Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Tim Keller and rule and submission

This is from Tim Keller's paper,
    A head only exercises authority to over-rule when he believes his spouse is doing something destructive to her or the family. In a marriage, where there are only two "votes", now will the stalemate be broken in cases where there is not just a difference in taste or preference, but in cases where both parties believe the other is seriously mistaken? There can be no unity unless one person has the right to cast the deciding "vote". That person knows that, along with this "right' comes the greatest accountability and responsibility.
Keller does not recognize that men can do anything destructive. He speaks of only women being destructive. He denies reality.

Keller suggests that women have diminished responsibility and diminished accountability in law for their own children. I believe this is against the law.

I would like very much to interact with Marilyn on John's blog but I can't because I can only post on John's blog during my lunch break at work. But Marilyn can only comment in the evening. I guess that keeps the pace nice and slow.

57 comments:

Rod said...

Women have diminished responsibility and accountability?

Exactly where do these ideas come from that men have to blame their problems on women in order to sustain patriarchy?

Geesh.

E said...

Re: Tim Keller -

Someone needs to slap that boy.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I don't know if Keller has changed his views any, but complementarians consider Keller to be almost egal.

When I say diminished responsibility, I am refering to the fact that he says that the "head" has greater responsibility and accountability.

It is very discouraging to me that many major defenders of the Christian faith are also firm detractors of egalitarianism.

Blake said...

Not sure why I'm commenting since I've got a good idea how this will turn out, but I guess I'm a glutton for punishment. Suzanne I think you are misrepresenting what you quoted from Keller. The fact that the "head" retains the "greatest accountability and responsibility" in casting the deciding vote does not at all deny that that men cannot be destructive. In fact it implies the opposite. If men could do no wrong then a more than usual amount of accountability and responsibility would be unnecessary to point out. Because men are flawed and can lead in flawed and sinful ways complementarians point out the greater burden of accountability and responsibility to lead their spouses according to the will of God. Also, because the context of this being in the case of a deciding vote we may imply that the accountability and responsibility are equal upon both partners in all other contexts not related to a "deciding vote."

Squirrl90 said...

Suzanne--

I have been researching and trying to find Tim Keller's view of women online for a while and this paper is often brought up.

For what it's worth, notice the paper is posted on a secondary site, and not on Keller's own Redeemer website. When I contacted Redeemer to ask for this paper they mentioned that this is not an official paper, was never suppose to be published and was an internal piece that was not fully formed yet. So what you are looking at is a 1989 rough draft essentially. I wouldn't take the paper as the precise view that Keller holds--whether you like the paper or not.

Hope that helps to significantly make everything more ambiguous because I believe that is the case when we are citing an unpublished, unauthorized half-formed paper. Have a great day!

J. K. Gayle said...

If Tim Keller has backed off from his 1989 rough-draft views, then hasn't he had ample time to revise and publish what they might be today?

Once upon a time, then, he said "the relationship of man to woman in Paul is not based on customs of the times but the relationships within the Trinity itself." And then he added: "A head only exercises authority to over-rule when he believes his spouse is doing something destructive to her or the family."

Question:

Does or did this happen in the Trinity?

Did or does the Father, for example, "over-rule" Jesus because he believes his son is doing something or did something destructive to Jesus or to the church?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I have often wondered if Keller has publicly recanted on this paper. He must know that it is in the public domain.

J. K. Gayle said...

Keller's church hasn't recanted. They post what he says as rationale for how they exclude certain ones from eldership:

"Not one of his apostles was female."

Curiously, not one of Jesus's apostles was goyim either. But Keller's church lets non-Jews serve as elders though it prohibits females from becoming elders partly on the basis of the above argument. I bet they don't even require circumcision of these non-Jewish elder men. I'm being a little silly here, but they do allow both Jews and non-Jews and presumably both the circumcised and the uncircumcised to be elders. Just not women. (Never mind that Paul's writings speak of how the church shouldn't always discriminate based on race, or on male circumcision, or on gender. And he comes to this after calling God "Father" and knowing Jesus and his disciples as only Jews and as invariably circumcised. Paul, the former Pharisee, got liberal from time to time.)

Squirrl90 said...

Hey folks--

I must not have been very clear. Sorry for that! I don't know if Tim Keller can "back off his 1989 rough-draft views" if those views were never actually formalized or fully put in a publishable medium. I'm not sure, but I'm guessing it would be like my wife and I writing a document together in the confines of my own home as we dialog about a topic and then someone posting it online. How can you back off a view that was never formally your position? Right?

Or how can you "publicly recant" on an unpublished paper that is not formally approved by your own church? I suggest before continuing, that we find hard published evidence about his actual thoughts on the matter. It is what would be fair, and how I would like to be treated if it was me. Blessings to all!

Jeremy Pierce said...

Blake is right. This is a complete misrepresentation of what Keller's saying. There's no way he could possibly mean that heads actually always do this. He's giving the ideal case of what should be done, not stating that it always happens this way. So it's pretty unfair to say that he doesn't think men can ever do anything destructive. The idea that he thinks women do destructive things but not men flies in the face of his claim that a man in a headship relation to a woman is to be held more responsible for making destructive decisions than the woman is.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thanks. I have to assume that Keller knows that this paper is in circulation. He could take steps to correct this.

Of course, he knows that men do things that are destructive, but he clearly says that the husband can overrule the wife, but the wife cannot overrule the husband.

I am not holding him responsible for thinking these things, or for practicing these things.

I do hold him, and all other preachers, responsible for what they teach. This can have terrible consequences.

Jeremy Pierce said...

He also teaches that men should not abuse that authority. So someone would have to take one thing he teaches and ignore something else he teaches to generate the problem. Your argument would equally apply to the Bible. The Bible places elders in responsibility over their congregations. It does not therefore give them permission to be evil to their congregations. But according to your argument we should consider the Bible to be saying something dangerous by putting anyone in authority, completely apart from any gender issues. Your argument is against the very idea of one person being in authority over another.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

I also find it impossible to say that the husband has greater responsibility and accountability, without saying that the wife has less responsibility and accountability. I don't know how else to take it.

But in reality a mother has equal and full responsibility for her children. This is true in legal and moral law.

gengwall said...

This is more of the same misinterpretation of Paul's use of kephale. Paul uses head and body to indicate a equal and mutually edifying relationship between husband and wife. Authority is not in view. Therefore, the initial presumption of head=authority over is false and anything designed to explain that false presumption is folly.

Don said...

The only place the Bible says that men should have authority over their wives is in Esther, when a pagan king declares it. I guess some want to follow pagan advice and not Godly wisdom.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I haven't seen the Keller thing, so I don't know the context of anything he might say about law, but without knowing anything further I wouldn't assume he meant modern law, such U.S. law or New York law (i.e. the systems that govern him). I'd be totally unsurprised to hear him say something like this about the Mosaic law, and if he just used the expression "the law" that might be exactly what he meant.

As for the content of the claim, I'm not sure he's saying that fathers/husbands are more responsible for their children or families than mothers/wives in every respect. I suspect he's saying that, with regard to decisions made where the husband and wife might disagree and then go with the husband's preference because the wife submits, the husband is more responsible than the wife for whatever results.

That seems obviously true to me when it comes to the moral law, and there are instances of that sort of thing in actual, contemporary civil laws when it comes to matters of legal authority. If a military officer orders a soldier to do something immoral, the officer is more responsible than the soldier. When a boss initiates illegal activity that employees participate in, the boss is more responsible, legally and morally. If a situation arose where a father insisted on doing something illegal (say, lying on a tax form), and the wife knew about it but didn't participate except to sign it, I believe he's legally more responsible than she is, since she registered an objection. She's at least morally less responsible. If he's beating the children, he's the one legally responsible, not her. Why should it be any different for matters that aren't as serious where she objects but doesn't continue to fight it and just allows him to do something she disagrees with?

I don't think he's saying that a father has legal responsibility in the eyes of current civil law if a mother is beating her children unbeknownst to her husband. That's outside the scope of the issue he's talking about, which is the context of the relation between a husband and wife when they disagree and she submits to his judgment.

Anonymous said...

Respectfully, you try to take an unauthorized paper off the internet once it has been leaked. It is impossible and trying to "collect" all the copies actually makes more churn out. It would be pointless for him to go around and tell everyone to stop reading the paper.

I guess we will have to wait until he publishes something official. In the meantime I will take his opinion here with a grain of salt. Cheers. -Squirrl90

Suzanne McCarthy said...

I had no idea that the paper was leaked. It is not new. It has been on the internet for quite a while.

Jeremy,

"If he's beating the children, he's the one legally responsible, not her."

No, this is not true. It is against the law not to report harm of any kind that one sees.

If the oppressive behaviour of one parent causes emotional harm to the children, the other parent is also morally responsible for letting it happen.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I didn't say she's not responsible for any crime. I said she's not as responsible. She's responsible for a lesser crime, i.e. not reporting child abuse in her own home. He's responsible for a greater crime, i.e. child abuse.

I don't think complementarians would generally hold that this is a case where submission is in order, either. She obviously ought to report it and do everything she can to get her kids away from their father. All I was saying is that, if she wrongly concludes that she should submit in such a case, the law rightly won't hold her as responsible as it would him. If Keller was talking about current-day civil law, it's probably things like the examples I'm giving that he had in mind.

Jeremy Pierce said...

I once critiqued an argument I found in an online version of something Rebecca Merrill Groothuis wrote, and she complained that I was relying on an unpublished paper. I hadn't known that it was unpublished, but she was upset about it nonetheless and thought I should buy her book to read the published version. I did, and it had the same problems as the online version, but I'm telling you this just so you know that some people are sensitive about this sort of thing. She very obviously thought it was inappropriate for me to criticize that version of her argument.

I put unpublished versions of my stuff online all the time, because I don't have the rights to do so with the copy-edited version. But this does seem to be something he hasn't put in the public domain in any form if it hasn't ever been published, and Tim Keller probably isn't Googling his name and searching for every time anyone mentions him or quotes his unpublished writings. He's too well-known and too present around the internet for that to be worth it. I certainly wouldn't have the time to do it for myself.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

Perhaps you are right about Keller's paper. It is old.

But I would still say that the wife must be responsible in equal part for the well-being of her children. Why would a mother want to have less responsibility for her children?

And elders can be removed from office. A wife may wish to remove her husband from his office as head of the family long before she feels she has reason to divorce him. To say that the wife has to put up with this intolerable position for the rest of her life is sad.

Especially, Jeremy, you wrote on your own blog that the functional subordination of women is not eternal because the marriage relationship ends in death.

How sweet can the thought of death be? Very sweet. What a touching line you wrote. Women can hope for the end of subordination in death. That used to be my space.

Kristen said...

Jeremy Pierce said:

"I suspect he's saying that, with regard to decisions made where the husband and wife might disagree and then go with the husband's preference because the wife submits, the husband is more responsible than the wife for whatever results."

Responsible to whom? There's the rub. Of course he's responsible to God-- but in modern times we have found that limitation of power by accountability to other human beings is the most effective way to curb abuses in the here-and-now. If the husband's decision is not illegal (even though it's a bad decision), he is not accountable to the civil authorities. You would think the wife could go to the church elders, but in practice it is often the case that they will side with the husband's authority and simply tell her to submit more. And in truth, church elders probably shouldn't be too intimately involved in domestic matters anyway (when they are, then many times that results in hyper-control by the church, in my own experience!)

But if there's a balance of power between the husband and wife, where each is equally accountable to the other, then the check-and-balance can be right there in the marriage itself. Which, I believe, is where it belongs.

If husband and wife are mutually submitting to one another per Ephesians 5:21, then neither can go over the other's head in pushing through a bad decision against the other's judgment. Mutual accountability means mutual respect, and mutual respect promotes mutual love.

So far it's working very well in my marriage of 22 years.

Anonymous said...

I very much dislike landing on websites where gender wars are being encouraged. Where in an effort to stand up for women, the blog goes too far and promotes gender war. That is such a negative thing, and I’m SURE God will demand that we answer for it.

I found the quote eminently reasonable. From my own experience of nearly 50 years of marriage the ‘authority to over-rule’ has only been used once, and because I was absolutely convinced my husband was wrong, I wept tears of frustration because of my inability to have that last word. What is more, I was convinced my eldest son was going to suffer for the wrong decision my husband had made. But .. they’d left, there was nothing more I could do .. so I rang a sister and asked her to pray with me. Only the Lord could do anything at all about this situation.

That is life. That is the reality of two people unable to come to an agreement after discussion. Not being able to join together to make a united decision is fine if there’s time, because often time is what is needed. But when there’s no time, when action is needed, when a decision must be made, then one of the two MUST make that decision and the other is basically forced to submit to that decision, even if they are convinced it’s wrong.

Let’s hope that the women [and men if it’s the wife who makes the decision] who read this blog realise that they have another option if they’re convinced their husband or wife has made the wrong decision. Prayer.

As far as I’m concerned, Tim Keller makes no suggestion that women have diminished responsibility or diminished accountability for their own children. Indeed, I suggest that the blog owner here, in saying that, (1) puts down men in a way that is perfectly horrid. (2) gives women little or no encouragement to be strong in their faith. (3) Makes the erroneous suggestion that laws of the land are being broken. (4) Makes no effort to help folk who are in that serious position of having to take that kind of responsibility.

Perhaps I’m talking to someone who has never made a mistake? In the situation I describe above, my husband made the correct decision, but there was no way to tell that at the time, it’s my opinion that the Lord answered both our prayers.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Thank you very much for sharing your experience. I am sure that it is valid.

However, there are other experiences that are valid also. I appreciate your story and will not recount mine at the moment.

Don said...

A basic point is that a power differential can destroy intimacy. If I choose to submit to my wife as she knows more about me on some subject or cares more about it, all is well. If either of us thinks we have an ultimate trump card just because, this is not so good.

Christianity is not about seeking power over others, despite what some non-egals claim.

Kristen said...

Anonymous,

I'm glad that the emergency decision ended up working out-- and I probably would do what you did if push came to shove and one of us had to yield to the other in a pinch, and there was no time to hash it out. I think if both husband and wife have hearts that are humble and yielding towards one another, then both husband and wife will approach the decision with willingness to yield (which James 3:17 says is the heart of godly wisdom). Since I can only take responsibility for myself, I will state now that I am willing to yield in that circumstance.

As for "gender wars," I'm sorry, but I think in a case where a whole group of people is being oppressed, that if it causes a "war" for the oppressed group to stand up and say, "Enough!" then it is a just war. However gentle and godly your husband's relationship with you is, the fact is that many, many women are being oppressed by these teachings. It was for the same reason that the abolitionists challenged slavery. Slavery under a kind, just master is still fundamentally unjust, no matter how just the master. Though God allowed it in Bible times, the move of the Spirit in the 1800s was to eradicate this unjust system once and for all. I submit to you that the move of the Spirit now is against male supremacy and female subjugation-- no matter how gentle and kind it is in any one situation.

Abolitionists were accused of being contentious back then, and egalitarians are so accused today. It doesn't make our duty any less plain to us, than it was to the abolitionists.

J. K. Gayle said...

My own experience is of growing up in a "complementarian" home in which my father believed in and used his trump card regularly. Because he is male, because he was husband and father, because certain Bible verses authorized him in his roles, because he is an opinionated man, and because his opinions often differed from the opinion of his wife (my mom), my dad used his trump card regularly. There was no way out for my mother when he abused her. They were living in a foreign land as missionaries, and she too believed that divorce was wrong and that she must submit.

So, in retrospect, in our blog conversation here, we might suggest that my father and my mother might have understood the scriptures better. They should have read how the father is not to be harsh with his children and how the husband is to love his wife "as Christ loved the church." Some of you might even counsel me that I shouldn't react so strongly against, that I myself should find "balance" in the scriptures, that my spouse and I should not choose to live equally as partners in conversation when there is difference of opinion, that I (as the one sexed male) should exert my God-given authority to break the ties. (Indeed, I'm in recovery. Yes, decided as a very little child, "I will never ever be like that man and will never ever treat my wife or my children the way he treats my mom and my siblings." Of course, I viewed certain interpretations of the scriptures --and certain scriptures-- as very suspect in this 20th century. I do not, for example, obey the scripture prohibiting the wearing of clothes woven of both wool and linen.) The "ideal" complementary marriage and the "balanced" view of "complement" is hardly ever the reality, once the secrets are told and the gaps of selective memory acknowledged.

And my dad never apologized to my mom the first 18 years of my life. There was a moment, nonetheless, when he did; and it was during a time when he was realizing how narrow and culturally conditioned his reading of the Bible was. My mom, not so surprisingly, had begun to come to this herself. It may have been "fresh air" for her but it was also a time full of fear: what if she was just being selfish and that was influencing how she understood the Bible. What if she were labeled "feminist" or "liberal"? This month, they've been married 52 years. I'm happy to say they are on the same page, and equally so. Years of old habits die hard, but there is change, grace, recovery, new openness, confession and forgiveness for abuses. The consequences still run deep in my own life, in my own little family, in which I still find myself trying to be "different" from who he was in his "Biblical right and responsibility" as the "head" of "his" household.

(I feel so embarrassed to share this. It seems like this sort of testimony can be viewed as merely subjective, like it somehow minimizes the mandates of the bible. The thing that helps, a bit, is for me to try to see the people in the Bible, even the writers of the Bible, even the men with high positions like Paul and Peter as real people, like my dad and me in some ways. The other thing that helps is to know that I'm not alone, that there are many who've suffered under dogmatism that allows one human being to own another, or one person's decision to trump another, just because there's race, or class, or gender as markers. I'm not sure how to be "objective" and "abstract" when the "rule" is so personal.)

Jeremy Pierce said...

But I would still say that the wife must be responsible in equal part for the well-being of her children. Why would a mother want to have less responsibility for her children?

I agree, and I think Keller does too. I doubt Keller would say a mother should have less of a role in taking responsibility for her children, less of a role in figuring out how to raise them well, and so on. I think all he's saying is that in the cases where she submits to her husband when she disagrees with her husband, if she turns out to have been right then God will not hold her as responsible as the husband for the wrong choice being made.

As for hoping for death, your situation was not exemplary of what complementarians think a complementarian marriage relationship ought to be. There was grounds for at least separation there in most complementarians' views, and there are plenty who might even think it grounds for divorce (though I'm sure some who wouldn't). Keep that in mind when you claim that complementarians would tell you to stay in such a marriage. I'm pretty sure many would not.

Don said:

A basic point is that a power differential can destroy intimacy. If I choose to submit to my wife as she knows more about me on some subject or cares more about it, all is well. If either of us thinks we have an ultimate trump card just because, this is not so good.

But complementarians do not say that there are no times when a husband should defer to his wife's expertise on a given subject. In fact they insist that the complementary roles require delegation of responsibility.

As far as husbands thinking of themselves as having an ultimate trump card, I agree. Husbands should not do that. In fact, husbands are never told anywhere in scripture to make their wives submit. I've never told my wife to submit on any particular issue, and I intend never to do so. If she submits in a case when she disagrees with me, I do believe she is following scripture, and if she doesn't, I do believe she is not. But it's not my job to make her submit. That's God's job. She hears my position and my reasoning for it. Sometimes she's convinced. Sometimes she isn't convinced but submits anyway. When she's not convinced and refuses to back down, even if I think she's violating a basic biblical teaching, my job is simply to love her and to seek to care about the things she finds important.

A complementarian marriage should go no further, and in such cases it might require me to back down, even if I think that's not what scripture treats as ideal in how husbands and wives should relate. I continue to insist that a complementarian marriage that takes biblical principles of disagreement between any believers into account will not look all that different in most situations from an egalitarian marriage that takes other biblical principles into account. The ones that don't are, to my mind, not following complementarianism in a biblical way.

Again, from Don:

Christianity is not about seeking power over others, despite what some non-egals claim.

I've never encountered any Christian of any sort who claims Christianity is about seeking power over others, egalitarian or otherwise. That claim is ludicrous.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Kristen, you say:

Slavery under a kind, just master is still fundamentally unjust, no matter how just the master.

I don't think that's the biblical view, though. The contrast between slavery to sin (which is based on self-autonomy) and slavery to God (which is genuinely freeing) is pretty definitive of how we should see ourselves in relation to God's authority, and we're told to see human authority as instituted by God. The ironic freedom-through-enslavement-to-God motif goes back at least to Exodus, where the same Hebrew word for the slavery Israel was freed from is usually translated as "serving" in connection with serving God. This doesn't itself justify complementarianism or anything, but in resisting complementarianism I would advise you not to go so far into secular, pagan thought as to deny basic biblical teaching on other matters, and the formulation you give here seems to me to do exactly that, since it claims that even slavery to God is unjust, and yet the Bible tells us to enter into exactly such a relationship.

J.K.: Aside from my insistence that what your parents lived wasn't complementarianism as contemporary complementarians teach it (and Keller would be among them), you seem to think that complementarians believe husbands should exert their authority over their wives. I'm curious which complementarians you've read that say such a thing. The ones I'm most familiar with would insist, as I do, that men are not given any right whatsoever to expect their wives to submit. It's simply wives who are told to submit, and if they don't then husbands are simply to love them sacrificially, with their wives' concerns dominating over their own. It doesn't sound as if your dad did this, and from what Suzanne's said of her marriage, it doesn't seem to have been like that either.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

I do not criticize people who live accoring to this paradigm, but I believe it is wrong to teach this to other people because of the severe consequences, things that cannot be prevented.

You do say that subordination ends at death. If subordination were a good thing, then it should be eternal. Men don't want to be subordinate in their own home, nor for eternity.

Why offer women something that men do not want? It is simply unchristian to teach this because you cannot force people to live without sinfulness.

I argue that men want all subordination to authority to be managed by election,by limitations of many different kinds. But women are offered subordination that is only limited by the law not to assault someone. Poor comfort.

Once again, I am not criticizing the particulars of the way you or anyone else lives, because I am aware of the many ways that balance is created in a relationship.

I am claiming that teaching that the male has more authority and responsibility, and therefore the wife has less authority and responsibility, is simply wrong.

Kristen said...

Good heavens, Jeremy, wouldn't you rather ask me to clarify what I meant by slavery than accuse me of saying serving God is unjust?

I meant slavery as a human institution where people own one another. That is what most people mean by slavery. I certainly wasn't disputing God's ownership of the Creation. But God owns all the creatures; the creatures, therefore, cannot own one another.

I will glady trust myself to serving perfect Love. Being owned by another human being, however, I will resist till my dying breath.

E said...

Thanks for sharing that, J.K.

What do women think and feel when the scales start falling from their eyes and they begin to see the total b.s. of the "God made women by nature to be subordinate to men in marriage and in the church" teaching, as well as the continued posturing by those (both men and women) who try to support it from the Scriptures?

Jeremy Pierce said...

Kristen, technically you might want to modify one further thing, since Jesus is fully human. But that's easy enough to do. I'm not pressing this because I think it's central, but I do care about this issue. It's important for apologetics and figuring out how to deal with the passages about slavery in the OT. I don't tend to agree with the usual way they're handled, but with your modification (and one allowing for Jesus to be perfectly human but just not fallen) I wouldn't dispute with you here any further.

If subordination were a good thing, then it should be eternal.

Are marriage, the tabernacle, and tongues in the NT bad just because they cease?

I'm not convinced that there's no authority hierarchy of any sort in the resurrection. I just know one sort that I see in the Bible will not be there, because there will be no marriage, and I have no reason to be sure the other that I see in the Bible will continue (mainly because the need for it seems to be removed). But could there be different authority relations among believers in the resurrection? There could be. They might not be permanent, either. We aren't told much about that sort of thing.

J. K. Gayle said...

... what your parents lived wasn't complementarianism as contemporary complementarians teach it (and Keller would be among them), ... The ones I'm most familiar with would insist, as I do, that men are not given any right whatsoever to expect their wives to submit.

E, You're welcome. And thank you for your question!

Jeremy, Thanks for your questions? Here we go.

I'm not always sure what my dad believed all the time. When he started recanting of his "God-given role" to break the ties of opinion between him and mom, he was quoting something he'd heard from other ministers who were abusing their power (as men). Here's what he'd say: "We practice daily what we believe; all the rest is religious talk." For him, that was a means of looking in the mirror. He might well of had an agreeable conversation with Keller -- agreeable in the sense that the two men could agreed on exactly what "complementarian" teaching should be. Dad might even say, "Well, yes, of course; I can't make my wife submit. I'm not even supposed to expect her to submit. And more than that, when she doesn't submit, then I am simply to love her sacrificially. Yes, as Christ loved the church. See, it's right there in the Bible." But the teaching is dogma that doesn't take into account that the "tie-breaker" vote is lopsided. Well, the dogma does take that into account, which is why there's the severe instruction to "love as Christ loved the church." It's as severe as the Mosaic law saying to avoid wearing clothing of fabrics woven with two materials mixed so as to be "holy as God is holy." The whole thing becomes a structure for itself that has to insert severe motivators because the hearts of powerful men can be pretty corrupt. What gets lost in all of this is the human side. I know very few "complementarians" who are able to tell their secrets in public. (Yes, I know there are problems with the slavery analogy, but there are personal secrets in slavery that are similar.) The institutions of law (for holiness, or even for holy love) minimize the human elements and maximize teachings, dogma.

Jeremy, Just to be clear, the "tie-breaker" thing is the very thing that my daddy agreed with that Keller seems to have taught. It's a lopsided thing that tempts men who cannot "love their wives as Christ loved the church" (in reality) to use and abuse their power over their wives and their children. A. W. Tozer said, "It takes more than a ballot to make a leader." I'd say it takes more than the "tie-breaker" vote or other teachings of complementarianism to make a man-only love his wife in a Christ-like way and a woman-only to submit herself to her husband in a Christ-like way as if these are mutually exclusive roles so that the man gets to keep the sole vote as he rules it needs to be used.

J. K. Gayle said...

My parents made me go to two different week long Bill Gothard Institutes (both the "Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts" and an "Advanced" one). This is when we were in the US for furloughs. Now, what I heard and what I believed and what I rejected and what I did with respect to behavior afterwards is important here. Please don't get me start talking about Gothard here. My point is that a blog commenter like you, Jeremy, who might hear stories of me as a youth and who might be a proponent of Gothard's dogma could protest and say, "Aside from my insistence that what you lived wasn't Gothard's teaching as he teach it (and his notebooks bear this out), you seem to think that Gothard's Institutes advocate something by your experience that he doesn't exactly teach." Who cares! It's the human engagement with the teaching (whether the institution or the dogma or the "ism" is followed to the t) that is the salient thing here.

So let me say this again with as much gentleness as possible:

I know very few "complementarians" who are able to tell their secrets in public. The institution of Keller or the dogma of anyone's complementarian teaching for Christians in the 21st century perpetuates itself at the expense of the secrets that won't be told. It's real life that flies in the face of abstract teachings bound together with fearful motivators or promises of God's approval or suggestions of good marriage to keep one partner (the female) voluntarily subjugating herself. We can fine tune the teachings all day. And yet...

Don said...

Jeremy,

If you agree that Christianity is NOT about seeking power, then decline your trump card and enter the land of egals.

Do you not think that Eph 5:21 applies to you also? Eph 5:22 has no verb so it inherits the verb from 5:21, the point being that submission is supposed to characterize the life of a believer.


And please do not go the Grudem route and claim it means "some to others" as doing that to the "one another" verses destroys Christianity ala Animal Farm.

Kristen said...

Jeremy Pierce said:

"Kristen, technically you might want to modify one further thing, since Jesus is fully human."

Jeremy, are you aware that you are coming across as condescending? First you indicated that I said something about slavery that I didn't say, and when I expressed surprise and displeasure, rather than apologizing, you now continue to instruct me as to what I "might want to modify."

I have found this is often the case when I talk to complementarian men, when I use my real name and they are aware I'm female. I don't think it's a conscious act on their part-- but in the back of their minds, I think they believe there has to be some reason why God would declare us women unable to lead in the home or church. There is an assumption of superiority that comes across to us, though you may not be aware of it.

I wouldn't blame you for feeling defensive at this point, but let me ask you-- would you have used the exact same words with me if you knew I was male? Would you make the same assumptions you appear to have made as to my understanding of the Scriptures or theology?

Just asking. If I'm wrong, I'll be happy to be wrong. :)

Lydia said...

"There can be no unity unless one person has the right to cast the deciding "vote".

This is mind bogglingly illogical. Amazing how many hoops they jump through to try and make it logical.

One Flesh Union is not about authority. How could it be?

Head is about Head/Body metaphors that are all through the NC. It is about UNITY.

There really is no gender war at all. It is a war for power and it is sinful. Even to the point of bringing in heresy about the Trinity so some can try to prove their pre-eminance maps to the Trinity! Shameful! And Blasphemous.


The lesson for Eph starts even sooner that verse 21. Go back and few more and note it says to: Be filled with the Spirit.

The "worldliness" of comp teaching assumes there has to be someone in charge of adults in the Body. They seek to take the place of the indwelling Holy Spirit in an adult believers life. They have made elder an office with authority and power over other adult humans in the Body. When, in reality, an elder is the lowliest servant and looks more like Matthew 5 than the rest.

In effect, this is about wanting followers.

Why would our Savior put an earthly mediator between a woman and her Lord. Why would a grown woman believer need a 'daddy' and why would any man want that? Unless he is insecure and uses "responsibility" as an excuse for power. And the right questions have been asked: Who is the comp husband responsible to? And if they answer, God. Then that means he answers for her before the Lord?

After all, he is the same depraved sinner she is saved by the same grace. Where does it say he gets an extra portion of spiritual wisdom for having different anatomy?

And is the wife accountable to him? If the husband is responsible but then loses his job or becomes incapacitated and she takes care of the family in every way (including him) then this whole scenerio of him being responsible is just silly gibberish.

I certainly hope God does not have to teach you guys the real meaning of One Flesh Union the hard way. It would mean your wife makes the living and maybe changes your diaper, too.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Kristen, you did indeed say that slavery is immoral even if done by a perfectly just person. I immediately thought of the most just person and realized that you probably didn't want to say that, since it contradicts the Bible itself. I pointed that out and discovered that I was right about you not really wanting to say that. I then realized that there was one problem with how you rephrased it and offered a helpful corrective.

So please don't think I was trying to display anything at all about you or myself in this, which is what you seem to be concluding. This is the kind of conversation I regularly have with my fellow philosophers in good fun. In the circles I run in, people are thankful when colleagues offer correctives for their work. It means (1) the person has actually thought through what they've said and (2) wants to make that work less subject to objections that don't really apply to what they'd meant to say. Clarifying your statements is a very important task for those who discuss issues that require precision of thought, and this issue is one of them.

If I had made the comment I made to anyone in my Ph.D. program, my fellow philosophers would have laughingly recognized that what they said wasn't quite accurate and offered up a corrected version, seeing the humor in the imperfection of our language and the need for other people sometimes to come along and offer correctives to aid us in the accurate and precise communication of our ideas. They would have recognized my correctives as aid from a fellow truth-seeker in representing their ideas correctly. They would certainly not have seen it as condescending. That's the culture of discussion among people who spend their time thinking carefully about difficult topics. If you're not used to that, I'm sorry it came across to you the way it did, but be assured that it wasn't meant that way.

As for your generalization that complementarians come across this way, I will merely state that egalitarians have often come across to me as arrogant, self-righteous, and morally superior. But I never assume in a particular case that there's a rotten motive or that they see themselves as superior to me in particular, even if their language is such that they see complementarianism as the most evil view they can think of.

As for your last question, I think what I said above about how I regularly interact with my philosopher colleagues should answer it. This sort of conversation, with the same sorts of words, is exactly what goes on all the time among academic philosophers, and it's exactly what I expect from those who are going on the internet to discuss issues that involve fine distinctions and careful precision of thought. I'm actually holding you to a higher standard by using the language I'm using, not condescending. So if I would have treated a man differently, it would have been to condescend. It would be to disrespect his intelligence to use softer and friendlier language with him. So I doubt this has anything to do with my views on complementarianism and egalitarianism, especially because I have no views about men's and women's innate characteristics relevant to doing good philosophy.

My strongest critic of my blog posts comments regularly on them when they get imported into Facebook (so you wouldn't see her much on the actual blog), and she's quite female. She's probably one of the smartest people I know, and she really keeps me on my toes. If there was any reason for me to treat you differently from how I treat her, it would be because you don't have the philosophical training she has (she has a Ph.D. in philosophy from MIT). It wouldn't have anything to do with gender.

But do believe that I intended everything I said with the assumption that your intellect ought to be respected, and thus what you write is deserving of a little friendly corrective.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Don said:

If you agree that Christianity is NOT about seeking power, then decline your trump card and enter the land of egals.

Exactly. Well, almost exactly. Since Christianity is not about seeking power, I have no reason to hold up a trump card and even ask my wife to submit. So I don't. It's not biblically commanded, and it's not fitting with biblical morality for me to do so.

But to enter the world of egals? That doesn't follow. Complementarianism doesn't teach that I should enforce my trump card, so why should I abandon complementarianism just because I've realized that I shouldn't force a trump card on my wife? Complementarianism teaches that I should love her as Christ loved the church and that she should submit to me. My not forcing a trump card on her doesn't make either of those false.

I'm not sure what the "Grudem route" is. I'm not a big fan of Grudem's complementarianism or of his biblical studies work in general. I am a big fan of Peter O'Brien, one of the most respected commentators on scripture alive today. His commentary on Ephesians does take the view that "submit to one another in the fear of Christ" means to submit to other believers when it's appropriate to do so. This would include when I submit to the elders in my congregation or when I submit to someone not in authority over me simply to treat them as more important than myself. It would not require that I should submit to everyone equally, though, and it particularly does not imply that every relationship is symmetrical with respect to authority, since my relationship with the elders of my congregation isn't. So Eph 5:21 is certainly compatible with complementarianism about authority in marriage.

As for Animal Farm, the problem there is that the animals claimed to be socialist but weren't consistent about it. Orwell had a soft spot for ideal communism, but he was very critical of Stalinism for not doing it according to the official view. The parallel would be to find egalitarians who don't think there's any gender issue with authority in the church or in marriage but who nevertheless treat men as more worthy of authority or simply put men in authority more often than women. That would be exemplifying the problem Orwell points out in Animal Farm.

On the other hand, capitalists recognize that authority relations don't imply superiority and inferiority. So for them to allow for authority relations is not inconsistent with what they see equality as being. They don't think equality requires being alike in every respect the way communists do. Orwell didn't apply his objection to the capitalist nations he spent his time in. He did apply it to communist USSR, because he saw it violating its own egalitarian view of the relevant kind of political equality we ought to have.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Lydia said:

The "worldliness" of comp teaching assumes there has to be someone in charge of adults in the Body. They seek to take the place of the indwelling Holy Spirit in an adult believers life. They have made elder an office with authority and power over other adult humans in the Body. When, in reality, an elder is the lowliest servant and looks more like Matthew 5 than the rest.

Actually, I think the reverse is true. It's complementarians who recognize that leadership is servanthood and thus find it unproblematic that one sex be given leadership that the other sex is not given. Only if you consider leadership and authority to be "lording it over someone" do you find complementarianism problematic. If you have the biblical view of authority and servanthood, then you will not think there's anything better or superior about being put in authority, and you will not conclude that women are missing out on some special status that makes men better.

Not sure where you're getting this crazy stuff about earthly mediators (are you bring in Catholicism here?
) or adult women seeing husbands as a daddy. I'm sure there are people in our society who bring such worldly ideas into their thinking, but is there any reason to think complementarianism implies such a thing? Surely not.

If a comp husband is responsible to God for his decisions, how does that mean he answers to God for hers? I don't see how that follows at all. I've said several times now that Keller probably means only the cases where she submits to him, and he's more responsible for the decision he made. That means it's not about cases where she makes the decision. It's nothing to do with him answering to God for what she does.

I know of situations where a husband and father loses a job and the wife and mother goes to work. I don't see how such a situation necessarily requires her also to adopt the role of being the head of the household in the sense Keller is describing. Those are two different roles, one that often happens in our society and the other that Keller takes to be a biblical mandate. For all he says, he doesn't have to think the first is biblically-mandated or that it's necessarily tied to the second.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Jeremy,

I just want to say that I don't think that all complementarians practice something that is wrong, and you don't have to defend your own behaviour at all. I understand it to fall quite within what anyone would consider acceptable.

My concern has to do with what is taught in church and how that affects people, given the wide variety of people who enter relationships. I think it is irresponsible and wrong to teach that male authority is in any way better than egalitarian or shared authority, or female authority.

So, please understand that you do not need to defend your personal life to me in any way, or to anyone on this blog. I won't have it. You as a person, must be as safe as anyone else here.

But, likewise, I have to say that I do have a very strong conviction that it is wrong to TEACH male authority.

You are not a pastor, but perhaps your blog has some influence which I might find negative. However, your recent posts struck such a sad and plaintive note for women when you indicated that functional aubordinaiton would end at death. HOw sad that women will never experience waht must be their proper station, in this life.

I found your article to be a strong case against the subordination of women, regardles of your intent.

Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen said...

Jeremy Pierce said:

"Kristen, you did indeed say that slavery is immoral even if done by a perfectly just person."

Please read it again, Jeremy. I said,

"Slavery under a kind, just master is still fundamentally unjust, no matter how just the master."

It was you who read "perfectly just" into what I said. I was speaking at all times in terms of human relationships. I never in the slightest sense implied that I was talking about anything other than human relationships. "No matter how just" did not mean "even if perfectly just" because no mere human is perfectly just. It was you who chose to read something into my words that I wasn't saying. No "corrective" is necessary to something that was neither meant nor implied.

That said, I appreciate your clarification. I'm glad you and your wife have a relationship such as you describe. I think the way you and your colleagues interact is a little odd (grin), but I'll buy it.

As for the Animal Farm thing, the real problem is the way the animals said, "All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others." Regardless of how much leadership is equated with servanthood in Christianity, the fact that leadership is denied women merely on the basis of being born as women, is not equality-- it's just lip service, just as it was lip service in Animal Farm.

If a woman feels called to serve as a leader in the church, she is told that she's missing God. She is not disqualified based on lack of ability, character or merit, but merely because of the accident of her birth.

Equality doesn't require being alike in every respect-- but it does require equal opportunity to excel. Authority in democratic, capitalist societies is supposed to be given to those who have earned it, not to those who happened to be born to it. No aristocracy. No ruling class. No master race. And no master sex either.

Christ Jesus loved the church by laying down His pre-eminence, going down to the church's level, and raising her up to be glorious by His side. That's the example that is given to husbands in Eph. 5

That's what Christ did when He allowed humanity to crucify Him. He wasn't leading them then-- He was submitting to them. And that's the picture that husbands are given, in how to relate to their wives.

It's not about having and keeping authority (no matter how servantlike). It's about those whom society has traditionally given authority based on birth, laying down their authority and raising up the ones whom birth has given the lower place.

That's what it's all about.

Kristen said...

I guess what I'm saying with regards to my earlier words here is, context matters. I feel my words were taken out of context and thus, things were read into them that I never intended. I feel my words should have been read in their context: the context of human relationships. That's where I'm coming from.

Don said...

Jeremy,

I agree that Orwell in Animal Farm was criticizing Stalinism for using Communist phrases and twisting them. As Kristen pointed out, one parallel is "All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others." This is similar to what some hierarchical comps say, "All genders are equal, but males are to lead." It seems to me to take a LOT of persuading to not see the contradiction in that.


I agree hierarchical marriages can glorify God, but it seems to me that they do so in proportion to the husband NOT using the power to make final decisions when depends on his spiritual maturity. As an egal, if my wife told me that she really could not decide and for me to make a decision, I could do so, assuming a decision needed to be made, and it could also work in the reverse. In egal land, the spouses can decide how to make their marriage work without conforming to supposed "roles" that go beyond the physical constraints of reality. Husbands are to nuture kids and wives lead kids (as well as vice versa) according to the Bible.

The main reason to abandon hierarchical thinking in the family in the family would be when it is harming your spouse. It is possible you are not doing so as much as I have seen others have done. That is, you are CHOOSING to view some verses using male hierarchical (blue) glasses, as you believe that was God's intent. Egals CHOOSE to view these same verses using egal glasses. I have studied both sides and the egal view is more consistent with the other teachings of the Kingdom, like justice and supporting the weaker, etc.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Don,

I really like your last comment. It is a great summary of egalitarianism and responds to all the suggestions that egalitarians live in anarchy and reject authority in the family.

Lydia said...

"Those are two different roles, one that often happens in our society and the other that Keller takes to be a biblical mandate."

I am confused.

Are you saying the husband's role then is the spiritual leader of the wife? Can you elaborate on what you mean above about this role and how that works itself out in daily application?

Lydia said...

Actually, I think the reverse is true. It's complementarians who recognize that leadership is servanthood and thus find it unproblematic that one sex be given leadership that the other sex is not given."

"Servant-leader" has become popular in Christian circles but it is an oxymoron. It does not exist in God's economy as we understand the worldly term of leader. I am very familiar with the events leading up to coining the term and why.

Male humans are not Jesus Christ nor are they the Holy Spirit for women believers. They are simply depraved sinners saved by the same grace as female belivers.

Lydia said...

" If you have the biblical view of authority and servanthood, then you will not think there's anything better or superior about being put in authority, and you will not conclude that women are missing out on some special status that makes men better."

The Biblical view of authority is that only Jesus Christ is the authority in the Body of Christ. And it is a sin to want authority over others in the Body and a sin trap as we can see all around us in Christendom. Being a servant is what believers are called to be to each other. Not as glam, I admit. But the truth.

Matthew 18 is a great example of what I am talking about. A child in that society was as low on the totem pole as a slave.

Don said...

In Eph 5 a husband is told by Paul to serve his wife. He gives examples of Jesus serving the church.

Somehow, this gets transmogrified by non-egals into "servant-leader" so a husband gets to lead and thereby serve his wife.

Do the non-egals not actually see the additions they need to accept to believe what they do?

Suzanne McCarthy said...

And if the wife is a better decision-maker than the husband, who is served? Clearly not the wife.

Jeremy Pierce said...

Lydia, what do you make of the clear authority in the following passages?

II Cor 10:8 "So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it."

II Cor 13:10 "This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down."

Titus 2:15 "These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you."

It's very clear that the NT treats some human beings in the church as having authority within the operation of the church. Other places indicate as much without the word.

For example, what is the role the elders play in Matthew 18 when people bring the unrepentant sinner before the elders of the church? They're obviously exercising some authority in their role in the excommunication process, even if it's a publicly conducted process with the entire congregation involved.

Paul regularly uses a word translated "overseer". I don't remember the noun here, but I was under the impression that it was a pretty close translation of the meaning of the Greek. If so, what is being overseen? Isn't the overseer overseeing the church? How can oversight not involve an authority relation of some sort? I Tim 3 makes an analogy with managing one's household, an obvious relation of authority to anyone in the NT world. Titus 1, immediately after discussing the elder role, launches into an attack on those who are insubordinate, as if something about the elder role is connected with those who are insubordinate to authority in the church.

Peter (in I Pet 5:1-5) speaks of those under an elders charge and under and elder's oversight, subject to the elders (i.e. to their authority).

I just can't see how you can fit the NT to the claim that there's no authority among church leaders over the members of the congregation.

Suzanne McCarthy said...

My argument is that restricting female authority is the opposite of "building up." An authority that builds up is an authority which mentors people into the same leadership position that the mentor has, if appropriate. But "male over female" authority does not have this purpose. I have seen complementarians who come into an egalitarian church and remove women from leadership. This does not build women up. They offer women nothing in return. How can any man make up to a woman, what he takes away. A husband might be able to, but a single woman sees that all a complementarian has to offer is removal of rights.

Can you think of anything positive that complementarianism has to offer single older women? If you had to argue to a single 60 year old female administrator of a business or institution, how would you defend the value of complementarianism for her?

Older women do not believe that men are better leaders than women, BTW. So, I am baffled at what purpose male leadership has for single women, especially older ones who do not have motherhood in their future.

Kristen said...

Jeremy Pierce wrote:

"If you have the biblical view of authority and servanthood, then you will not think there's anything better or superior about being put in authority, and you will not conclude that women are missing out on some special status that makes men better."

Jeremy, I do think there is authority in the body of Christ; that it is given by God; and that those in authority are not to lord it over others but consider themselves servants.

But based on the very verses you just listed, how can you say there is nothing special about being in authority? Obviously Paul considered it something worthy of "boasting" about. But even if there were absolutely nothing special about being called as a leader, the point remains that if a woman believes she is called to it, her calling is disbelieved and denied-- no matter how deep her character or great her service, no matter how strong the witness in her spirit-- she need not apply for service in this capacity.

To me it seems like double-speak that men honor church leaders in one breath, and deny that women are missing out on anything in the next. "Let those who preach and teach be worthy of double honor," Paul said. But it's an honor you only can aspire to if you're born with one kind of human body and not another.

In the big picture of God's economy, that makes no sense to me.

Lydia said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lydia said...

"Lydia, what do you make of the clear authority in the following passages?

II Cor 10:8 "So even if I boast somewhat freely about the authority the Lord gave us for building you up rather than tearing you down, I will not be ashamed of it."

II Cor 13:10 "This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down."

Titus 2:15 "These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you.""

The authority is in the truth. What else can you make of it?
Apostolic succession?

Anyone can get the title of pastor or elder as we see all around us every day. It is fairly easy.

"t's very clear that the NT treats some human beings in the church as having authority within the operation of the church. Other places indicate as much without the word."

There are functions within the Body. I agree with that. But in God's economy the only authority they have is the truth of the Word and the indwelling Holy Spirit.

"or example, what is the role the elders play in Matthew 18 when people bring the unrepentant sinner before the elders of the church? "

Where,in Matt 18,are elders mentioned? I am aware that Jay Adams has added a step to Matthew 18 process and teaches that at church discipline conferences. It really is sad when folks add to the Word.

The passage refers to "several witnesses" and the "Church". Elders are not specifically mentioned.

Besides, that passage is for PERSONAL offenses only. And not for bad behavior of leaders or for wrong doctrine.

"ey're obviously exercising some authority in their role in the excommunication process, even if it's a publicly conducted process with the entire congregation involved."

Elders are not mentioned. It is only public after the witnesses have been involved with no repentance from the offender.


"aul regularly uses a word translated "overseer". I don't remember the noun here, but I was under the impression that it was a pretty close translation of the meaning of the Greek. If so, what is being overseen? Isn't the overseer overseeing the church? How can oversight not involve an authority relation of some sort? I Tim 3 makes an analogy with managing one's household, an obvious relation of authority to anyone in the NT world. Titus 1, immediately after discussing the elder role, launches into an attack on those who are insubordinate, as if something about the elder role is connected with those who are insubordinate to authority in the church."

Once again, you use a worldly filter to understand the Word. An overseer will look more like Matt 5 than a Pharisee.

" just can't see how you can fit the NT to the claim that there's no authority among church leaders over the members of the congregation."

Well, then you will have to explain to me how I could possibly leave Jim Jones' church if there are authorities I must submit to and obey.

Perhaps you can explain to me why there is a Holy "Priesthood". For what purpose are we all "ministers" if we are truly saved. To obey a human or our Lord and Savior with the indwelling Holy Spirit?

Elders are those who are mature in the faith and CARE for our souls. Their authority is in the truth of the Word.

And when it is not, it is horrible because the title itself has turned into a sin trap for many who love their positions and titles that they believe gives them human authority over other adult believers in the Body.

If Paul had the kind of human authority over others you are talking about then why did he spend so much time persuading, pleading and even defending himself?