part of the passage from Lewis for brevity, but please read the full paper here,

    2. Democracy is for society while rule-submission is for our spiritual lives.

    Christians are for democracy because we believe in sin. Many folk believe in it for the opposite reason. Rousseau believed in democracy because he thought that people were so wise and good that no one is fit to be a slave. Of course, Christians wish for no one to be a slave, but we believe democracy is good because no one is fit to be a master!

    Because of sin, people misuse absolute authority. Thus it is clear that monarchy, wise and good kings, would be a form of government that very much fits the Trinitarian pattern. God is a King, not a President, and our spiritual lives are based on monarchy. So why don’t we have Kings? The answer is that we have to abolish monarchy due to sin. We have to treat all people as equal.

    C.S. Lewis explains the Christian view of equality:

      This introduces a view of equality rather different from that in which we have been trained. I do not think that equality is one of those things (like wisdom or joy) which are good simply in themselves and for their own sakes. I think it is in the same class as medicine, which is good because we are ill, or clothes which are good because we are no longer innocent. I don’t think the old authority of kings, priests, husbands, or fathers, and the old obedience of subjects, laymen, wives, and children was in itself a degrading or evil thing at all. I think it was intrinsically good and beautiful as the nakedness of Adam and Eve. It was rightly taken away because men became bad and abused it. To attempt to restore it now would be the same error as that of the Nudists. Legal and economic equality are absolutely necessary remedies for the Fall. and protection against cruelty.
    In summary, the pattern of rule-and-submission is greatly muted in society because of sin. People abuse authority, so politically, all authority must be elected authority—and all individuals must have access to places of authority.
I want to make clear that I do not agree with the position C.S. Lewis and Tim Keller make on rule and submission. However, and this is what matters most, let us imagine for a moment that they are both right, and that rule and submission would be the ideal if there were no sin.

Now let's look at why they advocate democracy as a political form of government. Lewis argues that it is for "protection against cruelty," and Keller says rule must be muted "because of sin." They agree that because of sin, there must be legal and economic equality and democratic rule.

However, Keller, and perhaps Lewis, in some of his writings, deny that the functioning of either the church and marriage require democracy. They either deny that cruelty happens in marriage or they do not feel that the suffering of women is, on balance, as important as upholding male authority.

My question is, if we know that democracy is for protection against cruelty, why will many Christian men advocate for democracy in society but not offer it to women in the home.Note that for Keller, because of abuse, "all individuals must have access to authority" - all individuals, excepting women. Men like Keller, Driscoll, Mahaney and Warren want to live in a democracy themselves, but not offer democracy to their neighbour.

8 comments:

J. L. Watts said...

Suzanne,

Perhaps it's because they do not practice what they preach, or read for that matter. I didn't think that marriage was supposed to be about protecting the woman from cruelty?

I believe in roles for the husband and wife, but this submission garbage is for the birds. It has done more harm than good, from what I can see, from my experiences.

Greg Anderson said...

Good question Sue. I've often wondered that myself. Why do American evangelicals (Driscoll, Warren, et. al.) enshrine American democracy and yet when it comes to church and home, revert back to feudalism?

JKG said...

They make the case for female submission because they feel the bible requires it. And while talking plenty about monarchy/dictatorship, including submission to these forms of authority, there is no explicit verse in the bible requiring a government to be a dictatorship. Sound right?

You make an excellent point about democracy providing protection against cruelty, that fits with the parallel in marriage perfectly.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

JKG,

I respectfully disagree with you. If you read the sermons of Lancelot Andrewes, he is consumed with proving from scripture that a monarchy is the proper form of government. Proving the divine right of kings was, in its day, as all consuming as complementarianism is now.

I was brought up in the Brethren, and they were consumed with anti-clericalism.

Each group, each movement, reacts according to which power struggle they are part of, and then lines up the verses like a domino game, one against another.

I don't even know if there is any practice that people come to because of scripture, that they aren't already committed to, out of their own social reality, to the good or bad.


Greg, Joel,

Thanks!

JKG said...

"I don't even know if there is any practice that people come to because of scripture, that they aren't already committed to, out of their own social reality, to the good or bad."

I think that sums it up well. Thanks, and point taken, I agree.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I didn't mean to jump on you, JKG, but the royalist rhetoric of the 17th century presents an interesting paraallel with complementarianism.

Divine right of kings - divine right of husbands.

Lydia said...

I didn't mean to jump on you, JKG, but the royalist rhetoric of the 17th century presents an interesting paraallel with complementarianism.

Divine right of kings - divine right of husbands.

11:55 AM

I have been told over and over by many reformed that folks cannot understand God's Sovereignty because we were raised in a sort of democracy (Actually it is a representative republic) and not a Monarchy. And, this skews the way we view God and makes us much too individualistic.

I find this strange. I was raised much like Sue except, in the SBC, where the Priesthood of believer was drilled into my head. The 'pastor' was just another guy in the Body with a vote and specific gift.

There was no divine right for anyone.

WonderousWomanRetreat said...

Dear Suzanne,

Consider to join us for A Wonderous Woman Retreat
on August 13,14,and 15

The Wonderous Woman retreat program leads and encourages every woman to connect to all facets of her purpose and value. Our approach is to create experiential retreats in beautiful venues where you can connect to your mind, body and spirit.

It's easy to take care of everyone else in our lives, but we tend to forget about ourselves.