Tuesday, August 09, 2011

The Help

I certainly enjoyed reading The Help. It treats a solemn subject with some lightness and humour and I will be attending the movie soon, maybe tomorrow.

There is no doubt that the word "help" here refers to a separate and subordinate class of people. And we regard this today as an injustice.

This sentence is the way one talks now about women. "The woman is to be the helper." It refers to a different and subordinate class of people. Some call it oppression and others deny this.

Vicky Beeching shared this on her facebook page,
“Anyone thinking the ‘women in ministry’ battle is over & done, we still have a long way to go. Complementarianism, even when delivered with trendy clothes & a cool haircut, is still merely the oppression of women. My heart aches to see younger women grow up free from this teaching, so they don’t have to doubt their leadership gifting, their equality in the Body of Christ, or their equality within marriage.”
She then blogged
So what I’m wanting here is BIBLICALLY BACKED UP, theologically well explained comments!
Denny Burk replied,
Helping speaks to difference. The text says that God created her to be a “helper”–a role that involves aiding and supporting the leadership of her husband. God did not assign this role to the man. He assigned it only to the woman. Thus before there is any sin in the world, God creates man and woman to be equal with respect to their humanity (being created in the image of God) but to be different with respect to their roles. The woman is to be the helper.
As we all know, in the Bible, God is our help.
Hide not thy face far from me; put not thy servant away in anger: thou hast been my help; leave me not, neither forsake me, O God of my salvation. Psalm 27:9
In this verse, the human is the servant and God is the help. But in his Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem writes,
Whenever someone helps someone else the person who is helping is occupying a subordinate or inferior position with regard to the person being helped.
That is not what the Bible says. The Bible both supports hierarchy and turns it upside down.


diamondnell said...

Burk and so many others are reading the word "role" into the Scriptures, and it affects how they understand everything in them. And the word isn't even there.

Shawna Atteberry said...

This is one thing I harp on my website about. The same word in the Hebrew is used for Godde, women, and military leaders: ezer or help. Ezer can also mean strength. So the biblical meaning of the word is someone who has the power to help. There's nothing submissive or subordinate at all about the Hebrew word. It's the interpretation of the word that's wrong.

Thanks for once again pointing out the absolute error of how the complementarians interpret this particular word.

Pam said...

I'm surprised and disappointed with Misters Burke and Grudem in how they explain the meaning of "help". It's entirely a matter of perspective.

One mere example among many is in my children's class at school. When one of the students is unsure of what to do or unable to complete the task on their own with success, they invariably raise their hand and say "I need he-elp" (help always a 2 syllable word, descending on the 2nd syllable). The teacher is simply lending their experience, expertise, and ability to help someone else have success.

To say that the one "helping" is doing anything like "supporting leadership", or occupying a subordinate or inferior position is ridiculous.

How can these lauded experts in the field make such sweeping statements? Surely they must have something more substantial to say. To anyone's knowledge, have Burke & Grudem (& company) ever come up with anything better?

Eric said...

I think that some of this error (but not its perpetuation by those who have read Hebrew) is on an often-neglected side of the whole issue of translation: knowing English. You can know Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek really well and still not be very good at using the nuances and secondary meanings of English to get your point across.

Presumably at one point "helper" meant "one who helps" without extra connotations in English. This would be analogous to the ezer-azar comparison in Hebrew. These days "helper" has acquired an extra connotation of low status. Suddenly what was once an appropriate translation is not because English changed on us (perhaps centuries ago - I assume that there's been a long period of time in which no one would really blink at adding a meaning of low status to women in a translation).

I see a similar thing happen when the CBMW crowd insists that we still have lots of generic masculines in English. Maybe. Sort of. If you're trying to talk like Shakespeare. But they're on their way out and translating into an older dialect of English is bad translation into modern English. However, it's also rather hard to make this point when it's simply assumed that the "render the meaning in English" bit of translation is easy.

Pam said...

Eric, thanks for your comment.

My conjecture is that people like Burke & Grudem, who spend their lives getting inside words and meanings from aeons ago in time, place, and situation, and who do so with an overriding ideology at stake, will be challenged in remaining grounded in the finer points of the present and the current.

Eric said...

A short clarification here, because I don't want people to think I'm defending Burk or Grudem. Both of these people should know better. However, they have an audience that shouldn't, necessarily. That audience is composed of the majority of the real swing voters. I just don't think someone like Grudem COULD reverse course on complementarianism at this point.

Given this, asking "Why do bad translations sound reasonable?" isn't a way to excuse them but to think about how we would explain why they were bad.